Wednesday, September 30, 2020

SMFS Members Published in The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Sixth Scandalous Serving

Multiple SMFS list members appear in the recently published anthology, The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Sixth Scandalous Serving. Published by Untreed Reads, the anthology is available in both print and eBook format from the publisher, Amazon, and other vendors. The SMFS members in the book are: 


Bobbi Chukran with “Nameless Adventure of the Red Carbuncle, or Who Snatched Aunt Jewell’s Jewell?” 

Herschel Cozine with "Let's Talk Turkey." 

Lesley A. Diehl with "A Fowl Play Holiday." 

Trey Dowell with “A Very Darwin Family Thanksgiving.” 

C.C. Guthrie with “The Pecan Pie Sacrifice.” 

Steve Liskow with "Cranberry Beret.” 

Steve Shrott with “Some More Good Times.” 

Joseph S. Walker with “Dinner With The King.” 




Everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving-themed mystery anthology is back for a sixth outing, celebrating not just the best in murder-most-fowl short stories (not a turkey among them), but also ten years of Untreed Reads Publishing!In addition to enjoying the holiday magic that is bumping off family members we don’t like, this year’s Killer also honors the dedication to the writing world by the late TKWC contributor Earl Staggs.Serving up a sixth season of stories are the following dinner guests: Bobbi A. Chukran, Bert Paul, C.C. Guthrie, Catina Williams, Herschel Cozine, J.B. Toner, Joseph S. Walker, Kari Wainwright, Lesley A. Diehl, Steve Liskow, Steve Shrott and Trey Dowell. Lisa Wagner returns with all-new recipes, helping you to fill your stomach and tickle your funny bone at the same time.So have a seat, grab a plate of food (we wouldn’t try the stuffing if we were you), and get ready to laugh until you’re cranberry in the face!


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The First Two Pages: “All Shook Down” by Libby Cudmore

 The First Two Pages: “All Shook Down” by Libby Cudmore

SleuthSayers: Who Are You? by Michael Bracken

SleuthSayers: Who Are You?: Though our bios are important, what do our photos tell readers about us? Author bios can be some of the trickiest bits of writing we d...

SMFS Member Publishing News: Edith Maxwell


Today is publication day for SMFS list member Edith Maxwell’s new book, Candy Slain Murder: A Country Store Mystery. Writing as Maddie Day, the book is published by Kensington Publishing and available in print, digital and audio formats. This eighth book in her long running mystery series is available from the publisher, Amazon, and other vendors


Publisher Synopsis:


Christmas cheer has sent the griddle into overdrive at Robbie Jordan’s popular country store and cafĂ©. And this year, there’s a new seasonal special to feast on: murder!


As December sweeps through South Lick, Indiana, Robbie’s life seems merry and bright like the string lights glistening around town. But strange happenings signal a bumpy ride into the holidays. First a man raises eyebrows at Pans ‘N Pancakes when he claiming to be the long-lost half-brother of Robbie’s assistant. Then a fire destroys the home of a controversial anesthesiologist, exposing skeletal remains in his attic. Helplessly intrigued, all Robbie wants for Christmas is to stop her winter wonderland from becoming a real nightmare. With a decades-old mystery taking shape, can she run as fast as she can in pursuit of a killer who’s harder to crack than a stale gingerbread man?

Monday, September 28, 2020

SleuthSayers: Bam, Scam, Thank you, Ma'am by Steve Liskow

SleuthSayers: Bam, Scam, Thank you, Ma'am: Every six weeks, or so, my wife Barbara says to me, "Isn't your big break about due again?" It's a standing joke,...

SMFS Members Published in Coast to Coast NOIR

Today is publication day for Coast to Coast NOIR. Published by Down & Out Books, the anthology is available in both eBook and print formats from the publisher, Amazon, and other vendors. The SMFS list members in the new book are:


Co-Editor Paul Marks with “Nowhere Man.”


Stephen D. Rodgers with “Detour to Dolmades.”





