The Cowboy And The Japanese Intern: A counterfactual historical fiction short story

This came out of two weird obsessions of mine – counterfactual history and professional wrestling, especially wrestling from the late 20th century.

people men fight challenge
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

The concept of “What If” has made the study and reading of history that much more interesting. What if the US did invade Japan during World War II? What if William of Normandy didn’t succeed in invading Europe, or what if the Mongol Empire had completed its invasion of Europe? What if Jesus hadn’t been crucified? The fictional possibilities of those questions often would send my mind reeling.

As a young kid, my mind was captivated by the operatic, hyperbolic, and lunatic action of pro wrestling. I had never known characters like this in real life, but they were clear echoes of the society I lived in. It was a guilty pleasure I had to keep at least halfway hidden from my parents, who had no idea what to make of their son’s obsession with massive musclemen, masked luchas, and high-flying daredevils telling operettas of the working class. (I guess I had more in common with Ric Flair than a Midwestern upbringing.)

It was a fascination that never truly went away, even after I realized what kayfabe was all about and I began to see through some of the more repetitive storytelling. But the fascination with wrestling culture and lore never quite went away for me. One of those stories was the tale of the Von Erich family. I had heard of the family growing up, but it wasn’t until much later, when the veil of kayfabe was pulled away and the Internet made research 10 times easier than in the old days of card catalogues and vertical files in libraries, that I found out the whole story about them. They were a family that were bigger stars than the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas and the Texas Longhorns in Texas, and their story was a tragedy of depression, death, and suicide that would have made Shakespeare sit up and take notice.

Some night about eight years ago, a “what if?” question came to my mind when I was doodling on the computer. What if the first of the Von Erich brothers to die hadn’t died in Japan in 1985?

For a day or so, I pounded out about 1,000 words on the subject, taking as my additional inspiration the final airing of WCW Nitro in 2001. Then, as per my usual problems with procrastination, it sat there untouched for years in my hard drives.

This week, I opened the file and took another look at it. I was interested in a change of pace. In two days, I added another 3,000 words to it. I have the feeling it is, in the words of the original Top Gear crew, “ambitious but rubbish.” But so help me, I hadn’t had more fun recently than the hour and a half it took me to book the most awesome wrestling event of the 1980’s, one that would have put Wrestlemanias I and III to shame.

Good or bad or somewhere in between – whatever it is, keep reading to see what my obsessions have wrought. As Rick Sanchez might say, just consider it one of the possibilities somewhere on the finite curve.

Continue reading “The Cowboy And The Japanese Intern: A counterfactual historical fiction short story”

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Writing Journal/Random Notes 6.24.2018: A productive but really random week

Well, this turned out pretty weird:

+3,913 words written.

Days writing: 4 out of 7.

Days revising: 1 out of 7 for 30 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 4 out of 7 days.

Not expecting quite those numbers this week. Let me explain.

This week, I had planned to do a little bit of writing on my next project and perhaps a little light editing on The American Nine. What actually wound up happening is that I posted two blogs within a week, one my first photo entry and another about one of my older poems.

Then I wound taking a look at an abandoned short story from years back which combined two of my obsessions, alternative history and late 20th century professional wrestling. What I ended up writing after two feverish days was a 4,000 word-plus short story speculating how the avoidance of a premature death could have changed the course of professional wrestling history. The operatic psychological storytelling behind professional wrestling has always fascinated me when it’s done right, and the action is over the top. The whole story I’ve written is probably ridiculous but I’ll post it later today – watch out for it.

Random Notes:

  • I am planning on going to this conference Thursday and Saturday of this week (missing out on Friday). I figure that I will write at least one post about it, likely sometime Saturday, and let you know how it all went.
  • The American Nine has officially gone out to the beta readers in my local writers group. Who the hell knows what they will make of it (I’m one of the youngest members of that group), but I did warn them, so anyone who reads it is going in with their eyes open.
  • As someone who’s written a fiction book featuring soccer, I have been paying close attention to the World Cup. I put some money on it, but I have no idea whether I’ll actually win anything. When Iceland can tie Argentina, Portugal tie Spain, and Germany narrowly escape being eliminated by Sweden, who the hell knows what’s going to happen. The games have been great but Fox Sports has done a crap job of covering the events with the exception of the team of JP Dellacamera and Tony Meola. (I remember watching Meola in goal for the USMNT back in 1994. How time moves…)

That’s all I can think of for now. Watch for more later.

