Ink and Virtual Ink

I write every day. It’s a reliable and productive way to do the job and besides, I am an obsessive sort, given to 15-year spurts of sometimes/usually idiotic fervour.

Entering now my second full year of devotion to fiction only somewhat interrupted by the needs of my splintered 67-year-old cottage, I now appreciate that “writing every day” has strata and graduations.

Yesterday, for example, I did a lot of “real writing”; top strata stuff. I wrote about half a story — a tale of logging in the temperate rainforest in British Columbia. Next, I refined and polished an existing 2300-worder that is quite new and in which I have a lot invested. It has been shit-canned (declined) a few times but I think it’s getting close. I redid the ending and the opening sentence – hard stuff, there. Neat. No rocks or mix. After polishing, I submitted it to a site that I am excited about and hope to get my second base hit in as many at-bats with them.

That almost covers the pale; writing, re-writing & editing, polishing, blogging, tweeting.

The first four are production. The last two are sales and marketing. Those two major divisions–production | marketing–are similar to the disciplines in which I spent, respectively, much of my work career. The first sixteen years making things out of wood; the next 21 making things out of thin air. Well, words and pictures, anyway.

Like everyone else, when I made the jump to hyperspace and gave myself freely to the gods of fiction, it was with the belief that I would be writing. That’s it. I’d write stories. People would read them. Various levels of mutual satisfaction and progress would ensue.

I had no notion that there would be various levels or that I’d be like every cop character on every crime drama on TV, ever — I would love the real police work (ie. writing) and detest the ignoble job of “paperwork” (ie. promotion). Ironic, since I spent the last two decades trying to persuade people to buy stuff. I was a brass-knuckled, bull moose promoter.

So, to recap: the item you are reading right now is blogging. This level of writing is without doubt, not pure art. Nor is it pure fluff. It’s somewhere in between and would take a far stouter mind than mine to reckon where on the entertainment vs enlightenment scale it falls.

A few days back I had TWO short stories launching on one day. Two distinct stories on two distinct sites. A good day. (June 5 – buy a lottery ticket next year. Trust me.) So that day was spent in the throes of persuasion and proclamation. I had written two stories, sweated the shit out of them and put my bloody, beating heart into them. Risked ridicule. Banished doubt – if only long enough to press SEND. I had been rewarded by two smart, discerning, educated and deadly serious editors with two separate acceptances. (Take THAT, Duotrope statistics!) So, you have to agree, having put all that soul into the scribblings, I owed it to myself to see to it that a few readers learned of these acceptances – these hallowed, hard-won publications. 

Can I get an AMEN?

But. Yeah, “but.” The fly in the proverbial colloidal gel is that all that time I spent being glib and puntastic on twitter and Niume and FlipBoard and whatever-the-hell-other intercapped literary promo web sites you got… was time spent–all together now–NOT WRITING.

Yes, instead of writing the first half of that lumberjack story or finishing one of the other dangling dirty realities I have on my artiste’s workbench, I twiddled and twaddled and twittered. I blithered and I blogged and the fork ran away with the spoon.

So, in the final analysis, promo is just part of the job. The writer’s job. There’s no doubt. Pipsqueak writers like me, afloat in the immense literary ocean, splash and wave and try to flash a mirror in the eye of the hoards of readers and literati who sail by. Big shot authors have their people* do all the promo stuff, BUT they have to make the rounds. They have to dress well, be literate beyond the “How about those Canucks?” level and speak intelligently and with the appeal of the celebrity class about their writing; other writing; all writing; art; and LIFE.

Life, Goddamnit, life.

So, I had better get used to it. (Again.) Back to the promotional coal mines. Back down–like Vincent Van Gogh and the children of Borinage–into the pitch black of the coal mine of sales, marketing, advertising. Back to the banalities of brand, the anal obsession with attributes, and the diatribe of differentiation.

Toews short stories: “Great Taste!” “Less Filling!”

“One third fewer adverbs per page!”

“Read, WOMEN WITHOUT BONNETS for raw, unbridled Mennonite dance party descriptions, ripped from the lives of ditt sied!”

I think I will just let my inner smart-ass take over the marketing department and, you know, let the F-bombs, the arcane references, and the obscure puns fall where they may. Who knows? That may be the best marketing plan of all.

allfornow – Mitch

(*They have people, don’t they? I want them to have people.)

