Behind the Short Story: “Two Bad Hamiltons and a Hirsute Jackson”

Fleur de lisViolet Celucci is a better angel and an inner demon. A frigging genius is how Vi might describe herself, a bastion of sanity in a disorderly world, a process improvement-seeking missile. An over-obsessed stickler for efficiency is how she’d never describe herself. Sorry, Vi. The truth hurts, and so can life. Tough as you are, I see the breaks in your armor.

I can write Vi because over the years I’ve worked with my share of consultants and industrial engineers. You know the folks I mean: big-brained and unapologetic process nerds committed to life by timetable. And we need those folks. Process folks dream up boxes that fit our mail-orders just so; they reduce plant emissions and build supertankers; they took our rover to Mars. This month Vi took my story “Two Bad Hamiltons and a Hirsute Jackson” into Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’s May 2015 humor edition. The company she and I are keeping there is humbling.

AHM515-finalcoverOkay, I can also write Vi’s craving for order among chaos because some days, at some level, it is also my own. 

We have a Venn diagram overlap, she might say.

Vi sprung from a high-caliber question: what if those big-brained engineers lived every livelong moment the way they worked their flowcharts and daily operating reports? How they shopped, for example, or how they cooked, how they sought–or didn’t–friends and lovers. Surely in the end that kind of quest would make life more difficult. Extra balls juggled, needless battles fought, friends and family distanced. That’s Vi. Her obsession demands she take the hard road to make it more efficient next time. And it might work, if immovable reality ever played along. Continue reading Behind the Short Story: “Two Bad Hamiltons and a Hirsute Jackson”

The World Loves Books, But It Hates Writers

The world loves books, but it hates writers. Not like noxious, irrational dictator hate. More benign, like a why-are-you-writing-when-we-could-be-having-queso-dip-at-Chili’s hate. It’s a time thing, a lack of understanding the process. You  want to protect a hard-fought Saturday saved for writing. The world will forever offer you cheese dip.

Think about it: The avid reader you’ve watched slowly devour novels–for years–is the same queso lover pressing you their writer pal for lunch on Saturday. “Come on,” they’ll say. “It’ll be fun.”

And it would be, especially around halfway through the second margarita. But then Continue reading The World Loves Books, But It Hates Writers

Sweet Roam, Alabama

 

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photo by Paula Benson

They had me at “rolling tailgate party.” There it was in plain print in the invite. Please join us down here in Alabama, the organizers said, and don’t worry about Friday night icebreakers because Margaret’s rolling tailgate party had things covered. Yes, I admit envisioning some mechanical lovechild of liquor cart meets Bama game, but that only added to the intrigue. Plus there would be talk of books. So it was with much excitement, and a taste for a gin and tonic, that last weekend I drove the three hours to Birmingham. No, there wasn’t a liquor cart with grill and sauce attachment.*

They did way better, Margaret and Tammy and all the volunteers who worked their tails off.

They put on a wonderful weekend.

FEB. 7: MURDER IN THE MAGIC CITY
HOMEWOOD LIBRARY, Birmingham, AL

It is a scientific fact that crime writers–the modern ones, anyway–are Continue reading Sweet Roam, Alabama