Deal Me In Doubleheader: Weeks 32 & 33 – “Your Book: A Novel in Stories” by Cathy Day and “More Than the Game ” by Barbara Swander Miller

I’ve fallen behind pretty egregiously in Deal Me In, so I’m going to combine my week 32 & 33 selections in one post. Both selections were by Indiana authors so I’m also counting this as a “Reading Local” post. Now in its fifth year, Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about, may be found here.

Unlike week 31’s selection, my week 32 story was a perfect fit for the Indy Writes Books anthology. The three of diamonds led me to the fascinating and delightful Cathy Day story, “Your Book: A Novel in Stories,” which traces a kind of life cycle of an author’s book and even the author herself.

Among other things, it follows the various ways that “the word gets out” about books (goodreads, word of mouth, seeing a friend or stranger reading a book you’ve heard of, etc.). In this regard, I know much of what’s in the story is true because I’ve witnessed it myself over the years. We readers often forget that we’re consuming a finished product that has undergone quite a history just to get to the point where it’s fallen into our hands. I think the following is a good representative passage from the story when dealing with this process:

“She loves the stories inside the books, yes, of course, but she also loves the stories outside the books, which is the story of how a book travels from the author’s imagination into the reader’s imagination. To do so, it must travel a vast maze called commerce, and your editor has devoted her adult life to understanding that maze, which is why she lives inside it and inside this office, even when she isn’t physically there.” 

Three of diamonds image from

For my week 33 story, via the ten of hearts, I returned to the “Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks” anthology, tackling Barbara Swander Miller’s “More than the Game,” a story that is a mystery not in the whodunit sense, but rather a young man’s exploring why there was such a rift between his father and recently deceased grandfather, who was a standout basketball star for the local “Red Rollers” basketball team. Young Tim is just beginning to become interested in basketball and has begun to regularly participate in a local pickup game with other youths – a scene repeated countless times all over my state and one in which I participated in myself when I was young. Tim also experiences – or hallucinates? – a couple spectral encounters with his grandfather and old teammates that lead him to discover his grandfather has bequeathed “a box” to Tim, that his dad doesn’t want him to have…

I was a little surprised at how different this story was from the others I’ve read in this anthology (two of which are part of my 2015 deal Me In roster, one of which (“Fallen Idols”) I’ve already posted about.

What short stories have you read recently? Have you ever tried a “reading local” focus to your reading plans?

My week 24 read for Deal Me In – “Fallen Idols” by Andrea Smith

Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge now in its fourth year. While there are variations, my approach is to – before the start of the year – come up with a list of fifty-two stories to read, assigning each to a card in a standard deck of playing cards. Draw one card a week and read that story. You’ll be done in a year. If I have favorite genres of stories or favorite authors I’m focusing on, I sometimes group them together in a suit of the deck (e.g., spades are for ‘darker’ stories). As of this writing, I plan to host this challenge again next year. If you’d like to see more details, check out the sign-up post from last December. If you’d like to see my list of stories for this year, they are listed here.

hoosier hoops

I’ve come to love the role that a random reading order plays in the challenge as it often seems to deal up just the right story at just the right time. Sometimes, however, the randomness can be frustrating if there is a story or stories you’re especially anticipating. This happened to me to a degree in 2015, as I included three stories from an intriguing anthology, “Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks” – a collection of basketball-related mysteries written by Indiana authors. I even met a few of them at a local library’s “Author Day” last year. (The Greenwood Public Library, pictured below – just a few miles down the road from me) Two of them signed my copy of the book, so I added their two stories and one other to my Deal Me In roster and eagerly awaited their being drawn. And waited. Finally last week, almost halfway into the year I drew one of them, the eight of hearts, and got to read Andrea Smith’s story “Fallen Idols.”

“Fallen Idols” follows the investigative efforts of Dectective Lenora Wise as she investigates the murder of Indiana Pac… Er, I mean Indianapolis Titans star basketball player, Bryce Cooper. Found shot dead in a nightclub’s parking lot after being the hero in a big playoff game, it turns out Cooper and his lifestyle (publicly squeaky-clean, but privately pretty unsavory) provide no shortage of suspects to the detective and her partner. As someone who doesn’t often read mysteries, I found myself falling for a couple of the misdirections early in the story as I searched for my prime suspect. I wonder if a more experienced reader of mysteries like my fellow Deal Me In participant Tracy at Bitter Tea And Mystery still has this problem? I suppose the best mystery stories are the ones that pull off these misdirections successfully.

I also liked that the story was set in Indianapolis, a city I’m quite familiar with. It’s always fun (for me) to read a story set in a familiar setting since that doesn’t happen too often in my reading travels. Those of you who follow sports or especially NBA basketball are already aware that we had some problems with our team’s behavior about ten years ago (see above). This fact maybe added a little to my appreciation of this story as well, as the more sordid side of Cooper’s life began to become known. It also occurred to me while reading that a mystery must be even tougher to pull off in short story format than most other genres. It seems by definition more information would have to be imparted to the reader in just a few pages, which may not leave as much space “just for writing.” This particular story, at 26 pages, was the longest in the anthology, from which I’ve since read an additional story ad hoc (I.e., not part of my Deal Me In challenge) and am looking forward to the rest. If you’re interested in this anthology, it’s available at Amazon and at other places enumerated on the Speed City Sisters in Crime website

Below: My signed copy of the story. Plus, I got a bookmark! 🙂

fallen idols signed

What about you? Are you fond of reading mysteries in the short story form? Do you have any favorites you’d recommend to a novice mystery reader (I’m not counting all those Hardy Boys Mysteries I read as a kid) such as myself?

Hoosier basketball legends playing cards? I must find and purchase these!