Showing posts with label HOW I CAME TO WRITE THIS STORY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HOW I CAME TO WRITE THIS STORY. Show all posts

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"How I Came to Write the Story": The White Funeral in RELOADED

The White Funeral was originally the first chapter in the book that SNUBNOSE PRESS published this year under the title HOME INVASION. It began the story of Billie et all, with her mother and grandmother in a pitched battle over control. 

Billie's mother, Kay, has to return home when her marriage falls apart. Few women were able to support themselves and care for a child in the fifties. Kay could do neither. 

When I looked at the novel as a whole,  it seemed like I was beginning too early on in the narrative. I really wanted the novel to be about Billie and her son, Charlie, rather than start back with Kay and Adele in the late fifties. Kay was the kind of character that was better in a supporting role in a novel. A little of Kay goes a long way, in other words.

But I liked a lot of things about that chapter. I liked that both woman basically ignored Billie despite struggling over control of her. I liked that both woman had moments of strength and moments of weakness. I enjoyed evoking the house of my childhood, which was on a block of row houses where going to the back of your house without going through it could lead to a long walk. Divorced women in the fifties got little respect and the issue of pedophilia was practically unknown. I doubt anyone thought twice about leaving their child alone with a man for ten minutes. How did these women that married so early become an adult, and more importantly, a mother. Not always very well.

Writers: do you always know where a novel or story should start? I find that a difficult issue. I almost always end up cutting a lot of the early stuff in a story. It's like scaffolding I can eventually remove.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How I Came to Write This Book: THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE

THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE is available at Untreed Reads.

HOW I WROTE THIS BOOK: The Same Mistake Twice

By Albert Tucher

In the summer of 2000 I signed up on a whim for a fiction writing class at the Union County College in Cranford, NJ. Our teacher, Tom Cantillon, gave us weekly writing assignments, and one week he had us write an action story. From somewhere came a mental picture of a man and a woman standing by a car parked on the shoulder of a deserted highway.

So far, so noir, but who were they? I decided that they were a cop and a prostitute, and just to keep things interesting, I made her the good guy. He wanted to kill her, and she needed to stop him.
I couldn’t think of a motive that would play in 1,500 words, until I made the police officer a woman also. The motive became jealousy over a man who had been paying Diana—I knew her name immediately—and ignoring the officer.

The story turned out well, but I realized that it was open-ended enough to become the beginning of something bigger. It is now the first chapter in my currently unpublished novel Do Overs. For a long time that book was the beginning of Diana’s main story arc.

But it proved a tough sell, even after my friend and colleague Elaine Ash, aka Anonymous-9, did some needed major surgery on it. Elaine suggested that it had too much challenging material, including a cop killing and some hard-edged, explicit sex, to be the reader’s introduction to the Diana saga. She wondered whether I had a story that could come before Do Overs.

In fact, I had a novella with a solid noir premise: a John Doe turns up after ten years in a shallow grave, with nothing to identify him except Diana’s phone number freakishly preserved in his pocket. The number is one that she used only briefly, when she was just weeks into her career as a prostitute. Rather than give the police a list of her clients—certain death for her business—she decides to investigate, with results that could be fatal for her.

That story came in at 16,000 words. Elaine read it and said that it needed more. For starters, it needed the viewpoint of Detective Dale Tillotson, who has appeared in many of my short stories, and whose friendship with Diana is tested by the case. I also realized that the story is about the return of old mistakes and old enemies which gave me my title, The Same Mistake Twice. The theme also enabled me to rethink and reuse some material from Do Overs that had ended up on the cutting room floor. The result came in at 31,000 words, and Jay Hartman at Untreed Reads said that accepting the story for publication was “a no-brainer.”

I love it when that happens. The confusion lifts, and I have to think hard to remember what it felt like. Next time, why don’t I just skip the hard part and go straight to the good stuff?
Let me make a note of that.

