Friday, October 20, 2017

A poem for Cubs fans everywhere...

          "It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart..."
                    -- A. Bartlett Giamatti

October 20, 2017

It does break your heart
Especially if your heart resides at Clark & Addison
So now we'll put away our traditions
          "Take me out to the ballgame"
          "Go, Cubs, Go"
          Flying the great blue "W"
The ivy will don fall colors, the leaves will fall
And the fabled vines will sleep once more
Only the ghosts will play at Wrigley
          Pat Piper will call, "Attention...attention please..."
          Ron Santo will click his heels
          Ernie Banks will tell us, "Boy, it's a beautiful day. Let's play two."
Let the ivy sleep, let the snow blanket the Friendly Confines
          As long as Theo Epstein is awake
          Pushing, planning, trading,
          doing his thing
Because February is coming
Sloan Park awaits in the Arizona sun
And before we know it
Our hearts will fill again.
_____


Monday, October 2, 2017

A fine new anthology...


Dear Faithful Readers:
Of Burgers & Barrooms, from Main Street Rag Publishing Co., will go to press in November for shipment  around December 5. This anthology is nearly 500 pages of stories and poems from 140 contributors. I’m proud to say my short story, “Beach Boy Blues,” is included in this fine collection.
The retail price has been set at $17.95. However, Of Burgers & Barrooms is available at the Advance Sale Discount price of $10.00 + shipping. The Advance Sale price is available through November 1 at: https://mainstreetragbookstore.com/?product=of-burgers-barrooms

Consider Of Burgers & Barrooms the perfect gift for that person on your holiday shopping list who loves to read.
Thank you for supporting small press publishers like The Main Street Rag and writers like me.

CWS
_____

Monday, August 7, 2017

Here's why...

Some folks have asked why I haven't changed the name of this blog. Why call it "The Rejected Writer's Journal"? Well, folks, it's because those rejection notices keep on comin'. Though I have to admit, some are better than others. The following is a brief sampling of recent receipts.

Dear Writer,
     We don't know of anyone who hasn't had work returned at one time or another, but that certainly doesn't make it any easier. We hope you will find consolation in the individuality of editorial tastes and the assurance that, with persistence, good work will be recognized as such.
         -- The Editors, Santa Monica Review
[It's always bad news when they don't use your name. This is my third rejection from SMR. Same letter each time. (sigh)]

Dear Writer,
     Unfortunately, after several rounds of editorial consideration, we have decided that your material does not meet our needs for the current issue. This does not necessarily reflect upon your writing style or skill.
         -- The MUSE Editorial Staff
[Several rounds? Really? Wow! I was almost there. Or not.]

Dear C.W. Spooner,
     Thank you for sending us "A Proper Salute." Unfortunately, this piece is not a right fit for Faultline, but we wish you the best of luck in placing it elsewhere.
          -- Faultline Fiction Editor
[Hmmm... What is a "right fit"? Opposite of a "wrong fit" I presume. ]

Dear C.W. Spooner,
     Unfortunately we were not able to accept your text "Eureka" for publication...but would like to encourage you to consider submitting to us in the future. We are interested in reading more of your work.
          --The Fiction International Team
[Oh my! This one is almost encouraging.]

Of course, all of these are preferable to my friends at Glimmer Train. GT happily sucks up my "readers fees" but never responds. On their online submission system, they simply change the status from "Pending" to "Completed," which means, "Thanks, but no thanks." I think I'll keep my readers fees.

And there you have it: the reason for retaining the name of this blog. Actually, I'm just poking a little fun at the editors. It's all good. They have a VERY tough job to do and a TON of material to wade through.

Ah, but here's to the editors who sent acceptance notices. God bless 'em, one and all.

     Harry Diavatis (RIP), the Monday Update (stories, essays, poems, memoirs -- by the dozen)
     Mike Stanley, Spitball -- The Literary Baseball Magazine (three stories)
     Regina Williams, The Storyteller
     Casey Dorman, Lost Coast Review (two stories)
     M. Scott Douglass, The Main Street Rag 

Someone once said, "If you throw enough 'stuff' at the wall, some of it will stick." Ain't it the truth?

