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 20, 2008

Hello? Is Anyone There?

The Tribune Corporation is declaring bankruptcy. A Glendale, Calif., paper is outsourcing its news-gathering to India. My granddaughter writes her book review on her iPhone while watching TV. Is this the end of written communication as we once knew it?

The writers I knew—literate, insightful, thought-provoking—are being replaced by bloggers... Readers are downloading e-books instead of buying paper... Borders had only one of the 10 New York Times recommended children’s books I was searching for when I shopped last week... My former employer was the largest independent yellow pages publisher in the U.S., but its stock has dropped from $62 to 33 cents as people shuck the damn books out in the garbage... And Sarah Palin has a $7 million book deal coming to tell us all how to “progress freedom in the U.S.”

Then I ran across a jaw-dropping cultural benchmark in a New Yorker ad. Victory for writers has been snatched from the jaws of defeat by Books by the Foot ( The firm offers modern cloth-bound hardcovers for only $6.99 per linear foot. “Tonier” modern cloth with black spines, however, will run $13.99 per foot. The purveyors of this literary wealth—by the foot, not the words—remind us that Heinrich Heine stated, “A house without books is like a room without windows.” The motto of this “bookyard” then—this Home Depot of illiteracy—must be a God-like “Let us have light!”

How many layouts in Architectural Digest show rooms without books—truly a mark of the plebian mind of a hedge fund manager. The badge of real literacy is to display yards of books when your guests come to swill champagne. Then, when the casual visitor asks if you've read them, you can say, “My interior decorator may have, but I don’t need to. I pay his/her salary.” This is perhaps the same decorator who goes to Barnes & Noble looking for a red match her purse.

On the upside, I found a superb historical analysis of 17th century Virginia, written in 1917, free at Google books! Now I can publish my article on Bacon’s Rebellion. Circle the wagon, Folks. It’ll be hard times when the printed word disappears.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

In Hindsight, a Spectacular Year

Woe is me for being sooooo far behind in communicating. It’s all been bottled up inside. Writer's block is a situation akin to constipation--except, sometimes great works don’t emanate in the end. Just shit.

However, these are the things weighing on my mind….

Two short stories have been accepted, by Big Pulp and Bewildering Stories, and await publication in 2009, and an article on the first shots fired in the Civil War will be reprinted in the Camp Chase Gazette. I also await publication of my article on Holling Clancy Holling in the American Book Collectors of Children’s Literature newsletter; I especially want to send a copy to the dear lady in Michigan who helped in my research… Several other stories need rewrite as I face the devil who sneers at my inability to express myself in the ways I want… My research into Bacon’s Rebellion looked complete until I discovered Thomas Wertenbaker’s Virginia Under the Stuarts written in 1913; this added an entirely new dimension to the rebellion.

Other quotidian chores included holiday shopping and entertaining. I’m in the spirit of Christmas early and lovin’ it. The family letter is written and about 70 cards are in the mail. The presents are all bought and there are a few bottles of wine to split with family and friends.

An additional task has been of my own making. I’ve begun leading a new writing group of a dozen area people. We’re gathering at the Ocean County (N.J.) Library twice monthly for a chance to critique, compare notes and share in a love of writing and reading.

This has been a very good year. The usual blessings—knock-on-wood good health, low stress, excellent wife and family—make it so much better in the face of the tribulations so many people are facing. But the writing has also gone well, with 10 short stories and articles published during the year. Most happily, there are the small joys, like my granddaughter exchanging thoughts on the literate life from her vantage point of a 15-year-old using an iPhone. There is hope for the future.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Meet You at Fictionwise

I’m pleased that Fictionwise is now carrying Cruising the Green of Second Avenue. Look for it (at a pleasantly discounted price) at Simply key the title into the search engine at the top left of the site. You’ll even find an excerpt from “Frank Cassidy and the Canarsie Chick.” By the way, someone has figured out the book takes 100-141 minutes to read.

