Category Archives: Writing

“The Last Page of Friendship” – why is friendship a combat sport?

friend-best-friendEveryone knows the scenario. You make a new friend, or you have an old friend you want to hold onto, but how to keep in touch? What happens when someone drops the ball? Is it your turn to make contact, or theirs? Who’s the bad person?

Friendship is one of the greatest loves, Platonic. It’s free of the often volatility of romantic love, whose intensity that can breed suspicion. Friendship is known as a calmer, more rewarding, often more long-term affair. Your best friends can be with you for life, longer than many relationships, even longer than your family. The demands are few, the support long-term; plus you picked your friends, so presumably you enjoy their personality, their humor, their giving emotional support. They’re just fun to be around.

But throw in a little business, a little competitive spirit, and what have you got? Yup, a mixed metaphor, a ticking time bomb and recipe for absolute disaster. Such is it in the third story of my first collection of three stories, Trio 1, The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes.

In “The Last Page of Friendship,” Judy and Soo are successful middle-aged women living the American Dream (big homes, families, money to spare). They live on the beautiful Bainbridge Island near Seattle. But they have reached a level where dissatisfaction creeps in, with only coffee mornings to complain how drab and predictable their lives have become. To gain attention, meaning, maybe a little fame, why not become writers?

Aside from the incredible difficulty of this pursuit, of making the world sit up and care, they don’t dwell too long on how it might affect their being pals. But it does…and badly. Check out my website to read the first page of “The Last Page of Friendship,” a horror story to put you off being a writer for life (and that’s a good thing).

Judy and Soo made the mistake of picking the same dream. That’s what makes friendship a combat sport — it works best when your circles intersect, but don’t completely overlap. Instead, their friendship turns inward, self-consuming, nasty. Toxic, as the Americans say. Who will get the upper hand? Write the best story? Resist not plagiarizing her friend’s story? Try and be the one to stay above ground a little longer? BFNs: best friends for never.

Who needs friends when you have best friends?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? What makes a good title?

rose-by-any-ther-nameWhat’s in a title is like asking what’s in a name? As the Bard famously told us, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It would, Willy Shakespeare, but it wouldn’t sound the same.

Titles are a lot of fun to create, and play with, turn upside down and inside out, but sooner or later, you have to settle on one. This is a challenging process. Did you make the right choice? What about that other title you still like?

There are many famous examples of novels that seem unimaginable under alternative titles. Here’s a great list by Lynn Shepherd. Given all the focus on vampire fiction these days, it seems fitting that Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in its original contract, was referred to as The Un-Dead. One of the most infamous (and head-scratching) is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, such a simple and sleek title, was possibly going to be called Trimalchio in West Egg. Hardly rolls off the tongue.

Ultimately, that’s the point. Choosing a title is about simplicity over complexity, brevity over length. Clarity and concision, with a hint of rhyme, even better. Think of some of those other titles in Lynn’s list: War and Peace, The Good Soldier and Jude the Obscure. Confident, elegant, and memorable.

Isn’t that what you’d want from a title?

Press Release, The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes (publishing November 5, 2015)

The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes (cover)FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Matt Fullerty’s ‘Trio 1’ of criminally-minded short stories is publishing on Bonfire Night!

ISBN 978-1-937056-55-1

THE MAN IN THE GRAY TIE AND OTHER CRIMES

BY MATT FULLERTY

The Brits and Americans are as crazy as each other!

In three stories about fraud, sexual indecency and, of all things, plagiarism, Matt Fullerty has crafted three modern tales of danger, duplicity and escalating violence.

Will Doctor Sidney Holton escape a criminal gang running a secluded auction house in the English countryside? Will young city professionals Danny and Meredith agree to disagree about what happened on a fateful London night after drinking too many in the pub? Will middle-aged Seattle best buds Judy and Soo help each other get into print with the Great American Short Story—or will they just rip their typing nails into each other’s throats?

You guessed it. Sometimes, in British lives too, there are no second acts.

Matt Fullerty’s story collection The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes (144 pp, $5.95/£3.95/€4.95) is released on November 5, 2015 by Parkgate Press / Dionysus Books. It forms Trio 1 of his nine story collection, Rising Apes, Falling Angels.

Patrick Willers, University of Michigan and Maxwell School, Syracuse University, says:

“‘The Man in the Gray Tie’ captures the anxiety of losing everything for a thrill. The whole premise is discomforting: the doctor despises his wife and gets his sensual thrills from bidding-up at random auctions, but just can’t curb his cunning fun. Story two, ‘(He) Said, (She) Said,’ conveys the awkwardly optimistic anticipation between two friends who meet for a drink—that game of Red-Light/Green-Light, that discomfort of ‘not knowing’ and being trapped in the ‘friend-zone.’ Finally, in a nod to Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Rope, ‘The Last Page of Friendship’ explores betrayal between best ‘frenemies,’ wannabe writers who try to control each other’s story, with horrific consequences.”

