Cleanse the Palate with Some Short Stories

tired brain

Are you reading War and Peace, Les Miserables, The Iliad or The Odyssey? Maybe Atlas Shrugged?

After all of that heavy reading, you might need something to reset your brain. Why not some short stories. My collection, Random Tales, has four short stories that will fit the bill.

Here is a description of each of the stories:

  • Heal Thyself – A man who is in a terrible accident wakes up to find that his life has changed forever in a very unexpected way.

The short story, Heal Thyself, holds a special place in my heart. It was the result of my first serious attempt at writing. It was the first short story that I completed and had published. I remember when I heard back from ‘Down In The Dirt’ magazine that they wanted to publish my story. I received no money and actually had to buy a copy of it myself, but hey, I was in print.

The story emerged from reading news headlines. I saw a story about a man riding a motorcycle that had been in a horrific crash and his injuries had paralyzed him from the neck down with multiple internal injuries.

Instead of this inevitable outcome, I started thinking about what alternative endings there might be. I have always been an avid reader of everything written by Stephen King and I began thinking of his book, The Dead Zone which centers on a man that wakes from a coma with psychic abilities that end up torturing him. Thinking of that story gave me a direction for Heal Thyself and I was off and running.

  • August 1963 – A story that was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream’ speech about a young boy transplanted to the South in the early 1960’s.

This story was written to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. There are a few things to note about this story. First, the main character tells the story in first person, which was something I wanted to try. Second, the character is a transplanted northerner moving to the south at a time when the Civil Rights movement in the US was at a fevered pitch. Although I was less than a year old when this story takes place, I experienced some of the same issues that the main character faced during my own move to the south over 30 years later. Finally, if you’ve read “Frankly Speaking” or “Let Me Be Frank”, you might notice some familiar names and references. This is something that I’ve started to do in my work. I want to have a common underlying thread or universe of characters throughout my work.

This story very much echoes my own feelings on prejudice and racial inequality. One theme that rings through is, no matter how enlightened we think we might be on either side of the race issue, we don’t truly understand what is going on in the hearts and minds of others involved in the struggle. I was able to weave in music as a common thread that binds the characters together. You will see the use of music in many of my stories. Besides writing, it is another passion in my life.

One change that I made in this version of the story from the original that was published as a single, is using the actual n-word instead of masking it. I received some reviews and messages saying that this would make the piece more authentic. I struggled with this as the word has become so controversial and I have always viewed it as offensive. I was convinced when I recently re-read my favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. When Scout uses the word in the book as a young child, her father tells her not to use the word because it is “common” meaning “low class” in the context of the time and place. I am using it in my story even though, like Atticus Finch, I consider it “common”.

  • Play It Again Des – A young piano player realizes his dream of being one of the greats, but at what cost?

This story is about the consequences of taking shortcuts. In my career, I have reached heights higher than I thought I would, but it has been a slow and steady climb. I have refused to play politics or to “sell my soul” to get ahead. I don’t golf. I don’t go to cocktail parties. I would rather color with my seven-year-old than hang out with a bunch of “Masters of the Universe” at a country club on a Saturday morning.

The main character of this story, Desmond Brown, takes a shortcut and suffers the consequences. His shortcut is the result of youthful impatience and coercion by an evil entity. In my corporate career, I have seen both of these at work and have somehow failed to succumb to either. My career ascension may have been slow, but I am able to sleep at night.

Note: If you’ve read my novels, you will see other common threads in this work from the “Frank” universe. Pay attention to the location in New Orleans in particular.

  • Lucy’s Christmas Miracle – A dog saves the day and makes Christmas memorable.

I wrote this story completely on a flight from Atlanta to Boston. It was about a two hour flight in rough weather. It was inspired by the dog, Lucy, in my Frank Rozzani Detective Series books. It’s a light-hearted story about a child that goes missing and the events leading to locating her.

It was meant to be a quick tale to get readers interested in my books and as a special Christmas bonus to those who have read the books to whet their appetites for the third book.

I had written the dedication to my youngest daughter who is sometimes wise beyond her years. A freaky thing occurred when I asked my usual provider to create a cover for the story. It came back with a picture of a little girl being guided by a dog. I had to take a second look at the picture as the little girl has a strong resemblance to my daughter mentioned in the dedication. The designer has never met or even seen my daughter, so the coincidence was interesting.

The book is only $.99 in the Amazon Kindle format. I think these stories are worth reading and I want to get them exposure. Also, for those of you that have not read my work, this is a great way to introduce you to my writing.

If you want to pick up a copy you can download it here.

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The Frank Rozzani Detective Boxed Set

When you write a series, it’s great when you have enough to create a cool boxed set. I’ve done this with my first three Frank Rozzani detective novels (number four just went to my editor today).

The first three books can be read standalone, but do have a backstory arc that runs across them and is resolved (maybe) in book 3. They flow together nicely with each one setting up the next.

In addition to the three novels, I’ve included a special short story, Lucy’s Christmas Miracle, that was written about Frank’s loyal dog, Lucy.

