Progress Report Addenda (And That List!) from Jeff Baker, Sept. 19, 2021

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I’m re-posting part of this Progress Report from March, to see how I’ve done with the list of plotted out stories I need to finish. For the record, in the last six months I kept up my casual, coasting progress until about a month ago when i decided to get industrious and write a lot every day. So, here’s some of that list I posted (I think) March 10th of this year and how I’ve done.

A full-length “slick fantasy” baseball story I am aiming at the Saturday Evening Post. (I actually got a nice rejection for an alternate history I sent them a while back!) ADDENDA: Finished! Sent it off to SEP. Waiting to hear back from them!

Another baseball story, this one a mystery/crime story titled “Over the Fence Is Out, Boys.” (The title is an ancient baseball song quoted in the Three Stooges theme.) ADDENDA: Haven’t done anything on this.

A domestic horror story titled “Please Don’t Eat the Neighbors,” for which I owe Robert Lopresti for the idea to actually write what started as a Facebook joke. ADDENDA: Wrote a line or two and plotted out the characters.

A mystery/crime story set on a prison work crew called “The Absent-Minded Convict.” ADDENDA: Also haven’t worked on this.

A non-genre story that is also going to the Sat. Eve Post, titled “Youth Like Summer Brave, Age Like Winter Bare.” (Title from Shakespeare.) ADDENDA: Haven’t worked on this either.

A science-fantasy story I dreamed up (the basic idea anyway) while driving my beat up old Chevy Nova (my first car) home from work one night in either 1983 or ’84. ADDENDA: Wrote a few lines.

And I need to start up the second of a series I DO have planned out of a mystery series set in Ancient Rome. The first of this series in in a slushpile at the moment! ADDENDA: To my surprise I wrote a couple of flash-fictions in this series and just finished a full-length mystery story in this series.

And a Last Addenda from Sept. 2021: I’ve decided to concentrate on mysteries (which I’ve had better luck selling!) and I have several I need to start up and a couple I need to finish, including one in the Ancient Roman series called “A Good Place to Lose Yourself.”

That’s about it for now!

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Progress Report, September 19, 2021, from Jeff Baker.

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Industry and discipline pay off!

For the last few weeks I have pushed myself to write every day and to work on two stories at the same time (something i swore off a decade ago!) But I have developed skills of discipline and industry (skills I was sorely lacking for many years!) and with persistence I finished a 4700-word mystery story, or at least the first draft. (A pretty good first draft if I do say so myself!) I also worked on the weekly flash fiction stories, added on to one of the flashes I’d posted (another one ballooning to short-story length?) did a few notes/lines on a “World of Three Moons” story, the first one, I started about 2012 over at Bret and Eric’s. I also have a full-length fantasy that’s almost finished (I haven’t written notes about that one in my daily progress notebook, I’m sure I wrote something on it in the last couple of weeks.

Anyway, I have another historical mystery that is on its way to being finished. Both of them impossible crime stories by the way; one about a vanishing assailant (who may be a statue!) the other a locked-room murder!

Since I’ve had better luck placing mysteries and got good response from a few of the big magazines I made up my mind to write the mysteries I have kind of synopsized out. I haven’t seen as many historical mysteries in the magazines lately so I’m starting to write some. Influenced by Edward Marston, who writes mystery short-stories (and novels) set in time periods as diffuse as Ancient Egypt and WWII. I have the time, I should not waste it. Spend a few hours writing every day and I can do this! I’ve also pushed myself to read some more, for pleasure as well as to write a review or two!

That’s about it for now!

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Listen For “The Harps of Lameggishire” for Friday Flash Fics, September 17, 2021 by Jeff Baker

Again, thanks to Anthony Cardno for this week’s picture!

The Harps of Lameggishire

by Jeff Baker

The field was green, the bright green of Summer. The grass was tall and the chattering of the daybugs was in the Summer air. Oisin brushed aside the grass as he led the way towards the far corner of the field, towards where the Guardian Stones marked the beginning of the Barren Place.

“There. Right there,” Oisin said pointing. “I saw it when I was running through this field years ago.”

