Short stories are hard for me to write. Mostly I've written them when someone said they were putting together an anthology and would I please write a short story with such-and-such theme. Then I went into panic mode, unless inspiration hit me. Once a friend said she was putting together stories about either women or love in WWII (can't remember which) and I demurred, couldn't do it. Then one afternoon I hard this woman's voice:
"War is unforgiving, they tell you. Old women who had lived through the first big war shook their heads and told me it'd take my boys and I could only pray to God they'd come back. But war took my daughter too, and that's a bitter pill to swallow, even now all these years later." That voice opens "An Old Woman's Lament about War."
On the contrary, when I was asked to write a piece for an anthology about guns, I was stymied. Fortunately a friend is an expert on handguns and introduced me to derringers, those "ladylike" guns. The result was "Pegeen's Revenge."
Two of my favorites came to me spontaneously. I wrote "Sue Ellen Learns to Dance" after I saw Dorothea Lange's 1936 photo of a woman and her children on the dust-blown plains. "Fool Girl" was inspired by a memoir in which a young boy was sent out on the Texas prairie to look for the work horse that had escaped. Terrified of Indians, he rode farther than a work horse could have gone. I made the boy a girl--remember, I wrote about Women of the West--and made the incident life-changing for her.
My short stories are collected in Sue Ellen Learns to Dance and Other Stories, available for Kindle and other e-platforms for only 99 cents. I think it's a bargain, but then I'm prejudiced.
The collection was first published by Panther Creek Press, and I'm eternally grateful but a friend who has a retail business said the cover was too scholarly to attract her customers. It features the photo behind the Sue Ellen story. When I put the collection on the web, I had a new cover designed, but I can't tell it's made much difference in sales. What do you think?