Saturday, October 19, 2013


I'll be on vacation from October 20th to November 3rd.  I'll catch up when I return all rested and happy ... and fat.

Someone recently asked me an interesting question.  She noted that since I started this blog I have not sold a single story, after selling two rather close together.  It's been almost a year.  I was asked if I thought I might be being black-balled by WW because of this blog.

  My answer is no.  And here's why.

1)  I'm not important enough that my opinions on the writing aspect of  these stories would matter to WW.

2) My beef is with the stories themselves, not the magazine.

3)  I have often said on-line, in Twitter and FB, how great a mag I think WW is.  I post nice things on their FB page.

4)  I don't think Johnene is that petty.  I don't think Johnene knows I exist.

5)  I believe Johnene is good at what she does and picks the best stories that she feels will appeal to the widest range of readers, and since she's been there so long, she knows what she's doing. 
Same with Pat.  She's front line.  She has certain elements she is searching for.  If you don't have them, you don't get by her.   These ladies read thousands of stories...thousands.  They  doesn't have time to research who might have made a snarky comment . They also realize a story cannot please everyone which is why, I believe, they choose stories from all over the writing style spectrum. 

6)  I also make good comments when the story merits it.   I don't expect that will work IN my favor

7)  IF I were on some kind of 'no-no' list, my stories would never make it to Seattle...and they mostly do.  

My best,


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Appearing in issue #43, October 28, 2013

Title: Dressed to kill
By Author:  Laird Long

Tag line: All the Halloween party guests were in costume, but Maggie saw through the murderer’s disguise!

Police characters:  Random police officers.

The gist:  Millionaire Wayne Morton’s wife is throwing a Halloween party and has asked guests to come in full costume with masks to disguise their identities.   Her husband’s reputation as a ruthless businessman and all-around unpleasant human being ensured that the guest list was short.  The hired caterer was still not there at 6:45 (party starts at 7:00) so Maggie, who was hired to serve drinks and food, was asked to man the door and direct guests to the living room.  She stood in a dimly lit hallway and greeted two pirates, a robot, a 1920’s gangster couple, a fairy princess, and two super heroes.  Next a ghost entered and went down the hallway.  She noticed that his shoes were beat-up.  Mrs. Morton directed Maggie to go upstairs and summon Mr. Morton as all the guests had arrived, and so did the caterers…at 6:58 PM.  Maggie found Mr. Morton dead on the floor of his study, the victim of a messy stabbing. Blood everywhere. The knife was still protruding from his chest.  The police were called.  Mrs. Morton said the knife was one of the ones she had had in the carving set on her counter. There was indeed a knife block with one empty slot.  The police ordered everyone into the living room announcing that before they called in Crime Scene they have some questions.  Maggie overheard one officer say to the other, “Look for bloodstains on the guests’ costumes.  The murderer must have been spattered.” Maggie studied the guests.  She saw the robot, two pirates, the fairy princess, two gangsters, a tramp, and two super heroes.  No one had any blood on them.  Before the police could begin their questioning, Maggie blurted out that she knew who the killer was.

Crime scene:  Halloween party at industrialist Wayne Morton’s mansion.

Clues:  The costumes.   Beat-up shoes. 

Suspects:  All the party guests, seeing as how no one liked the host. 

Red herrings:  None, unless you consider a late catering company as being possible suspects but it’s hard to kill someone and also make warm puff pastries at the same time though. 

Solution:  The tramp.  He originally appeared at the house dressed as a ghost.  Knowing his costume would most likely have to be disposed of, he wore a tramp’s costume underneath.  Maggie remembered the beat-up shoes and realized she hadn’t seen a tramp among the costumed arrivals. 

My two cents:  Anyone who has ever read my blog knows how I feel about stories that are factually inaccurate.  I’m so busy saying to myself, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, that would never happen” that I drift out of the story.  

