New Short Story Anthologies

by Paula Gail Benson

Three great new anthologies are on the horizon. Please add the following to your “to be read” lists:

Dark of the Day: Eclipse Stories, will be released on April 1 (in time for the April 8 total solar eclipse). The anthology is edited by Kaye George and published by Down and Out Books. Stories are by Eric Beckstrom, Paula Gail Benson, Michael Bracken, John Rogers Clark, IV, Bridges DelPonte, Cari Dublei, John M. Floyd, Kaye George, Debra H. Goldstein, Toni Goodyear, James A. Hearn, Laura Oles, Katherine Tomlinson, Joseph S. Walker, M.K. Waller, Carol L. Wright. (I’m very proud to be included with these terrific authors!)

Donna Andrews, Marcia Talley, and Barb Goffman edited Three Strikes—You’re Dead!, an anthology of sports mysteries coming out April 23 from Wildside Press. Every author in it is a member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. The authors are: William Ade, Kathryn Prater Bomey, Maddi Davidson (the pen name of authors Diane Davidson and Mary Ann Davidson), Lynne Ewing, Barb Goffman, Sherry Harris, Smita Harish Jain, Adam Meyer, Alan Orloff, Rosalie Spielman, Shannon Taft, F. J. Talley, Robin Templeton, and Joseph S. Walker.

Malice Domestic announces its 18th Malice Domestic anthology titled Mystery Most Devious, edited by John Betancourt, Michael Bracken, and Carla Coupe Malice Domestic and published by Wildside Press. The anthology will include stories by Mary Adler, Sue Anger, Ashley-Ruth M. Bernier, Susan Love Brown, Joslyn Chase, Leone Ciporin, P.A. De Voe, Christine Eskilson, Roberta Gibson, Hope Hodgkins, Smita Harish Jain, Jackie McMahon, Linda Norlander, Josh Pachter, Jill K. Quinn, Jennifer Slee, and Sarah Stephens. It’s due to be released with a book signing at Malice Domestic in April.

Happy reading!


Bethany Maines drinks from an arsenic mug

Valentine’s Noir

Noir? No Are? Nwar?  What now?

I occasionally participate in an author event called Noir at the Bar. Local writers bring crime and “noir” themed stories to scandalize listeners with tales of the seedy underbelly of society.  Oh, and also to drink, socialize and terrorize ourselves by reading in public.  This time around our date falls on the day after Valentine’s Day and our ring leader has decreed it to be a night of lost love, long hangovers, and doomed romance.  It’s Noir at the Bar – Heartbreakers Edition.

So What Kind of Noir Are You Writing?

True confession time… I’m terrible at noir.  I have a general lack of depression and tend to write characters I like. And since the nihilistic outlook seems to be the hallmark of noir that kind of makes me Noir-light at best.  So usually I write crime stories about characters who have managed to get themselves into a little bit of a pickle or are trying to get ahead for once.

Story Time…

This time out I’m reading The Rage Cage. I got the idea for this story from a therapist friend of mine who mentioned that one of her clients worked at a rage cage, and then of course, I had to ask, “What’s a Rage Cage?” It’s an establishment that let’s you smash everything.  If you’ve ever wanted to reenact the printer beat down scene from Office Space, they can make that happen for you.  They have enumerable objects to smash and lots of things to smash them with. I don’t know if it’s any cheaper than therapy, but you might get a work out.  And they find those smashable items in auctions of online storage units.  If someone forgets to pay their storage unit, the storage company will auction off the units.  Usually, someone will buy these contents sight unseen, pick through and sell what they can for a profit.  But a rage cage business is looking for breakable items. But that got me thinking about just what kind of items might turn up in those storage unit collections…

The Rage Cage

When Amber, the manager at the Rage Cage, stumbles on her ex-husband’s belongings among the items from a storage unit auction, she learns a secret that changes everything about her marriage and concocts a plan for revenge.

So wish me luck as I venture forth out into… gulp… the public and read The Rage Cage to it’s very first audience.