 

 

 

First Birthday

It will soon be a year, June 21, 2016, since my first short story was accepted and published by a literary journal. That story was Encountered on the Shore, on CommuterLit.

Since that time I have added 24 acceptances to my credit roll. By now, I am pretty sure I am committed to, “this fiction thing,” as those near me tend to describe it.

It has been hard work. “Ha!” you say, and the old-school, Menno scoffer in me tends to agree, but it’s true. I have submitted 112 times and have 21 submissions currently outstanding. My written word count is somewhere in the 125,000-word range. My acceptance rate on Duotrope is .342 for fiction. That’s the same as Babe Ruth’s lifetime batting average. (The Bambino, as you prolly know, was a helluva wordsmith…)

So far, it’s been fun. Rewarding; a satisfying ego boost when you see your name in print. There is collateral damage though. I am boring and tedious at parties, of which — no surprise — I attend few. Golf buddies roll their eyes and their putts. My wife is an excellent changer-of-topics.

It is also dismaying — seeing all the strained passages and obvious typos that everyone (mostly me) missed.

But, I am now entering the second ring. My stories are a little harder to write because I am choosing more controversial topics. I am beginning to piss people off. (Something I’ve always found easy to accomplish.) My kids don’t always want to read my stuff and I am pretty sure my son-in-laws have used the, “must be some other Toews guy,” excuse, at least once.

I am not sure what the outcome will be, but like old Ad Francis in “The Battler”, it feels good to hit and it feels good to be able to take a hit. (I have been scolded by more than one editor.) Here below is the current list of publications and a more detailed accounting (with links, log lines, and excerpts) may be found here: https://mitchellaneous.com/write-clicks/

 

Kits mitch zoom
Me, striking a prose…

 

CommuterLit
Rhubarb Magazine
Voices Journal
Fiction on the Web
Literally Stories
Red Fez
Broken Pencil
The Machinery
SickLit
Storgy
The MOON magazine
Alsina Publishing

#

Social media touchpoints: Facebook, twitter, Niume, LinkedIN, Flipboard, Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Google+, Gravatar, and Instagram. Also, as you well know, comments, liking, following, sharing and favouriting are things that help an emerging* writer in the hunt for readers.

Tweets: @mitchell_toews #mitchelltoews #amwriting #shortstories #canlit #mennonite #fiction

allfornow – mitch

*At my age, maybe more like submerging? A distinction that writer, translator and friend Hege Anita Jakobsen-Lepri pointed out. https://www.linkedin.com/in/hege-anita-jakobsen-lepri-8231856/

 

The Beefeater and the Donnybrook

Ever had one of those days? Micah James, a city engineer from Halifax, Nova Scotia has.

Read about it here on one of the internet’s first and best literature websites, Fiction on the Web!

 

“He waited in line at the reception desk, listening to an instrumental version of a Bob Dylan song. It was piping out of a speaker in the ceiling above him and he laid his head back to peer at it. Thinking of his own rapid descent into hell, he picked detritus from his oily beard; bits of plastic and other rancid urban spod. His thinning hair hung in limp disarray and the belt of his raincoat had come loose and was dragging on the ground behind him like an obedient, filthy snake.”

Short-story_20_transparent_216pxFotW has been named a “Top 20 Short Story Blog”

 

The Log Boom

Every story I write is an amalgam of experiences and imaginings; a hybrid mixture that flows with the emotion and intention that are in me in at that moment. The experiences of others, particularly in difficult circumstances that amplify the things about them that I value, are often a profound source of inspiration.

The catch is that these stories are sometimes hard to relate. Here is one from that slippery category, on storgy.com

UPDATE: 6.10.17

“The Log Boom” is my most re-tweeted story, so far. Of the 25 or so stories that I have had published to literary sites in the past year, this is also one of the most-liked and most-viewed.  I realize that these are not big numbers but for an unknown guppy alone in the vast ocean of fiction, I am happy for the attention.

Glub. Glub.

(Thanks again to Storgy.)