Waiting/Alone At The Crossroads: A poem

I was inspired to write this when I was about to leave a teaching position for the first time, and I wasn’t sure how to express my feelings to my students. So, since I had assigned those students a poetry unit at the end of the year, I decided that whatever was good for them was good for me. As I have often said, I’m not willing to assign students something that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. This was basically my goodbye to those students.

Waiting (Alone At The Crossroads)

By Jason Liegois (2010)

Alone at the crossroads, waiting for my ride.

No point in staying any longer, I’ve got another place I have to go.

The road is empty.

I know the schedule, I know when the ride’s here, but it’s not here yet.

I’m still waiting.

All my packing is done – my bags are packed, debts paid, ticket paid – I’ve bought my ticket – but no ride.

I’m waiting alone at the crossroads.

It’s an Iowa crossroads, strictly Iowa thru and thru – the two lane, intersection, a stop sign, tall corn stretching, their stalks and nothing else on the horizon except for a farmhouse or two.

No other people, obviously.

Now I know why the old-time farm wives went a little nuts.

Still waiting.

Alone, not one else, I grab a battered old pulp paperback out of my bag, and picture I’m on Mars, Coursurant, Dune, anywhere but here, waiting.

All the work seems to be done.

I know kind of where I will go, and what I will do.

I know for sure that I have to go, there’s no choice but to go, even, deep down, I want to go – but I’m not.

I’m sitting here, waiting for my ride.

That’s the thing I hate, it’s the waiting. . .

Before the ride.

Some Pictures Of The New Library In My Town Because Why Not

In a post just a bit ago, I talked about my background with libraries and the fact that my hometown has moved its library into a new building. I took the time yesterday to tour the place with my daughter. First impressions; very airy and bright, with plenty of places to sit and read. And, I managed to figure out the automatic checkout as well.

 

I think I promised to take some pictures of the new place when I got there. Well, here they are. Enjoy. I personally am looking forward to more reading and book fines in the times to come. 🙂

Writing Journal/Random Notes 6.16.2018: Hanging around and waiting

Yeah, so, another lag on the writing front:

+1,239 words written.

Days writing: 2 out of 7.

Days revising: 2 out of 7 for 90 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 3 out of 7 days.

It’s been worse, but I’ve seen better.

I think the theme of this week is going to be waiting. That might explain a little bit of the lag. Also… not that I’m depressed, but if you’re down or not able to go out and about as much as you normally would, that’s not conducive to writing, is it? I never got the idea of being inspired by being depressed – if I’m in a not-positive mood, it’s more difficult for me to write, not less.

[I’m fine right now; don’t worry about me. 👍🏻🙂]

Anyway, back to the waiting [and writing, mixed in with Random Notes because why not]:

  • Most of that waiting is related to my book in revision, The American Nine. I’m planning on making it available for some beta readers in my local writing group next week, but I won’t get the full results of that until our meeting next month. I’m interested to see what sort of feedback I get from them.
  • Also, there’s that writers’s conference I talked about before. However, that’s not until next week. I’m looking forward to the opportunity for a professional critique on what I’ve been working on, and actually pitching on it to the MWC Press as well. As for the latter situation, I’m not expecting to get published by them or anything, but I still think that the experience of pitching my project to people is invaluable.
  • Due to both budget constraints and a lack of workshops that would fit my interests, I’m only planning on attending two out of the three days (which helps on fuel expenses). I think I’ll likely recount how the conference goes here (sort of an after-action recap) here on the blog.
  • Despite waiting on the beta readers, I’ve been doing a tiny bit of tinkering with The American Nine. One of the alterations that I made was a change in the name of a supporting character that just sort of sat there for me before. Now I think it works, though. But I’m curious – you ever had a situation where you forgot what you renamed a character and actually had to go back to the manuscript and remind yourself what the new name was? That just happened to me this morning.
  • The rest of the projects I’ve talked about recently and there’s not much movement on them, so I’ll spare you the repeat stories. I have to admit that I have a habit of repeating stories IRL, as my kids and students can recount. So, I try to be wary of doing the same thing online.
  • I have to admit that the World Cup starting this week has been a distraction. But it’s a good distraction. Besides, how would I have gotten The American Nine into being if not for my soccer obsession? So, that’s non-negotiable for me. 😎

That’s about it for now. I’ll get back later. Thanks to everyone that’s been visiting and reading my stuff for the past year; I appreciate it very much.

