Our Story Was (Gasp) Rejected?

I’m sure our readers will be deeply shocked to learn that sometimes, very rarely, our short story is rejected by a publication. (Quelle horreur! Break out the smelling salts!) The one of us who usually does the submissions is, of course, prostrate with grief. But that only lasts for a few moments, because she soon realizes the editors of the publication that turned down such a masterpiece are incredibly poor at their jobs. Clearly, these people cannot recognize greatness when it is staring them in the face.

Not that we would put ourselves in the same category as the following authors––we’re barely on the same planet (especially since they have all gone to the Great Library Up Yonder)­­––but they, too were rejected, sometimes brutally.

  • Rudyard Kipling was told, “you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
  • Publishers wouldn’t touch Beatrix Potter’s work so she initially self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • And Saul Bellow’s believed rejections “teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’”

Post-rejection, one of us embarks upon a flurry of activity, searching for other contests, anthologies, or magazines worthy of such a magnum opus. If those publications have an imminent deadline, all the better: the sooner submissions are closed, the sooner we will hear that our story has been accepted, and we can adjust our egos accordingly.

Now, on those once in a blue moon, more often than we would like times when the story is rejected again … Well, it’s not pretty. It’s darn right amazing that more lamps and vases aren’t broken the house. (Okay, I put the vases away after losing half of them to a particularly egregious rejection.) Frantic emails ensue to one another as we spew assurances that our story is maybe not a masterpiece, but is still exceptional. The search for a new outlet resumes. But there is a difference this time. One of us rereads the story.

Clearly, there is a computer bug. Why else would we have started a story in a 3rd person vignette, which switches to 1st person for the remainder? Or used three lines to describe a character when one tightly written construct would have sufficed? Or inserted some beautifully written phrases, so utterly unnecessary to the advancement of the story? What we thought was a tightly knit story is full of dropped stitches and holes. Not just a computer bug, but literary moths are to blame.

Writing and rewriting, reading and rereading, and we failed to see it. Sigh.

The rewriting begins. The story is shaved to the bone, and reconstructed. Everything in questioned: why does a character do one thing and not another? Is this adjective or adverb necessary? Were there perhaps, the wee problem of five too many coincidences to be plausible? Does it matter that the 80-year-old woman drives a red Chevy Camaro and flies jets on the weekend or that her cat (not just any cat, but a Maine Coon cat named Jasper) understands Arabic?

Finally, the story hangs together. Another publication is found and the story submitted. And when we hear the story has been accepted, there is rejoicing, a fair measure of gratefulness and a few remote high fives that some entity has agreed to publish our good, but not quite great, story.

And what if we are rejected, yet again?

We persist.



The Short Story

Some of our millions of devoted fans and followers… OK, maybe thousands…OK, our mom…has asked us when the next Maddi Davidson book is coming out. Truth is, we did start another book but got a ways into it, and, with a big “meh,” deciding that we didn’t want to write another book just to write another book, not when we were having so much fun with the characters. (Haven’t we all had that experience of loving a mystery series and then deciding after the 15th book in the series that it was time for an apocalypse to kill everyone off?)

For now, Emma and Keoni and crew are on an extended surf vacation, and the waves are epic. As for us, we decided we were going to explore other literary venues like … writing epic poetry! But our Latin and Greek weren’t up to it, so we settled for short stories.

Truth be told, short story writing is a lot of fun and it hones your writing skills. You don’t have 150 pages to blather on about bad childhoods: if it is a mystery, you have a few scant pages to kill someone off and hook your reader (without making it too obvious whodunit, like only having one other character in the story). You have to keep the pacing going, as someone expecting a short story is not going to suffer through 8 pages of angst-written background material: they want to get to the blood and gore, pronto. Or neat knife in the neck.

Another fun part of short stories is – contests! There are short story contests where you have to work your story into whatever the heck the contest theme is – uncomfortable underwear, for example. Sometimes we’ve written a story that we are trying to foist…ah… submit for a contest, and we find ways to rewrite it to include a thong as a core plot device. Hey, we didn’t say we were successful all the time! We have explored not only our writing style (we aren’t always snarky and funny in the short stories), but geographic locale. We’ve set a couple stories in Idaho and one in Hawai’i. We’ve set them in modern times and in the 1880s. We’ve done sort of science fictiony ones, and some that are low tech and character driven (one character was driven right off a cliff). Best of all, we’ve had some successes in getting our stories in anthologies, “placing” in some of the contests and generally have had a ball with trying something new.

