Tag Archives: Writing

Reminder: Read My Book

3 Apr

My book, Foleytown: Comic Tales of Growing Up in Various Unfashionable Parts of California, contains nineteen humorous (at least I hope people find them humorous) tales about growing up in inland California–the part that most people outside of the state have never heard of (or even many people inside the state).


Foleytown is available in print and e-book formats. I painted the cover illustration, of course. 

If you liked the movie Lady Bird, concerning a girl who grew up in a scrubby working-class part of Sacramento, you may very well like my book also. The most recent review notes:

“These stories are charming, well-paced, and exhibit the author’s craft very nicely. The universal appeal of the folks-ey tales appealed to me, struck a familiar chord, and caused me to yearn for simpler times. I hope that S.K. Cole plans another publication soon.”

Update on Literary Progress

22 Jul

My second book of short stories, Sutton County Line: Seven Supernatural Tales, In Homage to Ray Bradbury’s Greentown Stories, is done and I’m just doing line edits on the print-outs. As the title indicates, it’s a collection of loosely connected, fantasy/supernatural short stories inspired by Bradbury’s Greentown stories, but based in a facsimile of my own hometown in the North Central Valley of California. The first story is a novella entitled The Drowning Game and then following are six stories using the same setting and several of the same characters. I’ve been reliably informed that the novella is the hardest of all literary formats to sell to traditional publishers, so I will be self-publishing, most likely through Kindle Direct/Create Space instead.

I also started a new novel, which, like Sutton County Line, is in the literary supernatural/fantasy genre, with the working title of Herba Clepta. This started out as just a short story of about 5,000 words, and then it just grew into something more. I frequently do that, usually because I like to do deeper character development than most shorter formats allow.


E-Book is Out

1 Jul

The issues surrounding the publication of my book, Foleytown, have been resolved, and both the e-book and the print versions are available at Authorhouse, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. The e-book is only $3.99, so I expect all five of my regular readers to buy one (just kidding!)foleytown

From the book’s blurb:

Foleytown is a special place…a place where there is always a shortage of money but never a shortage of laughs. Follow the children of the large, financially struggling Foley clan as they navigate through “bloody” pomegranate fights, epic games of Christmas Card War, homemade bridesmaid dresses, fears of itinerant serial killers, and the cherished summer tradition they called “Prune-Why-Oh” – all while learning how to grow up in a very unfashionable part of California.

As Jack Lord would have said in 1969, “Be there — Aloha!”

One of My Books is Live!

14 Jun

My book Foleytown  is finally on sale online, although the ebook hasn’t shown up at Amazon yet and I’m trying to iron that out with the publisher. But you can order the physical book for $13.99 and the ebook for $3.99 at Authorhouse; the dead-tree version is also $13.99 Amazon. Note: If you buy it from Authorhouse I get a few more shekels than if you buy it from Amazon.

Here’s a description of the book:

Foleytown is a special place…a place where there is always a shortage of money but never a shortage of laughs. Follow the children of the large, financially struggling Foley clan as they navigate through “bloody” pomegranate fights, epic games of Christmas Card War, homemade bridesmaid dresses, fears of itinerant serial killers, and the cherished summer tradition they called “Prune-Why-Oh” – all while learning how to grow up in a very unfashionable part of California.

If you order it, please leave me a review at either Authorhouse or Amazon. Thanks!

Self-Publishing Costs

7 Jun

From Jen Owenby, a useful post about how much you can expect to pay to produce a finished indie book, using free-lance editors, designers and proofreaders, etc.  I haven’t used any of these services myself, but it’s good to have a guide for future references.

Donald Trump’s Book Reviews!

9 Mar

This Buzzfeed article using Donald Trump’s Twitter writing style to review famous books is hilarious! I’ve been inspired to write several of my own reviews in Trump Twitterspeak. See what you think!

Brideshead Revisted: Loser Charles Ryder falls in love with a rich gay drunk, then gets dumped by the drunk’s sister. Pathetic!