Christmas is coming. Make a reader happy with a gift and an author happy with a royalty.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Magic of Childhood

I left a mistaken impression here on Sept. 26 that Written Word Magazine ( was nearing defunction. It’s very much alive, but its Web site was coming up oddly on my PC. I’d wait interminably, wanting to go out for a long walk or a short beer, until the graphics loaded. Then—huzzah!—there in its archived June 2008 issue was “The Wishing Pool.”

This has been one of my favorite stories, written in January of ’06. Why? My childhood days were ominous, filled with omens, portents and symbols. The child matures when the signs come together. I put together a few of these signs and secret codes in “The Wishing Pool.” I’m happy, not only for its publication, 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.

My own childhood days in a small Oregon town were filled with tokens as powerful as having a Lone Ranger pistol ring. They were as mysterious as the X-ray machine at the shoe store where we watched our toes wiggle while the salesman sought out our Buster Browns. We believed in 1946 that the dead cat we found in the bushes had died violently. Why else would its mouth have turned into that horrible rictus? It was poisoned—and this was our nexus of fear: To touch it would be death for us too.

We were in awe of tramps, like the one who reputedly lived in the willow grove by the Northern Pacific tracks who carried a shotgun loaded with bacon rind. Yes, bacon rind, my brother, Chuck, explained: This was so he wouldn’t actually kill you when you were shot for intruding. We knew tramps left secret messages on our houses, messages hidden so carefully that only other gypsy tramp initiates could tell whether this house or that one would offer a welcome.

Every event, every glance, every crack in the sidewalk was filled with meaning. Dogma was established by my friends in second grade. “If you step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back.” And, there was World War II revisionism, “No, no, if you step on a crack you’ll break Tojo’s back!” And each of us guaranteed a little good luck by stamping on a Lucky Strike pack.

Oh, and in regard to “The Wishing Pool,” sometimes kids know everything and understand very little. You know this. You were a kid once, weren’t you?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kid Stuff and Deadly Games

Did the adulterous couple run off together, or are they dead?—or is there more to their disappearances? This is the question Mike, the cop from Newark, has to unwrap. This Chinese puzzle of boxes within boxes has just been published in Big Pulp ( Yup, another mystery, this time with a Jersey detective who’s up in Connecticut’s “Forgotten Corner.” Then the strange truth comes out.

Oh, by the way, the Forgotten Corner in the state's northeast quadrant is the land that time passed by. Back in Newark, people call those places graveyards.

And the Black Dog Legend? There are still believers there, but that’s another story.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where Have All the ’Zines Gone?

Bad news in my in-box. Head honcho Ace Masters of Written Word ( wrote early this month that the magazine is on the rocks because someone has hacked their PayPal account. I noted in June that Chad Plunk, who founded and ran Short Fiction World ( closed the door on my submission before making an editorial decision regarding it.

I fondly remember Mud Rock, a fine print magazine, which folded January ’07. Now, Mouth Full of Bullets, a terrific mystery-detective magazine, is also defunct. There’s a continuing shake-out of many magazines, and the current weekly e-newsletter from Duotrope ( notes five dying or unresponsive Websites, as well as a description of other fledging publishing enterprises. How come the volatility of Web publishing? Is this indicative of inept editors or over-energetic amateurs?

BJ Bourg, publisher of MFOB, wrote to me, “I've spoken with a few editors who were forced to shut down their magazines/e-zines, and nearly all were due to financial or health problems. Neither is true in my case. In actuality, you helped me solidify my decision. I read a message you posted on WordTrip ( where you mentioned having to ask me about the Spring Issue and then having to listen to me talk about working two jobs and publish the magazine. This made me realize two things. First, there was no law saying I had to publish a magazine. I was doing it for the sole purpose of helping other writers. When writers have to start asking me when an issue would be coming out or when I would be able to send payment for their story, that was the point when I was no longer helping them to the best of my abilities. Second, I realized I was putting MFOB before my family because I was putting every spare, non-working moment into MFOB, when I should have been spending it with them."

