Cruising the Green of Second Avenue

Wild Child Publishing has issued the second volume of short stories in Cruising the Green of Second Avenue. The tales take up where Vol. I left off — bringing back Klein the Biker, Straight Charlie and Sammy the Madman while introducing new characters stumbling over life’s difficulties in the late 60s. Vol. II is an e-book published by Wild Child Publishing that you can download, save as a pdf (Adobe) file and print. Read both volumes and see that life isn't all that serious. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other online book sellers.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

If Editors Only Realized

The holidays can be so filled with Himalayas of joy and Marianna Trenches of despair that I’m happy to report my family—all of them—and I came through them with great experiences, sensations and memories. One added Christmas present came on Dec. 26 when I opened my mail to find an acceptance from Every Day Fiction ( for the flash piece “The Last Person on Earth.” [Publication date to come shortly.] Camille said of it, “A fascinating concept and well-crafted prose. The last line is particularly well done.” Co-editor Jordan remarked, “Wow. This asks so many questions beyond the actual story. It’s so deep and yet so short. Another beauty from you.”

This is my second piece to have been accepted and published by this new [2007] online magazine. As with a few other editors, it’s a pleasure to deal with these thoughtful people. Every writer has received snarky rejections from don’t-bother-me editors. A friend of mine actually got an-mail back saying, “This story is crap!”

How nice then for BJ Bourg, publisher and editor of Mouth Full of Bullets ( to tell me in September that he was truly and personally sorry he had to reject a story. A few months later, he wrote about another submission, “Thanks for submitting such wonderful work! I really enjoyed ‘Epitaph with Flowers’ and will publish it in December 2008. I hope all is going great for you and that you have a Happy Thanksgiving.”

Wow! Those are the kinds of responses—for acceptances and rejections—that keep writers coming back. I’ve struck a number of magazines off my list of markets because there didn’t seem to be a human being at the helm. Queries weren't answered, delays were interminable, approvals were later cancelled. Others, however, have gotten my checks for subscriptions.

As a side note, this encouragement means I've spent more time—successfully—writing to specific genres. The good editors are making me examine their markets more closely—and making me a better writer. Makes me wonder if editors know the effect they have on writers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What’s to Be Afraid of in a Number?

A letter crossed my desk years ago from a fellow who’d written a book exposing odd cyclical correlations. The price of pig iron in China, he believed, ran in cycles comparable to sow bellies in Iowa. I didn’t buy his book, but the coincidences kept coming to my attention. For example, Jack Kennedy had a secretary named Nixon and Richard Nixon had a secretary named—you guessed it. I often wondered whether there might be cycles that would uncover mysteries. Numerology, astrology and “sympathetic magic” fall into this class of happenstance. So does a great deal of Old Testament religion, which gave rise to a gaggle of writers describing 666 as the sign of the devil. I wish life were that easy and such shortcuts to interpretations were available.

All this leads to my short story titled “Number Eleven,” which editor Don Webb has published at Bewildering Stories. You can read it at But, please, don’t write or call to tell me that numerology really does explain the innermost secrets of our existence!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Opening the Cable Window

Editor Don Webb has just posted my short story, “Cable Window,” at Bewildering Stories ( This bit of gee-whiz is less an exercise in sci-fi than a way to unveil our heroine’s loneliness over the loss of her husband. Missing a TV signal does not compare to the death of a loved one, but some metaphorical comparison could be made.*

The time-out-of-synch plot isn’t original. It’s been the core story plot a number of times over the decades. Philip K. Dick was a master of the sub-genre. The fact that there’s a “February 29th” in “Cable Window” is my predilection for things that are sometimes overlooked. Perhaps it’s a stranger’s earring found in your bed, or finding a strange cigarette end in the car ashtray. Who knows where that could lead?

The story grew out of a prompt years ago that made me ask, “What the heck is a cable window?” Well, I now know it’s that period when time stops because Macy’s is going to deliver that whatchamacallit, or the repairman will visit—and you better be home to receive the delivery or service call. Haven’t we all taken a day off work to wait for the person who doesn’t come? The window closes, we’re often dissatisfied, then we have to muddle through as best we can.

Give “Cable Window” a read and let me know about the windows of waiting in your life.

* I can’t leave this without digressing into humorous absurdity. Someone has asked, “How can you tell if your husband is dead?” (Answer: The sex is the same but you get the remote.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Watch Out! Here Come the Holidays!

Thanksgiving is rolling up like an Army deuce-and-a-half driven by mercenaries on high octane and I’m not ready for the holidays! I’m pushing through a rewrite of my novel, The Ways of Being Foreign, killing those choice words and phrases that don’t move the story ahead. This is a worthy investment of time because there are common threads between the Vietnam War three decades ago and the situations that make Americans today feel like expatriates in their own country. Memory is a sieve through which we can screen the value of our past actions—and that’s a good reason to write.

