Our first guest on SeasonTen of the Crime Cafe podcast is Weldon Burge.

Check out his guest post and giveaway of a signed copy of his latest short story collection, TOXIC CANDY.

To enter the giveaway, simply email Weldon Burge at this address: contact@weldonburge.com.

And check out his thoughts on how writers get their ideas. Classic! 🙂

Zeroing In on Story Ideas: The Prompts Are Everywhere!

A common question often asked of writers is, “So, where do your story ideas come from?” Stephen King answered the question this way: “I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question ‘What if?’ ‘What if’ is always the key question.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Ideas come winging at me like the missiles from anywhere and everywhere—overheard snippets of conversations, newspaper items, TV commercials, even graffiti on a city wall. And, of course, story prompts suggested online and in writing workshops provide fodder for thought. There are so many ideas that I couldn’t possibly write all the stories that occur to me. I have notes everywhere, jotted in moments of hot inspiration. Post-It notes plastered all over my computer monitor. Moleskines littered with scribblings and random thoughts (many now indecipherable—what the hell was I thinking?).

Writer’s block? What’s that? I’ve found personal experiences and observations spark stronger imagination and story ideas. The trick is just being open to whatever occurs to you, and then asking that magic question, What if?

Case in point is my short story “Another Highway Fatality” (published in my short story collection, Broken: Stories of Damaged Psyches). The story originated years ago when a female coworker told me she believed she’d been stalked while driving after midnight in rural New Jersey.

She and her husband were returning from a weekend trip to the Jersey shore. She was driving as her husband slept in the back seat. On the dark back roads of New Jersey, a car raced up from behind, high beams in her rearview mirror blinding her, and then stayed behind her for miles. She slowed, hoping the person would pass. No, the car kept pace behind her. Miles later, with the car still following, she was so freaked out that she woke her husband. When he sat up in the back seat and looked out the rearview window, the car behind them suddenly accelerated, passed their car, and sped away. They could not see, much less recognize, the driver.

She assumed, when her stalker realized she was not alone, he was no longer interested in her and hurried away. But was her imagination just working overtime, or was she genuinely in danger? Would the car have eventually forced her off the road? If so, what then?

On hearing her story, I recognized a “what-if” story buried there, one involving fear, perception, and paranoia, what is real and what might not be real. I enjoy reading and writing psychological horror and suspense, and the story quickly took shape in my mind with a psychological slant, focusing on a disturbed central character (a damaged psyche). Of course, my story ends far darker than my coworker’s story—no happy ending here! What I find fascinating is that someone else hearing my coworker’s experience would likely develop a storyline far different from the one I developed.

Story ideas are funny that way.

*****

Weldon Burge, a native of Delaware, is a writer, publisher, and full-time editor. His short fiction has appeared in many publications, including various magazines and anthologies (such as Crimeucopia, The Best of the Horror Society 2013, Pellucid Lunacy: An Anthology of Psychological Horror, Ghosts and Demons, Beach Pulp, and Scary Stuff, just to name a few). His stories have been adapted for podcast presentation by Drabblecast. Weldon was also a frequent writer for Suspense Magazine, often writing author interviews.

Earlier in his freelance career, Weldon wrote more nonfiction articles than he can count, including content for newspapers, magazines, and even website content. He was once a prolific garden writer, and for many years had written for an educational consulting firm. But, more recently, Weldon’s writing has steered away from nonfiction and has been largely focused on fiction.

On November 16, 2021, Suspense Publishing originally released Weldon’s debut thriller, Harvester of Sorrow, the first in the Ezekiel Marrs series. Smart Rhino Publications published the second edition in May 2023. He is also currently writing a paranormal suspense novel that may also be the start of another series. He intends to stay on the novel-writing rollercoaster for the future.

In 2012, Weldon and his wife, Cindy, founded Smart Rhino Publications, an indie publishing company focusing primarily on horror and suspense/thriller books, many of them anthologies. To date, the company has published 17 books, including the most recent anthology, Asinine Assassins, and his short story collection, Toxic Candy.

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