September 2023

We were busy with a visit from Kristin's nephew Sam for much of August, but things are more or less back to normal now (what currently passes for normal, anyway; Donald is still traveling to Houston a lot for work). We've been reading the July submissions and have already come across a couple of stories that we've both liked; though we always end up with more good stories at the end than we can publish.

We've also been adding to our list of Stories We See Too Often. One danger in publishing this sort of list for the supposed benefit of authors is that it might lead people to self-reject, and fail to send us a story that we'd actually love but that might possibly be described as falling into one of the tropes we say we don't want. Sometimes the most interesting stories are on the edge of what we think we're willing to publish. We've published stories about missionaries to mythical creatures and aliens, deals with the devil, vampires, angels, dead people who don't know they're dead, and Catholic priests, despite claiming at one time or another that we see all these tropes too often.

So, with that caveat, here are some newer additions to the list (that currently exists more in our heads than in actual written form):

The story starts with someone sitting alone in a room, and someone from the military or police comes in to question them. There's often a lot of unnecessary description of the room. Often the entire scene is unnecessary, because it involves the story's protagonist being questioned about the parts of the story that were actually exciting, and you could have just started with the exciting part.

Angels and/or demons are basically bureaucrats with superpowers.

Someone goes to Hell and it's not what they expected.

Apparently human characters turn out to be angels and demons in the big reveal at the end; except we see so many of these stories that we'd already figured it out on page 2.

We're sure we'll have more to add to this list by the time we finish reading the latest batch of story submissions; and just as confident that we'll end up with more stories we liked than we're able to publish, and that at least one of them will include a trope that we said at one time or another we weren't very interested in.


"The Virgin" by Jaye Nasir (September 25th). Violet knows there's something very wrong with her girlfriend Amal and their relationship, but finds herself unable to walk away. "What kind of person do you have to be to believe that you've become pregnant without having sex?"

"Among the Birds" by Will Greatwich (October 23rd). An ex-clergyman turned ornithologist discovers something worse than watching mass extinctions of the birds he'd always loved. (A grim take on "His Eye is On the Sparrow" that could also be described as "Someone goes to Hell and it's not what they expected.")

These are both horror stories. If you prefer cheerful and/or heartwarming: sorry, but we've run out of those for the year. Hopefully there will be some among the July submissions!


We're now up to $230/month. Many thanks to those who increased or renewed their subscriptions!

Can you help us reach our next funding goal of $275/month? If we make it by the end of September, we'll be able to accept one additional story from the July submissions. (Assuming we stay at or above that funding level until we've finished selecting stories, usually late November.) Only $45 to go!

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Last month we mentioned our trip to New York with Kristin's nephew. Back in Massachusetts, we did some Boston-area sightseeing and fun local things such as kayaking in the Weir River Estuary and the annual Boston Lights display at the Franklin Park Zoo.

Since it wasn't Sam's first visit to Boston (only his first without the rest of the family), and he'd already seen some of the top attractions, we were able to take the opportunity to see some places that were new to us as well. Georges Island has a Civil War-era fort and is reachable by ferry from downtown Boston. Unlike some other bastion forts from the 18th and 19th centuries, it hasn't been extensively restored. The parade ground is overgrown, with cracked pavement, and the steps leading up to the outer walls have been colonized by goldenrod and other wildflowers.

If you look closely, you'll see that the large tree is laden with apples. Kristin couldn't figure out how to get at them.

It's also honeycombed by dark passages and stairwells, without much to keep curious visitors out of them. The fort was an active US military installation until the end of the Second World War, though by that point the focus had shifted away from manning the cannon installations toward remote control of mines set to keep German submarines out of Boston Harbor. The small museum at the Visitor Center shows how advances in weapons technology made the fort obsolete for its original intended purpose almost as soon as it was completed.

Another for Kristin's photo library of kitchen facilities through the ages.

After taking the expensive tourist ferry from Long Wharf in Boston, we reached Georges Island only to see that the sign displaying return trip times also showed departures to Hingham. Hingham! The Hingham Shipyard is only a 15-minute drive from our house and has plenty of parking available for $2/day. Do you mean to tell us that we didn't need to take the subway into downtown Boston?

Not only did we not have to take the subway (over an hour each way), the ferry from Hingham is 25% cheaper. It's run by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, though, so it doesn't show up on the tourism-focused Boston Harbor Islands site.

And there were plenty of apple trees growing outside the defensive walls, as well as some sort of wild cherry tree.

Donald wishing Kristin would stop eating random wild fruit.

In cat news, Maxwell has figured out how to open the sliding mirror doors of our bedroom closet. We find him in there from time to time, hiding among Kristin's cardigans. We're a little concerned that he may also have learned to unzip Kristin's travel toiletries bag, having realized that it's a rich trove of such treasures as hair elastics and Q-tips. It's not always clear, when we find him with a paw digging around in a pocket of the bag, whether Kristin left all the zippers closed.

We're in trouble if he's figured out zippers.

Who says there's no rest for the wicked?

This is a girl who really does want a belly rub.

Thank you for reading, and don't forget to come back on September 25th for Jaye Nasir's supernatural horror tale "The Virgin"!

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