Once Upon a Crime: A Collaborative Caper in Need of a Title

To help celebrate Bouchercon 2016, we teamed up with our pals over at Minotaur Books to help sponsor a collaborative short story penned by a huge collection of their fabulous authors. After nearly 3o authors and an impromptu roast of some of the Minotaur team members, the results were fantastic. But there's one problem: we don't have a title. That's where YOU come in!

What we need is for you to read the short story below and come up with a title. Leave your suggestions in the comments, and in a couple weeks, we'll choose our favorite title.

The winner will not only have the honor of naming their favorite authors' work, but they'll also receive a mega-bundle of books from all of the participating authors! So get your reading glasses out, your thinking caps on, and have at it! (A full list of participating authors can be found underneath the story.)

The story begins…

In a crowded ballroom in New Orleans, where passion and anticipation were as hot and steamy as the air itself, there were dozens of Minotaur authors, ten members of Team Minotaur, hundreds of sweaty guests with dark thoughts and suspicious agendas…and one hidden gun. Hearing of the hidden gun from an alert bartender, the Minotaur team immediately began a pat-down of all guests.

“Ma’am, we’re going to need to bring you into this secondary room for a more thorough interview,” said Hector, smiling.

“Hold on a second, Hector—I don’t think your wife would appreciate that—besides, you’ve had one too many gin and tonics,” said Sarah with a devious grin.

Then, Ann jumped in and said, “Wait a minute! I know his wife and she would be totally okay with it!!!!”

Hector hesitated mid grope. He looked at Ann, longingly, wondering if she had followed through with her promise to tell his wife about them.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them all, the giant asteroid headed toward Earth.

Guns seem rather insignificant now, don’t they? Sarah thought. But please don’t stop the patting down, just because….

I am not a real Minotaur, thought the transformative detective seated at the back of the room. But I become one on the full moon. I have only until Friday to find the gun, deter the asteroid, and save the planet.

With all of those things to do, he decided instead to head to the bar for a drink.

Meanwhile, the asteroid was on a collision course with the hotel, and no one was paying the least bit of attention to it…not even the Minotaur detective.

While Hector and Sarah were in the small room adjoining the ballroom, Ann slipped out, cell phone in hand, and called Hector’s wife, Julia, who she had on speed dial. “You’ll never believe what Hector is doing…”

Julia, who had hired the Minotaur, was not shocked, but she was determined to get even. “Where’s the gun?” she asked.

For a moment, as he overheard this conversation, Hector paused to contemplate the nightmarish hellscape that his life had apparently become—minotaurs, asteroids, guns, infidelity, an apparently insatiable new appetite for groping any human regardless of age or sex—and wondered whether perhaps he was the subject of some bizarre and meaningless cosmic game, played by a variety of half-drunk demi-gods.

It was the only explanation for Donald Trump.

Meanwhile…again…as the crowd began to sense something was amiss, the detective decided it was time calm things down, but his trigger-happy adrenal glands let him down…again.

Suddenly, Martin Quinn, the new marketing manager, jumped into the breach, “Forget about the asteroid, forget about the gun, even, please, forget about Trump, but we have real problems: hundreds of crime writers are hoping to cage a free drink!”

What are you saying? Forget Donald Trump? I thought we were solving a crime.

The only crime here is the abomination that is a half man, half horse, said Hector, who was known for his closed-mindedness. He grabbed the gun….

Meanwhile, the bartender who had started it all, realized that he had not seen a gun as reported; it was only a customer who was happy to see him, but he was too embarrassed to say.

Meanwhile. Part II. The lead detective realized that the main clue in this story was that the key suspects were both named Martin. Andy and Quinn. Coincidence?

Ann leapt on the table. She put Julia’s call on broadcast mode: Julia cried, “the beads, the beads, did nobody warn the innocent people in the room about those beads and what they really consist of?”

“Bead?” hissed one of the 'beads', “Lady, I’m no bead and the last loser that called me one…”

“Uhmmm… excuse me…” The old woman sitting on the table raised her hand. “Is no one in the fucking dive worried about the asteroid headed our way?”

At least one of the people in the room was praying for the asteroid to hit. “Who the hell thought this was a good idea?” she thought, downing her drink in one go. “Get me the fuck out of here!”

Suddenly, the lights went off and a gunshot was heard. It took Hector a while to figure out he had been fatally wounded, but he managed to utter one final sentence, giving the vital clue to his killer.

So now that you've read what the authors came up with (Don't you just hate a cliffhanger?), it's time for you to help us out by coming up with a title. 

Participating Authors: C.J. Box, Allison Brennan, Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, Charles Finch, Karin Salvalaggio, Julia Dahl, Frances Brody, Claire Booth, Susanna Calkins, David Housewright, Rebecca Drake, Roger Johns, John Farrow, Carolyn Haines, Wallace Stroby, Tracee de Hahn, Ragnar Jonasson, Susan Cox, G.M. Malliet, Michael Robertson, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, and Jane Cleland.

