I’d like to take a moment of your time today, please, to address the recent concern expressed regarding the spelling of the word “Donut” in the title of the Writers’ Police Academy’s short story contest.

Also brought into question is the manner in which the Golden Donut writing contest is judged. Let’s first begin with the word “donut” and why this particular assemblage of letters was selected.

Donut v. Doughnut

While the spelling “Doughnut” is the more widely used spelling of the circular, hole-in-the-middle tasty treats often enjoyed by both police officers and writers, “Donut” is also considered as an acceptable spelling.

The latter spelling of the word is often used when referring to the maneuver performed by drivers who spin their cars in tight circles, going round and round in a plume of smoke created by the melting and burning of rubber tires as they rub against asphalt or concrete surfaces. This is a trick known as “Doing Donuts.” Or, of course, “Doing Doughnuts” is perfectly acceptable.

Since the WPA’s 200-word contest is offered by a police-themed event, featuring stories that are so brief that they must be written tightly and precisely, much like the well-formed tight circles resulting from “doing donuts,” we chose the tongue-in-cheek option of Golden “Donut” as the title of the popular contest.

From Merriam-Webster:

“In most dictionaries donut is an accepted spelling variant of doughnut. The spelling of donut without the “-ough” has appeared in enough textual references, and been made popular by brand such as Dunkin Donuts, to the point where it has widely become an accepted version of the glazed treat.”

“We’re not the only ones; it looks like any dictionary worth its salt includes it. Here’s why donut is included in our dictionaries.”

Usage of Donut

“We’ve been encountering the variant donut in published, edited text since the mid-20th century. It was certainly helped along by famous doughnut purveyors – both Dunkin’ and Mister – but in truth they and all who’ve accepted the variant were following in a tradition of phonetic-based spelling reform also embraced by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster.”

Also, from the Salvation Army website:

“The Salvation Army established the first National Donut Day in 1938 in Chicago.”

“Donuts and “doing good” have always gone hand in hand. During World War I, Salvation Army “Donut Lassies” served donuts to soldiers. Today, we continue to celebrate their work by delivering the sweet treat to those in need – and to donut lovers across the country.”

Finally, we selected the name and its spelling mainly because we liked it, much like people all over the world choose names for their children. Such as the celebrities who named their offsprings…

Birdie (Busy Philipps and Marc Silverstein)

Blue Ivy (Beyonce and Jay-Z)

North (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West)

Story (Jenna Elfman)

Bear Blu (Alicia Silverstone)

Who knows, someone may someday decide to name their kid Donut simply because the name strikes their fancy.

“Here comes good ole Donut Duncan. He’s got six toes on his left foot and seven on his right. I hear tell his uncle Darby’s got ten toes on each foot and can swim like a duck.”

Or…

“Look out, there’s Donut Dahmer. He’s Jeffrey’s first cousin, you know. And they say “IT” runs in the family!”

 

Judging the Golden Donut Contest – The Process

Before addressing the recent complaint, I first would like to point out that we receive tons of entries each year. And, while each are wonderful stories, only one can be the winner. In fact, so many of these stories are so fantastic we are currently trying to work out the details to publish many of the past contest entries in a Golden Donut anthology.

But back to the complaint.

I’ve served as a judge for major writing awards, and it’s no picnic when it comes down to selecting a winner. So I feel the pain that our judges experience each year. Fortunately, the stories our judges read are not connected in any way to a person. Instead, the short tales speak for themselves. They’re nothing more than words on a page. Letters arranged in such an order that tell a story about an image we provide as the basis for each tale. The authors’ names are not attached to any of the stories sent to judges.

Yes, the Golden Donut contest is judged blindly, with absolutely no means whatsoever of bias or cherry-picking of stories. Each story received arrives through the WPA website where our software randomly generates a number that is assigned to each entry. The assigning of numbers to the stories is computer generated and no one, not a single person/human who’s associated with the contest or event is involved in this process. An independent entity—the software program installed for the purpose of randomly assigning of numbers—handles this stage of the contest .

Once the contest deadline is reached, the individually numbered stories, minus the authors’ names and contact information, are then sent by the independent body to a panel of pre-judges who screen the stories for word count and quality of the stories. Then they select their top 12 favorites. This year, however, there were a couple of ties based on judges scores. This resulted in a top fourteen entries instead of the standard dozen.

Those top fourteen anonymous tales were again checked for word count and were then sent to the final judge, bestselling author Heather Graham, a judge who also did not know the names of the story authors. Heather Graham read all fourteen tales and from them selected her top three favorites – 1st, 2nd, and 3rdplace. She sent the top three back to us, still by number and title only.

Again, the author names were withheld throughout the entire process. Even I didn’t know who’d won until the very end when it was necessary for me to know so that I could order the trophy.

So there’s that. Now this…

AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT … the contest

Additionally, it was brought to my attention that someone believed the judging for the AFTER MIDNIGHT short story contest was in some way biased, rigged, or that we’d cheated in favor of certain authors. They even went as far as to claim the entire contest was a scam.

The judging process for AFTER MIDNIGHT was nearly identical to the Golden Donut contest. Each story was assigned a number and those nameless stories were sent to a panel of readers, a group composed of both authors and non-writer fans who enjoy reading mysteries, thrillers, romantic suspense, etc. This group of readers scored each entry on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest score.

When all stories had been read the scores were tallied and the top tales were then sent, again, minus the author names, to the publisher, Level Best Books. And it was the publisher who determined the top two stories from the batch with the highest scores. The Writers’ Police Academy staff and judges/readers played no part in the final selections.

The two winning stories were published in the exciting new book AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT, which, by the way, was advertised last weekend as one of Amazon Prime’s selected Mystery, Thriller & Suspense books.

Others on the same Amazon Prime list included BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty, Louise Penny’s A BETTER MAN, Gillian Flynn’s SHARP OBJECTS, THE NEW GIRL by Daniel Silva, SYCAMORE ROW by John Grisham, Stephen King’s DOCTOR SLEEP, and other top bestsellers. I’d definitely say AFTER MIDNIGHT is among excellent company!

I’d also like to say that the Writers’ Police Academy’s contest judging is at the highest standard possible. Using the software available to us leaves not a single shred of an opportunity to commit a misdeed. Besides, even if we could, we wouldn’t. Our goal is simple—to produce a quality event designed to help writers achieve their goals and dreams. And that’s what we’ll continue to do until the time comes to turn off the lights and shut lock the doors behind us for the final time.


