Fiction Circular 2/9/19

Editor’s note: Links affixed to author/publisher names will redirect to social media or personal website of the author/publisher. Links affixed to story/article names will redirect to the named story/article.


From John Parham, The Old Man & The Three Legged Goat. The story of a young man, down on his luck, who encounters a strange old man and his three legged goat. Whilst the story is interesting and the message poignant, the dialogue and particularly the descriptions, suffer from a peculiar kind of stiffness engendered by repetition. For example, the amount of times that we are told that Curly “sipped his coffee” is quite superfluous; the author could simply have said, “Curly sat sipping his coffee” and that would have sufficed. That being said, repetition can be used to create rhythm, as in the works of Cormac McCarthy, however, in McCarthy the repition is limited (generally to “and”s and “left off”s) and occurs fluidly in the space of a single sentence and consequently, one shouldn’t take up a stance against it, in totality.

“Please sit and I will pour you a cup of coffee, then tell me about the three-legged goat.”

— The Old Man & The Three Legged Goat


From 101 Words, The Crossing by Philip Scholz, a flash fiction about a man fleeing to Mexico. I’d say more but I wouldn’t want to spoil it.

“Your passport, please,” the guard said, holding out his hand.

He handed over the fake one, hoping his shaking hand wasn’t noticed. This was the test. He had to stay calm.

— The Crossing

From The Arcanist, Plunk At The Foot Of The Mountain by Peter Hurtgen. A tale of a vicious barbarian possessed of a deep-seated hatred for magic. Its a interesting piece of dark fantasy, humorous as it is thoughtful; a cautionary tale against being too quick to take action against that which one does not fully understand.

He was a boy of about eight. Before the Trying Times. The magic user was a young girl from the nearby village. A little older. The tinsmith’s daughter. A black-haired beauty. Tall and graceful. Wild and bronze. She cast a love spell on Plunk. She made him love her. They kissed in the yak barn hayloft. This made Plunk very happy. Then the girl used her love spell on another village boy. This pissed Plunk the fuck off. Plunk found the two lovers in the hayloft and separated them. From their heads.

— Plunk At The Foot Of The Mountain

From Drunken Pen Writing, Coffee Shop Blues by Caleb James K.; Mr. K’s prose is impressive for being able to turn as mundane an exercise as waiting in line for a cup of coffee into a introspective and engaging exploration of social disenchantment, charity and purpose. Easily the best of the week.

The world moved in slow motion as Jeff waited in the seemingly endless line at the coffee shop. It was like he was in a dream—like he was an unseen spectator watching the world move around him. He saw the faces of men and women, young and old, but couldn’t make out any details.

— Coffee Shop Blues

From Fictive Dream, Family Gathering by Paul Beckman. Title self-explanatory.

The laughers come first. They always arrive early and announce their early arrival to the hostess who isn’t ready yet for company.

— Family Gathering

From Monkeybicycle, The Next Life You’ll Make by Ellen Rhudy. A sad, poignant ghost tale.

I imagined they had a graveyard behind the hospital crowded with people who had never quite been alive. — The Next Life You’ll Make

From The Molotov Cocktail, The River Wedding by Tim Roberts. A dreamlike tale of horror and desire.

When The Big Night finally comes around, I lay awake waiting for the demons to take my father.

— The River Wedding

From Reflex Press, Strawberry Tarts and Serial Killers by Mary Thompson. A brisk sketch of the life of two lovers in a sleepy town (not actually about serial killers).

In August I left to be an au-pair in Amiens. Said I would write.

‘You won’t,’ he said.

— Strawberry Tarts and Serial Killers

From Spelk Fiction, Liquid Gold In Big Sky by Michael Carter. A tale of a hard-up family seeking gold beyond the American plains. Beautifully written.

“We’ll stop in Helena to see if they’ve struck gold again. Then we’ll make our way to Carson City, Nevada, to see if they have gold there. We’ll buy food with the gold, and you’ll all be full.”

I said, “Maybe there’s gold here?”

Mother said, “No, sweetie, there’s no gold out here in the Plains.”

— Liquid Gold in Big Sky

From Terror House, The Maggot Life by Nick Willis. The story of one man struggling within his own moral vacuum. The piece is raw, punchy and likely more than a little autobiographical. Highly recommended.

I can almost see the voracious, amoral little worm squirming around at the core of me, at the core of all of us: it’s what keeps us alive.

— The Maggot Life

From X-R-A-Y, Robot Mother by Brittany Weeks. A surreal tale with a experimental style, somewhat disorienting style.

I can’t shake the image of Everly with mechanical valves in her heart-

— Robot Mother


From The Allium, Pandas “Totally Relieved” None Of Their Body Parts Made Of Anything Valuable.

A Panda spokesperson told The Allium earlier today that there was general relief in Panda communities that their body parts are valued at actual zero. Even in Sterling.

— Pandas “Totally Relieved” None Of…

Author, James Kirkland announces the release of his first novel Friend of the Devil.

Very pleased to announce that my first novel, “FRIEND OF THE DEVIL”, A Bill Walton Mystery, will be released March 13 by Meathouse Publishing. Excited for you all to see this. I’ve worked very hard and I hope you will enjoy! — J. Kirkland

Lastly, inimitable Jokes Review editor, Peter Clarke (Politicians Are Superheroes) participates in a roundtable discussion over at The Review Review on the subject of editorial practice. Specific topics include how far into a bad manuscript one should read before passing it over and whether or not a poor title disqualifies a manuscript. Insight for writers and editors alike.

At the very minimum, I’ll read the first paragraph and then skim to the end. I have scrapped stories based on the title and the first sentence, but that’s rare. Generally speaking, I don’t dedicate much time to stories that don’t catch me pretty quickly. The vast majority of my time reading submissions (probably 90%) is spent fretting over the stories that definitely demanded a full read but may or may not demand publication. If I’m already thinking about rejection after the first paragraph, then I’m probably just going to reject it.

— Peter Clarke, Managing Editor, Jokes Review

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