Her Hotel, fiction by Timothy Gager

She bought a hotel, on the ocean, because God told her to. For this, she need­ed help, so she turned to God, and gofundme​.com to raise ten mil­lion dol­lars for the pur­chase. She dec­o­rat­ed her hotel with stars and starfish, or any­thing hav­ing to do with mariners, and the ocean, but most­ly stars and starfish—-and thought, God is the stars.

Her hair was thick and curly, and hung down to mid-tor­so, both he loved to wash when they shared a tub. After he gen­tly mas­saged in sham­poo, he slow­ly poured water over her. The both shared this feel­ing of cleans­ing. After­ward, they would lay in bed in crisp sheets, the walls as glossed as a blind­ing light, looked at her ceil­ing, a flat blue-black, with specs of light paint­ed on it. He drove up there the first three days of every month, as long as it wasn’t the week­end, as the hotel filled dur­ing those times. He said he was there because he loved the ocean, but didn’t wor­ship it like a God, and he also let it slip that he loved her too. 

Before the next month, she told him not to come. It was sud­den, He rep­re­sent­ed too much of her old world and her spir­i­tu­al­i­ty demand­ed some­thing which she could only describe to him, to make him under­stand, as some­thing like their bath sev­en days a week, twen­ty-four hours a day, He tried a few times to get in touch with her, even call­ing the hotel’s office, but the record­ing only said that she/they were no longer tak­ing phone calls but leave a mes­sage, if you felt called to do so, and would be returned if she/they were able and felt called to do so as well. 

This all hap­pened because there were things she nev­er told him. It was a long sto­ry, which she had worked through, but it was impor­tant for her to be viewed as she was now, nev­er as she was then. Before she was brought to the place she is in now, she used to work as a den­tal hygien­ist. She hat­ed the ear­ly patients, first thing in the morn­ing who rolled out of bed and did noth­ing to their mouths because they were get­ting brushed and flossed there. She hat­ed the patients seen after lunch who only brushed twice a day, and not after lunch. They were the ones that left fish between their teeth. She had no respect for those who didn’t have self-care. Most­ly it all came down to not brush­ing and floss­ing because if every­one brushed and flossed, she wouldn’t be need­ed as much. 

The den­tist who owned the prac­tice became her lover. He was old­er, but not yet of the age where he smelled of being old. She liked how he ran the office, pay­ing atten­tion to her, and all the employ­ees. He had empa­thy, and even com­mis­er­at­ing about the morn­ing and after lunch peo­ple she despised. The sex was great after hours, on a den­tist chair, exper­i­ment­ing with the exter­nal oral suc­tion machine, which she was respon­si­ble for the san­i­tiz­ing of after­ward. Then the sex was good at his house, and after she moved in the sex wasn’t as good.  It became his way, and at his times. She also was stunned to real­ize he wasn’t at all the way he was in the office. He was unsup­port­ive, crit­i­cal, jeal­ous of some of the patients she worked on, and ver­bal­ly demand­ing and abu­sive. She no longer could stand him, but he was her employ­er, he was her home, and he had become her only life­line, and he knew it. She felt an urge to do some­thing bad enough to him to land her­self in jail, or if she didn’t, land her­self in an impa­tient facility.

The only way pos­si­ble to leave him was men­tal­ly. As long as he thought she was com­ing on to patients she thought, why not graze her breasts against the back of the head of the men she from behind as she scaled his teeth? Why not whis­per in their ear if they seemed respon­sive to that, about a place to meet lat­er and a time? Why not give her­self some sort of con­trol?  At first it seemed excit­ing, almost right­eous, but often it brought her to anoth­er dark place where she want­ed to take the sharp scal­ing tool and plunge in straight down through the next patient’s sub­mandibu­lar duct.

