Mulholland Books Popcorn Fiction
Popcorn Fiction
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Please feel free to email us your comments about the stories or the site. We'll post our favorite ones here. Send email to editor@popcornfiction.com.

Dear Editor,

"The Ballad of the Pilgrim Cat" audio made my day! Planning on a long afternoon to read the archives. You know a good story when you see one, editor. Thanks for sharing.

Colleen

DH: I'm so glad you got a chance to listen to it, Colleen. Not our usual cup of tea, but that's what makes it special.

Dear Editor,

I stumbled across Popcorn Fiction a few months ago and have loved it ever since. I find myself looking forward to the new story each month. Thank you for creating a great service to curb my craving for new and exciting pieces of writing!

I'm writing to you today for advice. I'm interested in writing and have thus far been expressing it through writing short stories and keeping a blog to build an audience. However, the more I write, the more I wish it were something I could do full time (I currently work in advertising in New York). If you have time, I'd love to hear how you managed to get your writing career off the ground and any advice you have for me to take this from a hobby to something more serious.

Anything helps! I look forward to hearing from you.

Cheers,

Dan

DH: Hey, Dan… Thanks for reading our offerings here… It's great to hear that they're still influencing writers out there. I also started out in advertising… working on the business side as an account manager. I always wanted to be a writer though and kept at it, writing novels and screenplays at night when I'd get home from work, making sure I put the time into my writing. I treated it as a second job rather than a hobby and kept plugging away. I think the biggest thing you can do from a writing standpoint is to surprise your readers… zig when they think you're going to zag, zag when they think you're going to zig. Every chapter, every scene, every page should leap at the reader, build up and break like waves on a beach.

After you get your manuscript or screenplay where you want it… have other people read it… people who have no vested interest in lying to you. Get some real opinions… did you entertain them? Did you hold their interest? Do they want more from you? If the answers are yes, yes, yes… then you have to go through that miserable process of trying to get a credible agent to represent you. I don't know the best way to do that anymore… in the old days you'd send out query letters, trying to get someone to read your work. Now I suppose it's query emails? I don't know… but you WILL need to get a representative to trumpet your work if you hope to get anywhere with publishers or studios. So concentrate on that. I know that's vague, but that's pretty much all I have. Best of luck!

Dear Editor,

I greatly enjoy your stories and website.

I have a couple of good short stories of my own but they are non-fiction.

Can you help with suggesting a reputable site as your own to send nonfiction stories to or maybe expanding your site to include a new criteria for nonfiction works?

Thanks,

Joe

DH: Hey Joe… I think I skipped your letter last month… so sorry. I don't know any cool nonfiction story sites… I would think that you'd want to go to a major magazine like Rolling Stone or Esquire or Vanity Fair or maybe even a website like HuffPo… There seems to be a lot more places to land a nonfiction piece than a fiction one these days. We're going to stick to fiction on Popcorn Fiction though… at least for now. Thanks for reading!

Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing the reading of "The Pilgrim Cat." It brought me back to that wonderful family in the living room Thanksgiving feeling

Happy Thanksgiving.

Kevin

DH: Thrilled you enjoyed it Kevin… and I hope a lot of other families got to listen to it this Thanksgiving. Have a great December!

DH: Okay, what'd you think of "Claustrophobia?" Let me know. And also… my novel The Right Hand is out in paperback this month, so buy it! For you… or as a Christmas gift… because nothing says love like an espionage thriller.

Dear Editor,

"Zombisaur!" is yet another PopFic classic. Reading it, I imagined I was sitting in a neighborhood bar, tossing back a cold one and listening to an old pal carry on about his crappy job. Yet, Tim Herlihy's tale is anything but ordinary. Soon, I found myself wondering how he managed to spike my drink, because, man, was I hallucinating! How else to explain why my mind was awash with images of rotting, undead dinosaurs, including one named Randy, chomping people's heads off their bodies. I wasn't sure if I should laugh or upchuck (I suppose both could occur simultaneously…)

Anyone who uses "Bruce Willis" as a verb is, in my humble opinion, borderline genius, and should definitely be pestered about penning another PopFic story.

Looking forward to it!

Heidi

DH: I love it when Tim deigns to write for us. He is really one of the funniest people I know… so whenever he pens something new, you can be sure I'll run it here.

P.S. Where's my rum cake?

Dear Editor,

Thanks for the comical read from Tim Herlihy! I'm a big fan of his collaborations with Adam Sandler and company. His descriptions really engage the senses.

Jeremy

DH: Yes… Tim wrote some of the best Sandler movies… including THE WEDDING SINGER… my favorite. Glad you enjoyed his story.

DH: I hope you took the time to listen to Leonard Wibberley read his poem. It should be a Thanksgiving tradition! I'll be back next month to write the December story. I hope you dig it! Write in and let me know your thoughts.

Dear Editor,

I have been thoroughly enjoying the stories you've been gathering—thank you so much for these spine tingling treasures!

I just finished reading D. Wolff's “The Koban”—riveting and stomach churning—what more could you ask for? I don't know if it's the ultra hot weather in LA, but this story was so painfully touching in its resolve—haven't felt so alone in quite a while. Almost to tears. The details and fabric of Danielle's tale so engrossing, and the intensity of Annie's anguish so palpable.

Popcorn Fiction has become a staple in my diet!

Thanks!

Matthew

DH: I'm so glad you dug it as much as I did Matthew. Wolff is very talented . . . so thankful she's let us publish her here!

Dear Editor,

I enjoyed speeding through “The Koban” by Danielle Wolff. The pace was blistering, and I was not tripped up once, as I sometimes can be.

The descent of the female protagonist's sanity had me thinking of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, with an ambiguous plot leaving me thinking—was Annie a trafficked young woman mentally troubled by the lifestyle forced upon her or did the koban really have some magical, negatively transformative effect on her life?

If she'd known what was inside, would going home a different way really have changed anything? Would it have just prolonged a delusion?

I could say much more about this great little story, but I'll refrain.

Jeremy

DH: Why refrain? We love it when you say more. I love that the story might have all been in Annie's head.

Dear Editor,

Ever make a rum cake? It's great right out of the oven, but even better if you let the spirits soak in. “The Koban” by Danielle Wolff had much the same effect on me as that rum cake. It was good, really good, when I first read it, but after pickling my brain for a bit, it became that much more powerful.

“The Koban” is a compelling tale of mystery and strangeness, where reality becomes illusion, while all that is illusory turns out to be real. This story is a great reminder that things are not always as they seem. Sometimes, they're quite the opposite.

What a fascinating, fun read!

Heidi

DH: Will you please send me some rum cake?

DH: Glad so many of you loved Danielle Wolff's story. And I'm sure it'll be the same for Herlihy's. He's really one of the funniest writers I know . . . let me know what you thought? Seems like the SyFy channel's going to be calling for this one.

Dear Editor,

Popfic has always been fabulous, but some stories stand out. I will never forget Sojourn Sweat or Sweaty Leo. These characters are burned into my psyche. But there are two stories that I find myself returning to time and again—something I've never done before. Each time I read these tales, I find something new. They're in a class of their own.

The first is Michael Brandt's "Reflection." It's such a cool, novel way of presenting a story, unlike any I've seen before or since. And no matter how often I revisit this piece, it never fails to move me.

The second is Patton Oswalt's "Tasting Menu." Even for us non-Hollywood types, virtually every line is a masterpiece. I suspect that for those in the know, Oswalt's writing packs an even bigger punch. It just doesn't get any better!

Thanks, as always, for this wonderful site.

Heidi

DH: Welcome back to the letters section, Heidi, and thank for keeping our site alive. So glad you've been visiting the archives and I agree with you about the stories you love. I think you're going to really dig Dani's story this month.

DH: Okay… it seems that I was indeed, as a few readers pointed out, not receiving emails since we switched servers at the start of the summer. Totally my fault and I apologize profusely. The glitch has been rectified and the emails are now coming in, so don't hesitate to send me your thoughts on the stories we've been publishing all summer long.

Next month, we're bringing the uber-talented (and Tony nominated) Tim Herlihy back for a brand new story. And I'm going to write one for December this year.

A couple of other things… what's that? You were wondering when CHICAGO FIRE on NBC is coming back? We're moving nights to Tuesday at 10 EST and we premiere Season 2 on September 24th, so check it out.

Finally, there's a new book out edited by Otto Penzler called Kwik Krimes… it's a collection of crime short stories all with the stipulation that they can be no longer than 1000 words. I wrote an entry called "Lye." It starts with "lye" and ends with "truth" so get to a bookstore or Amazon and pick up a copy of Kwik Krimes.

DH: Many apologies for not getting to the letters this month but other duties call and I will make a concerted effort to do an awesome Q&A in the September issue… so please send me all your thoughts and comments to derek@derekhaas.com and I'm happy to answer them next time!

Dear Editor,

You mentioned that PopFic emails have died down since the once-per-month format kicked in. I'm wondering if some emails aren't getting through? I certainly don't expect you to print all, (or any, really) of my blatherings, and I'm always grateful when you do. That said, I've noticed that the last few I've sent have not shown up. Maybe there's a cyber thing going on?

Thanks for keeping up with the site despite your busy schedule. I so appreciate your efforts. Also, the season finale of CF was super, and we're eagerly anticipating the spinoff.

Take care and have a great summer.

Heidi

DH: Great to hear from you, Heidi! I might have screwed up getting some emails in the last few months when I changed email servers. I'd love to say that I'm cyber-savvy, but I'm pretty much an idiot when it comes to those types of things. Anyway, this one got through and I hope to get many more from you! Always a pleasure.

Dear Editor,

Keep publishing Matt Ward.

Derek

DH: Your wish is my command Derek, mostly because we share the same first name. Ward can always publish here as soon as his fingers finish typing a story. I really dig his work.

DH: With this story, we hit our four-year anniversary… our first story went up on July 20th, 2009. Hard to believe. Maybe I can get Scott Frank to write me something new for the five-year milestone.

As always, please send me any thoughts you have on any of our stories, including the latest offering. I love to get your emails.

DH: I don't know if it's the lack of instant gratification that has quelled our letters to the editor section, but the emails have really died down since we switched to a once-a-month format. If you dig this month's story, please send us your thoughts so I can get your letter up here. We absolutely love feedback—and would greatly appreciate hearing from you. All comments, complaints, questions and criticisms are welcome … so please, give us a shout!

Dear Editor,

I just want to say that although I'm disappointed you are dropping down to one story a month, I understand that this takes up a lot of your valuable time and I appreciate you doing what you do here. I've enjoyed Popcorn Fiction from the beginning and I hope that you won't quit.

Victoria

DH: Thanks so much for the kind words, Victoria. I appreciate that this little site has found so many readers. Thanks for being here from the get-go, and I promise I'm not ending it any time soon. I want to give a special shout out to Miriam Parker and Wes Miller at Mulholland who have really kept the lights on on this site for the last few years… and to the readers at Mulholland and in Los Angeles who cull through the submissions. There's a real team here who work for free to keep the site going so that we can continue to bring you some pulpy gems. I couldn't do it without them.

Hi Derek.

This is from a devoted reader and fan of yours. I just want to tell you that you are a superb writer (but you already know that!).

I just finished the trilogy - Silver Bear, Columbus & Dark Men...WOW.

I first read The Right Hand and just had to read the other books by you. Now I look forward to watching the various films in which you participated.

Thanks for some great fun reading.

Faithe

DH: That really made my day… thanks for the nice email! I hope you'll have time to check out some of the great short stories on PF. Thanks again!

DH: Hey everyone! Thanks for your patience in 2013. We've decided to go with a once-a-month publishing schedule from here on out . . . only because we've gotten so busy in our day jobs, that trying to put out a new story each week (which we did for nearly four years) is too daunting. We'll keep finding great genre short fiction to put out . . . just a little less frequently. Have a great April Fool's Day and we'll see you back on May 1st!

Dear Editor,

Wow, Derek, you have a real knack for unearthing literary master chefs. In less capable hands, mixing tragedy and comedy, as Jim Shankman does in "The Pitch," would be tantamount to substituting salt for sugar in a chocolate cake recipe. But in Shankman's capable hands, tragedy and comedy co-mingle perfectly. The outcome is an absolutely irresistible slice of life.

I have to admit that when I first sank my teeth into this tale, I thought, Dang, another Hollywood quasi-reality piece. Yet, before I even reached the end, I became acutely aware that this story could not be more real. Gabe and Willy are truly Everyman: Willy, faced with impending death, experiences every possible emotion, from hysterical laughter to gut-wrenching sobs. He is not in control; his emotions are. And Gabe, despite his protestations, is hugely uncomfortable with the whole dying thing, and wants nothing more than for Willy to go away. Gabe tries, as we all might, to say the right thing, but his attempts at playing the caring friend fall woefully short. In the end, (spoiler alert!) only death wins.

This is a truly brilliant piece of writing.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Yes, Heidi… a great short piece that jumped out at me from our open submissions pile. I love it when that happens! I know will be reading some more Shankman soon.

Dear Editor,

How do I get a story put on your site? You should let people post stories when they want.

Joe

DH: Hey, Joe. Where you going with that gun in your hands? Sorry… that's terrible. Anyway… there's a submit button up at the top of the site… just follow the directions and submit away. A crack team of readers usually reads the first wave of submissions and only the best of the best make it to my desk (of course, it's all subjective.) Sorry I don't just publish every story… I hope that readers dig my taste… or at least know what they're gonna get by now. If you want to post your story when you want, I'm sure there are lots of other choices on the internet!

DH: Again, I just didn't have time to get to your letters this week. Quick note: I would love to publish them all...but if you just send me two words like "Great story," or "Good read," I can't do much with those. Still...I always love to hear that anyway, so keep it coming but if you want an LTTE published here...you gotta give me a little more grist.

Thanks again for always coming here to read. I really appreciate it!

DH: Busy week this week so sorry if I didn't get to your email… okay, I'll publish this one from Heidi… because, well, some people covet Heidis the way thirsty men covet water.

Dear Editor,

If I were to build an amusement park, I'd ask Les Bohem to design the roller coaster, because he consistently creates one hell of a ride. His latest PopFic offering, "Remus", may be his best yet. The convincing voice, together with the author's obvious knowledge of the era, makes me feel like I am smack dab in the middle of the action. And there is plenty of hold-your-breath action. Bohem steadily cranks up the tension, then hurls the reader into an ending that twists and turns as it plunges. I figured the main character would eventually fall, but I had no idea that his Achilles Heel would be, of all people, his wife.

This story is a motion picture waiting to happen.

Loved it!

Heidi

DH: Thanks Heidi… couldn't have said any of it better myself.

Dear Editor,

"What Makes A Man?" is without a doubt the most heartwarming story about robot museum caretakers creating a test-tube human son I've ever read.

But seriously, it was delightful.

Often, it seems to me like thematically ambitious sci-fi shorts either read as under-written , or under-researched, or both. (The under-written variety leaning too much on the big premise or setting to add meaning. The under-researched variety lacking credibility or any apparent relevance.)

I was, for lack of a manlier word, tickled to discover that Judith Lutz' story had neither problem. Quite the opposite in fact: it displays a surplus of good taste.

More than filling out the world of the story, the obviously high amount of care that went into this story made me feel confident I was in the hands of a conscientious storyteller. Which, I think we'd all agree, is probably one of the best feelings in the world.

Zack

DH: Excellent review, Zack… which is why you're one of our favorite reviewers around here. Glad you are still reading our offerings and taking the time to comment when one strikes a chord with you.

Dear Editor,

I can only say that I was moved by this little gem of a tale. Mentioning that Judith delivered would be the biggest understatement of a young 2013. I write feature screenplays (nothing produced) and this SCREAMS adaptation if you ask me. I'd implore her to explore that and give the world a little something to chew on. I will be featuring this short story in my TUCSON-we-SCRIBE screenwriting group (which I am founder of) for discussion. I was inspired and I'm sure it will others.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

Thnx Judith!

RJ

DH: : RJ, that's great to hear… I'm glad her tale hit your bull's eye. She's an immensely talented writer and we're glad we could publish her short fiction on our site.

Dear Editor,

I'm usually not a science fiction fan, but "What Makes a Man" by Judith Lutz could well make a convert out of me. It manages to be at once a tragic, terrifying portrait of what might happen to humanity, and a tender little tale of love and renewal. I loved that the author peppered (no pun intended) the piece with references to long-lost relics such as the Orange Crush machine and the Arrow shirt commercial. But what made this tale truly compelling was the robot couple's relationship. It struck me as deeply human: they worried about their "kid" getting lost in a strange place; they struggled with fading memories; and after dinner, they plunked themselves in front of the television and struggled not to fall asleep. What could be more human than that?

Really, there is so much to ponder and appreciate about this story - not just what it says, but what it doesn't say. The piece lingered with me long after I'd read it.

Thanks for another super piece!

Heidi

DH: Judith earned her first Heidi. I hope we will be fortunate enough to publish more work from her so she can gain a few more. Thanks again for another great review, Heidi.

DH: That's it for this week. Thank you to all the readers for making this worth doing, and thanks to the reviewers who took the time to let us know how they felt about this story. Have a great rest of your week!

Dear Editor,

I just read Forbidden Fruit by Heidi Heimler. If I didn't know Heidi wrote this I'd think the author was Bill Maher. It's a hilarious look at what Bill calls: The Jewish Fairy Tales, more commonly known as the Old Testament. This is a very clever piece of short fiction, one of the best I've read in a long while. And I have to agree with Darryl P. Snake, and Heidi, why on Earth do we think we're better looking than a colorful Burmese Python? We're not. I really give you credit for publishing this, kudos to your magazine.

DJ

DH: Thanks DJ… I challenged Heidi to give us a clever story and she rose to the occasion. Glad you enjoyed it!

Dear Editor,

My first introduction to Popcorn Fiction is a piece by Heidi Heimler called "Forbidden Fruit." Now, I'm a very busy person and don't have a lot of time to "waste" on the computer but WOW, I love this piece. I just want you to know that. And it makes me want to check back to see what else you've got to offer....so I will! Also, I hope to read more from Heimler. What a great perspective!

Thanks,

Jane

DH: Well, Jane, I'm glad you could make the time for the computer so we can get comments like yours! You're welcome back anytime.

Dear Editor,

What a delightful story! Engaging from the start, and with a chuckle-evoking surprise at the end. I'm sure this is what really happened in the Garden. Great pick! Looking forward to seeing more from Heimler.

Thanks for making my day!

Elizabeth

DH: Elizabeth… yep, Heidi's story was a clever take on an old tale… if that's what really happened, we're all in trouble.

Dear Editor,

Is Heidi allowed to give Heidi a Heidi?

Greg

DH: No, but she gets a DJ, a Jane, an Elizabeth and a Derek. What's better than that?

DH: All right… I hope you guys enjoyed Judith's quirky sci-fi tale, something we don't get enough of here. Please come back next week and I really will try to get a regular Monday schedule going.


Dear Editor,

I love your site and you've got some great stories (yours included!) -Unfortunately- I'm NOT seeing any female authors -any reason for this?

Thanks,

Thea

Dear Editor,

If the key to being a good writer is having a deep-seated childhood issues, I suspect Sheldon Woodbury may have hit the jackpot.

Zack

DH: I can personally attest that one's childhood may have nothing to do with the subject matter one is attracted to exploring. I love Woodbury's prose and am excited that I have a regular horror contributor here. I hope you dig it too!

Dear Editor,

Greetings from the "Graveyard of Empires"!

As things are slowing down temporarily for the holidays, I have had some unexpected free time on my hands, and discovered your PopFic site quite by accident. What a find; amazing, brief, yet compelling stories written by dangerously talented writers. I know what I'll be reading for the next couple of weeks in between missions... Even soldiers like to read interesting stuff once in a while!

Thanks for the wonderful escape from the norm, and keep up the great work.

Regards,

Tony

Afghanistan

DH:Thanks so much for writing me from Afghanistan, Tony. I'm thrilled that you discovered the site and thanks so much for writing to me. Be very safe out there… can't tell you how much I appreciate what you do and it gives me enormous satisfaction that you like to read the site. Best of luck to you and all your fellow soldiers!

DH:Okay, here we go… another great year where we get to introduce a ton of new authors - like Heidi Heimler - and gather new stories from some of our favorite returning writers. Thanks again for coming back week in and week out. All my best!

DH: Hmmm, we haven't had as many lately. I don't know why. I know if you look through our archives you'll find great stories from Nichelle Tramble, Andrea Berloff, Daley Haggar, Beth Schacter, Dani Wolff, Denise Meyer, Christine Boylan, Elena Tropp, Alicia Gifford… and many more. I can tell you that I honestly don't give a damn if a story comes from a man or a woman, I just want something terrific. Thanks for reading, Thea!

Dear Editor,

Mark Wheaton's "Should Have Killed Myself in High School" is a veritable layer cake of pathology. It's as disturbing as it is irresistible. As I read, I couldn't help but think, 'Man, I'm glad I don't live in Hollywood.' Then again, the mental health professional in me screamed, "There's gold in them thar hills!"

What a fun romp. It's the perfect appetizer to the rapidly approaching holiday crazies.

Thanks, as always, and a Happy Thanksgiving to all PopFickers (Wait... That's just one letter away from being terribly wrong!)

Heidi

DH: I love that. Great review, Heidi. Glad you enjoyed Wheaton's story.

DH: Thanks again for joining us here at Popcorn Fiction. We're going to be a little sporadic getting stories out as we always are this time of year. But keep checking back each Monday, and if you want us to shoot you an email when a new story is up, just hit the submit button. I promise I won't use your email for anything else!

Dear Editor,

LOVED LOVED LOVED IT!!! ["A Bad Feeling"] Hope you post more of your stories. I was riveted by every single word. Great ending. This is worthy of an "I'm going to print it and keep it." Did I mention I loved it? This made my day. It actually made me forget the severe stress I'm feeling over the election. :)

Joany

DH: Joany… two letters in two weeks. You're going to give Heidi a run for her money. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story. I was inspired by all the Star Wars hoopla that had been ripping through Hollywood since the Disney announcement. Poor Arthur… looks like that jerk Michael Arndt got the job. ; )

Dear Editor,

The story is excellent and the pacing tight. The character was instantly a visual as I read. At the end I found myself pissed at George for having sold it all; Art earned that shot!

Regards,

Andre

DH: Thanks Andre… I'm delighted you dug the story and were invested in Arthur. He was fun to write.

Dear Editor,

I really enjoyed your story about Art, and had a moment, nine-tenths of the way through, when I stopped mid-sentence to scroll back up the page and re-read the title. Damn! I smiled to myself, He got me!

As an Emory University alumnus, I found it very appropriate that Art's character had attended the better-take-your-MCAT/LSAT/GRE-senior-year-or-you-have-no-future Southern institution. Never tell Art the odds.

I look forward to reading -- or perhaps reading about -- the sequel to Art's meeting!

Evan

PS - I'm a longtime fan of the site and love what you're doing. Thanks for giving so many talented writers an outlet to share their stories that doesn't include years of development hell before their work can reach its audience.

DH: Evan… thanks so much for being a fan of the site and for the very nice words. It is always so encouraging to me when I hear that the site, three and a half years in, is still popping for people. It's a joy for me to publish these stories and to keep discovering new writers!

Dear Editor,

What strikes me most about "A Bad Feeling" is its intensity. With every sentence, the tension increases and the plot becomes more and more compelling. On top of that, the story is intriguing because we readers are not immediately clued into the totality of the main character's reality. We don't find out what Arthur's deal is, why he wants so badly to meet with George, let alone who George is, until the last couple of paragraphs. It takes a truly gifted author to pull this off, and this Derek Haas character has done so remarkably. I hope you beg and plead with him to write more for PopFic. I know the guy is busy, but you probably know how to twist his arm.

; )

Seriously, thanks for a super story, Derek. And I have to say that "The Right Hand" is a must-read (though it is keeping me up at night because I simply cannot put it down.) And... Chicago Fire is an absolutely addictive show.

Don't know how you do it - but I'm glad you do. Many, many thanks!

Heidi

DH: I was going to be furious if I didn't pull in a Heidi, so thank you so much for writing in once again. I've always liked sad-sack stories… and after reading Dave Eggers' "A Hologram for the King," I was inspired to write one of my own. I'd toyed with an idea in college of a salesman putting all his chips into one big sale and that served as a sketch for this story. Anyway, thanks again for all your kindness.

DH: Thanks to everyone for writing in and I hope you have a truly wonderful week. If you're a genre short fiction writer, and you've tried to get a work on here, please keep trying. I really do love to discover new voices writing great stories… it's a mission here.

Dear Editor,

This one ["The Last Interview"] was awesome. Thanks for sharing and thanks to Eric for his enjoyable stories. He's a fave.

Joany

DH: So glad you enjoyed Heisserer's latest offering, Joany. Eric really is a favorite around here too. I can't wait to see his movie "Hours." And I'm also trying to get his wife to write a sequel to "Hoss," another story I love on this site. Check it out if you didn't see it.

Dear Editor,

I've never bungee-jumped, but I have a feeling that Eric Heisserer's "The Final Interview" is the literary equivalent: an experience that left me breathless, wondering what the hell just happened, and jonesing for my next Eric Heisserer fix.

Heisserer strips away the skin and fat; he gets right to the meat of the matter. There's nothing to slog through, no self-indulgent drivel to bog down the tale. Every word counts; every word gets the reader closer to one hell of an ending.

It's hard to distill Mr. Heisserer's genius, but if pressed, I'd have to say it's his ability to evoke a truly visceral reaction - with reverb, no less - with such few words.

Amazing!

Heidi

DH: Heidi, you nailed it. As a man of few words myself, I always appreciate when an author can convey so much with so little. Glad you dug it and glad Eric earned yet another "Heidi!"

Dear Editor,

For the last few years, it has been my pleasure to read perhaps 2 dozen of the great stories you've sent through Popcorn Fiction. My buddy Greg Bell turned me on to it, and I have read several of them aloud for the sheer fun of it. Well, I was so knocked out by John Patrick Nelson's "And Hell Followed Him" that I decided to record it in my home studio. (I'm a VO actor here in DC specializing in documentary narrations and political ads, website www.craigsechler.com)

My two favorite genres are Western and Horror, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to happen upon that fantastic tale.

I am about to send you through YouSendIt both an AIF and MP3 of the recording, in hopes that you will send it on to John. Please send him my thanks and applause, and assurance that it is merely a gift and nothing more. I just thought he might enjoy listening to his own fabulous yarn, as interpreted by a single, totally enthralled performer!

And Derek, I will continue to be your fan, as well. Thank you so much for sending these great stories to us all.

Sincerely,

Craig

DH: Wow, that is really cool, Craig. I forwarded your email to John and here is his response…

JPN: I'm utterly shocked at Craig's generosity and talent. I'm a huge, huge audiobook fan, I crank through a couple dozen a year on my commute, and to listen to Craig's amazing performance of "And Hell..." blasting through my car speakers as I glided through downtown L.A. in the black of night... honestly, it was a life experience. Much thanks to Craig for this incredible gift, and of course, to Derek and his amazing Popcorn Fiction.

If anyone else would like to hear Craig's interpretation, click here to listen!

DH: That's it for another exciting week here at Popcorn Fiction. I hope you enjoyed my story. I hope you'll buy my new book. And I hope you watch Chicago Fire this week. That's all. You have your assignments. Now go forth! See you next Monday.

DH: Sorry, everyone… this is one of those weeks where I just didn't have time to compile, read and reply to the letters sent in praising our latest offering. But don't let that stop you… I love getting emails and really do try to read and publish all of them… if there's any story, new or old, you want to write in about… don't hesitate!

And in case you couldn't be at the Austin Film Festival last week to attend the Popcorn Fiction panel, there's a great write-up about the event here.

Once again, thanks to all the readers of Popcorn Fiction. We continue to do this for you!

Oh, one last thing: my new book, THE RIGHT HAND, comes out on November 13th, but you can pre-order it now wherever books are sold. Just because Kirkus called it "a lean and mean tale laced with wit, mordant insight and, at perfectly judged moments, flashes of sharp prose," and just because Publisher's Weekly gave it a starred review and said, "Forceful, cinematic scenes show off the lean grace of Haas's prose. Cleverly placed plot twists and spycraft details help make this a standout," and just because Booklist called it, "a riveting page-turner with just the kind of sharp dialogue one would expect from someone who writes for the movies," I don't want that to influence your decision to buy the year's best thriller. Nor because Universal Studios already snapped up the rights and you'll want to read it before it hits the big screen. Nor would I expect you to tweet, facebook post, email all your friends, and spread the words by all means necessary. I mean, if you want to, sure, go ahead, but I don't expect it.

Okay, have a great Halloween and see you next Monday!

Dear Editor,

I could not be happier to have won a second Heidi. Films have Oscar; plays have Tony; PopFic stories have Heidi. But another PopFic story-not any of mine-recently earned different recognition, and the PopFic family must know...

Jacob Sager Weinstein's story "Golden Boy," published here last year, was included in the "Other Distinguished Mystery Stories of 2011" list that appears in the recently released Best American Mystery Stories 2012. This is very good news for two reasons:

First, Jacob deserves the recognition. (I say this as his friend, his sometimes co-author, and an admirer of his work. In fact, Jacob introduced me to Popcorn Fiction.) Anyone who hasn't yet read "Golden Boy" should read it now.

Second, PopFic is now on the BAMS radar, which can only mean more exposure for both the site and its contributors. We all owe thanks to Jacob for directing attention over here... by writing a damned fine story that got noticed!

Matthew David Brozik

DH: I love it when our authors check in here and even better when they have all this great news. Thanks for the updates MDB… and to my readers… if you haven't been reading the Brozik tales… find moments this week to go through his Popcorn Fiction canon…. you will not regret it!

Mr. Haas,

I was pleased to read "Help From Above" on Popcorn Fiction. The refreshing plot twist was quite enjoyable. That Brozik fellow knows his way around a climax.

- Larry

DH: And look Matthew, another fan who couldn't let your story go by without writing in a nice compliment. That last sentence makes me a little nervous, however…

Mr. Haas,

I loved "Stretch Marks." It was a good allegory about self-acceptance, but its wonderful readability and disquieting representation of unrestrained voraciousness made me want to break out my fancy words. More stories like this please.

Thanks.

Donald

DH: Great, Donald… so glad you dug it and thanks for writing in. Like I said when I published it, we don't publish a lot of sort of, symbolic, metaphorical character tales, but this one worked wonderfully. I was going to type this without using the word, Kafkaesque, but now I've done it. Thanks for writing in!

Dear Editor,

There is a surprise ending to Blair Kroeber's "Stretch Marks": the bio reveals that the author is male. Mr. Kroeber does such a phenomenal job telling the story from the perspective of a long-suffering, angst-ridden, hopelessly blubbery teen-aged girl, I was utterly convinced that the author had ovaries. From the first sentence to the last, I felt I'd been transported into the main character's head. Complete with cruelty toward people lower on the high-school totem pole as well as opportunities to be a bully herself, the world through AnnaBeth's eyes was crystal clear. And her pain was palpable.

This modern fairy tale, a sort of Ugly Duckling meets Valley Girl, is nothing short of genius. I enjoyed every word.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Heidi, I thought the same thing… "Blair" could go either way, but the bio gave it away. I thought he did a very good job of capturing the voice of a teen-aged downtrodden girl. I was so impressed. Writing solid, believable characters outside of your experience is difficult… Kroeber did a terrific job.

Dear Editor,

One of the (many) things I like about PopFic is that you're not afraid to venture beyond the conventional. One week we readers might be graced with an old-fashioned noir mystery, the next with an off-the-wall bit of humor, and then a freaky sci-fi. I love the anticipation.

Matthew David Brozik's latest, "Help from Above," certainly falls into the uncharted waters realm. It is also brilliant, and all the more resonant after reading his "Whimsy and Soda/Wodehousebroken" saga on likelihoodofconfusion.com.

Mr. Brozik has a fantastic, super-strong voice. He could write about the rate of grass growth and still make it intriguing (there's a challenge!) After reading his latest piece, as well as his earlier works, I will definitely venture over to Amazon to check out "Whimsy and Soda." If Mr. Brozik's PopFic stories are any indication, Whimsy will be a blast.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Glad to hear you're as big a fan of Brozik's work as I am. He always has a good blend of humor, intrigue, suspense and usually, a surprise or two. Glad we've found a home for his voice here.

Dear Editor,

Regarding, "Help From Above," …cool little story.

Jack

DH: That's all you have for us, Jack? WE'LL TAKE IT! Thanks again for writing in.

DH: Thanks again for writing in everybody. Look forward to hearing more from you regarding Blair Kroeber's story!

Dear Editor,

I love seeing the name "Sheldon Woodbury" pop up on my computer screen, because I know without a doubt that the tale I am about to read will have some sort of significant impact on me. Whether I'll gasp because of the events in the story, marvel at the characters or scratch my head trying to figure out the author's underlying pathology (kidding!) I know it's going to be a unique experience. I also know that it will be a blast.

In "Family Reunion," Mr. Woodbury does not disappoint. The characters are intriguing and the situation at once fascinating and creepy. Even though the title hints at the ending, there is plenty to keep this reader's attention. Mr. Woodbury is truly a master - he can paint a picture with what he doesn't say as much as with what he does. The fact that he kept the main character's disfigurement ambiguous, for example, IMHO made the story all the more chilling.

As for your question about me: Alas, I am not a figment of PopFic's imagination (though I kind of like the idea...) I'm a clinical psychologist by day, practice in a lovely city on a Great Lake.

I came upon Popcorn Fiction via Zoetrope.com, where I workshop some of my own writing. On the short story board, a fellow member raved about a story called "Shake." By the time I got to PopFic, the story was no longer available, but some other fabulous offerings were. I began to read, and found that I could not stop. Believe it or not, this sort of fervency is unusual for me. Even 'zines that have been kind enough to accept my work have not garnered my ongoing attention. In spite of myself, I am now hopelessly addicted to the stories that PopFic offers, and to the experiences they invariably elicit in me. It's rare to find quality fiction that is also entertaining. Yup, I'm hooked.

I hope you never stop bringing us these treasures.

Thanks so much!

Heidi

DH: That's awesome and thanks for giving us some backstory on you (you really are our favorite reader here at PopFic headquarters) and also for another great review. Heidi - if you have a story you'd like to publish on Popcorn Fiction this year, you have earned a spot. In fact, I will give you the final spot of the year, right before the holidays. If you'd rather not, then no worries. But keep reading, writing letters, and we'll keep trying to bring you some great short fiction. (And check out the next letter below…)

Dear Editor,

Thanks again for the opportunity and taking "Capacity." I'm thrilled to win a "Heidi" for it!

Best,

Scott Yarbrough

DH: Scott, it's my pleasure and high honor indeed. Thanks for writing a great story!

DH: That's it for the next two weeks… we'll be back strong in October and through Halloween! Have a great week! And be sure and watch Chicago Fire on October 10th on NBC. Why? Because Michael Brandt and I created it!

Dear Editor,

Cooper, the main character in Scott Yarbrough's "Capacity" is a guy you can't help but like. He's smart, he takes chances, he solves problems. The fact that he does so in a less than conventional way, with a touch of humor and a bit of chutzpah, makes the story all the more fun to read. I love an MC who is at once larger than life and yet woefully human. The last sentence of this piece illustrates perfectly just how flawed, how flesh-and-blood, this guy really is.

I hope Cooper makes a return appearance here at PopFic.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH::: Hey, Heidi… thanks again for a great review. I'd love to see more from Yarbrough. Question for you: you're pretty much our number one letter writer on Popcorn Fiction and I can't tell you how much I appreciate loyal readers like you. Tell us a little about yourself… whatever you feel comfortable sharing… what got you interested in Popcorn Fiction?… what other things do you like to read?... what part of the country do you live in? I'm sure readers would love to know more about the mysterious Heidi!

Dear Editor,

Will you publish a story from outside of the USA?

J

DH:: Dear J, only if it's awesome. Or if you want to secretly pass coded spy messages to your "contacts" through our site, then absolutely.

DH:: That's it for this week… hope to see you back strong next Monday. I'm still hunting for an uplifting (though perfectly Popcorn) story to publish soon. Obviously, Woodbury is pretty much the opposite of uplifting (in a good way!)

Dear Editor,

"The Assumption" is one of the top reads on your site. I always drop whatever I am doing to take in the latest bite of PF. Well done! I would mention that it did feel somewhat inspired by the Big Lebowski…in a good way.

Thanks for this site,

Mary

DH::

You made my day, Mary. So glad you enjoyed Pezzullo's latest… I hope we'll be publishing more fiction from him for a long time to come. And Lebowski is an all-time favorite so any comparison between what we publish here and the Cohen brothers canon is all right by me. Great to hear from you.

DH::

It's back-to-school, back-to-football, and if you took a break from us this summer, hopefully it's back-to-popcorn-fiction for you. We look forward to bringing you a solid mix of your favorite PF authors plus new discoveries for the rest of the year. As always, we love to get emails from you guys with any comments about our offerings. Have a great week!

DH::

My apologies to those of you who wrote me letters over the last couple of weeks. My laptop crashed and is at the mac store… and I couldn't access your emails. I do remember there was a letter asking me if I could please find some more "triumph of the human spirit" type stories… because Popcorn Fiction often goes to the dark side. This is true, and I will certainly keep my eye out for a few stories that don't end quite as bleakly as most of our fare. I can't promise I'll find great ones, but I will certainly look. Also, thank you to everyone who wrote in regarding my book trailer. I really do appreciate the nice words. All right… onward and upward. Next week, I'll bring you a story from a brand new author. Look forward to hearing from you!

Dear Editor,

[Re: "Cabin Pressure"] Clever, maybe a little bit too. I would have tubed the ending. But I wish I thought of the story. I would have had three people stand up vying to be Charlie.

Jack

DH:: Thanks for the feedback, Jack. That's half the fun of reading stories like these… I think of how I would have done it differently, or at least, how I would have behaved differently if I were one of the main characters. My favorite stories are ones that surprise me, and Zizzo did it twice in that tale. I thought it was very well-told. I'd much rather have "too clever" than "not clever."

Dear Editor,

Do you ever take reading recommendations? If so, I'd like to suggest Speculation by Edmund Jorgensen -- it kicked my ass really hard, in a very Popcorn Fiction-y way, and if the stories you post on the site are any indication of your personal taste, I think it would be right up your alley. Somehow it manages to twist a bunch of heady, Philosophical (with a capital P) ideas into an exciting, character-driven mystery, with a gloriously weird, dark payoff. And that's coming from a reader whose favorite PF stories are "Lightning in a Bottle" by Craig Mazin and "Last Vegas" by Eric Heisserer, for what it's worth.

http://www.amazon.com/Speculation-ebook/dp/B005W7BNL6

Okay, thanks for letting me bend your ear. Keep up the good work!

Daniel

DH:: I'll order that book right now… look forward to it! Thanks so much for the recommendation and for being a long-time reader on the site. You cited two of my favorite stories… so I know I'll enjoy Speculation. Thanks!

DH:: That's all she wrote for this week. Thanks to everyone who continues to show up here each Monday to read our tales. I mentioned this in the subscriber letter, but I'll put it here too. A new trailer launched for my forthcoming (and fourth) novel, so check it out if you have a minute: http://shelf-life.ew.com/

Dear Editor,

I wish Carl Jung were alive today (and that he was on Facebook), because I'd forward him a link to John Patrick Nelson's "And Hell Followed Him." The Man that Mr. Nelson so vividly describes (with a deceptively simple voice) is the very archetype of evil - the kind of evil that mere mortals cannot conquer, at least not alone. But this story is so much bigger than simply a tale of good and evil. It is also a tale of an improbable partnership, a coming together out of coincidence and necessity. Most of all, though, "And Hell Followed Him" is about reevaluating intransigent truths, questioning what is known, and reaching new conclusions about reality, about the Self.

Wow. My brain, having been good and fully blown, is still scattered on the kitchen floor. Jung would probably have hit the "Like" key till his computer crashed!

Another stellar choice for PopFic.

Many thanks!

Heidi

DH:: I know Nelson is going to be thrilled to learn he won a coveted "Heidi." Heidi, as always, thanks so much for continuing to check out our little site and for taking the time to write in with a great critique. You know I appreciate it, but I'll say it again anyway… thanks so much! It's always fun to read your emails. And I agree with you about the "like" key.

Dear Editor,

I'm a director/producer living in the midwest and I've been following the stories from Popcorn Fiction for quite some time; the stories continue to be fantastic.

Recently I've been considering several of the stories as potential scripts for an anthology web series I'm developing (think the old 'Twilight Zone' but without the narrator). I see that the copyright is retained by the author, I simply wanted to double check that there wouldn't be an issues if I reach out to them. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Cheers,

Tobias

DH:: Tobias, as you said, the authors own the copyrights, and I have no issue at all with you reaching out to them about adapting their work into a web series. That'd be fantastic. Exactly what I hoped for when creating the site. Make it happen so I can start watching these works come to life.

DH:: Okay, that's it for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by and please drop me a line and let me know what you think about Zizzo's story. Look forward to hearing from you!

DH:: No new story this week, as I'm traveling and need to get caught up with my reading. Please, please take the opportunity to read a story from our archives that you might have missed. I'd love to hear about you discovering one of our older stories. The nice thing: the popcorn always remains fresh around here.

We'll be back next week... take care!

Dear Editor,

Hello - this is a bit of a spoiler.

Just read "Unearth" and yes, it is an apt title. Very good short story. I'd rate it an 8 of 10. Lost 2 points because the chick was irritating. How could she not be curious? If she was a college student, she was not there to actually learn anything or she had rich parents and nothing else to do but go to school. There seems to be a lot of that going around.

The hero (dead at-the-end hero) proves that providence can be found at the bottom of an empty well. I understood his digging but the six feet of empty space on the "tombstone" should have been a clue to STOP digging. Was he really looking for another un-Godly disaster? Why would he want to see that?

All told, I really did enjoy this story. You "get" that the spoiled girl is a nobody to the story, just a person to fill in some space. She is characterized well and fully in short order. Our hero though, and I have to say this, seems like a dirty ol' man for, Number 1, sleeping with a student, and Number 2 making promises he cannot keep. Heh.

.02

Eileen

DH:: Hey, Eileen… thanks for the two cents! I knew a few kids in college who fit that mold (rich, not there to learn) so I dug her portrayal… and I'm not sure that professor was a "hero." The protagonist for sure, but a flawed one from the get-go. What do you think he saw written on the obelisk at the end? His own name? Or the city he was in? Or "Earth?" Anyway… I liked the story a lot. And I liked your letter… thanks for writing in!

DH:: Okay, that does it for this week. Have you been noticing those Chicago Fire promos during the Olympics? Seems like must-see TV to me. Have a great week!

Dear Editor,

Tell Mr. Brozik great story and congratulations on his baby!

Karen

DH:: Consider him told, Karen. Thanks for writing in and I'm glad you enjoyed his story. Maybe he will be giving birth to more fiction in the… never mind, I can't even do that.