By the way …

  • Amazin Glazin Donuts (2006) – Elizabethtown, Kentucky
  • Baker’s Dozen Donuts (1978) – Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
  • Belair Donuts (2013) – Augusta, Georgia
  • Bess Eaton Donuts (1953/2011) – Westerly, Rhode Island
  • Blue Star Donuts (2009) – Portland, Oregon
  • Boston Donuts – Leominster, Massachusetts
  • Casper’s Donuts – Pueblo, Colorado
  • Country Donuts (1976) – Elgin, Illinois
  • Cravin Donuts (1983) – Tempe, Arizona
  • Crispy Donuts – Shreveport, Louisiana
  • Curry’s Donuts (1971) – Wilkes-Barre (Kingston), Pennsylvania
  • Daylight Donuts (1954) – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Dipping Donuts (ca. 2000)- Leominster, Massachusetts
  • Dixie Cream Donuts (2008) – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Donut Bank (1967) – Evansville, Indiana
  • Donut Bistro – Reno, Nevada
  • Donut Cafe – Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Donut Connection (1995) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Donut Country (1986) – Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Donut Crazy – New Haven, Connecticut
  • Donut Delight (1991) – Stamford, Connecticut
  • Donut Dip (1957) – West Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Do-rite Donuts – Chicago, Illinois
  • Donut King (2007) – Minneola, Florida
  • Donut King – Massachusetts
  • Donut Mania – Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Donut Palace (1978) – Van, Texas
  • Donut Professor (ca 2009) – Omaha, Nebraska
  • Donut Stop (1974) – Amarillo, Texas
  • Donut World (2010) – Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Duck Donuts (2007) – Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
  • Dunkin’ Donuts (1950) – Quincy, Massachusetts
  • Federal Donuts (2011) – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Fractured Prune Donuts (1976) – Ocean City, Maryland
  • G & S Donuts – Montgomery, Alabama
  • Glaze Donuts (2014) – New Milford, New Jersey
  • Glazed & Infused Donuts (2012) – Chicago, Illinois
  • Granny’s Donuts – High Point, North Carolina
  • Happy Donuts & Bakery – Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • Haskell’s Donuts (1983) – Ruston, Louisiana
  • Heav’nly Donuts (1975) – Methuen, Massachusetts
  • Holtman’s Donuts (1960) – Loveland, Ohio
  • Home Cut Donuts (1966) – Joliet, Illinois
  • Honey Dew Donuts (1973) – Mansfield, Massachusetts
  • Honey Dip Donuts – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Howard’s Donuts (1970s) – West Memphis, Arkansas
  • Hurts Donuts (2013) – Springfield, Missouri
  • Hypnotic Donuts (2010) – Dallas, Texas
  • Irish Maid Donuts (1960) – Fort Smith, Arkansas
  • Jack’s Donuts (1961) – New Castle, Indiana
  • Jack N Jill Donut Shops (2001) – Abilene, Texas
  • Jolly Pirate Donuts (1962) – Columbus, Ohio
  • Jubilee Donuts (1947) – Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
  • Kane’s Handcrafted Donuts (1955) – Saugus, Massachusetts
  • King Donut – Connecticut
  • K-May Donuts – Athens, Alabama
  • Knapp’s Donut Shop (pre-1996) – Rochester, Michigan
  • LaMar’s Donuts (1960) – Kansas City, Missouri
  • Licking Good Donuts (ca 1986) – Mobile, Alabama
  • Loyless Donuts – Dothan, Alabama
  • Maple Donuts (1946) – York, Pennsylvania
  • Mary Ann Donuts (1947) – Canton, Ohio
  • Mary Lee Donuts (1969) – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Mello Creme Donuts – Lima, Ohio
  • Mel-O-Cream Donuts (1932) – Springfield, Illinois
  • Mighty-O Donuts (2000) – Seattle, Washington
  • Mike’s Donuts (1969) – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Mister Donut (1955) – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Mr. Ronnie’s Famous Hot Donuts (1994) – Houma, Louisiana
  • Naughty Girls Donut Shop (2014) – Front Royal, Virginia
  • Not Just Donuts – Slidell, Louisiana
  • Paradise Donuts (1967) – Neosho, Missouri
  • Peace, Love & Little Donuts (2009) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Pink Box Donuts (2012)- Henderson, Nevada
  • Poppy’s Xtreme Donuts – Marion, Indiana
  • Ray’s Donuts – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Ray’s Donuts – St. Louis, Missouri
  • Rebel Donuts – Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Rise N Shine Donuts – Lubbock, Texas
  • Robin’s Donuts (1975) – St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
  • Sara Donuts – Suwanee, Georgia
  • Shipley Do-Nuts (1936) – Houston, Texas
  • Shore Good Donuts (2011) – Long Beach Island, New Jersey
  • Sip’N Dip Donuts (1985) – Warren, Rhode Island
  • Southern Maid Donuts (1937) – Shreveport, Louisiana
  • Sprinkles Donut Shop (2015) – Hudsonville, Michigan
  • Square Donuts (1967) – Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Stan’s Donuts (1963) – Los Angeles, California
  • Sublime Donuts (2008) – Atlanta, Georgia – ain’t it the truth
  • Sugar Rush Donuts (2011) – Bayou La Batre, Alabama
  • Sugar Shack Donuts (2013) – Richmond, Virginia
  • Super Donuts – West Monroe, Louisiama
  • Suzy-Jo Donuts (1955) – Bridgeport, Pennsylvania
  • Sweetwater’s Donut Mill (1983) – Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Tastee Donuts – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tasty Donuts (2011) – Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • The Donut House – Denver, Colorado
  • The Donut Stop (1974) – Amarillo, Texas
  • The Holy Donut (2012) – Portland, Maine
  • The Whole Donut (1955) – Hartford, Connecticut
  • Tim Horton’s (1964) – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Tom’s Donuts (1970) – Lake James, Indiana
  • Top Donut – Lowell, Massachusetts
  • Top Donuts – Killeen, Texas
  • Top Pot Donuts (2002) – Seattle, Washington
  • Whole Donut – Connecticut
  • Winchell’s Donuts (1948) – Temple City, California
  • Yum Yum Donuts (1971) – Los Angeles, California

 

 

The rules were simple. Write a story about the above photograph, using exactly 200 words, including the title. Not 201 or 199. Exactly 200 words.

Each story needed an original title and it was mandatory that the image be the main subject of the story. We offered no clues as to the subject matter of the photo or where it was taken. That, we left to the imaginations of the authors.

Stories then began to pour into our mailbox, were screened (words counted, etc.), and the top 14 tales were delivered to bestselling author Heather Graham for final judging. Here are her top picks, starting with the the winning story penned by Ry Brooks.


 

First-Place Winner

ASHES

By Ry Brooks

 

Nothing of the warehouse remained but its spindly scorched bones. To Sullivan, determining the cause seemed impossible. Flammable chemicals, stored in plastic barrels, had fueled the flames to unimaginable temperatures more like cremation than ordinary fire.

Arson? But the building was underinsured, and the owners had no motive. As he probed among the detritus, he heard a muted wailing. Sully moved in the direction of the sound, which came from under a scalded sheet of metal roofing. Gently lifting the obstruction, he discovered a small brown puppy among some old rags, singed but alive. He bent to wrap it in his scarf, and at that very moment, one of the charred uprights crashed down, right where he had stood moments before.

Startled, he squatted down to gather his wits and that is when he noticed the rags also covered a body. Apparently it was a homeless person, who perhaps had made a campfire for warmth. When the flames got out of control, his instinct had been to shield the little dog with his own body, sacrificing himself for another.

The dog squirmed, and Sullivan hugged the puppy close, whose life had been spared and had then saved his own.


 

Second-Place Winner

THE FALLOUT

By Chelle Martin

It had been a beautiful day full of warmth and sunshine. Family and friends were jumping about, unaware of any danger. But the world as we knew it came crashing down in an instant when a cold, dark mist fell upon us with a powerfully pungent, yet sweet odor.

Tranquility warped into pandemonium as families scrambled for higher ground or desperately burrowed for shelter.

The cloud seemed to last forever. Once it had lifted, our surroundings appeared black and white from the dust that had settled. My comrades who had been directly hit, lie dead and dying around me. I coughed and staggered onward, searching for other survivors.