And then came the day, she and her den­tist drove up the coast, and some­thing was said, which she can’t remem­ber, because he pushed her head hard against the pas­sen­ger side win­dow caus­ing a con­cus­sion. She was in a hos­pi­tal, and he was nowhere to be seen. When he did come back for her, the next day, she was gone, referred to a woman’s shel­ter on the ocean, run by a group of nuns known to be part of the Mary­knoll Sis­ters. She loved the nuns, because of their pres­ence of love, and that they gave her space to heal, and med­i­tate and work her way out of her PTSD. She walked the beach, pick­ing up shells, drift­wood and dried starfish. The wood once impor­tant, had end­ed up here, exact­ly where she was, get­ting ground­ed in space. This was impor­tant, as the sand, the sea, and the stars, gave her peace.

She also began writ­ing a book about over­com­ing her abuse, and broad­cast­ing some of her sto­ry on the inter­net. The seg­ments were heavy and touched on how she had been saved, and her redis­cov­ered faith. She con­fessed she want­ed to be a nun, a key rev­e­la­tion which would become the con­clu­sion of her mem­oir. Peo­ple fol­lowed her broad­casts, thou­sands of them, engrossed by her and her sto­ry. The nuns also tuned in. They liked her, but she wasn’t Catholic, and that was a rea­son good enough why she couldn’t become one of them. She would do the next best thing. She bought the hotel next door.

    The hotel either had guests who loved the ocean, or guests who went there as an instru­ment of God’s teach­ing, based on her pro­mo­tion. It was all fine with her, because she believed Gods was the stars, so why not it be the sea, or a man with a beard. 

Occa­sion­al­ly she missed the man who used to vis­it, and want­ed to have time with him, but then the thought made her feel uncom­fort­able and con­fused. She thought maybe it was fear, or per­haps love, but the one with the small “l”, not the big “L” which she lived for. She knew, with­out know­ing her sto­ry, he couldn’t know her, and he could nev­er be the One who knew the num­ber of hairs on her head. She gave her sto­ry out to the world, but not to him, which rep­re­sent­ed some­thing. The day she told him not to come back she already knew, he could nev­er be He.

Tim­o­thy Gager has pub­lished 17 books of fic­tion and poet­ry. Joe the Salamander,is his third nov­el became an Ama­zon #1 Best Sell­er in its cat­e­go­ry. He host­ed the suc­cess­ful Dire Lit­er­ary Series in Cam­bridge, MA from 2001 to 2018, and start­ed a week­ly vir­tu­al series in 2020. He has had over 1000 works of fic­tion and poet­ry pub­lished, 17 nom­i­nat­ed for the Push­cart Prize. His work also has been nom­i­nat­ed for a Mass­a­chu­setts Book Award, The Best of the Web, The Best Small Fic­tions Anthol­o­gy and has been read on Nation­al Pub­lic Radio. 

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Fist Fight at Applebees, fiction by Dan Leach

I missed the begin­ning, but we know how it hap­pens. Either the old man with the lazy eye said the wrong thing to the young man with the neck tat­too, or the oth­er way around. I was there for the mid­dle, and that’s the most impor­tant part because that’s when everyone’s still fight­ing like God’s in their cor­ner. I can nev­er tell whose cor­ner God is in. I know this: the young man keeps drop­ping his hands, and the old man’s left is a ham­mer. There’s blood on both their faces. There’s a grow­ing, hap­py crowd. Some­times it seems like God’s in no one's cor­ner. The losers down here have truth, but they’re hate­ful and incon­sis­tent. The win­ners have sta­tus, but they use it for com­fort, and com­fort has ruined them. No one is hum­ble. And isn’t God hum­ble? Isn’t He gen­tle and open and low­ly enough for any­one hurt­ing? Okay, the fight. Some­one got cracked.  Someone’s head hit the pave­ment. The crowd screamed, and a child wept, but I was too far gone to see who won.