The Great Gatsby: Dummy Jay Gatsby wastes five years pining for a selfish bimbo who only cares about herself.
His pink suits are a disgrace!

The Shining: Weirdo kid’s family moves into a creepy deserted hotel, then his dad goes apeshit.
Wouldn’t happen in a Trump hotel!

Lord of the Flies: Spoiled Limey brats get marooned on an island and worship a dead pig. Then they kill each other. Boring!

For Whom the Bell Tolls: Loser Robert Jordan fights for Spanish Commies, then gets wasted on a hill.
I respect the ones who didn’t get killed!

The Grapes of Wrath: Dummy Joad family moves to California expecting primo wages for farm work.
Then they find out it was a lie. Should have stayed in Oklahoma!

Madame Bovary: Greedy French bimbo cheats on her dopey doctor husband, then bankrupts him.
He should have gotten a good pre-nup like me!

The Canterbury Tales: A bunch of Limey losers gather at an inn and tell each other their life stories–boring. Dopey Chaucer couldn’t even speak real English!

Gone With the Wind: Dummy Scarlett O’Hara pines for dopey Ashley for years. She’s too dumb to see that Rhett Butler is her true love. I wouldn’t date her!

Little Women: Four penniless girls and their mom struggle to survive while their dad is away at war.
Marmee should have dumped the deadbeat dad and married rich old Mr. Laurence!

Classic Ghost Story

18 Apr

Does anybody read the classic ghost story anymore? I fell in love with this story format when I was about eight or nine, and my two older sisters gifted me with a couple of volumes of stories from the Golden Age of Ghost Stories in the late 19th–early 20th Century. I quickly learned to appreciate the work of authors such as M. R. James, F. Marion Crawford, August Derleth, Lady Cynthia Asquith, E. F. Benson, William Hope Hodgson, and H. Russel Wakefield. (Most of them were British, with a few Americans thrown in–although the Americans, like Ambrose Bierce and August Derleth, usually set their tales in the British Isles as well.)

I left those two books behind at my childhood home years ago, but some years back, I bought replacements for both from a used book site. I re-read them and enjoyed them even more as an adult–for one thing, I understood the somewhat archaic language, and some of the Britishisms, much better than I did at age nine.

I recently completed a short story in tribute to those old-fashioned ghost stories and I’m posting it here for my readers’ opinion (all five of you!). The story is a reworking of one of M. R. James’s most famous tales, Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad, except that it’s been transplanted from early 20th Century England to rural California in the 1970s, and it contains a grim little twist at the end that I think James would have appreciated.

The story is part of a collection featuring the same location and characters, and this is one of the later ones in the collection, so it does reference a few events from the earlier stories. However, if you ignore those small  references, it pretty much stands well enough on its own. It’s called Water Summons. I hope you enjoy it.

In addition, here’s a link to an excellent TV dramatization of Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad from the late 1960s:

Quick Estimate

16 Mar

Sutton County Line is now at 37,000 words. Foleytown is around 60,000 words. Western Waste is about 100,000 words. Gatsby’s Ghost (unfinished) is about 25,000 words.

In the last six years, I’ve written nearly 250,000 words of fiction. That doesn’t include blog posts, an unfinished play, a couple of unfinished short stories, etc. Hard to believe!

When Did Our Fruit Get Cute?

16 Dec

Just some recent ramblings of a suburban American Mom:

I noticed it a few years ago. My daughter asked me to buy “Cuties” at the grocery store. I corrected her: “That’s just a weird brand name. Those are tangerines. You need to call them tangerines.”

“No, they are Cuties,” she replied, with the maddening certainty of a bossy, nine-year-old girl.

A neighbor of mine has two large and very productive tangerine trees, visible from the street. “Cutie trees!” she said, soon after this conversation, while we were walking about the neighborhood.

I sighed.

The Battle of the Cuties appears to have been won, and I wasn’t on the winning side. In fact, I even started calling tangerines Cuties as well.

The next time I went grocery shopping, I looked carefully at the cardboard label on the red, plastic mesh bag that encased the Cuties. I discovered that the Cutie purveyors had basically decided to erase a commonly accepted English word and create a whole new word in its stead. I felt vaguely uncomfortable.