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of action-adventure and fantasy tales that focus on women who know when to apply lipstick and when to apply a foot to someone’s hind end. She can usually be found chasing after her daughter, or glued to the computer working on her next novel (or screenplay). You can also catch up with her on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Celebrating All Things Edgar

by Paula Gail Benson

By Unknown author; Restored by Yann Forget and Adam Cuerden – Derived from File:Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1849, restored.jpg; originally from, Public Domain,

Edgar Allan Poe, one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story, inventor of the detective fiction genre, and significant contributor to the emerging genre of science fiction, was born on January 19, 1809.

In recognition of his birth, Edith Maxwell reminded readers of an anthology compiled by New England authors, Edgar Allan Cozy, in which each story is based on one of Poe’s short stories, supplied with a cozy atmosphere, and set in the fictional town of Raven Harbor, Maine. Edited by Sadie Hartwell, it contains stories by Ms. Hartwell as well as Barbara Ross, Sherry Harris, the late Shelia Connolly, and Edith Maxwell. It’s available through Amazon.

In addition, on January 16, 2024, the Mystery Writers of America announced the Edgar nominees. Here are the nominations for short stories:


“Hallowed Ground,” by Linda Castillo (Macmillan Publishers – Minotaur Books)
“Thriller,” Thriller by Heather Graham (Blackstone Publishing)
“Miss Direction,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September-October 2023 by Rob Osler (Dell Magazines)
“The Rise,” Amazon Original Stories by Ian Rankin (Amazon Publishing)
“Pigeon Tony’s Last Stand,” Amazon Original Stories by Lisa Scottoline (Amazon Publishing)

Note that two of these nominations are for Amazon Original Stories. Each of these authors is known for their longer works.

Linda Castill is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Kate Burkholder series, set in the world of the Amish.

Heather Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 200 novels of category romance, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult and Christmas family fare.

Rob Osler’s debut mystery DEVIL’S CHEW TOY was 2023 Finalist for the Anthony, Macavity, Agatha, and Lefty Awards.

Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin is best known for his Inspector Rebus novels.

Lisa Scottoline is a #1 bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of 33 novels.

Along with the Edgar nominees, the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award finalists were announced. The estate of Robert Lloyd Fish, an American writer of crime fiction and recipient of an Edgar Award, has sponsored this award for the best first short story by an American author since 1984.

Here are the nominations:

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD – Endowed by the family of Robert L. Fish.

“Errand for a Neighbor,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, January-February 2023 by Bill Bassman (Dell Magazines)
“The Body in Cell Two,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, May-June 2023 by Kate Hohl (Dell Magazines)
“The Soiled Dove of Shallow Hollow,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. January-February 2023 by Sean McCluskey (Dell Magazines)
“It’s Half Your Fault,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July-August 2023 by Meghan Leigh Paulk (Dell Magazines)
“Two Hours West of Nothing,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September-October 2023 by Gabriela Stiteler (Dell Magazines)

Do You Drabble? Why You Should!

by Paula Gail Benson

Loren Eaton’s website

Last year, I wrote about the great experience of participating in Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts. I’m so pleased he’s offering the opportunity again this year. Even better, it will not be for a single day, but an entire week!

What is Advent Ghosts? It’s a mass storytelling extravaganza, featuring tales of exactly 100 words. Loren opens his website to anyone who wishes to contribute a “drabble” in the tradition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, celebrating the spectral, mystical, and magical elements of the season. You can send your drabble to Loren for him to post or put it on your website and send Loren the link, which he will display on his site for readers to find.

What’s a “drabble”? According to Wikipedia, it is a story of exactly 100 words (not counting the title or author byline). Some attribute the origin to the Birmingham University’s Science Fiction Society, which took the word from Monty Python’s Big Red Book (1971). Drabble was a competition where the first person to complete a novel of 100 words won the game.