Dan Leach has pub­lished work in The New Orleans Review, Cop­per Nick­el, and The Sun. He has two col­lec­tions of short fic­tion: Floods and Fires (Uni­ver­si­ty of North Geor­gia, 2017) and Dead Medi­ums (Tri­dent Press, 2022). An instruc­tor of Eng­lish at Charleston South­ern Uni­ver­si­ty, he lives in the low­coun­try of South Car­oli­na with his wife and four kids.

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Everything is Relative, fiction by Michael Bracken

Use my bed,” Zelda said. “I want to sleep in the wet spot.”

Alexan­dria stared at her younger sis­ter for a moment and then grabbed my hand and led me upstairs to Zelda’s bed­room, where she attend­ed to my needs with the lights off and her eyes closed.

My cousin and I had played doc­tor and gone skin­ny dip­ping togeth­er through­out our child­hood, but noth­ing came of it until after Uncle Mort’s still explod­ed. The fire­ball instant­ly killed him, melt­ed off half my face, and scarred a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of my left side. Back then, my father was serv­ing time for shoot­ing a rev­enuer, and my mama and my Aunt Sara were work­ing twelve-hour overnight shifts at the cot­ton mill. So, after I was released from the hos­pi­tal, they left Alexan­dria to watch her lit­tle sis­ter and care for me. And Alexan­dria did, tak­ing advan­tage of my inca­pac­i­ta­tion to sat­is­fy her curios­i­ty about the sins of the flesh.

After­ward, as we lay in the dark with­out speak­ing, the door­bell rang. A moment lat­er, Zel­da yelled up the stairs. “It’s Goodwin.”

Alexandria’s boyfriend.

Shit,” my cousin mut­tered. Then she yelled back, “Stall him.”

We quick­ly dressed. After I retrieved the pro­phy­lac­tic and its wrap­per, Alexan­dria head­ed down the front stairs and I slipped down the back.

Zel­da was stand­ing by the kitchen door. She asked, “Is it wet?”


She smiled as she opened the door for me.

Out­side, I shoved the pro­phy­lac­tic into the garbage can, care­ful not to make unnec­es­sary noise. Then I climbed into the Ford my father and uncle had mod­i­fied for run­ning ’shine, released the park­ing brake, and rolled down­hill in the dark until I was far enough away from Aunt Sarah’s house to safe­ly turn on the lights, key the igni­tion, and dri­ve home.

* * *

The next after­noon I took Zel­da to town with me to do a lit­tle shop­ping. While peo­ple stared at me—or pre­tend­ed not to stare at me—she pock­et­ed a few items. The first time she did it, near­ly a year after my release from the hos­pi­tal, she took a choco­late bar, and it was half-melt­ed by the time she pulled it from her under­wear and showed me what she’d done. As Zel­da grew old­er, we per­fect­ed our tech­nique and now often left home with a shop­ping list. That day we shopped for eye­lin­er, ear­rings for Zelda’s new­ly pierced ears, and pro­phy­lac­tics for my time with Alexandria.

Goodwin’s sweet on my sis­ter,” Zel­da told me on the way home. “He don’t know about you and her.”

And you’d best not tell him,” I insist­ed. I didn’t know if what I was telling Zel­da was for my own good or for Alexandria’s, but it didn’t mat­ter. That Zel­da knew about us at all was the result of her arriv­ing home unex­pect­ed­ly two years ear­li­er. She caught me limp­ing naked into their bath­room and Alexan­dria sprawled across her bed, and by then Zel­da was old enough to under­stand what that meant.

Zel­da didn’t respond to what I’d told her. Instead, she showed me the ten-pack of pro­phy­lac­tics she’d boost­ed from the drug store and said, “They’re ribbed.”

* * *

My only work expe­ri­ence had been help­ing Uncle Mort with the still, so my job prospects were lim­it­ed when I was final­ly old enough to seek a real job. Martha Kuk­endahl hired me to wash dish­es at the Road­side Inn, but she insist­ed I enter and exit through the restaurant’s kitchen door and that I nev­er show my face in the din­ing room.

