31 October 2020

Themed and Tailored


 

No, I'm not talking about fall outfits. My question is, How open are you to being prompted, guided, or otherwise steered, in determining what you write about?

A little background, first. As I've mentioned before at this blog, I have for the past few years been sending almost as many of my short stories to anthologies as to magazines. The reason is simple: There seem to be more anthologies out there now, than in olden days. Or maybe I'm just getting better (and luckier) at being able to locate their calls for submissions.


A buncha stories in one book

Those antho announcements, when I do find them, are usually a hit-or-miss deal. Either I already have a completed story that might fit the anthology's theme (or not) or I believe I can write one in the time remaining before the deadline. Or not. If I'm extra lucky, it's an anthology that's receptive to reprints and I happen to have one of those that fits the theme sitting there snoozing in the waiting room. If so, I wake it up and send it off, which--if my luck holds and the story gets accepted--is the easiest way in the world to get something published. 

Sometimes, though not often, I'm fortunate enough to get invited to submit a story to a particular anthology. When that happens it's usually because the editor is someone I've worked with before. On half a dozen of those recent occasions, two were requests for a PI story, one was for a time-travel story. and three were for stories based on songs of a certain era or by a certain performer. And even though I didn't have any work already finished or in progress that fit any of those bills, I did have a lot of time before the deadlines and all six were for the kinds of stories I enjoy writing, so for each of those requests I sat down and created a story from scratch. All of them turned out to be fun to write--but truthfully, half of those particular theme-prompts were just for mystery subgenres, and nothing more specific.


Your mission, should you decide to accept it . . .

The fact is, I'm usually not too enthused by suggested themes and topics. I generally prefer to come up with my own story ideas rather than get prompts of any kind, from others, about what kind of story to write. I'm not sure why that is. I certainly know a lot of writers who welcome those kinds of suggestions, and are particularly good at working to a predetermined theme. Some have said they actively seek out submission calls with detailed themes, or even websites for publications that require pre-set titles or content, like the story's opening or closing lines. They feel that those prompts provide the needed inspiration to kickstart their creativity.

There are several of those sites/publications/markets out there. I think one of the better known is called The First Line. Your assignment here, Mr. Phelps, is to use, verbatim, their suggested opening line as the first line of your story. For me, that wouldn't be an impossible mission, but it would be difficult. I can only conclude that my stories work better when the first line is my own and not someone else's. (Another conclusion might be that I'm just not clever enough to come up with a story to match one of those force-fed lines.) A similar market is called, appropriately, The Last Line. They give you the ending sentence, and it's up to you to put together the rest. I haven't yet tried them, but I suspect I'd have a tough time.


Hitch up the team

A close cousin to this subject of writing-to-a-theme or writing-based-on-a-prompt is collaborating with other writers. This is something I've tried but that I've, again, found hard to do. Stated another way, it was fun but didn't result in a sale. (My fellow SleuthSayer R.T. Lawton told an interesting story about collaboration as a part of his column here last weekend.) I'm well aware that this has worked well for some, and I applaud them for it. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the Michael Gregorio team, the Ellery Queen team, Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey, and many, many others, including my friends Frank Zafiro and Jim Wilsky. The process itself varies, of course. I once heard that for each of their two novels together, Stephen King and Peter Straub would each write a chapter, back and forth, throughout the project.

As I mentioned, I think working together that way is demanding. Each of us has his/her own style of writing, and for any two authors to agree enough for the result to be successful can be hard. When it does work, though, I think it's great, because you have a built-in editor/critic/sounding-board as a part of the deal, and two heads are often better than one. The fact that it hasn't worked for me is probably my own fault. (Sorry, Mrs. Floyd, little Johnny just doesn't seem to play well with others.)


My questions for today

Anyhow, class, having said all that . . . Are you one of those writers who are inspired by the challenge of a predetermined theme or prompt? Does that help your productivity? How detailed do you like those prompts to be? Have you sought out markets that provide that kind of thing? Have you submitted stories to them, and if so, how'd you do? Have you written many stories for themed anthologies? Do you do that regularly? Have you been invited to contribute to themed anthologies? Have you collaborated with other authors on either short stories or novels? How did that go? Did you survive with sanity and friendships intact? Would you do it again?


