The homepage of Mystery Weekly’s website features the black and white image of a man in a fedora, cigarette clenched between his lips, checking the pulse of a blond woman in an evening gown lying apparently lifeless on the ground. It’s a suitable introduction to this 3-year-old online and print publication that showcases mystery fiction from cozy to noir, from supernatural to historical, hardboiled to humorous.
Publisher Charles F. Carter and Editor Kerry Carter, married 25 years, work from home on the magazine. He also writes mystery fiction, and she adores reading the genre.
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“We don’t have a home office per se,” Kerry says. “I read and edit stories on my laptop, in waiting rooms, at horse shows, in the car, on the couch…After I choose the stories for our next issue, Chuck handles the business development and website, designs the covers, and builds the issues using Adobe InDesign.”
Tone, editorial content of Mystery Weekly
Despite the image on the magazine’s homepage, the Carters would prefer to see fewer stories involving stalkers and serial killers or tales about murdering coworkers and family members. “Also, any story that begins with a detective sitting in his office when a dame walks in would be a hard sell,” Kerry explains.
She also has an aversion to stories about terminal illness, abuse, graphic sex, and animal cruelty. “Since our magazine is now available in libraries and schools through Flipster, we want to keep our content appropriate for the largest possible audience,” she explains.
The Carters read submissions all year long, making detailed notes for writers who request feedback. They promote their authors widely, publishing excerpts and links to Mystery Weekly’s stories via email, the journal’s website, and social media.
“We don’t get many submissions that cross genres, so any mysteries with fantasy, western, or speculative treatments definitely earn extra points.”
One such author is writer and illustrator Nik Morton, whose story “The Very First Detective: The Killing Stone” will be published in the magazine’s Sherlock Holmes special issue, October 2018.
“It’s a prehistoric Holmes and Watson pastiche featuring Olmes and Otsun (Otsun is Olmes’s sidekick as well as being the clan’s medicine man),” Kerry explains. “Aside from being well-written, it has a unique setting, which makes it especially entertaining. We don’t get many submissions that cross genres, so any mysteries with fantasy, western, or speculative treatments definitely earn extra points.”
The Carters feature emerging writers alongside well-established authors like Morton, journalist and mystery writer Joseph D’Agnese, and author R.S. Morgan. The latter has a story titled “The Sugar Witch” in the November 2017 issue of Mystery Weekly. It begins:
“I want to kill my sugar daddy,” the witch said to me.
We were in bed. Mellissa’s cheek was on my chest. Her unsmiling eyes were locked on my eyes. Her lethal pillow talk hadn’t surprised me. On our previous date, she had pressed her glistening lips against my ear and whispered, “I wish Angelo was dead.” Yet wishing her sugar daddy was dead was one desire. Killing him was another. I should have removed her cheek from my chest and rolled out of bed and walked out the door.
Instead, I asked, “Why?”
When reading submissions, Kerry looks for an element of mystery or crime in the story. “Just being ‘kind of mysterious’ isn’t usually enough,” she explains. “We also love a great opening that makes you want to keep reading, plus a unique voice, realistic dialogue, humor, and a satisfying ending with a surprise or twist.”
Advice for potential contributors of Mystery Weekly
The Carters include brief excerpts of stories on the website, and they advise potential contributors to buy and read at least one full issue. Those on a budget can get a free trial subscription on Kindle Newsstand or ask to read it for free on Flipster at the local library.
Kerry values the overall entertainment value of a story higher than the strength of the writing itself. Still, she says, mechanical errors and continuity issues can ruin a story, too. “Poor grammar makes the story harder to read and understand, and continuity problems can really irritate mystery readers,” she explains. “Have a few friends, or a writing group, read your story before submitting, and ask questions to make sure they understood it. And if possible, have a professional editor look over your story for common mistakes.
“The best advice I can offer is to not be boring,” she concludes. “There’s that old saying that one should ‘write what you know,’ and that’s good advice for someone with interesting hobbies or life experiences. But stories that take place in mundane places like the home or office can be harder to make compelling. So we’d much rather you research something that’s interesting that you know nothing about. This is my litmus test: I ask myself if it’s something the reader would tell their friends to read. If the answer is yes, I’ll probably accept it.”
Spotlight: Mystery Weekly
“At the cutting edge of crime fiction.”
Reading period: Year-round.
Length: 2,000-10,000 words.
Submission format: Online through website.
Contact: Charles F. Carter, publisher, via website at mysteryweekly.com
Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of Avenging the Owl (Sky Pony, 2016) and a consultant for Creator & Collector Services. Web: melissahart.com.
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