Friday, October 24, 2014

Appearing in issue #42, October 20, 2014

Title:  A loan-ly murder

By Author:  John M. Floyd

Tag line:    Angela Potts, as usual, had cracked the case.  The sheriff just couldn’t figure out how she’d done it!

Police characters:   Sheriff Chunky Jones, amateur sleuth Angela Potts

The gist:    Angela is sitting outside the courthouse playing a game on her phone.  The sheriff asks her for a ride because his car won’t start and both his deputies are tied up elsewhere.  There’d been a murder, so Angela was delighted to help.  Angela asked if the sheriff was questioning a recent suicide, a man named Zack.  Sheriff Jones said no, that Zack’s daughter authenticated the suicide note.  He added that someone had shot the banker, Jerry Westbrook, in the chest.  The bullet wound was located right above the top button of his cardigan sweater.  When they got to the bank, the bank manager told them the coroner was on his way and pointed to a distraught woman, Katie, a new customer, who had found the body.  The sheriff nodded to Angela to indicate she should talk to Katie while he examined the body, which was located in the man’s office.  Jerry was slumped face down in his desk.

     Katie told Angela that she had come in for a loan and found the man dead. Angela asked her to describe the body.  She described Jerry Westbrook as bald on top, eyeglasses, cardigan sweater and a gold watch.  She said she heard footsteps running out back and feels she just missed whoever did it.  Mrs. Potts remembered that Katie was the daughter of Zack who had tried to take out a loan and was turned down. The same Zack who had killed himself.  Sheriff Jones told Katie he needed to search her purse.   When he did, he found an automatic pistol with a silencer. 

     When asked how Angela was so sure Katie was the killer, she remarked that if Katie had been innocent she couldn’t have seen what she saw.

Crime scene:    Bank office.

Clues:    What Katie saw.

Suspects:   Katie.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  A cardigan sweater has buttons down the front.  Unless Katie had seen the victim sitting, before falling face down on his desk, she couldn’t have known it was a cardigan.

My two cents:    

His squad car won’t start?  I suppose that could happen. Even in a car that’s well maintained, mechanical things stop working.  But in that case he’d call one of his deputies to come get him.  Murder trumps most other calls.  He wouldn’t take an old lady to a murder scene. 

Dear Gawd, this is a homicide investigation and the sheriff has got a civilian questioning the main witness.

 When you can see the dead body just by looking in the office doorway, why would anybody, police or civilian, ask a witness to describe the body? They wouldn’t.  The author needed the shooter to say he was wearing a cardigan, so he threw that scene in there.

Where are the surveillance cameras?  All banks have inside surveillance. 

Bank managers don’t call the coroner.  They call 911.  The police arrive, they call in the detectives.  Those are the guys that call the coroner’s office.

By the way, just FYI, an automatic pistol ejects a spent cartridge.  I’m sure crime scene will match that casing up with her gun.

The police don’t get to search someone’s purse without permission.  Most times the police have the person sign a ‘permission to search’ form, a form that will hold up later in court.  Otherwise they need to obtain a search warrant. 

The title was good but the tag line was out of sync with the story.  He couldn’t have known how Angela knew, because he didn’t talk to the main witness and had no idea what was said. 

It wasn’t the best Angela Potts story.  It wasn’t the worst.  There’s always lots of little technical issues in these Potts stories.   Two stars for a decent clue (even though it was revealed in an odd manner) and good pacing.  


Susan said...

Now this one I knew right away because my husband loves cardigans! Lol. Thanks for the analysis. I have a mystery story out. Almost three months now. It is my first.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Susan. Three months out? That's good news. It got by the first readers and is sitting on Johnene's desk. Good work for your first try.

I sold my first submission. Crossing fingers for you.

Tamara said...

