End of the Road

I started researching new markets to potentially submit short stories to–after my breakthrough that my stories cannot be described, as a rule, as ‘mystery’ tales–and I was very surprised to see how few magazines actually are interested in stories that could be considered mysteries. The stories I have–that I am thinking about sending out into the void–are technically not mysteries, but then again…will markets not looking for mystery stories consider them to be mysteries?

I guess the only way to find out it to actually submit stories.

What was also really interesting to me was that there are still markets that want you to send them hard copies through the mail, with the SASE for response. Ten years or so ago, when I was doing an open call for Blood Sacraments, I wanted hard copy submissions, and was surprised (and more than a little appalled) at some of the emails I received from authors who demanded to know how very dare I not want to take electronic submissions? Needless to say, those were writers I put on the “never work with” list; I would never presume to write an editor and demand an explanation for their submission guidelines, never ever ever ever. But with the passage of time, my own reluctance to read submissions electronically and get them in my inbox has gradually eroded away; times change and you have to change with it. If I want to submit to those markets, I will have to get large envelopes, print out copies, and purchase postage.

I am certainly not going to send them a pompous email demanding they explain why they don’t take electronic submissions.

And, FYI? Blood Sacraments was the last time I did an open call for submissions untilt he Bouchercon anthologies. And yes, the entitled attitude in the emails from people who saw the call and “had questions” about my guidelines is entirely why.

Helpful hint: editors and publishers don’t owe anyone explanations for why they set their guidelines the way they do. And when you send snarky emails questioning them, all you do is point out to them that you would be an enormous pain in the ass to work with. And unless you have the kind of star power that will guarantee lots of sales, you aren’t worth it.

Sad, perhaps, but true.

And I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with disqualifying stories that are not submitted properly or ignored the guidelines in any way, shape or form. That’s my first system of weeding out stories from “possibles” to “rejects”: did they follow the guidelines?

I won’t read anything that doesn’t–nor will I write the person back to tell them they need to. You get one chance.

I have myself submitted things and not followed the guidelines–primarily out of stupidity–and you know what? If that got me rejected without being read, it’s only fair and I have no one to blame but myself.

Next up in Florida Happens is Barb Goffman’s story “The Case of the Missing Pot Roast.”

Barb Goffman

Barb Goffman has no idea how to cook pot roast, but it sure was fun to write about. 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 Macavity and Anthony award finalist for her story “Whose Wine is it Anyway?” from the anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet.  She works as an independent editor and proofreader and lives with her dog in Winchester, Virginia. Learn more at www.barbgoffman.com.

About her story, Barb says, “My story is about a woman whose husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She wants to care for him at home, but it’s proving challenging, with strange things going on, including a missing pot roast. I can’t say any more about the plot without giving things away, but I will say that I loved writing this story. It’s heartfelt but also funny and–perfect for an anthology about Florida–also a little bit weird.”

Looking back, I should have known something was wrong when the pot roast disappeared. Sure, everyone misplaces something sometime. I once searched for the remote control for an hour till I spotted it in the bathroom. And for years I’ve found my husband, Charles’s, false teeth all over the house—they’ve never fit quite right so when they bother him he takes them out and puts them down, never paying attention where. But the pot roast? I was sure I’d left it defrosting on the counter when I went to get my hair done, yet when I came home, it was gone.

I searched for it in vain. It wasn’t in the fridge or freezer. Not in the garbage. Not in the oven. Charles was clueless. There was no way he’d cooked and eaten it in the hour I was gone. So what happened to that pot roast was a mystery. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I’d only dreamed I’d bought the roast. But I couldn’t admit my faculties might be failing. So I dismissed the missing pot roast as weirdness and whipped up some pasta.

That was a month ago. Perhaps if I’d forced myself to figure out what happened to the pot roast, I wouldn’t be in this position now. But back then, I had bigger problems. Charles had started suffering from short-term memory loss and personality changes, and he was getting worse every day. One minute he’d be the man I’d loved for decades, optimistic and kind; the next, he’d be surly and paranoid, acting like a wary stranger. He’d accused me of stealing from him—me, his wife of fifty-one years. And then, in a heartbreaking moment, he’d accused me of trying to kill him.

“Alzheimer’s,” his doctor had diagnosed.

I’d figured that was the problem, but having it confirmed was a terrible blow. His doctor gave me all kinds of pamphlets and urged me to look into long-term care for Charles. I cried when he did that. I knew eventually such care would be necessary. But not yet. I was only seventy-one years old and in relatively good health. I was determined to care for Charles in our home for as long as I could. He was my husband. My love. I owed him that.

It’s easy to see why Barb’s work is so award-worthy with this tale. She really gets inside the head of her main character, who is dealing with a raeally difficult situation–complicated with her own issues of dealing with her husband’s illness in addition to questioning, at times, her own sanity and whether the things her husband says to her when in the grips of his dementia are true, real, or based in anything even slightly reality based. Can she trust the home health-care worker who is helping out with things around the house? Where are the pot roasts going?

And that last paragraph is chilling, absolutely chilling. Well done, Barb!

One thought on “End of the Road

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