You can see who the Reds are in the photo above. And the reds blog works like this: The Reds take turns being in charge for a week, picking the topic, picking the guests, generally trying to outdo each other. Monday, we're all here for a chat--tomorrow's topic, chosen by Jan, is our worst holiday presnet ever. Tuedsay is often True Crime--the wackiest, the starngest, the most poignant--or writing true crime, or being in crime, or whatever. We're flexible. Wednesday is often special guest day. Thursday is Red's choice, and Friday we're all often back to chat, or talk about books or just--whatever. Saturday and Sunday we leave as suprises! We have contests, and gifts, and advice, and generally compare, contrast, communicate, and...sometimes...complain. As our headline says--it's The View--with bodies.
By Brendan DuBois
As all writers know, there are always surprises along the way during one’s career. Sometimes the surprises are good, like an unexpected fan letter or a crowded bookstore during a signing. Sometimes the surprises are not-so-good, like books that never get bought, workdays that bring up two or three pages of sludge, and agents that don’t return your phone calls.
Wow. So this surprise happened to me earlier this year, and I was thrilled to see my short story, “Ride Along,” appear in this year’s edition, co-edited by Harlan Coben.
So how did this blessed event occur? Well, first you have to write a short story, and in this case, I decided last year to write a story about a woman going along on a “ride along,” i.e., a civilian accompanying a police officer while he’s on patrol.
I’ve literally gone on dozens of ride alongs over the years, starting first as a newspaper reporter, and then later, going with a brother of mine who has had a distinguished career as a police officer (he’s now a deputy police chief in a major New Hampshire city). Riding with a police officer is certainly an eye-opening experience and thrilling experience, especially when an urgent call comes in from dispatch and the lights and siren go on, and you get a cool rush, knowing that all those cars and trucks up ahead are pulling over to let you go by!
Your also get to see parts of your hometown that you either don’t know or ignore. Like late night bars that usually produce a bloody fight or two. Or the street corner that attracts drug dealers. Or the crowded low-rent apartment buildings that can be relied upon to have a domestic disturbance or a loud party.
Along the years of doing ride alongs, I also learned a few helpful tips. Cops tend to brake and accelerate in burst of energy, so taking a motion-sickness pill prior to going out is a good idea. Always, always wear your seatbelt, and when you’re going a hundred miles an hour down a narrow city road, just close your eyes and trust in your officer’s experience. And bring along a water bottle; it’s surprising how dehydrated you get while riding in a police car with a handcuffed suspect or two in the back seat.
For all the times when the cop you’re with is pulling over a suspected drunk driver, or responding to a burglary call, or entering a home for a report of a domestic disturbance, there’s also long minutes of drudgery, when the police radio is silent, the streets are empty, and there’s just endless driving around, listening to late night AM radio to stay awake.
Yet no matter what happens, doing a ride along is a fertile area for stories, which is how I came about to write “Ride Along.” It takes place in the fictional city of Cooper, Massachusetts, and features freelance reporter Erica Kramer, going along with veteran police officer Roland Piper. Driving down these mean urban streets, the young reporter clashes with the cynical police officer over various issues, and then there’s a sudden and brutal crime. But who’s the victim? And who’s the criminal, and who --- if anyone --- is innocent?
It was a fun story to write --- made more so by writing as a woman in the first person --- and when it was completed, it was time to send it out. I have a fairly strict protocol when it comes to submitting my mystery fiction. The first market it goes out to is “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine,” since that’s where I made my first professional sale in --- cough, cough --- 1985. If turned down, then it goes to EQMM’s sister publication, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.”
As chance would have it (and proving again that editors are telling the truth when they say a particular story doesn’t meets its needs), both EQMM and AHMM rejected “Ride Along.” So off it went again, to Andrew Gulli at “The Strand” magazine, who promptly purchased it. And even with scores of sales under my belt, it’s always a delight to sell a new piece of fiction.
And with this delight, a few months later came the fantastic news that Otto Penzler and Harlan Coben had chosen it for the “Year’s Best” anthology.
Pretty cool. But what makes it even sweeter (besides getting paid twice for the same story, hah-hah) was that even after two rejections and eventual publication, it was picked to be named one of the best, out of hundreds of stories published that year.
A good feeling, a good surprise, and nice reaffirmation that maybe you know what you’re doing after all.
Brendan DuBois of New Hampshire is the award-winning author of twelve novels and more than 100 short stories, including his latest book, “Deadly Cove.” His short fiction has appeared in Playboy, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and numerous other magazines and anthologies including “The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century,” published in 2000 by Houghton-Mifflin. His short stories have twice won him the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, and have also earned him three Edgar Allan Poe Award nominations from the Mystery Writers of America. Visit his website at http://www.brendandubois.com/.