Where are you headed?

Pissing Contests and Faded Glory

Look at this fancy cover art!

Look at this fancy cover art!

A washed-up bull rider with a record to defend. A young and hungry newcomer gunning for fame. These two men collide in my newest short story, King of the Rodeo. Things gets bloody.

If you follow me on social media then you’ve probably heard the good news already. I want to take a second and thank everyone who has bought a copy of the story. It means so much! Seriously. My stories are the most important thing in the world to me. Writing is pretty much all I think about on a daily basis. My stories are inextricable parts of my life and existence. When I put a new piece out in the wild, it’s simultaneously the most thrilling and frightening sensation. It’s what I live for.

King of the Rodeo is being published by the independent press Write Out Publishing. They operate on a generous business model in which ten percent of each short story’s profits are donated to a charity of the author’s choosing. I picked Doctors Without Borders since they’re doing literally lifesaving work in places like Syria. They need all the help they can get. I’m so glad my story is finding an audience while helping a worthy charity.

I grew up in a small town very similar to the one featured in King of the Rodeo (no points for guessing). I’ve noticed small town life is a pervasive theme in a lot of my writing. What’s not to like? Small towns are rich with narrative opportunity. They’re filled with colorful characters, juicy gossip, and dark secrets. Everybody’s involved in the lives of their neighbors. Small towns may be quiet, but it’s surprisingly hard to keep a low-profile in a town with less than 4,000 people.

My hometown has a famous rodeo (again, no points for guessing) and I’ve went a couple times. I’ve always been more of an indoor type, but I was always fascinated by the crowds of people who went. The stands would get filled every Saturday night. The smell of funnel cake and manure hung thickly sweet in the air. Young men—boys, really—willingly climbed on top of bucking bulls, risking life and limb for victory. I couldn’t get over the sheer primal nature of it. What’s more elemental (and dubiously safe) than mounting an angry animal and holding on for dear life?

The last time I visited that rodeo, I was struck by a story idea. I pictured a bull rider. Young but still past his prime, maybe mid-twenties, a townie who had a brief, shining brush with greatness and then let it cloud over like fogged silver. Who was this person drinking Bud Lites in the parking lot before getting in line and picking fights with the lady in the ticket booth? He was somebody I wanted to write about. He is Elijah.

I’m fascinated with the concept of faded glory. I love characters who have fallen from grace and are haunted by some mistake, misstep, or regret in their past. As Coleridge would put it, I want albatrosses around necks. There's nothing more tragic than peaking early. I feel bad for the high school jock who hit a brick wall after graduation. I feel bad for the middle-aged middle manager with deferred dreams of being a rock star. I feel bad for the old woman who has regrets from her youth and doesn't have the energy to make things right.

Elijah, the protagonist of King of the Rodeo, is one of these people. How far will he go to preserve his legacy? At what point do we have to take responsibility for our own failures? My story grapples with these questions and more.

I’d be flattered if you checked out my story at the Write Out Publishing store. You'll be entertained and your money will go to a great charity.

As always, thanks for reading.

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