Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2), which is this story’s full title, follows on from the previous story in this collection, Morning Deliveries, but centres around a couple of laundry workers who go out in the middle of the night trying to find a place to inspect their vehicle and deem it roadworthy… all while they are both knocking back the beers.
As with Morning Deliveries, this story has been cobbled together from chapters of an abandoned novel that King was writing called The Milkman, but unlike that first story, Big Wheels meanders and ultimately doesn’t stand on its own. It also includes references which I am sure are intended to allude to other parts of the novel that he hasn’t included here.
So I will have to pass on this one. It may very well work as part of a larger narrative, but snipped out as a story in its own right, it falls a little flat.
I’ve come to a decision about Slipwater. I am giving myself until my birthday next year – that’s May 7, 2021 – to find traction with a professional agent or publisher. If I still have made no headway by that time I’m going to self-publish the novel.
I know, I have always been opposed to going down that route. It’s the easy way, right? Any idiot can do that. There are no checks at any point in the process, and certainly nobody to tap you on the shoulder to tell you what you’ve written is trash.
Yeah, I know.
But I wrote the novel for a reason, and it’s good. I believe in it, and I want others to have the chance to read it, and if I have to swallow my pride and do what I swore I never would… then so be it.
Of course, I would much prefer to do this the traditional, tried and tested way, so if anybody in the business is reading this, here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor.
In other news I wrote a dark flash piece called I Am the Cheese. It’s something I put together very quickly – in about an hour actually – that isn’t particularly polished, but has potential down the line once I give myself the room to mess around with it.
I have sent off a few pieces to contests this month. I was going to give myself a budget each month for this, to get me in the habit of sending stuff away, so that may be an idea I can run with. I’ll have to see how it shakes out.
We’re now into the final third of the year, and it’s about this time on the calendar that I begin to reflect on what I’ve done since this twelve month period began…
… but it makes for a depressing read, so I’ll leave that alone for a while.
I spent one afternoon this week sending stories out for (potential) publication. And while it’s true that one of them came back as a rejection before I had even finished up for the day, I still see every attempt to get my work out there as a positive one.
I never send a story out into the wild just to make up the numbers, because the only person who is really interested in those numbers is me. So, on the other end, when that response comes in, I’m always hopeful for good news, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve had an acceptance. And yes, it has been a while.
My standards are (admittedly) quite high and, although my recent output probably doesn’t justify that bar, I have had many pieces published in non-paying markets over the years, and I think I deserve to be a little further along the food chain by now. As a result I have neglected to even look at a lot of markets that may want to carry my stuff simply because they aren’t going to pay me. Occasionally there is a non-paying market that grabs my attention, but not very often.
Anyway, I’m going to have a soft reboot of my writing to give things a shake-up. I was going to wait until the turn of the year, but that is such an arbitrary time for resolutions, so I’m just going to do it now instead.
I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, or how this soft reboot is going to manifest itself, but I am going to do something.
Jerusalem’s Lot is the fairly lengthy short story that kicks off Stephen King’s first collection of short stories, Night Shift, and I’ll say it right now – it’s not one of his best.
It’s designed as a prequel to his second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, which I barely remember reading all those years ago, but as such this piece suffers because I can’t help but feel as though I’m not getting the whole story here. It’s like going to a restaurant, having a starter, and then walking out before the main course arrives.
Having said that, if ‘Salem’s Lot was written in the same manner as this (and it isn’t), I’d probably not want the entire meal anyway, because Jerusalem’s Lot is told in an epistolary format (as a series of letters). This certainly can be interesting and suspenseful if done correctly and in the right hands, and if King had more experience under his belt when he wrote it, this would have been a lot better, but as it is, this story drags, making you feel every word written on the page.
If you’re coming to this collection looking for King’s strengths, you best dig a little deeper into the book, because you won’t find it here.
In an effort to write good short stories I’m going to look towards one of the masters, Stephen King – a guy who has written a fair number of them.
