30 Years to Publication

It took two months to write, thirty years to get published. And you know what? It was worth the wait.

I am so proud. I wrote The Augmented Man in April of 1990. Now I’m holding copies in my hands.

 
And the delay wasn’t because of slow mail.

I wrote the novel side-by-side with the novella, The Goatmen of Aguirra (to give you an idea of what my mind was working on at the time).

I’d workshopped The Augmented Man and received high praise. I shopped it around, no publisher was interested. I asked AJ Budrys, my mentor and an accomplished author and editor, if he’d be willing to read it and let me know if I was kidding myself, did it just need work, should I give up my dreams of being a published author…?

What you need to know is I was an accomplished trade technical author in the late 1980s through the early 1990s, at the height of the PC Boom (I discuss this in my interview) and my work was in high demand. I knew the publishing industry at that time.

AJ read it and was so blown away he offered to agent it for me. He’d published some of my short fiction in his Tomorrow magazine and he knew my work from workshops hence was familiar with my work, my style, my weaknesses and my strengths. But The Augmented Man caught him by surprise.

I was flattered, honored. I almost fainted when I read his letter offering to represent the novel (1990, remember? We didn’t do lots of emailing back then).

For reasons that had nothing to do with the book, AJ couldn’t land it. We met at a con and he explained the situation to me. Someday, should we meet at a con, ask me and I’ll share the story.

AJ passed and I got another agent. She loved the book. Could I add 30,000 words to it?

Sure, why?

Because it was too short. Thirty-k words longer and she was sure she could land it. I added 30k words, edited, proofed, and sent the rewrite to her in under a month.

Didn’t hear from her. Called and got “Oh, on second thought, no, I don’t think this is a good enough novel. Besides, there’s too much out there already like it.”

Really? Did you read the novel?

Yeah, sure. It’s about a guy lost in a jungle, right?

On to agent #3. Who was a joke. I finally asked point blank, “How many projects have you placed?” and she responded that she couldn’t work with someone who asked such questions. This was after the head of the agency phoned and talked with me for an hour to let me know how impressed he was by my work.

So I put it on the shelf. I went on with life.

Because I’m patient.

And now I’m holding the novel in my hands.

I’m so proud.


Would you like a personally autographed copy?

(and feel free to pass this on to every one)

Empty Sky Chapter 9 – Earl Pangiosi

Is it “evil” if it’s all you know how to do?

Read Empty Sky Chapter 8 – Joni and Honey Fitz


Earl Pangiosi sat in the Empire Builder‘s Superliner Snack Coach’s upper level, a pillow behind his head and a blanket covering his legs, peering through dark, wraparound sunglasses at people’s reflections in the round, full length domed windows. When someone nodded off, he’d dip down his glasses and peer at them briefly, purse his lips then shove the glasses back up his face. Once in a while he’d catch his own red-haired, high colored reflection as he followed people walking past.

Earl liked being around people so he could practice. He had his own car — disguised as two back-to-back LandSea containers on a flatcar and marked “US Mail” — further back in the train. It brought a brief smile, the change in rail regulations that allowed all trains to transport freight and passengers simultaneously. It made his private car’s subterfuge possible.

He tolerated the miasma of greasy hamburgers and soggy fries, of too strong coffee and unwashed bodies, of screaming children and louder screaming parents, and the occasional whiffs of diesel to indulge in a pastime he enjoyed since his childhood; watching people’s reflections in glass.

It was a early Fall night much like this one that he first noticed his gift.

Dad, suit and tie and freshly shaved and mustache neatly trimmed, drove their new, ’59 burgundy Lincoln Continental back to the old neighborhood. Mom sat opposite dad, wrapped in her furs, wearing her best clothes. Dad told her she wore clothes too tight sometimes but she told him to never mind, didn’t he want everybody to know what he had every night?

