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….

 

Dodging the Rain Publishes My Story, “Bayamon, 1978”

I am thrilled that the artsy Irish lit journal, “Dodging the Rain” has published one of my short stories: “Bayamon, 1978”. You can read the story here…  

Arguello-Escalera-knockdown

It’s both a sports story (boxing is one of my passions) and historical fiction, since it’s based on one of the great title fights of all time, 1978’s “The Bloody Battle of Bayamon,” between my boy Alexis Arguello and Alfredo Escalara.

Like all my short pieces, it began as a thought experiment, but turned into something I think you’ll enjoy.

You can read more of my short stories here, under Short Stories and Other Pieces on the menu bar or by clicking this link.

 

eFiction Magazine with “Tio Fernando’s Field Trip” On Sale Now

I’m very excited that my short story, “Tio Fernando’s Field Trip”  is out today. You can buy a copy of eFiction Magazine at Amazon here or on the website.

On sale now for Kindle, Pdf or ePub
On sale now for Kindle, Pdf or ePub

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….)

“Last Good Cigar Day of the Year” was Scriggler’s Story of the Day

 

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….

scrigglercigarday

Now you can read it on my site with the rest of my smaller pieces. Look under Short Stories or click here

“Tio Fernando’s Field Trip” to be published by Efiction Magazine Plus Upcoming Appearances

One of my goals for this year (yes, I’m one of those “make a list” people) was to get a short story published. Not  just appear on the web somewhere, but really published by a real magazine. Ta Da!

Tio Fernando's Field Trip will appear in the October 2016 edition of Efiction magazine, available online and in print.
Tio Fernando’s Field Trip will appear in the October 2016 edition of Efiction magazine, available online and in print.

My short story, “Tio Fernando’s Field Trip” will appear in the October 1 edition of “eFiction Magazine.”  It will be online and in print…. check another thing off the list.

It’s the story of what might have happened if I did, in fact, take my wife’s Tio Fernando to that cockfight he kept bugging me to attend. Didn’t see that coming, did you? I think you’ll enjoy it.

The same day, the Naperville Writers Group will publish their annual anthology, Rivulets 28. My story, “On the End of Magick” will be in that one as well. Join us, and learn more by clicking here.

I will also be attending the Oswego Literary Festival at the Oswego public library from 9-1 on October 1, selling and signing The Count of the Sahara. Lots going on…..

More details to come.

Short Story: On the Rail

Every year, the Naperville Writers Group publishes an anthology of members’ works called “Rivulets.” This story will be in the 2015 version, “Rivulets 27,” due out October 3. You can join us for the launch party. Click here for details.

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.

Can't imagine where the idea for a story featuring a 50-ish , slightly jaded, cigar-smoking railbird came from....
Can’t imagine where the idea for a story featuring a 50-ish , slightly jaded, cigar-smoking railbird came from….

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.

Okay who’s up in the fifth?

You can find my new novel, The Count of the Sahara at my publisher’s website or at Amazon.com