A Few Words About “Jalopy Racer”

I mentioned last week that I had sold my story called “Jalopy Racer” to the Itty Bitty Writing Space anthology, which is currently rocking its Kickstarter campaign. At the time of this writing, it is 355% funded, with 17 days to go. During the first 48 hours of the Kickstarter, backers earmarked 256 copies of the book to go to libraries during a special promotion! Jason Brick, the Publisher/Editor, has done a good job of providing perks for backers, and I’m excited that the more the Kickstarter earns, the more perks they will receive. The most recent addition to the perks is that every backer will get a copy of the inaugural issue of Flash Fiction Aficionado magazine when it comes out! (Also, the more the project funds, the more the story authors get paid for their work, and that’s a good thing!) If you have already backed the anthology, thank you! If not, please consider supporting it. Who knows what Jason will come up with to reward you?

“Jalopy Racer” is a piece of flash fiction about the early days of informal stock car racing in 1950s New Mexico. My dad was one of those racers. He raced a 40s-era Ford with a flathead V8 motor, just like the main character in the story. The rules and safety features at community dirt tracks back then were very loose, and drivers rarely wore safety equipment beyond a pair of goggles to keep the dirt out of their eyes. Some cars even ran with open tops and no roll cages, as seen in this 1950s video of a jalopy race near Colorado Springs. (Warning: There are a couple of rollover accidents in this video. It’s unclear the extent of injuries suffered by the drivers, but nothing gruesome appears in the video.)

It was also common practice for young girls to present trophies to the winners, along with a celebratory kiss, so I made that part of the story. Our dirt track racer is determined to do what it takes to keep his rival from smooching his girl, who happens to be giving out the trophy that day.

The events in the story and the rival racer, McIntyre, are completely made up, but are inspired by stories my dad used to tell about his racing days. The racer’s family members (Winnie, Mary Ellen, and Gordy) are inspired by my mother, sister, and brother, respectively, though I honestly don’t know if they ever attended one of my dad’s races.

Somewhere, I have pictures of my dad’s race car, a ’41 Ford five-window coupe (I think) that he called the Purple Heart. I think he named it in honor of his brother, Wayne, who received a purple heart in WWII, and is the inspiration for my story “Chesterfield Gray“. When I find them, I will upload them, but for now, here’s a grainy picture of my dad from around the same time, with a different Ford that’s about the same age. (This one looks like a 1937 Ford Standard, judging by the hood and grille. Note the rear suicide doors; the handles for both doors are behind my dad.)

A Good News Post

I’m really excited to announce two pieces of news. First, I received an informal acceptance notice from Itty Bitty Writing Space, an upcoming Kickstarter anthology of flash fiction edited by Jason Brick. The Kickstarter opens on January 29th, and this is Jason’s third Kickstarter flash anthology. Both of his prior anthologies funded successfully, so I’m optimistic that my story “Jalopy Racer” has found a good home.

“Jalopy Racer” is one of those stories that just needed to come out. It doesn’t really have a genre, unless you count it as adventure fiction, I guess. It’s inspired by my dad’s tales of being a stock car racer in southern New Mexico in the 1950s, and it basically told itself. I’m glad it has found a home in IBWS. I find it interesting that two of my last three fiction sales (“Chesterfield Gray” and “Jalopy Racer”) were inspired by family members, and neither are science fiction, my first love in writing. I guess that just goes to show that the words decide on their own what path they will take.

The other piece of news is music-related, and I’ve been bouncing off the walls waiting to share it. Thanks to the efforts of my friend Wulf Moon, I will be performing music at the Superstars writing seminar in Colorado Springs on Game Night next month! This is a private event, and only people who are Superstars participants will be able to attend, but if it goes well, there’s a chance it may become a regular event in the future. Moon and I plan to perform some songs together and I’ll do some solo performing, in a sort of filk/folk mix. I’ll bring lyric sheets for those who want to sing along, too. My thanks to Moon and Chris Mandeville for making this happen!

Good Riddance, 2012

Every year is a mixture of good and bad, but I’ll be particularly glad to see 2012 pass into history.

The year wasn’t all bad; we did manage to move into a house that we love, even if the circumstances forcing the move were stressful.  I started working on material for a new band with my pal Hal, and I feel like I’m growing as a musician because of it.  Most importantly, Lannette’s ovarian cancer scare at the beginning of the year turned out to be just a scare, not the real thing.

However, the year has been overshadowed by the death of my mom in March.  When family members die, I tend to grieve very slowly and it usually doesn’t hit me hard until long after they have passed.  When my brother died on January 1, 1996, I didn’t really deal with it until well into 1997, when I was able to write this poem to say goodbye to him and deal with my own guilt about pulling the plug.

When my last grandparent died (I was 12), it wasn’t until months later that I was flooded with grief and loss while sitting on the couch, watching TV.  I just suddenly started crying, scaring my parents.

I have no idea when that cathartic moment will happen in regard to my mom’s death.  I certainly miss her, and I wish she wasn’t gone, but I haven’t broken down yet.  I wish it would happen, though, because waiting for the shoe to drop is stressful, and I suspect that my state of semi-grief has affected my relationships with family, friends, and coworkers over the last few months.  My anxiety has been elevated all year, and I’m convinced that’s partially due to not having dealt with her passing yet.

Here’s hoping 2013 is a happy year for everyone, myself included.

The Survivor

for Lannette

 

The reflecting pool stands still

Against the backdrop of empty chairs.

The Gates of Time measure off the minute

When everything changed. Golden

Cranes soar above the museum floor,

Elder brethren to the one above her bed.

 

“But she’s not a survivor; she wasn’t in the building.”

 

In her ears, the blast still rings

Plate glass shards impale like arrows,

Smoke still swirls

Whenever people disbelieve.

Every doubt another piece of rubble

Raining

Down.

 

But like the grand American Elm,

She stands tall, a survivor.

The_Survivor

Image ©2004, Poem ©2010 by Stace Johnson

Uncle Sam and the Deep Blue Funk

I’ve been in a deep blue funk for a while, and today’s news didn’t help much.  I found out that my Uncle Sam died.  It was not unexpected, but it was not really welcome news, either.  I’m just glad he wasn’t in pain when he went.

I’ve never been very close to my extended family, but I can say that Uncle Sam was the uncle I enjoyed being around the most when I was a kid.  He was my mom’s “little” brother at over 6′ tall, and he embodied the southwestern personality of Coyote, the trickster (as opposed to Trixter, which is an entirely different thing.)  And man, he made a mean pot of posole.

Adios, Sam (Sheridan) Moulder.  I miss you already.