The First Two Pages: “Loves Me Like a Rock” by Cheryl A. Head

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

Many contributors to the First Two Pages series focus primarily on craft issues when discussing the opening paragraphs of their stories—how a character is introduced, a conflict sketched out, the foundation laid for the story ahead. Others trace the genesis of their stories—perhaps the inspiration that first sparked an idea or the prompt which first set the author’s mental wheels in motion. As often as writers might dig deep into an analysis of specific lines or phrases they’ve written, others broaden their scope—building out toward some larger perspectives. And it’s that latter path that Cheryl A. Head seems to be on here, beginning with listening to Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like a Rock” and to the background vocals by the Southern gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds and ultimately ending up with a discussion of the American dream in today’s USA.

Though Cheryl is a tremendously fine short story writer—I was wowed myself by a story she read at a Noir at the Bar in Washington, DC—she’s certainly better known as a novelist, particularly as author of the award-winning Charlie Mack Motown Mysteries, six books in the series so far from 2016’s Bury Me When I’m Dead through last year’s Warn Me When It’s Time. Over her career, she’s been an Anthony Award Finalist, a two-time Lambda Literary Award Finalist, a three-time Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist, and Winner of the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Ann Bannon Popular Choice award. Her upcoming book, due February of next year, is Time’s Undoing, based on her own family history and looking back at the police shooting of a black man in Birmingham, Alabama in 1929. You can find out more about Cheryl and her work at her website.

Cheryl’s essay here continues a series featuring contributors to the anthology Paranoia Blues: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Paul Simon, edited by Josh Pachter and published by Down & Out Books. Frank Zafiro has already offered an essay on his story “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” and last week Tom Mead reflected on his story “The Only Living Boy in New York.” The book also features short stories by E.A. Aymar, Martin Edwards, Edwin Hill, Racquel V. Reyes, and Gabriel Valjan, among many others.

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.