Christmas-y Short Stories 2023

We had a lot of fun at the holiday party on December 2, received some great books we can’t wait to read, and listened to three clever short stories crafted by Connie Berry, Eileen Curley Hammond, and Kandy Williams. As a reminder, the rules were:

  • 100 words maximum.
  • Must include the following 5 words: 1) nutcracker, 2) shovel, 3) needle, 4) jolly and 5) glow.  All 5 words must be in the story, although plurals and transmogrifications are accepted (e.g., ‘glowing’ and ‘glower’).  Words may also be used as proper nouns, have more than one meaning, etc. (be creative)!

For your enjoyment, we’ve included them below.


By Connie Berry

It was Christmas Eve, and Santa’s Workshop was deserted. Santa was off in his sleigh. Mrs. Claus had taken to her bed with a migraine. The elves, who’d staged a walkout over working conditions, had bogged off to the pub for a jolly night of booze and karaoke, leaving heaps of wood chips and pine needles on the workroom floor. Only the Nutcracker remembered his duty. Grabbing a shovel, he began chucking the mess into the glowing fire. That’s when he noticed, under the tree, the gifts Santa had wrapped for the elves. A malicious smile spread across the Nutcracker’s wooden face.


By Eileen Curley Hammond

A faerie zipped past my nose, strand of garland trailing. “$X#%&. We’re on a deadline—grab the shovel.”

I trudged to the hearth and cleaned the firebox. Under the glowing cinders and crispy evergreen needles were charred shards of blue and gold wood. “What the heck?”

“Keep cleaning—the big man will be here soon.”

“I jolly-well won’t. What’s the meaning of this?” As I poked the pile, a staff appeared, and I jumped. “There’s something nefarious happening. I think this is the Nutcracker.”

“He was so wooden. And so flammable…” She smirked as she topped the tree.


By Kandy Williams

“Where’s Rudolph?” Santa’s bellowing shook the snow and pine needles from the trees outside the community center. “Mrs. Claus is about to sing ‘Holly Jolly’. Rudolph does back-up.”

Santa proudly supported his wife each year at the North Pole’s annual karaoke competition, which she’d won four years straight.

“I saw him,” said Ned the Nutcracker. “Took off with Clara in a sleigh.”

Santa cursed and went inside.

“Whew!” Ned tossed the shovel aside. The elves now had a chance to win with their rendition of ‘Blue Christmas’, Elvis-style. Provided nobody noticed the red glow beneath the snow by the dumpster….

2023 BCW Holiday Event 12/2/23

Santa climbing out of chimney

It’s that time!  What time?  Time for the BCW Holiday Event!  An oldie that never gets moldy, except for the fact that it’s pretty much been the same the last few years (if it ain’t broke, well, you know the rest).  This year will be like last year, at the Rusty Bucket at 180 Market Street, New Albany, OH.  Time will be from noon to 2:00 p.m., and all members and accompanying spouses, friends, relatives, interested parties, college roommates from decades past, and complete strangers are invited.  Note:  everybody is paying for their own meals and the voting/story contest will be limited to BCW members only, but otherwise all are welcome.  As far as the itinerary, check it out:

Vote for 2024 Board Members:  what we do every year per our bylaws (limited to BCW members only).  We’ll, unfortunately, be saying ‘sayonara’ early next year to Andrew Welsh-Huggins, who graciously stepped in to fill the treasurer spot vacated by fellow friend and member Jim Sabin (who sadly passed from a courageous fight with cancer at the end of January).  As a result, we’ll be going from 5 board members to 4, unless there’s anyone who wants to step up, hint hint. Please contact us if you are interested.

Events for 2023:  we had 8 events in 2023 (not including Ohioana in April), which included 5 in-person.  Other presentations were online via Zoom; we also purchased electronic equipment (thanks to a grant from National SIC) that will allow more hybrid in-person/online events to be broadcast to other chapters around the country.  Look for a mix of these in 2024.

Story Contest:  it’s on again, with prizes of dubious value for the wieners.  And in BCW, everybody’s a wiener.  Note: we’ll need to limit this to actual BCW members, but accompanying guests can offer moral support.  If interested, see details below.

