Showing posts with label R.T. Lawton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label R.T. Lawton. Show all posts

25 December 2022

Following in John's Footsteps


Back on November 5th, John Floyd wrote a SleuthSayers blog about three stories he had published in AHMM this year. In the article's conclusion, he asked several questions concerning what elements of writing other authors published in AHMM had used, such as Point of View, sub-genre, series vs. standalones, etc.

As I lag along in John's footsteps, you can easily see the difference in the size of our prints. For one thing, I only have about 160 published short stories, whereas John has about eight or nine times that many. In any case, I was going to answer some of his questions in the comment section, except that my answers kept getting longer and longer, therefore I turned those answers into my own blog and here it is.

The first story I sold to AHMM was a standalone set in the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia and is not part of the much later 9 Tales from the Golden Triangle series. At the time, the AHMM website said that then editor Kathleen Jordan was looking for stories set in an exotic location. In my mind, the area of the Golden Triangle (Burma, Laos and Thailand) fit the bill for an exotic location, so I submitted my story and she published it. I was launched.

After that, I had to come up with something new in hopes that I wasn't just a one-trick pony. The result was the 9 Twin Brothers Bail Bond series. Ten stories in AHMM, in which the reader solves each mystery at the same time the story characters do and with the same clues. It seems the Proprietor in this series only accepts special clients, who subsequently end up falling from high places, being run over by an errant taxi cab (but then they were outside the painted lines of the crosswalk at the time), go deep water swimming without the proper breathing apparatus, get crosswise with their homicidal partner, or are otherwise rendered deceased, yet the bail firm always made a profit. These stories are told in 3rd Person from the POV of the lowly and long-suffering bail bondsman, Theodore. All titles contain some form of the words bail or bond in them. Sayings of Mahatma Gandhi are prominent in many of the stories, however the meanings of these sayings are now sinister, not at all what the great pacifist had intended.

The next series was The Armenian, a trader of goods along the Cossack cordon on the Terek River and south of the river into Chechen country. As a neutral party in the long-standing conflict between Muscovy forces and Chechen hill tribes, The Armenian is often tasked with finding a resolution for local crimes. 9 published stories in all, 6 of them published in AHMM. All were told in 1st Person from the viewpoint of either The Armenian or the Little Nogai Boy. These historical mysteries are set in the 1850s when Russian Tsars were expanding the empire. (9 Historical Mysteries Vol 1 & 2)

Next was the 1660s Paris Underworld series involving a young, orphan, incompetent pickpocket trying to survive in a criminal enclave. Naively considering himself to be good at his profession, he is often drawn into the schemes and scams of others. 9 published stories in all of which 8 were published in AHMM. All are historical mysteries told in 1st Person POV. (9 Historical Mysteries Vol 1 & 2)

Since humor keeps me sane, I soon turned to humorous capers with the Holiday Burglars series. 13 stories total with 12 published in AHMM. All the capers and titles concern well-known holidays, plus there is a double meaning on the titles. Told in 3rd Person, story characters Beaumont and Yarnell become involved in several bungled burglaries. (9 Holiday Burglars Mysteries)

My 9 Tales from the Golden Triangle series could be considered as an historical thriller set in the mountain jungles and opium fields of Burma, Laos and Thailand during the Vietnam War. Two half-brothers from different cultures vie to see who will inherit their warlord father's opium empire. 9 stories of which 7 were published in AHMM. All are told in 3rd Person POV with much of the plot based around old country Chinese proverbs.

And then, there is my Prohibition Era series of which one story has been published in AHMM and one has been bought but not yet published. The 3rd story was rejected, so it cannot truly be called a series yet. However, I recently submitted another story in this hoped-to-be-series. All are told in 3rd Person POV.

One of my standalones won the 2022 Edgar, but the storyline and background are not conducive to turning this story into a series.

Of course, there were also potential series which died aborning. They didn't get past the 2nd submission before I saw the rejection handwriting writ upon the wall.

There was the EZ Money  Pawn Shop series. Two rejections and out. I even interviewed a real pawn shop manager, and believe me, he was uneasy about the whole deal. Not sure what he had to hide. Stories told in 3rd Person.

For the Bookie series, I interviewed a real bookie. Again, two rejections and out. Told in 1st Person. I was surprised the bookie consented to be interviewed, but then he did almost marry into the far edge of our extended family. He might have erroneously thought it was good for one Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.

The 1900s French Indo-China series, using the old capitol of Hue along the Perfume River as background. Told in 1st Person. Two and out, with a 3rd one abandoned in mid-story. 

The Exterminator series concerning a scheming family of bug exterminators working their scams through their fake business. One and out with two more on the plotting board. Told in 3rd Person.

ETC.

Even with 49 stories sold to AHMM, I guess some stories just aren't destined to become a series.

One last set of facts. Most of my AHMM stories run from 3,500 words to about 5,000 words, with two topping out in the neighborhood of 8,000 words. Each story took as many words as was needed to tell that particular story.

Reading back over this article, I think the AHMM editor and I would agree that if I ever got that first story (a standalone at that point) published, then more than likely I would try to turn those characters and their situation into a series. Why not?


     HAPPY HOLIDAYS to  all !!!




27 November 2022

In the Beginning


Mike with OH-58


I did a lot of flying with Huey Mike. Nape of the earth, aerial assaults, sometimes parking hundreds of feet up on top of buttes slightly larger than a conference table. Rode with the toes of my military boots overlapping the outboard edge of the Huey fuselage while looking straight down, and I can tell you I'm not partial to heights. It's a real rush when the pilot dips the nose of the helicopter to get power and the ground drops suddenly away under your feet. I even rode the co-pilot's seat in an OH-58, learned to read an aerial map and how to plot our course on that map while in the air. Guess you could say that with all our adventures together, I trust Mike with my life.

These days, in retirement, he and I usually get together at least a couple of times a year. He is not a writer, but we do brainstorm some short story ideas during these times. Occasionally, he will do some research on characters or place or an era in history he thinks I might like well enough to write about.

Recently, when the creative well ran dry, I started going through old research he had given me on NYC during the Prohibition Era. I had even already written a couple of stories from that material. One, "A Matter of Values," had been published in AHMM, and the second, "Whiskey Curb," has been purchased by AHMM and is now waiting for publication. These two were the basis for a series, except that the 3rd story, "On the Pad," didn't make the cut for some reason.

Oh, what the heck, I needed something to write and Mike had given me some good research on an area in Harlem known as Murder Alley. Look it up in Wikipedia. At one time, it was horse stables. During Prohibition, it was ramshackle buildings where organizing criminals lived and/or maintained places of business. Here, the "Clutch Hand" branch of the Sicilian mafia tended to leave its victims in molasses barrels out on public corners. Okay, that got my attention.

