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BREAKING A VOW CAN BE A GOOD THING - September 1, 2023

In my last blog entry, I ended by promising to reveal how I broke my vow never to write another short story. I stuck to it for the next thirty years, a shocking amount of time to keep a vow without asking if it still serves you well.

During that time, I wrote at least a half dozen full length mystery novels, one of which was co-authored with a friend, and had two agents fail to sell any of them. In retrospect, most of them were little better than first drafts. Alas, by the time I finished writing them, I was tired of looking at them and lacked the motivation to make them better. What I had yet to learn was that rewriting is probably the most important part of the writing process. But I had a built-in excuse; working as a full-time trial lawyer didn’t leave a lot of energy to create a fictional world and solve a crime in it. At least, it didn’t for me.

Cut to 2019. I finally retired and decided I had no excuse left for not giving writing one more try. I began to work on a novel set in Florida in the 1950s. A northern ex-cop and her K9 become involved in solving the murder of a young Black girl. The project came to an abrupt stop when I discovered someone had recently published a book (soon to be followed by a movie) that was much too similar to the one I was writing. I was out of ideas.

When the pandemic arrived, my already short attention span shrank even further. The urge to write remained, though. While browsing the internet one day, I came across a Call for Submissions for short mystery stories based on the songs of the ‘60s. I had firsthand experience with the era and still remembered the lyrics to much of the music. It felt as if fate was pushing me toward the dreaded short fiction. Peace, Love, and Crime became the home of my story, “Nights in White Satin,” the first of 14 stories to be accepted for publication since then. I had found my niche in a genre I loved. In spite of the laws of the MFA program, I am happy to report that the best thing that could’ve happened to me was my discovery that “genre” isn’t a four-letter word!

I hope to see you again in October.

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