Seattle Crime / Mystery Writing Circle?

I used to write stuff for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine back in college, and I’m thinking about getting back into it. Does anyone know of a crime / mystery writing circle in the Greater Seattle area?

Until I find one, though, I guess you guys can serve as my writing group.

I’ve posted a short story here, and I’d appreciate your constructive criticism.

Update: I got a ton of great feedback–thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. If you’d still in the mood for crime fiction, may I recommend the archvies of Thuglit.

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29 comments.

  1. The first paragraph contains a slight error…”I hastily chambered the remaining two rounds…”

    Chambering a round is the act of advancing a round into the firing chamber so that the firing pin can strike the round (causing it to go boom), so it’s impossible to chamber two rounds.

    What you mean to say is that you “hastily loaded the last two rounds into the magazine and chambered a round”, or something like that.

  2. ^^ And that, my friends, is why I need a writer’s circle.

  3. slight grammar error in this paragraph:

    “And they want to show it off. Convincing yourself that murder is an acceptable solution takes as much skill and dedication as building a ship in a bottle. My clients don’t just want to set their completed project on a shelf; they want some someone to admire their handiwork. So I pretend to listen, and assure them that, were I in THERE shoes, I

  4. I liked it very much. Good ending!

    A couple of errors I found:
    1. In the second paragraph, “dissimilar from” should be “dissimilar to.”
    2. You use “alit” in the fifth paragraph, but I think you mean “been lit.” “Alit” is the past tense of “alight,” to get down from off of something.

  5. Mine sweeper?

  6. > hadn�t alit

    Birds alight. Lights can be alight. Lights do not normally alight.

    > the d�cor of my room hailed from at least three different decades, none more recent than the 1980s

    this line didn’t work for me. YMMV. But I liked “lodgings at a thrift store” plenty.

    > �I’m glad I caught you in time

    Either this is missing some punctuation or else you meant to write more here.

    > It’s the same when they hire me:

    I’d leave this phrase out. YMMV.

    > upfront

    two words

    > , though I won’t bore you with it

    I’d leave this out. YMMV.

    > effort I put into planning an operations

    rogue plural

    > just following order.

    rogue singular

  7. Great little story – I agree with Larry however, “though I won’t bore you with it” breaks the flow. You could just leave those words out to tighten it up a bit.

  8. stet

  9. As I was reading, I was thinking I was going to post that it was well-written but not all that interesting. But then I got to the end — nice twist on an otherwise fairly familiar story! I enjoyed it and would love to read more!

  10. Haha. I hope whomever I send this to reads to the end.

  11. s/Smith and Wesson/Smith & Wesson/

    The company always uses the ampersand, and anyone caring enough to mention the brand instead of “revolver” or similar would too.

    s/alit/worked/

    The “presage” bothers me, but I have no better wording suggestion. I would suggest rewriting that whole sentence really.

    s/thier/their/

    s/I’d read a few months back//

    He wouldn’t mention the article if he’d not read it, and “a few months back” adds nothing.

  12. Liked the story and the “voice”. I normally love a “twist” ending, but, I actually saw this one coming. But, I may be hard to please — the last supposed “twist” ending that really surprised me was “The Sixth Sense”.

  13. Hmm… part of me wishes you’d post that to the Customers_Suck community on LiveJournal.

    It would be too cheesy to end with “The Customer is always Right… >BLAM

  14. Nice story. I guessed the end as soon as you could expect to, but then I also guessed who Keyser S�ze was.
    Editorial points:

    like sailors presage rain. – too wordy, ‘can predict’ or ‘can smell’
    gesticulation – gestures
    jovially – drop it
    It was kind of wordy at the start, then it got into its stride. Were you nervous to begin with?

    Convincing yourself that murder is an acceptable solution takes as much skill and dedication as building a ship in a bottle. – Loved this paragraph. This was the point where I was sold on the story.

    when I cut him off and closed the door he looked crestfallen – how did I know that when the door was closed?

    I�d given no indication doing our meeting – during

    I�ve build an empire on that motto – built

    was clad in – back to the wordiness, use ‘wearing’

    Overall nice idea, well executed, but resist the temptation to use obscure words as it doesn’t really fit the genre and makes you sound a tad pretentious.

  15. I agree with the comments about the few slightly over-wrought phrasings. It’s written in first person, so it should be in the style of speech of a hired killer. For the most part it is.

    I’m curious about your writing process. Do you start with the twist and work back? Do you start with “I want to write a contract killer in a motel room” and work forwards? Do you start with “I wish I could shoot Bill Gates” (probably not)?

    I tend to allow myself to wallow in that group of people that Terry Pratchett refers to when he says that most people don’t want to write, they want to have written.

  16. Very nice twist. I also like how you jump right in and explain as you go … that’s my biggest stumbling block in my writing. (Many failures have expressed to me that it’s not as easy as you make it look.)

