Fiction Feature and Author Interview: The Acorn Stories by Duane Simolke


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Fiction, Humor, Short Stories


the acorn stories

Acorn, Texas Book 1

From romantic comedy to razor-sharp satire to moments of quiet reflection, The Acorn Stories transform a fictional West Texas town into a tapestry of human experiences. “A lush tangle of small-town life branches out in this engrossing collection of short stories.” –Kirkus Reviews. “There are people that you like, some that you can’t wait to see if they get theirs.” –Joe Wright, StoneWall Society. “A well-crafted collection of short stories.” –L. L. Lee, author of Taxing Tallula.

The Sky Is Always Falling in This West Texas Town!

These tales explore the humor, drama, secrets, and scandals of a small town.

From romantic comedy to razor-sharp satire to moments of quiet reflection, Duane Simolke’s award-winning tales transform a fictional West Texas town into a tapestry of human experiences.

˃˃˃ The Individual Stories:

“Acorn”: When we arrive at the fictional West Texas town of Acorn, the narrative keeps shifting between Regina and Dirk, who both seek control over their relationship.

“Flip, Turn”: A different scene from the narrator’s amusing but unproductive life comes to him every time he turns to swim in the opposite direction.

“Keeping A Secret”: A little boy wants to shield his mother and his little brother from a dangerous situation.

“Survival”: A young high school teacher, deaf and gay, clashes with a popular football coach.

“Paying The Rent”: In this politically incorrect tale, an inarticulate young man hopes to marry a rich woman so he can pay the rent, but he finds her repulsive.

“Morgana Le Fay”: A widow finds her new romance disrupted by her Siamese cat’s strange behavior.

“Your Daughter”: Gretchen’s approach to raising a daughter and maintaining a marriage requires ignoring problems and carefully orchestrating conversations.

“Knock”: A father sees his daughter abandon her Mexican heritage, and he now fears other types of abandonment.

“Come With Me”: The conflicting influence of her overbearing sister and her supportive husband forces Becky to re-evaluate her ambitions.

“Dead Enough”: Farcical look at English departments, tabloid TV, the publishing industry, and America’s superstar culture.

“Mae”: Standing by her husband’s grave, an elderly woman looks back at the joys and challenges of marriage and motherhood.

“Timothy Fast”: In this satirical retelling of the Faustian myth, a Jewish businessman finds himself pulled into small-town politics.

“Mirrors: A Blackmail Letter”: The owner of an art gallery becomes the target of a “family values” witch-hunt, spear-headed by Acorn’s closeted (and supposedly “ex-gay”) mayor.

“Echoes”: A time of unexpected changes for Becky and her husband.

“Oak”: Julie Briggs can only talk to her mother by leaving messages on her answering machine, but she refuses to give up her voice.

“Acorn Pie”: An unusual weekend in the life of an unusual town.

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Excerpt:

I pulled myself up enough to see the alarm clock just across my room. 10:15! It had happened again: after dreaming during the night that my alarm clock was buzzing, I had gotten up and turned it off, realized I was dreaming, stayed in bed wondering whether I had also dreamed turning it off, then fallen asleep without turning it back on.

“Swimming,” I mumbled into my pillow. I was supposed to have met Jimmy Jacobs at Acorn College’s indoor pool around ten. Since I hadn’t gone swimming in weeks, I had no idea where my alumni I.D. was. I searched my disintegrating wallet, pulling out shreds of napkins, envelopes, and newspaper with scribbled numbers. Some of the numbers looked like combinations for P.O. boxes or lockers, while others looked like phone numbers, but none of them had words on them. My wallet housed numbers detached from their purpose. I thought I should keep them in case I needed them one day. But how would I know if I needed them, or which ones to use? Then I found a phone number with a familiar handwriting.

I could have called all the phone numbers to see if I recognized the voices of the people who answered. Then I could just hang up. Maybe that’s what people are doing—the people who call me then hang up. Maybe they sorted through old wallets and purses, found my number on a scrap of paper. After finding my I.D. in the dark recesses of my wallet, I stuffed all the numbers back in to recreate whatever equation they had formed, knowing I would probably not see them again until my wallet fell apart.

After pulling on swim trunks, T-shirt, and tennis shoes, I walked outside into Mom and Dad’s yard sale and suddenly remembered that I really need to get my own place.

Jimmy Jacobs wasn’t even at the pool when I got there. I decided not to mention it to my mother—never mind that I’m twenty-eight—because she would just say, “I’ve told you about that Jacobs boy.” From junior high ’till well past high school graduation, no teenagers within a forty-mile radius of Acorn could get drunk, stoned, beat up, arrested, or pregnant without their parents asking, “You’ve been hanging around with that Jacobs boy, haven’t you?” By the time I graduated from college—a lot of good that did me, the new assistant manager at Ice Cream Dream—he was a husband, a father, and the pastor of Zionosphere Baptist Church.