Ah, life. Where would it be without death—in love, finance or publishing?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth—or More?

There’re countless reasons to be counted among the fallen. Theological, physiological, logistical…and ecological. This theme seemed to match itself against a neologism I ran across in the New York Times. Glenn Albrecht, an Australian philosopher, coined the word solastalgia to describe a form of homesickness or nostalgia one gets when still at home. Albrecht makes particular reference to environmental change in one’s surroundings due to development or climate change.
Thus, marrying solastalgia to the fallen resulted in “The Curious Reason Greta’s Heart Stopped Beating,” my whimsical look at the extremes in our culture. Super-editor Lisa Logan at MysteryAuthors--a Californian, environmentalist and founder of The Green Writing Challenge--may have recognized this situation.
Read it in its entirety at – (Click on the “Minute Mystery” in the right-hand column, then on the contents page for June in the left-hand menu .)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Nice Review of "Cruising the Green"

Coffee Time Romance has just given Cruising the Green of Second Avenue a nice “three cups” review. They say, “The life and times of Jake is [sic] once again fodder for a fascinating look into bachelorhood in the ‘60s. New York City is at the heart of it all for Jake and his friends. Their stories prove that at some point we all need to grow up and move on. Their roaring twenties have up and gone, and now Jake is finally ready to be an adult. But did he wait too long to realize that there can be life beyond the Big Apple? The quick wit and humor are back with this second installment, and worth the read.

Read it all at --and then buy a copy at Help support a writer who needs periodic maintenance and accolades.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Death of a Webzine

Sad words this week from Chad Plunk, who founded and ran Short Fiction World ( He’s shuttering his Windows and turning out the lights—and rejecting my submission before deciding to accept or reject it.

He wrote to me, “I’ve had a number of personal issues arise and we’re going to cease publication. The announcement will go out to everybody who has stories waiting this weekend, and officially be posted on the website. We don't have the time to commit that we expected and would rather do no job than a poor one.”

I suppose this also means the archival death of “Modern Love,” my story that he published in February this year. This leads to an interesting thought as people increasingly Google friends, associates, lovers and themselves. I check my name periodically and am surprised to see a history of my fiction, articles and press releases. Plus, there are links to my grandmother’s Chautauqua lectures, archived at the University of Iowa. And my great grandfather’s Civil War diaries online at Writing lives on long after other things have changed.

Is Internet “biography” a new form of posterity, more enduring than a tombstone and less expensive than an endowed university chair? Perhaps. Conversely, if in the future there’s no electronic representation of a person on the Web, does he or she have less existence?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Humor in a Jugular Vein

I’ve always wondered if mystery writers—even readers—had a sense of humor. Noir isn’t funny and Sam Spade was never jocular. Of course, no one ever admits, “Gee, I’m sorry, but I’ve always been challenged by humor.”

So, with some trepidation I tried putting a satirical shot across the bow of detective fiction and came up with “The Case of the Checkered Murder” (, "Minute Mystery") to see what might happen. Self consciously, I then interviewed myself since no one else has come forward to ask pertinent (even impertinent) questions. Hey, if the esteemed playwright David Mamet can interview himself (since he never gives interviews), I thought, why don’t I give that a shot too? You can read it at MysteryAuthors’ blog link.

My thanks to super editor Lisa Logan at who proved satirical humor is acceptable. A small part of me, though, still remembers my journalism professor warning us budding news writers, “Death is never funny.”

Sunday, May 25, 2008

On the Road Again

The hiatus in this blog came to an end as we packed up and moved from Cambridge back to the old haunts in Connecticut—to the home we’d lived in for 13 years. Yes, the real estate market has been sour, but if there hadn’t been bad news in trying to sell our house there’d have been no news at all.

