Los Angeles, 1952 is now complete for the world to read on Twist in Time

Last post, I talked about Twist in Time Magazine and what a nifty little litmag it is.Well, they have just published the second half of my oddball short story: Los Angeles, 1952. It’s about, well, Los Angeles in 1952 and a perfect storm of boxing, old Hollywood, and first dates.

If you’d like to read the first part to catch up, it’s here:

A couple of months ago I wrote about the back story to this tale, and I blame it all on The Duchess. That explanation is on my blog as well.

I hope you enjoy meeting Lorna, Jimmy and Maggie. Have a great week.

Holy @$%^, My Flash Fiction Won Something

My short fiction has been filling in space while I’m between novels, and it’s been getting some love. The latest pleasant surprise is from my boys at Storgy.com, who have awarded my story, “Sponging” third place in their 2019 Storgy Flash Fiction Competition.

Flash is something I had never tried before. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s the need to tell a complete story in a pitifully small number of words, usually 500 or a thousand depending on who you ask. For this contest, it was 500 words. Flash fiction fans (who also appreciate alliteration, apparently) will tell you it’s a legit art form that forces the writer to focus on only the elements crucial to creating a character and theme, a little like prose haiku. Others will tell you it’s because nobody can afford to do print and paper magazines anymore, and reading long stories on line can be a drag.

Given that I write primarily novels and business books, it’s hard for me to even say hello in 500 words, so the fact I could tell a tale about a fixed horse race and a guilty jockey in such a short space was a little surprising. I couldn’t have done it without the input from my writer’s group, the Thursday night bunch at Sin City Writers.

Truthfully, my goal was to make the book– the top 30 stories are getting published in a chapbook. I never expected to make the top 3 (and a little bird told me I damn near won the thing, but that’s practically irrelevant.) I know and really enjoy the work of several of the authors who submitted, like Tomas Marcantonio, Emily Harrison, Rick White, and Laure Van Rensburg and that’s some durned fine company to find oneself among.

I’ll keep you posted on when the book will be available. Meanwhile, check out all my short stories and where you can find them on this site on the Short Stories and Other Pieces page.

Los Angeles,1952 and the story behind the story

When that first dime-sized drop of blood hit her blouse, I figured the evening was pretty much shot.

Los Angeles, 1952 part 1

One of the favorite stories I’ve ever written is Los Angeles, 1952 which is now out (at least part 1 is) in Issue V of Twist in Time Magazine. It came out the same day as another story, Ava, Lana and Old Bob Campbell was published in Ragazine.

The stories are a little similar, in that they both take place in the 1950s (at least partly) and are based on semi-historical events and involve Studio-age Hollywood. I gave you a little backstory on that tale in a previous post, and thought I’d do the same for this one.

LA 1952 is the most thoroughly researched short story I’ve done. On the surface, it’s a tale of boxing, old Hollywood, and first dates. In its own way, it’s also a very personal story. Here are some of the tidbits you might not know.

The boxing card that night was real. Using BoxRec, a website for the geekiest of boxing geeks, I found a real fight card for June 7, 1952 at the Legion (later to be the Olympic) in Los Angeles. All the fighters and the results of that card are as stated in the story. Gil Cadilli was a popular LA-based fighter who fought the likes of Davey Moore and Willie Pep in the early and mid-fifties. He was one of “Senator” Johnny Forbe’s proteges… Forbes helped set up boxing programs in East LA and was responsible for a good percentage of the west coast fighters of that period.

The details about Monarch Studios contracts are accurate. As stated earlier my wife, the Duchess, is a fount of information about the golden age of Hollywood. She also has a number of friends who are equally geeky. One of them is Gary Brumburgh, a singer, actor and someone who has contributed to hundreds of IMDB bios and articles on the studio days. He gave me the low-down on the small studios like Monarch and all he asked in return was to name the actress Lorna Malone. Seemed like a fair deal. Lorna got her big raise in 1952. Unfortunately, Monarch closed its doors in 1954. I hope she married well.