DH:: That's all the letters this week… as always, feel free to drop me an email any time. I love to get 'em and publish them in this space each Monday. See you next week!

Dear Editor,

Damn, Derek... when Harold gave Morgan Malone the business card, it conjured a scene from David Mamet's "Edmond" (2005), where Joe Mantegna gave a bored William H. Macy a business card for a club. Like the movie, "The VIP Club" is a riot. I like Woodbury's ingenious metaphors that dramatically focus how human nature and instinct, when outside the domain of nature, is as dysfunctional in modern civilization as fish out of water. This is so not just in "The VIP Club" but also in other Woodbury stories. You can't write stuff like this without having capacity to go clear, first, ridding your mind of bias and blinders that otherwise hide raw truth beneath the sugar-coated veneer of culture, where societal parasites use charities to assuage guilt from enslaving a faceless, mechanized servant class. And there's Woodbury's entertaining alliteration in character names, over-the-top figures of speech (...was something like church), and economy that translates a five- to ten-minute read into hours of afterthought. A classic story is one that compels you to revisit, without actually having to read again, so as to enjoy the characters and theme over and over, on demand from memory. This story is one of them. Where else can you find a field of classics to the extent that already exists at Popcorn Fiction? Finally, part of happiness is a function of what one has to look forward to. So, Derek, thank you again for always nailing so much happiness.

Ron

DH:: Ron, it truly is my pleasure. As I said in my subscriber email, the thanks goes to you guys for showing up here week after week and reading these selections. That a majority of them seem to connect with the readers here is beyond satisfying. I'm a huge fan of Woodbury's writing and getting an email from him with the subject header "new story," is akin to getting to open up a Christmas present. I never know where his mind is going to take his prose, but I'm eager for the result. Glad you dig his work too!

Dear Editor,

Sheldon Woodbury's "The VIP Club" is a phenomenal piece of writing. I defy anyone to read one page and then put it down. It can't be done. The story is so compelling, it's like looking into the sun: you know something bad's gonna happen, but you just can't help yourself. You're thoroughly mesmerized. You're hooked. You've got to keep looking.

Beyond the irresistible grab of the tale itself, beyond the well-developed characters and the increasingly bizarre scene, "The VIP Club" puts greed on a microscope and blows the picture up a billion times, so that the craziness of obscene wealth becomes painfully visible to the naked eye. Given what's been going on in this country lately, it couldn't be more timely, or more spot-on.

"The VIP Club" is nothing if not a cautionary tale for the elusive one-percenters. On Wall Street, at least, it should be required reading.

Thanks for this.

Heidi

DH:: Heidi, thanks for painting the picture of the reading experience of Woodbury's story. It's always interesting to see what subject his dark mind will tackle. And I say "dark mind" in the most glowing way… I'm sure Sheldon is lovely in person! I just hope he never invites me to join him at a club. Thanks again, Heidi!

Dear Editor,

Great little tale. Loved the location (wonder if he dreamed it up on a cruise?), but more I love the way the masters of this genre can take all the familiar elements - the femme fatale, the bent cop, the patsy, even the theme - and reconfigure them in a way that still compels and surprises. Reminds me of what Ira Levin said about thrillers in his treatise on the genre 'Deathtrap.' Wish iIcould remember what it was exactly but it was something like the above! Good work Les, and thank you.

James

DH:: Yes, when Les sent it over to me, he said, "I've got a femme fatale story you're going to love." And he was right. I also like the confined setting of a cruise ship and the red herrings along the way. Great tale!

DH:: I'm going to assume we don't have more letters this week because of the 4th of July vacations most of you were on! I can't say it enough… we love to hear your feedback on these stories. I have a great time publishing them… and as long as we have readers who continue to dig them, we'll keep trying to find you the best popcorn fiction out there. See you back here next Monday!

Dear Editor,

You've unearthed another gem! Matt Burch's "Maybe Meekatharra" is a delight in so many ways, I hardly know where to begin. Na. Scratch that. I know exactly where: voice. It fits this wonderfully whacky story like a (boxing) glove, and makes for one helluva fun read. With voice alone, the author clues the reader in on what kind of guy the MC is, what his world looks, sounds, even feels like. And what a world it is!

And then there's the ending. I did not see that coming! Mr. Burch does a wonderful job of easing the reader into the MC's final, gory reality. Yet, even at its most sordid, he never loses touch with the humor of it all.

This is one of those pieces that manages to rise above the rest, and that is no easy task, given how superb PopFic offerings have been. "Maybe Meekatharra" is not only an original, intelligent, fun piece, it's also a great metaphor for life as we (or, at least, as I) know it. The last two sentences say it all: Sometimes, this whole world seems twisted up in a mad pretzel. You don't know whether to kiss its sick lips or give it a great big pop in the mouth.

Thanks for another terrific read!

Heidi

DH:: Yep, great closing sentences. That's how I feel about half the PF submissions we get… kiss their sick lips or pop 'em in the mouth? Good thing I'm a lover, not a fighter. Thanks again for another fantastic review, Heidi. Keep 'em coming.

DH:: That's all we have time for this week… sorry if I didn't get to publish your letter. I do try to publish nearly all the letters we receive, at least the ones that are a couple of sentences longer than "great story." Of course, I love getting those too, so don't ever hesitate to send your thoughts. I hope you took the time to read "Poseidiana," by Les Bohem. I love his seamless writing. Les always makes me feel like I'm sitting at a campfire and he's just telling the tale. Enjoy! Have a great Fourth of July or whatever you celebrate mid-summer and we'll see you back next week!

Dear Editor,

Well-told story ["Verst 7156"] about a little-known, failed American military adventure. Loved it.

Jack

DH:: Yes… we've been on a roll here on Popcorn Fiction lately… I feel like the stories have been firing on all cylinders. All the praise goes to the authors… I just pick 'em and get out of the way. I'm always attracted to stories that set up a world I know nothing about and Cooper's story brought the AEF to life for me, and right when I thought it was going to devolve into a typical ghost story, he took it to an entirely different place. Really great stuff.

Dear Editor,

I am a huge fan of your site and the quality and type of lit you guys are putting out there on the web. You are excellent! I just wanted to ask - is it possible for you to make an app for the iPad at some stage in the future? I'd love to have it feature front and centre on my new birthday present iPad as I'm finding it really easy to read on and I'm actually reading more. Who knew a piece of hardware like that could change reading habits? Anyway, just nagging you guys that if you came out with a Popcorn Fiction app for the iPad, I think you'd get more than a few new fans.

Thanks for your time.

Matt

DH:: Hey, Matt… thanks so much for the compliments on the site… I can't tell you how thrilled I am to get letters like yours… good to know our stories are connecting with readers out there in cyberspace. We've had talk about a PopFic app before… I know there is a Mulholland Books app, but I haven't tried to read a story off of it… let me investigate a little further and see what I can find out. (I'm answering these letters on a Sunday, so need to check up on it this week and answer in next week's batch of letters.)

DH:: Okay, I hope this week's story knocked you flat. See you back here next week!

Dear Editor,

Good piece, Venice in the Afternoon. I, as you might say, dug it.

MDB

DH: High praise from one of our favorite Popcorn Fiction authors. Glad you enjoyed it as much as me, Matthew!

Dear Editor,

In "Venice in the Afternoon," Tom Lombardi takes the darkest of subjects - suicide - and injects it with humor. In lesser hands, the result would be nails on a chalkboard, but in Mr. Lombardi's, it's chocolate and peanut butter. This story is at once witty and tragic, hilarious and disturbing, bizarre and familiar. I wanted to hug the main character, then slap him, then hug him some more.

I enjoyed every last bit of this tale.

Thanks for another fantastic PopFic treat!

Heidi

DH: Another great review and another comparison to food, which I always appreciate with my letter-reading milkshake (today: vanilla.) Thanks for once again reading Popcorn Fiction and taking the time to write in with your thoughts. Can't thank you enough for your loyalty!

DH: That's it for this week… I hope you liked that little bit of historical fiction and I hope you're reading it on a beach somewhere with your feet up! See you next week!

Dear Editor,

I don't know if I count because I started reading Popcorn Fiction when I lived in L.A., but I've been living in New Zealand for the last 2.5 years.

BTW, many congrats on Chicago Fire. Looking forward to seeing it when it comes to the antipodes.

Cheers,

Steve

DH: Of course it counts… and you're the winner. Glad to hear we have a (transplanted) Kiwi reading our stories, exactly 6,508 miles from Los Angeles. Email me your address and I will shoot you the books! And thanks for the nice words about the TV show. We're knee-deep in plotting the first season and I think it is going to surprise people who think it is a procedural. Back to the letters…

Dear Editor,

Thank you for this week's story. I like how the stories on your site have plots that wrap quickly and unexpectedly. They always seem to stick the landing. This week's "Step Up" was no exception.

Thank you,

Donald

Iwate, Japan

DH: Donald, you were so close to winning this contest - 5,668 miles from Los Angeles. Thanks for writing in, and I really appreciate your comment about our stories and "Step Up." I have another story from Ralph Pezzullo I will run in the coming weeks. Maybe we can make him a regular!

Dear Editor,

I'm probably not the farthest, but I figured I'd give it a shot.

Anyways, keep up the good work on the site, guys.

Michael

Media, PA

DH: Michael, thanks for trying but it's hard to compete with New Zealand and Japan. Still, great to hear from you and glad to know we have at least one reader in Pennsylvania!

DH: Okay, thanks to everyone for writing in and I look forward to hearing what you think about "Venice in the Afternoon." I thought it was hilarious.

Oh, and if you never read any of my books, just in time for Father's day, all three have been collected into one e-book for $2.99. So check out The Assassin Trilogy wherever e-books are sold.

Dear Editor,

The title of Mark Wheaton's story - "Demon Forge" - gave me pause. Where, I thought, could this tale go but south (literally and figuratively.) I enjoy literary trips to Hell as much as the next person, but there are a lot of them out there these days, and they can get a bit redundant.

In spite of myself, I dove in, and in no time, I was hooked. Still, I prepared myself for a disappointment. I fully expected a story about grotesque creatures, about simple, down-home good and evil. I'm pleased to say that the downer (again, literally and figuratively) never came. "The demon forge is not a device," the MC said. And I cheered.

Mr. Wheaton's tale is intelligent and intriguing, but the devil, really, is in the detail. The MC shares the intricacies of his art, and does so in a way that makes this thoroughly foreign world seem accessible, seem real.

Please do whatever you have to do (we'll look the other way...) to get Mr. Wheaton to write more for PopFic.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Ahhh, so glad you liked it Heidi. I'm a big fan of Wheaton's so he'll always have a place to publish his short fiction here. In fact, if he wants to publish a sequel to "The Demon Forge," I'd be thrilled. If you didn't read "Gare du Nord," it's still one of my favorite Popcorn Fiction stories… (check it out here.) Wheaton does a great job of researching his fiction without ever making you feel like you're reading Wikipedia. Anyway, thanks again for writing in Heidi!

Dear Editor,

I don't know what it is, but this story has stuck with me all week. It resonates like a great episode of "Twilight Zone" concerned with Man's search for God. I don't know who is the more tragic character. The man whose family has spent so long trying to prove the existence of "something else?" Or the one who feels that he can disprove the existence of God only to find this just as impossible? Given how strident the rhetoric has become in this country regarding matters of faith, kudos to the author for placing this in a different country framed in a different context. I really enjoyed it and sent a link to friends.

Louise

DH:Great critique, Louise. I'm thrilled the story struck a chord with you and that you passed on the link to your friends. I'm always impressed when readers dig the deeper themes and meanings out of the stories… all while enjoying the ride. That's why we keep this site going!

DH: That's it for this week. In case you're not a subscriber (which just means that I send you an email each Monday telling you about whatever the story is this week)… I made this offer to our readers… the reader who sends me an email this week who ends up being the farthest from Los Angeles (than any other reader), I'll ship autographed copies of my three books to wherever he or she wants. The contest is on - google maps will decide the winner! I'd like to know how far away our little site reaches.

Dear Editor,

While a departure from the usual PopFic fare, "Loarinna" by Denise Meyer is no less deserving of praise. It's a beautifully written, moving tale, and Ms. Meyer's phenomenal imagery makes it irresistible. Beyond that, this piece absolutely puts to rest that ridiculous notion that a short story can't be a good character study. If anyone ever says that to me again, I'll direct them forthwith to this story (right after I bop 'em.)

And a note to Jim: Derek may well have an alter ego named Heidi, but I am not that Heidi. That said, thank you. I'm flattered!

Finally, huge congrats to you and Mr. Brandt on the new show. This is really exciting news! I can't wait to see it. Please continue to keep us posted.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Thanks so much Heidi. Denise is a terrific writer... I read a spec pilot she wrote about Machiavelli and it was fantastic. She's very talented. And thanks for the nice words about CHICAGO FIRE. We found out this week we'll be on Wednesdays at 10 on NBC this Fall, so tune in, dammit.

Dear Editor,

What a great little story, Denise Meyer's "Loarinna," spanning generations and continents, enjoyable nostalgia for anyone who has lived not just in the countryside but also growing up on imagination unrestricted by reality. It was a little difficult to get situational traction, at first, without re-reading the first few paragraphs, but once over the pronoun hurdle, the characters came into clear focus, and Meyer had me cliff-hanging all the way to the end. The challenge in writing was including Conrad's p.o.v., which Meyer easily accomplished, making the story all the more fantastic.

Ron

DH: Thanks for the nice words about "Loarinna," Ron. Check out Denise's other story for us "Alone," if you didn't get a chance to read it before. I really loved that story.

DH: Okay, that's all the letters we got, but when they're from Heidi and Ron, it's a banner week. I can't believe we're already to mid-May. Time is flying. For the record, it's a terrific time to send us a great story… our readers are standing by, hungry to find new authors for Popcorn Fiction. See you next week!

Dear Editor,

A most beautiful story emerges when the principal character performs a heroic act that leads to salvation for the helpless, the weak or the disadvantaged among us. And when the victim is a child, well, who said it better than William Wordsworth, quoted by George Elliot in her novel, "Silas Marner" (1861): "A child, more than all other gifts that earth can offer to declining man, brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts." It's what we like about Eric Heisserer's "Hours," a story about a new father, situated in a hospital during Hurricane Katrina, bonding to his newborn daughter who is in grave danger of perishing, just as his wife had during childbirth only minutes before. The infant's life is dramatically threatened when the hurricane takes out the grid, which is needed to power the life-support system. As though the loss of the baby's mother and Katrina are not tragic enough, levy-breaking flood waters swamp the motor-generator set, shutting down life-support and lighting. The author takes us on a heart-warming journey during 50 non-stop hours of thrilling perseverance by the father who maintains his daughter's life by manually operating the life-support system, and we come to know him as a man who will die before letting his newborn perish. This is a story where we will be very disappointed if the author does not deliver on the expected outcome. He does. But perhaps as much profound as the theme itself, is the gift of child that fills the gaping void in the father's soul after having just lost his wife. A two-for-one ending. You just can't get any better than Heisserer has in this emotionally compelling, enchanting tale, which film critics will surely give two thumbs up, with smiles.

Ron

DH: Ron… well done. I remember in Popcorn Fiction's infancy when Heisserer emailed me the story and I thought, "this is exactly what I had in mind when I created the site." It's such a great story… emotional, exhausting, and a wicked pace. We're thrilled here at PF that Eric is directing the adaptation of "Hours" as we speak… can't wait to see the results.

For the rest of you, I love getting letters about our archives. Always feel free to write in about any of our stories… it gives our newer readers a chance to look up some of the stories they missed the first time around. Thanks again, Ron!

Dear Editor,

I was thinking that Mr. Spall, the MC in Naben Ruthnum's spectacular short story, "Private Psychological Investigations," was onto something. Maybe Ruthnum inadvertently stumbled upon a new niche. Maybe you could cross-pollenate a private investigator and a psychotherapist and come up with something unique, something useful. Then Mr. Ruthnum deftly hit me upside the head with the creative (albeit pathological) way in which Mr. Spall solved a problem for his client. Did not see that one coming!

Stories like this are the reason I come back, week after week, for my PopFix. Positively addictive.

Thanks,

Heidi

(P.S. Great suggestion by Ron re: interviews with the authors. How about giving them the occasional Rorschach, too? I'm willing to bet it will yield fascinating results!)

DH: "Popfix." I love it. I've got to get on that interview suggestion. Maybe I can hit Eric up when he gets a moment to breathe. Thanks again for another fine review Heidi. I really do appreciate you always taking the time when a story connects with you.

Dear Editor,

I really enjoyed Holy War. Loved the unique setting and the glimpse into the rules of the spirit world. Always love Sheldon Woodbury's prose.

My only wish is that it hadn't ended so suddenly. Firstly, because I was simply enjoying the story so much, but secondly because by ending so soon, I think there was a lost opportunity to do a great scene in the church that - the more I think about it - I believe could've become the best scene in the story.

I know in the past I've written in specifically to praise Woodbury for writing "around" the horror of a scene, however, I think in this case he wrote a little too far around the horror, and seeing a little more would have actually contributed to the horror and the overall storyline.

I respect that Woodbury apparently realized writing the next scene in the church from the demon's perspective absolutely would've diminished the horror, and I agree. But here is the trick: that problem could've been solved if at that point the story switches to the priest's perspective.

It's the classic Alfred Hitchcock example about how to make the audience feel suspense: you show them the bomb under the table before continuing the rest of the scene without seeing it. Except in this case, you show them the demon in the room before continuing the scene without seeing it.

Just imagine it, in that moment when we realize we are now viewing the scene from the perspective of a character who doesn't know that there is a demon in the room, and WE know what the demon wants, but we're not sure how he's going to manage to get it. But we begin to realize that he is going to accomplish his goal by manipulating the thoughts of the priest. Not necessarily by controlling him (though it could ultimately end in possession; author's choice), but manipulating him and prodding him along down the dark paths of his mind, until the priest is eventually driven to murder his congregant. But I imagine (again, author's choice) that all the while the priest would be unaware of external manipulation, and would be struggling with the dark thoughts and feelings he is having. Now that would be a scene.

In reading the story again, I realize this may have required a slight change in how much time was left before dawn, but that seems like it could've been easily changed without breaking any logic. Again, I did love the story, but that's precisely why I wanted more of it, and I can no longer think of the story without imagining that extra scene because it seems like it would've been such a perfect fit.

Zachary

DH: Zach, this is a great example of what it's like working with a sharp fiction editor or a smart producer in Hollywood. You look at the work and think, "what if?" Woodbury's story would make a great foundation for a movie… and you have a thoughtful handle on how to draw out the suspense. Anyway, I'm sure Woodbury is reading… maybe if he expands the story to a novel or screenplay, he'll factor in your suggestions.

Dear Editor,

I've read Popcorn Fiction since your story "Shake" appeared. And I read all the letters. Just admit it. Heidi is you.

Jim

DH: Hahahahah. Nope. I assure you the great Heidi is not me. Though no one has ever seen us in the same room at the same time either! OH MY GOD! (I'm reminded of the scene in MAGIC when Burgess Meredith challenges Anthony Hopkins not to talk through the dummy for two minutes.) MAYBE SHE IS ME!

DH: All right… that wraps up another edition of Popcorn Fiction. If you didn't hear, Michael Brandt's and my show CHICAGO FIRE was picked up by NBC this week for next Fall. We had such a blast making the pilot; can't wait to get the show on the air for everyone to see. So look for that after the Olympics. See you next Monday!

Dear Editor,

Sheldon Woodbury's "Holy War" is a rich, lush, multi-sensorial tale. The images are so vivid, the experience so all-encompassing, when I was done reading I felt like I was emerging from a dark theater. Even if the story was wholly devoid of plot, I'd still be compelled to read. Of course, Woodbury weaves one hell of a yarn. He sucks you in from the get-go, leaves you as addled and as altered as his characters (but in a good way!)

Looking forward (albeit with trepidation) to Mr. Woodbury's next creation.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Sheldon… another coveted Heidi award! How many is that now? Thanks as always Heidi… love hearing which of our stories knock your socks off.

Dear Editor,

Sheldon Woodbury's "Holy War" is compelling entertainment, beautifully illustrating the natural goodness of human nature and its dark side. How profound, the unseen battle between devils and angels. Clever symbolization of the invisible economic and social forces that fog and blind blurred-faced exploiters and exploitees, alike? I might take issue with the suggestion that sinners are to blame in a society that actually selects for greed and ugly environment. Only a psychopath would take sides not with Jean Valjean but with Javert. Woodbury's style creates non-stop scenes, economically, as good as watching a movie. Now I want to read the story that begins "He'd been sent to kill a devil." And, Derek, thanks for nearly three years of perseverance, where authors unselfishly create new heaven each week. I don't always find time to comment but I always make sure I read each new selection. I had intended to go back and comment on Eric Heisserer's "Hours," that is, until "Holy War" preempted. You requested suggestions. Maybe a short interview with an author, occasionally. Of course, that's always editorially intensive. Okay, maybe just post an MP3 file of a phone interview. Hasta la vista!

Ron

DH: I consider it a pinnacle week at Popcorn Fiction when we get letters from both Heidi and Ron. Ron, that's a great suggestion. I will definitely rope an author into an interview… maybe someone whom we've published in the past. I like hearing how these guys tick. It's always interesting to hear how they conceived a story and brought it to fruition. All right… you've given me my marching orders… I'll see what I can do. Also… let me know what you thought of "Hours."

DH:That's it for this week! I hope you had a groovy Cinco de Mayo and picked a winner at the Kentucky Derby. See you next Monday!

Dear Editor,

I'm ashamed to admit I've lacked on my reading of PF I can't even dare say how many I've missed just say it's enough occasions where if this was a relationship you'd dump my "too occupied" ass. With having to spend my time at work all day fantasizing about movies and writing and then having to go home and write then work on spec material for my reel it's become difficult to find the time to read PF stories and when I do find the time I tend to not be around a computer so I was wondering if if you had plans to make PF into to a book because I'd surely pick that thing up from my nearest Barnes & Noble or have Amazon work its delivery magic if you aren't or haven't considered the book route please do so I'm sure I am not the only PF fan who would love to have the collection of stories in physical form you can even do them by Volumes and keep it a running theme just a thought well thanks for taking the time out to read this and hope that Popcorn Fiction Vol. 1 materializes soon.

Best regards,

Manny

p.s. that whole run on sentence not using punctuation thing was on purpose just so you don't think I never passed the 8th grade, I did. I just like the way run on sentences look.

DH: Manny thanks for your interest and I assure you there has been much discussion about a published version of Popcorn Fiction in book form so that you and others… never mind, I can't do the run-on sentence thing like you. I have visions of my 11th grade teacher, Ms. Albion, shaking a ruler at me. The truth is, we've talked at length with Mulholland about doing a collected edition in book form but haven't been able to put it together yet. I've been told that collected volumes of short stories just don't sell that well and so they aren't champing at the bit to get something out to bookstores. I'll stay on them though! For now, give us twenty minutes of your Monday and we'll give you some great fiction.

Dear Editor,

Long live Peter Underhill! I would say "long live Commander Future," but he seems like he might be an asshole. Please tell Mr. McWeeny to hurry and write another one and not take so long because there are a lot of fans out here waiting to read the next chapter. I can see why the narrator is a reporter. Mr. McWeeny is one of the best internet reporters over the last ten years. Thank you for reading this.

Ben

DH:: Ben, I'm glad you like the Commander Future stories as much as I do. We have a lot of horror, crime, and science fiction tales on here, but Drew has cornered the market on well… what should we call it… realistic superhero fiction? As long as he keeps writing about the Commander (or anything else he wants to pursue), he has a home here on Popcorn Fiction.

Dear Editor,

"Singular" was the best Commander Future story yet. I feel like if I don't say that, the Commander may erase me from existence and then you would never get this email. Will you print it just so I know I'm alive?

Todd

DH: You're still with us Todd. Still, someone should check on Todd if you live nearby.

DH: Okay, sorry for the respite last week, but maybe, you, like Manny, needed more time to read some of our archives. You can always go back and check out our old stories… and feel free to email me about any of our fiction… I love to get letters about anything on this site. See you next week!

Dear Editor,

In "Bread, Blood and Candle," Nicole Perlman weaves a tale that grabs her reader's attention and holds it hostage from the first word to the last. I couldn't put it down; I had to know what happens next. That's particularly impressive given that the cold, damp, uber-creepy setting, coupled with a plethora of shady characters, gave me a massive case of the heebie-jeebies. Usually, my response to such discomfort is to jump ship, but I was hooked. 

Even better, as the tale of sinister deeds and centuries-old secrets unfolds, the reader is treated to a subplot of a complicated, tragic and crumbling relationship. Now that's a satisfying read!

Many thanks,

Heidi

DH: Heidi, great letter from you.  Yes, I thought Nicole did a fantastic job of writing the quasi-horror setting with such descriptive skill that I felt I was right there.  Plus she added in the two things that terrify me the most:  claustrophobia and creepy dolls.  I'll try to get her to write us another tale!

DH: All right… sorry I don't have more letters this week.  You readers need to step up and tell me how you're digging the offerings.  I love hearing the feedback.  Also, toss me any questions you may have!  

Dear Editor,

Scott Beggs’s “To Each His Own” was one of the best stories you’ve published on here and that is saying something.  Bring him back for more.

Danny

DH: I’m always glad when a story connects with a reader and when that reader takes the time to shoot me an email.  I enjoyed the story too… I was trying to figure out just what the hell Beggs was talking about at the beginning, and then gave up and let the story just sort of wash over me.  I always like it when I try to guess where it is going, think I’m right, and then it zags and it’s something more clever and satisfying than I thought.  

DH: That’s all I have for this week.  Send me a note about Nicole’s story or any other we’ve published on here and I’ll post it next week.  Also, any questions or criticisms you might have.  See you next Monday!

Dear Editor,

I was just reading about a movie coming out called LOOPER starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis that sounded strikingly similar to one that I had read here on Popcorn Fiction.  I can't find the one that I was thinking of and was curious if you knew anything about this or if it's just a figment of my imagination.  Thanks for your help.

Jeremy

DH: Hey, Jeremy… although that story didn't appear here, the screenwriter/director of that movie, Rian Johnson, did publish a story (or should I say poem) called "The Man in the Herringboat Hat" on Popcorn Fiction.  Rian is one of the most talented writer/filmmakers working today… I've seen LOOPER and it blew me away.  Can't wait for it to hit theaters in the Fall.  

Dear Editor,

I saw the ending coming in "No Accounting for Taste."  Still, I enjoyed it.

Sarah

DH: I'm glad you didn't say that it had lived up to its title, or that Popcorn Fiction had finally proven its point.  Seriously, I'm glad you enjoyed it.  I'm always looking for stories that surprise me, and I thought Zizzo's story had a strong set-up and pay off. 

DH:I hope everyone is having a great Spring Break.  Stop in next Monday for another helping of short fiction…  take care!

Dear Editor,

When I come across a story such as Patrick Canning's "Tumbleweed Apocalypse," where the narrative is cut into two distinct pieces, my gut reaction is to bite my lip and hold my breath. For me, it's like watching a magician stuff a woman into a box then slice the box in half. The result could either be brilliant, or disastrous. Fortunately for us PopFickers, Mr. Canning is a skilled, masterful author. He manages to put the two parts of this disturbing tale together in such a way that the final outcome is bigger and better than the sum of its parts. And, if that weren't enough, he spices the whole thing up with a southern drawl that gives near-annihilation a warm fuzzy. How mind-blowing is that??

Super stuff.

Keep 'em coming. Please.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: I really liked that goofy little story… very different than anything else we've run on here. And I'm always a sucker for unreliable narrators. Glad you dug it Heidi!

Dear Editor,

Almost every morning one of my first stops is your site. I am working my way through all of your previous stories -- one a day.

You do an excellent job of picking great stories. So far I have enjoyed every single one.

So, thank you very much!

Mark

P.S. The story "The Dead Lights" has some sort of typo or is missing text at the first sentence.

DH: Mark, I love to get letters like yours… awesome to hear you are checking out the archives and that you like the same stories I like. Readers like you are why I keep pushing for great stories to publish. Really glad you like the site and continue to check out our selections. Oh, and that's not a typo at the beginning of "The Dead Lights." Get to the end of the story, and check it again!

DH: Another week rolls on. The nice folks at Mulholland Books and I have been finding a lot of great stories through the open submissions button, so please feel free to keep trying if you don't get your first story picked up by us. We have a mandate to break new writers here! Take care and see you next week.

Dear Editor,

Would you like to publish my sci-fi "Mannequin Makers", free? It is in screenplay form. See it at Smashwords.

Yours,

Tom

DH: Hi, Tom. We don't publish screenplays here. Just genre short fiction served up piping hot every Monday. Or most Mondays. There's a "submit" button up at the top here that will tell you everything you need to know about how to submit your work for our site. Best of luck!

DH: Okay, readers… that's all I have this week… where are you? Let me hear from you! I've been reading some great stories over the last week and hope to get you some excellent new fiction over the next month. I'm also harassing Drew McWeeny to finish another Commander Future story for us; he assures me one will be coming your way soon. All right… see you next week!

Dear Editor,

"Black Heart" by Palle Schmidt is a riveting read. The author keeps the story moving, doesn't bog it down with unnecessary detail but does give the reader just enough to get inside the world of the main character. In fact, I felt like I was getting two stories for the price of one, as there were really two tales told: one in real time, as the narrator searched for his friend's killer, and the other of the narrator's transformation from someone who was hateful and racist to someone who not only learned to love, but, ultimately, to sacrifice for the person he cared for.

I hope we are treated to more from this wonderful author.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Thanks for the thoughtful review, Heidi. Glad you enjoyed Palle's story!

Dear Editor,

Yes! One from Denmark! First Popcorn Fiction, next the world!

Christian

DH: I am excited you are going to use this site to launch into world domination, Christian. Please keep a notebook for me and let me know how it goes!

DH: All right… thanks for dropping by and I hope you enjoyed "Tumbleweed Apocalypse" with your Monday morning cup of coffee. More great fiction coming next week - a new sci-fi / crime tale from a new-to-the-site author. Hurry back!

Dear Editor,

Larry Doyle's "A Fine Rom-Com" is hands-down hilarious. It is the perfect antidote to the vapid Valentine's Day blather that oozes out of cards, radio announcers and well-meaning grocery clerks, to name but a few. I laughed out loud when he mused about an imperious fashion editor - or imperious something if they get Streep. His characters, situations, and settings - all are priceless!

Doyle's writing is irresistible. Last time you printed his work, I hightailed it over to Amazon and Netflix to get my hands on anything else he created. Now, I'll eagerly await his next PopFic offering. I'm hoping it comes before the next Valentine's Day. (Maybe he could do something for Arbor Day?)

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Great idea, Heidi. Maybe we can get him to commemorate all the holidays! Thanks for writing in once again… I always worry if we don't hear from you for a while… I start thinking, "damn, Heidi didn't like that one." Hope you had a great Valentine's Day!

Dear Editor,

Thanks for posting stories like Larry Doyle's ["A Fine Rom-Com.] I like crime stories and some of your other offerings but it's nice to see some genuinely funny comedy in written form. Someone should make a short film of that screenplay.

Gillian

DH:: They'd have to make a new genre called the non-rom-com.

DH:: Once again, thanks for writing in. I should note, if you send an email from a dummy account that says your name is "bananaboat14," then I just can't run your letter. I don't print last names on here… so just give me your first name, even if you make it up.

Next week, one of the craziest stories I've read. I really dug it and hope you will too.

Dear Editor,

"Muck Breaks a Rule:" Great MacGuffin story... until it wasn't. I'd have much preferred it if Muck and Spenser (and we) continued through the end to be ignorant of what was in the bag, especially because if it's just a lot of money, it seems unlikely that an airline would treat that bag like it contained clothes and toiletries. Still, I enjoyed the piece very much.

Matthew

DH: The old "what's in the box?" eh? Tarantino did it in Pulp Fiction, and I remember wondering what the hell was in the suitcase in Ronin. I liked the money maguffin...seemed realistic. Why would the airlines know what was inside? Anyway, glad you enjoyed the story...Watkins has a lot of talent. I hope he writes some more for us.

DH: I wish I had time to print more letters this week but that's going to have to suffice. I'll try to catch up on the email pile next week. Please keep them coming...I do love the simple "great story" emails, but I usually just publish the ones that have a bit more substance to them. If you've never subscribed, know that all it is: I send you an email each time we publish a story, telling you a bit of who the author is, what the story is, and why I picked it. Mulholland Books and I will never use your email for anything else. Except to tell you if I have a book or movie out but I do that in a smooth, engaging and complimentary way so you barely even notice. All right, have a great Valentine's Day and we'll see you back here with some fresh killings next week!

Dear Editor,

When your email arrived with Matt Olmstead's name, his British solution in "Pet Octopus" came to mind.  The timing forced me to cancel my coffee meet just to read "Double Penetration," certainly not for the promise of more scatology but because a hint of a good story piques my interest in the way a hottie does on a beach.  Amazing how Matt's (and character's) words and scenes paint images as though one is watching a cinema version.  Excellent characters, plausible situations.  Another fine selection at the PF.  

Ron

DH: I love it when readers cancel their plans to sit down and dive into one of our stories.  Glad you dug Olmstead's offering as much as I did, Ron.  He has a great knack for building suspense slowly and methodically.  You know something bad is going to happen but you can't tear your eyes away. 

Dear Editor,

I must say I started a story called "Double Penetration" with much anticipation.  I was not disappointed.  Raw and gritty, just like the porn industry itself.  Keep doing what you're doing.

Carl

DH:So glad you liked it Carl.  The porn world is certainly ripe for a good crime tale and Olmstead found a unique way into the story.  A long time ago, the author taught me something about writing.  I had a scene that felt familiar and he said simply, "come at it from a different angle."  Even if the scene had been done before, there's always a new way you can tell that part of the story, and that's where creativity comes in… or something like that.

DH:Okay, I hope everyone enjoyed the Super Bowl and then has a chance to read this week's story from Ben Watkins.  Take care and please write in any of your thoughts or criticisms!  Have a great week.

Dear Editor,

"Pusher."   Good tale, good spin and well written.  Worthy of an "Alfred Hitchcock" episode.  I'll have to start watching The Firm if Ben writes for it.

Larry

DH: Thanks for writing in Larry…  yes, I thoroughly enjoyed Ben Lee's story about the man who pushes.   There's a great character in a Stephen King Dark Tower book called the Pusher who comes up behind and pushes people into cars or subways when they're just standing on the curb.  That always stuck with me… nice to see Ben change the meaning once again.  

Dear Editor,

I must admit that I had to chew on it a bit, but once the penny dropped, Ben Lee's "Pusher" was a smart, timely, incredibly satisfying read. 

You probably can't print this bit, but I can't resist: if this story ever morphs into a motion picture, I suggest casting Calista Gingrich as the queen, her hubby Newt and his nemesis Mitt in multiple roles as the Circle jerks (couldn't resist, again!), Rick Santorum in a bit part as the glitter-wearing, cheating spouse, and (who else?) Joe Biden as, well, Joe. 

Can't wait to see "Pusher" on the silver screen!

Thanks, PopFic, for adding zing to my Mondays.

Heidi

DH: I hope we'll see it on a silver screen soon as well.  (I doubt Hollywood will go with your casting though some studio exec is laughing right now about the thought.)    Thanks Heidi.

DH: Speaking of the silver screen, Eric Heisserer is currently prepping his movie "Hours" based on his short story published right here.  I believe it will be the first story adapted to film.  For those of you who have asked about "Shake" over the year, we are turning in a new draft to Bruckheimer next week and then we hope it will start coming together… I will definitely try to get the story back up on the site in the next couple of months for those who never got a chance to read it.  Fingers crossed!  See you next week.  

Dear Editor,

I just read "Past Due" by Eric Red and enjoyed the suspense tremendously. Exciting story with excellent character development in Ellen.

Najla

DH: Najla, thanks so much for writing in.  Yes, suspense fiction is good when it gives us a nice surprise or twist, but it becomes great when you really care about the characters involved.  I'm glad you dug Red's work here. 

Dear Editor,

"Past Due" is a chilling, riveting tale and I was on the edge of my Balance Ball (chair substitute) to the very end. There were some speed bumps along the way that made suspension of disbelief difficult, however. For example, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act makes it illegal for collection agencies to call before 8 am or after 9pm. It also prohibits an agent from using profanity or making threats of any kind. Picking up Joy from school has to be a crime, isn't that kidnapping? I think the woman could have, at the very least, gotten a restraining order against her tormentor.  Eric does a great job of getting inside the mind/heart of a single mom, her worries, etc. But I don't know of any single mom, home alone, who would be stupid enough to let this creep into her house when he showed up that first time. She might have let him in if he threatened to stay on her porch and get loud, embarrass her in front of the neighbors. I don't know.  Last but not least, this story is riddled with typos, and that is very distracting.

Best,

Susan

DH: Hey, Susan… thanks so much for the letter.  I take responsibility for the typos… I will go through the story with a fine-toothed comb and clean those up for future reads.  As far as the suspensions of disbelief, I think the author's point was that this man was an absolute criminal with a warped mind.  Not your normal collection agent from that very first phone call.  She could've gone to the police but she was afraid, and so chose a different path…  still, thanks for taking the time to email… I like to hear all criticism!  

Dear Editor,

When I saw this week's author is Eric Red, my first reaction was "Past Due"is a story for me, so I promptly flaked on lunch just so I could read itright away.  Ever since first reading O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" as akid, I've always been drawn to stories arousing deep sympathy for thedisinherited (Sheldon Woodbury's "Bones in a City Graveyard" is one of myfavorite PF's offerings).  Sympathy has never been a virtue for me but avice, explaining why I had always been a sucker for loaning sorry soulseverything from marbles and toys to money and lawn mowers, the outcome never good and always a new enemy.  While Red's storytelling skills arouse puremagic jumping from pages, I just can't get excited about sympathy for somedeadbeat using credit cards as disposable income, probably restaurant mealsat the expense of defaulting on utility bills, with a child in your care,for chrissakes.  It's like trying to elicit sympathy for Susandrowns-her-kids-in-the-car Smith.  Not even characterizing Ellen as anunemployed mother or the bill collector as a strong-arm thug, works.  It'sall painfully remindful of a pothead I know who had repeatedly refinancedhis home for cash advances rather than find a job, now blaming banks for hishomelessness.  In twenty years he'd screwed the bank for more than $750,000,yet he wants you to believe the bank screwed him when it quit loaning andfinally foreclosed, instead.  You'd want to shoot him if he evencontemplates a lawsuit.  Sympathy requires justification.  Even so, Red's"Past Due" is entertaining, and I have nothing but praise for some of hisother works, especially "The Hitcher(s)."

Thank you, Derek, for the enthusiasm that fuels the PF flame, which isnothing short of miraculous.  Not even Playboy Magazine had ever served upas many profound short stories in half a century, much less two-and-a-halfyears.

Ron

DH:Ron, thanks so much for being a loyal reader and I can't tell you how much I appreciate your emails.  It's always interesting to me how we imprint our own views on to the characters in the stories we read… I felt nothing but sympathy for Ellen, having gotten behind on a few bills when I was coming up out of debt from my grad school days, and I think we can agree that no one deserves to have a maniac demand payments like Eric Red's bill collector.  Still, if you're not feeling sympathy for the character, then it's hard to pull for her to overcome her problems.  

DH: DH:  That's it for this week.  Sorry about those typos… totally my fault!  Every now and then the fact we're putting this site together in our spare time (including the hard workers at Mulholland Books) rears its ugly head so please bear with me!  Have a great week and hurry back next Monday!  

Dear Editor,

I was pleased - actually, very pleased - to see another Brozik piece. It seems if someone were to bring all of his Popcorn Fiction stuff together one would have a very interesting "Hitchcock Presents..." type of show for HBO or Showtime. 

Aaron

DH: I’m glad you enjoy Brozik’s stories, Aaron.  He always comes up with a twist you can’t see coming, and then when you reread the story, you see it was there all along.  I’m sure we’ll see more of his work here soon (I hope.)

Dear Editor,

David Accampo's "How Smitty Smokes a Cigarette" is yet another fun, clever, utterly riveting popFic read. What elevates this story head and shoulders above others of its ilk (if it has an ilk), aside from a great voice, is the juxtaposition of the ordinary with the insane. Accampo mixes humor and depravity with such expertise, such ease, it's downright scary.

As a loyal PopFic devotee, I have to say that I'm getting a bit worried about the collective mental health of today's screenwriters. I'd love to gather a statistically significant number of them and administer a Personality Inventory. I'm willing to bet that the results would be fascinating (if not entirely surprising...)

It can't be said often enough, Derek: thanks for a fabulous site!

Heidi

DH: Look at that, David… you earned a “Heidi,” the highest achievement you can earn on PopFic.  It’s like an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Pulitzer, Nobel and Tony all rolled into one.    Thanks for all of your support Heidi. I can’t say it enough… it’s for readers like you that we keep this site running.

DH: All right… that wraps up the letter pile this week… I look forward to hearing from all of you about Eric Red’s story!  Thanks again for reading and for spreading the word about Popcorn Fiction.

Dear Editor,

Why are lowest common denominator movies called "popcorn" movies?

Thanks,
John

DH: I think "popcorn" movies refers to any big summer blockbuster... anything that gets people on the edges of their seats, chomping that popcorn. There are some really well made, thoughtful popcorn movies.

Dear Editor,

Read the article Code of the Thriller: Never Bore Them in the Wall St Journal. Very refreshing. You outline perfectly the conundrum of "write what you know" and my own reasons for skipping grad school in creative writing...what does a normal suburban girl have to contribute to the literature of angst. Happy well-adjusted people need not apply. I turned my efforts toward medical writing - some would say another form of fiction - but I admire your turn toward your popcorn side. I'm now on to your website and enjoying it a lot. Keep it flowing and thanks for sharing.

Mare

DH: Mare, I'm thrilled you discovered Popcorn Fiction. Now write us a medical thriller... we haven't had many of those.

Dear Editor,

Thanks for the continued entertainment, Derek. Will be picking up your book sometime this week as well! Have a great holiday and New Year.

Tom

DH: You mean the book from the series the New York Times called "devastatingly cool?" Oh, Tom... thanks so much for the opportunity to plug my book yet again on here. It's a sure way to get your letter to the editor published!

Dear Editor,

Just wanted to let you know that I recently got my copy of DARK MEN, and I absolutely cannot put it down. Fantastic, riveting, heart-stopping stuff.

Thanks for PopFic, AND for a really great book!

Heidi

DH: Another plug! Thanks, Heidi. I knew I could count on you! I might get you to blurb the back of the book jacket for the next one!

Dear Editor,

Ê Popcorn Fiction is a recent discovery of mine and I love the excellent material that is posted there. Please keep up the great work!

I am considering submitting a story or two for your consideration, however on reading your agreement I note the requirement that "...the Material has not previously been exploited in any manner whatsoever..."