The beautiful thing about this is that we're all different--plotters, pantsers, team players, loners. There is no one correct way of doing it. The right way is (1) whatever is satisfying to you and (2) whatever results in a good story.

Either way, good luck, Happy Halloween, be sure to vote, and set your clocks back an hour. I'll see you in a week.



30 October 2020

More Quotes from Writers


 To think about—

"When I'm not doing anything else, I'm writing — and I don't like to do anything else." Isaac Asimov

"Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called 'mad' and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called 'writers' and they do pretty much the same thing." — Ray Bradbury

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." — Ray Bradbury

"Readers tend to skip through novels but they won't skip dialogue." — Elmore Leonard

"Characters are much more important to me in my book than plot." — Elmore Leonard

"The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates if important, since there is nothing new to be said." — William Faulkner

"An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don't know why they choose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why." — William Faulkner

"The first duty of a novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone." — Donna Tartt

Jeffty is a big help

"The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new." — Samuel Johnson

"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." — Thomas Mann

"Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons." — Robertson Davies

"Writers should read, read, read." — Paul McCartney

"I'll read my books and I'll drink coffee and I'll listen to music, and I'll bolt the door." J. D. Salinger

Scamp is a scamp

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." — Anton Chekhov (maybe be paraphrasing what he said, but it sounds spot on)

"Creativity is an all-together personal thing. It's an art that cannot be taught, normally." — Rod Serling

"A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy." — Edward P. Morgan

Harri helps too

"The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can't help it." — Leo Rosten

"The historian records, but the novelist creates." — E. M. Forster

"For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered." — Harlan Ellison

That's all for now.

www.oneildenoux.com



29 October 2020

So This Happened....


It's always gratifying to be able to announce the publication of a new work. We writers work damned hard, and as a rule we toss more than we publish. So, yes, it's nice when you can add something new to your existing body of work. It's even nicer when you can announce the publication of something on which you've toiled for a long, long time, and of which you're (hopefully justifiably) proud.

So it's with no little pleasure that I announce that on Monday, October 19th, 2020 Down and Out Books published my three-novella collection Suicide Blonde. It was the culmination of an insane amount of work over a roughly eighteen-month period, during which time I also collected and edited a pair of crime fiction anthologies inspired by the music of jazz-rock legends Steely Dan: Die Behind the Wheel, and A Beast Without a Name.

Each of the novellas in my new collection started life as a short story. Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine published the original "Suicide Blonde" way back in November of 2006. The short version of "Paper Son" found a home in the Akashic Books anthology Seattle Noir in June, 2009. And "Bragadin's Skin" was commissioned by the upstart webzine The Big Click (that rarity of rarities: a webzine that paid, and well, too!) in 2013.

So I guess you could say that these characters have lived with me for a while.

Each of these original stories managed to garner many variations of the same feedback from my loyal first readers: "I wanted to know more." "I didn't want the story to end." "I would have liked to learn more about this (or that) character." "You ought to expand it into a novel."

I decided to start smaller.

It's a long story
Crime fiction has a long tradition of writers publishing stories in the shorter form, only to expand them at a later date. The most famous example of this is probably that of Raymond Chandler, who developed his early writing chops by publishing in the pages of the storied Black Mask, the same magazine which helped launch the career of Chandler's idol (and mine), Dashiell Hammett. Chandler later cobbled several of these stories into longer novels which became The Big Sleep and The Lady in the Lake. In 1929 Hammett himself wrote his first novel Red Harvest as a collection of  four related novellas ("The Cleansing of Poisonville," "Crime Wanted — Male or Female," "Dynamite," and "The 19th Murder") for initial serialization in Black Mask before appearing in book form later that same year.

So I resolved to try my hand at something similar: turning short stories into novellas. 

I've written in this space before about the process of expanding the first of these, the title story, into a longer work. I was (and am) quite pleased with the final result. And Down and Out publisher Eric Campbell liked it too, and agreed to publish it. He just wanted more word count in order to be able make the production costs balance out. So one novella became three.

Like Hammett I also initially intended to generate several related novellas which could be read together as a single long work. I talked about that idea here. However, I eventually abandoned the notion of expanding "Suicide Blonde"'s initial premise that far. I wanted to enhance the story, not pad it. And I was concerned padding it would be precisely what I'd have wound up doing.