Book Swap:  all are welcome (even non-members), but if you wish to participate you’ll need to bring a wrapped book to be swapped with another person (via our annual Wright/Left story switcheroo).  It’s confusing, frustrating, a good form of aerobic exercise, and a whole lot of fun, but per the rules all participants will need to explain why that book was relevant for them. 

Story Contest rules: 

  • 100 words maximum.
  • Must include the following 5 words: 1) nutcracker, 2) shovel, 3) needle, 4) jolly and 5) glow.  All 5 words must be in the story, although plurals and transmogrifications are accepted (e.g., ‘glowing’ and ‘glower’).  Words may also be used as proper nouns, have more than one meaning, etc. (be creative)!
  • Participants must be BCW members and you don’t need to be present to participate, but you must attend the party to win a prize!
  • Extra points for holiday themes, but keep in mind what we write (mysteries, thrillers, suspense, etc.).  Bloody, gory, scary . . . we do it all.
  • Submit entries to no later than midnight, Thursday, 11/30 (please include the name of the author).  One entry per attendee, please.  Top finishers will be presented at the holiday party Saturday, 12/2, with awards to be determined. 

And there you go.  The 2023 BCW Holiday Event is now official . . . countdown starting now.  1,000,000 . . . 999,999 . . . 999,998 . . .

Sad News From Buckeye Crime Writers

Jim Sabin

Our friend, treasurer, and webmaster, Jim Sabin, died on Friday, January 27th. We will miss his laughter, his dedication, and his love of writing.

Here is his obituary and information about the visitation and service, which will take place on Tuesday, February 7th:

Jim Sabin, age 49, of Canal Winchester, died peacefully on Friday, January 27, 2023, at the OSU Wexner Medical Center after a two-year courageous battle against cancer.
            Jim was born April 24, 1973, in Oregon, Ohio, to Jeanne (Faylor) Sparks and James Sabin. He graduated from Whitmer High School in 1991 and then attended Ohio University, Athens, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in Journalism, graduating in 1995. He worked in newspaper journalism for decades, both reporting on various local beats and editing local newspapers. In 2017, he returned to his alma mater, Ohio University, to work in Media Relations.
            Jim was an avid reader and a talented writer, and this writing talent was no more obvious than when documenting his battle against cancer. Music was also one of his passions, and going to concerts with friends or his sons gave him great joy. He loved sports, particularly baseball and his Detroit Tigers – a love he passed on to his younger son, Alex, and shared with the children he coached over the past few years. Family time was important to Jim. He was so proud of his sons, and devoted to his wife, whom he described as his rock. He was a caring, generous, and kind husband and father.
            Jim leaves behind his loving wife of eleven years, Lucy Sabin; sons, Chris and Alex Sabin; mother, Jeanne Sparks; dad, Steve Sparks; siblings, Bill (Megan) and Joe (Coty) Sparks; and various cousins, nieces, nephews, and other loved ones.
            Jim was preceded in death by his grandparents, Richard and Carol Faylor and Joanne and Eldon Dolby; his aunt, Connie Phillips; and his cousin, Christopher Phillips.
            Family and friends are welcome to visit Tuesday, February 7, 2023, from 12 to 2PM at the Dwayne R Spence Funeral Home, Canal Winchester, with a service starting immediately at 2PM. A live streaming of the service will also be available, with a link provided closer to the service date.

There was a lovely tribute to him from the Lancaster Eagle Gazette, which can be found here.

Sad news from Buckeye Crime Writers

Our beloved co-founder and Board Member Emeritus Carolyn Melvin passed away on June 5, 2022. She will be remembered for her spirited right-left-right shenanigans at our holiday parties, her sense of humor, and her friendship. We are planning a gathering in early August to share fond memories.

Carolyn co-founded what was then known as Sisters in Crime Columbus Ohio in 2008 and served in all officer capacities during her tenure. 

You can read Carolyn’s obituary here. Carolyn Shaffer Melvin Obituary – The Columbus Dispatch. Memories can also be shared below via the comment section.

