Sep 292013
 


                                                        "GIRL OF GREAT PRICE"
When I was a kid, I learned to write on an old manual typewriter. My first novels were messy, full of typos and plot holes. But they were fun. And at age 15, that's what it was all about.

Private eye Charlie Madison was one of my first characters, and The Double Murder was his big debut—over a hundred pages of snappy banter, mob hits, double-crossing dames, car chases, and even some alligators. A horrible parody, it'll never see the light of day.

Halfway through Write1Sub1 2011, I came up with the first story about Charlie I'd written in decades. It wasn't anything like his original case, but he was the same quick-witted, intrepid detective. I subbed "Girl of Great Price" to Criminal Element, assuming I'd receive a form letter rejection in two months, tops. Instead, Claire Eddy (TOR Books) emailed informing me that she was my editor on this project. After I picked myself up off the floor, I went to work, and my story was eventually included in the Girl Trouble anthology.

"Girl of Great Price" is the first in a future noir detective series. The sequel, Immaterial Evidence, is now available from Musa Publishing.

BIO:  Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day, speculative fictioneer by night. Stop by anytime: www.milojamesfowler.com

Sep 282013
 


As a 1972 model h. sapien, I have spent roughly half my life pre-internet and half post-internet (as of...NOW).  I use the technology happily and frequently, but I still have enough perspective to look at some of our toys with a certain detachment.
One morning, I was the last person to get on the bus.  A young woman who had a seat saw an older, fatter person carrying both a laptop bag and a lunchbox, and offered me her seat.  I protested, but she politely insisted, and I took it, with much gratitude.  She stood in the aisle in front of me during the ride.  She was on her smart phone during the entire time, using the Facebook app.  As I watched, for a 20 minute ride, she simply hit like, like, like, scrolled, hit like, like, like, scrolled, etc.
I was a bit appalled, because here was a very nice, polite young lady, intelligent and with good moral values (from all that I could see), who was reduced to a carpal-tunnel-risking adjunct of a Facebook app.  (Yeah, yeah, she could have been having the greatest time in the world doing that, but I made a superficial judgment at that time.  Besides, since I've established my own Facebook account, I've seen the Tyranny of the Clicks up close.)
The wheels started turning, and I thought of all of the ways people could trust technology too much.  At first it suggested the "Cautionary Tale" science fiction story (I've been published in that genre), but then I thought, "what if the one beguiled by the technology isn't a good person?  The 'Just Desserts' story....?"  I dropped the science fiction angle.  Instead, it would be a crook who trusted in his own IT prowess too much.  No doubt, I was influenced by any number of those news stories about loss of privacy on the internet and identity theft. 
Then, one day, starting a new story, I wrote the line: "The woman who fired me has a lovely daughter." 
All of which goes to show that the final story can run far afield from the original inspiration.


Eric Cline was born in Independence, Missouri, a city saturated with memories of and monuments to President Harry S. Truman. It was in an Independence thrift store that Eric’s mom purchased him children’s science fiction books by “Paul French,” a.k.a. Isaac Asimov. Eric went on to devour all of the books in the Mid-Continent Public Library. Eric holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, and once considered teaching as a profession. He has waited tables at a total of three restaurants. He was at the last restaurant after he got his master’s degree, which gave him some indication of how well teaching would pay. He now works in an office and writes on evenings and weekends. After a fitful original attempt to write, Eric turned his attention to reading, work, and study, before returning to writing with a vengeance in 2007. He, his wife, and his three dogs live in Maryland
Sep 122013
 
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.




Jul 312013
 

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.



Mar 042013
 
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.
Feb 232013
 


SUGAR & SPICE — 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 Respectcollection 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.

Feb 072013
 


Hoodwinked came to me with the collision of ideas, as is often the case.
2 years ago, just over, I was to get married in the summer.  There was talk of a Stag-do, but I had no intention of painting any town any colour.  Thankfully, a good friend of mine understood my feelings and was also keen to mark the event.
His choice of celebration?  An afternoon at the Edinburgh Film Festival to see Winter’s Bone.  He couldn’t have made a wiser choice.
Better still, there was a Q and A with the director and the main actress afterwards where we found out about some of the thoughts that went into the film and the way they’d used local people from the mountains on screen.
It got me thinking about how that might have affected a rural community, the arrival of a film crew and all its associated bits and bobs.
The question must have formed a seed and that seed was planted somewhere in my brain.
Part two came at a safari park in Scotland called Blair Drummond.
To finish our day, we went to the birds of prey exhibition.  There’s something very moving about watching a bird in flight.  Match that wonder with sharp claws, huge wing spans and frighteningly shaped beaks and it would be hard not to be impressed.
So taken was I by their prowess that the idea of such a beast picking up a child from the ground was formed.  It certainly seemed possible the way the birds swooped towards the lure.
When the show was over, I went over to the bird-handler and asked the question.  Could a bird of prey steal a baby?
There was an awkward silence and I’m not sure how we filled it.
Perhaps he saw the harmless creature that lives inside of me, or the way I am with my own children.  Whatever it was, he must have decided that it was a safe piece of information to be dishing out.
His answer was that, yes, it could happen.  No doubt about it.  Especially if it were an Indian Eagle.
This was like the water for the seed that was planted earlier.
Imagine a mountain man forced into a position where he felt he needed to take revenge.  Take it a step further and make that man a bird-handler who could train his bird to do pretty much whatever he wanted. 
All I needed was to create the need for revenge, and who better to plant that at the door of than the film star of a movie such as Winter’s Bone. 
The chemistry was there, all I needed to do was to breathe life into it.  In other words, the difficult part.
Whether I manage to pull off the sense of place or the right tone in the speech is another matter – being a Brit didn’t make that particularly easy – and I’ll leave that for you to judge.
Thing is, it was accepted at All Due Respect, and that meant a lot to me.  Still does. 
You can check Hoodwinked out in the ADR anthology that’s just come out.  There’s a collection of talent there that is screaming out to be read.  I recommend it highly and hope that this has tickled something in you that will take you over to the page.
Thanks here to Alec Cizak and to Chris Rhatigan for their support and their unselfish sharing of their talents.