I have a personal non-commercial blog where many of my stories have been posted. Am I to understand that posting a story to my blog would be considered exploitation?

Thanks again for a great site.

Jim Padar

DH: Jim, we'd prefer to be the first place to debut a story, and afterward, you can exploit it wherever else you want. But we want to be first! If the story is fantastic though, we'd overlook a little personal blogging!

DH: Thanks for all the letters over the holidays and I hope everyone had a great one. This is going to be a hell of a year. Please write in and I will definitely try to publish your letters on here. Have a great week and see you next Monday!

Dear Editor,

Sometimes my favorite fiction is the re-telling of a classic story, how the author creatively renders a work that turns out much better than the original story.  E. L. Doctorow's re-telling of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Wakefield," for example, is leaps out in front of the original classic, aa story about a man today who impulsively leaves his home and family to hide and live in the attic above his garage.  And Adam Meyer's "Hollywood Roulette," a story about demented rich bastards whose preference for sadism is probably compensation for malfunctioning gonads that would otherwise mediate pursuit of healthy sex lives instead, conjured a clever variation of Richard Connell's 1924 classic, "The Most Dangerous Game", a story we've seen in no less than two dozen film incarnations, such as Cornel Wilde's "The Naked Prey" (1966) and Ernest Dickerson's "Surviving the Game" (1994). Like Doctorow's better "Wakefield," I think Meyer's "Hollywood Roulette" exceeds Connell's original classic for its nouveaux characters and ingenious twist-ending, which, like you, Derek, I thought I had all worked out but was thrown by Meyer's inventiveness and skill.  A profound find!

Ron

DH: Excellent review once again, Ron.  I remember a Fantasy Island episode with that premise.  "Why is she so sad, boss?"  "Well, Tatu, because her father wants to hunt the one animal he's never killed.  A human!"

Dear Editor,

Adam Meyer's "Hollywood Roulette" is a fabulous read, not only because it is riveting, exciting, impossible to put down (or, more accurately, stop scrolling), but because it casts the city of glam in an entirely new light. I knew there was ugliness beneath the swag, but, whoa Nelly, there's so much more to it! I'm glad to know that Mr. Meyer got out and is now recovering from his stint in LA. I can only imagine the scars, but if the trauma he experienced helps to produce more exceptional fiction, then maybe it wasn't all for naught... 

Looking forward to more!

Heidi

DH: ; I tried to keep telling myself it was just a story, but it reminded me of my first 13 years in Hollywood.

DH: That's it for this week.  Adam earned a Heidi (and a Ron!) so that means we've picked another good one.  I look forward to more great fiction for you guys in 2012, unless the Mayans got it right.  Have a great holiday!  

Dear Editor,

[RE: "Celebritocracy."]  Thoroughly enjoyed this one!!!!!  Way to go Scott.   Happy holiday season!


Joany

DH: Thanks for the nice words on Scott Murphy's story, Joany.  I wasn't expecting the clever twist at the end, and neither was the narrator, which always makes a nice finish.  Glad you dug it.

Dear Editor,

Scott Murphy is funny. The story would be funny too, if it weren't so true. I do like the sex moan ring tone. How about a missed-putt-groan ring tone for older guys.

Jack

DH: Maybe I should start selling all sorts of Popcorn Fiction ringtones.  I'd be worried that no one would buy from the Sheldon Woodbury collection:  the sounds would be too twisted.  Thanks for the letter, Jack.

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on your last short story, 'Celebritocracy'. It was more than pleasurable, caustic.

Sincerely

Georgios

DH: ; Yes.  Murphy backhanded the cult of celebrity that has been pervasive since the rise of reality television.  I think we've hit the nadir with Courtney Stodden, but I'm sure someone new will come out to scrape out the bottom of the barrel.  Anyway, so glad you liked the story Georgios.

DH: That's all the letters from last week.  I hope you dug another Hollywood story this time.   Give me a shout and let me know what you think!   Have a great week!  

Dear Editor,

"Uncommon Pleasures" is a thrilling and extremely imaginative read. I was about to say it was a delight, but that's not really the right word is it?

First of all, your description of the story in the subscription email deserves some praise. I could never have guessed what you meant when you said Woodbury re-imagined an origin story. It was perfectly misleading and intriguing.

I love how Sheldon Woodbury has the ability to write dark stories without ever writing too close to the darkness. To me, that is where most modern horror storytellers fail: they mistake explicitness and gore for horror. Writers and/or directors that become fascinated with dark stories seem to have a tendency to lose sight of what is really terrifying. What is terrifying about any underworld is just that: it is under the surface of everyday reality. The best horror stories suggest great evil but are rooted in normalcy. Normal situations, normal places, normal people... by chance colliding with some great evil. The pitfall for horror storytellers is to become too accustomed to thinking about evil, lose sight of normalcy, and risk forgetting what people find terrifying in the first place. From a storytelling perspective, evil is usually scariest at a distance.

An unspeakable act being performed in a dungeon; A lesser horror writer writes ABOUT the unspeakable act, but a great horror writer writes AROUND the unspeakable act, descriptively, spatially, and time-wise. And Sheldon Woodbury is a great horror writer.

Maybe that's why the most influential horror films have been directed by non-horror directors: The Shining (Kubrick), Alien/s (Ridley Scott, James Cameron), Psycho (Hitchcock), The Exorcist (William Friedkin). You could even argue that Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper) and The Thing (John Carpenter) were great because they were made before their directors fully embraced the horror genre in their career, after which the quality of their horror took a dive. But that's a whole other discussion...

-Zack

DH: That is a fantastic review. I think you nailed why I like Woodbury's writing so much. And thank you for giving me a shout-out on the story descriptions. You have no idea how much of a tightrope I walk each week in trying to draw in readers without giving too much away.

Dear Editor,

A reader asked you last week what guidelines you had for submitting to PopFic. I have one to add: not necessary but preferred - author should be possessing of a serious mental disturbance. In "Uncommon Pleasures," Sheldon Woodbury certainly demonstrates some sort of pathology (I'll refrain from guessing which.) The tale he tells is as captivating as it is disturbing. It's like a horrid car wreck - awful to look at but you just can't help yourself. 

Mr. Woodbury's writing is positively mesmerizing. I have to admit that I'm a bit scared of what he'll come up with next, but I know I'll devour it the moment it shows up on PopFic.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Heidi

DH: Hey Heidi… I had a great one; I hope you did too.  I spent a bit of time reading some new selections from the "open submissions" pile and found some excellent ones, so I look forward to getting those on here ASAP.  I'm glad you like Woodbury's odd offerings as much as I do!

DH: That's it for the letters this week.  I hope you all were in food comas from Thanksgiving and just didn't have time to tap out an email to me.  (At least our domestic readers.)  Thanks to all of you who keep spreading the word about Popcorn Fiction.  I continue to be amazed by the amount of traffic we receive.  I'll try to get a couple of more stories out in December before we break for the year.  Take care!

Dear Editor,

All I can say is that Doyle makes a frightening case for the existence of guardian angels.  Excellent entertainment!  On another matter, Derek, I've been curious if you have ever received any MFA-faculty reaction to PF?  

Ron

DH:  Hey Ron… glad you liked Doyle's story.  He cracks me up.  If you haven't read his novels, you should check them out.  I've never heard from any MFA-faculty as far as I know.  At least, no one has identified him or herself as such.  I'd love to hear their thoughts if we have any regular readers.

Dear Editor,

Is there a list of guidelines you have for the submissions to "PCF"?  I've got the first part of a script but been working on it as a short story also.

Thanks in advance,

Jason

DH: Hey, Jason… I don't have many guidelines beyond what you see under the "submit' button.  If you read the stories here, you'll get a good sense of what we generally like.  I say "generally," because I'm always willing to be surprised.  Most stories are between 2K and 8K words and are what I consider to be "genre" fiction… crime, horror, suspense, sci-fi, western… and the occasional comedy.  Just write something great!

DH: A couple of last things before I let you get to your Thanksgiving turkey (for those domestic readers)… I had one of our authors ask, "hey, what's the deal with Doyle getting to publish comedy pieces on here?"  The deal is a) Doyle is universally recognized as one of the best comedy writers in America and it's an honor to publish anything he'll send me, and b) the beauty of creating and editing this site is I get to break my own rules and keep readers guessing! 

One more thing:  my new book DARK MEN hits bookstore shelves on December 15th, but if you want to get an early jump on all of your stocking stuffer needs, it's already available on Amazon.  Who wouldn't like a little contract killer thriller in his or her stocking? 

Dear Editor,

Les Bohem's "George Peru" is not just a fascinating read on human rationalization and denial but also a metaphor for cultural deception, how it enfeebles the global brain, perpetuating human sacrifice in all its variants, more now than at any time in history.  I'm compelled to re-read the story now through the lens of the surprise ending, which I might've seen coming by paying more attention to the character, a whole other metaphor itself.  Enjoy your fiction-reading!  

Ron

DH: Hey Ron… great to hear from you, as always, and so glad you liked Les's story.  I'm always excited when I see an email with Bohem's name on it, because I never know what I'm going to get it:  suspense, horror, psychedelic fever dreams!  Whatever it is… it's always engaging.  I'm sure I'll be getting something new here before long.

Dear Editor,

At the risk of sounding selfish, I'd like to ask Les Bohem to promise his readers that he will never touch Prozac. I say this because in his latest PopFic story, "George Peru," he explores madness so convincingly, so brilliantly, that I have to believe he knows of whence he speaks. Specifically, the narrator reveals his internal struggle with depression while at the same time looking out at an entirely different sort of mental illness - the murderous insanity of Bimbo. The result, if predictable, is totally riveting. Mr. Bohem manages, in the space of a short story, to paint a complete, three-dimensional portrait of a character that even some novels, much less shorter works, fail to do.

What a great read!

Thanks,

Heidi

DH:I've hung around Les Bohem, Heidi.  I can tell you that I think you've finally solved it for me.  He's insane.  If you ever bump into him, ask him why he yelled at me last year in Nashville.

DH:All right… thanks to the letter writers and please don't hesitate to drop us a line here at Popcorn Fiction.  We love to hear all of your criticisms and comments.  We'll have a bit of a haphazard schedule over the next couple of months as we get into the holidays, so we hope to give you plenty of time to catch up on any stories you might have missed over the last year.  If you want some suggestions on stories you might like, email me and I'll give you my thoughts.   All right!  See you next Monday!

s

Dear Editor,

"CB Chatter" by Elias Madias is, to say the least, a riveting tale. It would be more accurate to say that it effectively glued me to my chair. And the ending - wow! Madias peppers the piece with subtle clues that drew me in and kept me there. Then, at the end, I was catapulted into a place that blew me away. 

This is more than a read; it's an experience - one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thanks yet again!

Heidi

DH: Elias earned a Heidi… pretty much the top prize you can receive as a Popcorn Fiction writer.   Great to see you dug the story, Heidi.  I happen to know that Elias was a part of a long-time screenwriting partnership so he was anxious to see how a story just written by him was received.  I'm glad to see it connected… 

Dear Editor,

Loved how CB chatter went one way and then another, like a truck driving down a winding highway.  Popcorn Fiction is a nice diversion from work. 

Emily

DH: That's what we're here for, Emily.  We're dedicated to making procrastination more enjoyable for workers everywhere.

Dear Editor,

I'm a student.  Do you accept stories from anyone?

Douglas

DH: We only discriminate against babies.

DH:That's it for this week.  Please write in and let me know what you thought about "George Peru" and any of our other stories.   I mentioned it in my subscriber email, but I thought I'd share it here too:  we've now passed the 100 story mark (if I added correctly.)  That's a hell of a compendium.  I'm going to take a week off next week to read some new fiction, so now's a great time to submit if you haven't already.  I'm looking for some great new talent to break right here.  Take care… have a great Halloween and stay out of trouble!  

Dear Editor,

Thanks for the great story. Every week, I read and enjoy. I liked the surprising turns in Simultaneous. Because I enjoyed it, I'm writing to let you know about a few typos.  [He lists a couple.]  Thanks again for the stories.

Sincerely,

Donald

DH:Donald, first, thanks for your nice words about the site.  And second, thanks so much for taking the time to write in and let us know where we missed a few typos.  We want the stories to be error-free, and it really pleases me that readers help to make the site better.  I never give the hard working crew at Mulholland enough time to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb, but the beauty of publishing on the internet is that we can always fix it subsequently.  If you ever find any more typos, please don't hesitate to let us no.   That last word was a joke.    

DH: Okay, just one letter this week, most likely because I wouldn't let Eric break "Simultaneous" into two parts.  I'm telling you readers… it is well worth the time… please check it out.  

I've got some great stories heading your way, including a tale perfect for Halloween from one of our most popular writers next week.  Mwwahhhhahahah!  See you then.

Dear Editor,

I'm relatively new to Popcorn Fiction but I just wanted to let you know that I very much love the site.  The stories I've read would fit in any old Twilight Zone compendium.  Major applause for you and what you're doing here.

Darin

DH: Thanks Darin… your email made my morning.  I couldn't have described Popcorn Fiction any better… I am partial to those smart, Twilight Zone, twists-and-turns types of stories.   So many of those episodes came from the short fiction of the 50s and 60s so it's a real treat to be compared to that show.  Maybe Heisserer will be the next Asimov!  

Dear Editor,

I didn't read your email before I read the story and I thought… well, there's a typo right at the beginning of Matthew Graingers "The Dead Lights."  And then I read the story.  Nope.  No typo.  Kudos.  He got me.

Andy

DH: That's why you have to read my emails, Andy!  If you're not a subscriber, let me reiterate… all I do is send you an email each Monday when a new story appears.  I try to tell you a little bit about what you'll be reading, or any other Popcorn Fiction news I may have.  I promise I won't give your email to anyone from Nigeria who is asking for a small bank transfer.  

Dear Editor,

I've never been overly excited about things that begin with the letter Z (zoos, Zagnut, Zinfandel) so when I saw the word zombie, I was skeptical. But I know better than to simply let a PopFic story go unread. I've been pleasantly surprised before - and Matthew Grainger's "The Dead Lights" is no exception. It's a gripping read that manages to be entertaining, funny, even campy and yet, philosophical. (At one point, I thought, Egads, I hope this isn't a cautionary tale.) 

As the story drew to a close, I was picturing something out of the movie Metropolis. And the feedback loop at the end is the proverbial cherry on top. From beginning to end to beginning - this is a fantastic piece!

Thanks,

Heidi

DH: How could you not like zoos, Heidi?   And what about Zeppelin?  How dare you!  I'm glad you liked the story.  I think some of the characters could have used a stairway to heaven.  I didn't just do that, did I?

DH: That wraps up another letters section (this one answered from Abu Dhabi!)  Thanks to all the Popcorn Fiction readers out there… and thanks to any readers we might have in the Middle East!  This little part of the desert is stunning.   Any readers from over here…please drop me a line and let me know you're reading.   Have a great week!

DH:

I really hate to do this but I simply ran out of time to get to any of the letters this week.  I'm falling down on the job… I know.  I blame Brandt.  But please let me know what you think about this or any of our stories and I promise I will be back in full force with a complete letters column next time.   In fact, we're going to skip a week next Monday (I have to travel) and we'll be back strong with new offerings from two or three of our most popular authors.  I'm very excited about our October on Popcorn Fiction!

DH: True story, I went to the mac store last week where the specialist told me I had "catastrophic hard drive failure."   I'd love to say I time-machined the hell out of my files, but I didn't.  I was able to recover almost everything, except for any new emails you guys sent me for last week's story.  I know I had several, and I apologize for not printing them here.  I did get one in subsequently, and I'm lucky to say it's from one of our favorite readers…

Dear Editor,

Danielle Wolff's "Billy" is creative, original, and - best of all - really funny. The main character unravels as you watch, but she's so fascinating and so zany, you just can't look away. She takes obsession with all things IKEA to a whole new level.

Any story that incorporates meatballs, lingonberry soda and words like "Barnslig Flodhäst" is going to capture my attention, but Ms. Wolff kept it with this fabulous little masterpiece.

Heidi

DH: Glad you liked it as much as I did Heidi.  Having never spent a single moment inside Ikea, Wolff brought it to life for me.  I just would not want to go there with her. 

DH: Again, apologies to Jack, Ron, and someone else whom I know sent letters in early.  You guys will go to the top of the list if you have thoughts on this week's story or want to resend your emails from last week! 

Dear Editor,

Woodbury's "Dark as Hell" is an ingenious indictment against power structures dominating exchange economies -- artificial domains for human habitation outside nature's environment, mechanisms serving less to improve the human condition but more to favor the lot of elites at the expense of degenerating the lives of millions, maybe billions, the world over.

I see Consuelo's suicide as a metaphorical illustration of the decline of the human condition, a trend that began with the tender of gold and silver in Babylon, and even before that with the origin of slavery.  Woodbury definitely has insight, on the order of a Chekhov, into the human condition, shocking the reader to question, rather than unwittingly to submit, why power structures exist, much less are obsessed with self-preservation.  If a reader has capacity not for denial but for raw, unadulterated truth, s/he will see structures, both governmental and corporate, for their true worth -- contemporary incarnations of slavery, rigged survival mechanisms whereby elites exploit Joe and Sally Paycheck, consumers, and taxpayers alike -- affluence by fiat, the overall schemes so perfectly disguised, unaware victims struggle lifetimes to aspire to membership themselves.  And because structures function under cover of proxy (the conduit the anonymity of money), elites, although aware, are insulated from guilt that otherwise is felt when victims are not out of sight and not out of mind, as with servants and slaves.

Just as professional-sport franchises filter membership using a narrow criteria of athletic ability, power structures, by design, filter for elites.  The Paychecks, consumers, and taxpayers are the fodder, and without exceptional talent, or PowerBall luck, or super-human determination, few cross over, and when they do they are paraded as examples that giving flesh has its benefits, never mind the 20-20 hindsight of bloody history, as though a 5'10" athlete would ever have a chance aspiring to a Shaquille O'Neal.

Woodbury cuts through the abstract complexities of man's artificial environments, which have collectively grown so complex and cryptic, no one person can ever completely comprehend and which is responsible for the endless human paradoxes, logical and emotional, a consequence of social norms mediating magical-thinking, creating stress-originated cortisol that is responsible for hells on earth and, by extension, angst for most and suicide for too many.  While animals in the wilderness enjoy the immense survival advantage of intuition, man's intuition in artificial domain is as obsolete as buggy whips on SUVs.

Woodbury could've penned a story about combat soldiers, in the same way illustrating how meds are merely insane, unworkable solutions for prevention of suicide, foisted by Big Pharma structures disguising and displacing the real, man-made causes of self-destruction.  Their self-preservation, at the cost of demented devastation of our finest, is condoned because denial -- not truth -- is the preferred holy grail for worship.  If everyone had capacity for Woodbury's profound insight, there would be no yokes compelling suicide in the first place, much less a top-heavy corps of elites denigrating billions of lives the world over.

A fascinating selection, Derek!  As entertaining as "Bones in a City Graveyard."  Thank you for wrangling another one out of Woodbury and for making worthwhile every trip to PopFic.

Ron

DH:Damn Ron… thanks for ingesting that story and giving us a careful critique… even using the story as a leaping point to a broader conversation.  I think the best stories on here compel us to look at our own world  (and worldviews) differently, and bring new insights into the way we interact with each other.  Now I need to read the story again!  (I'm sure you'll be seeing more Woodbury on here before too long.)

DH:That's it for this week.  Thanks again to all of you who consistently show up here to ingest our (mostly) weekly offerings.  It is such a blast for me to read these stories and then get to share them with you.  It feels like we're still doing something worthwhile here… and I sure appreciate you all spreading the word and continuing to grow our readership base.  One of these days, a movie will hit theaters that started right here.

P.S.  About that movie release I told you about last week, the date for THE DOUBLE was pushed back to October 28th.  The new date will apparently get more butts into seats so I'm all for that.  

Have a great week!

Dear Editor,

I loved "Thief Coach."  Sometimes these stories read like I'm watching a movie and this one definitely felt like that.  Keep up the good work!

Casey

DH: Great to hear Casey.  I have an affinity for writing partnerships, and I'm always jazzed when I read something that seems like it sprung out of the same head… two guys making up a single voice.  Glad you liked the result! 

Dear Editor,

Each part of R. Grant and D. Ornekian's "The Thief Coach" is deserving of praise in and of itself: the voice, the characters, the plot, the timing, I could go on and on. Together, they make up a story that is so much fun to read, it's impossible to put down. It was also too good to keep to myself, so I shared it with my husband. He worked in Detroit for quite a few years and is very familiar with the area, so he appreciated this piece even more than I did. That's saying a lot, because I thought it was truly fabulous. I would love (heck, I'd pay) to read more of these talented authors' work.

Once again, thanks!

Heidi

DH: Glad you continue to spread the word about Popcorn Fiction, Heidi.  When is your husband going to write us?  (Or has he already?!!)  Great review as always. 

DH: That's it for this week… reading a lot of new material this week so looking forward to filling up our PF coffers with more great stories…

One side note:  Michael and I have a movie coming out on September 23rd in NY/LA and expanding to 8 more cities on the 30 th.  It is called THE DOUBLE starring Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen, and Stephen Moyer… and Michael directed it, so your marching orders are to get to a theater opening weekend and see this thing.  Let me know what you think! 

Dear Editor,

I approached Michael Moreci's "The Final Shot" with more than a little trepidation. To me, slasher flicks - and, by extension, stories about slasher flicks - are like the menu at McDonald's: the star lineup may change, but the offerings remain the same. They're boring and predictable. 

While I had a strong hunch that the story would end (spoiler alert) in real murder, the existential approach was a real kick. I did not see it coming. The notion that slasher flicks are "... about evil and chaos and how out of control things really are"   is exciting, thought-provoking, and a very new twist to something staid and old. This is food for thought. It's like walking into a McDonald's and seeing Sartre eating a cheeseburger. Cool!

Heidi

DH:Thanks Heidi… I had the same feeling… it was an ending that was fairly-well telegraphed, but the journey there was so interesting that I really dug the writing.  

DH: I'm under water this week so sorry if I didn't get to your letter.  I had to publish Heidi's… our favorite reviewer has earned it!  I'll be back next week with a longer letter column, and as always, I'm happy to answer any and all questions you might have, and publish all of your reviews, criticism and critiques.  Keep 'em coming and have a great Labor Day!    

Oh, I almost forgot one other thing:  there is now aMulholland Books app out on iTunes, and most of the Popcorn Fiction offerings are available on there for your reading pleasure.  This should help all the people who have requested an Ipad or Iphone app!  Let me know what you think!  

Dear Editor,

I don't know what your selection process is but you guys are awesome. Everything you post is dynamite. Normally I would be annoyed that something this good doesn't post more frequently but whatever you are doing really works so I don't want you to change!!

Thanks for existing. 

Matty

DH: I like that… "thanks for existing."  Really thrilled you're enjoying the stories here, Matty.  Our selection process is pretty simple:  either I commission writers I know to write stories here, or they come in through the "submit" tab.  If the latter, they get read by a crack team of skilled readers looking for the next Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, or Philip K. Dick.  If the reader finds a tale he or she thinks is ripe for PopFic, then the reader emails it on to me and I make the final decision.  That's it.  And that's the secret:  be the next King or Asimov or Dick.  I love finding new writers.  Nothing gets me more excited.

DH: That's all the mail I had this week!  Please write in… I read everything and try to publish as many on here as humanly possible.  If you want to write in about a story, or the site, or have any questions, or just want to gab about the state of the fiction world, I'm all ears!  See you next week! 

Dear Editor,

Optimized for IPad - is this in the works?

K

DH: Good question, K.  We haven't gotten that far with our abilities to publish these in multiple platforms but I will let everyone know as soon as we have other options.  

Dear Editor,

Just read 'Blind Date' - what a marvellous, ingenious story. The writer has a real gift for metaphor and simile ('Liked lobbing softballs to him, watching as he swatted them deep into left, crisp line drives that uncoiled like rope') but most of all for lovely storytelling. I could have done without the explanation at the very end - felt it was just a little too much, that we didn't need it, but so far one of my favourites on Popcorn.

Thanks and keep it up!

James (from London)

DH: Great to have you reading in merry ol' England, James.  I thought the use of "favourites" gave you away.  So happy you connected with Allrich's story… I'll try to get him to write some more PopFic for us.

Dear Editor,

WONDERFUL story. One of the best you've published. I love the strutting, slightly over-written style that softens as the story softens at the end.

Jack

DH: Thanks Jack… always love reading your reviews.  Yes… the author had a great use of merging style and storytelling.   I'm always envious when I see author's do it well.  Yes, I get writer-envy.

Dear Editor,

Just when I think that the offerings at PopFic cannot possibly get any more phenomenal, you pull yet another story out of your hat and knock my freakin' socks off. Steve Allrich ("Blind Date") uses words like Ansel Adams used a camera: he creates images that stay with you long after the last page has been turned, the last word read.

I figured this would be a good story. Anyone married to the GlutenFreeGoddess has got to be special. But I had no idea...

At the risk of repeating myself, would you be so kind as to add this wonderful author to your "people-I-will-do-anything-for-if-only-they'd-give-me-another-story" list? I'd be most grateful.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: ; You got it, Heidi.  One of the real pleasures of starting this site has been gathering a growing list of authors who want to keep publishing fiction here.  It's like I've got a hell of a bullpen and can bring in a new ace reliever any time… I think that might be why so many people keep showing up here every week… they're not sure if they're going to get to discover someone new or receive something new from an old friend.  Anyway, at least that's what I like to think…

Dear Editor,

The last two stories have been fantastic.

The first, Blind Date, a simple story that pulled me in, made me care about these wonderful characters and reminded me how big a story you can tell with so little. A perfect popcorn piece with a great deal of heart to boot. Since reading it, I've found myself thinking about the two main characters on more than one occasion, wondering how they'd be doing about now. That's how real and likeable those characters were written.

The second story, Last Vegas, is one of those rare stories that is affecting in ways I can't even wrap my head around. Its power is mysterious to me. The only thing I can compare it to in that regard is The Shining, one of those movies that feels like it reached inside of you and moved something around permanently, but you don't know quite what it did to you, or how it did it. I mean that as the highest compliment.

Also, framing the story through the game of poker was an ingenious and elegant way to provide the suspense and ups-and-downs of the story (not to mention the whole story concept, which is also genius in its conception and execution). I never thought about it before, but a poker "fight" seems to be much better suited to the medium of writing than, say, a physical fight or gunfight. Because writing seems better at depicting characters' thoughts rather than imagery, so a poker fight that happens in a character's mind is a natural fit for a written story, whereas a physical fight that unfolds visually is less suited.

Anyway, splendid stories. Bravo, encore, etc.

Zachary

DH: And the other thing I love about editing this site is to receive additional letters from some of our favorite readers.  Zachary, you always provide us with insightful criticism, and you aren't afraid to tell us exactly how you feel.  I'm thrilled these last two stories hit you in the sweet spot…  makes my day when these stories connect.  Thanks again!

Dear Editor,

Excellent story, Steve Allrich's "Blind Date."  All I can say is that I've been in that diner, met that waitress, and know that compassion.  Thank you.  

Ron

DH: You can't get better praise for writing than that.  

Dear Editor,

Do you have any short stories on this topic? Thanks, would like to read some…

["Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" husband Russell Armstrong committed suicide by hanging himself, an autopsy confirmed Wednesday.]

Benjamin

DH: Hey Benjamin… I haven't read any stories lately on the "reality TV" phenomenon or the way it affects its participants' lives… or at least no submitted stories with that subject matter have made it up to my desk yet.  I'm always on the lookout for anything special, so if you know of any… let me know!

DH: Thanks for all the mail these last few weeks guys… I really appreciate the criticisms, comments and complaints.  I keep this site running for only one reason (okay, 2000 of 'em):  the readers.    Always let me know what you think of the offerings or the site.  See you next Monday with a horror tale!  

Dear Editor,

Loved this week's story ("Last Vegas" by Eric Heisserer).

A few paragraphs in, I was beginning to get disappointed, thinking this was headed towards too-familiar territory. After a few more paragraphs, I started thinking maybe I was wrong. A few paragraphs after that, I realized we were in completely uncharted waters, and I settled back to enjoy one of the most original stories I've read in a good long while.

To me, that's what the best short stories do - make you think you know where you are just long enough to really feel the jolt when you suddenly become aware that, just maybe, the world isn't quite the place you thought it was.

Thanks to PopFic and Mr. Heisserer for reminding us that the abandoned aquariums in all the best fiction always have unseen things inside them that go "bump" in the night.

David 

DH: Great review David… I had the same reaction to Heisserer's story when he sent it to me.  It just kept getting better and better, more twisted and unique until I was fully submerged.  And the ending was satisfying.  Great story.

Dear Editor,

You called it.  The best yarn yet!  Thanks for helping take the edge off Mondays with POPCORN FICTION. Keep 'em coming...

Cheers,

John

P.S. Congrats on the new deal; firefighters worldwide, and their stories, are in good hands. 

DH: I'm humbled by the sentiment, John.  For the rest of you: Michael Brandt and I have been commissioned to write a pilot for NBC centering on a fire station in Chicago.  We're a long way from actually having anything on the air, but we'll take the responsibility of telling these stories very seriously.  And thanks for the nice words about Popcorn Fiction.  I just have to keep stepping aside and letting the appreciation go squarely to our authors.  They continue to amaze me.  

Dear Editor,

Clever title notwithstanding, I was initially uncertain about Eric Heisserer's "hold em fold em" tale. Vegas holds about as much allure for me as the Paris runways do for my mechanic. Still, I figured I'd give it a go. After all, it's PopFic. 

A few lines in, I was hooked. More than hooked, really; I was mesmerized. I couldn't stop reading  - other obligations be damned! 

Mr. Heisserer is an incredibly talented writer. His words paint a compelling and vivid portrait, so that a very different - not to mention disturbing - world becomes frightfully clear. I'm still reeling...

Please do whatever it takes to get Mr. Heisserer to write more for PF.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Heidi, you will be delighted to know that Heisserer has already assured me he has some more popcorn popping.  And Eric, you'll be delighted to know that you received yet another "Heidi," about the highest honor you can earn here at PopFic.  

Thanks again for your loyalty to our site, Heidi.  Really appreciate it!

DH: All right… we're going to take a short break next week to do some reading and we'll be back strong to finish out your summer with some new stories from new writers as well as PopFic veterans.  Come on back… and use next week to catch up on any stories from our archives you might have missed.  

Dear Editor,

Have any of the stories on here ever been optioned, or sold as a movie? 

Have any later appeared in print somewhere after being discovered on the site? 

Ever considered a nickname for the site like HuffPo has? If so, how about "PopFic"?

Thanks for putting up with these,

Mark

DH: No problem, Marc… thanks for writing in!  I'm happy to answer any and all questions.  1.  My short story, "Shake," sold to Bruckheimer, and Les Bohem's "The Honeymoon," sold to Universal International.  Todd Stein's "Tipping Point" sold to Relativity and there are others that have attracted producer/studio interest, but I'm not sure what stage they are in.  2.  I don't know if any of the stories have appeared in print elsewhere after running here.  Lawrence Block's terrific story "See The Woman" was concurrently printed in the great collection LA NOIRE.  3.  PopFic is a great idea.  I will steal that shamelessly.

Dear Editor,

Naben Ruthnum's The Channels was like downing a glass of lemonade and finding out it's really absynth. It starts out innocuously enough, but builds to something totally unexpected. Holy shit! That ending hit me like a giant technicolor KA-POW! on an old Batman episode. 

I've come to rely on Popcorn Fiction for quality reads that entertain but aren't just empty calories. You've yet to disappoint.

Many thanks and keep 'em coming!

Heidi

DH:

Hey Heidi… I'm really glad you liked this one… I thought you might.  If I ever get around to printing up some PopFic T-shirts, you get the first one.  (See what I did there, Mark?)

DH:

That's all the letters this week. Have a great rest of your week and please keep spreading the word about Popcorn Fiction!

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on two years, Derek!

Best wishes,

John

DH: Time flies when you're editing this site, let me tell you.  Thanks for your continued enthusiasm for these stories.  I seriously appreciate it!  

Dear Editor,

Loved Matt Ward's "Gentle on My Mind," providing another plausible ride back in time, a very colorful story that entertained the spit out of me (literally, at one point), its characters simply superb.  Loved all the references from WWII to Viet Nam, from the Sixties establishment to the "sex, drugs and rock and roll" counterculture.  The only thing missing was maybe Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit."  Another entry that has already made my week.  And congrats, Derek, for entering PF's 3rd season.  

Ron

DH: Ron… I'm thrilled Ward's story connected.  The diversity between his two pieces very much impressed me.  As always, thanks for a thoughtful critique.  Third season already… one more and we can go into syndication!  (That's a TV joke. Never mind.)

Dear Editor,

After spending a week in a part of the country where they say, "Squeal like a pig!" with the same nuance and irony as we say, "You want fries with that?" it is an absolute pleasure to come back to Popcorn Fiction, and even more so to Matt Ward's Gentle on My Mind. This story has it all: a trippy 70's setting, a strong, fresh voice that catapults the reader smack dab into the psyche of a main character who is as interesting and likable as he is flawed; a story line that hooks and doesn't let go; and an ending that defies expectation but still manages to be utterly satisfying.

Sigh. It's good to be back in the civilized world.

Many thanks!

Heidi

DH: Now I'm dying to know where you went.  Glad you dug the story… I've been reading a few noir classics this summer, Chandler's THE BIG SLEEP and Hammet's THE MALTESE FALCON, and it's cool to see their influence over today's writers.  There's something about "My name's Rollie Thorpe, by the way.  I'm a private detective," that sets the table for the story to come; the good authors, like Ward, manage to work within the genre tropes and create something original and surprising.  Anyway… that's my take.   Thanks for another terrific review, Heidi! 

DH: That's it for this week's letters.  Next week I've got a hell of a story.  One of the best I've ever published here.  It's written by an author we've published here before; this one really knocked my socks off.  Can't wait to run it.   See you next week!

Dear Editor,

I love short mystery fiction. I'm so glad I discovered your site.

However, your writers' guidelines don't indicate whether you accept previously published fiction. Could you please respond to this?

All best,

Sharon

DH: Hey Sharon… we would prefer to debut brand-spanking new fiction on this site. The authors do control their copyrights, however, and can do whatever else they want with their stories after we publish them. Or even concurrently.

Dear Editor,

"Dirty Minds" was as creepy as Woodbury's previous story. I love the horror short stories like Stephen King writes so please continue to find slots for them.

Cam

DH: I like the horror stories too! I'm always on the lookout for a nice creepshow so look for some more to be published right here in the months ahead. Now if I could only afford to get King on here, that would be a triumph.

DH: That's all the mail I received this week! Are you guys all on Summer vacation? Come on readers, let me hear from you. I'm always open to answering questions or scoffing at your complaints. Have a great week and thanks again for two years of loyal reading. You guys make this fun to do each and every week.

Dear Editor,

"Secrets and Laws"…now that was fun. Often times I'll see the twist-ending from a mile away, but Mr. Brozik did a great job misleading my intuition via various red herrings. I look forward to enjoying additional works on your site by the author in the future. (I presume you will be showcasing more of Matthew David Brozik's work on your site!!)

Thanks for sharing the opportunity of such an enjoyable read.

Randy

DH: Great review Randy… I'll keep running Brozik's work as long as he keeps delivering them!

Dear Editor,

"Secrets and Laws" is a brilliant story. I've read some of this guy's stuff before and this story, as with many of his others, features what I consider to be the author's trademark: twist-endings without the cliches. M. Night could only dream of writing endings like Brozik.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

A.M.

DH: Really appreciate the nice review AM. Brozik's endings always tend to throw me for a loop. Glad you dig them too.

Dear Editor,

Great story by MDB. As a young writer who was recently coerced into taking the LSATs, and is contemplating short-term paralegal jobs before admissions season, I now have a guide for exactly what to do, and what not to do, should I choose to accept that hapless mission.

PS - this also got me thinking. I wonder what the top 5 "Noir Jobs" list would look like? Surely, Private Eye would top it, but MDB has stated a good case for Paralegal being represented somewhere on there. That leaves three open spots.

Thanks!

Owen

DH: I'm going to go with "Millionaire Playboy," "Bar Floozy," and "Auto Chauffeur." I'd love to hear any more ideas.

Dear Editor,

"Fight" is an awesome story.  Was laughing and cringing throughout.

Hans

DH: Really glad you liked it Hans and thanks for posting your comment on my facebook page.   I'll take comments, criticism, praise and critiques wherever I can get 'em.  

Dear Editor,

Ouch, Derek, reading Henkel's "Fight" hurt more than watching Bukowski's Henry Chinaski in the alley.  I was hoping for a dream to end.  Thanks for serving up another good one.  

Ron

DH: Thanks for being such a loyal reader, Ron.  It has been a long time since I've had someone punch me in the face, and after reading Henkel's story, I'm pretty sure I don't need to join a fight club any time soon.       

Dear Editor,

Normally, I'd wrinkle my nose at "Hollywood" endings, but Fight by Adam Henkel works. Maybe it's because of the author's obvious mastery of the art of storytelling. He makes the fight scene so real, so visceral, I had to check my own jaw a couple of times, just to make sure that everything was still intact. Or maybe it's just because it's a damn good story, and what's so wrong with a happy ending once in a while? 

I'd love to see more from this talented writer.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Yes, Heidi… I thought it was going to have that ending from The Last American Virgin, a movie that messed me up in the high school when I saw it.  I was actually relieved it was hopeful.  What's wrong with a little hope… even in genre fiction?!  Glad you liked it Heidi!

DH: Okay… that's all the letters for this week.  We're going to take a week off for the Fourth of July… I know a lot of you can't keep the pace of reading a new story each week, so this is a great week to catch up on some of our older stories.  In fact, I'd love to get some emails about some of the archives that you've only now had a chance to discover.  Let me hear from you...  when we return, I'll publish all the LttE I receive… either regarding "Secrets and Laws" or anything from the old stories.  Do it!

Dear Editor,

[RE: “Golden Boy”] I loved this crazy yarn. 

Jack

DH: I did too, Jack… and so did a lot of our readers as you’ll see below…

Dear Editor,

“Eventually, like every piano salesman, personal trainer, or pediatrician who has ever lived in Los Angeles, de Mausset had an idea for a movie.”

How great is that line?! Do they even HAVE piano salesmen anymore? They give 'em away for free on Craigslist!

I might have to buy his book just for that. 

Travis

DH: He shouldn’t have limited it to “Los Angeles.”     

Dear Editor,

I have yet to read a story on Popcorn Fiction that I didn't thoroughly enjoy, but “Golden Boy” was especially fun. Thanks for another great read.

Christopher

DH: Thanks so much for the praise of the site and for the special nod to “Golden Boy.”   We’re doing everything we can to keep looking for great short genre fiction to publish here.  

Dear Editor,

"Golden Boy" made me smile and laugh, a lot.  That right there was a good, fun story.

Owen

DH: ; Thanks Owen… yes, I thought Jacob Sager Weinstein did a great job with the tone… reminded me of some of great film romps like THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR or the OCEANS movies.  Maybe I can get Jacob to bring back that team.

Dear Editor,

Jacob Sager Weinstein's "Golden Boy" is one part Ocean's 11 and two parts Inspector Clouseau.  It's a fun, clever, totally whacky romp. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Thanks!  

Heidi

DH: As always, Heidi and I are on the same page.  Glad you dug this one, Heidi… I thought you might.  

DH: Okay… another week down.  Next week I’m going to bring you another story from one of our favorite authors, Matthew David Brozik… and then we’ll take a one week break to celebrate Independence Day!  (Apologies to all the overseas readers!)

Dear Editor,

What I want to know is how DB Weiss has time to write short stories when running GAME OF THRONES?  

Wtf?!  Did he make a deal with the devil?  

Vaun

DH: Vaun, I have personally witnessed DB's prowess with an electric guitar, so I think you're on to something with your devil's deal premise.  I hope we can get him to write more Popcorn Fiction before the devil cashes in.

Dear Editor,

What's up, Derek?  Still love reading these stories! Have you consider an app for phones/ipad for these? Just a thought!

Hope all is well!

Dan 

DH: Hey Dan!  It's a really good idea and we are working on something.  Mulholland Books is hard at work perfecting their own app, and so we're going to steal whatever they do.   

Dear Editor,

First off, thank you for entertaining us with great writing. The stories sit with me long after I read them. I ingested "Nrmf!" three times to savor it, and yet I'm short of nirvana. Maybe I'm 5th from smallest on this one….

Straying from topic, it seems that all the writers published on your site are acclaimed screenwriters, and I was just afraid to ask this:

Has an unknown writer made it through a cold submission to popcorn fiction yet?

Regards,

Stephen 

DH: Hey Stephen, thanks for writing and for the very nice words regarding the site.  I can't tell you how rewarding it is to read feedback and to know that so many of you are still digging this site.  We're coming up on our two year anniversary, and I can't believe it still has such a loyal reader-base.  We've managed to keep the site only about the stories and haven't tried to sell you Viagra, so that's saying something.

To answer your question:  from the general submission pile we've run stories from authors Adam Lindsley, Alicia Gifford, Matthew Grainger… just to name a few.  I think there have been a couple more that came from there but it's hard for me to remember.  The way it works:  a group of readers first looks at everything that comes in, and then it goes through a selection process before it reaches my desk.  If it gets that far, then I'm nine/tenths of the way there to running it.  Our submission readers are that good!  Thanks for asking and please submit anything you think is right for the site!

DH: That's the wrap-up for this week.  Next week is a close examination of a fist-fight so get your knuckles ready.  Have a great rest of your week and we'll see you back here next Monday!

Dear Editor,

As you've probably guessed, I'm one of those people who can't wait until Monday, who devours every Popcorn Fiction story as soon as it hits my laptop. Though I definitely like some stories more and some less, picking a favorite is impossible. It's like giving me red wine, Swiss chocolate and a good cuppa joe, and asking me to choose just one. Can't do it.

One of the really cool things about Popcorn Fiction is the ever-changing smorgasbord of offerings. Before coming to PF, I wouldn't have even sampled certain genres, much less actually appreciated them. Take science fiction, for example. I used to dismiss it as unrelatable, out-there stuff. But stories like Les Bohem's latest (DMT: The Next Part of the Trip) - stories with humor, wit, and something to say about the human condition - have opened up whole new worlds for me.

So I'm ever grateful, but I'll be damned if I pick a fave.

Heidi

DH: Thanks for another great letter, Heidi. Why do your criticisms always make me so hungry? Anyway, we really appreciate your kind words here...it's readers like you that keep us going. Can't thank you enough.

DH: I think Memorial Day must've kept our letter writers at bay last week. Please don't hesitate to write in and let us know all of your thoughts, comments, criticisms and critiques. We love to hear from each and every one of you, and consistently try to publish nearly all the emails we receive (at least the ones that are longer than one sentence!)