Loren Eaton

Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts isn’t a competition, but a sharing of carefully crafted very short stories. I’ve been participating since 2015, when I contributed a piece of magical realism entitled “Beneath the Decoration”:

On the mantle, the shimmering stag perched, a desperate silver spray-painted statuary, a fake gray fur secured with a lopsided satin bow looped around his neck. His glittering eyes beseeched. The jolly fat man’s nose twitched. “An indignity, even for a replica reindeer. Won’t you join my sleigh tonight?” The twinkle in Santa’s eyes loosened the beast’s frozen shoulders. Dipping his mighty head, he shook off the fur loop and pitched it from his antlers. He reared and jumped into the open sack, hearing “Ho, ho, ho” as the drawstring closed above him. Up the chimney, they escaped décor purgatory.

In 2016, I wrote a poignant tale of a first Christmas without a spouse. I called it, “Ever Here”:

The flood washed everything away, including me. At the kids’ urging, Con stayed. So, among the tangled roots that emerged from the drained lake bed, my spirit lingered. First, Con rebuilt the dock, certain of the water’s return. The construction lulled me to sleep beneath green foliage blanketing the bank. Then, I awakened among brown leaves, hearing metal clanking above. I peered around the planks and saw a lighted framework tree. We’d had one each Christmas, now for thirty-seven years. Eyes glistening as he viewed it, Con said softly, “Not evergreen, but ever here.” I stretched, yawned, and nestled deeper.

For 2021, I relied upon Icelandic folklore to come up with “The Yule Cat’s Fury”:

As Skeggr placed the candle stub on his grandmother’s tombstone, its melting wax burned his fingers.

“I’m alone without you, Amma,” he said. “I’ll receive no Christmas gift of clothing to save me from the Yule Cat’s fury.”

He heard a low growl from the shadows.

“The thirteen Yule Lads played no tricks on me. Window Watcher saw I had nothing worth stealing.”

A light flickered nearby, illuminating Candle Snatcher, who handed Skeggr a ribbon with attached bell.

Gratefully, Skeggr donned his new apparel before leaving.

Seizing the smoldering stub, Candle Snatcher whispered, “Yule Kitty, follow your collar bell’s ring.”

Last year, I returned to the nostalgic with “Traditions”:

Mom always prepared the wooden Advent calendar, placing unique treats in each drawer.

In the spring, celebrating twenty-five married years, Pop gave Mom a new engagement ring. She removed the original and told me. “Joe, this is for your bride.”

I said, “Keep it for me.”

We lost Mom unexpectedly. Auto accident. With Sheila beside me, I watched Mom’s remains guided into the mausoleum vault.

The holidays approached. Important little things went undone. Regretfully, I lifted the empty Advent calendar, not having the heart to fill it until I heard something rattle in drawer 24. Mom’s engagement ring for Sheila.

Don’t you want to join in the fun? Here are Loren Eaton’s instructions:

(1) Email me here at ISawLightningFall [at] gmail [dot] com if you’d like to participate.

(2) Pen a scary story that’s exactly 100-words long — no more, no less.

(3) Post the story to your blog anywhere from Saturday, December 16, to Friday, December 22. Hosting on ISLF is available for those without blogs or anyone who wants to write under a pseudonym. (Don’t worry, you’ll retain copyright!)

(4) Email the link of your story to me.

(5) While you should feel free to write whatever you want to, know that I reserve the right to put a content warning on any story that I think needs it.

Here’s Loren’s post announcing the event:

Here’s Loren’s link to the stories shared last year:

I hope you’ll consider participating. It’s truly a joy. Thank you, Loren, for sponsoring the event. I look forward to it each year!

A Holiday Stories Submission Opportunity

by Paula Gail Benson

The Bethlehem Writers Group (BWG)—originally begun by writers based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, known as “Christmas City , USA,” and now having members across the country—is no stranger to holiday stories. Its 2009 anthology, A Christmas Sampler: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Holiday Tales, featured stories about a mall Santa who has forgotten a child’s name (Paul Weifknecht), a woman who believes despite contrary evidence that she is pregnant (Courtney Annicchiarico), a bachelor’s Christmas traditions (Headley Hauser), a small town lawyer resolving a mystery after Santa falls from her roof three weeks before Christmas (Carol L. Wright), a deceased man who refuses to leave his beloved alone for the holiday (Ralph Hieb), and a relationship where partners differ about being ready for marriage (Emily P.W. Murphy) [story descriptions paraphrased from Amazon Kindle listing and authors of the stories indicated in parentheses]. The anthology won the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Best Short Fiction and Best Anthology.