Monday, March 04, 2013

How I Came to Write This Story "Allure Furs"

Allure Furs was originally a chapter in a novel I wrote called SHOT IN DETROIT. It is surprisingly easy for me to take chapters from my attempts at novels and turn them into short stories, a good indication that I have perhaps written short stories for too long to change my writing patterns.I see a story in 3500 words rather than 100, 000.

And this one was particularly simple because I merely wanted to establish an early introduction for my character to: photography, to men who want things from women, to tawdriness, to the things that would harden her. Essentially, it was a standalone chapter in the book. Not good for a novel but good for a short story.

As a teenager, Iris takes a job working the counter for Allure Furs, a seedy fur store stuck between a donut shop and a second run (or perhaps an adult) theater. Her duties grow when her boss decides she can do more than answer phones.

(In the mid eighties when my kids were teens, it became quite common to have an afterschool job. Designer clothes were coming into vogue and kids suddenly wanted jeans that cost too much for most families to afford. And businesses were thrilled to pay minimum wage to kids instead of livable salaries to adults. Some kids were performing tasks they had no business doing. Society was seduced by the idea that working was good for kids and schools began to accommodate this trend.

I sent the story to THUGLIT and Todd Robinson, its editor, thought it needed a bit more indication of just how sleazy the atmosphere at Allure Furs was. He was right. I was telling instead of showing the protagonist's encounters with men while modeling fur coats. The reader needed to feel her fear, and also her power, over the men who wanted to humiliate her. Hope it works for you.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

How I Wrote This Story: Andrez Bergen


I wrote ‘Sugar & Spice’ for Chris Rhatigan’s crime/hardboiled anthology All Due Respect (published via Full Dark City Press) and luckily he dug the story. I was going to throw in the pun ‘respected’ but think I’ll leave the shallow laughs till later, when you’re punch-drunk and less critical.
“Crime and postmodernism go together like peanut butter and jelly,” Chris emailed me back from India (really). “Gleefully maniacal stuff.”
Fiona Johnston, a fellow contributor, wrote in her review: “The teenagers who attempt the heist haven't the common sense to work out that the rare copy they've spotted displayed might not be all it seems and they pay dearly for this mistake. Yet again, Bergen gives a masterclass in short story writing.” (ta, matey)
The All Due Respect collection brings together some wild people like Fiona, Joe Clifford, Patti Abbott, Nigel Bird, Tom Pitts, CJ Edwards, Chris Leek, Richard Godwin, Mike Monson, Matthew C. Funk, Ron T. Brown and David Cranmer — so hunt it down if you can.
This particular inclusion was put together in October 2012, while I had my head deeply buried in my third novel Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? — which is all about comic book lore and superhero culture, mixed up with noir.
No real surprise, then, that I decided to have two high school kids knock over a comic book store in a more contemporary Melbourne.
The comic shop in question is based on the one I used to hang out at while in high school. Minotaur now is a huge, highly successful institution in Melbourne (Australia), but back in the ’80s it was a small shop down a minor arcade in the city.
Off Bourke Street.
Incidentally, these kids hop on the train at South Yarra, the nearest station to my old high school Melbourne High, they have their fingers in the till at the school tuck-shop (sounds familiar) and the bicycle of choice is a classic ’70s Malvern Star chopper... same as mine when I was that age.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sunday: How I Came to Write This Story: Gary Clifton

Genesis of the Last Ambassador to Pushmataha:  Like much of what I write, forty years with a badge provides for a deep bucket of wild yarns.  The villain, who claimed to be a hunted, wrongly deposed Middle Eastern royal family member was in reality an illegal-alien dime bag dope dealer from Mexico.  He managed to ignite a black powder bomb beneath the men's urinal while the joint was full of drunks. The blast caught an unemployed window washer from Wisconsin in the ready position, blowing his right hand out through the roof with his pride and joy firmly in its grasp. The dancer/girlfriend was a skinny blond topless dancer whose brain had been consumed by substance ingestion, i.e. probably acid.
We did in fact allow the toad to get away from us once, but he was too dumb to quit while clear.  He returned to the club with another black powder pipe bomb (see exploded pirate ships, other nasty accidents, etal throughout the history of black powder), managed to have a slight timing accident and lost both arms just above the elbow, prompting yours truly to make the observation at Parkland he was doomed to the Texas Department of Corrections with no way to jerk off.  I heard he was murdered - shanked - in the shower the next year.  Another case of an unjust society dooming an unarmed man to prison - pun is intended.  It's all so damned unfair.
And the chick may or may not have run away with the spoon.
Note, the written yarn deviates somewhat from the true hard facts.
Gary Clifton

