“The Striding Place” by Gertrude Atherton – Selection 35 of #DealMeIn2019

The Card: ♥J♥  Jack of Hearts.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2019, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for “Stories by favorite authors” and, though I haven’t read much by Atherton, the story I have read was a home run.

The Author: Gertrude Atherton – perhaps most famous for her novel, Black Oxen, published in 1923, was a prolific American author in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Raised by a grandfather who “insisted she be well read” she was naturally (or nurture-aly!) well equipped for a literary career!

The Selection: “The Striding Place” which I don’t own, but is available to all of us online (see link below) is a truly frightening tale of a missing person and the unique way in which he is eventually found.

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 2019. At the bottom of that post will be the cards I’ve drawn and links to any posts I’ve written on the stories. Also, check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

What about you?

While walking, perhaps in the woods, have you ever came to the barrier formed by a stream and stopped, contemplating jumping across at its narrowest point? The banks might be muddy or slippery and yet you still take a chance and “go for it” because, after all, what’s the penalty if you fail to clear it? Some muddy clothes and maybe wounded pride? Both things may be quickly remedied or forgotten. What if, however, a more formidable waterway, due to quirk of topography, also narrowed at one point to a “jumpable” width. Might such a spot become a local legend, particularly in the guise of a proving ground for the young to test their courage? This is what the titular “Strid” of this story turns out to be…

The Striding Place

“Weigall was not a coward, but he recalled uncomfortably the tales of those that had been done to death in the Strid. Wordsworth’s Boy of Egremond had been disposed of by the practical Whitaker; but countless others, more venturesome than wise, had gone down into that narrow boiling course, never to appear in the still pool a few yards beyond. Below the great rocks which form the walls of the Strid was believed to be a natural vault, on to whose shelves the dead were drawn. The spot had an ugly fascination.”

Some spoilers follow, but by all means, do read the story. It’s not that long and is available online at: https://americanliterature.com/author/gertrude-atherton/short-story/the-striding-place

Mr. Weigall is our main character and is sojourning in Yorkshire, entertaining a guest at his “country estates” for the sport of grouse shooting (I mean, what else is one to do in England in August?). But casting a pall on the occasion is a report that a “chum of Weigall’s college days,” Wyatt Gifford, has mysteriously disappeared, leaving no trace. Some locals suggested it might be a suicide, but Weigall dismissed such nonsense, as they – along with other friends – had recently been together at a funeral of yet another acquaintance and all seemed normal with him (well, as normal as such an occasion might allow, I suppose).

Anyway, search parties have been unsuccessful in their attempts to find Gifford and we join Weigall walking near “the ‘Strid.” He muses about the danger of the place and becomes a bit mesmerized by the roar of the water and the visual motion of the rapids. Suddenly he sees a foreign object “describing a contrary motion to the rushing water, an upward backward motion” He realizes it’s a struggling hand and that “doubtless, but a moment before his arrival” a man had been swept into the current, and was now trying to resist the force of the water in order to free himself.

Weigall leaps into action in an attempt at rescue, at first mindful of his own safety – until he recognizes a french-cuffed shirt sleeve and lower arm – and cuff link – as one belonging to his very friend Wyatt. He renews his efforts at greater risk to himself and using a long stick finally frees the man from the awful current, leaving the man “liberated and flung outward” into the quieter pool downstream from the ‘Strid. Weigall believes the valiant rescue complete, knowing that “the danger from suction was over”  and that “Gifford was a fish in the water and could live under it longer than most men.”

Weigall scrambles down to the quiet pool below but doesn’t find quite what he was expecting..

This was a truly chilling story and I liked it a lot.

I found the picture above via google images. Apparently it’s a ‘strid on the “Bolton Abbey Estate”. It looks smaller and less formidable that what my imagination cooked up while reading the story, but is nonetheless a jump I wouldn’t attempt myself.