Each year, the Bethlehem Writers Group has a short story contest. Here are the details about submitting for the 2024 contest:

“We are seeking never-published (including online or blog posts) short stories of 2,000 words or fewer on the theme: Holiday Tales. We define holiday stories as those that involve any holiday from US Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, or stories that reference those holidays. (There are many such holidays, so let your imagination fly.) While our theme is broadly interpreted, the holiday must be an important element in the story, not just referred to in passing. (DIE HARD would not be accepted!)”

This year’s celebrity judge is Marlo Berliner, the multi-award-winning, bestselling author of The Ghost Chronicles series.

Why not enjoy the 2009 BWG anthology while working on stories to submit for this year’s BWG’s contest?

Recognizing a Character’s Name in a Mystery Story

by Paula Gail Benson

Barb Goffman, writer and editor extraordinaire

Barb Goffman, whose stories have been finalists for exactly forty national crime awards, will be celebrating two nominations at San Diego’s Bouchercon. Her story “Beauty and the Beyotch,” already the winner of the Agatha Award at Malice Domestic, is among those nominated for the Anthony and Macavity.

Originally written for a themed anthology about theatre, Barb liked the final version of the story so well that she decided to submit it to major publications where it might be seen by a larger readership. Published in Issue 29 of Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Barb describes the story as “a tale about three high school girls told from two perspectives about . . . the struggle to make their deepest desires come true. What happens when those dreams collide?”

The first time I read the story, I immediately recognized one of the character’s names: Elaine Naiman, who lives in Canada and is a friend I’ve met at Malice Domestic. When I approached Elaine about an interview, she mentioned that Barb had included another name in the story, that of Joni Jackson Langevoort.

Joni explained: “Both Elaine and I learned of this opportunity for a character name in one of Barb’s stories at the Malice Domestic live charity auction; Barb asked me for a donation to my favorite local animal charity (she knew my four rescue cats and one rescue pup!), and she would use my name in a story. I did that happily, to the rescue agency where I found my beloved pup Arthur. I said she was welcome to use my full name, but because so many in the mystery community know it, she might want to use my maiden name of Jackson. I didn’t ask for any input, I felt whatever Barb wrote would be fabulous! She is an amazing short story writer, truly. And I loved the story, was so excited when it won the Agatha and have voted for it for the Macavity and Anthony awards!”

Elaine also was delighted with the outcome. She said: “Barb had a ‘Name a Character’ in an auction at Malice. I bid, but didn’t win. When I spoke to her, she told me if I made a donation to an animal charity, she’d put my name in a story. I didn’t say not to use my last name, so she used both. I didn’t have any input about the character, but I loved the story and was glad to be the ‘Beyotch.’ Usually, I’m a good person when I’m in a book.”

Joni Jackson Langevoort

I had the opportunity to ask Barb some additional questions about her story. Here are her answers:

  • Did the story idea come first or did knowing the names of the characters help inspire it?

The story idea came first. When I name a character after someone who wins naming rights at an auction (or, in this case, when two people I’m friends with bid for naming rights at an auction but lost, and I offered to name characters after them if they’d make a charitable donation), I try to use the name for an important character in the story. If the character is going to be a bad guy or a victim, I make sure to ask first if the person would mind that. Some people shudder at the idea. Others relish it.

That said, sometimes the real life person influences the character. In this case, Joni the character and Joni the person both have blond hair. I could have sworn I remembered Joni the person once having a cute pixie cut, so I gave Joni the character that hairdo. The real Joni subsequently told me I’d never seen her with that haircut. It’s a good thing I write fiction.

