Tag Archives: short stories

2nd Edition, Through the Glass Darkly

19 Aug


Ray Ferrer’s cover illustration for Through the Glass Darkly

I’m making the manuscript of my second edition of Through the Glass Darkly available –after many attempts to figure out how to do it – for a limited time.

You are free to download and read the manuscript, as well as share it with others if you so care.

As I do plan to publish it, I hope you will benefit me with your comments, including which stories you liked and why, as well as those you didn’t care for. I will leave this page posted for your comments, but will dismantle the link to the file eventually.

Comments on plots, characters, dialogue, flow, etc., are all important to me. Not so much, “I liked this story” (which I used to say when I wrote book reports as a kid), but, “I liked this story because …”

I post to and maintain my online writing studio on WordPress because I seek feedback, as I imagine you do also. Whether positive or negative feedback, it is all beneficial to me in terms of my growth as a writer and poet.

Thank you in advance for those thoughtful comments.

LSM, 19 August 2017

Click the following link for the manuscript. Please alert me if you have any difficulty opening this file.



Where do these ideas come from?

21 Dec

Where do these ideas come from?


When I first began my online writing studio, Writing Odds n’ Ends, or, Ramblings from the mind of L. Stewart Marsden, I had no idea where this road would take me, nor where the ideas would come from.

I started with the few poems I had already written: The Bone-Pickers, and All the Clocks Are Broken.

The first occurred as a result of going to the parceling out my parents’ worldly possessions. I wrote the poem mentally, scribing it with each painful leg of the process. Those of you who have gone through it know what I mean.

And of course, the clock poem is the quintessential commentary on how time seems to slow down when you don’t want it to, and vice-versa.

I also uploaded Stinky and the Night Mare, the paper adaptation of a story I made up in order to get my two daughters to sleep. It was one of several stories, that included Cathy the Fish, which came about with my two oldest when my son, Graham, was hospitalized with leukemia (Graham’s Story), and an ongoing saga that never was finished — The School of Hard Knocks — (clap your hands once) — Texas, a kind of Lemony Snicket-esk story about three children who were completely unmanageable, and who were shipped to Texas by their parents. You know, one of those stories with a moral.

Then I sat and waited. For hits. For likes. For any kind of recognition by the Wild Blue Yonder WordPress community. Like a faucet nearly — but not quite — closed, those hits and likes and comments slowly dripped and accumulated.

That was in November of 2011, the eleventh to be exact.

Since, I’ve posted about 250 or so poems, 89 short stories (actually there are less, but I’ve written several chapters in several short stories, and at least ONE of the stories is my granddaughter Jasmine’s work), and all kinds of commentary, a play, parts of two novels — one historic (I call them histrionic) and one a young adult). Most are finished in want of editing. Some are incomplete (my apologies to those who began the App Man series only to have it come to a standstill after 9 chapters. I am “cogitating” on the plot and how to bring it to a climax and a close).

Today I’ve received more than 19,000 hits on my studio. BFD.

Nearly 1,500 people are following my blog, but it’s hard to tell. The vast majority are not riveted by my posts. The sun comes up whether or not they read my latest post. I have no illusions.

I wondered at the beginning where the ideas would come from. In fact, I worried about it. I was in the process of a marital split, and figured my brain would be zombified by the experience.

Actually it was quite the opposite. To be sure, the strain of the separation and divorce provided the main gas for my writing engine. But, over time, I switched to solar, if you get the point.

In the spring of 2012 I participated in the annual April poem a day project. It was great discipline to sit down and force myself to write. Like the country song, some days were diamonds, but some days were stones. Even though I knew I wasn’t a good poet, I persisted. As with photography, I figured that if you write a lot of poems, one or two might actually be good.

Many ideas assaulted me in my sleep — awakening me and keeping me sleepless until dawn, when I finally was able to grab my iPad and write either the poem down, or begin the story.

I found myself not really caring if readers on WordPress liked my posts. Likes don’t do anything for the writer. It’s like a popularity contest. It’s the WHY someone likes or dislikes a piece that becomes the core concern for the writer. Hence, I don’t normally read something and hit the “like” link. I comment. I figure the writer will benefit one way or the other.