Dear Editor,

[Re: "The Invader"] Horror on a Monday morning?  You're made of sterner stuff than I, sir.

Travis

DH: We like to get your week started right with just the proper amount of alien bloodshed, Travis.

Dear Editor,

"The Invader" made me laugh though I'm not sure I was supposed to.  An alien comes in peace and a little girl beats the shit out of it.  You have to admit that's funny.

Barry

DH: At first, I thought the style was a little simple, but I quickly realized Son was writing in the voice of the little girl.  Having two pint-sized boys myself, I thought he captured the tone and understanding of a child well.  So, I was on-board and reading along and I thought either this was going to be some sweet tale about how we understand our differences with other races/people like ET, or it was going to be a horror tale where this girl gets chomped ala ALIEN.  Instead, Son threw me for a loop with the girl attacking the alien.  Anyway… I dug it.  

Dear Editor,

I am new to the site.  I was reading on your "About" section that you started the site so "Hollywood could have a new resource for cultivating great ideas."  I read that you sold your story "Shake" to Jerry Bruckheimer but have any of the other stories sold to Hollywood?

Daniel

DH: Daniel, one of the things about Popcorn Fiction is that the authors retain their copyrights and can do whatever else they want with their stories.  If they want to sell the movie rights, or reprint the story elsewhere, or take it down, it's up to them.  I don't control the properties and don't want to… it's writer friendly here.  So… I'm not completely caught up on all of the second lives of our stories.  That said, besides mine… I know that Les Bohem sold his story "Honeymoon" to Universal International, I know that Todd Stein sold his story "Tipping Point" to Relativity, I'm fairly certain that Eric Heisserrer is in the process of directing a movie version of "Hours" though I'm not sure who is financing, and I'm sure there are a few others that are running through the studio pipelines, though I'm not sure whose.  Hope that helps!  

Dear Editor,

I have read every story on your site.  Contact me if you want to know which ones are the best.  

Jacob

DH: That's awesome Jacob.  Consider yourself contacted.  Do we have any other readers who have actually read every single story on this site (besides me!)  Let me hear from you.  I would love your top 5 list.  Hell… I'll publish the consensus!  

DH: All right… I hope you dug the second part of Bohem's trip.  I know you're probably thinking, "what is that guy on?"  Next week I have a story from one of the creators of the hit HBO show "Game of Thrones."  After you read it, you'll continue to think "what is that guy on?"  See you next Monday!

Dear Editor,

[Re: "See the Woman"] That's a chilling way to spend lunch today. Congratulations on the debut. Genius writer. That LA Noire game sounds so great that I think I'm going to have to buy a playstation. Meantime heading to desert for Palm Springs Noir festival. Hope things good with you.

Howard

DH: Howard, I hope you had a blast at the Noir Festival. That sounds like a great time. Glad you dug the story!

Dear Editor,

Excellent mid-week treat, Derek. Block's "See the Woman" provides a plausible ride back in time, flowing as smoothly as snow-melt. Really an enjoyable story about a heartless cop conflicted with taking a life just to send an innocent man to prison, his own demons bringing justice full circle by finally exacting the ultimate price for an ultimate sin. At least this is how I want to remember the story, for the sake of both victims, even though the clueless narrator intimates being a cop, alone, is enough to swallow a bullet. In this way, in an otherwise perfect story, the ending diluted justice for the victims, especially for the dead wife, deflecting justification of suicide not on the cop's job as much as on his sins. The narrator was really an accessory of sorts to murder, robbing the victim of true justice, though too cavalier to even feel guilt, much less any awareness, making him even more heartless than his partner who at least confessed in suicide for the ultimate act of contrition. The narrator was right about there being no difference with his partner, aside from suicide, both guilty of the same crime. I want to believe no guilty person has refuge from demons, living unaffected or with a free pass into old age. Finally, format always intrigues me, the narrator conjuring the opening scene in "Little Big Man" (1970). BTW, I wanted to check out the other stories in the collection, but the link at Mulholland is broke.

Thanks.

Ron

DH: Ron... thanks for the great criticism... that's why we consider you one of our favorite reviewers. We'll check on that link and do let us know what you think of the rest of the collection after you have a chance to check it out.

Dear Editor,

Good stuff! Really good voice.

As a vet, son of a cop, and someone who was recently supposed to join the LAPD, but realized it was a bad idea, I can tell when someone who knows this shit -- whether he's been there or just did a damn good job of researching it.

Two Really Bad Things about Domestics (historically at least)

One, the woman you rescue might try to stab in the back as you apprehend her husband. Two, you wind up going back again and again.

an't believe I never heard of this guy...I really have to start reading more books again.

Thanks,

TBF

DH: TBF, really glad this we could provide your first exposure to Block and now I hope you'll dig in on that crime shelf and buy his books. The Matthew Scudder books are pure gold.

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on nabbing this one, DH!

John

DH: Thanks John. I really have to thank Mulholland for this one. They spearheaded the idea and I was smart enough to immediately say "yes." I hope this partnership keeps yielding great stories by incredible authors for PF.

Dear Editor,

Reading Lawrence Block's "See the Woman" is like drinking a really great mixed drink: At first you think, hey, this is good. I like this! Then, once you've gotten to the bottom, you realize just how powerful, how exceptional it truly is. The kick stays with you long after bar time.

I heard an author speak recently, and he maintained that a short story cannot be character-driven because there is just not enough time for the reader to get a sense of that character. After reading Mr. Block's story, I'm convinced otherwise.

If the rest of the stories in L.A. Noir: The Collected Stories are half as good as Mr. Block's, it's gonna be one hell of a read.

Heidi

DH: I can't believe that author said that. I hope PF has proven him wrong time and time again. I haven't read the rest of the LA NOIRE stories yet... sounds like some good summer reading! Need to find a pool and beach chair and get cracking. Thanks for another excellent review, Heidi!

DH: That's it for this week. Come back next Monday for the much-anticipated sequel to Les Bohem's "DMT." If you thought the last trip was scary and bizarre, I can assure you Bohem was just getting warmed up. Have a great week!

DH: Due to the Thursday delivery of today's story, I didn't get a chance to answer the letters from last week. Please keep 'em coming. I love hearing all feedback you loyal readers have regarding the work here or any comments about the site you might have.

More big things happening in the weeks ahead. I won't run a new story on Monday to let everyone digest this one and catch up on our archives. Then we'll be back on May 23rd with a new story from Eugene Son, and the following week we're going to bring you the second part of Les Bohem's immensely popular DMT. Can't wait!

Dear Editor,

Thanks for keeping this going.  Great way to find new stories.

Hopefully I can get something ready soon to submit.

Mark

DH: I’m glad you like the site, Mark.  And please take advantage of our “submission” button.  We’re always on the hunt for new talent here.  I’ve said it before: so many of the great genre writers of the last century got their starts writing short stories for magazines.   We would love nothing more than to be the ones to “discover” the future Asimovs, Kings, Leonards, or Dicks.   

Dear Editor,

Not only is Drew McWeeny's Moving Day: A Commander Future Story a fun read, it's one heck of a mind-bender, and also a great commentary on the human condition. Heck, it's more than that; it's freakin' prophetic. If Mr. McWeeny continues with Commander Future's tale (and I truly hope he does), he may well start a new religion. 

My Mondays wouldn't be the same without PF.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: And our letters page wouldn’t be the same without you, Heidi.  So great to hear from you again and glad you enjoyed Drew’s latest edition.  I’m just hoping he doesn’t become so big that he forgets little ol’ PF as he spools out more of the Commander Future story.  

Dear Editor,

I was catching up on Popcorn Fiction this week and was struck by "The Enemies List." And I noticed many other readers were too.

I read it in portions throughout the day, and I kept finding myself wanting to come back to it.

So I got to thinking: what is so engaging about that story? And I realized the cause is something that one does not normally associate with genre fiction. At its core, "The Enemies List" is actually an epic melodrama. And I mean this in the best way possible.

Those well-done melodramatic elements are what suck you in. Big emotions, exaggerated characters, complicated romance, secrets, great injustice, the prospect of desired successes getting close but slipping away... The similarities are endless.

The fact that it's about a sports writer doesn't disqualify it at all; it just makes the story seem really fresh.

Speaking of exaggerated characters, what is Arnold but Ike's perfect enemy? Just like Joker is to Batman. Enemies that perfect are, thankfully, mostly found in fiction. But man, are they fun to read.

I only have one problem with the story: I'm not convinced that it wouldn't have been better with a happier ending. I know writers must hate hearing that criticism, but I think it's valid in this case.

The main characteristic of endings in epic melodramas is not whether they are happy or sad (they can be either). It's that you always feel a great sense of loss by the end. Loss of people, loss of opportunities, loss of love, loss of time. Even when we are happy with how our lives turned out, nostalgia always has an element of sadness. So I think the ending could've afforded to be less hopeless because you still would've felt that profound sense of loss even if Ike continued to live, and even if he found just a small degree of redemption.

I mean, the simple truth is the author did a great job of writing a character that you come to really care for, and who you really don't want to see die. So, personally, I think the ending could've stayed true to its intent plus had more emotional impact if it were bittersweet, rather than just bitter. But overall, I really enjoyed it.

Keep the great stories coming.

Zack

DH: Zack, I love that you took the time to write such a provocative and carefully considered letter.  And I love that it was about a story in our archives.  I get really excited to know that as a new story is published each Monday, readers are still taking the time to head to the archives and digest stories that might have slipped past them the first time around.  I’m sure Mark Wheaton will enjoy reading your letter and if he has a response to it, I’ll publish it the next time.

Thanks again, Zack… write in any time… you’re one of our favorite critics here.

Dear Editor,

Absolutely love Popcorn Fiction, and I look forward to every story.  One small question/request:  any plans to have an app for the site?  I read most of the stories on my iPhone and the site is a bit difficult to navigate on that.

Thanks, and keep up the great work,

Matt

DH:  Hey, Matt... we've received quite a few requests like yours.  I know Mulholland Books has plans to put their site up as an app, so maybe we can have a simple app that is only for reading the stories.  I will continue to look into this.  Thanks!

DH: That’s it for next week.  We’re going to take a week off next Monday and then we’ll be back strong with a story that destroys the warm fuzzies you might have had watching ET: The Extra-Terrestrial.  

Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing Jesse Zigelstein's "The Bootlegger" which I read with pleasure for its vivid evocation of mores, character, place and time.

Of stories previously published by you, the first one that springs to mind is Darby Kealey's "You and Hank," which I have reread several times now with undiminished delight for its subtlety, craft, wit and inventiveness.

Kind regards

Wayne

DH: Great letter, Wayne… thanks for writing in.  I am glad that you are reading and rereading these stories.  And your letter will remind others to check out the archives and pick out some stories they might have missed.  "You and Hank" was one of my favorites too.

Dear Editor,

I agree, Derek.  Like you, I was taken by the economy of words in Jake Hinkson's "Burial Arrangements."  A great illustration of how to present more with less.  Equally profound is his dialogue, characterizing Rose, for example, as having more intelligence than education.  BTW, when I woke up this Monday, I went to PF looking for a new story, as one looks for a morning cup of coffee, even before your email arrived.  Nothing.  Not long after, your new story announcement came in.  Made my day already.  Looking forward to checking out Hinkson's blog.

Ron

DH: Always fantastic to hear from you Ron.  Glad you continue to enjoy the stories we publish here.  I love the idea that so many of you look forward to the Monday morning read. 

Dear Editor,

[Re: "Burial Arrangements"]   Terrific assemblage of little brush strokes and big punches. Loved it.

Jack

DH: You should try writing blurbs for books, Jack.  That was a good one.  Maybe I can use it for a Popcorn Fiction compilation because it applies to pretty much the entire PF concept.   Thanks for writing in again!

DH: All right… I hope everyone dug the latest Commander Future story.  Please let me know your thoughts and I would love to hear where you think this story is going, because you and I both know we haven't heard the last from Peter Underhill.  Next week, I'm back with a very cool character study, so see you next Monday!

Dear Editor,

"The Bootlegger" was very entertaining, a dramatic trip back in time. Having lived in a Toronto high-rise, it was nostalgic to the extent for someone without previous memory of the Depression. Genius how few elements were used to portray the era. Loved the rabbi character and the ethnic lexicon, some of which words we haven't seen or heard in a while now. My only down side to the whole read was the missing footnotes to spare those of us from having to look up half the esoteric words. Not everyone is raised in a Jewish culture. Still, the story made up for the loss in time. Thanks for another homerun at PF.

Ron

DH: Excellent review, Ron. thanks for the nice words about the story and glad it rang true to you!

Dear Editor,

That was a good story ["The Bootlegger."]  It was so long that I didn't think I would read it all and then I found myself reading the whole thing.  Keep up the nice work!

Marcia

DH: Thanks so much for writing in Marcia.  I'm always glad when a story strikes a chord with someone and they take the time to email me.  I do try to pick stories that fall somewhere in the 2K to 8K range, but if they're excellent and long, what am I supposed to do?  Glad you enjoyed it!

Dear Editor,

"The Bootlegger" was like Goodfellas with Jews instead of Italians, Toronto instead of New York, and it was a home run as far as I'm concerned. 

Duncan

DH: Thanks Duncan.   Goodfellas will always be one of my Top Ten movies.  So happy you enjoyed the story as much as I did.

Dear Editor,

Jesse Zigelstein's "The Bootlegger" is not just a great read - it's a bona fide classic. To use a pasta analogy, "the Bootlegger" is lasagna where other stories are just noodles. There are so many layers, and they're all delectable: the sights, sounds, smells and the feel of 1930's Toronto; the sad, funny, exciting and just a bit dangerous world of a small-time crook; the tale of a poor but enterprising Jewish kid, an angry father and a shyster rabbi; and, to top it all off, a love story. 

Can't wait till next Monday!

Thanks,

Heidi

DH: There it is!  Jesse earned a Heidi… that's a top honor here at PF.  Thanks again for a great review and for all you do to promote the site, Heidi.  You're the front-runner for the PF fan of the year award.  I'll design the T-shirt.

DH: That's it for the letters this week.  As always, thanks so much to those of you who take the time to email me.  I'm always happy for the give and take.   Next week, by popular and loud demand, a new Commander Future story from Drew McWeeny.  I love that he's chosen our site to publish this cycle.  See you next week.

Dear Editor,

Loved this story ["The Last American"]. The conceit is hyper-bizarre, but the girl and her craftiness bring it home. It works. Doesn't hurt to precede it with a double McCallan's.

Jack

DH: Keep that scotch handy for this week's story, Jack, and thanks for the review. I felt the same way.

Dear Editor,

I am curious to hear your thoughts on Popcorn Fiction following your switch to Mulholland Books. Do you still pick the stories and how involved are you still? Do you read everything submitted? Do you still commission screenwriters?

Ian

DH: Thanks so much for your questions, Ian. I am involved the same way I was before and I hope you haven't noticed any differences in the quality than how PF has always been (quality being in the eye of the reader, of course!) I still choose the stories, though I do not read everything submitted. Thankfully, I have a bunch of great readers who take the time to wade through the submissions and make recommendations based on how they measure up against the stories we usually publish. If it gets past them, then I read the story and make the final decision. I'm always looking for new talent, but I also constantly beat up screenwriters and novelists I know to give me some great new fiction. Thankfully, readers like you keep showing up to make this site attractive to them.

DH: That's it for the letters this week. Were you guys all on Spring Break? Come on...please write in and let me know your thoughts! I'm always happy to answer any questions too. Great stories up ahead!

Dear Editor,

Great site. Love reading all the stories. 

Re: "The Enemies List."  From the beginning, I knew the narrator was crazy. Halfway through, I started to think Wheaton was crazy. At the end, I believed I was crazy.  It was like reading the ramblings of a homeless person trying to convince you how he narrowly missed becoming president. When you really start believing he has a point, that's when you know you're now crazy too.

Great storytelling and great spin on the crime genre.

Chuck

DH: Ha!  Great review, Chuck.  I definitely start thinking I'm crazy after wading through all these stories.  Why are so many genre writers nuts?

Dear Editor,

I plan to send in a short story submission (per your site's instructions) but just wanted to check with you to make sure I would retain all rights to the work after you publish it (if you choose to do so...). I believe this is what the legal document says, but I'm not a legal expert, so I just wanted to make sure. Thanks! 

Debra

DH: Yes, Debra… we're extremely writer friendly here at Popcorn Fiction.  You retain all the rights to your story and can do whatever else you want with it.  If you want to sell the movie rights, go for it.  And if you ever ask us to take down your story here, we'll do it.  This site was built for writers.    

Dear Editor,

Mark Wheaton's The Enemies List is nothing short of amazing. Having just finished it, I'm still catching my breath. 

To be honest, I was a bit uncertain when I began to read. There was so much there, I felt like I was riding shotgun with a bipolar in the throes of a manic episode. But man, what a ride! The Enemies List is sharp, biting, funny and at times even philosophical. The story sucked me in, chewed me up spat me out, discombobulated and reeling. That's powerful stuff.

Can't wait to read more from this incredible writer.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Glad you enjoyed it so much Heidi.  It was a long story but with such an interesting narrator, I ripped through the pages.  That's always a good sign.  

Dear Editor,

[Re: "The Enemies List."]  Brilliant.  I'm pretty sure I've read at least 90% of 'our' popcorn fiction (inclusional bias and exclusionist principals apply) and I'd vote "The Enemies List" as number one.  Fabulous writing.  A joy to read.

Steve

DH: So great to hear, Steve… and I'm thrilled you've read so much of what we have to offer.  It's a real joy for me to get emails like yours… I feel like there was a thirst out there for easily-accessible genre short fiction and I'm glad to keep filling the glass.  Wheaton's fiction really stands out… I'd like to see him tackle a novel.  

DH: Okay, that's all I have time for this week.  If I didn't get to your email, I apologize.  But baseball season opened this week so what can I say?  Please continue to send me all your thoughts, comments, criticisms and whatever else is on your mind and I will do my best to publish your letters and answer your questions in the weeks ahead.  I really do love getting your emails, so keep 'em coming.  And go Rangers repeating in the AL in 2011!  I said it.

Dear Editor,

Another terrific read!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, your site is a genuine treasure. It brings a ray of sunshine into my otherwise boring and bleak existence...lol!

Seriously, I eagerly look forward to each new story the way I imagine throngs of avid readers did as they waited on the New York docks for the arrival of the latest installment of the current Dickens novel.

THANK YOU!

Curt

DH: Great to hear, Curt.  I remember when Stephen King was serializing THE GREEN MILE and my brother and I would drive out to the airport bookstore on the first Tuesday of each month because they would get the books first.  Anyway, thanks for the nice words! 

Dear Editor,

Just found this site thanks to my Script Magazine subscription this month.  They wrote a great piece about you and I wanted to say how much I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the great stories on the site.  That said, I couldn't help but notice that almost all previous story submissions are from seasoned veterans in the industry.  As I'm sure your site has done for many others, I have been inspired to polish and submit one of my own shorts in hopes of publication.

Is there any pre-requisite for being in the business prior to submission, or does it just so happen that those stories getting published are working professionals, there-fore on top of their game and that much better than all submitted?  Just wondering.

I do not envy your position sir, trying to choose which great story to publish next.  Regardless, great work and very cool site.

All the best,

Mattheau

DH: Hi Mattheau.  When I first started the site, I commissioned screenwriters and authors I knew to write stories.  Subsequently, I opened the site up to general submissions and have been delighted to find new authors.  Now, anyone can submit.  Just write something great! 

Dear Editor,

The Llano Estacado, a Sharps rifle, prairie fire and a stubborn, independent frontiersman.  If only there was a short Western story with those elements.  Wait a minute ... The Buffalo Gun ... a thoroughly enjoyable adventure on the plains.  Nicely done, a good read. 

Larry

DH: Yep, Larry… I'm a sucker for a good Western tale.  Glad you dug it!

Dear Editor,

Holy Crap!... please tell Leslie that I thought his story rocked.  ROCKED.

Drew

DH: Couldn't have said it better myself, Drew.

Dear Editor,

Ward can really pop it.  Adored how he sucked me right into

Jones' skull.  Mostly, the relationship with the mute kid.  More

please.  

Ryan

DH: Yes, I hope to get more from Ward in the future!

Dear Editor,

It's the mark of a truly gifted writer if, right from the get-go, he invokes imagery so powerful it makes you cringe, makes you wonder if you can stomach reading one more word. But of course you do go on, without missing a beat, because you have to, because the story is just that compelling, that engrossing, that impossible to put down. That's what Matt Ward's Buffalo Gun was like for me. 

It's also the mark of a great writer if he can make you dive headlong into a genre that for the most part you avoid like a root canal - and enjoy the hell out of it. Buffalo Gun did that for me, as well.

Thanks yet again. 

(You have to start printing some duds, Derek. I'm sounding way too nice...)

Heidi

DH: Thanks again for a great review, Heidi!  Congrats to Ward on receiving his first Heidi. 

Dear Editor,

I have to confess that I enjoy all the stories written, and published on Popcorn Fiction. It's so diverse as to direction.

Some I like even more. Buffalo Gun is an exceptional story, probably because it fits into something that I'm aware of having happened, and because many years ago, I met a relative of the man.

I'm referring to Billy Dixon, one of a mere handful of men in American history who received the Medal of Honor, despite being a civilian.

Dixon was most known for a shot he took with a Sharps .50 at Adobe Wells, TX. He, and a small contingent of buffalo hunters were about to be attacked by what may have been as many as 700 Indians, when Dixon shot what appeared to be the leader of the Indians nearly a mile away. The Indians moved off and left them alone.

I really enjoyed how Matt used the back drop of what wasn't one of our proudest moments in American history to show how many people acted, and how greed often caused people to do things that they shouldn't have done.

All the time, the main character believing that money itself would give him respectability.

Even Dixon, in the real world, was not a character whose actions at Adobe Wells, as the hunters were about to destroy the entire buffalo herd, were that pure.

It reminds me that no matter how things change, they really don't change that much, do they? Greed still holds sway over the reality of what's right.

Norm

DH:Great letter Norm.  Really great to hear from you and I agree with your assessment.  Glad Ward's story brought this out.

DH: That's it for this week.  I'm thrilled to hear from so many readers and hope that you'll continue to let me know how you feel about these stories.  As long as you guys keep digging the selection here, I'll keep trying to find new ones to publish! 

DH: I received the most mail ever on the last story from Les Bohem; I'm so glad everyone dug it as much as me.  Let's get to it…

Dear Editor,

One can have typos and grammatical errors in their story and still have a compelling read.

Cicero used a technique in oration that this author uses to keep the reader.  Namely, asserting that you-know-where-this-is-going whether the audience does or not.  Not wanting to be out of the loop, the reader feels the need to stay focused.  Compelling story with a compelling technique.  Thanks for sharing the great read.

Darin

DH: Les is going to be thrilled that his name and Cicero can now appear in the same sentence.  

Dear Editor,

Wow, that's a really powerful story!  Thanks for the great read.

Jo Ann

DH: Hey Jo Ann… thanks so much for the feedback.  Les does a great job of making his characters seems so real, even when involved in crazy situations.  

Dear Editor,

Congrats [to Les] on the upcoming HONEYMOON news! I simply love getting these great stories... I'm thrilled to hear that they will continue to live on... And the latest from Les is fantastic, as usual.

Keep up the great work!  And thanks from all of us:)

Anna

DH: It really is my pleasure Anna.  It's easy to publish these stories when all of them are so good.

Dear Editor,

Holy Crap!... please tell Leslie that I thought his story rocked.  ROCKED.

Drew

DH: Couldn't have said it better myself, Drew.

Dear Editor,

DMT is one of the best written and scariest stories I've read in a long, long time. Huge talent on display here.

Reminded me of H.P. Lovecraft.

Really appreciate you launching this site and the opportunity to read some genuinely original and incredibly enjoyable stories. Tired of reading family angst short stories in University Press anthologies...lol!

Congrats to you and the writer of DMT. A studio would be crazy not to snap this up immediately.

Curt

DH: I know what you mean about those University Press anthologies.  There is unmistakably some great fiction writing out there… that doesn't interest me at all.  If I had to read about one more college professor having an existential crisis, sleeping with one of his students while his mom is dying of cancer, I would've taken some DMT.

Dear Editor,

 I enjoyed "DMT" as much--or more--than any short story I've read in a very long time.  Reminded me of Stephen King, but not in the least derivative.  Fear inducing, raise the heart-rate kind of horror.  Simply fantastic.  Where can we read more from Mr. Bohem?

Continued success,

Mike K.

DH: So far, you can read more Les Bohem right here at Popcorn Fiction, where he published two previous stories:  "The Good Father" and "Honeymoon."  Other than that, I think we're going to have to get him to start writing some novels!

Dear Editor,

Juliet Snowden's short story is the first Popcorn Fiction I've read, and it left me wanting more!  More!  MORE!   More from Snowden and more Popcorn Fiction.  I'll be checking in often.  Thanks!

Judy

DH: Judy, I'm always thrilled when readers sort through our archives and find stories that we previously published on the main page.  I will definitely try to get Snowden to give us some more of her work in the future!

Dear Editor,

Wow! Leslie Bohem's "DMT" is one hell of a ride. It has the perfect "blender pacing" - it begins by stirring your brains, and progresses with pitch-perfect pacing to chop, puree and finally liquify your mind. That's quite an experience. I can picture this action-packed thriller on the big screen, kind of a "Terminator" meets "Independence Day", seasoned with liberal doses of "Alien." 

Mr. Bohem's writing is smart, his voice is strong, his humor priceless. I can't wait to read more from him.

Thanks,

Heidi

(A tiny additional note, if I may, just to Mr. Bohem: haloperidal would be the antipsychotic of choice to treat an acute psychotic episode. Risperidone would take too long.)

DH: Thanks Heidi!  Great review as usual.  And now we know something about you… you know your antipsychotic drugs!  I will keep that in mind from now on when responding.

Dear Editor,

I haven't been able to access the website lately but I'm glad to have chosen a good time to come back. Great news about Les Bohem's 'Honeymoon' - congrats to both of you! I'll love to watch the film.

Les' writing is amazing. 'DMT' kept me reading despite insistent demands of attention from a family member and a child screaming so loud somewhere on the street outside my window that it reached my flat at the 10th floor. His voice is strong and compelling, his images so rich. The quality of his writing is stunning.

Having said that, something occurred to me when I first read 'Honeymoon' (and other similar stories) and happened again while I was reading 'DMT'. I feel the story begins and unfolds as a beautifully crafted short story then, at a certain point, it becomes an action-thriller film - 'Honeymoon' will indeed be filmed, as you said, and, hopefully, so will 'DMT'. However, the last section of the story drives me into such a fast pace - although this is part of it being a thriller - that I'd rather watch than read it. The writing is still excellent but its beauty becomes somewhat blurred... Anyway, this isn't really relevant and the story gripped me, so thank you and Les for sharing it.

There's another side effect to your website, Derek. The more I read the stories, the more I want to work and improve my own writing. So, thank you for that too.

All the best

Monica

DH: Monica, that is one of the most gratifying things to hear… that these stories inspire you to work on your own writing.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate hearing that.  I'm also glad you enjoy Les's work so much.  I agree that he writes "cinematically," but I love it when it's as tight and thrilling as he makes it.  It really comes alive on the page.

Dear Editor,

"DMT" was terrifying, nightmarish, and each passing sentence made me wish I wasn't reading it.  I also loved every second of it.  But I do have to point out one factual error made by the otherwise extremely talented Les Bohem: 'Abbey Road' is a f***ing awesome album.

Cheers,

Daniel

DH: Ha!  This reminds me of a letter I received from a guy in Naples after reading one of my books.  He was furious with me…. how could I write what I wrote about his city?  I told him that clearly this was my character's opinion of the city and was not my, the author's, opinion.  He didn't get it.  I explained that my lead character likes to kill people… I don't like to do that either.   All this is to say that if I end up dead, look for a guy from Naples as the suspect.  

DH: All right... that's all the time I have for letters this week.  If you didn't see yours included, I apologize… I will definitely try to get to all of them next week.  I would love to hear your thoughts on "The Buffalo Gun," so bring 'em! 

Dear Editor,

[Re:  "Bucket List Killer"]  Well that wasn't what I was expecting.  I imagined a story that was all device and was surprised to find a main character's voice that was distinctive and full of pathos.  Great site, Derek.  Keep 'em coming.

Steve

DH: Steve… glad you enjoyed Jack Walker's story as much as I did and for the same reasons.  I thought it was going to be goofy from the title and was surprised that it resonated.  I liked the way he laid it out and let you read between the lines.  

Dear Editor,

Okay, loved this story ["A Midnight for Dying"] but it ended too quickly - left me wanting more!  Would love to read more by Juliet Snowden.  Has she written any novels?

Jill

DH: I don't think Snowden has any novels published yet, but maybe this will inspire her!  I would certainly publish any more stories from her.   Glad you liked it.  

Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing Juliet Snowden's "A Midnight for Dying."  I loved it.  I'm new to your site, and was thrilled to read such an engaging and well-written story.  I'm looking forward to reading all the stories on your site.

Thank you!  

Dori

DH: Welcome, Dori.  I'm always excited when new readers show up and especially when they write in.  I'm so glad you liked Snowden's story.  She struck a chord… we received a ton of emails about her piece.  Let us know what you think about some of the stories in our archives.

DH: All right… that wraps up this week's letters.  A few people asked me about the subscribe button… if you subscribe, basically I just alert you whenever a new story is up and add a little bit about the author and what's going on with the site.  I won't use your email for anything else.    If you aren't a subscriber, you missed some great news this week about our current author and his story "Honeymoon."  

DH: One last thing… we're going to take our own little "spring break" next week.  Will give you a chance to read all of Bohem's "DMT."  Have fun and please write in with your thoughts.  I sincerely love getting the emails.

Dear Editor,

[Re: "A Midnight for Dying"] A truly fantastic story! A great ACT I for a movie.

I've enjoyed all the stories I've read on your site - you have great taste!

Again, a huge THANK YOU for giving short fiction another life, another forum, an opportunity to be seen, and a voice as it were for gifted storytellers.

Curt

DH: Hey, Curt...I'm thrilled you enjoy the site so much. I've really loved picking these stories for the readers here, and it's gratifying to know my taste matches so many of you. Juliet Snowden is talented and cool... maybe I can get her to write more for us.

Dear Editor,

Terrific story. I love the way she leaves important things to the imagination.

Jack

DH: Yes...the sign of a good writer...one who allows part of the story to unfold in the reader's mind. Glad you dug it too.

Dear Editor,

Name two books I should read right now. Do it!

Gabe

DH: So demanding. All right...I'm digging Bakker's "Disciple of the Dog," a cool detective tale...I'm about 2/3 through so don't blame me if the ending blows. (I'm sure it won't.) Then mix it up and read Hemmingway's "The Sun Also Rises." Do it! Report back here and let me know what you think of those recommendations.

Dear Editor,

Would you accept a story from an unpublished writer? TIA.

Ashley

DH: Absolutely. It better be mind-blowingly good though.

DH: Thanks to everyone who wrote in this week. I love getting the feedback and am happy to answer any questions about the site. Next week I'm dropping a new story from one of our favorite PF authors here. Look forward to hearing from everyone about the Bucket List Killer.

Dear Editor,

Re: "Date with an Angel," by Larry Doyle. Wonderful story. Not easy being a porn star with feelings. Happy Valentine's Day!

Jack

DH: I think my favorite part of the story was the way she brayed laughter.

Dear Editor,

Loved Doyle's "Date with an Angel," Derek, a fascinating caricature for those in a growing number of professions, wherein the maximum income is paid to the newest apprentice. Doyle has remarkable insight into the cultural devolution of predatory society, skillfully employing humor to disguise and deflect sexist PC. I also loved the technique of one character dominating the entire dialogue, the other half left to reader imagination. In high school I had a date with this run-up-the-tab wretch who wiped out my pocket money, too broke for the movies afterwards. So it wasn't my fault that necking in the back seat was the only other option left.

Ron

DH: Ha! I'm glad you took all that from the story, Ron. Doyle's wit is really something special. If you haven't checked out either of his novels, rectify that!

Dear Editor,

Larry Doyle's "Date with an Angel" was the perfect antidote to the oh-so-predictable, hopelessly Hallmark Valentine's Day. I could totally picture the main character, complete with silicone everything, including brain. The one-sided conversation, in less capable hands, could have been disastrous, but in Mr. Doyle's it worked. It seemed to turn up the spotlight on the ditzy woman, letting the reader see her that much more clearly. Then there was the last line - it elicited a very audible hoot from me. Top that off with a none-too-ironic title, and voila - a great little slice of writing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this hilarious piece, as I did Mr. Doyle's previous stories.

Heidi

DH: Look Larry...you earned a Heidi! It's really our top letters-to-the-editor section honor. It's not quite a Thurber, but damned close as far as we're concerned at PF.

DH: A couple of things as I wrap up this weeks letters section. One...look for an announcement this week or next regarding another one of our stories getting picked up by a major Hollywood studio for the big screen treatment. I'm extremely excited about the possibilities but won't steal the thunder of the official press release. Second, if you haven't checked out the interview with Brian Helgeland over on the Mulholland site, you need to click here immediately. He's one of our favorite PF short story authors and the interview is a glimpse into his mindset on films, literature, directing, screenwriting and Hollywood. It really isn't to be missed. Okay, that's it for this week. Next week, I'm thrilled to debut a new author who wrote a little gem in the form of an interview. I read the title and said "what the hell is this?" Then it knocked me over. Not at all what I expected. Hurry back!

Dear Editor,

Re: "Mother." Chilling piece of work. Loved it.

Jill

DH: Yes, Jill, I agree. I'd like to see that one expanded into a novel. He's got a great feel for pace and tension.

Dear Editor,

It's been a long time since I haven't look around at the stories from popcorn fiction (for many reasons...the first one being that I was trying not to get too much influenced by all the great writers that bring amazing stories to the readers, week after week...) but this week, when I've received the news about the last story published I couldn't resist. I mean, I grew up reading books by Stephen King as well and I couldn't refuse that story coming from another King. And well, what a treat it was, great job John, you get it right to the point. I really dig your story, it was tense, creepy, and bloody just the way it should be. And what a great first line you had in this story!

I'm happy to see that the same quality is still flowing through the veins of all the great writers that you bring us along, Derek.

Glad to be back visiting Popcorn fiction, for a little bit of weekly inspiration...

Julien

DH: Hey Julien, so glad to have you back and appreciate the note! The nice thing about Popcorn Fiction...even if you take a break, all the stories are still here for you to pick up and read any time you want. We've had an amazing run lately, so check out our archives. I can't believe how lucky we've been to gather so many talented authors in one place.

DH: That's it for this week. I'm out of town, so if I wasn't able to get to your letter in time, please write back again next week. All of your letters are important to us and keep this place interesting. If you have a favorite author or screenwriter you think would be perfect for Popcorn Fiction, shoot me a note and I'll see what I can do. You never know.

Also... I spoke to my good friends at Mulholland Books and they said they are indeed creating an app for the Mulholland site and will look into doing so for Popcorn Fiction, so maybe we'll see an app in the near future. You can put it right next to Angry Birds on your Ipad.

Dear Editor,

Wow, Derek, what a profound story ["Bones in a City Graveyard"], which I wasn't able to get to until today, Sunday. No one wants to be upstaged, but you certainly let Woodbury by publishing his "Bones in a City Graveyard." At first I began thinking this is a story about how someone, whose prime is in the rearview mirror, succeeds (or a guy's worst-date tale), but as the author brilliantly unleashes his skill, an O. Henry classic gradually emerges, dramatically creating vivid imagery with few words, as though with the magic of fractal geometry, conjuring scenes so precise, no film version could add to its perfection, which is in the vein of great Russian works portraying a note of deep sympathy for the disinherited. Who hasn't experienced his own private curse in some form -- broken career, bankruptcy, failed romance, loss of family, battlefield ruin, personal failure, and eventual sickness and death? Dramatically, this story suggested that perhaps organized religion has it wrong: Jesus didn't die for our sins -- each of us dies for our own sins.

Ron

DH: Excellent criticism, Ron. Woodbury is a thoughtful writer, and I like the way he wove social commentary into the frame of a noir tale. I'll see what other stories I can wrangle out of him. Glad you liked it!

Dear Editor,

These stories are perfect length/format for my iPhone reading. Are you making/have you made an app? Also, congrats. Quality is satisfyingly consistent.

Alyss

DH: Thanks so much for saying so, Alyss. I keep receiving great stories from so many talented writers... I truly can't wait to run the stories each Monday. As far as an app goes... I haven't pursued creating a popcorn fiction app, but with the Mulholland Books partnership, maybe we can look into that. Have you checked out "The Daily" app yet for the Ipad? It's not thick on content yet, but a really cool glimpse into the future of how we'll read our news (with embedded video, audio interviews, and user interaction.) Anyway, it's another time-killer for me when I should be writing.

Dear Editor,

Darby Kealey's "You and Hank" is a blast!

First, I don't know many authors who can effectively tell a story in second person, present tense, but Mr. Kealey certainly can. This method would likely detract from most authors' voices, but it strengthens Mr. Kealey's, making it that much more unique. He pulls you in, makes you literally experience the action as if you were right there, scene after scene. You're not just watching events unfold from across the page place; you're smelling, seeing, hearing and feeling them as they happen around you, to you.

Second, the ending wasn't what I expected - and that, of course, gives the story even more of a kick.

Thanks for consistently picking one-of-a-kind, truly exceptional stories.

Heidi

DH: Yes... when I saw the second person story, I thought, "this is going to be gimmicky..." but then Kealey pulled the tale in a different direction than I thought it would go, and I felt like I was inside the story, rolling along with Hank. I thought it was innovative and fun and I loved the ending.

Dear Editor,

I remember reading that your story ["Shake"] was optioned by a movie studio but I was wondering if any other stories from here have been sold to Hollywood.

Thanks,

Molly

DH: Hi, Molly. That's my mom's name, by the way. The way Popcorn Fiction works... the authors retain the copyright to their stories and can do whatever else they want with them. If they want to sell them or option them to studios, I have nothing to do with it, so unless they tell me, I have no idea. That said, I do know several of our authors who have had success doing just that, and in fact, I think there will be an announcement in the trades very soon about at least one of these projects. I'll let you know as soon as I know the details. Sorry to be vague, but I don't want to steal anyone's PR thunder.

Dear Editor,

I thoroughly enjoyed "Bones in a City Graveyard." But next time can you tell me not to read it while I'm eating breakfast?

Thanks,

Karen

DH: There's nothing like bacon, eggs and a fresh helping of blind date's flesh to wake you up in the morning. That's what you can expect from the chefs here at Popcorn Fiction.

Dear Editor,

Sheldon Woodbury's "Bones in a City Graveyard" is very aptly named. It isn't just about bones, it gets into your bones, and leaves you shuddering. I felt increasingly sorry for the main character, and then, when the true nature of her activities was revealed, I found myself reeling. The story left me with oddly conflicted feelings - I was mortified, shocked and disgusted. At the same time, I felt terribly sad for the sizable and apparently deranged fat lady.

It's the mark of a truly gifted story teller, I think, when the reader is left with a tangle of complex emotions.

Call me chronically positive, (I'm really not - honest!) but I really enjoyed this tale.

As always, looking forward to more.

Heidi

DH: Really great to hear from you, Heidi. I'm thrilled you still dig this site so much and keep coming back for more. I know you're going to be happy with the stories we have on tap. Thanks again!

Dear Editor,

Can you tell me what you're looking for in a short story? I see all kinds of writing on here, some good, some bad in my opinion, and I don't have a sense of what makes the cut for you.

Spencer

DH: Thanks for writing, Spencer...I hope you think there is more good than bad here! I can't say that there is any one thing I look for in a Popcorn Fiction story. I like anything that surprises me...either a twist I wasn't expecting or a premise I wasn't expecting or a character's choice I wasn't expecting. It helps if the story is well-paced and the writing pops. I just go with my gut and if the author entertained me, then I find a place for it.

DH: Thanks to everyone once again for writing in. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on "You and Hank" (or any of our stories!) Please don't hesitate to write and let me know. Have a great week.

Dear Editor,

Happy New Year!

I wanted see what you thought of a 12 year old niece reading PF? She has already read 1000 novels (blows me away) and some are colorful and have strong language.

I have read all the stories and most seemed fine to me. Thoughts?

Best Regards,

Rich

DH: I would just put it on her parents to read each story and decide what is cool with them. At that age, it varies strongly parent to parent on what is acceptable. I'd probably let my kids read anything at that age (I was reading Stephen King then) but each to his or her own. My wife's dad confiscated her CD of "Boom, Boom, Boom (Let's Go Back to my Room)" in 1987 so it really does vary. Happy New Year back to you! Now get out there and corrupt some young minds!

DH: Crazy week and that's all the emails I can get to, so I apologize if I didn't publish yours. I know you're dying to hear my patented mixture of solid advice and witty banter, so please send in more comments, critiques, criticisms, questions and other blather and I will get to it next week, I promise!

Dear Editor,

I did enjoy "The Lacerations," but I must say I enjoyed the promise of the story more than the actual story.

I love the concept; it's very original and interesting. But I feel like the concept was not as essential to the story as it should have been.

The sci-fi fan in me loves stories in which possibilities and impossibilities are explored as reality. Where an unusual technology or ability exists and the story is just as much about the characters as it is about the unique practical, personal, or moral ramifications that might exist in that hypothetical world. In these stories, the concept and story are very much intertwined; you could not have one without the other, and the sum is greater than the parts.

Aside from the fact that the main character's ability in "The Lacerations" provides some great humor and helps him figure out an important piece of the mystery, I didn't feel like the story used the sci-fi ability in a way that really felt essential, in a way that made the whole story feel greater than the sum of its parts. It works well together, but not wonderfully. I think Mark Bomback's story "Still Life" is a story that achieves this. By the end of reading it, the two main facts of the story, 1) that the character is an expert art dealer, and 2) that he unintentionally becomes immortal, truly feel essential to each other, because together they tell a story that couldn't be told otherwise. In "The Lacerations," I thought the concept and the story felt a bit separate, like they weren't quite made to fit together.

I think what this might come down to though is a matter of preference and of genre: I'm guessing the author felt that "The Lacerations" was to be a private detective story with one prominent sci-fi element to spice things up (which it succeeds at being). But I think it would've been more compelling the other way around: as a sci-fi story (where it's just as much about exploring the ability as it is about the characters) but told within the narrative structure of a private detective story.

As always, I continue to enjoy reading Popcorn Fiction, as well as the opportunity to practice offering useful criticism. Just so you know, I could say many more positive things in these letters than I do, but I don't think chronic positivity makes for the most interesting letters to the editor.

Anyway, keep up the great work! Looking forward to next week's story.

Zack

DH: Hey, Zack...fair criticism and I'm so glad you take the time to write thoughtful critiques. The great thing about strong fiction is it will make you want to turn it over in your head and look at it from different angles. I find it stimulating to hear what works and doesn't work from our readers. "The Lacerations" did have a great hook and the uniqueness of it made me stop and say, "wow, this is something I haven't seen before." I really dug the story, but your critique is food for thought.