“They can’t just do that, can they?” I thought. “They can’t just change an established word for a fruit species just to make it sound more ‘fun’?”

Apparently, “they” could do just that, because then I started noticing that other fruits were getting the Cuties treatment, too.

Mandarin oranges, the close cousins of the tangerine, have become “Halos.” Red cherry tomatoes have become “Cherubs”; the yellow ones have been renamed “Glorys.” All nomenclature that is more reminiscent of the snack food aisle than of the produce section. I’m pretty sure that’s the intention of the whole campaign.

I’ve also noticed that the cute fruit trend has migrated to the dried fruit aisle. For example, the redoubtable Sunsweet Growers company, one of the largest purveyors of prunes in the world, has renamed their stolid, gerontologically appealing product “Plum Amazins.” (As in “Plum Amazing,” get it?)

To be fair, though, Sunsweet still uses the word “prune” on their packaging, albeit in miniscule typeface under the much-larger font of the Plum Amazin brand name.

We’re not really a prune-friendly family; I don’t think my daughter has ever eaten one in her life.  So, I don’t have to worry about what she ends up calling the plum trees in our neighborhood. I do wonder, however, if there are other kids walking around and pointing at plum trees exclaiming: “Plum Amazin tree!”

I can’t really blame the folks at Sunsweet for wanting to play down their association with prunes; they have been the butt of constipation jokes for decades. But that’s not the case with “tangerine.” I remember when a shade called “Tangerine” was the new black (in the late Sixties.) Of course, it’s also the name of a pretty popular standard pop song, recorded by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.

So why was the word “tangerine” cuted up? I guess we Americans are so immature that we need to be enticed into eating our fresh fruits by making them sound as much as possible like Cheetos, Fritos, Bagel Bits, and Triskets.

Surely the purveyors of vegetables have been taking notes? It’s already happened to that quasi-vegetable—the tomato—so now it’s only a matter of time before we are subjected to cute veggies as well as cute fruits.

I can see it now: broccoli florets will become “Puffies;” their close cousin, cauliflower florets, will be renamed “White Puffies.” Radishes will become “Two-Tones”; carrots will be rechristened “Crunchies” and spinach leaves will get a new lease on life as “Leafies.”  And so on.

Let’s face it—we’re a nation of five-year-olds. Now everyone, sit down, and eat your Puffies.

“The Frenemies”

8 Oct

As promised yesterday, here’s an excerpt from my book of short stories, Foleytown. It’s the opening paragraphs from a story called “The Frenemies” and it’s based on one of my aunts, called “Aunt Jewel” in the story, who was obsessed with succulents and cacti of all kids. So when I think of succulents and cacti, I immediately always think of “Aunt Jewel.”

The ‘Frenemies’ *

 Two of our aunts, Abba and Jewel, had a peculiar relationship. They were a couple of older women, getting on in years, who, at heart, disliked each other rather a lot, but who, for some reason or another, kept up a decades-long relationship of pretended friendship.

Today, we would call such people “frenemies,” but the word and the concept didn’t really exist at the time that Abba and Jewel maintained their odd relationship. So we, the children of Foleytown, just called them both “strange” and “weird.”

Abba and Jewel were both my blood aunts, but they were not related to each other, and that’s one of the things that made them frenemies, instead of just relatives who argued with each other and didn’t get along.

Abba was my father’s sister and Jewel was my mother’s. The main thing they had in common was our family, the Foleys. That, and the fact that they both lived in the Inland Empire and had come out to California at about the same time, for the same reason: to get jobs in the munitions factories that had sprung up overnight in the state during World War II.

Aunt Jewel’s husband, my Uncle Dean, was a Navy man who had served overseas during the war. It was Jewel, bored and lonely after Dean was sent overseas, who convinced my mother to come along and apply for that fateful job in a World War II airplane factory, the place where she eventually met my father, Kenny Foley. As eccentric as she was, there was no denying the simple fact: Foleytown would not have existed without my Aunt Jewel.

