I started kicking around a couple ideas. One was lean and mean at maybe 3,000 words. The other was a monster, a behemoth. The kind of story you know could get away from you. The kind you know could be a risk. It was big and burly and ambitious as all hell. Here's what I said to Steve about the latter when I emailed him to see which he'd prefer:
I had this idea about a week ago. Got me out of bed. Sat down in the dark and cranked out a bunch of notes, all the while thinking I really had something... it's big, and it's dark, and there's no place else for it.I told him how long I thought it'd be. I pitched the other story, too. I thought for sure he'd take the safe bet. The one that looked like all my other stories. But then, I hadn't seen issue #1 of Needle yet.
Here's what Steve replied:
The problem with online writing (which I love and have nothing against and love and did I make it clear that I love online?) is that folks have a tough time scrolling through a 10k word blog post of a story. So if you have a piece that's longer than 5k, being in print would be the way to go, I think. AHMM and EQMM and those folks have limits to size. I mean, they can't just run 20k of something because it's cool. Needle can. It's what we were built for. Yeah, some quick punch is great. But something longer, developed, intricate, high-concept would be great to see in print.So, caution thrown, I sat down and wrote "The Hitter." It came out fast. Crazy fast. And it felt huge to me, more novella than short story. Then again, at 11,000 words, it kind of is.
This past Saturday, I got a letter. From Otto Freakin' Penzler. When you get a letter from Otto Freakin' Penzler, you don't toss it on the kitchen island with a stack of bills to open at a later date; you tear that mofo open at the mailbox. So I tore that mofo open at the mailbox, where I discovered Mr. Penzler and Harlan Coben (middle name also Freakin', no relation) had selected "The Hitter" to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011.
When I stopped jumping up and down and hollering in the middle of the street (true story; ask my neighbors), I ran inside and emailed Steve. 'Cause "The Hitter" wouldn't have been written without him. As I said lo those many months ago, there was no place else for it. And as Steve told me, that's what Needle's built for.
THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011 is scheduled to be released this fall, but if you'd like to read "The Hitter" before then, you're in luck. Not only can you buy Needle #2 right here, but if you hop over to Stephen Blackmoore's blog right now and leave a comment, you might just win yourself a copy.
Huge thanks to Otto Penzler, Harlan Coben, and all the folks at Needle. Looks like we did a hell of a thing...