Tag Archive for: crime fiction

Short Stories

 by Bethany Maines

Writing short stories is a unique art form, one that I used to pursue and then, like someone finding a new love, I dropped in favor of novels.  Because novels were dreamy and just so much cooooooler than those short stories. But in the past few years, I’ve found myself once again taking up the challenge of short form writing. Now that I’m a more experienced writer I see the structure of novels and short fiction differently and find that they present different challenges that require different skills. I think that previously I only had one set of skills that I applied to all writing. Which is a bit like trying to paint with only one brush.  Now that I have a few more brushes in the paintbox it’s been fun to tackle short stories.  

Interestingly, I’ve found that while previously my short stories were sci-fi or fantasy based, my current crop are all crime based. I may have been hanging out with my Noir at the Bar buddies too much, or maybe I just have become more criminal as I’ve gotten older, but I keep coming up with some dang good crimes to write about. But as I’ve collected more stories, I’ve started to think that perhaps I should put together an anthology. I would add another three or four to truly round out the group, but I think it might be fun.

Below is a rundown of my criminal little tales.  What do you think?  Should I pull them all together into one collection?

Mayhem & Mahalo –  Switchblade Magazine, 2019 – Hawaii—the land of sun, surf, and a giant pile of dead bodies. Paige Kaneko thought she had left the Kaneko family’s criminal ways behind her, but when a 3 a.m. text from her brother asks for one simple thing—help—Paige can’t say no. Now Paige must get her brother and herself out of a situation that includes six dead bodies, a backpack full of cash, and one slightly dented heroin addict.

Suzy Makes Cupcakes  Shotgun Honey V. 4, 2019 – Johnny Stills, a mid-level mobster, has a Tuesday routine:
pick up the pay-off money, swing by home to get a blow job from his wife Suzy,
and then deliver the money to his boss. But this Tuesday is a little different
– for one thing Suzy met him at the door with a gun. Now Johnny is realizing just how badly he may have underestimated his wife.

Tammy Loves Derek – Moonlight & Misadventure Anthology, June 2021 – Tammy Lee Swanley has a med-spa job, a cheating boyfriend, and a plan—a five-step, sure-fire plan to wealth and happiness. But what Tammy’s boyfriend doesn’t know is that Tammy’s plan doesn’t include him keeping him around.

Fireball Rolled a Seven –  Murderous Ink, Crimeucopia: Funny Ha Ha Anthology, Forthcoming – The pandemic is a drag, but with everyone in lockdown, that means the streets are empty and the Pandemic Drags are about to hit the fast lane. As Kendra, Doc, Mike, Jim, Stacy and Douchebag Carl all gather for illegal street races they soon discover that even at drag races, pandemic politics still apply. Masks become a tipping point and Kendra and Doc go from racing for money, to racing for their lives. If they can make it across the finish line they’ll be home free, but they have to get there first.

Every Single Funeral – On Submission – When greedy Bruce Stagg attempts to have his dying sister declared incompetent and steal her fortune, Lark Jeffers—live-in nurse, ex-stripper, and firm believer in pockets—knows something has to be done. The question is: can she pull the trigger?


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae MysteriesSan Juan Islands MysteriesShark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Denise Hamilton Does A Little DAMAGE CONTROL

The Stiletto Gang is thrilled to have award-winning crime novelist Denise Hamilton with us today, talking about her latest novel, Damage Control, which is a departure from her series featuring Eve Diamond. Damage Control is already earning accolades from the publishing trades, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which called it “Excellent!”  So I thought I’d pump Denise for some information about her intriguing new book.
Susan: Damage Control is a standalone political thriller. That’s a new direction for you. Were you inspired by Weinergate or Arnold Schwartzenegger’s love child scandal?
Denise: Damage Control was already heading to the printer when those scandals broke. But if there’s one thing besides taxes and death that is eternal, it’s political sex scandals. I researched a bunch of them and it seems that powerful people are also risk takers. Add a gigantic ego, money, power and minions scurrying around doing your bidding and it’s no wonder they feel invincible. One book I found fascinating was The Politician: An Insider’s Acount of John Edward’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal that Brought Him Down by Andrew Young. He was the aide who took the fall for his boss and claimed he’d fathered Rielle Hunter’s love child.
The book had all sorts of great inside details that found their way into Damage Control. My faves:

(1) The ‘bodyman’ is the guy who travels with the politician, checks into the hotel, drives the car, holds the suitcase, takes all the letters and notes that people give the politician at public appearances and hustles him away afterward.
(2) Politicians often have groupies. Edwards had male as well as female groupies.

Susan: But it’s not all politics. Tell us about Maggie Silver’s love life.

Denise: My heroine is an ambitious young PR executive at a crisis management firm. They’re the folks that actors call when they caught with a hooker at 4 am on Sunset. They’re the number that celebrity athletes have on speed dial when a hotel maid accuses them of rape.

Maggie’s divorced and there are sparks flying with three guys: a co-worker, an old childhood crush and a doctor. But Maggie’s a slave to her 24/7 job. She’s always on call and keeps having to cancel her dates. Those big clients don’t pay $750 an hour to be kept waiting.

