A Bummer Week

I was going to write another post about the Craft of writing fiction, but this is not the week for it. I’ve had some bad news.

My uncle passed away yesterday. I remember growing up across the street from him and he’s the guy who taught me how to play baseball. He also taught me a thing or two about how to bowl. I have a lots of other good memories of him growing up and in times since then. He lived a full life—just recently celebrating his 80th birthday—but it still seems sad and sudden.

In other bummer news, my good friend, B—, was rock climbing in Colorado this past week and fell 50 feet. He’s lucky to be alive. Thanks to a bush that caught him, the quick reaction of a climbing buddy and Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, he survived. He should be able to walk again and there appears to be no brain injury. Still, he has a long way to go to a full recovery. But I know he’ll get there. He’s a very focused and tough-minded person.

Please consider donating to Rocky Mountain Rescue Group here. According to the people at the scene, they did some great rescue work.

25 Rejections
Not to bring more good news into this post or diminish what’s above…But in a sure sign of my growing literary mental resilience (or is it stubbornness?) I have reached a unique milestone: I’ve received 25 rejections letters on works I submitted. This is for all my works combined, not for any single work. It also includes works I’ve started to submit recently.

So what does this mean for you, the aspiring writer, or, perhaps, regular human being? Well, here it is: Get ready to get your pieces rejected…a lot. Many others have written  about how many times great works have been rejected. If you have a yen to take up the pen, you’ll face the same struggles. Don’t look at it as a rejection, but look it as a sign that you’re putting yourself out there and giving it your best shot. The worst thing you can do is let those letters get into your head and prevent you from writing your best—and getting back on the horse and writing and submitting again. 

I will be going to my uncle’s funeral and you may not see me here for a couple of weeks. Got to focus on life right now, but I’ll be back in the coming weeks.

See you guys a little further down the road,



Works in Progress–2 Strikes

Here’s a little update on where my writing projects are at. We start off with two recent rejections and new piece I’m working on.

Breakpoint—My science fiction short story, “Breakpoint” got its second rejection. So, what did I do? I went out with my friend David and had some good MalRed_Sox_Yankees_Game_Boston_July_2012bec (Zuccardi, for the wine people out there) and some Brazilian churrascaria. The copious amounts of red meat and wine seemed to do the trick. As did being able to share the disappointment with David. He is a biologist so he has submitted to plenty of scientific journals and got some stuff accepted and some stuff rejected. His advice? Just move on to the next magazine. Know what? He’s right.

I’ll be selecting a new magazine and resubmitting this one soon.

AFTA – Got my 2nd rejection for this comedy-horror novella. That one hurt more than the Breakpoint rejection. I figured that Breakpoint would get rejected, but I was a bit more surprised by the AFTA rejection.

The good news, though, is that I got on the Dark Markets website earlier today and I already found a new, great market that’s looking for horror novellas. I plan to resubmit it this weekend.

X — Here’s the really good news. Last weekend I banged out about 1,800 words on a new horror story:

It was great to start writing a first draft again. I’ve been editing, editing, editing for so long it was great to just start writing from a blank page. Of course, after not writing for a month, I was a bit rusty. But toward the end of the writing session, it all “started clicking” and it felt good. The most important thing that it reinforced: whenever you sit down to write a SHORT story, always plot it out first. A novel is a different beast, you can let it roam. But a short story, man, you have to know where it’s going before you start. And the good news is—at least with this piece—now I know exactly where I want this to go.

See you next time,


Rare B Sides: The Jealous Extremaduran

[This post is part of a series on literary works that deserve a wider audience.]

[Spoiler Alert: This post contains plot elements from Cervantes’s “The Jealous Extremaduran.”]

And I’m back, so let’s dive right into it…Here’s another work that deserves a wider audience: “The Jealous Extremaduran” by Miguel Cervantes.


I read Don Quixote a long time ago, back in high school. I found it uneven and a bit loooong. But its central idea, the characters and certain scenes were pure genius. I’d highly recommend it to anyone, as long as you have patience and can lay your hands on a good translation. The novel piqued my interest and I wanted to learn more about Cervantes and his other works. His life reads like something out of the Three Musketeers: He was a soldier who fought at Lepanto, a slave of Algerian pirates, a tax collector, a small-time conman and—last but not least—a writer. In fact, his life was much more adventurous than his famous, befuddled protagonist, Don Quixote. Anyhow, I was looking for other stuff to read from the Spanish master and about the first thing to pop up were his Exemplary Novellas—little tales mostly set in Seville, Spain. Thumbing through the Table of Contents I landed on “The Jealous Extremaduran.”

