THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
December 5, 2015
Greetings. Welcome to my blog, if this is your first visit, and if you’re a repeating visitor, welcome back.
You’ll have to forgive me for taking this opportunity to brag that I was published recently, during a week that also included my birthday, Thanksgiving, and a three-day visit from three of our favorite family members, Susan’s sons Cory and Stewart and our fifteen-year-old granddaughter Caroline. And as if that weren’t enough, I also had a short story chosen for the “Flash Fiction” issue of our local free weekly paper, the North Coast Journal.
Let me be honest and tell you that my story was one of seventeen stories chosen, and for all I know perhaps only seventeen stories were submitted. I hope that’s the case, so that everyone who submitted a story was a winner. I mean that. I like to believe that writing is not a competitive sport. (Please note that this blog’s monthly 99-word story feature is not a contest, and everyone who submits and follows the rules is a winner. See the end of this post for further details.)
With no further introduction I proudly present my most recent published “winning” short story, in its entirety:
Forwarding Order Expired
At ten I received a letter from the man I would become. “I’ve learned to correspond across the years,” it said. “Enjoy your youth.”
At forty, I received the boy’s reply: “I can’t wait to be your age.”
I wrote the next letter forward thirty years. “I hope you’re well.”
My letter was returned unopened.
Now I want to tell you about a decision I made, a gift I recently bought for myself. I now own a Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader. It wasn’t easy. I bought the device from the Staples store in Eureka, the nearest town that can be called (using a generous imagination) a “big city.” The reason I bought the device from Staples was that I prefer to shop local rather than order on line. Of course shopping at Staples is hardly shopping local, but at least I wasn’t buying direct from Amazon, right? Well, okay, Amazon got a big chunk of the money I spent on that Kindle, Staples Inc. of Framingham MA got most of the rest, and only peanuts remained in Humboldt County, where I live. But I wanted to buy from somebody I could talk to, not just an ordering page on Amazon’s website. The personal touch.
That was a mistake. The device came with no written instructions, and the sales clerk didn’t know how to open the package, much less how to make the Kindle work. I took it home and found out I had to register my new toy before I could use it. With no instructions, and little knack for modern electronic devices, I was frustrated. I went to the Amazon website and found no instructions there (I’m not saying there were no instructions, just that I couldn’t find them), but found a suggestion that I snoop into some users’ ongoing discussions; chats, I guess they’re called. There I found another would-be Kindle owner who had complained of the same problem. He didn’t know how to register his Kindle. He was advised by some genius to order his Kindle from Amazon directly, and it would come already registered in his name.
So I broke down. I returned the Kindle to Staples for a full refund and ordered another one on-line, from the almighty Amazon. It arrived three days later, already registered in my name. Now all I had to do was go to the instructions that were included, not on paper of course, but as a document I could read. On the Kindle. Square one, almost.
Well, I called my friend Eric, who had recommended the Kindle Paperwhite in the first place, and he kindly walked me through the labyrinth of steps I needed to make to get what I wanted from my new toy.
It turns out it’s not impossible. Now I’ve already bought several books—ebooks, that is—and some of them were dirt cheap or even free! I have a couple of long trips coming up, and I’ll be able to carry in one pocket a whole library of literature for the airplanes and airports.
So it wasn’t impossible. But it still wasn’t easy for me, as a lifelong bibliophile, to use an alternative to a real book printed on paper. It wasn’t easy for me as a small-press publisher to support a business model that changed so many rules of the publishing game without asking for my permission. It wasn’t easy for me, as a former bookseller, to support the company that has wrecked and rubbed out so many mom & pop independent stores and replaced them with impersonal service from a giant in Seattle, no matter how efficient that service might be.
Most of all it hasn’t been easy for me to own, use, even enjoy my Kindle knowing how Susan, who is also a lifelong bibliophile, a small-press publisher, and a former bookseller, not to mention my traveling companion, my business partner, and the love of my life, feels about ebooks vs. real books. Well, there had to be a pretty big reason for me to buy this expensive little toy.
There was. There is. I have published five novels as ebooks, resorting to that option after being turned down by print publishers large and small. I thought and still think these books deserved to be read. For that matter, I wanted to read them myself, and so I did. And so can you, if you own an ebook reading device. I can promise you a good read with any of my ebooks. I say that as a self-promoting author, and also as a hand-selling former bookstore clerk. Why not spend four bucks to read treasure like Geronimo’s Skull?
And now a word from our sponsor:
The following ebook is available from Amazon Kindle and BN Nook.
a novel by
John M. Daniel
On the night of June 8, 1918, five officers in the U.S. Army 11th Field Artillery, all of them recent Yale graduates and members in the secret society Skull and Bones, sneaked into the Apache grave-yard at Fort Sill Oklahoma, opened the tomb of Geronimo the Terrible, and stole his skull.
$4.99, Kindle Edition: www.amazon.com
$4.99, Nook Book: www.bn.com
Whatever happened to that skull, and whatever happened to the ringleader of that moonless, midnight raid?
This legendary crime and its consequences are central to John M. Daniel’s novel Geronimo’s Skull, which takes place over twenty-five years in the early twentieth century, from the Saint Louis World’s Fair in 1904 to the stock market crash in 1929. It tells the story of Fergus Powers, and his development from a boy of nine, fascinated by energy and machinery, to a young man in his thirties, poised to take charge of a failing company and turn it into the largest manufacturer of oil drilling equipment in the world.
Geronimo’s Skull is romantic and fantastic, full of love and war, friendship and family, magic, danger, and moral quandary. Fergus Powers, the leader of the grave-robbers, is the novel’s guilty hero, hounded for the balance of the book by the Indian warrior’s ghost.
Fergus Powers is a complex man, both modest and charismatic. A skillful, persuasive manipulator of people, he is the captain of the Yale baseball team and the youngest Major in the history of the United States Army. He is a teetotaler, a lover, a dutiful son and responsible brother, a wanderer, a spy, and a man with a consuming goal: to keep a promise he made when was nine years old.
JOHN M. DANIEL is a freelance editor and writer. He has published dozens of stories in literary magazines and is the author of fourteen books, including five mystery novels, two of which (The Poet's Funeral and Hooperman) earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly. He and his wife, Susan, own a small-press publishing company. They live in Humboldt County, California, with their charming, headstrong cat companion, Raney.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for January’s 99-word story submissions is January First. The stories will appear on my blog post for January 9.
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: email@example.com
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Write a story in 99 words, inspired by the words “This time I really mean it.” That can be your title, or your first or last sentence, or just the theme of the story. Reread Rule 3, above; this must be a story, not just an essay. If I receive your story by January 1, and if you follow the rules, your story will appear on this blog January 9.
Thank you for tuning in. I hope you’ll be back next week, when you'll get a chance to read some 99-word stories about family secrets. Meanwhile, find joy in reading and/or writing stories!