Short-Shorts: How a group assignment became a promotion tool
By A. R. Grobbo
Some years ago a member of my writers’ group came up with an idea for a story that he put to us as a homework assignment: a funeral director conducts a free burial to atone for a mistake. I came up with a plot that would suit my chief sleuth, Gloria Trevisi, to a T (for Trevisi, of course). I took inspiration from a news story, and away it ran.
The result was “the Funeral of Homer Snape”, a single-scene suspense, and since we try to keep our writers’ group assignments reasonably short, it was barely a few pages of type, a shade over 1,500 words. As a homework submission to our group, it worked beautifully… so beautifully I began to consider its possibilities. If I submitted it with success to an anthology it would rub shoulders with some interesting offerings from other authors, many more famous than I am. I looked about; the two anthologies available at the time were unsuitable. One wanted something supernatural; the other was looking for a Toronto city setting.
The Gloria Trevisi Mysteries are neither; they are soft-boiled, cozy-type mysteries with a rural theme. Peaceful? Uh uh. Beneath the calm veneer of family reunions, potlucks and strawberry socials lies dysfunction, deceit and violence. Grounded in cool reality, the series follows the rhythms of the seasons of farming, and the hectic pace of a weekly newspaper.
Marilyn’s “Tempe” might admire Gloria; a city slicker who has lost her corporate job due to an economic downturn, she has taken the first job available to her, in a small farming community in southwestern Ontario, settled in a rented farmhouse with a dicey septic bed, and made the best of being the only Italian-Canadian in a community of solid British Scots-Irish stock.
Gloria is a far cry from savvy PI-in-training Sydra Smart, but author Sylvia Dickey Smith invited mystery writers with strong female protagonists to send her an ultra-short story for her blog. I did it, and guest-appeared. Fun, and easy! A couple of other authors offered to post it as well, and the story became a bit of a traveler, visiting sites with me, kind of like a performing pet.
Okay, I’m giving away my creation. This, however, is an ultra-short taster, kind of like a cracker with a special antipasto on it that is sometimes handed out at the supermarket to entice people to buy a product. If you like the flavor, you just might buy, right?
I’m not sure how many author sites carry “Homer Snape” at the moment. It was also offered as a freebie on the Digital Book Shop and enjoyed several downloads. Then I heard about CommuterLit.com, a site that collects short bits of prose and poetry that can be read by train-riders or car-poolers on their iPhones on their way to work. I thought this was a great idea. The wonderful people at CommuterLit posted it, and also posted excerpts from my mystery series as new books were released by Double Dragon Publishing.
From homework to an online free piece of fiction… Does it work as a promotional tool? I’m honestly not sure. But I don’t see a downside.
Bio: A.R. GROBBO
Originally from Quebec, Anne Grobbo spent a number of years working as a news reporter and community editor on suburban newspapers in the Toronto area, and later as a business writer for a large international corporation. For years she combined career with further education, studying piano performance part-time and taking evening courses at University of Guelph.
A few years later, she began to write the first of the “Gloria Trevisi” mysteries, set in rural Ontario and featuring an editor of a rural weekly newspaper. Anne describes her sleuth as an imaginary “daughter”, a character who shares the author’s love of music and respect for the written word, along with her husband’s Italian work ethic and strong family values.
“Why not?” she says. “As a teenager I devoured my parents’ paperbacks, cozy mysteries, spy thrillers, romantic suspense, historic fiction… and I wanted to create something that wouldn’t embarrass a mom who found her fourteen-year-old daughter perusing her bookshelf. I write for adults, but I think a young adult reader would get a kick out of this series.”
The first, Rural Sprawl, was released by LTD Books in 2005. After that publisher’s closing was accepted and re-released the following year by Double Dragon Publishing, followed by the second, Dog in a Manger.
Grobbo is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, and is an active participant in Ink and Cookies, a local writers’ group where she finds loads of inspiration. She has made regular appearances at Port Elgin’s Authors in August as participant and as a workshop facilitator. Her sixth Gloria Trevisi mystery Suitable Fate, was released last year.
A.R. Grobbo lives in a century home in southwestern Ontario with husband, border collie, and cats. Surrounded by some of the best farmland on the continent, she teaches piano, keeps bees, dreams up mystery plots, and vows that someday, when time permits, she will finish her degree in piano performance. Find out more about this author at her personal website, www.angrobo.com.
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Something smells in the rural backwater of Plattsford, Ontario...besides Gloria Trevisi’s septic bed. A local politician-turned-developer is found dead in his own future industrial park. As editor of Plattsford’s local paper, Gloria’s mission is to sort through a maze of local gossip, delve behind the polite facade of rural society, and discover the truth, preferably before her news deadline.
But it won’t be easy if she’s in jail…
One Woman’s Poison:
Canned preserves are killing the locals, a woman’s high school diary contains a deadly secret from 40 years past, and Gloria Trevisi is about to face the worst two weeks of her life as she faces down a few surprises, including a murderer… and even worse, a former lover.