So, with heartfelt appreciation for the fun of doing something different, here is an excerpt from our story “Heartfelt,” the lead story in Mystery Times 2015, available through Amazon.com

Hannah felt the chill of the mid-February day: cold, dreary, and the kind of damp that made your bones hurt if you were old enough. Today, she felt old enough and then some. Bob lay on the frost-nipped grass, gasping for air and periodically flopping about as spasms gripped his chest.
He looks like a freshly landed fish, she thought. Funny, I’ve always pictured him as a snake. But now? Decidedly a fat trout. A catch-and-throw-back trout.
The cacophony of sirens reached a crescendo as a fire truck and ambulance rounded the corner and screeched in stereo down the street.
She wondered why they always sent a fire truck with an ambulance; she’d told them specifically it was a heart attack. Nothing on fire here: Bob’s heart had been stone cold for years.
Two men in dark blue jackets with reflective EMT logos on the back jumped out of the ambulance and sprinted to Bob’s side while neighbors popped their heads out of half-opened doors to discover the source of the hubbub. Most gave in to curiosity, venturing forth from their sepia-toned ranch homes to join the flock gathering across the street from the emergency vehicles.
Intent on watching the medics working on Bob, Hannah was barely aware that a man from the fire truck had approached her. It wasn’t until he spoke that she realized he was there.
“What happened?”
Hannah turned to find baby-blue eyes staring at her. Innocent eyes, she thought. She blinked for a few moments, considering his question. Shit happens. Thirteen years of it.


Mystery Solved!

We’re baaaaack! After a short long unprecedented hiatus, we are returning to the world of blatant self-promotion blog writing. I’m sure y’all have been wondering about the mysterious silence. The solution lies in one of the explanations below.

  1. We’ve spent the last two years as Church of the Humane missionaries to the Chinstrap penguins of Antarctica who are no closer to being “saved” but at least squawk blessings over their herring.
  2. Contracts for each of our recently published stories stipulated that we not blog about our success.
  3. One of us has had severe amnesia leading her to believe she was a mixed martial arts fighter. A recent blow to the head restored her memory that she was, instead, an extremely gifted writer who can opine on the finer points of Calibri vs. Palatino ad nausea.
  4. One of us took a timeout, and has been sitting on the beach in Hawaii for the past 18 months, drinking Mai Tais, surfing, and listening to Hawaiian music. (Guess which one of us) <Hey, that was MARKET RESEARCH. Someone has to do it!>
  5. Technical problems with our Internet connection <No lie! Power outage yesterday for 2 ½ hours. Which doesn’t explain the entirety of our blog outage, dang it, but it’s a start…>

If you guessed a), you are correct. Having served humanity mankind global interests, we have returned to selfish noble literary pursuits on the order of Count Leo Tolstoy—ok, make that lyrics like Count-LT, the famous rap star—pursuits. Not that we’ve been entirely quiet; we’ve had a number short stories published in the past 18 months. “Vehicular Homicide” received an Honorable Mention in Grammar Ghoul’s 2015 Short Story Contest and appeared in The Ghoul’s Review. The story concerns driverless cars and what could possibly go wrong with the technology. Here is an excerpt from the story.

“When I give it instructions to tootle around, it takes me for a scenic drive.”
For a split second, Jumpsuit just stared at me. Then he laughed. “You’re pulling my leg.”
My weak smile must have served as confirmation, for when I impulsively mentioned it had taken a dislike to someone who had spilled beer on her seat, he whooped and slapped his thigh.
“That’s a good one; a car with vanity instead of vanity plates. Don’t tell me: it made a mad dash for the car wash where it demanded to be detailed.”

The full story is available here: https://www.joomag.com/magazine/the-ghouls-review-summer-fall-2015/0470749001444854998?short

Happy reading! And look for our next blog on Monday, Jan 23. (2017, not 2023.)


