Once upon a time, before the time of writing, famine came to Wisconsin. There was nothing for many animals to eat, and they wasted away to nothing. A mother bear with two cubs determined to leave that land and go somewhere else, somewhere across the great lake now known as Lake Michigan. The mother bear encouraged her two cubs that the land on the opposite shore was within their reach, and so they set off to swim. Ten miles from the Wisconsin shore, the first cub sank—he could swim no more. The other cub tried to keep going, but also sank not much farther than her brother. The mama bear was heartbroken, but she could not help her cubs. She swam to the Michigan shore of the great lake, and lay down on the beach, looking out over the water where she lost her cubs. The Great Spirit felt the mama bear’s sadness, and caused the two cubs to surface as small islands in the water. The mama bear still lies there, watching over her babies, while the sands heap up around and over her.

That is the story of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Probably most Michiganders know the story.

The Michigan side of Lake Michigan is spectacularly beautiful. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is something to behold. (No knock against Wisconsin, where my amazing sister lives! I’m just not as familiar with the Wisconsin side.)

I was thinking about this story while walking on the beach in Naples, Florida, where my brother lives now. I was thinking about the many associations of sand—summer beach fun, but also the sands of time.

I read this story, Sand at Gulf Shores, Alabama, just inside the Gulf State Park, which was right next to the condo we stayed in for our honeymoon. There is something about coastline that sings of melancholy, and the threshold between the known and the unknown.

This story appeared in Wild Roof Journal.

We had an eerie, all-day fog today. It was like being inside a rain cloud. A fog to soften the edges of the world, to mute already drab colors, to muffle some sounds and let others carry, seemingly arriving from nowhere.

What better thing to do than visit a cemetery? There are lots of little cemeteries in the area, where century-old tombstones and new burials mingle.

This story appeared in 206-Word Stories: A Horror Anthology, published in 2022 by Bag of Bones Press.

This is a funny sort of story to read on my honeymoon—the story of a new bride or bride-to-be who escapes into the ocean.

I’m not planning any such escape.

But I do find jellyfish interesting. They can be so beautiful in the water, so peculiar washed up on the beach. They thrive, evidently, in exactly the kind of conditions caused by warming oceans—increased acidification and decreased oxygen—that hurts pretty much everything else. What a strange thing to contemplate, a reversal of evolution, the resurrection of invertebrate dominance.

All of that flowed into the story of radical reclamation of agency.

This video was made at Gulf Shores, Alabama. The beach was sparsely populated, and was just perfect for strolling in the surf, or for sitting and reading this story out loud.

This story was a finalist in a monthly flash competition at Retreat West.

Look at this jellyfish! It looks like a sand dollar!
Also, I need to learn to size photos…

Greetings the Gulf Shores!

And here’s how we honeymoon. I recorded three readings on the beach. Tim played two open mics.

This day there was very little beach traffic despite it being a beautiful day. Off-season is definitely the right time to visit the Gulf Shores.

I wrote this story for a 53-word contest. I didn’t win… but I also couldn’t see adding any more words to it. It was the way I wanted it in just that many words. I sent it later to Mojave River Review.

I have a love – fear relationship with sharks. I love them, but I am absolutely terrified of them. I suppose Jaws might be partly to blame, but mostly it’s the facts that get to me. I’ve watched dozens of documentaries and film clips, and while I accept that sharks — even big ones — don’t go swimming around looking to eat people (they are successful hunters, if they wanted to eat more people, they would), they still scare me.

Real reason? They come to me in my dreams as sort of a “yeah I already know that” warning that things are chaotic in my subconscious. They are the only animal out of the many I dream about that speaks to me in English.

The dream where a shark spoke the most clearly came when I was quite young. I dreamed a shark was above me in the water, a Great White that time though I often dream of Blue Sharks. I swam down to a ship wreck to hide – and idea of dubious merit. The shark said, “I’m going to get you!” And I replied, “No, you won’t!” He said something else but I don’t remember what. Probably if I remembered, I’d be famous or something. But, as in a fairytale I failed the test. Perhaps.

I didn’t expect to like our chickens as much as I do.

That’s a weird thing to hear from someone who loves animals as much as I do. But I hadn’t been around chickens much, and I didn’t realize how frankly hilarious they can be! They really are little, feathered dinosaurs. Ours are on the friendly side of skittish, though they can be quite chummy if you have a can of sweet corn for them.

