#TwitterFiction recap

What follows is the full text of the “story” I posted today as part of the #TwitterFiction festival:

 

Twitterfacepix

 

This is not the story I’m supposed to be writing. (#TwitterFiction 1/66)

 

Nor is it a story I particularly WANT to be writing.(#TwitterFiction 2/66)

 

I pitched @TwFictionFest (&wrote) a tense multi-character hour long drama called Free Charlton Connors (#TwitterFiction 3/66)

 

The tale of a desperate man named Atlee Connors who seizes a bank to demand his bro’s release from prison. (#TwitterFiction 4/66)

 

In the story,”@AtleeConnors” live-tweets as he takes hostages, negotiates w/ cops. etc. (#TwitterFiction 5/66)

 

I was excited about it. (Excited & nervous) (#TwitterFiction 6/66)

 

But then two weird things happened, related to this story (#TwitterFiction 7/66)…

 

…which together pitched me into a spiral of confusion and dread (#TwitterFiction 8/66)

 

[Preface this by saying that I am under the BEST circumstances a welter of self-doubt and uncertainty (#TwitterFiction 9/66)]

 

First of 2 incidents: Mon. eve., checked phone during #LegoMovie, had email from man named “Atlee Connors” (#TwitterFiction 10/66)

 

[Same name as character from my planned story)  (#TwitterFiction 11/66)]

 

Email was sent vis the Contact Form on my website (BenHWinters.com) (#TwitterFiction 12/66)

 

It was the WEIRDEST AND MOST AWFUL communication I’ve ever received. (#TwitterFiction 13/66)

 

Basically someone sent this guy a link to publicity about @TWFictionFest and my story http://twitterfictionfestival.com/schedule/hostage-situation-real-time/?timezone_string=America/New_York— (#TwitterFiction 14/66)

 

—and he is super pissed. Also deranged. And ALL CAPS. (Next 2 tweets quote the email NSFW).  (#TwitterFiction 15/66)

 

quote 1 DEAR FUCKING LIAR & THIEF BEN H. WINTERS THERE IS NO SHAME AND PEOPLE FUCKING DIE FOR SHIT  (#TwitterFiction 16/66)

 

quote 2: YOU ARE A COWARD TO USE REAL PEOPLE’S HEARTS FOR SPORT I FUCK YOU YOU GET STOMPED  (#TwitterFiction 17/66)

 

The rest I kid u not is about the dude’s plumbing company being audited & how the government hates True Christians (#TwitterFiction 18/66)

 

There are people prob who would shrug this of thing off, but I AM NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE (#TwitterFiction 19/66)

 

I read the email over and over in deepening panic and horror. I felt sick. (#TwitterFiction 20/66)

 

I considered a polite return email (“dear clearly insane man, thanks for taking the time…) (#TwitterFiction 21/66)

 

I considered changing the name of my story or the character “Atlee Connors”(#TwitterFiction 22/66)

 

But I couldn’t just change name of 1 character, since 2 lead characters are BROTHERS…(#TwitterFiction 23/66)

 

and the TITLE of the story has their last name in it (#TwitterFiction 24/66)

 

AND I’d set up all these fake Twitter handles (inc. @AtleeConnors), they’d been “cleared” by @TwFictionFestival… (#TwitterFiction 25/66)

 

AND the whole thing had been publicized by me & @TwFictionFestival & @QuirkBooks, posted on schedule etc (#TwitterFiction 26/66)

 

AND I had already changed my whole story idea & had to resubmit to @TwFictionFesival once already! (#TwitterFiction 27/66)

 

[And had  felt REALLY bad about it: I’m conflict-averse, nervous about how I’m seen as a writer & a professional) (#TwitterFiction 28/66)]

 

Considered consoling possibility that angry email was fake (joke by @ADamZucker? @BWesthoff? @EricSmithRocks?) (#TwitterFiction 29/66)

 

But not in character for most of my friends. Stayed up late gripped with anxiety. Do I have ENEMIES? (#TwitterFiction 30/66)
Tues. morning I defaulted to lifelong habit of cowardice & inertial: archived crazy email, did nothing. (#TwitterFiction 31/66)

