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Gloria writes a book
Diaz’s short story collection Served Cold delivers tales of revenge and redemption… but mostly revenge
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Anyone who has followed Gloria Diaz’s column in these pages over the years probably won’t be shocked to discover where the initial germ of inspiration for her collection of short stories, Served Coldcame from. “Basically, I was really pissed off,” Diaz laughs. “There was this incident on my birthday last year that just really upset me, and for some reason I couldn’t just let it go…”
As she often does, Diaz sat down to write about the situation and get some of her ugly feelings down on paper. But as she was writing, she found herself playing a sort of ‘what if?’ game, changing the situation and the people involved by little bits here and there.
The result was “The Murder of Stephanie Hartford,” a nasty tale of payback that puts a sly spin on the maxim “the best revenge is living well.”
And for Diaz, “The Murder of Stephanie Hartford” proved just the beginning. “The stories just poured out,” she says. “I don’t know why or how, but that one story got me going. I hadn’t really written any fiction since college. It was good to know I could still do it.”
As you might have guessed, the stories in Served Cold are all about revenge. “If there’s a theme, it’s that the underdog gets his or her day,” Diaz says. “They aren’t really happy stories, but they have happy endings.”
Well, they have sort of happy endings. Payback is served to some pretty unsavory types — the selfish; the predatory; the abusive — but their comeuppance, deserved though it may be in cases, takes some harsh forms. Many of the stories have a macabre twist, reminiscent of episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Diaz singles out the aforementioned “The Murder of Stephanie Hartford” as particularly dark (“it’s pretty mean”), but there’s also “It Is Written,” about a woman looking back on her 16th year and the wishes she wrote in her diary — wishes for bad things to happen to the boys who bully her — and what happens when a fatal accident befalls one of those bullies.
And in one story, there’s a literal under dog: a pet owner leaves his dog in his truck during a blistering summer afternoon in “Hot Enough For Ya?,” (Diaz’s favorite story in the book) and finds himself trapped in a see-through box and at the mercy of a jury of dogs from his past.
To readers of Diaz’s column, probably the most recognizable story in Served Cold is “Retail Hell,” about a spoiled wife who dies in a texting-while-driving accident and finds that her rude, obnoxious treatment of sales clerks and service workers has earned her a spot in hell. “But Satan makes her a deal,” Gloria says. “He says she can earn her path to heaven, but you have to work in retail. So she works these lousy jobs, and she’s stuck in a really crummy apartment where the only thing on cable is Gigli… I think anyone who reads my column will hear my voice in that story.”
Diaz published Served Cold on smashwords.com, and John Osterman designed the cover. Diaz says she didn’t have the patience to shop around for a publisher, and decided to just “get it out there” anyway she could. “Like a lot of people, I just looked at what Amanda Hocking was able to do with on-line publishing,” she says, referring to the young Minnesota woman who racked up millions of sales of her books with an on-line publisher, and eventually landed a lucrative deal with a major publishing house. “I decided I just need to put it out there and attract some notice. Smashwords had pretty decent terms, and there are no limitations on whatever device you read the book on, you can download a pdf file or digital book in every format out there, so…”
Diaz says she’d like to try her hand at more fiction, but for now she’s concentrating on trying to market Served Cold. “Writing fiction either seems to come very quickly or it doesn’t come at all,” she laughs. “It’s not like the column.”
You can find Served Cold on Smashwords.com