♫♫ Personal Notes:  I was surprised to find myself remembering a nearly fossilized memory from my youth when reading the story. I believe it was in 1978, and I was on a summer camping trip out west with my family and one of our stops was Zion National Park in southern Utah. We stayed in the campground, which is bordered by the Virgin River (which has sculpted the wondrous Zion Canyon over the eons). My little brother Gary and I liked to “swim” in the very shallow river which, at least at times, had a reasonably strong current. I remember one day we invented a game at a ‘strid-like narrowing of the river. One of us would man one of the miniature “Pillars of Hercules” on either side of the ‘strid, while the other would go upstream and pretend being caught in the current and sweeping downstream, thinking he would be saved by the other at the narrowing. The other would grab the floater’s arm, pretending he would rescue him, then suddenly let go and let him be swept away, cackling maniacally. Somehow we found this hilarious, and to kids our age, I guess it was!

<below (from wikipedia): grouse shooters, of course>


My #24in48 Readathon Wrap-Up

Thoughts on my July 2019 #24in48 Readathon experience.

I like the idea of an online readthon. So what if I can rarely read the volume of words/books that are generally the goals of these events? I can still appreciate how they make me focus more on reading and, at the very least, encourage me to fill any available gaps in a busy schedule with… reading!

There are other readathons which are more in the tradition of the “Cultural -athon Phenomenon” and by this I mean literally reading for “24 hours straight” for example. This is why I prefer the “more sensible” 24in48 Readathon. You have two whole days to try to hit a goal of 24 hours of reading.

Of course, that’s still too hardcore for me 🙂 , and for the past few years I’ve tried to read 24 stories in 48 hours (probably more like 12 hours of reading – still a healthy increase over my normal amount, though)

So Friday night I took out some of my short story anthologies and collections and picked nine of them to use to populate a reading roster. You can see my list below. And yes, naturally, as the host of the Deal Me In Challenge, I can’t “play it straight” and have to assign the stories to playing cards and draw one card at a time to randomize my reading order.

And below the stack of ACTUAL books (no e-reading this time!) that my 24 stories were collected from.

Did YOU participate in the #24in48 readathon this go-round?  What were some of the favorite things that you read?  How many hours of reading did you get in?I must report that I didn’t succeed in reading 24 stories, finishing at 18 or 19, but here are some thoughts on my reading and a few of my favorites.

Sadly, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t encounter – or discover – more great new to me stories during the Readathon, but I did revisit some old favorite authors (M.R. James, Ray Bradbury and Thomas Hardy) And finally cracked open an anthology that I was once excited to dive into but has lain neglected on my shelf for years (The My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me anthology of fairy tale re-tellings, which includes some “heavyweight” authors among its story contributors). From this last anthology, I really enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s “Orange” which is told in the unique format of an interview with a ‘survivor’ of an event, with the catch being only the interviewee’s answers are given. I couldn’t resist the challenge of trying to guess what the questions were (some were obvious, some less so, but I guess the reader could also come up with his own that “fit” and that would still be okay). I’m not usually a fan of ‘gimmicks,’ but this one worked for me.

Maybe my big surprise was how much I liked the two John Updike stories that I read (“Poker Night” – about the hours immediately following a man’s cancer diagnosis and “The Other” an interesting psychological study of the impact of a man marrying a woman who has an identical twin sister. Maybe I’d been unfairly biased against Updike in recent times. He edited the “Greatest American Short Stories of the Century” anthology, which my ‘after work short story “book” club’ used as source material for over a year, and which also became the subject of good-natured ridicule for so many of the stories being downers.

Two of the Thomas Hardy stories I read were re-reads (if you can even call them that after a gap of twenty-six(!) years) and were ones that I had tagged as ‘recommended’ back in the day. Based on that recommendation, I was a little disappointed in both, but I did certainly enjoy Hardy’s writing style after not having read anything by him in many years. I’m guessing “Two on a Tower” was my last foray into his mastery.

The deck of cards I used was one I picked up during my January vacation in Gibraltar. Turned out it was a great place to be when the temps here at home went sub-zero at the same time!

Let’s see, what else… Oh, I was actually disappointed in the Ray Bradbury story, “The Concrete Mixer” though from a social commentary standpoint one could certainly appreciate it as prescient. The other Bradbury story I got to, “The Highway,” was more consistent with what I’ve come to expect from him, and I did like it much more. Both stories are part of his generally wonderful collection, “The Illustrated Man.” Love that cover!

