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

17 March 2024

51 and Counting


There's an old saying that figures don't lie, but liars do figure. However, one can also choose those figures from the data which are more favorable to the point one wishes to make. This person is usually called the expert in that field. Therefore, following in the footsteps of some of our fellow SleuthSayers bloggers in their blog articles which contained personal statistics from their writings and/or published works, here are some of my own figures. Make of them what you will.

Note: The following come only from my short stories published and/or accepted by AHMM.

The data starts in 2001 with my first acceptance, "Once, Twice, Dead," at 3,030 words for a payment of $280, and it currently concludes in March 2024 with my 51st acceptance "Murder Alley," at 5,300 words for a payment of $480. All of this makes for a total of 258,330 words for a total payment of $21,376 for all 51 of the stories.

The majority of my short stories range from 3,530 words on the low end to 8,060 words on the high end with a per story average of about 5,065. Of course, when you are writing your own stories, please remember that every story should have just as many words as it needs to tell that story. My word count total for all my short stories sold to AHMM comes to 258,330.

Added to the above figures are monies earned from AHMM reprints:

  •      Great Jones Street ($500)
  •      The Big Book of Rogues and Villains ($250)
  •      Black Cat Mystery Weekly ($50)
  •      Japanese Mystery Magazine ($200)

51 accepted     28 rejected       64.56 % AHMM acceptance rate

$21,376 Initial Payment earned, plus $1,000 for reprint rights on AHMM stories equals $22,376 total.

My conclusion from the data is that approximately 358K words would make about three novels at about 86K words each. Assuming a $500 advance or less per novel from a small publisher, many of these don't earn out in royalties. The author frequently spends the advance money for advertising in one form or another because small publishers don't have much of a budget for PR or advertising. It's a sad state of affairs for a beginning writer. However, I do think that a novel writer gets more prestige in the writing community for having a published novel under their belt.

Since I am not a prolific writer, it would take me a long time to write those three novels from my short story statistics. Not to mention that an editor/agent/publisher would be expecting a new novel every year for me to succeed in the writing game, therefore I'm better off staying in the short story business. Right now, it's fun. If I had to write 86K publishable words a year, it just might quickly turn into work.

So, there you have my story.

See you in print.


25 February 2024

The Bar

Most people have memories from various bars over the course of their lives. These memories may be good ones from the times when they were the happy center of attention or it was a gathering of good friends, a time they hoped would never end. But then, some could also be bad memories. A time when bad happenings affected their life, or they made bad decisions not easily undone.

My memories of bars started in a 3.2 joint in Wichita, drinking red beers and playing pool with, at that time, a good buddy. We were both underage, but other customers in this establishment were scarce and the bartender didn't ask to see IDs. Next came my part-time employment in one of the first Pizza Hut franchises. The owner of a 3.2 beer joint leased space in a defunct barber shop next to his bar, set up the pizza shop in that space, and sawed a window in the interior wall between the two businesses so that beer could be pushed through one way while the pizzas went the other direction. The boss' waitress cum mistress usually took care of any business conducted at the window. It wasn't exactly Cheers, but everyone seemed happy to be there. After that came the Army's NCO Club, which advanced ten-dollar chit books to its clientele, so that any broke NCO who wanted to could still wet his whistle. Of course, come payday, the chit book recipient immediately paid off his debt to the club.

Then, in early '71, a new job came along and the memories changed. Seems criminals and undercover Special Agents tended to operate in the dark corners of life. Bars were one of the accepted meeting places. Turned out, anything could happen in a bar.

One night, I dropped into a mob owned bar in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Sitting up to the bar counter with a drink in hand, I gave a dollar to the waitress and asked her to to get me a pack of cigarettes. She took the dollar and walked to several places in the bar before disappearing in the back room. At no time did she approach the cigarette machine set along a nearby wall and in plain view to me. When she returned, she handed me a pack of cigarettes. The pack had no license or tax stamps on it. This pack was either stolen from a warehouse, or bought clandestinely out the back door of a tobacco factory. No idea how many cartons of smokes were involved.

On a different night, but still on the Missouri side of the river, my partner, a KCMO vice-cop, and I had a federal arrest warrant for the son of a capo. We went to a night club owned by the capo, found a secluded table and ordered drinks. When the waitress brought the drinks, we told here we wanted to speak with the capo. Five minutes later, he showed up at our table. My partner explained that we had a federal arrest warrant for his son, but we did not want to disturb his wife or his home life, so we came to him here. He replied that his son would be in our office early Monday morning. Then. to show his thanks for our discretion, he said the drinks were on him. We did now wish to offend him by rejecting his offer, nor did we want to be in his debt for anything, so we left a tip for the waitress large enough to cover the drinks plus a nice tip.

On the Kansas side of the river was a biker bar known as Mother Pearls. I once bought a small quantity of crystal meth in one of their rest rooms. The purchase turned out to be crystal, but not methamphetamine. In those days, if the U/C guy got burned on a buy, he either got the money back, or he made the burn up out of his own pocket. Making up a burn was usually a long, involved story concerning bad decisions on someone's part. Sorry, but these stories are best told in a bar......if told at all.

Further up the river in St. Joe on the Missouri side one night, I was in a bar with an informant and a surveillance team. After a couple of beers and a no-show on the potential defendant's part, I made a trip to the head. As I stood there, a large, rough-looking guy appeared on each side of me. "Hi, Pockets," one of them said. "How's your evening going?" Turned out they were ATF agents that I knew. I was there to buy drugs and they were there to buy guns. Trouble was, our informants were trying to buy from each other. We called it a night and drove home.

There are plenty of other bar stories, but I'm not at liberty to tell most of them.

Like I said, anything can happen in a bar, plus everything may not be as it first appears. Mysteries abound, plots hatch, and con men flourish. Perhaps it is safer to curl up with a good book, like the Murder Neat anthology, and just read about what happens to other people in a bar. Someone might get murdered in their bed, or even in a dark alley behind a bar, but at least it won't be you.

28 January 2024

The Road to Perdition

1913 New Year's resolution postcard

Everyone who made a New Year's resolution, singular or plural, raise your hand. Okay, you can put your hand down. 

