Never Chose This Way

…this one is personal.

I saw a call for stories dealing with the concept of institutions. The call was deliberately loosely defined; a story about the institution of marriage, say, would have fit. But my brain kept cycling back to something and saying “maybe it’s time.” And would not let it go.

I grew up in the 80s. Toward the middle and end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s, there was a horrific trend. If your child did not conform, and you had good health insurance, you could put them into an adolescent treatment center.

Junior loony bin, we called it on the inside.

There’s a song about it, even.

I have so much more to write, about that and things like it. This is just a glimpse. Some of my stories are pretty autobiographical. This one? I don’t have any ink. But.

And I shan’t tell you more; go read.

“Never Chose This Way” was published in Apex Magazine in July 2015.

Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews says: “…It’s a gripping story, slow and tragic and for anyone who has struggled with mental health probably a bit triggering. But it works, the prose disjointed enough, showing a person yearning to be understood, yearning for people to care, yearning to know that she will fit somewhere. Slowly these things open to them, but not because they are offered. More because they are stubborn and they start to figure themself out. Slowly they figure out what they are and, because they know the pain of it all, they begin to try and help other people. It’s a nice story, positing basically that monsters have to help each other, that monsters aren’t exactly monsters, that all they are are people who are pushed into categories that don’t fit. The sense of slow despair in the story slowly lifts, and a deeper current can be felt tugging at things. A current of empathy, which is really what the main character really wanted. What most people really want. It’s a somewhat chilling and definitely a dark piece, but one that has a vein of bright gold to it, a vein of hope…”

Not Too Bold

The acceptance letter for this read “This is finally a serial killer poem that I am very happy to accept!”

Let me back up.

I grew up on fairy tales. Not just Little Red and Snow White; I dug deep into Grimm’s. My favorite was The Robber Bridegroom and its variant, Mr. Fox. I was a bloodthirsty kid! The murder and cannibalism fascinated me. I make no excuses or apologies.

It could use an update, I thought.

And I still want to install a series of signs in my house, through the progressive doorways:

Be bold, be bold.

Be bold, be bold, but not too bold.

Be bold, be bold, but not too bold,
Lest that your heart’s blood should run cold.

Not Too Bold” was published in Niteblade #25 in September 2013. It has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Salt Brides

“Salt Brides” is yet another Wind Tunnel Dreams experiment; this time, my challenge to myself was a month of myth and fairy tale.

All of my friends love selkies, you see. Several have written about them. But I never had, despite growing up half-in the ocean and writing about mermaids, mangrove dryads, and the like. I didn’t have my selkie story yet.

Until suddenly I did.

I’ve been told that this could be spun out into a longer story, or a novel, but I think it does all it needs to do as a flash piece. I love writing flash fiction – perhaps all the more because of its limitations. Can you tell a complete love story in under a thousand words? Full characterization, even a love scene? I’ll take that challenge!

“Salt Brides” was published in Abyss and Apex in October 2010. It’s been nominated for a Micro Award.


Lois Tilton at Locus says: “The Animal Wife story, a colony of men who have all stolen selkie wives from the sea. Well-evoked love story.”

Sam Tomaino at SFRevu says: “”Salt Brides” by Shira Lipkin is a bittersweet, but beautiful, tale of men who take brides from the sea. Jonathan loves Sara but he knows she will stay with him only until she finds her skin. ”

Pam Wallace says: “It’s a haunting, beautiful tale, and the ending left me with a very satisfied feeling. It’s also flash length, but read as a true story in entirety. I won’t give it away, because it took me a few paragraphs to weasel out the plot, but that was part of the satisfaction of the story. “


This is the rare thing that rose up without a connection to Wind Tunnel Dreams, to jewelry, to masks, to anything but the fact that I am thoroughly steeped in fairy tales. That, and the fact that I am often subject to marauding troops of morbid Girl Scouts.

No, really. My daughter is fourteen, and she and all of her friends are still very active in Girl Scouts. Which is awesome. They’re also a pack of bloodthirsty miniwenches. Which is also awesome.

So, with fairy tales on the brain and the crashthumps of the girls upstairs, it was no stretch to imagine the twelve dancing princesses as maenad-ish vampiresses.

You can read “Twelve” at Cabinet des Fees, where it was published in March 2009.


Joshua Gage says: “Twelve’ is a really exciting piece.”