    Ever since my Ellery Queen’s subscription ran out five or six years ago, I’ve been kicking myself for not renewing. I guess I like the abuse.

  17. Personally, I saw the ending coming the minute the words “the next person you see” were spoken.

    Question: Did you intentionally use the name Frank Sullivan as a reference to Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus and Schrodinger’s Cat trilogies in both of a which a set of quintuplets all named Frank Sullivan are agents of international intrigue?

  18. Great story overall. I may misunderstand the genre; if so, forgive me. Like Tracy above, I had the conclusion pegged as being likely.

    My one problem is this, and this is where my lack of familiarity with the genre may trip me up: If one is an assassin, I would think one would plan one’s escape from the crime scene in such a way that detection and capture would be minimized. The way this story is written, the killing will be committed in a motel room for which the assassin has paid cash to cover his stay. This means that at least one person on the motel’s staff can provide a physical description to the police which may well lead to eventual capture. Your assassin had to have spoken with a person to exchange his cash for the room key. Particularly if the victim in the case is a high-profile individual, not only the police will be seriously searching for the killer, the victim’s family will likely be paying for private detectives to aid in the detection process. Was your assassin perhaps wearing items such as a wig and/or facial hair wig to disguise his true appearance when he checked into the motel?

    In the end, then, as the story is written, as the assassin, barring the disguise issue, I would likely have moved the crime scene away from the motel room and to a concealed area where I could be relatively certain the assassination could occur without anyone being able to identify me. This development would perhaps remove your more dynamic ending which is definitely “in your face” but perhaps make it more realistic. If your assassin could count on the disguise being believable, then perhaps moving the crime scene is not necessary.

    I am assuming here that your assassin is using a silencer–that is not specifically mentioned, however. Again, not knowing the genre, perhaps I am incorrect in believing it might be a worthwhile addition if you are going to keep your conclusion in this motel with paper-thin walls and with neighbors still apparently awake and watching TV.

    Again, great story, and if the genre doesn’t depend upon logic and detail, no plot changes seem necessary to me.

  19. I wasn’t looking for a twist ending, so it caught me totally off guard and was very effective. Nice job…

    My only complaint comes from the first few paragraphs – too much exposition relative to the length of the story, IMHO. The action begins with the words “Guido’s Pizza.” Everything before that could be condensed into a single paragraph. As it stands, the story doesn’t start until about 1/3 of the way through.

  20. I really enjoyed the story. Keep it up!

  21. you used the phrase “stock phrases” twice in close proximity…. one should probably be changed. nice story!

  22. I actually saw the twist, from about here: “But, for some reason, I was resistant to the idea for selecting the target myself…” Also, I think the tone (esp in the initial description) veers between noir and normal – sticking to one might be better.
    Nice story, though. I’d love to see what else you write.

  23. Like a few of the other commenters, I saw the twist coming. I think I spotted it during their phone conversation, personally.

    The story kept me reading, though. I like the conversational tone. I’ll also echo the sentiments from above over the use of “alit” — the sentence would be better as …the “NO” on its Vacancy sign hadn’t been lit in years.

    The title is fine, but if you’re looking for an alternate one, may I suggest “No Refunds, Exchanges Only”?

  24. Enjoyed the story!

    Agree with earlier comments that the first part could be chopped back/down – the story doesn’t start until the phone is answered…

    I am sure not too sure if it is deliberate, but I think “hadn�t alit in years” should be “hadn�t been alight in years.” or you could always use “hadn�t burned in years”

    Good luck , look forward to reading more

  25. Ooooh! It got me. Love the way the narrator has a kind of disgruntled small business owner persona. Great internal dialogue of the narrator–that’s my favorite aspect.

    The points about the beginning might be right. I was sort of resisting the story though–not expecting to like it since it isn’t my favorite genre. But it drew me in anyway. This might mean the first part should be shortened but I can’t say.

    I need to get the people above to proofread my work.

  26. I also was *fairly* sure of the ending, but not positive. Great line right here:

    “All right,” I growled, “We’ll do it your way.”

    I read past it aways – and went back again to read it, because it confirmed that the ending might be what I figured. Nice touch.

    I thought there was a word doubled somewhere, but couldn’t find it when I just re-read it, but then noticed you’d updated since the first time I read the story. As others, I’m still stumbling on “alit”.

    There is a trailing period here:

    “Minesweeper on the computer. .”

    Nice story. Looking foward to more.

  27. I don’t know of one, but these guys would, though you probably already know of them – The Seattle Mystery Bookshop @ 117 Cherry. Just something I found while looking for Pike Place one day (I turned the wrong way).

  28. This reminds me a great deal of a Neil Gaiman short story I read a few years ago- We Can Get Them For You Wholesale. The story’s about a man who hires a firm to kill someone, and then discovers that he can get a discount if he asks them to kill two people…

    I quite liked yours.

  29. Where’d it go? I wanna read too!