From Board member Connie Berry: Carolyn loved learning and attended as many classes and conferences as she could fit into her always-crowded schedule. Over the years, we roomed together at Malice Domestic, Crime Bake, Sleuthfest, and Killer Nashville. She was a great “den mother,” keeping me on track and headed in the right direction. I will always remember her intelligence, organizational skills, and calm confidence that things would probably work out fine in the end. I will miss her.

Who needs encouragement?

By Connie Berry

One of the great things about belonging to an organization like Sisters (and Misters) in Crime is the opportunity to learn from others. When I was an aspiring author, what I wanted most was advice from someone who knew what they were talking about. So I started a series on my (now defunct) blog entitled, “What I Wish I’d Known.” I asked every mystery writer I’d ever met at conferences to answer that question — “What is the one most important thing you wish you’d known starting out?” Some actually answered me.

We all need encouragement. We all need mentors, people who have gone where we want to go and are willing to shed light on the path for those coming behind. All this year, Buckeye Crime Writers will be featuring nationally known and award-winning authors who are willing to share their history and experiences in the big, scary world of publishing.

In February I have the privilege of interviewing best-selling author and former detective sergeant Bruce Robert Coffin, whose police procedurals starring Detective John Byron, have been called “authentic…gripping…unforgettable.” In March we’ll hear from multiple award-winning cozy author Ellen Byron, and in April from the outstanding author of historical mysteries Edith Maxwell. And that’s just for starters.

Do you need encouragement? We’ve got it! Log on every month this year.

Well, here we are

The below is a letter from BCW president Patrick Stuart.

I’ve noticed some differences over the last few months walking our dog, Felix. Things that didn’t exist before. The traffic, for instance. In the middle of the day, it got to where I could cross 35-mph streets with impunity. I almost didn’t even need to look. My previous fear of meeting instantaneous death at the radiator grille of a primer-gray, 2005 Hyundai Accent, sporting a massive spoiler and driven by a sketchy Domino’s driver, bordered on hubris. The empty streets reminded me of the first scene of virtually every apocalypse movie (for me, I’ll pick the British “28 Days Later”). Or in another capacity, the days after 9/11. When you live on the flight path for John Glenn International, you notice when passenger jets suddenly disappear from the sky.

Other things. It was eerily quiet. Which highlighted the fact that everyone seemed to be getting their roofs replaced, or yards landscaped. The sounds of nail guns and lawnmowers was everywhere. Or maybe the lack of ambient noise just made it appear that way. There were also more people around. Not in cars, but out walking. Dog-walking. Jogging. Some wearing masks, some not, but everybody making a conscious attempt to cross the street and respect the six-foot rule when anyone approached. In my neighborhood, most people tend to take such matters seriously, and multiply it by three. “I’m supposed to give you six feet, but just to be safe, let’s make it eighteen.”

Then, just as everything slowly started to look like normalcy was on the far, far horizon, something else happened. The sounds of police helicopters appeared. We live a mile north of OSU, and just a couple miles north of outer downtown Columbus. Just when you thought a global pandemic couldn’t get any worse… fate finds a way.

Like you, everything over the last few months has affected BCW. We’ve had to cancel meetings since February, and the upcoming summer looks no different. Libraries are cautiously reopening, but we don’t know when they will allow for public events. Furthermore, we don’t know when members will feel safe gathering in groups. As a result, BCW has decided to take the summer off, rather than keeping everyone guessing if there’ll be an upcoming meeting each month.

Let’s face it – you all deserve it. Tentatively we’re now considering September as a restart for our monthly Saturday presentations. In addition, the BCW board has been active behind the scenes, looking at alternative ways to move forward. We’ve discussed the possibility of local Zoom meetings, and have announced other Zoom meetings with Sisters In Crime chapters around the country. We continue to provide links to resources, and started a short story exercise on the website for interested members. We’ve also been doing author interviews, and are providing fresh updates via email, Facebook and Twitter. We’re actively preparing for the future by keeping in touch with canceled speakers, and planning new speakers for the coming months. And we’ve sent out personal emails to each member, asking how they’re managing during these rough times. If you ever have any thoughts, ideas or comments, please feel free to contact us, anytime.