“When you were a child,” Dermot said. “You imagine things when you were a child.”

“Not this.” Oisin said.

Dermot was nineteen summers, tall, brown-haired and muscular. Oisin was nearly a year younger, but was shorter, smaller and pale with bright red hair.

“It wouldn’t still be there,” Dermot said. If it wasn’t picked it would have shriveled and died in a few weeks, let alone after fifty Summers.”

“They missed it somehow,” Oisin said. “They’re supposed to pick the new Harp out of a field around the Tree of Aggomolch, when?”

Dermot sighed. “After the Seventh Cycle of the Moon Lasseen,” he recited.

“And they missed one. Decades ago!”

“I know the story,” Dermot said. “And they looked through the field and found it not, and there was lamenting for they were without the Harp of Lameggishire,” he recited. “And thus did the Woeful Years begin, until the new Harp would grow.”

“The Harp doesn’t always grow in the same field, but they found it in this one lots of times,” Oisin said. They really don’t check that well, I think. They don’t feel they need its song. Its magic. But we need it now.”

“Yes,” Dermot said.

“And I think this is the Harp they missed one year,” Oisin said. “Look.”

Dermot looked. The grasses were brownish here, mixed with the green. And the shadows from the barren tree growing nearby, maybe one of The Trees, no one was sure.

There in the ground was a wooden post that came up to Oisin’s knees. What looked like a branch grew out of the post at an angle. There were small strands of vine or branch growing between the branch and the post that made it look like…”

“A harp.” Dermot said.

“The Harp.” Oisin said. “We have to believe.”

“You believe,” Dermot said, becoming awed. “You pick.”

The hair began to prickle on the back of Dermot’s neck, as Oisin bent down to the harp.

The clouds were skittering across the sky, the Sun-Winds were blowing and the grasses were waving. The strings of the harp were tingling with anticipation,

But would it play? Oh, would it play?

—end—

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Visit Fun Lake Matchemonedo! September’s Flash Fiction Draw Challenge Story by Jeff Baker (9/13/21)

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Visit Fun Lake Matchemonedo!

By Jeff Baker

The whole thing was worth about $28,000 so we went for it. Sounded crazy, but all we had to do was send out the mailers and wait for the money to come in.

Timeshares, you say? This was better than timeshares. Offers for sale of land in the God-forsaken area near lake Matchemonedo. Harry and his family had vacationed there when he was a kid. So, the idea of offering property there was a good idea we thought.

“Nobody is ever too gullible,” Harry said.

And we had a premium: we ordered a shipment of souvenir pillows from Lake Matchemonedo. “As Part of Your Offer, We’ll Send You…”

We collect the money and we take a powder.

It should have worked.

Our office was a real address, 1933 S. Griswold Street. That’s the actual address of the back of the lot I inherited. All that’s on it is a big tin tool shed. But we needed a mailing address for it to work.

As I said, it should have worked.

Except we didn’t check out the area: the lake had flooded over and the land we were selling was all underwater. And then there was that big earthquake (3.9!!!) that made the news and nobody was going to buy any flooded lots on a fault line.

So we didn’t get the money, but we didn’t get caught either. The cash we did get paid for that shipment; about two-thousand of those pillows from Lake Matchemonedo.

We’re gonna need a bigger shed.

—end—

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The draws for this month’s Flash Fiction Draw Challenge were a crime caper, set in a tool shed or utility closet, involving a decorative pillow. I wish I could take credit for using the name “Lake Matchemonedo,” but I read someone stuck it in their horror novel. It’s from the Kolchak episode “The Energy Eater.” —-j.s.baker

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“Monmouth” for Friday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker. September 10, 2021

Monmouth

by Jeff Baker

When I was ten years old we moved into the big old house just outside of town where my Aunt and Uncle had lived. It was a blast for a little kid; Made of big timbers, fireplace in the living room, big second story and an attic. This was all in 1971 and I wasn’t even going to have to change schools that fall, but in the summer I could explore all over the air-conditioned indoors and the fenced-in yard. (My Mom had been strict with me about not going up to the lake unless I was with them. We could barely see the lake from the house.) Anyway, the big fun of that summer was exploring the attic. My Aunt and Uncle had left some of their stuff up there, mostly in big trunks. I found a trunk full of old newspapers and spent an afternoon reading old comics pages from thirty years earlier in the light from the big window, and another day trying on old hats and an army uniform. But it was on the third day that I found the thingie.

