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

This past week, we ventured to surprisingly chilly Lonestar locale of Dallas, TX, to celebrate Bouchercon 2019, and while we were there, we teamed up with our pals over at Minotaur Books to help sponsor a collaborative short story penned by a huge collection of their all-star authors. With a combination of nearly 20 authors and avians, the words soared from their minds, and 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 of weeks, we’ll choose our favorite title and design a cover.

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

The Story Begins…

When I opened the door, I was expecting a sausage and pepperoni pizza, not a thug with a gun. He stared at me… I stared at him… I wasn’t sure what I would do without that pizza…

“Where’s the falcon?” he growled, gesturing with the gun. “I know you’ve got it.”

I furthered into the room, unsure of what was happening. Really, where was that falcon?!

The fox. Oh, God, I can’t believe he got inside. He must have … never mind… where’s the pizza.

I looked at the thug with the gun and the pizza and wondered if I could distract him by offering him the canary? Except the canary had already sang. And been killed. Dang it.

“No,” cried the thug, who looked astonishingly like my Aunt Sadie. “I want the falcon. The stuff that dreams are made of!”

“For God’s sake,” I said. “It’s Halloween. Everyone was supposed to show up dressed as a bird. What’s up with the gun? And where’s the damn pizza? We’re all hungry!”

* * * 

Meanwhile, Roy sat behind the wheel of the car and wondered how long does it take for a woman to give a guy the bird. If the falcon didn’t get out here soon, heads were definitely going to roll. The people who hired Roy and the thug were not known for their patience. Sure enough, just seconds later, Joey Hawk—the biggest, baddest thug of them all—showed up with a gold plated machete.

“If I don’t get the falcon within the next two minutes,” he said, “The Hawk is going to take this machete to the nearest person dressed like a bird!”

Just then, my grandpa Vinnie shuffled in, clutching a bag of Reese’s leftover from the trick-or-treaters. He was still wearing the featherhead. “There he is!” hollered the thug. “That’s the falcon!”

Tiring of the Dashiell Hammett homage, and worrying about Vinnie, I threw a left hook that laid the thug flat. The hawk howled, in a very high pitched voice that sounded weirdly like a bird, and charged forward, brandishing the machete. I parried the machete with the falcon, and hit him twice over the head.

“This is a blooming ex-parrot!”

Suddenly, out of the bushes jumped a man. A large man. With a distinctive profile.

CUT!” He cried. “This is NOT what I envisioned for The Birds!”

So now that you’ve read what the authors came up with, it’s time for you to help us out by coming up with a title.

Participating Authors: Donna Andrews, Susanna Calkins, Kelli Stanley, Vivien Chien, Jane Cleland, Hannah Dennison, Mariah Fredericks, Ellen Crosby, David Housewright, Kristen Lepionka, Jess Montgomery, S. C. Perkins, Joanna Schaffhausen, Paula Munier, Will Thomas, Ryan Wick.

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.

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 http://criminalelement.com/once-upon-a-crime-a-collaborative-story-in-need-of-a-title beginning at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) November 4, 2019. Sweepstakes ends 3:59 p.m. ET November 30, 2016. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.



    Title: Bulwer-Lytton’s Revenge

  2. Sherrie Saint

    The Birds Delivered

  3. Barbara Bibel

    Title: Bird in the Hand?
    Great group of collaborators. I would love to have their books.

  4. Sue Evans

    The Early Bird Gets The Thug?

  5. Scott Butki

    Trick, No Treat

  6. joel timmons

    Prey. Of. The. Hawk

  7. Ruth Bousquet

    The bird is the Word.

  8. Adrienne Asher

    Psycho Birds of Halloween

  9. Patricia

    For the Birds

    • James Patrick Joyce

      Bad Hawk Down

  10. Ann Peters

    Fowl Play

  11. Stacie Kronschnabel

    Flipped out Flock

  12. Elizabeth Read

    A Confederacy of Confabulators

  13. mAntoniaParsons

    Bye Bye Birdies

  14. Lori P

    Happily Ever Raptor

  15. John Wiktor

    My Prey Is Pizza

  16. Pat Dupuy

    A Bird in Hand Ain’t Worth a Damn if There’s No Pizza

  17. Christy Miller

    Where the Flock is the Pizza?