Have you ever hired a caterer for an event?  They show up 4-6 hours before the event to prepare the food.  This story has the caterers being late… 15 minutes before the party is due to start and they still have not arrived. That's a little more than late.  That's a no-show.   Maggie was hired to serve drinks and hors d’oeuvres.  Where did the hostess think the food was going to come from if the catering company hadn’t been there yet?  Any why didn’t Maggie just go and serve the drinks?  That was her job.  But no, the hostess, a wealthy woman who lived in a mansion and had staff, had Maggie, a stranger, greet her guests at the door.   I guess the guests just helped themselves as there was no mention of any other hired help in this story.   The caterer arrives at 6:58…perhaps with a big bag of McDonalds chicken nuggets? 

Okay, cut all that nonsense.  What a waste of words, not to mention it’s just not germane to the story.   Just have Maggie be the person who greets guests at the door from the first sentence and get on with the story.  If the author intended to have the late caterers be a red herring, it just didn't work.  Not only that, with all the masked guests, we don't need more suspects in this story.

A note of technical accuracy:  Responding uniformed police officers don’t question people at a murder scene.  They secure the scene and call the detective bureau, who then calls in the crime scene unit.   This author has two lowly cops doing everything.  Also no police official would question guests together, or even let them gather together (they could taint each other’s memory and view of what they saw), and certainly not before Mirandizing them.  Very loosey-goosey police work here.  You know how much I hate that.

Another note:  mansions do have living rooms, but are ritzy parties held there?  More likely the affair would have been in the ball room, the conservatory, the library, the den…anywhere but the living room.  Also the story opens with Maggie standing in a dimly lit hallway.  Sounds like my house.  For a mansion I picture a large, airy, well lit foyer with an over-the-top chandelier, spooky decorations dripping down the walls,  tons of black and orange candles reflected on the shiny clean marble floors, and a center table holding an ornate pumpkin and flower arrangement.   It’s either a mansion…or they’re having the party at my place. Make your details fit the story.

The bottom line: The solution was too easy. You didn't even need the beat-up shoes.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Appearing in issue #42, October 21, 2013

Title: Paint by numbers
By Author: Clare Mishica 
Tag line:  Dell Meese was sure he’d committed the perfect crime – until something tipped off the sheriff.
Police characters:  Sheriff Henson 

The gist: Mr. Sharp, owner of Sharp’s Interiors, had had a good year business-wise.  He was in the process of repainting his office.  It was going to be cream on the bottom with a yellow border at the ceiling.  The author tells us that he could have easily afforded to hire the house painter he had used before but he didn’t want to spend the money.  The author informs us that the house painter had a son with health issues that required surgery, and could have used the extra money, but Sharp’s opinion was that the man should have had better health insurance.  Sharp hired his accountant from a firm that had gone bust, and he congratulated himself for getting a talented employee for a bargain-basement salary.  That is until Sharp realized the man was skimming money.  He had called the accountant in this morning to go over the books.  Sharp finished painting the cream walls, sealed the paint can, and laid his wet brush on the top.  He checked his watch; the accountant was 30 minutes late.

The next part of the story switches to the accountant’s POV.  His name is Dell Meese.  Meese had purposely come late hoping to arrive after Sharp’s assistant had left.  When he entered the office, Sharp brought him over to the computer and pointed at the screen, demanding an explanation.  Meese walked behind Sharp, grabbed a heavy statue that he had stashed earlier, and struck Sharp from behind, killing him.  The author states at this point Meese is in shock and staring at the body. Then he thinks, “Lots of people get away with murder” and he half drags/half carries the body to the floor beneath the paint ladder and places it in a position consistent with a fall.  He then opens a can of paint, climbs the ladder, and lets it fall to the floor, splashing yellow paint all over everything, including the body.  Then Meese puts the paint brush near Sharp’s hand.  He wipes out the records on the computer, cleans the floor around the desk where he had hit the victim, stashes the statue in the trunk of his car, and changes into the clean clothes that he had brought with him.  He calls 911 at this point, claiming to have found his employer dead from a terrible fall. 

When the sheriff arrived, he viewed the scene and declared “This was no accident.”  What clue gave Meese away?

