Like a virgin...a short virgin
I grab the knife and slit open the tape. My heart quickens as I pull back the cardboard flaps and peer inside. Is there anything sweeter than seeing your book for the first time? It's better than Christmas, man.
You published authors out there know this feeling. You who will be published someday have it to look forward to. And for me? After eleven books now, these books are even more special. I feel like a virgin, all shiny and new.
The books I got today are short story anthologies. And they contain the first short stories I have ever had published. The first short stories I have even written since the eighth grade.
The first anthology is already on the shelves: "Death Do Us Part," edited by Harlan Coben and presented by Mystery Writers of America. My story is called "One Shot," and in it, a middle-aged man returns to his old home in Detroit to try to find the key to unlock the truth about a childhood tragedy. It's written in the dark style of our Louis Kincaid series.
My fellow contributors include Coben, Lee Child, Laura Lippman, Ridley Pearson, R.L. Stine, Jeff Abbott and other terrific writers. I've already read most the stories and they are stellar -- as haunting and unpredictable as you're likely to find anywhere. I'm proud to be included because I wasn't an invitee; I had to crash this party. See, when MWA announces its anthology every year, it opens 5-10 slots to its membership at large (you don't have to be previously published at all to enter and a few of this year's writers are first-timers). You have to submit your story to a committee, which that narrows it down and sends the finals onto the editor for his or her choosing. I sweated mightily over this story, because no matter how experienced you are as a novelist, writing a short stories is like starting over. There are different rules and challenges. For my money, writing a good short story is a million times harder than turning out a full novel. There is no room for error; nothing is wasted. If one word is wrong, the thing falls apart.
The MWA experience gave me the courage to try again. But this time, I was invited, and I was so damn thrilled I almost peed my pants. When Joe Konrath decided to edit a collection devoted to hitmen called "These Guns for Hire, he corralled a wacked-out band of wombats and renegades. Listen to this line up: Ken Bruen, David Morrell, William Kent Kreuger, Lawrence Block, MJ Rose, Reed Farrel Coleman and many others. "Guns" hits the stores in October.
Kelly and I teamed up to write this story and it's a bit of a departure from our usual style. Dare I say, maybe even darkly humorous? It's about two almost loveable Memphis losers who team up to do in their nemesis on the eve of their bowling league playoffs. Kelly is a longtime league bowler with a lethal average so she knows her way around the back alleys. Me, I just tried to keep up. The title? Gutter Snipes. You can read the first page of our stories and the others at the the nifty Hitmen website by clicking here.
And if you're going to Bouchercon in Madison at the end of the month, I want to invite you to a couple of parties in celebration of these short stories and their authors.
"These Guns for Hire" authors will be gathering and signing Thursday Sept. 28 at Cafe Montmartre, 127 E. Mifflin Street, just a block from the conference hotel. We'll be there til the bar kicks us out.
And the MWA folks will be signing their "Death Do Us Part" anthologies at Boucheron as well. Day and Time to come. You'll get a free copy in your Boucheron goodie bag.
So, if you're in Madison, drop by and help us celebrate. You'll know me. I'm the blushing virign...the short one.