alfred hitchcock's mystery magazine

Crazy Old Photo of Me at My First Job in the 1970s

Joe garage photo-small.jpeg

I just came across this old photo from the 1970s of me working at my first job. The shot was taken with a Polaroid camera, so I hastened to scan it so I could preserve it before the image flaked off the plastic film.

I have no idea how old I am in the photo, but I know exactly where i am and what I’m doing. I’m in my parent’s garage in New Jersey, helping my father make patterns for the Garment District.

Both my parents worked in the garment industry and were proud members of the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union (ILGWU). My father, who is now 88 years old, can still tell you how much he receives in a monthly pension from the union, down to the penny.

My Dad trained as a mechanic after high school but somehow switched to a different career path after taking a six-week course on pattern-making. For 30-plus years he was a pattern-maker working for a variety of coat-making firms on New York’s Seventh Avenue, aka “Fashion Avenue.” The way it worked then, the fashion designer or “stylist” would draw a sketch of how they wanted a new coat to look. That sketch was handed to people like my Dad, whose job it was to translate the 2D image into a) a 3D mock-up for critique and analysis, and b) a final pattern that could be used for full-scale factory production.

The “patterns” he made were just like the ones you might buy in a fabric or sewing shop, except they were made out of heavy card paper. Each piece of the pattern represented a piece of the fabric the factory would need to cut and sew to make the final coat, jacket, blouse, etc.

My father often freelanced, bringing work home that he’d tackle after dinner in the garage. He’d pass those giant sheets of paper to me, and it was my job to do the rest. (I’m guessing nothing has change to this day. If you’re in the business, then I can tell you more specifically that I cut, notched, and marked every pattern.) It was unskilled labor, and fairly straightforward. I can tell you that thanks to this work, I can cut fairly accurately with a pair of scissors to this day. Ours was a full-on family enterprise, with my mom and my two younger brothers pitching out when they got older.

I have no recollection what Dad paid me for this work. I seem to recall that my parents were constantly changing the rules, sometimes linking the work I did for Dad to a weekly allowance and sometimes arbitrarily withholding payment due to some behavioral infraction during the week.

I look at this photo and I feel immediately transported to that shabby garage workshop with its harsh fluorescent lighting, mannequins, pencil sharpeners, and insane extension cords running all over the place. Later in life, everything I learned about the garment industry ended up in the first short story I ever sold—“Button Man,” which appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine back in 2013. So I guess you could say that the experience was finally put to good use.

I love those pants!


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Look for My Story in the July/August 2017 Issue of Hitchcock's Mystery Mag

Look for my short story, “A Respectable Lady,” in the July/August 2017 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM). The hard-copy issue hits newsstands tomorrow, Tuesday, June 20, but digital issues are already available.

I’d describe “A Respectable Lady” as a Sherlockian story that delves in the history of a minor character in the Great Detective's orbit. As one editor said in rejecting it, "Your story is well-written, but giving [redacted] such a sordid past would, I believe, be greatly disliked by our readership, so I will reluctantly have to pass on this one."

Well, AHMM liked it, so we're off to the races, sordid as you please.

You can download a single digital issue via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Magzter, Kobo, and Google Play. Just make sure you are downloading the July/August issue shown here.

Submissions stats: I finished this story sometime in October 2014. I submitted it to AHMM in July 2015, and didn’t hear from them until they bought it in June 2016, nearly eleven months later. It’s appearing a year after acceptance. Payment was $160, plus an additional $40 prepayment against a future AHMM anthology. That came to a total of $200, or about 9.5 cents a word.

Yes, I will eventually release an e-book version of “A Respectable Lady," which I’ll offer free to readers on my list. If you’d rather wait for the free copy, please join my e-newsletter.

 


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here.

Look for My Story in the Nov 2015 Issue of Hitchcock's Mystery Mag

Look for my short story, “The Truth of What You’ve Become,” in the November 2015 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM). The hard-copy issue hits newsstands tomorrow, Tuesday, September 15, but digital issues are already available.

I’d describe “The Truth...” as a Good Samaritan story gone wrong.

You can download a single digital issue via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Magzter, Kobo, and Google Play. Just make sure you are downloading the November issue shown above.

Submissions stats: I finished this story sometime in November 2013. I submitted it to AHMM in February 2014, and didn’t hear from them until they bought it in September 2014, nearly eight months later. So it’s appearing a year after acceptance, nineteen months since writing and submission. Payment was $208, plus an additional $52 prepayment against a future AHMM anthology. That came to a total of $260, or about 8 cents a word.

Yes, I will eventually release an e-book version of “The Truth of What You’ve Become," which I’ll offer free to readers on my list. If you’d rather wait for the free copy, please join my e-newsletter.


My story in the July-Aug 2015 issue of AHMM

Look for my short story “Scintilla” in the July/August 2015 double issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM). The hard-copy issue hits newsstands next Tuesday, May 26, but digital issues are (mostly) available this week.

I consider "Scintilla" to be one of my Italian stories, even though it doesn't feature the detective I introduced in The Marshal of the Borgo. I was trying to duplicate the experience of reading foreign-language mystery stories that had been translated into English. As typically happens with me these days, the story ended up being a paranormal/crime hybrid. I'm kind of surprised AHMM took it, but they sometimes like weird stuff.

You can download a single digital issue via AmazonBarnes & NobleApple iTunesMagzterKobo, and Google Play. Just make sure you are downloading the July/August issue shown above.