Feb 032013
 
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
Dec 102012
 



The new Nightfalls anthology is a good thing, a collection of fine stories where the proceeds go to help those less fortunate.

When editor Katherine Tomlinson asked me if I'd like to submit a story, I said yes, and told her I'd just published a collection of stories about the end of the world, Apocalypse Tango: http://www.amazon.com/Apocalypse-Tango-Five-Story-Collection/dp/1477514902/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355098564&sr=1-1&keywords=apocalypse+tango

Uh... she said, well, that's what the new collection is about.
Okay, no problem, I'll just write another one...
But I'd used up my available scenarios.

When she told me about the charity the proceeds were going to, the idea began to form. Since the last night of 12/21 was so close to Christmas, it grew to having the apocalypse seen through the eyes of a young Latino child, who's confused as to why the grownups are acting so strangely around the time Santa is supposed to come. And since the Los Angeles area charity was there, that became the locale, and even the theme. The prompt for the collection guided precisely what the story was to be.

Within the tale, I wanted to explore the different reactions that people would have: some lose themselves in drinking or drugs, some end on their knees praying for salvation or redemption, some who would like to end with pleasures of the flesh (going out with a bang, not a whimper), some in finally getting that one thing they've always dreamed of, and some, committing that last act of ultimate love.

And a nod to the apocalypse coming 50 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we came within a whisker of having it happen then. Plus ca change, you know...

Religion, death, Christmas, love, and the end of the world, all in a few thousand worlds. Guess that says it all.
Dec 052012
 


How I Came to Write the Story: “His Footsteps are Made of Soot”
From the collection Bar Scars, by Nik Korpon

I’d always heard of writers rewriting a story numerous times. They’d say things like ‘It wasn’t working’ or ‘I couldn’t find the voice’ or ‘I had nothing else to do that day.’ Fuck that, I figured. Write the story and be done with it. If it didn’t work, drop it and forget it and write something else that was more interesting. Revisiting a story a bunch of times from different angles sounded too much like homework, not writing. And yes, I understand and agree that the work needs time to mature and you should always revise until it’s right, and with novels I do just that. But I’m not very good at short stories and I get bored quickly.

That being said, of course Fate would set out to make me look like a hypocrite, as it seems wont to do. The version of “His Footsteps are Made of Soot” that appears in my collection Bar Scars (Snubnose Press) is probably the fourth version I’d written. The first one was called Home Surgery and the Jersey Shore, and I can’t remember what the others were. Probably because they sucked a big one. I think the first time I wrote it was somewhere around 2006. I was walking through the Giant in Hampden, a neighborhood in North Baltimore, at 3 AM or so. Some guy passed me in the aisle, pushing his cart with the one wheel wobbling. I couldn’t help but stare at the most random assortment of crap he had in there. Listerine, chuck round, mouse traps, shaving cream and more. All I could think of was that show Supermarket Sweep, where contestants ran around the shop piling everything not-nailed-down into their cart.

A couple days later I was passing the light hours with the other bartender and we got on the subject of home businesses, something we could do instead of getting people drunk professionally. Someone came up with the idea of becoming a home surgeon, likely because neither of us had health insurance to cover anything professional, and I flashed on the weirdo’s cart. The rest, as they say, is history.

Actually, no, it’s not.

The story I wrote sucked. It was twee and tried so hard to pluck heartstrings that it dislocated my fingers. I vaguely remember some plot device with a box of frozen corndogs, which I guess was me checking the quirky box. It went into some dark folder on my desktop for a while until I stumbled across it a couple times. The concept was still interesting, though none of the rewrites were working, largely due to the relationship between the narrator and his dead brother. Something about the emotional core of the story just didn’t snap, so it sat and collected mold, which was fitting, considering the eventual setting.

After I wrote “Alex and the Music Box,” another story in the collection, I came across a throwaway line I’d edited out about the near-blind lady next door listening to Press Your Luck really loud and I immediately discovered the mother I needed for “Footsteps.” I saw her living like a ghost as she grieved her dead junkie husband, all while her son tried to bring her back to the land of the living. The idea of loving a living dead woman who was loving a long dead man was infinitely more interesting to me. Add in a healthy dose of fire-ravaged ambiance that mirrored the characters’ inner landscapes and Fate was well on its way to making me look like a jerk. Somewhere in that house, beneath ash and damp newspapers crawling with silverfish, I’d found the voice of the story. All I had to do was let it mold.

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