Saturday, November 14, 2015


John M. Daniel’s Blog
November 14, 2015

Greetings! This being the second Saturday of the month, I take pleasure in presenting ten 99-word stories sent to me during the month of October. You’ll find them waiting for you below. But first I’d like to say a few words about the word “since.”

My friend Craig sent me an essay by John Crowley, clipped from Harper’s Magazine. The “Easy Chair” essay put forth Crowley’s “crank theory” (his words) that “the human sense of time has its origin in story.” I’m quick to concur, and if it’s a crank theory, call me a crank. Story is made up of a sequence of events, involving a passage of time. A change happens in every story that is a story, and there is a difference between a character before that event and the same character after the event.

But a plot is more complicated than a mere sequence of events. Crowley, quoting E.M. Forster, distinguishes between “story” and “plot,” maintaining that the former can be a mere sequence of events, whereas the latter is more complicated: plot involves not just sequence, but also consequence. He illustrates the point with a simple story, “Boy meets girl and then joins monastery.” That’s a story. But “Boy meets girl, girl spurns boy, and so boy joins monastery” shows a causal relationship between before and after. A change through time, plus a reason for the change.

I have never distinguished “plot” from “story” this way. I say a story, by which I mean the thing a writer toils to create, must have consequence as well as sequence. Semantics, shmemantics. It all can be summed up in the single (or double) word “since.”

Since means after. My new novel, The King’s Eye, has been available since late September.

Since means because. Since I’m proud of this new book of mine, and since I have this opportunity to show it off to you, I have chosen The King’s Eye as this week’s featured book. You’ll find a description of the book below.


First, though, the 99-word stories. In the ten stories that follow, you’ll find both sequence and consequence. A woman entered a bar, and then the woman left the bar. She left the bar after (since) she entered the bar. But there’s a change: When the woman left the bar she was smiling. Why? Because (since) something happened in the bar that made her smile.

And now, it’s been a long time since I started this meditation, and since I have no more to say on the subject, I turn the floor over to the ten talented writers who contributed to this week’s post.


Here it is: the monthly 99-word story feature!

For this month’s 99-word story feature, I challenged writers to write a story using the following sentence: “The old woman walked out of the bar with a smile on her face.”


by Madelyn Lorber

It was her great-grandson’s birthday celebration, and Ruth knew she had to go, though every ninety-five-year-old bone in her rebelled, and her bed beckoned. She drove to the restaurant.
Fighting skeletal shrinking and osteoporosis, she struggled to climb upon a vacant bar stool.
Gentle hands around her waist lifted her.
“Bartender,” she said, “bring this gallant knight his drink of choice; a Martini for me.”
When her family arrived they registered shock. Ruthie, flirting with a stranger!
As she departed, the young gent kissed her.
Ruth walked out of the bar with a smile on her face.


by Jerry Giammatteo

She nursed her Guinness at the bar and watched the poker game. The men never let her play.
“Some other time, Grandma,” they would say, but never invited her to join.
Tonight, a regular was missing. “This is your chance, Grandma. Want to play? I promise we’ll go easy on you.”
“Thank you, boys,” she said sweetly, sitting down.
Three hours later, she dropped a fifty on the bar from a wad of bills. “A round of stout for these nice boys, please. They’re broke.”
The old woman walked out of the bar with a smile on her face.


by Charlotte Painter 
         Heavyset, wearing a thick jacket, she came through the swinging doors and joined the dart game. In five minutes she’d beat hell out of us.
         She sat at the poker table, placing her pistol aside. We watched every move but, man, she had the cards. She cleaned us out; our bucks turned her jacket into armor. The place was buzzing.
         Who the hell was she?
         She stood up, twirled her pistol, said, sorry, she had a date at the OK corral. 
         The old woman walked out of the bar with a smile on her face.
by Michael J. Quinn

The old woman walked out of the bar with a smile on her face. Her smile came from the acts of her husband, whom she had followed. He had showered, gotten all dressed up, and gone out to the bar. He sat down and ordered his gin and tonic. He looked at the beautiful woman sitting next to him and asked, “So tell me, do I come here often?”
Alzheimers can make spouses smile sometimes. So long as she knew he was safe; and the bartender knew to call her if he left.
She would come back for him later.


by Pat Shevlin

She found everything she needed at Riordan’s: sustenance, companionship, a hearth, and Bailey, the chocolate lab. It had been her home away from home since her husband’s death, twenty years ago.
Blowing snow carried her small frame through the front door this blustery night. Michael, the bartender, greeted her. “Rosie, you look like you need a hot toddy.”
“Please.” She winked as she claimed her post.
Before leaving, she leaned over and placed an envelope at the register containing a deed naming Michael the new owner.
The old woman walked out of the bar with a smile on her face.