The Hollywood Studio Club was a real thing and my wife lived there. The studio club dormitory where Patsy/Lorna lived was on Lodi Place between Fountain and Lexington in Hollywood. It opened in the early 20s and remained open until 1975. A number of famous actresses lived there, and literally thousands of wannabes and never-weres. in 1972, a bright-eyed 22-year-old from Miami named Joan Herrera pulled up in her Toyota Corolla planning to be a star. They put her in the room once occupied by Marilyn Monroe. She immediately asked to be put in another room fearing bad juju. She became the actress Joan Dareth, and then the current Joan Turmel.

I sold cars in LA for a short time in the 90s, and that was pretty much my boss. Morrie existed, and he’d have absolutely been that guy.

The final part of the story will be out November 1 in Issue 6. Please read it.

If you enjoy my short stories, you can find a list here of what’s out in the world. Better yet, buy one of my novels and support my habit by visiting my Amazon Author Page.

Support Litmags #2 – The Mighty Line

The Mighty Line is looking for stories that are technically sound and culturally relevant.

John Hegellund, publisher The Mighty Line

As someone who loves the short story, it’s kind of staggering how many places are you can find them. If, of course, you know where to look. Because so few print magazines feature short fiction, most of these places are to be found online. This is the second in a series of interviews that might steer you towards places I find great stories to read.

Some of these mags, like Storgy, or Twist in Time, have published my work. Others I enjoy but have yet to crack (although it doesn’t stop me from trying.) Such is the case with The Mighty Line magazine.

Here’s my interview with John Heggelund.

The Mighty Line is kind of unique among lit journals. Tell us about it.

The Mighty Line is a digital magazine of short fiction and visual art. We publish our issues online for free (www.TheMightyLine.com) so our contributors can share their work with as broad an audience as possible. We do not solicit fiction. Every story we publish starts in the slush pile, so every submission we receive is given equal attention. Contributors are paid $25. In addition to standard submissions, we offer expedited submissions, which receive responses in two weeks or less, and feedback submissions, which receive a critical essay critiquing the story submitted with suggestions for improving it.

What was the big idea behind the site? That’s a nice way of asking what the hell you were thinking.

The journey from amateur to professional writer is long with few avenues of support. Your friends and family can encourage you, but they can’t edit your work or give you critical feedback, typically. For the most part, magazine editors respond only in form rejections and paying for editing can get real expensive real quick. I received 168 form rejections before my first story was published. I had spent hundreds of dollars on submissions fees and racked up twice that in editing costs. It was all worth it, but it was a huge investment in time and resources that many people can’t afford. I want to change that. That’s why I started The Mighty Line.

You just publish short stories, rather than poetry or essays. You also showcase one visual artist per issue. What kind of material excites you? What are you looking for?

The Mighty Line is looking for stories that are technically sound and culturally relevant. I love a great plot, but if the story does not encourage the reader to reconsider their perspective on the concepts it touches on, then it’s a lot less likely to be selected. We believe stories resolve internalized conflicts by reconciling opposing ideas in specific contexts. This is a citable public good we want to see in everything we publish.

I won’t take it personally that you haven’t selected one of my stories yet, but you do get major karma points for positive encouragement and feedback. But let’s get negative for a second. What drives you crazy about submissions?

Guidelines. There will always be people who don’t follow guidelines, so I’m railing at the wind here, but it’s very frustrating. It seems incredibly rude that some people expect me to read and seriously engage with their work, yet they aren’t willing to even make sure it’s in the requested format. Our guidelines aren’t arbitrary rules for making the submission process more complicated. A readable font, decent spacing, numbered pages, email in the cover letter, these are all things that make my life so much easier.

What are the long-term goals for The Mighty Line?

As long as The Mighty Line continues to exist and publish writers, I’m golden. I didn’t start this magazine to make money. Our submission fees barely cover our costs most months, and the vast majority of those are tied to services such as providing feedback, which is increasingly taking up more of my day. This mag isn’t going to make me rich, and it surely isn’t going to make me famous, but it does give me a daily opportunity to encourage people to critically engage with literature. I want to inspire people to decide for themselves what is good writing and what is bad writing and why. I don’t care if you’re a tenured professor or a dilettante mystery writer, everyone can engage with literature equally. I want to convince as many people of that as possible.

