Tag Archive for: Barb Goffman

New Year’s Resolution: Read a Short Story a Day

by Paula Gail Benson

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope it has been healthy, comfortable, and prosperous for all.

Barb Goffman

If you are still considering resolutions and have any interest in short story craft, may I suggest a recommendation by well-known, award winning writer and editor Barb Goffman? Why not read a short story a day? Debra H. Goldstein has already made an excellent suggestion to get started: the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime’s latest anthology, Hook, Line, and Sinker. In addition, there are plenty of online and periodic publications to choose from, all featuring outstanding authors. Many of the Sisters in Crime Chapters have organized and released anthologies to showcase their members and give newer authors a chance not only for a writing credit, but also to learn how to promote their work.

Even if you are not interested in writing the short form, seeing how it is put together can help you strengthen skills for longer efforts. With a short story, characters, setting, and mood must be established quickly, in only a few carefully chosen words. It has to be wrapped up concisely, without leaving loose ends or unsatisfied questions. Those elements are important for novellas and novels, too. Figuring out how to develop a story and keep a reader engaged is a primary focus for shorts.

If you are interested in writing short stories, please consider the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable’s Annual Short Story Contest. This year, submissions must include a holiday element, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. They must be 2000 words or less and submitted as provided in the description of rules. An entry fee of $15 is required for each submission. The top awards are: First Place, $200 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s anthology Season’s Readings; Second Place, $100 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s online quarterly, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable; and Third Place, $50 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.

Maybe the best news about the contest is that this year’s celebrity judge is Barb Goffman. Here’s a link with an interview where Barb talks about the most appealing aspect of writing short stories, how her careers as a journalist and lawyer have influenced her writing, what some of the most frequent mistakes she sees writers make, and what’s her best advice for submitting to an anthology or contest.

Start you New Year right: reading and writing shorts!

Short Story Month and a Diabolical Treat

by Paula Gail Benson

In World News ERA, Ashleigh
Durden wrote an article
is May Short Story Month?”
that delves into the history and practices to
celebrate short fiction. She traces declaring May short story month to Dan
Wickett, the founder and editor of the Emerging Writers Network (EWN), who on
April 7, 2007, posted an article suggesting a short story month, just as April
had been designated National Poetry Month. That following May, Wickett read and
reviewed a short story a day. Due to reader enthusiasm, the next year it
increased to two stories a day and in the third year to three stories a day.

Meanwhile, writers were urged
to set a goal of the number of stories they would write during the month.
StoryADay.org continues
this tradition with suggestions for short stories to read and prompts and advice
about writing short stories.

Earlier this month, on May 9,
Malice Domestic released its latest anthology,
Mystery Most Diabolical, published by Wildside Press and edited by
Verna Rose, Rita Simmons and Shawn Reilly Simmons.

Art Taylor featured three of
the stories in his The First Two Pages:
in the Planning”
by Marco Carocari, “There
Comes a Time”
by Cynthia Kuhn, and “Fly
Me to the Moon”
by Lisa Q. Mathews.

In addition, Barb Goffman, winner of the Agatha Award twice as well as the Macavity,
Silver Falchion, and 2020 Readers Award given by 
Ellery Queen’s Mystery
, described her story, “Go Big or Go Home,” in her Sleuthsayers post “Everything
is Fodder”
, where she explains how almost any irritation can lead to a
mystery short story.

Contributors to the anthology
include editor, Edgar nominee, and Derringer award winner Michael Bracken; Agatha
and Thriller award winner Alan Orloff; Agatha nominees Alexia Gordon, Cynthia Kuhn, and Keenan
Powell; Al Blanchard award winner Mary Dutta; and Margaret Lucke who wrote an
excellent craft book,
Schaum’s Quick Guide to
Writing Great Short Stories

I’m proud and humbled to have
my story included with those of many accomplished and distinguished writers.
Here’s a complete list:

Leah Bailey · “A Killer in the Family

Paula Gail Benson · “Reputation or Soul”

M. A. Blum · “Little White Lies”

Michael Bracken · “Locked Mesa

Susan Breen · “The Demon Valentine”

Marco Carocari · “All in the Planning

Mary Dutta · “Devil’s Advocate”

Christine Eskilson · “The Reunion

Nancy Gardner · “Death’s Door”

Barb Goffman · “Go Big or Go Home

Alexia Gordon · “Happy Birthday”

B. J. Graf · “Servant of the Place of Truth

Maurissa Guibord · “Into the Devil’s Den”

Victoria Hamilton · “Reunion with the Devil”

Kerry Hammond · “Strangers at a Table”

Peter W. J. Hayes · “The Ice House”

Smita Harish Jain · “Keeping Up with the Jainses”

Cynthia Kuhn · “There Comes a Time”

Margaret Lucke · “The Devil’s-Work Ball”

Sharon Lynn · “The Professor’s Lesson”

Tim Maleeny · “A Cure For Madness”

Lisa Q. Mathews · “Fly Me to the Morgue”

Adam Meyer · “Crime Rate”

Alan Orloff · “There Once Was a Man Named Larue”

Keenan Powell · “Miss Millie Munz”

Graham Powell · “A Rough Idea”

Lori Robbins · “Accidents Happen”

Cynthia Sabelhaus · “Exegesis”

Nancy Cole Silverman · “The Case of the Sourdough

Shawn Reilly Simmons · “The Devil’s in the Details”

C. J. Verburg · “A Terrible Tragedy”

Andrea Wells · “Taking Umbrage

Here’s a little about the
background for my story, “Reputation or Soul.” When I saw the call for
Mystery Most Diabolical, I looked up “diabolical”
in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It had a note about the origins of
the term, from the Greek “diabolos” that means “slanderer.” Usually,
“diabolical” is associated with the devil. I began thinking about a trade off:
if given a choice, which might a person be willing to live with–losing a soul
or having a maligned reputation?

