Well, I finished it and now it is off to Level Best Books to see how we fare with their next anthology. I named my story "Killing Julie Morris" — sort of an in-your-face title but then it’s that kind of story it is. It is simply a story about a woman who entertains herself thinking up ways to kill Julie Morris, a spoiled, affluent society wife who spends her afternoons in sleazy hotels cheating on her husband. It’s a charming little story. Well, okay, it’s another strange one. Where did I get this peculiar fascination with murder?
It’s a funny thing because other than my early love for Nancy Drew, I was never really overly interested in mystery books. Once I started writing short fiction I tended to write the sort of stories that explored the quirky and individualistic yearnings of the human heart. I’ve always been fascinated by who people chose to love and why. That’s always amazed me. Years ago I worked with a young woman who was, to all appearances, a perfect doll. She was pretty, intelligent, well-dressed, very professional and nice. I’d known her for several months before I met her husband — what a surprise that was. He was tall and skinny and, well, homely. A genuine nerd and this was before nerds were cool.
And that was it — he was cool. He was amazingly intelligent in a strange, geeky kind of way but the kind of braininess that forgets to tie his shoes, get a haircut, shave and wear clothes that sort of match. She adored him and I think he returned the sentiment — as near as you could tell. But they were happy and I wound up getting a pretty good short story out of getting to know them.
Skye Alexander was the one who got me thinking about murder. Skye is a friend and was the person who approached me about designing a web site for Level Best. While we were working on the site she gave me a copy of their first anthology, Undertow, and suggested I should submit a short story for the second one. I told her I didn’t write crime stories but I decided to give it a try. The result was “Asa”, the story they published in their second anthology Riptide. Since then I’ve read a lot of mystery/crime novels and I’m kind of hooked.
Right now my favorite is a Scottish writer named Val McDermid. Damn, she’s good! I am reading her books all out of order but that doesn’t seem to impact the experience. Once you get past the confusion of where the regular characters are in their lives at this point, the intrigue of the story sweeps me along and it doesn’t matter where Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are at this point in their relationship. (Poor Tony, he’s such a mess.)
So, anyway, my latest short story is in the mail to Level Best and now I have to get back to work on my collection of short stories that I call My Last Romance and Other Passions. Writing is surprisingly labor-intensive — especially if you have to earn a living in between times. The primary thing is, I love stories. I love listening to stories and reading them and telling them and writing them and I always have. I grew up at a time and in a place where people told stories a lot to entertain and amuse each other. I remember attending my Grandmother Werner’s 70th birthday party. There were probably fifty people crowding her little house and in every room people who had been her friends all their lives — who grew up before television and videos and DVDs — sat around drinking beer and telling stories. Hunting stories, coming-to-America stories, romantic stories, sad stories, how-I-met-my-spouse stories. It was wonderful. I was 23 at the time and that party has stayed with me all these years. What I learned that night was that we are each of us a book. A book worth reading.
So another story from my on-going book is out in the world. I have to let go of it now. It will either succeed or fail. I can’t be attached to that. There are a lot more stories that need to be written.
Thanks for reading.