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Big Plans, a short story

This short story is now for sale on Amazon, so buy it. It will be the best 99 cents you ever spend. This story was inspired by my year working as a bank teller right after graduating college. I hated that job. I hated dealing with the awful customers who wanted their egos stroked. I hated the provincial attitudes of many of the people I worked with. Looking back on it now, I realize that I was still a bit immature and I could have been better at my job. Luckily I left before going crazy. I thought up a plan to rob the bank, not because I intended to ever rob a bank, but because it would have made for an interesting novel. I still have a lot of notes from my bank robbing novel that I intendeded to write, and maybe I’ll come back to it. It would be a perverse, crime-ridden On The Road (what great American novel since 1957 doesn’t aspire to be the next On The Road?).

But here is ‘Big Plans.’ It’s a funny short story that you will enjoy. If you’ve ever worked a job you hate (and who hasn’t?), you will be able to relate. It also has excellent artwork by Sergio Zuniga.

Fiction: Sherlock Brett Fights ISIS

Among the things I write that are the most fun are the Sherlock Brett stories. I began writing these quite some time ago when my stepbrothers Brett and Lyle were still very young. As they have grown the subject matter has become more mature. Today there are both college graduates and Brett is a married man living outside Atlanta. They continue to read my stories though I’m not sure they are always happy with how they are portrayed.

In the mid 1990s I wrote a screenplay, Sherlock Brett and the Case of the Missing Ding Dongs. The film began shooting on location in suburban Atlanta but creative differences between

This story I actually wrote for Christmas last year and it was originally titled “Sherlock Brett and the Secret Toast.” However, with the increasing reach and horror of the Islamic State, I believe the subject matter is very appropriate to publish commercially today.

At some point I will publish collections of Sherlock Brett stories in large volumes. These perhaps will survive all of time and begin the mythology for a future age. Sherlock Brett and his faithful, trusty sidekick Watson Lyle will be like the Arthurian legends years from now. One can only hope for such literary immortality, but putting this story on Amazon is an important first step.

Synthanasia: A Not-So-Happy Family Story

My short story “Synthanasia” is now available on Amazon. It’s in the Kindle store but you don’t need a Kindle to read it: you can download a Kindle app for free on to your smart phone. I plan to make this available in a print edition at some point as well.

I was inspired to write the short story when I worked at a bank years ago and the manager of the bank was an elderly woman. She and her husband had health problems: nothing unusual for people of their age, but there was a span of a few weeks when they were alternately in the hospital for different ailments. Between the two of them maybe they have one healthy body, I thought to myself, and the idea for the story was born. I rewrote this from a much-longer earlier version.

Will this make good bedtime reading or family reading? Probably not. But it’s a tidy take about the medical industry, family responsibilities, and doing right by your own. Cover art by the excellent Amy Chace.

Literature for You: Supernova Black Hole Butthole

Supernova Black Hole Butthole is now published. I am still new at the Amazon publishing game. I would like it if there were an option for people who buy things from Amazon’s kindle store to get them in printed book form as well, even if that means a smaller payout to the author.

But that doesn’t matter, because I have more fiction for sale on Amazon, out there and ready for the world to see, for a small fee.

This story was the first one I read at the Cash Prize Literary Open Mic at The Cobra Club in Brooklyn earlier this year. I didn’t win the prize at that open mic but the story was very well received and someone asked me after the reading if this was available online for purchase anywhere. Now it is.

So enjoy and thank the very talented Justin Melkmann for his awesome illustration.

Reclaiming Literature for the Real World

Years ago, before I returned to New York, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I had no real plan and to be honest my ambitions have languished at various times. But it’s long overdue that I stepped up my efforts to make waves in the world of fiction as I have long planned, and my effort comes at a time when more writers than ever are fighting to reclaim literature for the real world.

Like other parts of the art world, what is considered literature is often the judgment of a well-heeled clique of self-dealing academics. They feed on the dreams of earnest young writers and take them to the cleaners after convincing them that they need a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) to be considered a serious writer.

The MFA programs churn out many hopeful and aspiring writers, and many of them are excellent. But when I look back on the great writers that I admire, none of them made their bones in an academic program, but by scrapping out a living in the real world. The academic journals and programs have a choke-hold on what gets considered literature at the moment, though history will offer a different opinion.

Either way, the current system of academic literature has never been in greater need of a hard kick in its well-powdered derriere. And getting books published at all often requires knowing the right people and getting the right agent.

