Category Archives: Short stories

Two stragglers

So first Fat Cyclist called me out, and then I called him out back, and then he missed his story deadline, and then I made my deadline for “The Rambler, Part 2,” and gave him more time and he got “Last Ride on the Kokopelli” done, and then November 30th at midnight, I missed my deadline for getting the whole book together and up for sale.

So…I can’t tell who won anything. I think we both lost—but we also both finished our stories, and I’m about to finish the book. That’s noble and honorable, right? Coming in under your own power after you miss the cutoff?

Here’s the cover:

RIDE3_cover_12_01_15

It still needs its back cover and spine designed, a missing author blurb snagged, ISBNs registered, and some other stuff that somebody’s got to do and I’m the only one here. I tried. Sometimes N+1 is how long it’s going to take to finish a book.

Should be a couple more days or so.

We also never quite got around to agreeing on exactly what would happen if one of us lost, but now that both of us have, it seems to me it should be doubled.

So if we take [never really figured out this bet] and double it, we get…uh…well, I think we get “donate money to each other’s favorite charity.”

What say you, FC?

two_stragglers

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The Man Who Designed Books

I REMEMBERED, WHILE compiling a big list of production managers, small press owners, and anybody else I could think of who might need my services, that they always ask for samples, and it always takes hours to figure out just what they want and which things to send. If they specialize in how-to for sports-loving arthropods, I wonder if the self-help for anxious cetaceans I did will be quite the right thing to send, and I notice, while browsing EXO-STRIKE! An Invertebrate’s Guide to Bowling (in order to familiarize myself with the publisher), that it contains a lot of diagrams; there are none in my design for EASY ECHOLOCATION: Mackerel Without Worry.
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A thought about an experiment in translation

This is on my personal blog instead of the RIDE blog because it’s just me thinking aloud.

Any literary translators out there?

So I was thinking it would be nice to have RIDE available in other languages, but then I thought, No, each translation would probably cost too much to make sense.

So then I thought, what about a royalty split? Translator gets a percentage. But then I thought, No, I had to stop doing royalty splits with authors because the accounting is so impossible, plus it’s kind of insulting to say, Hey, do all this work and you might get a fraction of what I get out of it.

So then I thought, what if the translator just gets all the sales income and I don’t get any part of it?

And then I thought, I’m not actually seeing a down side for anybody here. I wouldn’t make any money, for either my editing/design/production or my own story, but that’s not the same as a loss. The story authors and the artist would be in a similar situation: they’ve been paid and aren’t seeing anything more coming in after that anyway, and any author/artist who didn’t want to participate could just say no thanks. The translator wouldn’t get paid up front, but they wouldn’t have to spend anything, either, and after doing the work, they’d be the foreign publisher. So the first penny that came in on that edition would go directly to them—and so would the ten-thousandth penny.

Since we’re not dealing in physical copies, but rather in .epub, .mobi, and .pdf files, and I’d do the production work (slotting the translated stories into existing files where the English stories currently reside, changing the title on the cover from RIDE to whatever word now goes there, sending the files to the translator) without compensation as part of the experiment, there is no out-of-pocket expense for anybody, just some work for me and some work for the translator.

Translator starts their own accounts at Amazon, Lightning Source, B&N, iBooks, etc., uploads the files, talks it up online, and gets some money. How much money? I have no idea. Not a ton; RIDE isn’t The Hunger Games, and it only exists because I love bikes and wanted to read short stories about them, not because I did any market research. But the money also wouldn’t be zero.

But that’s the experiment’s main question: Is this a viable plan? Would everyone benefit enough to keep doing it? Would there be any kind of “rising tide floats all boats” effect? Would the expansion of the series into more languages help each edition sell more because the series itself becomes better known? Would anybody but the translator end up getting anything out of it? Would the translator get more than a few bucks?

I don’t know. It’s all question, no answer, at this point. But that’s my half-formed idea. What do you think?

If you comment, please include who you are, where you are, and what you do, so I can understand what perspective to read your comment from: Writer, publisher, translator, reader, know-it-all (pick just one, please), continental U.S., Fiji Islands…

translation_idea

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Night Ride

night_ride_cover_for_blog

AT THE TOP OF THE RISE he waits for the signal from the bottom, and when he hears GO! he lets off the brake and pushes the pedals. It’s not a big chainwheel he’s got, so his feet are spinning at top speed in about three seconds—but by then he’s already flying.

Last weekend he flashed past the dip at the bottom and got twenty feet up the other side before he had to stand out of the saddle. You had to stand when you climbed because it gave your legs more power.