Mom and Dad left the old neighborhood a year before and never told Earl why. But once a month, maybe twice, he and Mom and Dad would get in the car and go back north to the old neighborhood with presents for everybody. Dad was in the meat business and he’d hand out steaks and chops and roasts and cutlets and hotdogs in summer and hamburger and ground pork if somebody wanted to make meatballs. Everybody was so grateful and Mom would smile and nod as she stood beside Dad, his hands reaching deep into the coolers in the dark of the trunk, coming back into daylight, his hands full of brown paper wrapped meats neatly tied with butcher’s twine. They asked questions about the new car and Dad would tell them it was a Lincoln and Mom would correct him with “Lincoln Continental.”

They drove home, the coolers empty and tucked in the trunk, heading south on a clear, moonless Sunday night. Earl saw the Rhode Island border sign. Soon Dad would slow for the Providence traffic and take the Federal Hill exit.

An only child, Earl had the entire backseat to himself. He could lie down and take naps if he wanted to. Now he sat hands folded and face pressed against the rear passenger’s window, his knees pulled together and tucked under him because he had to pee but Dad said they weren’t going to stop, they only had a little further to go and Earl was a big man and could hold it, couldn’t he?

Sure, Dad.

Except Earl really had to pee. The leather seat sent shivers of cold up through his bare knees and that didn’t help. He had bare knees because he wore shorts. Shorts, a winter jacket and a hat Mom made him wear even though his cousins all wore long pants.

They already laughed at him because he had different color eyes; the right brown, the left blue. Mom didn’t say much and his cousins and some aunts and uncles said that made him a freak. She made him wear dark sunglasses and told people Earl had sensitive eyes.

His cousins would dance around him. “Earl has sen-si-tive eye-yiis. Earl has sen-si-tive eye-yiis.”

He caught his reflection in the window as his exhalations frosted the glass. Mom’s and Dad’s reflections, too.

He’d never noticed them before. Maybe reflections were something you only got in a Lincoln Continental? The dashboard gave off so much light.

He watched his father’s profile as they drove. Mother said things and Dad occasionally winced on the side mom couldn’t see, like somebody was jabbing him with a little knife.

Mom would go ya ya ya and Dad’s nose would twitch and his mustache would rise a little then go back down. Mom would go da da da and Dad’s eye would wink shut quick and then back open to watch the cars on the road. Mom would go sa sa sa and Dad’s lips would move forward and back like he wanted to spit something out.

Earl watched his father and something happened in Earl’s head. His father stopped being a person and became a book, a map, a reference, something easily read. He tasted what his father felt. He did not know the word but he understood the emotion: despair.

“You don’t like what Mom’s saying, do you, Dad.”

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Empty Sky Chapter 8 – Joni and Honey Fitz

You didn’t do yourself any favors with the beer and pizza, Joni

Read Empty Sky Chapter 7 – Al and Doc Martin


Joni stood across Beacon Street from the Brookline Abortion Clinic staring at the sign’s red and gold lettering.

What betesticled marketing moron came up with those colors for an abortion clinic?

Two buses, one with a Boston’s Pro-Life Action Network banner and the other unloading Operation Rescue “sidewalk counselors”, formed a phalanx from the sidewalk to the clinic doors. Ever since John Salvi III opened fire here and at its sister clinic about a mile away, and now with most red states sending bus loads of safe sex refugees north, this stretch of Beacon Street became one of the safest most dangerous places in the greater Boston area. Police cars patrolled routinely. Male and female undercover cops chatted up anyone and everyone walking anywhere near the clinic.

The Supreme Court had created a safe zone for people wanting to enter and exit the clinics and this safe zone included quite a bit of the sidewalk and street surrounding the clinic. People on their way elsewhere learned to stay on the other side of the street, thus the only people nearing the clinic were those having business there.

Such as Joni, today.

Joni held a pencil in her hand as if it were a cigarette. She lifted it to her lips each time she felt her breakfast of barely thawed Brüdermann’s frozen pizza and cold Starbucks coffee coming back on her.

She belched. “Ugh. Morning sickness is one thing but you didn’t do yourself any favors here, Joni girl.” She checked her palm for escaping pieces of pizza. “I should never have given up smoking.”

She watched an obese woman with a video camera and two small children in tow from her safe haven of a sidewalk bench across the street from the clinic. The children orbited the woman more like satellites than offspring; the woman was large enough to warrant a small planetary system of her own.

