Finally, (which means for the last time—well, maybe) the Malice in Memphis third anthology of short stories is going to our publisher at Dark Oak Press for the final tweeking before it is published. As usual, everything hits the fan at the last possible moment. I should be used to it by now. During the years I worked as a program coordinator in adult education for the university of Memphis, I learned that it doesn’t really matter what gets screwed up at the last minute, so long as we don’t get caught at it. In other words, we can fix it before it affects our audience and our students.
Stuff invariably happens. This time was no exception. Stories that I know I sent back to the authors for their final proofreading for some reason they did not get. Problems that I thought had been corrected had not. The next-to-last version instead of the last version were sent to the final collecting point. Possible sponsors asked for backup information that they had never mentioned previously. And on and on and on. Of course this won’t be the last of it either. Kristi, our president and the final liaison with the publisher, has never last her cool, nor screamed at me. I would probably have screamed at me, but then she’s nicer than I am.
In the final analysis, I think the stories are good. The all have something to do with Memphis in May, even if tangentially. Memphis in May is the annual month-long party that grew out of the Cotton Carnival and blossomed into Music Fest and the barbecue contest among other do’s.
I have an occasional argument with other writers about whether someone can be taught to write. Within the limits of actual raw talent, I think the answer is yes. I watch the stories that come in to me improve. What we all call ‘baby mistakes’ disappear. I can’t say that grammar necessarily is suddenly perfect, but mostly it gets better. Plot structure and characterization are stronger. Dialogue isn’t as stilted. Situations and reactions seem more real. Since we started doing these anthologies to learn to write better, I’d say we’re succeeding.
We are always being asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Lord only knows. A sign by the side of the road. The newspapers. A casual conversation overheard in the grocery store. All that needs to happen is a tiny trigger to our “What if?” response. Every idea filters through our own personalities and our experience. Give five writers the same situation, and you’ll get five different stories.
There are several stories in our new anthology that scare me half to death. One is about a terminally plausible psychopathic teenaged girl. One is about a monster from the river. Another is about a man who wants a new appendage. There are twenty different stories. And twenty different minds came up with them.
I know I shouldn’t say this, but I think it’s a good group. I hope you buy it and enjoy it, so our publisher will continue to want to publish us. The book should be out to coincide with this year’s Memphis in May. Since I haven’t a clue as to the title, look us up on Amazon under Malice in Memphis.