02 June 2015

Best Of Times/Worst Of Times (Writing)

Linda Landrigan, Editor of AHMM, Me, and Janet Hutchings, Editor of EQMM at FUN Dell Party
The best of times

I'm very happy to announce that the current (July) issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine carries a story of mine. It's titled "The Walking Path" and demonstrates how exercise is not always conducive to good health or a long life. As is common in many of my tales, the protagonist misreads events unfolding around him which leads to a surprising, though not very pleasing (for him, at least) end to his outdoor pursuits.

The theme of missed opportunities and misunderstood relationships also features in the following month's issue in a story called, "Mr. Kill-Me". The poor fellow conjured up in this tale cannot for the life of him understand why he's being stalked. His antagonist, a shabby cyclist who keeps showing up at unexpected moments, offers him no threat of violence, but is insistent that our hero kill him.

The month following (yes, it's been a very good year– see first half of blog title) I change pace with a police procedural in which a detective must come to terms with his own actions of nearly fifty years before. This novella is titled "Happy Valley". Counting "Her Terrible Beauty" that was in the March issue, that makes four stories in EQMM in a single year– a first for me. Still, I pose no threat to the late, great Ed Hoch's prolific output, or that of our own Edgar-Nominated John Floyd. Speaking of whom, I had the pleasure of meeting John, and his lovely wife, at the Dell soiree in New York this year. The only fault I could find with the man was his overbearing height, other than that he was just as charming and intelligent as we've all found him to be through his SleuthSayers articles. Still, I'm disappointed with his insufferable tallness.

A Less Fun Party
The worst of times

Since the fall of 2012 I've had three novels published, none of which have thrived. If I called a summit meeting of everyone who had read any of them I could probably forego renting a hall and just have them convene in my living room. Even there, I'm not sure that anyone would have to stand during the meeting. I find this a little distressing. My intention in writing the novels was that someone would read them. You can see my frustration here.

Part of the problem is that none of them have received very much publicity. Small indie presses have no funds for advertising it seems. The big corporation boys do, but only if you're already famous, which presents a conundrum for such as the likes of me. The other part of the problem (and this is the part I like even less than the first) is that I may not be very good at writing novels. I especially don't like this possibility because it doesn't allow me to blame anyone else. When I was occasionally asked what I did as a chief of police, I would always fire back, "I find out who's to blame and pin it on them. Now get out of my office!" My wife claims that I still do this as a private citizen. I tell her that it's paramount to blame those responsible for any faults I may possess, then tell her to get out of my office. She does not comply. I find this distressing as well.

So there you have it, the best and the worst. In case I've raised anyone's hopes that I will never write another novel, you must not know me. I'm already taking another stab at the beast and am on page 125 after only a year's labor. It's titled, The German Informant, and is coming along, though I doubt it will fare any better than the others. On the days I find the going tough, I blame the neighbors for all the distractions. If it weren't for them it would be done already!

In closing, and in order to refill the glass to half-full, I want to take a moment to thank a number of fellow writers who have been particularly kind and supportive in recent months: Brendan DuBois, Doug Allyn, Joseph D'Agnese, Don Helin, Lou Manfredo, Art Taylor, Fran Rizer (whom I miss from this site) and my fellow SleuthSayers, Dale Andrews and Eve Fisher. Each of these extremely talented and busy writers have taken the time, and in some cases, expended considerable effort, to aid or support me in my literary pursuits. I am in your debt, my friends, and honored to be so. Below is a copy of the aforementioned EQMM issue. You will find my name next to that of Joyce Carol Oats, a pretty good writer who I think shows real promise. I hope this fortunate pairing boosts her career.


  1. Congratulations yet again, David!

    >Joyce Carol Oats, a pretty good writer…


    Dale may remember a demised fellow named Webbie got blood splatter on JCO… or at least a poster featuring her.

  2. Congratulations, David, on the good side of your piece, the running string of stories in EQ!

    As for the publicity and small presses, you really have to do it yourself. You've probably heard that before, but it's true. But with the internet there are a million ways and places to get the word out and it's certainly much easier today than before the net. If you want to contact me privately I can share some of that with you. I just don't have time right now to post it here. But there's a lot of things you can do, some for a little money and some for no money.

  3. Thanks, Leigh. I'm glad to have given you a chuckle this morning. Always a good way to start the day.

    Thanks for the offer, Paul, and the congrats. You'll be hearing from me.

  4. Good luck with your new novel. The German Informant is a terrific title!

  5. David, sincere congratulations on that run of stories in EQMM--what an accomplishment! As for me, I'm honored to have even been mentioned in the same sentence with you and Ed Hoch,

    Meeting you at the Dell party and seeing Liz Zelvin and Dale Andrews again were highlights of my NYC trip. Great photo, by the way, of you and Linda and Janet. I realize now that we should've gotten together for a pic of our SleuthSayers representatives, but it never occurred to me at the time.

    I can relate to your angst, regarding short stories vs. novels. I've so far had some success with the first and zero with the second. But I'm still trying . . .

    Great column!

  6. Wow - I am full of awe about your recent publications in Queen! That's a stunning record.

    David, it's a weird world, our writing one. I only get awards for my short stories and novellas, yet I make money through my novels. It wasn't always thus. In the 90s, I was getting $1000 to $2000 per short story. How I wish we could make real money writing short stories, my first love, as was possible in the old days.

  7. Thanks, everyone! John, I wish we had thought of the photo, as well, but unless I stood on a chair I would not appear in the picture with you. I do like the photo with Janet and Linda, but don't know how my grandfather got in the picture. I like his taste in ties though; I have one just like it.

    Melodie, my heroes are mostly short story writers and, like you, I sincerely wish we who practice that arcane art could actually make some money at it. It's terrific your novels are paying off, though. I salute you.

  8. David, you're having a good run in shorts.(Uh, form your own image for that one.) As for novels, well, once more unto the breach. Keep on writing.

  9. Thanks for the good wishes, R.T., and the imagery, of course. Yes, one way or the other, it's always, "Once more into the breach..."

  10. David, I am in awe of your output, your tenacity, and your ability to find the right people to blame. Please pass along any hints on all of these!
    Seriously, congratulations. And keep writing!

  11. Eve, my strategy in output is based on the shotgun theory--like the proverbial roomful of monkeys and typewriters, occasionally I produce something worth reading. It's all a matter of mathematical probabilities. As for blame assignment, I'm afraid this is a gift; perhaps hereditary, like second sight and family banshees.

  12. David, that means that in the course of this summer yoo will have more stories in EQMM than I have had in 39 years of trying. The only reasons I don't poke you in the snoot are 1) I am a person of peace, 2) you are thousands of miles away, and 3) you would no doubt beat me up.

    Congratulations. That is fantastic.


  13. Thanks, Rob. I'm especially glad that you won't be poking me in the nose. The last time this happened it hurt...A LOT! During the same incident an unhappy cat was thrown at me, as well, immediately following the nose punching. That hurt even more. I was able to work that particular tactic into a short story many, many years later, as recompense for my suffering and psychological trauma.


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