Dear Editor,

Remember the old Life cereal commercial, where a kid named Mikey surprises everyone by eating his cereal and liking it? That's me with science fiction. Until Popcorn Fiction came along and began to serve up select little nibbles of sci fi, I stayed away from the stuff like it was overcooked liver. Now, I find myself truly enjoying it, even eager for more.

Drew McWeeny's "The Interview" is exactly the type of sci fi story that whets my appetite. It's not some prefabbed tale about creatures who differ from one another only by their bizarre names or the number of eyes. The story takes place in a world I can imagine, can relate to. It's like earth, only way more interesting. "The Interview" is as much about today as it is about the future. That makes it awesome.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Hey Heidi...we received an outpouring of positivity for Drew McWeeny's story. Mostly one or two word, "Great story," emails but the internet was abuzz with readers digging his fiction. If you haven't been over to his website hitfix.com to read his column "The Morning Report," you don't know what you're missing. I'll definitely press Drew to give us a sequel to "The Interview" when he comes up for air!

Dear Editor,

"The Interview" was terrific fun, well written, even plausible, at least as to the reporter guy and his behavior. Cartoony sci-fi not usually my favorite genre, but this is special.

Jack

DH: Yes, I think that's what made it so interesting...as both you and Heidi noted. The realistic way it was told juxtaposed with this fantasy superhero world really made the story pop. The twist on the word "interview" in the title brought it all home for me. Excellent story.

Dear Editor,

I hope things are good with you. Really appreciate the weekly short stories. There are some amazing writers out there I would never have experienced without what you are doing. You may have already heard the sad news about The Mystery Bookstore [in Los Angeles] closing. Work permitting I'm aiming to go on the 31st. Be good to see you if you are free.

Howard

DH: Howard, thanks so much for the nice words about the site and glad you are discovering new readers. I am very sad to hear about the closing of that excellent bookstore in Westwood and hope to make the event on the 31st. They had me sign books there twice and were always supportive of great genre writing. I'll say to everyone who reads this site — support your local bookstores. Even if you love your kindle app as much as I do...try to get over there once a month and buy a hardcover, dammit. I'm a big fan of Chevalier Books on Larchmont or Book Soup if you're in LA...the Mysterious Bookshop in New York is awesome...and my personal favorite, Seattle Mystery Bookshop if you're up in the Northwest. Order some real books!

DH: Thanks to everyone for writing in this week. What a blast this has been...the stories seem to really be connecting with people and our regular readers continue to grow. I have some great fiction coming in the weeks ahead including a couple of crime pieces and then a damned scary horror piece that felt like I was reading vintage Stephen King toward the end of this month. Can't wait to run that one. Have a great week!

Dear Editor,

Glad you took the risk on "Hot Water." It was good. Just goes to show that our guardian angels may not always have the same life plan that we do. "Impulse Kill" had just the right amount of wry humor to suit me.

Bonnie

DH: Thanks for writing in, Bonnie. I'm always happy to hear what stories connected with our readers. I try to mix it up so that it's not always crime or sci-fi or horror. I like to keep you guys guessing.

Dear Editor,

Loved "The Lacerations," a great, great pulp story ... totally engrossing and powerful.

Josh

DH: Yeah... it had a great hook and a fun execution. Of all the supernatural powers you could have, that's definitely the bottom of the barrel.

Dear Editor,

Today's story on popcorn fiction was a good one. Some of your writer friends have very twisted minds. How does somebody come up with the idea of seeing every skin cut in a person's life (even circumcisions), or the idea of being near a ham sandwich and hearing the pig's final scream as it's being killed? Sick, man, sick.

Jim

DH: Yeah... it's those kind of twisted minds that keep readers guessing and make things interesting around here. Most writers I know are a little odd, now that you mention it. Except me. I'm normal.

Dear Editor,

Entrails and gaping wounds notwithstanding, Nick Antosca's "The Lacerations" is a fabulous story. It's like "The Sixth Sense" - but with balls (really bloody ones.) The ending (spoiler alert...) - where the main character, so adept at all things death, is suddenly so bumbling with new life - couldn't be more fitting.

Popcorn Fiction is a great post-holiday pick-me-up. Just what I needed to jazz up my Monday.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Nick received a Heidi! Always great to read your reviews, Heidi. Thanks for getting our new year off to an excellent start.

DH: That's it for this week. Next week I have a great little crime story from top screenwriter Brian Koppelman. Hurry back!

Dear Editor,

I just love these ironic, hard-boiled stories! Thanks so much for sharing them with us.

Jo Ann

DH: Our pleasure, Jo Ann. So glad to have new readers enjoying the site!

Dear Editor,

Happy holidays to you and yours! Thanks for all the good work!

Den

DH: Thanks, Den! I hope you had a great holiday and that you'll stick with us throughout the new year.

Dear Editor,

Hope you're having a happy holiday season, DH!

Thanks,

John

DH: Hey, John. I had a great holiday in Texas. Went to San Angelo, where my wife is from, which is also the hometown of the terrific novelist Elmer Kelton, who sadly passed away last year. If you haven't read THE TIME IT NEVER RAINED, rectify that immediately...it is a hell of a Texas novel.

Dear Editor,

"Impulse Kill" by John Patrick Nelson is the quintessential story with which to end the year. To me, it embodies all that makes Popcorn Fiction fabulous: a story that is unique, darkly funny, original, and immensely satisfying. I'm so grateful to you, and now to Mulholland Books as well, for sharing these incredible gifts. I look forward to another wonderful year.

May you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Heidi

DH: Thanks so much Heidi. Hope you had a fantastic New Year and can't wait to find out what you like in 2011.

DH:All right...that's all the letters I'm able to answer due to the short week. Please hurry your letters in for next time; I'd love to hear what you have to say about "The Lacerations" or any of the stories in our archives. Please drop me an email and speak your mind!

Dear Editor,

Excellent story. I've never read anything by Charlie Huston that I didn't like.

Makes me wistful for a Joe Pitt story.

Charles

DH: Yes...Huston's a very talented author and I feel lucky to have gotten to publish one of his short stories on PF. Maybe I can get him to write another!

Dear Editor,

[Re: "Diaphanous History..."] What an amazing story. The writer seems to know just a wee bit about bomb building. It explodes out from being an intense close relationship story to a wish fulfillment about who we'd all like to see punished.

Hal

DH: Yes...he does seem to know a lot about bomb building. That's why I was very careful not to piss him off.

Dear Editor,

I've spent the last week (re)consuming all the information about Quentin Tarantino that I can find. I think that not only would he be able to write a great story for PF, but I really think he might actually jump at the opportunity.

First of all, he considers himself a writer first, then a director. His screenplays are consciously written to be novel-like, and for Kill Bill he actually wrote it in novel form before he adapted it into a screenplay. He actually intends to write novels once he stops directing. At one point he also considered not making Inglourious Basterds and just publishing the screenplay because he almost couldn't find someone to play the Nazi Colonel and he didn't want the idea to simply waste away in a drawer unread.

Secondly, since he has made a conscious effort to go for quality over quantity with his filmography, I'm sure he has more ideas than he can possibly hope to explore in his films. So I think he would jump at the opportunity to get some of his ideas out into the world by writing for a smaller, more forgiving platform than movies.

Lastly, he is a huge fan of pulpy stories. Not exactly in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and company, but in the form of exploitation movies (which he admires because they are stories of "viscera"), B movies, and spaghetti westerns, which are essentially the pulp of cinema.

I also know that he is friends with Brian Helgeland, so that might be one way to get in touch with him and/or warm him up to the idea.

Anyway, just wanted to share the idea because I think it really might work. By the way, I absolutely loved Charlie Huston's story this week.

Zack

DH: I agree with you completely. When I first started Popcorn Fiction, I reached out to Quentin to see if he'd be interested...even went through his agent...but I couldn't get any traction. Of course, I think he was in the middle of making Inglorious Basterds at the time. I'll try again. Good idea, Zack.

Dear Editor,

Yowza! I'm really glad I liked Charlie Huston's "The Impossibility of a Diaphanous History Machine." I'd hate to say anything even remotely negative to or about anyone who knows that much about bomb-making (gulp!) Luckily, this is another top-notched piece from Popcorn Fiction. Huston paints a portrait of a woman as fucked up as she is brilliant - you can't help but love her. But the best part, for me, came at the end, with the sentence: She began thinking about cable news. That elevated this story to entirely new heights.

Heidi

DH: We had the same thoughts, Heidi. Huston put us on notice that we sure as hell better like his story. Thankfully, it wasn't hard!

DH: That's it for 2010! We'll be back after the holiday with new popcorn fiction to make your Mondays sing. Have a great holiday and hurry back in 2011!

Dear Editor,

Darn glad you guys are there. Love this short stuff.

Reminds me a lot of Serling's TWILIGHT ZONE in that the majority of his writers came from a background of short fiction, pulp novels and plays.

He simply taught them how to structure a story for act breaks for tv. It's always...all ways...simply about the story.

Mark

DH: Mark, thanks so much for writing in and I love the Twilight Zone reference. I have such a great time publishing these stories each week and it's rewarding to know so many readers dig the writing. I hope to keep finding great new stuff for you each week.

Dear Editor,

[Re: "Hot Water"] Excellent, just in time to add to my Kindle for a week-long vacation in Hawaii (along with the last 5-6 other stories that I haven't had time to get to yet).

When I return I'll write up instructions on how your readers can get the stories to their own Kindle.

Keep up the great work!

Dennis

DH: Dennis...great idea. Let me know the best way to do that and I'll pass word along your information to our readers. Hope you had a great time in Hawaii and didn't get eaten by a shark.

Dear Editor,

What a fantastic, hysterical read. Charles Grossman, the main character, is as much larger-than-life as he is the dirty old man we've probably all had the displeasure of knowing. I especially appreciated that his feeble attacks of consciousness lasted only so long as he felt ill - then he immediately reverted back to being a major schmuck. That really elevated the guy's SQ (sleaze quotient.)

Then there's the ending - so satisfying! I'd love to see more from Stacy Chariton.

Heidi

DH: Excellent. I'm glad Stacy's story earned a "Heidi." I think we've all seen a few Grossman's in our lives.

Dear Editor,

That ["Hot Water"] was fucking fantastic.

And way, way, way too close to home.

Todd

DH: Glad you liked Stacy's story and sincerely sorry to hear that, Todd. ;)

DH: That's it for this week. Next week I have a funny little crime thriller called "Impulse Kill" so hurry back next Monday!

Dear Editor,

One of my favorite things about Popcorn Fiction is the way it introduces me to writers that I'm not familiar with or only know from another medium (for example the much broader talents of a number of screenwriters whom I love).

This is particularly the case with this week's story by Adam Lindsley. I was not familiar with Adam's work until now and I'd love to find a way to read more (I know his bio mentions that he just finished a 3rd novel). However, I can't seem to find his work either for sale (amazon, Border's, Barnes and Noble) or online.

Is there a way that I could send a note to Adam or simply just find more of his writing?

Thanks so much for all your hard work for our reading pleasure!

Malcolm

DH: Hey Malcolm, so glad you are enjoying the site and discovering new writers. I'm not sure about where to pick up an Adam Lindsley novel, but all his food writing is on the interwebs. His work at Serious Eats can be viewed by going to http://www.seriouseats.com/user/profile/alindsley and clicking on "Posts," and the rest of his pizza reviews can be read on his blog, This Is Pizza. You can contact him through the latter and find out where you can find copies of his books!

Dear Editor,

One of the things I love about Popcorn Fiction is the substantiality of the stories. Whether longer or shorter, they are rich, dense and chock full o' nutrients, leaving you with something real - long after you've devoured the words. (Just can't get away from the food metaphors, can I?) Adam Lindsley's "Symmetry" is a perfect example of a PF offering that fills your mind with a bounty of intriguing "what if's." Reading it is almost like getting buzzed on a really amazing liquor: first, you appreciate how exceptional it is. Then, when you're done, you realize your mind's been pleasantly blown.

Many, many thanks!

Heidi

DH: Great review, Heidi. Thanks again for taking the time to write in and letting us know when a story affects you. Always great to read your stuff.

Dear Editor,

I had to read Al Rodriguez's "El Nino Actor" aloud to honor the rhythms and lyricism of the prose. And he gave us a story as deep as the human spirit can travel. Honest and true, it's a tale for everyone, and for all time. I eagerly await his next.

Craig

DH: Thanks for another stellar review regarding Al's story. He's a fantastic writer and I hope I'll secure some more of his stories to publish on the site in 2011.

DH: That's all I have this week. We love getting letters here, so please feel free to write in anytime and let us know all your thoughts, comments, criticisms and yes, even complaints about the site. You can write in about any story you read in the archives, too. There are some gems in there in case you came to us late. Let me hear from you!

DH: Quick announcement before this week's letters. We are now accepting general submissions on an on-going basis. Check out the "submissions" button at the top of the page and send us a great story!

Dear Editor,

Congrats on the partnership with Mulholland Books. The site looks awesome!

Al Rodriguez' "El Nino Actor" is the perfect christening tool for this new union. The story marries sand-in-your-teeth grit with heartfelt tenderness and innocence. The result is a meaty, three-dimensional piece that feels huge despite its brevity. The image of the little boy, sitting expectantly in the theater, is haunting me still.

I have a feeling that Popcorn's marriage with Mulholland will be every bit as powerful, and as good, as Mr. Rodriguez' little tale.

Looking forward to more!

Heidi

DH: Thanks, Heidi! I thought Al's story was the perfect one to start the new partnership. I'll hit him up for more stories in the new year!

Dear Editor,

Regarding "The Settlement" by Sam Reaves: terrific fun. Lisbeth Salander in LA Noir.

Jack

DH: I'm so glad you dug Sam's story Jack. Reaves is a real talent, and if you haven't checked out his novels, get to your bookstore now! He always keeps the reader guessing.

Dear Editor,

Another enjoyable read. Keep up the great work, DH!

Kyle

DH: Thanks Kyle. Half the fun of starting this site is getting to pick the order of the stories... I like to surprise the readers each week with what we offer here. Will it be crime? Sci Fi? Suspense? Comedy? I'm glad you are enjoying the selections.

Dear Editor,

I printed out Sam Reaves' "The Settlement" and highlighted those lines I thought were especially good. Turns out I underlined nearly the whole story. There are so many fabulous metaphors in this little tale, so many laugh-out-loud phrases. They're the icing on a cake that is composed of complex layers of exceptionally well-crafted plot. I have to admit that I devoured the whole story in one sitting; just couldn't help myself. (Thank God Popcorn Fiction isn't caloric. I'd be huge!)

So glad you guys are back and my addiction to quality short fiction can once again be fed. Happy Thanksgiving!

Heidi

DH: Heidi, your letters are so fun to read, I gave you the first and last word this week. I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving and thanks for being our biggest fan. When can we expect to see a Popcorn Fiction Fan Club T-shirt design from you? Let's do this!

DH: Before I get to the letters, a quick announcement. Thanks to the good people at Mulholland Books, we will now be able to accept general story submissions on an on-going basis. I know this will please many of our readers. Here are the recommendations: 2K to 8K words. Genre short fiction. MS Word file. Name and email address attached to the story. We won't be able to reply to every author who submits, so if you don't hear from us after a few months, assume it's not a good fit for the site. Also, please don't email asking if we've had a chance to read it. That's it...can't wait to find some new authors out there!

Dear Editor,

Congrats amigo! Site looks good. Tie in is sweet and prestigious. And I can smell the popcorn from here!

Laura

DH: Thanks so much, Laura. I've received nothing but extremely positive email about the new layout and new partnership. I can't tell you how excited I am about all the new readers we've had here.

Dear Editor,

John Schoenfelder told me about your collaboration and pointed me toward the Popcorn Fiction site - what a great idea! And beautiful execution.

I set out to do something vaguely similar when I launched Hard Case Crime on a lark a few years back (www.hardcasecrime.com, if you're curious), and over the years we've seen a batch of our books optioned or adapted (Universal just bought two, and SyFy has a show based on one Stephen King wrote for us). But short stories were where I started and have always been a special passion of mine, so I'm particularly tickled to see someone giving them the platform they deserve.

Incidentally, there are still some magazines that publish genre fiction like back in the old days - ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE (published continuously since 1941), ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE (since 1956), ANALOG (formerly ASTOUNDING STORIES, published since 1930, I believe), and ISAAC ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE (the comparative newcomer, having been launched in the '70s). THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION is still around, too, though I don't think they're monthly anymore.

And there are a lot of websites that publish short fiction these days. But none I've seen that has quite the panache yours does.

In any event: congrats on a great idea and hooking up with a great partner (John's aces in my book). If I can ever be of help in any way, holler.

Best, Charles

DH: Wow, thanks so much Charles and thanks for the shout-outs to all the great magazines out there publishing short genre fiction. Hard Case Crime looks fantastic and what a roster of authors! Congrats on a fantastic site but now you've screwed up my plans to actually get work done over the next few days.

Dear Editor,

I'm glad you're back and excited about the new partnership with Mulholland Books! I LOVE real books!

Connie

DH: I do too. There is still nothing better than sitting by a fire with a real book in your hands...or at least an iPad. I just finished reading Daniel Woodrell's WINTER'S BONE...that book is excellent. Check it out.

Dear Editor,

Hi. Just read (and very much enjoyed) your Mullholland post. The site looks tremendous, clean to the eye and clearly fodder for the mind and the taste buds. I'm sure that you get asked this plenty, but if a short-story writer were to ask you about submissions, would you be open to hearing from them. If so, would you mind if they'd been published? Or might you have other criteria? If this is a headache to answer, please don't feel the need to respond.

Nigel

DH: Not a headache at all...look above for information on submissions...we're finally able to accept them on an on-going basis. I'd prefer to receive previously unpublished stories, but if it's a great one, why not?

Dear Editor,

I just discovered your website through its new relationship with Mulholland Books, which I have followed since its site launch. After reading the story posted on Mulholland, I linked through to your own site. I read two more stories.

I am glad I found your site, since I enjoyed all three stories. As a fan of genre fiction, I have always wished that the creators of genre movies, who are obviously among the most talented creators in the genre world, would try their hand at books and stories. This site is obviously doing that with great success. I plan to spend a lot of time on the site in the next few weeks catching up on the backlog of stories.

Is there any possibility that some of the Popcorn authors are planning new full length books?

Keep up the good work.

Peter

DH: Welcome to the site, Peter! So glad you're digging the stories. Many of the PF authors talk about writing novels, so I do hope they will follow that muse. The problem is so many of them are writing screenplays full-time and the thought of writing a novel is daunting. Still, maybe the Popcorn Fiction prose will keep making their typing fingers itch until they have to scratch.

Dear Editor,

Love the new look... please try and find time for Bob Truluck in your slate of writers... he's the one guy out there who really writes throwback pulp and no one outside of Dennis McMillan seems to know it!

His stuff is great and I bet he could rip off a short that would be perfect for popcorn fiction.

Patrick

DH: Thanks for the tip, Patrick. I don't know Bob so I'll have to check out some of his fiction!

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on your partnership with Mulholland. I love the new layout. I also really enjoyed Alvaro's "El Nino Actor." He uses such vivid details to convey the emotion of the story. Intentional or not, he also managed to perfectly capture what it feels like to be a screenwriter -- carried on shoulders one minute and on the cutting-room floor the next. ;).

Congrats again and thank you for Popcorn Fiction!

Denise

DH: Great observation, Denise. I hope we can get Al to write some more stories for the site if he isn't too busy creating mayhem on the big screen.

DH: Okay, that's it this week. I should tell everyone...please write in, but if you want to see your letter published, try to get it to me before Thursday. I need a little lead time in getting them into next Monday's column. Keep the comments coming...the authors who publish here love to hear feedback on their stories. I know I do.

DH:Before I get to the most recent batch of letters, let me make an announcement about what you've surely noticed is a massive revamp to the look of the site. Over the last couple of months, we've formed a partnership with Mulholland Books, a division of Little Brown whose mission is simple...to publish books you can't stop reading. They were huge fans of Popcorn Fiction and approached me to see if we could join forces. With authors like Lee Child, Daniel Wodrell, Lawrence Block, and Mark Billingham, I couldn't have said "yes" fast enough. When there's a perfect fit, you know it. I will still do what I do, try to bring you the best genre short fiction I can find and keep the site solely about the stories. Let me know what you think of the new layout! Also, I'm working with them to quickly set up a submission process, so that we can accept general submissions on an on-going basis (or at least more often than I was able to do on my own.) So look for the submission button to go up soon! That's it. On to the letters...

Dear Editor,

Thank you for this delightful story ["At Great Risk to My Person."] Courage, intelligence, bravery, virtue of leadership and self-sacrifice in contrast to cowardice. The best you have published. Congratulations. I am certain I will remember it and reread it in the future.

Congratulations, Georgios

DH: I'm delighted you enjoyed it as much as me, Georgios. Phil's a great writer...I'll try to get him to give us some more of his work.

Dear Editor,

I liked the way you treated the language of the characters [in "Western Law."] Words that were used during the latter part of the 19th century, which have been abandoned for less traditional wording. I think it adds to the authenticity of the period, and gives you more of a feel for the characters. To me, it added credibility so I could visualize each scene a little more easily.

Based on the comments made by the newspaperman early on, I can see where he was facing a dilemma, even though I thought it was something bigger than what it was. His reputation, and whole being seemed to be wrapped around "reporting the truth" without any embellishment must have made that a pretty dark secret for him, although I thought it was going to be something like the attorney actually being the young man, who ran away years earlier, and he was back, to make the guilty party atone for what he did to him too.

Good job putting it into roughly 5,000 words. I'm still confused about one little thing though. His writing instruments. He was out of ink - none was available, so he used charcoal. Then he ended up with ink, and in the end, using a pencil. Why didn't he use the pencil in the beginning, instead of charcoal? Not that it's important, because it didn't affect the story.

Thanks for a great read!

Norm

DH: Norm, I'm so glad you dug my story. Good point on his writing instruments. Some time had passed between when Oslo Felts was jailed and when the trial began, so maybe the store received a new shipment of inkpads, quills, and pencils? ;)

Dear Editor,

So about that story of yours? Dude, I never read "Shake." What gives?

Ryan

DH: Have patience, Ryan! I'll get it back up here at some point.

DH: An announcement before I begin this week's letters: we're going to take a break on Popcorn Fiction for a few weeks while I do some traveling. This'll give you a chance to read some of the stories in our archives you might have skipped. Also, it looks more and more like I'm going to be making an announcement soon about some big changes here at the site. Nothing is set in stone, but it looks like Popcorn Fiction may partner with another site to expand our readership and get the authors who publish here a much larger audience. I just have to make sure our site keeps its focus on the stories and doesn't morph into something different and the quality here stays high. Anyway, that's just a tiny bit of insider information to whet your whistle. As far as opening the site up to general submissions, I still plan to do that either the end of this month or for a week during November...so look for the submit button soon. Okay, that's it...on to the letters...

Dear Editor,

Thanks Derek. Very much enjoyed 3:10 to Yuma. When will you be back open to submissions?

Rob

DH: Thanks for the nice words on YUMA, Rob. See above for submissions information.

Dear Editor,

Loved the story ["Western Law"] today—great yarn with a badass ending! As always, I love the site. A perfect procrastination tool (um, don't tell my bosses...) ).

Amanda

DH: Your secret is safe with me.

Dear Editor,

Terrific story, thanks for sharing. Fun voice. Solid point of view. Way to go.

Cheers,

Jaron

DH: Thanks, Jaron. I had fun writing that little Western from the newspaperman's point of view.

Dear Editor,

Really enjoyed this! Reminded me of parts of To Kill A Mockingbird done with more edge.

Jeff

DH: I think that's a perfect Hollywood pitch. Maybe we can get Capote to punch it up.

Dear Editor,

My biggest fear is that "I may have a romantic's heart but only a stenographer's talent. I wish I were a gifted storyteller,"

That about nailed it. Great story!!!

Les

DH: I'm just telling it like it is with me, Les. I mean with that character.

Dear Editor,

I couldn't get to Facebook today at work, but I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading "Western Law." That twist at the end was priceless!

Thanks for a great read!

Vanessa

DH: Vanessa, I keep waiting for Popcorn Fiction to make billions like Facebook. Some day!

Dear Editor,

I know I'm a little late on the uptake this week, but I just wanted to let you know that I finally sat down and read your story on my phone today. Great work once again, sir! The ending absolutely nailed it for me.

I will admit that I saw the first twist coming, but I had no idea what the ending was leading towards. Thank you again for the wonderful site and the weekly story. I'm thinking you should move to daily stories or at least two to three a week. I can't get enough.

Jason

DH: Daily stories???? It's all I can do to get 'em up once a week! And I won't even do that for the next three weeks. Thanks for the nice review Jason!

Dear Editor,

Really enjoyed that. A real wheel scroller for sure. Site is awesome...always a nice weekly interruption.

Jason

DH: Two Jason's agree...they love my story!

Dear Editor,

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed 'Western Law'.

Loved the ending. Admire your ability to weave a story.

I'm hoping you'll decide to post more of your own stories on this site.

Have a great week,

Jill

DH: I'm very popular with "J" named people. Thanks Jill. I'll try to keep thinking of some fun stories to tell.

Dear Editor,

That was a perfect short story.

Daniel

DH: That is very kind of you to say, Daniel. I'm sure it's chock full of anachronisms, but I really appreciate the nice words.

Dear Editor,

Please stop writing such fun short stories. I did find "Western Law" on popcornfiction and read it while my tires were being balanced and rotated! Entertaining read.

The problem is that these engaging short stories are starting to take away from my business reading. So please stop writing.

Seriously, enjoyed the story and know you have many more to tell.

Best,

John

DH: It's nice to know that we can compete with the Financial Times. We're coming for you next, Wall Street Journal!

Dear Editor,

Thanks for the post. Was an interesting read. Had me hooked by "western." Appreciate the bio, but would have preferred reading it after reading the story. Why you ask? Cos, with the pedigree of your work, one instantly assumes and awaits dramatic genius on par with 3:10, etc. Not saying the story wasn't good; it was. It just obviously couldn't live up to the artificial heights we expected and also part of the let down, was the fact that, though we knew it was a short story and not a script, that didn't stop us from sort of expecting a tight short script! So, cutting to the chase; it was ok. any inadequacies were due to the fact that we read it as the work of (D HAAS—BRILLIANT SCRIPTWRITER, AUTHOR OF WANTED & 3:10) and not as the work of (D HAAS—BUDDING SHORT STORY AUTHOR!) Hope we get more westerns!?

Have a great weekend.

JD

DH: Now you see what happens when I don't have Brandt to rewrite me! I go from "dramatic genius" to "good." Thanks for writing in, JD...I appreciate all the thoughts.

Dear Editor,

"Western Law" should be required reading for all aspiring short story writers, as it truly epitomizes great short fiction. I'd give myself a nasty case of carpal tunnel syndrome if I wrote down everything I liked, so I'll stick to the highlights. What struck me most was the mesmerizing effect this story had on me. When the narrator revealed that he had a confession to make, I felt like he'd tossed a lasso, and every word thereafter pulled me in. I could not tear myself away. As I neared the last few paragraphs, I could barely contain myself. How the heck, I thought, is he going to reveal anything else in such few words?! Sure enough, the last line delivered a MAJOR surprise. It was like box of Cracker Jacks—awesome in and of itself, but then there's the toy surprise, too.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what a joy it is to read such a well-written piece, in a voice that is at once strong, intelligent and unique.

I could go on, but I'll refrain. Suffice it to say this tale is one of Popcorn Fiction's best. Given the quality of the stories to date, that's saying a lot.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: I was so hoping I'd land a "Heidi!" Thanks again for a great review...I really appreciate the time you take to craft such fun ones to read.

DH: All right...see you in a few weeks with new news and more great popcorn fiction. Please take the time to find a story you missed in our archives and let me know what you think about some of our older ones, and of course, I want to hear what you think of Phil Hay's story. I hope you loved it as much as I did. I'll try to run a new letters column next week regardless! Take care!

DH: An announcement before I begin this week's letters: we're going to take a break on Popcorn Fiction for a few weeks while I do some traveling. This'll give you a chance to read some of the stories in our archives you might have skipped. Also, it looks more and more like I'm going to be making an announcement soon about some big changes here at the site. Nothing is set in stone, but it looks like Popcorn Fiction may partner with another site to expand our readership and get the authors who publish here a much larger audience. I just have to make sure our site keeps its focus on the stories and doesn't morph into something different and the quality here stays high. Anyway, that's just a tiny bit of insider information to whet your whistle. As far as opening the site up to general submissions, I still plan to do that either the end of this month or for a week during November...so look for the submit button soon. Okay, that's it...on to the letters...

Dear Editor,

Thanks Derek. Very much enjoyed 3:10 to Yuma. When will you be back open to submissions?

Rob

DH: Thanks for the nice words on YUMA, Rob. See above for submissions information.

Dear Editor,

Loved the story ["Western Law"] today—great yarn with a badass ending! As always, I love the site. A perfect procrastination tool (um, don't tell my bosses...) ).

Amanda

DH: Your secret is safe with me.

Dear Editor,

Terrific story, thanks for sharing. Fun voice. Solid point of view. Way to go.

Cheers,

Jaron

DH: Thanks, Jaron. I had fun writing that little Western from the newspaperman's point of view.

Dear Editor,

Really enjoyed this! Reminded me of parts of To Kill A Mockingbird done with more edge.

Jeff

DH: I think that's a perfect Hollywood pitch. Maybe we can get Capote to punch it up.

Dear Editor,

My biggest fear is that "I may have a romantic's heart but only a stenographer's talent. I wish I were a gifted storyteller,"

That about nailed it. Great story!!!

Les

DH: I'm just telling it like it is with me, Les. I mean with that character.

Dear Editor,

I couldn't get to Facebook today at work, but I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading "Western Law." That twist at the end was priceless!

Thanks for a great read!

Vanessa

DH: Vanessa, I keep waiting for Popcorn Fiction to make billions like Facebook. Some day!

Dear Editor,

I know I'm a little late on the uptake this week, but I just wanted to let you know that I finally sat down and read your story on my phone today. Great work once again, sir! The ending absolutely nailed it for me.

I will admit that I saw the first twist coming, but I had no idea what the ending was leading towards. Thank you again for the wonderful site and the weekly story. I'm thinking you should move to daily stories or at least two to three a week. I can't get enough.

Jason

DH: Daily stories???? It's all I can do to get 'em up once a week! And I won't even do that for the next three weeks. Thanks for the nice review Jason!

Dear Editor,

Really enjoyed that. A real wheel scroller for sure. Site is awesome...always a nice weekly interruption.

Jason

DH: Two Jason's agree...they love my story!

Dear Editor,

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed 'Western Law'.

Loved the ending. Admire your ability to weave a story.

I'm hoping you'll decide to post more of your own stories on this site.

Have a great week,

Jill

DH: I'm very popular with "J" named people. Thanks Jill. I'll try to keep thinking of some fun stories to tell.

Dear Editor,

That was a perfect short story.

Daniel

DH: That is very kind of you to say, Daniel. I'm sure it's chock full of anachronisms, but I really appreciate the nice words.

Dear Editor,

Please stop writing such fun short stories. I did find "Western Law" on popcornfiction and read it while my tires were being balanced and rotated! Entertaining read.

The problem is that these engaging short stories are starting to take away from my business reading. So please stop writing.

Seriously, enjoyed the story and know you have many more to tell.

Best,

John

DH: It's nice to know that we can compete with the Financial Times. We're coming for you next, Wall Street Journal!

Dear Editor,

Thanks for the post. Was an interesting read. Had me hooked by "western." Appreciate the bio, but would have preferred reading it after reading the story. Why you ask? Cos, with the pedigree of your work, one instantly assumes and awaits dramatic genius on par with 3:10, etc. Not saying the story wasn't good; it was. It just obviously couldn't live up to the artificial heights we expected and also part of the let down, was the fact that, though we knew it was a short story and not a script, that didn't stop us from sort of expecting a tight short script! So, cutting to the chase; it was ok. any inadequacies were due to the fact that we read it as the work of (D HAAS—BRILLIANT SCRIPTWRITER, AUTHOR OF WANTED & 3:10) and not as the work of (D HAAS—BUDDING SHORT STORY AUTHOR!) Hope we get more westerns!?

Have a great weekend.

JD

DH: Now you see what happens when I don't have Brandt to rewrite me! I go from "dramatic genius" to "good." Thanks for writing in, JD...I appreciate all the thoughts.

Dear Editor,

"Western Law" should be required reading for all aspiring short story writers, as it truly epitomizes great short fiction. I'd give myself a nasty case of carpal tunnel syndrome if I wrote down everything I liked, so I'll stick to the highlights. What struck me most was the mesmerizing effect this story had on me. When the narrator revealed that he had a confession to make, I felt like he'd tossed a lasso, and every word thereafter pulled me in. I could not tear myself away. As I neared the last few paragraphs, I could barely contain myself. How the heck, I thought, is he going to reveal anything else in such few words?! Sure enough, the last line delivered a MAJOR surprise. It was like box of Cracker Jacks—awesome in and of itself, but then there's the toy surprise, too.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what a joy it is to read such a well-written piece, in a voice that is at once strong, intelligent and unique.

I could go on, but I'll refrain. Suffice it to say this tale is one of Popcorn Fiction's best. Given the quality of the stories to date, that's saying a lot.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: I was so hoping I'd land a "Heidi!" Thanks again for a great review...I really appreciate the time you take to craft such fun ones to read.

DH: All right...see you in a few weeks with new news and more great popcorn fiction. Please take the time to find a story you missed in our archives and let me know what you think about some of our older ones, and of course, I want to hear what you think of Phil Hay's story. I hope you loved it as much as I did. I'll try to run a new letters column next week regardless! Take care!

Dear Editor,

Oh, how Popcorn needs more scf-fi. I love crime fiction but oh how good sci-fi mixes things up so well, like ginger ale with lemonade.

Manny

DH: I prefer a highball, which everyone knows is ginger ale, whiskey and a lemon. I'm bringing the highball back, along with the fedora.

Dear Editor,

Excuse me—I was watching A Knight's Tale over and over on ION, and forgot to mention "Veronica Majeure" was totally KAPOW!

Constance

DH: Glad you enjoyed that story, Constance. I'll try to get Helgeland to write more stories.

Dear Editor,

There hasn't been a story on Pop Fiction yet that I didn't enjoy immensely, but as a sci-fi fan, "(and yourself)" is definitely one of my favorites. Both the story and its twist ending were excellent. Thanks for providing such quality reading.

Christopher

DH: My pleasure, Christopher. Yes, Meyer's story had that great Twilight Zone type twist that I love when reading sci-fi. He's a terrific writer.

Dear Editor,

I'm always so impressed by the quality of the stories, Derek. It's truly amazing. Meyer is brilliant—kept me thinking about the story and coming back to the twists and marvelling at how a writer can be so precise. There's no waste of words or images and yet, there's a tragic air about it that goes way beyond the clever plot. Brilliant. Thank you again for bringing us such gems, week after week.?

Best,

Monica

DH: Glad to do it, Monica. You got to the heart of what separates good genre short fiction from the rest...the ability to convey a feeling, a theme, an idea, a character in just a few concise sentences. Pack a little into a lot. At least I think the stand-out stories do that well.

DH: Well, thanks again for another week of letters, and I apologize if I didn't get to publish yours. By now you've hopefully read my story "Western Law," and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, comments, criticisms and complaints. I enjoyed writing it. Since no one else would write a Western, I thought I'd open the floodgates. Next week: a story from hot screenwriter Phil Hay. Have a great week!

Dear Editor,

["Veronica Majeure"] Loved it. Very fun read. Brian is such a cool guy. Met him at a WGA function a few years back. As smart and clever in person as he is on the page.

Keith

DH: Yeah...he's a great writer. I will patiently wait by the phone until he tells me he has another story for us.

Dear Editor,

Loved the story about the erudite hit man. Thanks. You could put those tales together and package them as a book and market them on smashwords.

Cheers,

Jaron

DH: I have no idea what Smashwords is but I think we'll have a book of some of these stories for your coffee table before too long.

Dear Editor,

Excellent story, Derek! The internal thought still gives me stitches when I recall it. And the woven lyrics was just plain resourceful. Thanks for keeping the Sterno lit under PF.

Ron

DH: Glad you dug Helgeland's story, Ron. I loved the idea of a hit man getting stopped in Ireland after a kill because of that damned volcano grounding all the planes.

Dear Editor,

Wow. Where to begin? There is so much to like about this story. Brian Helgeland's writing is smart, funny, and a pleasure to read. He could write about absolutely nothing and I'd still devour it. But "Veronica Majeure" is more than simply a well-told tale. The main character is a fantastic bundle of contradictions. He's an assassin who appreciates poetry, a consummate jerk with a tender heart. I found myself feeling sorry for him and then rooting for him, despite the fact that he executed a man just because he was paid to do so.

It's rare when a short story causes you to feel something you didn't expect to feel.

Thanks, yet again, for a truly memorable read.

Heidi

DH: Thanks, yet again, for a memorable review, Heidi. I felt the same way.

DH: I hope you dug Benjamin Meyer's story this week. Come back next week when I'm going to run a second story from...me. Perks of creating this site! Look forward once again to hearing from all the readers here. Have a great week!

Dear Editor:

Favorite sentence, near the end [of "After the Fire"]: "He pictures her curled up, her morning breath sifting through her nose hairs, spooning her smooth criminal." Wow. You were right—this story packs an emotional wallop.

Keep up the good work, Derek.

Noah

DH: Will do my best, Noah. I'm glad you liked Alicia Gifford's story as much as I did.

Dear Editor:

I'm Dennis from Zagreb, Croatia (europe) so my knowledge of the U.S. movie business is very limited. Some of these stories are really terrific and I've only read a few of them so far. But I really like the newest one by Alicia Gifford. Do you maybe know, in general assumption, how much it would cost to buy the rights for a short movie?

I know that we (here) live in different (u.s.) spheres because here top feature movies are made for less than $1 million.

Sorry for bothering you, but I'm exited now (after reading these great stories) and my imagination is working overtime so maybe I'm not thinking straight.

Dennis

DH: Hey, Dennis...so great to hear from you all the way in Croatia. It's gratifying to discover how far Popcorn Fiction reaches around the globe. To answer your question, each story's copyright is retained by its author, so the amount simply depends on what you can negotiate with the author. Some might do it for free; others might charge a fortune; others might not want to sell it at all. Nearly all of the authors I publish have agents or managers, so your best bet is to contact their representation and express your interest. Best of luck!

Dear Editor,

"After the Fire" by Alicia Gifford is not just a story, it's an experience. The characters are substantial and well-developed, so much so that I felt like I was looking at the text through 3D glasses. At first, Lenny seemed almost cliche. Oh no, I thought, not another tale about some loser trying to survive in Hollywood. But Gifford fleshes out Lenny's persona, painting a portrait of a man with a tragic past, an ugly present and an uncertain future. By the end, the image of Lenny was etched into that part of my brain that is reserved for truly memorable characters, such as Sojourn Sweat and Sweaty Leo (I do not have latent perspiration issues. Honest!)

I can't wait till Alicia Gifford's novel comes out. Lemme know when I can pre-order!

Heidi

DH: Will do, Heidi. When Alicia's novel comes out, I'll make an announcement and add a link to her story in our archives.

Dear Editor,

Have you thought about gathering these up into a hardcover book? I think Popcorn Fiction would look good on a shelf or coffee table.

Sam

DH: Yes, my publisher has asked about doing just that, but I haven't started the process. I'd have to select the stories, contact the authors, get them on-board, figure out the order to publish them, maybe write a forward...I'm getting tired thinking about it.

DH: Thanks for another week of letters and please don't hesitate to send me your comments, criticisms, questions, and complaints. I look forward to hearing from everyone. Have a great week!

Dear Editor,

[Re: "Willie the Kid"] FABULOUS!! Larry should do a Sherlock Holmes-type series based on the librarian vigilante.

Jack

DH: Glad you liked it, Jack. I have a real affection for crime stories with interesting protagonists.

Dear Editor,

I really dug the title and the story was great. Made me wish I could actually meet Willie, well before his unlucky trash can run in with Porkpie of course.

p.s. I think i remember something about you maybe accepting new submission for shorts in the fall and if that's true do you know maybe around what time, like October, November, I'd just like to be prepared as much as I can. Thanks.

Manny

DH: I think it will be late-October if I can get my act together before then. I'm thinking the week of the 25th most likely.

Dear Editor,

Love the site and the stories. But I was wondering...

Have you thought about creating PDFs for each of the stories? And maybe packaging them together as a monthly "issue?" So people could download them and read them offline or on e-readers? I've been making Kindle-friendly versions of the stories for a while and thought other people might like to do the same.

Never know when you might find yourself stranded in a space pod or hiding out in a Mexican safe house that doesn't have Wi-Fi.

Have a good rest of the day! (And try not to end up in either of those places.)

Cheers,

Michael

DH: Michael, it's a great idea and I love that readers have taken the stories and made them fit whatever is their favorite format, like a Kindle or Nook or whatever. I do know that in many browsers, you can select print and then "print to file" and there is an option to save the story out as a PDF. It looks the same as if you printed the story to paper—which is actually pretty nice. Beyond that, it's all I can do to get these stories up in this format each week, so we'll have to see...

Dear Editor,

Really liked the "based in reality" feel of the story ["Willie the Kid"]. I liked the story too. Cool touch, that it starts out as something that could be ascript (cos of the descriptions at the beginning) but segues into an Ed McBain sorta story. It works as a short but could be an excerpt from a novel. Though not original, definitely not boring. Nice work. Thanks for posting it!

JD

DH: Yes, I would like to see more adventures of the vigilante librarian. Maybe we can get Larry to bring him back.

Dear Editor,

Loved this week's entry "Willie the Kid" by Larry Moskowitz. Keep peppering in the hard-boiled shorts when you come across them. Also, any plans to tell a short tale about Columbus?

Regards,

Geoff

DH: We have a lot of readers who enjoy the hard-boiled crime stories, and you won't be disappointed next week when Brian Helgeland's latest story shows up here.

As far as Columbus goes, the third book in the series will be out next summer, and will take the contract killer in a new direction. I don't have plans to put him into a short story, but I am working on something that might pop up on Popcorn Fiction's pages in the next few months. Thanks for reading my books...I enjoy the hell out of writing them.

Dear Editor,

Just like last week's offering, I was hesitant about a tale whose MC is a librarian (cue yawn). But I'm learning that you really can't judge a book by its cover. "Willie the Kid" by Larry Moskowitz is fantastic, from the first sentence to the last. I was planning on reading just a bit, but that's like saying I'll have just a few potato chips. Once I began, I was hooked. And the ending hit me right between the eyes. I am now fully adrenalized and ready for the day. Thanks Popcorn Fiction (and Mr. Moskowitz)!

