Friday, March 7, 2014

Appearing in issue #10, March 10, 2014


Title: A safe bet

By Author: Janie Turnbull


 Tag line:   The burglar had made a pretty good haul, but the police were intrigued by what had not been carried away …

Police characters:  Detective Nina Lucas, Rookie Patrol Officer Reilly.

The gist:   The Copelands returned home after a weekend in the country to find a glass panel in their front door shattered.  They called 911.  They didn’t enter before the police got there and didn’t touch anything. Detective Lucas, who usually doesn’t get called in on B&Es, was asked to oversee this investigation because the patrol officer is new.  When the police arrived the patrolman reached through the broken glass panel and unlocked the door.  The alarm sounded when he opened the door.  The cops noticed that the artwork and expensive pieces were still in the house untouched, including jewelry in the upstairs bedroom. The Copelands did a quick inventory and reported that the only thing missing was a portable safe normally kept in the closet that contained 20K.  The only two that knew the combination were Mr. and Mrs. Copeland. Their son knew they were going away for the weekend, as did the housekeeper (who was out of town) and the gardener.  It was mentioned that the next door neighbors also knew but that they were with the Copelands in the country.

Crime scene:   The home of the victims.

Clues:   The door was locked and the alarm was on.

Suspects:  The Copelands themselves, the son, the housekeeper, the gardener or some random thief.

Red herrings:  None.  This story wasn’t clever enough to have a red herring.

Solution:  The Copeland’s son took the whole safe, not knowing the combination.  From habit he had reset the alarm and locked up when he left.

My two cents:    What kind of dummy steals from his parents, then locks the door and resets the alarm?  He deserves to go to jail.

The solution, which was quite lengthy and took up almost one whole column, mentions that the son was the only other person who knew what was in the safe.  Really?  Where did it say that in the story?

I was leaning towards insurance fraud, but 20K really isn’t enough to temp a rich guy now, is it?

It was a waste of words to mention the next door neighbors.  We had enough suspects.  Instead a nice red herring would have been welcomed.

Technical faux pas: Patrol officers respond to 911 calls.  Period.  They don’t call in detectives to do a patrolman’s job because he is new.  They call in backup officers.  The detective bureau would get involved with the case because that is exactly their job…to detect.  They would be called next, along with Crime Scene.  This author doesn’t know her way around the police or a crime scene.

Kind of ho-hum this week.

38 comments:

Tamara said...

I, too, noticed that we were not told the son knew the contents of the safe. We are told no one knew the combination but the parents. Do you get the feeling lately that we're rejected for less? Hmmmmmmmm.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. RE: the combination. I think that's why their brilliant son took the whole safe home. He was gonna smash it open. He's just not meant to be a crook. The average crackhead burglar wouldn't know real art from WalMart stuff, so I buy the fact that the artwork wasn't taken. And the average thief wouldn't know where to fence it. But come on. At least he could have smashed a few things, opened some drawers, taken the jewelry. Make an effort, dude.:)

Jody E. Lebel said...

"rejected for less?" It's all about tickling Johnene's fancy.

Tamara said...

I know, but a lot of us have noticed, according to comments on here, that clues are often too obvious or that they are never mentioned in the story and are therefore not discerible. It seems to matter to the editor one week but not the next.

Chris said...

The 'clue' about the door being locked and the alarm being on meant nothing. Unless there was a movement sensor on the glass panel (which wasn't mentioned), the panel being smashed wouldn't set off the alarm. A lot of alarms only activate when two contacts are broken as a result of a door or window being opened. Since there was no mention of the alarm ringing, I assumed it hadn't gone off, meaning there was no need for the thief to 're-arm' it. This was one of those folksy 'turned out this was the way it happened, guys,' solutions. Sorry, but if you're the writer, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you who did it.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. Well, that's a different look at it. When they said the glass panel on the door was broken, I assumed it was a small piece of glass that a human couldn't get through, or the long narrow side panels you sometimes see on doors. In order to get in the house the thief would have had to reach in to turn the doorknob, then open the door, which would set off the alarm. However, if the whole door was one big panel and the thief could step in through it, you're right, no alarm unless there was some kind of motion sensor. I'm thinking rich people with art on the walls would have that type of system though.

There also was no mention of a motive. Why did the rich kid steal his father's money? Allowance too low?

Chris said...

A great illustration of the need to write clearly, or risk having the reader put their own slant on things. In my mind's eye the glass panel having been 'shattered' indicated a large pane, so I saw that as being the thief's access point. You saw it as his way of reaching in and opening the door. Even though Reilly, the junior cop, later leans in and opens the door that way to let everyone inside, I didn't assume that was how the thief got in.

