Behind the Short Story: “Let It Burn”

First, a numbness. A chill that says you shouldn’t have gone and bit in, that something wicked this way comes. The heat does not flood in, yet. It builds. The nose starts to run, and your voice catches. Your body knows only to sweat. Because it’s too late to run. With Nashville hot chicken, the flames pause just that moment before they consume.

Prince’s hot chicken, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Lately, hot chicken has gone from cult food to kind of a thing. Even KFC is in on it–not authentically, mind you. Lest you think I’m the latest bandwagoneer, my 2015 “Let It Burn” submission to Alfred Hitchcock  beat KFC to the punch by some months. The publishing world is itself a sweet, slow burn.

 

I digress. Lester, the sorta-hero of “Burn,” describes hot chicken thusly: Continue reading “Behind the Short Story: “Let It Burn””

Behind: “Crack-up at Waycross”

COVER_Murder-Under-the-Oaks_x1500

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””

First Two Pages + Two Bad Hamiltons = Too Good a Time!

AHM515-finalcoverI’m delighted to have a guest post over at The First Two Pages, a blog run by writer extraordinaire B.K. Stevens. Every week a novelist or story writer takes apart an opening they find instructive: the fits and starts of crafting it, how the hook became sharp, etc. In my case, I’ve taken apart the opening of my romp “Two Bad Hamiltons and a Hirsute Jackson,” recently in AHMM, and I go through how with short fiction two pages can be the entire set-up and beyond. It was years in finding what ultimately worked.

Go check it out if you liked Vi’s story or find the idea intriguing. And if you click over there, check out the many great other self-analyses of writer’s journey to finished product.

Thanks for having me over, Bonnie!

Caught on Podcast! Methodically Musing

It was my great honor last night to talk fiction with the wonderful Sherry Welton Wilds as she debuts her new show The Method and the Muse. What a great (and short!) session, and I hope those who listen get value for their time.

If I remember correctly, and this would be a new development, here’s some elaboration and errata:

– Sherry mentioned “First Rodeo,” published not so long ago at Kings River Life. I get more into the story and character here.

– I read from an oldie but goodie “Dark Days for the Professor.” I get more into the story here. And here’s the bit about deleting all those early words.

– My bit about setting up a story as akin to dealing the cards was paraphrased from an Ann Patchett talk. The image nails how to open directly or through foreshadowing when storytelling.

– I was asked about Poe’s Unity of Effect. It’s a thing, y’all.

– And remember, short stories get read in one sitting. They are Ending Delivery Systems, with the various elements building to deliver the Resonant Moment.

– Yes, I am all about Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.