Ordinary Handsome, et al.

Published works, synopses, and reviews. Thank you.

ordinary5FINALEb

Ordinary Handsome

Fifty-seven years ago, a young man named Euart Monroe came back home. Only two people knew what happened to him. Years later, the man responsible for Euart’s fate is paid a visit. But is it Euart’s ghost? Or is it the boy grown up seeking retribution? Welcome to Handsome, OK, population 883 and fading. It’s a place where some men bury their mistakes, a town on the edge of becoming a ghost.

“…the writing is textured, rife with precise detail, stunning imagery, and raw emotion. Baird is a master at finding the perfect word and painting a picture that shifts and clears with each new perspective.” 

“(Baird’s) writing is exquisite, the subject matter is temporally relevant, and there are characters to both pity and loathe. Ordinary Handsome, in its grit and precision, tells of extraordinary misfortune and strife.”

“Ordinary Handsome takes you through the fragmented life story of a dying town, told from the perspective of its soon-to-be ghosts. It grips you from the very beginning and stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. I absolutely recommend this book.”

Ordinary Handsome (e-book) is available here

Ordinary Handsome (oversized paperback) is available here

verytallnewtrucover2

A Very Tall Summer

“It was a very tall summer in 1957, and I’ll tell you why…”
And so begins the most terrible summer for Charlotte Windover.
She and husband Jeremiah began a new life together surrounded by a wide expanse of a corn and sky. After years of brutal disappointment, she finally resolves to change her life. When Jeremiah is suddenly killed at an abandoned homestead, life becomes more isolated and harrowing. And with the threat of random fires being set by a mysterious figure known only as Croy, Charlotte’s life has become even more desperate.
In a land of big skies and small dreams, A Very Tall Summer is the tale of a woman’s resolve to overcome her broken past, and at any cost.

“Baird is a master wordsmith, painting a vivid world of sound and motion, rife with feeling, and deadly in its inevitability.”

“Baird’s use of language is both elegant and gritty. It is layered and often unexpected; and it makes something striking out of an otherwise simple story. He uses his skill to pin you to the page in a way which both pleases and disturbs, creating a kind of cognitive dissonance which will both repel and compel you. A keen observer, he will activate all your senses, sometimes in ways you wish he would not. You will find you are unable to turn away from the taste of sweat and the crunch of cartilage.”

A Very Tall Summer (e-book) here

A Very Tall Summer (oversized paperback) here

Maggie-final

Maggie

Maggie Day is a pregnant young woman who escapes to the only place she’s ever felt safe. As she copes with past tragedies and trauma, she is guided by her grandmother, who helps her discover courage and self-respect. Maggie is a tale of love and strength, and of overcoming the wounds of a dark past.

“Baird is a master of ‘voice,’ capturing the unique beauty of each personality through their thoughts and words. In a rural world of poverty, self-sufficiency, and few prospects for change, emotions run deep and rich with insight, honesty, and love.”

Maggie (novella) is available here

Advertisements

Now available in paperback

51QN5rzHUwL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_

Fifty-seven years ago I killed a boy. Tonight, Euart Monroe walked into my room with a Mossberg 510 and a stained hobo mattress and fired a shot into my belly. It should have killed me right off, but he didn’t want that. He wanted me to know who pulled the trigger.

***
I’m excited to announce that Ordinary Handsome is now available in paperback. It’s an oversize 6.69″ x  9.61″ book with a matte cover and cream pages. Pardon the indulgence, but it really is quite handsome. Weighing in at a whopping 187 pages, it’s got a spanky new cover and even a tiny author photo on the back for your mustache-drawing indulgence. Please check it out and let me know what you think. As always, thank you for reading. — Steve

Handsome review

A wonderful review from my friend D. Wallace Peach at Myths of the Mirror. She has been a constant champion of my work, and I am so grateful. Please check out her site… she’s an amazing writer and I think you’ll be mesmerized not only by her work but by the depth of her imagination. Her review is here.

Revised cover

ordinary5FINALEb

The big dreamers weren’t anywhere to be found in my bar that day. You know the kind, if you’ve ever been in a saloon. The big talkers who like to think they have life by the throat. If they were just a little luckier, or if fate was a little pluckier, they could improve their lot in life in a minute.

But you hear all those dreams, those half-lit ambitions, and you know they’re not going anywhere but from the bar stool to the privy, and back to their bar stool. And the drunker they get, the loftier the dreams.

Old Walt Zuckerman, who used to manage the Red & White, he always had the dream of buying himself a house boat. Said if he had one, he’d float on the lake all day, drink beer, and enjoy the fruits of his labor. What particular fruits, and what particular labor, he never said, but he was keen on buying that boat. And on what lake, I don’t have any idea. Wasn’t a lake within 200 miles of Handsome. I guess if you’re going to dream something up, the matter of a lake shouldn’t have no bearing.

Then he decided he was going to build that boat. He studied diagrams in Popular Mechanics, and even bought a garage-full of lumber. He said he sent away for blueprints from a company in Pennsylvania.

Walt spent endless weeks talking about that boat, and how he would name it “The Marie” after his high school sweetheart, and how he’d paint it green and stencil her name on it with bright orange paint. He would have a fully stocked kitchen, which he called the galley, and eat pork and beans and put ketchup on his eggs and leave a bottle of bourbon on his bedside table at night because no one could tell him he couldn’t because he would be the goddamned captain of The Marie.

