Category Archives: Short stories

"The Cloud Factory" gets nominated for a Spinetingler Award

I didn’t even know I was in the running, but “The Cloud Factory,” has been nominated for a Spinetingler Award for Best Story on the Web. To say I’m bowled over by this would maybe start to begin to describe the feeling.

“The Cloud Factory” first appeared in PANK in September 2011 – you can read it here.

The award is decided democratically. So, here are the stories to read. Then go cast your vote for the best one. If that happens to be “The Cloud Factory,” I wouldn’t be displeased.

These guys know who you should vote for.

So does she.

Don't make Sparkle Girl angry. Do like she says. (Click for sparkles.)

I’m honored to be mentioned among the likes of the incomparable Stephen Graham Jones, Hilary Davidson, Matthew C. Funk, Peter Farris, Nigel Bird, William Dylan Powell, David James Keaton (hey buddy!), Atul Sabharwal, and William Dylan Powell.

Vote here. Thank you much.

300 REJECTIONS

BOOM! 300 REJECTIONS. Didn’t even take two years.

But enough about that. There’s good news in town.

I’m still gathering my thoughts on how best to express how I feel about the end, in some respects, of a long, hard ride. (And the start of another, no doubt.) But the news is no secret. Have yourself a look at the new page up above (the one in ALL CAPS). And of course you already know the news if you  follow me on Twitter (@courtmerrigan), or we’re buddies on Facebook. Why aren’t you following me on Twitter? Why aren’t we buddies on Facebook?

I’m going to post on my upcoming short story collection in intelligible fashion in the very near future. Along with other good news, too.

I’d just like to note here that these 300 logged rejections don’t include the rejections that flowed from my first bout of short story-itis back around 2003-2006-ish. I wasn’t keeping track of things back then. I’d guesstimate the true number is around 500. Give or take.

But whatever. 300 rejections ain’t nothing, man, if it gets you where you want to go. Neither is 500. For the last week I’ve truly, finally felt that I’m on the way.

Head on over to the Failure page to see the damage, though.

Two Brothers at All Due Respect

This was a rare one. The first draft came out in all in one sitting. And then when I sent it out into the world, it was accepted before it even had a chance to get rejected.

I got the idea when I was in Thailand last May, cruising around my wife’s village on a motorbike, and I pulled over to watch some fellows training their cocks for fights later. Rough stuff. You can’t write an easygoing story that includes cocks attempting to kill one another with beak and claw.

Have a look here, if you would.

My first lines from my first stab at a novel

In 2002 I was 26 and living in Tokyo and wanted to write HARD.  What I thought that meant was, chain-smoking and drinking bourbon at a 4 AM keyboard.  Which made for the most pure writing fun I’ve ever had, and a manuscript complete in a little under six weeks.

The writing life ain’t so hard, I thought.

These florid lines, released with a grimace on my part, belie that thought.  They were meant to form the opening pages of a novel, and now finally see daylight as an exemplar of what not to do.  (Though I’m still fond of some of them, in a grandfatherly sort of way.)

I still write at 4 AM, only sober and just awakened.  Not near as much fun, but there are no hangovers, and a lot less grimacing later.

See the full floridity at Necessary Fiction. (Thanks to Steve Himmer for the opportunity to air the purple prose of pages past.)

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 –

Update city: Grift & Murder Your Darlings

News breaking out all over:

Had a flash piece go up over at Grift. “The Smooth Shoulder” will take you approximately 2 minutes to read, so, won’t you? Here. A bit of it:

 Across the street, Merilyn nearly dropped the baby scrabbling in her pockets for her phone.  She had to yell to be heard on 911, the baby howling to halt a freight train.

“The fuck you doing, man?” said Angus.

Angus’s heart rate was two-twenty, his irises vanished, skin waxy and bubbling with boils.  He hadn’t slept in four days, on the smooth shoulder of a long meth ride ever since Ginger had left with the kids.

Thanks to John Kenyon for taking this piece, and providing some very nice edits.

The very cool Cort Bledsoe was kind enough to do an interview with me over at his place, Murder Your Darlings. We talked about a few things, such as writing and parenthood:

 Me: How has being a father influenced your writing?

Court: As I type this, I figure I’ve got about more 10 minutes to work before my oldest gets up and needs fed and watered. Kids hem you in, no question.