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trey R. Barker: BOTH BARRELS

                                                            Looking For Mr. Good Boy
                                                        By Trey R. Barker

I heard the murmurs in the hallway, the half-uttered statements at the water cooler. 
“…election fraud….”
“…dirty sheriff….”
Eleven years ago, I moved to north central Illinois and got a job at the local newspaper.  The Sheriff’s resignation and guilty pleas had ended just a few months earlier so tongues still wagged with the white-hot intensity of a blow torch.
Because I grew up in Texas, where we grow dirty sheriffs the size of skyscrapers, where corruption is not just embedded in our DNA…it is our DNA, where election fraud and retaliation ain’t nothing but another day.
A corrupt sheriff?  Boooorrring….
That entire story was yesterday’s headlines, baby.  Yeah, The New Yorker had done stories and the AP had been all over it; the Chicago Tribune had had reporters trolling north central Illinois for months and the Illinois Attorney General had investigated everyone that sheriff had ever talked to, ever arrested, ever slept with, ever even breathed on for crap’s sake.
Besides, I was chasing down the details of a different cop story. ( ). 
In that one, a young officer had tried to serve an arrest warrant on a two-bit bully in a tiny town just outside’a Nowheresville.  The officer ended up dead and the murderer killed another couple in front of their young daughter before blasting it out with cops in a shoot-out that left the murderer with a bullet in his face but somehow alive.
With the exception of trial, the mechanics of that story had played out, but I was tracking down details.  I had a friend who’s fiancée was law enforcement.  The fiancée thought maybe, if I showed the right kind of interest, the cops involved might talk to me.  Not about the shots and the deaths, but about the adrenaline, about the thoughts and pounding hearts.  About what it was like to taste death.
So while my newspaper colleagues were talking about the local sheriff, my interest was miles and miles away.
Up until the water cooler talk shifted.
“…what about the broken gloves…?”
“…and the letter….”
“…no way you can prove intent….”
            “…doesn’t matter…murder is murder….”
            Whoa…hang on.  Murder is a whole different thang, baby. 
            This wasn’t the sheriff’s re-election campaign trying to raffle off a $12,000 Harley Davidson but not selling enough tickets to pay for it so choosing a ‘winner’ who didn’t actually exist (and said winner’s name might have been…might have been…the name the dirty sheriff used when he was undercover on the drug task force) before destroying all the remaining tickets and most of the records.  This wasn’t billing the county for more than 200 cell phone calls made from Illinois to his girlfriend in Texas (Lubbock, in fact, where at the time the sheriff was calling her, I was attending Texas Tech University…how is that for some fucked up synchronicity?).  This wasn’t lying to a grand jury.
            This was murder; Cain and Abel stuff.
            That caught my attention.
            From Estate of Sims v. County of Bureau (7th Cir. #01-2884)
            “In 1999 TMS suffered a fatal heart attack in her home in Tiskilwa, Illinois.   The only person present at the time was Bureau County Sheriff, whose alleged campaign fraud was the subject of a story S was investigating for the local newspaper.”  
            Not the paper I worked for, but one in another county.  And why was another county covering election fraud rather than the local boys?  Because the local boys were scared of retaliation…from the sheriff.
            Then again, so was she.     
            “She had expressed concern to others that [the sheriff] might retaliate against her for writing the story.” (7th Cir.)
            So the sheriff types up a letter and takes it to the post office for bulk mailing to the reporter’s entire hometown.  That letter accused the reporter’s husband of “…past and current felonious criminal conduct.” (7th Cir.)
