Guest Blogger - Stephen D. Rogers

Today I want to welcome Stephen D. Rogers to Under the Tiki Hut. He's visiting here today as part of his SHOT TO DEATH Blog March, so please give him a hearty welcome and ask him a boatload of questions. He's got answers!

Stephen is the author of SHOT TO DEATH (ISBN 978-0982589908) and more than six hundred stories and poems. He's the head writer at Crime Scene (where viewers solve interactive mysteries) and a popular writing instructor.

For more information, you can visit his website,, where he tries to pull it all together.

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"Are you sure this is all right?"

So begins one of the 31 stories contained in SHOT TO DEATH. Within that beginning lurks the ending to the story and everything that happens between the beginning and the end. Or at least it seems that way to me.

"Are you sure this is all right?" In other words, the person speaking is fairly certain that "this" is not all right, but is willing to ignore instinct in favor of reassurance.

Whatever "this" is, I suspect that the story will prove that "this" is anything but all right. In fact, that arc seems so apparent that I have no interest in writing the story.

But I've already invested seven words and three pieces of punctuation. How can I just throw them away? Think about children all over the world who have no words of their own.

Shamed into continuing the story, I decide to work that first line. The person who asks the question is a private investigator who not only knows the difference between right and wrong but is working undercover to test the employees. That scenario adds a little dimension to the question.

So. A PI is hired to investigate employee theft. Next question. Under what circumstances would employees actually discuss the acceptability of the theft? A new hire isn't going to ask whether it's okay to steal a ream of paper or corporate trade secrets. The circumstances have to encompass a gray area.

In my experience, the grayest area I've ever seen is food and drink for restaurant employees. The rules are all over the place. A new employee may very well have to ask whether it's all right to pour a free coffee or grab a free hunk of bread or freely eat a take-out meal that was never picked up. Whatever the rules, almost all restaurants draw the line at drinking alcohol on the job, although I did work at one that didn't. Or at least sort of didn't.

All that remains is the writing.

For a chance to win a signed copy of SHOT TO DEATH, click on over to and submit your completed entry.

Then visit the schedule at
to see how you can march along.

And then come back here to post your comments. Phew.

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SHOT TO DEATH contains thirty-one stories of murder and mayhem.

"Terse tales of cops and robbers, private eyes and bad guys, with an authentic New England setting."
- Linda Barnes, Anthony Award winner and author of the Carlotta Carlyle series

"Put yourself in the hands of a master as you travel this world of the dishonest, dysfunctional, and disappeared. Rogers is the real deal--real writer, real story teller, real tour guide to the dark side."
- Kate Flora, author of the Edgar-nominated FINDING AMY and the Thea Kozak mysteries

"SHOT TO DEATH provides a riveting reminder that the short story form is the foundation of the mystery/thriller genre. There's something in this assemblage of New England noir to suit every aficionado. Highly recommended!"
- Richard Helms, editor and publisher, The Back Alley Webzine

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Thank you, Stephen, for visiting Under the Tiki Hut today. As we say in Texas, "Don't be a stranger."


Hey Carol,

Any chance I can borrow that Sunshine award? We've got another cloudy day up here in New England.

Carol Kilgore said…
Sure, Stephen. Take it outside, wave it around, issue a few threats. Good luck. I think it worked here. We have beautiful sun today.
Mason Canyon said…
I love the cover of the book. It definitely catches your eye and makes you want to pick the book up and read. Carol, thanks for introducing me to Stephen and another great book to add to my wish list.
Carol Kilgore said…
Oops, sorry Stephen. Had to leave before I finished. The doggies were yelling, "Squirrel! Squirrel!" at the door. I had to hustle to let them out before they tore it down.

I have a question for you.

Do you know where your stories are going to go, or does that first line pop into your head and you ride it from there?

I'm happy you're here with us today.
Hey Mason,

I'm glad you like the cover. I wasn't sure how the publisher was going to approach an anthology.

Hey Carol,

At least I assume you saw the squirrels, and that the dogs weren't going crazy because they sensed a change in relative humidity.

Often, I don't know where the story is going to go until I examine the first line.

Other times (and especially when I'm writing for a particular market), I do have a sense of the story's shape, not that it always develops along those lines.

Joanne said…
Love that first line. It's amazing where an opening can take us, in writing and reading. So my question to you is your take on that critical opening page ... Do you spin it in different ways, outline it out to see where it might go? When do you know it's right?
Hey Joanne,

I don't outline as much as think it through. One of the things I focus on is whether the concept or approach will be clear to a reader. If I don't think a storyline will "click" then I try to think of another.

Carol Kilgore said…
My pleasure, Mason.

Joanne - Great question. I love learning how other writers work.

I even like learning how other creators (artists, musicians, programmers). The creative process is so personal and yet so universal.

Helen Ginger said…
I've had the few occasions where a line has come to me and I have to figure out who is speaking and what the situation is. I love those lines!

Straight From Hel
Hey Helen,

Isn't the challenge of writing fun?

Carol Kilgore said…
Oh, yeah, Stephen. Definitely squirrels running along the fence.

Alleged squirrels, anyway. :)

Jan Christensen said…
Stephen, my question is about length. Over the years have you found you like to write short stories of a certain length, or find it easier to do so, than other lengths? If you have a favorite, what is it?
Hey Jan,

Sorry for the delay in replying. Family business.

I seem to like several different lengths. 500, 1000, 2000, and 3000 seem to be natural arc lengths.

Carol Kilgore said…
Thanks, Stephen, for being our guest today Under the Tiki Hut.

Come back anytime.
Anonymous said…
That's a very good opening line. It engages the reader as their imagination begins to run in different directions. I mean, how many times have we said or had someone say this to us?

Stephen Tremp
Helen Ginger said…
Stephen, definitely. It's wonderful that writing is both fun and a challenge.

Carol, today I passed on the wonderful award you gave me. Thank you for giving it to me.

Straight From Hel
Carol Kilgore said…
Stephen - So true. And think about not only how often people say it but all the things it can be said about.

Helen - Cool. I'm glad you had fun with it.

I was away from the blog all day yesterday. Even bloggers have a real life. Sometimes.
Shirley said…
I just saw this blog post. Been without internet for awhile. Sorry I missed this one, because Stephen Rogers is one of my short story heros.

BTW, it's cloudy, rainy and cold here in Missouri too. Thinking of killer a weather man - on paper, of course.
Carol Kilgore said…
Aw, Shirley. I hate when that happens. Wish you'd been here.
Hey Stephen,

I think it can be interesting to hijack a common phrase and shade new meaning onto it.

Hey Shirley,

You're not the only one experiencing cold rain. We've been living with it for three (four?) days up here in New England.

And the word verification below? "sleted" Ha!