Category Archives: Short stories

My horror story was voted Best of Wordhaus!

best of wordhaus 2015OK, my mind is blown. THANK YOU for voting for my short story, Like Father, Like Son, to WIN The Best of Wordhaus 2015! Writing Horror was one of the craziest challenges I faced in 2015 was–a complete departure for me.

I am so thrilled and honored to have my story selected Best of Wordhaus in the Thriller/Horror category. My story now appears in Wordhaus’ Best Of Wordhaus anthology for 2015.

Click here for a list of the winners in all categories: Thriller/Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and Romance, and find out how to purchase the Best of Wordhaus 2015 anthology. Congratulations to all the Best of Wordhaus writers, and big thanks to editor Emily Wenstrom and her team!

Like Horror? You can read Like Father, Like Son here!

Would you like to write for Wordhaus? Send your sagas of passion, your daring tales of suspense, chronicles of strange creatures from other dimensions. All stories must be under 2,500 words. Learn more.

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Filed under For the love of writing, Short stories

Short Story: It Was Easier

itwaseasierI’m so pleased to announce my short story, IT WAS EASIER, appeared today in the music-themed literary magazine, Mixtape Methodology. This is an especially exciting event for me because my first novel, RADIO HEAD is musical fiction. Also, the Middle Grade novel I’m currently working on is entitled, HOW I LEARNED TO PLAY GUITAR. Clearly, music is oh, kinda important to me, and my readership. I’m so grateful to have an opportunity to reach out to the music-loving readers who look to Mixtape Methodology for inspiration. As you’ll notice, I’m also sporting my nom de plume for this story. Inside scoop: the band Grounder mentioned in this story is featured in my novel, Radio Head. (Can I just add how incredibly exciting it is to see my fictional band in print? Yay!)

Please do me the honor of giving it a read. Your comments and feedback are welcome! Thank you, and happy writing! Publishing dreams do come true.

It was easier when we were just friends. He never minded when I teased him for brewing coffee in a French press. True, it tasted better than the burnt water we serve at the pub, embittered by months of amber residue lining the carafe’s wall. But Julian’s beans were roasted with the fear of having to learn anything new. And I mean anything; the guy is teched so low he still uses a land line.

It was easier when he was just Julian: oil painter, plagiarizer of Grounder lyrics, and lender of decent books. When we were friends, I couldn’t let him down. Over the two years we dated, I disappointed him so frequently I never gave him an opportunity to displace his offense with an offer of love.

When he told me he was seeing someone new, the tight grip I’d held to my end of our connection fell as slack as his. Limp between us, the provocative manacle lay prone, taunting me to text him a photo with no subtle indication I’d taken it up again. Julian doesn’t have a phone to access such an image, of course.

Continue reading IT WAS EASIER at Mixtape Methodology

Mixtape Methodology is a place for writing about music, for writing that wants to be music, for writing that wants the emotional immediacy of music, for those of us who want to experience the mental takedown of sonic oblivion through as many psychological pathways as possible, for those of us who want to dance about architecture.

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Like Father, Like Son – A Short Story (Horror)

I was challenged to write a horror story a month ago, about the things that sadden, disgust, and disturb me.

I don’t write horror. It may sound silly, but I hold to the belief that what we think about makes up who we are. I don’t want to ponder the things that break my heart, make me cringe, or fill me with fear and sadness. (Go ahead, you’re free to mutter, “Pollyanna.” The time is apt.)

But, I also don’t cower in the face of challenge. And to be honest, I’ve been struggling with weaving enough feeling and emotion in my prose. I rationalized that if I could make my own skin prickle with creepiness, induce my sorrow by speaking of wrongs (which ought to be righted), I would achieve my aim of stirring the feelings of my reader. I have a tendency to intellectualize, and focus on action. I want to feel more while I write and horror accomplished the task. Believe me, it  made me sad. It kept me awake at night. But I did it, and you can too.

The very first literary magazine I sent it to published it today. (Meanwhile, the stories I consider my darlings receive rejections, go figure.) I used a pen name–I do that when I publish anything I won’t allow my children to read (such as a romantic scene or profanity in dialog).  Please let me know what you think, bad or good.