Till this past few days. We think we have a buyer and that we'll be moving on by summertime. More on that later, but in the meantime I realized I’d been rather prolific in writing over the past year. Must’ve been due to being cloistered in a 20th-floor apartment in a strange city. Breaking news: “The Case of the Checkered Murder,” a satire, will be carried by next month. A murder mystery surrounding my Newark detective, called “The Bone Yard” will appear in Big Pulp in June, and “Paper Cut” will be carried by them in 2009.

Maybe being circumscribed by four walls with little to do was good for me. Maybe it was good for Rodolfo in La Boheme. It’s the starving artist syndrome—although I’ve been poor and rich is better. Being accepted by editors is best for the soul, however.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Who Was This Author, Illustrator, Naturalist?

I love a good mystery and I found one in Holling Clancy Holling. Holling was a writer/illustrator you could sink deeply into. Certainly more than the vanity children’s books written today by celebrities. Yet, nowhere could I find a single source of all the books he wrote, published or illustrated. No biography exceeded a handful of bare facts about his life. His work has remained in print for more than six decades—and yet, so little information is out there.

Over a period of two months I diligently tracked down all available info to get insights—and sometime just raw facts—about HCH. After a lengthy exchange of e-mails, UCLA's archivists proved too busy to answer my query, but a kind librarian in Jackson Co., Mich.—Holling's home—provided a wealth of info and an obit. Other individuals were also helpful. The article has now gone to the American Book Collectors of Children's Literature for their fall 2008 newsletter. You can read a blog posting of it at

It was interesting how some university librarians/archivists were so “busy”, while under different circumstances others (notably UConn and the U. of Iowa) have been angels at putting their collections online for the public. Yes, I remember the good ones when they ask for annual support. Support your librarians, the unsung heros of writers everywhere!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Uninvited Attentions, Unreal Relationships

If you believe affection is purely a thing of the heart, that you’d never fall in love with someone who had evil intentions, then stop right here. My chief character in a new story wished he had stopped before uncovering layers of hypocrisy and unnatural love. This is “Modern Love,” just published by Short Fiction World ( The story’s longer and more thoughtful than pieces I’ve recently published.

Some readers might think this story is self-consciously smug. But, it also has something to say about hypocrisy, government and unnatural love. Untold millions of calls have been recorded by the National Security Agency without court approval. Further, in relation to “Modern Love,” last year over 4,000 people in New York were wire-tapped by city, state and federal authorities. It leads one to ponder relationships.

The themes of pretty-ugly appearances and unnatural reality are seen repeatedly in New York’s neighborhood “worlds”, in the characters’ camouflage, and in Marcela’s joke about comic-book heroes and her talk of trust. Appearances are not reality.

Chad Plunk, SFW editor, said, “We debated for some time publishing a story with anal sex as a key component, but ultimately the imagery of a defense contractor and the media literally sharing the CIA’s ass won out.” That was my thought entirely, but in an un-ironic, non-scatological vein.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Food for Thought—and Starving People

It’s ingrained in humans’ DNA to play games, and over the millennia this has evolved to…solitaire, Tetris, and other time-killing games played out to while away boredom. But—here’s an elegant idea—what if each game resulted in giving food to very hungry people?

That’s the practice behind The New York Times Magazine ( hipped me to FreeRice, and in the first five minutes I’d donated 600 grains of rice (supported by corporate advertisers) to the United Nations food program.

Check it out. You’re going to be tested—but no one will criticize you if you’ve forgotten what retiary means (net-like) in the multiple-choice answers. FreeRice presents the player with a word and four choices as to the meaning. Click, learn the right answer and get another word. Correct answers lead to a higher score and harder words.

P.S. I’m up to just 46 points, so excuse me if I leave you now to go back to FreeRice.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

“Last Person on Earth Until There Was a Knock on the Door”

This science fiction premise has become a cliché. So how do you give this plotting device a twist? Being the last person on earth may be more common than thought when the subject is comatose and unable to cry to the outside world for help. The ultimate question then may be, “Can anybody hear me?”