Heidi

DH: Heidi...always great to hear from our favorite PF reviewer. So glad you dug Larry's story. We have quite a streak going now...each week, I get excited to publish them, because it seems the stories keep getting better and better. I really don't have anything to do with it...I just get excited when talented writers turn in awesome work.

DH: One last special note: we ran a story a few weeks back called "A Good Lie" by Matthew David Brozik. Well, I just found out the author recorded an audio version of the story, told in his own voice, and if you'd like to check it out, here's the link: http://www.imdb.name/GoodLie.html. We're conquering all media here at Popcorn Fiction!

And be sure and get back here next Monday. Oscar winner Helgeland has a story that I know is going to be popular. Until then, have a great week and please write in to this page and let me know what you think!

Dear Editor:

Stunning stuff [re: "Me (from before)"]. If I could have written this:

Before you have kids, the possibilities are what excite you. What will happen? When? If? After, the concept of stability, of constants, is the most thrillingthing you can imagine. If you aren't expecting that, it might be depressing. Some of my friends seem depressed by it. They miss the idea that life could change completely at any moment. They are high. The idea that my life could change completely at any moment is my biggest fear. Or it was.

I think I could die happy.

Steve

DH: Tropp's story struck a chord with a lot of our readers. Really glad you enjoyed it, Steve. Keep the praise coming...

Dear Editor:

Really good writing [in "Me (from before)"]. I'd like some of what she was smoking. I will happily trade some of the vodka I was drinking when I read it. ?

Why are your popcorners so focused on dystopia? It's like everyone is reading the book of Revelation. Whatever happened to Dashiell Hammet? It must be the Boehner-McConnell effect.

Jack

DH: That's actually something I've pondered too. I guess the apocalypse holds endless possibilities and certainly writers have been pondering "what happens next" for the human race since men first started putting pen to paper. Or blunt instrument to cave wall. When a writer I've commissioned turns one in and I see it's going to be that kind of story, I always start to think..."oh, no, another one of these..." and then I start reading and my premonitions fade away. But since you asked for Dashiell Hammet, I hope you enjoyed Larry's story this week.

Dear Editor,

It wouldn't take much to convince me that before Elena Tropp sat down to write "Me (from before)," she peeked into my brain and jotted down the dark and dirty fears she saw there. Not only is Ms. Tropp's writing infinitely relatable, but this is one of those tales (seems to be a pattern here on Popcorn Fiction) that stays with you, gives you pause, maybe even makes you bite your nails, long after you've read it.

I printed this piece out and hope to put it in a time capsule. Someday, someone will open it, read the story and say, "Damn! Someone actually predicted this!"

Another excellent offering. Many thanks.

Heidi

DH: Another excellent review, Heidi. But I hope you're wrong!

Dear Editor,

Fantastic! Elena hit the bull's eye with this one.

Craig

DH: Couldn't agree more, Craig. Thanks for writing in!

DH: Thanks to all the readers who took the time to write in this week...it's always fantastic to hear from you. I'm working to line up some heavy-hitters in the month ahead, so keep coming back for our weekly offering. Also, I think I'll be opening the site up to general submissions again for one week in October (don't hold me to that)...so dust off your keypads if you're thinking of submitting. Have a great week!

Dear Editor,

Seemed like a nice enough tale about golf and marketing. Then you go and bring a murder into the story. I just don't understand you people.

Brad

DH: We don't do "nice enough" at Popcorn Fiction.

Dear Editor,

Thank you for keeping the site simple and decent, without flashes and advertisement. Thus every new story is like a cool flowery breeze. More science fiction, if you can, please. I am Greek living in Athens, Greece.

Sincerely,

Georgios

DH: Georgios, great to hear from you all the way from Athens. Yes, we decided at the inception of this site that we would never have advertisements, never have lists of links, and never charge a dime for a story to our readers. This site is only here because we love genre short fiction. As long as readers keep showing up and writers keep supplying us with great stories, we'll keep the Popcorn Fiction coming.

Dear Editor,

I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant about a story that centers on a golf focus group. But Matthew David Brozik does a fantastic job of steadily ratcheting up the tension. He takes what seems to me to be the epitome of boring, and makes it edge-of-your-seat exciting. By the time I got to the last paragraph of this little tale, I was staring bug-eyed at the screen and whispering, "Now what??" (Not a cool thing to do when you're at Starbucks, but that's the thing about Popcorn Fiction offerings—they often have that effect on me.)

Thanks for a great little read. Please keep em coming.

Heidi

DH: Yes, Matthew David Brozik, you've earned a Heidi™! As always, great to hear from you Heidi, and thanks for another thoughtful review.

Dear Editor,

You have a wonderful website. Thank you for publishing these stories!!!

I have a KINDLE electronic reader—it was a gift. Is there a way to transfer stories to this device or listen to it on a mp3 player (iPOD).

Thank you.

Tom

DH: Hey, Tom...unfortunately, I don't know how to convert it for an electronic reader and we don't have audio recordings of our stories. So, sorry to not have Popcorn Fiction in all the electronic formats. Of course, an iPad or an iPhone would work! I wonder if you converted the story to a .pdf, and then emailed it to your kindle if that would work? Maybe some other readers have done it and want to weigh in?

Dear Editor,

"Waking Up Normal" by Brian Brown was excellent. I want to know what happens next, or maybe I don't!

Candice

DH: Glad you enjoyed it. I'm sure we'll be hearing more from Brian Brown in the future.

Dear Editor,

Looking forward to some new stuff from the Corn. Will check back to when you're looking for new submissions. Good stuff.

Mark

DH: I think I'll open the site up to submissions again in late September, probably just for one week like I did before. So if you're thinking of writing one, or polishing up an old one, better hop to it.

Dear Editor,

Hi! I'm a norwegian writer and games producer and was polishing some stories for an international application when I suddenly got struck by a mental block: Is "shove her off" a correct English sentence? I googled the term and lo and behold; the 6th search entry led me to Brian Brown's "Waking up normal." It's a great short, I'd have loved to know more about what happens to the main character (and his family) when he arrives on Earth.

Also, I love those strings of tiny coincidences that lead me to interesting places like popcornfiction.com, so I felt I should write a short email about it and let you know :)

Cheers,

Oeyvind

DH: Oeyvind, it is absolutely awesome to hear from international readers. So glad that happenstance led you to Popcorn Fiction, and hope you'll tell all your Norwegian friends. Sometimes we take for granted the reach of the internet, but I'm always amazed by a story on here landing on far points of the globe. I'd love to hear from any other international readers, except from Nigerians who tell me I've won the lottery. And Oeyvind, your name rocks.

Dear Editor,

As always, I have enjoyed your fiction, but find the popcorn stale, flavorless and lacking. Please do something about this as soon as possible before I file suit over false advertising. Thanks in advance!

Tootles,

Rod

DH: Ever since Orville Redenbacher died, it has been tough to sell quality popcorn. I will look into it.

Dear Editor,

I've just read "Hoss" by Christine Boylan and loved it. I discovered Popcorn Fiction through Twitter and look forward to being a regular visitor.

With thanks,

Vivienne

DH: I'm not much of a tweeter, so I'm glad some readers are using that avenue to find us. By all means, if you like a story, tweet your ass off about it. And welcome to the site, Vivienne. Look forward to hearing from you about the stories.

Dear Editor,

Somehow, I missed "A Heavy Sleep" by Danielle Wolff when it came out. I just read it today. It is an enjoyable, simple tale (with a nice, hopeful ending) that doesn't dwell on unnecessary dialogue and description. Great story.

Hope you include more of Wolff's work in the future.

Have a great day!!

Jill

DH: I love hearing from readers about our archived stories. So good to know they're all getting read. I'm sure I could install some fancy software that would let me know exactly what pages are getting seen when, but what would the fun be in that? I'd much rather hear from you guys. Glad you enjoyed Wolff's story, Jill, and I'm sure we can persuade her to write another one at some point.

Dear Editor,

Any chance of seeing these stories in e-book format? I'm thinking of picking up one of the new Kindle's when they start shipping.

BTW, I learned about your site via a Twitter post about the story by Christine Boylan. I'm a fan of Leverage.

Dennis

DH: Another tweeter! Glad you stumbled on to the site, Dennis. I don't have plans to convert the stories into an e-book format. I'm sure that's an awesome idea, but I'm just keeping it simple on Popcorn Fiction. I can barely keep up with publishing a new story each week. Still, it can easily be read on a fancy new IPad...which has a Kindle App...so two birds with one stone there. One other thing: if you want a hardcopy of the stories...you can just hit "print" from your computer, and the site will convert the stories into an easy-to-read print format. Or something like that.

Dear Editor,

"Hoss" was another excellent story among the homeruns I see so often at PF. BTW, no reader who loves fiction can afford to go without Helen Simpson's "Diary of an Interesting Year" (The New Yorker, December 21, 2009, available online in its entirety at: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2009/12/21/091221fi_fiction_simpson), if one cares at all for stories like "Hoss."

Ron

DH: Cool, Ron...thanks so much for the recommendation. I'll check it out.

DH: That's it for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by and we'll see you next Monday!

Dear Editor,

Thanks for another story from Larry Doyle. His humor is right up my alley. Keep 'em coming.

Jeff

DH: Glad you like Doyle's work, Jeff. If you haven't checked out his new book Go, Mutants! yet, you should get yourself to a bookstore right away!

Dear Editor,

Bravo for expanding your Popcorn Fiction horizons. That's what I love about logging in every Monday, I never know what kind of story I'm going to get. Science-Fiction, comedy, thriller, action, drama. Well maybe not as much drama. But keep them coming. "Thank You for Considering My Cult" was hilarious.

Julie

DH: It's funny...I didn't realize how much work would go into "programming" the week's new story. I definitely try to mix it up each week and shy away from running too many of the same type of stories back to back. Glad you enjoy it that way, Julie. Maybe I'll just start throwing darts at story titles.

Dear Editor,

I'm a new reader to the site and just wanted to let you know that I love what you're doing. You were smart to keep PopcornFiction simple and just highlight the stories. I was expecting there to be a paypal button or something where I'd have to pay 99 cents for each story, but you just kept them free. Everyone is out there trying to make money off of dumb things and you don't even have those ads for viagra plastered everywhere. Good job!

Ellen

DH: Wait...I could have been making money from Viagra?! Dammit, I need to look into this.

Dear Editor,

Larry Doyle's story "Thank You For Considering My Cult" was awesome. How do I join?

Matthew

DH: How do you join his cult? I'm pretty sure you just have to buy his books and you're in. He'll send you the initiation package in the mail.

Dear Editor,

If you'll pardon yet another food analogy, Larry Doyle's latest made me think of those tiny European chocolates. When you first size them up, you think, dang, hardly worth my time. But when you taste 'em, your head swirls and embarrassing little sounds of surprise and pleasure escape from you mouth. That's what it was like for me to read "Thank You for Considering My Cult." Every sentence packed one hell of a punch. Smart, funny, and definitely worth a second read. I enjoyed every word.

(By the way, Derek, you nailed it when you said I comment on what I like. Happily, there's a lot to like on PF).

Heidi

DH: Now I'm hungry.

DH: Excellent. I hope everyone dug "Hoss" and I can't wait to hear your comments. We're going to head back out to space next week, so all you sci-fi fans get ready for a humdinger.

Dear Editor:

Congrats for hitting one year of Popcorn Fiction!!

I love your site and hope you stick with it for many more years.

'Outsider' is another great story; it made my day.

Keep 'em coming.

Jill

DH: Thanks Jill...I'll stick with it as long as I keep receiving great original genre fiction. I still have quite a stash...and I'll open up the site for general submissions again in the Fall...

Dear Editor:

Thanks for the story ["Outsider."] An excellent way to start a Monday morning...

Charles

DH: A Starbucks latte and a little popcorn fiction is a recipe for a great start to your week. (Please Note: Starbucks in no way endorses the content of this site, bla, bla, bla.)

Dear Editor:

This new story ["Outsider"] is awesome—one of my favorites. Congratulations on your one year anniversary! I can't wait to see what the next year brings : )

Brianna

DH: One of my favorites too. Michael Gilvary just joined the staff of the new show Breakout Kings, so look for more of his style on your small box in the Fall.

Dear Editor:

"Outsider" is by far one of the most profound contemporary stories I've read. The author has remarkable vision to see beyond the denial that might well swamp our great nation. The choice of metaphors couldn't've been better. All I have to say, besides enjoying the story, it's about time that concerns about liberty begin filtering into mainstream popular culture. Thanks for your tenacity that is making PF better all the time. I don't just know it's Monday when a new story arrives. I know it's Monday and a new story will arrive.

Ron

DH: I'm glad it struck a chord with you, Ron. And thanks for being such a loyal and thoughtful reader. It's amazingly gratifying to get letters like yours.

Dear Editor:

Happy anniversary! The new stories are often one of the highlights of my work week. Thank you! Great job!

Scott

DH: I'm so glad to hear it, Scott. I'm happy to add to the collective work procrastination of America.

Dear Editor:

Oh, how I hate to be negative.

Michael Gilvary's latest story "Outsider" suffers from a simple case of "Some ideas are better than others."

Oh, how I hate to compare.

On the one hand, "Unconditional" is about a family faced with a terrible reality that threatens to impossibly complicate their lives, unless they can act smart and fast enough to get through it. It's the kind of premise that effortlessly fills itself with exciting possibilities.

On the other hand, "Outsider" is about, well...not enough of anything. It created a world, but the story of the world that we hear is not interesting enough on its own. I wanted to be invested in the characters' stories, but nothing that the characters did seemed to have enough gravity. It seems to me that the story framework was there, but the plot to carry you through it was not. Unlike "Unconditional," which is so interesting because there is constant immediacy to the plot and what the characters choose to do, "Outsider" has a plot that is much less clear, doesn't go as far, and is therefore not as involving. "Outsider" may have been intended to be a big idea, but it needed to evoke equally big feelings to really work, and, in my opinion, it wasn't equipped to do that.

I would have actually been very interested to see an escape story in the same setting, because it would've provided the plot immediacy, given an opportunity to show more about the Stewards (whose world and way of living I found very interesting because it is very foreign and threatening), it still could have retained all of its philosophical flavor, and it could've given the Man From Outside's death and Chloe's revelation a much more powerful effect.

It is painfully obvious that Michael Gilvary is a writer of the highest quality, but great writers needs great ideas in order to produce great stories. It is a simple truth; one needs light in order to shine, and the brighter, the better.

Zack

DH: Zack, thanks so much for the thoughtful criticism. No need to be apologetic...that Gilvary's story inspired you enough to turn it over in your mind, to analyze it, to engage with it, is exactly why we publish these things. I'm sorry for not getting Gilvary's response for you...I've been in Michigan since early May working on this movie,The Double, that Brandt is directing...and I just haven't been able to get organized enough to get the author's responses to some of these fantastic letters. I can barely get a new story out each week. I will say that "Outsider" worked for me in just the right way...I was engaged in the story, I was following it through Chloe's eyes, I thought I knew where it was going, and WHAM! Gilvary smacked me in the face, just like he did with "Unconditional." And he did it so effortlessly, I had to read that ending a couple of times to make sure I absorbed it correctly. And that was just the story on the surface...the deeper symbolism of citizens knowingly giving up their freedoms in exchange for an artificial sense of security packed a wallop for me. In fact, the citizens of the atrium are complicit in their own imprisonment. But that's the beauty of literature (did I just say "literature?"), readers can parse different meanings from these stories with each new read.

Dear Editor,

In "Outsider," Michael Gilvary seems to have accomplished the impossible. In the space of a short story, he paints a portrait of an entire world, complete with a tumultuous past, an uncertain present, and a frightening future. As I read, I felt like I do when looking at a John Lennon sketch—I'm always amazed at how just a few well-placed lines can tell a tale, and leave you with an image that lingers long after the page is gone.

Thanks for the great read!

Heidi

DH: Thanks for the great letter. Mondays just aren't the same without hearing from Heidi. I suspect you were raised with the "if you can't say something nice..." principle. When we go awhile without hearing from you, I always think..."I guess she didn't care for that one."

DH: Great to hear from so many readers this past week. If I didn't get to your letter, I apologize. I hope everyone has a great week...I was asked for some book recommendations lately, and besides Go, Mutants of course, I thoroughly enjoyed Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes and Finding Chandra by Higham and Horwitz. And what's that you say? You've never read my books The Silver Bear and Columbus? What the hell are you waiting for?

Dear Editor:

Oh yes! ["Alive and Well" was] masterful.

I didn't see that coming until 'Graceland' sprang off the screen and slapped me in the face.

Superb writing. I vote this the best popcorn fiction yet.

There should be an annual award—butter or salt?

SSB

DH: MTV might sue me if I start a Popcorn award. I'm glad you enjoyed Grainger's story...I'm curious to see more of his work in the future.

Dear Editor:

That was a great payoff! Really great!

Charles

DH: I had no idea where he was going with this thing, so I agree...nice, surprising payoff.

DH: Only received a couple of letters this week, so I'll say it again...please don't hesitate to send in your thoughts, comments, and criticisms about the current story or any of our past stories. I try to run as many letters as possible each week, and I'll also try to get the authors to reply to specific questions or comments. I hope you enjoyed Gilvary's latest as much as I did...can't wait to hear your thoughts on it. Have a great week!

Dear Editor,

Lovely story. I'd like to see 'Alone' on screen.

Best,

Monica

DH: Yes, Monica...it felt cinematic as I read it. Would love to see what Denise could do for it in that format.

Dear Editor,

Denise Meyer's "Alone" was refreshingly unique in that there was no good versus bad. It was remarkably human in that way, but that made one question the pernicious punishment given Quinn; so much so it nearly put me off the story, for I found it difficult to understand the hatred Elliston Jr. could have felt toward a man he had never met before. However, if Meyer's aim was to conjure hatred toward Quinn's character, though I don't think so, I must say she failed. I found myself hating Elliston Jr. for his selfishness. After all, he said his mother had lived with regret every day of her life, and unless she had been dead, to disallow the pair absolution to one another, at least for his mother's sake, was selfish in the highest order. Furthermore, I think a stricter examination of the theme of being alone would have made for a more interesting story. Instead of discovering "aliens" just as he was beginning to understand his imminent loneliness, Meyer might have allowed Quinn to complete his mission and wrestle with the even grander choice than his first: whether to live the rest of his life with nothing but his regrets or end his own life.

Jeremy

DH: Thanks so much for the letter and criticism, Jeremy. I love it when readers dig deep into the stories to analyze what works or doesn't work for them.

DH: I apologize that I only have time to get to a couple of letters this week and for being late in getting the new story "Alive and Well" posted today. I've been out-of-town and trying to keep the popcorn popping from the road. I hope everyone had a great July 4th and look forward to hearing from you!

Dear Editor,

Popcorn Fiction is probably one of the single most effective ways to bring this biz back to what it was about in the beginning—storytelling.

Thanks for all of your efforts regarding, and I look forward to reading on...

Best,

Keith

DH: Wow, thanks so much Keith. I hope you continue to enjoy the stories as much as I enjoy publishing them.

Dear Editor,

Blake McCallister rocks, Derek! Thank God you accepted his story, it's fabulous. Wonderful piece of writing. Please, keep his stories coming.

Monica

DH: Yes, Blake's was a stand-out from the Open Submissions pile. Glad so many readers dug it.

Dear Editor,

I was very curious to read Popcorn Fiction's first open submission story for a number of reasons. Excited to see that the first one was up, I waited until a quiet time of day, found a comfortable chair, and gave "Twitcher" all my attention.

I was delighted by the story that unfolded. In fact, while there is very much to praise in Twitcher, I think the thing that made it so enjoyable to read is how it unfolds. Alfred Hitcock one said, "Exposition is a pill that must be sugar coated." and I think McCallister achieved that wonderfully. In fact, learning about the world and the characters was one of the most enjoyable things about reading the story. I didn't find a single boring moment in the story; every time the plot threatens to plateau, the stakes are raised and you are back in it! I was wholly impressed with the quality and density of the writing and I was riveted the whole time. In summary, I was very entertained.

However, I believe this story has one problem. Every turn the story takes is unpredictable, except for one, perhaps the most important one. At the end, I never for a second doubted that Clement was going to kill Wickner instead of the girl. In that moment, I should've been seriously worried about what was going to happen next, but I wasn't. I knew what was going to happen.

I've been thinking all day about how this could've been fixed, and I think it might've worked if it had been Clement's turn to go get the stick at the end. This would've been more convincing because the mere fact that he would be willing to go get the stick for Wickner (who would not hesitate to kill the girl) would make me doubt whether he would actually have the balls to stand up to Wickner, especially since he has allowed Wickner to walk all over him for the whole story. In addition, it being Clement's turn to go get the stick at the end would've made the "turning point" moment less obvious. You wouldn't know what moment he would choose—if he would choose—to make an intervention. The way it is now, the turning point moment is obvious: Clement has the stick at the ready, and both the girl and Wickner in reach. It's a no brainer that that is the moment the story will take a turn.

The other thing about making that change, is that it wouldn't change the story at all. When the stick is first introduced, Clement could still be making the same exact observations that he was making even if it had been Wickner getting the stick. The only thing that wouldn't work is Wickner saying, "Go fetch, boy", but you would still understand the nature of Wickner and Clement's relationship just fine even without that line. Anyway, that flaw didn't affect my opinion of Blake McCallister or his story much, but I do think that it is an opportunity for improvement nonetheless.

Overall, I thought the story was great and it was great for Popcorn fiction. I can't wait to see more open submissions.

Zack

DH: Thanks so much for a well-thought out critical review, Zack. I will admit that I had the same feeling as you did, but sometimes fiction doesn't need the "twist," to make it effective. The suspense might not be there in that moment, but the emotion and the behavior felt real. And wholly satisfying.

Dear Editor,

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about Popcorn's Fiction's impending open sub story. Until now, PF had been my saving grace, the one e-zine that hadn't disappointed me with blathering, pointless prose or grammar and syntax errors ad nauseam. So I approached Blake McCallister's "Twitcher" with hesitation, to say the least. But before I even turned the first page (I print 'em), I was hooked. McCallister is a master storyteller. His words paint such a vivid portrait of a bleak, post-apocalyptic future, I could almost taste it. And feel it. And definitely smell it. I won't be surprised if I see more of this author's work in the future; he's just that good. And I'm over my open sub phobia, so bring 'em on!

Thanks yet again,

Heidi

DH: Thanks Heidi...it's great to know that our quality hasn't dropped for you. There will be more from new writers in the future.

Dear Editor,

Craig Ugoretz can make me laugh out loud and hold my breath, almost simultaneously. (Er, it might be more accurate to say that his writing has that effect on me.) That is some serious talent.

"Deserted" should come with a warning: don't drink a Starbuck's venti anything before reading this story, because you will not be able to tear yourself away.

Loved it!

Heidi

DH: Thanks, Heidi. Great review once again! I'll try to get Craig to write another one for us next year!

Dear Editor,

Craig's story "Deserted" was so different from his first story. It was cool to see a writer mix it up and try different things. I try to do that in my own writing so it was inspiring.

Kent

DH: Yes, Kent...glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.

DH: Last week, a reader asked about the meaning behind Danielle Wolff's story "A Heavy Sleep," and I asked readers to toss in what they thought...here you go...

Dear Editor,

First of all, and I'm sure you agree, I believe Danielle Wolff did a marvelous job in writing "A Heavy Sleep." Especially in the sense of how she wrote what was needed to be known to the reader and not revealing too much of the David's inner feelings and environment. The story's climax was to me the most interesting part of Danielle's work because it could be interpreted in so many ways.

At first I thought David was maybe hallucinating the young girl on the bed, not just because hallucination is a component of insomnia but because maybe David's head has adapted to his recent non-sleeping lifestyle and is finding a way to block out the bed in which he believes he will have a good sleep in, thus the image of the girl appears preventing him from that perfect sleep.

Yet, on a second read, I felt the young girl was possibly a deceased daughter he had with Nat, the woman that stops him on his way to the dock, because their conversation is one of those that only a long term couple would know due to their ability of knowing each others thoughts and feelings. Therefore, I believe David either imagined his own daughter to stop himself from the sleep and metaphorically that is interpreted as that he hasn't come to terms wit his daughter's death yet.

Or, I believe David really did see a girl on the bed but the thought of his daughter freed him because all this time he had missed his daughter. So seeing a girl resting so magically the way he wanted to rest, made him realize that maybe his daughter is resting peacefully, therefore he's free.

The last words: "Someone, he thought. Someone will find it. And they will try it. And then we will all be free" could be meant metaphorically as well, meaning he isn't the one to change everything wrong around him, but this sepcific moment has changed him in the way of hope.

Luis

DH: And here's Danielle Wolff's answer...

DW: Luis...thank you for the letter. I love when readers see so many different things in a story. All of your thoughts are interesting interpretations. Your last paragraph is closest to my intention—that the girl had wandered in, found the bed, and fell asleep. That gave David hope that if others, especially a child, re-discovered how paradoxically freeing it was to surrender to gravity, then maybe it would spark a revolution and he wouldn't be so alone.

DH: I'm sorry I don't have more time to publish all the letters I received this week, but I sincerely thank you guys for writing in. I try to get to as many of them as I can each time. If you don't get your letter published, keep trying. This week's story was the first one I've published from the Open Submissions call we set earlier this year. I thought it was a great story...had me seeing the world right from the get-go, and combined horror, suspense, and drama in a well-told blend. Hope you guys dug it. See you next Monday.

Dear Editor,

Who doesn't want a nice bed to sleep in? I thought Danielle Wolff's story "A Heavy Sleep" was well told. Just wanted to say how much I enjoy the Popcorn each week.

Jessica

DH: Thanks, Jessica. Yes, Wolff's story was fun to publish, because while it wasn't exactly our typical thriller or crime story or horror or pulp, it was an interesting world with a hopeful ending. I'm always trying to mix it up on Popcorn Fiction.

Dear Editor,

I was confused by the ending of "A Heavy Sleep." Why did David erase his name from the manifest? I was curious what other readers thought or what the author meant. I'll shut up now.

Stefan

DH: I'll throw your question out to our readers and if anyone responds, I'll post their letters next week. I have my own interpretation, but I'll hold out on giving the answer until others have a chance to join in.

Dear Editor,

You should have talkbacks so we can discuss these stories. There are other suggestions I could give you but I'm sure you're busy.

Bill S.

DH: I'm never too busy for suggestions, so by all means, keep them coming. I don't have talkbacks or a message board because I have seen them devolve quickly into anonymous sniping and silliness. That's why I prefer the good ol' fashion "Letters to the Editor." Don't get me wrong...if you have criticism, I'm unafraid to print the letter here. Also, if you want to start a message board somewhere else, I'd happily participate. I have a board at derekhaas.com where a few people have come to discuss the stories, and I'm happy to host discussion there. But on this site, I'm keeping it clean.

DH: Okay, that's it for this week and I hope you enjoyed Ugoretz's second story on Popcorn Fiction, a departure from his first. I'm in Detroit, MI and Michael and I are off today to meet a real hero of ours: Elmore Leonard. Talk about an inspiration for this site. Occasionally, I have to pinch myself when I get to meet some of my literary idols. If you haven't watched Justified yet, you're missing out on a hell of a show. Take care and I look forward to all your letters next week.

Dear Editor,

Terrific. One of those stories ["Hot Pussy"] just this side of being cheesy and awful, but it works precisely because you are fascinated whether he will stepover the cliff and fall into the goofiness chasm. But he doesn't, and all of a sudden you are at the end and you are smiling. In a sense, Vonnegut made a career of writing like this.

Jack

DH: Yes, Kyle announced from the title and first paragraph he was going to play with your expectations and kept at it through the whole story. It worked for a lot of readers...

Dear Editor,

Just got through the "Hot Pussy," and man, if I hadn't seen Kyle Ward's name on top first thing, I would have though that story was some straight up new Texas fried Joe Lansdale psychobilly freakout! Great stuff, keep 'em coming.

Cheers,

John

DH: Vonnegut and Lansdale? Kyle's head is going to explode.

Dear Editor,

Just finished the latest installment by Kyle Ward. Any story that incorporates a pussy scratching a clithauser has got to be good. Thanks for a great site.

Sic 'em,

Rick

DH: Really glad you enjoyed it, Rick. And nice to see some Baylor readers representin' on here.

Dear Editor,

I always look forward to reading the new stories on the site. When I saw "Hot Pussy," I was a little reluctant to read a Cat-Napping story. But after finishing this little adventure I was surprised how much I enjoyed the read. Pretty snappy writing. I'm now intrigued to see one of the author's movies now.

Thanks,

Robert

DH: I first came across Kyle's spec script "Fiasco Heights" years ago and it read a lot like "Hot Pussy." Crazy characters in odd and hilarious situations making poor decisions...written with energy and pace. It's not surprising that he's a hot commodity in Hollywood.

Dear Editor,

The title of Kyle Ward's story, "Hot Pussy," barely hints at what's to come (pardon the pun...) Mr. Ward smacks you right between the eyes, but you can't help but smile as it's happening. Some of the best one-liners ever. Definitely reread material.

(As an aside: the title presented a bit of a challenge when composing this email. I figured if I put it in the subject line, it would definitely end up in your spam folder.)

So glad Popcorn Fiction is back from hiatus!

Heidi

DH: Glad to be back, Heidi. I've commissioned and received a lot of new fiction over the last couple of months and look forward to publishing the stories this summer!

DH: One more note: my readers and I have finally made it through all the submissions we received during the first general submissions week. If I haven't contacted you, then your story just wasn't right for Popcorn Fiction at this time. I have a great respect for anyone who puts his or her work down on the page and then submits it to a publication, so thank you so much for including us in your plans for your story. I sincerely hope you find another place to publish it, and you are free to do so as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, I just simply don't have the time to discuss each submission, so please do not contact me regarding your story.

I've been asked many times lately if I will open the site to submissions again and the answer is "yes," but not until this Fall. Thanks again to each and every writer and reader on this site...we continue to grow every week and it blows my mind that so many people have such a hunger for these stories. Bye!

Dear Editor,

I've enjoyed all of the stories you've posted since the site launched, but ["Night Flight"] is the first that demanded a letter. Simply fantastic. From the subtle setups, to the unexpected yet inevitable payoff. “I...became fire.” Thanks so much to Mr. Foraker and yourself for sharing.

Michael

DH: So nice of you to say, Michael, and I'm really glad you wrote in. I plan to get the site back up and running through the summer, so keep reading and don't hesitate to comment again!

Dear Editor,

["Night Flight" was] very enjoyable. Excellent story. I saw what was coming for the narrator when mention was made of famous plane crashes. From the veryfirst sentence, I was in. One thing, since transoceanic flights track great-circle routes, I don't think you can ever be 700 miles from land in sufficientlynorthern latitudes, no matter which ocean. Already looking forward to June and, of course, continued life for PF. Thanks.

Ron

DH: But then what happened to Oceanic Flight 815???

Dear Editor,

Loved "Night Flight." Great plot, amazing twist (what a brilliant new take on a much explored subject!) and excellent writing: a perfect combination.

I'm going to miss Popcorn, Derek. Please, don't stay away for too long and enjoy the break. :-)

Best,

Monica

DH: The break was short and sweet. I'm actually in Detroit prepping a movie that Michael Brandt is directing. I'll do my best to keep up the once-a-week nature of Popcorn Fiction during the shoot, but I apologize in advance if I skip a random week. Really glad you dug the latest offering.

Dear Editor,

Brett Foraker's mind-blowing tale, "Night Flight," grabbed my imagination and squeezed. Hard. It was especially captivating because it tackled a question that's plagued me all too often lately: what happens up there, on those planes that crash or explode or simply disappear? Mr. Foraker offered one hell of a visual.

It's Monday and I'm jonesing; can't wait till the next Popcorn Fiction offering.

Thanks for a great site!

Heidi

DH: Thanks for another great letter, Heidi. You've earned your place as the top letter-writer on our site. Keep 'em coming!

Dear Editor,

In partial response to your popcorn fiction and my increased love of it, I finally moved along to put up my own site. It's a way for me to finally let out those writings that sit shelved waiting to be read or ideas that just simmer in my brain. As an aspiring screenwriter, you understand the frustration of spending hours upon hours writing to only end up with a script that you have to fight to get people just to read. The site isn't about my screenplays and this email isn't about that either...it's to thank you and popcorn fiction for finally forcing me to delve deeper into my storytelling and release it to the world. If you have time I'd love for you to check the site out, I think you might like the series' I've started, might actually make you laugh a bit. www.mauriceblocker.com

Manny

DH: Hey Manny...I wish you much success with your stories and your writing! Stay at it and who knows what might come your way!

DH: That's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed Kyle's off-beat story "Hot Pussy." I'll be back next week with some more Popcorn, so come on back!

Dear Editor,

The two-part story "Honeymoon" left me wanting even more. Mr. Bohem should think about expanding it into a novel. Every time I thought I knew who was lying, I had to think again. Great stuff.

Miriam

DH: You can see why Les is an Emmy winner! If you happen to live anywhere close to Nashville, check out the Nashville Screenwriting Conference the first weekend in June. Les started the conference and dozens of top screenwriters are going to be there to talk about writing for movies. Maybe you can get Les to sign your computer screen!

Dear Editor,

I missed the chance to submit material and want to know if you will accept submissions again from readers.

Bill

DH: I will accept submissions again, but not until the Fall. Keep checking back here for more details.

Dear Editor,

["Honeymoon"] is really great. One of my favorite short stories. Not surprising, but in general your website shows me that screenwriters have a hold on story in a much more visceral way than novelists who write short stories.

D.J.

DH: Wow, that's a great compliment to our writers. Thanks so much, D.J.

Dear Editor,

Leslie Bohem's "Honeymoon" is a fabulously wild ride with lots of unexpected twists and turns. But what I like most about this story is the transformation of the main character from a naive little girl to a woman with some serious cojones. Very cool!

Thanks for yet another entertaining read.

Heidi

DH: Awesome Heidi. Like you, I enjoy fiction where the female protagonists have cojones. Or, in the case of Colin Goldman's story, a penis finger.

DH: Okay, that's it for this week and we're going to take a short break at Popcorn Fiction to recharge our batteries. We'll be back in a few weeks with more stories from some new screenwriters, some of our already published writers, and maybe from some of our general submitters! Thanks to all the readers...we're close to a 1000 subscribers now and that astounds me. Take care!

DH: Okay, this wraps part 2 of our first-ever two-part story on Popcorn Fiction. I received a bunch of "can't wait for part 2" letters, so I figure most of the rest of you were holding off until the finale to send in your thoughts. I'll post as many letters as I can next week and get Les to answer any questions you might have. I'm going to publish one more story next week...then I have to take a couple of weeks off to catch up on some reading and writing. Thanks to all the loyal readers who venture here every week. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

Dear Editor,

That's ["Laredo"] the strangest story I've read in a long time. Very funny too!

Brian

DH: Colin Goldman responds...

CG: Thanks. My first short story. I've really been inspired by the wide variety of work on PopcornFiction.

Dear Editor,

Thanks for the warning. Plain wrong but brilliant. Awesome writing. Loved it.

Best,

Monica

CG: I doubt it was brilliant. But you're probably right.

Dear Editor,

"Laredo" by Colin Goldman is as deranged as it is brilliant. I forwarded a link to the story to a psychologist colleague, but we've yet to reach consensus regarding Mr. Goldman's diagnosis. Between the two of us, we've narrowed it down to four. Pathology notwithstanding, please do what you have to to persuade Mr. Goldman to write more stories for Popcorn Fiction. (Wait. I just had an image of what that might be...)Thanks for a wild, fun ride and one hell of a fantastic tale!

Heidi

CG: Thanks. I'm in negotiations with Derek to write a second piece, but my price has now doubled—two squeeze hugs!

Dear Editor,

First things first, excellent work on Popcorn Fiction. I'm really enjoying the stories posted on the site and I eagerly await the newest update every week. This week's story, Laredo by Colin Goldman, was the first update that prompted me to email in my response. I have to say that I really enjoyed this week's offering. Laredo reads like a twisted and dark graphic novel. Something I would expect from the likes of an early Frank Miller, or the always disturbing and entertaining Garth Ennis. I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this wonderfully sick tale of pre-planned cocaine binges, penis-fingers, and goth bi-sexual bikers but I will simply say it was a true scroller. If only to find out what disturbing turn of events would unfold next. I hope to see more from Colin Goldman soon as I now consider myself a fan of his work.

Keep the scrollers coming!

P.S. Have you tried reaching out to some of the talented comic book writers that are out there? I'm not sure if you have already, as I have not read every story on the site yet, but I'm sure they could provide some entertaining short fiction.

Jake

DH: Yes, Jake, I have reached out to a couple of my favorite comic book writers, but so far, I haven't been able to land any. Also...Colin Goldman responds...

CG: Thanks, Jake. I think it's important that even the most perverse among us express their honest thoughts so that the normal folks can know what to make illegal.

Dear Editor,

I must admit that it was a love it or hate it reaction that I was facing when I laid my eyes on the latest story from Colin Goldman.That was not an easy sell for sure! But what a ride it was at the end. That's what is constantly great about Popcorn Fiction...the surprises, the unexpected turns, the variety of tones, the unwanted twisted stories that end up sucking your brain from inside, holding you down to the ground until you surrender to the greatness of the wonderful writers who populate this site. Always a pleasure and a thrill!Waiting for more.

Julien

DH: "Unwanted" is the key, Julien!

CG: Thanks for your compliment. I'm not sure it was about my work, but I'm taking it as such.

Dear Editor:

I have to say I'm impressed with the continued effort to bring quality fiction to the Internet.

"Here I Sit, Broken-Hearted" was definitely worth the read. I especially appreciated the technique of changing from first person to third at the end. In the beginning, however, the sentence "I've found him" confused me. It prompted me to assume the guy on the barstool had given up on women and now prefers men. Or the narrator was a woman. Without situational awareness, nothing made much sense while reading the next few paragraphs. It was an absolute struggle to read myself out of the mire. Until I finally figured out what the hell was going on, I had to juggle three possible scenarios. I love to read, but not when a writer tortures, especially when he's no longer a neophyte. The author should've written something like: "I finally found the fucker who killed her." That would've not just cleared up the gender issue but also the relationship between the guy on the bar and "him." I'd be curious to know how many other readers were similarly confused. Once I got back on my feet, though, it was a fantastic story, one I'll never forget. Thanks for the marathon effort away from the day job.

Ron

DH: I didn't have the same issue, Ron, but I'll throw your critique out to the readership and see if anyone else was similarly confused. So glad you still enjoyed the story! I thought it was fantastic.

Dear Editor:

Thanks for running the site, adding the link and a quick share without the extras. I enjoyed "Here, I Sit". I was very curious how it was going to end and how he was going to end it stylistically. Please keep them coming.

Darin

DH: You got it, Darin. I have many more Popcorn stories in the kitty that I'm eager to publish from a wide array of talented writers. Keep coming back and I'll keep publishing them.

Dear Editor:

Wow! I just read "Here I Sit, Broken-Hearted" by Sam Reaves and it really moved me. It's a very well written story with well developed characters.

Najla

DH: Najla, you touched on what I like the most about the stories here...authors find a way to pack such richness and depth into tight spaces. Sam's story was one of our shortest, and yet it painted the whole picture of this guy's struggle and pain (and ultimately, his stupidity.) It's always inspiring when I see that.

Dear Editor,

I keep meaning to tell you how much I love your site! Your story was awesome. Cannot wait for the full length feature. Larry Doyle's was great. And "Tipping Point" was exceptional. What a world Todd Stein created. And Brandt's! I can't say enough. Happy to know it's there. It inspires me.

Tara

DH: Thanks Tara...great to hear you are getting so much out of the site. I'm delighted these stories are serving as inspiration to you and your writing.

Dear Editor:

Thanks you for keeping the site going. I first read about it a little ways back on John August's blog and have enjoyed reading some great short fiction. I've gotten a little backlogged in my reading and so I just now got to Patton Oswalt's "Tasting Menu" and though it's been there for a little bit and I know you've gotten this e-mail before, I just wanted to let him know that he's got another fiction fan. I was sold (I'm sure like many others) on the line, <93>I findthe pearly rice and steppe-grass undertones of Asian infants to be a wonderful palate awakener." Y'all keep up the good work! Now to go netflix Big Fan...

Ethan

DH: Yes, that's one of my favorite stories. I didn't know what to expect from Patton, and when I received that short, biting tour de force, I flipped. Glad you dug it...and that movie is excellent.

Dear Editor,

Whoa...what else can I say, but whoa! What an awesome story ["I'll Never Dream Again"] this week, I greatly enjoyed it.That is exactly the kind of pure storytelling that I like to grab every week off your website. This story was just amazing from start to finish, and I would definitely like to see it becoming something for the big screen. I believe that it got so much potential and the idea is just brilliant. Great work Justin and congrats for your extensive GI JOE collection :)

Julien

DH: Justin Marks responds...

JM: Thanks so much Julien! I too long for the days when studios want to make movies about catfish connoisseurs with wireless transmitters inside their brains (trust me, I've tried). Until then, I'm so glad we've got Popcorn Fiction. Where would we be without the ability to experiment?

Dear Editor,

Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!! For doing this site.

Regardless of success in the film industry...whatever that is, I started out writing short stories like you've hooked into.

Because I started out enjoying them as a reader. Audience. Just a fanatic. Comics to graphic novels...lotsa b movies—not the cheesy kind—and big timefilm noir and the Pulps. Gotta love the Pulps.

Can't wait for your open submission again. Did you know...

That Rod Serling's TZ success was due to hiring short story writers, first and foremost, and then training them on how to act—break their short stories into tv scripts? He actually hired starving, pulp fiction writers who weren't tv writers.

That's why the previous reincarnations of the TZ really didn't work as good as the original one did.

Mark

DH: That's great, Mark. We'll definitely open up the site again to general submissions probably in the Fall...we're still making our way through the ones we received this go-around. Thanks to everyone who sent in their stories. Cool about the Twilight Zone...maybe we'll have Popcorn TV someday.

Dear Editor,

After reading "You'll Never Dream Again" by Justin Marks, I did something I rarely do. I read it again. It was just that good. Not only did the storyline hook me, but the voice was so much fun, I didn't want it to end. I enjoyed this piece for its style, its humor, and the wild but thought-provoking tale it wove.

IMHO, "You'll Never Dream Again" would make a fantastic motion picture.

(An aside: I'm glad that Popcorn Fiction isn't caloric. If it were, I'd be huge.)

Many thanks!

Heidi

DH: Hey Heidi...the beauty of PF is it is fat-free, saccharine free, and wholly satisfying. Thanks again for your excellent reviews.

DH: That's it for this week's batch and thanks again to everyone who sends in letters. I apologize that I can't publish them all...I wish I had more time. Next week I have a weird, funny, insane tale from writer/editor Colin Goldman. I actually think there might be something wrong with him.

