#SundayStories Week Eleven: Night of the Spider

#SundayStories Week Eleven:

It’s time for the eleventh and final edition of Sunday Stories, where each week I reveal the inspiration behind one of the eleven twisting tales from my short story collection, And Then We Vanish.

My personal favorite of the collection, “Night of the Spider” arose at the crossroads of three ideas. Firstly, a photograph of my Grandmother and her sister outside their home in Northeast Philadelphia in the 1940’s had always struck me. This photograph became the inspiration for the photograph young Benjamin takes of his mother and aunt before going to spend the summer with his estranged father. Secondly, I always wanted to write a short story in the vein of my favorite writer Graham Greene. And thirdly, I wanted to write about my fear of spiders. The story almost spun into a novella where I fleshed out some of the minor characters (Scarlet) and gave Benjamin a clearer resolution…but I like how the open-ended suspense cuts this one short. Always leave them hanging…

#SundayStories Week Ten: When Night Falls on Niagara

#SundayStories Week Ten:

“When Night Falls on Niagara,” the most fanciful of the tales, came to me during a family vacation in the Finger Lakes. We took a day trip to Niagara Falls, and a conversation with my nephew about who works the light show spurred my imagination. It was originally published by Eunoia Review.

A number of readers have named this story as their favorite story of the collection, not surprisingly, as it’s the most unique and naturally stands out.

Buy the paperback from Amazon for $9.99.

Download a copy to your Kindle for $3.99, or with your subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Ask your local indie bookstore to stock their shelves through Indiebound.

Add And Then We Vanish to your Goodreads “Want to Read” pile.

#SundayStories Week Nine: Wild Horses

#SundayStories Week Nine:

“Wild Horses” was actually meant to be the opening chapter of the novel my wife and I (still?) want to write together. While on a family vacation in the Outer Banks we cooked up a whole series of melodramatic Southern potboilers detailing family lore regarding the wild escapades of a character named “Deddy” and the women who loved him. I conjured the teaser of an opener after we went on a wild horse tour and found that it stood well enough alone as its own thing. One day it might still serve as the opener to our epic series of melodramas.

Buy the paperback from Amazon for $9.99.

Download a copy to your Kindle for $3.99, or with your subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Ask your local indie bookstore to stock their shelves through Indiebound.

Add And Then We Vanish to your Goodreads “Want to Read” pile.

#SundayStories Week Eight: Down Gallow’s Way

#SundayStories Week Eight:

For the life of me, I don’t fully remember the genesis of “Down Gallow’s Way.” Many disparate ideas just came together for my story about where the down-and-out go all the way down…but I vaguely recall my friend telling me about a guy she met in Atlantic City who told her a wild story about accidentally dating an undercover FBI agent. That must’ve been where the idea came from, and then that blasted heated wave in the Spring of 2010…it all just came together like a fever dream after driving down to AC (and gazing out at those windmills) and a night of too much whisky. A few readers pointed out this one feels dated…and it is. I wrote it in another lifetime. I barely recognize myself and the person who wrote this.

And this was another one, like “The Ballerina in Battery Park” from the same time period in my life (ah, those early Obama years), I submitted on a lark not expecting much (though I personally enjoyed the quasi-neo-noir story a great deal) and at first the publisher said, “We like it, but it’ll be a year before we can fit it into an anthology,” followed up by, “Guess what, we fit it into the one coming out next month!”

Buy the paperback from Amazon for $9.99.

Download a copy to your Kindle for $3.99, or with your subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Ask your local indie bookstore to stock their shelves through Indiebound.

Add And Then We Vanish to your Goodreads “Want to Read” pile.

#SundayStories Week Seven: Blue Heather

#SundayStories Week Seven:

The sound of a bleating sheep in the distance while walking a path up to a waterfall. I was on vacation in Ireland, on a day trip to Wicklow, and that sound…it haunted me. So I wrote a story about it called “Blue Heather.” I actually imagined a whole novel centered around the mystery in this story, but it remains as elusive as that sheep forever bleating in the distance.

Buy the paperback from Amazon for $9.99.

