04 June 2022

Saving Mrs. Hapwell, Over and Over


Last month I posted a column here at SleuthSayers about humor in fiction, and how those kinds of stories can be fun for the writer as well as (hopefully) fun for the reader. And while putting that post together, I took a look back at my published stories to see just how many were funny and how many weren't. I won't bore you with my statistics, but it turned out I've written a lot of (what I think is) humorous fiction. But a lot of it isn't. Mystery stories often contain at least some degree of lightheartedness, and I try to inject that when appropriate, but the truth is, crime is serious business, and so is crime fiction.

Even so . . . the funny stories are still the most enjoyable to write. Maybe the most surprising thing to me is that editors seem to like them also. I've been fortunate in that two of my humorous mystery stories won Derringer Awards in 2020 and 2022, one won a Shamus in 2021, and many of them from long ago have been reprinted again and again. (Many have also been rejected again and again, but that's another matter.)

The story that wouldn't give up . . .

I found that one of those older stories, a sort-of western called "Saving Mrs. Hapwell," has so far appeared in the following publications: 

Dogwood Tales Magazine, March/April 1997 issue

Mystery Time, Spring/Summer 2000

Desert Voices, December 2004

Taj Mahal Review, December 2005

Crime & Suspense, February 2006

Rainbow's End and Other Stories (collection, Dogwood Press, 2006 and 2010)

Crime & Suspense I (anthology, Wolfmont Press, March 2007)

Kings River Life, May 2020

Crimeucopia: As in Funny Ha-Ha, August 2021

I hope it'll show up in other places too, before it's finally put to rest.

I think some of the things that have made that story marketable to multiple publications are that it's cross-genre (crime, western, humor), it's short (1160 words), it's almost entirely dialogue, and it has what I've been told is a memorable ending. One editor who reprinted "Saving Mrs. Hapwell" informed me awhile back that she still receives emails that mention the final line of the story, a fact that gladdens my writer's heart, and I've often been asked to read the story aloud at library signings. An old friend of mine who is himself an author even referred to that story in a YouTube interview he did with me a few weeks ago, saying he always brings it up as an example whenever he gives talks about writing to high-school classes. Also gratifying is that our longtime SleuthSayers friend and author Anne van Doorn, who since 2016 has read one piece of short fiction every day, recently selected "Saving Mrs, Hapwell" as his pick for Best Short Story of the Week. (Thanks, Anne!) So that story's been good to me, over the years. If you're so inclined, you can read it here:

The second, third, and fourth times around

The point I wanted to make today, though it's taken me a while to get to it, is that we short-fiction writers can and should try to remarket our published stories. All of us still have the manuscripts; they might be stacked somewhere in a closet and aging like tobacco leaves, or buried in the forgotten depths of your computer--but they're still there if you look for them, and just waiting to be recycled. Find 'em, dust them off, and send them out again into the world.

There are plenty of potential homes for these old stories. As you can see from my list for Mrs. Hapwell, you can include previously pubbed stories in a collection of your own work at some point, and you can also--as long as the rights are retained--continue to sell them as reprints to magazines and anthologies. Sometimes you're even paid again for the stories, and if you're lucky you might receive a higher payment than you did the first time around. (That hasn't happened to me often, but it does happen.) Markets will also contact you occasionally to ask if they can reprint a story, and--failing that--you can find all kinds of possibilities on the Internet. Here are a few suggested sites:

105 Literary Magazines Accepting Reprints

Where to Submit Reprints

18 Magazines Accepting Reprints

I also check ralan.com now and then for possible reprint targets. (Just pull up their pages and do a search for "Reprints: yes.") It's primarily a fantasy/SF site but also includes info on some mystery markets.

Questions for the class

If you're a writer, do you actively seek out publications that are receptive to reprints? Have you been successful in that? If so, where do you usually look to locate those markets?

Whatever the answers, I wish you luck in all your writing endeavors.

See you in two weeks.


