Spirited Performance

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

“Where’s Donald?” demanded the ethereal presence of the woman known as Ethel in her mortal life.

“How should we know?” Stu replied from behind the cello. “It’s not like we can text him, being that we’re spirits.”

“He’s probably haunting his children again,” sighed Ellie at the microphone. “He’s into the literary tropes.”

“This band is nothing without percussion,” moaned Ethel, hovering over the keyboard. “Donald needs to be here.”

“Would you say,” joked Ellie, “that our band’s just a ghost of itself without him?”

Not wanting to hear any more bad puns, Ethel’s spirit fled the empty stage.

Feels good to have my first Friday Fictioneers story of the year posted.


After a few weeks off and a good deal of contemplation, I’ve decided to resume my reviews of literary journals and genre magazines. Many of the periodicals where I intend to submit my fiction still haven’t been reviewed, and while I’m no longer committing to a review every week, I hope to say a few words about most of my identified targets by year’s end. My first review this year takes me to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

London-based Litro publishes both print and online editions of its magazine each month. Each print edition has a dedicated theme.

What they say about themselves: “Since 2005, Litro has published works by first time authors through to Noble laureates. Litro is self-selecting for people with an interest in literature, culture and innovation, providing readers with an escapism a perfect read for those with busy lives and encouraging cross cultural conversations through the annual Litro World Series editions… Fiction should be enduring, not disposable, and as such Litro in print, is specially designed to fit in your pocket or bag we think of it as a small book of escapism.”

Issue reviewed: I read stories posted to the online edition that were previously published in Issue 175 of the print edition, which had the theme of Desire.

Genre: Literary Realism with speculative elements

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “Into the Pleroma,” by Ingrid Norton. An anonymous narrator in a post-apocalyptic world communicates with her dead lover in her dreams. The story says little about what caused the calamity, focusing instead on this one survivor’s attempt to continue living, which makes for a more effective tale. A clever take on Issue 175’s theme of desire. 

Exploding Helicopters: Three Explosions. While there weren’t many action scenes within the stories, the situations and characters were compelling throughout.

Profanometer: Dammit. It’s nice to read writing which gets its grit from context rather than diction.

You’re ‘Avin a Risus, Mate – One A Week 2020

I could look it up easily enough, but I honestly don’t want to know how long it’s been since my last reblog. January’s always good for starting or resuming a good habit. jillyfunnell is an English poet with an engaging and lyrical voice. This particular poem uses some highly complex terminology with both grace and an intimate knowledge of her subject. A delight.

Sugar on the Bee

Image result for image of poppy flower

Inspired by the news that garden centres are dumbing down plant names

Please do not dumb down my acer grisum
It is not just a common garden dame
And expert tutors prudent, trained each horticulture student
to call each plant its correct Latin name

So, take care to prune the hamamelis mollis
Show respect for all magnolia cambellii
Give thanks for thick and glorious hedera helixa
and ensure tagetes patula does not die

Papaver’s still our emblem, in its Latin
and glorious it blooms and issues seed
Parodia formosa? Safe, but don’t come closer
This lonely species might well make you bleed

Which brings us to the sultry one called vanda
Get her name right when you sit her on your sill
And though naysayers say, no more flores on the way
With a bit of care, I think you’ll find she will

And don’t even think about messing with…

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Day 297

I ran some errands today. A year ago, I wouldn’t have taken as much joy out of the experience.

Began with a haircut appointment. As she always does, my barber wore a mask the entire time, as did I (it’s the only time where I find over-the-ear loops preferable to back-of-the-head ties), and we were the only two in the salon at that time. Needed cash, so I drove up to an ATM and made a withdrawal. My wife had an order ready for pickup, so I ran out to that store in between going to our local butcher and shopping for groceries.

Simply getting out of the house was the most rewarding; I love my home, but occasional excursions make me appreciate it more. No word yet on when the library will reopen, and returning to the gym or fencing club won’t be an option for some time. Running errands is one of few opportunities I have to seeing these familiar walls.

There’s also the feel of the road. Cruising down a smooth path of asphalt; feeling the power and appreciating the sophistication of the machine at my command; hearing the soft hum of the engine under the radio’s music. Today’s experience reminded me of the long car trips I like to take in the summer and fall, excursions that stopped once the COVID-19 lockdowns began. Being able to satisfy my wanderlust will be one of the signs that lets me know we’ve returned to normal.

And I like being helpful. It feels good to be needed, even for small tasks. Getting several errands done at the same time also feels like the right thing to do in these inconvenient times.

I was out and about for only an hour and a half, and drove about fifteen miles. A year ago, running today’s errands would have felt like an intrusion. Today, it felt like a liberating holiday.

The Stretch Ahead

On the final day of 2020, I posted about my writing accomplishments in that year. Thought about posting my goals for 2021 the following day, but decided to take a few days off. Got up at 7 today, wrote for five hours, so I’m back on my game.

Found out last week that it’s actually pretty easy to create a table in WordPress, once you locate the command button:

Stories DraftedStories RevisedStories SubmittedTotal SubmissionsBlog Posts

Total Submissions is an activity I didn’t track in 2020. This represents journal submissions for all stories, even the ones I completed in previous years. In 2019 I made 23 submissions, which increased slightly to 28 last year. I have nine stories still seeking a home, with several more to come; averaging five submissions for each story shouldn’t be burdensome.

Blogging isn’t essential to my fiction writing, but it’s an important communication tool. Posting three to four times a week should keep me in touch with the world.

I also want to return to my novels, something I barely considered last year. It’s time for a third draft of Gray Metal Faces, plus an initial draft of a completely new project for this year’s National Novel Writing Month event in November. Don’t know what I’m going to write yet, but I plan on having fun with whatever I decide to write.

I’m also eliminating one of my benchmarks from the past: writing income. When I began this adventure two and a half years ago, I set my ambition towards making a living as a writer. Since then, I’ve concluded that’s actually backwards thinking. Living a writer’s life was my actual goal; trying to make that life pay the bills was becoming an obstacle. Once more I shall express gratitude for the resources available to me, not only financial but also in support from family and friends. Instead of trying to make it on my own, I’m going to rely on help.

I’ve got 361 more days to complete the tasks I’ve set for myself. Let’s revisit this post in late June, and see whether the Minimum benchmarks in the above chart have been reached and how far I’ve come in the latest revision of my fencing novel. That mid-year progress analysis will show how much work remains in the second half of what should be a very productive year.