That’s the goal, so as long we’re receiving submissions, I’m living the dream.

If people are motivated to submit now, what should they know?

Follow guidelines, have a discernible theme, and build to a climax in which a decision is made whose ramifications meaningfully subvert or fulfill the reader’s expectations. Do not summarize the story in the cover letter. The longer your cover letter is, the more likely I am to skim it rather than read it. Please, please, please do not send me something unless you are absolutely sure it is ready for publication. Rejecting good stories that aren’t sufficiently refined breaks my heart. Don’t break my heart.

Most of my short stories, published or otherwise, can be found here on this website.

Support Litmags #1- Storgy

If we start zoning out a page in then it needs work. Don’t bore us. You know what’s good.

Anthony Self, Executive Director, Head of Film, Storgy Magazine.

Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. In particular, I had visions of being a wildly successful short story writer, firing off brilliance to magazines like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Fantasy and Science Fiction, slumming occasionally in Esquire or the New Yorker and the checks would just flow to my mailbox.

I still love writing and reading short stories and there is a crop of new online lit-mags and publishers who are flying the flag and keeping the art-form alive. I’m going to showcase a few of them over the next couple of weeks. Some have published me, some have kept their standards high (Kidding!)

A few years ago, I had a boxing story I was looking to submit. While it went to another magazine, the kind reply inspired me to stay connected with the boys in the UK. If you haven’t checked out Storgy.com yet, you’ll find a mix of opinion, short fiction, and just cool stuff, unbounded by genre (although they do skew heavily to the snarky and slightly weird.) Their new short story collection, Hopeful Monsters is available for pre-order now. (It’s on my Kindle TBR pile)

Here’s my interview with Anthony (Tony) Self.

What is Storgy, and why should we care?

STORGY magazine initially started as a closed-off writer’s group, where a few of us would be able to massage our own egos and pretend to know about the craft to put stories online. People started sending us their own work to put online and we liked the attention like craven wannabe-celebrities so I guess something stuck and we began publishing stories that fell through the cracks. These were the stories that didn’t have a home. The bastard children of literature. 

Given how hard the publishing business is, what the hell were you thinking? How did the original concept come to you?

I know, right? Five years ago we were dilly-dallying with a story a week and now we’re independent publishers; posting reviews, previews, interviews and short fiction for all the masses to gobble up like malnourished street urchins. We wanted to write a 1,000 story every week and challenge ourselves to accomplish this. Looking back we were probably naive. Or had head trauma. One or the other. 

Editor’s note: through a series of late-night emails the name of the magazine is a mashup of “Story” and “Orgy.” An Orgy of Stories. Don’t form companies while drinking. What kind of content are you looking for?

All kinds. We’ve had essays, we’ve had poems, we’ve had mythological Buddhist zen-like soliloquy’s, at the end of the day if the story keeps us engaged from beginning to end we may publish it. If we start zoning out a page in then it needs work. Don’t bore us. You know what’s good. And don’t send us your first draft. You’re better than that. 

One of the reasons for this post is to encourage submissions. What do writers do that drives you crazy?

We used to heavily edit stories because a lot of mistakes were evident in the prose. We want to get stories out there to the masses but we also want to be professional about it all. It kind of hits us in the feels when we’ve edited something, send it back to the writer for review and they’re indignant about a rewrite as they consider their work a masterpiece and HOW DARE WE TRY TO CHANGE IT. Oh yeah, and ‘it was all a dream’, type endings

I love when I get constructive feedback from an editor. Most of us are submitting to find an audience and build our brand, such as it is. What are you and the the boy’s long-term plan for world domination?

A less elitist New Yorker type mantle would be fun. We’ve pushed ourselves to become independent publishers to create content for the short story form, so we’d like to carry on with that. Oh yeah, and get a $1,000,000 grant or something like that. That would be nice. 

Any advice for authors submitting?