I started with an image
of a jilted bride, sitting in a turret room in the church, knowing with certainty
that her groom had skipped the ceremony as well as stealing a substantial sum
of money. I was certain the bride remained calm about this occurrence and
equally certain that her younger brother, the narrator of the story, was
completely puzzled about her response.

Together, they went to
visit their abusive father, now confined in a nursing home. The father berated
them, but the sister spoke kindly to him without telling him about the runaway
groom. Then, the sister asked her brother to go with her on her honeymoon trip,
to a location where she expected the groom might resurface.

Whose action will hurt
most? In a scenario where almost everyone has a reason to seek revenge, will it
occur and what will be the consequence?

There are still a few more days left in the
short story month of May 2022. Why not check out the stories in
Mystery Most Diabolical? 

Celebrating the 2022 Agatha Nominated Authors for Best First Novel and Best Short Story

by Paula Gail Benson


Next weekend, after a two year absence,
a group of devoted readers and writers will gather in Bethesda, Maryland, to
celebrate the traditional mystery at Malice Domestic. Each year, it
s been a great
privilege for me to interview the Agatha nominees for Best First Novel and Best
Short Story.
Through this message, please enjoy meeting or reacquainting
yourself with these wonderful authors
, and dont forget to click on
the links to read the nominated short stories!


Congratulations to all the nominees and
thank you for spending time with us at The Stiletto Gang!


Best First Novel
The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker (Level Best Books)
A Dead Man’s Eyes by Lori Duffy Foster (Level Best
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (Berkley)
Murder in the Master by Judy L. Murray (Level Best
Mango, Mambo, and Murder by Raquel V. Reyes (Crooked
Lane Books)


What has been
your most unexpected experience with the publication of your first novel?


Mally Becker


The nomination of The Turncoat’s Widow for an Agatha Award
in the “best debut” category is one of the most unexpected and humbling
experiences of my life. I am honored beyond belief, and the nomination still
doesn’t feel real.

Beyond that, I am
gobsmacked by how much kindness has come my way in the wake of writing and
publishing this book. There were historians and curators who gave their time
gratis, authors (you know who you are)
who shared their wisdom and support freely, and family, friends, librarians,
and strangers who took the time to reach out and send good wishes.

Each act of kindness feels like a moment of grace,
reminding me that, even in this time
of discord, there is a tremendous amount of goodness in the world. That
revelation has been the most unexpected, welcome surprise of all.


Book promotion has been much more time-consuming than I
had expected, but what has surprised me most is the level of support I have
experienced from my local community. There are huge advantages to living in a
rural area. We are spread-out, but we are also tight knit. Everybody really
does know everybody even if they are separated by ten or fifteen miles. I
expected some support, but not like this. Everywhere I go, people ask when the
next novel is releasing. I feel like they are honestly happy for me. I am truly


Mia P. Manansala


I wrote this book after the previous novel I’d written failed on
Arsenic and Adobo was meant to be a book for me and my mom,
who’d introduced me to the world of cozy mysteries in the first place. So the
fact that something I wrote for mostly personal reasons has managed to connect
with so many people is amazing and completely unexpected.


Gaining an Agatha Award nomination for Best First Novel is an
absolute, unpredicted thrill. I’m so, so honored to be a part of this legacy of
talented writers. I discovered an amazing community of people open to helping
each other grow. I need to do the same in return.

I recently held a two-hour book talk and the joy and fun of
discovering how much
Murder in the Master readers were totally engaged
in my characters’ lives was fantastic. They laughed and questioned and probed.

Raquel V. Reyes

I’d add that for Murder in the Master, launching the
storyline with a murder in the first paragraph was a big leap. Pure instinct. Thank
goodness so many readers love that opening! I also deliberated, with a whole
lot of angst, about the concept of creating my squad of favorite, famous
sleuths to help my protagonist investigate the crime. Readers love it.
They enjoy seeing these
favorites bring their crime solving talents and uniqueness into a current day
mystery. They’ve also told me Helen’s personality has struck a chord. She’s
quick-witted and likes to verbally spar, especially with her possible love
interest, and readers are cheering her along. Overall, I’d like
to encourage other writers to get their
creativity down on paper. Don’t allow, like I did, life’s practicalities to
delay their writing.


In my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined that Mango, Mambo, and Murder would get a NYT
Book Review.


Best Short Story
A Family Matter by
Barb Goffman (
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine Jan/Feb
A Tale of Two Sisters by
Barb Goffman in 
Murder on the
Docs at Midnight by
Richie Narvaez in 
Midnight Hour (Crooked
Lane Books)
The Locked Room Library by
Gigi Pandian (
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine July/Aug
Bay of Reckoning by
Shawn Reilly Simmons in 
Murder on the
 (Destination Murders)


How do you create realistic
antagonists in short stories?


Barb Goffman


The process for creating a realistic antagonist is the same as the
process for creating a realistic protagonist and other characters. Think about
their feelings, their motivations, and their emotional needs, because it’s
these things that prompt each character’s actions.

One good way to do this is to put yourself in the characters’
shoes, which will allow you to see the situation in question from their
perspectives. With this insight, you should be able to have each character act
and react as real people would and also act differently from one another.

In “A Tale of Two Sisters,” Robin is strong while her sister, the
bride, is anxious. Robin is determined to ensure the night goes well for Emma.
It’s that motivation that prompts her actions throughout the story. If Robin
were anxious too, the story would have unfolded quite differently.

Similarly, in “A Family Matter,” Doris reacts negatively to
the family that moves in next door, not because she’s a mean person but because
she believes it’s vital that this family not bring the neighborhood down. If
Doris were more low-key, like another neighbor, Audrey, she would have reacted
differently to things the new neighbors did. As a result, she wouldn’t have
discovered a certain secret, and the story would have had a very different

So, given that characters could act differently in any situation,
it’s imperative for the author to understand who each character is, what
motivates him or her, and think about how those motivations come into play with
every action. This applies whether the character is the protagonist,
antagonist, or even a sidekick.