NOTE: For those of you who are interested, during Prohibition, bootleggers would buy barrels of molasses from the Boston Molasses Company, ferment the contents, and distill the results into clear rum, which they then sold in speakeasies as rum cocktails. I think I can work with that.

To date, the story is at 3,500 words with the same protagonist (a city vice detective) as the first three stories, the victim has been found, our vice detective is on the scene, and complications exist.  All I need now is a complete plot (it's currently at about 90%) and a finish (almost 95% there in my head). After much polishing, it will be submitted to AHMM.

For now, it's a beginning. 

Thanks, Mike.

30 October 2022

Down the Rabbit Hole


 

Just when you think you're getting a handle on how this writing game works, you find that some element of the process changes, the situation wasn't what you thought it was, or the situation now requires something you weren't originally aware of. So, come along with me and I'll show you the rabbit hole I stepped in.



It all started on one of the high points of my writing career. My story had just won the Edgar Award for Best Short Story at the MWA Banquet in Manhattan during the end of this past April. I was still riding a high when we returned home and I found an e-mail on a provider which I seldom used. It seemed a publisher in Japan wanted to purchase reprint rights to my Edgar story, "The Road to Hana." Great.

When I agreed, They sent a contract in English. Good thing because I don't read a single word of Japanese. The contract was simple as it laid out the terms. They would publish the story in their version of Mystery Magazine in its July 2022 issue, available on June 25th, and in return they would pay $200 USD by check.

I then went on to do my due diligence as best I could. Wikipedia listed them as a long time publishing corporation. Checking an English version of their online site showed they did publish that magazine. I e-mailed them the story and the signed contract.

July rolled past. No check. I gave them a month. Best I could tell, my story was not in the July issue. In August, I sent an e-mail inquiring where my check was. After all, it could have gotten lost in the mail. That is a long way across all that water.

To my surprise, the replying e-mail came within 24 hours. All the previous e-mails had taken about four days or so for a round trip. I had presumed that working out the translation for the two languages was the cause for the time gap in the first e-mails. A couple of things also bothered me about this e-mail. It came from their treasurer and went something along the lines of to avoid Japanese tax laws, they would run the story in a 4-part serial and would I please send them my bank's routing number, my account number and code password. I'd already had a Turkish hacker take a run at my PayPal account, so whatever happened to that good safe check?

Also, the name of the treasurer was Kobayashi. That might be a common name in Japan, I don't know, but maybe you remember Kevin Spacey in the movie The Usual Suspects? He plays the part of a lame criminal on the lower rungs of the hierarchy and tells the story to the cops about Kobayashi being the elusive and nefarious mastermind of the crime they are investigating. At the end of the movie, the cops let Spacey go and as he limps down the sidewalk, you see him become less and less lame until he walks with a normal stride, no limp. At that time you know he is Kobayashi.

Okay, okay, I will admit to a little paranoia in this time of cyber security hacks, phishing and scams. My former profession probably doesn't help the situation much, but like we always said, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you."

I start to question my invitation to this little tea party. I go dark and leave the next step up to them.


And then at the end of September, what 
to my wondering eyes should appear... No, wait, that's a different story. In this case, a package comes in the mail. It has Japanese postage stamps on it. I open the package and there are the three magazines I asked for as author complimentary copies. Of course, it is all in Japanese. Carefully, I turn page to page searching for anything in English. Finally, on one page is a drawing of palm trees along with four English words in very small print: the Road to Hana. How about that? I am finally internationally published.

All I've got to do now is wait for the White Rabbit to bring me my check.

Not so fast there, Bubba. The Mad Hatter wants his say in this back and forth tale.

Did you know that the U.S. government has a tax treaty with foreign countries? Now, it's going to cost me $85 dollars to fill out an IRS Form 8802 in order to get my IRS Form 6166 Certificate of Residency in order to get that $200 check.


Have any of you people gone down your own Rabbit Hole or taken a trip Through the Looking Glass? We would love to hear about it.


25 September 2022

BSP: Paperbacks 7 - 8 & 9


I spent this summer bundling some of my short stories into collections. The result is that three more paperbacks are now in print. Most of these stories were previously published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine or various other magazines or anthologies.

Paperback #7

9 Tales from the Golden Triangle consists of nine stories set in the mountain jungles and opium fields of Southeast Asia in the years after Mao's Red Army had pushed the White Nationalist Army under Chang Kai-Shek out of China during their civil war. Part of the White Army went to Taiwan while other divisions found refuge in the mountain jungles of Burma, Laos and Thailand. And, since an army must eat, as the common wisdom went, those latter army divisions soon became involved in the opium trade.

In these stories, two half-brothers contend to inherit their warlord father's opium empire. The elder half-brother was born of a hill tribe mother and raised in the jungle camps. The younger is full-blood Chinese and was raised in the British education system of Hong Kong. Existence means living with treachery and deceit while trying to live up to their father's expectations. Only one brother can win.

Paperback #8

9 Historical Mysteries Vol 2  is a continuation of the Volume 1 collection. The first five stories are set in the 1660s Paris Underworld during the reign of the Sun King, Louis the Fourteenth, on the throne of France. A young, orphan pickpocket, incompetent at his trade, grows up in a criminal enclave outside the gates of Paris. His fellow criminals tend to take advantage of his youthful ignorance and inexperience in order to draw him into their schemes.

The next four stories are in The Armenian series set in 1850s Chechnya ranging from the Cossack cordon along the Terek River and south into the hill tribes of the Wild Country in the shadows of the Caucasus Mountains. In this land, trust is an unmarked grave in the rolling steppes where The Armenian must survive dangerous encounters by his wits.

Paperback #9

9 Tales of a Criminal Mind are stories ranging from power to greed, from excitement to vengeance, where the criminal rationalizes his actions in order to justify the crime. Inside are nine tales of a criminal mind. Some humorous. Some desperate. Some done out of family loyalty. Yet all are against the law.

The last story collection includes the 2022 Macavity Nominated and Edgar Award winner in the Best Short Story category, "The Road to Hana."

All nine books, now on Amazon, are part of my endeavor to keep my stories out there in the market place for readers.

Thank you for your time.

28 August 2022

July 8th on Juneau Wharf


Port of Skagway
The brown line running downhill was
the landslide that wiped out a dock the
week before we got there.

Jefferson Randolph Smith was born into a wealthy aristocratic family in Georgia, but they lost their fortune and way of life after the Civil War. They subsequently moved to Round Rock, Texas, where Smith found work as a cowboy. This occupation soon introduced him to saloon life.

