Short Story Contest Part II

Last week, I launched a short story contest here on my blog as part of a major national promotion. To recap: this is not a call for submissions; I’m serializing a short story in anticipation of my upcoming release of a short collection.

Here’s how it works: read it and send in comments, suggestions, and/or corrections. The best, most helpful one will be the winner. The prize: not only will I send the winner a free copy of the e-book of the story collection itself, but also a free PDF of the novel of their choice! That’s Brothers’ Hand, Jana, or Miles of Files!

The working title for this one is Rides from Strangers, and I’m posting it in three parts. Last week was part I, and here’s part II:

“Lucky guess, man. The hair, you know. You look like a soldier. So, how long were you over there?”

“Too long. Two years, six months and eight days.”

“But who’s counting, eh?” We both laugh, but I still feel jumpy.

“Yeah,” I say. “‘The pay in the army, they say it’s mighty fine. They give you fifty dollars, and take back forty-nine.’”

“That’s a good one.” He slouches down in the seat more, smiling.

“What about you? What do you do?”

He glances out the window. “Me? I’m a buyer, man.” He shrugs the way rich people do when they don’t want to talk about money.

“A buyer, eh? Of what?”

“The ultimate product,” he says, and flashes the amigo grin again. “The ultimate product. So, you like the car?”

Since he’s changing the subject, I don’t feel too comfortable pressing the point. I resolve to forget it for now. “Yeah, it’s amazing. What kind of engine did you say?”

“I dropped a five-o-two crate engine in here,” he says. “Had to customize a bit to do it, you know? All sorts of fabrications. But what the Hell.”

I nod, saying nothing.

“You believe in Hell, amigo?”

Sweat beads up on my forehead. I decide to change the subject a little myself. “Yeah, I just came from there,” I say, and glance over.

He gets the drift, and laughs. “Just came from there. That’s good, man. That’s really good.” He slides down in the seat a little more, getting comfortable. He closes his eyes and I wipe the sweat off my brow.

“We’re only about four miles from Amarillo now,” I say.

“Mm-hm.”

“Nice day for a drive.”

He mumbles something about it being a great car, and I hear it, but I’m suddenly preoccupied by my surroundings. This stretch of highway is pretty bare but I always recognize certain landmarks, in order, from having driven it so often. We’ve just passed one, a big old boulder, and I realize something is drastically wrong with the landscape: not just the absence of the state lottery billboard I see every time I pass this way, but the absence of the building just beyond it, an office complex they built fifteen or twenty years ago. I slow down.

“What the…? Something’s wrong, man. What the Hell’s going on?”

“Hm?” He opens an eye, fixes the stare on me, like a lizard squinting.

“The whole—there’s a building gone from here. It’s just gone!” I pull over and park.

“Yeah, that urban renewal can be a bitch. Well, easy come, easy go, eh?” He grins lazily, closes the eye.

“No, man, you don’t understand: the building’s gone, the parking lot … it’s like it was never here.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

speaking

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Short Story Contest

As we head into September, I’m struck by how quickly this year has flown by. I have a radio interview in two days and a book fair next month, and I’m sure there will be much more happening as I go full bore with marketing campaigns for Miles of Files, Jana, and Brothers’ Hand. So rather than write about writing, or advertise upcoming events, I’m starting a short story contest on this blog.

This is not a call for submissions; instead, I’m going to telegraph my upcoming release of a short story collection by doing something they used to do in the old days – serializing the first one! This is how it’s going to work: I’ll post it and ask all of you wonderful readers for comments, suggestions, and/or corrections. The best, most helpful one will be the winner. The prize: not only will I send the winner a free copy of the e-book of the story collection itself, but also a free PDF of the novel of their choice.

And with that said, here it comes. The working title for this one is Rides from Strangers, and it will be posted in three parts.

So I’m walking down State Road seventy-six about ten miles west of Amarillo. There’s just a couple of houses off the highway, at the tail end of the little cul-de-sac they built about nine years ago, and I know it’ll eventually be a subdivision with a bunch of little cookie cutter brick houses. That’ll expand until it’s just one big suburb. Just like every place else.

I’m home from the latest Gulf war, finally, and I’m thinking, you know, it’s strange: this road hasn’t really changed in thirty years. Not much on it then, not much on it now. Like it always was, really, except for those two houses down on the end there, like I said.

Part of me is glad to be home. But after what I’ve been through, part of me wants to get away, to go somewhere no one knows me and just think about things. Think about what it was like here thirty years ago. Or what it was like before that, before I was even born.

I’m just taking a walk, getting my daily half hour of contemplation. And out of nowhere comes this great looking car: it’s a ’42 Studebaker, beautiful as a prom night virgin in a white dress. Brand new whitewalls, a vintage paint job, baby blue, and chrome you’d have to pay just to see at a local car show. The guy driving it is about my age, thirty-five or thirty-six: a Mexican guy, which doesn’t surprise me, but something about the way he slows down and looks at me gets my stomach all funny. In sort of a good way, even though I’m not queer or anything. He looks familiar, but I know I’ve never met him.

