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.

Devil’s Kitchen Lake produces a lovely echo. So when I yelled FUCK, the single syllable expletive rang through the stillness, coming back to me in a quieter voice. That was the day I tipped my phone into the lake attempting to make a kayak-reading video.

Here is my return to the kayak reading. No tripod this time.

I am on Little Grassy Lake. The late summer sun was blazing low on the horizon but still over the trees. First I went to the cove around the way from Party Rock. I was either blinded or backlit. So I crossed the lake to a cove with a deserted camp building and the remnants of a pier. Eerie, in the way abandoned places often are.

However, still too sunny.

So I paddled across the cove near a rock ledge and that worked OK. As I was finishing up, I heard the distinctive cry of a raptor on the wing. Not much later, a bald eagle flew over the cove to land near the abandoned camp. And I didn’t drop my phone in the water. So, a good day.

I often dream I am in the ocean. This story came from such a dream.

The story appeared in Blue Fifth Review.

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!

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 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.

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!

I have been wanting to get to the Rocky Bluff Trail out at Devil’s Kitchen Lake all spring. It hasn’t worked out. Until now. It’s a great hike for wildflowers early in spring. I didn’t see as many Blue-eyed Mary as I hoped to, but there were plenty of violets, a few trilliums, buttercups, and of course lots of golden ragwort, daisy fleabane and woodland phlox. Also, the waterfall was flowing, which it isn’t always. So that was cool. I have a few pictures up on my Instagram page if you are curious.

And I did a reading! On a big ol’ rock perched about 25 feet or so above the Little Grassy Creek.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight
first appeared in New Flash Fiction Review as part of the Horo-Flash / Horoscope-inspired curated flash series.