Story notes for “The Guitar Hero” and “Mothers, Watch Over Me”

This month, two of my stories have been released into the wild. Guitars and dogs, people. That’s what it’s all about.

Artwork by Toe Keen.

The Guitar Hero” in Kaleidotrope is one of the rare instances where my love of music (especially rock’n’roll and heavy metal) has fused with my writing. (“Metal, Sex, Monsters” in Gamut is another example.) I wrote “The Guitar Hero” knowing I wanted to tell a story that was a) about rock’n’roll, b) involved two middle-aged women fighting evil together, c) incorporated the weird awesomeness that is old rockers who just keep going and going, touring year after year, and d) about the wonder and beauty of guitar solos.

Note: there is a bit of dialogue in this story where the characters talk about a guitar solo in detail, and I am very grateful to Australian guitarist Graham Greene for his help with that bit.

Stories can be difficult to write for various reasons. This one was difficult to write because I kept having too much FUN writing Alice and Jackie. I had to cut out a whole lot of quippy dialogue between them, and a whole lot of stuff  about battle vests, Led Zeppelin, and drinking, mainly because I just loved writing about these two women. They are smart, strong, funny, determined, and they love rock’n’roll. The inspiration for them and their relationship comes from my own friendships, and they are also inspired by the women in rock I’ve followed and met over the years.

As for the inspiration for the Guitar Hero himself, AKA Rick…well, he’s mostly a combo of several older, famous rock guitarists. (I did have a particular guitar hero in mind as I wrote, but I’ll leave it up to the readers’ imagination.) And of course, I had to make room for Robert Plant in the story, too.

Beneath all the fun, though, this is also a story about what it’s like to lose the ability to do what you love most, and what you might be willing to do to get it back.

Artwork by Hjalmar Wåhlin.

Mothers, Watch Over Me” in Mythic Delirium is one of my dog stories and I love it fiercely. (I have a few dog stories. Another one is forthcoming in a future issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.)

This story is my riff on post-apocalyptic science fiction, and it started with an idea that just came to me (while I was walking our dog, as it happens), about a talking mother dog and her newborn pups, and how one of those pups wouldn’t feed. I got this idea soon after I’d read both Robert Repino’s “Mort(e)“, and Alexandra Horowitz’s non-fiction book “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know“, and I definitely count both those books as inspirations. (Somewhere in the background, I was also thinking about a scene from one of Asimov’s Foundation books. It’s when they are searching for Earth and land on a planet that is empty of people, but full of feral dogs.)

Some story ideas you have to pick through, push and pull, poke and stretch, to figure out where they’re supposed to be going, but this one came to me pretty well fully realized. That doesn’t mean it was easy to write, of course. Knowing what you want your story to be and do, and actually accomplishing that are two different things (unfortunately).

This story is about hard choices, and doing what you have to do, even when you don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s also about not giving up, about believing in the future even when you don’t know if you’ll be part of it.

I don’t make myself cry very often when writing, but writing the ending for this story made me sob more than once. Something about dogs and puppies and motherhood will do that to me, I guess.

Huge thanks to Kaleidotrope and Mythic Delirium for giving these stories such awesome homes!



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