“Hey, amigo. How you doing?”

“That’s some ride you got there, pardner. You live down here?”

“Yeah, the house on the left. You wanna drive ‘er?”

“Me? Oh, no, I —”

“Chure, take ‘er for a spin. Come on.” I laugh nervously, and he jumps over to the passenger side; slides, actually, the big bench seat like a church pew wrapped in vinyl. “Come on, man, I’m not going to bite you.” He holds his hands up.

“No, really….” But he can see how much I want to, and he knows he doesn’t have to twist my arm.

“Ay, caramba. Hop on in, buddy.” He sees me caving, and waves me in. I get into the car.

“Original engine?”

“Huh? Naw, man, it’s a five-o-two crate engine. About eight years old. Sweet.”

The radio is playing Ella Fitzgerald. “That a tape deck hidden somewhere?”

“No, that’s the radio, man.” I put my foot on the accelerator and it feels like what I’d expect a race car to feel like. Incredible power.

“I’m Ray, by the way.”

“Jose. Jose Rodriguez.” He grins, and his eyes are friendly, but the smile looks false. The sky seems to have darkened since I closed the car door.

“Good to meet ya, Jose. Did you say that’s the radio?”

“Yeah.”

“Must be community radio, then. I’ve never heard stuff like this around here. It’s all country, Top 40. Maybe some rock or R&B. Nothing like this.”

He leans back. “Yeah, it’s really nice.” The song ends, and Sinatra comes on next. Singing about Nancy, his daughter.

“Holy cow,” I say. “That’s local? What station is that?” The radio is original, so all I see is an AM band.

“I don’t know. Just a local station, I guess. So, you from around here?”

“Yeah, I grew up about five miles thataway.” I point east. “About five miles from Amarillo.”

“Let’s go that way.”

“Well, I don’t want to burn up too much of your gas.”

“Naw, that’s all right, man. I got a day off every once in a while. You just get back from the Gulf, eh?”

My stomach goes icy. “I don’t remember mentioning that.” I look calmly across the plain, but my hands tighten on the wheel.

break

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Short Story Contest Part II

Last week, I launched a short story contest here on my blog as part of a major national promotion. To recap: this is not a call for submissions; I'm serializing a short story in anticipation of my upcoming release of a short collection. Here's how it works: read it...
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Book Fair Time Coming September 17th

Book Fair Time Coming September 17th

Most of my blog posts are related in one way or another to the business of being an author – expanding your author platform, improving your book marketing, and so on – and not strictly self-promotional. However, every once in a while, I’ve got a radio interview or book fair that needs mentioning, and the event coming up on September 17th is a big one. It’s the second annual On Point Executive Book Fair, and it’s going to be my first book fair to promote Miles of Files, Brothers’ Hand, and Jana. I’ll have my own table there with copies of all three novels available for sale.

One thing that’s really interesting to me is how many other people will be there who I either already know, or know about from their presence online. The main page of this website has a little video testimonial from Dr. Ed Whittle, who I helped with editing his first real estate-themed book, Thanks, No Banks. Ed is planning to be there, so that should make it a fun day. I’ve known him for about 20 years, and he’s good people. There are going to be quite a few local authors and publishers I’ve met through work or networking.

I’ve also invited quite a few friends and former colleagues, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of them too. I’m not taking a ton of books with me, but I know there are some people who would like a signed copy of one of the novels. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, come say hello. Again, it’s the On Point Executive Book Fair at WestShore Plaza on September 17th. I hope to meet some old friends, and maybe even make a few new ones! For more info, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/onpointbookfair.

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Insanity: Writing the Same Thing Over and Over?

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It’s A Small World After All

Most of my blog posts are related in one way or another to the business of being an author – expanding your author platform, improving your book marketing, and so on – and not strictly self-promotional. However, every once in a while, I’ve got a radio interview or book fair that needs mentioning, and the event coming up on September 17th is a big one. It’s the second annual On Point Executive Book Fair, and it’s going to be my first book fair to promote Miles of Files, Brothers’ Hand, and Jana. I’ll have my own table there with copies of all three novels available for sale.

One thing that’s really interesting to me is how many other people will be there who I either already know, or know about from their presence online. The main page of this website has a little video testimonial from Dr. Ed Whittle, who I helped with editing his first real estate-themed book, Thanks, No Banks. Ed is planning to be there, so that should make it a fun day. I’ve known him for about 20 years, and he’s good people. There are going to be quite a few local authors and publishers I’ve met through work or networking.

I’ve also invited quite a few friends and former colleagues, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of them too. I’m not taking a ton of books with me, but I know there are some people who would like a signed copy of one of the novels. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, come say hello. Again, it’s the On Point Executive Book Fair at WestShore Plaza on September 17th. I hope to meet some old friends, and maybe even make a few new ones! For more info, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/onpointbookfair.

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Does An ARC Have to Include A Cover Illustration?

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And So The Tour Ends

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