Deal Me In 2015 – Week 13 Wrap Up

Well, we’re at the quarter post (Is that a horse racing term? It should be if it isn’t, and since we have a story this week called “The Discovery of Kentucky” it ’feels’ appropriate too.) Of Deal Me In 2015 and to celebrate we may have a record number of stories posted about this week – even more if we count the multiple stories in Jason’s J.G. Ballard post individually. You all are wearing me out this week collecting all the links. I like it, though, 🙂

What are your thoughts about DMI 2015 now that we’re a quarter in? Would you like to file a “quarterly report” in the comments to this wrap up post? I’d love to hear how everyone is doing, especially those new to the challenge this year.

Here are this week’s links:

“o” at Behold the Stars posts about Virginia Woolf’s “The Patron and the Crocus”

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery posted about Eric Wright’s story “The Duke”

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews has a nice wrap up of her March short stories – “The Story of the Bad Little Boy” by Mark Twain, “Six Weeks at Heppenheim” by Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain, “An Adventure on Island Rock” by L.M. Montgomery, and “Second Chance” by Orson Scott Card

Cleo at Classical Carousel read John Keats’ poem “Ode to a Nightengale”

Jason at Literature Frenzy shared his thoughts on many stories since our last update “Ray” by Guy Vanderhaeghe Theodore Sturgeons “Microcosmic God” “The Passenger” by Vladimir Nabokov “A & P” by John Updike and he also covers a bunch of stories in the collection “The Complete Stories J.G. Ballard” A busy week for Jason!

Risa at Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms read Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path”

Current Bluegrass State resident Dale at Mirror with Clouds read Wendell Berry’s “The Discovery of Kentucky”

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read another boxing-themed story, “You Don’t Even Feel It” by Lawrence Block

Randall at Time Enough at Last read Pat Conroy’s “Gossip”

Me? I did read my story, David Foster Wallace’s “Backbone” but it didn’t inspire me, either positively or negatively, to write a blog post. It’s available online, though, if you’d like to see if you have better luck with it than I did.

See you in the 2nd Quarter!

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 12 Wrap Up

Hello all!  Below are links to new posts since the last update.  See you next week!

“o” at Behold the Stars read The John Keats poem “Endymion” check out to discover if a thing of beauty really is a joy forever… 🙂

Dale at Mirror With Clouds discovered Louisa May Alcott’s story “The Brothers”

I read my second story from the anthology “The New Black”, this one being Benjamin Percy’s excellent “Dial Tone”

Kay at Darling Books provides an update of cards drawn recently

James at James Reads Books posted about two non-fiction pieces by Joan Didion: “John Wayne: A Love Song” and “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”

Jason at Literature Frenzy read Haruki Murakami’s “Super Frog Saves Tokyo”

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself drew the king of clubs and read  Thomas Wolfe’s “The Birth of New Journalism”

Katherine read “The Gentlemanfrom San Francisco” by Ivan Bunin

Next up in the batting order for Randall at Time Enough at Last was “Batting Against Castro” by Jim Shephard

And an “extra” this week:

Exciting news about someone who knows a little about publishing short stories:

“Dial Tone” by Benjamin Percy

This is my twelfth short story read for my annual Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge.  I drew the ten of spades from my short story deck  , which I had assigned to this story from the anthology “The New Black,” a collection of noir stories I first first heard of at Paula Cappa’s blog

Sometimes, when I go to work for yet another eight-hour shift or when I visit my parents for yet another casserole dinner, I want to be alone more than anything in the world. But once I’m alone, I feel I can’t stand another second of it. Everything is mixed up. This is why I pick up the phone sometimes and listen. There is something reassuring about a dial tone. That simple sound, a low purr, as constant and predictable as the sun’s path across the sky.”

Benjamin Percy’s story “Dial Tone,” features the troubled (ya think!?) narrator  quoted above, one who works a monotonous and soul-sucking job as a telemarketer. A job that sometimes leads him to a point of self-loathing that I’ve always thought telemarketers just HAVE to feel. This narrator (not named, though he refers to himself as “C-5” – his location in the “vast hive of cubicles” at work) is self-aware enough to realize he is close to “losing it” but he doesn’t change jobs, even though employee turnover at his company is about as high as one would expect.

“A jogger spotted the body hanging from the cell tower.” This was actually the first sentence of the story, and with an intro like that, the reader knows right away that this tale will not be a pleasant one, and it certainly isn’t. Where it gets you (or me at least), though, isn’t through raw violence, but an insidious evil that may be present anywhere, waiting to seize and control us at an opportune moment.