Youtube Book Trailer:


 


About the Author:

Duane Simolke wrote several books, including The Acorn Stories, Degranon, Holding Me Together, and Sons of Taldra. He edited and co-wrote The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer; that book is both a stand-alone spin-off of The Acorn Stories and a cancer fundraiser.

Three of his books received StoneWall Society Pride in the Arts Awards, and one received an AllBooks Reviewers Choice Award. His writing appeared in nightFire, Mesquite, Caprock Sun, Midwest Poetry Review, International Journal on World Peace, and many other publications.

Education: Belmont University (B.A., ’89, Nashville, TN), Hardin-Simmons University (M.A., ’91, Abilene, TX), and Texas Tech University (Ph.D., ’96, Lubbock, TX), all with a major in English.

DuaneSimolke.Com includes some of his writing, as well as a variety of links. He lives in Lubbock, Texas.

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Author Interview:

What has been your favorite book to write so far? Why?

It’s a tie.

I worked on Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure off and on for much of my life. After its publication, I wrote two revised editions. Though it’s set in an alternate reality, it captures many of my thoughts and experiences. It reflects my writing journey and my life journey, which often intertwine. Besides, I made it something I would want to read: a scifi book with diversity and time travel.

The Acorn Stories also borrows from my life and experiences. It blurs short story conventions, captures my love for Texas, and pays tribute to a variety of places and authors. Of course, it isn’t science fiction, but I like it just as much as Degranon. Anyone new to my work should start with The Acorn Stories. It’s a fast, fun read with a lot of quirky characters.

Are you currently working on a book?

I’m writing a short story and hope to finish it soon. It will eventually appear in a new collection of my work.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Revising, giving the work texture and solid word choice.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Yes. Sometimes I write anyway, even if it’s just rambling. Otherwise, I wait and try again later. The ideas often hit when I’m not writing, sometimes even entire scenes.

Have you ever had one of your characters to take a twist you weren’t expecting and surprise you?

It happens to me a lot, and I love it! If my characters surprise me, they might also surprise readers.

Which of your characters is your personal favorite? Why?

It’s a tie between two strong women. Taldra in Degranon and Sons of Taldra is an Iroquois scientist who challenges oppression. Becky in The Acorn Stories and The Acorn Gathering is an artist whose mental challenges and overbearing sister could keep her from her goals. They’re both inspirational and entertaining characters.

Do you have any extras you’d like to share, like a teaser about an upcoming new release, a summary of a deleted scene, or a teaser about a surprising plot twist or character?

The following excerpt is from the short story “Fat Diary,” which appears in the stand-alone spin-off The Acorn Gathering. Readers can also order “Fat Diary” alone as a free eBook from bn.com or Smashwords.Com. Like the story I shared from above, it uses a first-person narrator.

Dear Fat Diary,

My nutritionist told me to write in you every day, until I can come to terms about why I’m not happy with my weight, and why I want to change. I’m supposed to call you my “love diary,” but I’m not trying to get rid of love; I’m trying to get rid of fat. We’ll talk about love later.

No, on second thought, we’ll talk about love now. I don’t have love because I have fat. If I didn’t weigh 260 pounds, I might be writing a love diary, and teenage girls would read it and swoon, while listening to the latest boybands and dreaming of that guy who sits in the second row of their American history class. Wait, that’s what I did at the University of Texas in Austin.

My name is Pamela Mae Willard, named after my Aunt Mae and my father, Samuel Carsons (yes, as in “Carsons Furniture, Acorn’s best-kept secret”). He wanted a Samuel Carsons, Jr. He had to settle with a Pamuel, which became Pamela, due to the mercy of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, and my passive-aggressive mom. She kept “accidentally” referring to my father as “Samueluel,” and when that bothered him, she said she “didn’t give a damnuel,” and when he wanted supper, she said he could fry some “Spamuel,” and if he wanted someone to keep him warm, he could “buy a cocker spaniel.” Even though she never actually said how much she hated the name “Pamuel,” the message came through clearly enough, and he eventually asked if Pamela Mae would be all right.

Pamela Mae sounded sufficiently dignified and Southern for a member of Acorn’s beloved Carsons family, so she consented, and soon began cooking meals that weren’t primarily composed of meat byproducts. Harmony soon returned to our home, and my parents adopted an unwanted newborn baby just over a year later, naming him Samuel, of course, but calling him “Sam.” If they were going to go through all of that just to call someone “Sam,” they probably could have named me Samantha! Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite in a position to impart my keen sense of logic at the time.


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