In the 60s and early 70s, Aunt Jewel lived on several acres of land on the outskirts of a HighDesert town called HighlandHeights. She lived there because she loved the Mojave Desert deeply–unlike most of the people in the Inland Empire, who avoided it because they thought it was full of poisonous snakes, inhospitable wild donkeys, and Gila monsters.

The snakes and Gila monsters of the desert didn’t bother Jewel that much though. She adored the plant life of the desert–more specifically, she loved the native cactus plants and their cousins, the succulents.  She was even known, on occasion, to drive out into the Mojave and dig a few of them up, to add to an ever-burgeoning collection she kept at her little, ramshackle bungalow.

In the far-right corner of Aunt Jewel’s front yard stood an impressively large blue agave succulent plant, seven feet high at the least, and as many feet wide. Prickly pear cacti and rosette-shaped succulents were planted in the flower beds all around her bungalow. Plus, her front and back patios were both crammed with pot after pot of cactus and succulents, and there were many more inside her crowded little home, as well.

They sat on coffee tables, side tables, windowsills, atop the TV and the radio, even atop the toilet tank in the bathroom. Perhaps she had three or four hundred of them in all–maybe more.

She liked the prickly pears the best, though, because they could be trained to grow in the shape of the faces of rabbits or mice, and she thought that was adorable. She would push the resemblance, too, by taking a razor blade and scratching eyes, mouths, and noses into her prickly pears. Sometimes she would even adorn them with little jackets or bow ties or hats, which she lovingly cut out of multi-colored construction paper or felt.

Aunt Jewel’s devotion to her cactus plants was no doubt excessive, but she was very fond of excess, to put it a bit on the mild side.

And that was the other major thing she had in common with Aunt Abba: they both loved things–vast, excessive, mind-numbing quantities of things. The more tacky and worthless and peculiar-looking their things were, the better.

They collected knickknacks and figurines of all kinds, in plaster, plastic, and porcelain; bowls of rubber or plastic fruit, flowers and vegetables; enormous piles of costume jewelry in Bakelite, plastic and glass; black velvet paintings of celebrities or hillside Tuscan villages, and vast closets full of  polyester double-knit pantsuits in every pastel and Day-Glo color available.

At the very heart of the frenemy status of the two aunts was an intense, fought-to-the-death shopping competition. They both haunted discount stores with names like Pic ‘N Save, Two Guys, Sir Save-a-Lot, Wheelin’ & Dealin’, and Pixie Pack ‘N Pay, as they pursued their quest for things, more things, and even more things.

Prisoners were never taken, and mercy was never granted. They kept up their competitive shopping for fifteen, eighteen, twenty years—I’m not sure exactly sure of the dates involved, because they knew each other long before I was even born. And a truce was never even contemplated, if memory serves me well.

It went like this: if Aunt Abba bought a new bunch of plastic bananas at the Fontana Pic ‘N Save to add to the vast fake fruit collection proudly displayed on her dining room table, Aunt Jewel would buy two of them. And then call Abba on the phone afterward, providing a lengthy, highly detailed play-by-play of her shopping triumph.

Aunt Abba would listen patiently and pretend enthusiasm for Aunt Jewel’s competitive purchases, but she always managed to get in her own subtle digs, too.

“Yes, Jewel, that’s wonderful, dear. I’m so glad you found those cute bananas on sale for two for a dollar. When I bought mine, they were a dollar apiece—highway robbery. Although I do think the ones they put out later for sale weren’t as nice as the ones they had earlier. Mine has a sticker on the bottom that says ‘hand-painted in Korea.’ “

And of course, when they hung up, Aunt Jewel would run off to find her two new bunches of fake bananas, grimly in pursuit of certain stickers reading “hand-painted in Korea.” And God help the hapless manager of the Fontana, California Pic ‘N Save if there were no such stickers to be found on Aunt Jewel’s bananas.

*Copyright 2012, by S. K. Cole, 2012, “The Frenemies,” Foleytown. All rights reserved.