29 May 2016

One-Oh-One & Counting

by R.T. Lawton

Hi. I took a few months off from blogging at SleuthSayers on Fortnight Fridays in order to work a term as chief judge for the 2016 Edgars Award in the Best Novel category for those hardcover mysteries published in 2015. Turns out, reading 509 books in a nine and a half month period, plus all those admin duties, writing my own stuff, taking care of two young grandsons and finding that my warranty was expiring at a faster rate than I cared for, wore me down. Appears I'm not as bulletproof as I used to be.

My 31st story in AHMM is in this issue
For those of you who joined the SleuthSayer family in my absence, I'll bring you up to speed with a short bio. I'm a retired federal agent, Vietnam vet '67-'68 (man, was that a long time ago), served three years on the Mystery Writers of America national Board of Directors and I primarily write short stories. The latter of which brings us to today's topic. And yes, you should probably consider this as having a couple moments of BSP.

For a writer just starting out, the first acceptance, check and publication is electrifying to that writer's ego, which contributes to their desire to write more. In the time that follows, each and every additional acceptance, check and publication is greatly valued and quickly becomes a statistic to be carefully recorded in said writer's bibliography. In my case, the first was a $250 biker story to Easyriders magazine and was submitted under a double alias. As federal agents, we weren't allowed to have outside employment of any kind, so the story byline was a street nickname from the bike gangs and the check came in one of my undercover aliases for which I had a driver's license. It went from there.

Obviously, a short story author with any proficiency can stack up stats faster than most novelists, mainly due to the difference in word count required for each of the two categories. Which also means a short story author can submit a new manuscript more often and has less time involved in each writing project than does the author of a novel. I always thought my bent to create short stories was based in some aspect of short attention span tendencies, but now as I write this, I also suspect a desire for more instant gratification for my writing labors. Unfortunately, one does not get rich writing short stories.

As the years rolled by and I updated my bio as a panelist for various writers conferences, I always had to increase the numbers for those short stories of mine that had been published in the past. Sometimes, the increase in numbers merely crept along and other times they took nice jumps. Of course, if I turned out as much writing material as our fellow SleuthSayer John Floyd, I would have entertained the notion of acquiring some of those little, yellow minions to keep track of my submissions, acceptances, publication dates and to run all those Woman's World magazine $500 checks to the bank. (John, did the bank ever give you a free toaster for depositing that bucket load of checks?)

French church with St. Leonard's remains
Anyway, in the middle of April 2016, I received an e-contract from Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine for "The Left Hand of Leonard." In case you're wondering about the title, the story concerns the remains of St. Leonard in a time when holy relics were bartered, sold and even stolen. It is the 6th story in my 1660's Paris Underworld series involving a young orphan, incompetent pickpocket, and is my 34th story to be sold to AHMM. You probably won't see it in print for another year. It is also my 100th short story to be accepted for publication. Okay, that's the BSP.

So now that I've reached this numerical peak, the problem is how do I keep score for the future in my bios after one more sale occurs? I assume that the acceptable method for that point is "over one hundred short stories." But, at what point do the numbers change after that? Increasing by single digits would be tiresome after a while. The same with increasing the amount by tens. Surely, "over 150 short stories" would be acceptable when and if  the time comes. However, I don't know that I could live long enough to wait for "over two hundred short stories." If anyone knows the proper etiquette for this type of situation, please let me know. Other than that, it's good to be back in the family.

NOTE: After I wrote the above blog, I got an e-mail on May 8th from Greg Herren, the editor for the 2016 Bouchercon anthology, Blood on the Bayou. That meant I had to change the blog title. Seems my story, "Hell Hath No Fury," has been accepted for their anthology. There is no pay, all benefits go to support the New Orleans public library, but that acceptance does go toward my 101st publishing credit, so it's a win-win situation and I'm happy.

See you again in a month.

18 comments:

Leigh Lundin said...

From someone who’s not even close, I think it’s like logarithms. Just say, “I’m not sure, a bit less than a thousand, I think.” That’s what fiction is all about.

Welcome back so SleuthSayers, RT!

John Floyd said...

RT, thanks for the kind words, my friend, and sincere congrats on reaching and passing that 100th-story milestone!

I saw someone's bio awhile back that said, "author of more than 52 articles." I'm still scratching my head over that one. Why not just say "over 50" or maybe "53"? Like you, I'm not at all sure what the rules are, on that kind of thing, but it's probably best if common sense prevails.

Main thing is, you have (more than) proven you're successful at something you're good at, and that you love doing. Keep it up!! I hope #102 comes along soon.

By the way, we have a couple more things in common, recently: First, I was an Edgar judge also, this last go-round, in the category of Best Paperback Original (I have 200 books sitting in a stack in the other room). And second, I too received word from Greg awhile back that I'll have a story in the B'con anthology. Glad to be sharing space with you in a publication again!

David Dean said...

Congrats on your hundredth, R.T., and welcome back!

