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Here’s a story for you

“The Haunted Beach.” (pdf, about 4,600 words)

I submitted this to a short-story contest/anthology a few months ago. It was rejected. Maybe because it was no good. Or maybe because the theme of the anthology was “optimism.”

The rules said submissions could have dark elements but needed to be optimistic overall. I thought this story just bubbled with optimism (after said “dark elements”). But you can probably see why contest judges might disagree.


  1. Joel
    Joel May 27, 2015 11:10 am

    What an odd, beautiful – and oddly beautiful – story. It will go right past most people’s heads.

  2. Tahn
    Tahn May 27, 2015 11:45 am

    What Joel said.
    Shades of George Potter. Claire, he would have loved it too.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty May 27, 2015 12:02 pm

    Oh wow… about a thousand times. What a great story!

    Don’t need any leaders, but I’d like to have that Thomas as a neighbor.

    The core of the story is what I mean when I remind even freedom folks that “utopia isn’t an option.” It would be more evil than whatever came before, even if it were possible.

    Bravo, Claire. The judges of that contest were blind… or happy hive insects.

  4. Claire
    Claire May 27, 2015 12:55 pm

    Thank you, guys. I’m not fit to touch the hem of George Potter’s garment, but thank you.

    ML, I think maybe the judges just don’t quite see “optimism” in that story the same way some of us might.

  5. UnReconstructed
    UnReconstructed May 27, 2015 1:49 pm


    It does my heart good to see you really flex your writerly muscles.

    Comparisons are odd things. Not the razor brutality of George Potter to me.

    What I got was Robert Heinlein with a smidge of Zelazny.

    Nice job. Somewhat disturbing… it should be, methinks.

  6. UnReconstructed
    UnReconstructed May 27, 2015 1:52 pm

    i mean if comparisons are to be bantied about.

    you aren’t really like either of them, but sorta like a good whiskey…..

    hints of smoke with an oaky aftertaste.

  7. Joel
    Joel May 27, 2015 2:17 pm

    I didn’t see George Potter in this. He might have come to the same conclusion, but would have used a shotgun or chainsaw or something and there would have been much more profanity. And the overall flavor would have been far different. This one has a gentleness I enjoyed; it sneaked up on its theme.

    If you’re looking for constructive criticism, parts were a little too slow getting to the point. The protagonist spent a very long time letting himself be convinced, which is of course realistic – the ethereal being would have spent days convincing me – but doesn’t really work in a short story. The argument took so much of the story I began to wonder if that wasn’t the point after all, and I was distracted by wondering how it would lead to killing Buddha. I think getting more quickly to the part about the Path to Bliss would tighten things up a bit.

  8. Claire
    Claire May 27, 2015 2:42 pm

    Constructive criticism is good, Joel. And I think you’re right. The parts in italics especially need tightening.

    UnReconstructed — Funny you’d mention Zelazny. I used to really like him, but I probably hadn’t thought about him in 10 years. Then just yesterday his name turned up in (of all things) one of Tony Hillerman’s Navajo cop novels (a character was reading a Zelazny novel). I’ll take that comparison. Not so sure about “oaky” unless you’re implying I have a wooden head. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Claire
    Claire May 27, 2015 2:53 pm

    A little background: The Washaway is a real place.

    I used to live near there. It’s a place of unparalleled weirdness where one could imagine really outre happenings.

    The title “The Haunted Beach” doesn’t really fit that story. It was originally intended as the title of a collection of stories, all set in the Washaway, and all vaguely supernatural.

    I’ve seen the gun turrets ( appear, disappear, and reappear.

  10. LarryA
    LarryA May 27, 2015 3:06 pm

    Good story, and not one to appeal to contest judges.

    Most of the way through I saw in it the second temptation, and knew where Claire Wolfe would almost certainly take it.

    Luke 4: 5-7

    Then the devil, taking Jesus up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, โ€œAll this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.โ€

    It’s my favorite verse to pull out when people start wishing for “Christian government.”

    Just curious, why male POV?

  11. Claire
    Claire May 27, 2015 3:25 pm

    LarryA — ๐Ÿ™‚ Yeah, I sorta figured it was a longshot with contest judges. Especially on the optimism theme. Oh well.

    As to male POV, I don’t recall my motives, but in retrospect I was probably thinking that a guy would be both more likely to get into Tom’s particular sorts of trouble and be a more likely candidate for spiritual guru.

    Never thought in biblical terms! Yes, that’s a good passage to run by advocates of Christian government. But it’s also one of the zillion things in the bible that drive me crazy. Being God incarnate (so Christianity claims), Jesus couldn’t possibly feel the slightest temptation during that scene. He’d be yawning. Or laughing. Or contemplating some heavy-duty smiting at the devil’s chutzpah. And surely the devil would know who he was dealing with and not bother/risk trying to make him an offer. It would definitely be a grand scene if Jesus were just a human being, but that scene works only if Jesus is human with no divine knowledge.

