I met both Dru Ann and Kristopher at Malice Domestic. For some reason both instances are ingrained in my brain. I met Dru Ann at the Sisters in Crime Breakfast when Edith asked me to take a picture of the two of them. Interestingly enough, I also met Kristopher Zgorski at Malice Domestic when someone told me he was a book blogger and I handed him a copy of Tagged for Death, not knowing his true passion and the focus of the blog was thrillers. But he graciously took it. Both are beloved in the writing community and I’m delighted to have them guest to celebrate their first short story, Ticket to Ride!
It Takes a
By Dru Ann Love and Kristopher Zgorski
As you may have heard, we—Dru Ann and Kristopher—have a short story called “Ticket to Ride” in the new anthology Happiness is a Warm Gun: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of The Beatles. It is the first published short story for both of us, but it didn’t happen alone.
If you read the acknowledgements at the back of any novel—and really, you should always be reading those—you get a sense of how many people are involved in the creation of a book. The same holds true for a short story.
Yes, it is true that the two of us conceived of and crafted the words that now appear on the printed page, but that never negates all the other people who were involved along the path.
We are lucky enough to call many very successful authors our friends. We hang out with them at conventions. We gather with those local to us at meals and events. We celebrate their every accomplishment. We look up to them as though they are rock stars doing the impossible—creating entire worlds out of words. It is because of them—because of many of you who are reading this very post—that we know this is even possible.
So, when Josh Pachter—the editor of many great “Inspired By” anthologies—first approached us about writing a story for his new collection celebrating the music of The Beatles, we discussed it very seriously. Dru Ann really had no aspiration to write fiction but is also one who never backs away from a challenge. While Kristopher did want to do some creative writing, he recognized that this collaboration would be very different from anything he might write alone. With a bit of a leap of faith on both our parts, we eventually agreed to give it a try. In the end, we enjoyed our first foray into writing a short story for Happiness is a Warm Gun: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of The Beatles edited by Josh Pachter.
Having been steeped in the publishing community for years, we knew the next part was critical. First there was the writing itself—which was both a challenge and a joy. Writing your first work as a collaboration with someone else probably is not the soundest advice for most newbies, but with our long-standing bond and undeniable respect for each other, we certainly found a way to make it work. In bringing the story of Lester and Lizzy to life, we played to each of our strengths and many drafts later, we had something we thought was good. Given the back-and-forth nature of our writing process, we knew it was essential that someone else read what we wrote to ensure it made sense. So we employed (i.e., begged) two beta readers to take a look. Beta readers come in handy as they can find your typos, they can tell you if the pacing of your story is flawed, and they can also tell you if the subject matter has veered completely off-course. One of our beta readers informed us that we needed more crime. LOL. In our defense, our story had a crime, we just needed to expand on that and get a little gritty. Anyone who knows both Dru Ann and I will attest that “gritty” is maybe not the first word they would associate with our loveable personalities. Fortunately, this beta reader even had some invaluable suggestions on how we could accomplish this goal without necessitating a total re-write. The other beta reader focused on making sure we were consistent with our tense—the story takes place in two time-periods (with the present day in present tense and the past in past tense [shocker!]) But the truth was, that can become confusing and some errors and oversights were pointed out. As such, we both highly recommend the use of beta readers.
Then “Ticket to Ride” was off to our editor for his first look. Josh Pachter is very hands on and always trying to make sure any story is the best it can be. After he read “Ticket to Ride,” he suggested that our third-person telling would be stronger (and more closely emulate its song inspiration) if it were written in first-person. Thanks Josh (@#*%)! But you know what? He was right! Shout-out to all the editors out there. Josh also made some suggestions like adding some deeper characterization and making the story shorter (@#*%). Is there some magical Hogwarts-like school where editors learn to suggest changes that are diametrically opposed and seemingly impossible? We are kidding, the story is better for all this advice and we thank Josh for his guidance.
It is hard to quantify the mixture of excitement and embarrassment when it was announced that we had written a short story that was going to be published. This occurred at Left Coast Crime in Tucson and many of our friends were there and immediately sounded truly eager to read our first story. Not to sound humble (we really are very proud of what we accomplished), but we still have to wonder: Is it really any good? Are we scared to death of what others will think of “Ticket to Ride”: Heck yes. But we also know that this is a community that excels at celebrating its members. We learned so much along the way and we will continue to grow—both as people and as writers—moving forward. Thank you for taking the ride with us!
Readers: Who would you want to take a ride with on a new adventure?
HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN: CRIME FICTION INSPIRED BY THE SONGS OF THE BEATLES can be ordered at Down & Out Books (https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/pachter-happiness-warm-gun/). If you purchase the Trade Paperback, the digital version is included free of charge.
Happiness Is a Warm Gun is the sixth of Josh Pachter’s “inspired by” anthologies, following volumes of stories inspired by the songs of Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Buffett, Billy Joel, and Paul Simon…and by the films of the Marx Brothers.
For this collection, the lyrics of the Beatles’ inspired the contributing authors to imagine a world in which murder, kidnapping, blackmail, and theft are as common as meter maids and yellow submarines. Each story was inspired by a song from one of the Fab Four’s studio albums: seventeen albums, seventeen songs, seventeen stories—by a total of eighteen authors (since one was written collaboratively by Dru Ann Love and Kristopher Zgorski, two of crime fiction’s leading bloggers).
Many of the contributors, like the Beatles themselves, come from England—including award winners Martin Edwards, Paul Charles, Vaseem Khan, Christine Poulson, Marilyn Todd, Kate Ellis, and Tom Mead—while the American authors include such popular crime writers as John Copenhaver, Michael Bracken, John M. Floyd, David Dean, Joseph S. Walker, and Robert Lopresti.
So roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour—step right this way! After all, when it comes to crime, all you need is…motive, means, and opportunity!