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The Story Behind the Story – Clutch and Throttle

The Story Behind the Story

 Clutch and Throttle began as a couple of friends sharing stories between themselves about their mutual love of motorcycles…

My friend and fellow author Becky Pourchot developed an interest in motorcycles shortly after moving to Florida in 2012. By 2015 she had taken a rider’s course, and bought her first bike, whereas I’ve been riding since 1973.

Becky’s new-found enthusiasm for all things biker led to many conversations about our individual perspectives. Hers from the point of view of a newbie, mine from several years of riding.

As she is prone to do, Becky began turning every moment in the seat into some sort of philosophical life-lesson…so I told her she needed to write them down and share them on her blog. Shortly thereafter she sent me a draft of her first post. After reading it I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between her experiences and my own when I was learning to ride, so I wrote a short post that “mirrored” hers and sent it to her. My thought was she could post the two pieces on her blog as sort of a he-said-she-said thing.

Becky had a different idea…that we continue documenting our experiences and use them to create a book…a fun collection of zen-flavored biker stories from polar-opposite viewpoints.

It wasn’t long before the book was a reality.

The stories may involve bikes, but there’s a big-picture element to them that gives them a universal appeal – so leather is optional…

…and that’s the story behind that story.

 

The Story Behind the Story – Dying Days

The Story Behind the Story

The Dying Days/European Village novellas (there are two) started with one of those moments between friends that’s more of a joke than anything else.

I was enjoying a typical, beautiful Florida evening with fellow author Armand Rosamillia and some other friends in a place called European Village one night, and Armand and I were discussing a writing collaboration when somebody (I don’t recall who) suggested we team up and write a story about zombies attacking European Village.

At first we laughed.

Then we looked around at the way the cluster of three-story buildings were arranged in a triangular shape, forming a fort-like configuration, and thought “this would be a pretty cool place for a standoff between the living and the undead“…then we started joking about putting all of our friends in the story, which got lots of support from the group!

The more we talked about it – the more we liked the idea.

The following weekend (beginning the day after Thanksgiving, 2013) Armand came to my house and we started writing. We laughed almost continuously at the new and inventive ways we found to kill off our friends, and before we knew it, it was Sunday and book one (Dying Days – The Siege of European Village) was done!

It was so much fun and so well-received that we released Dying Days – Siege II the following year. For the sequel I spent the weekend at Armand’s house – but the result was the same…lots of laughing and lots of dead friends!

If the truth be told, I am not a big fan of zombie stories, but these books were so tongue-in-cheek that I consider them more comedy than zombie – but fans of the zombie genre seem to approve, so you be the judge…

…and that’s the story behind that story.

 

The Story Behind the Story – Path of a Bullet

The Story Behind the Story

Path of a Bullet is a collection of short stories.

In the book I give an introduction to each story explaining its inspiration and origin, so I won’t do that here.

Instead, I’ll tell you how about how I decided to write the collection.

It began shortly  before Christmas, 2013 when I needed a Christmas-themed short story to read at a local author’s open mic night (It’s called Inspired Mic – you can read more about it here). Even though I enjoyed putting Ike in a short story situation, I figured it was a one-and-done sort of thing.

Apparently, the universe had another idea because it was around this time that I came across a quote from Ray Bradbury… “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row”.

Even though I was in the process of writing Eyewitness Blues, I thought I would give it a try.

I was unable to write a story each week, but I did write one each month, and the result was Path of a Bullet.

In the meantime, several of my author friends, who also happen to be big fans of Ike, asked if they could try their hand at writing an Ike short. I was not only flattered that my friends wanted to write a story using my character; I was thrilled that they wanted to contribute to my project.

There’s not much more to say about Path – which seems appropriate…like the stories in the book – short, but sweet…

…and that’s the story behind that story.

 

The Story Behind the Story – Blood in the Water

The Story Behind the Story

I’m going to be honest with you…Blood in the Water was, for all intents and purposes, improvised so I could write a story about SCUBA diving and sharks.

It all began in 1977, when, as a 16 year old kid with lots of disposable income, I became a certified SCUBA diver. Unfortunately, my time under water was, pretty much, ended in the early 80s when I found myself a single parent with very little income, disposable or otherwise.

Fast-forward to 2014. I met a SCUBA instructor named Nic. We spoke at length about diving and before I knew it, Nic had me re-certified and back in the water.

I had forgotten how much I loved being under the water…but it didn’t take long for the love to come back – and of course I decided that I needed to write a story about diving. There is some diving in Living the Dream, but not very much. And, of course, my main character, Ike, is an ex-Navy SEAL…so it isn’t uncommon for me to put him underwater – but these instances are minor in the big picture of the story.

I wanted a story where diving was a key element, and this is how it happened…

In the summer of 2016 I was diving off the coast of Florida and I spotted something shiny in the sand. Naturally, before I could turn around to pick it up, I was weighing the possibility that it was a piece of pirate booty.