Elaine Naiman with a figure of Chris Pine at Rock of Ages Quarry where a Star Trek movie was shot. Elaine has photos with everyone!

  • How difficult was it to balance multiple points of view in the story?

“Beauty and the Beyotch” is told from only two points of view: Joni, a shy introvert, and Meryl, her new and more outgoing friend who is best friends with Elaine. Elaine views Joni as a strong rival for the starring role in the school play, which Elaine thinks is her due.

At first I’d thought about writing the story from the points of view of all three main characters (switching POV when scenes change), but I realized it wouldn’t work for the story I wanted to tell. When writing a crime story, you want to keep some things secret from the reader for part of the story—motives or thoughts or actions. Sometimes you can achieve that by having something happen between scenes or by having a character think something in a scene in which she’s not the POV character so the reader doesn’t see those thoughts. In the end, with this story, I thought it best to keep Elaine more removed from the reader. What we know of her comes only from what we see her do and say and what other characters think about her. We don’t see her thoughts.

Getting back to balance, it was a little difficult. Although I went back and forth, scene by scene, for most of the story (the story opens with a Joni scene; it’s followed with a Meryl scene, then a Joni scene, etc.), when I neared the end, storytelling needs dictated that the last three scenes be from Meryl’s perspective. The part of me that likes consistency remains bothered I didn’t have a Joni scene between Meryl’s final two, but I’m probably the only person who noticed or cared. Thankfully, I don’t think the story feels too weighted toward Meryl. If it did, that would have been a problem.

Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Issue 29

  • In my previous interview with you for The Stiletto Gang, you mentioned that a key scene from the story is based on a real-life experience. Could you tell us more about that?

When I was in high school, a group of girls—whom I thought were my friends—snubbed me publicly, telling me that I couldn’t sit with them at lunch anymore. It was mean and humiliating. I like to build my stories from emotions that readers can tap into. That helps make the characters—their thoughts and actions—more real and relatable. So when I decided to write a story involving high school girls, this is the memory that popped into my head, and that’s why there’s a scene in “Beauty and the Beyotch” based on that incident. When I was plotting the story, I thought about why that incident could have come about—not why the real-life girls did what they did but why my characters might act as those girls did that day and how I could build a crime story (and a coming-of-age story) around that memory. And I did.

  • Are you pleased with the reception the story has received?

Wow, yes. How could I not be? Three major award nominations for this story with one win (so far at least—fingers crossed!). I’ve heard from a bunch of readers who said they really enjoyed the story. One reader even named it his story of the week. That’s everything. I write to be read, and I write to entertain and make an impact. With “Beauty and the Beyotch,” I’ve achieved all three things. And I’ve been given the chance to reach even more readers with interviews like this, so thank you, Paula, for inviting me to do this.

Barb, Elaine, and Joni, many thanks to you all for recounting your experiences with “Beauty and the Beyotch.” For readers, if you haven’t had a chance yet, here’s a link for the story. I know you will truly enjoy it!

Macavity, Shamus, and Silver Falchion Short Story (and Other) Award Nominations

by Paula Gail Benson

The nominations for Macavity Awards, Shamus Awards, and Silver Falchion Awards have been announced for best short story or best short story collection or anthology.

The Macavity Award is named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Each year the members of Mystery Readers International nominate and vote for their favorite mysteries in five categories: Best Mystery Novel, Best First Mystery, Best Mystery Short Story, Best Non-Fiction/Critical, and the Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery. Here are the nominees for best short story:

Best Mystery Short Story:

  • Brendan DuBois: “The Landscaper’s Wife” (Mystery Tribune, Aug/Sep 2022)
  • Barb Goffman: “Beauty and the Beyotch” (Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Jan 2022)
  • Donna Moore: “First You Dream, Then You Die” (Black is the Night, Titan Books)
  • Anna Scotti: “Schrödinger, Cat” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Mar/Apr 2022)
  • Catherine Steadman: “Stockholm” (Amazon Original Stories)
  • Jess Walter: “The Angel of Rome” (in The Angel of Rome and Other Stories, Harper)
  • Melissa Yi: “My Two-Legs” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Sep/Oct 2022)

Previously, Brendan DuBois’ short stories have won three Shamus awards.

