My latest short story “The American Five” is the sixth (I think) I’ve written in the past two months. All this short story-writing came on a whim, and I’m not quite sure what unleashed it. I once said I would never be able to write a story less than three hundred pages, so I would always be a novelist when writing fiction. The idea of writing short stories was always a tepid one at best. I felt I had left that behind in elementary school. My life is a constant revolving door of “never say nevers”, so why should I have ever thought as much?
I decided sometime in October while editing the latest draft of the second novel in the Ten Points series (the yet-to-be-published—though I’m holding off—further Gothic, north Louisianan adventures of the Laneharts/Conrad/Katarina tentatively titled Katarina The Killer) I would try to write a short story. I could enter it in contests, submit it to literary magazines, and try to get published elsewhere in a different place. It was all an attempt to draw more attention to The Incubus and The Others and my forthcoming second book in the series. I’ve also been trying to put together a book three in the Ten Points series, but it’s been slow going with a complex storyline on that one. Anyway, I thought having a short story published somewhere would draw attention and readers to the work I really love—novel writing. Little did I know I would be turning on a faucet that would be hard to shut off. I’ve decided to let it run.
Despite its creepy, eerie cover pic of a pentagram (I swear I’m no devil worshipper, but if you read the story, you’ll understand the reasoning behind that cover; think the number “five”), “The American Five” could have easily been a novella. Instead, I cut it off at about sixteen single-spaced pages which are sliced into several “mini-chapters”. It came out to be about twenty-eight pages after self-publication (something else I’ve been doing with the short stories) on Kindle Direct on Amazon. Most of my “short reads” have come out to be anywhere from ten to thirteen pages on Amazon, so twenty-eight is epic range for me with short fiction. I think John William Polidori’s “The Vampyre” is somewhere around forty-two pages, if I’m not mistaken. But I digress…
“The American Five” is based on an experience I had a couple of months back when I went with some friends to see the indie-darling flick American Honey at our local Landmark theater. The movie clocked in at nearly three hours (as if it were a Hollywood epic on the Giant or Gone With the Wind scale) and had me white-knuckling the arms of the theater seat that day—in hopes it would hurry and end after I felt it easily carried on at least an hour too long. I even went on iMDb (Internet Movie Database, for web neophytes) and wrote a couple of unflattering posts detailing my distaste and dislike for it. I didn’t find any of the characters likable, the plot seemed to go in circles, etc. etc. Then after a day or so, I realized I couldn’t get the damned thing out of my head! There was a lot of hidden meaning in the film, and it did point out many things wrong with society I find disgusting. Maybe it had touched a nerve. It did win the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, so what the hell do I know. What makes me Rex Reed?
I went back and deleted the derogatory comments I made on iMDb. Maybe American Honey isn’t so bad after all. Maybe I need to watch it again. I’ll wait for the DVD or Netflix and break it into increments next time.
After sitting through American Honey, an idea for a horror tale was born in my writer-brain. What if a group of friends went to see a movie, hated it with all their being, but couldn’t get it out of their heads? I played with the idea for a while, formed elements of the plot in my mind for days and weeks before I even started to write the first sentence (in the meantime I churned out a few other short tales). The story for “The American Five” finally came, and like all other fictional things I write, it grew tree branches and extended beyond the scope of what I initially intended. Five characters go to see an indie film called The American Five, four of them absolutely can’t stand it and start to mouth off about it, and well, befall a fate worse than mine after mouthing off about American Honey. Notice, I say only four extol their vitriolic thoughts. If you read the story, you’ll understand why it worked out that way, and the fifth character escapes unscathed.
I wrote the story, finished the story, and edited it to my satisfaction. Even then, like a chili cook who feels their recipe is a trifle bland, I went back and threw in a little more spice for good measure. I decided it wouldn’t do as a submission to some horror magazine. Well, not right now anyway. I published “The American Five” on Kindle yesterday (December 20th). I hope it gets some reads.
I have a dream of eventually compiling the horror/suspense/psychological fiction into a book of short stories when I’ve written enough I feel are worthy. In the meantime, I may pick the ones I really like and submit them for publication elsewhere.
My short stories “Election Day” and “Tamales” were written to quench my dire mood over current news events and events in my real life, respectively, so those are standalone for all time. One is satire; one is love-gone-wrong (the ex of the protagonist in “Tamales” ends up underneath a city bus—but still not a horror tale, though the person upon which he’s based is probably somebody else’s nightmare by now), so neither really fits the mold of the things I usually write about. They have no real place in a collection of my other work. But—by all means—feel free to check them out. That’s why they’re available on Amazon Kindle!
As someone who let my writing lie dormant for so long (my 20s and some of my 30s are pieces of time I’ll want back at the end of my life, if not now), I had a major renaissance in 2015 and 2016. After finally finding a publisher for The Incubus and The Others in 2016, I’ve set some loftier goals for 2017 (among them, getting book two in the series published and cleaning up the mess I’ve created with the typewritten words I’ve spilled into book three thus far—think 2018 for book three). I also have an idea for a non-Ten Points/non-Lanehart/non-vampire horror novel I’m tossing around.
I’ll go into further detail about my 2017 goals and plans in another post soon.