            I never knew exactly what bullshit the letter was slinging, but there were rumors….
            Whatever it was, it was harsh enough and horrible enough to give the reporter a heart attack.  She was a big woman with a well-known heart condition and when the family sued, they said the sheriff knew the letter would give her a fatal heart attack.  That part is bullshit.  The sheriff didn’t know what the reaction would be.  Yeah, the odds played in his favor, but he didn’t know for sure.
            “At approximately 12:30 p.m., S did suffer a fatal heart attack. [The sheriff] radioed for an ambulance at 12:47 p.m., but by the time the paramedics arrived at 12:54 p.m., S was not breathing and did not have a pulse.” (7th Cir.)
            Now let’s take a look at that right there.  Heart attack at 12:30, he radioed for help at 12:47.  Seventeen minutes, roughly, of watching her gasp and wheeze and clutch her chest and arm.  Did she beg for help?  Was she even able to talk? 
            Before he radioed for help, he called the post office to ask about possible criminal penalties for bulk-mailing defamatory letters and whether or not those letters could be traced back to the person who mailed them.
            Dude was worried about the Feds sniffing around on his post office beef and while he sorted that out, she lay at his feet fucking dying.
            When the inevitable investigation got rolling, when the questions came fast and furious at this sheriff who suddenly found himself under siege, he told everyone he’d wanted to save her by performing CPR…but his rubber gloves kept breaking.
            Not that one broke and he didn’t have any others, but that they kept breaking.  In other words, he replaced them and they broke and he replaced them again and they broke…and again and again.
            (As a quick aside, I now work in law enforcement and I’ve got an entire box of latex gloves in my squad car.  Probably 200 gloves in that box.  The thing is?  I’ve never broken a single glove.  I’ve searched houses and cars, people and even animals wearing bandannas and sweaters.  Never broken a glove.)
            So this was the story, and not even all of the story, there are lots more incidents that came to light during the investigation.  But ultimately, in a deal with the Attorney General’s office, the sheriff pleaded to felony campaign fraud.
Honestly, I’m not sure causation could ever be proven between him and her fatal heart attack, but circumstantially it was fairly straight up.
So the why a man would – allegedly – go to these lengths to head off a story about low-rent campaign fraud rolled around in my head for ten years.  I never really thought about doing anything with it literarily, but I did study on it from time to time.
Then along came Ron Earl.  Sent me an email saying, roughly, write me a story or I’ll blow your balls off with a really small gun so that it doesn’t actually kill you but takes you a while to bleed to death.
How can I turn down an invite like that?
So I started a story.  And it blew.  And I started another.  And it blew worse.  For whatever reason, I couldn’t write squat.
In frustration, I decided to tell Ron Earl to eat my shorts.  I couldn’t get anything working for him so he should move on.  I put the project outta my head and kept working on the new novel (Exit Blood, available next March from Down and Out Books, if you can dig it!).
But while I worked the novel, my brain percolated around the sheriff and the next damn thing I knew, the story “A Good Son” was done.  Obviously some of the details are different, but I did follow out the rumors of what I’d heard was in the letter.
Other than the sheriff showing a letter to a large woman and standing by while she died, nothing in my story happened.
As far as you know, anyway.  And I won’t tell you any different unless you buy really good whiskey…
…and lots of it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How I Came to Write This Poem/Story

