Ok, I don't know why I called this post what I did either.
I am comparing my experience at this point on my collection to what I was doing when finishing up 'Under the Wall.' By that point with UtW, pretty much everybody who was listening to me talk understood what it was about. (It didn't hurt that it was easy to sum up.) I pointed out earlier via twitter that I thought of the title 'Under the Wall' before finishing even the first chapter of composition - which was nice because it gave me a thematic umbrella to keep all the flying crap out of my hair while I figured out how to make a story about a cat with mental powers into something less silly than William Shatner reading Sarah Palin speeches.
I have not really had any unifying theme with my collection, nor has any name reached out and smacked me in the ass as of yet. I am not worried - I have much more experience naming things than I do writing (though you wouldn't know it from this blog).
I can give you the finished titles (and brief descriptions) of many of the stories, would you like that? Of course you would!
Fair Game - Love Suspects - This is probably going to be the kickoff story of the collection. It's short, sweet, and introduces the thing closest to a running thread throughout the book - the 'near-futuristic' hit internet prank series 'Fair Game.' The subtitle of this particular clip is 'Love Suspects,' and I'm not sure to include the post-hyphen elements of the title or not. This was the first tale to be written for the book, started the DAY AFTER 'Under the Wall' had wrapped. I thought of the idea on the way to the bus stop.
Rough Draft - This is the story I thought of first in the collection. In fact, I remember when: Feb 15th, 2010. I had the day off work and was feverishly doing re-writes of Under the Wall. I had serial killers on the brain, writing about serial killers on the brain - and when walking past a downstairs window I nearly jumped thinking I saw a man standing there! AHHH! It was just a combination of the neighbors leaving something in their lawn and me being amped up on coffee and fear, but it made me think of this story.
It's a story of an unknown writer finishing up his first book (about a serial killer) when he sees a real serial killer standing in his window. The problem is - when he goes public, the media seems to think the whole incident was nothing more than a desperate ploy for attention for his unknown book. Hilarity ensues when he becomes a morbidly depressed drunk who's own mother doesn't trust him.
Scheme - My 'first' book, GhostPopulace, was a ridiculous wad of interconnecting plot with some character names thrown in. 'Under the Wall' came to me in a vomit-like burst of fully formed plot, leaving me to fill in the characters and do little more but flesh out the predetermined story. This, the third story I began work on for the collection, was my first attempt at 'following the breadcrumbs' of an impulse, and I began writing the conversation between two rather besotted men I heard in my head on the way to the bus stop. All I knew is that the drunker of the two had a scheme... it took some time to find out what it was, but the result is a story I'm very proud of starring a man who is very, very ashamed of what he did.
Courtesy Flush - This one was written for fun in a time right after a personal family tragedy put a dent in my writing habits - pretty much only an attempt to get back in the groove of what I was doing. I have enough stories now where it is doubtful this will even make the book. See how good at self-promotion I am?
Minimum Wage - I don't want to give too much about this one away, but let's say it is the story of one man's unusual career and how the universe is both more beautiful and less strange than could ever be described.
A Case of Extremes - This is one of my favorites in the book. It's a bit longer, but a lot of fun. This is the story of two very different couples: one of whom is convinced their home is haunted while the other wouldn't believe in ghosts if the spirit of Abe Lincoln appeared with all the glowing fatalities from the Titanic and bust up their house with shining, ethereal sledgehammers.
The fun part of this story is trying to decide who is sillier.
The Road Virus - Technothriller, enter here! This is a short little piece of work inspired by an ad I saw for a new system on SUV's that uses cameras and remote controls to 'auto-park' your car in a parallel spot. I realized that cameras and motors that parked your car could also be programmed to spot pedestrians and run them over... And you know what? A fictional group of computer hackers must have realized this too, because that's what they did!
Fair Game - Amnesia Amnesty - I'm not sure if this one will use the hyphenated form or just be entitled 'Amnesia Amnesty,' it depends on which way I go with the Fair Game stories. This one is a tale of wealth, familial dissonance, and lies. It asks the key question: if one's were to be disowned by one's parents before becoming wealthy, and then those horrible people thought that their suddenly rich son had lost all memories - how would a bunch of sleazy, cruel people handle that?
Not too well it turns out - the tension in this story comes from finding out how long their wronged son can go on not exploding with rage and revealing that he is faking his amnesia and trapping his parents in an episode of Fair Game.
The Next Sixty Seconds (Will Change Your Life) - Advertising and supernatural forces combine to hold a nation's talents ransom. A nondescript ad plays people all across the country to sleep, and when they wake up the next day many find that some part of themselves seems to be missing, while still others find amazing talents they never knew they had. Understanding dawns on a nation of confused people with the next night's ad: asking for payments to either keep the new talent or restore the missing one.
In a world driven by consumer culture, how much would you be willing to pay in order to remain who you are, or to hang on to the one thing that suddenly makes your life bearable?
The Birdfeeders - This one is just barely started, and I will turn to it when I finish the current tale. It is a story about a disoriented girl trying to make sense of things after losing the love of her life, and how the things we turn to for comfort might snowball into something that takes over our lives.
Just writing this description down for The Birdfeeders makes me feel excited to get back to work on it again here in a little bit - I didn't realize that was what it was about until just now. So... score for me.
Birds on Glass - This is the first story in the collection to be published by an external force! It will appear in Black Oak Presents in the September 1st, 2010 issue.
This is a strange psychological tale about a man's discomfort with society's artifice - and his unusual way of dealing with the problem. This is the first story I wrote to be set in the Twin Cities.
Brilliant Story - This novella length tale is my personal favorite out of the book, though I couldn't tell you just why. It has a simple story, and a fairly autobiographical one at that. A young man with the regrettable name of Clarence Smetters works in an office downtown, but spends his daily commute feverishly typing away his brilliant story, something that came to him at a Christmas party in the form of an incredible idea.
The book he has almost finished is going to be an amazing surprise for his wife Andrea when he is done, and he can't wait to show her. The one problem? A fellow bus passenger just so happens to be a drug-dealer, and when he comes home to find his home ransacked, his drugs and money stolen, and a potentially lethal $750 debt to his drug supplier hanging over his head, Clarence's little black netbook from the daily bus ride is the first solution to his problem he thinks of.
This is a story of what might happen if a stolen thing means more to the victim than it does to the thief - and the lengths even the most calm, dull-seeming person can go to if pushed.
And there is a final, currently untitled tale I am working on right now to finish the collection off. It is the story of a homeless man who wanders around with paint-splattered pants and a garbage bag in his hand, muttering to himself. A group of young urban professionals laugh at him each day as he passes, expressing bemusement over the strange bits of words they hear as he walks by. On a dare, one day one of them sticks a digital voice recorder down in his pocket and retrieves it later (the man seems unresponsive so they figure at worst they lose the recorder). What they hear when it plays back changes their opinion of the man forever.
That's most of the stories in the collection in a nutshell - hopefully I have made you want to read it more instead of less! Thanks everybody for the support and humor :)