How to get yourself blacklisted

Sound advice we would all do well to adhere to, whether or not we’re pitching a novel.

In the Inbox

A man named David Benjamin was unhappy an agent rejected him. He wrote a bitter blog post.

I’m providing this because I want you to know that people like this exist. Agents frequently have to protect themselves from this kind of abuse. The industry is small and agents pass this kind of thing on to each other. Note that this is not his first bitter post about an agent who rejected him.

I’ve provided the 3 screen-caps of his short blog post and 3 screen caps of the 6 comments, taken at 11am, July 27, 2016.

A link to his original post is provided at the bottom of this post.

Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 1Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 2Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 3Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 4Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 5Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 6

Original post is on his blog here.

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Redemption ~ An Original Story

A few thoughts. The “Mr. Penguin” comment is a reference to the CBeebies Bed Time Story on the BBC. Ordinarily it’s a wonderful little series, with lots of actors and comedians who tell children’s stories.

The story is one hundred percent original.

Thank you in advance for sharing it, liking it, and maybe subscribing to either my channel or to my blog.

Redemption Redemption Shelter

Read the story here if the video won’t play for you.


 

Kirby Dunst arrived at eight thirty, although visiting hours weren’t until nine. Normally, the staff couldn’t care less, except for the nurse who glared her accusation as she wheeled Grandpa into the lobby.

Outside, Grandpa became more animated.

“Colby, is that you?”

“It’s Kirby, Grandpa. Colby is in prison.”

“Colby’s such a nice boy, visits me every day, you know.”

“He does that from solitary, does he?” Kirby kept a casual pace, trying to take comfort in the shade of some trees lining the street, without depriving Grandpa of sunlight.

“Colby’s really giving the Vanguard a run for their money. Did you see last night’s game?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, St. Michael finally has a shot at the championship this year, thanks to Colby. Such a good boy.”

Last night’s game was actually a recording from Grandpa’s senior year of high school. The nurses played them at random, in order to keep him seated on the commode. At some point, Grandpa started believing it was a different game every time, and that the younger version of himself was really Colby. No one had the heart, or the patience, to keep correcting him.

“Where are we going?” Grandpa asked, with an almost childlike enthusiasm.

Kirby stopped and pulled a used tissue from his pants pocket––the one that wasn’t stuffed with invoices. Every time he moved his arms, the fabric from his sleeves brushed the spots where he had been jabbed. He wiped his nose and tried to keep his emotions in check, avoiding eye contact with passerby, who must have been judging him, just like the nurse.

“We’re going to a game,” Kirby said, swallowing the lump. He tossed the tissue on the ground and continued pushing Grandpa. “St. Michael is playing the Vanguard, this afternoon. We might even see Colby.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful. Colby’s such a nice boy, visits me every day, you know.”

They came to a shelter at the end of the street. The solid gray exterior was covered in bright, colorful posters, reminding people to recycle. A small sign warned against loitering and unauthorized postings. Kirby wheeled Grandpa into the shiny, metallic space, positioning the chair so he could see outside.

He sat on the low bench, allowing Grandpa to prattle on without further commentary. Kirby kept his head down whenever a car drove by, hoping no one would recognize him, or Grandpa. Not that he was doing anything illegal.

A year ago, Kirby lost his job. He went on government assistance to make ends meet while he tried to find work, only the jobs for his skill level were few and far between.

That place is hiring, one person said.

I know you could work there, someone else would say of a job that required a level of education Kirby didn’t possess. You should go back to school.

There must be a scholarship. Maybe they’ll hire you and you can take classes on the side.

Everyone seemed to be in the employment of that clandestine agency of hindsight detectives –– people who always knew something, always had the solution on hand, always imagined that their limited experience or perception was helpful. Eventually, Kirby learned to stop sharing his problems, especially when they suggested that his family should be willing to help.

The jobs weren’t getting any easier to find, but Kirby held out hope until the notice came in the mail, informing him of the new law.

“If you wish to continue receiving your benefits, which include a food/clothing allowance, rental assistance, and healthcare, you will be required to submit a blood sample for analysis. As long as your blood is free of alcohol and other illegal substances, you will continue to receive your benefits. Please report to one of the following facilities every thirty days.”

