Fishy Business – Guppy Anthology – The Motivation Behind its Capers

Fishy Business – Guppy Anthology – The Motivation Behind its Capers by Debra H. Goldstein

Fishy Business: the Fifth Guppy
by Linda Rodriguez was officially released last weekend at Malice Domestic. The
submission call required the story to include a caper. I blanked when I thought
about writing a caper. The only caper(s) that came to mind were the ones I get
at the deli on my bagel, nova lox, and cream cheese. And that’s when it hit me –
I should build my caper around what I knew. The result is Nova, Capers, and a Schmear of Cream Cheese.

the fantastic twenty-one other stories in the anthology, I wondered about the motivation
behind each one. So, I asked:

your personal background play into your caper story? If so, how. If not, what
was the motivation behind your story?

Rita A. Popp – Windfall

The call for caper stories for Fishy
fired up my inner Nancy Drew. As a girl, I loved reading about
Nancy fearlessly sleuthing in the dark of night with a flashlight. For my story
“Windfall” I imagined two girls sneaking into an empty house in pursuit of some
sort of hidden treasure. I made the house an old adobe in New Mexico, my home
state for many years, and drew on my experiences teaching community college
students for the contrasting characters of the two girls. So yes, my personal
background played into this story. It was a fun one to write, and I hope
readers will enjoy the caper aspect of it.  

Susan Alice Bickford – Payout

Silicon Valley, where I have spent past 28 years, is a place of mythical
success but a lot of that is based on luck. Should you take a chance on this
job or that? What is the upside? How many commas do you have in your personal
net worth? This leads to a great deal of envy and even deceit based on power
and greed. The perfect fertile garden for growing–and justifying–bad

Vinnie Hansen –
Room and Board

I’ve been living in Santa Cruz, California, for over
35 years. Its unique environment creeps into all my mysteries. Although I’m not
a surfer, you can’t live here without a bit of surf culture rubbing off. I’ve
stood on the cliffs above Steamer Lane or The Hook many a day admiring the
riders on the waves. And I’ve visited the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, 
one of the best surfing museums in the world
, many
times. From a special trip my idea for Room
and Board
took hold. When I created my characters, I thought of my
neighbor’s twins. They’d grown up fifty yards away, swinging by our house at
the end of Trick-or-Treating so we could dump all our remaining candy into
their bags. They once spontaneously scampered up our towering liquid amber to
rescue our cat. My husband and I sadly witnessed these handsome, likable boys
sink into drug addiction. They gradually wasted away until they were nothing
but skin and bone and hollowed-out eyes hurrying down our street to their next
fix. My stories are always built of these Lego pieces of my life. How they snap
together is a creative, magical surprise—every time. 

James M. Jackson – Power
of Attorney

Two of the themes I write
about are financial crimes and abuse of power. Power occurs when people have
unequal footing. Attorneys, with their knowledge and often positional
authority, often find themselves in positions of great power. With great power
comes great responsibility. In the US, we have a growing population of elderly,
who, because of frail bodies and/or minds are at risk of abuse. The
intersection of these two groups of people was fertile ground for me to explore
through my story.

My personal experiences
shaped the story in two ways. In recent years, I have taken over responsibility
for my mother’s finances and have had to deal with an advisor who I did not
think always had my mother’s best interests in mind. I played soccer in the
distant past and many of those details in the story come from my personal

T. Y. Euliano – For
Want of a Grade

Though I never decided to steal an exam, my story is
based on my background as a physician who took the MCAT many years ago. As the
mentor to many pre-med students, who invest thousands in test prep resources, I
realize how valuable a stolen entrance exam might be. Because the exam is now
computerized, I had to set the story back before 2007, when it was still
printed in paper booklets. Hence the reference to MySpace instead of Facebook.
It was fun trying to go back in time.

Joan Leotta – It Tastes Like

Not long before the anthology call came up I heard a
news story about a company that put actual wood shavings into some fiber
formula…if memory serves, it was ruled ok by FDA that they did this! So, when
the caper challenge was posed, I decided a flimflam artist who did not hurt
people with her product would be my heroine. I like to cook, so her prowess in
the kitchen is fun for me. Of course I put her in jeopardy because of her poor
choices..but that’s the fun of this story.

Susan Daly – My Night
with the Duke of Edinburgh

My Night with the Duke of Edinburgh takes place in
1951, when Princes Elizabeth and her husband the Duke made a cross-country tour
of Canada. Well, I wasn’t old enough for that tour, but I was up for
many others in subsequent years. I think the massive excitement generated by
the Royal Tour made for a great backdrop for my caper story, when I have a
group of students do a little activism. 

K.M. Rockwood – Scrabble-Rousers

My story, Scrabble Rousers, is based on people I
have known. Old folks who are losing some control over their lives, but still
know what they like, and are not above a bit of chicanery. Young care-giver
types who are determined to “improve” the lot of their clients, whether the
clients like it or not. And my grandmother. She lived to be 104. Volunteer
church ladies would come to the nursing home where she resided for the last few
years of her life, and ask her what she’d like to do. She’d look vague, say,
“Oh, I used to play this word game. Scrabble, was it? Could we try that?”
They’d smile, get out a Scrabble game, and she’d beat the pants off them.

Anna Castle
The Lost Mine of Don Fernando

My parents retired to Taos, New
Mexico. My mother’s masters degree is in Anthropology and she has long been a
student of the indigenous cultures of the Southwest. She has lots of great
stories, and likes to share interesting things that she reads. She told me about
the Battle of Cienegula in 1854, which took place just north of Taos. A group
of Jicarilla Apaches and Utes defeated a troop of American dragoons. Somehow
that intrigued me. Then I was researching mining fraud for my Moriarty series,
which is all about fraud in the late nineteenth century, and discovered there
are in truth lots of lost mines in the New Mexico wilderness. So then my mother
told about the terrible abuses perpetrated by the American government on the
Apaches in particular and this story came together. It was a lot of fun to
write and I hope to meet all these characters (except the bad guys) in another

Beth Green – Exit Interview

I didn’t pull inspiration
for my story Exit Interview from my
personal experience directly. Instead, I thought it would be fun to play on the
“right man for the job” trope in heist films. For example, in the Oceans
movies, Danny and Debbie Ocean pull in members of their crews based on the
individual’s special skills. Since I wanted to write a slightly satirical
story, I decided to see what would happen if you hired an assassin to do a
thief’s job. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say it doesn’t quite work out as
the client planned!

Raegan Teller – The Great Negotiator

Once you read my story, you’ll understand why I hesitated in answering this question truthfully. The way it happened is that my husband and I were sitting around one evening, sipping a glass of wine and fantasizing about, well, let’s just say, a certain person in our family. What if …? After we finished laughing until we were crying, I sat down and wrote The Great Negotiator. Okay, I’m probably in trouble now.

Chelle Martin – Nine Lives of Husbands & Wives

No, my personal background has nothing to do with
this story. I’ve never swindled anyone, gone through a bad divorce (happily
single), or even owned a cat (allergies). I just decided to write a “cat
story” and somehow it turned into “Nine Lives of Husbands & Wives”. A
few friends have gone through nasty divorces, so maybe they influenced the
storyline a bit. Otherwise, it was just a fun story to write.


2 replies
  1. KM Rockwood
    KM Rockwood says:

    Thanks, Debra. It was fun to write for this anthology! It's now my bedtime reading. A story a night.

Comments are closed.