We’re flexible with a lot of things, such as number count, typeface, formatting – but look at our FAQ’s before submitting, it’s a courtesy to the person reading and potentially wanting to publish your piece. 

You’ve been very kind to my work, publishing a number of stories and reviewing Acre’s Bastard and Acre’s Orphans. At the risk of sounding needy, what is it you like about my work?

Personally, I really liked The Towel – on one level it’s a snapshot of a boxing fight, conveying the imagery of RagingBull, Southpaw or Warrior, but on a deeper level it can be interpreted as the indomitable spirit of never giving up. This is something we agree on. In fact, it’s the core message of what STORGY is all about..

Storgy has expanded to publishing short story collections. Check them out here.

Most of my short stories, published or otherwise, can be found here on this website.


My latest short story- The Towel- is on Storgy.com

My latest published short story, “The Towel,” has been put into the world by one of my favorite fiction sites, Storgy.com. It’s a tale of boxing and blood, both literal and metaphorical. I am really proud of it, and I’d be honored if you’d read and spread the word. TAKE A LOOK  HERE

I don’t know what it is about the fight game that inspires these short pieces, but this is the third pugilism-based story I’ve done in the last couple of years. The first was based on a real-life incident, “Bayamon, 1974,” and published in the Irish journal, Dodging the Rain. (For the record, Storgy accepted this one too but DTR had already accepted it for publication.) READ THE STORY ON THEIR SITE

Image result for Los Angeles, 1952The final entry is a story I love and have never found a home for. Also history-based, “Los Angeles, 1952” is a tale of boxing, old Hollywood and a first date that may or may not be going well. The only place it has a home is on Scriggler.com (which is the online elephant graveyard for pieces I couldn’t place anywhere else) and my site here. CHECK IT OUT AND SHARE IT IF YOU LIKE IT.

If you’re new to my work, welcome. If you’ve been a patient reader, you don’t know how much I appreciate you. The new novel, Acre’s Bastard, is set for January. Get on my email list and you’ll learn more as soon as I do.

Thanks for following me, and I hope to keep giving you reasons to stick around.

Don’t let the weasels get you down.

My Short Story “The Clairtangentist” is on Storgy

I’m thrilled that one of my favorite story sites, Storgy.com,  has published one of my short stories. “The Clairtangetist” is something completely different for me. It’s a light, maybe even romantic, urban fantasy, and one of many stories to come set in Las Vegas.

Read the story on Storgy’s site here.

Storgy.com is a great place for eclectic short stories, essays and just cool stuff to read while you’re surfing the web.

And just a question, why is it that editors in the UK and Ireland (The Book Folks, Dodging the Rain, Storgy) like my stuff better than US publishers? Is it my colonial roots? Just asking.

If you’d like to read some more of my short stories, you can check the Short Stories and Other Pieces page here on my blog

Hearing One of Your Stories Read Aloud is a Treat. Check This Out.

Like most authors, I write my stories to be read, usually silently and to oneself. But hearing someone else read your work is kind of fun. Enter Taylor Woodland and her podcast, Not Ready for Rhyme Time. In Episode 6, she reads one of my early short stories, “On the End of Magick.”

It’s a long episode, so you may want to skip to my story at 43:05 of the recording, but don’t forget to take a listen to the other stories and poems she showcases. She puts out one a week. If you are an author and want her to read your work, drop her a line on Twitter @TaylorWoodland5 or email rhymetimesubmissions@gmail.com.

This is a fantasy story, done in the style of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It’s not fan fiction, exactly, but there’s a not very subtle reference to that book in the tale.

If you enjoy audiobooks, this podcast is a good way to hear poetry and fiction you wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy while running on the treadmill or battling traffic.

This was one of the first short stories I wrote once I got back into fiction, and it appeared in Rivulets 28, the 2016 anthology by the Naperville Writers Group. You can read the story for yourself here,  and more of my short stories on my website.

If you’re new to the blog and my work, please visit my Amazon author page and check out my novels, The Count of the Sahara and Acre’s Bastard. The sequel, Acre’s Orphans is coming soon.