I thought this story had a clever clue, despite all the plot holes. And, Susan, Jody is right; three months means Johnene has your story. I hope she proposes it to the EIC and gets approval. My first submission ever anywhere was published -- in a Chicago weekly newspaper. I was stunned, of course. Plenty of rejections since, but that first success is so encouraging.

Elizabeth said...

I'm not commenting on this story, just letting y'all know about a review of John M. Floyd's book Fifty Mysteries: The Angela Files, published about a week ago at another blog. You can read it at:

Susan said...

Thank you for the encouraging words. Lately, I have been walking to the mailbox with butterflies in my stomach. Isn't that too funny?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Susan Butterflies. That's part of the fun. We have a love/hate relationship with the postal person. I try to keep a nice smile on my face and not snatch the letters from her hand and run back into the house. :)

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Elizabeth. I am a huge fan of John Floyd's. Any time I have had contact with him, he's been a gentleman, a good sport, and he has a great sense of humor. He doesn't whine when I give him a bad review. In fact, once he told me he would try harder :)
I don't care for his Angela Potts series. I'm not a fan of small town gooberness. But tons of people are. Tons. Good for him that he published a collection of these popular stories. I wonder how he got around WWs new rule that says you can't publish your stories anywhere else...that they own them forever. Perhaps we're not reading that new rule correctly, hmm? His book cover is great. I hope he sells many, many books.

Elizabeth said...

Maybe he'd already contracted to publish the story collection before Woman's World made the rule about not republishing your own stories? I suspect that's illegal, but since I haven't sold them anything I don't need to worry about it just yet!

I like John's other work better than the Chunky & Angela stories.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Elizabeth. I was thinking about it after I wrote that. WW just changed that rule this year. These were probably stories that he did prior to the rule change. I'm pretty confident that John is an upstanding guy and I don't believe he would ever try to pull something. He's never presented himself in any light other than honorable. I know he has around 70 WW stories under his belt, so he had plenty to choose from.

M D'Angona said...

I am not sure if I am speaking of the same topic, but WW contract I believe says they will own ALL RIGHTS to the stories published, but that wouldn't include stories that are rejected, and could be collected into a book format and published elsewhere. I apologize if I am stating the obvious and am off base on this topic. I too have thought about publishing all my rejections (after some cleaning up )and creating a mini-mystery book.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ M. You are correct in that WW now owns all rights, but that contract change that happened in 2014 does not retroactively cover older contracted stories. The contracts we signed before the change will stand, and those contracts allow re-sale after 6 months. John may be using rejected material but he doesn't have to. The last reject count I remember him telling us was over 75 and that was last year sometime. He is free to use those rejects of course but also older material that was published under the old contract. As we all are.

His book blurb says “For the past thirteen years, Angela Potts and her former student Charles (Chunky) Jones have bickered, shared rides, and solved mysteries in their small Mayberrylike town...and in the pages of Womans World magazine.”

He cleverly does not say if the stories in the book were formerly published. And he certainly wouldn't advertise if they were rejects. By the way, if I were him, I'm correct the magazine name...Woman's Word... in the blurb. Also Mayberry-like. Don't know who wrote that stuff but a blurb with errors doesn't make the author look 'smart' and leaves readers wondering if the book is also unpolished and full of errors. It smacks of new author...which John certainly is not.

Several authors have pubbed their mini-mystery rejects. Go for it. I can't seem to get Ellery Queen interested, although they say they buy mini-mysteries.

M D'Angona said...

Just tossing this out there...Does anyone think that once certain authors become familiar to Johnene, they bypass the normal mail route and go straight to her desk in Seattle once they land in Jersey?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ M. I have no inside knowledge of the workings of WW and their fiction editorial department. But I will say this; if it was my job and I had some authors I knew I could count on to produce quality work, I'd have them put on a short list for sure. It's just my gut feeling that all those John Floyd stories don't lay waiting along with the weekly couple of thousand submissions sitting on the first reader's desk.