A Twitter comment I’d read recently said we’re now “living through a social studies chapter.” Indeed, these are historic times. But in order for them to become historic, we first need to get through them. I sincerely hope all of you are managing as best as possible, and your families are safe. I hope your writing continues, your skills improve and your perspectives widen. And because I can’t resist a good cliché, I thought I’d end this with another quote: a line from Margaret Atwood, the apocalyptic Canadian author of The Handmaid’s Tale, who came up with perhaps the best ten words to sum up recent events:

‘A word after a word after a word is power.’

Peace, and keep writing.


April showers…

A letter from BCW president Patrick Stuart:

…bring May flowers (or so the saying goes). Unfortunately, it has also brought more cancellations in our 2020 meetings. For May we were planning to help out with the Cincinnati Writing Workshop on Saturday, 5/16, the national “how to get published” workshop hosted by some of the former folks at Writer’s Digest. The workshop is, thankfully, still on, but instead of being in downtown Cincinnati it’s now online due to COVID-19. As a result, the BCW board will be sheltering in place in Columbus. However, if anybody’s still interested you can check out the details here:

And as far as our events for June and beyond, we’re busily working on those. But be prepared for anything. Since our fortunes are tied to the Columbus Metropolitan Library and the Central Ohio Park System (where we rented a lodge for the day-long 6/20 meeting), we’re riding the waves along with everybody else, and we will keep you updated as we learn more. But in the meantime, as promised, we’re launching (drumroll): the BCW Writer’s Challenge! We changed it a little bit from the original concept, but that’s ok – change is good. In short, we provide the photo, you provide the story. That’s it. In 300–400 words, come up with something. Anything. Just a snippet of your imagination to keep those creative juices going. We’ll put your submission on the blog, along with the photo, then contact another volunteer at random. Note: we’re still accepting additional volunteers so if you’re interested please feel free to contact us. Otherwise, here’s the first installment to get things going: Rat Patrol.

So You Think You Know The ATF?

UPDATE: The March program has been cancelled.


It probably comes as no surprise, but the Upper Arlington Public Library has cancelled all meeting room reservations and use of meeting rooms in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope to reschedule our ATF agent/guest speaker for a future date. Stay tuned, stay safe, and stay well. And keep writing!

The original program information is below.

On Saturday, 3/21/20, 12:00 p.m., at the Upper Arlington Library (2800 Tremont Road), BCW is going to host (drum roll): Jon McPherson, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) with the Columbus Field Division of the ATF, a.k.a., the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. We at BCW (speaking in the first person plural here) tend to think of all of our events kind of like our kids, e.g., we love them all. But secretly, there’s always one that’s a little special. And this is that one. Because it’s the ATF! You know . . . that ATF!! Elliot Ness and Al Capone. The Atlanta Bombing. Waco. The Oklahoma City bombing. The people on the front line of some of the most serious shizzle going on, and they’ve agreed to talk! To! Us! So to prepare you, we’ve put together a little quiz to calibrate your knowledge of this federal agency:

  1. How many ATF field offices are there in the U.S.? A. 12, B. 18, C. 25, D. 30.
  2. A certain comic strip was based on the famous ATF agent Elliot Ness and his group (“The Untouchables”).  Which was it? A. Dick Tracy, B. Pogo, C. Superman, D. Dilbert.
  3. There are three levels of explosives defined by the ATF: high (e.g., dynamite), low (e.g., black powder, fuses), and blasting agents (e.g., ammonium nitrate-fuel oil). Can any of these legally be stored in a residence? Yes/No
  4. The ATF has a canine training center that trains dogs to sniff out explosives. What’s the name of the 80-lb. yellow Lab assigned to the Columbus field office? A. Kira, B. Andi, C. Martina, D. Opey.
  5. Elliot Ness began his career with the ATF at the tender age of 23. 10 years later, after cleaning up Chicago and putting away Al Capone, he resigned to become the Public Safety Director of which city? A. Cincinnati, B. Detroit, C. Cleveland, D. Milwaukee.
  6. Ohio ranked where out of all states in bomb threats (2016) and guns stolen from dealers (2018)? A. 1st, B. 3rd, C. 5th, D. 7th.
  7. The ATF is the sole federal agency allowed to trace guns used in crimes. True/False
  8. A typical ATF case is open (on average) for how many years? A. 2, B. 4, C. 5, D. 7.
  9. Basic training at the ATF National Academy requires 37 weeks of intense specialized training. Where is the Academy located? A. Quantico, Virginia, B. Oakland, California, C. Fargo, North Dakota, D. Glynco, Georgia.
  10. Although the ATF now investigates bombings, arson, acts of terrorism, trafficking of firearms, narcotics, gangs/criminal organizations, and provides criminal profiling and forensic laboratory services, its earliest roots are based on what? A. taxes, B. British spies, C. piracy in the Caribbean, D. cattle rustling.