Oh, Yeah, Happy Anniversary To The Blog…

So, I was noodling around online, totally oblivious to more than a few things, when I saw this:

Ugh, I knew I’d forgotten something. 😑

Remember that first post a year and a day ago?

Yeah, that was a little bit of a shambles. The first “official” post worked out better. Go ahead and read through it if you have a second – it’s a good representation of where I was at that point as a writer, as well as something of a manifesto of my intent for the blog. As I explained there and also later in my biographical A Writer’s Biography posts, the idea behind this was to finally codify, formalize, and provide a platform for me to not only discuss my philosophies and journey as a writer, but eventually promote my own writing. From the “Welcome” post:

Although I have been interested in being a writer ever since I was a teenager, it’s only been in the past several years that I have had the mental discipline to produce fiction writing on anything close to a consistent basis.

I’d say that was an understatement, but anyway… What sort of progress have I made in the year since?

Actually, quite a bit. The first project that I had just completed at the start of this blog (The Holy Fool), through some serendipity and steady work, is now in the initial process of publication, and I am hoping I will be able to let you know when you might be able to purchase/download and purchase a copy of it sometime soon. One of the projects that was in the planning stages at the start of my blogging time (The American Nine) is now through the rough draft stage and now is awaiting outside input before moving deep into the revising process, complete with beta readers and critiques. Finally, I have two other writing projects I have now started to toy around with and bring out of the writing mothballs.

I’ve done a few other things with the blog. I’ve used it to put forward my thoughts on writing, what I’ve picked up over the past 20 years of journalism, teaching, and writing. I’ve managed to post well over 100 blogs so far, although more than a few of them have been just updates of what I’ve written and revised during the past week. I’ve even shared some of my original writing with you here as well. I thought it couldn’t be a proper writing blog if I didn’t do that, even if some of the material was uneven.

And, I’ve picked up some followers – somewhere over 70 at my last count. I hope everyone who has visited has found something interesting to read, on one topic or another.

By my estimation, this is the longest regular writing project I have ever undertaken. I tried so many times to start journals or other writings, but I never made it stick. I’m glad that this one has, and I look forward to recounting more about my writing and writing in general here. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Writing Journal/Random Notes 6.10.2018: Holding sort of steady

If you were waiting for me to make a post today, sorry I didn’t get to it until now. It’s interesting that I now have around 70 people following me on WordPress at this moment. (I have around 300 each for my Facebook and Twitter pages dedicated to writing.)

The numbers:

+1,556 words written.

Days writing: 2 out of 7.

Days revising: 2 out of 7 for 90 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 4 out of 7 days.

So, pretty much holding somewhat steady for the week, down in revising days and DWGM, but up a little in writing.

Not much to talk about this week, so I’ll go over a few things (RANDOM NOTES) and leave it at that.

  • I decided to go to that conference later this month in the Quad Cities. It cost a little bit, but I think it will be worth it for the networking and having some more people beta read my stuff.
  • Revising is still slow on We Can Be You… but I’ve started from the beginning again and have made some progress from there. Now that I’ve determined that it is going to be a three-book story and roughly where I’m going to split the action at, the secret is figuring out the motivation for the main characters in my band and how that gets resolved in the first book. I think I have that pretty much resolved in my head and will be willing to go into that very shortly.
  • Looks like Friday of this week will be the day my town’s library will reopen in a brand new location. I look forward to spending time there and will get some interior shots for when that happens. Might even do some writing there.
  • This week, I plan to tour my new school that I will be teaching at next fall. Also, I’ll see if I have any “summer homework” to consider before classes start. I’m excited about that new opportunity.

That’s it for now; more later.

