Monthly Archives: February 2012

The unrejected – The Oath at Flywheel

Remember “The Oath,” that story that got unrejected from Flywheel? Well, it finally went up. To recap:

So I have this story, called “The Oath.”  As deeply personal as anything I’ve ever done. For me, this story IS a certain time and place; its every sentence calls up a certain swirling atmosphere, when I was a newlywed, living by the beach, a wonderful little idyll before life commenced to do what life does, which is to make blueberry hash out of your fondest ambitions.

For a long time, about six years, I thought I would just keep this story for myself.  I didn’t think I wanted it out there in the world.  Then this spring I sent it out to a few places.  Didn’t get much response,except from Flywheel.  David James Keaton sent me a rollicking rejection letter, including how he was arguing with a co-editor on the phone about the story.  I was profoundly flattered.  People arguing?  About MY story?  Hell, that was the next best thing to getting accepted.  Which David didn’t do.  He asked for a rewrite.  The third best thing to a rejection, I guess.

But I couldn’t do it.  No matter how many times I went back to the story, it sat there like a dinosaur fossil determined to decompose into oil.

On a couple comment threads on Facebook and elsewhere, David reminded me to revise The Oath, send it back in.  I was flattered, again, that he remembered.  But I still couldn’t do it.

Then earlier this week I got this note from him:

I have an idea unprecedented in the history of small-press submissions. I am UNREJECTING your story The Oath. i feel         it needs work, but i’m an editor, damn it. and i will do this work with my own two hands. Please send it back stat for    publication in our December issue.

Well, it’s out there, right here. Would you mind heading on over, seeing what the fuss is all about? Thanks much –

This Is Pulp IV – Ted Hawkins & the Green Green Grass of Home

Ted Hawkins covering the country standard Green Green Grass of Home. Lyrics below.

Hawkins had a pretty tragic ending – died of a stroke at 58 just after releasing what was finally, finally going to be his breakthrough album.

I like how, in keeping the original lyrics, he injects a further stab of tension with the implication of interracial sex.

The old home town looks the same as I step down from the train,
and there to meet me is my Mama and Papa.
Down the road I look and there runs Mary hair of gold and lips like cherries.
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.
Yes, they’ll all come to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It’s good to touch the green, green, grass of home.
The old house is still standing, tho’ the paint is cracked and dry,
and there’s that old oak tree that I used to play on.

Down the lane I walk with my sweet Mary, hair of gold and lips like cherries.
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.
Yes, they’ll all come to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.

Then I awake and look around me, at the four grey walls that surround me
and I realize, yes, I was only dreaming.
For there’s a guard and there’s a sad old padre –
arm in arm we’ll walk at daybreak.
Again I touch the green, green grass of home.
Yes, they’ll all come to see me in the shade of that old oak tree
as they lay me neath the green, green grass of home.

“A Straight Face” at Spinetingler

Here’s part of it:

Mekk swerved through the traffic, away from the District Office, out of town. He didn’t look back or slow down. They burst into the green of the countryside, swooping past the overflowing sugarcane fields and the stilted huts where poor farmers and old people lived, whining around slow-moving trucks belching black fumes on the winding road. Nit held on to him tight, trusting, plaited hair flapping in the wind, head between his shoulder blades. Sure, he was supposed to be marrying her right now, but right now he had the helmet and she didn’t.

The rest is here. Have a read, would you? Thanks.

"A Straight Face" at Spinetingler

Here’s part of it:

Mekk swerved through the traffic, away from the District Office, out of town. He didn’t look back or slow down. They burst into the green of the countryside, swooping past the overflowing sugarcane fields and the stilted huts where poor farmers and old people lived, whining around slow-moving trucks belching black fumes on the winding road. Nit held on to him tight, trusting, plaited hair flapping in the wind, head between his shoulder blades. Sure, he was supposed to be marrying her right now, but right now he had the helmet and she didn’t.

The rest is here. Have a read, would you? Thanks.