I also read a couple of Robert Howard’s Conan stories, which were probably the hardest of my reading during the weekend. I had a volume of his work gifted to me 4-5 years ago.  Each of his stories runs about 30 pages or so and I’ve begun to feel them a bit formulaic, with certain elements always seeming to repeat. I had the idea of creating a Conan the Cimmerian reading drinking game to fit all the recurring elements (e.g., mention of cleaving a skull: finish your drink!) but that will have to wait for a future blog post or reading challenge…

I read four stories from “Tales for the Not Nervous” (some text pictured below from “River of Riches”) an Alfred Hitchcock anthology I first heard about via The Writerly Reader blog. More than anything else, this anthology made me realize how badly I need reading glasses! My arms were almost not long enough for me to hold this away from my eyes so I could focus. *sigh* getting old, I guess. I also noted that the story “Dune Runner” was in this anthology, which is one that I didn’t read for the readathon, but it has been recommended to me by several people over the years.

I only got to one of my Sherman Alexie stories, and it (“Catechism”) wasn’t really even a story in the traditional sense. I must go on and finally read this collection, though, as it has also been languishing on my shelf for awhile.

I find it impossible to do a readathon without taking some walking breaks. Saturday morning, before the sun blazed through the morning haze and made being outside intolerable, I walked over to White River State Park and paused for a moment to take a picture looking back east toward downtown Indianapolis, where I actually live now (a little beyond and to the right of that tallest building in the background.


The Story of Keesh by Jack London – selection 3 of #DealMeIn2019

The Card: ♥3♥  Three of Hearts. Playing card image found on Pinterest from the “Undertale Souls” deck of cards. I thought it would be appropriate to have a card featuring snow since the story involves the Inuit People of Alaska. 🙂

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for “Stories by favorite authors” and London certainly qualifies. I – and other Deal Me In participants – have written about many London stories over the years.

The Author: Jack London, one of the Titans of American Literature. I’ve posted about several of his works before, including Before Adam, Negore the CowardA Relic of the Pliocene, and Moon Face, to name a few.

The Selection: “The Story of Keesh” which I own as part of my e-copy of The Complete Works of Jack London. The story is in the public domain and may be read for free online in many places, like the link at the bottom of this post.It was first published in 1907.

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 2019. At the bottom of that post will be the cards I’ve drawn and links to any posts I’ve written on the stories. Also, check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

The Story of Keesh

“Keesh lived long ago on the rim of the polar sea, was head man of his village through many and prosperous years, and died full of honors with his name on the lips of men.”

***spoilers follow*** This one was, frankly, a bit of a disappointment. At least compared to other Jack London stories I’ve read. There just wasn’t enough to it for me. It’s basically an old folktale of a young boy (he has only seen “thirteen suns” – after each winter of no sunlight, when the sun returns, that counts as one year, so he is…13) who rises to a place of respect in his “igloo village” due to his crafty method of hunting polar bears.

It all starts out when he speaks up at a council one night, because, since his father has died (in the act of slaying a large bear to provide food for the village) he and his widowed mother’s meat apportioned to them by the tribe is “ofttimes old and tough, this meat, and, moreover, it has an unusual quantity of bones.” The men of the tribe, brave hunters all (just ask them), are neglecting their duty to provide for the rest of the village fair shares of the “community” meat.

The men react harshly to this upstart and Keesh vows never to return to the council but sets out on his own with arrows and his father’s spear. He’s gone a very long time and his mother and her comforters fear the worst, but he shows up with – lo and behold! – a big hunk of bear meat and directs the other hunters in the tribe that the rest of his kill may be found and returned if they take their sleds along the path he has come. Naturally, Keesh makes sure that everyone in the village from “the least old woman and the last old man” receive a fair portion of the meat.

With Keesh being so young, the men of the tribe suspect some trickery and even suggest that “witchcraft” might be involved, and that he “hunts with evil spirits.”  Such is the way with any who are ignorant of how something extraordinary is achieved, isn’t it? Keesh, when questioned, puts them straight and says, “It be headcraft, not witchcraft.” His method of bringing down the bears was quite original, I must say.

