In the pouring rain, across a highway divider in an unknown town, I sit at a red light, listening to the rain thump the car. Gone are the jokes about the cheap hotel room that cut the tension while we toured the tiny downtown where trees squared the block and the rotunda stood tall. I fell in love with the sidewalks so straight, but then we left the white concrete and landed on the streaming highway with the rain sloshing the four corners of our truncated world.
Something rustles inside my husband’s head and, turning toward me he suggests we eat at the 5/4 Steakhouse across the median. A big red sign flashes in the standing water: “Welcome to the Quarter.”
Once upon a time when we traveled for fun, we’d ride to the real French Quarter in New Orleans where we ventured into the coolness of the antique stores and wandered until the wooden floors gave way to dirt three rooms back. One such trip, I bought the Jesus icon with the silver cover that slipped on and off. I carried it under my arm, out of the overpowering smell of the merchandise rotting on the shelves and across the parking lot to gaze at the boats docked on the river, so mechanical, black and greasy and full of metal. Churning and smoking and heaving through the water. Then we drove home, and I hung Jesus on the bathroom wall.
We exit the car, struggling through the rain, and land dripping in the entranceway. A stop clock graces the maitre d’s table with a sign below it: “Served in a Quarter of an hour or your meal free!” The place is big on signs.
We order steak and potatoes, and while we wait for the arrival of the food, Paul throws his hands in the air. “I can’t believe I haven’t told you. I have to tell you this.”
It’s a long story about two drunken women at a roulette table in Vegas, a mother and daughter, I think. Paul travels to Vegas on business. He’s in the entertainment business. He says he needs to travel on the weekends, that’s when business is done. Today is Thursday and only Alabama, so he’s brought me with him.
I read the little stick that came protruding from my potato. “I’ve been rubbed and scrubbed and you can eat my skin.” Shaped like a small smiling spud, the potato stick winks at me. I slip it in my pocket.
“I told him to hell with that.” Paul is cutting into a steak so rare it could get up and walk away from the table. “‘My damn plane is leaving,’ I said, and I hung up on the son of a bitch.”
Somewhere I think the story has changed, like channels surfed in the night when you’re not paying good enough attention. The waiter comes up for more service, but Paul waves him away, dismissive the way he is.
He’s talking to me.
“Well, what do you think?”
I finger my plastic potato prize. “Sorry. I kind of lost the plot.”
“That’s not very nice.” He wags his head, jaw to the side. “I tell you what, I bring you on a trip and a spool of barbed wire, and I’m fixed.”
No, I tell you what. When I get home, I’m going to take the Jesus with its silver cover from the wall and I’m gonna take the gold-embroidered bath towels and the silver candlesticks from the dining room table and the writing paper from inside the writing desk—and maybe the writing desk, too—and I’m going to stuff it in a suitcase with my new potato prize and then when it’s time to go, I’ll be ready.
And you can take that truth and hang it on the wall.
(an old short story I came across when cleaning out papers; as it was thoroughly written, I thought I’d share)
If you’ve found us here through Podiobooks, welcome!
The release on Podiobooks is the latest step in a process that began last December. You can read the background on how I came to record my short story collection, Cain’t Do Nothing with Love, by scrolling over the ABOUT tab above and clicking AUTHOR Q&A. You can read more about the recording/story selection process at IN HER OWN WORDS under the same tab.
Sprinkled here and there on this blog are my plans for the future. My current writing projects, my woes wrestling with editing, and my exploration of life in general are at my EllenMorrisPrewitt blog. Here’s a photo of the creative synthesizer at work:
If you’re a writer on audio, let me know—I’m really interested in this process. If you’re a listener and you’d like to share your comments, I’d welcome that too. It’s a long road, this writing one, and I’m glad to have any companions I can get.
How do you choose to get your work out there? This question—ebook or print?—is raging on LinkedIn. Sprinkled in but treated as an annoying buzzing mosquito of a distraction—quit bringing this up!— are a handful of posts about audio.
I am the buzzing mosquito.
Here, at Cain’t Do Nothing with Love, we are living in an audio world.
“Written and read by the author.”
If you want to know why I chose this route, click on “Q&A with the Author” above.
If you want confirmation this was a good decision, check out my page on podiobooks.com. People are listening to the stories. Hearing my words. Laughing, we hope.
Here’s to getting your work out there. Cheers to a new way of “reading” in the New Year!
I don’t know where you are—based on my blog stats, there’s a good chance you might be in Brazil or New Zealand or Italy or India or Britain—but whatever part of the world you’re in, it might be raining.
That steady downpour that makes you hunt a sofa, a blanket, a warm cup of coffee or tea.
You need a nap, really, a chance to drop off to sleep, snuggled on the sofa, stealing a moment of doing for yourself.
But what to do until sleep arrives?
The TV has become boring, and you’re too lazy right now to read.
Here’s the ticket: listen to this story. Or this one. Or if you are one of those folks who takes longer to drift off, give this one a try.
Seven minutes, eight, you’ll be done.
Turning over, yanking the covers beneath your chin, you’ll sigh in contentment. Sleep will descend, and your dreams will make you laugh out loud.
