Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Discount Noir Interviews

Sometimes wonderful things can happen when people come together as a group. One of the things I love about Patti Abbott's blog -- and I know I'm not alone in this -- is the large and ever expanding community she brings together. Pulp Serenade hadn't been up but a week before I got a welcoming email from her about Friday's Forgotten Books.

One of her other on-going series is the Flash Fiction Challenge, in which a prompt goes up and the online writing community gets to work, posting their results all over the web. Last October, Steve Weddle (Needle Magazine) suggested a new prompt to Patti. The result -- Megamart: I Love You. The results were so good, and the response so enthusiastic, that Patti and Steve took the next step, added a few new stories, and released the anthology, titled Discount Noir, through Untreed Reads Publishing. Ok, maybe it wasn't that simple, but the eBook is out there. It's a pretty great achievement, and speaks to the close-knit nature of the online writing community, and the friendships and talent that have grown out it all. I hope to see more of these community-inspired anthologies in the future.

This anthology contains works by: Patricia Abbott, Sophie Littlefield, Kieran Shea, Chad Eagleton, Ed Gorman, Cormac Brown, Fleur Bradley, Alan Griffiths, Laura Benedict, Garnett Elliot, Eric Beetner, Jack Bates, Bill Crider, Loren Eaton, John DuMond, John McFetridge, Toni McGee Causey, Jeff Vande Zande, James Reasoner, Kyle Minor, Randy Rohn, Todd Mason, Byron Quertermous, Sandra Scoppettone, Stephen D. Rogers, Steve Weddle, Evan Lewis, Daniel B. O'Shea, Sandra Seamans, Albert Tucher, Donna Moore, John Weagly, Keith Rawson, Gerald So, Dave Zeltserman, Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen, Jay Stringer, Anne Frasier, Kathleen A. Ryan, Eric Peterson, Chris Grabenstein and J.T. Ellison.

Since one of the best parts of reading an anthology is the diversity of voices, it only seemed fitting to do an anthology-style interview that brings in several different authors. Chad Eagleton, Loren Eaton, Dave Lewis (Evan Lewis), Gerald So, Al Tucher, and John Weagly, offered to speak to Pulp Serenade and tell us a little about their stories.

Discount Noir is available to purchase for ereaders here at Untreed Reads Publishing.

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Chad Eagleton

1) Please introduce yourself and tell us a few words about what your story in "Discount Noir" is about.

I'm Chad Eagleton.

"The Black Friday of Daniel Maddox" is about an out of work guy trying to buy himself a little happiness, using money he can't really afford for a little retail therapy. Then things go wrong. Black Friday is what happens when you hinge all your happiness on material things.

2) Could you talk a little about the development of the story from its inception to the final draft we see in the anthology?

I always begin these things, story challenges that a lot of people are participating in, the same way. Usually, for me anyway, my first thought is the most obvious idea. I don't want to do that. I don't want to write what I think someone else may be writing. I don't want to produce a story that your average person will read and think, I could have thought of that. So, I toss that quickly aside and force myself to go searching in a different direction. I don't know if I always succeed, but I try.

3) What were the most challenging and the most fun aspects to this Flash Fiction Challenge for you?

I have a love-hate relationship with flash fiction--with all flash fiction. I stress hard on the really short pieces. For me, there's just too much of a whole, cohesive story that I have to include to feel like I've actually written something and not just thrown out a scene or a character sketch. Usually, by the time I've got all that in there, I've gone hideously over the word count and spend much more time trying to chop the damn thing down than I did writing it.

But that's the appeal too. Forcing myself to learn word economy. That's a skill that doesn't come easy for me. Doesn't come easy for anyone really, except maybe Paul David Brazil. I'm always trying to find that right balance between sparse, precise prose and my own style. If you take the economy too far, you end up with something generic and not very interesting. Besides, it forces me to fight that tendency I have to sprawl and transition badly--two more things you just can't do in a flash fiction piece.

You take all that and add something like the setting for Discount Noir, something that I probably never would have come up with on my own, and I'm left with a hell of a challenge. And a challenge is the only way to better at anything.

4) What's up next for you? And publications or projects that we should be keeping our eyes open for?

Next up is a story called "Down By The Water" in Kung-Fu Factory. I was stoked when Cam invited me to submit something. I've practiced martial arts for years, seen more Hong Kong chop socky flicks than most people have heard of, and thought it would be a breeze to come up with something. It wasn't. Felt like a kid with a sweet tooth who was suddenly given $100 and turned loose in a candy store only to freeze up and not know where to start. But when I finally worked through it, I came up with something I'm fairly proud of.

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Loren Eaton

1) Please introduce yourself and tell us a few words about what your story in "Discount Noir" is about.

Hi, my name's Loren Eaton, and I'm a genre fiction omnivore. If that sounds a bit like an intro at a twelve-step program, well, the shoe fits. Crime fiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror -- I love ‘em all, and that undiscriminating affection seems to have informed my Discount Noir contribution "Thirty-One Hundred." How to describe it? "Gun-slinging zombie Megamart love story" encapsulates the action pretty well.