A few readers called “Last Man on Earth” terrifying. It’s posted at Every day Fiction ( You tell me. Maybe it’s my odd sense of the ridiculous, but I wrote the story in an ironic vein. It’s less about death than about nurses who knock on the doors of comatose patients, doctors who flout mortality with their vices, and the hubris of scientific dogma. But my thanks go to some scientist who used the metaphor of Christmas tree lights blinking off in the brain. Now that’s ironic!

This is my third short story EDF has published, so I feel a great deal of appreciation for editors Jordan Lapp and Camille Gooderham Campbell and Webmaster Steven Smethurst.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ghost of a Valentine

I was fascinated by the first successful face transplant, on Nov. 31, 2005, when a 38-year-old French woman received—literally—a new outlook on life. As reported by Time magazine’s Jeffrey Kluger, “No surgery quite crosses the existential line the way transplant surgery does. Create a single chimeric human with the tissues of another and the very sense of self goes wobbly.” My interest was more in the poetry of undying love than in Gray’s Anatomy, asking if the face is a reflection of the person within. That’s the thesis behind “Ghost of a Valentine,” at

News items like this make me run to the PC. William Gibson (Spook Country) grabbed me last week when he wrote, “She remembered [him] describing Stockholm syndrome, the fondness and loyalty one could supposedly come to feel for even the most brutal captor.... America had developed Stockholm syndrome toward its own government, post 9/11.”

Great concept! This has taken me into writing a mystery about a wealthy, educated career woman apparently disappears. Going missing, however, isn’t murder. It turns out that with all the achievement and wealth, she escapes from her “kidnappers” of parents, boyfriend, career, and education.

Other idea-generators have included a feature in the China Post surmising that most cubicle rats have “office spouses”" (every editor was outraged at this one), a blog from numerologists worrying about the number 11 (below, sold to Bewildering Stories), a news item about Chinese studying how magnets make it possible to “read” a hidden newspaper (“Magnetic Resonance,” waiting for an acceptance), and a psychologist describing Capgras syndrome, in which a family member becomes unrecognizable (sold to Mouth Full of Bullets).

Amazing how ideas can be transformed into fiction. Grab them, jot them down, shaken them up, let them ferment--and then see what comes out of the bottle.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Food Fantasies

There seems to be a natural affinity between fiction and food. Comestibles and condiments mix well with horror and homelife. “Face in the Tree” trades on one such affection gone wrong over a love of barbecue. You can read it at Hope you enjoy this bit of foolishness—and remember that the recipe for vengeance calls for different kinds of ingredients.

Someone mentioned that I could double the submissions potential of food fantasy by submitting the stories to Food TV. If they ever start featuring fiction along with the fajitas, maybe Bobby Flay will review it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Art Imitating Reality—or Vice Versa?

A feature in today’s New York Times reported overweight people are resisting entreaties to become rail-thin. “Blogs written by fat people—and it’s fine to use the word, they say—have multiplied in recent months, filling a virtual soapbox known as the fatosphere.” The bloggers (Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose at has 3,710 hits per day) resist the notion that a St. Bernard has to become a greyhound.

Hurray! “Laura Lard Takes No Prisoners,” one of my stories in Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, has our eponymous heroine telling a waitress, “[Salad] is not the food of my people. Where I come from, a decent meal should be heavy enough to hold down a circus tent in a hurricane.” She has enough confidence in her image to make the cosmetics sales ladies at Bloomingdales wet their panties.

I’m a skinny guy, so maybe my opinions don’t count. Laura’s story line, however, is that her being fat is an attribute, and she defends it by doing an Elliott Ness against the Prejudice Mafia. Writing this story, a part of me expressed a strong belief that public sentiment wants to remake the obese, corpulent, oleaginous, turgid, stout and plump minority into the size, shape and silhouette of the chosen. Health and science demands it, the evangelists say.

That scares me. It’s just a matter of time until I become a target because I’m a casual smoker, whiskey drinker, fiscal conservative and social liberal. Oh—wait a minute! I already am a target! Beware the Prejudice Mafia. They’re watching you.