Susan: So is that really how much they charge?

Denise: Some do. It’s on par with what celebrity lawyers. Another route is to keep the PR firm on a retainer. Say $10,000 a month. Whether or not they clean up any messes that month.

Susan: Back to Maggie’s love life. You’ve been known to write some steamy sex scenes.

Denise: Actually, I often pare them back. It makes me blush too much when I re-read them.

Susan: So will Damage Control make readers blush?

Denise: Hmmm…there’s a nighttime scene in an infinity pool with a great view high in the Hollywood Hills. A little Laphraoig has been consumed. And well, some people forgot to bring their bathing suits.

Susan: Ha!  Love it!  Maggie’s also a big fan of perfume. Stealing from life there, are you, Denise?

Denise: It’s true! I got a day job last year – as perfume columnist for the Los Angeles Times. (http://www.denisehamilton.com/perfume/ ) It’s monthly, which leaves me plenty of time to bludgeon, stab, poison, run over and shoot people.

Susan: That is so cool! What sparked this perfume interest?

Denise: I’ve always had a keen aesthetic appreciation for smells. My mom had a shelf of classic French perfumes, and I’d amuse myself for hours as a child, sniffing them. Putting on perfume for me was always part of getting dressed. But I tumbled down the fragrant rabbit hole into obsession when I bought a bottle of Donna Karan’s Chaos at a thrift store for $29.95. It was discontinued and selling for $250 on ebay so I kept spritzing it to see what made people go nuts for this blend of spices, incense and woods. The fifth day, I suddenly got it. And then I began collecting. I find perfume online, at antique shops. Friends give me their grandmothers’ old bottles. Half-century-old perfume can still smell divine if it’s kept away from heat and light. So then I made Maggie Silver a budding perfumista. And that sniffer of hers comes in handy by the book’s end.

Susan: Will you ever bring back your series sleuth Eve Diamond?

Denise: I’ve got three projects in the works. It depends on what Scribner would like next. Thanks so much, Susan, for giving me the opportunity to be an honorary Stiletto-for-a-Day. Y’all are very kind.

Denise Hamilton’s crime novels have been finalists for the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Willa Cather awards. She also edited Los Angeles Noir and Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics, which spent two months on bestseller lists, won the Edgar Award for “Best Short Story” and the Southern California Independent Booksellers’ award for “Best Mystery of the Year.” Denise’s new novel, Damage Control, was published by Scribner on September 6, 2011 and has already received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, a rave advance from Kirkus, and kudos from James Ellroy who called it “A superb psychological thriller.”

Twitter: follow me @DeniseHamilton_
Or friend me on Facebook

Sleazy Protagonists

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series. The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, and Thrilled to Death have been highly praised by Mystery Scene and Spinetingler magazines. Her fourth Jackson story, Passions of the Dead, has just been released. All four novels are on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has two standalone thrillers, The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.

Alcoholics, sex addicts, porn stars, thieves, and kidnappers. In today’s crime fiction, these characters are often the protagonists, and as a reader, I’m expected to root for them. I rarely can. I’ve put down many well written and well plotted novels lately because the main character was not someone I could relate to.

For example, in one story, the protagonist—a reformed criminal, living a good life—participated in a kidnapping to keep himself from going to jail. If I had not been reading the book for discussion, I would have put it down immediately. I skimmed through the rest, uncaring. For me, there was little point in reading about a protagonist I wanted to see caught and punished. Especially since I predicted the book wouldn’t turn out that way (and it didn’t).
In another story, the character was well developed, resourceful, and good-hearted and I really wanted to like her. But the world she inhabited was sleazy and everyone she encountered gave me the creeps. Despite the terrific writing, I finally gave up, because spending too much time in her world was a little revolting.

Don’t get me wrong. I love crime fiction! And I’m certainly not a prude. I write a mystery/suspense series, and the first book is called The Sex Club. My main character is a homicide detective who’s a hardworking family man. Not perfect, by any means, but he’s also not a cynical, pill-popping alcoholic with dysfunctional relationships. I’m tired of that cop stereotype, and I want my character to be someone readers can relate to.

But it’s not a clear-cut issue for me either. Two of my favorite books this year had protagonists who were criminals…or at least they had been. In Beat the Reaper, the main character is an ex-hit man who becomes a doctor. But he’s trying to redeem himself, and it’s a terrific (and often funny) story. The Lock Artist, another novel I loved, is about a psychologically mute safecracker. But the reader knows from the beginning that Michael goes to jail and hopes to change his life. So I rooted for both characters all the way.

For me, good characterization for a protagonist, especially a recurring character, means creating someone readers will care about, like, and/or respect in some way. (I make an exception for Elmore Leonard’s stories, in which everyone is shady, but often likeable, and I can always cheer for a charming thief, especially if he’s played by George Clooney.)

I realize I may be somewhat alone in this thinking (except for the George Clooney part). In my book discussion groups, many other readers say they don’t have to like the protagonist to find the story compelling.

How do you feel about protagonists who are unlikable, deeply flawed, or simply not someone you’d ever spend time with? Does it spoil the story for you? Can you name a novel you thoroughly enjoyed even though you didn’t like the protagonist?