Reading it again, why did the alarm start sounding immediately Reilly opened the door? They don't - the householder always has twenty seconds or so to tap in the code, or you'd have alarms going off every time someone came home. Not only would it drive the neighbours nuts, it would be self-defeating. After a while no one would take a blind bit of notice.

It's a shame so many words were wasted on the explanation about the rookie cop needing a senior officer with him, and the holidaying neighbours being away with the Copelands. Instead, they could be been used to tell us exactly how bonehead Barry gained entry.

M D'Angona said...

I have been following this blog and was looking forward to critique on my published mini-mystery which came out this week, but I see a different one posted here for this time frame. Are there different editions for different regions of the country? My mystery is in a green, St Patrick's Day themed cover. After 5 rejections, I finally hit. Any thoughts on different versions of the paper out there?

Chris said...

Michael, I'm in the UK and I'm lucky enough to get the scans of the WW stories emailed to me each week. When I checked, I saw yours was in the week that's just finished. I'm guessing that means it will probably be the next one Jody reviews. I received the scans from the latest issue this morning, so I think those who subscribe must get their copies a few days before they appear on the supermarket shelves.

Congratulations on getting an acceptance. It's more than I've managed so far. ;¬} Was it your first?

Tamara said...

Michael, I'm reading the green copy of WW now, so you'll probably be up next. Just read your story but won't comment until it's posted.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris
Good point about the alarm having a 20-second deactivate time. I didn't catch that.

@ Michael

Your contract with WW should say the issue number on it. Your story appears in issue #11, dated March 17th, which is in the newsstands this week. They're always a week early. So, buddy, you're up next. I post on Fridays. I really appreciate you posting on this blog. The readers love to hear from the authors and ask them questions.

Good for you for hitting after only five rejections. Some of us have lots more.

I've gotta go now and sharpen my red pencil up for your story. haha...just kidding. Maybe.

M D'Angona said...

NO problem...I'll take it, I'm tough...if not you don't go far in the writing world (I have found out).
Anyway to Chris...it was my first acceptance. 3 standard rejections...1 "Clever, but not right for us" and 1 that Jo marked up worse than a high school term paper (which I took as a positive). I have 3-4 still pending, hopefully on their way to Seattle.

Chris said...

You're so right, Michael, we have to be thick-skinned and take whatever comments come our way, good or bad. Are you only giving the mini-mysteries a go, or taking a stab (sorry) at the romances too?

M D'Angona said...

I tried two romances, but not my thing. I prefer the mysteries...they help exercise your mind by thinking through all the details of the crime. I work backwards usually. I think of the crime then the clue and build the entire piece from there...characters, setting etc.

Chris said...

Michel, maybe those mini mysteries that didn't make it with WW could be worth trying with Fast Fiction or That's Life in Australia. You'd need to work the solution into the main story, but it might be worth a go.

Chris said...

Sorry, that should have been Michael, of course, not Michel. Ooops.

M D'Angona said...

That's a very good idea. I don't know about either, but I will do a little research. Thanks

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Michael. Two questions. If I might inquire, are you a female writing under a male's name? And do you find more of an acceptance in the mystery genre for male writers?

Second question, did you get a copy of my list of other magazines you can submit your stories to? (with some tweaking or course.)

M D'Angona said...

QUESTION 1: I am very much a man. I normally write for magazines and came across mystery writing online and found the info about WW.
QUESTION 2: No, I didn't see your list but would be interested to have a look. Thanks

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Michael. We like men. Not to worry. I was just wondering if it would behoove me to write under a male name for the mystery genre. Just a thought.

Please email me at ladyrprter at aol dot com and I'll attach the list in my return email.

Tamara said...

Michael, I've never had Johnene mark up one of my stories, except when she has sent it to the EIC as her choice to be published and EIC rejects it. Then, when she sends it back to me, I see the edits. When she rejects it herself, I get only the unmarked story (now she sends only the first page) and the rejection letter, and if I'm lucky, a note as to why. So, perhaps, if you got one marked up, it was actually Johnene's choice for that week. (We're always speculating on the WW submission/judging process.)

M D'Angona said...

She actually sent me a rejection letter and with it my original story all "marked up" She wrote in the margins what worked and what didn't, some structure issues, a few corrections with grammar etc. It was quite a surprise.

Tamara said...

I wasn't aware that Johnene ever did that. Pretty nice of her, actually, and she must have liked your writing. The ones I got back with marks were her planned editing if EIC agreed to run it.

