Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pssst...have we got a deal for you!

Is it raining where you are? Still chilly? Is it time, maybe to grab a cup of tea, and a comforter, and curl up in a chair and read?

But, you say, I have to much to do--it would be lovely, but, sigh, my responsibilities will interfere.
No time to read a book.

Pssst. Hey. How 'bout a nice short story?

Today on Jungle Red, we are happy and proud to introduce you the five nominees for the AGATHA Award for Best Short Story. And to offer their stories for your reading pleasure.

No waiting, no traffic, no credit cards or squally babies. Just--a click or two, and you'll be transported to the holidays, or another century., or...well, you'll see. And if a couple of people get killed, well, what can we tell you. That's how it goes in mystery world.

We’ll give you the title, the description, and just the first line! And a link to read the rest. And then the JRW question.

"Femme Sole" by Dana Cameron
Boston Noir (Akashic Books)

From Dana Cameron:In 1740s Boston, Anna Hoyt owns a North-End tavern and all the local thugs—including her husband—want a piece of it.

"A moment of your time, Anna Hoyt.” Click here to read the rest.

JRW says: “What do you think about it?”
DANA says: “About the story: I'm always delighted when my work makes my friends and family nervous...”


The Worst Noel" by Barb Goffman

The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press)

From Barb Goffman: When a little too much family togetherness, coupled with some professional humiliation caused by Mom, pushes Gwen over the edge, she plans a Christmas Eve dinner that no one will ever forget.

Okay, Gwen. Get ready to fake it. Click here to read the whole story.

JRW asks:”What do you think of it?”
BARB: “What I think about the story: The story has been called both funny and disturbing, which delights me because it shows the black humor came right through. "


"Handbaskets, Drawers and a Killer Cold"

by Kaye George Crooked ezine

From Kaye George: A Chicago cop, uncovering a possible felony committed by his wayward brother-in-law, has to decide whose wrath he fears more, his wife's or his captain's, while battling a killer of a winter cold.

"If your brother screws up once more..." Click here to read the whole story.

JRW asks: “What do you think about it?”
Kaye says: “What I think about the nomination? I'll let you know when I come back to Planet Earth.”


"On the House" by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Quarry (Level Best Books)

From Hank Phillippi Ryan: A twisty tale of broken promises, broken hearts and intricately-planned revenge proves when true love goes wrong, a woman's best friend may be her dog. Or--not.

“Do you think he's dangerous?" Click here to read the whole story.

JRW asks: What do you think about it?
HANK: “I’m so grateful for the nomination...oh, the story? Readers always argue about whether the killer will get away with it—I love that.”


"Death Will Trim Your Tree" by Elizabeth Zelvin
The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press)

From Elizabeth Zelvin a not-so-typical Christmas story--Bruce wrestles with the Xmas lights, goes to the hardware store, and solves a murder.

I sat on the floor in Jimmy and Barbara's living room with a pile of blinking electrical spaghetti in my lap and ground my teeth.
Click here to read the whole story

JRW asks: “What do you think about it?”
LIZ says: Not sure what you mean by "what you think about it." You mean like does my opening still make me laugh every time I read it?


But wait--there's more! Are you now thinking--wow, I could write a short story! Well, do! And there's still time to submit it to the Al Blanchard Award.

The Al Blanchard Award is given at New England Crime Bake which is held every November in the Boston area. The award is given for a crime story by a New England author or for a crime story with a New England setting. It must be previously unpublished and may not be more than 5,000 words in length. The story may include the following genres: mystery, thriller, suspense, caper, and horror. (No torture/killing of children or animals.)

The prize is $100 in cash, publication in THIN ICE, Level Best Books' eighth crime fiction anthology, plus admission to the Crime Bake Conference. It costs nothing to enter. The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2010. Details can be found at

Good luck, everyone!


  1. Thanks for posting these. Fun stuff to read--my favorite!

  2. Congrats to all!!

    And having no concept at all, EVER, of how to construct a short story and make it work-- I'm going to read these with envy and a great deal of study!!!

  3. Very thoughtful of you to make these stories available to us. Hope it's OK to mention that Dana's story (and one by Dennis Lehane in the same collection "Boston Noir") is also nominated for an Edgar!

  4. This is great...I almost never get to read all of the nominees. I wrote a short story once and it was one of the toughter things of done - getting it all done in 5,000words or less! Kudos to all the nominees.

  5. Thanks, Hank, for showcasing these in such a lovely fashion! Congratulations again, to you and all the nominees, and thanks, also, for getting the word out there about the Al Blanchard contest!

    Thanks, Ken, for your enthusiastic support!

  6. Hey, Hank - you are in prestigious company! Being nominated is a huge deal - kudoes to you all.

  7. I'm thrilled that I get to moderate these very talented writers during the "Make It Snappy: Agatha Best Short Story Nominees" panel at Malice. Can't wait.

  8. Thanks to Hank for showcasing our stories today, and for the nice comments from Ramona, Jan, Ken, Rosemary, Dana, Hallie, and Ruth.

    I love writing short stories. It's all I do, fiction-wise. I love how I can come up with an idea and in a few hours have a solid first draft (which then gets reworked and reworked and reworked). It appeals to my nature as a former daily newspaper reporter - start and finish a project in short order. I hope you all like the stories!

  9. In a few HOURS??? Barb, you are too much...whoa. And your story is wonderful.

    If you can tell it without giving anything away--what was the very first nugget you thought of for the Worst Noel? You know--the thing that made you decide it could be a story?

  10. Hi, Hank. Thanks. (blush.)

    This story has had three major reiterations. The idea for the bones of the story came from a call a few years back for the Medium of Murder anthology. They wanted a story involving the word medium. I immediately thought of size (hence the size medium sweatsuit in the story). That was the first nugget - a woman pissed off because she got a size medium sweatsuit. I thought someone might kill over that.

    I didn't get in that anthology, sigh - but am much better off for it, because then I decided to enter the story two years ago in the Al Blanchard contest. I reworked it a lot, moving the location to Massachusetts and adding in a lot more location detail that added to the story. Once again, sigh, I didn't win that contest. But again it ultimately was a good thing, because then I decided last year to try to get into the Toys for Tots anthology (The Gift of Murder). And it was then, when I decided to bookend the story between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that the tale really came together. Sibling rivalry. A good location. Self-esteem issues tied up with family and size. And all at the holidays. Dear Lord, it would have been a Christmas miracle if there weren't violence!

    I have to say I'm proud I plugged away at this story. The first version was, in retrospect, ehhh. The second version was good. But it was the third version when it finally came together. I need to say thank you to my writing group for their assistance. They read this story more times than I'm sure they'd like to remember. :)

  11. What a great story about your story,Barb! Love it. ANd you made me smile over the medium sweatsuit. Perfect.

  12. Congratulations and good luck to the nominees. Writing a short story is a challenge but, it can be very rewarding. Hank, thanks for posting the information about the Al Blanchard Award.

  13. Thanks so much for gathering these here, Hank!

    Barb, I love short story writing best, too, although I'm trying my hand at novels. Some of my short stories that were rejected also got rewritten and rewritten until they were much, much better. I still haven't cracked the Al Blanchard, but I'd love to!

    Ruth, I'm so looking forward to Malice and the panel!

  14. Wonderful offerings! Short stories, are by far the best gifts too. While our schedules are so busy, its easy to pack a book and read a few pages as an escape at break time.

    Thank you for sharing.

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