 

I got back to work on new novel + putting finishing touches on “Free Charlton Connors” (#TwitterFiction 32/66)

 

I worked at @IndyCENLibrary—tried to work—working under the dark shadow of “real” Atlee Connors (#TwitterFiction 33/66)

 

Thinking will he see the story? How will he feel when I show “him” murdering strangers, blowing up a bank? (#TwitterFiction 34/66)

 

AND THEN WHEN I LEFT @IndyCENLibrary A MAN RUSHED ME ON THE STEPS (#TwitterFiction 35/66)

 

Skinny dude/shaking hands/ overalls/matted hair/pale skin/ twitchy eyes. Pushes me against library pillar (#TwitterFiction 36/66)

 

He comes right up in my face, grabs my shirt with both hands. His teeth are all fucked up. (#TwitterFiction 37/66)

 

Backstory: I have written tons of violence but have NO experience. I am a coward. Dread discomfort let alone pain (#TwitterFiction 38/66)

 

Dude has got some kind of kitchen knife peeking blade-first out of the front pocket of his overalls. (#TwitterFiction 39/66)

 

And Of COURSE i’m thinking “It’s him! It’s him! It’s Atlee Connors!” (#TwitterFiction 40/66)

 

Worst part (except for the knife): The dude is shouting “Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare!”. Over and over. (#TwitterFiction 41/66)

 

Just raving, muttering and raving; prob. schizophrenic or paranoid, maybe coming down off something or going up. (#TwitterFiction 42/66)

 

But to me, at that moment—and now, still, sort of—I was convinced. “Holy shit it’s him.” (#TwitterFiction 43/66)

 

“I’m sorry,” I said. Pure cowardice. Pure fear. “I’m really sorry. It’s OK. It’s OK.” I was TERRIFIED.  (#TwitterFiction 44/66)

 

At last he lets go and spits on steps & stalks down steps of the library (#TwitterFiction 45/66).

 

I clutch the side of the building, trembling, in the shadow of the donut sculpture. (#TwitterFiction 46/66)

 

Driving home my panic slowly subsided & gave way to melancholy; a well of grief & confusion opened up inside me. (#TwitterFiction 47/66)

 

I was sure of it—it was impossible, but I was SURE that the man on the steps was the man who had emailed me— (#TwitterFiction 48/66)

 

& I was sure moreover that he would torment me forever, because from his (madman’s) perspective I was his NEMESIS (#TwitterFiction 49/66)

 

I’d picked his name at random & implicated him in a crime he was innocent of—a crime which had never existed (#TwitterFiction 50/66)

 

I’d stepped across some line separating make-believe from reality, & the prospect filled me with sadness and horror (#TwitterFiction 51/66)

 

I felt as if I had invented a character who’d become real— (#TwitterFiction 52/66)

 

—an avatar of all my anxiety about being a writer, trying to make a living in a world of pretend (#TwitterFiction 53/66)

 

It was like from Grimm’s or Poe or @StephenKing: the murderous double, the dark self made flesh & given a weapon (#TwitterFiction 54/66)

 

I was lost in these complicated shadows, feeling obscurely scared, baffled, defeated, lost— (#TwitterFiction 55/66)

 

—certain I had to back out of @TwFictionFestival, maybe I had to back out of being a writer in general— (#TwitterFiction 56/66)

 

When I realized that THE GUY HAD STOLEN MY WALLET. (#TwitterFiction 57/66)

 

I laughed. I mean, I freaked out, but I laughed. (#TwitterFiction 58/66)

 

Here I was, contemplating the Borgesian oddness of my situation, mulling the blurred line between truth & fiction (#TwitterFiction 59/66)—

 

Having a little narcissistic writerly pity party for myself— (#TwitterFiction 60/66)

 

& my tormentor was back at library park using my 65 bucks and chance to get high! (#TwitterFiction 61/66)

 