Outside one of these saloons, Smith watched a con man use sleight of hand to run a game with three shells and a pea. Concluding that fleecing suckers for a living was easier work than the hard life of a cowboy, Smith talked the con man into teaching him how to operate the game.

In time, Smith moved on to Leadville, Colorado, and successfully worked his short con with the shells and pea on the local miners.

Using his charisma, Smith partnered up with another con man and they made more money together than they had separately. Seeking to expand his business, Smith decided to move his game to a larger market.

The Red Onion
An 1898 saloon/brothel in Skagway

Denver had lots of miners with pockets full of cash and Smith was determined to get his share. He soon organized a gang of con men and other criminals. Known for his charming personality, he bribed policemen, "contributed" to politicians and made other criminals aware that they either joined his gang or else some of his people would be around to see them.

Coming up with a new scam, Smith would gather a crowd with his patter while he took a bar of soap, wrapped a hundred-dollar bill around the bar, put a paper wrapper around the money and the soap and finished by tossing the bar into a pile of other soap. He wrapped other bars of soap with various denominations of currency in a similar manner and added them to the pile. Then, for the measly price of $5, he offered to let members of the crowd purchase one bar of soap and try their luck.

At first, the crowd was reluctant, but when the first buyer unwrapped his bar and joyfully revealed a fifty-dollar bill, Smith reminded the crowd that the hundred-dollar bill was still in the pile. After that, the buying rush was on. Of course, all the winning buyers were shills and Smith had palmed the other large bills during the wrapping.

Frank Reid's grave in Skagway

From time to time, Smith would get arrested by unbribed officers. John Holland, one of the officers who did arrest him, forgot Smith's first name while writing up the arrest report, so he called him Soapy Smith. The nickname stuck. When the locals later turned up the heat, Soapy took his criminal operation to Creed, Colorado.

In Creed, which had just found a rich strike of silver, Soapy quickly bought up most of the property lots. He kept the lots he wanted for his saloons and other businesses, while selling the remaining lots to incoming store owners and other businessmen at high prices.

Within a month of moving there, Soapy declared himself as the man running Creed. Only one man refused to acknowledge Soapy as the man in charge. That man was named Bob Ford.

Ford was not well liked by the other residents of Creed. It seems that Ford had committed what the other residents considered to ne an infamous act earlier when he lived in Missouri. There was even a song about him where some of the lines went something like this:

… the dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard and laid poor Jesse in his grave.

Jesse being the outlaw Jesse James, who some people considered to be a folk hero at that time. Soapy subsequently had a private meeting with Bob Ford, after which Ford no longer bucked Soapy's operation.

Soapy's resting place and me

When the U.S. decided to use gold as their standard to back up their currency and to leave silver out of the equation, Soapy read the handwriting on the wall for Creed's silver mines. He quickly sold his properties in that city and moved his gang back to Denver. After wearing out his welcome in Denver a second time, Soapy decided to join the gold rush in Alaska.

Setting up operation in Skagway, Soapy came up with a new con. Since the miners were so far away from home, they were lonely and eager for news from their families. Soapy set up a telegraph office and charged the miners $5 to send a telegram. He also charged $5 for them to receive a telegram. Of course, the telegraph lines didn't go any further than the walls of the telegraph office. Soapy would read the outgoing telegrams, wait a few days and then write a reply telegram allegedly from the miner's family. Somehow, the family always requested the miner to send them money. By telegram, naturally.

In time, the honest citizens of Skagway got tired of Soapy's criminal ways and therefore formed a vigilante group for truth and justice. Not to be outdone, Soapy formed his own much larger, vigilante group to protect his version of the situation.

On July 8th of 1898, Soapy got word that the city's vigilante group was having a meeting in a warehouse on the Juneau Company's Wharf. He got his Winchester rifle, gathered up his private vigilante group and they went down to the docks to break up the other group's meeting.

Frank Reid's head stone

Frank Reid, the city engineer, had been assigned, along with four other men, to guard the meeting on the wharf from outside intruders. Enraged at Soapy's brashness, Frank stepped forward to stop him.

In the ensuing discussion, Soapy took his rifle off his shoulder and shot Frank in the thigh and the abdomen. At the same time, Frank drew his pistol and shot Soapy in the arm, one leg and the heart. (A later version says Frank's first shot was a misfire and that Murphy, one of the other guards, took Soapy's rifle away from him and shot him in the heart.) In any case, Soapy's calendar ceased on that day, July 8th. The uncrowned king of the con men had expired.

Ford was carried around the city on a litter and hailed as a hero. He died twelve days later from his wounds. They buried him in the city cemetery and raised money to buy him a large head stone to mark his grave.

Soapy was buried a few feet outside the cemetery and received a wooden board for a marker.

31 July 2022

Writing My First PI Story


.38 Super

Last September, I wrote a blog article in SleuthSayers challenging myself to create my  first PI story. In that article, I bemoaned the fact that any new PI story would need to come up with a new angle for the PI's background. I didn't have one yet and all the good ones seemed to have already been taken. Intense brainstorming would have to commence. And, it did.

I have now acquired a new slant on a background for a Private Investigator. Will it work? DAMFINO. All I do know is that it is different from what is currently being used out there. The true test will be when I submit it to an editor.

NOTE: It went out on 03/24/22. If it sells at the first submission, you'll hear about it. If it doesn't, then the story will be submitted elsewhere down the line of diminishing payments until it dies a quiet death.

Unfortunately, since I have a certain loyalty, plus a bit of a mercenary bent, I tend to start at the top of the market, it will probably take me a year to find out if this concept will work. In the meantime, I have already written the sequel and have a working title  ("Recidivism") which will stick.

Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I do have a few series which never got past the sequel stage.

SIDE NOTE: It seems that a kind gentleman, whom I was discussing series with at the Bouchercon in Madison several years ago, informed me that one story was a standalone,  it takes two stories to have a sequel and three to make a series. Intentions don't count until they are published. Personally, I would have responded that three stories makes a trilogy and that it took four to make a series, but I wasn't quick enough on the uptake. He was gone. His ride had arrived.

Obviously, I'm not going to tell you what the new concept entails. That would be a spoiler. You'll just have to wait about two years to see if it comes out in print. In any case, I hope to get it into the running for the Shamus Awards before I die. Trust me, it's a great concept, different and fresh. Have I lied to you yet? Well, not that you're aware of.