Of course, the lumber gathered termites, and his hammer and nails turned rusty, and it came to pass you couldn’t buy Walt a drink if you mentioned The Marie. He was done with it, and he never spoke of her again.

Time slipped away, like it always does, and life got in the way. And so it is with everyone who leaves a crumpled dollar bill on the counter of my bar. For every “trade her in for a new Cadillac, maybe next summer,” there’s another greasy sawbuck in my cash drawer.

***

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome, available here. Thanks for reading!

The tourist

Wait. Maybe I’ve been telling you wrong, trying to add more gravity than I mean. Ghosts, yes. But this town had good people. Simple and solid. Those who were dealt a unjust hand and were still first in line to set out a dinner plate for you. Listen. They lived hard lives and didn’t know any other way but raw hand-to-mouth. They held on through the Dust Bowl, they sank deep in the Depression, but it did not bury them. Not all of them moved away, not if they could stay. The realness of hunger and deprivation and heart-sickness emptied a lot of houses. Some found comfort in their faith, some were just plain stubborn, and they all held to family as tight as they could. They stayed. And they built what they could. Hard, hard work, but they shored up their walls and planted their lean fields. Their hands were grimed but their hearts stayed clean. And when they died, what was left of the town mourned hard. That was life back then.

So what became of Henry Wasson and his hotel broke a lot of spirits. I know there are stories about the man. How he was a drunkard who burned down his damned tavern, then himself, but I think they’re mostly lies. Henry was a drunkard, but a good man. I knew him. He loved his boy more than anything. But stories always build from the lie on up and a lot of people considered him a part of this down’s demise. That’s foolishness. He was a good man, and I’ll carry that with me wherever you want. He was a drunk, but he was not cruel. He did not kill this town. No sir.

Take a look at this empty lot. On a clear night I can still smell the embers. I know it’s only in my head, but I still smell them. The spot is still pitch, it burned so hard. People tried to turn it into a communal garden, but nothing ever took. No geraniums, no daisies, not even witch grass. And no fool was going rebuild it into something worthwhile. So there it sits, as good a symbol of this town as anything. The iron benches in front are rusted to ribbons now. No one ever sat in them, because that would make them accomplices to the deed, or so they thought. So now it’s a place where only the dirt collects, and the phantom smell of smoke hangs like rags.

But never mind, never mind. That story is done.

There’s another one I want to tell you. I’ll warrant you haven’t heard it, because most of the folks who lived here never did. It’s a darker secret than all the midnight burials you may have caught hold of. Those who heard those stories are all gone. All but me.

Walk me over to the Memorial Park – it’s just over on Colborne Street – and I’ll tell you. It’s about a man named Charles Clowe. There was a man with secrets. The darkest secrets you ever heard.

Are you ready? Are you sure? Then pick up your boots and walk slow. I’ll tell you….

Ordinary Handsome available here

A ghost town, revisited

What? Do I believe in ghosts? Of course I do. I’ve seen them. Cozied right up beside them on the park benches of Joe Soldier Trailer Park, in the moldy seats of The Odeon, the busted stools of the Clatchy. We talk. We mostly reminisce, but sometimes we talk about the uselessness of mourning their dead selves. They don’t agitate me because they are the people I have known. Sometimes they are fussy, and some of them are damn fools because that’s what they always were. But they’re not awful. Mostly, they are the same. Except they’re not. They’re dead and they’re ghosts.

I see that smirk, boy. You think I’m the damn fool, or I’m pulling a fast one. Or maybe I’m just a senile old jackass who appreciates living company. No sir. And it don’t matter what you think. You were the one come looking for me. You heard those whispers in the gas stations and restaurant booths in proper towns, in living towns. Stories about an old man who still walks this dead place. You’ll write up your piece for your Sunday supplement, and your friends will buy you steaks and liquor, and you’ll have a good laugh at this old fool’s expense. But let me tell you, sonny, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night when I’m done with you, and you’ll wonder. You’ll think about ghosts. You’ll think about me. You won’t be so sure. Because that young smirk of yours will disappear as you get older. You’ll think about the peeling spaces between day and night. You’ll think about ghosts and you’ll see that I was right. And when you’re old enough, you’ll want to join them. You’ll want to clench hands and jump right in. You still have miles of years ahead of you, but I don’t. I measure my days in inches. That’s okay. That’s the blessing of talking to ghosts. You get familiar with them. Comfortable, even.

You can see me now. I’m right here, full of years, full of blood and talk. You can put your hand on my shoulder and you can feel the bones under my shirt. I’m real. I’m not a ghost. I could do the same with you, and we’d be alright, because we’d both know we were still here, clothed in life and light.

But what if that’s a trick? The endless secret? What if we’re the ghosts and everything we see and feel isn’t real to anyone but us? What if no one else can see us? Or hear us? Or touch us?

What if, boy?

Good. That smirk is gone. About time. I was befooling you. Of course we’re real. We’re still solid clay. But you think upon that. Think about it whenever you get to feeling you know everything, and everything you know is real. Because it ain’t always. No sir. It ain’t always.

***

The Town of Handsome crept into my head recently and I haven’t been able to let it go. So I think it’s time to revisit. It’s never really left my imagination….

Ordinary Handsome available here