This is why I don’t throw away my old files

AHMM 002

I’ve been looking forward for months to July 22, 2014 – the publication date for the October issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. That’s the issue in which my short story, “The Frontman’s Journey,” will appear.

This is especially exciting for me because I’ve been an avid fan of both AHMM and its sister publication, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, for several decades.  If memory serves (and it doesn’t always!), I discovered them when I was a teenager in the late 1970s, working a part-time salesclerk job at a mall that boasted both a Waldenbooks and a B. Dalton Bookseller.  I left much of my salary behind at those two stores.  I’ve been trying for almost that long to have one of my own short mystery stories accepted by AHMM and EQMM.  As far as I’m concerned, if your work is published by either of them, you’ve hit the gold standard.

Today is July 20, and I was delighted to find out last night that the digital version of AHMM, containing my story, is already available on Amazon.com.  Even though I really, really want to hold the actual paper hard copy of the magazine in my hands, I couldn’t wait.  I had to buy the digital version to see how my story looks.  I wondered if they would give it an illustration, and they did.  It looks awesome on my Kindle, and will look even better on paper!

The truly cool thing is the way that “The Frontman’s Journey” could have been a never-was.

Every writer works differently.  That’s the awesome thing about writing:  it doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as the result is an entertaining, well-written story.  A few of my writer friends never keep the files, notes, etc. of stories that, for whatever reason, didn’t pan out.  I’m the opposite.  I keep everything.  I still have copies of stories, notes, and revisions that I created back in high school.

“The Frontman’s Journey” started out as a couple of paragraphs jotted down a few years ago.  I had a vision of two rock-and-roll band members driving down the highway.  I’m a huge fan of 1980s rock music, and I often find a way to work my true loves into my fiction. After I wrote those first few paragraphs, I was lost.  I couldn’t figure out where to go with it.  So I shrugged and went on to something else, but I kept the file.  Those few paragraphs might be just a weak sploot of uselessness, but as my Depression-era grandparents used to say, you never know when you might need it.  Grandma and Grandpa were absolutely right.  I’ve been able to go back and harvest quite a bit of my old cast-off stuff for ideas, lines, and characters.

Anyway, not long afterward, I became a member of an online workshop called The Writing Bridge.  There were monthly writing challenges in which all members had to participated, either by writing a story or by reading the contributions and voting.  One month, a challenge to write about a journey brought to mind that few paragraphs of bandfic that had gone nowhere.  With the inspiration of a journey, the story ideas suddenly flowed.

That first version was hastily written.  My Bridge challenge entries were always hastily written, since I always seemed to decide at the very last minute that I wanted to enter. But once the challenge was over, I had plenty of time to do serious revisions and shape it into a story that I would be proud to have carry my name, and that I would be excited for mystery fans to read.

For me, the lesson goes beyond saving my old files.  The real lesson is this:  Never give up!  At the age of those middle-aged musicians in my story, I’ve finally achieved one of my most important dreams. There is everywhere to go from here.

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