“It’s the Most Wonderful Day of the Year!” Announcing the 9th Annual Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge!

Short stories “saved my reading life” way back when I was about 30 years old. Though I’d read a lot in high school and college, somehow my reading habits had atrophied from a lack of exercise. At some point, I eased my way back into reading when I picked up a few books of short stories and thought, “Well, certainly I can find the time to regularly read short stories!” so I started doing just that. One thing led to another, and they proved a useful “gateway drug” that guided me back to being the voracious reader I’ve been ever since.

Then, once I started blogging, it only took me a year ( 🙂 ) to invent the Deal Me In Challenge and I’m very proud in the knowledge that literally THOUSANDS of short stories have been read ALL OVER THE WORLD as a result of this challenge. So I guess all that’s left to ask is….

Will YOU become part of this great tradition in 2019?  The rules of the challenge are not difficult:


Deal Me In logo above designed by Mannomoi at https://dilettanteartiste.wordpress.com/ follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/callmemanno

What is the goal of the challenge?

To read 52 short stories in 2019 (that’s only one per week – versions with a lesser story requirement are noted below)

What is the purpose?

To have FUN and to be exposed to new authors and stories and maybe get in the habit of reading a short story a week. Isn’t that enough?

What do I need?

1) Access to at least fifty-two short stories (don’t own any short story collections or anthologies? See links to online resources below)
2) A deck of cards
3) An average of perhaps as little as just thirty minutes of reading time each week

Where do I post* about my stories?

(*You don’t have to post about every single story, of course, – or even ANY story – but if you have something to say about the story you read any given week, your fellow participants would love to hear it.)

1) On your own blog or website if you have one.

2) If you don’t have a blog or website you may comment on any of my Deal Me In posts, sharing thoughts on your own story. Better yet, you can tweet about short stories you read using the hashtag #DealMeIn2019. In fact, I encourage everyone who does blog about the stories they read to use the hashtag (which I will link to in my sidebar in 2019) when you publish a post. Fellow DMI’ers can find them more easily and, hopefully, retweet them too.

How do I pick which stories to read?

The 52 stories themselves are totally up to you. Before you get started reading, come up with a roster of fifty-two stories (you can use any source) and assign each one to a playing card in a standard deck of cards. It can be fun to use different suits for different types of stories, but that is optional. I’ve often included one wild card for each suit too, so I can maybe read a story I’ve heard about during the year, or read another by an author I’ve discovered through this challenge. Each “week,” (if you’re like me, you may occasionally fall a story or two behind – that’s okay) you draw a card at random from your deck and that is the story you will read. There are links to many participants lists in last year’s sign up post if you want to see some examples. I’ve already posted my own 2019 roster.

What if I don’t have time to read a story every single week?

You don’t have to read your stories on a regular schedule (I almost always fall behind at least once during the year) and can catch up once a month if your prefer – OR try one of the challenge variations noted below, the Fortnight (or “payday” if you prefer) version is one story every two weeks or the “Full Moon Fever” version with just thirteen stories read or selected on seeing each full moon…

How do I sign up?

Leave a comment below with your URL, and I will link you on my home page, where I’ll eventually have a section in my sidebar for “2019 Deal Me In Participants.” I hope to occasionally publish some kind of wrap-up post, linking to other Deal Me In participants’ posts I’ve seen recently, or just giving an update on how things are going.

Late sign-ups (we always get a few) are allowed and encouraged too. If you can, I’d love you to add where in the world you’re blogging from and where or how you heard about the Deal Me In! challenge.

Some short story resources:

Classic Horror Stories:
AmericanLiterature.com short story of the day
EastoftheWeb’s short story of the day:
The Library of America’s short story of the week archive:

Free online novels.com has a wide selection; or check here for a few more. Heck just google “free short stories on line” and you’ll have enough to last a lifetime of Deal Me In Challenges!  Check out The New Yorker too. Last I checked you could access a limited number of their published stories per month. If your local library is like mine, they’ll likely have a good collection of annual O’Henry Prize-winning volumes, or the yearly Best American Short Stories anthologies.
Looking for some really short stories? Try here If you have recommendations for other free sources of short stories, feel free to share in the comments.

Deal Me In Variations:

The Deal Me In “Fortnight Version” – just use two suits from your deck and assign a story to each card, drawing a card every two weeks. If you get paid bi-weekly, you can use that as a reminder to draw a new card (I guess this makes the fortnight variation a.k.a. The “payday version.”)