Why I write in first person…

If you’ve read any of my fiction, you’ll see that a surprising percentage is written in the first person. That’s a lot of “me” I grant you, and that’s a mixed blessing. Of course, I’m not really a 10 year old half-caste kid in the 12th Century (Lucca the Louse in Acre’s Bastard) nor a first generation German-American from 1920s Milwaukee (Willie Braun in The Count of the Sahara) and I’m certainly not a 1950s Korean Vet car salesman (my latest short story on Scriggler. Check it out.)

It’s really not an ego problem. I don’t set out to be the center of attention (shut up!). In fact, I never noticed I was actually writing so much in that voice until someone in my writer’s group pointed out that the same curmudgeonly middle-aged loser keeps showing up in a lot of my stories. For the record, he’s not the same guy (the anti-social railbird in On the Rail, and the eaves-dropping alcoholic in Through the Arbor Vitae,) but I suspect they’re closely related and may have gone to the same middle school.

They’re also not me, although my own appreciation for cigars makes it easy to describe a lazy smoke on the deck and my experience as a comedian and professional speaker certainly influenced the way I captured De Prorok’s barnstorming tours. But just because I use “me” and “I” doesn’t mean they’re my thoughts and actions.  In fact, I’ve been judged pretty harshly by the thoughts and comments of some of my characters. What can I tell you, people used different words to describe people 75 years ago. I sometimes blush writing them. (My work should have a disclaimer that the opinions of the characters are not necessarily those of the management.)

So why do I do it? Truthfully, it’s an accident.

I’m not a 10 year old Syrian boy…. but I play one in Acre’s Bastard

I always start with a character who is another person. Ramon Pachecho is a Puerto Rican boxer I invented, and I was able to maintain that distance throughout the story. Lucca Le Peu was born when I saw a news picture of a Syrian boy in the back of an ambulance after his village was bombed. Willie was a simple way to narrate the story of Byron de Prorok from a neutral standpoint—I needed an innocent observer. Somehow, they go from “the old guy at the cigar lounge” to “I”. How come?

First person allows me some advantages as a writer. One of the comments I got from “Arbor Vitae” when it posted on Scriggler was from a fellow author who appreciated the way I do interior monologue. That only happens because I put myself so deeply in the character’s place. Inevitably it starts with “why does he/she do this?” and eventually becomes “if it were me, why would I act that way?” At that point, it’s just easier to capture those thoughts and expressions in their voice. Maybe I’m just not that good a writer.

First person for me is an exercise in empathy. I was taught early to put myself in the other person’s shoes (fortunately I have small feet). While I’m wide open to charges of “cultural appropriation” or telling stories that aren’t mine to tell (I’ll pour the anejo and we’ll have it out in person,) I also believe it gives me deeper insight into character. That’s where you find the humor, the emotion and the tension. Something is far more dramatic if it happens to you than to someone else. Watching someone’s horse die isn’t the same as having your own pet’s life drain away in front of your eyes. (Spoiler alert?)

For me, insight comes from within. Even going back to my standup days, I was more of a commentator than an observer. Some comics can neutrally observe from outside (Jerry Seinfeld is the ultimate example.) I usually found the humor in how I react and process something, and hoped the audience would relate. I’ve never taken an old man to a cockfight, but I suspect if I did I’d sound a lot like the narrator in Tio Fernando’s Field Trip. It’s just funnier.

I don’t set out to write everything in first person, it just usually works out that way. I hope you check out a couple of the examples and keep reading.

 

 

Check Out the Short Story: Through the Arbor Vitae

Each year, the Naperville Writers Group puts out an anthology of writing from our members. This is my contribution this year, my third straight, and it’s bittersweet. By the time Rivulets 30 comes out, I’ll probably be living in Las Vegas and no longer an active member.

I can’t think the members of NWG enough for their support, love and assistance with my writing–not to mention just getting me out of the house and out amongst humans once a week.

Take a gander at this short story… based on a real snippet of conversation that blew across a parking lot and carried to its (il)logical conclusion.

You can read some of my other short stories on this site as well, just follow your nose….