One, two, we gathered together and moved on to a drier place. Would we survive? Sadly, the youngest and oldest were most affected by the onslaught. The chemicals were just too strong for their systems to ward off.

The ground shook violently beneath our feet, but we clung to the uprights around us for balance.

A large creature approached and spoke in a strange language as flood waters slowly began to rise. “Hold still and be a good boy, Rex. This flea and tick bath will finish off any survivors.”


 

Third-Place Winner

NURSING YOUR DATE

By Teela Davis

What an awful, boring, insufferable first date. Why did she still do these?

The movie was tolerable, but now a walk?  She huffed, and not just a walk, a walk to the ‘haunted factory’. Did the creepy romantic thing ever really work out for guys? In all honestly, she just wanted dessert, and sleep!

“So, you know the legends here?”

“What, vengeful ghosts?” She barked a laugh, already rolling her eyes.

“Hah, not ghosts,” he grinned, dropping her hand once inside the crumbling monolith.

Relieved, she wiped her palm on her skirt, why was he so sweaty?

“Actually, there is a long list of unsolved murders here.” His cold tone made her take a step back, almost causing her to trip on debris.

“Oh?” Her hesitation made him nod. A knife flashed in his hand and she met his gaze as he advanced closer. Ugh, how typical…

“Yup, and I want to add to it.”

“Oh,” she chuckled darkly, done playing, “don’t worry, you will.” He stepped closer but paused, clearly confused.

“Wait, wha-” The sentence died in his throat just as she launched herself at him, teeth tearing into his flesh.

Finally, she laughed, dessert!


The following finalists are in no particular order …

 

THIS IS IT

By A.R. Kennedy

They walked up to the destroyed building in silence. Each wondered how they would find the missing woman’s pendant in the wreckage.

The tip had come in that the killer had marked the woman’s gravesite with her four leaf clover pendant. She had worn it everyday since her fifteenth birthday. For luck, she told people who asked.

In silence, they traversed the site in search of that pendant. Lisa fell, tripping over one of the many obstacles in her path. She slowly got up.

“You alright, Lisa?” her partner asked.

She put her hands in her pockets and shrugged. “Could be worse.”

Her partner, Joel, knew she was right.

Twenty minutes later, they finished their inspection.

“Well, we didn’t find it. Did you think we would?” Lisa asked.

Joel paused, wanting to answer honestly. “I didn’t think I would find it.”

“I guess this is it, Joel,” Lisa said as she headed to their car.

Joel nodded because he knew it was. He pulled his gun and motioned for her to take her hands out of her pockets.

The tarnished four leaf clover hung from her fingers.

“You’re right,” Joel said. “This is it.”


 

BABY SHOWER

By Cassy Muronaka

“Oh, getting coffee? Me too, Jeannie?” asked Bob, junior salesman, giving his ceramic mug and winning smile to Jean, senior saleswoman.

Taking it, she immediately was flagged over by her boss, Jerry, who announced she was not getting her anticipated promotion, despite being number one in sales.

“Politics, you know. New owner, Porter, canned it.”

Then Jerry asked her to work late again.

At noon, Jean wrote on the company’s internal message group, “Girls: time to meet at the picnic tables. Surprise baby shower, Brenda!  No boys allowed!”

The tables were a fair distance from the building, enough for the women to comfortably inhale plenty of champagne with the potluck lunch. Jean wasn’t the only woman who needed relaxation.

When Brenda opened the baby gifts, she said, “You are all so generous.” She hugged Jean. “I know you’re responsible for organizing all of this. Thank you so much.”

It was then that the building exploded and caught fire. As Jean watched the brand-new sign reading “Porter Industrial and Mining Explosives” fly off the building and into the parking lot, she smiled at Brenda and said, “Yes, I’ve been planning it for a long time.”


 

CLOSE THE DOOR

By Pamela Raymond

“Aunt Lydia has a melancholy side. I’ll give her that. But this?” My sister held a black and white photo of a charred lot, encased in an ornately fashioned wrought iron frame.

“Why would Aunt Lydia give a 10 year old this grisly photo?” My sister was not amused.

“Mommy. Hang it over there!” The little girl crawled on to her bed and motioned above the headboard. “The picture will like it here.”

“Pictures don’t care where they hang,” Katherine muttered.

My phone rang two weeks later. Jumbled, shaken, Katherine spoke so quickly, I could barely understand her. “My daughter. She keeps. The picture. CLOSE THE DOOR!” The line went dead.

By the time I got to the house, a smoking pile of embers existed where a home used to be. I found Katherine sitting in an ambulance. She mumbled over and over, “That picture.”

In the chaos, the little girl wandered to me.

She pulled the picture from her soot smeared robe. “Mommy wanted me to close the door and leave the picture in the fire. Mommy should have been nicer to the picture.”

The look in her eyes chilled me to the bone.


 

UTOPIA, CALIFORNIA

By Phoef Sutton

There is no crime in Utopia anymore.

Officer Mingus drives the streets of this small California town like she has a hundred times before. Her police dog Vlad rides shotgun. Vlad is trained to sniff out meth and heroine and other illegal drugs. But there are no drugs now.

Utopia is peaceful.

Officer Mingus misses the turn onto Grevelia Street since there are no road signs. No landmarks. Only the occasional blackened chimney. The wildfire that ripped through town two weeks ago had wiped it from the face of the earth, leaving nearly ninety dead and hundreds more still missing.

Turning into a driveway, Mingus stops the patrol car and gets out. Vlad goes rooting around, reveling in the smells of destruction and incineration, while Mingus searches through the ruins of her own house. She had been there with her husband when the fire alarm first sounded. She had rushed out.

Brian had stayed behind.

She finds her bedroom and digs through the debris, until she uncovers Brian’s skull. Shaking it, a small caliber bullet falls out. She tosses it away and crushes the skull with the butt of her gun.

She is free now. Fire cleanses everything.


 

THE BRIDGE

By Ferd Crotte

My old knees shake as I pick my way through the loose rubble, struggling for balance and understanding. I find an unsteady purchase and pause to curse the utter devastation before me.

I repeat the calculation — seventy-four years since the bridge last stood. Seventy-four years since I felt my father’s hand, holding mine as we walked the bridge’s long expanse. Seventy-four years since the bomb.

The crumbled city was dead to radiation, and access was forbidden. Now it’s open, though no less dead. A primal scream explodes from me, but no one hears. The ruins are silent. The rage is my own.

An unwelcome wind scatters a flume of ashes by my feet. Was that my father? The ashes dissipate, and again he leaves me.

I’m told the bridge was beautiful, and my father helped build it with his own hands. I’m told he was a peaceful man. Am I my father’s son?

I take a wary step into the rubble, then another. It’s why I came — to cross this broken bridge of time. I try to remember the feeling of his gentle hand. I need to find my father’s peace.


 

FUMES

By Lynn Long

“Willie Nickels died today in the gas chamber…” Click.

Gordon Chandler twisted the radio knob in his Plymouth, sucked the life from his Chesterfield and tossed the butt.

“I hope the bastard’s lungs burned just like that poor girl’s did,” Gordo exclaimed to the roadrunner perched on the warehouse ruins. The carbonized columns stood like trees in a charred forest. Uninterested, the bird vamoosed. He rolled his window shut.

Gordo knew every detail. He cast the tire prints. He found the dented, orange gas can. He interviewed neighbors who recognized the can. He discovered the blackened remains in the ashes. The detective had done everything but strap Nickels down and drop the pill.