The same as you would a protagonist: Make them as
tangible as possible. Does he have a favorite flavor of ice cream, a certain
way of speaking, a pet cockatoo? Little details help the reader see them as
more than just cartoony two-dimensional people. And we should know their
motivations. Most of us are happy to pay rent and vacation once in a while, but
what makes this person want to kidnap, murder, lie, steal, take over the world?


“Doc’s at Midnight” is fairly short, so we don’t get to hang out with the antagonists for very
long, but when we do we get their motivation, and we see how it is anchored in
a decades-old pain that echoes the struggle that the two main characters are
going through, attempting to review and recover from the past.


Gigi Pandian


Such an interesting question! For me, in a short story it’s
the puzzle itself that’s the antagonist, more than any particular person. The
motive of the person behind the crime needs to be realistic, but I’m far more
interested in creating a satisfying locked-room puzzle that makes the reader
smile at the end of the story because the solution is both surprising and



To me finding conflict between characters is one of the
easier parts of writing. We’re all wired differently, all based on how we were
raised and our life experiences since. The potential for conflict to arise is,
unfortunately, all around us on a daily basis. My process is to think about how
that character feels about a certain situation, and why they may have an issue,
based on their beliefs or a perceived slight or outright injustice they feel
has happened to them. It’s fun for me to think how a character might think, and
have them react in a way that might be surprising in the face of


Now, a question for all the nominees:

What shoes
would your protagonist (or another character in your book or story) wear to the
Agatha Banquet?



Becca will wear the kitten-heeled satin slippers that
Martha Washington gave her just the other day. The shoes are cobalt blue, shot
through with shimmering metallic threads and topped with silver buckles. Lady
Washington, as she was known, loves shoes and occasionally gifts them to
special friends. After all the unpleasantness last winter–the less said about
that, the better–Becca certainly qualifies as one of those special friends.


Lori Duffy Foster


Boots, of course! Lisa would want to look good, but she
would also want to be super comfortable. To settle her nerves, you know? So she
would choose a pair of leather cowboy boots, probably light brown with a simple
design, with about a one-inch heel. It be a pair she has worn often enough to
break in, but not so often that they are scuffed or worn-looking. Lisa loves
boots. She lives in them.



This is tough because my protagonist is way, WAY more fashionable
than me. She favors dark color palettes and stacked heels, so I’m picturing
glittery or velvety black wedges that lace up and have fun, sexy cut-outs. Her
mom taught her about couture and famous designers when she was younger, but she
cares less about brand names and more about the style and vibe of a design.



No question, Helen would wear four-inch heels, maybe red. She’d
be taking her fashion direction from Nora Charles and Agatha Raisin, who both
know how to sashay across a room. Unfortunately, for me personally, those heels
have been shoved to the back of my closet. Too many years of heels for work
have turned my feet into pretzels. I can hear Jane Marple tsk- tsking in my


Judy L. Murray


My protagonist, Miriam Quiñones, a Cuban-American food anthropologist
turned cooking show star, is on the practical side—so, probably a simple,
classic pump. But if her BFF, Alma, had anything to do with it, Miriam would
wear a stylish and strappy shoe with some tasteful bling to it. 



Robin in “A Tale of Two Sisters” would wear flats. At her last
fancy affair, she had to wear heels and they made her evening even more
difficult. It’s hard to chase a dog when you’re in heels. So, she wouldn’t make
that mistake again. After all, who knows if a dog will crash the Agatha banquet

Doris from “A Family Matter” would wear shoes with a narrow,
pointy toe and a tall heel. They were the stylish choice for women in the
spring of 1962, and Doris is all about projecting the right image, which means
she must wear the right thing.


Great question! Well, the protagonist of “Doc’s at Midnight,” is actually a character
from the 1961 movie West Side Story, Chino, but he’s older now and not
flush with cash. So I think he would wear something that harkens back to his
past, but not expensive—so, Capezio lace-up dance shoes in faux leather
featuring one-inch heels with suede-covered bottoms for shock absorption. In
black. Used, but buffed to a shine.

Richie Narvaez


Sanjay would be wearing his signature tuxedo and bowler
hat, which he wears when he performs on stage as The Hindi Houdini.



Sabrina Westfall, the protagonist in my story, is a
former beauty queen, so she would wear heels, but she’s also very sensible and
practical, so they would be modest and elegant, much like her. She’d also have
an updo and be wearing a lovely gown, chin up and toe turned out for photos
(she’s media trained!). 


Shawn Reilly Simmons


Mally Becker combines her love of history and
crime fiction in mysteries that feature strong, independent heroines. In
addition to being nominated for a 2022 Agatha Award, The Turncoat’s Widow has also been named a Mystery & Mayhem
finalist in the Chanticleer International Book Awards. The next book in her
series will be published in June 2022 by Level Best Books.



Duffy Foster

Lori Duffy Foster is a former crime reporter who writes
fiction and nonfiction from the hills of Northern Pennsylvania, where she lives
with her husband and four children. She was born and raised in the Adirondack
Mountains of New York State, where a part of her heart remains.



Mia P. Manansala is a writer
and book coach from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She
uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness,
and her millennial love for pop culture.


L. Murray is a real estate broker with a not-so-secret passion for deals,
divas, and danger. Her passion for mysteries began with smart girls like Nancy
Drew and Trixie Belden, grew deeper with not-to-be-ignored women like Miss
Marple and Nora Charles, and finally evolved into her own gutsy heroine – Helen

Raquel V. Reyes writes stories with Latina characters. Her
Cuban-American heritage, Miami, and the Caribbean feature prominently in her
work. Raquel is a co-chair for SleuthFest. 

Barb Goffman, a short story author and a
freelance crime-fiction editor, has won the Agatha Award twice and has also
taken home the Macavity, Silver Falchion, and 2020 Readers Award given by 
Queen’s Mystery Magazine
. She’s been a finalist for major crime-writing
awards thirty-five times for her stories, including sixteen Agatha Award
nominations (a category record), and multiple nominations for the Anthony,
Macavity, and Derringer awards. 