Answers: 1) C, 2) A, 3) No, 4) D, 5) C, 6) B, 7) True, 8) B, 9) D, 10) A.                         

Score rating: 9 – 10 (Special Investigator), 7 – 8 (Agent), 5 – 6 (Rookie), 1 – 4 (Meter Maid)

Establishing a writing career

Happy New Year, everyone! Our next meeting is at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Old Worthington Library.

Your book is finally in print — hooray! It’s the end of the long, difficult process of writing and rewriting — then rewriting again. But are you really finished? What comes next?

Authors know that publishing a book is only the first step in establishing a writing career. Join us on Jan. 25 for a discussion with Connie Berry, author of the Kate Hamilton Mystery series (Crooked Lane Books) about publicity, marketing, networking with other authors, setting goals, and creating a productive writing life.

NaNoWriMo 2019

An airplane mechanic works on a plane's propeller.
It’s time to crank it up!

Me (BCW President Patrick Stuart):  Wake up. It’s time for NaNoWriMo! 

You (you):  NaNowuuuhhhhhh? 

Me:  You heard me; NaNoWriMo. National. Novel. Writing. Month. That time of year where you burn incense to the writing gods, sacrifice a Stephen King novel or two, and start warming up the Keurig maker. Because you’re going to be rocking that caffeine to get a 50,000 word rough draft done by the end of November.

You:  Hahahahaha! (wiping tears from eyes). I thought you said ’50,000 words.’

Me:  I did.

You:  Holy (word redacted). You’re serious!

Me:  Damn straight. We do this every year. It’s a 30-day writing marathon that started in 1999 with 21 people in San Francisco.  Fifteen years later there were over 400,000 participants. 

You:  And how many met their goal? (skeptical face)

Me:  About one in ten.

You:  That’s not very many.

Me:  It’s the journey, not the destination, grasshopper.

You:  I hate it when you do that pseudo-Buddhist (word redacted).  Besides, I’ll bet those manuscripts sucked.

Me:  That’s not the point. The point is to end up with a rough draft, or at least a good start on one. Which can then be refined into something beautiful later.

You:  Like what?

Me:  Water for Elephants , by Sara Gruen. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Or The Darwin Elevator series, by Jason Hough. All of those started as NaNoWriMo manuscripts.

You:  So you’re saying if I finish 50k words, I’ll soon be sitting on a six-figure publishing deal?

Me:  Hahahahaha! (wiping tears from eyes). That’s funny! 

You:  You’re a terrible president.

Me:  True dat. But NaNoWriMo is about starting, not finishing. Or as my grandpa used to say, when the ‘poop hits the propeller.’ So go to the Bexley Library, 2411 E. Main Street, Bexley, Ohio on Saturday, November 16, from noon to 4:00 p.m. BCW has the Technology Room reserved, so you can sit with your fellow writers and write your fingers to the bloody nubs. We’ll even have refreshments, and a cattle prod in case you fall asleep. Would you like a demonstration?

You:  Yeah, right (zzzzzzzzzzzz-snap). Sweet (several words redacted). That hurts!

Me:  Pain is just weakness leaving the body, grasshopper. See you there.