Nickels deserved to drown in a cyanide bath. The onetime pimp ran the city. Nothing happened without his permission. Graves were full of people who didn’t get the message. No one could touch him. Few tried.

Gordo tried. He poured the plaster in Nickels’ driveway. He planted the gas can. He flicked his Chesterfield into the gasoline spread around the abandoned warehouse, not knowing a runaway had sought refuge there.

Exhaust fumes whispered through a garden hose, poisoning the air. His eyelids fluttered.

“If only…”


 

AFTERMATH

By Elizabeth Haines

Despite the hospital slippers, my feet are freezing.  I wait for the nurse, a thin cotton shroud, the blue and white print bleached and faded, tied behind my neck.  After a moment, I realize the music playing faintly in the background is a Beatles’ song, twisted into a requiem.  I used to dance to this song, barefoot in a forest that no longer exists.

If we’d heeded the warnings, we would have been deep underground when the bombs came, but the woodland flowers were blooming and the alarms had always been false before now.  We were surprised when the high whistling sound surrounded us, coming from everywhere and nowhere.  We survived, if we can call it that, because we weren’t anywhere near ground zero where the trees were burnt to sticks.  Once we regained consciousness in the hospital, we learned our fate.  The news reported we “woke up dead.”

The nurse, outfitted from head to toe in a disposable covering, comes in to explain my options.  I remember seeing the drone footage of the remaining trees.  They looked like black obelisks in a graveyard.  My feet are still freezing.  I tell her I want to be cremated.


 

THE TELL

By Lynette Eason

Moonlight touched the steel post at the edge of the bombed ruins. This was his playground and he’d lured Karly here, incensed by her televised scorn.

“Come alone,” he’d texted. “Or she dies.”

She spotted a dark stain at the base of the post. And the next—a matching blemish. Each one the same. Representing every victim he’d suspended before using the blade’s edge to spill their life-blood.

Nausea churned. Neck hairs spiked.

From somewhere, he watched.

Her weapon offered minuscule comfort.

A footstep behind her.

She spun. “You?” Her sister’s fiancé? “Why?”

“I followed my calling.” The knife gleamed its intent. “I released their evil.”

She lifted the gun. He froze. “Shoot me and you’ll never see your sister again.”

“She’s alive?”

“Yes. I’ll show you.” He started towards her, fingers flexing on the handle.

Karly fired. Once. Twice. Again.

He fell, choking, gasping.

She stepped closer. Very little blood stained his shirt. Good. His evil would go with him. “You lick your lips when you lie.”

She turned to go.

A hand clamped around her ankle.

Terror surged. Realization hit.

Very little blood.

Because he’d worn a vest.


 

HELP WANTED

By Lisa Wheelan

Leonard helped the old woman across the pile of rubble.

“Are you sure this is the place Mrs. G?”

“Yes Leonard”

“But it’s just a busted-up building.”

She pointed to a far corner with her crooked finger “over there.”

Dementiaville, here we come, Leonard thought, time for a new job.

They made their way over crumbled concrete and broken steel. He found a spot where she could sit, laid his uniform jacked over it and eased her down.

“What are we looking for Mrs. G?”

“You’ll know when you find it. Please begin.” She gestured.

Leonard began moving chunks of concrete to the side.

“How long have you worked for me Leonard?”

“Almost ten years.

“We’ve been through a lot haven’t we”

“Yes, Mrs. G.”

“You know a lot of my secrets, don’t you?”

“I keep my mouth shut.”

“I’m sure you will.” said Mrs. G.

“How much more do” …. Leonard stopped.

“You find something?”

“It’s a jacket…like mine. I think it’s a body.”

“That would be John, he left my employment ten years ago.”

Leonard’s last thought…such a big gun for such a feeble old wom.…


 

ESCAPED MEMORIES

By Tammie Fickas

Dirt and concrete dust puffed as Edward Maximillian, Max to his friends, not that he had ever had any, shuffled through the ruins. Years had lumbered on since the night a raging inferno raced through the Emsdon Home for Boys, destroying the building. The hateful place was anything but home. That night played in his mind like an old movie. The thrill of the employee’s fear filled him, excited him. It always had.

Paper caught in the rubble, fluttered with the breeze. Max’s own face stared back from the poster.

Escaped prisoner.

Armed and dangerous.

You will never amount to anything, Edward Maximillian.

Max leaned against a rough, charred wall stud. Death lingered here like the spirit of the headmaster who never made it out of the building alive. Max could almost smell it. A misshapen sneer stretched his lips. Oh, how he hated that man who made his life miserable. Satisfaction danced in his heart as he relished his revenge.

Who will never amount to anything?

Not far off, police sirens wailed through the night. Max took a long, last look, then loped toward the thick forest, once again disappearing like a dream at morning’s first light.


 

HANDS

By K.P. Gresham

She said the bastard was buried beneath the support beam. But which one?

Then I remembered.

That first night. Laughing, he’d ripped away our virginity and put his hands places we didn’t even know we possessed.

With adulthood, payback time arrived. As always, I took the lead. We worked fast. Her job was to get the account passwords. My job was to kill him. I torched the warehouse while she buried him.

We both came through. After he was dead, her codes and keys got us into the house, the study, and the wall-mounted lockbox.

Then we saw the little opening beneath the safe’s keypad. It required a hand print.

So, here I am, back at the burned out warehouse—his favorite hunting ground.  Shovel and saw in hand, I walk over fallen trusses and crumbled cement blocks to where the dumpsters had once stood—the first hiding place where we’d been cornered. That horrible first night.

Sweat pours over me as I unearth the body. His face is finally as ugly as his soul. I uproot his arms and begin to saw below the elbow.

“Time to put your hands to good use, Daddy.”


2019 Golden Donut Contest image – Mare Island Naval Shipyard – Vallejo, California.

The Mare Island shipyard was the first U.S. Navy base established on the Pacific Coast. The base was purchased by the Navy in 1853 and remained open until it officially closed all operations in 1996. It is now a National Historic Landmark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rules were simple—write a complete story about the photograph below, using exactly 200 words. Not 201 or 199. Precisely 200 words.

Writers from around the world accepted this challenging assignment, sending us a mountain of entries. Then our team of screeners/pre-judges whittled those short stories down to a list of twelve well-told tales.

The top dozen stories were then sent to our renowned contest judge, NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 50 Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense novels, Brenda Novak.

Brenda Novak

Brenda then read each of the stories and subsequently selected a winner and runners up.

Congratulations to everyone for jobs well done!

 

 

 

Here are the top twelve entries, starting with the contest winner, Frank Cook!

Remember, the focus of each story was based on the photo below.
So, without further ado …

2018 Golden Donut Shot Story photo prompt

1st Place

Frank Cook

The Last Look Back

“I show it to all my clients,” Karen told the woman standing in her office. “In the background you see a dead and decaying forest, then this old rickety bridge leading across to this side. I call it, ‘The Last Look Back.’”

The woman shrugged. “I don’t get it.”

“My clients come to me with, how should I put it? ‘Disappointing marriages.’ I make things better. I point to this photo. It represents what they had. A once young and caring relationship that has grown old and dry. And this old bridge,” Karen confided. “It represents their fear of crossing into the future. Can they trust their emotions? Their own decisions? Will they be ok?”

Karen smiled. “It is my job to bring them out of that forest and across that dangerous bridge. This photo is the last time they ever need look back on their past.”