I also believe that when the pile gets too high, they clean house. All of a sudden a lot of us will get standard rejections the same week. Seems odd. I don't believe they actually read every single submission when they know a thousand more are waiting at the post office on any given day.

Mary Jo said...

I have always suspected that any magazine dumps the slush pile when it gets too high. Most magazines, it seems, do not even bother to send rejections. If they buy your story, fine, but otherwise you do not hear from them. It is your best guess whether you can send it elsewhere.

Patricia Gaddis told me that she reads every incoming story, but said that did not mean she read the whole thing. I think you can understand that. A poorly written story can be obvious from the first paragraph.

I am under the impression that there are only three readers involved in choosing WW fiction. Patricia, Johnene and the EIC. Period. Am I wrong? Your friend John might know.

Also I am curious as to the reason WW wants all rights forever and ever. It seems other publishers are going the same route. They must have another way to make a profit from them. Poor writer.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. RE: 3 readers. I don't think Patricia has to sit at her desk and read 4000-5000 submissions a week or no dinner. I can't say for sure, but I'm guessing she's the head of her department, the face, the first read decision maker, and there are other readers under her who muddle through and send her the best 'stuff'. Then she sorts and categorizes, makes sure they measure up to the WW ideals, considers what has been published in the recent past, and then selects the best and brightest for Johnene's critical eye. It's a food chain situation. I don't blame them for not reading an entire sucky story, and I'm sure they get a ton of them.

I could be wrong. Maybe Patricia IS chained to a desk and they whip her regularly.

As for WW wanting all rights? Dunno. Maybe they're thinking of doing an anthology once a year or something. Although it seems like they could have just included that possibility in their contract and not asked for the whole pie. Hogs. And the rich get richer.

Mary Ann said...

I am a fan of John's work and all of his Mrs. Potts stories. I know that "procedure" isn't followed when she's involved--that's part of the fun. Although I did guess the clue in this one, I still liked it. However, it didn't have enough Mrs. Potts/Chunky bickering for me. I love when they really go at it. And Jody, don't you think that the 4-5,000 stories per week is just a little over the top? I can't see that many coming in, but can see hundreds a week. I think Patricia can read through hundreds a week, by herself, especially if they are all 700-800 words or less.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Ann. Well, you may have me there. On Kate's FAQs she stated that WW gets about 4000 romance submissions a month. That was two years ago, so I'm guessing it's up a bit. But anyway, it was a month, not a week.

WW's last want ad said they were looking for the right person to assist their department editors. I suppose that could mean getting coffee, but they also wanted the applicant to have a degree in journalism, so I'm thinking there's many more first readers than we know about.

WW is a multi-million dollar magazine that pays top rate for their stories. I just can't see them having one employee in 'first reads'. Some day I'll find someone who used to work there and I'll pick their brain...or what's let of it after working in publishing.

Mary Jo said...

You do realize that Johnene is listed as both the Fiction Editor and the Travel Editor, don't you? Does anyone out there know what really goes on in a publishing house? Especially, when they all live a continent apart. I am profoundly curious about it.

As for "all rights forever and ever," I would suppose it all has to do with any communications opportunities (and money making) afforded by whatever new technologies may come along. Hey, poor writer, you could someday see your story flashing up on a Times Square Billboard. Or whatever. Maybe there will be tiny implants available that will transpose a story ($1.99?) right into your little old brain. Endless possibilities.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. re: Johnen being the travel editor. Now that you've said that, I seem to recall hearing that before. (Maybe you told me?) As for the new technologies, I know that WW has an app for your iPhone and you can get their articles on your phone. Maybe they charge for some of them. Maybe our stories are included in the menu.

Susan said...

I saw somewhere that WW is thinking about offering a digital subscription, not just the iPhone app. If that is the case, I think they would need to retain all rights to offer back issues in digital form.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Susan That's the first thing any of us has said that really makes sense. Sort of. Seems like if we contract to let them publish our story in, say, issue #34, they should get to re-release issue #34 as a back issue and not have to pay us again. But their legal department must be tying up all loose ends to avoid any sort of problems. I would say owning the story to infinity and beyond in any form, now known or yet to be discovered, pretty much covers Gotta love those lawyers.

