Showing posts with label 50 States. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 50 States. Show all posts

Thursday, October 7

Opening October: The Spookier Side Of 50 States


Some people think the thrillers inside 50 States are scarier than any brush-ups with the supernatural. Still, some speculative tales do work overtime in creating the right atmosphere for Halloween. Kirkus Reviews called a few out, knowing that their review was coming conspicuously close to October.

So what should you look for inside 50 States? While plenty of stories could qualify on a longer list, I've narrowed it down to five short stories that fit the season.

Five Stories From 50 States For Halloween

5. All Your Joys. This story is about a boy who breaks into his neighbor's home, never considering the consequences of doing so in a town like Salem, Massachusetts. The cost for his infraction is more than he could have imagined.  

4. Papa Ghede. An orphaned teen decides to embrace unknown monsters over the monster she knows in New Orleans, dabbling in the darker side of voodoo as a means of escape from an abusive uncle. The story is named after the corpse of the first man who ever died. He now waits to take souls to the afterlife. 

3. Top Rung. An industrious young career woman contemplates her success in contrast to her sister's failings while taking an early morning run. As she loses herself in thought, her run is interrupted — first by a careless driver and then something just outside her peripheral vision. 

2. Into The Bardo. Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, is well known for being one of the most "spirited" locales in the United States. This short story recounts one such incident involving the final hours of a fishing trawler before it's lost beneath the waves. 

1. Shine On You Crazy Diamonds. There is a house in Michigan with a history. The bad luck began with the Diamond family in the 1920s and followed every visitor afterward, including three boys who trespassed on Devil's Night.

Two of the stories already have companion pieces. I shared The Shut Out, which tells some of the original Diamond family troubles, in my first quarterly newsletter. I followed Papa Ghede up with The Night Bus, a short story slated for my 50 Threads project.

Right now, the kindle version of 50 States is on sale for $4.99 via Amazon. Other digital versions are on sale for $5.99. The print version price varies. For a complete listing of stores — including a growing number of places where you can find signed copies — visit my author page on Copywrite, Ink. Happy Halloween!

Friday, August 27

Flipping Pages: 50 States And 50 Stories


What's your book about? It's the most commonly asked question and an easy one to answer for most authors. For me, it's a bit trickier to answer because I don't have one answer. I have 51 of them. 

The first answer, which should be my 51st answer, is that 50 States is a debut collection of experimental, psychological, and speculative short-short stories. Each story takes place in a different state and touches on different states of mind. It's an accurate depiction but doesn't really share enough. 

So, if someone doesn't ask about a specific state, I ask them what they like to read and mention which story or stories match up. There is a little bit of every genre inside 50 States, and most of them, I'm told, cut darkly. Here's a lexicon of sorts so you can see what I mean:

A look inside the 50 stories that make up 50 States.

Broken People. Idaho 2003. Fate gives a farmer another chance for redemption.

The Lake House. Conn. 2005. A grandmother shares how fixing a family is like refinishing furniture. 

Dead Ends. Utah 1992. A couple takes an adventurous turn off a desert highway. 

The Blue Door. Calif. 2019. A woman feels the gravity of her decision to open a motel door. 

The Best Life. Ark. 2019. A man trolls the Internet for old flames after acquiring a unique gift. 

Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Mich. 1975. Three kids visit a haunted house on Devil’s Night. 

Wet. Wash. 1971. A teacher strike becomes a catalyst for action in a coming-of-age story.

Private Conversations. Colo. 2020. A loner hears whispers on the mile-and-a-quarter MallRide. 

A Beautiful Day. Penn. 1990. A patient asks paramedics to sound the siren for heaven. 

Good Neighbors. Nev. 2019. Two neighbors have their first conversation as one moves away.

The Qallupilluk. Alaska 1982. A runaway becomes immersed in the Yupik culture.

The Chain. Iowa 2016. A woman confesses to a police officer while sharing her past. 

The Straw. Va. 2012. College students test the boundaries of their friendship. 

Leftovers.  Wyo. 2020. A woman works to reconcile a relationship with her grandfather. 

Spinning Wheel. Fla. 1969. A young artist decides to reunite with his son in another state. 

