The Haps: Spring 2021

Spring has definitely sprung, and just as it brought its usual host of pollen and fresh critters, I have a minor host of updates to report:


In March 2021, my story “No Entiendo” appeared in Lowestoft Chronicle #45. The piece follows an IT guy who takes a contract gig at a Costa Rica eco-resort, only to find the whole thing a lot more snake-y than expected. It’s my sixth story for Lowestoft, and it’s always a pleasure to be part of their whole thing.


Last week, I had the amazing surprise of not one but two stories published last year named as a 2021 Derringer Award finalist. The good folks at the Short Mystery Fiction Society have put on the Derringers each spring since 1998, and we authors are eternally grateful for the hard volunteer work that goes into coordinating, reading, and picking among so many outstanding pieces.  

“Over Before It Started” is a finalist in the Flash Fiction category. That story ran last June in Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder online series. I like this one for the Western Kentucky scene infused into it.

“Lord, Spare the Bottom Feeders” is a finalist in the Long Story category. “Bottoms Feeders” appeared in the March/April ’20 Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.  This was the second Vernon Stagg outing, and the first one was also a Derringer finalist back in 2017. I guess I should write #3–though Vernon may object


I’ve mentioned that I’m blogging for Sleuthsayers these days. Please do come check out my posts. There is even better stuff all month from brilliant writers. Genre history, inside peeks at writing processes, movie analysis, and general for-the-heck-of-it.  Last month, I bemoaned the grueling process to get from Point A to Point B–in life and in fiction. This month (Sat. April 10), I’m looking back on Nashville’s rather vivid role in ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment.


My 9th story for AHMM hits newsstands on April 20. “Scratch” follows a small town Tennessee police chief who is getting tired of his budget not keeping up with the Nashville exurb growth. When a break-in happens at the mayor’s gas station, our Chief decides to invent an archenemy. Things get out of hand, as things will do. I hope people enjoy the read.


We’ve been in lockdown so long that it’s hard to remember stuff like conferences and writing workshops. In-person ones. Well, they’re coming back, and I’m set to do two this year.

The Clarksville Writers Conference (August 12-13) is an annual gathering on the Austin Peay campus. We were rightly  cancelled last year, but in our recovering world of 2021, things are back on. The faculty is terrific across all spectrums of writing, and I’m looking forward to learning from everyone. I’m doing two short story workshops. August 11 will be “As Old As Campfires,” which goes through basic story structure. August 12 will be “You’re Not Done Yet,” which covers the important but sometimes painful steps to make a story submission-ready.

One week later, I’m attending the home town Killer Nashville Conference.  KN is about the most approachable conference out there, more a community than a conference. Very welcoming to all and lots of great tips for newer writers. Agents to pitch, too. I’ll likely be on a few (socially distanced) panels, and I’m doing a Sunday, 8/22 workshop on “Writing the Short Story.” It’ll be a broader overview on what it takes to write a piece for publication and not just for joy.


I’m not involved in this one other than as an enthusiastic spectator. Mystery in the Midlands is back this summer for its fourth year and its second-running in virtual form. This is an incredibly well-run and entertaining conference, for anyone interested in such things at highly-affordable prices. I’ll add links and dates when finalized — and I’m hearing good things for 2021. 


2020 was a hard year. 2021 isn’t easy, either. Let’s celebrate our wins and forgive ourselves some exhaustion. And let’s all keep reading and writing.


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