The Deal Me In “Euchre Deck Version”If you work for “one of those companies” where you only get paid twice a month on the 15th and 30th, e.g., use a euchre deck!  Note: I’ve experimented with an accelerated euchre deck version for a couple readathons, especially the 24 in 48 readathon, where, instead of trying to read 24 hours out of 48, I try to read 24 short stories in 48 hours. Also pretty challenging!

The Deal Me In “Full Moon Fever Version” – this would be the baby steps way to ease into the Deal Me In routine, basically reading just one story a month (who doesn’t have time for that?). Just use one suit or face cards only and you’re set. Seeing the full moon in the sky can also serve as a reminder – “hey, I need to read my next short story!” 🙂

Not sure when the full moons occur? Not surprisingly, that information is available in many places on line, one of which is HERE.

You could also try using the new moons, as well, or BOTH new and full moons. In the past, we’ve had a couple Deal Me In’ers have a full moon add-on in addition to their 52 stories.

Other participants in the past have added their own wrinkles: Reading a story a week for only half the year, reading two at a time and trying to find a “connection” between them, reading essays, plays, poems, or famous speeches… Feel free to twist, spindle or mutilate this challenge any way you see fit to suit your own plans – the only element that should probably remain is the use of playing cards to determine your reading order.

So, how about it?  Are you UP for a challenge? If so, Deal Me In 9.0 might just be for you!  Shall we “Deal YOU in?”

“The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs” by Kelly Jennings – Selection 50 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♠K♠  King of Spades. Playing card picture at left found on pinterest. Samoyed pic from wikipedia.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♠♠♠Spades♠♠♠ is my Suit for (mostly) dark/horror/sci-fi stories.  I’ve been a digital subscriber to the “Fantasy and Science Fiction” magazine for some time now, and many of its short stories have found their way onto my DMI (and other readathon) reading lists.

The Author: Kelly Jennings, who I’ve never read before. She lives in Northwest Arkansas. You can find her on Twitter at @delagar and she has an active blog at delagarbibliopgraphy.blogspot.com

The Selection: “The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs” I own a copy as part of the May/June 2017 edition of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. I picked it for Deal Me In because I found the title irresistible.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2018. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs

“Resistance. That’s nearly as funny as Refugee Camp. But lots of us who survived the Camps did have the notion we could fight the invaders, especially those of us who were young and stupid.”

Okay. All those who had a dog or dogs growing up, please raise your hands. Mine’s up too, and while reading this story I remembered how family history is sometimes linked to “which dog you had at the time” a certain event happened. It’s also coincidental that I can remember five dogs: Flip, Rex, Tip, King, and Ring.  Rex was the only one we kept at, or I should say that lived his life at, my childhood home in Indianapolis. The others we bought with the foreknowledge that they would eventually handed over to my Granddad, who lived in the mountains of West Virginia, where the dogs could “roam free” and we could still visit them a couple times a year.

I think I could likely write my childhood history told in five dogs, but it would be an incomplete history. I also remember being fascinated as a kid about the concept of “dog years” vs. “human years.” I had to look up a conversion chart (shared later in this post) after reading this story to refresh my memory, as I, sadly, have not owned any dogs in my adult life. I loved how the author describes (pictured below from my kindle app) that the story came to her at a dog park in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It’s easy to see how the other dogs in the park could become “characters” in this story, just as Tolstoy’s “faces in the town square” ended up populating his endless novels. I was also reminded by the title of the sci-fi novel, “Earth Abides,” where in the new, post-apocalyptic world of that book, they give names to the years instead of numbers, and wasn’t one year known as “The Year Princess Died”? Princess being the survivors’ dog.

We don’t learn too much about the invaders in this story either (just that they are extraterrestrial and are applying their version of “terraforming” to the earth [the actual terra!], which leaves “us” with 10 months out of 12 being winter-like). Humans are outmatched and outgunned, and as our narrator says, “It’s hard to fight a civilization that’s capable of leaping across galaxies and rebuilding planets.”

It’s the nature of telling the story in five dogs that appealed to me about this one. There are five chapters and each begin “FIRST DOG,” “SECOND DOG,” etc. We learn about the breeds and names of the dogs, except  the THIRD DOG, whose brief story is a simple tragedy. They include a Weimeraner mix and a Samoyed as the final dog, where the narrator has fled to the high Rocky Mountains and has joined a survivor camp of 35 people. This compound of people also begins to wonder if they’re the last “survivors” left:

“Sometimes, when I’m standing up on Red Rock looking out across the frozen world, I think like Merle, that we should try to find these other people while we still can. I think if someone else is out there, maybe we aren’t, after all, doomed. Or at least not yet.”