  18. Todd Thurman

    The Birds of Halloween

  19. Karen

    Swan Song

  20. Sherrie Wood

    Title: That Mysterious Falcon

  21. tdbwrites

    Wren Push Comes to Shove

  22. Nancy

    Outfoxed the Hawk

  23. Wendy

    Felons of a Feather Flock Together

  24. lasvegasnv

    avian dreams

  25. Anne

    Hawk Sword

  26. Pearl

    Fowl Prey

  27. martin bodnar

    “Waiter, there’s a feather on my pizza!”

    • Susan J


  28. Sheila V

    The Flightless Falcon

  29. Frances G Joyce

    Polly Wants a Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza

  30. Ann Ivey

    The Falcon and the Pizza Man

  31. Linda J. Marshall

    Freakin’ Flock

  32. Catherine Honc

    What the Hawk?


    What the Falcon?

  33. Frank J. Pellegrino

    Diseased Yaks on the Loose

  34. James Patrick Joyce

    Bad Hawk Down

  35. Jamie Gillespie

    “Birds of a Feather Write Together”

  36. Joseph Massucco

    “This is Why I Prefer Birds to Actors”

  37. Ellen

    Pizza Is For The Birds

  38. Laurie Sandretto

    My suggested title is “Birdbrains.”

  39. Troy Jordan

    Gooping Gauno & Gleaning Pizza

  40. James Watts

    “When the Hawk Hits Your Eye like a Big Pizza Pie, It’s Tippi Time in the Ol’ Hacienda Once More”

  41. Pammela Poels

    Hammett Fake Out

  42. Linda McCutcheon

    Harmless Love Birds (homage to Hitchcock’s The Birds)
    If Love to read a nd review this collection!

  43. Donna Goodnow

    “A Pizza My Mind, or Who Flipped the Bird?”

  44. Linda Armstrong

    The Old Bag and the Bird

  45. John Smith

    “Pizza Vs. Pistol.” (In dramatic pulp-fiction style lettering.)

  46. Nev March

    “Birds eye view” or
    “The Maltese Pepperoni”

  47. L

    The Hawk, The Old Falcon, and Pizza With Everything or One Flew Over the Pizza Party

  48. Mary Lou Rounds

    Birds of Broadway

  49. R LeBlanc

    A Bird in the Hand is Worth 2 Pizzas

  50. Bonnie Smith

    This Is For The Birds!

  51. Bonnie Smith

    A Halloween Special Delivery

  52. Bonnie Smith

    Angry Birds-Hungry and Haunted

  53. Bonnie Smith

    A Movie Fit For The Birds!

  54. Bonnie Smith

    The Falcon In Flight

  55. Bonnie Smith

    The Making Of A Meat-Lovers Movie

  56. Bonnie Smith

    The Dead Dough Pizza Delivery

  57. Bonnie Smith

    The Falcon Flick in Flight-Special Delivery

  58. Bonnie Smith

    The Peregrine Falcon Flick

  59. Bonnie Smith

    Birds Diving for Dough

  60. Bonnie Smith

    The Thick-Crusted Tiercel

  61. Bonnie Smith

    A Kneady Dough Bird

  62. Bonnie Smith

    The Bumbling Birds

  63. Bonnie Smith

    Making a Movie with a Twisted Crust

  64. Lorrie Montgomery

    Trick or Tweet; A Story of Birds and Bedlam

  65. Jacklyn Mungle

    Thank you for a chance at winning. would love some books.

  66. Karen Muir

    The Minotaur Falcon



    thanks for chance

  68. THolmes

    Ruffled Feathers and a Pizza

Comments are closed.