Comment below for a chance to win a mega-bundle of all the story's participating authors!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

Once Upon a Crime Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/stories/2016/09/help-title-once-upon-a-crime-collaborative-short-story beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) September 16, 2016. Sweepstakes ends 6:59 p.m. ET September 30, 2016. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


  1. Peggy Pennell

    Story Title – A Hive of Minds

  2. Melissa Keith

    UNEASY FEELINGS (Feel should be underlined or italicized)

    I’ll be back…..lol!

  3. Karen

    Another Day, Another Labyrinth

  4. Julie Buck

    …and one hidden gun
    Get me the fuck out of here!
    Just Another Day at the Minotaur Office

  5. Pat Dupuy

    Minotaur and Feather Him

  6. Wanda Hughes

    Half Man, Half Bull, All Minotaur
    You Bet Your Asteroid!
    Handsy Hector Strikes Again

  7. Tanja Russin

    Weight of The World
    Murder Mystery
    Murder Colaboration

  8. Kitty Rodgers

    One Astroid, Too Many Writers

  9. terry marrlett

    Trumped again

  10. abucksworth

    Can I please just vote for Pat D. to win? “Minotaur and Feather Him”!


  11. pearl berger

    Minotaur and Minds.

  12. ellie lewis

    The Day of the Minotaur.

  13. Jayna Monroe

    To paraphrase the play title Six Characters in Search of an Author I would title this story 23 Authors in Search of an Editor.

  14. Diane Pollock

    Bull Session

  15. Lori P

    Except For That Everything’s Fine

  16. John Smith

    Sounds great!

  17. lasvegasnv

    the hidden minotaur
    groped by a minotaur
    Where’s Martin?

  18. Clydia DeFreese

    ASSteroids Loose in the Big Easy!

  19. Suzanne Williams

    Steer Clear of Minotaur Parties!

  20. Kate Baxter

    Minotaur Mauled Mavens (or Asteroid’s Date with Destiny)

  21. Sandra Furlotte

    23 Authors in Search of a Gun

  22. Jim Belcher

    Find an Editor or Root for the Asteroid

  23. Deb Philippon

    The Upside of the Asteroid.

  24. Adrienne Hancox

    A Murder of Astronomical Proportions

  25. Adrienne Hancox

    An Asteroid, a Gun and a Minotaur

  26. Celia Fowler

    The Giant Asteroid and the Mysterious Gun

  27. Sherri Therrien

    The Murder in the Rue Saint-Martin

  28. Vic DiG

    The Asteroid Also Rises
    For Whom the Bead Rolls
    Fear and Laughter in New Orleans


    So Many Targets

  30. Joyce Lokitus

    Story title: Did You Say Asteroid or Hemorrhoid?

  31. Jane Schwarz

    A Hot and Steamy Night?

  32. Sherri Therrien

    An Unusually Novel Murder

  33. Merrycat

    The Word Is Cadge

  34. pamela welton

    The Word Is Cadge

  35. pamela welton

    Ariadne’s Lost Thread

  36. Linda Peavy

    Suspicious Agendas- a Minotaur Mystery

  37. Laurie Wallace

    Forget Donald Trump: An Asteroid Story

  38. Andrew Gordon


  39. Vicky Boackle

    looks great. “That’s what you think!!!!’

  40. martin

    Out flanked!

  41. dawn k

    looks like an awesome book

  42. Mike Rogers

    Umbrellas won’t be enough

  43. kathy pease

    Thanks so much for the chance 🙂

  44. John OBrien

    We’re really looking forward to reading the collaboration.



  46. Stephanie Liske

    Thank you 😀

  47. Bellusion

    Wow, would love to win this!

  48. Sherri Therrien

    The Asteroid Assassin’s Assistant: A Gun Story

  49. Carl White

    [b]Happy Hour[/b]

  50. Melissa Darwin

    The Big Sleazy

  51. Adrienne Hancox

    Death in Due Course

  52. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    Cheer the Minotaur! Yes!

  53. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win!

  54. Robert Hallett


  55. L Peters

    NOLA On the Run

  56. Ed Nemmers


  57. julie hawkins

    Minotaur madness

  58. Jerry Marquardt

    I like the Bull Session the most of the selections.

  59. trish mckee

    Thank you for the chance! I’d love to win.

  60. Kat Emerick

    Thanks for the chance…a good winter read!

  61. Philip Lawrence

    Half Real.

  62. Lily

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  63. Francine Anchondo

    Thanks for the chance

  64. d poulter

    Astroid ups Trump

Comments are closed.