  12. Karen
    Karen May 27, 2015 4:58 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed the story! My mind kept wandering into what I’ve learned about Buddhism as DH was studying it. As others have said, I got a feeling of optimism, but can see where “normal” people(judges) might not.

    Oddly, the house we’re buying in town has one wall inside painted with a huge painting of the Buddha and I’m planning to paint over it. Does that count as killing the Buddha? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Claire
    Claire May 27, 2015 6:28 pm

    “Oddly, the house weโ€™re buying in town has one wall inside painted with a huge painting of the Buddha and Iโ€™m planning to paint over it. Does that count as killing the Buddha? ;-)”

    LOL, it probably does. But apparently the Buddha would approve.

    Glad you found a house!

  14. Daylan Darby
    Daylan Darby May 27, 2015 9:18 pm

    Loved the ending twist. Would I have the Will (with a capital W) to do so?

  15. LarryA
    LarryA May 28, 2015 2:16 am

    Oddly, the house weโ€™re buying in town has one wall inside painted with a huge painting of the Buddha and Iโ€™m planning to paint over it. Does that count as killing the Buddha? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Now there’s a story idea. Family buys a house with a religious icon painted on the wall. The crone next door warns them to scrape the image off before painting over it. Father thinks that’s too much trouble. Cue danger music. 8-|

    Almost OT: I don’t know if you’ve seen McFarland USA, but the gringo coach moves to a Hispanic neighborhood, into a house with a life-size Virgin of Guadalupe(?) in the foyer. By the time he gets paint and time for the job his youngest kid has adopted it.

    I don’t usually like either sports movies or “based-on-true,” but this one was a good story and interesting for the culture clash.

  16. Bear
    Bear May 28, 2015 6:15 am

    Downloaded to read; may be a while (book jackets, rabbits, hordes of 0verly energetic 7yos…). I’ll skip the comments until I’ve read it.

  17. Laird
    Laird May 28, 2015 9:47 am

    Good story, but I can see why the judges would not have considered it “optimistic”. I guess optimism comes in different flavors. I wasn’t too thrilled by it at first (obvious Christian allegory, which I didn’t expect from you) but that twist worked really well. I do agree with Joel’s point about the development being a little slow.

    There have been mentions here of Potter, Heinlein and Zelazny, but to me the closest comparison I can think of (in terms of theme as well as tone) is to Harlan Ellison’s “Paingod”. Ellison always had a dark tone, and usually an unexpected twist. I’ve tried to find the full text of it online, without success. If you haven’t read it, and can locate a copy, I highly recommend it. (I suppose I could scan the pages from my paperback copy and send it to you if you’d like.)

  18. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau May 31, 2015 5:20 pm

    Finally got the chance to read it. Good one Claire.

  19. A.G.
    A.G. June 2, 2015 8:35 pm

    I was hoping for a ghost.

    Standing in the ruins….looking out to sea.


    Her lover “fell overboard” out there in a storm.

    The business partner shoved his decapitated body over the railing.

  20. Claire
    Claire June 3, 2015 4:28 am

    Oooh. Good one, A.G. If I ever get around to writing the whole Washaway series, I may have to steal that idea.

  21. A.G.
    A.G. June 3, 2015 7:30 am

    The rage of the decreased continues to churn the sea, causing it to devour the coastline until….something is unearthed. A body, a clue, a something.
    Obviously, there can only be a supernatural explanation for the destruction of the last 100 years.

    I am reminded of this nearly perfect film (the ending was ruined in typical late 70’s-80’s fashion):

  22. Claire
    Claire June 3, 2015 7:56 am

    That is so weird! I just watched The Fog for the first time — last week.

    As to near-perfect … nothing that stars Adrienne Barbeau can be considered even close to perfect. Um … not even on the same planet as perfect. But I agree it was better than all the current slash-and-scream crap despite the “gotcha” ending.

    Rage of the dead eating the coastline? Possible, possible. So when do YOU take up writing fiction, my friend?

  23. A.G.
    A.G. June 3, 2015 8:57 am

    Don’t start again with trying to push your self-destructive habits on me, woman!
    Everyone knows writing leads to thinking, and thinking leads to madness, and madness leads to dancing, and dancing leads to becoming a Charismatic, and the dearly departed strict Presbyterian lady who raised me would spin in her urn if that were to happen.

  24. A.G.
    A.G. June 3, 2015 9:01 am

    It’s been awhile, but I vaguely remember the DJ being kinda hot. If I were an unmarried ghost I’d probably chase her around a lighthouse too. So there.

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