Dr. Dean Lawson, East Carolina University and the University of Alabama, says:

“The title story is reminiscent of an O. Henry story with the unexpected twists, also of the Roger Moore Bond movie Octopussy where Bond bumped up the price of a bogus Fabergé egg. The second story is a human sexual roller-coaster exploring the paradoxes of missed social cues, the characters hitting all the wrong notes in a story of guilt and shame. The third is my favorite, setting up a poisonous literary rivalry between old West Coast friends, and should be read with the lights off.”

Matt Fullerty lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and expanding family. The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes is Trio 1 of the criminally-minded short story collection Rising Apes, Falling Angels. Matt’s novels include The Knight of New Orleans about American chess prodigy Paul Morphy and The Murderess and the Hangman about hard-drinking Kate Webster who murdered her London landlady. His website is mattfullerty.com.

The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes is available to purchase at Buy Books.

ISBN 978-1-937056-55-1

To place orders for The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes, contact:

Editor, Parkgate Press / Dionysus Books                                                               7796 Marshall Heights Court
Falls Church, Virginia 22043
Email: editor@parkgatepress.com                                                                                             Website: www.parkgatepress.com

To arrange a book signing or interview, contact  editor@parkgatepress.com.

# # #

Publish with Kindle, NOOK and iBooks

Amazon KindleApple iBooksNOOK by Barnes and NobleIn addition to your traditional publisher, it’s important to get your book out there as widely as possible. Why not take advantage of all three major ebook formats? These companies are in competition, so will push your title harder for knowing customers can acquire the title elsewhere.

To get started, in no particular order:

  1. Visit Amazon’s Kindle at Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
  2. To publish on Apple’s iBook, go to iBook Author.
  3. Barnes and Noble’s nook (or styled NOOK) can be found at NOOK Press.

Ironically, the largest company (Apple) has the least market share of books at this point, but for how long? Most likely this occurred because Apple’s main focus has been music through iTunes, while Amazon and Barnes and Noble got into the ebook market early.  Amazon’s Kindle, of course, remains the biggest player in devices.

Finally, each company uses slightly different formats for its ebook, but the process is much more streamlined today. Why consider your book done until the ‘big three’ ebooks are available?

Check ’em out!

Should I Write in British or American English?

British and American EnglishIt’s not an easy decision: which version of English to use (and lose)? George Bernard Shaw famously referenced Britain and America as “divided by a common language.” The question is where to put the stress, on ‘common’ or ‘divided?’ Ultimately for consistency, a choice is needed.

This would be easy if readers contained their reading habits within national boundariesnot so today. I struggled with this decision while writing my first two novels, The Knight of New Orleans and The Murderess and the Hangman. To avoid any compromise, I actually produced two versions, one with British English and one with American. I now see this as impractical. What do do in the future?

I was born and brought up in England, but left for the US twelve years ago at the age of twenty-six, so I feel pretty healthily split between the two ‘languages,’ healthy enough to feel that my decision isn’t rejecting one side of the Atlantic. Yes, British chums, I’ve decided to write entirely in US English for The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes onward, namely for all my short stories. Plus for my novel American Con Artist.

The reason? First, I live in America, and second, most of my readers by consequence know me as based in America. That’s pretty much the top and bottom of it. Approximately half my stories are set in America, half in Britain, and I will always return to both countries in person and in my fiction. My first novel was set in New Orleans, but also took place in New York, London and Paris; my second novel was set mostly in London, but my third will be split between the US and the island of Ibiza. So arguably I retain a European-American balancing act in terms of location.  But I had to make a decision about the language, and while I’m not at all comfortable leaving British English behind in my fiction, it’s an exciting challenge to write in American English correctly.

At the same time, I cannot help but use British-isms as they get called here: the phrases, the lingo, the slang, and the sayings will always be with me. So this is the compromise: while I write technically in US English, I think and express the style of my writing in both British and American English. I just can’t help the British voice sneaking in, even while I focus on the American precision at the same time. While one loses the ancient idiosyncrasies of British Englisha strange kind of comfortone gains the precision and directness of American English.

My advice to writers is to make a choice, and write solely in that kind of English, and there are countless versions of English around the world. You will end up with the regional and local inflections of your writing voice, reflected in the voices of your characters. One rule that hasn’t changed is that characters and their backgrounds are more important than the pedantry of linguistic accuracy: there is no absolute 100% accurate version of English. It remains an evolving beast, a living animal at any point in time. So embrace the multiplicity of English! Try and unify your chosen ‘normalized’ version to within one national boundary, for the sake of consistency alone, but don’t expect your readers to see your style as anything but multiple. How else would you be an individual writer?

