The Great Bradello

“Sometimes the one with the biggest smile is the one hiding the biggest frown.”

Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown, Pagliacci, is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor, I am Pagliacci.”

There’s a good chance you’ve seen this joke somewhere online in the last few days. I’d never heard it before—because I’ve never seen Watchmen—but people quickly realized the joke was quite appropriate regarding the passing of Robin Williams and began posting it everywhere.

I’m not going to ramble on about Robin Williams—not because I’m not sad about it or affected by it—quite the contrary, actually. But in this day and age, commenting on something after four days have already passed, well, that’s an eternity in online time. There’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said.

What I am going to do, though, is share. I wrote a short—very short—story about a year and a half ago that sort of fits the situation. Sort of. I haven’t looked at it in a long time and I’m sure it’s a little rough, but I don’t have a whole heck of a lot else going on that’s really blogworthy, so I thought I’d post it here, now.

It’s not about a clown per se, but a magician named The Great Bradello. Enjoy.

Brad took a sip of his cheap whiskey and looked at the clock. 11:38 am. Time to get dressed for work. He gulped down the rest of his drink and carried the empty glass into the kitchen, shoving a stack of dirty dishes aside to make room.

He ignored the pile of overdue bills on the kitchen table as he walked into his bedroom and pulled out the only clean clothes in his closet: a pair of black dress slacks and a crisp, white button down shirt with long sleeves. Then he grabbed his black dress shoes, polished to a high shine as usual, followed by his cape and black top hat.

As he dressed, Brad couldn’t help running through the argument the night before. The booze wasn’t enough to make him forget about Ashley. The way she’d begun by gently suggesting he needed to “grow up” and get a “real job,” eventually escalating to name calling and yelling, telling him he was a born loser.

The breakup was inevitable, even if she hadn’t started in last night. She just didn’t understand. Still, he already missed her. She was the prettiest girl he’d ever dated, and while they were going out he would imagine how she would look dressed up on stage as his assistant in a big Las Vegas show.

Fully dressed and shoes laced, Brad tied the cape around his neck and donned the requisite top hat before checking his appearance in the mirror.

Spot on.

Outside, a horn honked. Brad pulled back the curtain to see his cab waiting. He turned back to the closet and grabbed his case full of props. He stuck a deck of cards in one pocket and put his ‘never-ending’ handkerchief up his sleeve so he’d be able to pull off a couple of quick tricks right out of the cab.

Looking at himself in the mirror one last time before heading out the door, Brad smiled for the first time in three days.

For the next two and a half hours, he would convince himself that his life was not in ruins; he was not depressed. Brad would convince a birthday party full of children and their parents that life was good and he was happy.

And that was The Great Bradellos’s greatest trick of all.

I realize now this is a fairly depressing post, and I don’t  want anyone to end their week on a sad note, so if you’ve read this far you must now click this link to make sure your weekend starts off right. Seriously, it is required by Books of Jobe administration. Do it. And have a good weekend, everybody.

 

Might I Suggest a Little Light Reading?

I wasn’t planning on any more blogging this week (especially two days in a row) after the gargantuan beast that was yesterday’s post, but I had to make an exception. I got an email yesterday from Danse Macabre Magazine’s sister site DM Du Jour, letting me know they were publishing my flash fiction story Silence, Please on their site as of, like, now.

It was a nice surprise, as this story was a bit of a departure for me. No, strike that—more of an experiment, really. It was my first (and maybe my only) attempt at writing anything resembling a period piece. It was actually a combination of two things—I was sitting in front of the computer one night after my better half had gone to bed; the TV was off and I was trying to be quiet. I began to think about someone trying to be as quiet as humanly possible, for some unknown reason. My mind filled in the blanks when I looked at this picture of a painting that hangs on the wall to my left. Whenever I turn my head, I see a variation of this:

Painting of Stephen Collins Foster by artist Howard Chandler Christy, circa 1948-1950

Painting of Stephen Collins Foster by artist Howard Chandler Christy, circa 1948-1950

I’ve almost finished creating an epic, tragic backstory for this picture/painting, and someday—if I can ever think it all the way through—I’ll write that story. For now, however, I’ve written a much, much shorter one.