The Internet has helped writers working outside of this established universe to be heard and even make some money off of their writing. I am honored to know people like Darren Pillsbury, who has more courage than just about anyone I know and moved to California to pursue his dreams as a screenwriter. He wound up excelling in online publishing and is best known for his ‘Peter and the Vampire’ series. He gave me some great advice on how to publish things online. I probably violated plenty of his advice when I put a short story on Amazon and charged too much money for it, but I did it to figure out how to do it.

I’ve been too long avoiding pursuing literary ambitions in earnest because I’ve busied myself with other creative things. In some way they’ve all made me a better writer and a better person. Being in a punk rock band demonstrated that a key to any success is finding good creative people to join you. No one wants to listen to me play bass lines on my own, but I was lucky enough to have excellent collaborators in Blackout Shoppers. Doing comedy showed how not all audiences will respond the same way to the same material. A joke that kills at one gig bombs at another. The key is remembering you have the microphone and pressing on.

The right niche for success likely lies in the more comic short stories that I write. I love writing them and people enjoy reading them. I don’t know how marketable that is. Short fiction doesn’t make much money these days, but so what? I’ve mastered the art of excelling at art forms that are money losers at their core. As one of my excellent musician friends said, “We are middle-aged men with an expensive hobby.”

For a long time I attempted to write what I thought would be what literary types wanted to read, but in reality even moody literary types want to read something interesting. My stories feature people shitting themselves to death, loaning a family member’s corpse out to necrophiliacs, and taking part in operations to kill Islamic militants with Ebola on their toast. I have not done any of these things, but they are more compelling subject matter than most of what passes for literature today. I think I manage to make these stories into literature that will stand the test of time, but even if you don’t think it is art, at least it’s damn interesting.

Too many people, in art and in life, do what they think they are supposed to be doing instead of what is right for them to do. It’s not right for me to try to write weepy sensitive stories about people coming to terms with their emotions. I’d rather write about people saving White Castle from terrorists or punk rock bands doing battle with crack head zombies.

So Monday, Feb. 16 I will be reading a short story at the debut Short Story Open Mic at The Cobra Club in Brooklyn. It is hosted by my good friend Phill Lentz, who lives the mad literary life of music art, blood, sweat and tears. I am honored to be the featured reader.

The reading is a competition. Writers pay $5 and the winner gets the whole pot. The crowd gets to vote on their favorite writer, with drink tickets being used for votes. You could rig the whole thing if you bring enough hard-drinking friends, but it’s still a more fair literary competition than what the academic journals are offering.

So if you have a short story that you can read aloud in five minutes or less, join us at The Cobra Club and put your work out there on the line. You will be living a truly literary life. Be bold.

Flooding the Market with Good and Bad Literature

It is long past the time I put my money where my mouth is as far as getting fiction out there for the world to buy. I guess I could post it all for free, but that would be making a mockery of my ambitions, and I’m not ready to do that yet.

I got some great advice from my friend Darren Pillsbury, who is not only an outstanding and versatile writer but an expert on Amazon publishing. I tried to follow his advice as best I could but I kind of screwed things up. I didn’t crop the cover well – and I have great cover art from my own wife, the talented Emily Griffin Sheahan. I somehow botched the fonts so that my name and title don’t fit properly on the kindle page. But hey, I’m keeping things punk rock in some way. I’m also probably charging too much for a short story – I’m asking the minimum amount that will get me 70% royalties. The minimum price – 99 cents, gets an author 35% royalties.

But I’m convinced it’s a good and well written story so I’m glad it’s out there for people to read. You can lend it to someone if you buy it. Also, I don’t know any literary journals that would publish a story like this.

So if you have $2.99 to spare and a Kindle, feel free to buy the short story that’s for sale. I guarantee you’ve spent more than $3 on less enlightening things.

I have no logical reason as to why “What’s In My Purse” is the first piece of fiction I’m selling on Amazon other than it seemed to be as good as it was going to get and I think it’s an amusing story. Also, the issue of domestic violence is much in the news lately, so the story is timely for that reason. And because my fiction aspires to be universal, I believe it will appeal equally to women and men in both the pro- and anti-domestic violence camps.

Enjoy.

Short Story: Grandpa The Clown

waiting for some deer to come byIt’s been a while since I’ve had some fiction published, so it’s long overdue  that I managed to get a short story published by Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers.

The story is Grandpa The Clown and is about the kind of clown we should have been educated by while we were children, but were instead in short supply. Clowns are usually in cahoots with parents and authority figures. This is a story about a clown that isn’t.

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