Log Boom Twitter stats 6.10.17

I hope you enjoy it and if you care to, please feel free to comment – your feedback is welcome. https://storgy.com/2017/05/19/fiction-the-log-boom-by-mitchell-toews/

The two stood in a hard-packed dirt barnyard, facing the end wall of an old dairy barn. The smell of cows still permeated the air. It was sweet, fetid and oddly appealing – the kind of smell that was at first unpleasant but that, over time, one grew accustomed to. After a while, it was as if your nose craved it. Marty had always found that strange but undeniable. He craved it now.

The younger one of the two – a tall boy – sniffed and peaked his eyebrows.

“Same smell,” he said.

“Yeah, there hasn’t been a cow here for six years, but…” Marty’s words trailed off as he tilted his head up to find the familiar scent.

[snip]

Images: Storgy.com

storgy logo

STORGY was founded in 2013 by Tomek Dzido and Anthony Self as a means by which to explore the short story form and engage with readers and artists alike. An online literary short story magazine consisting of a core group of dedicated writers, STORGY aims to inspire artistic collaboration and provide opportunities for creative minds to meet. 

allfornow – Mitch

Striking a Prose

An unfortunate tourist(er) from “The Beefeater and the Donnybrook”, running May 19 on Fiction on the Web

Two Short Stories are Going Live on Friday!

Unrelated except that they are both original, previously unpublished stories of mine, these two yarns appear on two different literary websites. They are QUITE different; which is like saying that the current American President is quite unconventional.

That’s the beauty, right? Pathos, irony, absurdity and sorrow; alternating or simultaneous. What is more tragic — or more joyful — than a simple life?

Friday, May 19! Storgy.com: “The Log Boom”; tragedy across three generations in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, and Fiction on the Web: “The Beefeater and the Donnybrook”; humour on the gritty streets of London.

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; make it hot by striking.”

(WB Yeats)

With thanks to the editors @morestorgy and @fishcharlie!

allfornow – Mitch

A Writerly Reinvention

A new publication came to my attention and I was intrigued by the unique model it employs.


alsina info“At Alsina, we connect your work with readers from the outset. Our readers are engaging with our product to learn a language, so you are connecting with a whole new group of people that you would not otherwise have access to. When they read your work, they can follow you to get updates when you publish your second or third story with us. They have easily-accessible links to your website, so they can link through to your longer work, sign up for your mailing list, and so on.”

So, it’s a fresh opportunity to put out a flash fiction (1000-word maximum) and have it translated into several languages. Readers use the stories to develop their language skills in an enjoyable and intuitive way.

I submitted a 968-word story called, “The Light Pool”, and was delighted to have it accepted by Alsina Publishing

Opening the window, I listened to the crickets and frogs calling from the valley below as the beautiful silver sedan crossed the Don River Bridge. I inhaled, expecting to smell fresh summertime vegetation – ferns and flowering trees. Instead, there was the vile stench of hog rendering, the heavy synthetic odour of chemical discharge and the sharp, acrid reek of poultry effluent. I pushed the button and the glass hummed up into the thick rubber rim. [snip]

The story will run in the near future, after an editing round. I have been challenged by the Alsina editors to serialize my story and come up with sequels to “The Light Pool”. This approach makes sense for both writer and reader and it’s clear how a “mini-series” could be an especially good way for ESL readers (and learners studying in other languages) to build on the words and concepts they have learned by reading previous instalments in the same set.

meanings

Altogether, a thoroughly innovative and exciting proposition! Stand by for a publication date for “The Light Pool” soon and meanwhile, visit some of the links provided on this page to see what Alsina is all about! http://www.alsinapublishing.com/blog/

allfornow – Mitch

The Rothmans Job

My noirish crime fiction, “The Rothmans Job”, has earned a reprint in SickLit Magazine. Readers seem to like the characters in this story. Me too.

SickLit is an online zine with the tagline, “Bringing the real. Keeping the weird.” I suppose that this twisted tale fits that mandate. Thanks to SickLit for picking me up on such a cold, dark night. Thanks too, to CommuterLit, who ran the story originally.

