Last year an amateur fiction contest was announced by Crimespree Magazine called "American P.I.dol". Modeled after the television show, the contest was slated to be part of Bouchercon '08 in Baltimore. Required a 5K word story featuring a private investigator (active, retired, disgraced, etc.), and finalists had to endure a series of grillings in front of probably the toughest audience one could imagine: actual crime fiction fans and writers, all jacked on caffeine and looking for bloodsport. I never, ever, EVER wanted to do a p.i. story, but somehow something told me I could do well in this contest. I mean, what did I have to lose? My pride? Fuck that. Humiliation and me go way back...and finally I could put all those years in regional theater to good use. I wrote a story called "The Lifeguard Method", got some feedback from friends, and sent it in.
Anyway, the contest was cancelled. Lack of participation was the call. My hunch was the intimidation factor just leveled people. Sure, I was crushed, but then I received a letter from Robert Randisi asking if, as consolation prize, I'd be interested in a critique of my story. He said what I submitted showed a lot of promise. Weird sensation. Half bummed out, half elated...something along the lines of--wait, ROBERT RANDISI is writing ME a letter? Not an email. Not a "tweet", a goddamn letter?! Hell, yeah! Yeah! Sure! I mean, come on people! Do I really have to count the novels, the genres, the sheer books in print Randisi has produced? The guy founded the Private Eye Writers of America! Yes! Yes! A few weeks later I received Mr. Randisi's notes.
Then came Bouchercon. I did some volunteering and cornered Judy Bobalik. Kept asking-- have you seen Robert Randisi? Is he here? I wanted to thank him for his encouragement. Judy gave me a pat on the arm and rasped, "He's usually around here someplace. He kind of just shows up. Check the bar." A lot more asking amidst the swarms of newly met crime fiction fans and writers, but no Randisi. Hmph. Dang.
Fast forward a day or two. Hotel bar again. I meet, of all people, a historical mystery writer who lives a few miles down the road from me, Lucia St. Clair. I ask "Loosh" the same thing I've been asking everybody, have you seen Robert Randisi? She looks at me like I'm high or insane or both. "What do you mean? Bob? He's right over there." Talking with John freakin' Lutz as it turns out.
Oh. John Lutz. Really. No pressure, no pressure....
So, I finally introduced myself to Mr. Randisi, bumbling my words of gratitude for helping me out. And few days after the conference I sent the revised story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, thinking...well, that's that.
January this year. A cold Tuesday. I found my cell phone after searching for it for days, wedged beneath my car seat. Checked my messages. The story, as it turns out, was accepted at Ellery Queen.
And now it's finally in print. I can't bear to look at it but, man, I am thrilled to the core. Got my advance copies in last night's mail. August issue, if you're interested.
Anyway... thanks, Bob.
KIERAN SHEA’s fiction has appeared in dozens of venues including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Dogmatika, Word Riot, Plots with Guns, Beat to a Pulp, Crimefactory, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir ...as well as in some beefy-looking anthologies most of which will make you question the tether of his shiny, red balloon. To his self-deprecating astonishment he's also been nominated for the Story South’s Million Writers Award twice without sending the judges so much as a thank you note. He co-edited the satiric transgressive fiction collection D*CKED: DARK FICTION INSPIRED BY DICK CHENEY and his debut novel KOKO TAKES A HOLIDAY is out now from Titan Books. Kieran divides his time between 38°58′22.6″N- 76°30′4.17″W and 39.2775° N, 74.5750° W.