So if you have 2-3 minutes to kill, check it out. As far as I can tell it will be on the site for quite some time, so if you decide to read it some other time you might just have to scroll down a little ways until you see my name. If you go today it’s right there on top.

You can read the story by clicking here.

One last thing: directly below my story is my author bio, and directly below that is an image of a book cover featuring a thin young man (and his rather impressive male endowment) wearing nothing but his drawers. That man and his schlong have nothing to do with me or my story whatsoever, lest there be any confusion. It wasn’t by design, but you’re welcome. 🙂

 

Well, Isn’t This a Nice Surprise!

I was getting restless. I wondered if people were going to think I was crazy or, worse yet, making it up when I said I had another story being published. I checked Nebula Rift magazine’s Facebook page and website regularly and saw no updates or announcements of new issues, and they never emailed me to let me know when the issue I was going to be in was coming out (which is kinda weird, isn’t it?), so imagine my surprise when I went to their website this morning to discover that sometime in the past few weeks, my issue came out!

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Nebula Rift Volume 2, Number 4 is available for purchase and download now!

My story Tale of the Revolution is in there, and like my other story to be published so far, it’s a bit of an anomaly. Once again, it’s the rare story where no one dies and there are no curse words. Stranger still, it’s my first—and so far only—attempt at writing any sort of sci-fi. I actually thought this story might be hard to place somewhere because it’s very short and it’s not “hardcore” sci-fi. Luckily, the fine folks at fictionmagazines.com (who publish seven, count ’em, seven different magazines) liked it enough to publish it, and here we are.

I really like this story, and I hope you guys do, too.

Check it out!

The Eagle Has Landed: My first published story sees the light of day

After proudly telling the world (which is, literally, tens of people) I’d finally gotten not one, but two stories accepted for publication last month, next I did the only thing I could—I waited. And waited. I realized that I had no idea when either magazine/journal would actually come out, and started to feel a little uncomfortable that perhaps I’d tooted my own horn a little prematurely. Friday I finally got word that one of them is officially out, on the market and available for sale.

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The Rusty Nail Literary Journal May/June issue is out now! Hard copies are available for purchase from Amazon here, and digital downloads are available at their website here. In it you will find my flash fiction piece “Aiden’s Acting Up Again.”

It’s a bit surreal, after all this time finally seeing my name and my words in a real-life, published product. It feels pretty cool.

“Aiden” is a bit of an anomaly compared to a lot of my other stuff. For one thing, there’s not a single curse word, which I can assure you, despite the generally PG-rated nature of the blog most of the time, is pretty rare indeed.

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Also, no one dies, making it one of maybe two or three of my stories with a goose egg in the body count department.

This story began as part of my Reddit ‘No Sleep’ Experiment. I uploaded it to /r/nosleep and it was fairly popular, with readers asking for more ‘updates’ to the story. I ended up writing two additional pieces to bring the story to an end, but I rushed through them and don’t really like them. I honestly think Aiden is perfect as a stand alone story, ending the way it does on an unnerving note.

Check out the story (and the entire issue for that matter, it’s chock-full of other great stories), I hope you like it!

The Emancipation of Jackie

It’s been a crazy week or so around here, but oddly enough there’s not much to say as to why it’s been so crazy. There may be something to talk about in the near future, but for now it’s just crickets and tumbleweeds around here.

This is making me homesick.

This is making me homesick for California.

In a smidge of writing news, I finished one of my short stories and submitted it in a contest with a grand prize of publication in a crime magazine. So far it’s one of the top-rated stories, but the reading and submission period just started so I’m not about to count my chickens before they hatch. If any of you have a free account with Lit Reactor (or are bored enough to create one) you can click on the link for the contest and look for my name—the story is titled Early Retirement. (There are also plenty of other killer stories by the other contestants, as well)

Do any of you fellow writers use writing prompts? I’m not a huge fan of them for the most part, but there is one writing prompt website I like: TypeTrigger.com. What I like about Type Trigger is that it’s kind of like the writer’s equivalent of Twitter—you take their prompt and write whatever comes spewing out of your brain with the restriction that you only have three hundred words to work with. I’ve almost reached that already in this post, so you can see it’s not a lot of room to tell a story. I don’t use it all that often, but through their prompts I have come up with a couple of odd little stories I sort of liked. Since I don’t have much else to talk about right now, I decided to share one.