Picture courtesy

Picture courtesy

Here is my horror story, Like Father, Like Son, published at

Have you ever written outside your regular genre? What was it like? What did you learn? Please comment below.

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Sprout fought for life even at the cost of his brother—but is it enough? A wordhaus horror—Click to tweet

In this wordhaus horror, the odds don’t look good for the bastard child of a man who’s killed his own progeny before—Click to tweet

**Note: the medical aspects in my story are factual. Even this: Unborn Babies Feel Anger and Joy, Life News (2014.)

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Filed under For the love of writing, Short stories, Your highest potential

Clothes The Door: a Short Story

Warning: this story contains adult themes. While in no way graphic, the content is nonetheless appropriate only to readers eighteen and older. Thank you!
I’m so excited to announce that this story appears in the September 2014 publication of GRAVEL magazine.

Clothes the Door
By: Rebecca J. Lacko Copyright2014

I’d get a drink but I hate what I’m wearing.

Stroking the length of my clutch, a sparkly envelope number I received free with the purchase of a perfume and lotion set, I cast a low glance toward the bar. An intimate setup, Jak’s positioned a carved Indonesian sideboard, an unusual piece commissioned by a Turkish effendi who’d gifted it to his father, his father to him. There are several bottles chilling in silver tubs and a handful of half-filled glasses sweating coaster-less on the bare surface of the sideboard’s mahogany.

Our host, unassuming enough to look at, is wildly successful art dealer Jak Schiel. I use the word “wild” because he rakes in crazy cash, but primarily to denote the miscreant voyeur he’s proven to be behind closed doors. I’m uncertain whether his success as a businessman begets the entitlement of sexual deviance or if his depravity yields his intuition for exceptional art.

The bar area is plotted by a plush Persian rug dented in several places by finely spiked heels with price tags negated by my meager student loan. Plotting my path across the Persian, the heels boast each an influential personality reflecting the artistic point of view of her owner. Style, class, in some cases humor—but all chic. I won’t even look at my feet. I can’t. It would be too depressing.

Please continue reading at GRAVEL magazine. Thank you so much!

Gravel magazine is produced by  the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Arkansas at Monticello editorial staff.

Let’s connect on Twitter! @TheRJLacko

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Filed under For the love of writing, Short stories

Short Story Writing: 4 High Impact Tips

Successful short fiction makes a big impact in as few words as possible. Every choice you make as an author needs to be deliberate, every character needs to act with purpose, and every word must pack a punch. When less is definitely more, focusing on certain details can help imbue your short story with color, meaning, and subtext—without superfluous words. Please enjoy this Guest Post from Writer’s Relief!

Four Small Ways To Pack Big Meaning Into Short Stories

1.  Character Gestures When you’re writing with a word count restriction, you want to show your characters’ personalities without using too much dialogue. One way to do this is through physical gestures. For example, a surgeon just exiting the operating room could hang his head as he approaches the patient’s loved ones. This simple gesture will speak volumes about how the surgery went, without you writing a single extra word.

2.  Clothing Choices – What your character is wearing can provide insights into his or her personality, and even help explain the setting or propel the plot. If your protagonist is wearing a stethoscope, a name tag, and a doctor’s coat covered in blood, your reader will know that your character is a doctor who has just dealt with a major trauma.

3.  Setting As A Character – In most great fiction, the setting is just as important as the plot and characters. The best settings will move the story forward. Take our hospital example, for instance. Rain splattering against the window in a patient’s recovery room not only adds description to the setting, but also conveys the mood of the scene to the reader. Without even seeing your character or hearing her doctors give bad news, your reader will already sense that the outcome is not going to be positive.

4.  Precise Dialogue – One of the most important ways to make a big impact in a short story is to write crisp, concise dialogue. Dialogue helps drive the plot and reveal information about the characters. So the more succinct your dialogue, the more opportunities you’ll have to reveal much while actually saying less. For instance, you can have your doctor use twenty words to give a colleague an update. Or, you can take those twenty words and split them between the two characters to quickly give more depth to the conversation—and your story.