by Cathy Mayrides

The bar was full of “the-world-owes-me-a-living” types, determined to drink away their sorrows. One old woman was particularly demoralized. With a sour beer smell and a bartender who couldn’t raise anyone’s spirits, it was simply a gloomy place.
A boy of three approached outside. He looked in and played to the crowd. He danced and smiled, and the patrons stepped up to the window. The boy waved. They waved back.
He left.
So did the bar’s melancholy.
The old woman walked out of the bar with a smile on her face.


by Rita Kushner

The old woman walked out of the bar with a smile on her face. He remained inside, refusing to leave, although she implored him to come home. Others nearby could hear her begging; she smiled in embarrassment.
That night her daughter had phoned. “I can’t leave the kids, Mom. Please drive him home.”
The old woman knew the routine; it would continue for years.
And so it did, until he drunkenly slept through the house fire which consumed him.
Never again did she have to walk out of the bar while her son-in-law kept drinking, a smile on his face.


by Eileen Obser

It was just another night at O’Malley’s.
Men and women sat on barstools or stood holding their drinks—talking, laughing, sharing the latest gossip and jokes. Cigarette smoke created a white haze in the air.
One loud, fat man kept cackling above the din. An elderly couple sitting nearby drank in silence, but the woman frowned at the man. When her husband stood to leave, she followed. Removing a party horn from her purse, she blew hard on it, into the fat man’s ear.
The old woman walked out of the bar with a smile on her face.


by Matthew Ryan

The red neon sign fizzles as I enter the dimly lit tavern.
Rudy hits me again. Red sits legs crossed, perched on the barstool.
Like an aging gypsy, Red possesses a unique style. Men eye her porcelain gams.
Red sits poised, cigarette in hand. A coiffed red hive of teased hair, wrists adorned by faux gemstones.
Men ogle Red’s strut from perch to the loo. There’s an audible gasp as Red pees at the urinal. As Red sashays to the door, queries abound. Was that a drag queen?
The old lady exits the bar with a smile on her face.


 Debra Benigno

“Have you seen this man?”
The bartender studied the photo the old woman thrust in his face.
“It’s Halloween; everyone’s in costume.”
She ordered a highball and searched the bar. She knew she’d find him.
She spotted a voluptuous Wonder Woman across the room.
He’s got to be close.
Really? A cowboy with a measly bandeau covering his mouth?
She watched him fondle Wonder Woman.
He never noticed the old lady who spiked his drink.
Lying, cheating bastard. She adjusted her shawl and her mask.
The old woman walked out of the bar with a smile on her face.




A Fantasy of the Farther Isles
by John M. Daniel

The King’s Eye is available on Kindle, Nook, and wherever else ebooks are sold.

The kings and queens of the Farther Isles have gathered at the castle of High King Rohar, as they do every year on the Summer Solstice, to pledge their loyalty. But before the ceremony is over, the Giant Clobber from the Isle of the South Wind storms into the Great Hall, steals the High King’s crystal left eye right out of its socket, then disappears into the night. 

The outraged High King offers to reward anyone who will slay the Giant and bring back the crystal eye. The reward: half of Rohar’s kingdom and the hand of his daughter, Llanaa, in marriage.

The only one to stand up to the challenge is Prince Frogge, a twelve-year-old boy from the Isle of Fens. 

Frogge finds a partner, Rodney Trapper, the goatherd’s son—tall, strong, and seventeen—and together the lads set out on their quest: to sail to the Isle of South Wind and do battle with the Giant Clobber in the Meadow of Mayhem. It’s a fight no one believes they can win.

Their adventures take a full year, during which they travel from Isle to Farther Isle, in a boat that sails itself, guided mysteriously by the Stars. 

The King's Eye is a story romantic and magical, full of love and death, heroes and scoundrels, bravery and cowardice, danger and high hopes. This tale will delight anyone old enough to read and young enough to believe that a goatherd's son could win the heart of a princess.


Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for December’s 99-word story submissions is December 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for December 12.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to:


Write a Christmas (or seasonal) story in 99 words, with the following first line: “I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone.” If you follow the rules, your story will appear on this blog December 12.


Thanks for dropping by! See you next week, I hope. Next week I’ll be showcasing a guest post by novelist James Callan.

Meanwhile, keep reading, keep writing, and continue to enjoy the Joy of Story!


  1. I always enjoy your stuff, John. Keep it coming.

    1. Thanks, Earl! Glad you enjoy it. Makes me proud and happy!

  2. Thanks for more lessons. Since I am usually long winded, your 99 word limit is a great discipline. Fascinating to read how other writers responded.

    1. Thank you, Madelyn. Loved your story, and I hope you'll write more of them!

  3. So great to see all these stories today, John, and the varied plots the writers came up with. This is great fun and, as Madelyn points out, a wonderful discipline. Good luck with your new book!

    1. Thanks, Eileen. And thanks for your fine story. I hope you'll make a habit of it!

  4. Frogge versus Clobber sounds like a page turner! Thank you for returning to challenge us. Always enjoy the variety of submissions. Pat Shevlin

    1. Thank you, Pat, and thanks for contributing to the collection!