And that's when I decided to give "Paper Son" and "Bragadin's Skin" the "Suicide Blonde" treatment. And a lot of writing and rewriting, sweating, proofing and swearing and starting over ensued. And now, lo these many months later, you see before you the cover art of the end result.

And I gotta say, as was the case with my other two recently published long-term crime fiction projects, it's really satisfying to finish something this long in the works. The sense of completion is hard to put into words, but tangible and no less enjoyable in spite of remaining hard to quantify.

I've got other irons in the fire: a really long-term project (a novel) I'm putting the finishing touches on; and a couple of short stories due soon to the editors who've asked for changes to them. Got a couple of other projects in the early drafting stages. And I'm going to get rolling on them pretty quickly.

But not before I take a little time and savor this achievement.

See you in two weeks!



28 October 2020

Fortune & Men's Eyes


We have a mixed attitude toward history, and toward historical fiction, particularly fictionalized biography. I think the issues are compounded when the subject is familiar to us, through myth or received wisdom, and we take it personally. We can mislike having our habits of mind disturbed. Look at Shakespeare. He rests in a somewhat shallow grave; we know so little about him, the early years, certainly, that we’re each free to imagine him on our own image.

Which is what Kenneth Branagh does in his movie All Is True, not Shakespeare early on, but in old age. I don’t agree with much of Branagh’s speculation, but I don’t fault him for it. We can conjure up ownership out of affection for the plays, or the poetry, or fixed ideas, and resist a different interpretation. The difficulty I have with Branagh’s reconstruction isn’t that his Shakespeare is unconvincing personally, but his characterization of a working writer is inauthentic and reductive.


By contrast, Shakespeare in Love seems right to me, but probably because the filmmakers were less constrained by known quantities, and both convention and hard facts were elastic. They used playfulness to their advantage, and the picture lets in air and light.


My personal favorite is Anthony Burgess’ extraordinary Shakespeare novel, Nothing Like the Sun. He later published a straight-up biography, which I also devoured.

Burgess characterizes the late Elizabethan as a word-drunk age, and Nothing Like the Sun is profligate. Burgess was always drunk on words – Clockwork Orange, anybody? – but his Shakespeare book is written in a headlong Elizabethan stream-of-consciousness that bends the laws of physics. It was like nothing I’d ever read, and still is. It takes some balls to write Shakespeare in first-person, to imagine yourself into Will’s doublet and hose, and his voice.

That being said, All Is True has a lot of good stuff. The candlelit interiors were apparently shot by candlelight, for one, which is no small trick. The settings and the art direction are terrifically authentic. People were paying attention. The cast is wonderful: Branagh himself, Judi Dench, Kathryn Wilder as the older daughter, Ian McKellen’s cameo as Southampton. I think the picture suffers simply from being too earnest; I can’t buy the conceit that Shakespeare was treated like a monument in his own lifetime. He brought himself notoriety, and financial security, but how could he not still be, in his private and less secure moments, the upstart crow?


There’s one close to sublime moment in All Is True, a little past the halfway mark, when McKellen shows up as the Earl. It’s already been established in a conversation between Will and wife Anne that Southampton is widely thought to be the Dark Lady of the sonnets – they’re dedicated to him – and late at night, the two old boys slightly in their cups, Will reels off the whole of “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,” as a sort of swan song or even perhaps reprimand. And then, astonishingly, Southampton quotes it back to him, from memory. The scene is done in tight close-up, a long single take for each of them, with no reaction shots. Every seamed furrow of their age shows in the firelight. These are men in their waning years, and the bloom of youth is long past, yet, “Like to the lark arising at break of day/From sullen earth,” we see them lit from within, luminous and transparent.


This is the last piece I’ll be posting before November 3rd is upon us. I’d ask that each and every one of us exercise our responsibility to vote. Take care and be well.

27 October 2020

Ross Macdonald - Connecting With The Past


Paul here. One of my favorite mystery authors is Ross Macdonald and one of my favorite characters is his Lew Archer. I like them for a variety of reasons, but I’ll leave those for another time. Today’s guest post is by Tom Bergin, who runs the The Name is Archer Facebook group. It was started in 2014 by John Aaron, and is currently run by Tom, Lila Havens and Mike Langston. With a name like that, it’s clear that the focus of the group is Lew Archer, but it’s expanded over the years to include many other crime writers and crime films.