Jede­di­ah!” she said when I stepped through the back door a few days after my shop­ping trip with Zel­da. “You’re late.”

I glanced at my watched. “Two minutes.”

Third time this month,” she said. “If you weren’t Gladys Wright’s kid, I would have fired you already, you ugly lit­tle matchstick.”

I held my tongue because I need­ed the job, which I only had because Martha felt she owed my mama for some­thing that hap­pened when they were teenagers, some­thing nei­ther of them ever spoke about. With my father in prison, with my uncle in a grave, and with­out the mon­ey we’d once earned from their still, there just wasn’t enough mon­ey com­ing into the house to pay our bills with­out me work­ing. Besides, Good­win was Martha’s son.

Yes, ma’am,” I said. “I’ll do better.”

The Road­side Inn did good business—a com­bi­na­tion of locals and peo­ple trav­el­ing through—and I scrubbed dish­ware from the moment I arrived until well past clos­ing time, when I helped Isa­iah the Gimp clean the ovens and the stove­tops and pre­pare the kitchen for break­fast the next morning.

I was near worn out by the time I arrived at Aunt Sarah’s house that evening, but Alexan­dria was wait­ing up for me. She took my hand and led me up the stairs to her bed­room, where she sat­is­fied both our needs in near darkness.

How do you do it?” I asked when she fin­ished. “No one else even wants to look at me.”

I close my eyes and remem­ber how hand­some you used to be,” Alexan­dria said. “Those oth­er girls only see you as you are now.”

She didn’t real­ize how much her answer hurt, but I didn’t tell her.

* * *

The fol­low­ing Sat­ur­day, Zel­da and I went to town again. This time the shop­ping list includ­ed fem­i­nine prod­ucts and cold cream and socks to replace the pair I had worn though. I also need­ed to stop at the drug­store to pick up a pre­scrip­tion for my mama. While we were work­ing our way through the Woolworth’s, a cou­ple of girls from school saw us. They lived on the oth­er side of the tracks, where the bankers and the mill own­ers lived, and they made rude com­ments under their breath, just loud enough for us to get the gist of their com­ments with­out hear­ing the actu­al words.

They’re laugh­ing at you,” Zel­da said.

They always do.”

Do you ever think of oth­er girls, Jed?” Zel­da asked. “Girls oth­er than my sister?”

I used to, but who would have me?”

You might be surprised.”

We left Woolworth’s with the three items on our shop­ping list and had to vis­it the drug­store for the last item. After­ward, we drove down to the riv­er, hung our legs over the side of the bridge, and shared a Coke that Zel­da had tak­en while I paid for my mama’s prescription.

Things just ain’t been the same since Daddy’s still blew up,” she said.

We’d nev­er talked about that day, about the explo­sion that had tak­en her father’s life and near­ly tak­en mine, and about how our fam­i­lies had fall­en on hard times with­out the mon­ey that still brought in. “And it ain’t ever going to be the same,” I said. “Some things are bet­ter. Some things ain’t.”

She pon­dered that for a bit.

Dad­dy used to beat mama some­thing awful,” Zel­da said. My dad­dy had been the one who put a stop to it most times, but when he shot that rev­enuer and went to prison, there wasn’t any­body left who could stop what Uncle Mort was doing to Aunt Sarah.

Except God.

Or so we thought.

You got your daddy’s car,” Zel­da said. “You ever think of run­ning ’shine for one of the oth­er stills?”

It’s been six years,” I said. I’d been four­teen and Zel­da had been twelve. Since then, rev­enuers had shut down most of the stills, and the remain­ing few most­ly pro­vid­ed small batch­es for local cus­tomers. “I don’t think there’s enough work for a driver.”

* * *

My mama and my aunt had to fend off the advances of the mill’s super­vi­sors, ugly men who demand­ed per­son­al favors, and they talked bad about the women who dropped to their knees in exchange for day shifts. They talked even worse about the hus­bands who turned a blind eye rather than jeop­ar­dize what was often their household’s only steady income.

