23 August 2022

Can I Trust You?

Temple and I have been together for nine years, married for seven, and for several years now she’s been reading nearly everything I write before it ever gets submitted to an editor. It’s taken a while, but I have learned to trust her judgement.

Temple not only improves
my writing, she also makes
me dress better.
I mention that because for the past two weeks I’ve been wrestling with the end—and by “end,” I mean the last sentence—of a private eye story that otherwise we both like very much.

This trust didn’t happen overnight. Initially, showing Temple my final drafts was more me showing off: “Look what I wrote. Aren’t I great?”

The first few times she dared—dared, I say!—to suggest I might be able to improve something I had written or that some plot element didn’t make sense or that what was so clear in my head had never made it to the page, I was—to put it mildly—a bit huffy.

Over time, though, I’ve realized that any problem she notes with one of my stories is something to which I need pay attention. I don’t always agree with the solutions she suggests, but her suggestions always help me find a solution that satisfies us both.

This was brought home in a big way earlier this year with “Blindsided,” a story I co-wrote with James A. Hearn. Andrew’s wife, Dawn, also reads most of what he writes, and when Dawn and Temple saw an early draft of “Blindsided,” they told us we had written far past the actual end of the story. We grumbled, and moaned, and cut until they were satisfied.

And the story sold to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and received an Edgar nomination.

Temple’s not the type, but if ever there was something she could hold over me, that would be it. After all, without her comments and Dawn’s comments, Andrew and I might have written a decent story and it might have gotten published, but it certainly wouldn’t have been nominated for an Edgar.

So, that last sentence of the private eye story I’ve been wrestling with for two weeks? I’ll keep wrestling with it until Temple gives it her seal of approval.

“The Ladies of Wednesday Tea” was reprinted in Black Cat Weekly #50.

“Little Spring” was reprinted in Black Cat Weekly #51

Everything is Relative” was published by Fried Chicken and Coffee, August 13, 2022.


  1. So good to have a reliable first reader.

  2. I'm please to report that, between the time I wrote this and the time it posted, I wrote six more drafts of the final sentence, finally received Temple's seal of approval, and have sent the story to an editor.

  3. Michael, we are two of the luckiest guys in the world. Just as Temple does for you, Dawn makes everything about my life better.

  4. A reader who really GETS your stuff is priceless. Barb, my wife, used to write advertising copy for radio (remember radio?) so DJs could read it correctly at first sight. She still performs in several plays a year, so she understands my rhythms and thought processes better than I do. And she's not shy about offering criticism. We're all lucky, aren't we?

  5. Tell Temple for me that she's the greatest!

  6. What Eve says… wonderful!

    And, er, um, any chance we can borrow Temple?

  7. So true! My wife is my first reader and editor and our experience is similar. James Patrick Focarile

  8. How lucky to have your best editor so close! I'm with Leigh, above. Let us know when she's available.


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