To keep you occupied in the meantime, there is some trivia about the story which I can entertain you with. You know how some famous authors auction off the rights to name a character in their story after some real person. Well, in this case there was no auction, but the PI character is named Ray, which is Brian Thornton's middle name, and the name of the PI firm is B. Thornton Investigations.

The next bit of trivia was totally unexpected. My wife and I were on a cruise  in the Caribbean from late February into early March and on Day One in the evening dining room, our junior waiter from Indonesia looked at me and asked if I was a Texas Ranger. He said I looked like one (or at least his concept of one). I admitted to being a retired federal agent and a writer. He was impressed more than he should have been, and asked if he could be in one of my stories. Okay, there was a bit of a language barrier and maybe neither one of us totally understood what we were talking about. but I then agreed to name one of my characters after him. In retrospect, I think he envisioned himself as a rescuing knight in shining armor, but the knights in my stories tend to have a lot of tarnish on their armor. The result was that he ended up becoming the PI's contract employee (side kick), and the first story and character got renamed ("Leonardo") after him.  

Oh, the situations we get into when we let those in the general public know that we are writers. But then, I'm sure you have your own tales to tell.

26 June 2022

The Aftermath


This will be my last post on the Edgar and/or my Edgar story. I promise.

Okay, so I've been wondering why "The Road to Hana"? I've read the other nominated stories and they were all great, so why mine? I can't say that my style of writing was literary or exemplary, because in my mind, the way I write is like me telling stories in a bar to friends over drinks. Or maybe like swapping stories with fellow cops (in a bar over drinks) after a raid or large operation. Seeing who can tell the best ones based on what happened during that raid or operation.

I've thought about it a lot because I would like to duplicate whatever it was that I did. The problem is that I can only come up with the possibility that the story resonated for some reason with the reader. I can't tell you how many people came up to me before and after the Edgars to say they have been on that road and the story made them feel it all over again, plus the few who said they could feel the road in the story even though they had not driven that road themselves. If that's the case, then I'm screwed for coming up with another story which resonates with the reader to that same degree. How to come up with a story situation which has the same impact, or resonates with the reader? I am working on it though, cuz Michael Bracken has already challenged me to meet him as a Nominee at the Edgar Awards Banquet next year. Talk about pressure.

Now, on to other items in the aftermath.

About two days after we flew home, I received an e-mail from Hiroyuki of the Hayakawa Publishing Corporation, Tokyo.  They were interested in publishing my Edgar story in their Mystery Magazine, June 25th issue. I have no idea if this is a new thing, or if they have been doing this for some time with the Edgar Best Short Story. Their contracts for reprint rights are very, very simple and they pay more than U.S. editors tend to pay. I don't read Japanese, but do plan on getting a copy or two of that issue for my personal library.

You see, I once thought I was published internationally when I sold a story to Swimming Kangaroo where the editor was named Dindy. But then the check came from Texas and that took care of that. I think we got to keep an eye on that Texas contingency.

Just to keep me humble, the woman sitting across the aisle from me on the 4-hour airplane ride from LaGuardia to Denver coughed on me all the way back. She wore no mask. Yes, I know the airline companies claim that their air circulation systems screen out all the germs and viruses, but those little fellas didn't make it direct to the filtration units. First off, they crossed the aisle to me.

A few days later, the severe head cold hit with a vengeance. Kiti finally dragged me to one of those little mobile huts in the shopping mall parking lot and we both got the lower side of our brain swabbed for Covid. Four days later, the results were negative, but I was still coughing and blowing. Almost healed now. I think I'll live.

I still have to write a story good enough to get nominated in 2023. May have to ask that Naked Singing Cowboy, whose photo I showed you in last month's post, how he keeps from catching cold in that cold, damp weather they have in Times Square and Central Park. Especially if I'm planning to go back there again. What a way to make a living.



29 May 2022

The Boyz


The Boyz

The long journey actually started on January 19th when MWA announced the six short stories nominated for the Edgar, but you've already heard about that from various people, so let's start this rendering of events on Tuesday, April 26th. Ready?

The airplane landed at LaGuardia, the wife and I took a $50 taxi ride into Manhattan and arrived at the Marriott near Times Square. Right off, I knew things were gonna be different.

I had never stayed at a hotel where the Lobby was on the 8th floor. The first obstacle to getting registered for a room was the giant revolving door on the ground floor, plus they must've had trouble paying the electric bill because the lights were dim in this particular area. I promptly got lost in the revolving door. In my defense, the door's pivot column had long slender mirrors on it, and with my failing vision, I should have never looked into the mirror. It was like being in the Fun House at the county fair and seeing no way out. With no regard for me or my large roller suitcase, the door marched on. I had no choice but to follow… until my wife reached in and rescued me.

Our room was very nice and there was a restaurant named Junior's right across the street where we ended up eating at least five of our meals while in residence.

On Wednesday afternoon, we attended the matinee performance of a Broadway play, Moulin Rouge. My wife had bought tickets months ago when I lost a bet on January 19th and then I had to agree that yes, since I had been nominated for an Edgar, we could go back to New York City one more time. And, here we were. The music, the cast, the stage settings were excellent. The audience gave a standing ovation at the conclusion.

Even the intermission was entertaining. I fought my way through the mass of bodies crowding into the refreshment lobby as they pursued quantities of popcorn and glasses of wine. At my advancing age, I instead went for the line headed to the Men's Room. A couple of people behind me, this is what I heard.

David, Liz & R.T. at DELL Reception

Attendant: "Ma'am, where are you going?"

Woman: "I am in the line."

Attendant: "But that's the line to the Men's Room."

Woman: "I am in the line."

She must've won the philosophical discussion, because for several minutes afterwards, I could hear her voice behind me, all the way in.

That evening, we dined at Junior's for the second time. As the hostess wound her way through the restaurant to show us to a table, Michael Bracken recognized Kiti and me and called us over to his table. The hostess, not realizing she had lost her cargo, continued all the way to the back of the restaurant.

Edgar Nominees
2022 Edgar Nominees for Best Short Story

Michael graciously introduced us to his wife Temple, his co-author nominee James Andrew Ahearn and his wife Dawn, and to Stacy Woodson. We all conversed until the hostess made her way back to us and asked if we would like a closer table.

Thursday afternoon was the DELL Publishing (AHMM & EQMM) Publishing Cocktail Reception at a nearby library, which Liz has already written about quite well.

At 6PM that evening was the MWA Nominee Cocktail Reception at the Marriott. Here all the nominees got their group photo taken by the category they were in. At 6:30 PM, the Edgar Banquet Cocktail Reception began, and at 7:25, the doors opened for admittance into the room for the Edgar Award Banquet itself.

