Tuesday, February 21, 2023

An Author Collective

by Paula Gail Benson

Last November, Sarah E. Burr posted about her “Character Collective,” featuring an interview with the protagonists of her three series. Her message made me think about the groups that have had a significant impact upon my writing this past year.

As a person whose main work is short stories, I’m always looking for places to submit. By reviving its anthology series, the Malice Domestic organization has offered a venue for new and experienced authors. This year’s volume, Mystery Most Diabolical, contains stories by Leah Bailey, M. A. Blum, Michael Bracken, Susan Breen, Marco Carocari, Mary Dutta, Christine Eskilson, Nancy Gardner, Barb Goffman, Alexia Gordon, B. J. Graf, Maurissa Guibord, Victoria Hamilton, Kerry Hammond, Peter W. J. Hayes, Smita Harish Jain, Cynthia Kuhn, Margaret Lucke, Sharon Lynn, Tim Maleeny, Lisa Q. Mathews, Adam Meyer, Alan Orloff, Keenan Powell, Graham Powell, Lori Robbins, Cynthia Sabelhaus, Nancy Cole Silverman, Shawn Reilly Simmons, C. J. Verburg, and Andrea Wells. It was a true honor to have my “Reputation or Soul” included with these many fine writers. In addition, it was a great pleasure to have Shawn Reilly Simmons as the wonderful editor. During this year’s Malice Domestic conference, we had a signing for all the attending authors. I sat next to Lori Robbins and got to know more about her novels.

Since 2012, I’ve been submitting stories to the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. An online journal of the Bethlehem Writers Group based in Pennsylvania, the Roundtable has gone from monthly non-paying market to a quarterly publication that has increased its maximum story word count from 2000 to 2500 words and pays $50 for featured stories, $20 for other stories, and $10 for poems. In addition, it holds an annual short story contest, which will be judged this year by Barb Goffman.

I’ve been fortunate to place in the short story contest on two occasions and have been delighted to have my stories in the online publication as well as reprinted in a collected volume. Over the years, I met Carol L. Wright and Marianne H. Donley at Malice Domestic and Killer Nashville. I always told them I would like to attend a meeting of the Bethlehem Writers Group. Then, during the pandemic in 2020, the Group offered a digital membership and I was asked to join. I did so eagerly and have learned so much from having my stories read and critiqued by the Group.

During the first eighteen days of this month, blogging partners at Writers Who Kill published a serial novella for which we each had written a chapter. Having the opportunity to work in conjunction with a diverse group of authors helped me to appreciate more about their craft and to work on my own ability to develop a seamless transition from one point in the story to the next.

Similarly, the members of the Bethlehem Writers Group are co-writing a story where each of us develop a specific character. It has increased my awareness of the benefits of different writing styles and insight into how an idea that seemed to be going in one direction could quickly morph into something altogether different.

Additionally, I’m grateful my time travel story “Sense Memory” appears in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s most recent anthology An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue. The other authors who are included in the book are: Courtney Annicchiarico, Jeff Baird, Peter J Barbour, A. E. Decker, Marianne H. Donley, Debra H. Goldstein, Ralph Hieb, DT Krippene, Jerry McFadden, Emily P. W. Murphy, Christopher D. Ochs, Dianna Sinovic, Kidd Wadsworth, Paul Weidknecht, and Carol L. Wright as well as two short story contest winners, Trey Dowell and Eleanor Ingbretson.

I joined the Romance Writers of America and the Lowcountry Romance Writers (LRWA) Chapter many years ago, before we had Sisters in Crime chapters in my state. I’ve always appreciated the craft presentations and learning about marketing. Romance writers truly have learned how to effectively sell their fiction! In addition, LRWA has many successful independently published authors who are very savvy about editing and cover design.

Two years ago, the chapter offered all members the opportunity to be published in Love in the Lowcountry, an anthology of stories that took place in Charleston over the winter holidays (Thanksgiving to New Years). Each story that was accepted had to go through a vigorous beta reading process as well as developing promos to be used in social media. It was like boot camp, but it was tremendously successful. This year, the chapter decided to create Love in the Lowcountry, Volume Two. Like the first volume, it included experienced authors along with newbies and it expanded the holiday season (from Halloween to Valentine’s Day) and the territory (anywhere in South Carolina). The eleven authors with stories included are: Linda Joyce, Suzie Webster, HM Thomas, J. Lynn Rowan, Addie Bealer, Robin Hillyer Miles, Victoria Houseman, Elaine Reed, Victoria Benson, Danielle Gadow, and myself. 

I remain grateful to Malice Domestic, Writers Who Kill, the Bethlehem Writers Group, and LRWA for supporting and fostering authors. They certainly have helped me to become a better writer.

The profits from all the books I’ve mentioned in this message go to keep these groups functioning. If you are looking for some excellent reading or need to buy gifts for readers, please consider these works. You’ll be benefiting the readers, writers, and organizations.

What are you reading this month?


  1. Paula - I always amazes me how you can do so much while keeping the SC Senate functioning!

  2. Jim, you give me too much credit! Thank you for your kind words.

  3. Fascinating to see how you've taken advantage of opportunities to hone your craft.

    Currently, I am binging on Lee Child's Jack Reacher stories. While I find the violence disconcerting, and skim over the detailed descriptions of things like firearms, I find myself truly engrossed in his adventures.

  4. Love short stories. Love your stories. Congratulations, Paula!

  5. Short stories are wonderful, especially yours, Paula!

  6. Paula, I'm exhausted reading all you've been doing! How I envy your energy level!
    Love short stories and I'm looking forward to checking out some of the ones you've mentioned.

  7. Thank you so much, Jim, Kathleen, Molly, Kait, Shari, and Lori. I'm so grateful for all the opportunities that short story writers have. It's a privilege to be part of the mystery writing community. I really appreciate all of you!