Sunday, February 25, 2018

Worth a thousand words...

My last post mentioned the USS California gliding across the Mare Island Strait on launch day and winding up in the mud on the Vallejo side of the channel. I didn't mention that she wiped out a good sized section of dock as well.

Thanks to my friend John Parks, we have a photo taken that day, November 20, 1919. Look at the men -- either sailors or shipyard workers -- peering over the railing. I wonder what they were saying? Here are some possible captions:

     "Don't look at me. I wasn't in charge of the brake lines."

     "Maybe we should stick to building destroyers?"

     "Oh, so this is Lower Georgia Street."

     "Okay, who's gonna break the news to the captain?"

Feel free to add your own captions. 


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Monday, February 12, 2018

Battlewagon...




I’ve long had a fascination with the USS California, for what I thought were two pretty good reasons. First, she was the only U.S. battleship built on the West Coast. Second, she was built at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in my hometown, Vallejo, California.

My interest in the ship really kicked in around 2003 as I was writing the stories that would appear in my collection, Children of Vallejo. The first chapter of the book is titled, “Vallejo Remembered,” and includes this paragraph about Mare Island:

…the shipyard prospered as one of the Navy’s major repair depots for the Pacific Fleet, and it earned its stripes as a shipbuilding facility. More than five hundred naval vessels were built there, including the USS California…On November 20, 1919, when the California slid down the shipway into the muddy Mare Island Strait, the brake lines could hot hold and she continued across the channel and onto the mud flats on the city side. She would find herself settled in the mud once again on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. But the California would rise to fight in battles all across the Pacific, a history followed with great pride by all those who touched her at Mare Island.

At that time, I was also working on ’68 – A Novel. One of my main characters is a man named John Harris, modeled after my father. The fictional John Harris served on the California during World War II. He was onboard for the battle of Lingayen Gulf when the ship was hit by a kamikaze. John is haunted by the attack in which forty-four men died and one hundred and fifty were wounded. In an early chapter of the book, John travels to Sacramento to visit the monument to the California which stands in Capitol Park.

Now he was standing in front of the monument. It was a simple structure: two square stone columns supporting a stone cap across the top… From the crosspiece hung the ship’s bell, its clapper removed. The California was decommissioned in 1947 and sold for scrap in 1959. This bell was all that remained of a once mighty warship…

John has a near-meltdown standing in front of the monument, remembering his service on the ship, feeling his blood boil at the idea that steel “…washed in the blood of brave men…” could be sold for scrap. Gradually, he regains composure.

His breathing was returning to normal now. He removed a handkerchief from his back pocket to mop his forehead and dab his eyes. He felt Martha touch his elbow gently.

“John, are you okay, honey?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. I’m fine now.” He took two steps forward and placed the palm of his right hand against the surface of the bell. Finally, he stepped away. “Okay, Martha. Let’s go.”

She wrapped her arm around his ample waist as they walked away, heading back to N Street and the entrance to the park.

Those two volumes, the story collection and the novel, were in the works as early as 2003. Just this past week, I was going through some family documents and I came across my father’s Navy discharge papers. One document includes a list of  the ships he served. There it is, plain as day: U.S.S. California.

Let me be clear, my dad did not serve in World War II. He left active duty in 1935, having attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer. But to see that he served on the California was a surprise and a shock. I had no idea.

I thought there were two good reasons I was fascinated with that old battlewagon. Now I know there was a third.

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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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