The Written Word: The story of RF Duerr's 'One Cold Dark Night'
Welcome to The Written Word - a new and occasional feature wherein we'll profile an area author who's experienced a bit of success in the oft-difficult world of writing and publishing.
Who: RF "Bob" Duerr of Groton.
What: His short story, "One Cold Dark Night," was published in the September issue of the dark fiction magazine Disturbed Digest.
A bit of a plot tease: In a story set in Transylvania with a familiar cast of Stokerian characters, Duerr comes up with a clever spin on the age-old Dracula myth and seduces readers into new narrative territories.
Bio: A 65-year-old native of Pittsburgh, Pa., who's also lived in Florida and Colorado, Duerr moved to Groton in 1984 to work as an engineering assistant at Electric Boat.
Writing history: Duerr says he's always been serious about the idea of writing and, while living in Durango, Colo., started taking adult-ed style writing classes - and had short pieces and photographs published in Colorado tourist magazines. After moving to Groton, he's continued taking classes, having enrolled in several courses with local playwright/screenwriter/novelist Nick Checker.
Quote: "Because Nick happened to be teaching a screenwriting course at the time, I took the original idea for 'One Cold Dark Night' and wrote it as a screenplay and modernized it and set it in Mystic and Groton. But the next year, I enrolled in a short fiction class with Nick and was able to return the story to its original concept."
Refining and editing: Duerr has learned one incredibly important reality, which is that rewriting and multiple drafts are essential to the process. Classmates and Checker would offer comments and constructive criticism about everything from grammar to character development to backstory.
"I loved all of it," Duerr says. "You can see the story getting better each time you go through it."
Submission and acceptance: When "One Cold Dark Night" was polished, Duerr turned to a copy of the 2013 Writer's Digest's "Novel and Short Story Writer's Market" - a present from his wife, and which is THE submission bible for aspiring authors.
Quote: "I did the research on possible markets; the book is dog-earred and highlighted and full of paper clips and Post-It notes," he laughs. "I originally submitted it to a (dark fantasty/sci fi) magazine called Aoife's Kiss, and I got an email a few weeks later from the editor, who said he enjoyed it."
Real life plot twist: It turns out the editor had left that magazine and had gone to Disturbed Digest, one of a series of publications from a company called Alban Lake. He resubmitted and a new editor, Terrie Leigh Relf, was interested but had more editing suggestions. After working back and forth for a few months, "One Cold Dark Night" was accepted for publication. The story ran in the September issue of the magazine.
To get a copy of "One Cold Dark Night": access store.albanlake.com.
What's next? Duerr continutes to work on new projects and has signed up for a new course with Checker that starts in January. One idea involves a science fiction novel with an alternate timeline.
He says, "It's like the Beatles song. I just want to be a paperback writer."