After three years being online, I’ve been surprised at the amount of output and the variety. I’m still unsure about my poetry, though I sense it maturing in quality. And, those damn eerie stories I write continue to backlog. I now have at least three — maybe more — ideas for short stories, although my short stories are becoming longer, as with The Pied Harpist of Nashville series. Fellow writer and now friend, Clara Bush, has suggested I start writing novellas, which is her forte. I recommend you reading her stuff, by the way.

So, again, where the hell does this stuff come from?

When I write a poem, it doesn’t take very long. Something grabs my attention — usually something very mundane — and it simmers until it comes to a boil, and I have to write it down. There are other digestive similes, but you can imagine them on your own time.

I’ve joined a couple of groups. One is an online poetry group on LinkedIn. A thousand members. VERY intimate group. (Sarcasm is the wick of inspiration). I’ve also been a part of a writer’s group — an hour trek — that proved not so helpful. And I’ve helped to organize a local writer’s group, which is a bit more satisfying because we’ve worked on a different approach to the writing group critique aspect (Google Hickory Writers’ Group).

Here’s the thing: the ideas come when you run the machine. It’s kind of a self-lubricating process that depends on you penning every day — or on a regular basis, at least. It’s also dependent on you becoming extremely aware of what’s going on around you, and grabbing hold of every moment, memory and opportunity to reflect and say something.

Hard work, it is, says Yoda.

Nothing comes easy. And all of the other stereotypical comments about how people end up doing and being and becoming.

Priming the pump.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then let’s begin with a simple assignment to get the juices flowing: today, observe something mundane (common) that happens during your day. It may be stepping out of a cab, or seeing some homeless person hock on the street. But take note of the common and mostly unobserved things that happen during your day — and write about it. Start with a paragraph. Or a line of verse. Anything.

And keep doing that.

Look at Matisse and Van Gogh — what did they capture on their canvasses but a moment in time? What did Ansel Adams do but frame a brief moment of nature in his viewfinder and press a button?

Do that.

In the everyday, mundane moments of life are the metaphors OF life.

That’s where the best ideas come from, I suspect. I challenge you to find me in error.

Leave a comment one way or the other. I hate “likes.”

Query: looking for contributors to Anthology on Aging

21 May


Anthology on Aging

Poems, stories, essays, art and photography (and more)

on the Golden Years


I’m aware of more and more excellent work being done on the broad subject of aging. As I’m sliding down that slippery silver slope myself, I find much of my writing geared in that direction.

Are you writing about that time of life? Drawing? Photographing? Recording?

If so, and if you would consider contributing to a project that would be self-published, let me know by emailing me at skipmars at gmail dot com.

Agreeable details can be ironed out by agreeable people, I think.

How about you?

Wanna try?



Through the Glass Darkly now available on Amazon

10 Oct

At last!

After all of the rewriting and editing and formatting and revising and posting and revising and editing and rewriting — Through the Glass Darkly is online at Amazon.com under books under L. Stewart Marsden and ready for either purchase (paperback) or free download for Kindle!

Thanks to Ray Ferrer for his wonderful illustrations. Not sure the printing process does his work justice, but you be the judge.

Thanks to my daughter-in-law for her edits and Russian translations for Petya i volk.

And thanks to my son, Graham, for his patience with me and for formatting the book. It was a bear!

So, go and check it out!

Through the Glass Darkly coming to an Amazon near you . . .

10 Sep



The above is the cover design for my short story compilation, “Through the Glass Darkly.” It was laid out by my son, Graham Marsden (see Graham’s Story), and uses Ray Ferrer’s wonderful illustration talents. Ray’s blog is http://www.urbanwallart.wordpress.com.

This is my first attempt at a self-published work, and I am both excited as well as very nervous. Now comes the final uploading, once I’ve gone over it with a fine-toothed comb. Inevitably there will be mistakes. This will be a learning experience, no doubt.

To those of you for whom this is old hat, my hat’s off to you. I invite you, once it has been published by Amazon, to get either a hard copy, or an electronic download. I also invite your input and criticism.

There are fifteen short stories, some way longer than probably what a short story should be. Again, a learning experience. Not all stories have been illustrated. Most have, however. I’m really pleased with the job Ray did.

Consequently, I have removed all of the short stories that appear in the book from my blog, and will begin compiling new stories as they attack me.