Crime scene:  The victim’s office.
Clues:  Paint. 

Suspects:   This story did not have a suspect.   We know whodunit.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Meese had opened and spilled the can of yellow paint, but the paintbrush was tipped with cream paint.  

My two cents:  Couldn’t it be just as likely that Sharp had finished the cream walls and was ready to paint the border, so he opened the yellow paint and brought it to the top of the ladder, realized he hadn’t cleaned the brush, and as made his way back down (and now he’s aggravated) missed a step and fell hard to the floor, to his death.  It seems logical that the motion of his fall, him grabbing the ladder to try to steady himself, could knock the paint can off.   Also why did the sheriff think it was Meese?  Finding a dead body and calling 911 doesn’t make him a killer.  There was an assistant there not too long before. 

There was extra information that the reader doesn’t need, which to me is a waste of words in these little stories.  For example the stuff about the house painter’s kid needing surgery.  Maybe it was intended to show us how unlikeable Sharp was, but that’s not germane to the motive.  Also the bit about Meese being in shock and staring at the body?  He wasn’t in shock at all.  He was cold and calculating.  Poor choice of word there.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Title: Checkmate
By Author:  John M. Floyd

Appearing in issue #41, October 14, 2013

Tag line:  Judging by the evidence, the sheriff concluded that Judge Moore had known his killer!

Police characters:  Sheriff Charles Jones and Deputy Fred Prewitt

The gist:  Judge Moore is found dead by his maid when she comes in in the morning and she immediately summoned the police.  He had been shot in the chest while sitting at his desk.  In front of him was a swivel chess board with only one chess piece sitting in the middle, a white knight.  The rest of the chess pieces were swept aside.  The sheriff felt this was a clue.  When asked why the judge wouldn’t have just written the killer’s name on piece of paper, Sheriff Jones felt that there must not have been enough time.  Although Ms. Potts is mentioned as being home with the flu, she is not a part of this story.  Only three people had keys to the house beside the maid; and they were the judge’s three grown children.  There was no sign of forced entry.  It was deduced that the judge must have seen his killer as he was sitting facing the door.  Sheriff Jones asked the deputy to go gather the three adult children but to only tell them that Judge Moore had been found dead.  When the trio arrived, son Clayton asked the sheriff, “Who could have killed him?”  This tipped off the sheriff, as the three were not told the Judge had been murdered.   When confronted Clayton pointed to his sister and blurted out, “It was all her idea.”  Both siblings were arrested.  Sheriff Jones told his deputy that the Judge DID leave a clue.    What was it?

Crime scene:  Judge Moore’s home office. 

Clues:  The white knight chess piece.

Suspects:   The judge’s three children. 

Red herrings:   None. 

Solution:   Clayton asked who killed his father when no one had told him his father had been murdered. Now for the white knight clue: The Lone Ranger had a white horse named Silver.  The Lone Ranger’s real name was Clayton Moore.  

My two cents:   Imagine the shock of seeing your son standing in the doorway with a gun pointed at you.  Imagine the horror of hearing that gun go off and feeling a bullet enter your chest.  Betrayed by your own child.  Dying.  What does he do?  Stay with me here.  He doesn’t try to write down a name.  He doesn’t try to dial 911 and utter his last word, the name of the killer, into the phone.  What he does is he sweeps the chess board clear of all the pieces except for the white knight which he places directly in the center of the board.  He had the presence of mind and enough breath and strength to connect a rook chess piece to a white horse to Silver to the Lone Ranger to the actor’s real first name that happens to be the same as his son’s.  Seriously?  (Is my mouth still hanging open?)

Unbelievable.  No, I really mean it.  It’s unbelievable. Never mind the tired old clue of having the killer ask who killed the guy, which has been used a kagillion times. This is more than a stretch.  This is an amazing illustration of just how wrong I am to think these stories need to be well written and entertaining and make sense to sell.  I throw my hands up in the air.  Just send in any old thing and see what catches their eye this week.