It is the tale of one Filipo de Carrizales, a Spaniard who makes his fortune in Peru and returns to his native Seville to settle down at the age of 68. He contemplates getting married, but decides against it, knowing he’s far too jealous for such business.

…he was so terrified that he felt like a mist driven by the wind. By nature he was the most jealous man in the world, even without being married; the mere thought of marrying was enough to arouse his jealousy, weary him with suspicions and startle him with imaginary evils, so much so that he resolved at all costs not to marry.

But, as fate would have it, he sees a young girl, Leonora, at a window and is smitten. He falls for her and reasons to himself:

‘She is only a girl; her youth may be sufficient to set my suspicions at rest. I shall marry her; I shall shut her up and train her in my ways, and so that she won’t know anything else but what I shall teach her.’

He approaches her parents, who after some research, agree to the match. Eventually, the parents “hand her over” to Filipo “amid much weeping because it seemed to them that she was being led off to her grave.”

[For you writers out there keeping score: we now have the full set up. Two main characters, a setting in Seville and a plot with an inherent conflict (between Filipo’s desire for control and Leonora’s independence).]

Filipo buys a house for 12,000 ducats with “running water and a garden with lots of orange trees.” He shuts up all the windows facing the street, creating skylights instead. He creates high walls about the level of the roofs of the city so that everyone inside can see only the sky, not the rest of the city. He hires an “old, black eunuch” and servant woman to guard the only entrance to the house: a revolving door. Through this revolving door all food for the household must pass. Filipo locks Leonora away in this fortress inside the city, bringing two girls of her age into the house to entertain her. With that, Filipo locks the door.

By day he would be thinking; by night he would lie awake, patrolling and guarding his house…His whole house had an air of virtue and seclusion; even in the stories which the servants told in the long winter nights by the fireside, nothing lascivious was ever mentioned when he was present.

Time passes and all is well for a time. But a new character shows up, a young man named Loaysa. The narrator explains:

There is in Seville a class of useless, idle people usually known as men about town; these are the richer young men from every parish. Lazy, showy, plausible people, about whose dress and manner of living, and whose customs and rules of conduct a good deal could be said.

“Plausible.” I love that turn of phrase…Loaysa is one of these men, a virote, or young bachelor. Loaysa catches wind of the rumors about the beautiful Leonora and resolves to storm the house “by force or by cunning.” He leaves the town for a few days and returns disguised as a lame beggar with a guitar, stationed in front of the house’s revolving door. He begins to sing “cheerful Moorish ballads” and soon the prisoners of Filipo’s castle like a “flock of doves” come to “the lure of the guitar.”

I won’t reveal what happens in the end, but I found it particularly well-played by Cervantes. Suffice to say that the fortress is breached having tragic consequences for most everyone involved. Being Cervantes, he can’t help but insert a moral into his story (much like the last 5 minutes of every Brady Bunch episode).

This affair…illustrates how little one should trust in keys, revolving doors and walls when the will remains free.

It’s a trite ending, but “The Jealous Extremaduran” is a great read, full of little details from 16th century Seville and deftly drawn characters. It’s a heavier read than Don Quixote, but well worth your time, especially considering it’s a shorter piece. Check it out at your local library, bookstore or online the next time you’re itching for something new to read.

The track for today’s post isn’t exactly a “Rare B Side.” In fact, it was a number one hit in 1969. Still, it fits the subject matter of this post. So, here we go…Ladies and Gentlemen, The King of Rock and Roll:

Somethin’ ‘Spicious

See you next time,


A Writer Marries


Some tremendous news of a non-literary nature:

I’m getting married this Saturday! I’m about as happy as a man can be and can’t believe I’m going to marry the woman of my dreams…wedding-car-007

In recognition of this life-altering event, I’m going to be, alas, taking a bit of a blogging break. Look for more of my blog later this month  (October).

That’s about all for now. I have to run. In fact, right now I should be heading to the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding. I’ll be back later with a few more details on the wedding and more of “A Writer Begins.”

Stay tuned, things could get interesting.