So, an easy read, but too short to sate my story hunger for one week. A better story, with more “meat on its bones” if you will, featuring the natives of the far north is London’s tale “Negore the Coward” which I’ve wrote about before and linked to in the header of this post.

What short stories did YOU read this week? What is your favorite of Jack London’s many short stories?

You can read the story online here: https://americanliterature.com/author/jack-london/short-story/the-story-of-keesh


The Crabapple Tree by Robert Coover – Selection 2 of #DealMeIn2019

The Card: ♣6♣  Six of Clubs. Playing card image found on Pinterest from a 19th century deck. The bones are quite appropriate for one section of this story, heh heh.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣ is my Suit for “Award Winning Stories” which I’m defining for Deal Me In purposes as stories that were featured in either the O. Henry Prize Winning story anthology of 2016, or the Best American Short Stories anthology from 2017.

The Author: Robert Coover, who I’ve never read before. Picture is from wikipedia. From what I hear, he has a penchant for horror stories told in a kind of fairy tale language.

The Selection: “The Crabapple Tree” which I own as part of my e-copy of The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016. I guess I also own it as a digital subscriber of The New Yorker, which published the story in its January 12, 2015 issue. The story is essentially a retelling of the classic Grimm’s tale “The Juniper Tree”- somehow being set in the contemporary world makes it even more chilling. Read it online at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/12/crabapple-tree (I believe The New Yorker still allows three free articles read per month online).

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 2019. At the bottom of that post will be the cards I’ve drawn and links to any posts I’ve written on the stories. Also, check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

The Crabapple Tree

“Marleen seemed to live in a storybook land of her own. When she spoke, she spoke to the world, the way singers do, and what she said seldom made any sense.”

This was a great – and creepy! – story told in a fairy tale-like voice, which made it very easy to read. Tolstoy famously said that all great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. This story would fit into the latter. The stranger is the second wife of a local farmer whose first wife had died giving birth to his son, Dickie-Boy. The narrator of the story and her friends refer to the woman as the Vamp, thinking she may be a former prostitute and, even if not, certainly 150112_r25994the possessor of a certain power over men.

With this stranger came her daughter, Marleen, who becomes a playmate of both Dickie-Boy’s and also (at least initially) the daughter of our narrator. The Vamp is a mean spirited person, and trouble lies ahead for this family as first Dickie-Boy, then the farmer himself die under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Local authorities are curious about these deaths, but not so much so as to truly “investigate.”

“…the little boy had never quite seemed part of this world in the first place, so it wasn’t as sad as when his mother died.”

He is buried under the crabapple tree (where his mother had also been buried) and Marleen has a strange bond with the tree. One time, while playing with a pile of bones, stringing them together into a kind of horrible puppet, she even tells the narrator’s daughter that “the bones were those of her stepbrother, whom her mother had cooked up in a black-beer stew, which her stepfather ate, gnawing all the little bones clean before burying them.” The narrator continues that her daughter stopped seeing Marleen about that time.  (No kidding!)

The Vamp later runs off (or also disappears?) and Marleen takes over the farm on her own, building an extension of the house to protect the tree and the story ends with the chilling “Its apples were said to be poisonous, but birds gathered in its laden branches like twittering harpies to eat them, and, if anything, they got louder and bigger, and there were more of them than ever.”

So, what was Marleen anyway? Near the end of the story the narrator admits that “Over the years, we got used to thinking of Marleen as something eerie but mostly harmless at the edge of our lives.” In a past era of history, she would certainly be considered a witch, and possibly subjected to the fate that often befell those so designated. In this story, she has a natural affinity and “familiar”ity with animals and even speaks a kind of bird language at times. A fascinating character to be sure.

u-g-pysik20♫♫ Personal notes: This story got me thinking about those acquaintances in our lives who we only know through the eyes of our – or their – children. When I was growing up, there were a few neighborhood friends whose houses I’d occasionally visit, but it seems that most of our “playing” was outside, and those times where I got an inside glimpse of how another family lived were rather rare. Of course, upon my return home, I would be debriefed by my parents about “did you have a good time at “X”s house?” and “what did you do all afternoon?” etc. and I wonder now if my own parents were forming opinions based on the keyhole-view their child provided of the neighbors…

What short stories did YOU read this week? What memories and stories do you have of playing at friends’ houses when YOU were growing up?