At one point, when looking from a elevated vantage point on highway traffic below, he muses that he:

“…could see the chains of light on Route 97 and Highway 100, each bright link belonging to a machine that carried inside it a man who could lose control in an instant, distracted by the radio or startled by a deer or overwhelmed by tiredness, careening off the asphalt and into the surrounding woods. It could happen to anyone.”

Has it happened to him?

You can actually read this story online (at least as of this posting) at

(Above: Author Benjamin Percy; picture from


Deal Me In 2015 – Week 11 Wrap Up

Below are new posts I’ve found (through yesterday, 3/15) since the last update. If I’ve missed you, leave a comment and I will link back.

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read Elmore Leonard’s “How Carlos Webster Changed his Name to Carl and Became a Famous Oklahoma Lawman there’s also an “Is This Your Card?” feature this week.

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Langston Hughes’ “Red-Headed Baby

Jen at Military History read Tamas Dobozys’ “The Ghosts of Budapest and Toronto”

“o” at Behold the Stars posted about Prosper Merimee’s “Carmen

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery tackles J.D. Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Banana Fish

Jason at Literature Frenzy read Dorothy Parker’s “Oh! he’s Charming!” Jason is also rating his stories (scale of 1 to 5 stars). I think he’s the first DMI participant to do this. Yet another DMI wrinkle!

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) read Rebecca Emin’s “On the Corner of Clerk Street

Randall at Time Enough at Last read “Things Left Undone” by Christopher Tilghman

I also thought I’d share an article on short stories from The Guardian, discussing their appeal and advantages. I particularly liked the quote: If this story is for you, it will light you up. And if it isn’t, no harm done, here’s another one.” Ha!

Deal Me In trivia: Can you identify the very young (long before he was famous) author reading Dorothy Parker in the photo below??

kv reading dp


On the Corner of Clerk Street by Rebecca Emin

In my Deal Me In short story reading challenge, I pick fifty-two stories at the start of the year, assign each to a card in a deck of playing cards, then draw one at random every week until I have read them all. Fifty-two cards in a deck, fifty-two weeks in a year, right? The past few years, some other bloggers have joined me in this annual project. They are listed in my sidebar of “Deal Me In 2015 Participants” if you’d like to check out some of the stories they’ve been reading. Also, in the past few years I’ve included a story from Rebecca Emin’s collection “A Knowing Look and Other Stories” in my short story deck. Since I’ve enjoyed those stories, I saw no reason to discontinue this practice in 2015.

(Image found at

Regarding this story, I’m finding it impossible to write much about it without giving too much away, so I’ll Just say a few things and let you discover it for yourself if you’d like to buy/try it. The collection is a mere $2.99 on amazon as of this writing (kindle version)  I’ve posted about a couple of the other stories in this collection before. Here and here if you’d like to take a look.

The “Wait! What?!” Moment

Authors sometimes employ a clever technique to get you to read a story twice. I tend to think of it as the “wait! what?!” moment. They throw a big “reveal” in at the end of their story that makes you reconsider what you’ve read so far, wondering “Did I miss something?” The reading victim then goes back over the story to look for clues or “holes” in the way the author has ’set you up’ for the wait! what? moment. This happened to me with this story, and – on my second “pass” – I came to appreciate the surprising twist even more. At first I thought I had found a problem with the big reveal, thinking, “Aha! Well, if “A” is true, then how do you explain character “B” doing thing “C” on page X!?!?” Then I re-read “page X” and the next couple pages a third time and thought, “Oh, maybe thing “C” wasn’t what I thought it was either…” And so on.

This story called to mind another recent read of mine where, all through the story (or novel, in that case), the reader naturally assumes he knows the gender of one character, only to have his assumption revealed to be wrong near the end. I remember being taken aback then also, looking back through that book trying to find why I had made the assumption I did and looking for slip-ups and failing to find them. I admire authors that are able to trick me like that. There’s a well-known instance of the wait! what? moment in cinema as well in a popular Bruce Willis movie from 1999. 🙂

Can you think of any other good examples of the W!W? moment in your reading. How do YOU like being tricked in that manner?

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 10 Wrap Up


Deal Me In 2015 – Week 10 Wrap Up

Below are links to the new Deal Me In posts that I found this week. If I’ve missed anyone, please let me know in a comment, and I will update this post.