I wrote "Hushed" this past February, after Thomas Pluck invited me to contribute to the PROTECTORS anthology. The poem is narrated by an older cousin who is jealous of a younger one until he sees bruises on the boy's arm.

It was sparked by a years-old memory of seeing bruises on my own cousin's arm. When I asked him how the bruises happened, he wouldn't tell me, and he was very scared I might tell someone else. I had heard rumors his father was abusive, but unless he admitted to the beating, no one would believe me--especially since our relationship as children was contentious.

My cousin and I are on good terms now. He's married, has a good job, and owns his own home. If the rumors I still hear about his father are true, I would have turned my back, but my cousin is more compassionate, so his father remains an albatross.

I'm glad to turn this bad experience into a poem that will go to protect children. I'm also glad to tell you how my cousin is doing now. Thank you, Patti.

Gerald So

In Dreams was lifted from the MFA thesis I’m writing, a fictional memoir currently titled The 2nd Coming.  It has been edited down and names have been removed.  As best I can remember it, it is a true story.  I never considered writing about this particular experience until I began writing the fictional memoir for school last semester.  I had already changed my thesis twice after two semesters.  Although I had tried many times to write about some of the more painful issues from my past, especially in theatre form, I could never sustain anything long enough to feel comfortable continuing.  After reading Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney, I tried second person and found I could finish what I had started.  It remains a work in progress, but much more developed with each passing opportunity to settle in and write.  I’ve already gone beyond the word count requirements for my thesis, but why let that stop me (said the SOB arrogant enough to title a memoir, fictional or otherwise, The 2nd Coming)?  It is nothing profound, that’s for sure, but there’s a nuthouse stay and some unfortunate family dynamics that are sometimes sad and often funny.  The fictional memoir will cover birth to a first wedding at the age of twenty-one, with occasional projections into the future.  It touches on the influence of religion in a somewhat irreverent family, growing up in the racial hotbed Canarsie was during the late 60’s/early 70’s, a Mob influence within family, and ultimately the collapse of family.  And, yes, the current title is as ironic as it reads.
Charlie Stella


Thursday, October 11, 2012

How I Came to Write This Story: Nigel Bird

                                                      The Rhythm Of Life -BOTH BARRELS

The story behind the story

Shotgun Honey has a reputation that’s grown quickly in a fairly short space of time. 
I have no doubt that this is due to the editorial prowess of the team involved, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what their secret might be.
The stories are always well-written and engaging as you might hope, but for me there is an invisible thread that stitches work together as part of the Shotgun Honey banner.  It has to do with the emotional power that’s generated and the subtle ways it is expressed in such a short space – remember that the stories weigh in at around the 600 word mark.
When I was invited to submit to the anthology Both Barrels I was excited, honoured and more than a little intimidated. 
For me I felt the need to pull something out of the bag that told a story but carried that emotional engagement.  Whether I achieved it or not isn’t for me to say, though the feeling I was hoping to project was one I felt during its writing.
The story combines 2 strands of ideas.
The first relates to a hitch-hiking holiday I had in northern France when I was 19.  My friend, Gareth, and I had a wonderful time where the richness of experience has never really left me.  Among the things that have stuck around is a love for fountains.  It seemed that in every town there was a fountain that would become our focal point for lunching or reading or passing the evenings.  The sound of the water and the position in the towns made them the perfect places to sit. The French have so many more fountains than we do in Britain and I’ve celebrated that every time I’ve been over there since.  A fountain, then, was something I wanted to bring in to this work.
Now, fountains being one of my favourite things doesn’t suggest much in the way of crime fiction.  If anything my feelings would be more in line with the writing of a romantic piece – in some ways it is a romance story  – but something more was needed.
Enter strand 2.
There’s a thing that some children do that I find fascinating.  They spend an age painting a wonderful picture or creating a lovely drawing or writing a story or building with blocks and then they destroy it.  Completely trash the thing – throw the paint, scribble, rub out – just get rid of it as if it didn’t exist.
I suppose we call it self-destruction when we apply this to adults, something I know quite a lot about.
And there was the story.  Along comes a young man to a fountain and find a beautiful girl reading a book.  The weather’s great and there’s a Technicolor wash over it all.  It’s almost perfect, yet all the young man can do is admire the scene and then scribble all over the thing until none of it is visible any more.
That’s the story.  They’re the things behind it.  That’s what I was thinking.  If you read it, I’d love to know whether it works for you or not.
I’m proud to be part of this one and I wish the Shotgun Honey team all the best with their future efforts.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How I Came to Write This Story: Court Merrigan

Somerset Maugham

Pulp Ink 2

Court Merrigan

Before I left for Asia in 1998, where I would live for the next decade, I read a lot of Somerset Maugham. He's not much in vogue anymore, stuffy Mr. Maugham, and for good reason; but in his prime he wrote a shit ton of short stories romanticizing early 20th century British colonial life. Tell you the truth, I don't distinctly remember a single one. Debonair white folks in linens and pith hats drinking gin under swaying palms as the devious dark locals plotted and schemed, were recurring set pieces, if memory serves. I doubt those stories were particularly accurate even at the time, but to me, a Nebraska farm boy who'd never been outside the US before I got on that plane, they seemed fraught with exotic wonder.