Vertigo. N.M. 1955. A man has one final thought after he jumps off a hotel roof. 

The Domino. Mo. 1962. A shanty town family is warned that the time to run has come. 

The Interview. N.Y. 2017. A recent law school graduate interviews with a Manhattan firm. 

The Stranger. S.D. 1982. A mysterious stranger wanders into the back room of a dying diner.

Forget Me Nots. W. Va. 1971. An aging mother relives the same day in a nursing home.

Bad Things. N.H. 2018. A veteran and recovering alcoholic hides out in a crossroads bar.

The Engagement. N.J. 1981. A fortune teller predicts doom just days before an engagement. 

Papa Gede. La. 2014. A teenager attempts to practice voodoo to escape an abusive uncle. 

The Standoff. Ariz. 2017. Two immigrants from different countries face off under Arizona’s sun.

As It Seems. Kan. 1971. A farm family welcomes strangers into the safety of their storm shelter. 

Screen Door. Wis. 1981. A narrator recounts his regrets after losing a family cottage. 

A Hole In The Wall. Hawaii 2020. Two teens meet at a hole in the wall that isolates them. 

Where’s There Smoke. Ore. 2019. Looters look to capitalize on a forest fire evacuation. 

Punching And Hugging. Md. 1990. A groom has second thoughts on the day of his wedding. 

All Your Joys. Mass. 2019. A troubled teen chooses the wrong house to rob in Salem. 

Four Fathers. Ga. 1968. A father explains how only one of his children had the best of him. 

The Samaritan. Ind. 2016. A teenage girl escapes harassment by taking a ride from a stranger. 

Indian Wrestling. Minn. 1968. Two boys challenge each other to prove their courage.

Into The Bardo. R.I. 2017. An investigator discovers something sinister off the coast. 

Tidy Lines. Mo. 1992. A brother demonstrates contempt for his sister’s boyfriend. 

The Catch. Texas 1957. A German circus lures a local lad on the promise of extra work. 

Time Capsule. Maine 2017. A young woman returns home to find her hometown unchanged. 

Top Rung. S.C. 2013. A successful woman contrasts her sister’s choices on a morning run.

All The Wild Horses. N.D. 2019. A ranch girl interferes with the round-up of wild horses. 

Sidelines. Ill. 1963. An aging mid-level manager wonders why one boy never boards the bus.

On The Fourth Of July. Del. 2018. A babysitter is attacked inside an affluent coastal home. 

Mockingbirds. Okla. 2006. A writer reflects on life after meeting a recovering veteran. 

Precinct 13. Ky. 1978. A gang of kids hatches a rescue plan to save two neighborhood pets. 

The Extra Mile. Ala. 2008. A man wonders if God might work at a convenience store. 

Siren’s Call. Vt. 2019. A family’s home becomes the target of revenge and retribution. 

The Right Choice. Neb. 2010. A retired delivery driver for Hostess regrets saving a child’s life. 

The Sweeper. Miss. 1972. A filmmaker uproots his family for racial unrest in the rural south.

All The Odds. N.C. 2020. A woman celebrates her deceased brother’s birthday with a drink. 

The Thin Blue Line. Ohio 2017. A delinquent teen is pressured into robbing a rail patron. 

Wheels Go Round. Tenn. 1977. Two runaway teens only have one bus ticket between them.

50 States is moving forward, much like it was written, one story at a time.

I always knew 50 States would move forward much like I wrote it — one story at a time. Every day, I ask one reviewer to consider my book (several reviews are pending now). Every trip, I ask one bookstore to stock signed copies (which I'm now listing these locations here). Every month, I've re-formatted editions for Apple, Kindle, and Google. Nook is coming soon (also listed here).

At the same time, I'm moving many of the stories inside 50 States forward, writing new stories that either continue, link, or otherwise keep those listed above very much alive. If you want to follow along, you can find me on most social networks or subscribe to my quarterly newsletter. I hope to see you there. Writing and publishing can be a fun and exciting adventure! Good night and good luck. 

