May is short story month.
I apologize for how much of a tease the next few statements might be.
I'm blessed enough that I sometimes get to sneak a peek at the upcoming works of authors - and doubly blessed that I have people willing to do the same for me. In fact, I've been having a blast today giving a once over to a rough draft of a novel that I am adoring by one of my favourite authors. It's a mystery to me how that much clever hilarity can come from one person. Seriously.
Speaking of mysteries, when the call came for MEN OF THE MEAN STREETS, I was somewhat flummoxed. I'd only ever tried to write a mystery once before - that's a post for another day - and though I love noir, I wasn't sure I'd be able to carry off the theme. I did some research, and bumped into a favorite movie of mine - "Cast a Deadly Spell" - and decided I'd do noir the way I generally try to do everything I write: with a dash of something semi-paranormal or slightly magical to it.
But then I was flummoxed again. How do you write a short fiction piece and make a good mystery? There are many things I love about short fiction, as you well know, but some of those things was staring me in the face as a definite challenge in this case.
For example, if you're lucky, you might manage to write three or four strong characters in the space you have in a short story. If your short story is a murder whodunnit - well, someone is dead, someone is trying to figure things out, and... well, heck. It's not going to be hard, is it, if there are three people in the tale still alive? Someone has to be the culprit.
I had no idea how to do a murder mystery in a short fiction piece. But I've definitely read some. I know it can be done - and done damned well - and had that proven beyond a shadow of a doubt when I got to read rough drafts of a couple of the stories other authors were sending in to the anthology.
I'm really looking forward to getting my mits on this book.
But instead of a murder, I went with a theft. Something I love about the noir genre is how the detective (or just the character doing the snooping) is often someone the people hiring him would never associate with if they had a choice. In the case of a stolen object, something about that stolen object would embarrass them, or make them lose some social standing, or the like. When that dangerously beautiful looking lady walks into the detective's office, he knows he's getting into trouble, but he also knows he's going to take the job. He can't turn down the check, and she does have those legs that just don't quit...
Oh! What a great genre.
Anyway, with that in mind, I sat down and wondered what exactly you could take from someone that would leave them turning to a particular detective - a detective they didn't like and wouldn't otherwise associate with, had they a choice.
Oh, and we were talking gay noir, too. So I put that into the mix, along with my desire to still have that trace of kinda-sorta magic to it all. I decided that the stolen object didn't have to be a physical object at all.
The end result is "Keeping the Faith." I'm really excited - and nervous - about what people think about it. I took a Church, a gay detective, a stripper, two priests (one dead) and - oh yeah - a deal with the devil - and then stirred into what I hope turned out to be something people will enjoy.