It seemed fair enough. Kirby even checked the box that said he was okay with donating his blood to charity––not knowing they would take a full pint each time. Every month, for almost a year, he showed up, sat in the chair and watched the bag fill up.

Then his parents were found, dead from an overdose. Possibly suicide, the report was unclear. They died before a new law was passed that might have been helpful, if the medical examiners had been willing to alter certain details, which they weren’t. So now Kirby was responsible for all of the family debts, except for one.

“They want me to pay restitution for all those cars I chopped,” Colby told him, when Kirby visited to tell him the bad news. “You’re my brother, you gotta help me.”

“I don’t have to help you with shit. As long as you’re alive and kicking, your obligations are still yours. Good luck with that.”

As the only living member of his family, who was legally and mentally sound, Kirby felt confident that he could manage the debts… until the first warning came.

“You have failed to submit your blood for analysis this month,” the letter said. “Per the conditions of your monthly benefits, you are advised to visit an approved facility, listed below, before the end of the month, or your benefits will be suspended.”

Kirby definitely showed up this month; the phlebotomist knew him by name. But somewhere between the iodine and the cookie the paperwork got lost. Kirby had no other choice but to insist they take more blood, even when they said it would be dangerous. The next morning, minus another pint of blood, Kirby could barely get out of bed, much less go job hunting. He had just enough energy to check the mail and see the newest bill from Grandpa’s nursing home. Surprised by this, he called them on the following Monday.

“There’s nothing we can do,” the temp agent said. “Not with this amount. Although, there is that new law.”

“What new law?” Kirby groaned.

He listened as the temp explained. Later, it would transpire that the temp violated a non-disclosure agreement. The board of directors for the home were against the law, and wanted to keep families of the residents in the dark for as long as possible. Kirby tried to forget it and very nearly succeeded… until the final warning came.

“For failure to submit blood for analysis, your benefits are hereby suspended. If you do not submit a sample by the end of the month, your account will be terminated and you will be ineligible to reapply for benefits for a period of up to one year.”

Kirby called the nursing home, and then he gathered all of his spare change to buy a one way bus ticket.

He held Grandpa’s hand, feeling no need to rush. The space outside the shelter was now heavily shaded, so it didn’t take long for Grandpa to become lethargic. Kirby leaned over to kiss his cheek. When he rose, Grandpa became alert.

“Where are you going?” His voice was childlike and trusting.

“The bus is running late,” Kirby said, avoiding eye contact. “I’m just going to check the schedule.”

Grandpa relaxed, satisfied with the answer. Kirby grabbed the handle on the side of the shelter entrance and slid the door into the locking position. If Grandpa was surprised, or made any cry of alarm, the world would never know.

Kirby stared at the sealed gray walls of the shelter, refusing to risk looking at anyone who might drill holes into his conscience. Just when he was sure he would throw up, a slip printed from a dispenser. Kirby saw the figure and relief washed away the guilt. Maybe he wouldn’t need benefits anymore––at least he would have time to recover once the debts were cleared away. And if Colby thought he was seeing a penny of this, he could talk it over on his next “visit” to Grandpa.

He started for the real bus stop, when an old lady approached him. She moved with the aid of a walker, and the woman by her side was maybe twenty or thirty years younger.

“Excuse me; does the #55 stop here? This idiot doesn’t seem to know.”

The “idiot” wore a silent frown of resignation. Kirby decided it was none of his business. He glanced at the shelter, which had opened to reveal an interior that was clean and empty as the day it was built. Then, he said to the old lady, “#55 is due any minute, ma’am. Why don’t you go in and have a seat?” Bus-Stop1-300x225.jpg

Alone In A Crowd

Normally, this would be the kind of post to put on my other blog. But as an open mic crowd is as much a part of the writing community as any, I feel this is the best way to make my sincerest apology to a performer that I walked out on.

I went to an open mic the other day. It was an open mic I have been to a few times. The last time, was to read a short story. Yesterday was for the same reason, but something was different.

First I called early in the day to make sure the open mic was still going. The last time I called, the woman who answered put my name on the list straight away. So when I called yesterday, I thought that would be the case again, but the guy who answered wouldn’t bother.