CWS
_____



Thursday, July 13, 2017

The readers always write...

Under the heading of Shameless Self-promotion, here are a handful of reviews posted for Like a Flower in the Field:

The question of legacy permeates C.W. Spooner's Like a Flower in the Field. He explores the notion with adept skill and empathy for how we evolve with the places we encounter and how they evolve despite a fleeting presence. He speaks with wisdom, curiosity and absolute humanity making this a collection you can't only read once, but time and time again.
     --David Grazer

I am struggling to do this gem justice. The stories hit home time after time after time. They are realistic tales and many are filled with profound, thoughtful observations with just enough detail to make you feel you are there. I suspect in many cases Spooner has actually been there but changed the names to protect the (not so) innocent and perhaps spiked it a little with some embellishment. So there you have it...to paraphrase Wilson form the story, "Moral Imperative," I have read (your) book (Spooner) and it is damn good.
     --Thomas R. Campbell, author of Badass - The Harley-Davidson Experience

I like C.W. Spooner's writing. His work is always a pleasure to read. Like a Flower in the Field is a collection of beautifully written stories and one-act plays. It includes some touching collaborations, and sweet catharsis for those who suffered the insufferable at high school. Spooner's stories just make you feel good. In a literary world seemingly obsessed with horrible dystopian worlds, it is nice to spend time with relatable characters, and their life-affirming stories.
     --Stewart F. Hoffman, author of The Bug Boys

Spooner has an amazing knack for turning ordinary events into life-affirming moments. He vividly depicts ordinary people coping with life and winning. In a literary landscape filled with endless negativity, he gives us hope. If this book were a film it would definitely be a date movie. Too bad there aren't six stars. 
     --Mike Stevens, author of Fortuna

This well-crafted collection contains some true gems that are well worth reading. In a world of pulp fiction, much of it poorly written, it is refreshing to read the prose of an intelligent writer -- one who can provide stories that are thought-provoking as well as entertaining.
     --Chris Phipps, author of Snowbound and Love, Murder and a Good Bottle of Wine

Thank you, one and all. Keep those cards and letters coming.

CWS
_____


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

It's here !

That sound you heard was my book dropping. Like a Flower in the Field is now available in soft cover from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iUniverse. The e-reader version will be available soon. Here is the cover featuring a nice photo by Barbara Spooner...





 ... and the back cover text:

A strong sense of place and its impact on our lives runs through this collection of twenty stories and two one-act plays.

Spooner begins with "Chasin' the Bird," a story of brotherly love and near tragedy set in San Francisco, the music of an aged street performer providing the soundtrack. In a Sacramento suburb, "And Spare Them Not" is a tale of vengeance for the murder of a ten-year-old girl. In the mythical town of Millers Forge, "Fireworks for Mickey" tells of a family forced to deal with death and unresolved issues from the past. Spooner closes with "Moral Imperative," a story of moral and ethical choices set in Orange County, California, fireworks from Disneyland booming in the distance.

Places leave an indelible mark on our lives, but do we leave a mark on the places we've been? This is the central question in C.W. Spooner's second collection of short stories.

And there you have it. Wouldn't it look nice on your bookshelf?

Just askin'...

CWS
_____






Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Dude abides...

The Big Lebowski was on HBO the other night, so of course, I had to watch it--again. The Coen Brothers film from 1998 has become a cult classic, and for good reason. There are numerous iconic scenes and dozens of quotable lines, such as, "Yeah, well -- The Dude abides."

Near the end, Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) and Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) go to a funeral home to claim the ashes of their late friend Donny. The funeral director presents them with a bill for $180, the cost of Donny's urn. The Dude and Walter are appalled and they let the funeral director know it in graphic terms.

Finally, Walter asks, "Is there a Ralphs' around here?"

In the next scene, we see Walter and the Dude at the Pacific shore, ready to scatter Donny's ashes. Walter holds a five-pound coffee can containing Donnie's remains. A trip to Ralphs' market produced a solution to the $180 problem.

