As we discussed earlier this week, Crime Bake has been part of our writing lives for a long time. In fact, I’ve been to every Crime Bake save the first one. So I have been there when the Level Best anthologies have had their debuts. That first year I was there with my friend Regina, who bought a copy and ran around, having everyone sign it. We were both at the beginning of our journey as writers, and decided that a Level Best story was a goal.
That was in 2003. The next year Regina was in the hospital, fighting the cancer that took her life in 2005. I stopped by on my way home from Crime Bake, catching her up on stories, and telling her about my pitch (which she had made me promise I would do). I think I bought her a copy of the Level Best anthology, but I can’t remember. I hope that I did.
After Regina died, I was inspired to write a short story about a part of her life. I submitted it to the Al Blanchard contest, and won an honorable mention. It was rejected by Level Best, but I still remember the nice note I got from Ruth McCarty. I thought maybe I was done with short stories, and went back to toiling on my novel
Then I heard the voice. A woman was telling me her story, about the husband who wouldn’t friend her on Facebook. And her fake profile. And his death. I wrote it down, in first person. I worked on it, and got it down to 1000 words, submitting it to Level Best. This story was accepted, and “Tag, You’re Dead” was published 2010’s Thin Ice.
The next year I pulled out the story I had written about Regina, and edited it again. I renamed it “Her Wish” and submitted it. This time it was accepted, and it appeared in 2011’s Dead Calm. And, again, I went back to the novel. The same novel.
In 2012 a serial killing stage manager appeared in my subconscious. I was tempted to add her to the novel, but instead I wrote a short story, introducing her to the world. Again, it came in at under 1000 words, and the world met Adele Lane in “The Pendulum Swings Until It Doesn’t” in Blood Moon last fall.
I cannot tell you what a thrill it is when you are first published. And being included in a Level Best Anthology adds layers to the thrill. You are in the company of wonderful writers, signing at Crime Bake. Your holiday shopping is done (everyone gets a book), and when people ask how it is going with your writing, you can honestly say “well”.
Barb is one of the current editors of Level Best Books. I honestly don’t know how she, Mark Ammons, Kat Fast and Leslie Wheeler do it. But I am so grateful they do. They have given many people the joy of publication, and countless readers hours of enjoyment. Though not in Stone Cold, I am thrilled for my friends who are (including Barb and Edith), and I can’t wait to dive in.