2) Could you talk a little about the development of the story from its inception to the final draft we see in the anthology?

I have something of a shameful secret: I really enjoy a certain big, blue-box retailer, which will be referred to only as Megamart for liability's sake. But I'll also admit that its massive stores have always felt a bit absurd to me. So when Patti Abbott and Steve Weddle suggested an anthology centered around it, I was game.

The flash fiction piece was supposed to have an 800-word limit, just abbreviated enough to make things interesting. Setting was easy. The first challenge came in trying to settle on a main character. Wanting to keep the tone light-hearted, I searched for the most unusual name I could think of, finally settling on Wofford Ortlund Marshall the Fifth. (In truth, I once knew a guy with a similar moniker who went by Ted. I thought the nickname a wise choice.) Now, Wofford needed a reason to be in Megamart. Perhaps he should check out an exclusive offer of some sort, maybe one of those limited box sets from once-popular musicians. (Kenny Rogers seemed to fit the bill.) Suppose he found stationed at the store's hunting counter the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. Now, how to move him there from the music aisle? Heck, why not let the silliness run unfettered: Wofford looks up to see his Megamart-loathing boss stumble into the store (strange), his skin an unhealthy gray (also strange), and begin chewing on the greeter's throat (a bit beyond strange).


3) What were the most challenging and the most fun aspects to this Flash Fiction Challenge for you?

Invariably, the toughest part of composing any flash fiction piece for me is running too long. Anne Lamott wisely urged writers to give them themselves freedom to write horrible first drafts, which is good because those are exactly the sort I tend to write. When it comes to super-short stories, my word count balloons like a compulsive eater at a tri-county pie contest. Around the third iteration or so, though, I finally reconcile myself to the fact that the piece needs a good shearing and start sharpening the knives.

4) What's up next for you? And publications or projects that we should be keeping our eyes open for?`

My experimental disaster short "The Apocalypse Closet" will appear in the charitable anthology Notes from Underground, edited by Domey Malasarn, Scott G.F. Bailey, and Michelle Davidson Argyle, who helm the Web site The Literary Lab. Also, I'm organizing an annual flash-fiction roundtable called Shared Storytelling: Advent Ghosts. In much the same manner as M.R. James and Charles Dickens shared spooky stories on Christmas Eve, we're penning creepy 100-word tales in every genre that will be uploaded to our blogs the day before Advent. To learn how to participate, click here, or go here to read last year's stories.

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Evan Lewis/Dave Lewis

1) Please introduce yourself and tell us a few words about what your story in "Discount Noir" is about.

Hi, I'm Evan. Or Dave. Sometimes I forget which. The moral of “Skyler Hobbs and the Rollback Bandit” is this: If your best friend happens be believe he is the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes, don’t drag him to your local “Megamart.” He’s damn sure going to get you into trouble. Jason Wilder, Computer Doctor, makes this mistake and faces the choice of sticking by Hobbs and taking his lumps or fading into the sea of customers. Does he choose wisely or well?

2) Could you talk a little about the development of the story from its inception to the final draft we see in the anthology?

When the call went out for this flash fiction challenge, I was feeling high from an email I’d received from the folks at EQMM. They’d accepted my first tale about these two characters, “Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man,” for an upcoming issue. I was eager to spend more time with Hobbs and Wilder, and this seemed like a cool way to introduce them to a reader or two before the magazine came out. At the end of the original version, Wilder is shocked to discover that Hobbs knows about the upcoming Ellery Queen story and dismayed when Hobbs demands a share of the proceeds. The Discount Noir version had to be altered slightly, reflecting the fact that the magazine story had already been published.

3) What were the most challenging and the most fun aspects to this Flash Fiction Challenge for you?

For the past few years I’ve worked almost exclusively on novels, and when I wrote an occasional short story it was mainly a form of avoidance. Flash fiction was something I’d never tried, and it presented a whole new set of challenges. I wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to introduce characters, make people care about them and tell a whole story in a measly thousand measly words. The first draft of this one was well over 2000, and I had to chop like crazy to squeeze it in under the limit. It was great fun, though, and was a good lesson in boiling a story down to its essence. The Skyler Hobbs stories I did for three later challenges (airport, church, and “Sweet Dreams”) were easier to wrangle.

4) What's up next for you? Any publications or projects that we should be keeping our eyes open for?

Of course, every man, woman, child, dog, library, educational institution and e.b.e. on the planet should own a copy of BEAT to a PULP: Round One, which, along with many amazing tales, contains my jolly pirate yarn “The Ghost Ship.”

Skyler Hobbs will surface next in the Christmas Noir celebration at Do Some Damage. Another Hobbs short story is out for consideration and still another is about ready to go. I wrote the first 60,000 words of a Hobbs novel during NaNoWriMo, and will finish the first draft this month.