This time he’s going to hit the uphill with great strength, pump right up it, even the steep part, and then take the curve at the top without stopping, all the way behind the trees where no one can see him.

GO GO GO GO the words whip past his ear and make him grin, sun and shadows strobing in his eyes, and then he’s ten feet up the shallow grade, twenty, thirty, the bike slowing so soon on the steep part and he’s up out of the saddle, fists clamped around the rubberized grips, King of the Mountains, polka-dot jersey. He chants:

I-must-con-cen-trate.

I-must-con-cen-trate.

I-must-con-cen-trate.

GO GO GO GO! behind him. YOU CAN DO IT YOU CAN DO IT CLIMB LITTLE MAN CLIMB CLIMB CLIMB CLIMB!

Bobby is six.

His daddy’s cheering for him. He climbs, climbs, climbs, conquers the little part where it’s steepest and you have to push your legs hard instead of just riding your bike, and then he’s out of sight where Daddy can’t see him, which is a great joke.

Walking up the paved pathway toward him is an old man.

“Hey, Bobby,” the old man says. “Remember me?”

Bobby’s still looking at him when he hears his daddy’s bike come rolling up behind him.

“Dad,” his daddy says.

“Bob-by!” says his grandpa to his daddy.

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Three questions

RIDE 2 cover

Cross-posted at the RIDE blog.

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IT DIDN’T OCCUR to me, when I decided to use this “Three Questions” game to say what I liked about each story, or why I’d chosen it, that I would eventually come to my own. Instead of telling you how great it is, I’ll tell you something I learned.

The first RIDE anthology (mumble mumble purchase mumble) was my first stab at being an editor and publisher. One of my mistakes was in sending Advance Reading Copies to reviewers when everything was almost perfect—except for my own story, a novelette called “Night Ride.” The cover did say UNCORRECTED PROOFS, after all, which people would know meant there was still some hammering and sawing going on, and I was thinking of the book as a team effort, which implied there was a team for me to take one for. People were trusting me, and if tasks had to fall undone before the ARCs had to go, it was only fair if most of them fell into the bucket with my own name on it. So I sent the ARCs out.

And then I minded.

Not as much, though, as I’d have minded being that guy who sends a string of “Wait, I uploaded a new version!” emails.. So I stuck Don’t ship the ARC before your story is as polished as all the other ones in the “lessons learned for next time” column, along with Don’t publish the ebook and the print book at different times and Don’t miss the holiday sales window.

Those last two…well, RIDE 3, I’ll do better. But “The Rambler, Part 1” was nice and shiny before the first review copies of RIDE 2 went out. And—yeah, it’s a poem. It rhymes. I was reading Chaucer in the tub on my iPad, and I saw that he was heavy on the plot and light on the closely observed moment, and I went I can do that! I can not observe stuff!

…up through Harlem, onto Broadway; picking
out his silhouette, they weave to follow,
sticking tight past Jimmy Jazz, Apollo,
Duane Reade, Rite Aid, Popeye’s Chicken,
toward the river, tires quicken
toward the bridge that goes to Jersey.
If he’s caught—there’ll be no mercy.

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Barb Goffman (“Ulterior Motives”)

asks three questions of

Keith Snyder (“The Rambler, Part 1”)

Barb: In “The Rambler, Part I,” your rider is using his bike as a means of escape, literally. Have you ever raced away from someone on a bike, trying to avoid them?

Keith: I like to do these things called brevets, which are long-distance rides with proscribed routes and time limits. I’m also the CEO and OGH (Only Guy Here) of a book design company that grew from a fledgling business that sucked up all my time in 2011 to a big workload that sucked up all my time in 2012. So my last ride that went all night was in 2010.

Whaddayagonnado—I been busy.

But in 2010, I was severely underemployed and emotionally shredded, so I was riding longer distances. One was a 400K that went through the Pine Barrens at night.

The overnight portion of a brevet can be physically and emotionally difficult; you’re fatigued, it may have been a while since your last real food, you’ve had several imaginary but not entirely silent confrontations with the most obtuse people of your acquaintance, and your metabolic thermostat has sprung its coil. You can’t remember why you thought this was a good idea, your car is fifty miles away, and there’s no train and zero bars on your phone.

Brevet routes tend to be designed to put you on smaller highways and mountain roads as much as possible, both to reduce the number of cars you’ll encounter and because stoplights bleed your average speed more than you’d think. (Well, stopping at them does, anyway.) So depending on route, season, weather, and velocity—I’m slow—you can end up in unlit desolation for long stretches of time, able to see only as far as your headlight beam, utterly blind to the sides and rear. 4am isn’t just the best time for an army to attack, because the other army is at its worst; it’s also when a dirty, discouraged randonneur (or frozen, or drenched; we do this in all weather) can’t see the point of this anymore.

