So, the weird Western anthology I referenced in my last post is coming out in March from Third Flatiron Press!
My story in it, ‘Willing,’ is based on a casually tossed-off anecdote by one of our rangeland field staff – one of those stories where you’re like “OH COME ON” but you only have to think about it for a moment before admiring the combination of gruesome and practical that marks ranchmen, farmers, hunters, and others who live off the land. If you press them on it, they chuckle and go “Oh, yeah, I guess it’s kinda gross,” but they’re chuckling at the reaction – not the practice itself. The frontier spirit that in particular marked the American west has aged but not materially diminished, as if the angel’s share that evaporated from the great charred barrel of the prairies was utterly unneeded and unmissed, and what’s left is smoky, stubborn, powerful, intended and designed to burn all the way down. I adore and admire these guys and it was such a pleasure to write about this family that I can’t even tell you. And the story flowed in a way that seemed eerie at the time – it just presented itself with such understated completeness that I finished it in a couple of hours, with no outline, right down to the minimal final edits. It felt as if I were transcribing commentary on a short film playing in my head. I’d never had that happen before; later, I thought “Is this what it’s like when you write what you know?”
Anyway, all that to say: I don’t know if it’s any good but I love this story, I’m proud of it, it exactly represents the landscape inside my head, and I hope people like it!
Interestingly enough, the same thing happened a couple of weeks later – I produced about 11,600 words in a single weekend, which is a lot for me, but the first 5000 words or so of it were a story that flowed similarly to ‘Willing.’ I gave it a light editing pass and submitted it, and it was accepted late the next day. (The rest of those words are still in submission limbo and were much harder to write. HMMM.) Both stories were in a shared universe that I now realize is the same as ‘The Honeymakers,’ although it’s heavily implied that that’s set in England and these two are set in North America, so it’s going to be very strange to have three stories published that are in the same universe. (And the same thing happened when I wrote ‘The Honeymakers.’) This universe seems to induce a state of writing flow that I’m barely familiar with – not to say that I’m one of those tortured beatniks sobbing and sweating over my nicotine-clogged typewriter for a single word every few days, but I generally do not write that fast or with that little perceived exertion. It’s very strange.
(I have another novella planned in this same shared universe, which I will be working on this month alongside novel edits, research, and one short story, but I am not tempting fate with it; three stories is enough of a fluke. I have an outline for the novella, not detailed but much more extensive than I usually write for short fiction. We’ll see how it goes.)