Tom is a lifelong reader and has been reading mystery novels since he was in grammar school. Retired now, he’s able to devote more time to a life of crime—in books and films anyway. He grew up and still lives in San Francisco with his wife. They have five children, ranging in age from 28 to 42.

So, without further ado, Tom Bergin talks about Ross Macdonald and Lew Archer:

***

Ross Macdonald - Connecting With The Past

by

Tom Bergin

Ross Macdonald has been my favorite mystery writer for forty years. One day I walked into a bookstore and spotted a volume of Dashiell Hammett’s novels. I was living in San Francisco at the time so it seemed like a sign that I should buy the book. Hammett led me to Raymond Chandler and Chandler led me to Ross Macdonald. I liked Hammett and Chandler but I loved Ross Macdonald. His writing touched something in me and I’ve been reading him ever since.



Ross Macdonald was born Kenneth Millar on December 13, 1915 in Los Gatos, California. Although born in the United States, Ken’s parents were Canadian and Ken was raised in Canada. Ken Millar published his first novel, The Dark Tunnel in 1944. Millar went on to write twenty-three more novels. Eighteen of these were Archer novels. There was also a volume of Archer stories titled The Name is Archer published in 1955 and a more complete volume of Archer stories titled The Archer Files (2015).  Writing under the pseudonym John Macdonald, Millar’s Lew Archer made his debut in The Moving Target in 1949. He then published his next five novels with the pseudonym John Ross Macdonald before adopting Ross Macdonald when The Barbarous Coast was published (1956).

The first few Archer books were in the hard-boiled Chandler tradition. They were good books but Macdonald was eager to make his own mark on the genre. Macdonald wanted less violence in his books and more psychological insight into his characters. He wanted to write about families and family tragedies rather than gangsters and mobsters. Most critics contend that this change took place with the publication of The Galton Case in 1959. The Galton Case and the books that followed cemented Macdonald’s position next to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in the pantheon of hard-boiled writers. 

There are many things I love about Macdonald’s writing. The first book of his I read was The Galton Case. I was hooked and quickly read everything of his I could find. The first thing that struck me about Macdonald’s novels was the complexity and ingenuity of his plots. Plot was important to Macdonald. In his essay The Writer as Detective Hero Macdonald writes: “Chandler described a good plot as one that made for good scenes, as if the parts were greater than the whole. I see plot as a vehicle of meaning. It should be as complex as contemporary life, but balanced enough to say things about it.”



Along with complex plots Ross Macdonald’s books are full of ideas and themes. In an interview with Paul Nelson he said: “You really start with meaning before you have anything to structure.” There is plenty of meaning and many ideas in his books. I’m only going to mention a couple. Probably the most obvious theme that runs through Macdonald’s work is that of the past. The idea that what has happened in the past affects what happens in the present. This idea is prevalent in almost all the later books. In The Zebra-Striped Hearse Archer says: “The past is the key to the present.” In The Far Side of the Dollar Archer states: “I mean the deep connections you get in life, the coming together of the past and the present.” In many of the books the sins of the parents are visited upon their children. The children suffer from the bad deeds of their parents. An example of this would be Ralph Hillman’s affair in The Far Side of the Dollar. That was the start of the trouble for the Hillman family.


Another important theme of Ross Macdonald is that things are connected in life. People are connected, ideas are connected, the past and present are connected, what one person does directly affects other people. In The Far Side of the Dollar Lew Archer says: “Life hangs together in one piece. Everything is connected with everything else. The problem is to find the connections.” 

The thing I like best about the Archer books is the character of Archer himself. He’s a good man. He’s compassionate and empathetic. Archer cares about people. He has a connection with young people. Lew worries about Stella in The Far Side of the Dollar: “Generation after generation had to start from scratch and learn the world over again. It changed so rapidly that children couldn’t learn from their parents or parents from their children. The generations were like alien tribes islanded in time.” Archer’s empathy for people is one of the qualities that sets him apart from other private detectives. Even though Archer was a compassionate and caring man, he was also a realist. He knew life was hard. In The Far Side of the Dollar Stella tells him that she doesn’t see how she and Tommy are ever going to be happy. Lew replies: “Survival is the main thing.” It was a hard saying to offer a young girl. “Happiness comes in fits and snatches. I’m having more of it as I get older. The teens were my worst time.”