The prompt for this one was ‘a cheap wig.’ I thought for a couple minutes and this is what I came up with. Enjoy.

 

The Emancipation of Jackie

Jackie smiled at his marks with calm assurance. He knew they wanted the car, and he was determined to make the sale. “It’s the model you said you wanted,” he reminded them. They were a young couple; newlyweds, in fact. They had told him so and he used that information to his advantage. “Surely you don’t want to disappoint your new bride.”

“Well, it’s just…”Jeff began, his new wife’s hand in his. “It’s really a skeleton of a car. It doesn’t even have air conditioning.”

“I see.” Jackie realized the mark was trying to sweeten the deal. If that was what it took to close the sale, so be it. “I can throw in a few extras, how does that sound? What would you like? Maybe a nice leather steering wheel cover?”

Jeff looked at his wife, thoughtful. He turned back to Jackie with a gleam in his eye. “The rug,” he said.

Jackie frowned, confused. “You mean floor mats? I suppose I can make that happen, I might need—”

“No, the rug,” Jeff repeated. “On your head.”

Jackie felt his face heat up. “Sir, I don’t…uh…”

Jeff grinned. “If you take that dead animal that passes for a toupee off your head right now, and promise never to put it on again, I’ll buy this car.” His wife giggled.

Jackie waved as the car drove away, and for the first time in years he felt free.

When It Rains, It Pours

*F-bomb alert.

Great news: another one of my stories, Aiden’s Acting Up Again, has been accepted for publication by The Rusty Nail Literary Magazine. I’m not sure of their publication schedule, so I can’t tell you when to look for it, but of course I’ll pass along the info when I get it.

So, after months (maybe over a year?) of rejections—approximately 42—suddenly I’ve gotten two acceptances in seven days. It’s amazing, to say the least. I don’t really have as good a grasp as I should on the demographics of my followers, so I’m not sure if there are people out there in the same boat I am (aspiring writers) reading the blog. I purposely decided quite a while ago to not write about writing so much, because it bored me, and if it’s boring to write about how must it be to read?

Anyway, if there are any beginning or aspiring writers reading this (or any aspiring anythings for that matter), all I can say is the hard work is worth it. I’m still in the very early stages of my (hopefully long and successful) writing career, but getting these first two stories accepted has wiped away a lot of the frustration I felt writing day in and day out, thinking I was spinning my wheels and maybe wasting my time.

There were many mornings where I would get up at 6am like clockwork, grab some coffee, sit down at the computer and…stare at the screen for fifteen or twenty minutes without writing a word, before giving up altogether and browsing the internet (and on occasion, I still do). Sometimes I would get angry with how little progress I seemed to make. I would think, I’ve been getting up 90 minutes earlier than I have to to work on this crap, and it’s going nowhere—what the hell am I doing? Am I just wasting my time?

Deep down I knew I was getting better—I could see it in the new stories I was writing. But without any sort of validation from an outside source (and rejections swiftly piling up) I began to wonder if I was right. Finding online critique groups helped up to a point; there I get useful feedback, but there’s no shortage of unnecessarily harsh criticism in some of those groups; some people just seem to seethe with bitterness, eager to tear apart anything they deem unworthy. *On a side note: to the person who critiqued a story of mine by saying it was “lazy as fuck, and you know it,” that story was accepted for publication last week, so you can stick your critique where the sun don’t shine.

