Wednesday, October 5, 2022

'Now I'm Here' - prize pumpkins and fall fiction

October is underway and that means it's time for pumpkins! 

I'm not just talking about pumpkin spice and all its stereotypical memes and humor, 

but the actual gourds that I go crazy for. 

Allow me to explain how my love of pumpkins stems (pun!)  

from working on a pumpkin farm and led to help developing my sixth novel,

 ‘Now I'm Here.’

As you may recall, in 2018 the novel was published by Beautiful Dreamer Press

Now I'm Here’ involves Joshua, a piano prodigy, who becomes a little 

bit famous by playing a piano solo of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” 

He falls for a brooding rough boy in his school, David, 

who works on his dad's pumpkin farm.

I sat on this novel for years as it was incomplete. 

I didn't know what else to do with David, the second character 

in the book. But at one time I put together a short story, 

actually more of a novella, barely fictionalizing my own experience 

working on a small Ohio pumpkin farm 

through the fall of 1981 when I was in between colleges. 


I dropped out of Kent State in the theater department and had yet to 

figure out what to do. I would eventually switch to dance and 

continued studies at Ohio State. But that one Autumn was a pivotal time. 

It wasn't very enjoyable at the time but looking back I turned it into 

a dramatic long short story called “Tractor Pull.”

Part of my job,  along with picking produce and packing it into crates 

in a truck on a weekly basis, was selling produce on a roadside stand and 

at shopping malls around my hometown. We were up against big 

agribusiness produce in grocery stores, selling similar produce. 

But some people still like the homegrown stuff. 

In a way that compares to supporting an independent small presses and authors.

Do you want fresh organic produce sold by one person or are you 

going to buy from a corporation at a supermarket?

outtake from the cover photo shoot



You can read that version in my short story collection, ‘Forty Wild Crushes.’ 

But then I expanded the story into multiple chapters for David's adventures 

and experiences, working for his abusive father but then also escaping the farm. 

He later inherits it and he and Joshua live on the farm together.


But what is it about pumpkins that is so fascinating, aside from the 

beautiful colors? Well, they're Hardy and they represent the harvest 

in autumn in most American cultures. I’m not sure about European cultures.

Did you know that if you don't carve a pumpkin it can last for months? 

I discovered this when I saved some pumpkin –small and large ones– 

from the fall of 2017 and eventually used them for the photo shoot of the 

book cover for ‘Now I'm Here.’

Since then I haven't really carved pumpkins so much as just display them 

and buy them and occasionally cook them. More recently, after finishing 

fixing up my bicycle that had been sitting in my basement for a few too 

many weeks, the first place I rode to was the SoMa Trader Joe’s for their 

variety of pumpkin flavor treats from snacks; cookies, ice cream and bread.

So pumpkins end up having the kind of pivotal seed if you will to the story line, 

particularly towards the end.

I’m also giving a nod to this book because although it came out four years ago 

I’m still hoping to find new readers. At my day job at the Bay Area Reporter  

I receive dozens of press releases for really high quality LGBTQ novels 

and memoirs. It seems like a lot of people got work done during the pandemic. 

I work hard to get as many as possible assigned for reviews. 

But there simply isn’t room for all of them. 

My own seventh novel, ‘Finding Tulsa, kind of got lost in the shuffle in 2020 as well.

It’s been a very difficult time getting small press books to see any attention, 

especially after they've been out for a few years. But I think of them as like 

pumpkins; if they're not damaged, they do end up having a long shelf life.

You’re welcome to add reviews to any of the books you may have read. 

That's what keeps literature going, finding new readers. 

So heat up your pumpkin spice treats with a nice cuppa, 

and post your own harvest of reviews.