It ain’t worth it,” my mama told Aunt Sarah one night in our kitchen. I had stopped just out­side the door to lis­ten, some­thing I did more often than they real­ized. “No mat­ter what that man promised you, it ain’t worth it.”

But I got two daugh­ters,” Aunt Sarah said. “At least your boy can work, bring in some money.”

Wash­ing dish­es,” my mama said. “That ain’t much of a job for a boy.”

But it’s a job, a job he wouldn’t have if it weren’t for what you done for Martha all them years ago,” Aunt Sarah said. “It’s mon­ey ain’t com­ing into my house. We had enough money—more than enough money—before you—”

My mama hushed her. “You wasn’t okay with what Mort done to you, and Jim­my wasn’t around no more to stick up for you,” my mama said. “You be all right, just you wait and see. That Kuk­endahl boy, he’ll do right by Alexan­dria. I’ll see to that.”

I slipped away, not want­i­ng to hear more about Good­win and Alexan­dria. I knew he was sweet on her and that some­day she would stop meet­ing my needs. But I sure­ly didn’t need to lis­ten to my mama and my aunt talk about it.

* * *

Can I watch?” Zel­da asked a few nights later.

We left the light on. Alexan­dria did things she didn’t usu­al­ly do, as if she were per­form­ing for her lit­tle sis­ter, and did it all with­out pro­tec­tion. We fin­ished with her strad­dling me, and after­ward, after Alexan­dria had left the bed and gone into the bath­room, Zel­da crossed the room and let her fin­gers trace the scars on my face, an act more inti­mate than what her old­er sis­ter and I had just done. When she fin­ished, Zel­da left me alone in her bed­room, lis­ten­ing to Alexan­dria show­er, won­der­ing what had just hap­pened. I didn’t have much time to think because I soon heard a pound­ing on the front door, and Zel­da called up the stairs to her sis­ter, telling her she had a guest. I scram­bled out of bed, grabbed my things, and high­tailed it down the back stairs as qui­et­ly as I could.

I found Zel­da wait­ing for me. She said, “You should see the look on your face.”

My face wasn’t all she could see. “Good­win isn’t here, is he?”

My cousin shook her head.

It isn’t fun­ny,” I said. “What do you think’ll hap­pen if he ever finds me here like this?”

He won’t be none too happy.”

I pulled on my clothes. “What do you think will hap­pen to your sister?”

Zel­da shrugged. “She’d have to choose.”

I glared at her for a moment before stomp­ing out of the house, climb­ing into the Ford, and leav­ing my cousins behind.

* * *

A few weeks lat­er, my anger at Zel­da had dimin­ished enough that we took anoth­er shop­ping trip. At the gro­cery store she man­aged to tuck a cou­ple of oranges into her bra, but the peo­ple at the drug­store had cot­toned to our scheme. They watched her clos­er than they watched me, and I had to pay for the box of pro­phy­lac­tics I’d selected.

After­ward, we drove down to the riv­er and hung our legs over the side of the bridge. We threw orange peels into the riv­er far below and watched as the cur­rent sent them spin­ning away. We had almost fin­ished when Zel­da asked, “How come you nev­er do this with Alexandria?”

Do what?”

Zel­da looked at me. “You know, take her places,” she said. “Like this.”

Things ain’t like that with your sis­ter. She don’t want me for that. She’s got Goodwin.”

She just uses you for one thing.” Zel­da stuffed an orange slice in her mouth and bit. Juice drib­bled down her chin.

I ain’t the only one being used,” I said.

Zel­da put her hand on my thigh and looked at me in a way I’d nev­er seen before. Uncom­fort­able, I threw the last of my orange into the riv­er and pushed myself to my feet. “I need to get you home so I can go to work.”