I must have watched the movie a half dozen times before I noticed the bold gold letters on the wall behind the funeral director:

          As for man, his days are as
              grass,
          As a flower in the field, so he
              flourisheth,
          For the wind passeth over it
              and it is gone.

Yep, it's that beautiful verse from Psalm 103 in a more traditional translation. I almost used this version for the title of my book, which would have made it As a Flower in the Field.

I chose the more modern translation. But still, it's nice to remember Walter and the Dude. And Donny, who loved bowling.

Good night, sweet prince.

CWS
_____

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Blurb anyone?

My wife and I moved to Orange County, California, in December of 2013. Among the pleasant results of our move has been my association with O.C. Writers, specifically with a sub-group called the Lake Forest Writers Roundtable. That's where I met Casey Dorman.

Casey is a retired professor of psychology who became a publisher, editor, and author of about a dozen novels. Through his own Avignon Press, he published the Lost Coast Review, a fine literary journal. Casey closed out his publishing activities early in 2016 after experiencing a life-threatening health scare. It turned out to be a false alarm and we look forward to having him with us for decades to come.

After submitting the manuscript for Like a Flower in the Field, it occurred to me that it would be good to have a blurb from a respected author and industry pro to feature on the cover. Casey had read several of my stories and had accepted two of them for Lost Coast Review. I thought that was a large enough sample, so I asked him if he would care to blurb on my behalf. He said yes, but first he'd have to read the entire manuscript. That was way more than I expected, but typical Casey. Here is the statement he provided:

Aging, wisdom, remorse, poignancy, what it means to be a man in a changing world--it's all there in twenty-two unforgettable stories, told with elegance and sensitivity. I picked up the book on a sunny morning, looking for a brief diversion, and didn't put it down until I'd finished.

--Casey Dorman, Editor, Lost Coast Review, author of I, Carlos; Finding Martin Bloom; and Murder in Nirvana.

If you are getting the impression that I have great respect and admiration for Mr. Dorman, you are absolutely right. The O.C. Writers community is very supportive and Casey Dorman is at the top of the list.

Thank you, Casey!

CWS
_____

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Slay Your Darlings...

I don't know who first proposed the idea, but I've seen it repeated again and again in books about writing: Slay Your Darlings.

This piece of advice comes from a tendency among writers to compose something, maybe just a paragraph or two, and fall in love with it. It might be a strongly held belief, or a favorite theory, or an old anecdote you've been saving. It doesn't matter. You love it, even if it has nothing to do with the story being told.

And then you ask someone to read your work, hoping your darling will slip by untouched, like a fastball at the knees on the outside corner. No such luck. Your trusted reader will be quick to point out the flaw. "Hey, man, what's with this business on page three? Empty calories, dude. Are you trying to inflate word count?"

Ouch! Try as you may, there is only one true remedy: your little darling has to go.

There is a story in Like a Flower in the Field that is a perfect example. The title is, "Ten Thousand Lakes." Gary and Nancy are walking through a neighborhood in Minneapolis, talking about the climate in Minnesota. Here's their conversation:

          "Nancy, did I ever tell you my theory of how this region was settled?"
          "No. I can't wait."
          "Okay, so you know how it is in the winter, with snow up to the eaves and temperatures that drop to minus thirty or lower, and you never know if your car is going to start..."
          "You got that right."
          "And then in the spring, all that snow melts, basements flood, rivers overflow their banks, and you live with near-daily tornado warnings..."
          "Yeah, severe storms five miles either side of a line between two towns I never heard of."
          "Then comes summer with the heat and humidity--ninety degrees and ninety percent seem like the norm--plus mosquitos the size of hummingbirds..."
          "The mosquito, our State Bird."
          "Ah, but then comes fall, that glorious time of year. The morning air turns crisp and cold and the trees all around the lakes and down the river valleys put on their annual show, a spectacular display of red and orange and gold that is absolutely breathtaking..."
          "Right again."
          "Therefore, the first settlers obviously came in the fall. Otherwise, they would have hightailed it out of here and declared the area uninhabitable."
          Nancy was laughing now, enjoying my theory...and so I went on...