Submissions stats: I finished this story sometime in November 2013. I submitted it to AHMM in November 2013, and didn’t hear from them until they bought it in July 2014, eight months later. So it’s appearing ten months after acceptance, seventeen months since writing and submission. Payment was $276, plus an additional $69 prepayment for the right to republish in a future AHMM anthology. That came to a total of $345, or about 7 cents a word.

If you are a fan of the old Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout, you might want to a grab a copy of this issue. It's the annual AHMM that features the winner of the Black Orchid Novella Contest, a competition that challenges writers to emulate the style of the old Wolfe books and short stories.

Yes, I will eventually release an e-book version of "Scintilla," which I’ll offer free to people on my list. If you’d rather wait for the free copy, please join my e-newsletter.

Sneak peak at my story in AHMM's summer double issue

    

 

 

I just got some advance copies of the July/August double issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in the mail. When the issue hits newsstands, real and virtual, on May 26, it will feature a new short story of mine, entitled "Scintilla." More on that story in a few weeks, but here's a peek at the art they're running with the story.

Picked for Best American Mystery Stories 2015 anthology!

I finally arrived home a few days ago after being away for three-and-a-half months and have been busy trying to dig myself out from under emails and to-dos. Now that the contract's cleared, I can announce something I've kept under wraps for a while: one of my short stories was chosen for the  forthcoming Best American Mystery Stories 2015 anthology. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will pub the anthology later this year, in October 2015. As many of you no doubt know, Otto Penzler is the longtime series editor; author James Patterson is the guest editor who made this year's picks.

The story is "Harm and Hammer," which first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine back in October 2014. (I first talked about that story here.) I'm happy because I've always been fond of this piece, which is about a woman in witness protection who takes up a strange hobby to atone for her past. If you want to check it out, you can download the ebook for free at this link, which will stay live for only a week. Please grab it while you can.

I received this excellent news back in February but was too mired in family stuff to fully appreciate it. But I am very grateful. My thanks to my editors at AHMM, Mr. Penzler, and Mr. Patterson. See you in October.

 

 

Good News for a Change

Last week I got the nicest note from a reader. This practically never happens, and with all the bad news here lately, it was nice to get this in my inbox:

At the gym today I picked up an Alfred Hitchcock Magazine that somebody had left and I began reading ... I couldn't believe how good the writing was ... one of the best, most enjoyable piece of short fiction that's engaged me since the last blue moon. You were right there with the reader. "Of course it was him." Thanks. President Street, wow.

This reader is referring to "Button Man," my first story for AHMM, which appeared in March 2013. I talked about the story here and here. President Street refers to my protag’s home address in Brooklyn, New York, of the 1950s. I’ve since published the story on its own.

The day after I got this note, I received a contract via email, informing me that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine had accepted one of my short stories. I don’t usually take the time to announce here when I’ve sold a story, but EQMM is special. Cracking that market has been a goal of mine for nearly, oh, forty years. I first started reading EQMM as a kid, when I got hooked on the old Ellery Queen TV series, starring Jim Hutton. The Queen novels were among the first adult books I ever read. And the first rejections I ever got as a kid writer were from EQMM. So it means a lot to me to finally appear in their pages. I don't want to talk about the story they bought just yet, but I'll definitely let you know when it runs.

Two great pieces of news in the middle of a bleak winter. Not bad.

My new COVER story in Hitchcock’s Mystery Mag!

This is cool: My short story “Harm and Hammer” is  the  cover story in the October 2014 issue of  Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM) , on newsstands July 22.  You can find a hard-copy version of   AHMM   wherever magazines are sold. (My local B&N tends to carry it.) Failing that, you can download a single digital issue via  Amazon ,  Barnes & Noble ,  Apple iTunes ,  Magzter ,  Kobo , and  Google Play . Just make sure you are downloading the October 2014 issue shown above. ( Read a preview here. )  Submissions stats: I finished this story sometime back in November 2012. I submitted it to  AHMM  in December 2012, and didn’t hear from them until they bought it in September 2013, nine months later. So it’s appearing ten months after acceptance, nineteen months since submission, and about twenty months after I wrote it. Payment was $340, plus an additional $85 prepayment for the right to republish in a future  AHMM  anthology. That came to a total of $425, or about 7 cents a word.  What’s been your experience with submissions? I feel like anywhere from one day to a few months is typical. Hands down,  AHMM  tends to have the slowest response time of all the places I submit to. So I tend to mail it in, and put it out of my mind.  At some point, I’ll release an e-book version of this story, which I’ll offer free to people on my list. If you’d rather wait for the free copy,  please join my e-newsletter .

This is cool: My short story “Harm and Hammer” is the cover story in the October 2014 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM), on newsstands July 22.

You can find a hard-copy version of AHMM wherever magazines are sold. (My local B&N tends to carry it.) Failing that, you can download a single digital issue via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Magzter, Kobo, and Google Play. Just make sure you are downloading the October 2014 issue shown above. (Read a preview here.)

Submissions stats: I finished this story sometime back in November 2012. I submitted it to AHMM in December 2012, and didn’t hear from them until they bought it in September 2013, nine months later. So it’s appearing ten months after acceptance, nineteen months since submission, and about twenty months after I wrote it. Payment was $340, plus an additional $85 prepayment for the right to republish in a future AHMM anthology. That came to a total of $425, or about 7 cents a word.

What’s been your experience with submissions? I feel like anywhere from one day to a few months is typical. Hands down, AHMM tends to have the slowest response time of all the places I submit to. So I tend to mail it in, and put it out of my mind.

At some point, I’ll release an e-book version of this story, which I’ll offer free to people on my list. If you’d rather wait for the free copy, please join my e-newsletter.