R.T., Edgar & James

At Table #1 were Linda Landrigan, Kiti, myself, Brendan DuBois, Michael Bracken, Temple, James Andrew Ahearn, Dawn and two ladies from DELL Publishing, Chris Bagley and Abby Browning. Chris bought a $53 bottle of red and a $53 bottle of white wine for the table, and I do thank her for the very good libation.

All too soon, the presenters went to the podium, the nominated stories and the names of their authors and publications were flashed up on the large screens up front, and the name of the winner in each category was then announced. When they called my name, Kiti suddenly had tears running down her cheeks, Brendan pounded me on the back in congratulations and I gradually realized I was supposed to stand up and go somewhere.

Having spent most of the 25 years of my federal law enforcement career operating in the shadows, I have not been comfortable in the spotlight, yet the light had found me. Fortunately for everyone else, I had a typed copy of my acceptance speech, just in case. Be Prepared was the motto in my youth.

Actually, I had two copies in my suit coat pocket, one in 18 point font and one in 20 point font, figuring that depending upon how much light there was at the podium, I would be able to read one of them. The rest of the night was spent in conversation with various attendees, and then it was midnight and back to the room.

Friday was tourist day, Times Square and Central Park in the cold wind and low temperatures. Don't know how Naked Singing Cowboy keeps his teeth from chattering. We saw homeless people in layered clothing who appeared to be colder than he was. Don't know if he is the same Naked Singing Cowboy we saw working Central Park years ago. If he is, then he must really love his job. Since our legs and feet were now tired, we hired one of those three-wheeled-bikes-with-a-cab-for-two-people-on-the-rear for a ride back to the hotel and supper at Junior's for one last time.

Early Saturday morning, Kiti wrapped and packaged Edgar in a MWA canvas bag and hand-carried him to avoid breakage on the flight home. A $50 taxi ride put us back at LaGuardia. When Edgar rode the conveyor belt through the x-ray machine, TSA took us over to a private table. Then the TSA guy removed Edgar from the bag, unwrapped him and swabbed him down for explosives, while Kiti kept trying to explain he was an award. All the TSA guy could say was, "Lady, keep your hands off the bag." I sneaked a peek at the x-ray screen, and yep, Edgar did kinda look like a warped bomb in all that packing. We did make it all the way home and now Edgar sits on the computer desk with his little brother, Bobblehead.

Oh New York, New York, you are an experience, entertaining, but expensive.

I told Kiti we couldn't go back again unless I got nominated for an Edgar.

Of course, you see how that turned out the last time I said the same thing.

Who knew?

24 April 2022

Breaking It Down


As some of you already know, my story, "The Road to Hana," was one of six to be nominated for an Edgar in the Short Story Category. Plus, there's some of you who may have read my article in The First Two Pages after Art Taylor asked me to write an essay as part of his program to get essays from those short story authors who were nominated this year. So now for the rest of you, I'm going to break down some of my reasoning for the sentences I wrote for the beginning of my story.

The Background

My wife and I had vacationed on the Hawaiian island of Maui for two weeks in February for several years. No, we aren't rich. It's just that we learned how to do it on a lower budget. We got a special (return) rate at a small condo on the beach, rather than staying in an expensive resort area, cooked most of our own meals (it's a budget killer if you eat out a lot, unless you eat where the locals eat) and we found some of the little secrets of Maui. For instance, did you know that native Hawaiians  get a Kamaaina discount at many of the shops and stores? Seems my wife with her suntan at that time was often mistaken for Kamaaiana (local). And, did you know there's a writers open critique group that meets in an old stone church on the road leading upcountry from the old hippie town of Paia? You have to look hard for some of this stuff.

In any case, during our many stays, we traveled the road to Hana on the other side of the island several times, a couple of those times even going beyond Hana to other sites.

Photo by Jim Evans on Wikipedia
On one visit, while reading the local newspaper, I ran across an article about a young man who had smoked some of the petals of the local Trumpet Flower, a known hallucinogenic. The young man then made the decision to go deep water swimming. He was never seen again.

I was intrigued. He will never know it now, but that young man started the brainstorming for a story, even if it did take years before the story actually got written.


And now the opening sentences

There's only one road from Kahului's airport going over to the small town of Hana on the eastern side of the island.

This opening sets the place and tells the reader that the protagonist, or anyone else, going to or from the town of Hana only has one choice of roads to take if traveling by vehicle.

And then, the next line. This Hawaii highway has 59 bridges and 620 curves for the 52 miles it takes to get there. This sentence foreshadows that the road and its curves can be dangerous to drivers if those travelers are not careful. Call it atmosphere, call it background, call it setting, this is a situation where the topography of the land becomes an important part of the story and crucial to the plot, as the reader will soon realize.

I've got no idea who took the time to count the number of curves in the road. This emphasizes the curves and sharp turns to keep that image in the reader's mind for when our protagonist must travel that road, first to Hana and later back to the airport for his flight home.

Whoever he was, he must've been really bored that day and had nothing else to do. Fine by me, I was looking for boredom right about now. There's nothing like being shot on the job to make you want to stop the world and smell the roses, hell, smell any kind of flowers and thank your lucky stars the other guy wasn't a better shot. Okay, now the savvy reader knows the protagonist is some type of law enforcement who has come to the island paradise for peace and recovery from his injuries. Will he find it? A mystery reader already knows the answer to that and reads on to find out what happens next.

After more description of hairpin turns, old one-way cement bridges, deep jungle ravines on one side and steep drops to the ocean on the other, our protagonist notes: If you go off the edge here, you'd best be able to fly.

Later: It was at one of these quick turns reaching out towards the ocean where I saw flashing lights in late afternoon.

Our protagonist gets out of his rental car to check on the situation. Looked to me like two tow trucks were trying to winch a wrecked car out of the foaming surf and drag it up the slope. Also looked like a slumping body was seat-belted behind the steering wheel. Evidently, some poor schlub had tried to take a straight line where the asphalt took a bend.

Was this an accident or murder? The reader has suspicions and journeys on with our hero to find out alongside him as he slowly discovers what is going on.

So now, you tell me, did I do my job? Did the opening sentences draw you in? Is this a story you want to read? I know the opening worked well enough for the editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to accept the story. 

I submitted it on 07/21/18. It was accepted on 09/29/19 and published in the May/June 2021 issue of AHMM. On 04/28/22 at the Edgar Awards Banquet in Manhattan, we will see if the story is good enough for an Edgar.