Download a copy to your Kindle for $3.99, or with your subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Ask your local indie bookstore to stock their shelves through Indiebound.

Add And Then We Vanish to your Goodreads “Want to Read” pile.

#SundayStories Week Six: Somebody You Used to Know

#SundayStories Week Six:

“Somebody You Used to Know” came to me as clear as ice on an Upstate New York lake when I was on my on my way to Cooperstown, NY for the weekend and the Sandy Hook school shooting happened. This horrible, complicated, young father character burst into my head and demanded I write his story. As a father now, I don’t know that I could write the same story today from the same twisted point of view. This was the story I struggled with the most as to whether I should include it in the anthology or not, but I could just never shake it, and so here it is.

Connie’s, the pub that serves as the main setting of the story in the fictional Hamlet, was inspired by Cooley’s Tavern in Cooperstown, NY.

Buy the paperback from Amazon for $9.99.

Download a copy to your Kindle for $3.99, or with your subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Ask your local indie bookstore to stock their shelves through Indiebound.

Add And Then We Vanish to your Goodreads “Want to Read” pile.

#SundayStories Week Five: Anthrax and Cherry Blossoms

#SundayStories Week Five

“Anthrax and Cherry Blossoms” is another story that arose from an amalgamation of anecdotes from working for a large financial institution. A co-worker told me once about a bank manager who discovered human ashes in a safe deposit box. There had to be an interesting back-story to that, so I made one up! I set it in Washington D.C. during the cherry blossom season after spending a weekend down there with my wife one spring.

Like “Boko Haram’s Greatest Hits” this was originally published last year by A Million and One Magazine, which sadly no longer appears to be in existence.

Buy the paperback from Amazon for $9.99.

Download a copy to your Kindle for $3.99, or with your subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Ask your local indie bookstore to stock their shelves through Indiebound.

Add And Then We Vanish to your Goodreads “Want to Read” pile.

#SundayStories Week Four: Boko Haram’s Greatest Hits

#SundayStories Week Four

It’s time for the fourth edition of #SundayStories where each week I reveal the inspiration behind one of the eleven twisting tales from my short story collection, And Then We Vanish.

“Boko Haram’s Greatest Hits” came to life when I was snowed in it at my future wife’s apartment in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. I used the term snowed in loosely – it was an overhyped non-blizzard event, but I was spending the night anyhow and decided to work-from-home from her place the next day when I trudged down (through the epic white dusting and slush) to a local bar (McMenamin’s Tavern) for lunch and overheard an awkward conversation between two strangers…who became the mysterious Jasmin and the hapless Wes in the story.

Summer Indie Book Reading

While I’m currently reading Ivy Ngeow’s Overboard, which might turn out to be the best Indie book I’ve read yet and will most certainly warrant its own in-depth post, here’s a rundown of some recent Indie books I finished and the reviews I posted on Goodreads:

 

The Hanging Artist by Jon Steinhagen (novel)

The Hanging Artist is a very specific kind of entertainment. If the premise (Kafka awakes in a sanitarium to meet a giant talking bug and then is sucked into a bizarre murder mystery) sounds too strange, then it probably will be for you. But if it sounds great (like it did to me) then by all means buy, buy, buy.

Kafka makes for a great amateur detective, and apart from the inherent absurdism of the premise, Steinhagen’s greatest treat for this reader was the screwball detective dialogue between Kafka and the giant bug, and Kafka and the Biede character (an investigator from the mysterious society that wants to employ Kafka’s skills). Then there are all the suspects and various theater folk, each uniquely drawn and memorable, and the playful “nocturnes” following a Hanging Artist performance where acquaintances of theater patrons are dropping dead. The mystery actually had me guessing, and the solution to the crime is appropriately bizarre.

Witty, dark, and sometimes silly, The Hanging Artist makes for smart, surreal escapism.

 

Susan M. Lane has given us quite an interesting and psychologically rich collection of short stories with Secrets. Admittedly, I was turned off by the opening story about a serial killer that was so well done as to almost give me a panic attack. I wasn’t sure I could handle the collection if all of the stories were that intense. But I persevered, and I’m glad I did.