Time to Celebrate

With Murder You Get Sushi is finally published: both ebook and paperback are available on amazon.com. Now it’s time to celebrate! (Well, it’s actually time to market the book, but more on that later.) Join us in a Mai Tai. Here is our favorite recipe (courtesy of Trader Vic). Unlike other Mai Tai recipes, this does not include pineapple juice; pineapple juice has absolutely no place in a Mai Tai. We’ve done extensive market testing with this and have overwhelmingly positive reviews from our tasters––those that were intelligible after a couple belts.

(Speaking of positive reviews, we could use a few more on Amazon and Goodreads.)



2 oz. dark rum

1 ½ oz. lime juice

½ oz. triple sec or orange Curacao

½ oz. orgeat syrup

1 oz. simple syrup (1:1 ratio hot water and confectioner’s sugar. A coffee measure of hot water and confectioner’s sugar is about 1 oz.)

Mix together and serve over crushed ice. (Important: helps dilute the rum). Garnish with maraschino cherry, pineapple wedge, and mint. Serve.

Warning: Do not drive, operate heavy machinery, ski, surf, sign legal documents, “reply all” on emails, or attempt to train a tiger shark after drinking.

Proofing in Middle English*

We know, you’ve heard it before: we are nearly finished. We’ve been proofing for the past two weeks and have been astounded, nay, dismayed at the number of errors that have crept into the story. For instance, we found a flourescent light, which begs the question of whether the smell of flour really can generate light. Whilst pouring through the story, we’ve longed for the return of Middle English, and the time when there was no generally accepted method of spelling. Or, current teaching methods where it’s okay to misspell words as sign of healthy resistance to rigid norms of behavior foisted on society by…oh wait, got distracted.

Orthography, the art of writing words with the proper letters, was much debated during the sixteenth century. Some writers developed their own systems, such as doubling long vowels (take is taak, made is maad, thine is thijn), adding letters and symbols to the alphabet, or writing phonetically (reelee!). In such a freewheeling time, could we be censored for writing about merder, murdor, merdor, murtur and deth? Maabee flourescent wud bee just fijn. Eeven if they doth goveth payns of the hed.

Perhaps we could resurrect the earlier times of Middle English when prefixes were more oft used. The prefix for– could be used to intensify the meaning of a verb. Instead of a plain old killing, we could write of forkilling or formurder. What about forsnooping?

In the words of Chaucer

And for there is so gret diversite

In Englissh, and in writing of oure tonge,

So prey I god that non myswrite the,

Ne the mys-metre for defaute of tonge.

* We are indebted to A History of the English Language, Fifth Edition, by Albert C. Baugh and Thomas Cable.

Pau Hana

Pau hana (quit work) is here! We’re almost done. No, really!

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since we posted here. We’d like to think our silence is due to the amount of effort we’ve been putting towards our third book. Unfortunately, that’s only partially true. You all know that Life Happens in complete disregard to any plans we may have. The vagaries of making a living and making a life have limited the time we have devoted to writing. Also, we’ve been working on two short stories (that is, “expanding our literary horizons”). The good news is that the book, now officially titled With Murder You Get Sushi, will be published later this summer. Remember: summer doesn’t officially end until September 23rd. The plot and characters sing (figuratively: we haven’t written a musical, yet) and it is time for a very sharp red pencil, thesaurus, The Chicago Manual of Style and the Delete key to be dusted off and put to work.

Now for more about our short stories: we placed a short story in an anthology last year. However, the group editing and publishing the anthology had “creative differences” (the snobby literary term for “falling out”). We could have left our story with one of the editors (who did a fine job in eventually publishing the anthology); instead, we pulled the story to submit it to a different anthology more attuned to our style of writing (like italicizing the sex scenes. Okay, we made that up). We developed a second short story and submitted it, as well. We will know by next month if either story made the cut (they won’t take both).

While some authors can dash off a short story in weeks, our effort was more like a half-marathon than a dash. It took us several months to write the second short story and edit it to our standards (meaning, we both felt the victim definitely deserved what happened to him and so will the reader, hee hee).

