Level Best Books Open For Submission!

Kim in Baltimore still wearing winter clothes.

While you may be planning for the camps your children are attending this summer or where to take your family vacation, I’m thinking about November. That’s right, and I don’t mean turkey either. I’m talking about the next anthology published by Level Best Books. Every year in November at Crime Bake in New England, Level Best Books debuts a new anthology. This year’s short story anthology, Windward, will be the first by the new editors and publishers, The Dames of Detection, of which I am one.

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We are actively seeking stories by both established and previously unpublished authors that are in the mystery, thriller, suspense, caper or horror genre.

The stories should not exceed 5,000 words and must be either set in New England or be written by a New England author. Up to two stories will be accepted for review from all authors until May 31,2016.

For full details and guidelines please check our Level Best Books or The Dames of Detection websites.
Level Best Books was founded in 2003 and has now published thirteen anthologies. Stories in these books have won the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and Derringer awards as well as the Robert L. Fish award for Best First Short Story which is presented at the Edgars.
Before you sign your child up for summer camp or plan that Memorial Day cookout, send your short story to Level Best Books. Don’t dally, May will be over before you know it. Even if we are still wearing parkas!

Welcome Sharon Daynard!

We are thrilled that Sharon Daynard stopped by to talk about her writing career, short stories v. novels, and Sisters in Crime.

Wicked Cozy Authors (WCA): Sharon, you have two anthologies with your short stories that came out this fall. It is hard to pinpoint a specific genre for your work. They are funny, twisted, dark. Sometimes all three! Is there a specific genre you are drawn to?

Sharon Daynard (SD): A friend once referred to my writing as “bipolar.”

Maybe she was right. One side of me likes to write cute crime capers featuring fuzzy little cottontail bunnies, while the other side is just dying to feed them through a wood chipper. But seriously, the best thing about writing short stories is that I’m not pinned down to any one specific genre.

When I start a short story, I never know what direction it will take. About all I know is how it starts and how it ends. Everything in between is a surprise for me. “Cheese It, The Cops” is a humorous story while “Malarkey” is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

It’s the “never knowing” part that keeps writing fun for me.

WCA: Give us the background of the two stories this fall. How did you come up with the idea for your story in Level Best Books’ Stone Cold?

STONESD: I really didn’t have a particular idea or theme in mind when I sat down to write “Malarkey.” I wanted it to be a fun story about two sweet old ladies with a secret knack for hitting the lottery. I knew the names of my two main characters, elderly sisters Cadelia and Lila Malarkey, and to a very small extent what their secret was.

When I started the story, it quickly became apparent that “Malarkey” was going to be dark. The more I wrote, the darker it got. It wasn’t until the end of the story that Cadelia and Lila gave up their secrets to me.

Even though “Malarkey” is dark, it has a line here and there that makes me laugh.

WCA: And how about “Cheese It, The Cops” in The Killer Wore Cranberry: Room for Thirds?

CRANBERRYSD: I originally wrote the story a few years ago as “Cletus Harper and the Great Mouse Heist.” Told though an unreliable narrator the truth is hidden in the lies of a squabbling elderly couple, Cletus and Flo Harper. It had always been one of my favorite short stories, but I’d never found a publication for it until a member of my critique group, Ruth McCarty, told me about the Untreed Reads call for submissions. The story had to be humorous, feature a typical Thanksgiving dish as a vital part of the story and have a great mystery or crime at the heart of the story.

Cletus Harper immediately came to mind. It was humorous, involved a crime and cheese—lots of cheese. All I had to do was figure out how to work that cheese into a Thanksgiving dish. I settled on a broccoli and cheese casserole, tacked on few words to work in the Thanksgiving holiday and ta-da! “Cletus Harper and the Great Mouse Heist” became “Cheese It, The Cops.”

WCA: Do you write novels? Is that similiar or different? Do you have a preference?

SD: I’ve completed a few manuscripts. Much like my short stories, they run the gambit from quirky cozy to dark suspense.

I prefer writing novel length fiction, but short stories offer a welcomed break from the time- consuming research that goes into writing crime fiction.

The manuscript I’m currently working on is dark—very dark, but a few chuckles still manage to creep into it every so often.

WCA: We know each other via Sisters in Crime. What does that organization mean to you?

SD: I joined Sisters in Crime in September of 2001. The first meeting I attended was on the weekend after 9/11. I remember during the long ride from New Hampshire to Leominster, MA, thinking I should turn around and go home, that having a few short stories published didn’t make me a “real” writer, and I was just going to embarrass myself there. For whatever reason, I kept driving.

Any doubts I had about myself or my writing vanished the minute I walked into the meeting. I can’t tell you how welcome the Sisters made me feel.

The speaker for that day was stranded at the airport in Paris, unable to find a flight to the US. So instead, the group held an informal meeting over coffee, introducing themselves to me and discussing what they were currently working on.

I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to be surrounded by people just like me. People who didn’t snicker or roll their eyes when I said I’d just finished the first draft of a novel. They actually clapped for me. They asked what the novel was about. They asked about my characters. They asked about me and my hopes and dreams for that manuscript. And they inspired me.

Twelve years ago, I never envisioned I’d someday be vice-president of the Chapter. And everyday, I’m grateful that I didn’t give in to the naysayers in my head, and head home on the way to that first meeting.

WCA: And so are we! Thanks for coming by Sharon.



Sharon Daynard

Sharon Daynard

Sharon Daynard has crossed paths with a serial killer, testified before grand juries, and taken lie detector tests. She’s been scrutinized in bank fraud and county retirement fund scandals, labeled “a person of interest” in a major drug find, and offered the services of a professional hit man. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies in both the US and Canada. Her 51-word flash, “Widow’s Peak”, received a Derringer nomination for Best Flash of 2004 and has been used to teach minimalist writing in college classrooms. She is a member of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime.


Thanks to Level Best. . .

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.