The real Asia of the present day, of course, has zero in common with those hoary old stories. But reading them at such an impressionable time, they remained with me even as actual Asia made mincemeat of that old racist’s little fables.

Maugham may be a dead letter on this side of the pond, but several publishing houses in Thailand and Singapore continue in his vein, publishing tales of Western good ole boys on the loose in the dirty alleys and empty beaches of erotically exotic Southeast Asia. I've got a couple lying around somewhere; they have titles like Rough Karma and The Burmese Fixer and Bangkok Baby and inevitably, one or more of the characters finds himself, tie ajar, shirtfront stained with sweat, in a go-go bar swigging a Singha and smoking a Krong Thip cigarette.

"Glinty-Eyed Robert" is my attempt at a send-up of the whole genre. I tried to maintain a gentile, Maugham-esque air. It would never do to be uncouth, after all, even in a girly bar. The setting is real enough, I suppose, but the characters - pure caricature. The grizzled foreign correspondent, the stiff Southern wife, the sentimental professor, the cynical cabbie, the lithe and ruthless bar girl (who probably has a heart of gold, though we never get to find out): they're all there.

I strove to gift these stock characters some emotional resonance. Even cardboard cutouts need someone to love them, right? Chris & Nigel gave the thumbs up to the effort, and I couldn’t be happier that this slaphappy little pastiche made into Pulp Ink 2.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How I Came to Write This Story: Katherine Tomlinson

All proceeds from PULP INK 2 go to a British charity for children.

How I Came to Write this Story: Thicker Than Water from Pulp Ink 2

About two years ago, when I was putting together the last issue of Dark Valentine Magazine, I ran across an arresting illustration by a Russian artist named Alena Lazereva—a mermaid tied to an anchor; a painting she called “Doomed.” It was one of those moments where a story just popped into my head fully formed—a tale of a young sailor whose life becomes an Ahab-like vengeance quest after a mermaid’s song lures his ship too close to rocks and he alone survives the subsequent shipwreck.

I liked the story but felt like the idea of the painting—you can’t drown a mermaid but you can starve her to death—deserved a darker and more modern story.

When Pulp Ink 2 was announced and the call for submissions was for stories blending noir with horror, I had another one of those “gift” moments. I saw a man floating in a shipping crate filled with water, a man who hadn’t drowned but had starved to death.

From there I started mapping out a story where such a thing would be plausible, setting “Thicker than Water” in the paranormal Los Angeles that’s the setting for my L.A. Nocturne tales. What I came up with was a story of a “surf war” between rival “shoals” of gangster mer-men.

Then I started fleshing out the details.

I looked up names that meant “fish” for my characters. I gave “The Carp,” the godfather of a local shoal of criminal mer-men, some great cryptic Japanese sayings for him to use in conversation. (“The jellyfish never dances with the shrimp,” was my favorite.)

I had a really, really good time splashing around in this particular setting.

In fact, I had so much fun with my world-building that editors Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan had to rein me in a couple of times. (They’re great editors, by the way, and every single suggestion they made improved the story.)

I wrote the first draft in one sitting and then went back and played with it for the better part of two weeks. I often use twist endings, but this story ends with a pun and I wasn’t sure if that was going to work tonally. I took it out and put it back in a couple of times. But at the end I thought—your character is part human and part shark and all crass; he’d say what he says. So I left it in. And Nigel and Chris left it in.

And that’s how I came to write the story. A picture was worth a thousand words.