Richie Narvaez is the
award-winning author of the collection
 Roachkiller and Other
 the gentrification thriller Hipster Death Rattle, and
the historical YA mystery 
Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco.
His latest book is the collection 

Gigi Pandian is a USA
 bestselling mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and
locked-room mystery enthusiast. Gigi is a co-founder of Crime Writers of Color,
and she writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, Accidental Alchemist
mysteries, and Secret Staircase Mysteries, beginning with
Under Lock & Skeleton Key—which came out in March 2022. https://www.gigipandian.com/

​Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of seven
novels in the Red Carpet Catering mystery series featuring Penelope Sutherland,
chef-owner of a movie set catering company. She’s also written short stories
which have been published in various anthologies. Shawn serves on the Board of
Malice Domestic and is co-owner/publisher/editor at Level Best

Better Than Christmas! – Mystery in the Midlands is coming!

 Better than Christmas! –
Mystery in the Midlands is coming!  by Debra
H Goldstein

 Mystery in the Midlands is coming virtually, and I can’t


Last year, over nine hundred (you read that right – over 900)
readers and authors attended the virtual four and one-half hour Crowdcast conference
co-sponsored by Southeast Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA) and the Palmetto
Chapter of Sisters in Crime. The line-up, led by Charlaine Harris was
phenomenal —- but in some ways, for me, this year is even more exciting.


Why?  Because I’m a die-hard
fan of every panelist and I’m getting to interview the keynoter, Dr. Kathy
Reichs. Who hasn’t seen Bones, the television show that was based upon her
books and her life? As if it wasn’t a thrill to be interviewing her, I’ve been
given the extra treat of being able to read an advance copy of her upcoming
book, The Bone Code. You can bet it will be one of the things we’ll be

Dana Kaye will be moderating Mystery in the Midlands’ steaming
three panels: Searing Suspense, Hot for Historicals, and Scorching Short Stories.
How can you go wrong with hearing Robert Dugoni, Yasmin Angoe, Alex Segura,
Laurie R. King, Caroline Todd, Lori Rader-Day, Barb Goffman, Michael Bracken,
and Frankie Y. Bailey – especially when the entire cost (merely to defray
expenses) is $5 (once again, yes, you read that right – simply five dollars)? Look
at their pictures below, but don’t close your browser. Hurry and guarantee your
spot by registering now! https://www.crowdcast.io/e/mystery-in-the-midlands-2/register
 #Mystery in the Midlands

Partners in Crime: Operation Anthology (#giveaway!)


Partners in Crime: you’ve heard of Thelma and Louise, Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Today, we’d like to introduce a new type of criminal duo, Cathy Wiley and Karen Cantwell. Working together, they’re publishing the soon-to-be-released cozy short story anthology MURDER ON THE BEACH. Welcome to Stiletto Gang, Karen and Cathy!

We’d like to share with you the pros and cons of working with a writing and publishing partner.

First a little history: we originally met in an online forum sometime in 2010. Later, we were surprised to learn we were both members of the same chapter of Sisters in Crime, and therefore neighbors (well, Virginia and Maryland), after having stories accepted in the chapter anthology.  From there, we became fans of each other’s work, as well as good friends. In 2020, Karen had the bright idea of publishing a themed anthology of short stories, and Cathy was one of the first people she approached. After brainstorming ideas, we thought this would be an easier task if we worked as partners.


So, let’s get to those pros and cons…


We’re not going to state the obvious, like “you can share the workload.” Unless your partner is that slacker kid from your tenth-grade group project, that should be the case.

We soon learned there are other pros beyond shared workload. 



You have someone to bounce ideas off of. This might sound like another duh moment, but it’s amazing how creativity flourishes when two people share ideas. Even the theme and title, MURDER ON THE BEACH, as well as the concept of making it a series came from bouncing ideas back and forth.  


Working together is more fun than working alone; we meet at least once a week (virtually) and our meetings are often filled with laughter.



Money is involved for cover design, ads, etc. When it’s your own money, it’s your own risk. When you are working with someone else, (not just the two of us, but all eight authors in the anthology who will be sharing profits), it feels harder to take risks.

Finding the time to meet or discuss: Cathy is a night owl and Karen is an early bird. That sometimes made it hard to communicate, since Cathy would have a brainstorm at night, then have to wait until the next morning when she’d read Karen’s reply. Likewise, Karen would write an email early morning, then have to wait hours before Cathy would wake up (and get her coffee).


Things to watch out for if you are thinking of partnering with someone, whether it be for an anthology or co-authoring a novel:


It really helps to like the other person. You’re going to spend A LOT of time with each other, and like some couples found out during this pandemic, it helps if you enjoy that time together.


Whether you like them or not, you have to be able to be honest with each other and communicate well. This isn’t the time for white lies—like saying you enjoyed the ending of that first draft of the blog post when you really meant you were just happy that the blog post had ended.


You also have to trust the other person and know their vision, especially if other people are involved, like with this anthology. If one of the other authors asked a question, it would take forever if we had to consult with each other before answering. 


Finally, don’t take it too seriously. Is it a lot of work? Sure. Everything is. But ultimately, while working your buns off, have fun with the process, talk often, laugh more. You know—like life, it’s all what you put into it.


MURDER ON THE BEACH is the first in the new Destination Murders anthology series, coming out on May 28, 2021. It’s now available for a special pre-order price of 99 cents. 


In addition to stories by Karen and Cathy, there are also short stories from Ritter Ames, Lucy Carol, Barb Goffman, Eleanor Cawood Jones, Shari Randall, and Shawn Reilly Simmons.


Karen Cantwell grew up on heavy doses of I Love Lucy and The Carol Burnett Show. She loves to laugh as much as she loves bringing laughter to the world. A USA Today bestselling author, Karen writes the Barbara Marr Murder Mystery series, the Sophie Rhodes Ghostly Romance books, and currently has a new humorous series under construction. When she isn’t writing, Karen can be found wandering aimlessly, wondering why she isn’t writing. To learn more, visit KarenCantwell.com and If you are on Facebook, join her @KarenCantwellAuthor.


