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Year-End Reflections & New Year's Wishes

The end of the year always prompts little bursts of reflection and assessment for me. What were my goals and hopes for the past 12 months? Where did I push forward when needed, or where did I fall short? Much of that takes the form of personal questions: How good a husband or father am I? How am I passing along the best example and lessons for our son? instilling in him the best virtues? The answer that keeps coming up: I'm always grateful for my good fortune and always trying to live up to it—to prove myself a person deserving of all of it.

From a professional standpoint, I feel much the same way.

2016 has been a milestone year for me as a writer. On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, published in 2015, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel back in the spring, and Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015, a collection I edited, won the Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection in the fall. Just on the heels of those honors, this year's Best American Mystery Stories, edited by Elizabeth George and Otto Penzler, included both "Rearview Mirror" (from On the Road with Del & Louise) and Tom Franklin's "Christians" (from Murder Under the Oaks ) among the year's top 20 stories—in good company with Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Megan Abbott, and more.

In terms of new publications, I had three short stories published this year, beginning with "Restoration" in the premiere issue of Crime Syndicate Magazine, which released on New Year's Day 2016. In April, the anthology Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning included my story "Parallel Play"—which my wife claims may be the best story I've ever written (though one dark enough that she said she never wants to read it again). And the November issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine included "The Great Detective Reflects," not so purely a Sherlock Holmes pastiche as a rumination on a kind of detective, whether Holmes or Hercule Poirot or The Thinking Machine or any of those ultra-cerebral icons. (But admittedly, Sherlock was at the forefront of my mind writing it—and, as you've seen in the picture above, he's a treasured ornament on our Christmas tree too. Can't wait for this New Year's Day and "The Six Thatchers," kicking off Sherlock Season Four!)

Throughout 2016, I've tried to give back to a community that's given me so many opportunities and such kind recognition. I've served, for example, on the selection committees for two anthologies this year: the recently released Capitol Crimes 2017 Anthology from the Sacramento Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the forthcoming collection Mystery Most Historical from Malice Domestic—a lot of reading in each case, but such a joy to discover so many fine stories and to help celebrate these writers. And I'm pleased that my first year as vice-president of our local chapter of Sisters in Crime, the Chesapeake Chapter, has been passable enough that they they kept me on the board for next year—when I hope we'll continue to carry through many of the ambitious plans we set for ourselves this past year. Whew! 

And that's the flipside of those reflections and assessments—the New Year's Resolutions ahead, resolutions which inevitably circle around a series of everyday plans and promises: Write more, read widely, be good to the people I care about, give back to a world that's given me so much.

On that note, best wishes for the holidays ahead and the year beyond! And be sure to stay in touch throughout 2017 by connecting with me on social media and email via the buttons just below.

On My Nightstand

Here are some recommendations from my own recent reading.
McEwan channels Hamlet to pen a murder mystery from the perspective of a fetus. Madness and method both.
Martin Edwards republishes this classic tour de force from The Detection Club's founder—along with his own new ending!  
Patricia Highsmith's brilliant debut, "The Heroine," kicks off a landmark anthology from editor Sarah Weinman.
Cultural criticism? Personal essay? Self-help? Forget categories. Sarah L. Kaufman's writing is balm for the soul.

On My Syllabus

In response to occasional interest in my teaching at George Mason University, here are the texts for my upcoming "Recent American Fiction" course:
  • Best American Short Stories 2016, edited Junot Diaz (2016)
  • Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (2007)
  • American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang (2008)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan (2010)
  • Zone One, Colson Whitehead (2010)
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (2012)
  • Fates & Furies, Lauren Groff (2015)
  • Underground Airlines, Ben H. Winters (2016)
  • The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (2016)
Congratulations to Tess Andrews, winner of the book bundle from my debut newsletter. Tess identified Stanley Ellin as the Edgar Award-winning author of the short stories "The House Party" and "The Blessington Method." Her prize pack includes the Nov. 2016 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, featuring my story "The Great Detective Reflects"; The Digest Enthusiast, Issue 4, including an interview with me about my work for EQMM; and this year's edition of The Best American Mystery Stories 2016, edited by Elizabeth George and Otto Penzler and featuring "Rearview Mirror," the first story in On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories.

Thanks to all my subscribers. Look below for info on another giveaway!

From "The Great Detective Reflects"    

    During the long days, the great detective roams through his old adventures, following again the twists and turns of those most baffling murders and thefts and conspiracies, tracing the endless trails of clues, measuring the accusations and confessions and recriminations, meditating over the surprises that wait in unexpected places.

     The cases stand as testimony to a victorious career. The books stand too, like milestones, his old companion’s popular accounts of the great detective’s genius, of his keen eye and majestic mind. The shelves groan under the weight of those tributes, but the published volumes gather dust these days because the great detective has lost interest in them....

Events: Winter & Spring 2017


Wednesday-Saturday, February 8-11, 2017: AWP Conference and Bookfair, Washington, DC

  • Panel: “The G Word: Writing and Teaching Genre in a Changing Literary Landscape,” with Matt Bell, Katie Cortese, Idra Novey, and Porochista Khakpour, Marquis Salon 6, Meeting Level Two, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two • Thursday, February 9, 10:30 a.m.
  • Author Signing, George Mason University Booth, Bookfair Booth 501, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW • Thursday, February 9, 1 p.m.
  • Off-site reading hosted by SmokeLong Quarterly and DC’s Noir at the Bar, with authors E.A. Aymar, Matt Bell. Tara Campbell, Rob Hart, W. Todd Kaneko, Tara Laskowski, Jennifer Pashley, and Amber Sparks, Wonderland Ballroom, 1101 Kenyon Street NW • Saturday, February 11, 7 p.m.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Friday-Sunday, April 28-30: Malice Domestic, Bethesda, MD

  • Plans to be announced later—stay tuned!
I'm on track to continue this newsletter on a quarterly basis, so look forward to more updates sometime in mid-March.

In that next newsletter, I'll announce the recipient of another giveaway—this time for the following two titles (one of which offers a preview at my news for that next issue):
  • Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea (Down & Out Books, 2017), featuring my story "A Necessary Ingredient" as well as fiction by writers including J.L. Abramo, Eric Beetner, Michael Bracken, Meredith Cole, Matt Coyle, Tom Donahue, John Floyd, Gay Kinman, Terrill Lee Lankford, Janice Law, Paul D. Marks, Andrew McAleer, O’Neil De Noux, and Robert J. Randisi.
  • Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits by Jason Wilson, spirits columnist for the Washington Post

(And yes, there is a tie-in between the two books.)

How do you win them? You must be a subscriber to my newsletter (subscribe here if you haven't already!) and then send a short email to with the answer to this trivia question—in keeping with the drinking theme above:

In the 1934 film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, Nick Charles (William Powell) explains that in mixing cocktails, "The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time..." but which drink do you "always shake to waltz time"?

Deadline is Wednesday, March 1, and reminders will be announced on my Facebook and Twitter pages. Best of luck to all!

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Art Taylor Writer · MS 3E4 George Mason University · 4400 University Drive · Fairfax, VA 22030 · USA

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