How Can You Implement These Techniques In Your Writing?

To understand how well these techniques work, read some short fiction! Read flash fiction to see how authors tell complex, intriguing stories with a limited amount of words. See how many techniques you can recognize, then apply what you’ve learned to your own writing.

As an exercise, give yourself a short word limit and try to tell your story. As you edit, reduce the word count further until you can deliver your short story in as few words as possible.


This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, an author’s submission service that has been helping creative writers make submissions since 1994. Their work is highly recommended in the writing community, and there are TONS of freebies, publishing leads, and writers resources on their website. Check it out!

Follow me on Twitter @TheRJLacko

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Filed under Best Writer Tips, Fiction Novel Writing, Guest posts, Short stories

What Was Your Childhood Dream? Dare to Let Go And Grow

Three decades stand between me and a little wish I’d had a child.

For most little girls, ballet tutus hold an inescapable allure, swishing like a soft summer breeze over long grass, impossibly layered mille-feuille, delicate and delicious.

I wanted one.

And the leotard, and the tights, and the little pink slippers. I suppose if I were to dig below the surface, I also longed for both the spotlight and the validation of appearing as gracefully weightless as the tutu itself.

I had it all, for a fleeting moment. As a preschooler, I attended a pre-ballet dance class in the basement of a church. I wore a silky white ribbon around my waist, while the “older” girls–kindergartners–wore identical ribbons, but theirs secured miniature tutus around their tiny five-year-old midsections. I begged to continue with ballet but eventually found myself on swim and softball teams.

I never gave up my dream of dance. The forest beyond our backyard became my woodland stage. Leaping about in secret, I metamorphosed into Sugar Plum Fairy, nymph or sprite, as delicate and sparkling as a drop of dew upon a leaf, as radiant and welcome as sunlight through a lush canopy. My play-clothes were transformed in my imagination to an intricate tangle of sequins and flowers, my body a lithe sapling hoisted easily for aerial arabesques. I would hum the Nutcracker Suite, Flight of the Bumblebee, or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

In fifth grade my best friend, a tall willowy girl, began to study ballet in earnest. I drew up a rather official-looking agreement and attendance record and urged her to sign. After her Saturday ballet class, we would meet at her house and she would teach me everything she’d learned in class that day. I was a demanding student, wringing from her more knowledge and experience than she had at her disposal. The agreement lasted only one afternoon.

In sixth grade, a woman’s body replaced the potato shaped pre-teen form I’d hidden under sweats. I shuddered at the very thought of any public appearance in a leotard and gave up the dream of ever attending ballet class.

In my bed concealed by sheets and blankets, I laid on my back, pointing my toes as hard as I could, touching the tips to the mattress, contracting my leg muscles, “turning out” at the hip flexor. When out of sight of others, I’d tip-toe as softly as possible, toes pointed out, ankles up to increase foot strength, holding my hands as though tiny butterfly wings. I wanted to be ready.

In college, a beginning ballet class beckoned me from the course catalog. For a moment I glimpsed the possibility of touring with a dance troupe with seasoned dancers. But who begins learning ballet at 19, I contended.

I declined to allow myself the pleasure of merely learning.

Nearly 20 years later, I’m committing more time to caring for myself now that my two children are both in school. So I signed up for a beginning ballet class. After all, I’m finally writing my first novel, a long-held dream that won’t let go until I’ve met my goal. Why not dance as well?

That first class reduced me to my five-year-old self. Inside my chest, a small fire lit, and I happily moved my feet from position to position as though I were back in the woods behind my home. I gladly flexed onto tiptoes and plied with gratitude. I can do this, I whispered to myself.

After class, the instructor asked me again, “Certainly you’ve had dance experience. As a child, perhaps?”

Flushed with endorphins and giddy disbelief, hope is renewed in me.

Passion is always present, available, and laughs at age, the most irrelevant variable. Having begun at last to dance has awakened in me both confidence and curiosity to try other things for the first time. I dare you to live your childhood dream, if only for an hour, as I did.

Comment with your experience—I want to hear from you!


Filed under For the love of writing, Short stories, Your highest potential