Cathy Wiley lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, with one spoiled cat and an equally spoiled husband. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. She’s written two mystery novels set in Baltimore, Maryland, and has had several short stories included in anthologies, one of which was a 2015 finalist for a Derringer Award.

She is currently working on a series featuring Jackie Norwood, a former celebrity chef trying to reboot her career. The first novel, CLAWS OF DEATH, will be published in the fall of this year. For more information about this series and her other books, and to sign up for her newsletter, visit www.cathywiley.com. You can also visit her author page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CathyWileyAuthor


Ready for MURDER ON THE BEACH? One lucky commenter will win a digital copy of this fun cozy mystery anthology. Just tell us, what’s your favorite kind of book to read on the beach?





An Interview with the Authors of the 2020 Agatha Short Story Nominees!

by Paula Gail Benson

year, it is such a delight for me to welcome the authors whose short stories
have been nominated for the Agatha award, presented at Malice Domestic. This
year, the event may have been postponed, but that’s no reason not to celebrate the authors and their nominated stories! These authors are not only expert at the craft of short story writing, but
also dear friends. Their nominated stories offer the depth and emotion that
fine storytelling always evokes. Please take time to read each of the stories at
the following links:
“Grist for
the Mill”
Kaye George in A Murder of Crows (Darkhouse Books)
“Alex’s Choice” by Barb Goffman in Crime
Travel (Wildside Press)
The Blue
 by Cynthia Kuhn in Malice
Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible (Wildside Press)
“The Last
 by Shawn Reilly Simmons, Malice
Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible (Wildside Press)
 by Art Taylor in Ellery
Queen Mystery Magazine
Kaye, Barb, Cynthia, Shawn, and Art to the Stiletto Gang!
How do you decide the point of view or who
will tell your short story?
Kaye George
theme of the anthology was animal group names. You know, those odd ones, like a
Murder of Crows (not coincidentally, the name of the anthology)? I looked up a
bunch and discovered a Grist of Bees. I got the go-ahead to use that group and
so my MC had to be a beekeeper.
is usually an organic issue for me. I don’t come up with a plot and then think
about who would be the best person to tell the story. My stories are character
driven, so once I know a character’s story—his/her situation that I want to
tell—the point of view to use has already been decided. This was true of my
Agatha-nominated story “Alex’s Choice.” That said, sometimes for a story to
work, I need to tell it from multiple perspectives, so I do so. (You may be
thinking, stories with multiple POV from Barb? I don’t recall those stories.
That’s true. They haven’t been published—yet!)
Cynthia Kuhn
to depend on the story—some require access to the protagonist’s perspective and
some require more distance.
Reilly Simmons:
me every story is different, but I do tend to focus on one POV of a character
with a strong motivation to move the story forward. For this particular story,
the character driving the story has a strong motivation to take inventory of
his friendship with one of his oldest acquaintances.
I’ve used a variety of
points of view across my stories—both in terms of prose point-of-view (I, you,
he, she) and in terms of character (a detective’s perspective, a criminal’s,
whoever’s). The narrator of “Better Days” is a journalist who was downsized
from a major newspaper and has picked up a job at a small coastal North
Carolina newspaper—in the same town where his father now lives, father and son
both trying to build better relations in the years since the narrator’s mother
died. That father-son relationship is core to the story, and it was important
for me to show that relationship through the eyes of the son—both some of the
frustrations about the relationship and also some redemption too. While the
narrator sets out to investigate the crime here, the dad is the one who steps forward
as the detective solving the case—not quite a Watson-Sherlock relationship, but
certainly echoes of that, and there are many reasons that Watson is the
narrator of the Sherlock stories, of course.
Each of your stories take place in a
unique “universe” that becomes an important part of the plot. Which came first,
your characters or the setting, or, if they were somehow melded, how?
characters were first, and the setting is just their homes and yards in
Anywhere USA. I think people have backyard gardens and keep bees in a lot of
places, so I didn’t specify where it is, exactly. I’d love for the reader to
imagine this is their town.
Barb Goffman
for me. Sometime in the year before I wrote my story, I read a newspaper
article about a tragedy involving a California family. They had been on the
beach, and after their dog went into the ocean and didn’t come out, the father
went in to save him. When he didn’t come out, another family member went in
after him, and it went on and on until they all were gone—only the dog
survived, eventually crawling out from the water. It was a horrendous
occurrence, and I wished I could change things for those poor people. And then
my beloved dog Scout died, and I wanted to bring him back. Both of these terrible
events were the springboard for my story “Alex’s Choice,” which involves a
couple who die in the ocean after their dog is swept away. Thanks to time
travel, their child has the chance to go back and change what happened but is
unexpectedly forced to make a choice that no one—let alone a child—should have
to make.
“The Blue Ribbon,” the setting came first—in fact, the moment that I read the
description of the anthology project, the bakery and competition popped into my
head. It doesn’t usually happen that vividly; typically I only get a wisp of an
idea that has to be coaxed out of hiding.
Shawn Reilly Simmons
Reilly Simmons:
was both in my case—for “The Last Word” I wanted the setting to be a high end
restaurant in New York City, a location I can picture very well from my own
experiences of living and working there, and a chef who is seasoned enough to
have been through the ups and downs of a culinary career—praise, wealth,
hunger, professional jealousy, failure. Maybe it’s because I wrote this story
very quickly, but the setting and characters came to me simultaneously, I
Art Taylor

“Better Days” is the
sequel to an earlier story that was also set on the North Carolina coast: “A
Drowning at Snow’s Cut.” To that end, characters and setting both were already
in place for the new story. But I will say that setting helped to determine to
a great degree what happens here: a coastal town, a newcomer on a big yacht,
the cocktail bar where this newcomer begins to move in on one of the local
women, and then the narrator interested in the same woman—relatively new to the
area himself and still trying to make peace with his life after having been
laid off at the big-city newspaper. Character, plot, and place come together
here in key ways.