The woman nodded and felt for something in her jacket pocket. “On the other side of that bridge,” she pointed. “And a little bit into that forest. We found six decomposed bodies there this morning.” She pulled a badge from her pocket. “Including your husband you reported missing.”

* * *

 

2nd Place

Ry Brooks

Bridge to Nowhere

I am an old footbridge, and in my time I have experienced some things. When I was young, many traveled over me. Sometimes, children tossed pebbles to watch them fall. Once in awhile, young lovers hugged, gazing at the rocks and rushing river below. Those were good times.

Lately, most people use the highway bridge downriver, and it has been lonely. Six daytimes ago, I had visitors, a man and a woman, but they were arguing, and I was glad they hurried across. They came back two nights past, and this time they were quiet. The man was carrying the woman, which at first I thought was considerate. But he laid her down, in the middle of my span, and then something terrible happened. The man dropped her body into the rushing torrent below and ran away. I felt anger at my powerlessness then, and wondered what could be done.

Tonight he is back, running from pursuers, and I am ready. He is almost half way across – there, I snapped my rusted support cables, right in the middle. It will also be my end, but after all, I am old and the man will not be missed.

* * *

 

3rd Place

Nana Herron

The Open Road

“FIVE!”

That voice. His voice. Echoed throughout the valley. Time was running out.

“FOUR!”

I was thumbing a ride when a pickup truck blew past me and stopped. The driver rolled down the window and smiled. “Didn’t yer mama ever tell you not to hitchhike?”

She had. I got in anyway.

“THREE!”

“The open road ain’t safe for a pretty, young thing like you.”

“I’m not scared.” I shivered.

“You should be.” He laughed.

“TWO!”

When the truck stopped, I ran. Brambles cut my legs. Branches slapped my face.

I hid. Had I been here before? If only I could remember…

“ONE! COME OUT, COME OUT, WHEREVER YOU ARE!”

The game was on.

I ran. My lungs burned as the old bridge appeared. Just a few more steps…

“FREEZE!”

A shot rang out. I halted.

The bridge swayed and creaked as he approached.

When he lunged, I ducked. A scream pierced the valley.

SILENCE.

I looked down the hole at his twisted body and laughed. “Didn’t yer mama ever tell you not to pick up hitchhikers?”

My work here was done. The open road beckoned, and I was itching to hitch another ride.


And, rounding out the top twelve, in no particular order, were …

 

Entry #30-Vinnie Hansen

Bridging the Gaps

The bridge swayed. Mark’s stomach lurched. White knuckles gripped the cable. “I never thought you’d come back here.” He shouted over the noisy river rush.

“What about you?” Erin’s face turned up, gorgeous green eyes searching his. “Samantha was your friend, too.”

Friend. Erin’s tone made Mark avert his eyes toward the trees. “But you were actually here, Erin. How awful.”

Erin sidled closer and wrapped an arm around him. “The scene of the crime.”

“Crime?” Sammi had acted impulsively the newspaper said, standing on the rail, leaning far out, blonde hair whipping, breathing in the ozone. Alive. “It was a horrible accident.”

His heart pounded. Erin had been the newspaper’s source. What was she telling him?

Hardness in Erin’s jacket pressed Mark’s side.

 In the distance, the bridge dumped into a dark hole in the forest. Sammi’s spirit had exerted a force, drawing Mark from Erin. His wife. A rock below had crushed Sammi’s skull. “Sammi was a mistake.”

“Yes,” Erin murmured.

He pivoted toward her. “You knew?”

She nodded.

He gulped. “But it was an accident?”

“A terrible accident.”

Erin backed away and pulled out a hammer.

The truth hit home with a thud.

***

 

Chelle Martin

Over the River and Through the Woods 

“Team Building” day consisted of hiking Black Bear Mountain and promised scenic views from a rustic footbridge. And possibly bears.

Before we’d gone ten yards, I became a mosquito magnet. Moreover, my boss and “teammate” insisted I carry his backpack due to his bad back.

We brought up the rear of six pairs, stopping frequently so John could check for landmarks, and I could gasp for air.

“The footbridge should be just ahead. Give me my roast beef.”

I pulled a sandwich from his pack and handed it to him. The smell wafted heavily on the humid air. “Aren’t you afraid of bears?”

He waved me off.

Out of sight, I called up an app on my phone. Once we resumed hiking, I hit play and John sprinted ahead at the sound of a growling grizzly.

I laughed until I cried, when a text came in.

AVOID FOOT BRIDGE. BEARS IN AREA.

“John! Wait!” The backpacks slowed me down. I arrived as John encountered a bear on the other side of the footbridge.

I hated to admit it, but the Black Bear Mountain brochure was right. The view really was spectacular.

* * *

 

Kathy McIntosh

Bridging Fear

It was not the same bridge. Totally different construction. My brain registered that fact, but the fear that lay deep in my bones and muscles rose unbridled by reality.

Home lay across that bridge. Home, peace, and Grandma’s peach cobbler. Downstream the pond waited for me, cool and refreshing. Ready for me to jump in naked, washing away the pain and soothing the scars.

My brain knew that. Knew that beyond that bridge I’d soon be enveloped in the love of my children and my husband. I knew how sturdy that bridge was, how it could support all of us and all the food we could tote. I smiled, remembering how we pondered each purchase, determining if it was worth the haul across the bridge and up the hill beyond.

That other bridge had been longer, stronger, built from concrete, built to last. Until an IED had destroyed it and most of my squad. Since that day I had been unable to cross bridges.

A cold, wet nose pressed against my fist and a soft, warm body leaned into my side.

“I can do this.” I stepped onto the wooden planks, my dog beside me.

* * *

 

Rick McMahan

GRUFF

“Billy?”

“Yes, little one.”

“I’m scared,” she whispered.

“No one is going to hurt you.”  My large hand gripped her small one tightly as we moved on the swaying bridge.   Her palm was soft. Her bones delicate.

“Promise?”

Looking down, I gave her my best toothy smile. “I promise.”

The planks groaned under our footfalls.

Glancing back over my shoulder, I could barely make out the three filled sleeping bags at the edge of the trees in the dying embers of the camp fire. The fourth bag was empty.

My feet picked up speed, urging us both forward.

“They will come for me,” she hissed defiantly.  “They’ll take me back.”

I didn’t answer her.

The cold river rushing below masked the pounding of my heart.

In the moonlight, I watched her free hand dance across the rough hewn railing. Her manicured nails were painted a fierce pink.

“They were a nice family,” my sister said.

“I know.”

My free hand hung down at my side. I still clutched the sharp knife. As we walked, I imagined I could hear every time a droplet of coppery blood fell from my blade and spattered the bridge.

“They were.”

* * *

 

Janice Peacock

Plundered

Tillie bolted across the rickety footbridge, a drawstring bag of gold slung across her back.

“Do you think we lost him?” Sue called to her sister, not slowing to look back.

“I don’t know, and I don’t care. Keep running!” Tillie replied.

Halfway across the bridge, Tillie’s foot caught on a rotten plank, and she fell hard. Sue caught up with her, gasping for breath. Cannonball Churchill clomped after them, his black boots shaking the bridge with each step. The pirate wanted his gold back and wasn’t going to let a couple of girls outsmart him.

“Sorry we stole from you, sir,” Tillie shouted as she tied the sack to the bridge’s railing. The girls took off for the safety of the forest.