Thursday, July 8

Telling Stories: The Fiction - Nonfiction Dichotomy

His question almost stumped me. While taping my appearance on Ira's Everything Bagel, award-winning broadcaster Ira David Sternberg asked me to talk about the dichotomy of fiction writers/readers and nonfiction writers/readers.

Is there a difference? I don't really think so.

Sure, some people think so. Many people feel like Beasts of No Nation author Uzodinma Iweala as captured by Miwa Messer's column on Barnes & Noble Review. Despite his first book being fiction, he always felt that historical accounts of war and biographies seemed more relevant. There were more facts to hold onto and tangible lessons on how to live a life grounded in historical relevance. 

Other people say the opposite. Chris Elder, for example, wrote a post on Bookstr a few years ago. It's titled "Why Reading Fiction is Better For Your Brain Than Nonfiction." He quotes Mark Twain to serve his point. "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t," said Twain. He might have been on to something. Even the Havard Business Review has made a case for reading fiction.

Then again, how much of a dichotomy is there, really? I line up a little closer (but not exactly) with writer Mark Grant, which is why the question almost stumped me. "In general, fiction refers to plot, settings, and characters created from the imagination, while nonfiction refers to factual stories focused on actual events and people," Grant writes on Book Riot, right before delving into the fact that the two often intersect.

Maybe the dichotomy is made up or, if it exists, is razor thin. 

This might be a bit too philosophical to some, but the entirety of reality is made up of stories. In fact, homo sapiens arguably evolved from an unexceptional savannah-dwelling primate to become the dominant force on the planet because of them. 

It didn't really matter if those stories were fiction or fact. All that mattered is we learned to tell them, sharing past experiences or imagining a different experience altogether. In fact, this is the very premise of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harai and a concept I hard-baked into many communications classes and presentations over the years, including the one I delivered to the National Recreation and Park Association in 2015.

People are the only creatures on this planet that exist with a dual reality — one formed by our perception of the world around us (the desk, the chair, the window) and one that is formed entirely by abstract concepts, societal constructs, and public opinions. In short, most of our facts are not facts at all.

Maybe our brains can't tell the difference between fact and fiction either. 

I don't mean this rigidly. The brain processes sensory information and imagined information differently. We can tell a character in a novel apart from a living person. And yet, we can't deny that fiction acts as a sort of surrogate life. It can even influence how we see the world, doubly so if that fiction is packaged as real (like more documentaries pretend to be).

There are reasons for all this. The capacity for cognitive empathy is why we feel for fictional characters in stories, novels, and movies. So while our brains might process sensory information and imagined information differently, the sensory input of a book or film can still be mirrored by specific neurons, causing us to feel what all those characters feel or believe what those characters believe. 

One might even say it's the embellishment of fact that has made David McCullough, Adam Makos, and Brad Meltzer some of the most successful historians and biographers out there. Their storytelling ability helps bridge the gap between fact and what we fantasize about, triggering cognitive empathy and creating stronger, longer-lasting memories. 

Who knows? In some sections, they might have embellished plenty, much in the opposite way some fiction writers rip off reality on a regular basis. Or maybe I just made that up. Good night and good luck.

Postscript. Great news. The Kindle edition of 50 States will be available on July 21. Preorder today.

Tuesday, June 22

Writing A Book: 50 States by Richard R. Becker


Two years ago, I started writing short short stories — so short that I sometimes called them scraps. And since I didn’t belong to any writer groups, I started sharing them on my Facebook author page. 

It wasn’t the first time short fiction appeared there (or longer stories on this blog, for that matter), but two things changed. It was the first time in my life I started treating my short stories like an assignment, with equal weight to any advertising/marketing deadlines I might have. Second, it was the first time I was committed to publishing fiction with consistency so people could anticipate a new story every week on my author page. 

Experience had already taught me both habits needed to happen if I ever wanted to add fiction writing to my repertoire. These were among the habits I adopted to become a freelance writer (which quickly evolved into Copywrite, Ink.), several publications (Key News * Las Vegas, and Liquid [Hip], and even this blog (which took off in 2007 when I made it daily). You have to be in it to win it.

Immersion is a critical key to creativity.

What I didn’t expect was how immersion opened up inspiration. After sharing the first few stories, I fell into a creative rhythm, and an overarching idea began to crystalize. 