In writing a short story, every word is important. There is no time for Jamesian flights of fancy that take the reader away from the main thread (in one of Henry James’s books, one character wanders around a room for nineteen pages or so contemplating the meaning of life, which is at least fifteen pages too many, yeesh). After writing two short stories, we feel we’ve honed our honing skills and have applied those assiduously to With Murder You Get Sushi. The good news for you, the reader, is that this mystery is crisper and clearer than the first two.

(Should I mention about how we cut nearly 20,000 words from the book and then had to amend the plot with more action so we could ensure it was long enough?)

No, don’t go into it or you’ll run on for paragraphs and bore our readers.

(Can I talk about our recent trip to O’ahu and Kaua’i to finalize our research?)

You can do than in the next blog.

(But the Mai Tai market research is critical to the plot.)

Any more market research and one of us will need a liver transplant.

(How about sharing pictures?)

Sigh. If you must. But no selfies.

Our artist, Sarah Perez, is busy developing ideas for our cover and we are eager to see what she has in mind.

(I like the one below.)


Nope, ain’t gonna happen.

So set your watches and begin the countdown to the next Miss-Information Technology Mystery. On second thought, you’d better use a calendar. Only 101 days, or less, until publication!

Help! The Paranoids Are After Me

Books don’t write themselves, but there are occasions where books take a turn – during writing – that you as a writer didn’t expect, such as a minor character insisting on being front and center or a subplot taking steroids to become A Major Plot. In some cases, this is a welcome development, particularly where you are stuck for minutes, hours – OK, days – wondering “Why did Colonel Mustard use a lead pipe in the library when untraceable poison in the garden (where you could use the body for mulch) would have been so much tidier – and you’d get points for recycling?” It’s often a relief when a minor subplot bulldozes an unknown and previously unthought-of trail. Through a minefield. Without anyone losing any really important body parts.  Good riddance, lead pipe, hello untraceable poison (especially when lead is so environmentally harmful, eew).

We’ve recently experienced this whilst chugging along in Book 3, With Murder You Get Sushi. One of our characters (Edvard-the-crazy-Belgian, who made his appearance in a previous book) is a Designated Eccentric. His job as a minor character and Professional Paranoid is to espouse wild conspiracy theories, which get even wilder in Book 3 because he is working on a consulting engagement for a government customer (creates automatic dramatic tension when THEY are in the cubicle next to you and THEY are using the new darling of the tech world, Big Data).  When we began Book 3, the entire issue of government surveillance (which Edward is obsessed with) was background noise but has recently become front page news. 

We should add, “not merely government surveillance” because, it turns out, everybody wants a digital piece of you and me. Retailers want to use your cell phone to a) triangulate your position (in front of the lingerie counter, the shoe section, etc.) to determine b) exactly what you are looking at buying and c) target ads your way – and they are willing to trick your cell phone into coughing up that location information to do it.  Real-time, salacious (or should that be “solicitous”) advertising – a new market segment. (Except one of us really does not want to see a real time ad featuring someone younger and thinner whilst in the bathing suit department – way to pressure the customer, you idjits!)  The medical community is looking at having patients swallow pills that are really digital transmitters relaying the state of your gastro-intestinal tract. (Begging the question, “Does my colon look fat in this picture? Tell me the truth!”) No, we aren’t making this up.  Not only is truth stranger than fiction, it is more imaginative (depressingly so in many cases) than fiction.

Our paranoia began echoing Edvard’s once we began researching all the ways THEY (THEY being pretty much anybody you don’t want to know your business) can – and are – tracking you. The surveillance cameras that oversee so many doors, stores, intersections, ATMs and more. The collection of massive amounts of data – often without knowledge or consent – to try to slice, dice, parse and predict your life.  The dumbness of Connecting Stuff to the Internet that has no goldurn business being there (like, I dunno, putting household appliances on a network so THEY know when you open the refrigerator at 1 am to finish up the rest of the red velvet cupcakes which, as everyone knows, go bad if they are in the fridge overnight, so there).  So many people are willingly making their lives digital and therefore hackable – it’s news, but it is a surprise? Heck no – one of us has been predicting headlines like “family of five starves to death: locked out of their refrigerator by geeky neighbor” for years. Alas, it is all coming true.