* * *

After leav­ing Zel­da at Aunt Sarah’s house, I con­tin­ued on to mine. I need­ed to change shirts before I went to the restau­rant, and when I came back down­stairs, I heard my mama and her sis­ter talk­ing in the kitchen. They obvi­ous­ly didn’t know I was there, and I lis­tened from out­side the kitchen door.

Your boy ain’t right,” Aunt Sarah said. “He ain’t been right since—”

He wasn’t sup­posed to be there,” my mama said. “He was sup­posed to be in school.”

I had nev­er stopped to won­der how my mama had reached the still so quick­ly after the explo­sion. That she was near­by because she had arranged for it to hap­pen had nev­er crossed my mind. I lis­tened to her explain to Aunt Sarah how she had rigged the still, think­ing it would blow Uncle Mort to king­dom come and nobody would be the wis­er. She was get­ting back at him for what he had done to dad­dy and what he was still doing to his own fam­i­ly. When she found me half toast­ed by the explo­sion, she drove daddy’s Ford hell bent for leather down the moun­tain to the near­est hos­pi­tal, where the doc­tors did their best to patch me up.

I know you done it for me and the girls,” Aust Sarah said, “but it ain’t my fault you blew up your own kid.”

I couldn’t lis­ten to any more. I didn’t want to lis­ten to any more. 

* * *

You’re late again,” Martha Kuk­endahl said when I dragged into her restau­rant an hour lat­er, “and those dish­es ain’t wash­ing themselves.”

I glanced at the over­flow­ing sink. I wasn’t think­ing about work. I was think­ing about what my aunt had said. I said, “No, ma’am, they ain’t.”

Bad enough my boy is sweet on your cousin, I got to have you wash­ing my dish­es.” She crossed her arms and glared at me. “If it weren’t for your mama—”

My mama? What’s my mama ever done for you?”

Martha grabbed my good arm and pulled me into the pantry where she kept all the dry goods. “You mama ain’t nev­er told you what she done?”

She don’t tell me noth­ing,” I said. “She hard­ly ever even looks at me.”

Well, you ain’t noth­ing to look at, let me tell you.”

We stared at each oth­er for a moment while she made up her mind.

Twen­ty-five years ago your mama stole mon­ey from your grand­pap­py and bought me a bus tick­et out of town,” she said. “I come back three years lat­er with a baby, a wed­ding ring, and a sto­ry about a hus­band who died in a mine collapse.”

That made no sense to me. “Why would my mama buy you a bus ticket?”

She didn’t do it for me,” Martha said, “She done it for your Aunt Sarah. She’s always done every­thing for your Aunt Sarah.”

I under­stood that. I’d lost half my face because my mama was pro­tect­ing my Aunt Sarah.

Twen­ty-five years ago your Uncle Mort—he weren’t your uncle then ’cause you wasn’t born yet—put me in a fam­i­ly way. He wouldn’t have noth­ing to do with me after ’cause he was sweet on your Aunt Sarah and I was just a drunk­en one-nighter.”

My mama—?”

She done it to keep your aunt from know­ing what kind of man her hus­band was. Your Aunt Sarah knows what your mama done for me, but she don’t know why your mama done it.”

That means Good­win and Alexan­dria are—”

Too damn close, but I can’t do noth­ing about that,” she said. “Now get your ass out there and wash them dishes.”

* * *

I scrubbed dish­ware until well past clos­ing time. Then I helped Isa­iah the Gimp clean the ovens and the stove­tops and pre­pare the kitchen for break­fast the next morn­ing. When we fin­ished, I drove direct­ly to Aunt Sarah’s house. I want­ed to tell Alexan­dria and Zel­da what I had learned, and I found my cousins sit­ting in the kitchen.

Zel­da took one look at me and shook her head.

We can’t do it no more,” Alexan­dria said as held up her left hand to show me a dime-store engage­ment ring. “Good­win just left. I’m get­ting married.”

