Friday, July 31, 2015

Appearing in issue 30, July 27, 2015

Title:  Ball and Chain

By Author:  John M. Floyd

Tag line:    Joyce Cole said she was telling nothing but the truth about her ex-husband.  Angela Potts wasn’t so sure…

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones, amateur sleuth Angela Potts

The gist:    Angela’s cousin, Joyce Cole, according to Angela, is a compulsive liar and she hates Benny, her ex-husband. (1) This story starts with about two columns of Sheriff Jones going to get Angela, where’s she fishing, to come with him because the victim of a crime (Cole)  would only let Angela interview her.  Twenty minutes later in Cole’s living room, Cole was glaring at Angela.  (Don’t know why, because she asked for Angela.) Cole tells them that her ex-husband, who is out on parole, entered her house last night while she was asleep and stole $1000 out of her cookie jar. She said she locked the house up tight last night, latching every window, locking and chaining every door, put the garage door down, and then she went and checked everything twice. She said she keeps a key under a loose brick on the patio that her ex knew about. She said, “This will send him back to jail, right?  And it has nothing to do with the fact that he left me.”  (2)  Cole pointed to a wire stripper tool lying on the carpet, saying her ex must have dropped it.  Angela tells the sheriff he better check it for prints.  When she said that Cole’s eyes got wide and she said, “He’s an electrician of course it’s his, and it’s too small for prints, right?” (3)  When Jessica Fletcher … oh sorry, I meant Angela Potts said the tool looked new and yes there would be prints on it (by the way where’s the sheriff?  Playing games on his iPhone?)  Cole said “There won’t be any prints because he was wearing gloves.”  (4)  When Angela said she thought Cole told her she was sleeping, Cole’s face went pale and she started sweating. (5)   Angela accused Cole of lying and trying to frame her ex-husband.  Cole broke down crying and admitted her act.

Now, here’s the best part.  Crackhead Sheriff Jones asked Angela, “How’d you know?”   How did she know?  HOW DID SHE KNOW?!   (My head just exploded.  Give me a moment to go get a paper towel to clean up the mess.)

Crime scene:   The real crime is that somehow Sheriff Jones not only made it through the police academy, but got a JOB in law enforcement.

Clues:    See the BIG 5 above.  Plus the fact that the door was chained from the inside so even a key wouldn't get him in.

Suspects:   I think Sheriff Jones is sleeping with the victim.  Hey, it’s just as dumb as everything else in this story.

Red herrings:    The red herring is the fact that Jones is a cop.

Solution:   Duh.

My two cents:   The sheriff gets Angela to interview the victim.  WTF.  Angela tells the sheriff he better check the tool for prints.  I guess they didn’t teach him that at the academy.  Good thing she was there. 

Clue:   Yes, there was sure a bunch. Very blatant. Talk about spelling it out.

Motive:  Yeah, she had one.  Hate is a motive.

Police Work:  Don’t get me started.

Writing:  Overdone.  The ‘victim’ went pale, started sweating, questioned the fact that fingerprints could be gotten off the tool… ad nauseum. She might as well have been wearing a sign that said “I did it”.

Characters:  Getting dumber with each story.


Tamara said...

This was your best critique yet, Jody (dying laughing here). I don't always pick up on the mistakes, not being knowledgeable about law enforcement as you are, but I did pick up on most of them in this story. Pretty silly.

Mary Jo said...

Mr. Floyd may take his writing very seriously, but with a story like this one, it sounds as if he just phones it in.

Even if the fiction in WW is just another filler in a pretty picture magazine, as you have suggested, Jody, it would seem that there must be better stories available for print. Is this the best the editors have to choose from?

Tamara, I am not laughing. I suspect there are a lot of writers out there dying of frustration.

Tamara said...

I, too, suffer from that frustration, Mary Jo (Jody's comic relief aside), especially since I'm told that mine are too obvious, too unrealistic, and the totally untrue "too similar to others published lately", and then I see so many published stories that are obvious, unrealistic, or that have solutions that by themselves could serve as flash fiction. I just wonder why it's happening.

Jody E. Lebel said...

Here's an excerpt from John Floyd's post dated August 1st:

"I sold another story last week, called "A Friend in Need," that's a straight mystery, less than 700 words long, teaches no lessons at all (but is, hopefully, entertaining), and uses only one setting and a total of three characters, one of whom is only a voice on the telephone. That second story, not that it matters to this discussion, marked my 70th sale to Woman's World magazine."

70th story. I think he should get cupcakes for that. Lots of them. Good for him. Although I'm not a fan of the Potts/Jones series, he writes many other really interesting and well plotted out stories. And he's a genuine person. No BS to him.

So the bottom line is he's doing everything right and we're doing everything wrong. The question is: How do we learn from it?

Chris said...

I share Tamara's frustration about the reasons given for so many of our stories being rejected. It is absolutely galling to get such comments when you have worked hard to come up with something different, with a neat twist and a nicely hidden but-still-in-plain-sight clue, and then see a story of utter, bore the pants off you, twaddle published a week later.

Regarding this one, I honestly don't believe it would have been accepted if anyone else's name had been attached to it. Sorry, John, I usually love the Jones/Potts pairing, but this was not one of your finest.

Elizabeth said...

And I know next to nothing about police procedure, but I smell a couple of kinds of impropriety. It seems to me that when Sheriff Jones says to Ms. Potts, "Well, she says you're the only one she'll let question her. How about it?" and Ms. Potts agrees, this is improper because she is not a member of the police force. Or, with him being sheriff, it just doesn't matter, because he's the top dog around there? Also, the victim and Ms. Potts are cousins.

I know I could come up with a better mini-mystery than that. But it doesn't count unless Johnene agrees.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Elizabeth

Top dog or not, even the police have to follow the law and execute a proper investigation, one that will hold up in court. A defense attorney would jump all over that 'confession' and probably get it thrown out. It is HIGHLY improper to allow a civilian to conduct the interview. The closest Potts could come to her cousin is behind a two-way mirror in a police interview room. Potts could speak to the sheriff through an earpiece if the police thought Potts might be helpful, seeing as how she knows the suspect. The only time civilians are allowed in the interview room is when the suspect is a minor. Ditto with police interviews outside of the police station.

But of course this isn't real life. It's cozy mystery, small-town time. Something WW is crazy about. So throw out realistic scenes and let the dog solve it. Heck, that's already been done... but it was a cat.

Bettye Griffin said...

I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to slap something together and send it in just to see if it sells, no matter how badly it's done. So what if Jody slams me...I'll laugh all the way to the bank!

Jody E. Lebel said...

@Bettye. Consider yourself challenged. I'd love to see that happen. Just let me know what your agenda was when it gets a contract, and I'll critique accordingly. lol.