As much as I have promoted the free access to the stories—on this blog, iTunes, YouTube—one of the more popular vehicles for listening has been the $10 CDs. People listen in their cars; they use the CDs in their cars.
If you’d like to give a CD for Christmas, let me know. The CD has 4 stories—”Lucky Critters,” “Rollerblader for Jesus,” “Ain’t No Commies ‘Round Here,” and “Just Now.”
That’s 80 minutes of award-winning fiction.
LMK if you’d like to order one. I’d be glad for you to have it.
The face behind the voice.
Tell me if this is what you envisioned when you listened to the stories.
If you haven’t listened, click on a story then tell me what you think.
That first part—the man singing—that’s not me.
I’m the one talking.
Sometimes I get so frustrated by the pace of my writing career, I Google the titles of my novels to see if something is going on with them that I don’t know about. This is an insane activity, as the novels haven’t been published. The only place they exist—other than a mention or two in contests I’ve placed in over the years—are in my computer. Yet, my lack of control over the excruciatingly slow pace—snail doesn’t begin to describe it; a snail could have traveled to Mexico, attended Carlos Fuentes funeral, and traveled leisurely back to Memphis via Omaha—has driven me to such wacko behavior.
Novels, you say. Novel. I thought she was a short story writer? Well, you see that’s the problem. Before this venture, I was “the woman who wrote that book about making crosses.” I loved my experience of the cross book, and then it was time to move on. I next chose, in effect, to self-publish as a collection these short stories that individually appeared in literary journals, my desire being to introduce folks to my fiction. Do you feel introduced? Are you ready for the next thing?
Maybe my problem is an above-average need for attention and acclaim, fanfare and fawning. But here’s the honest truth: I’m ready for the next thing before most people are ready for me to be the next thing. I’m already skipping down the sidewalk, and they haven’t processed my last chalk drawing. I can’t help it. I’m ready to bop. I want the short stories to do their work and, well-loved, subside into the background.
Lord, did you see what that snail did with Burnt Water? That’s what happens when a snail gets too much tequila.
Remember: You Cain’t Do Nothing with Love (or craziness)
This is the last week of the rollout. Look back: the first story launched on June 26 (of this year, as my friend from writing group would clarify.) We sustained a hiatus when my daddy died, then resumed with vigor. When the current week is done, we will enter PHASE II. The collection will be made available in full on other host sites. The work will enter the wider world. So let’s enjoy this last moment of intimacy. When it’s just you and me and the stories, whispering in your ear: “Listen, I want to tell you a story.”
Our mini-series, “Recording Your Fiction,” is a on-going conversation about audio as a self-publishing option. I’m a published author who recently recorded my short story collection, Cain’t Do Nothing with Love. The stories have been rolling out on-line one story per week; they’re available for free listening on this blog, iTunes, and YouTube. Based on my experience with both the publishing and recording option, here are a few questions I’d ask myself if I were to make this decision again:
* Is there a reason you want the stories available in audio?
This sounds so simple, but recording your fiction is not a way to avoid technical issues, time commitment, or money. The actual recording is easy and inexpensive; the tricky part is cleaning up your recorded product so people want to listen to it. I could not have tackled the technicals necessary to learn how to do this. Thankfully, I had a friend who was a professional sound engineer who did it for me, but because he was a professional, he was not free. Thus, just like with self-publishing an e-book, you will have some combination of time and money invested in your audio collection. So, again, the question is: do you have a particular reason for wanting to record, rather then print, your fiction?
* Is your fiction suited to audio?
Listening is harder than reading. Sentences must clear. Action easy to follow, dialogue quickly attributed. This means you need a product that’s well written and, I hate to say it, well edited. If it’s not, the audio amplifies the problems.
* Do you like your recorded voice?
if you don’t have any experience with radio, etc., you might want to ask friends to help with this one. The first time you hear your recorded voice, you might think, God-almighty, that’s awful. Others might disagree. Or vice-versa—you might need some polishing that you don’t hear. But the bottom line is you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money producing something that you can’t stand to listen to.
* Are you ready to explain (over and over again) that you do not, in fact, have a book?
I have experienced a low-level of understanding about what I’m doing. I’m okay with that—I like doing new things—but the literary world isn’t really audio-friendly. Facebook, for example, has no page category for “audio book” so you check “book” and then—ha!—everyone thinks you have a book. If you want to fit easily into folks’ expectations, don’t record your fiction.
All of these answers, of course, are based on my very own personal experience. Others might feel differently. Hence a “conversation.” Let me know what you think.
I can feel it – I’m eating up track, finally in the groove for the story, and the week is over. Finished. Done. Time to move on.
A week is a short thing.
Stay tuned for a new story.
It involves Love.
And a man in a squirrel costume.
The stories are free, because so many of them have already been published in literary journals. To the extent I would be paid for them, I have been. So you get them for free.
There’s always a but, right?
It’s a little but, I promise.
Each story is paired with a charity, non-profit, or community organization. After you listen to the story, you have the option to donate to the paired organization.
$1. $2. $50. Whatever you feel you want to give.
Or give nothing. Just enjoy the stories.
Many of you have told me you’re listening.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Some of you have told me you’ve donated.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
If you’ve done neither, now’s your chance.