Friday, December 5, 2008


Epiphanies are slow in coming, but when they hit, wow! For years I've struggled to identify my genre in fiction. It's not sci-fi, speculative seems a bit vague, quirky is just, well, quirky, definitely not romance or adventure. Literary? Well, isn't it all when you think about it? Oh, writing cover letters and queries has long given me a sour stomach. I just knew I'd send something out and the editor would immediately toss the ms into the round file or hit the delete button because, hey, if she doesn't even know what she's doing, why should I bother to give her space in my already over-stretched pages? That story line I can imagine all too easily. Recently though, I had a knowledgeable writer suggest that I send a new piece to the "crime" markets. Not having any idea what those markets might be, I did my usual routine. First I looked on line for some suggestions, not reassuring because I could not see my work illustrated with a bloody knife or a law-enforcement badge. So, back from that virtual tour, I headed for the bookstore/my personal library.

And there the lightbulb lit. I read stories in several mystery magazines, and recognized my general approach to the short story. I had just found the keys to a locked door mystery. The real irony is that I've always loved mysteries, especially cosies, those English who-dunnits where the murder happens off stage. I taught a summer course in them one time! How could I not see that in my own work? Please, insert forest-and-trees cliche here. When I pulled out my short-fiction notebook and counted the stories that fit the genre, I found twenty pieces that qualify. Somehow, having looked at each one as distinct has hidden its true identity. As a group photo I can see the family resemblance. Maybe I had to build a collection in order to see where my interest really lives regarding short fiction. For too long, I've considered mystery to be a book category, not a short story label. How silly. Case solved.

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