Mar­ried?” I asked as I strad­dled a kitchen chair. “Why?”

I’m preg­nant.”

Do you think it’s—?”

Doesn’t mat­ter,” my cousin insist­ed. “Good­win thinks it’s his.”

Before I could say any­thing else, Alexan­dria left the kitchen and then left the house. A moment lat­er, Zel­da said, “I’ll take care of you.”

But you’ve never—”

She smiled. “You’ll be my first,” she said, “and I won’t even close my eyes.”

I had so much to tell her, but maybe right then wasn’t the best time. She took my hand and led me upstairs.

Michael Brack­en (CrimeFic​tion​Writer​.com) is the Edgar and Shamus Award-nom­i­nat­ed author of 1,200-plus short sto­ries pub­lished in The Best Amer­i­can Mys­tery Sto­ries, The Best Mys­tery Sto­ries of the Year, and else­where. He is also the edi­tor of Black Cat Mys­tery Mag­a­zine and sev­er­al antholo­gies, includ­ing Antho­ny Award-nom­i­nat­ed The Eyes of Texas: Pri­vate Eyes from the Pan­han­dle to the Piney Woods. He lives and writes in Texas.




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FCAC reopened for YOUR submissions!

Yes, after a lengthy hia­tus, FCAC will be post­ing con­tent of inter­est from all cor­ners of the rur­al hard boiled land­scape again . Nev­er fear for my oth­er projects, Tough and LNP will con­tin­ue apace; I just need the burst-wide feel­ing FCAC gave and con­tin­ues to give me. Like, there's a gem of a sto­ry or two poems that just need a good place to live.

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Hello People!

Tonight I was a force of nature. 1336 words in 1:15. First night like that in ages. I also had enough ener­gy to clean out my cub­by­hole of poet­ry. I dis­cov­ered I can drink black cof­fee and be con­scious for 16 hours with­out sleep­ing half the time away. I can promise the two were unre­lat­ed! All by cut­ting carbs. Of course my blood sug­ar was still sky high, and there was a near-con­stant back­ground of almost-threat­en­ing voic­es, but still. It was a good day.

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News of the Land

So yeah. About that nov­el. As many of mine do, this one topped out at 56K. I have not been able to hit the mag­i­cal 80K-and-read­i­ly-agentable mark in some time, so it's like­ly, with edits and addi­tions I have yet to enter, Comes the Flood will be around 60K, which will lim­it my sub­mis­sions strat­e­gy some­what. Still, I think it's a good book, or will be when I've pol­ished the shit off its heels. I fin­ished this nov­el in May. Since then the pandemic's got­ten worse, I spent a month in a par­tial hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and have slept the large part of those days in total with­draw­al mode. With­out the kids and Heather I don't know what I would have done. As a result, Tough fell behind and the lion's share of the read­ing load and all of the edit­ing fell to Tim Hen­nessy, to whom I am eter­nal­ly grate­ful. We're catch­ing up and back to posti­ing sto­ries, and will be adding three new staffers this week so we hope­ful­ly will nev­er have to take time off again.  I have a chap­book ten­ta­tive­ly due out begin­ning of the year and I'm tak­ing some time off from the nov­el to write some last poems for it. Here's hoping.

I keep buy­ing books as if I'm going to read them, and I just haven't been able to keep up my usu­al pace, even with poet­ry. I'm going to top off this year at about eighty. Plans for next year include more read­ing, 150 books read, two writ­ten and com­plet­ed nov­els, one of which will be the final book in the Ridgerun­ner tril­o­gy. I'm get­ting my first tat­too. I'm 51 in a month. I'm tired of fuck­ing around. Now if my brain just cooperates.


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Tonight felt sat­is­fac­to­ry. It wasn't a big fat adren­a­line dump like last night's writ­ing, but it went well. I could have writ­ten more, but I didn't want to leave it all in the page and flat-out exhaust myself either. A plot turn's come up though, and my out­line is no longer viable for the sec­ond half of the thing, so tomor­row I'm draft­ing a new out­line. I'm a lit­tle scared of doing it, frankly, since the writing's been going so well. I just need to stay vig­i­lant, not let myself get a cou­ple days out of sorts. So tomor­row there will like­ly be no update, as I'll be work­ing on the out­line all night tonight and most of tomor­row out­side of my fam­i­ly com­mit­ments. It'll all be fine, right?

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1147 of rough­ly 39300

On nights like this, there isn't much to say. Heather had half the day off so after mend­ing fences from last night in the ear­li­er part of her shift and because of being on the phone near-con­stant­ly in our new Covid-nor­mal in the sec­ond half, I start­ed writ­ing much ear­li­er than my nor­mal 9:30 PM, and so by din­ner­time now I've got­ten my words in and may even be able to write again lat­er on dur­ing my nor­mal time.

I do have a nor­mal time to write. 999 times out of a thou­sand, I'm writ­ing at 9:30 PM every night, and I write until I get to 500 words with­in the hour or a thou­sand, or some­times, rarely, more. More often than not when it's going well, I get a thou­sand words, so that's what I judge by: 500 min­i­mum, the Gra­ham Greene pre­scrip­tion, as described in The End of the Affair, but a thou­sand mark­ing out a good strong day's writ­ing. More than that, the Mus­es are smil­ing on me. Last night, a bad night that made me feel shit­ty until I sat down to write this after­noon, like a hang­over. Tonight? Some­thing else again. The only way through is forward.

I'm going to read now, and drink cof­fee, and maul a cat while I do. On deck, Cocaine and Blue Eyes, by Fred Zack­el, Sim­ple Jus­tice by John Mor­gan Wil­son and final­ly, Stoneb­urn­er, by William Gay. I'm halfway through the Zack­el, a third through Sim­ple Jus­tice and I haven't begin Stoneb­urn­er yet, though I've owned it and start­ed it a few times. I can already tell it's not top-notch Gay, but it's inter­est­ing, as the master's minu­ti­ae often are.

Edit in: 11:23 PM. Got an extra thou­sand words in for over 40K now. Halfway.

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538 words

Not a good night. Rough on the fam­i­ly, rough on me with John Prine dying, just pan­dem­ic close­ness rub­bing every­body, well me, the wrong way. I didn't, couldn't write last night, and I'm in a shit­ty mood, so I'm count­ing these words as des­per­ate and plead­ing with the mus­es to give  me just a few more over the next month or so. And I want to apol­o­gize to my wife pub­licly for being such a prick. I'm sor­ry, baby. That's all. You all can call this the con­fes­sion­al blog.

It sucks some­times, all the time, but most of the time you have to do the work any­way. But not always. Some­times, like last night, I couldn't imag­ine doing it, and I'm pay­ing for it in guilt all day antic­i­pat­ing when I can get to the key­board and make it right, and words won't come, like tonight. Waah waah wahh. I did­nt have to do it. I could stop. But I'm not going to.

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1027 words of 37700 total

Tonight was a come­down. I had lots of time over the week­end and took advan­tage of it, and tonight–not so much. Heather and the kids are sewing masks for fam­i­ly and friends so there are duel­ing sewing machines on either end of the liv­ing room table. Chal­leng­ing writ­ing envi­ron­ment, but I'd rather be in the mid­dle of things try­ing to write instead of the cliched lone­ly writer in his gar­ret keep­ing com­pa­ny with rats and roach­es but with no oth­er dis­trac­tions. I like my life occa­sion­al­ly, depressed and psy­chot­ic though I am most of the time. Thanks be to ther­a­pists and doc­tors and oth­er mir­a­cles of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ori­gins. I'm not going to go on at length except to say that I worked for my words tonight, and I can only hope the strug­gle doesn't show when I get to the final draft, how­ev­er far off or uncer­tain that may be.

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