04 January 2020

Short Memories: 2019 in Review

Happy New Year, everybody! Since this is my first post for 2020, I figured I'd use it for a review and wrapup of my writing in 2019. For some reason I wrote fewer stories, and published fewer stories, than I did the previous year--but it was still fun.

I won't bore you with a long list of what I read this past year--I did consume just as many novels and stories as I did in 2018--but I want to mention a few books that stood out. I truly enjoyed The Deserter (Nelson DeMille), Cari Mora (Thomas Harris), Blue Moon (Lee Child), The Institute (Stephen King), Cemetery Road (Greg Iles), The Boar (Joe R. Lansdale), and Full Throttle (a collection of shorts by Joe Hill).

On the writing side, I wrote 22 new short stories in 2019 (about half the number I produced the year before). The only things notable about that is that most of them this year were much longer stories--I haven't been writing as many mini-mysteries as I used to--and that not as many had local, southern settings. I'm not sure why, on either count; the stories just took a little longer to tell, and the settings happened to be the ones that popped into my head and stayed there.


I had 26 stories published in 2019--eight appeared in anthologies (some by invitation, some by open-call
submission) and 18 in magazines. Of those 26, 19 were to paying markets, 13 to repeat markets, and 13 to new markets. And, if it matters, 22 were to print publications and four to online pubs. Genrewise, two were fantasy stories, one was science fiction, three were about deception not connected to a crime (what do you call that?), and the other 20 were mysteries--although a few of those could be considered cross-genre. Of the 26 total, 18 were original stories and eight were reprints. Settingwise, 12 took place in my home state of Mississippi and the rest were set elsewhere, including the Middle East, Alaska, Texas, Wyoming, and the South Pacific. And I still seem to be publishing a few series stories: nine of this year's stories were installments in two different series and 17 were standalones.

One other story was released in mid-December 2019 ("Crow's Nest," in EQMM) but I didn't count it since that issue's date is Jan/Feb 2020.

On the nonfiction side, my not-so-short article "Short and Sweet" appeared in a book called How I Got Published and What I Learned Along the Way by Camden Park Press in September, and I wrote 26 columns here at SleuthSayers.

As for rejections, I had 24 this past year. That was actually low, for me. Over my so-called career, I've had more rejections from more different places than Carter had little pills, and I remain unable to predict which stories will fly and which will crash. What can I say? You buy your ticket and you take your chances . . .

2020 vision

In the "upcoming" category, 16 more of my stories have been accepted but not yet published, and 21 have been submitted and have not yet received a response (in other words, I hope they're upcoming). Already-accepted stories are waiting backstage at AHMM, EQMMBlack Cat Mystery MagazineToughSherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, etc., and several anthologies. No genre-diversity here; all of those forthcoming stories are mysteries.
On the subject of other genres, my eighth book is scheduled for release in April, and it's far different from anything I've done before, or that my publisher's done. Stay tuned for more on that in my next SleuthSayers post, in two weeks.

One of my stories was also optioned to a movie production company in L.A. last year. Fingers are crossed.

How about you?

Was 2019 a good year, writingwise? What are some of your success stories? What and where did you publish this year? Novels? Shorts? Other projects? Mostly magazines? Mostly anthologies? What's forthcoming?

One more thing. To any of you who've read my stories, and to the editors who acquired them, please accept my sincere thanks. To be allowed to continue to do something that's this much fun is a true blessing.

May all of you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2020!


  1. Congrats on another amazingly creative and productive year, John! Your high output continues to absolutely amaze me. Looking forward to reading more in this 2020. Best, Bill

  2. Congratulations, John. Your constant productivity always amazes me.

    I published four short stories and a novel this year, and thought that was pretty good...until I looked at your year for comparison.

    I have a few stories looking for homes. For me, the good news is that I already have six writing workshops scheduled for the next few months. I love doing them, so that will be fun.

    I'm looking forward to seeing how the new years changes the world of publishing...again.