A month has now passed since you vowed to make some sort of change to better your life. How many of you made a resolution which had to so with your writing?  Did that resolution have the goal of writing a set number of words within a fixed time period? Or maybe the goal of selling X number of stories per year?  How many of you are reaching or are on track to reach that goal? Show of hands.

You might want to know that a 2023 market data research report by Gitnux shows that 50% of people make a New Year's resolution, but only about 8% of those people keep it. Whoa! So much for good intentions. And, only 64.6% of those people keep their resolution past the first month, which means that more than one third of these resolutionists have dropped out of their own well-intended program. My friend, the odds are against you. You may already have both feet well on the road to perdition.

Now, we don't want you to end up being roasted in some writers' hell, or even temporarily delayed in a writers' purgatory, so listen up, here's what you're gonna do.

First, you should always choose a goal where you have control. If your stated goal was to sell more stories, then you are probably already in trouble. For instance, should the readers, and therefore the editors, agents and publishers, decide that your chosen genre is going out of fashion this year, that is something over which you have no control. Under those circumstances, your well-intended goal becomes more difficult, if not impossible to achieve. If you don't believe that can happen, then ask yourself where the westerns went.

You also have no control over a situation where the editor receives more than one story similar in plot, story arc, ending, setting, etc. and therefore your submission is rejected because he only has room for one of these similar stories. Or, if the editor suddenly decides to put a themed edition together for that month and your story, as great as it is, doesn't fit the theme. Or, my favorite, "Your submission doesn't fit our needs at this time." You, as the writer, have no control in these types of situation

The second way to help you not break your resolution(s) is to choose a reasonable goal to begin with. Can you really write a thousand new words a day, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year Sure, your favorite author may be able to accomplish that feat, but don't set yourself up for failure and disappointment because of a goal set too high. Remember, time must also be set aside for rewriting, editing, promoting, networking, conferences, meetings, family time and just plain living. You can always start out with a lesser goal and gradually raise the word count as time goes by and you become more proficient at your craft.

Okay now, everybody with a good idea on how to make a New Year's resolution and/or how not to break one…


31 December 2023

Christmas Past


Most families seem to have their own traditions for the winter holidays in December, many of which get passed down from generation to generation. Some stem from the family's religion, some start up from events going on in the world, and some come from family circumstances.

Many of ours came from family circumstances. Because my dad, an electronics engineer, job-hopped a lot, we frequently found ourselves living in states far from the one my grandparents lived in. For several years, we (two adults and three kids) would get in the Kaiser (the car before the Studebaker) and drive from Ft. Worth, or Roswell, or Albuquerque, or Minot to the small town of Newton, Iowa, in order to spend Christmas with my grandparents. And, because we couldn't be in two places at the same time, we would spend Christmas Eve at my paternal grandparent's house where we kids got to open the presents they gave us, and we would spend Christmas morning at the maternal grandparents where we opened the gifts they gave us. In later years, after the grandparents were gone and we stayed home, the tradition morphed into we only got to open one present on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. The latter tradition got passed down to our kids and then from them to their kids.

Because we kids were always shaking the gift-wrapped packages and trying to guess what items were inside, the folks would often resort to trickery. Sometimes, the package contained only a single note which led to a treasure hunt to find another note or more, while the real gift was concealed behind the couch or in a closet. Loose marbles might be placed inside a gift box to roll around and confuse the receiver of the gift, or an inflated small balloon might be taped to the box before it was gift-wrapped. The gift giver was only restrained by his or her imagination.

Food itself often became a holiday tradition. My German grandmother always made a gooseberry pie for my dad and a rhubarb (not cut with strawberries or other fruit) pie for me. My pie always had sugar crystals on the top crust. Plus, she made her pie crusts with homemade lard. My mom was the last in the line of pie makers to make her pie crusts with Crisco. Both grandma and mom cooked up cranberries in sugar water to serve at the Christmas table. None of that weak cranberry sauce in a can. In later years, mom added marshmallows to the boiling mixture and stirred them in until they melted. When the mixture cooled in the refrigerator, a beautiful white froth raised to the surface of the cranberry sauce. It makes for a nice presentation. I still make my cranberry sauce in the same way.

And, don't forget those retold Christmas stories that come out from Christmas Past. Like the year my folks gave me a B-B gun, but I wasn't allowed to handle it until after dad gave me safety lessons. My dad then inadvertently put a B-B into the ceiling. That was a quick end to Lesson One. Mom was not happy with the new addition to the ceiling in her living room. Of course, the year I got an electric train, I had to wait until my dad and uncles got through playing with it before I could start.

Naturally, kids could be mischievous too. Like the year I rigged the stairs at my aunt's house with string and camel bells so us kids would be awakened when Santa came. Unfortunately, one of my uncles tripped the camel bell alarm system way too early on his way to the bathroom.

Regardless of your religion, I'm sure you have your own traditions, foods and family stories. Now is the time to lay aside any thoughts of hard times you may have had in life and instead warm your heart with any of the pleasant memories you might have. And, if you want to share those warm memories of good times, please feel free to tell those stories here.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all.....

Now go make some new family traditions to talk about.

       .....and may 2024 be a year of many publications !!!

26 November 2023


In January 2006, I attended my first MWA Board of Directors meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. At the start of the meeting, the vice-president had each attendee sitting around the conference table introduce themselves and tell what they wrote.

Sitting there among several best-selling novelists, I told them I wrote only short stories, and concluded with I doubted I'd live long enough to get as many published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine as the famous short story author Ed Hoch had. At the time, I had only eight stories published in AHMM, whereas Ed went on to have 450 in EQMM, plus I don't know how many in AHMM before he passed two years later.

My first story ("Once, Twice, Dead") published in AHMM's November 2001 issue, was set in the Golden Triangle. Kathleen Jordan was the editor and her web page said she wanted mystery stories in exotic locations. To me, Southeast Asia was exotic, I'd seen it for myself in '67, so I submitted the story and she bought it.

Elation soon turned into panic when I realized I had no second story to submit. The next story had to be high quality, else I could be considered as a one-trick pony. After much brainstorming, the Twin Brothers Bail Bond series was born. Kathleen bought the first three in the series before she passed.