“Hog for Sorrow” by Leopoldine Core – Selection 1 of #DealMeIn2019

The Card: ♣9♣  Nine of Clubs. Playing card picture at left found from one of my personal decks, this one is a “Runic” deck that I purchased in Iceland in 2017. (I had the deck out since I brought it as show & tell at my short story book club since we read M.R. James’ “Casting the Runes” this month. 🙂

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣ is my Suit for “Award Winning Stories” which I’m defining for Deal Me In purposes as stories that were featured in either the O. Henry Prize Winning story anthology of 2016, or the Best American Short Stories anthology from 2017.

The Author: Leopoldine Core, who I’ve never read before. “Born & raised” in New York’s East Village, she is the author of the story collection “When Watched,” which won a Whiting Award. If Goodreads’ author profile (where the pic above was found) is current, she teaches as NYU and Columbia University.

The Selection: “Hog For Sorrow” which I own as part of my e-copy of BASS (Best American Short Stories) 2017. The author’s own notes in that volume state that the story is “actually about the construction of morality – how fixed states of virtue and evil are falsely projected onto people, much the way gender is.”

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 2019. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

Hog for Sorrow

“She tried to imagine the women who loved his smell. A wife. Daughters. Possibly girlfriends. These women were lurking in the private lives of even the ugliest men she saw.”

One of the questions I’m constantly asking myself regarding my reading life is whether or not I’m becoming a more “discerning reader.” Do I have good literary taste? Do I “get it” when reading works that those “in the know” have praised? This is partly why I devoted one of my Deal Me In suits this year to “award winning stories”  – ones that, having already been vetted by someone who presumably knows more about literary merit that I do, I should be able to appreciate – IF the answer to those questions above is yes.

That’s a long way of saying I thought this was a really well written story, and I can understand why it made it into the Best American Short Stories anthology. Maybe there’s hope for me yet!

There are just a handful of characters in the story: Friends Kit and Lucy, Sheila (their “boss”), Ned (a customer”) and Lucy’s dog Curtis. Curtis may be my favorite character. The story starts with minimal information. Kit and Lucy are in some kind of a waiting room. At first I wondered if it was a doctor’s office or something. Boy, was I off. They are young prostitutes, waiting to be assigned to their next “client.”

We follow the story from Kit’s perspective and, as one might guess, it is a rather jaded one. At various times in the story, she muses that “College was a lot like being a prostitute, only she never got paid.” Then, on the prospect of growing old and ugly, “It’ll be nice to be left alone.” Her friend Lucy (probably slightly more experienced in the business) advises her that “Crazy people have one tactic, to convince you that you’re crazy. So you can’t let them.”

The thing that made the story blossom for me is how the two girls become friends and how they “come to understand how rare friendship is” (as the author says in her contributor’s notes). The catalyst for their friendship is, oddly enough, the weird john, Ned (the “Hog for Sorrow” in the story’s title), whose particular fetish serves to bring them closer.

The end of the story is somehow heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time:

“‘Becoming a prostitute is like getting very sick,’ she thought. ‘You don’t want people and they don’t want you. Only she did want people. A little.'”

This story also made me wonder how many times – if any – I’ve read works where a prostitute is the main character. I haven’t come up with any yet, but I’m sure I’m forgetting something. What about YOU? Can you think of any?

♫♫ Personal/Trivia Notes: Do YOU know what the word “tribeca” refers to? You can see in the picture of my open kindle app in my iPad above that I highlighted it in blue (by my system, blue are words I looked up in the dictionary while reading that I will, presumably, try to remember the definition of when I scan through a book again). So, though I’ve heard the word before I never looked it up until reading this story. For the trivia points, can you tell me what it means? (residents of NY are ineligible for the points)

My wrong turn at the very beginning of the story, when the setting and landscape are only slowly revealed (we’re several paragraphs in before we get the phrase “considering the pleasureless nature of their business”) oddly reminded me of a phenomenon I frequently experienced back in college. A few basketball-loving friends and I would often go at odd hours to the main gym of the (small) school’s athletic facilities, and by main gym I mean our actual home court that varsity games were played on. Anyway, the big bright lights that illuminated the court were, naturally, not left on in off hours, but we would turn them on in our early morning or late night sessions. By their nature the  lights took several minutes to reach “full strength” and those few minutes always struck me as an eerie almost-altered state of consciousness. Things were revealed slowly in the cavernous building. You could “see enough to play a little” almost immediately but it was somehow disorienting during those first few minutes.