  3. Thank you, Bill. I hope 2020 will be good to all of us. Keep up the great work!

    Steve, thanks for the kind words. Congrats on placing those stories, and I wish you the best with the latest novel (publishing a novel, anytime, is a feat in itself). I'm pleased that you're staying busy doing the workshops. I've found that kind of interaction with fellow writers (and aspiring writers) helpful to the teacher as well as to the students. And I hope your submitted stories find a good home, and soon!

  4. Impressive, John. You and Michael Bracken and other SleuthSayers keep the genre exciting. Way to go.

  5. Hey O'Neil. I appreciate that--but I'll always be in awe of the number of novels and stories you've produced over the years. To me and many of our fellow writers, your name is the first we think of anytime the subject is "mysteries" and "New Orleans." You've found your niche.

    You're one of those writers whose name I knew long before I met you, and we've known each other a long time now.

    Have a great 2020!

  6. Congratulations, John! I feel like a slacker now... And Happy New Year, to you!

  7. Thank you, Paul. Nope, no slackers present here. Keep up the good work!

    Happy New Year to you and Amy, too.

  8. Congratulations, and Happy New Year!

  9. Hi Eve. Many thanks, and Happy New Year to you also!

  10. Can't wait to find out what the new book is! Can I make guesses on here?

  11. Hey Dix. It's nothing earthshaking, just something I've not done before and something my publisher talked me into. But hey, he's smarter than I am, so . . .

    I will say this--it was REALLY fun to put together, and will hopefully be fun to read.

  12. Congratulations, John, on yet another stellar year. You and Michael Bracken continue to be my heroes and my inspiration.

    Since you asked, I had a good 2019, too — not nearly as good as yours or Michael's, but I think probably the best I've ever had. I had a total of eight new stories published: two each in EQMM and Mystery Weekly, and one each in the Bouchercon anthology Denim, Diamonds and Death, the Malice Domestic anthology Mystery Most Edible, Michael's The Eyes of Texas, and my own Amsterdam Noir. In addition to stories I wrote (and, in the case of the A'dam Noir story, co-wrote), I also had fourteen translations published: two in EQMM and the other twelve all in Amsterdam Noir, which I also co-edited. (You and I, by the way, were I believe the only two people to hit both the B'con and Malice anthologies. Yay, us!) I don't track rejections, so I don't know how many I had, but more than a few.

    2020 is shaping up nicely for me: I have two stories and two translations in inventory at EQMM, a translation at AHMM, and stories coming out in Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, the next Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime's anthology and Michael's Mickey Finn. This spring, Mysterious Press will publish The Misadventures of Nero Wolfe (which I edited) and Wildside will publish The Further Misadventures of Ellery Queen (which I co-edited with Dale Andrews), and hopefully The Beat of Black Wings: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Joni Mitchell, which I edited and for which I wrote a new story, will come out. (You have a story in that one, too!) I'm waiting for responses to nine other new stories and several reprints, and hopeful that some of those will also see print this year.

    Here's hoping that 2020 will be a terrific year for all of us: you, Michael, me, the other SleuthSayers, and all who read these always fascinating posts!

  13. Josh, that sounds like a stellar year to me--congrats on all the successes, and especially all those in EQMM. You and David Dean and Doug Allyn remain my heroes, there. As for the anthologies we've been in together this year, I think they were the Bcon anthology and Michael's The Eyes of Texas anthology. Honored to have been in both with you!

    Thanks for the well wishes. Yes, I hope we all have a great 2020, writingwise and otherwise. Take care, and I appreciate the update! Congratulations again!

  14. Congratulations on another good year, John.

  15. You too, Michael! Keep up the great writing.

    One of these days you and I are gonna have to collaborate on something.

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  17. 2019 was not a good year for me, writing or otherwise. But, I am super glad to be turning the corner into 2020, and fingers crossed my writing will reflect the new year!
    Cheers all!


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