Over the coming months I will be reading and offering my opinion about every short story King has had published in the six collections that are out there: Night Shift (1978), Skeleton Crew (1985), Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993), Everything’s Eventual (2002), Just After Sunset (2008), and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015).
That’s over 100 stories – some of which I have either forgotten since I came across them many years ago, or not read in the first place. I know not all of them will be good, but I’m sure every one will give me something to say.
… and hopefully I can get it done before he comes out with another anthology.
I have never really had a writing routine. It’s just not the kind of thing I have ever been able to pigeon-hole into a specific window. It’s a good idea, and certainly I’d like to be able to frame my writing in that manner – for consistency, if nothing else – but I have always taken a more adhoc approach to my words.
I think my early resolution for 2020 is to manufacture some time when I can actually sit down and do my stuff regularly, because at the moment I’m all over the place and nothing is really getting done. Definitely not as much as there should be.
When I do write, it’s often pretty good, but I’m just not happy with the volume of the output.
I got it into my head these last few days that I really should back up my stories on a disc, because if my laptop takes a swan dive I will have lost most of what I’ve done over the last quarter of a century. And that… well, let’s not think about it.
Sure, I have some of them printed out, and most of them are sitting in a folder in my Hotmail account, but most is not good enough. I wanted everything all together. I don’t want anything to be lost because I was too lazy to do anything about it.
After having an extremely hard time with blank discs that my laptop struggled to read, I zipped it all and sent myself an email. I also uploaded everything to one of those clouds for extra insurance.
Every draft of every short story. The novel, in all its iterations. The poetry. All the stuff in progress.
Quite simply, it’s everything I have: my life’s work packed up in about ten megabytes.
I haven’t done too much new writing this week, but I’ve thrown a couple of other childhood tropes into my latest Jack & Patrick tale, and it’s now rocking the rolls-off-the-tongue title of A Rabbit, a Fairy, and a Fat Man in a Red Suit. I think those three childhood ‘superheroes’ will work better as part of one story, than my initial plan to give them each their own narrative… and if you are struggling to figure out who I’m talking about, I really don’t know what to tell you!
I’ve (unintentionally) got into the habit of making each of these episodes two thousand words long – give or take a hundred – and this one looks like it will fit right in to that pocket. The nice thing about all of these Jack & Patrick stories is that I know if I get some time to myself and find the right rhythm, I could knock this piece out in an evening.
I still have to find the time (make the time) to send off some stories as well, and – more importantly – to hunt around for representation for Slipwater, because sooner or later I will hit upon someone who likes what they are reading, and sees the value in it.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had been brainstorming ideas for some new Jack & Patrick adventures. Seasonally inaccurate, I know, but one of those ideas is a Christmas story.
I started putting it together this week and got into it a little deeper than I had expected, so I now have a good chunk of the dialogue to work with. Although I do have other Jack & Patrick pieces in development, this will likely end up being the next – the eighth one – in the series.
I plan to send my novel Slipwater off to a few more agencies this week, because I’ve had a couple come back lately with a negative. Disheartening, sure, but writers are more familiar with rejection than most, and there’s always a contingency plan.
Besides, it’s their loss, because that story is money for the editor who is able to spot its potential.
I sent off my novel Slipwater to a few more agents this week, because (hard as it is to believe) it’s been almost a year since I finished it. And even harder to believe is that I have not changed, added, or removed one word of it since then. Seems I’m showing some restraint in my forties.
I know that if other more traditional avenues don’t work out I could go the self-publishing route. That’s something that’s always open to me. I know as well that that does not have to equate to giving up. There are plenty examples of self-published novels that have subsequently been noticed by the big leagues, but the fact that anyone with internet access and enough words is literally a few mouse clicks away from being a published novelist still irks me and, for the time being, I refuse to do it.
I want an agent or an editor to tell me what I already know – that it’s good, that there’s a market for my writing, and that they want to buy the manuscript.
Too much to ask? I guess we will just wait and see.