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.
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 email@example.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.
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 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.
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.
So pleased to be in such good company. There are excellent stories here. You can subscribe for just $1.99 a month, or get this copy for $3.49. If you’d support new authors, I’d be eternally grateful (or at least stop whining for a while….)
My little writing exercise, “The Last Good Cigar Day of the Year” was the “Story of the Day” on Scriggler.com.You can read it on the Scriggler site, along with the kind comments from total strangers. Yes, my neurotic need for approval from complete strangers is in full roar right now as I search for a publisher for my new novel. I’ll take this gladly….
It began as a writing exercise: Could I capture everything that goes through someone’s mind during just the 2 minutes of a horse race? I leave it up to you whether I’ve succeeded. Please enjoy.
On the Rail
“And they’re off, and Billy’s Buddy takes the lead off the rail followed by Pleazpleazpleaz, Penzance Pirate and BarTab…”
I love to hang over the rail and lean in just so I can feel them passing by, the vibrations running through the ground, along the rail and up my arms. God I love this game.
Broke even so far but this is the race, I can feel it in my bones…. One and four. That’s the exacta. Four’s the favorite, what’s the name… oh yeah, what’s it say on the ticket, Billy’s Buddy, and he looks like chalk—only real horse in the race. Runs like a champ on the outside, with that white paint sploosh on his forehead and the jock in all blue silks and already up by a nose. Velasquez—top jockey at the track so he gets the best rides, no secret there. Best riders, best rides, should be an easy winner against these dogs. Can’t make any money with favorites though.
Let’s check the slip, one and four for the exacta. Oh, Jesus, what’s the name of that…. RoundtheHorn, and I can get a really good look at the nag because he’s all by himself at the back of the pack. COME ON ALREADY, MOVE IT. Gimme a little love here for crying out loud.
“At the quarter pole, it’s Billy’s Buddy, Perfect Pitch a length back, with Bar Tab running on the outside…”
I can’t hear the rest because the perky little cheerleader in the floppy-ass hat with the, what is that a peacock feather? It ain’t Derby Day little girl, stop screaming. “Come on Bar Tab”, Sweet Jesus H Christ on a crooked crutch what is she six years old? I swear she just called him a “horsey”. Look at her, maybe twenty one, and all her brains inside her sweater. And that hipster boyfriend of hers, what a piece of work he is, a real mook.
“And RoundtheHorn trails going into the quarter pole…”
Come on, pick it up. It’s okay, I have’m boxed. Four horse can win long as one horse comes second… doesn’t pay as much but RoundtheHorn’s fifteen to one, so that’s four fifty plus the exacta…. We hit and it’s a mortgage payment. Make a move you frickin’ nag….
Look at that little dipshit she’s with. No one under forty should smoke cigars, it makes the little frat boy SOB look like he’s wearing his daddy’s clothes. Playing grownup and thinks he looks like Sinatra in that hat. Yeah, maybe Frank Junior. Jeez, I got concert T shirts older than this punk. And daddy’s got money, sure as God made little green apples. Why else would a little hottie like that…
Come on, one horse, you’re supposed to be a stalker. ‘Course so was Ted Bundy and look how that worked out….
Oh hell, they’re behind the scoreboard, check the screen. Those little circles with the numbers on them are moving around, changing position except for one… that little green circle with the 1 on it is still behind everyone else. You’re supposed to be a closer…. Coffee’s for closers, can I get you an espresso, you stupid can of dog food? Make a move damn you!
“And off the turn, it’s Billy’s Buddy with Bar Tab two lengths back, Penzance Pirate and Perfect Pitch”
I can’t hear the announcer for that girl screaming and bouncing around. She picked him ‘cause she liked the name. Well of course she did. And she’s proud of it, too. Sure didn’t look at his PP, and who bets a grey horse? Freakin’ amateur night. Didn’t daddy teach her nothing?
This is a numbers game, it’s science, and the numbers say he likes to close so make a move, Jose, come on, let him go. Let’s see, so Four horse wins and Round the Horn can comes second if he actually makes a FREAKING MOVE BEFORE DINNER. Numbers don’t lie, he ran a hell of a final quarter last time out. I can’t read my form right now ‘cause it’s all crumpled up in my fist and I’m beating it on the railing. Yeah, that’ll make him run faster, you dumbass.
“It’s Billy’s Buddy by a length, Penzance Pirate and Bar Tab with Booboo Kitty and RoundtheHorn moving on the outside…”
Come on Four you gotta hold on. I knew that jockey let you go too fast, you shouldn’t be front running… Velasquez knows better than that. Okay but one horse is making his move come on baby, that’s it… grind it, grind it….. Come on, one and four, one and four…..
She just won’t shut up, will she? And look at the way she looks at him. She wins on that little two dollar bet of hers and he’s in for a hell of a night. Hardly fair but that’s life, right? I could win the Triple Crown three times at ninety to one and never get a chick like that. Hell, even when I was hot Sheila never gave a…..
Alright about time, he made a move. The outside’s clear. Attaboy, what’s he sitting now, third? COMEON….
“And at the last turn, it’s Billy’s Buddy, BarTab and Round the Horn, followed by Penzance Pirate and BoobooKitty”
Make a move, make a move. Four horse, what are you doing? You can’t let up for Chrissakes . I know you got something left in the tank. Hold off that gray piece of….
“It’s BarTab and Billy’s Buddy, Billy’s Buddy and Bar Tab, neck and neck with RoundtheHorn and Penzance Pirate as they near the finish line…”
Come on, one and four, four and one I don’t care just finish it. Oh honey, give it a rest, your horse hasn’t got a….
“And it’s BarTab, with Billy’s Buddy and RoundtheHorn, followed by BoobooKitty, Penzance Pirate…..”
Is there a challenge? Let there be a challenge. Course not, God hates me, always has. Why toss me a bone now? Place and Show isn’t good for a damned thing. Crap, shouldn’t litter, I’ll drop it in the basket on my way to the window.
Sweet Jesus, what’s she gonna suck his face off? Let him breathe babygirl, he might need the oxygen later. And what’d she win, like nine bucks? What would she do to him if she hit a real long shot? Kid wouldn’t live to tell the tale.
Second and third…beat by a…’cause she liked the name…. Christ, amateurs are ruining this game.
I’m thrilled that my short story “On the Rail” is going to be included in this years anthology from the Naperville Writers Group. Each year they get samples of writing from the membership and bind them in a paperback, called Rivulets.
This year is Rivulets 27. The launch will be held at the Naperville Library, 95th St
Branch on Saturday October 3 from 1-4:30. Join us for readings, prizes, and
getting to know some of the excellent local talent.
3015 Cedar Glade Dr
Naperville, IL 60564
Hope to see you there. If you like what you see, come join us on Wednesday evenings. There’s some great talent in the group.