“o” at Behold the Stars read the Aristophanes play “The Wasps”

Deal Me In newcomer Jason at Literature Frenzy shares posts on two stories: “Turkey Season” by Alice Munro and “2BR02B” by Kurt Vonnegut

Jennifer at Military History also posted about two stories: “The Animals of the Budapest Zoo” by Tamas Dobozy and “Bombardment” by Henri Barbussi

Dale wrote about Lorrie Moore’s “You’re Ugly, Too”

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read Nick Hornby’s “Otherwise Pandemonium”

Randall’s six of clubs led him to David Lipsky’s “Three Thousand Dollars”

I read “The Warmth of Midwinter” by Marian Allen

Oh, I almost forgot, Katherine is also doing the “Lunar Extra” add on to the challenge and read Edith Wharton’s “The Journey” See for details.

That’s it for Week 10.  How’s week 11 coming?? 🙂


The Warmth of Midwinter by Marian Allen


I drew the seven of hearts for week 10 of the 2015 Deal Me In short story reading challenge (See here for an explanation of how the challenge – now in its fifth year – works). I had assigned this card of my deck to Marian Allen’s story “The Warmth of Midwinter” from my anthology collection “Gifts of the Magi.” (More about that anthology in this previous post)

Before I talk about the story’s specifics, though, humor me for a moment, okay? I want you to think back to your childhood and try to recall which were the first stories that you remember. Take a moment… all right, done? If you’re like most, they were likely ‘bed time stories’ or ‘fairy tales’ or maybe, most simply, the kind of stories that began with “Once upon a time.” Marian Allen’s “The Warmth of Midwinter” gave me that kind of feeling. It’s the kind of feeling that I enjoyed experiencing again.

**Some spoilers follow** Though related via an old storyteller in a framing story (told during a midwinter festival), our actual protagonist is named Andrin; he’s a very old man who lives in a stone cottage near his grandmother, Verrina. (“Don’t laugh, my children, for even very old men have grandmothers, you know.” – Our old storyteller advises) I should mention that Andrin also has a chicken. A magic chicken named Chandler. Each day, Chandler lays an egg and Andrin has but to think of what he needs and lo, when he cracks the egg open, it will appear for him. A pretty sweet deal for Andrin, who is now living in harsh exile along the banks of the Fiddlewood River, having been banished by the despotic ruler of Layounna.

Andrin’s existence in exile is disturbed one day, however, when Chandler alerts him to the presence of an unconscious young soldier (a “Sword” in the parlance of Layounna) who has “washed ashore” along the banks of the River. Andrin knows that this will lead to unwanted attention and thus trouble, but he is not so hardened as to not provide aid to the injured if arrogant young soldier.  He learns the story of how the Sword came to such a pass: the young man, having attempted familiarities with the pretty young wife of a dairyman, was discovered by the husband and pitched off a bridge into the rapidly flowing waters of the Fiddlewood.

It might seem that the incident could have ended there with “no real harm done,” but the Sword’s comrades are intent on finding him and avenging his indignity. Verrina tells Andrin and the Sword the regional gossip and of how the Sword’s cohorts are turning the countryside upside down looking for him, using his disappearance as an excuse to commit more misdeeds, including the slaughter of the dairyman’s milk cow.  At first the Sword is unsympathetic to these stories, but will time spent in the ‘magical’ environment of Andrin’s cottage lead him to change the way he thinks?  Then, when the Sword is preparing to depart, Andrin is surprised to see that his chicken has laid a second egg of the day. It has always laid just one in the past.  He and Verrina realize that, since they have a ‘guest,’ the second egg must be for him, and send him on his way with it.  Will he use its magic for good or to further his own greed, though?  Perhaps that question is what makes the story more of a fairy tale.

egg-shell for beuty face

If you’re interested in purchasing this anthology, more information about it may be found at

Beyond Castle Frankenstein by Paula Cappa

As my regular readers (both of them) know, I’m fond of observing coincidences in my reading and in life generally. I don’t believe in them, but I enjoy them. Every now and then in my reading I seem to hit a pocket where themes recur over the course of a few weeks or a stretch of books and stories. The latest has been a spate of Shelley/Frankenstein-related reading, including one book club which just read the “original, uncensored” version of that classic, and a friend who just randomly last week “finally” returned my copy of “The Sufferings of Young Werther” after having it for quite awhile. (That book was one of the three fortuitously found by Frankenstein’s Monster in that “leathern portmanteau” in the woods.) Then, for the Fenruary meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library book club, we read a collection of his WNYC radio pieces (“God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian) where he “interviews” people in heaven. Who do you think was one of them? Mary Shelley, of course. Add to that, a fellow DMI’er (at Behold the Stars) recently posted about a Percy Shelley poem.

