Roger Cannon is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.
STORY TITLE: “Strands of Time”
Rev left his hometown ten years ago, but an old grudge lives on. Too late to save an old flame, he’s on a mission to find her killer.
Q: What intrigued me about the theme of Fatally Haunted that led to my story?
Back in my scufflin’ days, I was a student at an international summer session at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. I signed up for a Contemporary European History taught by a professor from The London School of Economics. He told us about a different way to consider history. He said, “Think about those heavy ropes seamen use to secure their boats. The rope consists of many strands of fiber that wind over and over again, from one end of the rope to the other. The strands disappear from sight and reappear further down the line, more weathered with different tensions and appearance.”
The professor continued after this image had sunk in. “Now, think of history as strands of time. Some threads run through history, and many are repeated over and over again. Texture and circumstances change, but many surface at a later time, often with negative outcomes. However, if we can learn from our earlier efforts and strengthen the (moral) fiber, history can change for the better. The theme of this anthology reminded me of how our pasts can haunt us, and if change isn’t made, then we’re doomed to repeat the past. My professor’s imagery of “strands of time” has been with me for decades, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to weave it into a contemporary story.
Q: Is my story a who-dunit, a why-dunit, or a how-dunit? Why did I make that choice?
My story started as a who-dunit because there were three possible suspects in a murder. By throwing a clock in the mix, urgency drove the story into a why-dunit.
Q: What is different about writing a short story? What did I learn from this experience?
I had finished my first draft of Fresh Pursuit, my next book. My writing mentor, Jerrilyn Farmer, advised me to leave it alone for a month or two, so I could approach my rewrites with “fresh eyes.” My writing group colleagues – Cyndra Gernet, Lori Dillman, and Mary Marks mentioned this contest and encouraged me to submit a story. I’d never written a short story before, but I had a window of time to try something different. I learned to chunk the story down and try to keep it moving. Working with a lot of Latino street gang kids and the graffiti crowd as a continuation school teacher in Montebello gave me rare access to these insulated worlds – fertile ground for a writer of crime fiction. I expected a rejection, but my colleagues pushed me to give it a go. I knew I’d get good feedback for this genre at the very least. That’s what I wanted as my takeaway. It would make me better for the next time. It’s inspired me to start writing vignettes from my life. Like Dan Poynter once wrote, “I don’t want people to die with a book still inside them.” That’s me. This experience encourages me to produce condensed stories whenever I have time. btw – I submitted a little story about meeting Sugar Ray Robinson on Christmas eve in 1970 to The Daily Breeze in my area and they printed it a few days before Christmas. What’s the worst they can say? – No. What else can they say? – Yes! My learning is – Submit your work!
Q: How did my editor help me improve my story? What insights did I gain from working with her?
Sheila Lowe is a gifted editor. Her comments about strengthening the inner life of my characters made perfect sense. I agreed with 95% of her comments and made the adjustments. The other 5% (or less), I would counter back with my reasoning, and then we had a dialogue. Firm, but fair. This inclusion and thoughtful discussion about moot considerations allowed us to reach a finished product to our mutual satisfaction. I’d recommend her to anyone.
Q: What’s next for me? What am I working on?
I intend to have a polished version of my current book completed by August, 2019.
I’ll try to get an agent or publisher interested.
I will have a knee replacement Jan 2. It’s impetus for me to return to Portugal in November, 2019 and walk the 200 mile Portuguese Way trek from Porto to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. I walked the 500 mile Camino de Santiago, “the French Way,” four years ago. It’s inspirational on so many levels. Two of my best friends will join me on this three-week adventure.
My next book, The Red Squeeze, will have two of my protagonists from earlier work. It’s set in Scandinavia and involves breaking up a Red Mafia smuggling syndicate. I’ll spend time in Stockholm after the Camino to do research with the local police where I have very good contacts.
Q: What does my writing space look like?
A three-piece computer desk with a big monitor and good light behind it is my operational choice. I’ve got a printer and scanner atop a two- drawer filing cabinet. I have three wire racks atop 9 bankers’ boxes with research for upcoming projects. I love research! Beyond them are two 8’ high bookshelves with a potpourri of my favorite reads and reference books. I’ve set up my bookshelves and file cabinets for easy access to each project’s research as needed. My office floor is filled with piles of highlighted papers, story ideas, and critiqued work. I must have been a musician in a past life because I often come alive at seven or eight in the evening and will work until midnight or one. I like music in the background – oddly enough, I’m not distracted by the lyrics – it just relaxes me. I focus so well when I’m in my writing world: door closed sans phones, e-mails, or texts.
Thanks for asking.