I wrote this story shortly after we got our first chickens, when we still lived at Resurrection Mule Farm (I’ll tell you the story of that name some day). I was delighted at getting different colored eggs from our variety of hens. I still am, to be honest.

And there’s nothing quite like a laid-that-morning egg from a free-range hen.

But, when you have free-range chickens, and you live near a national forest like we do at Underhill, you have predation. For us, it’s coyotes mostly. Maybe a fox sometimes. And there’s a bobcat in the neighborhood. I’ve not seen her, but she might like chicken, too.

I didn’t actually have a Wyandotte when I wrote this story. I am always on the lookout for them, though, because they are so pretty. We aren’t set up for chicks, so when we need to replace chickens, we get pullets – half-grown hens. I really loved the Wyandottes we had this past fall and through the summer. Alas, we’ve lost the lot of them to coyotes—several in one day. So our chickens are sometimes in their yard now. I’ve been hearing coyotes nearly every night as we near Halloween. And one very near the house last week that might have been a fox.

I love coyotes. I really love foxes. I do wish they’d lay off the hens, though.

In this story, the Coyote is a man. I hope you enjoy.

The story first appeared in Third Point Press.

Bonus video is one of my favorite Wyandottes.

As much as I love wilderness areas, there is something undeniably satisfying about hay bales in the field. And round bales are so picturesque.

(Almost as good as hay in the barn, when I have horses. Though then I prefer square bales.)

Anyway, I love the smell of fresh hay. It’s like summer and fall all at once.

I took advantage of the last few round bales in our back field to do a quick place reading. It’s Too Late appears in The Molotov Cocktail, which was a goal publication for me. Extra-cool when it works out that way. Check out the yin-yang illustration that accompanies the story online!

The germ of that story was an incident that happened years ago, before I bought my first horse and had a partial-lease on a horse in Michigan. Dusty was a registered Paint, a tri-color buckskin paint. I went out to ride one afternoon as a storm was brewing, and the tension in the air, and the horses’ reactions to it, made me feel electric. But also, observant enough not to ride.

I called on that memory as I challenged myself to write something spooky about something I love.

I hope you enjoy!

I have a weakness for running water. I love following creeks and brooks along in the woods. When I was a kid, I’d even follow a ditch and imagine all kinds of adventures.

This little creek probably has a name, but I’m calling it Rocky Comfort Creek because it’s near a road of that name. The Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois is patchwork in places, and Rocky Comfort Creek is one of those places. I love living so near a forest, and so near places to hike and explore.

I wrote this story from a prompt, and like many stories written that way, it wandered around until it figured out what it wanted to be. I see an influence from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It was first published in Ghost Parachute, a journal that has gotten better and better over the years. I absolutely love the illustration with this story. I hope you enjoy!

I was in New Mexico over Christmas. It’s my third visit in the past couple years as we travel to visit family. This time we stayed near Albuquerque, in a rural neighborhood in Sandia Park.

Here’s me in the front yard / sometimes goat run reading my story Wicked Road, initially published as an Ekphrastic Flash in Largehearted Boy. It’s inspired by Reckless Kelly’s song “Wicked, Twisted Road.”

I promise to do better with the audio in future. It was windy. (One reason I look so glamorous in the video.) (Love that video still! Not.)

If you look at a map of Illinois, at the bottom, where the state is shaped like an arrowhead point, you’ll see a whole big swath of that part of the state is Shawnee National Forest. Which is part of the reason I moved here. Once you get into Southern Illinois, though, you realize that the forest is more like a patchwork quilt in areas, interspersed with farmland, vineyards, houses, pasture.

I live near part of the patchwork. It’s literally true to say part of the Shawnee Forest is across the street from me. If I walked sort of northwesterly, I could go several miles until I came to Panthers Den Wilderness area, or either of the two wineries in that general direction, and never leave the forest. But there are places where I would be able to see sky on either side, and probably private property. Nevertheless, part of the forest it is, and I love having it there.

This story, “We All Make Mistakes,” appearing in The Tiny Journal, is inspired in part by my several encounters with venomous snakes in the area — Copperheads and also Water Moccasin (aka Cottonmouth). It’s also partly a musing on how sometimes we do things in spite of having misgivings, and how sometimes these things are mistakes. We all do it.

I hope you enjoy! (PS – Is there a way to make the video still so I don’t look silly? LOL)

“We All Make Mistakes”in The Tiny Journal