06 August 2019
by Michael Bracken
A few minutes ago, as I write this, I finished checking proofs for The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods and, as soon as I have the answer to a question posed to one of the seventeen contributors, I’ll be sending everything back to the publisher. Scheduled for October 21, 2019, release from Down & Out Books, The Eyes of Texas will be my sixth published anthology.
I edited the first five—Fedora, Fedora II, Fedora III, Hardbroiled, and Small Crimes—(all of which were released in hardback and which will soon be released in trade paperback and as ebooks)—in the early 2000s, so there’s been a bit of a gap in my anthology output. This wasn’t by choice. In the interim I pitched anthology ideas to several publishers, received some positive feedback and encouragement, but finalized no deals.
One of those ideas—a collection of private eye stories set in Texas—had a positive reception at a regional publisher, but, like many other pitches before and since, ultimately led nowhere. (On the positive side, it did lead to cowriting “Snowbird” with Tom Sweeney, the first sale either of us made to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.)
The idea languished in my file of anthology pitches until February 2017 when I learned that Bouchercon was coming to Texas. I dusted off The Eyes of Texas, revised the proposal, and, in my pitch to Eric Campbell at Down & Out Books, suggested releasing it to coincide with the Dallas Bouchercon. Three days later I had a commitment from Eric and work began.
I soon issued an open call for submissions and set the submission deadline for November 30, 2017. Submissions drifted in during the coming months, from new writers and well-established writers, from writers I had worked with previously, writers I had shared space with in various anthologies and periodicals, and writers with whom I had no previous experience.
(For those who like to see stats: I received forty-three stories from thirty-nine writers. I accepted seventeen. I received submissions from twenty-nine writers who appear to be male; I accepted fifteen. I received submissions from ten writers who appear to be female; I accepted two. I did not include my own work.)
Though I rejected stories throughout the process, I did not send acceptances until the tail-end of December 2017, and I spent the next several months editing and working with the contributors, finally delivering the full manuscript to D&O in early July 2018, more than a year before the scheduled publication date.
One of the stories I accepted was the author’s first sale, submitted after he saw me on a panel of anthology editors at Armadillocon. One of the stories was submitted following a conversation I had with the author at the Toronto Bouchercon in which we discussed an aspect of Texas history that no submission had addressed, and which the author incorporated into his submission. One story’s protagonist first appeared in a story published years earlier in Fedora III, and one story’s protagonist will be featured in a forthcoming novel.
Unfortunately, one contributor has passed away.
And those stories I didn’t select? At least two have found other homes: One recently appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and another will appear in an anthology edited by Maxim Jakubowski.
THE NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Editing The Eyes of Texas led, directly or indirectly, to several new opportunities. I recently turned in the manuscript for Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir, the first in an annual anthology series, and I will begin reading submissions for Mickey Finn 2 in September. (For guidelines, visit http://www.crimefictionwriter.com/submissions.html.) I co-created and am co-editing, with one of the anthology contributors, the Guns + Tacos serial novella anthology series. With one of the anthology’s contributors, I co-authored and sold two stories. With another contributor, I co-authored a story that is currently making the rounds, and I’ve placed stories in two anthologies edited by yet another contributor.
All of these unexpected opportunities remind me how interconnected we are as writers and editors, and they remind me how important it is not to give up. If I had stopped pitching anthologies during my decade-plus drought, it is likely that none of these new opportunities would have fallen into my lap.
THE EYES OF TEXAS
Texas has it all, from bustling big cities to sleepy small towns, and law enforcement alone can’t solve every crime. That’s where private eyes come in. They take the cases law enforcement can’t—or won’t. Private eyes may walk the mean streets of Dallas and Houston, but they also stroll through small West Texas towns where the secrets are sometimes more dangerous. Whether driving a Mustang or riding a Mustang, a private eye in Texas is unlike any other in the world.
The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods features seventeen original tales of Lone Star State private eyes from Trey R. Barker, Chuck Brownman, Michael Chandos, John M. Floyd, Debra H. Goldstein, James A. Hearn, Richard Helms, Robert S. Levinson, Scott Montgomery, Sandra Murphy, Josh Pachter, Michael Pool, Graham Powell, William Dylan Powell, Stephen D. Rogers, Mark Troy, and Bev Vincent.
Preorder now at https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/bracken-eyes-texas/.
Joseph “Joey D” Garrett owes everything to his Aunt Sylvia, including a stint in the Stateville Correctional Center. When he’s released, Joey returns to the only life he knows, and he soon becomes an instrumental part of his aunt’s plan to rob four banks in a single day.
Before that can happen, though, Joey meets Gloria Sanchez, and she turns his life upside down. Gloria’s everything his aunt isn’t, and their developing relationship makes him think about how life could be if he weren’t so dependent on Sylvia. When he’s forced to choose between the two most important women in his life, Joey finds the answer in a take-out bag from a taco truck.
Order here: https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/bracken-three-brisket-tacos/.
Or order the entire first season here: https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/guns-tacos-s1-subscription/.