Shortly after Linda Landrigan took over as editor, she sent me an e-mail requesting some changes in that third story which had already been accepted, bought and paid for, though not yet published. I figured this was probably the end of my short career in AHMM. Since the editor is the boss, I made the requested changes and went on to sell her seven more stories in that series.

I soon branched out to The Armenian series set in 1850s Chechnya; the 1660s Paris Underworld series, involving a young, inept pickpocket trying to survive in a criminal enclave; the Holiday Burglars series;  and The Golden Triangle series, involving two feuding half-brothers vying to take over their warlord father's opium empire in the mountain jungles of Southeast Asia.

In my Prohibition Era series, "Whiskey Curb" is set in a Manhattan location where actual gangsters used to sell and trade liquor. It is my 49th sale to AHMM and is published in their Nov/Dec 2023 issue. The third story in this series was rejected with the dreaded doesn't fit our needs at the moment type comment. The fourth story in the series is currently resting in the editor's e-slush pile, waiting for a verdict.

Naturally, there are some standalone stories not necessarily conducive to acquiring series status. And, there are some potential series stories which died aborning because I had already written and submitted the second story in the series before the first one was rejected.

And now, we come to my first ever P.I. series. An earlier post talks about the genesis of my first ever P.I. story, "Leonardo." Unfortunately, it will have to find a different home, since it was rejected by AHMM. Seems that the upper brass does not want any stories mentioning teens and sex. My P.I. broke up a ring of pornographers. Nothing graphic, mind you, just the rescue scene and the mention seemed to nix the story. So, put that on your list of No-Nos and save yourself the trouble.

Here's the interesting part to go with the paragraph above. On 09/24/23, I received an e-mail from AHMM accepting the second story in my intended P.I. series. Same protagonist and sidekick, different crime. In which case, "Recidivism" becomes my 50th story sold to AHMM. Thank you, thank you.

Returning to the beginning of this blog, it appears I'm a long way from Ed Hoch's 450 stories in EQMM and I don't know how many in AHMM. Furthermore, with my fading eyesight, body parts which are showing the wear of a life well lived, and a brain like that cheese made in an European country where the natives yodel at each other in their mountains, I seriously doubt my sold/accepted numbers in AHMM will make it to as high as 100, or even to the number of years in my age.

God, I wish I were 50 again.

29 October 2023

Going to Bouchercon

I assume that others will write about the Bouchercon held in San Diego long before this article gets published, therefore I will report mainly on our encounters at the conference.

The first step toward attending the conference was writing a story ("Shanghaied") for their anthology and submitting it before the deadline. Unfortunately, it didn't make the cut. Oh well, can't win them all. "Shanghaied" is the third story in a new series set during the California Gold Rush. It now rests in the AHMM e-slush pile for future determination. First in the series, "Sydney Ducks," was published in the West Coast Crime Wave e-anthology and the sequel, "Sydney Coves," was published in AHMM's July/Aug 2023 issue. Two out of three ain't bad and gives me hope for this third one to find a home.

Upon registering for the conference, I discovered two other writers with the last name of Lawton, Rob & Robin, on the List of Attendees. To my knowledge, we are not related, but I could see the possibility for some confusion. Sure enough, several months after registration and we still hadn't made the List of Attendees. I sent an e-mail mentioning this oversight, plus the difference between the two groups, just in case the conference planners thought we were already listed. Kim e-mailed back that she would take care of it. More months passed before our names were finally listed.

On the first of July, I was placed on a short story panel, but when the schedule came out in print, it said Rob Lawton, who is a novelist. I e-mailed Kim to explain the problem. In a return e-mail, she said she would fix it. I checked the schedule later and it said R,T, Lawton. I don't think I've ever seen anyone use commas with their initials. E-mails ensued. Kim explained she hadn't had her morning coffee yet.

We had learned in earlier travels to always build in an extra day when flying somewhere. It seems the weather and/or the airlines seldom co-operate anymore in getting the passenger to his destination on time. Therefore, we arrived on Tuesday. Many of those flying in on Wednesday found themselves stacked up over the San Diego airport due to thick fog. Some flights were even diverted to other airports to refuel. Our MWA Chapter President ended up at the nearby Ontario airport and was left behind along with some other passengers in the airport restaurant when the aircraft resumed its flight. They rented a car to finish the trip. She missed the panel she was supposed to be on.

Kiti and I had an excellent cab driver from the airport to the conference hotel. He spoke perfect American English which he learned in a school in Somalia. We had a great conversation in which I learned about his culture, to include food on their menu. I have eaten some exotic food, but never camel meat, a staple in Somalia. Arriving at the hotel, we over-tipped our driver, but he was worth it.

Our room on the 16th floor of the South Tower had a tremendous view of the marina, the bay and the naval harbor. It was worth the extra $20 a night, especially when the large Navy ships were gliding past our window on their way out to sea.

Wednesday morning, we had breakfast at Richard Walker's House of Pancakes with Rob & Teri Lopresti and Michael & Temple Bracken. Good company, good conversation and good food. My bacon and Havarti cheese omelet was so good that Kiti and I returned to the restaurant the next morning for a rerun on another omelet.

Wednesday evening was supper at Roy's with the Brackens, James & Dawn Hearrn, and Hugh Lessig & his partner Shana. Once again, good company, good conversation, good food. Roy's is one of those first class restaurants where the online menu shows no prices, however our macadamia nut encrusted Mahi-Mahi turned out to be quite tasty.

The panels were entertaining, the conference rooms convenient, the hospitality room well stocked with coffee, muffins and pastries. The Marina Bar inside the hotel was handy for appetizers, drinks and a good place to find old writer friends, which is one of the best reasons for attending a B'con.

So there I was leaning against a wall in the hotel while Kiti made a shopping foray into a store when this guy walked by. He stopped, looked at me and said, "I know you." If I was working undercover in the old days when I heard those words, then it became a tense time until we figured out whether or not he really knew me.