In the meantime, I, along with everyone else, will keep on writing. There is always next year and who knows which new story will get nominated and which author will win the Edgar. Maybe I'll get another chance at Ed… yeah, I've got this great idea for a story in mind about this…

27 March 2022

Me & Ol' Bobble Head


Years ago at one of the Edgar Award Banquets back when I served on the MWA Board of Directors, Margery gave out Edgar Allan Poe Bobble Heads as party favors. Mine, still in the original box, sits on my computer desk where I write my short stories. Call it a nod to the muses for a little extra assistance in creativity.

For many years, I assumed that Ol' Bobble Head would be the only Edgar to grace my writing area, and that could still be the way things turn out yet. But this year, I do have a slim chance to get a real one. You see, on the early morning of Wednesday, January 19, 2022,my wife informed me that my story, "The Road to Hana," had been nominated for an Edgar in the Short Story category. To say I was astounded, elated and/or greatly pleased would be an understatement. I tried to be cool, but nope, my feet did not touch the floor. In the end, it made no difference, I still had to do the breakfast dishes. So much for fame.

So now you're asking yourself, what are this guy's odds of getting a real Edgar? Well, since I have interviewed an illegal bookie during my professional past, I do feel somewhat qualified to come up with the proper odds for this particular event. Normally, there are five nominations in an Edgar category, so that would give me a 20% chance of winning, however there must have been a tie when it came to the top five short stories this time because for the 2022 competition there are six nominations in the Short Story category. This now gives me a 16.67% chance of winning. Oops, my odds just dropped. Sonuvagun.

Of course, since two of the six nominations are stories published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, this means that the editor, Linda Landrigan, has a 33.33% chance of having one of the two stories in her magazine which were nominated by the judges to receive an Edgar. That's better odds for her.

Now, to throw a ringer into the competition, one of the nominees would have to be awarded posthumously if he wins. It seems this really famous author passed back in 1968, roughly two months after I came back to "the world" from my twelve-month, all-expenses, government-paid vacation in a tropical climate, if you don't count the monsoon season. I was barely trying my hand at writing war poems, much less trying to create short stories for publication. Damn. I think you can see how hard it is for a guy to get a real Edgar these days.

In any case, I would like to commend the judges for their high intellect in nominating my story and throwing my hat in the ring this time. As the saying goes, "It's an honor just to be nominated." I'll stick with that because regardless how it comes out on April 28th at the Banquet in Manhattan, I definitely do feel honored to have even been mentioned in this group of distinguished authors.

As for Michael Bracken and James A. Hearn, I have read your excellent nominated short story, "Blindsided," also in AHMM. So, I'm sure you'll pardon me at this stage if I go find a bar and wish myself some luck, so that my story can at least give yours a little bit of competition. See you guys at the AHMM table at the banquet.

Well, Ol' Bobble Head, I would surely love to introduce you to Ed, but if nothing else, we will always have Manhattan.

27 February 2022

In Another Man's Shoes


There's a fellow member in our Denver MWA Chapter who keeps telling me that I write like Damon Runyon. In case you haven't heard of him, Runyon was a famous journalist from about the 1910s until the 1940s who also wrote short stories about New York characters who hung out on the streets around Broadway. If you are old enough, you have probably seen Marlon Brando in some version of Guys and Dolls based on a few of Runyon's story characters.

As for me, I didn't see the resemblance between my writing and Runyon's writing. If it was that some of the type of characters which I wrote about were similar to Runyon's, then fine. But the styles of writing were completely different in my mind, so I bought a couple of Runyon's collections of short stories to find out what Runyon and his street people were all about and how Runyon wrote, So now, let me introduce you to a few of Runyon's characters and his style of writing.

In More Than Somewhat the reader is introduced to people such as Judge Goldfobber, who is a lawyer, but not a real judge. It pleases him to be called judge and people like to please him because "He is a wonderful hand for keeping citizens from getting into the sneezer (jail), and better than Houdini when it comes to getting them out out of the sneezer after they are in." Furthermore,, "He is such a guy as loves to mingle with the public in these spots (night clubs and other deadfalls)), as he picks up much law business there and sometimes a nice doll."

The Unnamed Narrator of many of these stories "get(s) to thinking of Harry the Horse and Spanish John and Little Isadore, and the reason (he) figure(s) they must be suffering from the underemployment situation is because if nobody is working and making any money, there is nobody for them to rob, and if there is nobody for them to rob, Harry the Horse, Spanish John and Little Isadore are just naturally bound to be feeling the depression keenly." To remedy the Judge's most recent problem and the three criminals underemployment, the Unnamed Narrator reluctantly recommends the three criminals to the Judge for a job the Judge needs done.

On another front, we meet Dave the Dude. "Only a rank sucker will think of taking two peeks at Dave the Dude's doll, because while Dave may stand for the first peek, figuring it's a mistake, it is a sure thing he will get sored up at the second peek and Dave the Dude is certainly not a man to have sored up at you."

"But this Waldo Winchester is one hundred percent sucker, which is why he takes quite a number of peeks at Dave's doll. And what is more, she takes quite a number of peeks right back at him. And there you are. When a guy and a doll get to taking peeks back and forth at each other, why, there you are indeed." "Now this is bad news, because when Dave the Dude takes a guy out for an airing, this guy very often does not come back."

In Damon Runyon Favorites, along comes Big Butch the safe cracker. "It seems that there is a big coal company which has an office in an old building down in West Eleventh Street, and in that office is an old safe, and in that safe is the company payroll of twenty thousand-dollars cash money. Harry the Horse knows the money is there because a personal friend of his who is the paymaster of the company puts it there this very afternoon.

It seems that this paymaster enters into a dicker with Harry the Horse and Little Isadore and Spanish John for them to slug him while he is carrying the payroll from the bank to the office in  the afternoon, but something happens that they miss connections on the exact spot so the paymaster has to carry the sugar to the office without being slugged, and there it is now in two fat bundles."

To remedy this situation, the three criminals are trying to enlist the talents of Big Butch, however Big Butch has some reluctance to open said safe due to having already been in Sing Sing on three prior occasions for opening safes and should he go for a fourth time, he will be required to stay for life, no argument. Furthermore, he has to mind the baby, little John Ignatius Junior, who is now asleep.

Harry the Horse convinces Butch that this is an old pete box which he can open with a toothpick. "Listen, Butch," Harry says in a whisper, "we can take the baby with us, and you can mind it and work, too." In final negotiations, the sleeping baby gets cut in for five percent of the take, which all concerned figure is only fair since the baby will be going along. As it is, the baby turns out to be more than worth his participation.

And in turn, both story collections were worth the price of admission to Runyon's world. I tried to mimic Runyon's story telling ability and some of his style when I wrote "Most Important Meal of the Day." It sold to Black Cat Mystery Magazine and will be published in a forthcoming edition. Buy that issue when it comes out, read the story and let me know how I did. Thanks.