The Pine Barrens are a forest shot through with cranberry bogs. There are no streetlights because there is almost no night traffic, and there are no stars except those directly overhead, because the pine trees snuff them out in all directions. On this night there was no moon, either, and an overcoat of clouds over whatever stars had escaped the pine trees. I could see the highway in front of me well enough to think every stretching shadow was a pothole, but the portion of beam higher than the road didn’t do anything but collude with every reflective highway sign to blow out my vision and hint at an ever-moving wedge of distant black foliage.

But you can hear things in the cranberry bogs.

I don’t know species, so I classify them all by size. That soft crackling and crunching, very soft, everywhere, is the the local insect biomass stumbling over thousands of tiny twigs, falling off leaves, dropping into ponds. Briefer, more directional little snaps and dull creaks are your beefier bugs and possible birds. Next larger: definite birds—woodpeckers, the occasional confused rooster—and continuing up the size scale are your random small mammals, trotting coyote, bored, leaping deer, the isolated shapeless thing skulking across the highway.

And to my left, the deep, leathery flap of something huge in the air, rising off a dirty water surface. There’s a creek, or a bog, or a flooded ditch off the highway there, because the rising thing’s feet drag on liquid as its wings beat. It gains altitude ponderously, amassing momentum, its hot weight coming even with me, then rising above eye level—and my panic has flooded me with so much strength, I can barely get my fumbling fingers on the shifters.

Once identifiable as little rocks, gravel has become dim streaks beneath my pedals. I’m maintaining barely enough self-mastery to not flub a shift and grind my non-precision budget drivetrain. Hair surges on my neck and forearms—the luxurious wingbeat is closer, the dense black body gliding in the humid black air; my butt’s bouncing because I just outran my gearing. The highway floats ahead in a few dozen feet of bulbous gray light. A few inches behind my saddle, the floating glow of a deep red coal—the brightest taillight on the Internet—is beacon and rangefinder for anything that wants to strip my nerves from my meat.

There’s a deep bovine growl three feet from my ear, a hot snort on my cheek. I’ve just whimpered and my legs are spinning faster than the gears can accept, and I don’t know what gear I’m in, so I shove a shift lever in my blind panic, and there’s a cling! and a thrrrrrip!; my pedaling legs flail against nothing, and I understand that the chain has come off.

A single blast of warm air into my face and through my helmet vents, and thick leather wings and a whip tail clip the topmost antumbra of my headlight, as I grab my handlebars and fight to keep from crashing; I stutter-step with one foot a few times because I can’t remember how to unclip the other one and I stand alone shaking, the flashbulb impression of a massive bat ray still fading in my retinas, and up in the depth of night, something smashes the tops of the invisible pines.

Barb: Is there anywhere in the world you would like to explore on a bicycle but haven’t been able to? If so, where and why? And what’s holding you back?

Keith: There aren’t that many places I wouldn’t like to. In some alternate universe, I have no family and one of these. In that same universe, its bushings never fail, and my witty, self-deprecating accounts of adventures through a smorgasbord of terrains and cultures are the most fascinating things that happen near the onion dip at parties of A-list literati; but this never happens. So let’s just keep things as they are.

Barb: What’s your most embarrassing or funny biking story?

Keith: FCO (Failure to Clip Out) in front of Princess Grace of Monaco. She pretended not to see, but we both knew.

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LIKE YOU’VE NEVER read Chaucer in the tub on your iPad.

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The Next Big Thing: RIDE 2

(Cross-posted at the RIDE blog.)

Barb Goffman—whose story “Ulterior Motives,” appears in RIDE 2—tagged me in the Next Big Thing blog chain, which is authors answering ten specific questions about their books. I said SURE! and set a calendar alarm to write my blog entry, because I am responsible like that. (Also because with twins and jobs and RIDE and stuff, if it doesn’t have an iCal alarm, it doesn’t exist.)

So today the alarm went off, and I wrote about RIDE 2, which will be out in a week if people will just stop paying me to design other books for a few hours.


THE NEXT BIG THING: RIDE 2

RIDE 2 cover

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wanted to read a book of short stories about bicycles, but there wasn’t one. So I posted a call for submissions on my blog, and at the end of 2011, I published RIDE. I design books and produce ebooks for a living, so except for making time for all the work, I didn’t need to worry about that part of it.

It didn’t sell a zillion copies, but people in bicycling were enthusiastic about it, and I wanted to read another one, so I posted another call for submissions at my blog…

What genre does your book fall under?