Most of the time the speaker of those words did NOT know who I actually was, It appears I have a common face, or resemble someone they knew. Whew. This guy and I talked for a while, but couldn't place each other. We exchanged business cards. It was only much later that I realized Frank Zafiro, a retired police captain, and I had met at the Left Coast Crime Conference in Vancouver. I was with several authors celebrating the publication of Brian Thornton's Die Behind the Wheel anthology and signing copies, while Frank knew and conversed with several of the writers.

L to R: Walker, Taylor, Hearn, Steinbock, Loomis, Lawton
(don't know the white-hat guy down in front)

And then, there was Steve Steinbock who had the misfortune to fumble his cell phone while in the elevator on the 8th floor. Yep, it slipped through that narrow opening between the floor and the elevator. The hotel was going to charge him for the cost of the elevator company making a service call to retrieve the phone, but fortunately Steve had insurance on the phone, in which case replacement was considerably less expensive than the elevator service call would have been.

One morning in the hospitality room, I saw a lady arranging the muffins. When I noticed she was wearing a purple t-shirt from the New Orleans B'con anthology from a few years back, I approached her and mentioned that I too had a t-shirt from that B'con anthology. Turned out she was a current volunteer at the San Diego conference. She told me that other volunteers were also wearing B'con anthology shirts. I thanked her for her service. Writers conferences need lots of volunteers in order for events to go smoothly.

There were many new and old writer friends that came to the San Diego Bouchercon. Too many to name individually. Just know that we enjoyed conversing with you all, and hope to see you at another conference in the future.

24 September 2023

Ah, We Bearly Knew Him

You know those times where you reflect back on some unfortunate event like a car wreck and start thinking if only I had lingered five more minutes over coffee, then I wouldn't have been in that intersection and been hit by that red-light runner. Or maybe, if I had left home ten minutes earlier, then congested traffic wouldn't have made me late for that important morning meeting and the boss wouldn't be giving me the stink eye. Yep, time and timing can be important to you and yours.

Now, as they say, every story should start at the beginning. So, that's where we're headed.

It was early last July and I had one of those high numbered birthdays coming up, one I wasn't keen to celebrate. Recognizing my mood, my wife decided we were going on a four-night- attitude-check car trip. She packed us up and off we went west from Denver on I-70 to Glenwood Springs, the confluence of the Colorado River and the Roaring Fork River. Due to massive rain storms, both were close to overflowing their banks. On the Colorado, we stopped several times to watch white-water rafters test their skills against the turbulent water. 

On the south bank, underneath the four-lane bridge crossing the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs is an area known as the Underground. It is a street consisting of restaurants, breweries and shops. If you like BBQ, then try Smoke's BBQ. Even the Amtrak stops in this part of Glenwood within a half block of a brewery.

Less than hour south of Glenwood is the historic village of Redstone, where a good breakfast or lunch can be had at the old hotel. Across the Crystal River from Redstone sets remnants of about 25-30 coke ovens and the railroad tracks that freight trains used to transport the coke to industrial furnaces during the early 1900s.

Within ten years of being built, the coke ovens shut down and the railroad went away. In the  1960s, hippies moved in and used the ovens as temporary housing. 
Now, the ovens are listed in the National Register.

Headed back to Glenwood Springs, if one is familiar with the area, there is a place along the Crystal River where hot springs bubble out of a high river bank and people have stacked up rocks to make their own rough hot tubs. It's free to all, just bring your bathing suit, however there are no changing rooms available.

Returning east on I-70 from Glenwood, the interstate becomes an over and under highway construction due to the narrowness of Glenwood Canyon. Two hours past scenic Hanging Lake, we turned south to Keystone, a village consisting mainly of condos for skiers in the winter time. Here, we continued our private brewery and bakery tour in places such as the Dillion Dam Brewery and the Blue Moon Bakery. Tasty stuff.

We checked into the Hyatt Hotel in Keystone for a two-night stay. Behind the hotel is a one-car-deep parking lot, a two-mile long walking path which passes behind several condos and partially borders a marsh and the Snake River out back. The marsh teems with fish, ducks and beaver, while Chickadees and Humming Birds flit through the mountain air above. A few old boardwalks cross the marsh from one side to the other. Pairs of older folks walked their lap dogs on the path, as did young kids with their dogs. A peaceful scene.

A little before dusk, Kiti and I finished our two-mile walk and went up to our second floor room overlooking the path and some of the marsh. Just before dark, Kiti was watching the beaver swim around when she happened to look over to where we had left the walking path a scant few minutes earlier. And, there came a big brown bear down that same path. He walked past three fence posts, climbed over the top wood rail and wandered into the marsh. Kiti was so surprised that she couldn't get her cell phone camera organized quick enough to get a closer photo. For some time after, we wondered what if we, or the old folks and their dogs, or the young kids and their dogs had been walking on that path a little later? Or, what if the bear had come earlier? Those dogs would have been no more than an appetizer to that bear. And me, I don't run so good any more. Then, a few short minutes after the bear, a man came walking up the path carrying a pizza box in both hands. If that box contained a hot pizza, I'm pretty sure that the aroma of hot toppings would have settled any discussion of ownership had those two met face to face.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, timing can be everything.

So, as you pass through life, keep your eyes open and always be aware of your surroundings. Otherwise, under the wrong circumstances, you could end up exiting this world as........ 

27 August 2023

KDP Paperback Change in Pricing

Prior to June 20th of this year, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing stated that due to inflation. it would be increasing its pricing on paperbacks by about 23 cents per book in order to cover their increased costs for ink, paper, etc. Authors in turn could increase their book's selling price to a value of their choice, or they could accept a sell price determined by KDP where they would not lose any royalty income. Or, the author could do nothing and therefore lose about 23 cents per paperback in royalty sales.

All 9 of my e-book short story collections were listed at $2.99 per e-book and were not affected by KDP's inflation-based raise in their price. However, I had considered raising my sale price anyway, so this was probably a good time to do it. Same for the paperbacks regardless of what KDP was doing.

Curious to see what price KDP would set on my 9 paperbacks which were selling for $8.99 each at the time, I chose to let KDP set my paperback sale price, with me having the option to change the price later. On June 20th, KDP left my e-book sale price alone and set my paperback sale price at $9.21 per book. I would not lose any royalty money at that level, but I had wanted to increase my price above that figure anyway.

A day later, I went to work on the figures. KDP had given easy instructions on how an author could change their prices. I went down my Book Shelf list and took each e-book and/or paperback in order. Strangely enough, I found that not all my e-books were linked to their paperback.

I increased all my e-book sale prices from $2.99 to $3.99, which increased my royalties per e-book. Hit the PUBLISH button and sent the e-book off to be reviewed by KDP.

For my paperbacks, I increased the sales price from KDP's $9.21 to a $9,47 figure. It's not much, but now knowing how easy it is to change pricing, I can always increase the selling price later. I hit the PUBLISH button and off  the paperback went to KDP for review. Reviews for both forms of books came back accepted within a day.

While working on the process to change prices, I kept noticing buttons to link the previously unlinked e-books to their paperback, or vice versa. Me being slightly paranoid about changing two variables on an established product at the same time, I ignored those buttons under the theory that it is easier to solve a software choice if you are only dealing with one variable change at a time. Surprise, surprise, Amazon/KDP linked each e-book with the proper paperback anyway.

One other item I noticed. When the author sets the selling price, the software automatically calculates the author's royalty for all sales, plus for all Amazon foreign sales. There is also a box the author can check for expanded royalty sales if he wants access to other distributors. This expanded royalty is about 20% of what the regular royalty is. I was sure I had checked the box first time around, but found my original check mark wasn't there, so I needed to check the box all over again. One of these days, I'll need to go back and see if all the other paperbacks need a check mark. In which case, I'll have to hit the PUBLISH button again.

Side Note: The majority of the short stories collected in these 9 e-books/paperbacks were previously published in magazines or anthologies, so every sale of these is like found money.

I hope this makes it easier for any authors going through or contemplating the KDP pricing change, And, if anyone is interested, my spreadsheet is below.

New Prices & Royalties on Paperbacks as of 06/20/23

  Title                                Pages    Price     Royalty    Exp. Royalty   Status

9 Chronicles of Crime       168      $9.47      $2.64             .42            08/21/19

9 Deadly Tales                   162      $9.47      $2.74             .44            08/27/19

9 Twin Brothers                  204      $9.47      $2.23             .39            09/12/19

9 Historical Mysteries        214       $9.47      $2.11             .22            09/12/19

9 Holiday Burglars             210        $9.47      $2.06             .47            09/14/19

9 Tales Golden Triangle     194        $9.47      $2.33              .41            06/09/22

9 Historical Mysteries II    196        $9.47       $2.40              .42            08/09/22

9 Tales Criminal Mind        196        $9.47      $2.38              .48            09/xx/22

31 Mini-Mysteries               170        $9.47      $2.64               .42           09/22/19

Now, can anyone tell me why one of my paperbacks listed on Amazon has a line through the price I set and is being offered at a discounted price? To my knowledge, I did not sign up for any sale or promotion program.

30 July 2023

Setting the Hook

Stone Age Fish Hook
Photo from Wikipedia

In his review of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short fiction book, Twice Told Tales for Graham's May 1842 magazine issue, Edgar Allan Poe had this to say about the beginning of a short story: "...If his very initial sentence tend not to be outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step..."

Even though they spoke and wrote English in those days, they sometimes wrote and talked a little funny as compared to today's use of words. To me, Poe was writing about hooking the reader, or getting the reader interested in your short story by the wording of your very first sentence. Of course, if you care to wade through all the words Poe wrote for that review about 180 years ago, feel free to Google said review and come up with your own opinion.

Poe was referring to a narrative hook, but several of us have started a short story with dialogue and if done interestingly enough, the story start can also be done that way. And, if you can't set the hook in the first sentence, then the hook should be placed no later than the last line of the first paragraph.

Think about the situation. If you open a magazine or an anthology and start to read a short story, which is going to encourage you the most to continue reading, a plain, boring, no excitement opening or one which makes you wonder what's going to happen next? That what will happen next is the hook and that hook is what pulls you, the reader, further into the story being told. And, if it work this way on a reader, then imagine how this hook works on an editor who receives 100+ submissions a month. How far do you think that editor will read on a submission if the story doesn't grab their interest early on? It is a shrinking market out there for short stories these days and therefore tough enough for a writer to avoid a manuscript rejection without making this common error.

Rob mentioned in one of his recent blog articles that I had critiqued one of his short stories and had suggested that the story's beginning was boring. He then changed the opening to imply the possibility of future violence. The story subsequently sold, which may or may not have been a result of setting the hook early. A couple of weeks later, I critiqued a story from a different author. Same problem, but the author had already wondered about his opening and was considering rearranging the order of his story to start with an event closer to the action (an early hook). Both of these authors had multiple acceptances from AHMM and EQMM, yet somehow the setting of the hook in the opening had slipped by them in the writing process. You can bet I will be more careful in my own story openings now before I hit the SUBMIT button on short story manuscripts.

Damn, I shouldn't be reminding you people about setting the hook early. You all are my competition for this shrinking short story market.

Oh well, too late now.

Have a good one.

25 June 2023

Stagger Lee had a Twin

By the time you read this, I should be out of the neck brace and almost finished with Physical Rehab. That's why I'm running this previously posted blog. Enjoy.

Life and art, sometimes one imitates the other.

St. Louis 1895

It was Christmas night. Two friends, Lee Shelton and William "Billy" Lyons were drinking in Bill Curtis's saloon down at 11th and Morgan Streets. Shelton, known by his nickname of Stag Lee or Stagger Lee, was a flashy pimp, part of a group of pimps called The Macks. He also worked as a carriage driver, was the Captain of the disreputable 400 Club and a political organizer for the Democrats. Billy Lyons worked as a levee hand, was part of the St. Louis criminal underworld and was a political organizer for the Republican Party. After several drinks, the two men began to argue. Some say it was over a gambling situation, some say it was politics and others say it had to do with the Stetson hat Stagger Lee was wearing.

Stagger Lee (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959)
~first written lyrics appeared in 1912

The night was clear and the moon was yellow
And the leaves came tumbling down.

I was standing on the corner when I heard my bulldog bark
He was barkin' at two men who were gamblin' in the dark
It was Stagger Lee and Billy, two men who gambled late
Stagger Lee threw seven, Billy swore that he threw eight…

Kansas City 1973

Twin was standing on the corner with a small group of street gangsters in a bad part of Kansas City on the Missouri side. They were throwing dice for money when an old friend, Thomas, decided to join the group. Thomas was one of our informants against the heroin trade. He had already testified in federal grand jury for a second wave of indictments and was now working on his third wave of smack dealers. We'd arrested the first two groups of dealers and some of them had gotten out on bond. By now, everyone knew Thomas was our snitch, but he was slick enough to make them believe that was "then," in order for him to stay out of jail, and this was "now." Supposedly, he was finished with working for the man and had returned to his old ways of dealing smack. Could have sold sand to an Arab.

Meanwhile, being involved in prostitution, gambling, dope dealing and bank robbery, Twin was a hard-core member of the old Black Mafia, as was his recently incarcerated brother with the nickname of Twin Brother. They'd both been involved in a bank robbery, but Twin Brother volunteered to take the fall, leaving Twin out on the streets to make some money for their future. However on this night, the dice were running against Twin and he was in a bad mood. Some say a killing mood.

St. Louis 1895

The story on Stagger Lee and Billy was first covered by

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Allegedly, when Stagger Lee and Billy got into their argument, Billy grabbed Lee's Stetson hat and refused to give it back. It's also possible there was some mutual hat bashing between the two. In any case, Stagger Lee became enraged, pulled his .44 and shot Billy in the gut. He then calmly picked up his hat and left. Billy was taken to the Dispensary where his wounds were pronounced as serious and he expired shortly afterward.

Stagger Lee

Stagger Lee told Billy, "I can't let you go with that"
"You done won all my money and my brand new Stetson hat"
Stagger Lee went home and he got his forty-four
Said, "I'm goin' to the barroom just to pay the debt I owe"
Stagger Lee went to the barroom and he stood across the barroom door
He said, "Nobody move" and he pulled his forty-four…

* * * *

Stagger Lee shot Billy, oh he shot that poor boy so bad
'Til the bullet went through Billy and it broke the bartender's glass…

Kansas City 1973

Back on the street corner, Twin's mood was dark and getting darker. With the dice running Thomas's way, he kept on taking what little money Twin had left. The other gangsters, glad to have someone else as the object of Twin's wrath, slowly backed away until it was only Twin and Thomas in the game. Both men were wearing their pimp Stetsons. Twin angrily accused Thomas of cheating. Thomas loudly denied it as he reached for the money lying on the sidewalk. Twin drew his pistol and aimed at Thomas's face. Still bent over to get the money, Thomas reacted with exaggerated street cool and did the one thing that saved his life. He thrust his index fingers into his ears and screwed up his face as if the loudness of the gun going off would hurt his eardrums. Twin broke up laughing and the crisis passed.

St. Louis 1895 - 1912 The Aftermath

Stagger Lee was arrested, bond set at $4,000 and a grand jury subsequently indicted him for first degree murder. Six months later, pawnbroker Morris H. Smit paid a $3,000 bond and Lee was released. At a July 18th trial, the jury came back with a split decision. Seven voted for second degree murder, two for manslaughter and three for acquittal. In August of 1897, Lee's successful attorney, a morphine addict, died after a drinking binge. Six weeks later during a retrial with a different defense attorney, Lee was quickly found guilty of murder and sentenced to 25 years in the notorious Jefferson Prison in Jeff City, Missouri. The governor saw fit to pardon Lee in 1909, but the die was cast. After two years of freedom, Stag Lee committed a fatal home invasion and got sent back to Jeff City. The governor pardoned him again, but it was too late. This time, Lee left his prison cell in a casket.

Kansas City 1973 Aftermath

Twin went off to federal prison for delivering a quantity of cocaine to a house where my partner and I met him at the door. Happened that a different informant had made a phone call and ordered up the coke. Twin's luck ran bad again.

Thomas went on to be shot a couple of times by his cousin while they were standing on opposite sides of the cousin's screen door. Seems Thomas was upset that his cousin was poaching on Thomas's woman. Thomas, decked out in his best pimp Stetson, showed up on the cement porch and banged on the door. His cousin, whose repose was rudely interrupted that early morning by the loud banging, was clad only in his black, silk boxer shorts during the time that the two men blew holes at each other through the screen. Both combatants came up ventilated, but went on to survive the experience.

Life and Art

Shortly after the latter incident, I left KC for another post of duty. Never did hear what finally happened to Twin and Thomas, though I expect with their life style, sooner or later they were going to come up short.

However, I did wonder about one set of circumstances. If Twin had shot and killed Thomas that night on the street corner, would Twin have ended up with his own folk song? He was already a legend in the criminal world. So, would some blues writer have felt the urge to compose a parallel to the popular Stagger Lee ballad?

Guess we'll never know.

28 May 2023

Raising Money

A few years ago, my Huey pilot buddy and I sat down to see if we could brainstorm a short story. Something different than we had conjured up in the past. The result was a rough outline for a couple of young conmen who had come up with a new scheme to try out in the criminal world. Their basic premise went something like the following.

If criminals could purchase a "clean" gun for a job, then maybe they would also be interested in renting a "clean" car so as not to be nabbed in a stolen car on their way to the job. The result was "The Clean Car Company" published in the January 2021 issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine (now Mystery Magazine). Of course, the two young conmen, Danny and Jackson, ran into a couple of glitches in their plan. They hadn't expected a dead body in the trunk when the rented car was returned.

Now, it was time for the duo to try out a new scheme which was actually an old con from the streets of Harlem. Raising Money was the pitch. Find a not-too-smart mark with lots of money and convince him that you could raise money by increasing the denominations on U.S. currency through the use of the modern miracles of science and technology.

What's that, you don't believe such a feat is possible? Have you considered all the recent  advances in science and technology which are difficult to explain to the common layman? Well then, let's see if you can explain to both our satisfaction how that same GPS voice in your cell phone can direct thousands of drivers along various different routes at the same time and yet still tell each driver when and where to make the correct turns to get to each one's different destinations. Or is it some sort of magic?

Perhaps you should just read "Raising Money" in the May 2023 issue of Mystery Magazine and see how the con plays out.

For those of you interested in the timeline from submission to reply to publication, here are the entries in my Submission Log:

  •   03/17/23  "Raising Money" subbed to Mystery Magazine
  •   03/21/23  e-mail acceptance
  •   03/22/23  signed & returned e-contract
  •   03/23/23  paid via PayPal
  •   05/01/23  published

Oh yeah, our very own Rob Lopresti has a short story in this same May 2023 issue and his submission log entries should be about the same as mine.

30 April 2023

Don't Ever Get Old


As Ben Johnson's character says to another old timer in a John Wayne western just before the big gun fight scene, "Don't ever get old."

I always thought I would go out hot, young and handsome, but advancing old age has informed me otherwise. It would appear I'm screwed on two of the three. Plus, it seems that due to medical stuff, I will now be out of pocket for a few months. Thus, I have decided to inflict at least one of my earlier blogs upon you. 

25 November 2011

Flying Without a Parachute

There was a time early in my career when we wanted to get into a house, but had no probable cause for a legal entry. Without probable cause, any evidence found inside the residence becomes fruit of the poisonous tree. In short, this means any items found inside get thrown out as inadmissible evidence in court.

So here's how it all went down.

The Setup
A street informant called the office.
"Hey, you guys got a warrant for Bopper, don'tcha?"
"Yes, why?"
"Well at ten o'clock this morning, Bopper's gonna be at James Lewis' house to make a score."
The phone got hurriedly hung up, the troops got hatted up and we all headed out to James Lewis' place where his apartment consisted of the entire third floor. We set up surveillance and waited. Time passed. A blue Cadillac pulled up out front, two men got out and went into the house. Ten o'clock went by. One of the two men, a tall thin guy, came out of the house and returned to the Cadillac, sitting on the passenger side. More time passed. Then it started.
"Bopper's walking down the street," came the radio call.
"Wait," replied the case agent.
"He's headed for the house," said the radio voice.
"Wait," said the case agent.
"He's going up on the front porch."

"Not yet," ordered the case agent.

"He has his hand on the doorknob."
"Hit it now," barked the case agent.
Four government vehicles immediately came alive, screeching up to the front of the house and bouncing over the curb. Car doors opened and agents with drawn guns came screaming out, making as much noise as possible.
"Federal Agents!"

Survival Instincts: Fight or Flight
Bopper morphed into Panic Mode. Bless his heart, he ran into the house we wanted to enter, but hadn't previously been able to acquire probable cause for a legal entry. However, there are exigent circumstances known as Hot Pursuit for situations like these. When law enforcement is in immediate pursuit of a fleeing felon, a search warrant is not needed in order for officers of the law to enter the same building which the pursued felon has just entered during the chase.
Having now found himself inside James Lewis' house, and seeing no good exit, Bopper chose to ascend the stairs to the second floor. The Thundering Herd close behind him, still hollering "Police" and "Federal Agents," shifted into Hot Pursuit Mode.
Having now arrived at the second floor landing and still not finding a good way out, Bopper continued his desperate journey upward toward James Lewis' apartment on the third floor. In full hue and cry, the mob followed at his heels.


Now, we take a short intermission to catch our breath and explain that in those days only seasoned agents had the privilige of entering the house. Snot-nose green agents, such as myself fresh out of the academy, were regularly assigned to the perimeter where nothing of consequence ever happened. Special Agent Pat got assigned to the back of the house and I got assigned to the front. We two newbies were designated to miss all the fun.
Bored, I decided to do something. Since the tall, thin Cadillac passenger had previously been inside the house, I thought maybe he'd be holding, so I knocked on the passenger window and flashed him my tin. In no time, I had him out of the car, hands on the roof, legs spread into the proper position and was patting him down. Just as I found contraband in his hip pocket, I heard a great noise behind me.
I glanced back at the house.

The Not (W)Right Brothers
Two bodies came flying out the front third-story windows and landed on top of the front porch roof. They stood up with guns in their hands. Neat.

A Sharp Drop in Business
Unknown to us, James Lewis already had company in attendance trying to conduct a little business. His company's nerves began to unravel as they noticed the Thundering Herd was ascending the stairs and coming their way. By the time Bopper burst into the room, their taut nerves snapped and they departed via the front windows.
At least now I had something to do.
Wheeling the tall, thin Cadillac passenger around in front of me, where I could keep an eye on him, I placed my gun hand on his right shoulder and pointed it at the two miscreants on the porch roof, ordering them to drop their weapons.
They looked at me, looked at their buddy the gun rest, looked at the distance to the ground and then decided, yeh, they'd drop their guns. Good thing. If there'd been a shooting match, I'm fairly certain my gun rest would have ended up hard of hearing in his right ear. Took another half hour before I had enough help to get them two off the porch roof.

One Landing for Every Launch
Back to inside the house. When Bopper made his Mad Hatter entrance into James Lewis' apartment, he was still looking for a rabbit hole. However, since all the front exits, also known as the third-story front windows, were occupied at the time, he opted for the side window. Bad choice as Bopper soon realized.
Left behind, James Lewis sat flabbergasted through it all. He'd never seen a show like this before and therefore sat quietly, readily giving up his two handguns, plus all his contraband to approaching members of the Thundering Herd.
Bopper, outside the house and now in mid-air, suddenly saw that what he had failed to consider during his hasty departure was that there was nothing to deaccelerate his downward flight, except a concrete driveway.
Turns out in all the confusion, none of us saw his exit.
At a descent rate of 32 feet per second per second, his right leg failed to stand up to the pressure of cement bringing an end to his ill advised experiment of flying without a parachute. He then crawled through a bordering hedge and "ran" away from us. Our Probable Cause had literally flown out the window. Took us an hour to catch up with him.

After that, I graduated to the level of door crasher.

So now you have the background. If you want to compare the above telling with the fictionalized published version, you'll have to acquire the Who Died in Here? anthology. All short story submissions to it required a crime in a bathroom. Author compensation was a sum of money, plus an air freshener. I still have the air freshener.