Barb Goffman’s “Beauty and the Beyotch” has been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity. It won the Agatha.

Donna Moore’s “First You Dream, Then You Die” was nominated for an Edgar.

Anna Scotti is a former journalist whose stories regularly appear in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. “Schrödinger, Cat” received a third place Ellery Queen Readers’ Choice Award.

Catherine Steadman’s “Stockholm” won the Thriller for best short story.

Jess Walter’s “The Angel of Rome” comes from his collection of stories by that title.

Melissa Yi is an emergency room doctor who writes a medical crime series as well as romance and YA.

The Private Eye Writers of America, an association of fans, writers, and publishing professionals, is devoted to elevating the private eye story from a sub-genre of mystery to a genre of its own. It categorizes private eyes as private citizens paid to investigate crimes. Private eyes may include investigators, company employees, and reporters. Each year the Private Eye Writers of America presents Shamus awards in four categories: Best PI Hardcover, Best Original PI Paperback, Best First PI Novel, and Best PI Short Story. Here are the nominees for best short story:

Best PI Short Story:

  • Lori Armstrong: “No Place for a Dame” (Edgar & Shamus Go Golden, Down and Out Books)
  • Libby Cudmore: “Charlie’s Medicine” (Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Warren Zevon, Down and Out Books)
  • O’Neil DeNoux: “A Jelly of Intrigue” (Edgar & Shamus Go Golden, Down and Out Books)
  • Carolina Garcia-Aguilera: “The Pearl of the Antilles” (Edgar & Shamus Go Golden, Down and Out Books)
  • Elliot Sweeney: “Bad Actor” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Nov/Dec 2022)

Lori Armstrong has won two Shamus awards for her novels.

Libby Cudmore writes the Martin Wade PI series for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

O’Neil DeNoux won the 2020 Shamus award for his short story “Sac-a-lait Man” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine’s Sep/Oct 2019 issue.

Born in Cuba and based in Miami, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera has been a private investigator for twenty-five years. She is known for her Lupe Solano mystery series.

Elliot Sweeney, born in London, had his debut novel The Next to Die published in February 2023.

The Silver Falchion Awards are presented annually at Killer Nashville, which takes place August 17 through 20. (Note: there is still time to register to attend the conference. Also, online voting for the Readers Choice Awards continues until midnight Tuesday, July 25.)

Here are the nominees for best short story collection or anthology:

Best Short Story Collection or Anthology:

  • Chris Chan: Of Course He Pushed Him & Other Sherlock Holmes Stories: the Complete Collection (MX Publishing; 1st edition; September 2, 2022)
  • Marianne Donley, ed.: An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue (Bethlehem Writers Group; September 27, 2022)
  • Marissa Doyle: Countess of Shadows: The Ladies of Almack’s Omnibus No. 1 (978-1-63632-094-6; November 1, 2022)
  • Catherine Jordan, ed.: That Darkened Doorstep (Hellbender Books; September 21, 2022)
  • Lindy Ryan: Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga (Black Spot Books; November 8, 2022)
  • J.B. Stevens: A Therapeutic Death: Violent Short Stories (Shotgun Honey Books; February 16, 2022)
  • J.D. Webb: Incredible Witness (Wings ePress, Inc.; June 27, 2022)

I’m very proud to be a member of the Bethlehem Writers Group and to have a story in An Element of Mystery. Debra H. Goldstein has a story in it also. Two of our other members, Dianna Sinovic and Diane Sismour, have stories in An Element of Mystery as well as in That Darkened Doorstep.

While I’m mentioning Silver Falchion nominees, let me brag on several of my Stiletto Gang blogging partners whose books placed in other categories: Debra H. Goldstein’s Five Belles Too Many was nominated for Best Cozy and Saralyn Richard’s Crystal Blue Murder and Joyce Woollcott’s A Nice Place to Die were nominated for Best Investigator.