All of this adds up to about 800 pages of compelling private detective mystery goodness for a price that is about 60% lower than the price of all of these things added together on Amazon.

But wait, there’s more…not really. That’s about it. If you like what you see, you can check them out HERE.

Here is a synopsis of each item, however:

Book 1 – Frankly Speaking

A 16 year old girl has disappeared. The police believe she is a runaway. Her parents believe she has been taken and is being held against her will. When the parents enlist the services of Frank Rozzani, a former police officer turned private detective, a series of events begins to unfold that implicates a popular local pastor and the religious stronghold of the ultra-conservative community.

Frank Rozzani, a transplant to Jacksonville, Florida from Syracuse, New York, must find the young girl despite the obstacles launched at him from the local police and others whose interests may be compromised by his investigation. Frank enlists the help of his associate Clifford “Jonesy” Jones to find the girl, uncover the conspiracy, and stay alive. While solving the case, Frank must deal with the demons that drove him from Upstate New York causing him to leave traumatic memories and his children behind.

Praise for Frankly Speaking

“A nicely woven tale with intriguing main characters.”

“Good indie fiction, a compelling suspense thriller”

“Frankly Fantastic”

Book 2 – Let Me Be Frank

A young girl is senselessly murdered. The police believe the murder to be a random homeless casualty until it is discovered that she has ties to Fat Sam and his mysterious past life in The Big Easy.

Join private detective Frank Rozzani, and Clifford “Jonesy” Jones as they travel to historic New Orleans and other areas in the Gulf Coast to search for clues in the girl’s trek to Jacksonville, Florida that will help them uncover evidence implicating those responsible for the murder so they can be brought to justice. They soon discover that things are not as they seem. As the case progresses, the evidence uncovered has ties to the tragic events that drove Frank from his life in Syracuse, New York. Frank realizes that proceeding with the case could change his life, as well as the lives of those around him, forever.

Praise for Let Me Be Frank

“Another great by Don Massenzio”

“Frank and Jonesy are once again doing what they do best”

“Great next installment!”

Book 3 – Frank Incensed

The stakes are high as Private Detective Frank Rozzani races against time to save the love of his life. Will Frank rescue her from the terrible man in the trench coat or will this man end the life of yet another person that Frank is close to? Find out who survives in the new Frank Rozzani Detective Mystery – Frank Incensed.

Praise for Frank Incensed

“I am a new fan of Don Massenzio”

“I loved this book!”

“The further adventures of Frank Rozzani, a good read!”

Bonus Short Story – Lucy’s Christmas Miracle

It’s the Christmas Season and a child is missing. Her parents are frantic. Join Private Detective Frank Rozzani and all of his friends as they search for her in the inclement weather of a cold winter night. It will take a miracle to bring her home safely. Christmas is the time for just such miracles.

Praise for Lucy’s Christmas Miracle

“Wonderful POSITIVE mystery short story by a talented author.”

“A happy little tale.”

“This short holiday story by Don Massenzio is definitely worth a read.”

Choosing a Book Title – Make Good Choices

When I wrote my first novel, I wanted the main character to be, like me, and Italian American. There are many Italian-sounding first names I could have gone with, Tony, Johnny, Carmine, etc. I decided to go with Frank. Frank is a name that is common among Italians, but it also gave me the opportunity to be clever with the title. I went with Frankly SpeakingThere were other books with this title, but none in the genre in which I was writing. It was a good title in that it seemed to work and not adversely affect sales.

Then came the sequel. For the sequel, I decided to use ‘Frank’ in the title. To try something different, I actually ran a contest and the person with the winning title had their name used as a character in the book. It was gimmicky, but it worked and I landed on Let Me Be Frank as the title. I adapted the story by having Frank use an alias for part of his investigation.

The second book was well received and I had several readers clamoring for more ‘Frank’.  The story arc across the books had led to a loved one of Frank’s being in danger and him using drastic measures to capture her. I was inspired and went with Frank IncensedI released the book right before participating in the Indie Bookfest in Orlando. I participated on a panel and the subject of book titles came up. I mentioned my series and my hope that I wouldn’t run out of titles before I ran out of story ideas. After the panel discussion, a gentleman came up and presented me with a list of about 25 ‘Frank’ titles. Some were usable. Some were PG-13 to R rated.

I started thinking about other authors that have done this with titles. James Patterson comes to mind with his Alex Cross books that mostly use the word ‘cross’ in the title. Sue Grafton is another with her ‘A’ Is For Alibi, ‘B’ Is For Burglar, ‘C’ Is For Corpse, etc. series. She painted herself into a 26 book series. Janet Evanovich and her One For The Money Stephanie Plum series seems to have infinite possibilities for titles.

If you are working on a series, is it smart to tie them together with a gimmicky title? Some authors avoid this. I am a fan of the Jonathan Kellerman Alex Delaware series of books. They all have unique, unrelated titles with the subtitle, ‘An Alex Delaware Novel’.

I’m curious about your thinking on this. What experiences have you had? How do you choose a book title?

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.