DH: No time to do letters this week...caught me on vacation. I do want to say that John August did link to his story from his website, johnaugust.com, and there are quite a few comments over there, so check them out and add to them if you'd like. Thanks to all the readers who wrote in here as well...John's story "Snake People" was one of our best received and I do appreciate all the comments. Also, thanks to the readers who take the time to write me about the older stories in our archives...it is always great to hear that the stories are finding new fans every day. A special thanks to all the people who submitted short fiction during our week of accepting general submissions. We were flooded with your stories, and it will take us a while to sort through them. I am fortunate to have assembled a crack staff of editors to read each one, and will hopefully find a few gems to publish on the site. I have received quite a few requests to accept stories after the deadline, but unfortunately, I have to stick to the submission rules, and will not accept anything until we open the site up again at some date in the future. So please do not send any unsolicited stories; I simply can't accept them.

Once again, thanks to every one who comes here each week to check out the genre fiction. You're the reason we keep this site running. I'll be back next week to answer your letters so keep 'em coming!

Dear Editor,

How tight was that writing [in "Spree" by TS Faull]?

I don't think you could get more taut if you were Steve Martin's plastic surgeon. It was so visceral, so...I saw the movie and all without knowing what colour the damn car was, whether anyone had freckles or the age of the main character. Love that, when a writer knows how to imply the necessary and let us imagine the rest.

Bravo.

Dean

DH: Awesome, Dean...I'm glad you enjoyed TS Faull's story as much as I did. It was a real scroller. Thanks so much for writing in!

Dear Editor:

Oh, Yes! "One Good Thing" was brilliant stuff.?

I'll enter my stuff one day—but not by the 28th of this month—I need more practice. This is just brilliant though, I love this.

Thank you.

Steve

DH: Yes, Barry Schkolnick did a great job of sucking us in and taking the reader along on the ride, only to play with our expectations in the end. The best practice you can have is to read as many stories as you can get your hands on and write a little every day. Glad our site helps.

Dear Editor:

Long time listener, first time caller. I love the site—thanks for putting it together. I haven't had a chance to write yet so I wanted to mention a few things...

1) I know that the film rights to a few stories on here have been bought/are being bought so I wanted to say to any possible buyers reading this that I think "When We Get Home" would make a great movie. I love the setting. That one and "The Flying Kreisslers" are such great looks into places we normally don't get to see. And for "When We Get Home" especially, there's so much more I want to know. What's with the scientists? What happens next?

2) There seems to be a big emphasis on crime stories here. I'm surprised there isn't more sci/fi. Is that because you are getting fewer sci/fi submissions or because you are partial to crime? Not complaining—I love the stories you've chosen—just curious.

3) Thanks for taking submissions. I think it's a great idea, though I do have a request. If, now that you have a bigger inventory, you decide to post more than one story a week, please don't do more than two at the absolute most. As it is, I look forward to the stories all week and I'm afraid too many new stories would diminish that. Anyway just a suggestion. Good luck sorting through them.

Jeff

DH: Thanks for writing in Jeff...I'll take your questions in order. 1. Yes, that's one of my favorite stories we've published here. Maybe I can get Lowell to write a sequel? 2. The truth is I haven't received as many science fiction stories, although I did recently acquire a couple of new ones I'll be running in the months ahead, and I think they're both really compelling. 3. I'll never run more than one a week. I can barely keep up with this as it is! Really grateful for readers like you, Jeff! Keep 'em coming.

Dear Editor:

I'm way behind on PF. Can't wait to catch up! Been in Bermuda shooting a short doc on their most beloved resident, an 86 year old man named Johnny Barnes. For the last 27 years, 5 days a week, rain, blow, or shine, Johnny has been walking to the busiest roundabout in Hamilton at 4am, and he spends the next 6 hours waving to commuters, blowing kisses, and shouting "Good Morning!" and "I love you!" It was great fun to film and now I'm buried in editing, but I'll make sure to set aside time to catch up on stories!

I think it's fantastic that you're opening up for submissions, though I can't imagine the work load that it will create for you (and everyone helping out). Kudos for that.

I'm still holding out hope that one day I'll find the perfect match and be the first to direct a popcorn fiction short film!

Best,

Matt

DH: That sounds like an interesting doc, Matt...plus you get to shoot in Bermuda. Is Johnny Barnes off his rocker or just extra friendly? I've been swamped with submissions, but I put together a crack team of editors/readers to help me sort through them. I hope we find some gems!

Dear Editor:

Hey again. Thank you for continuing to post great, varied stories. I enjoyed "Spree"—so dark!

I also like old-time radio—big fan of "X Minus One." If you haven't heard the John Meston-penned "Gunsmoke" episodes, I'd be happy to suggest a few. Very noir-ish with their lean, muscular dialogue despite the Dodge City setting.

Very jazzed to see you've decided to accept some open submissions. Thanks again for providing an outlet for compelling short fiction.

Tim

DH: Great Tim. Yeah, I'm into both X Minus One and Gunsmoke. Email me the names of the episodes so I can see if I've heard them. And thanks for pointing out the two number 5's on the legal doc (I cut it from your letter). I'll change it for the next time we take submissions!

Dear Editor:

TS Faull's "Spree" shoved me headlong into the depths of a nightmare, and I held my breath for the duration. I had no idea what to expect. Barry's Schkolnick's "One Good Thing" offered a completely different ride—but just as unpredictable, not to mention scroll-worthy. Reading the two stories one after the other underscored for me even more how emotionally compelling a well-crafted short story can be, whether it engenders horror—or hope.

With Popcorn Fiction's weekly offering, I actually look forward to Mondays : )

Thanks,

Heidi

DH: Our letters page never feels complete without you, Heidi. Always love reading your thoughtful reviews and glad to contribute to the betterment of your Mondays!

Dear Editor:

Just read "Tipping Point" and loved it. The ending was very moving.

Jill

DH: We've gotten so many letters about Todd Stein's story...glad it is still resonating with our readers. I'm still hoping that one becomes a movie!

Dear Editor,

Just wanted to say compliments to the writer of Tipping Point. The world is fully realized, the characters are tangible. Never a dull moment. An excellent short story as usual. Long live popcornfiction.com. :D

Kevin

DH: Thanks Kevin...I'm always glad when readers look back over previous stories and please feel free to write in about any of our archived work. Glad you're enjoying Popcorn Fiction so much.

Dear Editor:

[Regarding your suggestions for what is the equivalent of a "page turner" for this site], I'd go with "scroll-downer" over "button-clicker." But maybe I'd just call it a "scroller." Sorry, I'm just in the mood to goof off.?

Best wishes,

John

DH: I like that, John. From now on, we'll call 'em scrollers.

Dear Editor:

Pretty disturbing story this week, but I really enjoyed it. I can't say enough about TS Faull's first person writing. It's really efficient, a real page turner, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way through. A great example of a psychological thriller executed with a style that sticks with the minimum and reaches you right in the heart. Anyway, I hope I would never receive that phone call, and I'm more than curious to watch the movie that TS Faull wrote about the Armin Meiweis case. Promising...

Julien

DH: Yes...so glad you liked it, Julien. TS had a quality in his story that I admire: that thing that makes me question..."what would I do in that situation?" He's a talented writer and I hope we'll get some more from him in the future.

Dear Editor:

I came across your site by accident, and I am very thankful I did. I just read "Spree" by TS Faull. It was very thrilling, and written in a style I wish I could write in. I delayed my staff meeting just to finish it. Please keep up the great work. If you and your friends ever need motivation, let me know, I will find a box of cigars to send you.

Art

DH: Hey, don't get fired from your job for reading these stories! Unless you're the boss, and then do whatever you want. Plus, you hit my sweet spot, Art. Send cigars any time! Really glad you're enjoying the stories...I hope you stick around because we have some really great stories coming up, including one from the inimitable John August next week.

DH: So you might have noticed, we're going to take submissions here for one week only, starting today. If you plan to submit, please follow all the instructions to the letter, or your story will be immediately discarded. And remember, we put this site together because we love genre short stories...we don't have ads, we're not making profits, we're just trying to bring life back to a deserving form. So please don't hold it against us if your story is not right for the site, or you don't hear back from us in a timely manner, or some other story we publish isn't as good as yours. This isn't our day job.

Also, some of you are wondering if this is the end of short stories commissioned from veteran screenwriters. I assure you, I have a ton of short fiction from professional authors and screenwriters I will run throughout the year. Thanks to everyone for all your support of this site!

Dear Editor,

Every week I get my Popcorn Fiction fix, I'm always inspired to be more creative in my own life. Week after week the quality just keeps coming. Bravo. Another great story this week, my favorite line "Chad could see Omar politely trying to conjure an escape hatch in the floor with his mind." Brilliant.

Mark

DH: Mark, so glad that the site is inspiring you to be creative. That's great to hear...getting letters like yours makes putting new stories up each week very satisfying.?

Dear Editor,

Regarding "My New Black Friend," hilarious & awesome! Thanks and keep it up ;)?

Kyle

DH: Kyle...so glad you enjoyed Mark's story. I, too, thought it was hilarious and had a great voice. It is fun as the editor on this site to publish various definitions of "Popcorn Fiction." Diversity seems to be what keeps readers coming back each week.

Dear Editor,

Pardon me for being cynical, but you seem to just publish any old thing you and your hollywood friends decide to write. Once again, talented writers on the outside are kept out while hack screenwriters keep everyone else away. I'm not impressed.?

Gordon

DH: Sorry the site isn't working for you, Gordon. The truth, and you've touched on it here, is my hollywood friends and I were all in a large hot tub this last week (enormous, actually), smoking cigars and discussing inventive ways we could keep talented writers from breaking into the movie business. After a while, we resolved that the best way was to keep doing what we were doing: publishing short stories on the web!

DH: Thanks again to everyone for writing in and I hope you liked TS Faull's vicious little thriller as much as I did. I'm not quite ready to open the site up to outside submissions, but as I promised, I will soon, but only for a limited time. Keep checking back here and I'll keep you informed. Have a great week!

Dear Editor:

When are you going to run a contest for your faithful (non-famous) readers? Perhaps a pitch contest leading to an unknown being able to have their short posted? Thanks again—love the site.

Patrick

DH: I'm not sure we'll do a contest here, but we will be opening the site up to general submissions very soon. Keep checking this page for details.

Dear Editor:

I may repeat myself, but once again, you came up with a great story. I loved Beth's fun and tragic tale of disillusioned wedding. That was a fast ride with a lot of truth lying beneath the surface (oops...what did I say...). Anyway, hope we'll get the chance to see her movie in France one day.

By the way, Derek, is there any chance that we could read another story of yours soon? I've discovered the site too late, and your first story was not available anymore. That would be awesome.?

Au revoir,

Julien

DH: I'm going to put "Shake" back up at some point, just not sure when. As far as writing another one...maybe some day! Thanks, Julien!

Dear Editor:

Really liked "The Breakup 5000." "And because his mother is a whore..." I was completely on board from then on. I'm curious because this didn't have the genre feeling some of the others did. Of course, I've never been entirely comfortable with the whole literary vs genre vs (fill in writing style) and knowingwhat the difference is meant to be. To me, it's a bit like the whole Miles Davis on music quote, there's only two types: good and bad.?

Thomas

DH: I like mixing it up on PF, as evidenced by this week's story. I'll get back to some crime fiction next week. And here's Beth Schacter to respond as well...

BS: Well first of all, thanks! And I agree. There's some great Mamet riff about how writers can write the same scene differently because ofthe filter they naturally have. Even if I wanted to stay within the more tradition Popcorn genre, I couldn't—it just isn't where my filter is set and Derek only encouraged my madness.

Dear Editor:

Beth Schacter's "The Break Up 5000" is a gem! How can you not root for an MC who names her hubby's bimbo Connie because she wants her "to be named something that says "guest star on Laverne and Shirley" and "smells like cabbage" in equal parts"? I'm definitely gonna read this one again.

Thanks!?

Heidi

DH: Here's Beth again...

BS: Thanks so much! I have never met a Connie so for all the Connie's out there let me just say that it isn't personal.?

Dear Editor:

["The Break Up 5000."] Cute. Fun. Charming. Realistic. But I kept wondering why she doesn't just call her in-laws on phone if the goal is to tell them first. Did I miss something??

Michael

BS: A few weeks ago, I was convinced that the only way to win a fight with my husband was to make a flourless chocolate cake.?

Dear Editor:

I've been enjoying the stories on Popcorn Fiction for months. I'm surprised not to see praise for Matthew Brozik's piece, "Service Station," which I think is one of the best to appear here. Any chance we'll be treated to another story from him??

Rachel

DH: I love it when we get mail about some of our older stories. Always great to know the archives are getting read. Here's a response from Matthew David Brozik.

MDB: Thanks, Rachel! It's especially rewarding to be in such talented company here. And...yes, there will be another piece of mine at Popcorn Fiction in the near future. If you're jonesing for more Brozik, though, in the meantime you can visit my own site (but only after you read this week's PF piece).

DH: Thanks to everyone for writing in again this week! Get ready for an excellent suspense-thriller next week from screenwriter TS Faull. ?

Dear Editor:

You ever think you'll start accepting submissions from unknown writers? Or do you plan on keeping things the way they are?

Ryan

DH: I've gotten several variations on this question over the last few weeks, so here's the update. Yes, I plan to take submissions from the general public very soon, maybe as soon as next month. There are two factors holding this up...one is simply getting the infrastructure in place to handle the volume of submissions. Second, I need to get my legal i's dotted and t's crossed so that I don't get sued. I want everyone to know up front, I publish genre short fiction here because I love the stories, and I have zero interest in monetizing the site. The authors retain the copyrights to their stories and can do whatever else they want with them, including publish them elsewhere or sell the movie rights or whatever. If putting this site up ever becomes a pain in the ass, or there are legal issues, then it won't be worth it. Every working screenwriter's big fear is that a friend of a friend will ask him or her to read the novice's script about werewolves, and then five years later, he or she writes a successful movie about werewolves and the stranger sues him or her for "stealing my idea." I'm certainly going to cover this fear from a legal standpoint before I allow submissions, but let me make this clear to everyone, I have not and will never take someone else's story idea. Anyway, that's the update. Look to this page for details soon on general submissions. I think I will test out a limited time-frame for submissions the first time through and see what kind of response I get. I recognize that some of the great genre fiction writers of the 20th century began by submitting to popular magazines, and I would love nothing more than to discover a true talent. Okay, that was long-winded...back to the letters...

Dear Editor,

After reading "Tipping Point," I was amazed. It was such a powerful short story and set in such a distinctive future. I have always had some ideas floating in my head and was wondering where I could start. Do you know of any places online similar to Popcorn Fiction for amateur writers to share their work and gain feedback??

Thanks

Warren

DH: Hey, Warren, I received that same question a while back and I'll reprint a letter below from the archives that answered the question better than I could...from Matthew B.

MB: Derek, if you're serious about directing visitors (such as "John") to websites that aid writers in submitting to various venues (including online pubs), consider suggesting these two:Duotrope's Digest (www.duotrope.com) and NewPages.com (er...www.newpages.com). I use these almost every day, though they are not without their flaws. Used together, they pretty much cover the whole field and give a writer everything he needs (except, of course, sample copies of the mags themselves.)

DH: Thanks again to Matthew B. for that insight. And to everyone, take fifteen minutes to scan the past letter archives...some of your questions might already be answered there.

Dear Editor,

"No. Seven" was a surprisingly literary addition to the site. Some of your contributors are more "storytellers" and some are more "literary," in my humble opinion, and I thought Roger Thompson's story was up there with the best you've had on the site (along with Nichelle Tramble's, Craig Mazin's, and Craig Ugoretz's stories.) That's not to say I haven't enjoyed most of the others—I didn't get to read your story before it was taken down, but I liked your books alot. So keep up the good work and I can't wait to see what you have next.?

Evan

DH: Thanks for the very nice words, Evan. If you haven't read Roger's latest book, Beyond Duty, you should pick it up on Amazon or your neighborhood bookstore. I didn't know much about the soldier life in Iraq, and this memoir is a touching, gripping, and honest account of what it was like to be a tank commander in pre- and post-surge Iraq. Roger ghost-wrote it with his friend and former student Shannon Meehan, and I couldn't recommend it highly enough. It reads with the pace of a novel and will hit you like a gut-punch.?

DH: That's it for this week's letters...I've got another wickedly funny tale from screenwriter Mark Banker called "My New Black Friend," that I'll publish next week before returning to some crime fiction from screenwriters T.S. Faull and Colin Goldman. Following that, I'm going to publish the first two-part story on Popcorn Fiction...a spy tale from an author we've published on here before.

As always, please write in with all your questions, comments, criticisms, and complaints, except don't hit "send" on your complaints.

Dear Editor,

The content on your site just keeps getting better and better! Great work, and was pleasantly surprised to see Rian's tale in poetry form. Keep them? coming...

Matt

DH: Thanks, Matt...I had a great many responses to Rian's poem from last week, so I think it's best for Rian to answer the rest of this week's letters. I turn the page over to him...

Dear Editor,

This was a fantabulous addition to Popcorn Fiction! What a superb job Rian did. I'm so thankful you have a site where we can view great pieces such as "The Man in the Herringbone Hat." Thank you so much for sharing a different kind of story on your site!

Best,

Marti

RJ: Thanks Marti! Glad to get a little rhyming in the mix here on Popcorn Fiction...happy you enjoyed it.

Dear Editor,

Speechless as I am enjoying popcorn's poetry
I lay on my feet, reading every word again and again
Standing in line, waiting for my turn as I dare to see
The extravagant work of a master user of the pen

Julien

RJ: I can't top that. Thanks Julien, very glad you dug it!

Dear Editor,

Whereas far too many e-zines offer the literary equivalent of Ambien, Popcorn Fiction consistently serves up fare that is unique, intelligent and entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed Rian Johnson's "The Man in the Herringbone Hat." Thanks for veering off the beaten path, PF!

Heidi

RJ: Thanks Heidi, and I second your take on Popcorn Fiction. There are some terrific writers on the site, and I'm happy to be in such talented company.

Dear Editor,

Rian Johnson owes no apology to Shel Silverstein. "The Man in the Herringbone Hat" had me giddily captivated and I can't help but wish he would film it. Starring some Brick alumni perhaps? Yes, yes please!

Faith

RJ: I'd be somewhat stymied by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's propensity for pork pies, but I'll see what I can do. Thanks for the kind words, Faith!

Dear Editor:

This is truly an observation, not a complaint. Do you guys know any more women writers? I've noticed a lack of estrogen in Popcorn Fiction and wonder at it. Is this just a reflection of the numbers in the industry or genre or some other factor? I'm writing action stories and there doesn't seem to be a lot of successful women in that genre. Seeing the M/F ratio in PF really brought it to my attention.

Shelley

DH: Hey, Shelley...I've solicited many successful women screenwriters to write for Popcorn Fiction, but only a few have stepped up. I don't know if it's the idea of writing prose or the "genre" fiction of it all, but getting some of them to submit stories is a bit like pulling teeth.

To be honest, I don't think too much about: oh, I need to publish more women or minorities...I just publish the stories I like and reject the ones I don't. Thanks for writing in!

Dear Editor,

Hi, I just read the fantastic, lyrical short story, "Lightning in a Bottle" by Craig Mazin . Can you confirm for me my suspicions that Sojourn Sweat is in fact Pan? Did I read the subtext correctly? Or have I been drinking too much wine?

Rob

DH: Glad you've been checking out the archives, Rob! I'll let Craig answer for you...

CM: He's not Pan, but you're awfully close. Maybe he's not just one god but a combination? The portraits are the key...thanks so much for the thoughtful read of my story. I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

Dear Editor,

You know a story is good when it leaves you reeling, like a well-aimed left hook you never saw coming. I can think of a bunch of superlatives to describe Casey McCabe's "Electric," but a bumper-sticker I saw a few days ago says it best: "Toadly Ossum!"

Thanks for yet another exceptional tale.

Heidi

DH: Thanks again, regular-contributor-to-this-page, Heidi. Here's Casey's response...

CMcC: Thanks for the superlative, Heidi. Glad I could surprise you.

Dear Editor,

Just a few words about the last story from Todd Stein. Great story, as always, and I must say that this one really talked to me as it reminded me of an idea that I had a few years back that was based on the same premises: in the future, to have a baby, you will have to wait until somebody dies. I didn't really go very far with that idea, but now, by reading "Tipping Point," I can see where it could have gone. Todd gave it a really interesting twist, and I enjoyed immersing myself in his futuristic world. Can't wait to read more!

Cheers,

Julien

DH: And the letters page is hardly complete without hearing from our favorite Frenchman, Julien. Here's Todd's response...

TS: I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Julien. Great minds think alike!

DH: I hope you enjoyed Rian's lyrical addition to the Popcorn Fiction canon. I've got more great short fiction coming from screenwriter/director Beth Schacter, screenwriters Colin Goldman, Mark Banker, and TS Faull. Next week will be? a hit man story from non-fiction writer Roger Thompson. See you in a week!

DH: I'm out of town this week so didn't get a chance to read, format, and answer the letters. Thanks to everyone for writing in and a big thanks to the regular contributors to this page for all of your nice feedback. It's always great to hear from you. I hope you enjoyed Todd Stein's story…next week, we're going to publish something completely different from acclaimed writer/director Rian Johnson (BRICK, THE BROTHERS BLOOM), so be sure and come back next Monday.

I continue to get letters about the timing of opening the site up to submissions. We're going to do it soon, and I'll have all the details up on this page when we get closer. I wish I could be clearer, but we're still working out the kinks. I'm guessing in March, and only for a limited time. I will continue to commission stories from screenwriters and authors whose work I admire, and I will strive to publish only the best popcorn fiction I can find. Okay, see you next week…

Dear Editor,

I know you do not accept general submissions, yet. But, just out of curiosity, do you give the writers you commission any kind of guidelines before they submit. (i.e. “Try and keep it under 3,000 words”...etc?)

Ivo

DH: I tell them that most stories are between 2,000 and 8,000 words, but shorter is better. That's it. Some of the writers ignore me. Oh, and I tell them, “don't write stories that would appear in the New Yorker.” Thanks for the question, Ivo.

I'm going to let last week's writer Matt Olmstead, answer the rest!

Dear Editor,

“The first time I ever willfully defecated in my pants was two years ago” is, by far, the best opening phrase in the history of Popcorn Fiction. I hope to read of other adventures with Poops in the future.

Matt

MO: Thank you. It is in no way based on a real life experience of mine. In no way. Did someone tell you different? Because that's bullshit.

Dear Editor,

Thanks for the heads-up to another homerun. I especially enjoyed Matt's “Pet Octopus,” still in stitches after reading about “The British Solution.” I'm not one who takes to overused reference to defecation in popular culture, but in this character's case, well, what else was left? Glad you survived the holidays. As always, I love Monday mornings.

Cheers.

Ron

MO: I now realize that “The British Solution” may have been a better title.

Dear Editor,

Terrific. Perfect popcorn fiction piece. Perfect tone, flat affect. Underscores the narrator's pathological lack of imagination.

I need to say something though about avoiding death by defecation. Not that good a deterrent move in the face of a professional killer. Don't try it at home. When you die, to the extent you have poop in your boweIs, it comes out because your muscles relax including your sphincter muscle. So the killer has to deal with it anyway.

I had a guy once die in my arms in a helicopter, a young North Vietnamese Army lieutenant I plucked up off the battlefield for intelligence purposes. I knew he died when he pooped.

True story—I still have the guy's red lieutenant's star with my old dog tags. But the advice—don't worry about it. Whatever works.

Best

Jack

MO: That certainly puts things in perspective. Thank you for the compliment.

DH: Thanks again to everyone for writing in and I hope you enjoyed Casey McCabe's “Electric” this week. Next week, we're going back to science fiction with a great short piece from screenwriter Todd Stein. After that, I have a very unique...well, I guess I'll call it a story...from acclaimed screenwriter/director Rian Johnson, so be sure and keep coming back for more popcorn fiction. Have a great week!

Dear Editor,

Quickie question: do you accept submissions only by screenwriters/writers who are known to you?

PJ

DH: Hey, PJ! Yes, so far I've only published stories from writers I've commissioned. I just don't, yet, have the infrastructure in place to handle general submissions... but I will soon, this year (probably by summer) for sure. I'm assembling a team of editors to help me tackle the load once I open up the site. Thanks for asking... I look forward to reading stories from new authors when I get there...

Now I'm going to let last week's author Daley Haggar answer the next three letters...

Dear Editor,

Thanks for the great laughs that I had this morning reading “General Strike.” It was a hell of a funny story. It had me laughing out loud many times and that's quite an accomplishement (I'm French after all...). And that's part of the reason why I keep coming back to your site every week, for the wide range of styles, genres, humor and writing. You can feel the love of writing in every word, every sentences, from the writers who participate in your great site. As always, looking for more!

Julien

DHaggar: Merci beaucoup!

Dear Editor,

Daley Haggar's “General Strike” is a witty, acerbic gem. A true cautionary tale, it should be required reading for anyone with an expandable ego and a Y chromosome. I loved it!

BTW—the reverse psychology at the bottom worked: the first thing I did after being told not to google Ms. Haggar was to google Ms. Haggar. The YouTube clip I happened upon was hilarious!

Thanks,

Heidi

DHaggar: Thank you for your kind words about my story. I'm glad you enjoyed the video. Now here's the bad news: the video is cursed, and unless you make a copy of it and send it to someone else, you will be killed by a gruesome spirit. Sorry?

Dear Editor,

Awesome once again. “Dean's cock was SkyNet”—priceless.

Kyle

DHaggar: Thank you for appreciating my favorite joke. Now, for the love of God, please tell me you didn't watch that video.

DH: That's it for this week's batch. Sorry if you didn't make it in... I was a little pressed for time. I hope you enjoyed Matt Olmstead's story “Pet Octopus” as much as I did. Next week I've got an electric little story from screenwriter Casey McCabe, so see you then. As always, I'd love to hear from you about any of our stories and I'll always try to get the author to respond if you have any questions. Take care!

Dear Editor,

Wonderful story [“When We Get Home.”] Very well written. Makes you remember the important things in life. Thank you!

Eddy

DH: Thanks for writing in, Eddy. Yes, Lowell's story has as much written between the lines as any story we've published. I hope he can set it up as a movie so we can see some more out of these characters.

Dear Editor,

Where to begin on this piece? The story was amazing and left me with a million questions. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I was so angry when it ended. Like the protagonist, I had no idea what was going on by the end and wanted to know more about everyone's intentions. What was the protagonist's position? What did he do? Is it sad that the story is so good that I've been running the Russian words through a translator to try to find out a deeper meaning to what is occurring with the twins? Great story and so many questions left unanswered. I keep reading it over and over again thinking I might glean something from another read. Thanks again for brightening up my work day.

Cheers,

Jason

DH: Jeff Lowell responds...

JL: Jason, I'm glad I sucked you in, and thanks so much for all the kind words. Everything I write professionally is comedy, so this is an idea that I've had floating around for years, but never made the time to write until Derek's site gave me the outlet. I've got a whole story built around all the characters, what's really going on on earth, why there's a gun up there, etc, etc... and you've intuited the key to it all: the Twins' research. Like they said, it's either the scientific breakthrough of the millennium or they'd wasted their entire lives. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to expand this into a movie, and all your questions will be answered.

DH: Whether someone options this story or not, Lowell, you should write the script!

Dear Editor,

[“When We Get Home”] is fantastic! I can't believe he ended it there. I hope it sells so I can see how the thing turns out. Please let him know I started panting about a 1/3 of the way through and basically held my breath from the midpoint to the end. I'm still in recovery. Bravo.

Alyss

DH: Again, Jeff Lowell responds...

JL: Thank you so much. I've really got to give Derek a lot of credit as an editor—I was flailing with the end, and he really figured out how to tie it all together.

DH: That's bullshit. He's buttering me up so I'll run a third story of his.

Dear Editor,

After a long holiday break away from the Internet (ok...mostly) I'm back to Popcorn Fiction, and I was so excited to discover new stories from Dan Dworkin and Jeff Lowell. Those two stories were fantastic reads and are exactly the reason why I'm coming back regularly to read stories here. They are suspenseful, twisted, funny, chilling and pretty intense. I'm learning a lot here in the art of storytelling, and it's a great place to gather around to learn about efficient writing in a short format. Happy new year to you and everyone at Popcorn Fiction!

Julien

DH: Thanks to our favorite French reader for writing in again! It's enormously fun for me to run these stories, because I keep receiving such amazing material. I've got some great, tight stories in the week's ahead. Don't go anywhere!

Dear Editor,

“When We Get Home” was a cracker. It's funny how the idea of nuclear annihilation seemed like an easy way out but the perfect way out all at once. All class. Hope you had an excellent NYE and look forward to the next installment of popcorn fiction.

Dean

DH: Thanks, Dean...yes I had a great New Years Eve and recently returned from Hawaii...if you've never stayed at the Four Seasons Maui, let me make the recommendation...it's an incredible hotel. I'm rested, relaxed, and ready to peddle some more popcorn...

Dear Editor,

Once again, a phenomenal piece of short fiction! Like being the sober guy at a party full of devolving drunks, you could feel something ominous in the air, but JESUS! I didn't expect nuclear war! And to leave it so open-ended wasn't a cheat, but an awesome Sopranos style, make-up your own finale mechanism. Kudos to J-Lo!

Rod

DH: Always great to hear from you, Rod. I agree...as I'm sure you've figured out, I enjoy short story endings that wrap up the story told in THIS tale, but keep you wondering what happens after “the end.” Not all of these are successful, but Lowell pulled out a great one. It's great to see such a huge response from our readers.

Dear Editor,

Jeff Lowell's latest story is fantastic. It made me realize what all the best short stories I've read have in common: the perfect short story, to me, is a significant idea communicated through a perfect morsel of plot, and “When We Get Home” accomplishes that wonderfully. The best stories are so engrossing that you nearly forget you are reading. The critical part of your brain basically shuts down because you know you won't be needing it. And by the time you finish, the story has taken up permanent residency in your mind, because the idea behind it is bigger than the words it's composed of.

I don't know if it's what you originally intended, but Popcorn Fiction seems to be becoming the home to those kinds of stories, and I think that is a very good thing.

At first, I didn't remember what Jeff Lowell's other story was. “Trust Is A Club In The Hand Of Someone Who Loves You” is one my favorite Popcorn Fiction stories, and it's actually the only one that I've reread so far (though “Still Life” will soon join it). I guess I am now officially a Jeff Lowell fan. To both PF and Jeff Lowell: keep up the great work!

Zachary

DH: Man, great to hear from you Zachary. It's incredibly rewarding to have a reader enjoying the stories so much. And, here's Jeff Lowell's response...

JL: Zachary—wow, thank you. The response has been great on this story, and I admit, I'm tempted to set aside more of my time to do this again. Most screenwriters start writing fiction, move into screenwriting, and rarely move back. Derek's really forced a lot of us to rediscover that early passion, and we all owe him one.

DH: You see how he keeps trying to lay on the butter! Damn you, Jeff Lowell. Okay...one more.

DH: Again, a huge thanks to everyone for writing in this week. Apparently, the site was mentioned on a Hollywood tracking board, because I received about a hundred new subscribers over the last few days. Also, a big shout-out to Drew McWeeny at HitFix.com. He keeps praising us in his column and new readers keep showing up. Drew has written a few of the best Masters of Horror and Fear Itself episodes on those programs, and I'm unrepentant in asking him to write a popcorn fiction story for us...so fingers crossed, he'll turn his mind toward prose and send something our way. Okay, back next week with a great little crime character study from television showrunner (NYPD Blue, Prison Break) and talented writer Matt Olmstead. As always, let me know what you think!

Dear Editor,

“The Valknut” was great fun—just like all the others on your site. Thanks once again!

Kyle

DH: Yes, Kyle...I thought Dan's story had a great sort-of X-FILES feel that completely worked for me. He's a talented writer.

Dear Editor,

Do any of the authors of these short stories have any thoughts on granting limited nonexclusive adaptation rights for short subject films, with distribution limited to fests, or in some cases, collection of fest submissions?

The model I'm thinking of is the one that Steven King is noted for, where he may make such a grant to ‘aspiring' filmmakers for such limited distribution.

John C.

DH: Hey John, great question. The way I set up Popcorn Fiction, the authors maintain the copyrights to their stories and can do whatever else they want with them. They might want to set them up as feature films, or publish them somewhere else, or do nothing at all with them. If anyone wants to make a particular story into a short film, it is up to you to contact the author or the author's reps and see if they'd be amenable to this. I know Jeff Lowell agreed to let his first story become a student film, but I don't know of any others. If you want me to forward a query to a particular author, I'm happy to, but he or she may not respond. I know Brian Helgeland was not interested in his story being translated into another medium. Thanks for asking!

Dear Editor,

Loved it [“The Valknut”]! It was a bit scary and ironic. I could almost “picture” all of it happening...great use of words! Look forward to the next story...

Michelle

DH: Glad you enjoyed it and I hope you dug Lowell's new story as much! I've got some great new short fiction coming from Daley Haggar, Colin Goldman, Mark Banker, Todd Stein and other screenwriters in the weeks ahead, and very soon, I'm going to open the site up for submissions, so please stay tuned!

Dear Editor,

What I like about “The Valknut” is that it is so incredibly derivative of what the best contemporary artists—painters, singers, dancers, filmmakers—are doing, but with wit and a deft balance of light and dark elements—very Gothic. But Gothic needs wit and lightness to work. That may be a little deep, but that was my reaction.

Thought it was terrific. Remind me never to meet this guy, though.

Jack

DH: Thanks for some great thoughts, Jack. And...Dan Dworkin responds...

DD: Jack, I'm glad you enjoyed the story and appreciated the lighter elements. I recently remarked to a friend how I found it interesting that most people who read the story see it as a horror or thriller story, whereas I've always seen it as a dark comedy. My friend reconciled these disparate viewpoints quickly and simply, “that's because you're disturbed.”

Dear Editor,

Dan Dworkin's “The Valknut” is fantastic. Yet again, I found myself devouring the entire piece in one sitting. (I'm beginning to think of your site as “hungrymanfiction” rather than “popcornfiction” because the stories are all so satisfying!) I also got a kick out of Action Auto and hope that Mr. Dworkin comes up with more episodes.

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Thanks Heidi...I always love to get your emails. I wonder if I'm going to need to go ahead and trademark “hungrymanfiction.”

DH: That's it for this week. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on Jeff Lowell's new story so please don't hesitate to write me and let me know what you think. And thanks to all the new subscribers for signing up for notifications. See you back here next Monday and thanks to everyone who has spread the word about the site!

Dear Editor,

I loved “Still Life.” Great story. Keep them coming in the new year!

Jill

DH: Jill, will do... I have some great stories coming in the weeks ahead, including a second story from an early Popcorn Fiction contributor next week that really knocked me out. I can't wait to run it.

Dear Editor,

I have read every story on the site and the latest one, “Still Life” is my favorite. I love them all almost equally (“Eugene” actually made me emotional in a strange way) but “Still Life” just hit me in some way. Thank you for the site. A good short story always makes me feel a little better.

Dennis

DH: That's excellent, Dennis. It is gratifying to hear from a reader who is enjoying the stories as much as I enjoy publishing them. You're a prime example of why I'm excited about putting up more popcorn fiction in 2010.

Dear Editor,

Still loving the site and telling my friends about it. Would you mind passing along a message for me to Mr. Mark Bomback? Thanks man, keep up the good work, and happy holidays.

Dear Mr. Bomback,

I loved the nod to the incredible ending of Jim Thompson's A Hell of a Woman in your story Still Life. That's one of my favorite techniques, and outside of Stephen King in the old days, I've never seen anyone else do it. Great choice that increased the emotional punch of your ending in a big way for this reader. Enjoyed the story a lot.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

Daniel

DH: No problem, Daniel. Mark Bomback responds...

MB: Hey Daniel, thanks very much. This was one of those story ideas that started with an ending, so I'm glad it worked for you. Happy holidays to you as well.

Dear Editor,

Thank you for these updates—I really look forward to every new story on the site. Also, I just wanted to let you know how much I'm enjoying The Silver Bear! It is a solid start for a series and I can't wait to read more. Do you ever come to Atlanta for book signings?

Brian

DH: Thanks so much, Brian. I haven't yet been to Atlanta for a signing, but I really hope to come at some point in 2010. Michael and I are working on a script that he's going to direct this year, and we're really hoping to shoot in Atlanta, so if I get there for a movie, I'll definitely arrange a book signing.

Dear Editor,

I humbly request that you inform Mr. Bomback that his story is, without a doubt, the best piece of work to be published on Popcorn Fiction to date! I've read every single story and with respect to the great writers who have been published here such as Mr. Helgeland and Mr. Brandt, I can firmly say that Mr. Bomback stands peerless on the Popcorn Fiction pedestal. If you had a “Champion,” he would be the man at the moment. What's not to love about his story? The message of the soul having an expiration date is on point. The twist and turns at the end are astounding. I don't think I can say the word “love” enough times without violating some sort of quota. I've read it three times and it gets better with each experience.

Regards,

Jason

DH: First of all, Mr. Brandt's wasn't that good. It was pure favoritism. Secondly, Mark Bomback responds...

MB: Wow. I'm extraordinarily flattered, to say the least. It's truly gratifying to know the story gave you so much enjoyment.

Dear Editor,

Hi! I don't have a specific question or anything, but I do enjoy getting the emails and reading all the new stories when they come out—so, I just wanted to write a quick note to say thank you and happy holidays! Wishing you and yours the best, and looking forward to reading all the new stuff coming out after the new year. Thanks for bringing a little bit of interesting into my inbox this year! : )

Brianna

DH: Thanks so much Brianna, and Happy New Year... please keep spreading the word about the site and of course, it's always great to hear from readers. I'll keep dinging on your inbox as long as you keep reading the stories.

Dear Editor,

The last two stories were nothing short of amazing. Michael Brandt's “Reflections” caught me off-guard, and left me with so much emotion I felt as if I'd just read a novel rather than a short story. And Mark Bomback's “Still Life” drew me in and kept me there, captivated. I couldn't stop reading. (I burned dinner, but it was worth it.)

I'm thrilled to hear that an anthology is in the works.

Thanks and Happy Holidays,

Heidi

DH: Heidi, always great to hear from you. I was just kidding earlier...I agree, Brandt's story was awesome. I just don't need that guy's ego getting any bigger. Pretty soon, he won't let me rewrite him at all. Bomback's “Still Life” was definitely one of my favorites as well. Glad it worked for you too!

That's it for this week, and I hope everyone dug Dan Dworkin's “The Valknut.” It was the perfect story to kick off the new decade. Next week, a new story from one of our first contributors. I think the story is really great...and soon, new fiction from screenwriters Daley Haggar, Colin Goldman, Mark Banker, Casey McCabe, and more. Thanks for making 2009 such a fun year for me and I'm very much looking forward to hearing from everybody in 2010.

Dear Editor,

Please inform Mr. Brandt that I loved his story. Truth be told, when I first began reading, I kept asking myself “Ok which side of the page do I start on?” What an interesting dichotomy between man and wolf! Tell Mr. Brandt that I also look forward to seeing his work on The A-Team (he is working on that right?) when it hits theaters.

Happy Holidays to you and your family, Mr. Haas.

Your Loyal Reader,

Jason

DH: Glad to hear you are loving the site, Jason. Michael Brandt responds...

MB: Thanks, Jason. I'm hoping most readers will pop back and forth, getting the same moment from each perspective.

Dear Editor,

As usual, popcornfiction has delivered in its variety and high quality storytelling. By far my favorite has been “Eugene,” and “Reflection” has touched me the most. After I realized the other narrator was a wolf, I was rooting for him immediately. I must admit the ambiguous ending leaves me frustrated and hoping that the gunshot was a miss. “Tasting Menu” for me had the best “twist” at the end and probably the most heartbreaking.

I am sure the complications of copyright may make this difficult, but is there any thought, in the distant future when there is enough stories, to publish popcornfiction as an actual short story collection in book form (some of us still read those things)?

And not to be a party pooper, but I second the notion of not opening up to submissions. However, if you do chose to go that route, I do trust your crack editorial staff to select only the best for the website.

Stephanie

DH: Thanks for all the nice words about the site and the stories, Stephanie. Interesting that you brought up the Popcorn Fiction book idea. My novel publisher, Pegasus Books, expressed interest months ago about publishing the stories as an anthology. They were waiting for PF to hit critical mass of about 25 stories, and then we'd start editing them together into one collection. Of course, I'll have to get permission from the authors, but most of the ones I've talked to have said they'd be delighted to be involved. So Popcorn Fiction on your bookshelf is definitely on the horizon.

Dear Editor,

I loved “Reflection!!!” I want more!!!

Melissa

DH: Michael Brandt responds...

MB: Great! I'm contemplating a perspective look at a confrontation between Kobayashi and a hot dog.

DH: Okay, we're going to take a break here through the holidays, so wherever you are reading this, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your year, and that you'll come back and join us for more fiction in 2010. Thanks so much to our loyal readers for coming back each and every week. Thanks to the over 600 subscribers who don't mind getting a link in their inboxes each Monday when a new story is up. And thanks to all of you who have tweeted, emailed, texted, faxed, phoned, sent smoke signals, used morse code, and shouted through bullhorns to spread the word about Popcorn Fiction. We wouldn't be around if not for you guys.

Oh, one last thing, I'll be making an announcement soon about the very first broadcast of Popcorn Fiction Radio on Sirius/XM Radio Classics hosted by Greg Bell in the new year. For those of you who don't know, Greg has produced a modern radio adaptation of Michael Gilvary's story “Unconditional,” an idea borne out of listening to such old serials as Suspense and X Minus One. He recruited amazing voice-talent from around the radio dial and Michael adapted his own story for the small box. I can't wait to hear the final product. Okay, that's it! Take care and Happy New Year!

Dear Editor,

I read a bit of Larry Doyle's “Whacking the Baby” to the hubby over breakfast, and he actually put down the paper and waited for me to read more (gasp!). By the time I finished reading, we were both in hysterics. Can't wait till my copy of I Love You, Beth Cooper, gets here...

Many thanks to Mr. Doyle for a fabulous story, and to you for publishing it.

P.S. at the risk of being unpopular, I'd like to put in my two cents' worth regarding your opening Popcornfiction.com to submissions: please don't. The site is great just as it is. I look forward to each and every story. Though I read my fair share of online zines, I've yet to return to any one site with any semblance of consistency. But I'm totally addicted to Popcorn Fiction. I find myself watching movies and reading long and short works that I never would have known existed were it not for your site. I'm really grateful for that, and hope that you'll keep Popcornfiction.com just as it is.

Heidi

DH: Thanks so much for writing, Heidi. I appreciate your input and you aren't the first reader to suggest similar sentiments. However, I will open it to submissions at some point. You just have to trust my crack staff of editors that we'll only deliver the highest quality genre writing to the site. I hope we don't blow it!