And so there you have it, dear Twitter: the story of a desperate man named Atlee Connors. (#TwitterFiction 62/66)

 

Not the SAME story of a desperate man named Atlee Connors that I had planned, but it’s better. I think it’s better. (#TwitterFiction 63/66)

 

I think it has something to tell us, though I’ll be damned if I know what. (#TwitterFiction 64/66)

 

The only moral of the story I can think of is: that dude’s got my Geico card, which has my address on it. (#TwitterFiction 65/66)

 

So if this is the last tweet I ever send…you know why. (#TwitterFiction 66/66)

 

 

Continue Reading

A bold experiment

I am not, as I have said  (most recently in this interview) particularly adept at the whole social media world, but I was nevertheless delighted to be asked to be a “featured author” in the upcoming Twitter Fiction Festival.

I am always game for a—well, a game—a challenge—a fun new way to tell a story.  images

The story I’ll be telling—tweeting—is called Free Charlton Connors. It plays out in real time over one hour, as a desperate man takes over a bank demanding that his brother be released from  prison.  It’s a classic multiple-POV kind of story, with five different narrators weaving the tale from their varying and overlapping and sometimes contradictory points of view.

To play along you’ll need to be online and on Twitter from 2 to 3 pm on Thursday, March 13. 

AND sometime before then, follow these Twitter accounts:

@AtleeMiller (that’s the man who has taken over the bank, demanding his brother’s release, and has hostages with him in the vault)

@UplandNB14thSt (that’s the official account for the bank)

@UplandPD (the local police)

@USPDanvers (the official account for the federal penitentiary where Charlton Connors is serving a life sentence for a murder he may or may not have committed)

@UplandBEE (the local newspaper)

So come play along, and let me know what you think! (And be sure to check out the listings for the rest of the festival — the line up is quite remarkable, and includes friends of mine like the admirably twitter-savvy Eric Smith.)

Here is the official description of my story, from the festival homepage:

“Free Charlton Connors” is a crime story that plays out in real time over the course of one tense daylight hour. Atlee Connors (@AtleeConnors) is a “regular guy” who has barricaded himself inside the bank vault at a branch of Upland National Bank (@UplandNB14thSt), with six hostages and a bomb strapped to his chest, demanding the release of his “wrongfully convicted” brother Charlton, who is being held in solitary confinement at nearby United States Penitentiary, Danvers. Local police (@UplandPD) enter into a dialog with @AtleeConnors—who insists on communicating only over Twitter—even as the hardline warden (@USPDanvers) is flatly rejecting Charlton’s release. A local newspaper reporter (@UplandBee) is on the scene, and her reports add color—and contradictory information—to what’s coming from the cops and from Atlee in the vault. One way or another, Free Charlton Connors is a story that ends with a bang.

 

 

So please tell

Continue Reading

The End is Nigh (in more ways than one)

The_End_is_NighOn March 1 you’ll be able to read The End is Nigh, the first in a series of apocalypse-themed short story collections, edited by John Joseph Adams, who publishes Lightspeed Magazine, and Hugh Howey , who wrote Wool and a bunch of other hugely popular sci-fi books. I love the story I wrote for this first volume– it’s called BRING HER TO ME (the all-caps is part of the title)—and the best part is that there are two more volumes to come, so I’ll get to continue the tale with two more stories. You can preorder The End Is Nigh, which also features contributions from Robin Wasserman, Jake Kerr, and a ton of other science-fiction authors, at this page.

And speaking of completing trilogies…World of Trouble, the third and final book in the Last Policeman series, is approaching the point of no return: it is being copyedited by the good folks at Quirk Books, while I do my final pass, which I call the “read the whole thing out loud to my cat” pass. (You can actually see said cat, and all my other writing accoutrements, in this picture). That book will be available on July 15 but you can order it now. Thanks to everyone who kept  asking me how it was going. Like all books, it was going real bad, then for a while it was great, then it was TERRIBLE, and now I think it’s pretty good. Ask me again next week, OK?

I’ll have a cover mockup to show you one of these days.

Continue Reading