I was inspired to write about seemingly random events happening or having had happened to different people in different places — stories that could stand on their own but were also left open to be continued in unexpected ways or possibly intersect with one another. I felt so strongly about this concept that I adopted some guidelines: each story would be set in a different state, and each would touch on a different psychological state as people face or cope with different life-defining events.

Once I formalized this idea, I applied lessons learned from two friends and colleagues to keep me going. One told me to always work for myself first. The other provided a proof of concept to be disciplined. One of his projects, The Daily Monster, was an exercise in illustrating a new monster every day, no matter what. 

I knew I couldn’t write a daily story, but I did feel confident I could write one a week. For a while, I was so motivated by the immersion of writing that I would sometimes write two in a week, scheduling the additional story in advance. It was a good thing I did too. Like many creatives, last year was very disruptive to the process. Having a few scheduled in advance kept me on track when I needed an extra week for some. 

The outcome was better than I could have ever imagined. 

50 States: A Collection of Short Short Stories was an exciting project because I didn’t always know where each story might come from or go. Most often, I would work on three story concepts simultaneously, mulling over the details until one of them solidified. Other times, the story might grow out of my research. It was really important to ground even the most speculative stories to a time or place.

For instance, I knew the story I wanted to tell about two runways meeting at a Greyhound bus station in Tennessee, but I didn’t know much about the Jackson transportation system, circa 1977. Research is essential for set dressings. 

Conversely, that story about a middle-aged man and a young basketball player in Chicago isn’t as reliant on location. I could have set this story in almost any midwestern urban center, and it would have worked. However, I thought name-dropping the short-lived Chicago Zephyrs lent a nice touch for a story taking place in 1963. 

The third story I call out on the back of the book's cover didn’t have to be tied to Oregon either. But once I decided Oregon could become a home for it, I researched wildfires in Oregon so I could use it as a reference for the fictional one in the story. Now, I couldn’t imagine this modern story playing out anyplace else. It belongs there.

Intersecting stories and paths that cross, divide, and double back. 

To keep track of what states were complete, I used to color in the state shape on a line art map every time I finished a story. I also added them to a project table list. The table includes: the title of the story, the state, the date it takes place, the word count of the first draft, the date of origination, and how many actions (likes, shares, etc.) were taken on the story once I posted it to Facebook. While it didn’t influence my writing, it was nice to see how some stories resonated relative to the number of people on the page. 

I have yet another document I’m using to track every character too. Knowing some details at a glance will help me later as every character could appear, connect with, or intersect with other characters or stories in the future. Some stories already have connections in 50 States, but it’s not apparent.

I did publish a longer short story (3,600 words) on Facebook about the Diamond family from the story Shine On You Crazy Diamond that appears in 50 States. It's called The Shut Out. Unfortunately, the story was removed from Facebook when it disabled a blog-like feature called notes. The feature never really took off, but I loved it and shared several longer stories there — some of which are being slated for another project. 

However, I am sharing some new short short stories on Facebook. This new project, 50 Threads, has obvious connections to the stories in 50 States. The very first short I shared was called The Beige Door. It is a direct continuation of the story The Blue Door, which can be found in 50 States. 

Keeping tabs on various projects and what’s next. 

My company, Copywrite, Ink., partnered with Blurb on the production and distribution of the project. Anyone interested in the book can track the 50 States by Richard R. Becker page as the book is added bookstores and booksellers. I’ll also post links to booksellers on the 50 States page hosted by my company Copywrite, Ink. 

I am publishing a newsletter with exclusive “first look” content and other news. The next newsletter is out in October 2021. I am also answering questions on Goodreads. I will no longer be sharing 'first look' content on my Facebook author page, but I will post announcements there (as well as on TwitterLinkedIn, and other social networks) so you know where to find it. 

Bookmarking this blog wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I see this space as in transition, with a little more focus on life, fiction, and writing. Who knows? We’ll see. Good night and good luck.

 

Blog Archive

by Richard Becker Copyright and Trademark, Copywrite, Ink. © 2021; Theme designed by Bie Blogger Template