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Friday, November 29, 2013

Thoughts on "Then and Now: The Harmony of the Instantaneous All" and That 1-star Review

I now have a significant number of works out there from novels to novellas to short stories and collections. When I get asked which one is my favorite, the standard response is that they are like your children. What I find interesting in the question is to ponder which among my works are least read. I like Then and Now: The Harmony of the Instantaneous All very much. Whenever I reread it, I really get drawn into it anew. It's set in Lawrence during that turbulent spring of 1970. It's a fictional retelling, but with enough true events to enhance the drama for the characters. It's the only work of mine that has received a one-star review, which I found really interesting because the writer was really upset with himself, not with me. He wanted to have written a similar novel about those times. Listen to parts of the review from "John Brown:"

Disclosure: I have only scanned this book. This book purports to be about Lawrence Kansas in 1969 and 1970. I was there. I ended up in federal prison as a result of an alleged bombing conspiracy. I was personally in the middle of all this author mentions. I was ten feet from Nick Rice when he was shot dead by police in the midst of an unarmed crowd. I was suspected by the Feds of many acts described here in. I was friends with all the main players. This author was not. What I have read is a sorry shadow of the reality of what happened and does an injustice to it.... So many books written about those times are, like this one, written by fringe players or are heavily romanticized, or are somehow apologetic.... someday maybe someone, somewhere will actually write a piece of fiction that catches the reality, but it has not happened yet. Actually, I once tried and the result ended up being over a thousand pages long (no one in their right mind would pick up a thousand page novel by an unheard of author). I was asked to revise it way downward. I couldn't do it and by then it was the year 2000 and I couldn't figure why I was even writing this anymore....

Yes, I was on the fringe, but I was there. I was in the center of my being and the whole purpose of writing Then and Now was to get back to that being and those times. I wasn't writing a history. Nick Rice didn't die in my story, another character, near and dear to the main character, Stan, did. I was writing something that I hoped young people could read today and relate to. So John Brown's anger is displaced. He's angry at himself. Then and Now has not been a sales success. But for me, it is an artistic success. I'm happy with it.

From a writing technique, Then and Now presents an interesting point of view approach. Stan Nelson tells why he is writing Then and Now and creates characters from those times and then traces them to the now, and shows them those parts to see how accurate they are. I think it sets up an interesting push and pull. Listen to Stan as he explains why he is doing what he is doing:

I don't want an essay. I want a re-creation. I want the ultimate in fiction -- to live again in those times. Not so I can understand them. I don't want to understand the 60s. I want to have them again. Live, breathe and feel them again. The ultimate fantasy. Some friends believe it will be therapeutic for me, a kind of acting out that I'll be able to realize as such and so analyze. Others say, Stan, man, it's just escapism, dangerous avoidance of the now. I guess I have to ask myself somewhere along in this thing if there is going to be any worth here for me. I just can't deal with the question now, man -- dude -- bud -- pal: whatever is the generic non-sarcastic appellation in your argot for "friend."

Actually, I'd like to meet this John Brown. I'd like to see his manuscript. I think we might become friends.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Short Story "Confidence" Published by New Digital Publication "Eleven to Seven"

Thanks to an alphabetical listing, my short story "Confidence" is the first story listed in a new digital publication "Eleven to Seven." I think we're going to see more and more of these sorts of creative outlets open up. I hadn't published "Confidence" myself, so I am glad it has now found a home. The author who gives away his fiction for these sorts of endeavors hopes exposure to the published piece prompts a reader to search for more of his or her work.

I wrote "Confidence" when I was in my twenties. I was exploring the short story environment. I thought the piece of fiction at less than 500 words worked well, but it was never accepted to the literary journals where I submitted it. And so it sat in the file cabinet for, well, decades now.

I think it shows what can be accomplished in the short format. A character is established and something life-changing occurs to him. The challenge is to make it occur for the reader in a convincing and connecting sort of way. Hope you'll check it out.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Small Press Curiosity Quills Accepts SPILL

Email arrived last week:

Dear Randy,
 I've just joined Curiosity Quills and it was my great pleasure to read SPILL. I found it to be a fascinating and entertaining read. I am pleased to inform you Curiosity Quills would like to offer you a contract for SPILL. To capitalize on the marketing potential, we'll be looking to publish closer to the end of next summer, when the primary season is in full swing for the elections.
 Erika Galpin

SPILL is a political comedy, only comedy I've attempted. I wrote it out of deep frustration. Over many decades of writing fiction, with little publishing success to show for it, I thought: "Look, if you can write something that makes people laugh, you can't deny the writing is successful." SPILL—about a fired English teacher who scams the political system and gets the girl, the money, and a killer skateboard computer game—poured out of me in three months. Never written any novel that quickly. I laughed as I wrote it; many readers have laughed as they read it.

It got me an agent. We came close with traditional publishers. Here's the final rejection from an editor at Ecco, a highly respected imprint with Harper Collins. You make sense of it for me. I can't.

Thanks so much for thinking of me and of Ecco for Randy Attwood’s political satire, SPILL, which I enjoyed digging my teeth into. Fred and Zoe share a kind of chemistry on the page that goads the imagination and leads the reader to be genuinely interested in the outcome of their electoral shenanigans, and Attwood very capably lampoons contemporary aspects of America’s current political situation, like the oil industry, gun regulation, and unemployment. Unfortunately, as compelling as I found this read, in the end it just didn't capture my heart and attention to the degree where I would feel confident taking it on. Attwood has a sure command over language—my overarching issue, though, is that that language seems to be employed towards the end of being current; my instinct tells me SPILL exists less in and of itself and more for the audience it is fashioned to attract, and so I am sadly going to have to pass on this one. Attwood clearly has an accomplishment on his hands, and I wish you and him the best of luck finding a home for this debut elsewhere.

I self-published it in 2011 because editors at other traditional publishers advised my agent to encourage me to do so. It got me into this whole new business of epublishing and saved my creative life. I was really ready to just give up writing. Now I'm back at it. I haven't had huge self-publishing success, but I've got some wonderful reviews from people I don't know for my short stories, novellas and novels that are all over the genre map.

The small press Curiosity Quills picked up the dark suspense work Blow up the Roses." Then they accepted two works I have not self-published: Tortured Truths, released just this week, and Heart Chants, scheduled for Dec. 20. Both are part of a Phillip McGuire mystery/suspense series. And I was proud to be the only author to have two stories published in their recent anthology, PrimeTime.

Now they've acquired SPILL.

I have the contract on my desk to sign. When I do so, it means I have to un-publish SPILL from my self-publishing platforms.

So, if you want an early copy, here's the Amazon Kindle and paperback site.

And a favor. Although we are at least eight months away from SPILL being published by Curiosity Quills, it not too early for me to network and find nationally known political type folks who would read this comedy and, if enjoying it, provide a blurb endorsement. If you have a connection (or if you are such a person!), do please let me know.