It doesn’t have to be the dark of a rainy night for it to be noir. It doesn’t have to be shadowy rooms of Venetian blinds. It doesn’t even have to be a femme fatale. Noir is somebody tripping over their own faults, somebody who has an Achilles heel, some kind of greed, or want or desire that leads them down a dark path, from which there is sometimes no return.


No one is safe. There’s no place to hide in this collection of twelve stories from the dark side of the American Dream.


Stories of noir from Coast to Coast.



Colleen Collins—Denver, Colorado

Brendan DuBois—rural Massachusetts

Alison Gaylin—Hudson Valley, New York

Tom MacDonald—Nashua, New Hampshire

Andrew McAleer—Boston, Massachusetts

Michael Mallory—Springfield, Missouri

Paul D. Marks—Venice Beach/Los Angeles, California

Dennis Palumbo—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Stephen D. Rogers—Providence, Rhode Island

John Shepphird—Los Alamos, New Mexico

Jaden Terrell—Nashville, Tennessee

Dave Zeltserman—small town Kansas

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Changing the Derringer Awards


Changing the Derringer Awards

 The membership of the Short Mystery Fiction Society voted this month to change the eligibility requirements for the Derringer Awards.  The Society has been giving the Awards for the best in short mystery fiction since 1998. 

 For the first time self-published stories are eligible to be considered for the awards.  This recognizes the increasing importance that self-publication has in our current era.

 For a complete description of the current rules, see

A Short Walk Down A Dark Street: Issue 123

As posted by Peter DiChellis to our list…

This week’s blog cheers short mystery & crime fiction with links to a wicked mix of reviews, releases, free reads, and more.


Includes—Tricks of the trade: Five techniques to power ahead and finish writing a story.


Also—All the latest free-to-read crime flash at Shotgun Honey.


And a Mystery Scene review of the second Penzler anthology with a bookstore or a book as the central element to a mystery.


And more.


A short walk down a dark street (#123). Celebrating short mystery and crime fiction.


Best wishes,


Derringer Awards Policy

 (updated 1/01/2023)

2023 Derringer Awards Coordinator Anthony Rudzki

2023 Derringer Awards Assistant Coordinator Joseph S. Walker 


Since 1998, the Short Mystery Fiction Society has awarded the annual Derringers—named after the popular pocket pistol—to outstanding published stories and people who've greatly advanced or supported the form.

As of 2004, an annually-elected Coordinator administers the regular Derringer process. Detailed below, the process runs January 1–April 30, recognizing stories published the previous year.

The current regular Derringer Awards are:

·                     Best Flash Story (Up to 1,000 words)

·                     Best Short Story (1,001 to 4,000 words)

·                     Best Long Story (4,001 to 8,000 words)

·                     Best Novelette (8,001 to 20,000 words)

As of 2009, a committee of the sitting SMFS Officers, Derringer Coordinator, and two regular members selects a living writer whose outstanding body of short fiction merits the Society's 
Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement.

In addition to the May 1 winners announcement, as of 2009, winners also receive physical medals which are usually presented during Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. To donate toward the cost of the medals, contact the Derringer Coordinator. 

SUBMISSIONS (January 1–30, 2023)

Who can submit?

With the exceptions of the Society President and Vice President, who have neither authority over the Derringer process nor Derringer eligibility, and the Awards Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator, who have authority over the Derringer process but no Derringer eligibility,

Members who joined the society by December 31, 2022 may submit eligible stories written by anyone, including themselves


Editors of venues featuring mystery or crime short stories may submit eligible stories published in those venues.

Story eligibility

To be considered for the 2023 Derringer Awards, a submission:

a) must be a mystery or crime story up to 20,000 words,

b) must be originally published in 2022, in English,

c) may be published in a single publication, periodical, collection, or anthology,

d) must be available in print and/or electronic form,

e) may originate from any country or location,


Publication Date:

A story’s eligibility is determined by the venue’s cover or front page date, which must be no later than December 31, 2022.