Looking back, I’m surprised we random students even had access to do this (I’m sure things would be different in today’s world), but I’m thankful that thinking about this story made me remember something I hadn’t thought about in many years. I love that reading re-opens doors to your memories like this!


“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

“The Lady from Monte Carlo” by Dovid Knut – Selection 47 of #DealMeIn2018

Deal Me In, Catch Me Up!

Though I haven’t been writing many blog posts this year, I have been keeping up with my reading of the stories on my Deal Me In list. I only have five to go now, and a couple recent reads were very good – or at least though-provoking – so I thought I should break my silence. I’m also beginning to think about next year’s Deal Me In chalenge. Are you? I will be posting an invitation to join post on December 21st (the “SHORT”est day of the year, of course – at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere!)

The Card: ♣3♣  Three of Clubs.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣ is my Suit for (mostly) stories from the anthology Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky. I’ve long been a sucker for short stories written by Russian authors, and this volume has provided several more that were memorable for me.

The Author: Dovid Knut, who I’ve never read – nor even heard of – before. He lived from 1900 – 1955 and, after the Bolshevik Revolution, spent a lot of time in Paris. He was actually born in what is now Moldova and also lived in Romania for a while. His personal bio information in Wikipedia was interesting to read through.

The Selection: “The Lady from Monte Carlo” I own this story as part of the great anthology “Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky.” I had no particular reason for picking this story as one of the thirteen from the volume I would read for the challenge.

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.

(below: the city of Monte Carlo today, from Forbes Travel Guide)


The Lady from Monte Carlo

“For the love of God, my dear boy. Leave this place. Go. Trust me, you must leave at once.”

I was a little confused, initially at least, as to what this story was “about.”  But eventually I decided it was about the giving of advice, and how frequently advice – particularly good advice – is ignored. I’ve been guilty of not taking good advice throughout my life and I’m sure, if you’re being honest, you’ve – at least at times – done the same.

Why do we do it, though? Our reasons may vary but the end result is usually to our detriment. Do we think we know more than the advice-giver? Do we not trust the advice-giver? Do we just not like to think we need to be told what to do or how to behave? I think I’m guilty on all of these accounts in the many instances of my being heedless. What are some other reasons?  Do we pick the advice we like the best, ignoring the rest, often because the path of following the most correct advice is more work or more difficult? What do YOU think?

Our narrator for this tale is a rather dissolute young man, and we find him in Monte Carlo at the tables. All is rosy at first, as he is having “one of those nights” noting that his ‘luck was in.’ I think the author communicates this rare state of euphoria well, as the narrator notes that “I began to feel a definite pride – the pride of a successful gambler (I was sure I was in some way worthier, more gifted, more intelligent than my neighbours at the table, whom I probably – I could now swear to this – regarded with disdain).” Of course, as with most lucky streaks, it can’t go on forever and – imagine this! – he doesn’t quit while he’s ahead.

While he’s in town (and Monte Carlo is probably not the best city to be in if you have a gambling problem!) he sees an old lady who, for reasons he initially doesn’t know, seems to take an interest in him. She tells him of her her life, which “was an essentially uncomplicated story, yet I listened intently to ‘The Lady from Monte Carlo’, never taking my eyes off her.”

He learns that she came to Monte Carlo at the age of twenty, and that she had been exceptionally beautiful. She had visited the casino “out of boredom” and – surprise! – lost all her money, deciding never to do something so foolish again. Those who have a little knowledge of gambling addiction can probably guess that she did not stick to that decision. In her own time of need, she is saved by a kindly old gentleman and now she is presumably intent on ‘paying it forward’ to this contemporary young man, who seems to be careening down the same road she took in her youth.