Not a very upbeat story, but again, its attraction for me was the unique framing of it which I found fascinating. How about YOU? What are some of your favorite stories or books that involve dogs? (I can think of one novel my book club read where dogs were the star “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle”). What about stories or novels about alien invasions? Recommend some to me, please. 🙂 Or just tell me about YOUR favorite dog.

♫♫ Personal notes: In the post invasion world of this story, some humans opt to become “adjuncts” – a kind of pet/servant for the alien invaders, this called to mind my copy of the “Classics Illustrated” version of H.G. Wells’ novel, The War of the Worlds, which I read over and over in my formative years. Particularly the panels pictured below.


My 2019 Deal Me In Stories


(Deal Me In logo above designed by Mannomoi at https://dilettanteartiste.wordpress.com/ follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/callmemanno

One of my favorite parts of “The Holiday Season” the past few years is planning out my list of 52 stories that I will read in the upcoming year. Every year I try to read one a week, with the order being randomized by a drawing of cards. Over the years I’ve accumulated a ton of sources for short story material, and it seems I am always adding more. Another thing I enjoy is trying to come up with four “suits” to fit my stories into. It seems each year I have at least one which is groundbreaking, at least for me. This year I’m really excited about my Diamonds suit.

(pictured above (and below) some of my sources. The bottom left of the lower group is a little fuzzy, I’m afraid, but it is the americanliterature.com page, which lists a hundred free favorite short stories. A link to this page is included below.)

I should note that I am planning to “host” (using that word very loosely, here, basically I’m just going to announce) the 9th Annual Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge on this Saturday, December 21st, which will be the “shortest” day of the year – at least for us Northern Hemispherians.  So, I thought maybe I should have a list of my own that I could point back to in order to help “get everyone started.”

Lots of new authors for me this year. And a new genre for me too (Solarpunk! – who knew about it? I didn’t until recently). Also a new reading format as you’ll see as you read further below and get to diamonds…

So, without further ado…here are my 2019 stories:


♣♣Clubs♣♣ will be my suit for “prize winning” stories. In this case, if a story is in either the O. Henry Prize Collection (2016 is the most recent one I own so for that year 🙂 ) or in the Best American Short Stories anthology (2017 in this case). I’m hoping I can relax and know all these stories will be good since they have been picked by more discerning eyes than mine. I’m especially excited in the fact that all but one of these authors are new to me. I’ve left room for a wild card as well.


♥♥Hearts♥♥ will be my suit for favorite authors.  All but one of them come from the online resource https://americanliterature.com/100-great-short-stories, which I hope other Deal Me In participants might check out as a possible source for their own DMI rosters. Great stories there – and all for free! I threw in a Philip K. Dick story from that site especially because I’ve recently been rewatching the superb Amazon Prime Series “The Man in the High Castle” which is based on his work.


♠♠Spades♠♠ will continue to be my suit for darker, sci-fi, ghost, and ‘alternative’-type stories. This year I’ve culled six stories each from two sources: the anthology “Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World” and the Summer issue of the magazine “Midwestern Gothic.” I’ve featured several stories from this magazine before and once attended an event at a local bookstore where several of their authors performed readings of their work.


♦♦Diamonds♦♦ will be my suit for stories that I listen to (I reserve the right to read along with the narration in cases where I have that option). I have never read a story for Deal Me In that way before so this will be a new experience for me. I have four sources for these stories: 1) Stories from The New Yorker magazine, where, as a digital subscriber, the digital edition I receive sometimes includes audio of the author reading the stories. How cool is that? 2) Stories from the podcast “Levar Burton Reads.” Several people have recommended this podcast to me so now I will finally have an excuse to explore it. 3) Stories from the audible.com book “O. Henry: Complete Short Stories Collection” and 4) Stories from the audible.com production ” The Great American Short Story Collection.” This will be fun.


These are my stories for 2019.  Have you been thinking about YOURS??? How many of these stories or authors have YOU read before? The official announcement post is coming soon. I always look forward to what my fellow DMI participants come up with in the way of twists and turns and tweaks on the challenge format. I also look forward to being introduced to new authors by my fellow participants. That’s part of the reason I leave “deuces wild” in my roster. Some stories I hear about through the blogging community sound just too enticing to wait to read!

As the year progresses, I intend to list my reading order below and post links to any stories that inspire me to write a blog post about them. (Hopefully more in 2019 than in 2018!)

Week 1: Hog for Sorrow by Leopoldine Core

Week 2: The Crabapple Tree by Robert Coover

Week 3: The Story of Keesh by Jack London