Like ‘Rella, in the story, I remain optimistic. “Against all odds”, is not such a bad place – at least you know where you stand. If you like this story – please share it. If you hate it – hit me in the face a few times and I promise not to counter-punch or argue. I’ll just get back up and keep trudging until I disappear in a flurry of snow.

bb48de0d4e107d2f3c9922b13a254df5 pegasus

allfornow – Mitch

@Mitchell_Toews

Winter Eve at Walker Creek Park

A NEW SHORT STORY appears today (Feb 17) on CommuterLit. “Winter Eve at Walker Creek Park” will be my 20th overall to be published online and in print, and the seventh to be accepted by Toronto’s CommuterLit e-zine. It is “Friday’s Flash Fiction” and is indeed a flash fiction; about three sips of coffee long.

The story is set in St. Catharines where loved ones, dearly missed, reside.

See CommuterLit for LINKS to my other tales:  In June 2016 editor Nancy Kay Clark chose “The Red River Valley Trilogy“: “Encountered on the Shore”, “A Vile Insinuation”, and “Without Reason”. The linked stories concern, respectively: the aftermath of a violent encounter on a city street; a young American leaving the ball fields of North Dakota for the killing fields of Vietnam; and a devout Mennonite man grappling with cancer and faith.

“Gather By the River” ran the week of Dec 5. It appeared in two parts on consecutive days. “Zero to Sixty”, the lead segment, introduces the chief character and his circumstances; sparking some poignant memories of Hartplatz, his childhood home. In the second piece, “The Margin of the River”, the protagonist returns to the scene of the previous day’s incident with troubling results.

On January 30, 2017 “The Rothmans Job” a wintery, noir-comedy-caper story set in downtown Winnipeg ran on CommuterLit.com.

The Bottom of the Sky

Hi everyone!

I have a new story.

It is a prequel to the story that first appeared in Rhubarb Magazine, “A Fisherman’s Story”. This piece becomes a Part 1 to that original tale of a family on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Part 1 is in 1955, in Acapulco and tells of one of the original characters, when he was a younger man, captaining a fishing charter boat. The original piece is Part 2 and is told primarily through the experience of the wife; the mujere.

I have re-named it, “The Bottom of the Sky” , comprising Part 1 Acapulco 1955 and Part 2 Puerta Vallarta 1975.

Here are a few excerpts:

Avelino walked the tourist beaches. His officina, as he liked to joke with the Americans who lay like white cordwood in neat rows, toes pointing at the sun. He had a photo album with pictures of the azul boat; fish strung on the scale at the Acapulco dock; smiling American faces, sun-tanned with movie-star sunglasses and drinks in hand. He was charming and good looking and he hooked many gringo fish.

[Snip]

After a quiet half-hour of trolling they came to a feeding fish. In the split second before it happened, Jose could feel the strike. Then the rod bucked in the holder and the line peeled out in a persistent zazzzzz sound like fingernails on nylon. The pinche yelled and the woman named Angel clapped her hands, her red fingernails looking like spattered blood against the bright horizon.

[Snip]

“Senor Bart! Por favor,” Jose strode rearward with the rod harness, its buckles jingling, passing it to the large man. Then he hurried to the transom where the fishing line danced and swung like a kite tail above the bubbles in the wake of the boat.

[Snip]

The boat rocked in silence at the wharf, next to the scales. Jose sat on the dock staring down into the dirty water. The American had shouted something, cursing as he climbed into a taxi with the women. Doris stared at Jose from the car, her eyes dark and hateful – not the fairy blue they were when she reached over and touched his arm with hers.

[Snip]

YOU KNOW HOW IT IS, RIGHT? You create something that you feel good about – it’s honest, or you believe it to be so. You love it. Shitface drunk love. Then you slowly get to know it – you see it age like a child – and you recognize flaws that you were earlier willing to ignore. You work on it over and over until it is the best you can do; things become stale and the edits you make just become a false shuffle of the deck – nothing really changes.

Then a month goes by (or six) and you read it again. You see things and maybe after a sleep – waking up at three A.M. – you figure out what to do.

And then you love it again the same way it was when it was born, except maybe it’s a more mature love – maybe you accept it in a way you could not before, including the things that you could still change, but, you don’t. The story, like the characters in it, is partly good and partly bad – flawed but capable of splendor.

Blah-blah-blah. 🙂

I am a proud father today and maybe this will find a publication home. I’ll send it to a few “early readers” in the meantime and will report it here if it does get picked up.

Another day in the life — I better get down to the beach before my wife becomes certain that I have lost my mind.

allfornow – mitch

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017