What I began to see emerge in the story was a kind of multi-generational cycle of advice givers, advice ignorers, and advice “acceptors.” This was a pleasing idea to me that, in the midst of this city where these temptations thrived there was a kind of “lineage” (the kindly old gentleman seems to be part of it) of those who sought to help and and spare others what they themselves had suffered.

The Lady even has a Hamlet-worthy soliloquy near the end:

“I had a beloved, a sister, interesting work, hobbies, youth, beauty, life – and I gave it all up, do you hear? All of it. Do you know what that means? All, all, all of it for this money. I turned into a machine for accumulating money. I was loved – now I am despised. By everyone. I was surrounded by people; now I am alone, or surrounded by monsters. I was once beautiful – I became ugly. I was once alive – but I very nearly became a corpse.”

I wondered while reading if there are other stories centered around gambling that an organization like Gamblers Anonymous would present as cautionary tales. Do you know of any, or even just any good stories where gambling plays a major part?

“Dethroned” by I.N. Potapenko – selection 38 of #DealMeIn2018

Yes, I’m actually posting about a short story from Deal Me In 2018!  Can you believe it? 🙂

The Card: ♣2♣ Two of Clubs – a wild card.  I stayed with the Russian theme, but looked to another volume for my wild card selection, finding one in Best Russian Short Stories that I hadn’t read before.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣ is my Suit for (mostly) stories from the anthology Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky, BUT deuces are WILD in #DealMeIn2018, and I strayed from this volume (see above)

The Author: I.N. Potapenko, who I’ve never read – nor even heard of – before. He wrote in what is now Ukraine. I don’t know if he’s related to the former NBA Player, Vitaly Potapenko. 🙂

The Selection: “Dethroned” published in 1917.

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.


“They were two types of beauty very likely to divide the gentlemen of the regiment into two camps of admirers. But women are never content with halves.”

I didn’t know anything about this story before selecting it so, as is often the case, I only had the title as a hint about its subject matter. Would it be about some great political coup? A Tsar who has met his hostile successor? No, thrones in the ordinary world were seemingly not of interest to Potapenko – this is the story of two women who are in competition to be the proverbial “belle of the ball.”

On the one hand, we have Mrs. Zarubkin, the Captain’s wife, a schemer and the “defending champion,” and on the other we have her main challenger, Mrs. Shaldin. The former was rather plump and with “rather light” hair, while the latter was “a brunette with a pale complexion and large dark eyes.”

We see most of the story’s action through Mrs. Zarubkin’s eyes, for Mrs. Shaldin is away on some kind of “rest cure”-like vacation. Mrs. Z fears that Mrs. S will return with the latest fashions from “abroad” and that, left with her own seasoned wardrobe, she won’t be able to retain her status. She engages many others on her errands to seek intelligence on what Mrs. S’s gown might look like, and makes the only dressmaker in town swear to give her preferred customer status and to spend the last few days before an upcoming “annual ball’ working only on her gown.  She also enlists one of her household servants to spy on the the Shaldin’s house to gain information regarding Mrs. S’s return.

“…the lady’s manner toward the servant was far friendlier than toward her husband. Semyonov had it in his power to perform important services for her, while the captain had not come up to her expectations.”

In the end, it is the pretender to the throne who emerges victorious, as she has returned to town with a new “Empire”-style gown, one that the town’s dressmaker cannot or will not duplicate.  At the ball, it soon becomes clear that Mrs. Z had been dethroned:

“For in comparison with the make and style of Mrs. Shaldin’s dress, which had been bought abroad, hers was liked the botched imitation of an amateur. That was evident to everybody, though the captain’s wife had her little group of partisans, who maintained with exaggerated eagerness that she looked extraordinarily fascinating in her dress and Mrs. Shaldin still could not rival her. But there was no mistaking it, there was little justice in the contention. Everybody knew better; what was worst of all, Mrs. Zarubkin herself knew better…

I enjoyed the story a lot and also reading of “the furious resentment of a dethroned goddess” that Mrs. Z displayed. Reading it was a pleasant return to and reminder of all the great Russian Short Stories I’ve read as part of Deal Me In over the years.

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