I wasn’t sure what it was. It was twisted and hard, like the leather strap from Granddad’s old camera case but this was older. It looked a little like a doctor’s face mask like on TV, but made out of hardened leather. I smelled it. It smelled old. I took a deep sniff and closed my eyes. I smelled cooking: turkey, roast beef, some kind of pepper. I opened my eyes, expecting to see dinner. Nope. I sniffed again. It smelled like the inside of a trunk. Anyway, it was getting close to the time they showed a couple of cartoons that I liked on TV, so I went downstairs and put Granddad’s old hat from the army on my dresser and tossed the thingie under my bed.

That night, I dreamed.

I was walking down a hallway and it was cold. I was looking for someone. I looked down at myself; I was wearing some long tight stockings on my legs and a fluffy shirt and a hat that felt more like a wrapped-up bag. I was drawn by a smell, the smells I’d smelled earlier in the attic. I followed the smell and wandered into a kitchen made of stone with women in costume, long dresses all of a single material. A big pot hung over a stove like a witches cauldron. To one side was a table with sliced turkey on a big plate, a bigger helping of turkey than I had ever seen. The smell was delightful. I looked around, not wanting to get caught even in a dream and reached and grabbed a turkey wing, a small one. I tasted it and somebody yelled. I ran from the room clutching the turkey, toward a room with flickering light. I ducked behind two men dressed for an old movie and they didn’t see me for a moment, and I ate more turkey behind the men’s robes.

I caught their words: “Had gin court.” “Monmouth coming back to Windsor.”

That was when someone yelled again and I ran into the room with flickering lights. For an instant, I caught a glimpse of candles and a line of fireplaces by a long table with chairs and banners hanging from the ceiling. I heard music, played on what sounded like toy flutes.

Then I woke up.

I was in bed clutching the leather thingie in one hand, a half-eaten turkey wing in the other.

The wing was still warm.

—end—

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This one came from a dream, maybe based on my youthful reading of Edward Eager and E. Nesbit. It started to balloon, so I cut it a bit and may work on the rest later.—-j.s.b. Sept. 2021

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Sounds of a Kansas Summer, by Jeff Baker. September 8, 2021.

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Sound of a Kansas Summer

by Jeff Baker

They are the background noise to the crickets, the fireworks and the other sounds of summer. The loud, whirring almost metallic noise is familiar to nearly every Kansan, but the details might not be as well known. The sound is from cicadas, emerging from their pre-timed slumber to mate, then die. These are not the famous 17-year variety, instead these insects emerge every two to five years, with enough showing up every year to be regular visitors.

The Annual Cicadas, as they are called, do not last long. By early summer their carcasses can be found on driveways, streets and yards, their mating hopefully done, their life and purpose spent. As the Summer moves on, their numbers diminish and their song fades.

Time is short the cicadas seem to say. The Summer will soon fade, the year is drawing to a close.

Their song is a sign that Fall will soon be here, and then the silence of Winter.

—end—

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Progress Report, September 4, 2021, from Jeff Baker




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Managed to keep up the daily progress on a couple of the mysteries and have written about six pages on the one. Also wrote several pages on another story (not a mystery) and should have it finished this weekend.

Finished one of the Friday Flash Fiction stories and wrote the one for next week.

Also wrote and finished the flash story for the monthly Furious Fiction contest and just zapped it off after very carefully proofreading the story.

Writing every evening (or early morning!) does the trick. I may have two full-length stories finished in a few weeks.

That’s about it for now!

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“McGuffin’s Big Deal.” Friday Flash Fics for September 3, 2021 by Jeff Baker

McGuffin’s Big Deal

by Jeff Baker

It was late Spring when Delmar and I walked into the Billiards Room at the club, talking softly about some big land deal he had just made. Doubtless so he could stare at the property and think how rich he was. As we passed Old Man Plunkett, he perked up and asked rather loudly “What’s that about a land deal?”

