Behind: “Crack-up at Waycross”

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First things first: the proceeds from Bouchercon’s Murder Under the Oaks go to the Wake Country Public Libraries. And folks, reading is cool.

In November 2013, thieves broke into a Modesto, CA orchard and made off with 140,000 pounds–70 tons–of in-shell walnuts. In February 2012, a shade to the north, 40,000ish tons of walnuts went missing from a Butte County processing plant. In October 2012, twin thefts near Sacramento, shall we say, bagged 82,000 pounds of walnuts. Investigators were hunting for suspects with Russian accents.

Nut theft is a thing.

Grinning a bit? Me too when I stumbled on the headlines. But the reason why? The root of all evil: an across-the-nut spike to record prices. That 70-ton walnut job? The take had a wholesale value of $400,000.

I said to myself, “I must write this.”

And you know what? I didn’t. Couldn’t. Not for a year. All I had was Continue reading “Behind: “Crack-up at Waycross””

Behind: “First Rodeo”

If you were around a century or so ago, and you knew him well, you might call him Bill. On a legal document, William Sidney Porter. If you read any of his 300+ published stories, you knew him by his pen name: O. Henry. The name now commands a prestigious short story award, but more than anything, his work effectively trademarked a device: The twist ending, the literary tie that binds. When you or I try it, the reader calls it an O. Henry twist.

I don’t set out to write twist endings, although it is known to happen. I go for resonance, a finish that hopefully keep the reader’s creative chords humming. With “First Rodeo” I started Continue reading “Behind: “First Rodeo””

Behind: “Dark Days for the Professor”

51mTezsunJL__SY346_Southern lit. Family conflict. Race and social issues. Push-pull of tradition. Sense of belonging to place, like it or not.

I don’t write it.

Or at least I hadn’t until earlier this year. So it’s a thrill that my “Dark Days for the Professor” has been included in NWMG’s Southern lit anthology Not So Fast.

So I don’t write Southern–themes generally or voice specifically–but I’m immersed in the South. And oddball humor? I am to oddball humor what cats are to my couch: hairy and all over it.

Game on.

I thought about this one a long while. For me, good Southern lit says something. Stuff gets real. Real real, no magic wind or giant bateau mouche. My first challenge was Continue reading “Behind: “Dark Days for the Professor””