Cannonball stopped to untie the bag, his large hands struggling with the knots. The rotten planks creaked beneath the pirate’s feet and splintered. As his legs broke through the boards, he grasped at the wood crumbling around him. Plunging into the churning river below, he was whisked down to the sea.

Avoiding the bridge’s hole, Tillie tiptoed to the sack, untied it, and ran. Girls are much lighter—and much trickier—than pirates.

* * *

 

Michale Rigg

The Pack

Walking on the wooden suspension bridge over Benson Creek in the pre-dawn chill, Thomas counted each plank. Stopping at seventy-five, he turned toward his colleague, Hidalgo.

“Here,” Thomas said, “put ‘em here. Set ‘em at eight hundred.”

Hidalgo placed three homemade contact-mines on the decking. “Why eight hundred? Pack mules weigh a lot more, especially loaded with gold.”

“Not taking chances.” Thomas paused. “This job means I can move my family to town. They deserve the best.” He smiled. “My boys are working on their Orienteering Merit Badges today.”

“But what if someone—”

“Been watching. Company goons will arrive in about an hour to search for wires and dynamite. This early, there shouldn’t be any foot traffic. Besides, it would take a large group walking together to detonate these beauties.”

The duo camouflaged the devices and hid to await their prey. Shortly, just as the guards arrived, a group of young men dressed in khaki and green started onto the span marching in double-column, like an infantry platoon. Scouts.

Thomas jumped up and screamed. “Stop!” His face went numb.

As the explosions echoed through the valley, Thomas slumped to the ground and wept.

* * *

 

Crystal Smith

Moonshine

The world looks different when you’re hanging upside down by your ankles.

If Carl hadn’t been so obsessed with authenticity, he wouldn’t be in this situation.  He was building the wine list for his farm-to-table restaurant and heard rumors that a whiskey called Lone Bridge was the smoothest.  So Carl headed into the sticks of Georgia to look for the distillery’s secret location.  He didn’t know the liquor business was just a front for the owner’s gun running operation.  When Carl got halfway across the bridge, he was met by a group of men carrying rifles.

“I think we caught us a spy.  Who you working for, boy?”

“No one.  I’m a chef.”  That drew laughter and earned him a few punches.

“Don’t that sound fancy.”

They held him and searched his belongings.  Carl spotted a flask in the leader’s pocket and fear gave way to curiosity.  “Can I have a sip of that?”

“Why not?”  He tipped the flask to Carl’s mouth.  “Good, ain’t it?”

Carl nodded as the men lifted him over the side of the bridge.  Smoky with hint of spice.  It really would have been perfect.

* * *

 

Vicki Tharp

Redeemed

The Drako moons rose high as Coolidge dangled by his legs beneath the rickety suspension bridge. Sweat stung his eyes, and his abdominal muscles burned as he swung up and caught a guidewire with his left hand.

In his right, the remote activated blasting caps.

“Easy,” Holden called out from below.

“Shut it,” Coolidge said, too focused on the job to slap any heat behind it.

“Remember what happened last time?”

Why wouldn’t Holden let it go? “Nothing happened.”

“Exactly. Get this right, or we’re all dead.”

Coolidge attached the caps to the explosives. He panted through the strain on his core, completing the connections, and syncing his quantum controller. “It’s right.”

Finally.

His redemption.

The ground shook as the platoon of Dragoons broke through the trees and stormed toward the bridge.

“Let’s go!” Holden panicked and squeezed off three rounds from his CytoBlaster. A Dragoon vaporized. Then another.

Coolidge fast-roped down under a barrage of return fire. They scrambled over the muddy bank, ducking behind cover. Coolidge energized his wrist-mounted detonator. He hesitated.

“What’s wrong?”

Blood pounded behind Coolidge’s eardrums. His throat went disaster-dry. “I can’t remember the passcode.”

* * *

 

64-Susan Vojtik

One Step

She stared at the end of the bridge. Home lay at the end. The little cabin behind the trees. Her husband waited there for her. He was angry with her again. This time it was dinner. Too hot or too cold or too spicy. Too something, for sure. He had yelled at her, beat her and then got drunk. And then he fell asleep. And she had walked down the bridge.

He had woken up a few minutes ago. She could hear him calling her as she stood on the bridge. The bridge that would lead her home or to freedom. He never allowed her to be on the bridge. She was excited and scared. The bridge meant freedom. Or home. But, freedom… He would take her to bed and punish her. The last time he did that, she lost the baby.

He called her again and she turned around. And took one step. Off the edge of that broken bridge, many hundreds of feet above the ground. And, as she took that step, she wondered if they would think he had pushed her off the bridge and would punish him. And then she didn’t care anymore.

 

 

Have you sent your story? Well, you’d better hurry because Tami Hoag—THE Tami Hoag—is anxious to read them.

Oh, you didn’t know?

Yes, she truly is the contest judge for this fun and challenging contest, with fantastic prizes for the winner.

Definitely. Having Tami Hoag read your work is super cool!

Okay, here are the details …

Golden Donut Short Story Contest

The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to continue this fun contest in 2018. The rules are simple—write a story about the photograph above using exactly 200 words, including the title (each story must include an original title). The image in the photograph MUST be the main subject of the story. We will not provide clues as to the subject matter of the image, or where the shot was taken. That is for you and your imagination to decide. Remember, though, what you see in the image absolutely MUST be the MAIN subject of your tale.

*Again, the photo above absolutely MUST be the main focus of the story, not just a mere mention within the text.

All stories are to be polished and complete, meaning they must have a beginning, middle, and a twisted surprise ending. Again, all stories must be exactly 200 words. Not 201 or 199! So read the word count rules carefully. Over the years, we’ve seen some excellent tales disqualified due to an incorrect word count.

The Golden Donut contest is judged blindly, meaning each entry is assigned a number prior to sending it to the judges. Therefore, judges do not see the writers’ names.

All entries will be screened by a panel of readers who will select their twelve favorite stories and then forward their picks to the 2018 contest judge. All decisions are final and may not be contested or appealed. After reviewing each of the entries, the judge will notify the Writers’ Police Academy of the winning entry. While the winner will be announced at the WPA banquet, the winner need not be present to win. The contest is open to everyone, not just WPA attendees.

The contest winner receives the prestigious Golden Donut Award AND free registration to a 2019 WPA event!

Submission Guidelines:

Please read carefully!

All submissions MUST be submitted electronically via email to 2018goldendonut@gmail.com. Write Golden Donut 2018 in the subject line.

 ** Click the link below to enter **

Golden Donut Short Story Contest

Please include your story within the body of the email. Attachments will not be opened.

 Additionally, a twenty-five dollar ($25) entry fee must be submitted via Paypal PRIOR TO emailing the entry. In other words, click the link to register your entry and then follow the directions listed. Next, submit your payment (Paypal link is on the entry form), and THEN email your story(s). You do not need a Paypal account to enter.

Contest opens on February 18, 2018 (Please do not send any entries before this date).

Submission Deadline: Midnight (EST) July 1, 2018

Any entry not meeting the exact 200 word requirement will be disqualified. You will not receive notice of disqualification. Please be sure your word count is accurate and that all words are counted.

Hyphenated words, for the purpose of this contest, will be counted as two words, or three, etc., depending upon how many words make up the hyphenated phrase/word. Contractions will be counted as two words (it’s, don’t, etc.).