From the beginning, I wanted a mix of genres. I mostly listen to music in shuffle mode; I like the chance juxtapositions and weird contrasts. Nine Inch Nails followed by Floyd Cramer? Nice. Floyd opens for Congotronics? And then Youssou N’Dour sings something Egyptian, followed by a cut from the new Ethel album, a cue from Ry Cooder’s Crossroads soundtrack, and a Danny Kaye and Jimmy Durante novelty number? Lovely. Jarring. Pleasurable.

Some of my favorite moments are when I can’t tell whether some cool piece of sound is a study in tone that’s going to slowly mutate for a while, or the introduction to something in pop form, so the drums are about to start whacking away in 4/4. Not knowing forces me to withhold judgment, and to take each moment of the piece in on its own terms, not the terms of the genre I’ve been told to judge it by, or previous things I’ve heard the same artist do.

RIDE 2 has crime; it has non-crime written by a crime author; it has poetry masquerading as prose; it has story disguised as poetry; it has visions, crashes, love, death, and gloating. Each story is what it is, and I don’t care if a reader thinks it’s one thing and then finds out it’s another. I don’t have an anti-genre stance, but I also think it’s nice not to know what’s coming all the time, and a collection of short stories is a perfect place for that.

That said, I’d love to see a Western for RIDE 3. Or science fiction. Or something based around feminism and the Arab Spring, or…I dunno, you tell me. I’m just the editor.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My piece is an epic poem about an eternal cyclist chased by monsters, so it would have to be somebody who does tough, lean, dirty, and scared pretty well. Who’s that? I have no idea. I didn’t pay attention to movie stars when I was in my twenties; I definitely don’t know who’s who now.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The second collection of short fiction about bicycles.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m the publisher of RIDE 2. I guess that means my own story in it is self-published, but no one else’s is. (And this isn’t a collection of free stories by pals; I solicit, I edit, I publish, I pay.)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Cumulative time between all authors, all stories? Oh, boy, I don’t know. 0.003 epochs?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

As near as I can tell, as far as bike fiction, we’re it. We are the genre.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Impatience, probably.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

If I didn’t really like everything about RIDE 2, I wouldn’t be publishing it, with my name on it as editor. That’s what piques my interest: All the great stuff. Crime fiction or bike people who want names they recognize might be drawn in by SJ Rozan, Barb Goffman, or Kent Peterson. People who hate poetry will be interested in the stories. People who hate bicycles or short stories won’t be piqued—or anyway, their interests won’t be—and should buy something else from Amazon instead. Canned pears, maybe. Bamboo manicure sticks. Don’t buy RIDE 2; you won’t like it.

In fact, here’s the whole lineup:

Escape Velocity—S.J. Rozan
Made with Extra Love—Kent Peterson
Polo—Eric Neuenfeldt
Ulterior Motives—Barb Goffman
The Rambler, Part 1—Keith Snyder
I’ve Begun to See Things—Jan Maher
Dert—Jon Billman
The Persistence of Memory—Jan Maher
Beat the Devil Home—K.I. Hope
Passing Thoughts—Nigel Greene

RIDE 2 will be available in ebook and print, just in time for holiday ordering (edit: well, the ebooks are; print will be in January). Subscribe to the RIDE blog or follow @ridebikefiction on Twitter if you want to know when it happens.


So as I mentioned, the alarm went off for me to write this, which was this morning, and I’d already been thinking about what to write, so it was going to be pretty quick–but then when I pulled up the questions–

I’d somehow blown right past the part where I needed to have found more authors to tag already.

Luckily, when I said UH OH and went googling to see how other people had fared, in case maybe I wasn’t the only one who’d messed that part up, the first two intros I read were about how they hadn’t realized they needed to tag people.

And even more luckily, after it turned out most of my mystery friends had either already done it, or had just emailed me to find out if I was interested in being one of their five tagged authors, I realized that this coming to me through Women of Mystery was appropriate: I had not just a woman of mystery I could pull into the vortex, but a woman of Mystery. After all, who knows more about Mystery than clergy?

So next Friday will be MaryAnn McKibben Dana, who blogs about…well, kind of everything at The Blue Room Blog, and recently told Presbyterians they’re pregnant, answering these questions about her new book SABBATH IN THE SUBURBS. Which I have a cameo in. I play a funny secular Jew at a playground. I’m great. You should buy it.

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Announcing the authors of RIDE 2!

…which, unless I think of an even more splendiferous title, will be called

RIDE 2: More short fiction about bicycles Continue reading

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