Mary Jo said...

"First of all, let's kill all the lawyers." Dick in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, Scene II, Line 73. (Meaning to eliminate law and order, but it can be taken other ways.)

The question is, can they recover anything for the creative writers when publishers simply take it all?
In most other fields, the originator gets a royalty. I expect this will at least come to a debate.
I understand musicians are already suing over the matter.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. I hope it's not too much of a debate frankly. This situation is a bit of a Catch 22. If we make too much of a fuss, they might cut the rate. They're the highest paying romance short story gig out there. They used to pay $1 a word for the mysteries too, and they cut it to $500 for the same word count. The fiction market is quite small. To be able to revamp your old story and sell it now to the Trues for $80 (or whatever they pay now) doesn't seem worth the fight. Our efforts might be better used to concentrate on selling WW another story. Time will tell. It's really out of our hands.

Susan said...

Mary Jo, I'm not sure how that would work for a piece that is included in a magazine. A writer who writes a single novel receives payment for copies that are sold, as do musicians. However, a writer who writes a piece for a magazine gets payment for the orginal piece, not a profit from the magazine sales. Though, actors do receive residuals for reruns, on a sliding scale. What are your thoughts about how it would work? Personally, I would be happy just to make a sale for what they are currently paying. But of course, I don't have lots of stories to include in a book like John. :)

Susan said...

Jody, Didn't see your comment until I posted mine and refreshed the screen. I agree with you about rocking the boat! WW is very generous compared to others.

Mary Jo said...

I don't think WW is the only publication that will be requiring this type of contract. Of course, it is the one most of us are interested in. Any residual payments would depend on what use they made of the story material. Wait and see. I am no lawyer. I think we can agree, though, that modern and progressing technology has made the creative world a whole new ballgame.

Chris said...

THEY PAY YOU $800, LADIES! Don't worry about not being able to send your story anywhere else. You got a really good pay cheque out of a single sale. Some mags here in the UK pay only a fifth of that for the same rights (ie, all of 'em for ever). Pocket the lolly and move on.

Seeing your story scrolling over Times Square, Mary Jo... don't tell me that wouldn't give you a kick. ;¬]

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. Over the pond here 'lolly' is short for lollipop... candy. So, same thing I guess... candy for the pocket. :)

Mary Ann said...

I am with Chris. They pay $800. I, for one, am writing and submitting the stories for Woman's World with just that market in mind. They can take the stories and do whatever they want with them after they give me an $800 check (or $500 in the case of the mysteries). If you have a bunch of rejects, then work with those, bump up the words, send 'em out elsewhere or make your own Amazon e-book or whatever. But for $800 I do not really care what happens to my little story after I receive the money. I move on and am VERY grateful this market exists!

Mary Jo said...

Once we see our work in print, that is usually the end of it for most writers. To simply ignore the course that technology is taking a creative work, even a little short story, is shortsighted, though, in my opinion. Even though you say you don't care once you get your money, it will be interesting to see where the future takes us.

M D'Angona said...

The choice to send in stories is entirely up to each of us. Woman's World doesn't come looking for us. We decide to send in "our best" hoping to be selected, and if so agree to their terms. If you don't agree, it is your choice not to sign and return the contract. When your story is bought, say goodbye and crank out another, and another, and another. I think they are very generous at $500.00 for 700 words or less.

Chris said...

Lolly is a slang term for money, as is dosh, spondulicks, readies, dough, loot, lucre, smackers - colourful language, isn't it.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. Love it. Over here we'd say moohla, bread, bucks, lettuce, clams, or dead presidents.

"That hotel set me back 200 clams. Now I'm out of lettuce. You got any bread left?"

Anybody else have something interesting to add???