Aside from that, I recently put the finishing touches on a historical adventure novel and am shopping for an agent. Another, more ambitious historical adventure epic is nearing completion. There are also several stories out that have yet to be rejected. One of those is now at 30 months and counting. (I’m going for a World’s Record. Wish me luck.)

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Gerald So

1) Please introduce yourself and tell us a few words about what your story in "Discount Noir" is about.

I'm Gerald So, fiction editor for The Thrilling Detective Web Site from 2001-2009 and founding co-editor of The Lineup Poems on Crime.

My Discount Noir story--"Need a Hand?"--is about a fortysomething husband and father who receives an instant message from someone he crushed on from Grade 4 through high school. He succumbs to the temptation to meet her in the Seasonal section of the local Megamart.


2) Could you talk a little about the development of the story from its inception to the final draft we see in the anthology?

Having crushed on a girl from Grade 4 through high school, I wonder what I'd do if she suddenly contacted and propositioned me. Anything can happen in fiction after all.

To challenge myself and tease readers, I decided only to hint at the proposition, let imagination work for me.

As an editor, I worked a lot on my story before posting it for Patti Abbott's original blog challenge. There were only minor changes between that version and the final draft.


3) What were the most challenging and the most fun aspects to this Flash Fiction Challenge for you?

The challenge (and fun) was ramping up the lewd aspects of my story without being overtly lewd. The flash fiction format fell in line with my goals for the story.


4) What's up next for you? And publications or projects that we should be keeping our eyes open for?

The fourth annual issue of The Lineup goes on sale April 1, 2011--featuring poetry by Ken Bruen, David Corbett, Peter Meinke, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Charles Harper Webb, and many more.

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Al Tucher

1) Please introduce yourself and tell us a few words about what your story in "Discount Noir" is about.

I'm Al Tucher, author of the Diana Andrews stories. She's an escort-level prostitute whose real business is trouble, which continues even after she leaves hooking and becomes a professional bodyguard. My story in Discount Noir, called The Hideous Lime Green Truth, actually focuses on Diana's sidekick, Mary Alice aka Crystal.

2) Could you talk a little about the development of the story from its inception to the final draft we see in the anthology?

In many of my stories I start with a mental picture, and I don't always know the source of the image. This time, though, it came from those People of Megamart (since that's what we're calling it) emails that have been circulating online.

3) What were the most challenging and the most fun aspects to this Flash Fiction Challenge for you?

I learned about this challenge with only days to spare. With more time I might have tried a stand-alone story, but when I'm under the gun, I always go back to Diana and Mary Alice. I know their backstories so well now that they do much of the work for me. Fortunately, in their line of work they can and do go anywhere.

4) What's up next for you? And publications or projects that we should be keeping our eyes open for?

I made a sharp turn away from hookers recently and wrote a horror story called The City of Ropes. It's set in Rome in 935 A.D, and it's based on some very obscure history that I have been trying to use for years. The story is due out early next year in an anthology of horror in the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft from Innsmouth Free Press.

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John Weagly

Sometimes I hate shopping for DVD’s.

It can get sooo frustrating. Why, just this week I made a special trip to Barnes and Noble to buy Blu-Rays of NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and MODERN TIMES. They didn’t have either one. They had plenty of copies of CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE, but good luck trying to find anything that was made before June of 2010. We’re supposed to support brick and mortar stores, but how can I do that when they won’t carry what I want? It drives me bonkers!

I tried to touch on this frustration in a story called “Friday Night with the Tijuana Wolfman.”

Last November, fictioneer Patti Abbott issued a flash fiction challenge to write 750-word stories that revolve around everyone’s favorite shopping arena – Walmart. I took my two characters that I like to use for these challenges, Billy Weston and Waylon Preston, and put them in the superstore. I had them searching for a hard-to-find DVD, Billy getting a little bit obsessed. I was quite pleased with how the story turned out. It’s available, along with other stories written for the challenge, in an e-anthology called DISCOUNT NOIR from Untreed Reads.

Sometimes I hate shopping for DVD’s, but I’ll be heading back to Barnes and Noble later this week to see if they got in my Blu-Rays. Just like Billy Weston, when it comes to buying DVD’s I can get a little bit obsessed.

I've just granted permission for a story of mine, "Sparrows and Crows," to be adapted into a short film by Free Fall Pictures. "Sparrows and Crows" was published in CRIMEFACTORY #5 at around the same time that DISCOUNT NOIR came out. Also, I have a workshop production of an evening of my short plays coming up at Raven Theatre in Chicago sometime next summer.

6 comments:

  1. Aren't they the greatest! Thanks, Cullen. Another nice piece on your amazing blog.

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  2. Interesting reading, Cullen. Especially the stuff that's not about me. Thanks!

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  3. That was fun. Wow its like serial dating but with interviews. This is a cool idea and it worked out very well.

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  4. Intriguing stuff! I will definitely be back for more.

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  5. A great bunch of interviews. Dicount Noir is a cracking selection of stories.(And thanks for the mention Chad!)

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  6. Great interviews guys and great stories too. Thanks for hosting, Cullen.

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