So, yesterday I signed the contract to publish my short story collection, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories: Tales of Mystery and Suspense, with Bold Strokes Books for an April 2019 release date–which means it should be available at Saints & Sinners/ Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in late March.
I am inordinately excited about this, you have no idea, Constant Reader! It’s the first book contract I’ve signed since 2015, for one thing–everything came out in 2016 or early 2017, so yeah, it’s been a hot minute–but I am also excited because it’s a short story collection and it isn’t erotica.
In 2004 Starbooks collected my wrestling stories into a short-lived collection called Wanna Wrestle?, that went out of print very quickly for various reasons, none of which had to do with actual sales; it’s a rarity and few copies exist out there in the wild. Bold Strokes also did a collection of my Todd Gregory erotic stories, Promises in Every Star and Other Stories, a few years back as well. But I’ve always wanted to do a collection of non-erotic short stories, but never thought I would ever have enough stories, enough material, to actually do so.
But I also had no way of knowing I would also lapse into a short story writing mania the way I have this year. I mean, I can’t believe how much short story writing I’ve been doing this year.
But, also in fairness, only four of the stories in this collection are new.
Here’s the table of contents:
Survivor’s Guilt (originally published in Blood on the Bayou, which won the Anthony Award for Best Anthony and the story was nominated for a Macavity Award)
The Email Always Pings Twice (originally published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
Keeper of the Flame (originally published in Mystery Week magazine)
A Streetcar Named Death (originally published in the anthology I Never Thought I’d See You Again, edited by Lou Aronica)
An Arrow for Sebastian (originally published in the anthology Cast of Characters, edited by Lou Aronica)
Housecleaning (originally published in Sunshine Noir, edited by Annamaria Alfieri and Michael Stanley)
Acts of Contrition (originally published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
Lightning Bugs in a Jar
Spin Cycle (originally published in Men of the Mean Streets, co-edited by me and J. M. Redmann)
Cold Beer No Flies (originally published in Florida Happens, coming in September)
Annunciation Shotgun (originally published in New Orleans Noir)
Quiet Desperation (originally published as a Kindle single)
The Weight of a Feather
My Brother’s Keeper
Don’t Look Down
Smalltown Boy (originally published in Rebel Yell 2, edited by Jay Quinn)
So, only four of the stories, (five, if you count “Quiet Desperation,” which was a Kindle single) are original. And technically, “Cold Beer No Flies” is a new story; but by the time the collection comes out next year Florida Happens will also be out, rendering it no longer a new story.
But even more exciting? “My Brother’s Keeper” is the first Chanse MacLeod short story ever, and now that I’ve written one, it doesn’t scare me anymore. I’ve already started another, “Once a Tiger,” and who knows? Maybe I will write more. I don’t think I’ll ever write another Chanse novel, but short stories? Why not? Writing private eye short stories is challenging; more of a challenge than just the usual crime story I write, and so I see writing more private eye stories as an opportunity to grow further as a writer, and get better at what I actually do.
The great irony is that my short story writing mania of this year actually has provided me with almost enough stories for a second collection, all unpublished stories, and I have about another dozen or so in some form or stage of being written. Freaking crazy.
Oh, and you know that messy Chapter Fourteen of the Scotty book? Was so fucking easy to fix it’s not even fucking funny. It literally required the deletion of about 200 words and the addition of 120 or so back, and it’s fucking fixed. Blam. Problem solved; the same problem I might add, I’ve been avoiding for like three weeks.
Because, you know, avoidance. My go-to.
Heavy heaving sigh.
Here’s the opening paragraph of “Don’t Look Down,” aka the Italy story:
Jase shifted the Fiat’s engine into a lower gear as he started up the steep hill. He hadn’t driven a standard transmission since college, but he did remember hills required downshifting. As the Fiat started climbing he passed two handsome, tanned men on mountain bikes, sturdy thighs straining against their brightly colored Lycra casing. According to the directions, he would be in Panzano when he reached the top of the hill. There was a parking lot off to the left and just beyond that he could see a stone wall. The hill—or mountain, he wasn’t sure which—dropped off into a valley to the right, vineyards and olive trees spreading out to the next sloping hill. A low stone wall hugged the right side of the road nearer the crest of the hill, with barely enough space for pedestrians or mountain bikes. All the roads had been incredibly narrow since he’d left the highway, with many sharp blind curves as the road weaved in and out and around and along mountains. At one point an enormous bus coming the other way had almost forced him onto the shoulder, missing the black rental car by inches. He glanced up at the directions tucked into the sun visor. At the crest of the hill there would be another sharp, almost ninety-degree turn to the left, and to his right would be the triangular town center of Panzano-in-Chianti. To get to the hotel, because of the narrow one-way streets, he’d have to circle around the triangular town square to get to the little hotel.