I write short stories. My first published story, in Chesapeake Crimes II, involved a woman who compulsively washed her hands because her mother had ingrained that behavior in her. After the story came out, my dad, who had lived with my mom and me all my life until I left for college—so he clearly should have known better—actually called me and said with concern in his voice, “Did Mommy really make you wash your hands all the time?”
Oh my Lord. Fiction!
I guess I should be happy for the questions. It means that not only have people been reading my stories but that the stories feel so real that folks think I must be writing from firsthand knowledge. But I have to say, it gets a little disconcerting when your own family members think you’ve based unflattering characters on them.
My most recent story, “The Worst Noel,” appears in an anthology called The Gift of Murder. It’s about a woman, Gwen, who is the less-favored child in her family. Her older sister was always prettier, thinner, more popular. And no matter what she does, Gwen can’t seem to get anything right in her mother’s eyes. Then the holidays come, there’s a little too much family togetherness, and Gwen decides she’s had way more than enough. She takes matters into her own hands, and the ensuing Christmas Eve dinner will be one her family never forgets. It’s a fun story that plays upon the idea that the holidays are supposed to be magical, but for many people, they’re just one long nightmare to slog through.
So The Gift of Murder was published in October, and the questions and comments began. “Boy, you must really hate your sister.” And “Was your mother really like that?” My real sister is certain I based the horrible older sister on her. (I swear I didn’t.) My dad said he “recognized” the father in the tale.
Sigh. Oh well. At least I call fall back on that old saw: It’s fiction! (Even if I did base the story a little bit on personal experience.)
I hope your holidays are better than Gwen’s. And if you like short stories, or know others who do, I recommend you pick up a copy of The Gift of Murder for yourself, and several more for your friends and family as holiday gifts. Edited by John Floyd, it has 19 stories from some great authors. All involve crime at the holidays (so festive!). You can order it from your favorite indie bookstore, the major chains, and directly from the publisher via The Gift of Murder. You can also get it on Kindle or via other digital means through The Digital Bookshop.
Still on the fence? Here’s the best part: The publisher, Wolfmont Press, is donating all the profits from the book to Toys for Tots. This is the fourth year Wolfmont is engaging in this charitable event. So picking up this book is like two gifts in one: You get to enjoy the book, and you get to help needy kids at the same time. And that, my friends, is not fiction.
As my gift to you, I’m going to raffle off one signed copy of The Gift of Murder. But it’s not quite that simple. To enter, you have to tell us an interesting or funny holiday story from your past. Everyone who comments with a story before midnight tonight (November 30th) will have their names thrown in a hat, and the winner will get the book. So here’s your chance: Write what you know!
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Barb Goffman is an Agatha Award-nominated author who toils as a lawyer by day to pay the vet bills at night for her miracle dog, Scout. (He had cancer three times, but now he’s cured!) She grew up on Long Island but figures she must have been Southern in another life because half the voices she hears in her head—oops, sorry, half the characters she creates—are Southern. In addition to the short stories mentioned above, Barb will have a new story coming out this spring in the anthology Chesapeake Crimes: They Had It Comin’, a wonderful book with twenty tales of murder and revenge. Barb’s website is http://www.barbgoffman.com/.