Happy deliberating over local, regional and national languages(s). The question never quite goes away!

New website…www.mattfullerty.com

Historical and Crime Fiction

At last, I have revamped my website. It’s officially relaunching today, with all new bells and whistles.

The most exciting new development is the videos section. Currently there are four videos available, with five to follow. Together they will make the nine videos to accompany the nine stories in Rising Apes, Falling Angels, my first collection of stories. The videos are narrated by my brother Frankie from London.

There’s now a section where you can contact me. Often people don’t want to switch over to their email: hence the message form. I get the message delivered directly to my email. As they say in America, write me.

Otherwise, the website has lots more information about my two novels, The Knight of New Orleans and The Murderess and the Hangman. There’s also a section (under Future Works) about my upcoming new novel, American Con Artist, about the painter, forger and illegal immigrant on the run, Elmyr de Hory. Go track him down.

Thanks for visiting www.mattfullerty.com.

Meet Frankie…my brother…the video narrator

frankie1.2Meet my brother Frankie! He’s done me some really big favors in my life, not least agreeing to read my stories (after much cajoling on my part, and the agreement I’d buy him an all-expenses paid trip to America). Watch this space, Frankie!

Frankie is a video commentator on my stories, which he delivers with astute honesty, sometimes a little too much honesty. I value his opinion, even if it’s negative and cynical. The boy speaks from the heart. If he doesn’t like a story he doesn’t just say so, he tells you why. Now that’s feedback.

So far, Frankie has appeared in four videos for Rising Apes, Falling Angels, my first collection of nine stories. No doubt he’ll also appear in the remaining five videos.

Voila Frankie’s videos and links to the associated stories:

Trio 1, The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes:

Trio 2, A Slice of the Adirondacks and Other Capers:

Trio 3, Driving the Bully Home and Other Dreams:

Drafting…the door closed and the door open

Drafts...the door open and the door closedIt’s only recently that my drafting process has reached a steady state. I used to not think about drafts at all, or re-draft continually (even worse). I now realize that Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King) has the two best approaches to the drafting process. The man knows.

If you’ve read King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, you’ll know the following. There’s no better book about writing: it’s concise, entertaining, and the advice clearly works. Note to self: read it again. The second half is equally gripping, detailing the story of King’s comeback from being badly injured after being hit by a truck, his personal road to recovery and, of course, back to writing.

The first idea is King’s notion of “two drafts and a polish.”  I was surprised to discover that after experimenting with various approaches, I’ve ended up in the same place. All my stories and novels pretty much go through two drafts and a polish. The first draft is to get the story out, the skeleton, to get from beginning to end, preferably through the middle. The idea is therethe “situation” (another King-ism)and surrounded by the other most important elements, the characters, the setting, and the story. On the second draft, you tighten and expand, but you are also daring: throw out whole sections, or add new scenes. The (reread and) polish is just what it suggests: the rough edges smoothed out, words cut, transitions improved, and the mechanics double-checked.

In conjunction with “two drafts and a polish,” the second idea is to write with the door first closed, then opened. The door is not literally closed (but it helps). This is also King’s idea: to write with the door figuratively closed is to seal yourself off from the world. The story is entirely yours, with no input. No one is looking over your shoulder. No readers. Just you and the page. The writer’s paradise and nightmare in one…. But then, after you have the first draft, you let the world in. In other words, you find a reader, you seek advice (always a revelation), and you listen to the feedback.

I actually do something more developed, but essentially the same. I allow feedback during a first draftI open the door early. This means I get to test out my idea, ideally strengthen it, before a first draft is complete. It can sometimes create a better idea.

For example, I was stuck with how to continue my story “A Slice of the Adirondacks,” set in the vast Adirondack State Park in upstate New York. My wife is from Ithaca, New York and has visited the Adirondacks her whole life. So I sought early advice while writing the first draft.

A Slice of the Adirondacks” is a story about neighbors and the threat of abduction. Some kids go missing and a creepy old man who swims the lake each morning is implicated. But what really happened? Getting a sense of the geography of the area helped me to finish the story. I needed to know what would happen to Walter (the old man) and Chester (the boy) at the end.

The moral: arguably, drafting involves adapting writing rules. Yes, even those of Stephen King’s. But I still do two drafts and a polish, as Mr. King advises.

What have you guys learned about drafting? First and second drafts? Polishing? What about the writing advice during the ‘door open’ moment? Does that invariably improve the story, or over-challenge the original idea?