And thus, one of the unintended consequences of technology is all the ways we can get digitally screwed. One of the unintended benefits – at least for us – is that we see no end to Edvard’s paranoia and the delightful and demented lengths he will go to so THEY can’t track him (fake ears, tin foil hats – in attractive styles, of course).  And, by-the-way, if you are reading this, “WE know where you are.” (Somewhere in the digital ozone, of course; what did you think we meant?)

Lest you think that Edvard is merely a clown in the proceedings, hopping into chapters to give the readers a laugh before the real action continues, let us assure you he is not. As a complete character, Edvard demands a more substantial role in the story. He may be a crazy Belgian, but Edvard comes through for his friends in the clutch. You’ll have to read the book to find out more.

Keeping Up with Technology … Or Not

Having named our current series “Miss-Information Technology Mysteries,” we’ve created a certain amount of pressure on ourselves to stay au courant with technology. This presents a problem, inasmuch as at least one of us is technophilic, or perhaps “technobarfic” would be more accurate, on account of having experienced (within a week, no less) her hard drive croaking, her digital phone going to bit heaven, and all the contacts on her iPhone mysteriously vanishing.  She attributes this bad byte karma to her abject failure to appease Karapola (pronounced “CRAPOLA”), the Hawaiian technology god, on her last trip to Hawai’i. She should have wrapped a microchip in a ti leaf and left it on the wall of the nearest heiau (temple) as a sacred offering of appeasement.


Back to our topic du bloggy jour, the conventional wisdom among fiction writers is to avoid mentioning issues or circumstances that might date one’s book. Perhaps this maxim arose because of the length of the traditional publishing model: a year to write a book, two years for the editing, marketing and publication work before the book launch, then six months to being remaindered.  Ouch. Perhaps some writers, aspiring to write great literature, confuse timelessness with the setting in time of a novel. Since we’ve chosen to self-publish and are clearly NOT writing literature – our characters do not have enough angst for that and in fact probably don’t know how to pronounce ‘angst’ – we’re free to toss ye olde conventional wisdom down the privy hole. (Those who know us realize we’re not much given to following conventional wisdom, anyway.)


So how much of a role does the latest and (not-so) greatest technology play in our stories? We’ll let you be the judge. Certainly we have a plot, character development and actions that are not technology dependent. However, the use and misuse (should we say “miss-use?”) of technology provide a nearly inexhaustible supply of humor. Edvard, introduced in Outsourcing Murder and returning for book three, is a consultant with a decidedly paranoid view of the world. How could Edvard not be aware and react to the fact that the NSA wants to read our minds while drones are counting the hairs on our heads? (Oop, another five grey ones today, or were before one of us plucked them. The other one relies on “better living through chemicals” to erase the predations of the Grey Hair Fairy.) Does that date the book? Yes and no. Edvard’s paranoia is an enduring feature; it does not depend on technology, but does feed on technological innovations as used in the invasion of privacy.


Similarly, our short story, “Heartfelt”, uses technology as a novel method of murder. Yet, the theme, revenge of the weak, is enduring. Were the story set in the 1890s, the killing might have been accomplished through an “accidental” application of a cattle prod. Move the story to France in the 2nd century AD and a screw wine press might by the weapon of choice. Once the author decides the victim needs to die a painful death (and trust us, our protagonist’s rotten ex-husband deserved everything he got and then some – literarily speaking, of course), technology in any age can provide the answer.


Since we’re not writing historical fiction, you won’t see cattle prods, screw wine presses, AOL accounts or Dell computers in our stories. (Okay, we’re only 98% sure on that last one.) You might find Google glasses, Recon Jets (Google glasses for athletes (1)), smart watches, drones and iPod toilet dock (“Did your predecessor flush? There’s an app for that!”) “


We should mention that “Heartfelt” has been accepted into Broken, an anthology of short stories to be published by Static Movement. We’ll let you know when the book is out. Also, and in the category of further embracing technology – even if keeping it at arm’s length seems safer and wiser – we’ve established maddidavidson.com as a domain name and you can email us at that address (maddidavidson@maddidavidson.com).