  1. Thanks, John. I can recommend your story. It's great fun!

    1. Hey Anne! Thanks so much. It was a real honor to have my story chosen, That one was a lot of fun to write!

  2. I'd have been in real trouble, because I can't do what needed to be do done in "Saving Mrs. Hapwell." Nice twist.

    1. Ha! Yep, like good ol' Nate, you'd have been out of luck. Sometimes the craziest endings turn out to be the best. The funniest thing is, I was afraid no editors would like that story at all because it WAS so goofy . . .

      Thanks as always, Don.

  3. I agree. It is a great punch line. Comes out of nowhere and yet fits the situation.

    1. Thanks, R.T.! Don't know where the idea for that line came from, or the plot either, but I do remember I had fun the whole time, writing this story. When you write about weird people it probably helps to be a little weird yourself.

      Hope all's well with you, old friend. Stay in touch!

  4. Thanks for posting the link to "Saving Mrs. Hapwell," which I hope to read before the day is done.

    I think I sometimes have actively searched for markets that take reprints. "Over My Dead Body," which Duotrope says is (unhappily) defunct, was especially nice about this; it was one of the markets where I've placed my story "The Afternoon Before Christmas," though the story is not as well-traveled as Mrs. Hapwell.

    "The Afternoon Before Christmas" is to be featured again, later this year, in one of Kings River Life's podcasts. I'll be interested to see (or hear) how it sounds with actors playing the parts.

    Mark Murphy

    1. Hi Mark -- Thanks for stopping in. Hope you'll like the story.

      I too had some stories in Over My Dead Body--some reprints, some originals. Cheri Jung, right? Sorry it's not still around.

      I look forward to hearing "The Afternoon Before Christmas." Please let everyone know when the podcast happens.

  5. I keep my eyes open for reprint opportunities, but I don't often seek them out. This year, though, has been particularly good for placing reprints: 56 reprints accepted vs. 6 originals.

    1. Good point, Michael. I also haven't been searching for those markets the way I used to. As for your placement of stories, that's going the same way your award wins and nominations have been, this year--2022 has indeed been good to you!

  6. Loved the story John! I admit, I really do not care for it when people do what Nate asked about in the last line of the story. I tell my husband all the time that it's the difference between a White Castle greaseburger & flatiron steak.

    Only been reprinted twice myself, but the first time it happened I got more money than I did for the original sale. Both markets that reprinted me have disappeared. Thank you for the new links to reprint markets!

    1. Well, Elizabeth, it seems not many folks in that story knew how to do it, anyway. (I recall that when I'd watch westerns as a kid, several cowboy stars could immediately summon their horses with a whistle. Sadly, the horse my family owned would never cooperate.)

      Good for you (!) for being paid more for those two reprints than you were paid for the originals. That's happened to me only once with magazines, but several times when my stories later got selected for best-of anthologies.

      I hope you find some possibilities, in those links!

  7. I enjoyed Mrs. Hapwell. Thanks for the link. By coinkydink my next piece for SleuthSayers (June 15th) is about my modest experience with reprints. (Well, actually it was supposed to be June 29th but I bumped it up in your honor.

    1. Thank you, Rob. As you know, stories like this are written more for the writer's pleasure than anything else--it was a lot of fun to put together. I look forward to your post about your reprint adventure(s)!

  8. Joseph Benedetto04 June, 2022 23:07

    Wow. As to "If you're a writer, do you actively seek out publications that are receptive to reprints?" ... uh, no, I do not. Obviously, though, I am going to have to change that. Thank you so much, John, for sharing this bit of wisdom with us!

    1. Hi Joseph -- Yes, I hope you'll look for some places to sell those older stories. It's a good feeling when you do recycle them, because most of the work will have already been done!

      Thanks for dropping in. Good luck, and stay in touch!

  9. John, I have "Rainbow's End" but I don't think I read that story---yet!

    1. Jeff, it's the 23rd story in the book, page 227. (I just looked.) Hope you'll like it!

      Take care, my friend. Keep writing!


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