One of my favorite lines from all the books comes from The Far Side of the Dollar. Lew says: “Other people’s lives are my business.” The line has a dual meaning. The line is true in a literal sense. Archer’s a detective. It’s his job to investigate people’s lives but I prefer to think of the line in a different way. Other people’s lives are Lew’s business because he’s a human being. They are his business because he cares about people. Because he’s connected to them.

I’ll continue to read Ross Macdonald’s books because I’m still entertained by, and learn from, his books. In this crazy, angry, divided world we’re living in, it’s good to be reminded by a wise voice that we’re all connected and that other people’s lives are our business too.

***

Thank you, Tom. I really enjoyed that. And people can check out The Name is Archer at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1734000126825677


~.~.~
And now for the usual BSP:

A great review of Coast to Coast: Noir at Just Reviews:

Each story is filled with sadness, tragedy and each character experiences death in a different way. The titles alone are eerie and will give you the chills. A fabulous collection of well written noir short stories told in different settings with  characters that work in meat packing plants, feed companies, markets and not very lucrative jobs causing their downfalls and falling for the need to complete jobs that most would turn down. A superb collection for readers that want something odd, different and dangerous.

-- Fran Lewis, Just Reviews
And a very nice review of The Blues Don't Care at The Irresponsible Reader:


Marks hits the right notes with his prose and characters, creating a mystery that appeals on many levels. I recommend this for mystery readers looking for the kind of thing they haven’t read before.

--H.C. Newton, The Irresponsible Reader




Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website  www.PaulDMarks.com

26 October 2020

Stratford Redux


 by Steve Liskow

Several weeks ago, I got an idea for a short story that needed a little refresher on Shakespeare. During my theater days, I directed six of his plays, acted in nine, and assigned about a dozen more. When I donated most of my acting books to the theater several years ago, I found the Arden, Oxford, Pelican, Penguin, Bantam and Signet editions of plays I directed on my shelves, along with four hard-cover complete collections. I kept those. 

Reading outside your genre makes you see things differently, and revisiting Shakespeare was the writing equivalent of a six-pack of Red Bull. Remember, the majority of his audience--who paid well and often to see his productions--was illiterate. They came for a good story and they got it. He knew his audience and gave them what they wanted. He owned a shared in the theater and retired at age 46, returning to Stratford and buying the second-largest house in town. 

Since looking up what I needed, I've reread The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost and Romeo and Juliet. Even 2 Gents (Possibly his first produced work) shows us how to tell a story. Only in his late 20s, Will gives us plot and character arcs that are clear and strong. OK, the ending is a little hard to buy, but the structure and dialogue rock.

By the time I'd read the first act of 2 Gents, I understood the language again. Shakespeare wrote in modern English, and his punctuation is surprisingly contemporary. If you don't understand a line, stand up, read it out loud, and let the rhythms show you when and where to move. Trust me, it works. 

In Romeo and Juliet, look how Shakespeare differentiates Paris, Tybalt, Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio, all teen-aged boys, by their speech patterns. Notice how everything in the plot is logical and leads to that wrenching finish.


Learn from the constant vivid images that deepen the characters and carry the themes. Shakespeare wrote that play when he was about 30, so his "great" works are still to come.

In the middle of my career, I took an intensive (One-day) workshop on performing the plays from the First Folio text. It was so helpful that I bought a copy of the First Folio, and I kept that, too.

The introduction makes an important distinction. "[This] is not a collection of plays, but a collection of scripts." Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed, not to be read (remember, most of his audience couldn't read), and the difference matters. His actors often had only their own lines along with the cues (Today, we'd call these "sides"), but they could interpret the writer's verse, prose and rhythms for acting hints. If all English teachers took the workshop I did, students would come out of their classes loving Shakespeare instead of hating or fearing him. A theater group my wife still works with calls this phenomenon "Shakes-fear."

Alas, English teachers need no involvement with theater to get their degree. Most of them have none, and they teach Shakespeare as literature. It makes as much sense as a blind man teaching photography. 

Just as an aside, most editions of Romeo and Juliet put Mercutio's "Queen Mab" monologue in blank verse. The First Folio prints it in prose, and it flows better and is easier to follow. Actors could learn it more easily. 

Will can teach crime writers how to do it better, too.

You want noir? See how Lady Macbeth drives a good guy over the edge, 350 years before James M. Cain penned The Postman Always Rings Twice.