Dear Editor,

Another great great story from Popcorn fiction. I've really enjoyed the short, funny, twisted story from Larry Doyle. That's exactly the reason why I'm coming back very often to your site. I love the short novel format and can't wait to read the next one from your writing partner. Hope you've enjoyed your Thanksgiving week!

Julien

DH: Larry Doyle responds:

LD: I was so prepared to defend that sick little piece that I am laid low by such a nice compliment. So, Julien Prudomme, you have bested me again!

Dear Editor,

I like your site very much and I would like to ask if you will ever be taking submissions, as the note says “not at this time.”

Ivan

DH: Hey Ivan...yes, I plan to accept submissions some time in the spring of '10. I will let everyone know on this page when I'm ready for the onslaught. So stay tuned...

DH: That's it for this week. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and I'll be back with a new story from screenwriter Mark Bomback next week. I also have fiction coming from writers Daley Haggar, Casey McCabe, and Mark Banker, as well as many others. We'll run an intermittent schedule in December due to the Holidays and the New Year, and then come back strong in January. So use December to catch up on any old stories you might have missed! I hope you dug Michael's story and as always, I look forward to hearing your feedback, reviews, comments and complaints! Well, not your complaints.

DH: It's Thanksgiving week and unfortunately, I haven't had time to sort through the letters this week...so please forgive me if you didn't get yours posted. Thanks to Jason and Judith for the very nice letters about loving the stories... I can't tell you how good it is to receive all the positive feedback on the site. I truly enjoy publishing these each week and have many more from great writers to get us into the new year.

Readers keep asking when I'm going to open the site to general submissions, and I'm going to have to continue to be vague. I really hope to do it by the Spring, but it all depends on what is going on with a couple of films Michael and I are working on now. Stay tuned to this page...I will announce it here as soon as the site is ready for it. It is important to me to discover great new genre fiction in 2010.

I'm not going to have anything new next week (and maybe the week after as I finish up this book tour—what's that you say, you haven't gotten COLUMBUS yet??? What're you waiting for?)...but I'll be back before Christmas with a very novel story from my screenwriting partner Michael Brandt. Sure, I'm not immune to playing favorites...but the story is damned good and I would've run it even if I didn't know who wrote it. That's the truth! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone all over the world who come back each week for some fresh popcorn fiction! See you soon!

Dear Editor:

I beat your email to the punch this week. I'd downloaded and read “After the Gig” an hour before your email arrived. Every new installment priceless; I guess I couldn't wait for your email. Benson's use of the answering machine to characterize Crebbins' family is genius technique.

Ron

DH: Glad you are anticipating the new stories so much, Ron. Also, Raymond Benson responds...

RB: Thanks, Ron, I appreciate the kind words!

Dear Editor:

Once again, a great little story that filled my early morning read with a bit of dark humor and mystery. I've really enjoyed the last story by Raymond Benson. And really good title too. The mood is great and the setting is a lot of fun to go through. I didn't know him as a novelist but I'll definitely check him out now. By the way could you please add me into the subscribers list so that I could received a notification every time you put a new story on. Thanks a lot and looking for more.

Julien

DH: Always great to get your reviews and consider yourself added Julien!

Dear Editor:

Hey Mr. Haas, I have read all of the stories on this site and I enjoy how often you get new submissions. I would like to say to Jacob Sager Weinstein that his story, “Eugene,” was an awesome read, as well as the first story on this site that left me feeling good after reading. Keep up the good work and I'll try spreading the word of Popcorn Fiction.

Mark

DH: Hey back at you, Mark. I love that story “Eugene” too, and I always love to get mail about our older fiction. Next week, we're going to have a story from New Yorker regular Larry Doyle. I'd love to tell you you're going to feel good after reading it, but the title is “I Want To Kill The Baby,” so I'll hold off on making any predictions.

Dear Editor:

Who can resist a story that engages all the senses, first and foremost smell? Mr. Benson deftly weaves in clues as he paints a portrait of an individual with an increasingly whacky past. But when I got to the next to last page, I thought, damn, he's gonna say, “to be continued.” How could he possibly wrap this up in one page? So that last paragraph smacked me right upside the head. It's the experience I always hope for when I read a short story, but so rarely get.

Can't wait for the next story!

Heidi

DH: Raymond Benson again responds...

RB: Thanks Heidi! I hope you'll try out some of my novels...! Cheers...

DH: Yes, you can find Raymond's novels at Amazon or wherever fine books are sold. That's it for this week. Can't wait to hear from everyone about Matthew's short-and-not-so-sweet story “Service Station.”

Dear Editor:

I like the concept behind your site, Mr. Haas. When did you launch it?

John

DH: Not too long ago. July 24th of this year was our first day up with Scott Frank's story. We've crossed the 600 subscriber mark and continue to add new readers each week.

Dear Editor:

I loved Tim Herlihy's story! What a great re-imagining of a classic! I especially loved how Scrooge saw himself as the dog his father saw fit to slaughter when he became submissive. And the revelation that fear was the real motivation behind his charitable acts was absolutely believable.

So Tim, was the role-reversal with Cratchit just in Scrooge's mind or was his new-found power changing him for the worse?

Ana

DH: Tim Herlihy responds...

TH: Thanks for the kind, much-appreciated words, Ana.

Regarding Cratchit, I feel I should let the story speak for itself. But remember: if the path of virtue Scrooge tries to walk is narrow and treacherous, the selfish road that tempts Bob is a super-highway. Plus, Bob's got six kids to feed.

Dear Editor:

Loved the story [“March 6th”]!!! I wish I could read it to my daughters. One day.

Melissa

DH: Again, Tim Herlihy responds...

TH: Thank you very much. If you read it to the kids, I'd skip over the prostitute part.

Dear Editor:

Derek, if you're serious about directing visitors (such as “John”) to Web sites that aid writers in submitting to various venues (including online pubs), consider suggesting these two:

Duotrope's Digest (www.duotrope.com) and NewPages.com (er...newpages.com). I use these almost every day, though they are not without their flaws. Used together, they pretty much cover the whole field and give a writer everything he needs (except, of course, sample copies of the mags themselves).

Matthew B.

DH: Thanks Matthew! Matthew is referring to an earlier letter where a reader asked if I knew where to find websites or magazines that accepted submissions from new writers. So thanks to Matthew for answering the letter better than I did.

Dear Editor:

“Unconditional” had my mouth agape, reading through my fingers in anticipation/agony. Fantastic read; love the site.

Matthew R.

DH: Awesome Matthew...glad to see the archives are getting read and new readers are discovering older stories. Next week, we're going to publish some short fiction from another Matthew...Matthew David Brozik, and after that, a darkly hilarious story from Larry Doyle. Then we're going to take the Thanksgiving holiday off to let everyone catch up on more back-reading. I just made up that word. Okay, that's it for this week. Take care and I look forward to hearing from you about “After the Gig.”

Dear Editor:

I love this site—thank you so much for putting it together.

Norman

DH: I'm glad you enjoy the site so much, Norman. Next week, we're going to publish a crime story from novelist Raymond Benson. And in the weeks to come, I have more short fiction from Matthew David Brozik, Thurber award winning novelist, New Yorker regular, and Simpson's writer, Larry Doyle, and screenwriter Casey McCabe. Thanks again for the feedback. Always great to hear from the readers.

Dear Editor:

I know that you don't take submissions, but could you suggest a good site where amateur writers could send in a story? Your site is more like major league for the pros but I'm just looking for a triple A or even double A writer's site...

John

DH: Hey, John...I don't know where those sites are...that's why I started one myself!

I am going to open up Popcorn Fiction to submissions at some point in the new year, just need to get the infrastructure in place to handle submissions. I don't know if there is still a book called WRITER'S MARKET, but they used to update that every year with places to send short stories. It always had information on literary magazines and journals, but I don't know if they modernized it to include on-line short fiction sites. If you find a good place, let me know and I'll post the information here.

Dear Editor:

Just read “Gare du Nord” by Mark Wheaton. Another winner I must say. Fast read, fast story. It grabs you from the very first lines. A bit over the top to my taste (as I was expecting something a bit more twisty at the end) but at least it sticks to its premises and never fails to entertain. And being French, it's funny to read all about those locations and “French expressions." Mark, you really got me with: “This city was a relic of past centuries, the capital of a civilization that no one had bothered to tell was passed.” I couldn't say it with better words...

Julien

DH: Welcome back to the letters page, Julien. You're our favorite reviewer on Popcorn Fiction. Always great to hear from you and to gather your thoughts, and I'm glad Mark's story resonated with a true Frenchman!

DH: One last thing: just wanted to let all the Popcorn Fiction readers know that I have a new book out this month called COLUMBUS: A Silver Bear thriller. It's available on Amazon now and in fine bookstores everywhere on the 15th. It's the second in a series I've written about an assassin named Columbus. In the first book, he's on the hunt, and in this new book, the tables turn, and he is hunted. I hope you dig it...no more pimping from me. Have a great week and once again, don't hesitate to write in with your opinions, reviews and comments.

Dear Editor:

Craig's story [“Steam Table Blues”] captured the character's voice really well (as have all the rest, but this one just struck me). Keep up the good work...

Chris

DH: Thanks for writing in, Chris. I received a lot of similar letters this week about Craig's story—a few more of which I'll print here. I'm glad so many people responded so well to it. It broadened the concept of what makes a good popcorn story.

Dear Editor:

Love having stories like [“Steam Table Blues”] that branch out from the regular fare!

Have you thought about maybe getting a fan page or “group” on facebook? I just noticed there wasn't anything. Might be a nice way for readers to interact with each other and discuss stories outside of just letters to the editor, although I do love the simplicity and cleanness to the website.

Matt

DH: Hey Matt...glad you are enjoying the site so much. While I'm not going to officially have a board or facebook fan page, I'd be delighted for someone else to start or host one. I love the idea of more interactive discussions of the work for readers who enjoy the site. But on Popcorn Fiction itself, I want to keep the focus on the stories.

Side note: I've had a few people pop up on the forum on my site: derekhaas.com and discuss some of the popcorn stories...feel free to come there or start your own!

Dear Editor:

Steam Table Blues is a mighty fine read. It's chock full of caustic, witty remarks and a great collection of characters. I laughed out loud.

Please ask Mr. Ugoretz to submit more stories. (Beg if you have to.)

Heidi

DH: Craig Ugoretz replies...

CU: Thanks so much, Heidi! I know it's a departure from the usual PF genres, but I'm glad you laughed.

DH: After knowing Craig for a while, I think his narrator isn't too far from Craig as a sixteen-year-old. Or now, for that matter.

Dear Editor:

Quick question: how do you find these authors who are writing these stories? Do you know all of them? Did you just say, “hey, what's up, will you write me an awesome story?”

Corey

DH: You don't know how close you are to the truth. A lot of the authors I already knew, at least casually. I told them what I was doing and most of them said they wanted to contribute right away. I only had to twist one or two arms. The ones I didn't know, I propositioned out of the blue because I admired their writing. I was amazed by the stories I received and get genuinely excited to publish each one.

That's all the time I have this week for answering letters but thanks to everyone for keeping my inbox buzzing! Next week I'm going to publish screenwriter Tim Herlihy's sequel to a work of classic literature. I can't wait to hear your reactions to that one.

Dear Editor:

Oh that story “Eugene” was so good. One of my favourites so far. You're doing a fantastic job here with Popcorn Fiction. Woof woof from Ireland.

Mark

DH: Hey, Mark, great to hear from you and your dog in Ireland. Michael Brandt and I had the great pleasure of visiting your country this summer. And Jacob, who lives in London, will be glad to hear he has a fan nearby. Thanks for writing in!

Dear Editor:

Just finished “Eugene”...what a great story. Delivered with style, heart, and thrills. Straight to the point. I like that. Really impressive to achieve such strong storytelling in a few pages. I really enjoy Jacob's writing. It's simple but manages to bring you in this “science fiction” universe within a few lines. I was grabbed from the beginning, believing the world that I was entering into. I always wonder how to make my characters believable for the reader, and this story was a perfect example of how to do it.

Great job, looking for more.

Julien

DH: Yes, I completely agree with you, Julien. Jacob must be part canine, he completely got into that dog-man's head. No bones about it. Did I just do that? Oh, yeah. I did.

Dear Editor:

I found Jacob Sager Weinstein's story “Eugene” to be one of the most original, entertaining, and humorous short stories I've ever read. He created a truly endearing character, full of wit and charm. His language is spot on, never for once did I doubt Eugene's canine attributes. It's hard to fall in love with a character just by reading a few pages, but this story is executed so perfectly, I could even imagine my faithful dog Romulo (a huge Rottweiler) as the lead. Props to Mr. Sager for this amazing work, looking forward to what's in store for the site in the future.

As always a faithful fan,

Henry (all the way from Honduras)

DH: Jacob Sager Weinstein responds:

JSW: Estimado Henry:

Muchas gracias por las palabras buenas. Me gusta mucho oir que mi historia tiena un adminarador in Honduras.

Por favor, le diga a Romula, “¡Buen perro!” por mi.

PS: Lo siento responder a su inglés perfecto con mi español mediocre.

Dear Editor:

I just read “Eugene” and loved it. So clever. Am looking forward to reading more stories. Thanks for the excellent writing—it's great inspiration.

Maribeth

DH: Maribeth, you are the 50th letter to the editor writer to make it on to Popcorn Fiction! Congrats! Ummm, sorry, you don't win anything. If I were a bit more organized, I would have had a coffee mug made up. Maybe for the 100th letter writer, I'll have my business together. So glad you are enjoying the site and that the stories are inspiring you.

That's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed Craig Ugoretz's story, which was a bit different than our typical crime-horror-scifi-thriller fare. We'll be back at it next week with Mark Wheaton's suspense story “Gare du Nord” followed by Tim Herlihy's sequel to a classic. Look for Raymond Benson and Larry Doyle also in November. And please keep writing in with your reviews, questions and comments!

Dear Editor:

That [“Unconditional”] was a fucking awesome story.

That is all.

Josh

DH: I agree Josh. When I first thought of doing this site, it was Gilvary's kind of story I wanted to publish. Smart, modern suspense.

Dear Editor:

Michael Gilvary's “Unconditional” was a fantastic read. I did not see that ending coming, as hard as I tried while reading. Brilliant! Thanks for keeping the burner alive under Popcorn Fiction.

Ron

DH: Thanks for writing in, Ron. This story seems to have hit a chord with a lot of readers. I received by far the most Letters to the Editor on this one.

I hope you dig this week's story “Eugene.” It's our first of many science-fiction stories, and a really unique one. In the weeks ahead, I have stories coming from screenwriters Craig Ugoretz, Mark Wheaton, and Thurber award winning novelist and New Yorker regular Larry Doyle. Like I said before, as long as readers keep showing up, I'll keep publishing them!

Dear Editor:

Thanks for the update to this story. There are two comments I have:

Towards the end there is a paragraph that reads: “Rachel muffled a scream and collapsed into Ted's arms. He held her tight. He'd grown to hate her in these last two hours, but right now there was nowhere he'd rather be than here in her arms...” But he is not in her arms. She is in his arms!

Second: the gun, at the end, is in the kitchen, on the counter. How does Josh come into the kitchen, step around the cop and his parents (unseen? unnoticed?) and grab the gun to kill the cop? Was there another gun somewhere? Did I miss something?

Michael

DH: Michael Gilvary responds:

MG: I read my own story this morning when it went up on the site, and I'm thrilled to hear that you only have two problems with it. I had about twenty-two.

Ted isn't just holding Rachel—they're holding each other. It's not written that way, but that's the way it is in my head. Shame on you for not realizing that.

As for the placement of the gun, that's probably more unclear writing. The gun is on a counter between the doorway and where the cop is standing. In other words, the cop has walked right past the gun to get to the phone. Ted and Rachel get between the cop and the gun, with their backs to the gun. Josh enters unseen through the doorway and—again unseen—picks up the gun.

It's admittedly confusing geography, but the problem with explaining it in great detail is that you don't want to lead the reader to expect that the placement of the gun is going to pay off somehow. Really, if you would just read my mind, we wouldn't have these little misunderstandings. This is just like arguing with my wife!

DH: Editors Note: I checked on Michael Gilvary's wife after receiving this response and she's fine.

Dear Editor:

My favorite short [“Unconditional”] yet. Thanks for Popcorn Fiction Derek, they're like bi-weekly mental short films.

Manny

DH: Does “bi-weekly” mean every other week or twice a week? I always get that confused. For now, I'm going to stick to “weekly.”

Dear Editor:

I've discovered Popcorn Fiction recently, and I must say that I deeply enjoy the stories that can be found here.

Greatly entertaining stuff and also pretty inspiring as a French writer to see what you can create in such a concise form.

The last story by Michael Gilvary is really good. One of the best so far. I didn't see it coming at the end...I was going for another ending and I was quite surprised by the direction that Michael chose. But it all makes sense at the end...pretty scary indeed.

Anyway, a great place to read strong short stories. Looking for more.

Julien

DH: Bonjour, Julien! Thanks for writing all the way from France. It's exciting to reach a global audience. Popcorn Fiction's awareness continues to amaze me. Really glad you enjoyed Gilvary's story as much as I did.

Well, that's it for this week's batch of letters. Keep sending in your thoughts and if you ever have a question for any of our authors, I'll try to get him or her to answer it here!

Dear Editor:

Since happening upon your website, I've been thoroughly enjoying the stories you've featured. “Man Versus Water” by Andrea Berloff was, in my humble opinion, the best yet. How could anyone not love a story that includes the sentence, “the dark, threatening ass print on the fine white leather sofa.” Rich though it was, I couldn't help myself—I read the whole thing in one sitting (now I feel full but I'm jonesing for more. Good fiction will do that to you...)

Thanks!

Heidi

DH: Andrea Berloff responds:

AB: Thanks so much, Heidi! Glad you enjoyed sweaty Leo. But don't get too full yet. I'm sure Derek has many more tasty fiction vittles up his sleeve.

Dear Editor:

Damn! Andrea can write her ass off! “Icy blue Eastern bloc eyes”? Holy shit! That tasted great! Thanks again Derek for a place for these guys to showcase their shit. Keep it up.

Dre

DH: I'm really glad you're enjoying the stories, Dre. Soon we're going to publish short fiction from Jacob Sager Weinstein, Craig Ugoretz, and Thurber-award winning author/screenwriter Larry Doyle. I hope you'll keep clicking back here.

Dear Editor:

Love the stories, keep 'em coming! Really enjoyed Andrea Berloff's writing style.

I'm going to a theatre production this month that will play out some of Poe's tales—The Tell Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Raven, etc. Should be good.

Are you a fan of Edgar Allen Poe...what author influenced you the most?

Jill

DH: Yes, I'm a big fan of Poe. I received a collection of his short stories after college and read every last one. I was impressed by his Dupin detective fiction as much as the horror or suspense tales.

Other influential short fiction authors for me are Hemmingway, Faulkner, and of course, Stephen King. And the old HBO show Tales from the Crypt is an influence on my writing. If you haven't seen Robert Zemeckis's Christmas episode in the early days of that show, check it out. It's a clinic in suspense. This week's story reminded me of that episode.

Dear Editor:

Been meaning to write in. This story [“Tasting Menu”] was fantastic and a really pleasant surprise from Oswalt, a favorite comedian of mine. Next time I'm at a dinner party, swirling and sniffing a fine Burgundy, it will be difficult not to comment “I find the pearly rice and steppe-grass undertones of Asian infants to be a wonderful palate awakener.”

Matt

DH: Thanks for writing in, Matt. Glad you enjoyed Patton's story! Maybe we can convince him to write another one some time.

Dear Editor:

Just wanted to thank you for your great site. Reading is such a huge part of my life, I literally finish a book and immediately start a new one. I have read through all of the stories and every one of them has been amazing. My favorites so far have been “Lightning in a Bottle,” “The Good Father,” and “Shake,” which I was lucky enough to read. I love how they bring attention to great writers (like Les Bohem who wrote the excellent Taken) we otherwise might not have known about. So keep the stories coming and we will keep spreading the word about this incredible project. Until the next one.

Henry (Faithful Fan)

DH: Thanks so much for the nice words, Henry. I'm getting tremendous pleasure out of publishing these stories. Next week's offering, Michael Gilvary's, “Unconditional,” is a favorite, so look for that soon. Also, you'll be glad to know Les has agreed to write another story. I can't wait.

Dear Editor:

I know this may be dreadfully rude of me to request, but could you let Mr. Helgeland know how much I enjoyed his story. I thought it was superb and very direct. I really enjoyed how Brian didn't weigh down his story with detailed dialog between the characters. The way he presented this story made me focus more on how the characters were “feeling” or interpreting their situation rather than paying my sole attention to the dialog. It was such a great story. L.A. Confidential is one of my favorite movies and Brian's screenplay stands right up there with the best.

Cheers,

Jason

DH: Brian Helgeland responds:

BH: Thank you. I've written so much dialog over the years I thought it would be great to avoid it, given the chance. Although screenwriters do write other things such as:

EXT. BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI - DAY

It explodes.

Cheers back.

Dear Editor:

Not sure if you publish reviews from the same people twice in a row, but I figured, “Why the hell not!?”

Nothing short of my tremendous praise for Helgeland's previous screen works, At Her Feet He Fell is a remarkable piece of character-based fiction. As seductive as the female lead, the story begins like a bikini shot of this bank job, but ends in the full, raw nudity of one of the more clever twists in short prose that I have read. Each character had its own breath and undeniable relation to the reality of human emotion. The thinker with an ego, the harlequin who never cries, and the weak-minded loner with a longing...all exposed to be more than they are by curtain's close. Helgeland takes the character arc and shits on it for the sake of realism. People don't arc...they just expose more of their layers as time goes on. THAT IS REALITY. Writers take note: Characters are real and Brian Helgeland just proved it. Kudos!

Rod

DH: Rules? What the hell are rules? Write in as often as you like!

Couldn't agree with you more, Rod. Brian has a gift for saying so much about a character in a single sentence. Man, do I have writer envy.

Dear Editor:

I admire these stories for many reasons, not least of which is their pith. So to speak. Any chance your about the author, bottom bit might include number of words they've used to tell these little gems?

Thank You!

Laura

DH: Hey, Laura. That's a cool idea, but I'd like readers to focus on the stories rather than the word count. Everything is pretty much between 2,000 and 8,000 words. But thanks for the suggestion. I think it's an interesting notion, so maybe down the road...

Dear Editor:

Honestly, I LOVED the story [“Tasting Menu”]. Seriously dug it. I know Vamps are getting tired and played out with the likes of fucking Twilight (which I loathe) and the more-than-soft-core True Blood (which I like), but this story was very sentimental in the end and brought a more heartfelt meaning to being a traitor to one's own kind.

The character depth for this story was seriously over-par for a short story. The Boyfriend was the personification of all of those posers in high school who dressed Goth because they listened to Marilyn Manson in between Hanson sets. I hated the bastard from the first description. The Girl...she seemed like an after-effect ripple to the boyfriend-hate, but when mixed with the Driver's age and history of vampirism, she and the BF reminded me of those insta-bros that over-step boundaries because they somehow think that because they're at the party, they're a welcomed member of the club.

Tell Patton that at least one person seriously dug this story!

Rodger (E-5/OS2 USN)

DH: Patton Oswalt responds:

PO: I was so happy someone liked the story, and doubly flattered when it turned out to be one of America's fighting men. Ten hut!

Dearest and Most Beloved Editor:

Patton's story tastes like the writing I grew up on—juicy, twisted, and smart.

Erik

DH: I couldn't agree more, Erik. Go see his new movie Big Fan. He's getting crazy strong reviews for his performance. He's a hell of a talented guy.

Dear Editor:

Brilliant short story [“Tasting Menu”]; the best so far!

Best Wishes,

Monica

DH: Hey, wait a second! But I wrote...ahhhh, never mind.

Dear Editor:

I just wanted to shoot you over a quick email and say how much I love the site. I hope it continues to grow and becomes home to many more short stories. I came to discover the site after reading about your deal with Mr. Bruckheimer on “Shake” (congratulations on that by the way). I really look forward to all of the future work that will be posted.

Best Regards,

Jason

DH: Hey, Jason, thanks for the nice words and I'm thrilled you're enjoying the site. I have a lot of great stories coming, including ones from Andrea Berloff, Michael Gilvary, Rian Johnson, Matt Olmstead, Craig Ugoretz, novelist Raymond Benson, some very talented writers, and many more. I even coaxed Michael Brandt, my screenwriting partner, to pen one for the site, and it is a damned good story. I know! I was shocked too. So keep coming back and we'll keep serving 'em up. Tell your friends too!

Dear Editor:

Just wanted to tell you that I am enjoying the site very much, and that I miss the days where you could regularly pick up stories this good in the long-dead pulps. Actually, I guess ‘miss' is the wrong verb, because I never really lived in a time where you could get more than a sketchily-edited Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine at the newsstand. (Like rock music, however, that magazine ruled in the seventies.) I hope a print Popcorn anthology is in the works. If you have a maybe-I'll-consider-this-shit-first pile for the day when you'll be accepting submissions from the great unwashed, please sign me up. I think I have a story you'd like.

NR

DH: NR, thanks for writing in to the LTTE section. I'm glad you are enjoying the stories. I feel privileged to get to publish them here. As you know, so I'm saying this more for the readers of this page who might not be aware, I'm not accepting submissions at this time. PLEASE DON'T EMAIL ME ANY UNSOLICITED SUBMISSIONS! I'M BEGGING YOU! I'm sure what you've written is fantastic, but I just can't read them right now. I have to return them all unread. At some point, yes, I'll open the site to submissions, and when I do, I'll post some guidelines on how to submit. Until then, please hold off, bear with me, and keep checking back! Thanks!

Dear Editor:

That [“The Good Father”] was a good one. I saw the daughter betrayal coming, but not her double-cross at the end, or the dad walking out of there alive.

Charles

DH: Glad you liked it, Charles. I know Les has enjoyed all the responses he's received and says he's eager to write another story for the site. So, I hope we'll see more from Les Bohem soon.

Dear Editor:

Love the short story format. J.D. Salinger's “Nine Short Stories” comes to mind. I'm the #1 fan of Elmore Leonard. And Ethan Coen's “Gates of Eden” has been a favorite for years now. Sometimes the efficiency and economy of the short story can leave you breathless in ways the long-form can't. Like they say, “good things come in small packages.”

Sincerely,

Rick

DH: Thanks, Rick. I hope you'll keep coming back to discover new short fiction. Great stories ahead from Brian Helgeland, Andrea Berloff and Michael Gilvary just to name a few.

Dear Editor:

I enjoy your website of short stories. Please let me know if and when submissions are allowed from the public. I have always been a fan of “a good story” in any medium. Your new book looks good; best of luck. Also, 3:10 to Yuma was a great movie. My wife doesn't like westerns but did like this one!

Take Care,

James

DH: I will definitely let everyone know when the site will be open to submissions. At that time, I'll also post guidelines. For now PLEASE DON'T SEND ME UNSOLICITED MATERIALS. I will return the files unopened. I simply can't look at anything at this time.

And thank you for the very nice words, James. Your wife has excellent taste!

Dear Editor:

I was wondering if you have any internship positions at Popcorn Fiction?

Sincerely,

Elisa

DH: Elisa, I don't yet have any positions available, but maybe I will next year. Now that you mention it, might not be a bad idea...

Dear Editor:

Thanks for the tight characterization and twist, which threw me completely in the new story, “Shake.” I could really picture the angles and images when reading with the taut description. I really loved the dialogue with the chilling line from Stacks to Cooper.

I came into the site after reading the news of Mr. Haas's story being bought by Jerry Bruckheimer from AICN. Congratulations! Hoping for more great stories to come.

Best,

Mark

DH: Thanks Mark! I'm glad you enjoyed the story, and I will plan on publishing it here again some time in the future.

Dear Editor:

Thanks, Derek. I'm sure you'll get a lot of traffic because of “Shake.” I'm a big fan of short fiction and I loved all the stories I read. It's funny, I'm writing a guest blog for the producer Ted Hope (AMERICAN SPLENDOR, THE SAVAGES) on the future of short film distribution. He writes a lot about independent film, but I noticed almost nothing was ever said about shorts. I'm a director of shorts at this point in my career and am weighing options about distribution after my festival run, and it's sad how short form storytelling, be it fiction writing or short films, often gets ignored by the general public. Glad to see you're promoting it with your website!

Best,

Matt

DH: Matt, maybe we can usher in a revival of the form. I've said it before, but I've been overwhelmed with the response we've received on this site, and that was before the “Shake” news broke. I think readers are eager and hungry for these kinds of stories.

Dear Editor:

Just finished “Shake” and I feel both totally cheated and thoroughly satisfied! I read it immediately after hearing about the sale this morning and glad that I did, because as I went to read it a second time and it disappeared! I eagerly await future installments of Popcorn Fiction. Also, please send word to Scott Frank and Nichelle D. Tramble that I love their work as well.

Much props to all,

Yanel

DH: Thanks, Yanel. I'm sorry I had to pull the story but I will definitely put it up again later. I'm really glad you are enjoying the site. We've got more excellent stories coming from Patton Oswalt, Brian Helgeland, Andrea Berloff, Michael Gilvary, Craig Ugoretz, and Rian Johnson, just to name a few, so keep checking back.

Dear Editor:

Thank you. I just learned of the site today upon reading about the sale of “Shake”...Congratulations!

I wanted to subscribe as much for the stories (I remember walking to the book store during the summer as a kid to read Heavy Metal magazine with hopes of not getting shooed away by the store clerk)...but also in hopes that I could learn from your contributors. I just moved to Los Angeles with lofty aspirations to write and hopefully write and direct one day. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to reach out and express enthusiasm for the works and also to ask the authors questions.

I'd love to hear any advice you have for breaking into the industry as a writer. I'm inclined to find an opportunity as a writer's assistant...Is that a good idea? If so, how do I pursue such an opportunity?

Thank you,

Brian

DH: Brian, breaking into the industry is always that catch-22. I can't get an agent or manager until I sell a script, and I can't sell a script until I get an agent or manager. Your best bet is to keep writing...write as much as you can, any time you can. Then get your work into as many people's hands as is humanly possible...people who have anything (even tangentially) to do with the movie business. The guy rigging lights on Better Off Ted might know someone who knows someone who can help your career. Being a Writer's Assistant, either for a film screenwriter or on a television staff, is an excellent way to both learn the craft and make connections with Hollywood players. Many, many television writers started off as staff assistants. Entering contests is also a good way to measure your abilities. The Nicholl's Fellowship and the Austin Film Festival both run excellent contests...if you can place in one of those, then you have something to talk about with a potential representative. I am confident that if you write something really great—novel with a voice and a big idea—you'll get noticed. I've seen it happen. Best of luck!

Dear Editor:

I just read Eric Heisserer's “Hours,” and I adored it. I was completely unprepared for what the story held. It was a punch to the chest and the fist held tight to my gut, and I mean that in the best way. I want to send the link to everyone, giving no hint of what is contained (other than the synopsis) because it was that good.

Mary

DH: Mary, I completely agree. Eric's short story packed a wallop. I forwarded your note on to the author and he said he would contact you personally. Thanks again for writing in and letting us know your thoughts!

Dear Editor:

I really like the idea for the site and am a huge fan of pulp myself. It's just too bad the site isn't open to submissions as one of the greatest things about pulp magazines was their offering up of new voices, the chance they gave to the little guy to break in. I sincerely hope Popcorn Fiction doesn't stay closed to submissions as there are so many of us trying to break in that it seems cruel to have yet another avenue for those who already have.

In any case thank you for a new site with great new fiction to read.

Yours,

Chris

DH: Chris, fear not...we will definitely open the site up to submissions at some point. I realize that some of the great writers from the 50s and 60s began their careers by submitting to pulp magazines, and maybe Popcorn Fiction will discover some new, amazing talent. The truth is, I simply don't have the infrastructure in place yet to handle submissions efficiently. When I do, I will post guidelines on how to submit, so keep checking back. AND READERS, PLEASE DON'T SEND ME UNSOLICITED MATERIAL AT THIS TIME! Thanks!

Dear Editor:

Excellent story! There needs to be a part 2! I didn't want it to end. Kudos to you, Derek.

Tracy

DH: Thanks so much Tracy. I'm glad you dug the story.

Dear Editor:

Shake was terrific...Just got through reading it. Love/hate the ending (in a good way)...

Christopher

DH: I appreciate it, Christopher. I've gotten quite a few responses like yours... here's one more...

Dear Editor:

Reading your story, “Shake,” I was struck by how cinematic it felt. I could see the action playing on the movie screen in my head, scenes unfolding with each new paragraph. The story really rips along, and then...cliffhanger.

I doubt you're perverse enough to dangle the carrot in front of us like that and then snatch it away just as quickly, so there must be more to “Shake” than the tantalizing bit you've given us here, even if it isn't down on paper yet. When can we expect Part 2?

Hooked,

Adam

DH: But I am that perverse, Adam! I won't rule out telling more of Cooper's story, but to me, this ending was the right way to go for this bit of fiction. I'm just glad so many readers want to know more...

Dear Editor:

I found your site this week linked on a Hollywood tracking board and I have to say I've enjoyed reading all the stories. Are you going to keep the old ones up or are old ones going to drop off at some point?

William

DH: Thanks for the nice words, William. I plan to keep them up for as long as the authors will let me. If they ever want me to take them down for whatever reason, I will.

Let me say to the readers here, always feel free to ask a question about an old story or to one of our authors and I'll try to get the answer from the horse's mouth.

Dear Editor:

I did not see any information concerning submissions on your site. Do you take submissions? If so, what are the guidelines?

Sincerely,

Paul

DH: Thanks for asking. On the Letters page, there is a statement that says “we aren't taking submissions at this time.” Eventually, we will open the site up to submissions, but I'm not sure when. I hate to say “keep checking back” but that's pretty much what you'll have to do. I'll figure out guidelines and post them when we open up the site.

Dear Editor:

Thanks for the excellent stories. Just read “A Best Friend Named Rick.” I'm shaken and stirred.

Jeff

DH: I'm thrilled you liked it. Nichelle is very talented and if you haven't checked out her novels, you should.

Dear Editor:

Hey! Love the site. I have a question for Craig Mazin. What was your inspiration for writing “Lightning in a Bottle?” Was this an old story you came up with a long time ago or something recent?

J.P.

DH: Craig Mazin responds...

CM: I can definitely answer the second question. It's a fairly recent creation; I had the idea in late 2008 and wrote most of it over the Christmas holiday. The inspiration? That's a bit harder to know (and a bit meta, considering what this story is about). I took a shower one morning, and somewhere between turning the water on and turning the water off, it all sort of appeared. On the other hand, the theme is something I've been chewing on for a while. I do remember being so surprised by the name “Sojourn Sweat” that I spent a considerable amount of time online trying to figure out where I'd heard it from, until I finally convinced myself that I hadn't heard it anywhere at all.

Dear Editor:

Wanted to let you know I really enjoyed “Lightning in a Bottle.” I had actually started reading it about a week and a half ago, had to stop in the middle (just as Sojourn and Avery sit down to drink the morning after his disappointing first performance).

Normally, I'd have forgotten it in the daily tumult, but the story nagged at me, and for the first time in years, I found myself murmuring, “I have to know how it ends.” To me, that's the mark of a great story.

The end was worth the wait. Just the line “it was a pleasure,” was worth it. Beautiful, simple poetry.

Keep up the great work,

Earl

CM: Very glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks for writing, and even more for reading.

Dear Editor:

Thank you for making the email notifications an option! The few pieces I've read were simply amazing. I'm looking forward to the next update!

Chris in NC

DH: Thanks for subscribing, Chris. I'll always keep the subscriptions free and won't use your email for anything else. For now, I'm posting new stories on Monday, but I expect that schedule to get a little more erratic as we get deeper into the year.

Dear Editor:

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I was sold from the first word of the first short story. I don't get a chance to read fiction as often as I would like and being a huge fan of movies, the idea of screenwriters writing short stories is genius. It combines two favorite things into one. I must shake my head and laugh to myself that I missed the obvious, that to a certain degree, no matter the medium, a writer is a writer. Just because a screenwriter “formats” their story into script form, doesn't take away from the fact that it's still a story. I am curious to know, if the screenwriters who are participating in popcorn fiction, feel a certain “freedom” in their storytelling by not having it conform to a script format or is the approach to the creative process still the same?

I look forward to more short stories on popcornfiction.com and will definitely pass on the word.

Thanks,

Stephanie

DH: Craig Mazin, Scott Frank, and Jeff Lowell respond...

CM: The freedom I felt had nothing to do with format, but with the understanding that I had only myself and my own requirements to satisfy. There will be no marketing campaign, no effort to cast the film, no test screenings, no deals with toy manufacturers, no ratings board... The fact that I'm my own worst boss isn't always a great thing, but at least when I wrote this story I only had one.

SF: There's always freedom associated with doing something for no one but yourself, but also the true freedom of not having to be “good” at it. The goal being to have fun doing something just to do it without any attending pressure. The same way I'm sure that porn stars, when they're alone with someone they really like, “just want to cuddle.” But of course, I'm only guessing...

JL: Craft-wise, I'm not sure a short story feels any different to write—grab them in the beginning, have them rooting for or against your characters, have the characters suffer setbacks and victories, then surprise and satisfy the audience at the end. The difference to me is that when I write a movie, I'm trying to write something that will appeal to a large number of people, because that's the only way someone's going to spend money to make it. Given the modest distribution costs of short fiction, that concern is removed. I wouldn't walk into Dreamworks and say “I've got a great idea! A sad old man tricks an abused woman into getting naked for him, and the woman's homophobic boyfriend beats him to death!” But I had no problem trying to sell Derek Haas on the same story.

Dear Editor:

Keep them coming! What a great break from the usual routine of the day!

To Nichelle D. Tramble, I wanted to say I loved your story! I found it to be much more character-driven than the average short story. How did you flesh out a handful of characters to make them so clearly defined? Did the story or the characters come first? It was a great read!

Thanks,

Ana

DH: Ana, thanks for the nice words. I have many more stories coming up, including ones from Les Bohem, Eric Heisserer and Brian Helgeland. And I'm running one of my own stories next (perks of editing this site!), so look for it.

NT: Thanks, Ana. I'm so glad you liked the story. The character of Lloyd appeared first. All I knew about him was that he was being ridiculed by his ex-wife and his former best friend while wearing a clown suit. I didn't know he was fresh out of jail or working at a gas station until I got started. This story, to be honest, took longer to write than my first novel. The ending got away from me for years. It took about seven attempts before I realized that Lloyd deserved some sort of happy ending.

Dear Editor,

I really enjoyed the story, but what I want to tell you is that I like the layout of the page a lot. The single column and large font make it really easy to read off my laptop. Thanks for doing this...

jim

DH: I have to give credit where it's due: my brother Austin Haas and his wife Yoko Imanishi designed the site. They actually make on-line video games for a living... check out the addictive Puzzle Farter if you have a spare 20 hours. I roped them into this, and they were nice enough to actually care how it turned out. I agree, they're very talented.

Dear Editor,

Reading the two stories on popcornfiction.com was the best 20 minutes I've spent today. Great stuff! Looking forward to more!

Eric W.

DH: Great to hear... please tell all your friends, relatives, co- workers, guys you run into at Starbucks. We'll keep rolling out stories as long as readers keep showing up. More to come from hollywood heavyhitters Craig Mazin, Gary Whitta, Les Bohem, Andrea Berloff, John August, John Lee Hancock, Eric Heisserer... and many more.

Dear Editor,

I just discovered the site and upon reading the first story know I will be coming back often.

I have to ask is there anyway to contact the authors? Not for any fan or bothersome reasons (although it may bother some), I am a student film maker and read Jeff Lowell's "Trust Is A Club In The Hand Of Someone You Love" and would love to make it as a short for class. I'd very much like to ask his permission to do so. The film will not be used for any monetary gain, just as practice and for a portfolio and perhaps film festivals. Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to further reading on the website.

Sincerely,

Sean

DH: Jeff Lowell responds...

JL: Hey Sean - I'm flattered, and sure, you're welcome to make a short for your class. I've never dealt with rights like this - obviously I don't want any money, but I would control the copyright to the work beyond your film, i.e, if I wanted to make my own movie out of it, publish it, etc. I don't know if your teacher has some kind of standard form for this kind of use, but if he or she does, that would be great. If not, we'll just write something up.

Dear Editor,

Give my regards to Mr. Lowell, his short story was absolutely amazing to read. I love this idea, and hope that many other writers get on board.

I have two questions.

The first towards Mr. Lowell, from his story I got the vibe that Beths father either abused her (Because she wants happy nor sad when he died, meaning she was indifferent towards him) or she came on to him and he rejected her (From the line where Jake says “He's old enough to be your father, so he couldn't want to fuck you?” and her being sad, you get the vibe that she has that abandonment/sexual frustration issues.) I'm wondering if this was his intended interpretation of Beths father?

The second question is directed towards you/the site itself. Will you be accepting outside submissions to the project or are you only inviting known screenwriters to take part?

Either way, my best regards to you and the entire writing staff. I hope this project goes on for many years to come! Keep it up!

Best Regards,

Tyler L.

JL: Thank you for your kind words. You definitely picked up on my intention - Beth's father had abused her; she trusted Jake with that information, and he brought it up to be cruel when she said an older man wouldn't be interested in sleeping with her. There are some great stories coming. Keep reading and tell your friends!

DH: At some point, we will open it up to outside submissions, but I'm not sure when. For now, we have a number of excellent stories in the pipeline. After Nichelle Tramble's, the next is from Craig Mazin titled "Lightning in a Bottle." I'm sure it will knock your socks off.

Dear Editor,

Bravo! Wonderful idea and a momentous beginning. Pop those champagne corks!

Your new fan,

Karen

DH: Karen, welcome and thanks for the nice words. The response has been overwhelming in our first week without much fanfare. I'm excited about the upcoming stories and look forward to printing more letters.

Popcorn Fiction:

I've been waiting for a site like this: Short fiction from talented writers. Thank you for putting this together. One thing: Do not under any circumstance open this up to anyone but established writers. There are too many sites on the web that get their content from people with no talent. From writing to the news to photography and design, the web is watering down good, quality work from established professionals with the notion that anyone can do it. But in reality, the end user has to sift through dozens or hundreds of things just to find the one good one... sounds kind of like the spec script market, I guess? It's nice to go to a site where the creativity of the content can at the very least be respected.

Thanks,

Sean

DH: Hey, Sean... thanks and I'm glad you dig the site. While we have a large number of talented writers with stories in the queue, I do think at some point down the road, we will open the site to submissions. Some of the great writers of the 40s and 50s got their starts by submitting stories to genre magazines at the time. It'll be up to us to separate the gold from the silt.

Dear Editor:

Love, love, loved Scott Frank's story. Will he be writing any more?

Best,

Kristine

DH: Kristine, I hope so!