Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Short Story First Lines


I admit I have an ulterior motive for posting about short stories. This is partially a repeat of the Writers Who Kill post from 2/2/2020 (love that date!), but with an important addition.

A NEW ANTHOLOGY IS OUT! It contains my 1950s short story "Life and Death on the Road" inspired by my little brother running away to join a carnival when we were kids. From Darkhouse Books, available in paperback and e-book. First line of this story: Davy lay awake, rigid, unable to relax.




(Oh, and did I mention that I have a short story up for an Agatha Award this year? Yeah, I thought so. It's the one from A MURDER OF CROWS.)

And here is the original post:

As writers, and as readers, we know how important beginnings are. The first line, the first paragraph, the first page—that’s what determines whether or not the reader decides to invest more precious time in your story or not. I’m going to deal with short stories today.

I have some first lines I’m proud of. And some that work okay. I’ll put some of mine out there. Feel free to rip me up—I mean rip my WORK up, not me. (Although it does feel that way, right, writers?) Also feel free to tell me some of yours that work, or some famous ones you love.

“Grist for the Mill” (have to say this, my Agatha nominated story) in A MURDER OF CROWS:
Kevin Grady couldn’t wait to get outside.
***I hope I’ve made the reader wonder why he wants to go outside and can’t wait.
You know, I like the first line of the second paragraph better:
When he choked on it, he stopped and looked around, spitting out the foul taste he had inhaled.
***Now you have to wonder what he’s choking on. Much more important.


“The Darkest Hour” in DAY OF THE DARK, 2017
I think it was on a Saturday afternoon when Tom got the bright idea to rent out our spare room for the eclipse. I wish I’d just killed him then.
***Two sentences, but I have to use both of them to entice you into the story. 


“Dream Girl” in BOULD Anthology, 2019
She stretched with delight. What a great dream that had been!
***Of course, here, I want you to wonder what the dream was. That’s revealed over the course of the story, which I hope confuses the heck out of the reader.

“The Bible Belt Buckle Killer” in Suspense Magazine, Fall of 2018:
Isabel Musik dropped her Bloody Mary when she heard the scream.
***This is my second Isabel Musik story. She’s a “reformed” vampire, so it’s fitting she’s drinking a Bloody Mary.

I’ll put a few more of mine out here, then step aside and let you post yours.

“The Truck Contest, Fish Tales” (the first Guppy anthology):
The first time I saw it I assumed it was an accident.

“Levittown Louie,” Mysterical-E, Spring 2007
First off, Kimber's entrance to the Ground Hog Day Ball was disastrous.


“Handbaskets, Drawers, and a Killer Cold,” Crooked, January 2009:
“If your brother screws up once more…” Cal Arnold’s tirade skittered to a stop at the expression on his wife’s face.

“Snatched Potatoes,” Kings River Life, June 2014, also in Black Cat Thrillogy #11 from Wildside:
“Be sure you gouge out the eyes, Imogene.”

A SHOUTOUT TO MY FELLOW SHORT STORY AGATHA NOMINEES:
Barb Goffman, Cynthia Kuhn, Shawn Reilly Simmons, and Art Taylor

Your turn!

You can find links to these on my short story page, some for purchase, some to read:



Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Psst, there's a contest over there ----->

I'm doing a giveaway at Killer Characters! Dash over and see if you want to enter before the end of Thursday.




Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What Came Before? (from WWK)

This appeared on Writers Who Kill on 1/19, originally. 
I'm blogging there twice a month and at Killer Characters once a month and redoing them here is a time-saver for me! Hope nobody minds.

This article was drawn to my attention by fellow mystery writer, Molly MacRae;

by darnok

The author talks about how her profession in mathematics feeds her writing. Her discussion also concerns logic. It’s easy to see how that is useful in putting together a plot!

by GeoffS
The article got me to thinking. What do our previous lives bring to our writing? For me, how have my many jobs/professions/careers helped my mystery writing? Honestly, how could they not? I have contended before, that what comes out of a writer’s mind is a mishmash of everything that’s ever gone in, gotten stirred up, combined, recombined, and emerged as what sometimes looks like an original idea. 




I’m lucky in that I’ve had a whole lot of prior occupations. I started babysitting at 15, waitressing a couple of years later. On school breaks and in the summer, more waitressing, cooking, even dishwashing once (never again), nurse’s aide, factory janitor, nanny. Then, after marriage, I worked civilian for the Army for a year before following Hubby around the country working at secretarial and bookkeeping jobs. 
by Erean


My college major, in case you’re wondering, was Russian Studies, which in no way prepared me for any job I ever had. (But helps reading Greek just a bit.) In college, I envisioned being an interpreter, but Viet Nam and marriage turned out not to be the path to that career. 
by Ferval


Along the way, I always played violin in local groups: community orchestras and string quartets. And we had three kids, so child-raising is part of my résumé too. And puppy training, kitten training, goldfish care, fish care, newt care, and probably some I’ve forgotten about. (And, now, grand-mothering.)