On Revising, Part 4: The Subject of Beta Readers

One of the cool bits about writing is how much of it is an activity that doesn’t require a lot of collaboration.

Unlike, say, movies, you don’t require a lot of collaboration from actors, directors, producers, and technical crew, not to mention additional writers. The financial budget of producing a novel, no matter how you classify that, is going to be insignificant compared to the budget of even a grade-Z film going directly to digital distribution. It’s not a coincidence that George R.R. Martin first started writing his A Song Of Ice And Fire series after being frustrated with the technical and financial limitations television had put on his ideas as a Hollywood screenwriter, ironic since that series would inspire one of the most expensive television programs in history. 🙂

Being your own boss as a fiction writer has tons of advantages. You don’t get into any arguments over whether a character or plot twist makes sense, or whether your story should be set in Los Angeles rather than an undersea colony, for example. You set your own deadlines, as well as the size of your work (within reason unless you are willing to pay to get it published).

However, one area where collaborative effort can play a significant part in writing is during the revision process. Whether you call them peer reviewers, first readers, or, as is now the fashion, beta readers, having another set of eyes to read what you’ve written can be the difference between an OK revision and a great one.

Why is this? Simply put: you as a writer are not going to be able to find every plot point not wrapped up, every unrealistic characterization, and every unfinished scene, not to mention every misspelled word. You don’t need a village to write a book, but I think you do need more than one set of eyes to revise it.

Where do you find these beta readers? Unfortunately, most of us don’t happen to live in the household of Stephen King, which wound up producing four different published authors.

So, you have to look around. I’m lucky enough to have a local writing group that I participate in. This next month, I’m actually hoping that some of them will do me the honor of reading my latest WIP. There are many online groups that have people willing to look at WIP’s, although the quality of this help can vary. I’d recommend developing acquaintances with members online before asking them to beta read.

Sometimes you can be lucky enough to get a professional critique. I’m hoping that my visit to a local writing conference will provide that to me later this month. Unless you have the resources, however, I wouldn’t spend a massive amount of money doing this.

As far as when in the revising process this should take place, I would say it should happen before you seriously consider adding and/or subtracting major portions of your manuscript. By that, I mean the heavy lifting.

Whatever form it takes, having more than just your eyes and viewpoint revising your work is key to making sure you don’t leave anything needed out and that you don’t keep anything that you don’t need.

Writing Journal/Random Notes, 6.3.2018: New Milestone and Increased Activity

With me now on full vacation and some ideas shaking loose from old projects, I think that it was reflected in my activity this week.

+1,354 words written.

Days writing: 3 out of 7.

Days revising: 4 out of 7 for 300 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 5 out of 7 days.

Not a lot of original writing, of course, but I am keeping active. I’m going to keep the journal update brief this week, both due to the level of new info I have to share (not much) and the desire not to repeat myself (which is strong).

  • I have reached a milestone on my work for The American Nine after about 1 1/2 revisions to the book. Over the next month or so, I’m hoping to have beta readers from my writing group and possibly others have a chance to take a look at what I’ve produced and give me some comments. (I might revisit the topic of beta readers in a later post).
  • As far as other projects, I want to keep busy. There are two possibilities – We Can Be You…, which I’ve already discussed, and an old project that I’ve rechristened Excitable Boy to see if the name fits and if there’s enough story there to support something. Right now the latter project is at 50,000 words – shorter than most of my recent stuff – and I suspect there’s some things to cut and some things I might need to add.
  • My intent with the second point is to not get caught up in not producing or revising something and keeping busy with the work. I was very happy this year that I didn’t have any major declines or dead times of not writing or revising. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep that up when the next school year comes up and my new job. I think that I should be able to manage that.

Just a few Random Notes:

  • Looking into what format I might want to start reading e-books in. Considering how I might be publishing in the e-book format soon and many of the writers I’m running into online are doing that, I might want to consider it. (That also might be worth its own blog post later).
  • Getting in a lot of soccer watching on the weekends – will watch the World Cup even though the US won’t be in it, and Major League Soccer is still deep into its season here in the US.
  • I’ve recently noticed that when I get bored or start feeling down about things, getting more sleep is a good remedy to reset your mind. Probably helps healthwise, as well.

I’ll write some more when I have some more to write.