There are a number of stories about people queued up in lines: at the grocery store, a fast food drive-thru, a bank…and Lane is quite adept at capturing the banal tension of these everyday occurrences, how the act of waiting and observing other people can be stressful, and sometimes the smallest misunderstanding or slight could be triggering. In these stories Lane head-hops from person to person, diving deep into their fears and worries and pasts, revealing the secrets behind the everyday people we encounter…secrets we’ll never know just by observing them.

Misunderstandings (and prejudices) that lead to violence (the closing story is all too relevant today) is another key theme running through many of the stories.

Not all of the stories hit home for me, and some of the more noir ones, though fun, seemed like throwaways. But Lane’s craft is…crafty. And I would highly recommend her collection for those who enjoying reading stories that highlight the darker side of humanity and revel in twists of fate.

 

The Pup and the Pianist by Sara Flower Kjeldsen (novella)

Fascinating, quick-paced adventure novella about a young lad named Max and another unlikely survivor stranded on the Galapagos after a disastrous naval skirmish during the Napoleonic wars.

Vivid descriptions and judicious use of metaphors overcome some odd wording and grammatical puzzlers. The author was clearly trying to capture the spirit of the era both in the writing style and tone.

The character development is excellent and heads in directions I did not anticipate.

Reviews by D. H. Schleicher

#SundayStories #AndThenWeVanish Catch-Up

Well, I finally made an official author page on Facebook, and one of the fun things I did to connect with readers and promote my new short story collection, And Then We Vanish, was start #SundayStories, where every Sunday I talk about the inspiration behind one of the eleven stories featured in the collection.

I’ve done this the past three Sundays and thought I would share those behind-the-scenes stories here on my blog as well. Going forward you can read #SundayStories on Facebook or here at The Spin.

#SundayStories Week Three

“Upon the Unfortunate News of My Death” was one of many stories I wanted to write that incorporated my previous experiences working in a large call center – a strange eco-system with its own set of rules, social mores, and populated by interesting characters from all walks of life. This was another one written rather quickly…it all just gelled one day after word got around the call center that someone at another site was erroneously reported as dead by their manager. What a story! I set this one in my old stomping grounds of North Carolina, with the climactic showdown between over-zealous assistant call center manager Crystal Dawbs and aggrieved agent Kayla Spaulding taking place atop a rooftop bar with dramatic views of downtown Wilmington, NC.

#SundayStories Week Two

“The Ballerina in Battery Park” is one of those stories that just came to me, complete and ready to write, after a trip to NYC to visit a friend where we came across a murder scene walking home from watching the Sacha Baron Cohen film Bruno. I merged a number of different anecdotes from multiple stays in the city into the story, including that time I got thrown out of Battery Park past closing time, and frequent brunches at the famous Harry’s Steakhouse off Wall Street. I wrote a first draft in a flash, did very minor edits, submitted it to a contest on a lark, won third place and publication in their annual anthology. It was my first published short story.

You can also find my original blow-by-blow details of the weekend visit that inspired the story by clicking here.

#SundayStories Week One

“The Pumpkin Thief” is one of those stories that percolated in my mind in one form or another for many years. I had long wanted to write something that incorporated “The Cowboy” kidnapping scare from my childhood – yes, we lived in a fear of man in a Stetson hat snatching us for a few weeks, just like the kids in the story – but it wasn’t until a trip to a corn maze prompted a friend and I to joke about leaping from the car to steal a pumpkin from the giant patch on our way out that lightning struck and the idea and characters appeared to me. The story went through many iterations, the main character of Pete slowly revealing himself through many, many re-writes. He’s always been one of my favorites, along with his antagonist, Fast Dan, the proud owner of the Ford Pinto Black-and-Decker convertible.

Buy the paperback from Amazon for $9.99.

Download a copy to your Kindle for $3.99, or with your subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Ask your local indie bookstore to stock their shelves through Indiebound.

Add And Then We Vanish to your Goodreads “Want to Read” pile.