Lastly, in a momentous decision that may alter the orbit of earth and eliminate the scourge of climate change, we’ve also decided on a title for the third book. We’ve departed from the technology-inspired titles, as we realized that if we planned to write 20-30 books, we’d have trouble finding that many technological terms to match. So, say hello to With Murder You Get Sushi. As for its publication date … we’re not there, yet. All we can say is it will not be in 2013. Unless the gray hair fairy gets offed by our Muse, and the remaining 30,000 words or so all get delivered by a really, really cute FedEx guy, gift wrapped for Christmas. Good luck with that one!


(1) http://jet.reconinstruments.com/


It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s a Pterodactyl!

We’ve all had the experience of reading a book about which we’d developed some expectations and being unpleasantly surprised by the content and/or outcome, like reading Hansel and Gretel and being shocked when the children killed the kind, old woman who had given them shelter and food. This after they destroyed her property by licking the frosting off her windows. Ungrateful snots.

One of us had a similar experience lately in reading a biography of a woman who played an important role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising. The book covered her childhood, political activities in China and the aftermath of her flight and development of a new life in the US. And spent several chapters promoting a non-profit she founded, stopping just short of: “Join now! If you call us in the next 15 minutes, you’ll also receive a gen-you-wine turnip twaddler – absolutely free! Call 1-800-POORSAP! Operators are standing by.”

A detective-centered mystery by a grande dame was similarly disappointing when the conclusion, supported by 150 pages of development, proved not to be the correct one. The last forty pages revealed a different solution supported by facts the reader couldn’t possibly know – like the poison was a type found only in a remote part the Congo where killer’s plane had made an emergency landing ten years earlier en route from Cape Town to London. Puhlease! (Besides, with the Internet, everybody knows you can order murder material online from untraceablepoisons.com or bluntinstruments.com.)

Then we have the “more than you really wanted to know” read like the 700 page Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of a person who really wasn’t worth more than 350 pages, especially when the writer devolved into “Noted Biographical Subject had a cup of tea at 11:35AM. He added a second lump of sugar at 11:43AM. He washed his cup at…”. TMI and it’s enough to make you wish Noted Biographical Subject had kicked the bucket 20 years (or the aforementioned 350 pages) earlier.

The point of these ramblings is about how easy it is as a writer to forget the reader’s perspective and thereby deliver a rotten reading experience. We’re all familiar with the parable of the six blind men, each feeling a different part of an elephant, coming to divergent conclusions on what it was. The one holding the tusk thought it was a spear, the man at the tail was sure he had a rope, and the blind man feeling the leg thought he had a column in his hands, and so forth. From a different vantage point, we see that the creature is an Indian elephant. As with a story, one needs to ensure all parts are covered, and that the whole presents a coherent story, consistent with the various parts. And in our case, consistent with the Miss-Information Technology Mystery series.

 How do we do this? Once way is to have early readers. In a draft of Denial of Service, we’d included some profanity. Not by Emma, of course! She’s limited to “gosh darn,” “by our lady,” “goldurns” and the like. This profanity was limited, and fit the character and or situation in the book. Still, it was negatively commented on by someone who read the draft, the implication being that our readers expected not to see any profanity. Consequently, we removed all the profanity and merely implied or mentioned its use by the character. While a mantra for authors is to “show, don’t tell” this was the time for the opposite approach: tell, but don’t show.

Other expectations that we believe we’ve set with our readers are that the books will be humorous, the mystery will be solved with the help of friends and family and technology will play a part in the story if we don’t get too far into the nerdy weeds. Also, we don’t do serial murders, the victim isn’t entirely a nice person and the murder is not a beloved character, either. Most importantly, no animals are harmed in the telling of the story. (Seriously, one of us will not read books where pets get hurt. Except perhaps a rap on the nose after being told for the eleventieth time Don’t Chew Mommy!)

As we labor away on the third book, we are conscious of what our readers expect, and yet, also concerned about not becoming formulaic. Okay, not entirely formulaic. We’ve added a few twists:

  • Characters revealing new facets of their personalities
  • The victim is not someone Emma knows
  • The murder weapon is a laser-guided pterodactyl
  • Emma becomes engaged and Stacey becomes pregnant
  • The locale for most of the action is Hawai’i, not San Francisco

 Okay, not all of the above is true; we have to have a few surprises, don’t we? First Clue for Our Devoted Readers: we can state categorically that no actual pterodactyls will be harmed in the writing of this book.



%d bloggers like this: