Cold Enough to See Our Breath

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In case you have ever wondered if it is legal to scatter your friend’s ashes in a national park I have a new story up at http://www.acrossthemargin.com for you – it’s called “Cold Enough to See Our Breath”

You can read it Here

Much thanks to editor Michael Shields and the crew at AtM.

In spite of the title to the piece it’s blisteringly hot here – fat-kid killing hot as they say, and I could use a little cool.

So, stay cool.

Steve

Bikers, Tuskers, and Lloyd’s of London

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2002 Tusker T-Shirt reverse. 

 

Bikers, Tuskers and Lloyd’s of London

Back in a previous life I was a small rural insurance broker and as a matter of course I have many uninteresting stories about that time. However, one of the very few fun things I got to do (besides golf tournaments on the insurer’s dime) was to broker something called “Event Liability Insurance” (including Host Liquor Liability/Commercial General Liability etc. etc.) for events called “Tuskers.”

A Tusker is a “Biker Bash” – a weekend-long outdoor party for motorcycling enthusiasts of a particular stripe (i.e. – A great many ride highly customized Harley-Davidson motorcycles.) The event organizers brought in bands, had a “burnout pit”, a bike show, a wet tee-shirt contest, and other various fun family activities for the attendees. A fee was charged for the weekend and attendees were given a t-shirt as their entry pass – that way you don;t have to cart around a laminated card/ticket stubs or have your hand stamped, all of which have “continuity” problems. Slap on your tee and ride on in.  The organizers provided me with a tee-shirt as a gratuity for all of the hard work of brokering the necessary insurance coverage for the weekend, and I’ve put up some pics of my 2002 t-shirt here for your examination.

I am sure my readers are well familiar with Tuskers and have even attended a few but are surprised to know that there is insurance in place. Hey – of course there is. The county, law enforcement, private landowner’s renting or providing space – all of these people want indemnity in case anything goes wrong.  So with me – and certain underwriters at Lloyd’s, London (UK), coverage was quoted, bound, and premiums collected and a policy issued.

In addition to my t-shirts (I have never worn them – instead I have preserved them for eternity) I was asked to come on up and judge the wet t-shirt contest. I was flattered but demurred – I now regret that. I was married at the time and thought it an ungentlemanly thing to do but fuck it, If I could have sped up the divorce by a few years judging a wet t-shirt contest at a Tusker I absolutely, unequivocally should have done it. Plus, it would have given me some materiel.

In my insurance career I dealt with all sorts of people and believe it or not, most were good – But there were none better than the Tusker organizers. Premiums were paid in advance in cash, t-shirts gifted, invitations extended, and the events themselves ran like the Olympics only without the graft, delays, and shady judging. In the “motorcycle enthusiasts” community everyone has a nickname so I want to give a shout-out and thank you to Tracks, Moon, Morbid, and Sensitive (Yes – his biker “handle” is “Sensitive” – he was in charge of booking the bands) – you guys were/are the best.

So there – there’s my short summary of Bikers, Tuskers, and Lloyd’s of London – my contribution to what I hope is a hot and lazy summer weekend for all of you.

Stay frosty comrades – and go get yourself some sharp t-shirts.

Steve

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2002 Tusker T-Shirt Front Panel. Awesome.

Some Notes on Writing and Submitting

Trench Warfare
The editor preparing to “read” your MS which their “intern” is happily handing to them in neat little folds. I’d say “note the Ed’s facial expression” but likely you have and can’t look away, no matter how much you want to.

I was musing with a friend on the nature of writing and submitting at the end of the pond in which I swim and I came up with the following observations:

  1. It’s not “accepted” until it’s actually published,
  2. You learn to appreciate a quick read
  3. Do not respond to rejections
  4. Yes, your submission was rejected unread, and
  5. “Paying markets” might be overrated

It’s Not “Accepted” Until it’s Published.

I have 30+ pieces in print/pending including 20 of what I’ll call “short stories” (I have 14 “poems” – I’m really a prosodist – I tell little stories line-by-line and “poetry” publishers publish them – but we’ll set those aside for a minute.) Within those 20 shorts there are 4 that I’ve had accepted or shortlisted for magazines or anthology projects that died. Of those 4 only two editorial teams have responded to queries or contacted me to say that “We’re dead, best of luck placing it elsewhere.” The others have said nothing, although I note the project developers continue to tweet every day and maintain their social media presence. I have placed those 4 pieces, but had to place them twice, to see them in print once.

Every writer has a story like this and it’s part of the business – it happens.

I have a chapbook proposal out that I’d lump in this same category as almost a done deal and then …. Death of the publisher – But it was not actually accepted/contract offered so it doesn’t count.

You learn to appreciate a quick read:

Quickest Acceptance: Within 1 day.

Quickest Rejection: Within 1 day.

Longest Acceptance: 5 months and change,

Longest Rejection: 2 years/2 weeks.

Note – on this rejection I had queried at about the 6 month point and rec’d no response. I had accordingly marked my spreadsheet “No Response”. When I got the rejection (I had already placed the story elsewhere) I considered responding snarkily but fuck it, running a non-paying lit mag is most likely it’s own special circle of hell, and at least the guy stepped up and sent something out. I doubt it was ever read, just one of those things lost in the shuffle. It happens.

The Gentleman’s (and Lady’s) Response to Rejection:

The # of rejections I have responded to?

0 as in Zero, Nada, Zip, never.

I never respond. Hey, it’s one (or two) more readers than I would have had anyway – I appreciate the time and effort the Ed’s put into their project which is a labor of love and consumes their own writing time, family time, beer money, and offers very little reward in return. At worst it comes in two years and really, I have lost nothing thereby. No sense being snippy.

People will forget your writing soon enough, but they’ll always remember if you were an asshole. Be humble.

It’s a fool’s errand to speculate over rejection. At best it comes speedily and allows me to re-market quickly. I do appreciate the kindly-worded personal rejections but I don’t respond to those either. I note the rejection on a spreadsheet and move on.

Most Rejected: I had one story have 17 rejections before placing

Least Rejected: I have 3 stories and 5 poems that were accepted 1st time out – never rejected.

Remember: Rejection is not the worst thing that will ever happen to you. I’d say having a piece accepted then never running/having to re-market is worse than rejection. Also: Being eaten by a syphilitic bear. Perspective people, perspective.

Submissions Rejected Unread.

Ah, the unpleasant secret of the lit mag business – a lot of masterpieces are rejected not because they are shitty, or “not a good fit”, or for any actual reason that evolved from reading them but because the issues are jam-packed for the foreseeable future and they don’t need any more masterpieces. So they reject unread. It’s very difficult to get a hard number on this but I’m going to guess between 10 – 20% of mine are rejected unread. What I base that on are the subs entered via Submittable that are rejected without ever going from “received” into “In-Progress”.

Most Rejected? I had one story have 17 rejections before placing

Least Rejected? I have 3 stories and 5 poems that were accepted 1st time out – never rejected.

A Quick Note on Paying Markets:

Paying markets are not what you might like to think. If you show me a paying market by which you can earn a living due to their pay scale on a single piece (or on multiple pieces accepted during the course of the year) my ears will perk up. However, I doubt you can show me such a market. Glimmer Train, (as an example – many of my readers will be familiar with this publication), notes that they pay a sum total of around $50,000 each and every year to writers. Writers as in the plural of writer. That is the total payout to all of the writers they publish. $3,000 is the most they pay individually– a nice sum indeed, but that’s to the winner of their twice-yearly Fiction Opens – and they note that all prize funds are supported by the reading fees they charge.

You will not make a living submitting on a piecemeal basis to any one market. I think you are better off to submit to markets you like (you might have an affinity for one another) and markets you don’t like (obviously they need you to help build them up) and build up your resume’ by getting stuff out. Others might disagree with me, and sure, some markets take great pains to note that “we accept only the best, and our writers have often gone on to … blah blah blah.” “We accept only the best because we accept only the best is a tautology. Whoever said “We actively pursue the mediocre?” These things are in the realm of the subjective.

Absolutely you should be paid, but practically you need to get stuff published. My advice on submitting would to be to do it diligently, do it broadly, and to not second guess yourself and self-reject (i.e. I have no chance so I won’t submit) before sending. Learn the market’s basic guidelines/hit the submit button. This is the work part of being a working writer.

Exclusive Subs? Only if their response time is demonstrably fast. “Paying Market” is not a reason for exclusivity. No one pays enough money to justify exclusivity for more than 30 days.  Exclusivity seems to be a thing in Sci-Fi/Fantasy markets but rarely in general lit or poetry.

At any rate, that’s my mid-2016 update in the machinery of the literature industry. If your experience is any different – or if it’s the same and you just want to commiserate – feel free to comment below.

That’ll be a 10-4 little buddies, we’re on the road and rolling,

Steve

Bukowski Quotes, Ranked

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Bukowski Quotes, Ranked

American poet/writer/cynic Charles Bukowski (b. 1920 d. 1994) is eminently quotable, and his efficient, uninflected prose and poetry make for excellent slogans. Although most of his most famous phrases are longer than what you could get on a T-Shirt, they fit well within what you can use for a status update, cover photo, or tweet. As with all great writers, the bad get lumped in with the good as if all were of equal value, when in fact some of his bon mots are … less wise than others. So here, in order from the terrible through to the transcendent (think of it as ‘worst to first” for those of you who are going to have to google ‘transcendent’) , I’m going to present and discuss six of the most common Bukowski quotes

Terrible:

“She is mad but she is magic, there is no lie in her fire”.