Verbal comedy?
The Comedy of Errors has Antipholus and Dromio discussing the Kitchen Wench with puns and repartee that Abbot and Costello might have cribbed for their "Who's on First?" gem. Foreshadowing? How about "Beware the Ides of March?"



I won't reread all the plays, but I will revisit several others. I've been away a long time.

25 October 2020

Evolution of a Story


 Originally, I was going to title this one as "Three Strikes and a Home Run on a Bunt." But that is too long for a title, and as baseball fans know, technically a batter only gets three strikes and then he is out of the batter's box. He doesn't then get another chance to swing at the ball. So, pay attention here because this is the way this game went.

Strike One
Back in the 90's, another short story author proposed that he and I should write a private investigator story together, a story set in the corrupt river-town of Sioux City during the Prohibition Era. At the time, the proposing author had several more published short stories than I did, but he had also received several rejections from AHMM. So, our plan was to co-author the story and submit it to AHMM and he would then get a story into their magazine, well, at least half a story. Since he and I liked the same authors and the same type of stories, it should have been easy working together.

I wrote part of the story and passed it to him. He wrote the next part of the story and passed it back. And, so on until the story was finished. Were there any problems? Of course there were. We didn't agree on the title, the private eye's name or even his height, among some of the important issues. Consulting with other fellow writers as intermediaries resulted in evenly divided opinions or else a third suggestion which neither co-author wished to implement. In the end, there was a lot of coin flipping. I submitted the story with both author's names  for the byline to AHMM. They rejected it. The editor must've had her own coin. At separate times afterwards, my co-author submitted our manuscript to two small press magazines he had previously been published in. In turn, each magazine accepted the story, but then went toes up before a contract could be signed. The story never saw print. With all the fun I'd had on this joint project, I swore to myself to avoid any short story collaboration in the future. This worked for about twenty years.

 Strike Two
Now, we move forward to the 21st Century. An author, whom I highly admire and was already in AHMM, inquired about the two of us co-authoring a short story for AHMM. I explained my prior situation and declined the proposal. A couple of years later, the inquiry came again. By the third request, I decided what the hell, give it a try, see how it goes. I then created a partial story outline proposal involving a bent cop and a gangster during the Prohibition Era, but a completely different plot than the story in Strike One. Next, I wrote about 1,000 words in the POV of one of the two main characters and passed the partial outline and story start to the other author for his turn to write about 1,000 words in the POV of the other main character. After the pass, other projects seemed to have come along and everybody went their separate writing ways. No harm, no foul.

Strike Three
A couple of years ago, I wrote a story about a gangster in 1930's New York City during (you guessed it) the Prohibition Era. Completely different plot than the ones in Strike One and Strike Two. I shipped the manuscript off to AHMM via e-mail in August 2017. The rejection came back in July 2018 with the editor's comments that it looked like I was setting the story up for a series. (Remember her comment for later.)  And, the editor was correct, I had intended for the story to become a series.

The Bunt

Looking through my story starts one day for something to write, I came across my old 1,000 word start from the abandoned Strike Two project. Years had passed without any progress, so I blew the dust off and continued the story. Only now, I changed the story to be written solely from one main character's POV, the bent cop. I finished the outline and the story as I wrote. The manuscript went to AHMM in February 2018 and was accepted in January 2019.

The Ball Keeps On Rolling
In the early part of August 2020, I got an e-mail from the Managing Editor of AHMM saying that I will have a story coming out in their Nov/Dec 2020 issue, but she had been on vacation and was trying to catch up, so she didn't yet know which story it would be. Since they had at the time six of my purchased-but-not-yet-published stories setting in inventory, I obviously didn't know which one it would be either.

The Home Run
In last August, Rob Lopresti e-mailed me with a link to the preview of the Nov/Dec 2020 AHMM issue. The last line in the 2nd paragraph in the Editor's Preview section says: "And R.T. Lawton introduces us to a new series in "A Matter of Values."

And yep, that's the bent cop and gangster story from Strike Two and The Bunt, but I wrote that one as a standalone story. Let's see now, one is a standalone, two is a sequel and at least three is a series, unless you count that as a trilogy, in which case it takes four. This means that in order not to disappoint the editor, I now have to come up with two or more new stories involving those same two main characters and then get contracts for each of those stories.. What a problem to have. Goes to show, you just never know how things will go in this game of ours.