Your fellow blogger,

L. Stewart (Skip) Marsden


Over Easy, Please

29 Jul

Over Easy, Please
by L. Stewart Marsden

When my wife and I lived out in Portland, Oregon while she attended OHSU School of Midwifery (if-ery, not ife-ery), I visited her at school one day for lunch. The school cafeteria had a breakfast bar set up where a short-order cook would respond to special requests, such as soufflés and scrambled eggs, etc.

I slid my tray up to the cook and asked for “Two eggs over easy.” The cook looked at me, his head tilted askance, a quizzical expression on his face. He was from India, and so I took the hint and told him what that meant and how to cook them.

So, nervously, for the very first time in his life, this man attempted the order. Now I do most of the cooking in my house, and two eggs over easy takes, maybe, four minutes to complete. This guy was so nervous, and so intent on doing it right, that he went through six eggs before successfully completing the order.

Last year — November 11 to be exact — Armistice Day — I launched my WordPress blog and my very first post: “In Support of Public Education.” Just like that short order cook at the OHSU cafeteria, I was both nervous and intent on doing it right. I had never written a blog before, and hardly knew what a blog was.

And, just like that inexperienced short order cook, I stumbled along.

As I wrote my posts, in my imagination America held its breath for each new upload! I could hear the throngs cheering in my head — “Hurrah!” It was like Ralphie imagining his teacher’s response to his essay on “What I Want for Christmas.”

And, like that selfsame scene, the reality was far different.

So I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. My real intent was that writers who are out there in internet land would give me real comments, like, “I thought you were a little heavy-handed with the hero in that part of the book,” or, “I can say I knew you when!”

But I soon learned that the “Like” button in WordPress is sorta like the “Like” button on Facebook. It’s a sort of noncommittal committal, if you know what I mean.

And, I learned that a lot of people who “like” my writing, want me to “like” their writing. I learned to go on people’s blogs and actually make a comment about either their “About” page, or one of their posts. That way, people visiting those blogs would see my comment and, perhaps, come for a visit. Kind of a snowball effect.

I know you don’t do this, but I would toggle back and forth between my email and the stats page for my blog, watching to see how many people were viewing my blogs. That was a killer!

Is anybody out there? I would think to myself. Not think. Cry to myself.

Then, I got an email that someone wanted to link to a children’s story I had written and posted, “Stinky and the Night Mare!” Not just someone, but a real honest-to-god agent! I said yes, and over the next few days I got more than 30 views! (Now you know why I was crying to myself.)

I was on the cusp! The verge! The precipice!

Then, boom. That’s the sound of the door slamming shut. While the agent raved about the story, she then said I was an author without a voice. That I needed to focus and perfect one genre. That I was not a good risk.


That was around January/February of this year. I went back to the research and early drafts of my historic novel (I call it hysterical) “The Huguenots.” As a result, I took a trip to Delaware — Wilmington, to be exact — to visit and volunteer to help ready the Kalmar Nyckel, a reproduction of a 17th century tall ship. During the drive up, I decided to scrap most of what I had written so far on the novel, and take a slightly different angle. I had more than fifteen chapters written.

Also, more importantly, I threw my hat into the ring to try the National Poetry Month’s challenge: a poem a day.

I’m not a poet.

But that experience of writing every day and posting resulted in two very important things: a dedication and discipline to write something, anything, every day. The second was I began to make blog friends, with whom I was able to get that much-needed feedback.

So things gradually continue on my blog. I have a boat-load of poems — some of which are ok. I have a surprising number of short stories, which have a kind of dark and macabre tone.

As a result, I’ve decided to publish my short stories in a collection I call “The Shadow Pool.”

I met a really terrific artist, Ray Ferrer, who is illustrating both my short stories and the cover for the book. His blog is urbanwallart. He’s listed under my favorite blogs and you can link to his web page there.

I have recently completed uploading a series of six articles that were written thirty years ago. I wrote them when my then two year old son, Graham, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. The response to those articles has been gratifying and overwhelming. Graham and I are planning to write a followup in the next few months. I’ll post it, of course.

Well, this seems to be a whole lot about me. But really, I’m wondering if you have experienced any of the above? I visit blogs where the authors say “I don’t know how to ______________ (fill in the blank)” and I think, like Nike, “Just Do It!”

Probably a mantra by which many could benefit.

And, Over Easy, Please.