Many great stories, collections, anthologies, and novels for your reading pleasure. Please enjoy!

A Gathering in Charleston, South Carolina

by Paula Gail Benson

82 Queen

This year, I had been regretting my inability to attend any writing conferences. Being among writers and readers always helps to inspire and bring new ideas into focus. Not to mention, adding to my “to be read” list.

A few months ago, I heard from a dear friend to so many of us, Dru Ann Love, that she would be coming to Charleston, South Carolina, to tour the city with friends. Could some of us who lived nearby join them for lunch one day?

My work schedule kept changing, so I wasn’t certain until the last minute that I could join the group. I asked my friend Sue Husman, a retired librarian and voracious reader, if she would ride with me from Columbia to Charleston.

For lunch, we had a reservation at 82 Queen, described on its website as “a uniquely ‘Charleston’ dining experience” in “three buildings and a garden courtyard nestled in the Historic French Quarter.” I had not been there in decades, but I knew it would be delightful and memorable.

As we left the Municipal Garage, we ran into Jackie Layton, who writes “cozy mysteries with Spunky Southern Sleuths,” including the Low Country Dog Walker and the new Texas Flower Farmer Cozy Mysteries, which will debut in July. I was impressed to learn that Jackie combines writing with being a part-time pharmacist. She lives in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and her website is Sue, Jackie, and I took a few minutes to peruse Buxton Books on King Street before heading to 82 Queen.

We dined upstairs in a room wallpapered with images of green parrots. Dru Ann was our most gracious host, introducing us to her friends, Yifat Cestare from New York and Marla Husovsky from California. Since meeting, they had traveled to join each other at several destinations for exploration, food, and fun. Yifat explained the number one requirement was laughing a lot. We were glad to comply.

My lunch: tomato pie and salad. YUM.

Dru Ann made sure we knew about each of the authors. Tina Whittle and Nora McFarland had traveled from Savannah, Georgia.

In addition to short fiction, Tina Whittle writes the Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver mysteries that feature gunshop owner Tai and corporate security agent Trey. She reads tarot and enjoys boxing, sushi, and mini pilgrimages. Her website is

Nora McFarland has an MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and has worked in national (CNN) and local news. Her protagonist is Lily Hawkins, a TV News photographer who lives and sleuths in Bakersfield, California. Nora’s website is

Pralines and Cream Ice Cream for Dessert!

Dorothy McFalls and I always joke that we only meet when traveling to writing conventions. We have both been members of the Lowcountry Romance Writers (chapter of RWA), based in Charleston. Dorothy’s a Charleston resident who writes romance and mysteries. She has two websites: and Her mysteries include the White House Gardener, the Southern Chocolate Shop, and the Beloved Bookroom series.

Everyone was very supportive of my short stories, including “Crossfire in the Crosshairs” available in eBook A Death in the Night to be released in August by Dragon Soul Press. You can pre-order here.

Dru Ann had her own happy news that was announced at Malice Domestic. She and Kristopher Zgorski have collaborated to write a short story for a Beatles related anthology that will be edited by Josh Pachter. We are all very excited to read their work. Meanwhile, we’ll be following Dru Ann’s reading adventures at

The group with something above!

We had a fabulous time, enjoying great food and conversation. One of the topics was about staying in haunted places. I noticed in the photo our server took that a shiny figure seems to float above us. Some might call it a reflection from the light fixture, but I wonder!

Many thanks to everyone involved in this wonderful day. Dru Ann, Yifat, and Marla, don’t you think you could make Charleston an annual destination?

Anthony Nominations for Best Short Story and Best Anthology

by Paula Gail Benson

Bouchercon Poster

This year’s Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, will be held in San Diego, California, from August 30 through September 3. The Anthony awards, named for Anthony Boucher, a founder of the Mystery Writers of America, will be announced during the convention.

Categories for Best Short Story and Best Anthology are included among the nominations.