If you had a spirit animal, what would it
Kaye George:
kind of beautiful bird. I’m afraid of heights and would love to be able to soar
like they do. Maybe a hawk or an eagle.
had to look up what a spirit animal is. I’ll go with the badger, whose
attributes apparently include focus on the task at hand, self-reliance,
persistence, and strategy.
psychic told me that my spirit animal was a butterfly; another said it was a
giraffe. Still confused.
Reilly Simmons:
had no idea so I just took an online quiz! The result: I’m a Turtle: The turtle
totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with
determination and serenity. Yeah, that sounds about right. While I do have a
lot on my plate, I do keep a Zen attitude about it, and am always seeking
balance in all things….I’ll take Turtle any day.
I took two quizzes to
try to figure this one out. The first determined that my spirit animal was a
whale, because I listen to inner voices and embrace my emotions. The
second said that it should be a snake, because I’m “powerfully connected
to life force and primal energy.” Also, my sign is Pisces, and my Myers-Briggs
is INFJ. Somewhere in all that, that’s where you’ll find me.
shoes will you (or if you prefer, would a character from your nominated short
story) wear to the Agatha Banquet?

Kevin isn’t much for dressing up. He’ll probably wear leather tie shoes and
slacks, though, after I stress to him that we are being honored there. If
Vivian, the protagonist, shows up, she’ll wear low heels and a dress, I’m sure.
These are not young, stylish people, see.
wear the same shoes every year. They are black. They are flat. They are
flip flops allowed? If so, that would be my first choice.
Reilly Simmons:
likely something way more fancy with a higher heel than I normally wear, which
is no shoes at all when I’m writing or doing yoga, or trainers when I’m running
or lifting weights at the gym….yeah, I’ll have to acquire something more
appropriate for an elegant event!
I’ve leaned toward
more formal or more flashy in previous years—black wingtips, white bucks, this
pair of hand-crafted blue-and-tan suede shoes from Portugal (no lie). But I’ve
got a new pair of brown Clark’s—which my wife Tara says looks like every other
shoe I wear on regular basis—and I think I’ll wear those. My character would
appreciate too: down-to-earth, nothing flashy, just who he is.  
you all for taking the time to be with us and answer questions. And, many
thanks for all the wonderful stories you have written! During this time of
social distancing, it’s grand to have terrific reading material!
Kaye George:
Kaye George is a
national-bestselling, multiple-award-winning author of pre-history,
traditional, and cozy mysteries (latest is Revenge Is Sweet from Lyrical
Press). Her short stories have appeared online, in anthologies, magazines, her
own collection, her own anthology, DAY OF THE DARK, and in A MURDER OF CROWS.
She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Smoking Guns chapter, Guppies chapter,
Authors Guild of TN, Knoxville Writers Group, Austin Mystery Writers, and lives
in Knoxville, TN.
Barb Goffman:
Barb Goffman edits mysteries by
day and writes them by night. She’s won the Agatha, Macavity, and Silver
Falchion awards for her short stories, and she’s been a finalist for national
crime-writing awards twenty-eight times, including thirteen times for the
Agatha (a category record). Her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies,
including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred
Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and
the 2019 anthology Crime Travel, which Barb also edited. To support
her writing habit, Barb runs a freelance editing service, specializing in crime
fiction. She lives with her dog in Virginia.
Cynthia Kuhn:
Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries: The Semester of Our
The Art of Vanishing, The Spirit in Question, The Subject
of Malice
, and The Study of Secrets. Her work has also appeared in Mystery Most Edible, McSweeney’s
Quarterly Concern, Literary Mama, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama
and other publications. Honors include an Agatha Award (best first novel),
William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant, and Lefty Award nominations (best
humorous mystery). Originally from upstate New York, she lives in Colorado with
her family. For more information, please visit 
Shawn Reilly Simmons:
Reilly Simmons is the author of The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries
featuring Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer, and of several
short stories appearing in a variety of anthologies including the Malice
Domestic, Best New England Crime Stories, Bouchercon, and Crime Writers’
Association series.

Shawn was born in Indiana, grew up in Florida, and began her professional
career in New York City as a sales executive after graduating from the
University of Maryland with a BA in English. Since then she has worked
as a book store manager, fiction editor, mystery convention
organizer, wine rep, and caterer. She serves on the Board of Malice Domestic
and is co-editor at Level Best Books.

Shawn is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the
International Thriller Writers, and the Crime Writers’ Association in the

Art Taylor:
Art Taylor is the author of the
story collection The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other
Tales of Suspense 
and of the novel in stories On the Road with
Del & Louise, 
winner of the Agatha Award for Best First NovelHe
won the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Short Story for “English 398: Fiction
Workshop,” originally published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine,
and his other awards have included the Agatha, the Anthony, the Derringer, and
the Macavity.  He is an associate professor of English at George
Mason University. 

What’s Today’s Celebration?

by Paula
Gail Benson
From: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-soft-ice-cream-day-august-19/
you know that today, August 19, is National Soft Ice Cream Day? Shari Randall, you should take note of this commemoration!