You and I have crossed literary paths once again, my friend. I submitted a story to EQMM a few months ago concerning a holy relic, as well! And guess what it was? Yep, a hand...but not St. Leonard's thank God! Remember our dueling dueling stories? Great minds...or something. I'm looking forward to reading your story and hope that someday you may read mine. In any event, I wish you, John, David, Dix, and any other of our SleuthSayer Vets I may have missed, an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.

Rita J said...

Glad to see you back. I do enjoy your stories and articles.

R.T. Lawton said...

John, see you in New Orleans for Bouchercon 2016. Glad to be with you in their anthology.

R.T. Lawton said...

David, I obviously need to communicate with you more often. Two stories each on the same subject is some coincidence. At least they are for different magazines.

It was nice to run into you again at the DELL Publishing Cocktail Reception at the end of April. There will be a photo of you, Liz and me taken at the reception in my June blog article.

Stay well.

R.T. Lawton said...

Leigh, it's good to be back with the group. I read everyday's blogs, even if I have to read 3 or 4 at a time to catch up when travelling.

Let me know how your cemetery scene in Colorado Springs turns out.

Rita J., thanks for the feedback. Many of my stories told on the blog are like the ones cops tell each other over coffee or drinks. They serve as both a form of entertainment and a way of passing along information in case another officer or agent ends up in a similar situation.

My August blog will be about a Jewish associate of the Kansas City mafia. Hope you and Leigh enjoy that one.

Melodie Campbell said...

RT, you and John just blow me away with the number of short story publications! Warm congrats on that, and on your most recent two.

I use the 'over' rounding off for my CV. I got my start writing comedy, so I say, "Over two hundred publications, including over 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and ten novels." I think when you've hit the 100 mark (amazing, for short stories!) that says it all. Your record with Hitchcock is simply smashing.

Michael Bracken said...

I tend to round to the nearest hundred for my bios, so in your case, R.T., I'd write "more than 100 short stories." As soon as you sell story 151, I'd switch to "almost 200 stories."

Sometime this year I should be making that switch myself, from "more than 1,100 short stories" to "almost 1,200 short stories." Staying ahead of John Floyd is hard work, and I think he's catching up.

Robert Lopresti said...

R.T.

Great to have you back and congratulations on 101. I am a long way behind you in total and at AHMM. I did not submit a story to the latest Bcon anthology because I will not be going to New Orleans, but one of the highlights at Raleigh for me was being at the tail end of the long table ("more than sixteen," John?) of authors signing the book for a seemingly endless crowd of buyers. Art, as editor, was at the other end.

Have fun!

R.T. Lawton said...

Melodie, thanks for the info. Always waiting to hear more of your stories about the mafia.

R.T. Lawton said...

Michael,thanks for the advice. I don't even try to keep up with you and John. Just glad I don't depend on writing for a living. For me that would take the fun out of it, or maybe I'm just a little lazy in that regard.

And thanks again for all your time and efforts in being one of the judges in the Edgars Best Novel category. Be sure to read my June 26th blog: April in Manhattan. It has a couple of photos from the banquet.

Congrats on "Chase Your Dreams" in the June 2016 issue of AHMM.

R.T. Lawton said...

Ah, Rob, but you are more diversified in good paying short story markets than I am. I tend not to write the type of story that gets accepted to The STRAND nor the type that wins the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid prize. However, I have followed you in a couple of anthologies after you pointed them out.

Jan Grape said...

R.T. Welcome back. I've done the Edgar's Best Novel and Best Paperback and also have done Shamus for Novel. Paperback and Short Story. Those are big jobs and take a lot of time but I enjoy doing them and usually learn once again, WHAT NOT TO DO.

Congrats on you 100-101-102 and counting. You're way ahead of me. Think I've written around 40. I think you can make up your own rules on your resume. You could say, "Well over 99 or Around 105. Or whatever you want. No one is going to call you out on it. At least I don't think so. If you want to be totally honest just say 102 and counting.

John Floyd said...

I must pass this along, on the subject of listing your credits in a bio. I once heard of a lady who had had only two things accepted and published in her several years of writing: one was a tiny humor piece in The New York Times and the other was a four-line poem in a well-known literary magazine (let's say The Missouri Review). Everything else she'd ever submitted had been rejected. Eventually she decided to say, in a cover letter accompanying a short-story submission, "My previous work has appeared in The New York Times and The Missouri Review." Not a bad resume, and while it didn't tell the whole truth it was certainly not UNtrue. I guess that's called putting the best possible spin on your situation--and a pretty smart thing to do.

R.T. Lawton said...

Jan, I understand your thinking and completely agree. At this point, after judging 509 novels you'd think I could write a novel myself, but it seems I'm happiest with short stories.

R.T. Lawton said...

John, I like the lady's approach to the situation. She told the truth, merely left out some of the other details. Does this mean I should or should not mention my early publications in Easyriders and Outlaw Biker magazines? Guess it depends on the critic.

Michael Bracken said...

Of course you should mention your early publications! Sometimes it's the magazines that gave us our start that add spice to our bios.