Earlier this year, Barb Goffman’s story, “Beauty and the Beyotch” was nominated for and won the Agatha award at Malice Domestic. In addition, Barb’s stories appear in two of the nominated anthologies: Low Down Dirty Vote Volume 3: The Color of My Vote and Land of 10,000 Thrills: Bouchercon Anthology 2022.

Greg Herren is multiply nominated for Anthony’s with his A Streetcar Named Murder (credited to T. G. Herren) for Best Humorous Novel, his #shedeservedit for Best Children’s/YA Novel (previously nominated for an Agatha), and his editing of Land of 10,000 Thrills: Bouchercon Anthology 2022 in the Best Anthology category.

All the authors nominated in these categories have had distinguished writing careers. Their work is definitely to be included on your “to be read” lists.

Here are this year’s Best Short Story and Best Anthology Anthony Nominees:


Anthony Nominees for Best Short Story

“Still Crazy After All These Years” by E.A. Aymar in Paranoia Blues: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Paul Simon

“The Impediment” by Bruce Robert Coffin in Deadly Nightshade: Best New England Crime Stories 2022

“Beauty and the Beyotch” by Barb Goffman in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Feb. 2022

“The Estate Sale” by Curtis Ippolito in Vautrin Magazine, Summer 2022

“C.O.D.” by Gabriel Valjan in Low Down Dirty Vote Volume 3: The Color of My Vote


Anthony Nominees for Best Anthology

Low Down Dirty Vote Volume 3: The Color of My Vote edited by Mysti Berry

Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Warren Zevon edited by Libby Cudmore and Art Taylor

Land of 10,000 Thrills: Bouchercon Anthology 2022 edited by Greg Herren

Paranoia Blues: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Paul Simon edited by Josh Pachter

Crime Hits Home: A Collection of Stories from Crime Fiction’s Top Authors edited by S.J. Rozan

And the Short Story Nominees Are . . .

by Paula Gail Benson

It’s awards season and short stories are having a great year! The Leftys (from Left Coast Crime) do not have a short story category, but the nominees for the Edgars (Mystery Writers of America), Agathas (Malice Domestic), and Thrillers (International Thriller Writers) have been announced. In April, we should hear the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer nominations, then later will come the Anthonys (Bouchercon), Macavities (Mystery Readers International), and Silver Falchions (Killer Nashville).

Meanwhile, here are the current lists. It’s interesting that the Edgars had three nominees from Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine while the Thrillers had three from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Barb Goffman, a terrific short story author whose work is always award-worthy, has two different stories nominated. Particularly of note is that Catherine Steadman’s Original Amazon Story was tapped in the Thriller short story category.

Happy reading, everyone!


Edgar Nominees:

Best Short Story

“Red Flag,” by Gregory Falls (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine)

“Backstory,” by Charles John Harper (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine)

“Locked-In,” by William Burton McCormick (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine)

“The Amnesty Box,” by Tim McLoughlin, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (Akashic Books)

“First You Dream, Then You Die,” by Donna Moore, Black is the Night (Titan Books)


Agatha Nominees:

Best Short Story

“Beauty and the Beyotch,” by Barb Goffman (Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine)

“There Comes a Time,” by Cynthia Kuhn, Malice Domestic Murder Most Diabolical (Wildside Press)

“Fly Me to the Morgue,” by Lisa Q Mathews, Malice Domestic Mystery Most Diabolical (Wildside Press)

“The Minnesota Twins Meet Bigfoot,” by Richie Narvaez, Land of 10,000 Thrills: Bouchercon Anthology (Down & Out Books)

“The Invisible Band,” by Art Taylor, Edgar & Shamus Go Golden (Down & Out Books)


Thriller Nominees:

Best Short Story

“Russian for Beginners,” Dominique Bibeau (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)

“The Gift,” Barb Goffman, Land of 10,000 Thrills: Bouchercon Anthology (Down & Out Books)

“Publish or Perish,” Smita Harish Jain (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)

“33 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister,” Joyce Carol Oates (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)

“Schrödinger, Cat,” Anna Scotti (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)

“Stockholm,” Catherine Steadman (Amazon Original Stories)