Lili of the Valley of the Shadow

by ivanhope - March 3rd, 2019

My story, Lili of the Valley of the Shadow, recently picked up by the good people at Liars League – London, is now available as a dramatic reading. Give it a listen; Alex Greenhalgh and the Liars team really did a fantastic job! Requisite forewarning: the subject matter is a bit PG-13 (think pubescent angst) so save this one for later if you happen to be in polite company.

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Ekphrasis reading at Fairfield University Art Museum

by ivanhope - February 10th, 2019
Jean Baptiste Deshays (1729-1765) Galatea Discovering Celadon. ©The Horvitz Collection. Photo: Michael Gould

Jean Baptiste Deshays (1729-1765) Galatea Discovering Celadon. ©The Horvitz Collection. Photo: Michael Gould

Happy to be reading two short pieces for Ekphrasis VII at the Fairfield University Museum of Art as part of the @FairfieldUMFA program.

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New story picked up for Liars’ League reading in London

by ivanhope - January 24th, 2019

The friendly folk over at Liars’ League just picked up one of my stories for their upcoming “Love and Lust” theme, scheduled for a dramatic reading on Valentin’s day. If you happen to be in the London area around then, make sure to check it out.

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.Cent Magazine – Alpha Git

by ivanhope - December 6th, 2018


[illustration by Mahsa Dehghani, 2018]

A fun piece of playground flash, Alpha Git was picked up by London based fashion/culture magazine .Cent as part of its Courage theme. Many thanks to Jo and the Cent team, as well as the referral from notorious liar Katy Darby.

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Content Management 2.0 – Sophie Aldred reading for Weird Lies

by ivanhope - June 13th, 2013

A beautiful reading of Content Management by Sophie Aldred to promote its inclusion in the upcoming anthology Weird Lies. Many thanks to Sophie and Cherry for managing this little story’s newest iteration:

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Daily Science Fiction – “Good Taste”

by ivanhope - January 22nd, 2012

Black Hole Sun by AJ Dimarucot
[Black Hole Sun by AJ Dimarucot, 2008]

I couldn’t have been more excited to see Good Taste picked up by Daily Science Fiction.

Enjoy,

Derek

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Content Management – Liars’ League reading

by ivanhope - June 15th, 2011

Huge thanks to Martin Lamb and all the good people at the Liars’ League for breathing such life into my story:

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Loveseat

by ivanhope - April 21st, 2011


[Montparnasse Cemetery by Paul Oilzum, 2010]

The seat was uncomfortable: rigid at the back and lumpy underneath. It pained her to sit there, bruised her bottom and put her legs to sleep. It also made her think of him. So she sat there as often as the groundskeepers would let her.

“Are you looking for something?” he had asked her that first night. It was the dead of morning, two hours since she’d snuck in through a crack in the fence. She was just a co-ed then, a philosophy major susceptible to the odd sorority prank.

He offered his hand and helped her off the ground. “You don’t belong here.” She wasn’t foolish enough to argue. The morning broke as he ushered her through the heavy iron gates. When she turned around he was gone.

She came the next night and he found her again. This time they talked. A lot had changed since he’d been a student at the college. He spoke of regattas and winter formals; there was a whimsy to his voice. She told him she liked his smile. He stopped showing his teeth after that.

The last midnight they met she admitted she was looking for something. In fact, she thought she had found it. He didn’t reply, but they held each other under the blanket. She tried her best to warm him. His body was still cold when the sun came up over the wall. The blanket went empty beside her. She never saw him again.

She was too old to fit in through the crack in the fence anymore. Now, when she came, it had to be during the day. The groundskeepers knew her. They would take pity and look the other way as she creaked up the grassy rise and found her seat. Back against the stone, resting on the cold ground, she would wait for the sun to set, and wonder why he had hid his smile.

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Completion

by ivanhope - March 10th, 2011

"Jigsaw Puzzle" by Evan the Weaver
[Jigsaw Puzzle, by Eva the Weaver, 2007]

The puzzle was complete. Everything brought back to its proper place, just like the picture on the face of the box. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the package told her, but that didn’t matter so much. Considered by itself the place looked lonely and remote. The magic was in conjuring this unnamable beauty in its jig-saw increment: sewing the sky one azure stitch at a time; stone upon massive stone joined by the mortar-less strength of cardboard tongue and groove. There could be no secret, no disappointment, in a world that fit together so well.

And yet, something wasn’t right. She ran her fingers over the smooth spider-web of interlocking cracks and creases. From one corner to the next it was all there; a patchwork quilt of effort held together in this single flow of fragile creation. No hole remained to beg patient question; no opening presented itself; no chance to reach further down the table for the next challenge. It was done. It was over. It was complete. But still, something was missing.

