“A Gift That Keeps Giving” – 52 Pickup, #33

Question #33, 12/24/2018

From Mike Bowen—

“I’ve noticed a lot of the Walt Longmire short stories have a holiday theme and was wondering why?”

The first short story I ever wrote was because my wife said it was something I should do. We were sitting at the ranch, drinking our morning coffee, and Judy was leafing through a copy of Cowboys & Indians Magazine when she spun the copy around and shoved it under my mug with the words, “You should do that.” Well, only those of us who’ve been married for a while know how easily you can ignore that phrase, but she was persistent. “It’s a call for submissions to the Tony Hillerman Western Mystery Short Story Contest.”

“I don’t write short stories, never have.” And with that I headed down to the barn to shovel out the stalls. Well, anybody who has ever done that kind of work knows how much free time you have in your head—so I started thinking that if I were to write a short story, what would it be about?

By the time I got back up to the ranch house, I had an idea and headed up to the loft where I write and sat down and blew out my first short story in about forty minutes. Coming down to lunch, I cavalierly tossed the pages onto the kitchen table and declared, “There’s your short story.”

To wit, my loving and supportive wife read it and replied, “Well, you’re not going to win with that.”

She was right–it was a first attempt and needed a lot of work. So, every couple of weeks I’d pull the thing out and re-write it, when it dawned on me that there might be a deadline for this contest. I went down and rummaged through the magazine rack in the kitchen and of course it was due that week. I sent it off and to make a long story short (no pun intended) Old Indian Trick won.

The highlight was having dinner with Tony, who became a fast friend, along with the added visibility of having the story appear in a national magazine; however, after that, there really wasn’t anything to do with the story. To be honest, there really isn’t anything more useless to an author than one already published short story.

So, the thing languished in a manila envelope for the better part of a year before I decided to send it out to everybody that was on my website newsletter, The Post-It, which had about two thousand subscribers. You know, a nice little surprise in the reader’s in-box for the holidays. We sent it out on Christmas morning, and I don’t think I realized what kind of trouble I was making for myself until the next year when I started getting emails from people asking when the free Christmas short story was going out this year?

I hadn’t written one, so I jumped on the computer and wrote another and it became a tradition. Viking/Penguin published a collection of the stories in the little book, Wait For Signs, which is available in paperback. I’m about a half-dozen stories toward another collection and most are holiday oriented.

I have to admit that I enjoy writing the short stories at that time of year mostly because it’s a time that law enforcement finds themselves in unique situations that aren’t specifically violent or dangerous. I enjoy writing crime fiction, but it’s fun to stretch the writing muscles by doing something a little different.

All the best,

Craig

PS: If you haven’t signed up for the Walt Longmire Christmas Short Story head over to http://www.craigallenjohnson.com and click on Sign-Up.

PPS: Happy Holidays.

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