I looked around. It was too late to shush him or even try.

“A land deal?” came the voice from the chair in the corner. “I once had the Granddaddy of all land deals. I once had the opportunity to buy one of the biggest cathedrals in the city of London.”

McGuffin. I sighed and waved for another drink.

It was just after the War (McGuffin said.) I was footloose and fancy free and I was looking for a place to live having mustered out of the service. I heard about a place which was going for a song. I showed up at the address and couldn’t believe it; the address was Saint Ambroise’s Cathedral. I was not a religious man by any means, but I would happily have rented a room in the cathedral. They told me that the Cathedral had been closed during the War and they were looking for someone to stay there and keep the place safe from intruders and there would be some “light housekeeping.” I entered the Cathedral, which was not nearly so big as St. Paul’s or St. Clemmons’ but was large, well-lighted and secure. My room was upstairs toward the back just behind the huge dome. I spent the morning moving my scant possessions into my room and doing my few housekeeping duties, namely dusting the pews and sweeping the floor (none of which had been done regularly since the doors were padlocked around 1940. When I was finished it was early evening, so realizing that I would not have to clean six years of grime again, I celebrated with a tin of meat and music on the radio and after checking the parameter and making certain that the doors were locked I retired to bed.

I was awakened a few hours by a strange thumping and fluttering. I grabbed my torch and my service revolver and headed into the main cathedral where I heard the sound. There was a dark cloud of some sort swirling around the room. At first I thought there was smoke filling the room or just maybe bats, then I shone the light beam and revealed to my astonishment thousands of moths! Of every size and description. And they saw me too! They began to dive for my torch’s beam, like a dark column of shadow. I waved at them, thought about firing my gun, then I thought the better of it and simply ran! But not fast enough: the moths surrounded me and suddenly I found myself lifted into the air! Before I could do anything, they rose through an open skylight taking me with them! I saw the lights of the city and realized I had no way of fighting them, unless…I suddenly realized what they were after; I tossed the torch to the ground and the moths darted after the light source, leaving me to fall from the height of the cathedral to the ground.

“My Lord!” Delmar said. “How ever did you survive?”

“By using my wits,” McGuffin said. “Getting dropped was my main objective so I made sure I was over the park across the street when I threw the torch. I dropped several feet into one of the largest trees from which I climbed down and went back to the cathedral to pick up my belongings. The next day I told the owners that I was not an exterminator which was what they needed. They said they had tried but the building was engulfed with moths.”

McGuffin paused.

“They then offered to sell me the cathedral, doubtless to get it off their hands.”

“My word, McGuffin!” I said. “What did you do?”

“I simply handed them a bill for my moth-eaten clothing and set out to find a paper with rental listings. And no moths.”

—end—

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Strange Dream! Plot Bunny! There was a mask in there! (c. September 2nd, 2021) from Jeff Baker

Took a nap and had an oddball dream, straight out of one of E. Nesbit’s kids books. Dreamed I was some kid (14? 13?) who was explaining to his Mom & Dad how the dog’s teeth marks got on the portable radio. (It was about 1972 or so!) I was trying to hide some thingie that was sometimes a facemask and sometimes some very old Medieval thing I couldn’t identify. In the dream I was trying to keep the parents from finding out that I was using the thingie to shuttle back and forth between 1972 and (I think) about 1420 in the court of Henry V of England. Woke up before anything really interesting could happen. There’s a story in this, maybe a very short one!

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Progress Report for August 28, 2021 by Jeff Baker

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First off, updating what I posted the other day over the last two days I’ve worked on two mysteries and made a little headway on both! A contrast to the 90s where I would start one story, then start another, then start another while abandoning work on the previous stories. I only started making progress in the 2000s when I told myself I would only start another story when I finished the one I was working on.

And from August 15th, 2021 on, I’ve proofread and finished a poem I wrote an idea for back in 1995 or so (finally came to me!) wrote two Friday Flash stories and worked on a long fantasy story which I may have done by next weekend.

That’s about it for now!

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