This Is Pulp III – Ricky Roma in Glenngarry Glen Ross

As suggested by my pal, Flywheel Ed-in-Chief David James Keaton, who unrejected my story “The Oath“. He pointed out that the best pulp doesn’t employ flowery description, but realistic heated dialogue. As in the following (not so much dialogue as monologue). Presented without comment or video (very NSFW):

I’ve referenced Glenngarry Glen Ross before. The beating black heart of stone cold capitalism.

Off The Record is in the ecosystem

And has been for a couple months. Have you bought it yet? It’s got 6 5-star reviews on Amazon, out of 6. Not too shabby, eh? And all for a good cause, too. Available in all the usual formats, including dead tree.

All the stories are named after classic tunes. Mine was Back In Black. My story’s in there, humbled squeezed among luminaries like Les Edgerton, Steve Weddle, Helen FitzGerald, and Ray Banks.

My story is the first Hiram Van story in what I hope are many more installments. Thanks again to Luca Veste for the deft editing.

Click on the link to buy.

I created a playlist on YouTube that includes, in order of the Table of Contents, every song in the collection. Have a look.

This Is Pulp II – Spider The Artist, by Nnedi Okorafor

The opening paragraphs of “Spider The Artist,” by Nnedi Okorafor, 2011 World Fantasy Award Winner. Presented, as all these will be, without comment. This certainly requires none from me:

My husband used to beat me. That was how I ended up out there that evening behind our house, just past the bushes, through the tall grass, in front of the pipelines. Our small house was the last in the village, practically in the forest itself. So nobody ever saw or heard him beating me.

Going out there was the best way to put space between me and him without sending him into further rage. When I went behind the house, he knew where I was and he knew I was alone. But he was too full of himself to realize I was thinking about killing myself.

My husband was a drunk, like too many of the members of the Niger Delta People’s Movement. It was how they all controlled their anger and feelings of helplessness. The fish, shrimps and crayfish in the creeks were dying. Drinking the water shriveled women’s wombs and eventually made men urinate blood.

Read the rest at Lightspeed.

Sometimes you feel like you’re on your way

Some days, only some days, you feel like you’re on your way. I’m sharing dead tree space in Toad Suck Review #2 with Bukowski (!), Amiri Baraka, Shepard Fairey (!) Dan Chaon, and a whole bunch of other folks I’m going to assume are awesome. Same font size and everything.

My story that’s in the annual issue is called “Saving The Pangolins.” I have had encouraging thoughts about this, I guess you would call them. I wrote the first version of this story in 2004 when I hadn’t published anything and many days wasn’t sure I ever would, a time when I worshipped quite fervently at the Church of Bukowski (his short stories especially), but didn’t like how the story ended up. Then last year I resurrected it from hard drive purgatory, and honed it down to something better -if you read this blog regularly, you know this is becoming a pattern with me – and fired it off, and before you know it, I’m sharing the table of contents with a quite famous (albeit quite dead) poet. Also in the interim, I feel like I’ve outgrown Bukowski himself; I can see his limitations as a writer and I no longer aspire to quite his degree of nihilism.

So. Does this mean that by 2021 what I’m writing now will be sharing space with ______? One can hope. One must.

Sometimes you feel like you're on your way

Some days, only some days, you feel like you’re on your way. I’m sharing dead tree space in Toad Suck Review #2 with Bukowski (!), Amiri Baraka, Shepard Fairey (!) Dan Chaon, and a whole bunch of other folks I’m going to assume are awesome. Same font size and everything.

My story that’s in the annual issue is called “Saving The Pangolins.” I have had encouraging thoughts about this, I guess you would call them. I wrote the first version of this story in 2004 when I hadn’t published anything and many days wasn’t sure I ever would, a time when I worshipped quite fervently at the Church of Bukowski (his short stories especially), but didn’t like how the story ended up. Then last year I resurrected it from hard drive purgatory, and honed it down to something better -if you read this blog regularly, you know this is becoming a pattern with me – and fired it off, and before you know it, I’m sharing the table of contents with a quite famous (albeit quite dead) poet. Also in the interim, I feel like I’ve outgrown Bukowski himself; I can see his limitations as a writer and I no longer aspire to quite his degree of nihilism.

So. Does this mean that by 2021 what I’m writing now will be sharing space with ______? One can hope. One must.