All the other people, all the other protesters and contesters, all the police, all the counselors, all the passersby and traffic in between, evaporated until only this one woman, video camera in hand, her greater and lesser moons of Phobos and Deimos orbiting via unseen gravitational umbilicae, spun away from the others, walking and talking her way into a universe of her own.

She held vigil under an ash tree, a cat waiting for a specific bird to arrive. She kept telling her kids to stay there. At least it seemed she was. She might have been saying, “Stay here until I move five feet away. No more. Five feet, do you hear? Then come running after me. Scream for me. Clutch onto my skirt, climb onto my coat, pull me down into the earth with the weight of you. Make sure you’re loud and obscene enough for all others to see. We are here to show them what it means to be a mother.”

Joni’s hand went to her stomach. She couldn’t feel any life there yet. “Small comfort.” Instead she felt the pizza and coffee making plans for a violent escape. She wanted to be prepared.

How did the woman pick her targets? Did she only go for women like herself? Like herself in what way?

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Those Wings Which Tire, They Have Upheld Me is in The New Accelerator!

(it’s kittens nice when editors like your work)

My story, Those Wings Which Tire, They Have Upheld Me, is in The New Accelerator 14 June 2019.

What if…
You’re a little boy
with brain cancer
whose doctors say they can
cure you by replacing your eyes
with an experimental device?

And
what if that experimental
device lets you see your
guardian angel?
And
what if seeing your
guardian angel
makes you best friends with
the class trouble-maker?
And what if the class bully
finds out you talk to angels?

 
Those Wings Which Tire, They Have Upheld Me will be available through The New Accelerator until June 2020 as as part of the Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires Anthology

 
Yeeha for me!

Empty Sky Chapter 7 – Al and Doc Martin

Things come together when they’re suppose to

Read Empty Sky Chapter 6 – Jack Games


Al Carsons took off his shirt while Doc Martin read an official letter Tony sent to explain the situation. He placed the letter on top of Al’s folder and placed both folder and letter on the examing room table. Next he reached into his pocket and pulled out some Post-It notes.

“What are those, Doc?”

Doc Martin patted the examining room table. “Up.”

Al sat on the table. Doc Martin read the Post-It notes, nodding at each as he shuffled them, then put the bunch of them in the sink. “You smoke?”

“You know I don’t.”

“Wait here.”

He went to his office and came back with a small box of wooden matches, lit one and held it to the Post-It notes.

“Doc?”

“You would like to test for a Class 5 HazMat TT license. I am going to examine you to make sure there is nothing to suggest you shouldn’t test for that license, but which would not stop you from maintaining your Class 4 Construction Vehicle license. Do you understand what I told you?”

Al smiled. He and the Doc went way back. On his first visit, Al was a strapping, blonde haired, cowlicked buck fresh out of high school who’d just started working for the county and, in the middle of his union physical, confessed he’d just met a girl and wasn’t she pretty? Al remembered the Doc talking to him, confirming and denying things Al had heard about but never experienced, things about being “safe”.

Doc had been a tall, lean, man about fifteen years older than Al. Tall and lean and wiser than anybody Al ever knew.

Now Al had gotten a gut and what hair he had he cut close. Still thin but now not as tall, Doc seemed more like a pussywillow stick bent with the weight of the silvery puff on top. The Doc seemed to be getting thinner and more hunched these days.

“Why, sure, Doc, I understand, but — ”

“Good.” Doc reached into a drawer and came back with a reflex hammer. He whacked Al square on the forehead hard enough to open the big man’s eyes.

“Hey!”

“This test confirms you should not test for the Class 5 HazMat TT license.” Doc Martin raised the reflex hammer again.

“Doc!” Al lifted his arms and turned his face away.

“That’s what you should have done the first time.” He made a note on the letter then put it inside Al’s folder. “Now, what’s Tony talking about?”

Al kept his eyes on the hammer still in the Doc’s hand. “You talking about my sleeping in the truck cabs?”

“Are you just a damned fool or do you think there’s a sane reason for that?” Al hesitated and the Doc raised the hammer again. “You’re too damn old to have the cat get your tongue so tell me what the hell’s going on, Albert Carsons.”

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