Every single word will be counted as a word. This includes: “a,” “and,” and “the.” To be very clear…if it’s a word, count it. If it’s part of dialog and you think it may be a word, count it. If it’s a stand-alone letter or group of letters, count it as a word. If it’s a number, count it as a word. If the number would include a hyphen if written out as a word, then count it as a hyphenated word. Social media and texting abbreviations will be counted as individual words. For example: OMG = three words. LMAO = four words. 2Nite = one word (tonight). AIAMU = five words (Am I a monkeys uncle). TCIC = 4 words (This contest is cool).

– Entries submitted after the July 1, 2018 (midnight EST) deadline will NOT be judged.

– Any entry not meeting the exact 200 word requirement will be disqualified.

No refunds for any reason!

Again, all entry fees and stories must be received on or prior to July 1, 2018. No exceptions. There is normally a mountain of entries, therefore, it is a time-consuming process for the judges. We need time to process the entries and to have the award properly engraved and shipped to the WPA.

  • Be sure to include your name, address, email address, telephone number(s), and title of your story in an opening paragraph above your story. Then, please include your story, headed by the title.
  • There is a $25 entry fee, payable via Paypal. Entries received without the appropriate entry fee will be excluded from the contest. No refunds.
  • Each author may submit up to three entries. Each entry must be accompanied by the corresponding entry fee ($25 per story).
  •  Each author may enter up to three stories. But each individual entry must be accompanied by its own $25 entry fee. (One entry = $25. Three entries = $75, etc.) You must indicate how many stories you plan to submit when you register.

By submitting an entry to this contest authors agree to allow The Graveyard Shift/Lee Lofland, the Writers’ Police Academy and/or affiliates to publish/reprint the story as a part of The Graveyard Shift blog and/or as advertisement for the Writers’ Police Academy or in other publications and media, including, but not limited to, Writers’ Police Academy books, magazines, newspaper, blogs, ebooks, online outlets, etc.

*The Writers’ Police Academy reserves the right to exclude or delete any entry without cause, reason, or explanation.

– ABSOLUTELY NO profanity, erotica, or the promotion of a specific hot-button agenda, including but not limited to politics of any type and/or racial issues. 

Please send questions to Lee Lofland at lofland32@msn(dot)com

So there you have it. Now get busy and take us on a journey that’d scare the pants off Poe himself.

Good luck!

WritersPoliceAcademy.com

Okay writers, it’s time to sharpen the pencils and get busy studying the above image and then assembling a grouping of words that’ll knock the socks off our mega-famous judge, Tami Hoag.

Yes, you heard me, Tami Hoag—THE Tami Hoag—will read the top twelve entries and then select the winning story. The contest winner, of course, receives a slew of cool prizes including the coveted Golden Donut Award!

Here’s what you need to do to get your writing in front of one of the world’s top authors (sorry for the small font—the graphic is a photo).

This is a fun contest!

Since the graphic above is a photo, the embedded links are not active. Here are the links listed within the newsletter, in their order of appearance in the piece.

  1. Click HERE for a link to more details and contest rules.
  2. If you’d like to be a first-round judge, email us at 2018goldendonut@gmail.com.
  3. Don’t forget to tell your friends who are figuring out how to budget for conferences this year that Sisters in Crime is once again offering a $150 registration scholarship to all SinC members attending the Writers’ Police Academy for the first time.
  4. If you need help with your travel arrangements, feel free to contact Darek Jarmola, the agent who handles arrangements for our guest speakers and experts. Derek is well versed in transportation options for Green Bay, Wisconsin. He can be reached at Darek@authenticeurope.com or by phoning 918-214-4582.

Tami Hoag – Writers’ Police Academy firing range

 

Tami after performing a PIT maneuver at the driving track. Intense action, and FUN! – Writers’ Police Academy

TamiHoag.com


There is still time to sign up for the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy. HURRY!

Again, If you’ve ever wanted to attend the WPA, I STRONGLY and WHOLEHEARTEDLY urge you to do so this year. Openings are available … this year. Could be your last chance. I’m just saying …

WritersPoliceAcademy.com

 

Each year the Writers’ Police Academy features a fun writing contest called The Golden Donut Short Story contest. We provide a photo prompt and writers must use it as the theme of their stories. The catch? Each tale must be exactly 200 words.

The concept of flash fiction is not new, of course, but the way this contest came about was, well, here’s how I arrived at the decision to include the contest as part of the thrilling WPA.

This was the time before cellphones, social media, and TV remotes

As a child, I read everything and anything I could get my hands on, from Superman comics to Poe. And, as a result, I often wrote silly little stories and even made a few attempts at poetry. But, as time passed, writing faded out of the picture as my focus turned to police work. I never stopped reading, though. Book after book after book. I loved libraries and book stores. I loved the smell of both new and old books. And I was never very far away from something to read. Running radar … sure, there was a book nearby for the slow times. Working graveyard shift … I had to have something to keep me awake during the times when drunks and robbers slept. Fishing … well, those sly rascals aren’t always biting.

Fast Forward to Shortly After Leaving Police Work (Retirement is Boring)

I wanted to write because I had so many stories to tell. And then I saw it … a writers group for beginners. No experience needed. So I signed up (this was 10 years ago, or more) and it wasn’t long before we were hard at work writing short stories. The instructor, though, added a twist to our assignments. He wanted us to write a complete story in exactly 200 words (now you know where I got the idea for the WPA 200 word story contest).

To write a complete story in 200 words was a tough task, especially for someone like me who’d never written anything worthwhile with the exception of a few hundred traffic tickets and thousands of police reports. The assignment was indeed challenging, and fun. And, later, we had to do the same in just 50 words.

I kept my first story as a reminder of the beginning. And, for fun, I thought I’d post it here today. What about you? How early in life did you know you wanted to write? Do you ever re-visit your early work?

Anyway, here you go … my first official attempt at writing. It’s called Economic Downturn. Remember, it’s an unedited first attempt/draft written 10 years ago. So a bit of pity for me is fine … 🙂

Economic Downturn

Moments ago, the palette of reds, oranges and purples streaking the horizon gave way to night’s inky blackness. The sun had surrendered its position to a heavy and swollen harvest moon. Milky light pushed its way through the tired oak’s twisted and knobby branches.

A cold puff of wind shoved and swirled ribbon-like waves of dried leaves along the cracked asphalt street. They made clicking, ticking sounds as they tumbled and danced along the cold and lonely tarmac.

As he looked towards the sounds, an icy chill swept over his jacket-less frame. Turning toward the house where his wife lay sleeping, he saw the once toothy Halloween jack-o-lantern. It had begun to rot and its sagging, twisted grin mocked him.

Time was slowing and sounds were disappearing as the big limb groaned from the stress of the foreign weight. The thick rope tightened still more as the massive tree pulled him upward against gravity.

His feet came to rest two inches above the cool earth, and the crumpled lay-off notice he had clutched so tightly fluttered to the ground.

His last breath gently floated skyward to mingle with the autumn air.

He wondered if she would miss him.

golden donut short story contest

2011-09-24_09-40-42_246

The rules were simple. Write a complete story based on the photo above. The trick? The story must be exactly 200 words. Not 201. Not 199.

The Golden Donut contest attracts writers from all across the world, and to win is a true accomplishment.

This year we were extremely pleased and honored to have Michael Cudlitz, star of The Walking Dead, Southland, and Band of Brothers, join us to announce the winner of the 2014 contest. So, without further adieu, here’s Michael…

 

photo_1

Rick McMahan

PRACTICE

One

Jill strode down the darkened hall, her hollow footfalls in sync with the words drifting to her.