In the case of self-published stories, a publishing platform, such as Amazon Kindle, must be used to establish story availability and a publication date stamp. Stories appearing on a website must have a first publication date visible to be considered.


Submission Limits

    Any member who joins SMFS by December 31, 2022, may submit up to TWO (2) eligible stories in any combination of standard publication or self-publication. 


    3 editorial submissions are allowed from venues which published fewer than 26 eligible stories during the year;

    4 editorial submissions are allowed from venues which published 26–50 eligible stories during the year;

    5 editorial submissions are allowed from venues which published 51–75 eligible stories during the year;

    6 editorial submissions are allowed from venues which published more than 75 stories during the year.


    For multi-editor venues, the editors split the number of submissions determined above.

    (e.g. 4 editorial submissions are allowed from a four-editor venue featuring 26 eligible stories. If one editor makes 4, the other three editors cannot make any.)

    Editors of multiple venues: 


    3 editorial submissions are allowed if they edited a total up to 25 eligible stories;

    4 editorial submissions are allowed if they edited a total of 26–50 eligible stories

    5 editorial submissions are allowed if they edited a total of 51–75 eligible stories;

    6 editorial submissions are allowed if they edited a total of more than 75 stories.

    The number of submissions allowed from any one venue remains bound by the venue's total eligible stories.

    (e.g. An editor who worked on 100 stories across 5 venues would be allowed 6 total submissions. If one of the venues featured only ten stories, the editor could submit 3 from it, but then would have only 3 submissions left to split among 90 stories and 4 venues.)

  •  Editors who became members of the Society by December 31, 2022, may submit, in addition to their editorial submissions, two eligible stories from venues other than their own.

    If an editor is responsible for a publication containing stories they wrote, that editor may submit only up to TWO (2) of their own stories.

    An editor may decide not to submit his/her venue's stories. S/he cannot prevent other members of the Society from submitting them UNLESS s/he acquired such controlling rights over the stories.

Format and Address

To make the judges' jobs as easy as possible, and to prevent having to reformat an assortment of submission layouts, there has to be a standardized format for submissions. The 2023 Derringer competition uses William Shunn's more-or-less industry-standard layout linked to below, except that (a.), the manuscript should use 12-point Times New Roman font, (b.), the manuscript must be in .doc (not .docx) file type, and c.)  the personal contact information normally included at top left of page 1 must be omitted.

William Shunn's short-story formatting page can be found here. Remember, the personal contact information at top left is not required for Derringer submission. If inadvertently included, it will be deleted before forwarding to the judges:

Please use .doc (not .docx) file type and Times New Roman 12-point font for your submission file. Please include the number of words in your submission as shown in the format.

You MUST remove all of your personal information from the manuscripts. This includes, for example, the information on the top left of the first page as mentioned above, or in the header, or in the document’s properties. This is to encourage open-minded judging.

Removing the information about the author is the submitter’s responsibility and failure to do so will result in the story being removed from consideration.

When submitting your stories, please include "[Derringers]" somewhere in the subject line. This will make it easy to spot your submission so that nothing is lost.  Example: [Derringers] The Case of the Sample Title.

Include your personal information in the body of your submission email, particularly:

  • whether you are submitting as SMFS member, publication editor, or both;
  •  the story title, author's name, and, if applicable, the pseudonym used for the story;
  • where and when the story was originally published in 2022; and
  • the URL to the published story if applicable.

Submit stories and questions to Anthony Rudzki at

Anyone submitting someone else's work must have and is presumed to have acquired the proper permissions from the author. By submitting someone else's work, a submitter assumes responsibility for having the proper permissions.

The Coordinator posts updates of the stories received throughout the January submission period. This avoids duplicate submissions and serves to check that stories submitted are received. If any story submitted does not appear in an update and you have met the listed eligibility requirements, follow up with the Coordinator.

All submissions must be in by January 30, 2023. January 31 will be used to prep submissions to be sent to the judges.