Ah, the rallying cry for bat-shit insane women everywhere, women who are in fact, only ever mad, and will, in due course, start fires. But there is no magic, there never was, and there never will be.

Pro-tip: If you ever see a woman quote this or use it as a Facebook status/cover photo run, don’t walk, as far away from her as fast as you can.

Bukowski was considered a bit of a misogynist by many. I don’t know if this is true but this phrase is his gift to misandry.

Not that good:

“Find what you love and let it kill you.”

He may have intended this as a paean to masochism, a sop thrown to the crowd that believes that there is some sort of nobility in suffering, especially of the kind self-inflicted through vice. Hey may even have believed it. In this case its worth noting that Hank loved booze, cigarettes, (younger) red-heads, and playing the ponies … and died of leukemia. I doubt he loved leukemia.  It killed him anyway.

Meh:

“We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

I do not think of Bukowski as a motivational speaker but there it is.

You know, if this gets you up off of the floor than who am I to criticize? Unlike the previous two quotes I can’t see this one actually hurting anyone. Believe it or not self-proclaimed misanthrope Bukowski had a few quotes in this same pop-psych power-of-positive-thinking vein and for me it was a toss-up between this one or “You are marvelous, the Gods wait to delight in you”. Same thing really, and note how I just sneaked in an additional quote there. In regards to “Death” or “The Gods” Bukowski, if not an actual member of any known Atheist organization, was at the very least a non-theist but like all non-theists he probably had a lapse or two.

I do wonder if he wrote the more positive phrases he’s associated with while pleasantly buzzed and some of his darker stuff while sober, cold, and very, very alone.

Now you are talking:

“You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.”

Check any back-and-forth on any election thread on any form of social media and you’ll see a lot of grandiose romanticism, and a whole lotta politics. It’s all just talk.

I had a girlfriend once, certifiably insane, who would give every single homeless person she saw some money. “That pee-stained skeevy bastard needs a bath and someone to make sure he takes his meds” I’d tell her, “And not money. He’ll just use it to huff glue.”

“A dollar helps him right here, right now” she’d say.

She lived the rest of her life by the “She’s mad …” quote and might have been the worst person I have ever known – save in regards to the homeless, where I think she saved one person at a time for as long as a dollar or five would save them.

Sublime:

“It’s the order of things: Each one gets a taste of honey, then the knife”

This one is from the poem “The Proud Thin Dying” and should be quoted more often – it is light and darkness and everything all in one quote. I have to believe that when most people read this they believe themselves to be getting the knife when in fact they taste the honey. That’s what I like so much about it. It satisfies something deep within me.

Transcendent:

The Problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

And so it has ever been.

Remember, if you have ever posted publicly on any matter pertaining to a US presidential election or party nomination for president – you are not one of the smart ones.

***

Believe it or not the hardest part of this list was keeping at five-ish quotes. Bukowski wrote over a thousand poems, a hundred short stories, six novels, and seemed not to shy away from interviews. Hell, his phone number was listed in the public phone directory for years. Everyone has a Bukowski quote/story.

At any rate, you can quote (and post those quotes) from Bukowski until the cows come home. Just don’t do it too much or you’ll find yourself in just a t-shirt and underwear skyping with some fatty from Cleveland at 2 in the morning.

Over and out amigos, amigas. I post in flurries, God only knows when I’ll be back.

Steve

We Were Young Once, & Went to Motley Crue

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The Crue!

Editor’s note: The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Now that I have your attention: My Motley Crue concert story. I have seen them twice back in the 80’s – first time I and three other guys went up early and hotel-ed it so we could pre-game the show like professionals. When it was time to leave 3 of us split a 26 of Jack in 3 Super Big Gulps (the fourth guy was a “Herbal Magic” guy and felt himself to be morally superior to us drinkers) and then hit the C-Train. It was a festive ride to the Saddledome (we weren’t the only metal heads on the train) – except for one dour old lady seated across from us who looked at us with absolute contempt. I raised an eyebrow and offered up my super-biggie. Share and share alike right? We are all bothers/sisters in metal. Her eyes narrowed to slits and her lips were pursed in a tight line. No go. Ah well. Eventually I went on to become an obscure writer of hard-to-categorize stories and she died and was reincarnated as a stringy little weed. 

Post C-Train rolling soiree with Grandma No-Fun we get out @ Saddledome and walk on in with the horde of happy headbangers. There’s me, Herbal Magic, Angry Guy (He’s always po’d about something), and Bruisermania – Bruisermania is about 5’10” and weighs a buck-twenty-five soaking wet – thus the nickname. We’re rollin’ – and there are a lot of girls with big hair, tight jeans, air-brushed make-up and those little boots with the tassles. And you know what? I fuckin’ love it. The only bad news is that Herbal Magic has gone full Rasta – he’s catatonic. He’s like Elvis Presley on a foggy night. Fucked up and far from home. Gut shot. East bound and down. All of it. “I need to sit down” he says. It’s the last thing he says all night. I lead him by the crook of the arm to our assigned seating. Angry Guy and Bruisermania head on down to the floor (rush seating) ready to rock with the girls with big hair and little boots. Hey – it’s the 80’s.

Autograph is first up and you know what? They’re pretty good. TURN UP THE RADIO … still one of the best guitar solos of all time) and all that and it’s looking to be a great rock and roll show.

They get the crowd pumped for the Crue, who in due course hit the stage.

Three songs in a St John’s ambulance guy comes over to me and tells me, “We have your friend, Bruisermania – he’s hurt and has to go to emergency.” Thank God for Herbal Magic’s coma because that’s the only reason we are in our assigned seats – matching up ticket info to location was how St. John’s found us. I leave Herbal Magic and follow the St. John’s guy and there, in a little room, is Bruisermania and Angry Guy. “What happened?” I ask.

“Basically, some c*cksucking m*otherf*cking c*nts suckered me” Bruisermania says.

“I think he fell off of a chair” says Angry Guy.

“We called a cab.” Says St John’s guy. “He’s gotta go to emergency. I think he’s got a broken collarbone.”

I look at Angry guy. He shrugs and wanders away.

Bruisermania and I get in the cab – the cabbie says he got a call to take a guy to Holy Cross with a suspected broken collarbone. What happened?

“Basically, some c*cksucking m*otherf*cking c*nts suckered me!” Bruisermania says.

“He might have fallen off of a chair,” I say.

“Better you than me,” says the cabbie and it’s off to Holy Cross.

The physician at Holy Cross is prompt. No sooner is Bruisermania admitted and poured into a wheelchair than she is there. “What happened to you?” she asks.

“Basically, some c*cksucking m*otherf*cking c*nts suckered me!” Bruisermania says. The concert was loud, he’s shouting this to be heard over the speakers back at the ‘dome.

“Some other people say he fell off of a chair,” I say, helpfully.

“How much has he had to drink?” She asks me.

I answer truthfully.

A half hour later he’s out – broken collarbone – and in a sling fortified by some T3’s. Yes – T3’s – For a 125-pound guy who has had 1/3 of a 26 of Jack Daniel’s and a few super cans of Molson Canadian.

We cab it back to the hotel where we decide fuck it, if we are screwed out of Motley Crue we can always have a few post game beverages at the club in the hotel. Unfortunately I am wearing a Jack Daniel’s long-sleeved t-shirt and am denied entry for “wearing biker regalia”. I shit you not. “But you serve Jack right?” I ask. “Not to bikers” the bouncers say in unison. For the record, I have never ridden a motorbike in my life. Not then, and not now. Bucket list I guess. But I digress.

Bruisermania and I shrug it off and hit the lounge (I guess they admit bikers) for a couple of Pilsners (aka Green Diesel/Saskatchewan Champagne) and some sports highlights.

The next day, on the ride home, no one said a word until we made a pit stop at the Claresholm 7-11 – the most famous 7-11 in the whole world. We all got out and started to walk in when Bruisermania stopped and said “Did I really fall off of a chair last night?”

Rock on.

\m/ \m/

 

Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock

My short story “Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock” is up live at Bull: Men’s Ficton, and you can read it Here

Much thanks to the editorial crew @ Bull for putting it up – you should go give them a “like” on their Facebook Page and while you are at it throw another “like” down on my story.

For those of you who saw “The Big Short” (or read Michael Lewis’ excellent book) and saw the “Great Recession” from the top end, where the dice are rolled a billion dollars at a time – this story is from the trenches. A former title insurance rep deeply upside down on his own mortgage works as a cog in  the foreclosure industry machine now and every day is just a little bit worse than the day before. Where do you go? What do you do?

Rock on,

 

Steve

 

Indolence & Rhyme

My short story “Indolence and Rhyme” is in Toasted Cheese Issue 16.2 and you can read it Here

“Indolence … ” is a short story but if you have ambitions to write poetry and hope to ever be paid or even merely well-thought of you should read it less as a story and more as a prophecy.

I am very pleased to have a story in Toasted Cheese – TC has been around since the dawn of the internet (2001) and has won numerous awards over that time span as one of the best writing sites on the net.

Strange Factoid: The poems that form part of the narrative of this story were the first poems I ever wrote. Since that time I’ve had a few published but they all started here.

Read & enjoy you slack-jawed Troglodytes, I’ll be back with another publication credit Monday and hopefully (but not likely) news of a lottery win at which point I need never blog again.

Steve