30 January 2022

From the Response Time Front


It's a frequently asked question on the Short Mystery Fiction Society posting board as to how long the wait time is for  replies on short stories submitted to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.  The publication's website does not currently provide an official response time, so I mostly depend upon other submitting authors to get an idea of how long my submissions will ne relaxing in the magazine's e-slush pile.

In the last year, according to my personal notes, the response times I had received were running at about eleven to twelve months. Based on that information, I expected to get a reading and a response about November 29, 2021 for my November 29, 2020 short story submission. Therefore, my mind settled in to wait until then with no expectations until about that date.

As time drew close, I learned that two of our contributing SleuthSayer authors (John Floyd & Rob Lopresti) had each recently received a response of acceptance about fourteen months after they had submitted their stories. I subsequently readjusted my mind to a new date of January 29, 2022. Come the evening of January 9, 2022, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail of acceptance from the AHMM editor. That made for a thirteen month and one week turnaround. The editor must've been reading like crazy over the Christmas and New Years holidays, while the rest of us were socializing, in order to knock three weeks off the response time during that short of a period of time.

Naturally, I understand that some authors don't like that long for an acceptance or rejection on their submission. And yes, it does tie up a story for a length of time. In which case, my suggestion is to write more stories, send out more submissions and forget about them for a while. In the meantime, to improve your odds, write and submit more.

As for my track record, the AHMM editor had just accepted my 48th story in her magazine. That gave me a 66.66% acceptance rate. I will admit the acceptance rate had been higher than that at one time, but it seems I hit a speed bump last year when I received a run of four straight rejections. Now, with that 48th acceptance in hand, I will use this information to more carefully decide what story content and writing style to send her in the future, which should improve my odds. It's a learning curve.

One more slant on the long wait time. It has been mentioned before that whereas EQMM has a shorter turnaround time, that editor tends to read the first few pages of a submission and if the author doesn't capture her interest in those pages, then the read is finished. The editor of AHMM tends to read the entire manuscript, which admittedly does take more time.

Of course, there is another fairly well-paying publication out there where the author's submission is not acknowledged as received and the author may never receive a reply of acceptance or rejection, in which case the submission sets in limbo unless the author sends an e-mail or letter of withdrawal.

In the end, it's the author's story, the author's time involved and the author's decision or business model as to how they wish to proceed on where to submit their creations.

Best of luck to you all. I love reading good stories.

And, while you are here, give us your thoughts on the submission process.

26 December 2021

The Advantage of Networking


I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but this topic is important enough that I believe it bears mentioning again. You just never know when networking will bring you an unexpected gift or boost at just the right time.

In a previous blog, I told about Brian Thornton (a fellow SleuthSayer) and me taking an MWA Board Member to the Russian Vodka Room in Manhattan for Baltika #3 beers and finding out later that particular member was an editor. This little outing subsequently led to me getting talked into a non-fiction book contract written under an alias. And yes, that was good beer.

Okay, so several years later, I'm on a short story panel at a Bouchercon in Dallas where Barb Goffman is the panel moderator. While waiting for the panel to begin, we start chatting and she happens to mention that she likes my short story "Black Friday" (the 10th story in  my Holiday Burglar series) which was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine Nov/Dec 2017 issue.

Then, a couple of months ago, Barb looks me up in an e-mail asking if she can reprint "Black Frida" in Black Cat Weekly of which she does the Barb Goffman Presents section and is an Associate Editor of the magazine. (And no, no beer was involved.) But yes, not only does this e-mail come at a good time, Barn also wishes to pay me in good, solid U.S. American Dollars. So, you see this networking thing does pay off in the end.

NOTE: Black Cat Weekly #13 is an e-format, 479 page publication of good reading put out by Wildside Press LLC. Maybe you should buy a copy of this publication and see if it is a good market for you and your work. At least you'll enjoy the reading, if nothing else.

And While you're at it, you too should try some of this networking stuff at critique groups, writers' conferences, chapter meetings, readings, library gatherings, getting involved in writing organizations and/or whatever works for you. Get you and your stories and your name out there by being there.

And, don't be shy. Let us know how it all comes out.

28 November 2021

Using All Your Resources


I was in the process of writing this blog article about how writers should use all of their creative resources to get a new story started and then I got sidetracked. Was the correct word sources or resources? Might be best to have a look. I went to Google as the deciding judge. Sources vs. resources.

Uh huh.

They lost me in their definition examples when they used the sun as both a source of energy and as a resource of energy. So, I'm just going to use the word resource and you readers can decide on your own which word is correct under these circumstances, source or resource.

Anyway, to get back on track, I don't know how the rest of you authors get your ideas going in order to create a new story. Short story or novel, take your pick.

I usually go to sleep putting my brain on notice to come up with something and then wake up with a character in trouble in whatever type of scene, write the scene down that morning and then come up with a plot at a later time. Or take a walk and daydream along the way. That's probably why I have so many story starts setting in computer files waiting to be finished. Of course, this way I always have something to continue writing on.

Even so, my brain doesn't always cooperate at sleep time or on walks, in which case the well runs dry and any lowered bucket hoping to fill up with fresh elixir only bumps against moist sand. But, working undercover and with sly criminals for twenty-five years, I learned early on that it was best to have more than one trick in the bag.

So, I've got this Huey pilot buddy who has done a few things in his time that I'm not allowed to talk about and has a fine brain of his own. He is not a writer himself, but he does understand some of the basics and he likes mysteries. So, we get together every so often and bounce story ideas off each other. Maybe five percent of what he comes up with is pure gold. For instance, a few years ago, he came up with an Archimedes science solution to apply to one of my stories set in the 1660s Paris Underworld series. This solution gave me the second half of the story and an ending. AHMM subsequently published the story, "Of Wax and Watermarks."

And then, a couple of years ago during one of our brainstorming sessions, he produced two main characters and several very visual scenes set it modern day Italy. All I had to do was stitch the scenes together, add the dialogue and come up with the ending. It was like being handed an outline. The story felt like it almost wrote itself.

Did it get published?

Yes it did.

Mystery Weekly Magazine (now known as Mystery Magazine) snapped it up and placed it in their September 2021 issue.

I don't know if any of you writers out there have someone you can bounce story ideas off of as a resource, but you might consider the concept.

As for me, I'll keep the guy around as a resource. I might even ply him with a little Vanilla Crown Royal from time to time to loosen up the corners of his mind for creativity. As a sometime resource, he's gold.

So, what resources do you have in your bag of tricks?