And yet it is wonderful to be interrupted by a slobbering 10-month old.

I’m one of those who willingly retreats for whole days into the sanctuary of your head. My kids won’t allow me to stay there that long, though. I am thankful for it.

Go have a look, please.

Other good news coming shortly.

 

VACUUM MAN: crime, cruelty & a touch of amity in the Sex Capital of Asia

A few years back I had a gig in a 5-star resort in Pattaya, Thailand and we had a customer there, an American expat, who used to close down the all-you-can eat buffet. While so doing he routinely abused the staff, harassed the waitresses, made endless spurious complaints, left gigantic messes, came in reeling drunk and once even screamed at a small child for some reason. He was also obscenely obese – as in, his sandal straps disappeared into his foot fat. On the day he was kicked out of the resort and asked to never return, I heard one of the waiters mutter under his breath, “Go die.”

And Vacuum Man was born.

None of the foregoing details made it into the story.  “Vacuum Man” is told from the perspective of a couple petty street punks.  But I did think a lot about Vacuum Man, how he got that sorry place, what inner core of sadness could wreck a person so irretrievably. I don’t really know, of course.  I never saw Vacuum Man after he got the boot from the resort. I hope the real Vacuum Man ended up better off, though I’m not sure the staff that actually had to put up with him would agree.

“Vacuum Man” is up at A Twist of Noir.  Many thanks to Christopher Grant for taking this one onboard.

Vacuum Man, by the way, was rejected nearly 20 times before finding a home.

“Some Place” is up at Necessary Fiction

My story “Some Place” is up at Necessary Fiction.  I wrote this story while I was still living in Thailand, thinking about America from a tropical distance, reflecting on my days working as a surveyor, mostly on subdivisions in Colorado (sorry, Colorado).

It took me 5 tries to crack this market and it finally happened with a story I wasn’t really sure had legs or not … a further lesson that all you can do is write the story as best you can and then let editors and / or the market decides its relative value.

A big thanks to Steve Himmer for accepting the piece, and for some very deft editing.  A sampler:

“Yep,” said Jeffroach. “From now on, be plenty of time for me to get to what I like.”

“Guess she’s going to stay in there,” said Thom.

“Fixing up old trucks. That’s mostly what I like. Take this puppy here. Wasn’t much more than a bucket of rusted-up bolts when I found her. But I got her going. Been a struggle, let me tell you, with ole horseface all the time throwing bottles at me.”

“Empty ones?”

“Don’t you know it. She ain’t about to give over a bottle she ain’t finished with. She’d say it was throwing bad liquor after a worse man. You ought to hear her sometime.”

"Some Place" is up at Necessary Fiction

My story “Some Place” is up at Necessary Fiction.  I wrote this story while I was still living in Thailand, thinking about America from a tropical distance, reflecting on my days working as a surveyor, mostly on subdivisions in Colorado (sorry, Colorado).

It took me 5 tries to crack this market and it finally happened with a story I wasn’t really sure had legs or not … a further lesson that all you can do is write the story as best you can and then let editors and / or the market decides its relative value.

A big thanks to Steve Himmer for accepting the piece, and for some very deft editing.  A sampler:

“Yep,” said Jeffroach. “From now on, be plenty of time for me to get to what I like.”

“Guess she’s going to stay in there,” said Thom.

“Fixing up old trucks. That’s mostly what I like. Take this puppy here. Wasn’t much more than a bucket of rusted-up bolts when I found her. But I got her going. Been a struggle, let me tell you, with ole horseface all the time throwing bottles at me.”

“Empty ones?”

“Don’t you know it. She ain’t about to give over a bottle she ain’t finished with. She’d say it was throwing bad liquor after a worse man. You ought to hear her sometime.”

“Lek” is up at Specter

My story “Lek” is up at Specter.  A sort of semi-impressionistic piece that came to me a few years ago, strolling amongst the tweakers and hookers and pimps on Pattaya Beach.

Big things are coming from this mag, by the way.  I’m proud to be a part.

A sampler:

Then she jumps up like someone’s pulling her up and I squat down in the corner and hang tight to the Buddha I have on the gold chain around my neck and pray and pray and pray.  I know this isn’t my friend Lek, not anymore.  Blood is running down her face.  She looks at me.  She doesn’t say anything.  I pray and pray and try not to look at her.

Here is Lek.