More to the moment, I’m also polishing and proofing short stories for Volume II of Cruising the Green of Second Avenue. I’ve been told by the angels at Wild Child Publishing ( to have everything completed by the end of this month. Whew! I don’t want to give anything away, but the last two stories in the series dramatically complete the epic of “growing up” in the late ’60s-early ’70s.

It’s been a year to be thankful, with a number of acceptances by publishers. Today, I also received a note from the editors of The Written Word ( accepting “The Wishing Pool” for publication in the coming weeks. I’m happy, not only for the sale, but because the youngsters in the story nibbled at my heart. Perhaps I once was “Otto,” making bets on when the first snowfall would close school and wondering when my father would come home from his business travels. Perhaps we all were young once, when holidays reached magical stature.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kudos for Cruising

It’s gratifiying to hear some nice words from pre-publication readers of Cruising the Green of Second Avenue.

Cocktail Reviews called the collection “a thoroughly enjoyable book, read in one sitting. Too hard to put down. Too hard to accept that it was over when the last page had been read. I felt lost once finished. The characters are so real that you become friends with them while reading. Still, all is not lost. I hear there are other volumes—something I’m eagarly looking forward to.” (Cocktail Reviews accorded the collection five Champagne flutes, meaning “You would be very glad if you had bought the book. Most definitely recommend it to someone else. You loved the characters/plot/dialogue. Superb/excellent/solid characters/plot/interest level/writing. You would look forward to reading more from this author.”)

Author Tom Rayfiel dropped me a note, saying, “I enjoyed the stories very much. A time of cheap rents and cheaper beer was the impression I got. I particularly liked the comparison of women to medieval theologians parsing every word in their analysis of relationships. I guess some things don't change. You paint what strikes me as a very honest, yet humorous, portrait of the day.” (Thomas Rayfiel, author of Colony Girl, Eve in the City and Parallel Play.

Thank you! I’m reminded of the narrator in Cruising, who said, “Writers, I’ve found, keep things bottled up in their heads. It’s a condition like constipation, and when writers finally crap it all out the world has a literary masterpiece. That’s not to say all output is literary. Sometimes, it’s still crap.” I feel vindicated that Cruising lies somewhere on the spectrum between literature and crap.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Tomorrow Never Comes

I tell people offhandedly that, yes, business people in the late ’60s really did have two-martini lunches. California offices had to get on the phones early, before their East Coast counterparts disappeared into a liquid lunch. Then, where I worked on Park Avenue and 46th, the rush to the elevators began at 4:51 so the senior officers could throng into Grand Central and catch their 5:05 to Westchester and Fairfield Counties. Senior execs were elevated to corner offices because of alumni connections, low golf handicaps and good manners. They were amiable, cooperative people—as long as you got to them early in the morning.

God knows, our CEO tried to extract ability and participation. His mantra was to find those brilliant ideas being squirreled away in desk drawers and apply them to the betterment of the company. He exhorted us regularly to “Reach into your drawers and pull out those ideas.” Instead, everyone pulled out at 4:51.

A different culture unfolded downtown, before the Lower East Side became the “East Village.” (I re-visited the area last fall where a street sign on Avenue C read Loisida.) Authenticity called for everyone to be yourself and do what feels right—which is what the characters in Cruising tried to do. Someone asked me in a skeptical tone whether the Cruising stories were based on “real people.” Back when the Aquarians came of Age in the ’60s, we were asking, “What’s real?” But, yes, I had a friend who walked naked across Manhattan (“Klein Comes Back Abashed”), another pal who’d only date heavy women (“Laura Lard Takes No Prisoners”), and my wife and young son participated in an art exhibit (“Sarah, My Donna and Child”). Embracing life became serious business, because we knew in those days that tomorrow never comes. As Janis Joplin so wisely remarked, “When tomorrow comes it's really today!”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Eternal Smile

Michael Quinion reminded me that Sept. 19 was the 25th anniversary of the smiley face. In his weekly online newsletter (available at he wrote, “The :-) symbol, necessarily created from standard keyboard characters, was invented…by Scott E. Fahlman in a post on a bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University. It formed part of a thread on the way humorous remarks could be tagged to avoid misunderstandings. His message was brief, though a tad ungrammatical: ‘I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers: :-) Read it sideways.’” Mr. Fahlman is these days the Research Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon.

I remember being in New York City in 1982 when I first saw this innocuous, bulbous, caricature with two dots for eyes and a quarter-circle smile. The word emoticon hadn’t been invented, and an icon was something you’d find in a Russian Orthodox church.

The smiley face now has taken over as an icon of inanity. I was walking on the National Seashore at Wellfleet last week and stooped down to find, not a stone or shell, but a yellow rubber ball the size of a quarter. It had a smiley face on it. And the word “China.”

At this quarter-century mark, we can pause and think of Percy Bysshe Shelley writing, “My name is Ozymandias, kind of kings: / Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” / Nothing remains: round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, / The lone and level sands stretch far away.

It would be ironic and sad if, centuries from now, we were remembered by little more than a vapid pie-face. On a non-biodegradeable ball from China. I hope something that I write lasts longer.