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

I spent Monday through Wednesday before Halloween on a solo writing retreat in the awesome Mississippi River town of Cape Girardeau so I could get a novel I started — and stopped working on — in 2018 back on track. I think it worked! I’m up to chapter 10, anyway.

The Downtown Guest House, hosted by the owners of thrift shop extraordinaire Anna Laurie’s, is perfect for writing. If you are a writer reading this, and you are anywhere near southeast Missouri, consider it. Tiny little house, but just right. Walking distance to the Mississippi River (about 5 short blocks), and tons of cool eateries and drink stops and coffeeshops along the way.

Here are some photos from the retreat. I’m looking to do this a few more times. I definitely plan to come back to the Downtown Guest House as it’s super convenient for me — less than an hour from home. But if any of y’all know of any places in the southwest of the Midwest, lmk.

This is the house. Right on the sidewalk! Which was pretty cool, actually.
Perfect space. I wrote on my Chromebook, but had Tim’s laptop along just in case.
Cape Girardeau has an arty vibe. Anna Laurie’s is kitty-korner from the tree. That’s an awesome little shop with the mural on it.
Breakfast with dinosaurs. Bon-Bons.
And first night dinner at Minglewood Brewery, accompanied by Robert R. McCammon.
River view.

I just found out yesterday was National Hummingbird Day. So I’m a day late with this, but if you know me, you will not be surprised by that.

This story was a fun one to write. It was partly inspired by a photo prompt, but also by the great success former neighbors had with their hummingbird feeders. They did not, to my knowledge, do any of the things you’ll hear in this story! I hope you enjoy.

The story appears in Ghost Parachute online, and also in the Ghost Parachute: 105 Flash Fiction Stories anthology.

So… I was trying to make another kayak reading video on Devil’s Kitchen Lake. The lake was a little bit choppy, not bad, but not smooth. And I was trying to use a tripod. I had just said to myself, “This is a disaster waiting to happen,” (which is really what I said to myself) when it happened. The tripod fell over and bloop! the phone went right into the water. I’m guessing the water is about 6-8 feet where I was. Of course I made a grab for the phone, dropped my paddle. Which, fortunately, stayed right next to the kayak. There was no easy place to pull up the kayak, and anyway, 8 feet of water and about a foot of silt and low visibility — there’s no way I’d have found it. I figured I’d better just go in before I went and lost my truck keys too.

I ordered a phone from ebay. And a protective case AND a waterproof, floating cell phone bag. And a floating key chain since, now that I’ve publicly expressed a fear of losing my keys, you know it’ll happen.

I’ve had a week without a phone. A week without checking the weather for where I live multiple times during the day, and checking the weather other places just out of curiosity. A week without Google at my fingertips. A week without ready communication. And I’ve learned something.

I really don’t like not having a phone!

Here’s an older story, first published in Clamor Magazine in 2015. I thought it’d be fun to read a 3-parter in three different places.

I read part one — my favorite part of the story — at White Sands National Park. White Sands is other-worldly. It’s miles and miles of white dunes. It’d be easy to get lost there because there are so few landmarks. I guess you could keep your eyes on the distant mountains and keep walking in one direction — but that could be a very long way.

Part two is on the deck of the cabin we stayed at in Ruidoso. It was a super-cool cabin. Vrbo and Air BnB are the salvation of people like me. If I’m stuck in a hotel, I just wanna go-go-go. I can relax more at a Vrbo or Air BnB, making it easier for people to tolerate me. Anyway, here is part two, in which the narrator is a little bit mean and a lot frutstrated.

Part three is on the mountain slope behind the cabin where we were staying. It might not look like it, but it was hard setting up! The slope was pretty steep — a hike, not a climb, but still.

I am so incredibly honored to be included in both Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions for 2021.

I’ll talk about Best Small Fictions too, but for now will focus on Best Microfiction 2021. The anthology, edited by the amazing Meg Pokrass and Gary Fincke, with guest editor Amber Sparks (I know!) has received some really outstanding reviews, such as this one from Cultured Vultures, and this one in Trampset. I am thrilled and humbled both to have a story in this anthology with some of the very best writers in this genre of tiny stories. I love the wild variety and the cascading range of emotions these stories conjure. You won’t be disappointed if you order this book, I promise!

Here is a link to the book launch readings for both volumes. I read “Places I Have Peed,” which first appeared in Miracle Monacle. Hearing these stories read is an experience unto itself. Enjoy!

It is a tremendous honor to be included in the National Flash Fiction Day 2021 anthology, Legerdemain, edited by Nod Ghosh and Santino Prinzi. This year’s theme was Magic. I’m blown away, reading these stories and listening to them. This is such a wonderful anthology, it really is. There are authors I know and authors I’m reading for the first time. The book launch readings are so much fun, too. I love hearing writers read their own works.

Here’s me reading my story, Renaissance.

Renaissance is one of my oldest stories. The original version was much different. It was longer, less focused, unsure of itself. The micro-flash format was a much better fit for it.