I showed up about half an hour before sign up. The cafe was mostly empty, and behind the counter, I heard the same guy swearing at someone on the phone. The atmosphere was immediately uncomfortable, but I tried to soldier on through, reading some book about animal totems and trying to mentally prepare for the event.

Then the crowd started filling in. This place usually has a pretty good crowd, with lots of regular performers reading their poetry. But I immediately felt a sense of isolation in this crowd.

Everyone seemed to know each other. The tiny space was filled with chatter, and all I could do was just smile when someone glanced my way. Usually in an open mic, there’s someone I can at least talk to. No one even approached me, because they were all together with their own friends. I’m not the sort who can just reach out to other people, because I never know how I will be received, so silence becomes my shield.

Then I saw that everyone had their sheets of poetry. The host for the night read from a book of poetry, the first performer was great, the second one was the same, and I realized that this crowd might not feel happy with me slowing down the speed of the first three readers by reading a short story.

I couldn’t do it, I had to leave and I didn’t even wait for the second performer to finish. It was the worst thing I could ever do to another performer, and if he reads this, I hope he knows that I am sincerely sorry if I gave him the wrong impression, or if he feels insulted by my actions.

The Paper Trail ~ An Original Tale

The little girl’s eyes widened. Those trees should not have existed, not within the confines of this tiny little wardrobe, yet they grew so high that her small, yet clever mind had not yet learned to conceive of an adequate measurement. The forest spread so far as to defy the limitations of her considerable imagination.

The little girl found a path that was covered in snow. Cold moisture touched her ankles, assuring her that this was no dream.

At the end of the trail, a swarm of termites devoured one of the enormous trees. She watched, curiously, as the tree seemed to become dust before her eyes. The termites proceeded to file into a large mound with a human sized door through which the little girl felt compelled to enter.

Inside, the termites took their turn, squatting over a conveyor belt and excreting the now pulpy substance, which was then taken to a press at the end of the assembly line. Individual sheets of paper were sorted into reams of 500 and wrapped in the silk from a fairy’s wings. When a pallet of these boxes were loaded, a dwarf wrapped it in plastic and stamped a delivery invoice on the outside: The Beverly Free Library.

“And that,” the librarian said, bringing the little girl back to reality. “Is why we charge 75 cents per page to print.”

The Sensible Detective ~ Dialogue Thursday

DIP

“Thank you all for coming. First thing’s first: Arrest that man.”

The suspect barely had time to react as the officers placed the cuffs on his wrists. “What did I do?”

“Trust me, I know it was you, and I’ll get to that in a moment,” the detective said. “I just didn’t want to give you a chance to run. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sound of my own voice. But you might actually get away, or at worst, hurt someone, and what would that say about my competency?”

Seeking Feedback Online

Seeking feedback for your story online is like drinking dirty water for the purposes of re-hydration. Yeah, it might be all you have, but your body still has to work extra hard to sort the good stuff from the crap.

I’ve received some great feedback from the forum where I usually post stories for critique. At the same time, there’s the periods of waiting for someone to read and respond. And, like a panhandler, there’s the sifting through the pieces of pyrite and hoping for a nugget of real gold. (I’m just trucking out the water related metaphors in this one)

For the record, online or in person, I’ve had about the same mix of satisfaction and frustration.

Bitter Coffee ~ A Short Story

This story is very popular in Russia all of a sudden.

Confessions of a Cart Jockey

Forty became fourteen, fourteen became one hundred and one hundred became seven. Only in retail did that kind of math make sense and then only to the people who signed the paychecks. Right now, Jack only needed a dollar, seventy-five to get through the next hour, which would lead him to the four he desperately needed to turn one hundred into one, twenty-five and make it to ten and a half if he was really lucky.

The aroma hit his brain, lifting the fog as he took a deep breath. The cafe was brightly lit which stung his eyes at first, but then he settled on the Halloween décor which was already covering the walls. In a glass case in the corner, a scarecrow with a pumpkin head waved at him from top of a cake he wished he could bite into – mostly because the chemicals used to preserve…

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