Two.

The training room door was open, a weak light escaping.

Three.

Every CPR mannequin was strewn across the floor like he had tried each one before settling on the smallest.

Breathe.

Kneeling, Ray was pushing on the dummy’s chest. His t-shirt was soaked through with sweat.

“Partner,” she said.

He looked up at her, but she knew he was looking through her at the memory. Dispatch sent them to a nice neighborhood with manicured yards and kids playing. A worried employer called when a female employee never showed for work. Jill found the woman’s body on the bed. A baby was never mentioned. Ray found one floating in the tub.

“Roll call’s in ten, partner.”

More than sweat glistened on his face. Standing, he turned away to pull on his uniform shirt.

Post-partum depression. A fancy word for a mother drowning her kid before suiciding herself.  It took Jill and three EMTs to pull Ray away from the baby’s blue lips.

“Next time if I try harder, Maybe I can save him.” Ray’s voice tight. “I was just practicing.”

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So many names

Well, day one of the 2014 Writers’ Police Academy has finally arrived, and the excitement that comes along with this event has already begun filling the hotel hallways.

WPA staff arrived yesterday and hit the ground running at full speed. We met with the hotel staff to be sure we were all on the same page, and then we rolled up our sleeves to begin the dirty work.

First came the mind-numbing task of figuring out the true identities of our attending “recruits” so we could match name tags with t-shirts, meals, and workshops. Believe me, it was like sorting through a list of names at an undercover cop convention. So many pen names that don’t match payment receipts that don’t match registration records…and on it went.

Do you, the reader, realize that some of your favorite authors have three or four names?

Sally Jones is really Mary Smith, but she writes as Barbara Barbaro for series “A”, and she writes cozies as Queenie O’Berry. And she uses Rebecca Reuben for her romantic suspense books. However, Sally/Barbara/Queenie/Rebecca’s birth name is actually William Jenkins.

Yes, your favorite romance author, Sally Jones is a MAN. A man who’s WPA payment receipts don’t match the name on the registration form, and neither match the…well, you get the idea.

Anyway, we finally sorted it all out last night, working until midnight.

But, if you, Sally Jones/William Jenkins, discover the t-shirt in your event bag is sewn to fit someone with curves a bit different than your own, well, don’t blame us. Blame one of your secret identities.

2013-09-06_20-33-06_432

It’s going to be a fantastic weekend. See you there!

golden donut short story contest

2011-09-24_09-40-42_246

The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to continue the Golden Donut short story contest in 2014. The rules are simple—write a story about the photograph above using exactly 200 words, including the title (each story must include an original title). The image in the photograph MUST be the main subject of the story. We will not provide clues as to the subject matter of the image, or where the shot was taken. That is for you and your imagination to decide. Remember, though, what you see in the image absolutely MUST be the main subject of your tale.

*Again, the photo above absolutely MUST be the main focus of the story, not just a mere mention within the text.

All stories are to be polished and complete, meaning they must have a beginning, middle, and a twisted surprise ending. Again, all stories must be exactly 200 words. Not 201 or 199! So read the word count rules carefully. Over the years, we’ve seen some excellent tales disqualified due to an incorrect word count.

All entries will be screened by a panel of readers who will select their twelve favorite stories and then forward their picks to the contest judge, Sara Gruen (author of Water For Elephants). All decisions are final and may not be contested or appealed. After reviewing each of the entries, the judge will notify the Writers’ Police Academy of the winner’s name. While the winner will be announced at the WPA banquet, the winner need not be present to win. The contest is open to everyone, not just WPA attendees.

The contest winner will receive the prestigious Golden Donut Award.

Submission Guidelines:

Please read carefully!

All submissions MUST be submitted electronically via email to 2014golddonut@gmail.com. Write Golden Donut 2014 in the subject line.

Click the link below to complete the entry registration form and follow the posted instructions. Entry fee details are there as well.

Golden Donut Short Story Contest

Please include your story within the body of the email. Attachments will not be opened.

 Additionally, a twenty-five dollar ($25) entry fee must be submitted via Paypal BEFORE the entry is emailed.

Contest opens on Sunday June 1, 2014 (Please do not send any entries before this date).

Submission Deadline: Midnight Friday August 1, 2014 (the precise point in time between 11:59 pm 8-1 and 12:01 am 8-2).

– Any entry not meeting the exact 200 word requirement will be disqualified. You will not receive notice of disqualification. Please be sure your word count is accurate and that all words are counted.

– Hyphenated words, for the purpose of this contest, will be counted as two words, or three, etc., depending upon how many words make up the hyphenated phrase/word. Contractions will be counted as two words (it’s, don’t, etc.).

– Every single word will be counted as a word. This includes: “a,” “and,” and “the.” To be very clear…if it’s a word, count it. If it’s part of dialog and you think it may be a word, count it. If it’s a stand-alone letter or group of letters, count it as a word. If it’s a number, count it as a word. If the number would include a hyphen if written out as a word, then count it as a hyphenated word.

– Entries submitted after the August 1st deadline will NOT be judged.

– Any entry not meeting the exact 200 word requirement will be disqualified.

No refunds for any reason!

Again, all entry fees and stories must be received on or prior to August 1, 2014. No exceptions. There is normally a mountain of entries, therefore, it is a time-consuming process for the judges. We need time to process the entries and to have the award properly engraved and shipped to the WPA.

– Be sure to include your name, address, email address, telephone number(s), and title of your story in an opening paragraph above your story. Then, please include your story, headed by the title.

– There is a $25 entry fee, payable via Paypal. Entries received without the appropriate entry fee will be excluded from the contest. No refunds.

– Each author may submit up to three entries. Each entry must be accompanied by the corresponding entry fee ($25 per story).

– Each author can enter up to three stories. But each individual entry must be accompanied by its own $25 entry fee. (One entry = $25. Three entries = $75, etc.) You must indicate how many stories you plan to submit when you register.

– By submitting an entry to this contest authors agree to allow The Graveyard Shift/Lee Lofland, the Writers’ Police Academy, Sisters in Crime, and affiliates to publish/reprint the story as a part of The Graveyard Shift blog and/or as advertisement for the Writers’ Police Academy or Sisters in Crime, or in other publications and media, including, but not limited to, books, magazines, newspaper, blogs, ebooks, online outlets, etc. *Sisters in Crime is not a part of the Writers’ Police Academy.

*All rights to all work/short story shall remain the property of the author. The Writers’ Police Academy reserves the right to exclude or delete any entry without cause, reason, or explanation.

– ABSOLUTELY NO profanity or erotica.

– No refunds. Proceeds go to the Writers’ Police Academy fund to benefit the GTCC criminal justice foundation.

Please send questions to Lee Lofland at lofland32@msn(dot)com

So there you have it. Now get busy and take us on a journey that’d scare the pants off Poe himself. Did Gepetto create an army of zombie-kid robots? Has Chucky assembled his cousins to take over the planet? Only you know, and you have only 200 words to tell the entire twisted story.

Good luck!

*     *     *

We are extremely pleased to announce that the judge for the 2014 Golden Donut Short Story Contest is one of the great storytellers of our time, Sara Gruen.

Sara’s works include Water for Elephants, Ape House, and Riding Lessons.

New Picture (2)

 Sara Gruen