JUDGING (February 1–March 30, 2023)

The Coordinator assigns eligible submissions to award categories by length: 

  • Best Flash Story (Up to 1,000 words)
  • Best Short Story (1,001 to 4,000 words)
  • Best Long Story (4,001 to 8,000 words)
  • Best Novelette (8,001 to 20,000 words)

Each category requires three primary and one alternate SMFS members to judge the category down to five finalists. To protect their identities and the privacy of the judging process, members sign up to judge by contacting the Coordinator directly by December 31, 2022.

Volunteers may specify which category they wish to judge, subject to availability, but they cannot judge categories including stories they wrote or published as editor. The Coordinator keeps this in mind when assigning judges, but any erroneously-assigned judges should inform the Coordinator, who decides how to rectify the error.

Before sending the Derringer submissions to the judges, the Coordinator ensures the manuscripts show neither the author's name nor the details of publication. This is not to mandate blind judging, but to encourage open-minded judging. Judges may recognize authors and publication details but are nevertheless expected to score all stories in their rightfully assigned categories regardless.

If the load of stories appears to be a problem the Coordinator has the discretion to make adjustments (i.e. number of stories, number of judges, schedule, etc.) to make the competition work smoothly.


The Scoring Guidelines below have been used for over a decade as a way of encouraging a measure of commonality among different judges' approaches. They are not litmus tests to be applied in a cookie-cutter manner by all judges to all submissions, but are rather a source for general areas of consideration that can be used to the extent considered appropriate in conjunction with a judge's individual experience, acumen, and skills.

Using the Scoring Guidelines below as desired, each judge rates each of the four larger general areas of:


A judge assigns each of these areas a score of 1 to 10. The judge should note these individual scores but need not formally record them. The judge then adds the four individual areas' scores together to arrive at a cumulative score of 4 - 40. For each submission, each judge in the category reports this single, cumulative score on the scoring sheet provided by the Derringer Coordinator.

If, at any point during the reading of any entry, a judge concludes that the impression formed thus far is final and without reasonable expectation of change regardless of what remains to be read and evaluated, the judge is not bound to continue reading that entry.


  • How well does the writing grab and hold your attention?
  • Do the prose style and dialogue serve the story well?
  • Does the story's setting or overall atmosphere draw you in?
  • Does the story rise above others in the category for the way it's written?

  • Are they well developed and convincing?
  • Is there good interaction between characters?
  • How well does the writer handle viewpoints or inhabit each character?
  • Do the characters serve the story well?

3. PLOT 
  • How well are the story events structured from beginning to end?
  • Does the story rise above others in the category for its plot?
  • Does the story set up and then meet or cleverly subvert expectations?

  • Did you have a good reaction to the story not described by the other elements?
  • How memorable was the story?

The alternate judge in a category is called if one of the primary judges is unable to serve to completion for some reason. The alternate will be asked to read and evaluate only the portion of the category's entries that the primary judge was unable to get to.

All stories must be scored and returned to the Coordinator by March 30.

March 31 is reserved for the Coordinator to verify the outcome of scoring. For each Derringer category, the five stories with the highest averages become the Finalists.


On April 1, the Coordinator announces the Finalists on Shortmystery and announces them publicly here on the blog.

VOTING (April 1–29, 2023)

On April 1, the Coordinator uploads the finalist manuscripts to Shortmystery's Files section and creates polls to conduct the vote. All members who join prior to January 1 of the current year are eligible to vote. Members who join between January 1 and April 30 cannot participate in the Derringer judging or voting process. During the month of April, these Members may read the finalist manuscripts, but will not be able to vote or post to the SMFS list.

April 30 is reserved for the Coordinator to verify the poll results and prepare the announcement of winners. The Coordinator then deletes the manuscripts from Shortmystery's Files section.


On May 1, the Coordinator announces the Winners in Shortmystery and publishes the official announcement here on the blog.


When possible the five honorees receive their Derringer medals during Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. If you'd like to donate toward future medals, please contact the Current Derringer Coordinator. Any winners who are unable to attend will receive their medals by mail.