26 March 2023

A I on Short Story

robot reading

Artificial Intelligence once was a concept of science fiction, a thing of the future. Now, it's a creature of the present and we are still learning how to use it.

With the right AI software, anyone can type in "write an article on the elements needed to write a great short story" and then hit ENTER. The software will proceed to write an article on what the software considers to be the elements necessary to write a great short story. If the submitter doesn't like the article for some reason, then he or she can enter the same information and hit ENTER again. The A I software will turn out a different article, ad infinitum.

Okay, so let's see what the software wrote for the first inquiry.

Writing a great short story can be challenging, but it is also an incredibly rewarding experience. Short stories can be powerful tools for exploring complex themes, capturing a moment in time, or simply entertaining readers with a well-crafted tale. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newcomer to the craft, there are several key elements that can help you create a compelling short story.

   1. A strong opening: The first sentence or paragraph of  your short story should grab the reader's attention and set the tone for what's to come. It should establish the setting, introduce the main character or characters, and hint at the conflict or tension that will drive the plot forward.

   2. Compelling characters: In a short story, there is limited space to develop characters, so it is important to make every word count. Create characters that are unique, interesting, and relatable. Give them clear motivations, distinct personalities, and flaws that make them feel like real people.

   3. A well-developed plot: Your story should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. The plot should be structured in a way that keeps the reader engaged and interested. Avoid predictable or cliched storylines, and strive for a unique and surprising twist or resolution.

   4. Conflict or tension:  Your story should have a central conflict or tension that drives the action forward. This could be a physical or emotional obstacle that the main character must overcome, or it could be a moral dilemma that forces the character to make a difficult decision.

   5. Effective pacing: In a short story, pacing is critical. You need to keep the reader engaged and interested from beginning to end, without rushing or dragging the story out. Use pacing techniques like dialogue, description, action to create a sense of momentum and tension.

   6. A clear theme: A great short story should leave the reader with a clear sense of what it's all about. It should explore a theme or idea that resonates with the reader, whether it is a universal truth about the human condition, a commentary on a current issue, or a personal reflection on life.

   7. Skilled language: Finally, a great short story should be written in skillful and precise language. Choose your words carefully, and use imagery, metaphors, and other literary devices to create a vivid and engaging story. Avoid cliches and overused phrases, and strive for originality and creativity.

In conclusion, a great short story requires careful attention to many different elements from character development and plot pacing, theme, and language. By honing your skills in each of these areas, you can create a story that is both memorable and powerful. Remember that the most important element of any story is its ability to connect with readers on an emotional level, so be true to your own voice and vision, and strive to create a story that will resonate with your audience.

Personally, other than some repetition, I would say the A I software did a good job and covered all the necessary elements. At  this stage in my career, I tend to write instinctively without consciously thinking about the basics, however there are times it probably would not hurt for me to be reminded what the basics are. I think I'll keep this article on file.

I have not played around with having the A I software write a short story to see how well it does. What do you think, will A I programs eventually acquire the ability to put us human writers out of business?

And, if an Artificial Intelligence program does write a short story, who then owns the copyright?

26 February 2023

Get Involved

Okay, so you're writing the next great American novel or short story. It will be published and you will become famous. At least that's your plan. Well, hold on there a minute, Shorty. What's your track record on prior publications, plus who knows you?

To begin, you need to finish what you're writing. That program may consist of writing courses, how-to books and/or critique groups. Whatever keeps you writing and learning your tradecraft. Next, you have to submit that manuscript to the appropriate agent, publisher, editor or magazine. AND, you had better get yourself out into the rest of the writing community and get involved.

Attend a few writers conferences. Go to the conference bar and strike up a conversation with someone else at the bar. Writers are a pretty friendly group, and you may be surprised who you can meet that way. What's that, you say you're an introvert? Then talk a friend into going to the conference with you. That way, you can work as a team. There is courage in numbers. Face your fears and force them.

Also keep in mind that conferences are very happy to get volunteers to man the registration tables, be timekeepers for panels, work the book room, take care of the Green Room, etc. Once again, you will be surprised who you can meet that way. At the Austin, Texas Bouchercon, I worked the Mystery Writers of America table for a couple of hours and ended up talking with several published authors and a couple of agents. They had questions and I had been briefed on answers to help them, which meant they remembered me the next time we met.

Often times at these conferences, various writers organizations will sponsor a breakfast or a cocktail reception. Free food and sometimes free drinks. Get out of your hotel room and socialize at these events. It's called networking and you never know when one of these new contacts will be impressed enough with you to provide an opportunity. I once received a proposal over drinks in a NYC bar to write a non-fiction book. Prior to that, I didn't know the lady across the table from me was an editor. It turned out to be a nice contract for a book I wrote under an alias.

Go to author panels that interest you. See how they are run. After you do get published, try to get on one of the writers panels for the next conference. If attendees like the way you talk on the panel, they will look for your book or short story and probably buy it. It's a way to get known.

Do you have a special talent or expertise that mystery writers might be interested in? Write up a proposal for a workshop or class on that talent or expertise and discuss it with the officers for the next conference. For instance, I ran hands-on Surveillance Workshops for three different writers conferences. Not only did the participants learn something, have a lot of fun and acquire stories to tell, but I still have attendees from prior conferences come up to me to say how much fun they had in those workshops. Other presenters have put on workshops or classes about firearms, drug dogs, raids, novel writing, etc. Inventory your skills to see if you have any topic to interest mystery writers.

Join your local writers organizations, AND actively participate in the running of that organization. Years ago, I ran for vice-president of our local MWA chapter on the platform that I would line up speakers for our monthly supper meetings. From VP to Prez was a natural step, and the Chapter President is automatically on the national MWA Board of Directors. Talk about networking with influential people in the mystery writing and publishing business. Now, you are on a level to impact guidelines on the operation of the organization.

Know that our very own Michael Bracken is currently on the national MWA board as a first term Director at Large. He will be a great advocate for short stories and their authors when it comes to establishing rules and requirements.

These are some of my suggestions for getting involved and helping to make a difference in the mystery writing world. Life is short, so have fun with them.

And, for you old hands out there, if you have any other suggestions, feel free to chime in. 

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.


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 !!!