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One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get something published this year; I thought that was perfectly reasonable, but by mid-April I began to have my doubts. Then I read a column on Lit Reactor by Richard Thomas, who seems like a very cool guy; always looking to help writers, not to mention a killer writer himself. In his column, he pointed out that many publications accept simultaneous submissions—meaning you can send something to them as well as others at the same time. Why, he asked, would you send out submissions one at a time when you could send out three, five, eight, etc? He compared it to looking for a job: you don’t apply for one, wait to hear back, then apply for another. You apply for ALL OF THEM. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I never thought of it that way.

In late April, I went for it. I submitted four or five of my stories to three or four different places each, and what do you know? He was right. I’ve seen results.

I hope you all have a good weekend. I’m going to be doing research/planning a heist on a nearly impenetrable underground vault before heading to Oklahoma for a good old-fashioned fish fry.

I’ll end with a word of warning—you’ll probably get sick of me updating when the stories are available to read, so brace yourselves. 🙂

The Reddit ‘No Sleep’ Experiment

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So do you guys reddit? With all the mandates on writers to use all forms of social media (including my reluctant creation of an account with Google+, which I’m still trying to get a feel for), I assumed that most everyone would have at least dabbled with the internet behemoth. After reading a post from fellow writer/blogger Katie Cross, however, I realized that may not be the case.

What is reddit? Man, is that a loaded question. In a lot of ways, reddit is a microcosm of the internet itself. It has everything you could possibly imagine—cat videos, pranks, world news, politics, technology, fitness, pop culture news, plus a plethora of content that is both NSFW and NSFL (and if you don’t know what those abbreviations mean, you’re probably not going to want to click on anything with those tags on them—not safe for work and not safe for life, respectively).

There are literally thousands of groups, all categorized into areas called subreddits, that you can subscribe to and decide what you do and don’t want to see; the music subreddit, for example, is listed as /r/music. There are links to content, such as photos, videos, and articles, as well as (usually quite lengthy) discussions about said content.

And just like the internet as a whole, there are several useful resources for writers: workshops where you can submit work for critique, articles to help you strengthen your skills, discussion groups about various aspects of writing…all, of course, helpful in its own way.

Then there’s /r/nosleep.

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The design for the brand new nosleep t-shirt.

No Sleep is a subreddit dedicated to trying to frighten and disturb you; it’s kind of like gathering around a virtual campfire and swapping ghost stories. All stories are told in the first person as true experiences. The people who read the stories and leave comments treat them as if they’re real, because one of the guidelines is “Everything is true in /r/nosleep.”

One of the keys to reddit is its unique upvote/downvote process for determining what’s popular. It’s a bit like Facebook with added negativity. Anything submitted to reddit is subject to its users’ approval or disapproval. This goes for No Sleep as well.

After reading stories there for the last few months, I decided to give it a whirl. I had been tossing around an idea for a flash fiction story that I thought would meet the criteria of the group, so I submitted it last week. Surprisingly, it was upvoted by the majority of people who read it, and there were quite a few encouraging comments. Encouraging in that they all requested more—updates to the situation I detailed in my story. I then decided to write a second chapter with the intention of it being a bit of a bridge to the third and final installment, bringing the story to a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion.

So, first story: 152 upvotes, 37 downvotes. Not bad. Reddit’s nice enough to let me know that means 81% like it. Second story: 68 upvotes 19 downvotes. 78%. Still not too shabby, but the real story is in the comments. The first story had 33 comments, ranging from ‘keep us updated’ to ‘please update soon, the suspense is killing me.’ The second had 10, mostly just saying ‘uh-huh, keep us posted,’ and one sarcastic butthead. Obviously the first story resonated with people more than the second one. It’s not exactly a line by line critique of your work, but what I like is that it’s instantaneous feedback from some of the most honest people on the planet—anonymous strangers on the internet. If they don’t like your story you’ll know, because they simply downvote and don’t comment on it.

If you like to read creepy stories, or want to see how people like the stories you make up, jump on over to /r/nosleep and give it a shot. They have monthly contests for the most popular story, and a sort of a ‘behind the scenes’ subreddit for discussions about the group. I’ll be writing the conclusion to my epic saga in the next day or two, so you may be reading my story there soon. I may end up posting the whole thing here on the blog at a later date as well, time will tell. So, who are my fellow redditors out there?