Me, an Abbot-Downing Stagecoach, and the joy of self-censoring a short story during a public reading

Posted: September 26, 2016 in Writing
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As you may be aware, my latest short story “A Trip to Gehenna” was recently published in the “Live Free or Ride” anthology, as part of the NH Pulp Fiction Project. I won’t re-hash what I’ve already said about the piece/collection, save for that you should get your copy now, especially if you happened to read, and be a fan of, ‘Four Bullets’, as there’s an old friend who just so happens to show up in the anthology.

Yeah, it’s a stealth Drake Travis short story.

As part of the promotion/celebration of the anthology’s release, I was invited to take part in a public reading/unveiling in the small town of Sandwich, NH. Before I go on, YES, there were sandwiches there. One of them even had FIG in it!

Can you believe that shit? FIG!!

spiderman neat


I was one of seven writers included in the anthology present and read the opening of my story. Beforehand, the Sandwich Historical Society wheeled out a genuine Abbot-Downing stagecoach, of which, is the theme of the Live Free or Ride anthology.



After a presentation on the history of the Abbot-Downing Stagecoach company, and the history of this particular stagecoach, the Historical Society turned things over to the writers, of which, I happen to be. I know, I was surprised, too.

My writing is an acquired taste. I’m not one to sugar-coat things nor shy away from writing things that could be considered controversial and/or offensive. I’m like The Man Without Fear, in that sense. Yes, I did just compare myself to Daredevil. Except for the super-enhanced senses. And the ninja training. And the blindness. And the lawyerin’

“A Trip to Gehenna” is pretty dark, even for one of my stories. I deliberately set out to write a very nihilistic kind of horror story, using Drake Travis more as plot device than actual character. For more insights on the story, you can go here

So, it is my turn to read. I get up in front of the crowd of very lovely people on a bright, crisp Autumn, New England afternoon. There’s a nice breeze going. The sound of children’s laughter carried it across the park where we were. All eyes and ears were on me, waiting, eager to listen to a pulp fiction story featuring the very stagecoach that resided twenty yards to my right.


Me, trying desperately to come up with an adjective for the word "fuck", off the top of my head.

Me, trying desperately to come up with an adjective for the word “fuck”, off the top of my head.

I read. Being mindful of the little kids running around, and also that I was in a public place, and that the language I employ in my story isn’t appropriate for polite company, I read the opening of the story. I won’t spoil the story for you, but the opening features a town shrouded in mist, whose residents emerge from it as if they’re being born into the world for the first time.

I don’t feel I am the strongest readers. I blame my self consciousness and that I think my voice sounds like someone is constantly stepping on my throat. I felt that I did okay, in all honesty. The audience applauded, whether out of politeness or actual enjoyment, I cannot say. I choose to believe it to be the latter.

And, wouldn’t you know it? The authors who read after me? No hesitation in reading the more “adult” parts of their stories. It seemed that nearly every story after I read was “blood”, “shot in the face”, “more blood”. So, what the fuck was I so worried about? I mused on this afterwards, thinking of how I ought to have read the part of the story where a bag of severed heads gets tossed around.

After the readings, we did the requisite picture taking of us authors standing next to the coach. In this time, they opened up the event for sales. I have never signed that many autographs in my fledgling career. How did it feel? It felt pretty great, I must say.



It was a wonderful event; small, but wonderful nonetheless.

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