When I drew the two of spades – a wild card – for this week’s Deal Me In read, I thought I may as well continue the trend and chose to read Paula Cappa’s short story “Beyond Castle Frankenstein,” which I own via an e-copy.  I’ve followed Paula’s excellent blog for a few years now, and her weekly “Tuesday’s Tale of Terror” has provided me with many great introductions to hitherto unknown to me stories and authors. Paula is also a published author herself, and I have one other story of hers (“The Magic of the Loons”) already assigned in my 2015 Deal Me In roster.


Below: the “Casa Magni” on the coast of Italy – once the home of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley.

Beyond Castle Frankenstein

This tale is sort of a story within a story. We have a modern day narrator who describes a visit to a location where a painting of the Casa Magni once resided. He articulates that “I had come here to observe the ghost of an old painting that once lived here. There are such things as phantoms of paintings.” An interesting concept, and one I’ve never given much thought. Do you think there are such things as phantoms of paintings?

The meat of the story, however, is a different treasure within the painting. Literally. The narrator had purchased the piece and was committed to restoring it after years of normal though significant depreciation. In preparation, he notes that it has a rare double backing and in between the backings he finds “a thinly folded yellowed handwritten letter.” The narrator believes he has found “the soul of the painting,” and indeed he may have. What the letter proves to be is a missive written by Mary Shelley to the ghost of her husband (Percy Bysshe Shelley)!

The letter was written in 1850 – 28 years after the poet’s death by drowning, which was a sensational news story of its day. Mary Shelley at one point confides in the letter that “of late something has loosened in my brain” and the letter is largely an unburdening of guilt that she possesses over the death of Percy’s first wife Harriet, from whom the young Mary seduced the poet away. Perhaps she is right about the “loosening,” as she writes seeking some kind of a reunion with her love, saying “I have come to believe that a force between the living and the dead can manifest if both are willing. Please, come to me, as a shadow or a dusty light. I must see you one final time before my own death. One more embrace? You do still love me?”

Was her written entreaty read or heard by Percy’s ghost? By anyone?

I enjoyed the story – as much for itself as for knowing that it will lead me into further interesting reading… There is some mystery Surrounding the death of Percy Shelley and much speculation that he may have been suicidal. There are also stories that his heart was preserved and its calcified remnants were kept by Mary until her death (wow). With the very limited ‘research’ I’ve done so far I don’t know if this latter is true, but I‘d certainly like to read more about the Shelleys.

Above: an artist’s imagining of the burning of Shelley’s body on the Italian beach where he washed ashore after drowning.

This story – and others which I plan to use for future editions of Deal Me In – may be found in “Journals of Horror: Found Fiction” edited by Terry West. As of this writing, it’s only $3.99 in the Kindle version, which may be found at

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 9 Wrap Up


Yeah, I’m a little slow again this round.  I was hoping to finish my own post in time to include in this update, but alas – you’ll have to wait a little longer for that. 🙂

From the department of good news: we have a new participant joining us.   Jason at Literature Frenzy! has picked up the Deal Me In 2015 gauntlet.  His roster of stories may be found at  If you can, please take a moment to check out his list and welcome him to the group!

New posts by the rest of us since the last update:

Randall at Time Enough at Last read Joyce Carol Oates’ story “Upon the Sweeping Flood”

Katherine at The Writerly Reader writes about “The Tears of Squonk” by Glen David Gold

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself read Michael Pallon’s “Power Steer”

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Ernest Hemingway’s “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen”

Cleo at Classical Carousel shares with us “The Ides of April” by Mary Ray

Tracy at a Bitter Tea and Mystery read “Marie: Blue Cadillac” by Michael Malone

“o” at Behold the Stars read Samuel Johnson’s “The New Realistic Novel”

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews summarizes her February DMI reading, which included “The Grey Woman” by Elizabeth Gaskell, “At Five O’Clock in the Morning” by L.M. Montgomery, “Mr. Cosway and the Landlady” by Wilkie Collins, and “A Day at Niagara” by Mark Twain.

I read Paula Cappa’s story “Beyond Castle Frankenstein” and hope to finish up my post later tonight…

See you next week!