Gary goes on (and on and on) to say what kind, loving, generous people Minnesotans are. He even works in a "Ya, you bettcha." Alas, it was all for naught. It didn't fit the rest of the story. I had to delete the whole conversation.

But then...I really didn't slay my darling. I saved it to share with you.

CWS
_____

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Kernel of Truth...

Most stories begin with a kernel of truth, and this is true in my collection, Like a Flower in the Field. The kernel can be an old man playing saxophone on the streets of San Francisco, or a hard fall from the steps in my home, or a visit to a bar in Laguna Beach. But sometimes the kernel is a song.

        I keep goin' back to Joe's
        To that table in the corner
        Sippin' wine and starin' at the door...

"I Keep Going Back to Joe's" was a hit for Nat King Cole in 1963. Ah, but the definitive version is by Bobby Scott, from a tribute album to Nat recorded in 1990. The album is titled For Sentimental Reasons and you can find it online at your favorite music site (I found it on Spotify).

        Our old waiter knows we're through
        Still he sets a place for you
        Everything the way it was before...

It is a long track, more than nine minutes, with an extended piano solo set between the vocals. Scott was a great jazz pianist and his gift is on full display in this recording.

        I keep goin' back to Joe's
        But the guy who plays piano
        Never plays your favorite melody...

The piano solo is terrific, but it's Scott's vocals that make this the ultimate torch song. His voice "...speaks of whiskey and cigarettes," and this song is a perfect fit.

        Joe keeps busy at the bar
        Never asks me where you are
        He was there when you walked out on me...

One of the chapters in my book is a one-act play titled, "Closure." When you read it, I suggest you have Bobby Scott's rendition of "I Keep Going Back to Joe's" playing softly in the background.

A song can be a great kernel.

CWS
_____


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What's it all about, Chucky?...

If you are of a certain age, you remember Alfie, the 1966 movie starring Michael Caine. It had a lovely title song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David that asked, What's it all about, Alfie?..."

I've had similar questions regarding my new book, Like a Flower in the Field. The excerpt below is my answer.

Preface

There are places in your life that leave an indelible mark.
It might be the town where you grew up,
or where you settled to raise your family,
or maybe it's the locale you chose for Act Three,
caring for grandchildren, watching them grow.

The question is: do we leave a mark on the places we've been?
When we're gone, will anything remain?
There is a verse from Psalm 103 that speaks to these questions:

Man, his days are those of grass
He flourishes like a flower in the field
A wind passes by and it is no more
Its own place no longer knows it.

The stories in this collection are from the places in my life.
I've divided them into four sections:
The Dock of The Bay; The Big Tomato;
Other Places - Other Lives; and Three Hundred Sunny Days.
No need to explain. You'll know the place when you get there.

Most tales begin with a kernel of truth, some event -
large or small - to build a yarn around.
The kernels that make me want to sit at the keyboard
and hammer out a story are coming to mind less frequently.

I'd better hurry, before a wind passes by.

So...that's what it's all about. Maybe I'll take you somewhere you've never been. Or better yet, to a place that knows you well.

CWS
____

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hey, I'm back...

I'm back at the old pop stand, and for good reason: there is a new book on the way. It is my second collection of short stories and the title is, Like a Flower in the Field. It consists of twenty stories and two one-act plays.

Why now, and why this group of stories? Well, some of them have been hanging around for a long time. No story is ever finished, because it is too easy to make tweaks and "improvements." The truth is I've come to the point where I must get this pile off my desk in order to move on.

That's a little harsh, because there are some stories in the group that I really like. Actually, I guess I like all of them or I would have deleted them a long time ago. Anyway, I submitted my manuscript yesterday. For better or worse, there's no turning back.

I thought I'd invite you along for the ride. I plan to blog periodically as Like a Flower in the Field makes its way through the publishing process. The book will probably be released in May or June. There are many steps to be completed. Experience tells me it can (will?) be a bumpy ride.

That said, if at any point you want off the rollercoaster, just let me know. No harm, no foul.

So, here we go. The coaster is starting up that first incline. Everybody get your hands up and be ready to scream.

C.W. "Chuck" "Charlie" Spooner
_____