She looked again at the face of the puzzle-box. Her eyes returned to the finished work spread out in front of her. It was perfect, was it not? An exact replica. A poem, transcribed one image at a time, and set, trembling with the resonance of reproduced life, at the center of her coffee table. No mere photograph, no string of words printed on a page. There was nothing else that could so fully capture and rarify a distant beauty than its pieces sent, boxed, across the world, and reassembled with patient care. A thousand puzzles had come before this one, all of them flawless, each a potent distillation of her affection for sites and sacreds she would never otherwise have experienced. She had already traveled the world, gone beyond its limited map, and all of it without ever leaving the confines of her living room couch.

Why, then, did this one refuse to share its breath with her? What had she done wrong? The place, the truth of it, remained uncaptured. The couch beneath her backside remained no more than a lumpy seat. The coffee table bore no greater strain than the weight of cardboard on glass. The Dome of the Rock stood out there, somewhere, real and unrealized. This puzzle had proven little more than a distraction. The destination was not yet achieved.

She closed her eyes and touched the surface of the puzzle one last time. Delicately her fingers traced a month’s worth of lonely, painstaking effort. 35,316 pieces in all, cut and shipped on special order; none of them larger than her pinky nail.

“Wait for me,” she whispered to the unopened doorway, before seizing the edge of the frame and sweeping it wholly off the table. The portrait had come apart before it even reached the deep tangle of carpet. No booming concussion, no unearthly tear, nothing to signify the consequence of a stillborn world undone.

She got down on her hands and knees and began to gather the pieces back into the box. She could not bring herself to start the process again tonight. That would have to wait for the morning. Neither did she consider the possibility that, a month or more from now, the puzzle would remain closed to her. That was a thought she could not bear, not under any circumstance imaginable.

It was true, she had traveled a thousand times before, slipped through a thousand different cardboard windows, and brought back enough wonder to fill her small house to the brimming with life and laughter. But her house was silent now. It had been ever since she’d lost her husband. He’d left in the middle of this last puzzle. Left her to piece the distant reality together by herself. Two hands, instead of four, sorting with care through the pile of tiny promises. One heart, instead of two, racing with anticipation as the last of the pieces was pressed firmly into place. But the door hadn’t opened this time.

Left all alone, left behind, she shoved the pieces back into the box. She would try again tomorrow. She had to, despite knowing the missing part was not to be found in any box. The missing part was on the other side of a closed doorway, waiting for her to find a way through. She would have to find a way to make all the pieces fit together again, not as a mere reproduction, but as a thing more real than its many, delicate parts. Until that distant day, until she made a new sense of it all, her world would not be complete.

[originally published in Long Story Short and republished in Joyful!]

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The Totem

by ivanhope - March 9th, 2011

"Haida Slate Carvings" by Edward S Curtis, 1907
[Haida Slate Carvings, by Edward S Curtis, 1907]

She chewed quietly at the pencil. From time to time, between bursts of frenetic key banging, she would yank the gnarled wood down from its familiar perch to scrawl some illegible note across the cluttered page. Screen, keyboard, pencil and paper, they were all tied together in a sort of circulatory system for the same primitive, hot-birthing creature: her story.

It had been this way, the same process, the same components, since that very first publication. She could still recall herself sitting, bathing in the warm glow of the magazine’s electronic acceptance for so long that her face began to flush. That’s when she noticed the pencil for the first time. It was brand new then, and only barely gnawed from its first story. It smiled back at her, matching her euphoria with its own hungry indentations. It was love at first bite.

A dozen written journeys soon followed, all of them chewed down into the welcome wooden body of her creative partner. Each shared piece had found its place in magazine, chapbook or e-fiction. It was miraculous, stupefying. Magical. Sitting at her desk, firing up the computer for another go, she knew she would never put the pencil down again.

Until that day when her totem-self snapped in two. It happened as she approached the climax of her most recent story: our heroine chained to a guillotine, no escape in sight. The blade descends. And. The pencil splintered between her teeth. Her mouth filled with the potent mix of blood and stale graphite. She spat the shrapnel into the wastebasket; was forced to stare down at her mangled accomplice. She wanted to cry, but that felt too silly. Too contrived.

She finished the story with an empty mouth. Her tongue felt dry and the prose came out flaccid. She told herself it was in her head. She sent the story out anyway. Rejection.

She tried every sort of pencil after that. All colors, designs, and lead grades. She even tried a mechanical version. Nothing. Pens. Quills. It was no use. The words would no longer sink past the surface of the paper. Her fingers could not press them onto the screen so that they held.

Finally, desperately, she took the fractured limbs of her old friend and ground them up in a sharpener. All that remained was a pouch of grey-tinged sawdust. She would use it as snuff. Conjure the old magic a lip-full at a time. It tasted bitter as it mixed with her saliva and ran rough streaks down her throat.

And so she writes now. Even dictating these strange events to you. She chews slowly, lovingly, on her old charm; hoping the magic will resurface. Knowing it is all in her head. And no longer on the paper. Nor screen.

[originally published as a contest winner for CoolStuff4Writers.com]

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