Monday, November 21, 2011

My collection of short stories is available for purchase!

Only $10.50 for the print version (less than a dollar a story) and $3.99 for the ebook. You can purchase at Tidal Press or or at

Thanks! Would love to hear what you think - good, bad, or ugly.

p.s. I think my favorite line in the book today is:

"He had started calling it "the car" instead of "my car" a couple of months ago."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Short Stories to Feed Your Soul

The hardcover first edition of the Short Story America Anthology will be available for purchase very soon. According to writer and publisher Tim Johnston, the anthology will have “nearly 600 pages of excellent short stories.” My story, Fallout Shelter, will be among them. While I think my story is damn good, I can promise that many of the others are better. I will post the link to purchase the anthology when it is available, or you can sign up for the Short Story America Newsletter here.

I don't know if my fellow authors would articulate their basis for writing this way, but I write, and I believe most people write, as a way to make sense of all the input the world throws our way. I think we also do it as a way to show love. Writing is both selfish and generous, like all art. I sincerely hope you feel cared for and understood when you read something you love.

(That's my new author photo taken by an incredibly talented artist who is also my firend, Stacey Evans. You can see more of her work here.)

Like a crack dealer offering free samples to kids on the corner, I offer you this passage FREE from Fallout Shelter:

“I put the gun and its ammunition back into their box and onto the top shelf of the hall closet next to the study. The ammunition is probably bad anyway. Because Mary likes the gun hidden, it lives under the old beaver fur hat I got in Russia on a student trip decades ago and Mary’s father’s navy coat. Mary used to wear the coat when we were camping or working in the yard or when she was trying to look particularly bohemian during a phase she went through in the late 1980s. I loved her in it. I’ve never worn the hat; it doesn’t get cold enough where we live. But I won’t get rid of it even though a big hat like that on a man as slight as I am would probably look a little funny. Not only am I short, I’m thin. I don’t take up much space.

Thirty years and three houses ago, she might have been on my side. Hell, ten years even. But things have changed. Now we spend our time apart even when we are in the same room. Somewhere along the way it went from occasionally not liking something the other person did to actually not liking the other person. Was it a piling up of little differences or a lightning bolt we managed not to notice? Was it more me than her, or her than me? I don’t know. Not that the answer really matters, I guess. I would say I have changed by shedding the non-essential parts of me. The parts you pick up to function in a society you no longer believe in, the experimental parts and the parts you craft to please others. She, I guess, would say that those parts of me were essential to her. Mary likes civilization and its rules.”

I hope you enjoy whatever you are reading. Without fiction, how can we find truth?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What the "Shop Local" Movement is Missing

Shop Local! It’s a command I have dutifully followed for a long time. But recently, I have started to think there is something sinister underneath the good it is trying to do. Before my liberal and community-minded friends get made at me, let me set the parameters of my argument.

One. It does not apply to food. We must buy food that is grown as close as possible to where we live. Period. If you want argument on that front, go to another blog.

Two. I used to own a business. An art business. That sold non-locally produced art. It failed. I am not bitter. No one ever owed me a living. Seriously.

Okay. Before I start my argument, I will tell you a story. I went to a local business to purchase a bottle of moisturizer. It was the second time I had been in this business in the past year or so. The first time I was there, I did not like the owner. She was neither helpful or warm. I work hard for my money, and I do not have a lot of it. When I spend it, especially on slightly luxurious things, I like the experience to be a pleasant one. This woman was not pleasant – not rude, just not pleasant. I made my purchase anyway, because it was a local business. I only went back several months later because, well, I needed more moisturizer, and because I saw that this business had become a supporter of a charity I really care about. I was pleased to see the owner in the store when I went in. I picked up my moisturizer and as I was checking out, I told her that I was patronizing her business instead of ordering online or going to Richmond because of her support for my favorite charity. Her response was: “Well, you are supposed to shop locally.” I was stunned.

So this got me thinking. What is my responsibility to my community, to local retailers? Especially when they don’t serve my needs very well? I like to shop locally because I do want my tax dollars going to educate my community’s children and build bike paths. But when the shopping experience is not pleasant, what do I owe those children?

The moisturizer was at least the same price at the shop or on-line. What about when a product is substantially cheaper at Am I supposed to fork over another $50 so that a local business can afford its rent?

And there we have it. The real problem, the people who are not contributing A DAMN THING to the Shop Local movement? The LANDLORDS who like to charge outrageous rents in a small town. Why don’t they make it easier for businesses to compete by charging more reasonable rent? Why do consumers have to shoulder the burden? I know how hard it is to run a successful business in this small town. I bet the owner of the shop where I bought my moisturizer was unpleasant because she was having a tough time paying her bills. Or she is just a bitch, but I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The Shop Local movement allows the landlords – many of whom in this town don’t give a damn about their communities – to keep getting richer while I agonize over whether to buy my coffeepot locally or on-line. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the way liberals buy into this.

I don’t have an answer, but I would really like to see the rich people of this town do a little more than just give money to charity. They should become a part of a larger economic solution.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Washington, D.C.: Place or Idea?

A current fad in literature is place-based fiction. "Fad" is probably too harsh a word, but the choice of noun efficiently lets you know my opinion.

Sometimes I like reading a book that takes me to a physical place, and it doesn't matter if I have been there or not. The Scottish highlands, Patagonia, New Orleans, Antarctica, Cuba, Paris. There are many wonderful places to go. But places don't make fiction. Ideas do. Feelings do. Dialog and characters do. And, most of all, story makes fiction.

Stories do not have to be tied down to places to be good. Exhibit A: Jose Saramago's The Cave. Exhibit B: Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. These stories could take place anywhere.

Setting is certainly an element of a great story. But setting doesn't have to be a recognizable place. It can be a dining room table. It can be a hospital. It can be a police station. A beach. A factory. A car. A cliff. A mine shaft. Anonymous things on which a story can build itself. A story that touches something universal, something that does not have baggage.

The Wshington Post magazine had a great article last Sunday about Richard Peabody, the publisher of Gargoyle literary magazine. Peabody thinks Washington D.C. is a great literary town. Jonathan Yardley, the Post's book critic, disagrees. The article says: "According to Yardley, Washington's enduring status as a literary backwater derives from the lack of an 'indigenous literary community.' Many of the serious fiction writers living here came from elsewhere, while writers with roots deep enough to produce the kind of stellar place-based fiction that puts a literary community on the map have failed to explore the narrative riches to be found in the lives of ordinary Washingtonians."

That makes my blood boil. Not for the same reasons Peabody is upset, but because, of all places, Washington is a city of ideas. To reduce it to a place is to strip it of what makes it unique. Politics, power, hope, poverty...these things make the landscape of Washington.

If so prominent a figure as Yardley doesn't see this, I am heartsick about the future of the publishing industry.

(The photo is from Obama's inaguration.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First paragraph of new short story....

She was barely conscious when he got back from the bathroom. He had gone to wash his hands in preparation for the injection, as if it mattered whether his hands were clean. She wasn’t going to get an infection. She wasn’t going to live another five minutes. He opened the drawer from Mary’s bedside table and pulled out the box that held the equipment he needed. He tied the rubber tubing halfway up her bicep and filled the syringe from the bottles they had hoarded. They had removed the IVs two weeks ago as the hospice worker instructed, but she hadn’t died. He kissed her. She fluttered her eyelids. Should he wait? Was she trying to say something? The last time she could communicate was over a week ago and she made him promise then to go through with it on her birthday. Her birthday was yesterday. He found a vein, inserted the needle, closed his eyes and pushed the plunger.