I finally settled down and worked at computer programming for about 15 years before retiring from that to write mysteries. 
IBM mainframe  By Ing. Richard Hilber - Self-photographed, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8724964


Right after being a mom and grandma, this is the best job I ever had. I’m so glad I made it to this stage!

What former positions have influenced my writing? All of them, of course.

A few of the more obvious ones for me~~
From the food industry: recipes for my cozies
From music: a series with a composer/conductor as sleuth
From moving all over the country: locations galore that I can use for novels and short stories
From office jobs: work relationships
From family: family relationships

Relationships are a big part of my writing. What we are today is a result of every relationship we ever had, every job we ever had, every book we ever read, every movie we ever saw, every piece of music we ever listened to, every place we ever lived and visited.

It has just occurred to me that this is another way to answer the perennial question: Where do you get your ideas? I’ll have to remember this!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Happy (?) New Year


(This was posted on Writers Who Kill January 5th, repeated here today because, well, it seemed like a good idea.) (Hey, if there can be a 12 days of Christmas, there can be a few extra of New Year's. That's what I think.)

If you want to get a whole lot of responses online, just post that you’re sick and feeling lousy. I did that recently and was astonished at how many other people seem to have the same lingering malady that I’ve had for most of December. I’m writing this the end of December and am not really feeling very much better. (I’m seeing the doctor again in a few days, though.) ((See my update at the end, please!))

However, my horoscope the day I’m writing this, December 31st, gives me hope.




Priorities and fantasies. Hm, this assumes they’re wildly different. But bringing them together sounds like a good thing, right?

One priority is to get healthy. Another is to meet my upcoming deadlines. Maybe my priority is to get things published and my fantasy is to sell a million of each short story and novel. Yes, bringing them together would be a very good thing! Especially since I have a new series starting in March and have high hopes, even fantasy aspirations.

Since I started this essay with the health thing, I should relate it to my writing.

That’s easy. It’s all material! I haven’t used this awful malady (coughing, runny nose, no energy) yet, but you can bet I will. My characters do end up suffering whatever I’ve recently gone through, somehow.

I had a horrible cold when I wrote the short story “Handbaskets, Drawers, and a Killer Cold” so my main character, a Chicago cop, did too. I felt so awful when I wrote it, but I think I put a lot of realism into it because it was nominated for Best Short Story Agatha Award that year (2009).



Another time I stubbed my toe. Actually, I broke it and it gave me all kinds of problems. So my character, stubbed her toe, too, and it gave her lots of problems.

The cold theme came up again for a character. She had my cold, of course. This was Chase Oliver in the third Fat Cat book, FAT CAT TAKES THE CAKE. I was able to play it for comedy this time, rather than misery, as in the above short story. Everyone she knew let her know exactly what she should do for her malady, and some of the advice conflicted. (That’s actually based on my experiences, too.)

Anyway, I HOPE everyone who has been suffering through this month-long upper respiratory yuck is soon (or already) fine and that 2020 will prove to be a much better year for all of us.

[[I'll update here to say that the very bad December stuff is going away and I'm feeling MUCH healthier.]]

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

New Year, New Series!


This blog appeared on Killer Characters (Where the characters do the talking...) 1.4.2020

by Tally Holt, owner of Tally’s Olde Tyme Sweets in Fredericksburg, TX
from the Vintage Sweets series, upcoming in March


I’m feeling lucky, starting a new year in my very own shop. I wouldn’t be here if my friend Yolanda Bella hadn’t urged me to move here and rent the space next door to her place, Bella’s Baskets. I’ve hired a good crew, I think, to help me sell my vintage sweets.

It was a stroke of serendipity that my grandmother arranged to have her recipe box sent to me after her death. For one thing, going through those index cards in the old metal box brought back sweet memories of the precious woman who had helped raise me. She had come from New Jersey to Texas and always retained a fondness for the old place. When I tried a couple of the recipes, the smells and textures almost brought her back to life in my kitchen.

I wasted no time selling my bakery in Austin and setting up a vintage sweet shop, using her recipes for my basic products. I think I’ll ring in the New Year with the Irish Cream Truffle Fudge.



My author, Kaye George, wants you to know that my first adventure is on preorder at https://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Sweet-Vintage-Sweets-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07TS1KJ4T/

But, better yet, you can enter a Goodreads Giveaway that our generous publisher, Lyrical Press, has set up, to WIN a free copy. It goes until January 17th. Good luck!!