It wasn’t.

My would-be treasure turned out to be the very shiny inside surface of an oyster shell.

Regardless of the fact that I hadn’t struck it rich, I immediately began pondering the possibilities…and one of the possibilities I pondered was “what if I found something valuable, but somebody didn’t want it to be found?”

That was all I needed…

…and that’s the story behind that story.

 

The Story Behind the Story – Full Circle

The Story Behind the Story

I’ve probably told the story of Full Circle more than any of my other books, but I’ll tell it again in case you haven’t heard it.

Living the Dream was my first published novel. I began writing it in 2007, but it was not my first attempt at writing a book. Nineteen years earlier, in 1988, I began writing another story.

At the time I was a single parent with a very low budget and lots of time on my hands. At some point I got tired of spending my evenings watching TV or doing jigsaw puzzles so I decided to take a crack at writing.

I had more than a passing interest in Karma, chaos theory and The Twilight Zone…so my thought was to combine elements of all three into one story.

Of course I had virtually no Earthly idea how to write a book, but I took out a notebook and a pen and started writing anyway. After I had written five chapters I asked my best friend’s wife to read what I had and tell me if I should keep going. She told me I should, so I did.

I would get another ten chapters written before I took a new job and had to move, so I “temporarily” abandoned the project. The notebook went into a box, but didn’t see the light of day again until 2014 when, with seven novels under my belt, I decided it was time to finish what I had started all those years ago.

I knew the concept of the story was a good one, which is why I never threw the notebook away, but the fifteen chapters I had written were not only outdated, but also very poorly written.

Full Circle would only live if I started from scratch.

I kept the title, and used the same structure (the idea that each character’s actions affect the life of the next character), but everything else went south.

In retrospect, the fact that I was unable to finish the original incarnation was a blessing. In the intervening twenty-six years I learned a lot about how to write and how to construct a story, which made the second version better than the original ever could have been.

What goes around, comes around…even if it takes twenty-seven years…

…and that’s the story behind that story.

 

The Story Behind the Story – Eyewitness Blues

The Story Behind the Story

I think one of the best things a writer can do is to simply pay attention to the world around him/her, because, as I’ve said before, you never know when or where inspiration will strike.

Eyewitness Blues is a case in point.

I was having a conversation with a friend who was a little down on his luck, and he said “I need to get into the witness protection plan so I can start over with a new life.” To which I replied “have you witnessed anything?”

At that moment he could have told me he had witnessed Jimmy Hoffa shooting Kennedy from the grassy knoll and then hiding in Area 51…it wouldn’t have mattered, because I had just stumbled onto the what if for my next book.

What if a guy was convinced his train wreck of a life could only be salvaged if he were placed in the witness protection program. New identity, new location, new home…perfect. There’s only thing standing in his way – the simple fact that he hasn’t witnessed a crime of any kind.

Naturally – this won’t stand in his way…he works in a restaurant owned by a Rhode Island mobster who commits crimes every day. All he has to do is claim to have seen one of them and his troubles are over.

Right away I knew this book would be fun to read, but even better, it was going to be fun to write…

…and that’s the story behind that story.

 

The Story Behind the Story – Unfinished Business

The Story Behind the Story

Unfinished Business is a perfect example of how a writer never knows where a story idea will come from.

In 2010 I became friends with a woman named Meg. Several months later, when I learned that Meg was a mortician/funeral director, I told her that if I shadowed her for a day at her job I would probably come away with at least one idea for a book – to which Meg extended an open invitation for a complete behind-the-scenes tour of a funeral parlor.

I never took her up on the offer, but after Backseat to Justice and Pump It Up were released I found myself in need of a new story idea, and I started thinking about Meg and her job.

I thought about how, for most of us, death was something we rarely had to think about, but Meg dealt with it all day, every day. I wondered how much thought she gave to the people she worked on and the lives they left behind…which led me to the thought of how, no matter who the person on the table was, there was something in their life that was left unfinished when they passed.

That’s when the “what if” moment struck me.

What if Meg was somehow tasked with resolving the unfinished business of her clients?

I immediately knew the idea had the potential to be a great book…the only problem was that I was not sure about my ability to write a book with a paranormal element to it.

Regardless of my uncertainty, I decided to go for it.

I pitched the idea to Meg and she loved it.

I went to her house and interviewed her for over three hours. She walked me through every aspect of her job…not only the technical details, but, more importantly, the personal aspects.

When the first draft was finished I gave it to Meg for her review and comment. She loved the story and made several key suggestions, which, of course, I followed without question.

Naturally, I named the protagonist of the story Meg.

Since I didn’t know Meg’s last name, I named my character Meg Hargrave – which I thought was pretty clever, until Meg asked why I didn’t use her real last name – Seabury…

 

…and that’s the story behind that story.

