Friday, August 25, 2023

The Dark Side of San Diego

 by Holly West

A thing I just texted my writing squad: God help me, I'm getting the itch to edit another anthology. Call 911; I think I'm having a stroke.

Two things: First, at my age, I can't afford to joke about having strokes because you never know.

Second, I have my own projects to concentrate on.

The thing about editing an anthology is that it's both yours and yet not yours. There is plenty of work to do as an editor, but it's a different kind of creativity. Choosing stories, sending edit notes to contributors, balancing the rhythm of the Table of Contents, and compiling a draft for the publisher all require careful thought and many hours of labor, but it doesn't compare to writing a story from scratch. That's where the real hard work lies. 

But goddamn, editing them sure is fun. In some ways, I think I'm more suited to being an editor than a writer—for me, it's sort of the best of both worlds.

"Crime fiction anthologies aren't huge money-makers, a sad fact we probably all know by now. But they still serve an important purpose in our genre. "

Too many people who read Do Some Damage have done editing work for me to come in here and claim I'm an authority on the subject. I've now edited two anthologies, plus several novels and short stories, but I can't imagine ever feeling like I've actually got my shit together. And yet, if anyone were to ask me whether I'm a good editor, I'd have to say, yes. Yes, I am. Despite the insecurities plaguing me, editing rightfully belongs in my wheelhouse. 

Anthology number two comes out on August 30. Killin' Time in San Diego is the 2023 Bouchercon anthology, and editing it was a completely different experience than Murder-A-Go-Go's: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of the Go-Go's, which came out in 2018. 

The biggest difference? Blind submissions.

"For me, editing anthologies is a true labor of love, even though I complain incessantly while I'm in the process of doing it."

 was invitation-only. It wasn't my preferred submission process, but since each song could only have one story, I couldn't think of another way of ensuring that songs weren't duplicated. If I were to do it over again, I'd do blind submissions with a few slots saved for invitations. No shade to Murder-A-Go-Go's and other anthologies that don't use blind submissions, but in general, I think it makes for a better anthology.

Crime fiction anthologies aren't huge money-makers, a sad fact we probably all know by now. But they still serve an important purpose in our genre. They allow emerging authors to be published and, potentially, to be published alongside higher-profile writers. They're also community builders. Sharing a Table of Contents with writers you might not be familiar with introduces you to them and their work. These can—and do—become lasting relationships. Finally, agents and editors sometimes read short stories to find potential projects and clients. I know several writers for whom this has happened.

Editing anthologies is a true labor of love for me, even though I complain incessantly while I'm in the process of doing it.

But enough about me. I'm here to talk about Killin' Time in San Diego. Instead, I'll do one better. Here's a tiny sneak peek at each story in the collection.

See you on August 30!


“Once you’re on the river, you’re on the river for the rest of the day. You can’t stop and go home. You can’t get out. There’s nowhere to go.” —CJ Box, “Every Day is a Good Day on the River”

“San Diego wasn’t where he expected things to end, but he wasn’t sorry. The weather and the sightlines were very much to his advantage.” —Mary Keenan, “The Canadians”

“We came out West after the Hooker Chemical Company dumped twenty-thousand tons of poison into our water supply. Before that, we had it pretty good.” —C.W. Blackwell, “Hard Rain on Beach Street”

“She was the kind of girl who was cute and knew it, and who was determined that, before the night was out, every man in the place would know it, too.” —J.R. Sanders, “Dead Even”

“What does all this you’re telling me have to do with you being at the police station? If he was really Vic Hollister and was stalking you, why aren’t you dead?” —John M. Floyd, “Plymouth West”

“A comedian once riffed that California has four seasons: earthquake, flood, drought, and fire. I can’t speak to the first three, but as an arson investigator for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, I’m a fire expert.” —Kathy A. Norris, “Wildfire”

“Fran’s frown eased, June’s deepened, and I—I no longer felt like smiling. After years of interviews, I prided myself on recognizing a lie and a liar.” —Kathleen L. Asay, “Buy the Farm”

“It was just after noon on Wednesday, and she’d been on the hunt since nine that morning. She’d checked two bars, a dozen tents, two SROs, three liquor stores, a needle exchange, and the big blue Church of Scientology. No one had seen or heard of Jeannie Chatham.” —L.H. Dillman, “To Hell and Back”

“Lopez had just ordered a beer at the Chee-Chee Club when he received a call and walked outside. Someone shot him point blank, right there on the pavement.” —Richie Narvaez, “Shamu, World’s Greatest Detective”

“I paused, and for a moment, I was young again, lying on the sand, still warm from the day’s sunshine, all the edges blurred by the smoke from the fire and the booze.”—Ann Cleeves, “Drowning”

“A four-seat UTV came roaring up the path to the amphitheater with three men aboard dressed in regular clothes but with their heads covered in black balaclavas, and they had the bride in the back. The string music came to an abrupt halt.” —Wesley Browne, “29 Palms”

“It wasn’t until she sat and sipped her iced tea at her reserved seat in the conference room that she wondered what had gotten into her with this odd duck Maribel, with her sangre de leche, as her mother referred to flatliners. What bizarre maternal instincts had kicked in?”—Désirée Zamorano, “President-Elect”

“I’d met guys like him before. Barely eighteen, already trained to kill, eager to do their part. In fact, I used to be one of them myself. Too young and too stupid to know the newsreel battle scenes were a load of malarkey.” —James Thorpe, “Casualties of War”

“I hated that this was happening, that it involved me, and that it was causing problems for Janine. She’d clearly loved her grandfather. Funerals were hard enough without thieves preying on the grieving.” —Kim Keeline, “Business of Death”

“Pearlie looked down at the Bay and thought about the gun that lay down there, under forty feet of saltwater. She’d never mention it, but it was safe to think about.” —Victoria Weisfeld, “Pearl of a Girl”

“Every night, Sergeant Heider recharged his air gun, donned his night-vision goggles, and defended his territory. Neighbors probably thought he was just taking random potshots at the opossums. No, sir.” —Anne-Marie Campbell, “Palms Up”

“Jean looked at Charles, with his broad shoulders and strong jawline. He was the vice president of a bank in Los Angeles, but at the moment, he didn’t look like a banker.” —Jennifer Berg, “A Bayside Murder”

 “Keir swallowed whatever bit of ire he was swishing in his mouth and forged a grin as he reached into the left breast pocket of his black sports jacket and pulled out a thick wad of green paper bundled together with a shiny gold-plated clip.” —Tim P. Walker, “Bidding War”

“Martin hunted treasure every day, even (or maybe especially) on the day he retrieved his wife’s ashes from the Chula Vista crematorium over on F Street.” —Emilya Naymark, “Girl of Gold”

“Maggie had been there the longest and wasn’t afraid to talk straight to Marudome-san: She would not service men from China or hakujin men either. She preferred, for reasons known only to her, men from Japan.” —Naomi Hirahara, “The Celestial”

Killin' Time in San Diego, edited by Holly West and featuring stories by twenty of best crime and mystery writers, will be available on August 30, 2023, from Down & Out Books. Buy links here.

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