31 October 2021

The Women in my Writing World


Kathleen Jordan

Thinking to give AHMM one more try back in the year 2000, I went to their website to see what type of story they wanted. Kathleen Jordan was the editor at the  time and the website said she wanted stories set in exotic locations. I just happened to have finished a story ("Once, Twice, Dead") set in the Golden Triangle of SE Asia. I figured you couldn't get much more exotic than that, so I sent it in. She bought the story and it was published in AHMM's Sept 2001 issue.

The high of being published in a major mystery magazine quickly ran into the speed bump of reality. What next? Or, was I merely a flash in the pan, a one-trick pony?  I had no story ready to submit next. And, any story I did come up with needed to be of high quality in order to obtain a second sale. It also needed to be different from other stories already out there. So, I looked around and decided to borrow from the best.

Isaac Azimov in his Black Widower series had a character who solved mysteries just by hearing someone relate the circumstances. Nero Wolfe had Archie bring him the clues he needed. And, on the darker side, Lawrence Block had his Ehrengraf series with a crooked attorney who always got his guilty clients off by shady means without going to trial. Plus, in a biography of Dashiell Hammett, it seems that Hammett was acquainted with a pair of brothers in San Francisco who operated as bail bondsmen and used their criminal clients to commit robberies and burglaries. All of this being perfect fodder for a new story.

What to name it if it became a series? Well, let's see, back in the early 1970s, Kansas City had a gang of bank robbers, dope dealers and killers known as the Black Mafia. Two of its members were known on the street as Twin and Twin Brother. Through several incidents on some of the darker streets of the city, Twin and I got to know each other quite well before he joined Twin Brother in prison. So, for a story series, let's have an intelligent but crooked proprietor of a bail bond firm solve mysteries from the clues brought to him by his minion, a not so bright bail agent who is afraid of his boss. And, perhaps all of their clients are guilty criminals who accidently fall from high places, go deep-water swimming without the proper breathing equipment, get hit by an errant taxi cab (but hey, they weren't exactly within the marked crosswalk at the time) or somehow managed to take up temporary residence in the morgue, while the bail firm always makes a profit on the transaction. Thus, the Twin Brothers Bail Bond series was born and Kathleen Jordan bought the first two stories.

Linda Landrigan

Kathleen passed and Linda took over as the editor for AHMM. Suddenly, I was an orphan, I'd lost my rabbi. My first introduction to Linda was when she asked for some changes to the second story in the series, a story already bought and paid for. Maybe this wasn't going to be a series after all.  I made the requested changes and submitted the third story. She bought it and seven more with the same characters. I had a foot in the new door.

At the Las Vegas Bouchercon bar, Linda bought the drinks and I got bold enough to inquire what she would like to see in my future writing. She suggested a Moriarty type character to go up against the proprietor of the bail bond firm. Therefore, in "The Other Bondsman" I created Herr Morden (Mr. Murder), the German phonetic of ermorden: to murder.

Years later at breakfast in Manhattan, I asked the same question again. Linda replied that in my Armenian series set in 1850s Chechnya, she would like a story told from the little Nogai boy's point of view. This was a character who in several preceding stories never had more than three lines of narrative and zero lines of dialogue. She got her story ("The Little Nogai Boy") which then got me a sale and a Derringer nomination. Goes to show that networking and personal relationships can help keep those acceptances coming. To date, I'm at a 66% acceptance rate with AHMM and have four submissions waiting in their e-slush pile.

Pat Dennis

When I went to the Las Vegas Bouchercon, I arrived a couple of days early in order to attend Jerry Healy's all-day novel writing seminar. As I'm sitting in the front row waiting for the session to begin, a lady dragging an oxygen tank on a two-wheel cart, walks up behind me. "You're my screen saver," she says. I had never met this woman before and at the time, I wasn't totally sure how I could be a screen saver. But, I was flattered to be recognized. Turned out she was the editor of the anthology Who Died in Here?. All of the anthology stories submitted had to be set in a bathroom of some type. Payment was $25 and an air freshener. She (Pat Dennis) had accepted my story, "Flying Without a Parachute," based on a real incident where a heroin deal had gone bad and the protagonist/defendant temporarily escaped arrest by leaping from a third story window. Defendants really should know that cement driveways make for a hard landing when you are three floors up. I had a lot of fun promoting that anthology. (acceptance rate 100%, one story.)

Johnene Granger

The Short Mystery Fiction Society had a posting several years ago about Woman's World magazine buying (at that time) 900-word mini-mysteries for the grand payment of $500. I sent them one and the column editor, Johnene Granger, subsequently bought nine more. Since I had a steep learning curve as to what topics were acceptable and what wasn't, my acceptance rate with this publication hovered around 33%. Sometimes, the column editor wanted the story, but for some reason the magazine's chief editor rejected the story. However, when Johnene moved on and a new column editor took over, I could not sell a single mini-mystery to them. So, I took my five thousand dollars and faded away, leaving  that market to our own John Floyd who has now sold over a hundred of his stories to them. You just can't beat success. Good on ya, John.

Kerry Carter

I kept reading posts about authors selling stories to Mystery Weekly Magazine, so I finally sent them a humorous story ("The Job Interview") about three individuals trying to rob the same bank at the same time. The editor, Kerry Carter, bought it.

In that time period, the magazine paid one cent a word through PayPal. I will admit to some confusion when PayPal then took a small fee. Through a small amount of research, I discovered that the magazine is a Canadian company in which case PayPal charges a conversion fee when converting Canadian Loonies to U. S. Dollars.

No sweat, I subbed them a second humorous story ("The Clean Car Company") in which a criminal can obtain a "clean car" the same way he can get a "clean gun" in order to commit a crime. The magazine subsequently raised their payment rate to two cents a word. I sent another submission ("The Story Game"), also accepted. Then they put out a submission call for humorous stories for an anthology (Die Laughing), so I sent them "Blue Light Special" My acceptance rate currently stands at 57% (4 out of 7).

And, as mentioned in a previous post, Kiti is my First Reader, part-time publicist, part-time social media person, all-around mental support and wife of 41 years. Guess my acceptance rate here must be okay to make it all those years.


ADDENDUM:

I can now happily add Barb Goffman to this list. She recently asked if she could reprint "Black Friday" (10th in my Holiday Burglars series) in an upcoming issue of Black Cat Weekly: Barb Goffman Presents. The manuscript has been submitted, the edits have been made and the contract has been signed. Now, I'm just waiting to see it in print. And, I may or may not be working with Barb again, depending upon whether it is Barb or Michael Bracken who edits my submission to our SleuthSayer anthology.


It's a good life.