 

The Story Behind the Story – Backseat to Justice

The Story Behind the Story

Backseat to Justice was never intended to be a book.

Unlike No Good Deed, which was I didn’t plan on writing at all, I had every intention of writing Backseat, but no intention of actually releasing it as a novel.

Lemme ‘splain…

After sending the completed manuscript of Pump It Up to the editor, I found myself with some spare time on my hands.

At the time I belonged to an on-line writing group. A few of us decided to try writing a story together. The idea was for each of us to write a chapter, then pass it along to the next person in line. That person would write the next chapter, pass it on, and it would keep going, theoretically until the story was finished.

I was selected to write the opening chapter, which I did. I handed it off to the next person and the ball was rolling. Unfortunately it didn’t roll very far. Enthusiasm faded, inspiration fizzled and the personal lives of the participants interfered. I think we had about 7 chapters written before the whole idea was scrapped.

I was pretty happy with the opening chapter I had written so I cleaned it up and posted it on my blog.

A few people read it and asked me where they could purchase the book it belonged to.

I had to explain that there was no book – which was not well received. Then I had an idea that would give me something to do with my spare time and give people something to read. Each week I posted a new chapter to the story.

It would be like a Charles Dickens serial.

By the time it was finished I was very happy with it, as were the twenty, or so who had been following along as I posted chapters.

I had intended to leave it on the blog as a serial, but the feedback was so positive that releasing it as a novel seemed like a good idea…

 

…and that’s the story behind that story.

 

The Story Behind the Story – Pump It Up

The Story Behind the Story

Sometime during 2010 I read an article in a local newspaper about a man who had been arrested for practicing medicine without a license…but he wasn’t diagnosing illnesses or prescribing medication. He was performing cosmetic enhancements by injecting women with industrial grade silicone…or – in more colloquial terms – he was doing boob and butt jobs using the same caulking you’d use around your bathtub.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the story went on to say that the same man had been arrested in Miami a few years earlier when one of his “patients” died. In that case he was granted immunity from prosecution by testifying against his partner – who was found guilty and sentenced for murder.

It was painfully obvious to me that this story was begging to be turned into a novel.

You know what they say…you can’t make this stuff up!

I did some research about these “pumping parties”, as they are known, and found out that it is, scarily, more common than you might think. So, like Water Hazard tried to shed some light on an environmental issue, I figured Pump It Up might shed some light on this issue…in an entertaining way.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Easter Egg I put in the story…

It began on Halloween night when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My mother, for reasons I can’t recall, was unavailable to take my two younger sisters and me trick-or-treating – so my older brother Ted, in a moment of hilarious spontaneity, dressed like my mother, miniskirt, stockings, wig and all, and took us around the neighborhood. The story is legendary in my family, and it was easily the most fun I ever had on Halloween.

You may be wondering what that has to do with Pump It Up…it’s actually a pretty funny connection.

The character Brewski, as you can read here, was named after the aforementioned brother Ted. While I was writing the book I realized that this was my chance to immortalize that legendary Halloween by inserting a scene in which Brewski dresses in drag to do a little undercover recon.

Generally Brewski is Ike’s right-hand-man, but in Pump It Up I guess you could say he becomes a…leg man.

…and that’s the story behind the story.

The Story Behing the Story – No Good Deed

The Story Behind the Story

No Good Deed was, much to my surprise, written by popular demand.

Following Water Hazard, my next planned book was Pump It Up, which was progressing nicely until I started getting messages and emails from people who had read Living the Dream…all asking the same question – “What happened to Kurt?

I wasn’t sure how to respond.

At first I answered them with an open-ended “whatever you want to have happened”.

This didn’t go over well, so I changed my response to something like “He’s Kurt…whatever happened to him probably didn’t end well.”

Also not well received.

The messages kept coming. I was actually surprised to learn that, not only had so many people read my book, but they actually took such a strong interest in a character.

It was very flattering, and, after a bit of thought, I decided to give the people what they want. So I put Pump It Up on hold and began work on a sequel to give Kurt, and his followers, some closure.

Then something weird happened…the story was in its infancy, and I hadn’t made up my mind about where to go with it. I was on the sofa on a rainy Sunday afternoon watching an old movie (I don’t remember which one) and I dozed off. It was just a quick power nap, maybe 15 minutes, but when I woke up I knew exactly where to go with the entire story.

It wasn’t a dream, per se, it was more like a subconscious revelation. You know…like when you’re just about to fall asleep and suddenly you snap awake with the answer to some long forgotten problem…like the location of your missing car keys or the answer to the question you missed on that high school biology test.

Just like that I had nearly the entire plot of No Good Deed, and from there it was a piece of cake writing the story.

And the fact that the impetus for Living the Dream AND its sequel came to me while I slept struck me as a pretty cool coincidence…

…and that’s the story behind the story.

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