According to
the National Day Calendar website,
while no one has been clearly identified as organizing the special designation,
soft serve ice cream began around Memorial Day in 1934 when an enterprising
salesman with a flat tire pulled into a parking lot and knew he had to get rid
of a load of melting ice cream quickly. Later, he patented a machine and
developed a secret formula. The product’s popularity caused a decrease in
business for hard ice cream and the Minnesota legislature briefly required that
it had to be pre-packaged instead of sold from a machine. The site suggests
that people observe the holiday by getting a dipped cone or sundae.
site boasts of over 1,500 national days. It also lists some international ones.
For instance, today also is International Bow Day, a tradition started by Claire’s.
20, tomorrow, is National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. Not to be confused with
National Pecan Pie Day (observed July 12) or National Pecan Torte Day (August
22) or National Pecan Month (April).
can check out the recognitions that share your birthday. For example, my
birthday, on September 13, is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day (based on a
2005 unanimous resolution passed by the United States Senate) and Uncle Sam Day
(because New York meat packer Sam Wilson, born on September 13, 1766, supplied
meat to soldiers during the War of 1812 in containers stamped “U.S.” and they
called it Uncle Sam’s grub).
website allows you to register a national day, shop for merchandise, search for
recipes, and play National Day trivia.
does this site have to do with writing? (Please note that World Calligraphy Day
is celebrated August 14.)
writers are asked to submit a holiday story for a collection. You can imagine
that well-known holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentines Day will
have numerous stories, but going with something like Talk Like a Pirate Day
(September 19), as Cathy Wiley did with her “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” published
in Homicidal Holidays (Wildside
Press), an anthology organized by the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, could
be unique. Barb Goffman currently is editing a collection of time travel
stories to be released on December 8, Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day.
consider taking a look at the National Day Calendar website, for a story idea
or just to celebrate a slice of life. Happy holidays!

A Pre-Malice Domestic QUIZ!

by Paula Gail Benson

At the end of this week, many of us will gather in Bethesda, Maryland, to celebrate the best of the traditional mystery. It will be a homecoming, family reunion, and all round party blast–wonderful in the anticipating and attending, yet over far too soon.

Let’s get the party started early with this quiz. Can you match the following words (from their stories or novels) with the authors in the Best Short Story and Best First Novel categories? Answers at the end!

1. Harvard

2. Speed Dating

3. Mermaid

4. San Juan Hotel

5. Teen-aged Brother

6. Syllabus

7. Homeless Person

8. Mission

9. A Royal Blue Gown

10. Nancy Drew

A. Art Taylor
B. Shari Randall

C. Tara Laskowski
D. Keenan Powell
E. Barb Goffman
F. Aimee Hix
G. Susanna Calkins
H. Edwin Hill

I. Leslie Budewitz

J. Dianne Freeman

Answers: 1. H.– 2. E. — 3. B. — 4. G. — 5. F. — 6. A. — 7. D. — 8. I. — 9. J. — 10. C.

Meet the 2018 Anthony Short Story Author Nominees!

by Paula Gail Benson


What a true pleasure to host the 2018
Anthony nominees for best short story! Here for your reading pleasure is the
list with links to each story.
[Please note: You’ll need to scroll down at some of the links
below to get to the stories.


“The Trial of Madame
Pelletier” by Susanna Calkins, Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most


“God’s Gonna Cut You
Down” by Jen Conley, Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction
Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash


“My Side of the Matter”
by Hilary Davidson, Killing Malmon:


“Whose Wine Is it
Anyway” by Barb Goffman, 50 Shades of Cabernet:


“The Night They Burned
Ms. Dixie’s Place” by Debra Goldstein, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery
Magazine, May/June 2017: 


“A Necessary
Ingredient” by Art Taylor, Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea
to Shining Sea: 


Thank you to the nominees, Susanna
Calkins, Jen Conley, Hilary Davidson, Barb Goffman, Debra H. Goldstein, and Art
Taylor, for taking the time to answer a few questions and share their nominated


(1) Where and when does your nominated
story take place?


Susanna Calkins
Susanna Calkins: “The Trial of
Madame Pelletier” is set in Tulle, a town in central France, in 1840. It
focuses on the court trial of a “Lady Poisoner,” a woman accused of killing her
estranged husband with rat-paste and truffles.


Jen Conley: The story takes place in Ocean County, New
Jersey, present day. Ocean County is considered central-south New Jersey, known
for its Jersey Shore beaches, but mostly it’s a blue collar/middle class county
on the edge or in the Pine Barrens.


Hilary Davidson
Hilary Davidson: “My Side of the Matter” is set in and around
Minneapolis. I’ve only had the pleasure of visiting that city once, but I felt
compelled to set the story there because the story is part of the KILLING
MALMON anthology — and Dan and Kate Malmon live in that area.

Barb Goffman: “Whose Wine Is It Anyway?” takes place in the
litigation department of a large Washington, DC, law firm. I don’t specify when
the story takes place. I expect the reader will assume it is a contemporary

Debra H. Goldstein
Debra H. Goldstein: “The Night They
Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place” is set in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960’s, in a
house where they change the sheets more than once a night. The story reflects
Birmingham’s racial, civil, and political strife and their impact on a
particular night on a boy coming of age.


Art Taylor: “A Necessary Ingredient” was published in Coast
to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea,
which covers (as that
subtitle suggests) a pretty wide geographical area. I was assigned my home
state of North Carolina, and instead of choosing an actual town, I created a
fictional one, a mid-sized Southern town drawing on several places I’ve lived
or known in Eastern North Carolina—Goldsboro, Kinston, and Richlands, among
them. The story takes place loosely in the present, but the main character,
Ambrose Thornton, has immersed himself in some ways, in a mythical past—the
world of the hard-boiled detective stories he lives to read—and the present of
this small town is also steeped at bit in some of that atmosphere, if only
because of Ambrose’s own perspectives driving the story. 


(2) What was the biggest challenge you
encountered in writing your nominated story?

Susanna Calkins: I adapted this
story from a real poisoning case that I had read about when I was working on my
doctorate in history. At the time I had focused on the media accounts of the case,
which were all in French, because I loved the notion of the woman being on
trial in the court of public opinion as well as in the courtroom.
Unfortunately, I had not kept my notes, so I had to go back to the original
source materials, only to realize that my reading knowledge of French has
considerably diminished over the last twenty years. Fortunately, I found a very
detailed contemporary description of the trial in a British medical journal, in
which the authors—both physicians—focused on the details of the poisoning and
the forensics they were able to use. Except for a few interesting details, I
completely changed the story, the characters, and of course provided a twist…


Jen Conley
Jen Conley: The biggest
challenge for me was writing a first-person male character. This choice can be
difficult to establish when you’re the opposite gender. Readers see the name “Jen
Conley” and assume the first-person narrator is female. It’s just natural for
any reader to do–assume the first-person narrator is the gender of the writer.
I must’ve re-written the first few lines of the story about twenty times. I
also found it challenging to create empathy for a murderer, especially a
murderer who killed my main character’s sister in a horrific and vile way.


