|(photo credit: Henry Snider)|
A Saturday night, months later, I paused the Hollywood blockbuster playing on our flat-screen in the living room (Snow White and the Huntsman, I believe) to refresh sodas. I moseyed into my Writing Room to find an acceptance on one of the two stories, my short and creepy tale, "The Guests." I was beyond thrilled and struggled to get through the rest of the movie. I wanted to be in this project. And I was.
The idea for "The Guests" came to me on a humid June afternoon, a Wednesday, in one of those thunderclaps of inspiration where a story takes shape, fully formed. I saw, quite clearly, a woman X'ing off days on a calendar in red ink as she and her husband prepared for the arrival of holiday guests. Only it turned out that though the motions seemed normal, an element of wrongness quickly grew apparent, for these guests were not your average in-laws or siblings. I sat down a few hours before due to depart for my writer's group's weekly meeting, put pen to paper, and dashed off the first draft in one sitting. I then read it to my fellow scribes, who dug it. So did the luminous Mister Wholley, as he chose it to appear in a stellar Table of Contents in the conference's official literary companion.
Many of my fellow authors shared the back stories behind their contributions to the amazing read that is Anthology: Year One.
Marianne Halbert on "When Betsy Whispers": "As part of my day job, I travel to our local prisons from time to time. One snowy day, I left early in case the roads were bad. I arrived early, with time to kill. They were in the process of opening a new museum. There was a wall of shanks, and a letter written by a fourteen-year-old Charles Manson when he'd been at the boys' school. But what drew my attention was the chair. Ancient, yet elegant, untouchable due to the glass that separated us, she sat. Some states refer to their electric chairs as 'Old Sparky'. For some reason, in
Stacey Longo on "Cliffhanger": "'Cliffhanger' came about when I was stuck at an employment law seminar all day, listening to two lawyers drone on about
Timothy P. Flynn on "A Day at the Bookstore": "Back in 2007, I was in the process of ending a fifteen-year relationship with my wife (together for ten, married for five) because my alcoholism and depression were just out of control. I hit the rock bottom that many talk about but yet never seem to face. My life needed a change or I was going to die. I finally took the plunge into a detox center at
K. Allen Wood on "She Cries": "The title 'She Cries' has been with me for a long time. Back in the early ‘90s, as a young teenager, I used it as the title to the following poem:
The article detailed how archeologists or scientists had exhumed the bodies of Celtic kings from the bog and had discovered the bog had preserved the bodies so well they were able to tell what their last meal was, what oils they’d had in their hair, how old they were, how they were killed and many other things. After reading this, of course, my writer’s imagination took off and I instantly began thinking of 'what if' scenarios and the story was born. I imagined a young king figuring out what his fate was about to be and getting the jump on his own blood-thirsty tribe, but the tale did not end there. I crafted a tale where the king flees into the very bog that was to be his final resting place and the tribe that will not rest until he gives the ultimate sacrifice for them -- his life. They will go to unthinkable lengths to make sure spring returns the following year."
Roxanne Dent on "The Legacy": "I was thrilled to learn my short story about greed and murder with a twist in Victorian times sold to Anthology: Year One. Knowing my story was accepted into their first print anthology was exciting. I got to read a section of it at the November conference, which was wonderful with fabulous speakers, the Goth singer Voltaire, and numerous panels and talks. This year I kept winning books in a raffle and [my sister] Karen won a fabulous painting. I love Anthocon and the people behind the conference and the book, which I’m sure, will be the first of many."
Andrew Wolter on "The Green Hour": "I've always been intrigued by the stories surrounding the consumption of absinthe. Was there truly a 'green fairy' and did those who partake of the jade-colored liquor hallucinate as if on some bad acid trip? Were such claims mere drunken ramblings or the subject of old wives tales? A year before 'The Green Hour' was published, I attended the very first AnthoCon convention in which Ted Breaux (a renowned expert on the subject) offered a workshop on the preparation and history of absinthe. Immediately after attending Breaux’s informative class, I was instantly inspired to write an absinthe-related tale and already had the title in mind. While I wanted to incorporate the history revolving the liquor, I longed to explore a modernized myth as well. What really occurred in those moments when this mysterious alcohol impaired all judgment? As my goal in writing this tale was for readers to truly experience my main character’s absinthe-induced state, the entire content of 'The Green Hour' was written during several sessions in which I was heavily under the influence of absinthe."
Kevin Lucia on "Lament at Sundown": "'Lament at Sundown' began, ironically enough, with a good-natured, running gag in one of my high school classes. Several of my honors students had this running joke with one of their mates -- a student of an Arabic/Middle-Eastern background (but fully, whole-heartedly American) -- that she was Native American. This led to random references to hunting buffalo, scalping, pow-wows, and fire-water, whenever the time seemed right: in the middle of conversations, tests, class discussion...pretty much whenever. It became our class's version of the time-honored 'That's what she said' joke.
Now, I know what you're thinking -- how could I allow such cultural insensitivity in the classroom? But, I knew these students well -- had known this one student's family for over ten years -- and it was clear that everything was offered in good fun (and I checked with said student, several times). Sure enough, for Halloween, the student in question came into class dressed in full-tilt Native American garb -- headdress and tomahawk and all -- and proceeded to 'scalp' several of her fellow students for their insolence.
This, ironically enough, on a slow day, led to a discussion about my writing process. They asked how I came up with new stories, and I told them I tried to draw as much inspiration from life as possible. I then referenced their running gag and said: 'Here's the thing: you guys have all been really kind and laid-back about this, it's obviously a joke between old friends. But what if it WASN'T? What if there was meanness and violence behind it, and what if...what if...the victim, a female, decided she wasn't going to take it anymore? Was going to take matters into her own hands?' And thus, this story -- in its earliest form -- was conceived with the help of these ten students. This story deals with other things, also. The helplessness I sometimes feel as a teacher, in trying to touch students' lives...and failing, so often. Also, it's a hard look at how fear and prejudice and even racism start as very small, innocuous seeds, sprout, grow into something dark and deadly...often claiming those most innocent."
Here’s a confession, I like writing fiction, but not nearly as much as I enjoy my nonfiction projects. I like researching odd topics and my fiction writing tends to rely on real names, dates and places to guide the story. With that in mind, 'Appledore' relies on historical details from