Jody, that sharpening red pencil remark was pretty funny.

Chris said...

Michael, Fast Fiction and That's Life are Australian magazines, both with a male editor, Anthony Lambert. It's why I think your stories might appeal, because Anthony takes a different view of what works in fiction and accepts slightly more 'out there' stories along with the usuals. There are various word lengths to write to, starting at 700 for That's Life's coffee break section, rising to 2,800 for Fast Fiction's four page category. I have some scanned samples of what he's accepted before that I can email to you if you like. My email is csutton45@hotmail.com.

joyce said...

I sent a mystery off a couple of weeks ago but haven't heard back yet. I think my story is as good as some of these published ones that have all the plot holes and incorrect information about police procedures. I suspect, however, that it will be rejected. I would love to receive a marked-up edit from Johnene. I'd like o know what she thinks and how the story could be improved.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce.

Crossing fingers for you. Let us know.

Tamara said...

Joyce, it'll be a month if rejected by first editor and anywhere from three to six months if she sends it on to Johnene in Seattle. So, don't start dashing to the mailbox every day until then (as I'm doing now -- it's been seven months for one and four for another -- don't know what's holding things up).

Jody E. Lebel said...

The mystery story in the issue after Michael's is also written by a man. hmmmm...is there a pattern here?

M D'Angona said...

One thing I have experienced is that my rejections have not been returned to me in the same order that I have sent them. They all made it to Seattle, but maybe they get sorted into yes, no, or maybe piles before final decision is made??

Jody E. Lebel said...

I would love to know what happens in Seattle. Anyone live there and want to 'drop in' for a spy mission?

M D'Angona said...

I believe the Selection Process is NOT a neccesity to have anyone's (man or woman) work published. Just send in your (best in your mind)work (double check for grammar, structure, flow etc.)and let it go. Then start again and do the same. It feels much better when you forget about a submission and get selected than to constantly wait for the return envelope everyday and get the rejection. Just my opinion, everyone is different.

Tamara said...

I actually appreciate any information I can get about what goes on with our submissions, and unfortunately, I've picked up just enough information about the process over the years (Jimmy Meiss was quite approachable and forthcoming)that I'm awaiting word and second guessing what might be happening with my stories constantly, why they might have been rejected, etc., and talking about it on here. (I only regret that I can't exercise the same obsession with my literary journal submissions.)

Jody E. Lebel said...


@ Michael. John Floyd has had over 70 stories contracted by WW (mostly mysteries) but he also has more than 50 rejections by them. Nothing wrong with his grammar and flow. Lots and lots of really great stories get rejected every week. It's just what tickles Johnene's fancy at any given time. Just like any other publishing house.

I made it to the last round (of three rounds) of cuts at Harlequin. There were five books up for one spot at that point. It was fun to get the calls that it was moving on to the next stage. In the end, they didn't choose mine. That's life in the big bad book world. Nothing wrong with the book, they just found one they liked better. Same situation with WW.

I didn't understand your comment about "the Selection Process is NOT a necessity to have anyone's work published". Would you elaborate?

I, for one, love to go get my mail knowing I might have good news in there instead of the normal pile of bills. Ditto for checking my e-mails.

M D'Angona said...

I didn't mean anything negative with my comment. I just think even if we knew the details of the entire process, it still comes down to doing decent writing and leaving it in the hands of others to decide. I apologize if it came out wrong.

Chris said...

Having lots of irons in lots of fires makes sense. You have more chance of an acceptance with a dozen stories out there, than with one or two. It also means you fret about them less, which is a good thing. All that imagining it going through the selection process, wondering what stage it might be at, isn't going to make an ounce of difference and will only give you grey hair before your time. Work on each story so it's as good as you can get it, send it off, then get on with the next one secure in the knowledge that if it does come zooming back it's not because there was anything wrong with it, it just didn't happen to fit with what they were looking for at the time.

Here ends my homespun philosophy lesson for today %¬}

M D'Angona said...

When I send queries out to magazines, I follow Chris's philosophy. I send, send, send and forget about them until a follow up is needed. And down the line responses come in. If you wait for one until you do another....you will be waiting a very long time!

Tamara said...

Well, I'm with Jody. I'd like to plant a spy in the Seattle office (although I wonder whether many of WW people work at home).

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Michael. Oh, okay, I just couldn't follow what you were trying to tell us there.

It's almost Friday...it must be the mean girl coming out in me but I kinda like making a guy wait. If I could have a do-over I would have had that philosophy in high school. :)