Hilary Davidson: The premise of
KILLING MALMON was that Dan Malmon had to die in every story. (Before you
decide that we’re terrible people to do that to such a nice guy, you should
know that Dan was co-editor of the project, and it raises money to benefit the
National Multiple Sclerosis Society.) After I got over the idea of “killing” my
friend in print, I realized that the biggest challenge was building suspense
when the reader already knew that Dan was going to die. How do you keep the
reader intrigued when they know what’s going to happen? I solved that by
turning the story on its head, so that the man who killed Dan — and got away
with it — suddenly starts writing a confession. The suspense builds around what
led him to commit the crime, and the mysterious reason he needs to reveal the


Barb Goffman
Barb Goffman: Plotting. Plotting
is often a big challenge for me. I’d been asked to submit a story to 50 Shades of Cabernet, so I knew my plot
had to involve mystery and wine. Consequently I did a lot of wine research,
hoping to come across an idea that awakened my muse. I can hear the “research”
jokes now, but my muse isn’t a drinker. I learned there’s a spa in Japan that
uses red wine in its hot tubs. I thought for sure I’d get a plot out of that,
but no. I also learned about festivals celebrating wine and chocolate. Surely,
you’d think I’d devise a plot from that. But no again. It wasn’t until I
learned that people can be allergic to the sulfites in wine that things really
started clicking. Thank goodness!


Debra H. Goldstein: The biggest
challenge in writing “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” was getting the
voices right. Being a white Jewish Yankee middle-aged female, I knew I couldn’t
call on my own experiences and dialect to bring to life a nine-year-old black
male protagonist, his mother, and a southern madame. Each of these characters
had to have a distinct personality and manner of speaking. They also had to
reflect southern society in the 1960’s and, in the case of the child, both
innocence and the way the world was changing. Consequently, it was important
that none of these characters be written stereotypically.  Rather, each needed to be treated in a
respectful manner which demonstrated their diversity to the reader. Although the
crime is an important element of “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,”
nailing the characters’ voices is what ultimately engages readers.


Art Taylor

Art Taylor: Balancing that
mix of small town and hard-boiled actually posed part of the challenge—but far
from a surprise, it was a challenge that I took as central to what I was doing
here. When my friend Paul D. Marks, the anthology’s co-editor, asked me to
contribute, I almost didn’t do it. I haven’t really written many private eye
stories—and none of the ones I’ve written have been “straight,” so to speak.
But then I liked the idea of crossing the private eye story—traditionally
hard-boiled—with the kinds of regional fiction that have inspired me in other
cases. How can you draw on both effectively? What happens when those “mean
streets” of Chandler’s famous quote are actually dirt roads dotted with
roadside produce stands? And can the class struggles that so often drive
hard-boiled fiction be found in equal measure in the hierarchies of proper
Southern society? Well, that was a challenge I enjoyed stepping up to, and hope
readers have enjoyed as well.

Here’s where you can learn more about
these wonderful authors and their work. Best wishes to them all!


Susanna Calkins was born and raised in
Philadelphia, and lives outside Chicago with her husband and two sons. Holding
a PhD in history, Susanna writes the award-winning Lucy Campion historical
mysteries as well as the forthcoming Speakeasy Murders, both from St. Martin’s
Minotaur. MURDER KNOCKS TWICE, set in Prohibition-Era Chicago, will be out
Spring 2019. “The Trial of Madame Pelletier,” her first published short story,
appeared in Malice Domestic: Mystery Most
(Wayside Press, 2017). Read more about her work at http://www.susannacalkins.com/


Conley’s short stories have appeared in Beat to a Pulp, Just To Watch Them
Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash, Trouble in the
Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen
many others. She has contributed to the Los Angeles Review of Books, has
been shortlisted for Best American Mystery Stories and is one of the
former editors at Shotgun Honey. Her Anthony Award nominated story
collection, Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens, is
available now. She lives in Brick, New Jersey. Check out her website at https://www.jenconley.net/


Davidson is the author of the Lily Moore series—which includes The
Damage Done, The Next One to Fall, 
and Evil in All Its
She also the author of the standalone thriller Blood
Always Tells 
and a short-story collection called The
Black Widow Club. 
Her next novel, One Small Sacrifice, will
be published by Thomas & Mercer in May 2019. Visit her online at 

Barb Goffman loves writing, reading, air conditioning, and her
dog, not necessarily in that order. She’s won the Agatha, Macavity, and Silver
Falchion awards for her short stories, and she’s been a finalist for national
mystery short-story awards twenty-two times, including eleven times for the
Agatha (a category record). Her book Don’t Get Mad, Get Even won the
Silver Falchion for the best collection of 2013. Barb is thrilled to be a
current Anthony and Macavity award finalist for her story “Whose Wine is it
Anyway?” from the anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet.  She works as a
freelance editor and proofreader and lives with her dog in Winchester,
Virginia. Learn more at

Agatha and Anthony nominated Judge Debra
H. Goldstein’s is the author One Taste
Too Many
, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series.
Her prior books include Should Have
Played Poker
and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Debra’s short stories have appeared in numerous
periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine,
Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly.
She is president of Sisters
in Crime’s Guppies, serves on SinC’s national board, and is vice-president of
Find out more about her writings at www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Art Taylor is the author
of On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, winner of
the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. He has won three additional Agatha
Awards, an Anthony Award, two Macavity Awards, and three consecutive Derringer
Awards for his short fiction, and his work has appeared in Best American
Mystery Stories
. He also edited Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon
Anthology 2015
, winner of the Anthony Award for Best Anthology or
Collection. He is an associate professor of English at George Mason University.
Check out his website at http://www.arttaylorwriter.com/