Tag Archive for: short stories

Each year the Writers’ Police Academy hosts the Golden Donut Short Story Contest. It’s a fun contest with two major but simple rules—the focus of the story must be based on the photo we provide, and the story must contain EXACTLY 200 words. No more, no less.

*Writers were permitted to submit multiple entries.

To ensure fairness entries were judged blindly, meaning judges saw only the stories and titles without mention of the authors’ names.

We were extremely fortunate to have stellar, top-level judges for the 2022 and 2023 Golden Donut Contests. The panel of judges consisted of associate, and commissioning editors of the fabulous UK publishing company, Bookouture. Yes, those of you who submitted stories had their work read by top editors in the industry!

About Bookouture:

We are a dynamic digital publisher of bestselling commercial fiction and a division of Hachette UK.

We also publish commercial non-fiction under our Thread imprint.

Our unique publishing model and transformative campaigns have created unrivalled international author brands.

We connect stories, authors and readers globally, publishing books that reflect the diversity of the societies we live in.

Our submissions are always open as we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to share their story.

Over 60 million copies sold worldwide.

*Bookouture is a sponsor of the 2023 Writers’ Police Academy.

Now, without further ado, the Golden Donut contest winners and runners-up (the judges provided the comments on the winning stories).

For 2022:

The photo prompt.

The winning story is:



Trish Zaabel 


Sea sprayed over the deck. Nibble fingers swept her heavy skirts away. Mary smoothed over an invisible frown. She had bloomed into a woman in the fifteen years since she saw Jack. Would he look the same?

Bracing for the jolt when docking, Mary crashed into another passenger. His hands grabbed her waist. “Easy Sister, “he muttered.

Fighting the urge to swear, she nodded her gratitude then exited. Negotiating the lonely hallways, Mary shivered. She requested of the man guarding a thick wall, “Jack Pearson, please.”

Eyeing her suspiciously, he opened a door. “Room three.”

This dark passage was filled with catcalls. “Hey Sista, come to save my soul?”

Spotting her desired room, she rushed through the door. He stood near a window. Jack asked, “Who are you?”

She laughed. “You have aged.”

“Like a fine whiskey.” Jack smirked then gestured. “A nun, really?’

Smiling, she lifted her black skirt, revealing the dagger. “Did you think I’d forgotten?”

Jack yelled. “Guard, come quick.”

The guard barreled in, tackling her.

She stammered. “Jack, I don’t understand.”

Jack stepped over the prone woman. “My dear, I’m to be released today. It’s your turn to be a prisoner.”

Judges’ comments about the winning story – We loved the unusual take on this one, which centred on an intense domestic set-up and finished with an interesting and satisfying twist. It left us with questions about what had happened in the past while also feeling like a fully rounded story, which is hard with only 200 words to play with! The visual detail included was great, and the pacing worked well for the final reveal. A clear winner.

2022 Runners-up:

2: “The Big One”


Michael Rigg


For eighty days in a row, Eduardo had sailed his skiff to the same spot just inside the Golden Gate, cast a baited hook, and waited. His weather-beaten face, half-frozen by an icy March-wind, belied the fire within.

“That fool in the boat,” they called him. “The fish migrated south,” they said. “And so should you.” But his prey remained. He felt it. He would prove them wrong.

Even guards on the “Warden Blackwell”—a ferryboat transferring small groups of inmates from the soon-to-be-shuttered Alcatraz—ignored him. He had observed each trip over the past weeks unchallenged—seemingly invisible. Men-in-chains shuffled onto the wharf, labored up two dozen concrete steps, and clambered aboard busses for transport elsewhere.

Today’s cargo represented the last set of prisoners—twenty-seven in all. He nodded in recognition when a white-haired man stepped onto the pier. Eduardo removed a rifle from under a pile of blankets, raised it into firing position, and placed Inmate One-Five-Seven-Nine in the crosshairs.

After twenty years, justice for Eduardo’s murdered wife and daughter was at hand. He grinned. Not all the fish had gone south.

3: “Roll Call”


Michael Rigg


No more alarm bells jolting him awake at six-fifteen for Roll Call. No more maggot-infested gruel for breakfast. No more Screws dictating his every move from Wake-Up to Lights-Out. Charles Weatherman rowed toward shore, imagining life away from The Rock. A Ribeye at Alfred’s. Cigars and brandy at Top of the Mark. Lili St. Cyr at the Music Box. Everything was within reach. Just a few more pulls on the oars.

Escaping had been easier than he thought. Using broken saw blades to loosen the grating over an air vent. Fashioning a fake head so the guards would believe he was sleeping. Paying a few dozen cigarettes for a small boat to be hidden in a grotto out of sight of the guard towers. Finally, implementing everything by slipping through the vent and inching his way along an unguarded utility corridor, across the roof, and over the fence.

Crimson-and-gold rays from sunrise topping the Santa Cruz Mountains greeted him as he stepped onto land, undetected, near Fisherman’s Wharf. Freedom—his dream—attained.

Brrrring! Brrrring! “Roll Call in five minutes,” blared over the loudspeaker. Charles opened his eyes and cursed. His nightmare, renewed.

And for 2023:

The photo prompt.


The winning story is:



Sally Milliken


“Kent’s already on set,” Associate Producer Lia called as her head appeared in the makeup room doorway.

“Is Martin nearly ready for his closeup? We’re losing our light.”

“Hang on, he just needs a touch up of powder. His cheeks are shiny, that’s all,” I answered.

“Great.” She nodded. “I’ll send an intern to walk him to set.”

As soon as Martin was out of the chair, I followed, stopping next to Kathy. As a hair stylist, she was ready with brush in hand.

“I’m sorry the hat is covering the style work you did on Martin.”

“Thanks. Comes with the territory, though.” She shrugged. “You know how it is.”

“Mmmhmm. I’m using tricks I never even imagined.”

“Me too. After his hair flew off during the chase scene yesterday, I thought that would be the end.”

“Not that I’m complaining about steady work,” I began, “but how long are we gonna milk this thing?”

“As long as we bring in the money, the brass wants us to keep going.”

“Martin’s been dead for eight years.”

“Damn, nobody move, his tooth fell out again.”

“That’s a wrap for today, everyone.”

Judges’ comments about the winning story – We really enjoyed reading this submission and it stood out because it was so different to any of the other stories. There was almost a sense of dark comedy about it and we thought the twist at the end was super. The visual detail gave a great sense of setting and we thought the plot built well towards the final line. It also worked well with the photo. Well done!

2023 Runners-up:

2: Law and Molder


Marcia Adair


“Yeah, right,” the dispatcher said. “A psychic reports a body at Stoneview cemetery…” Click.

If she’d believed me, the cold case squad would be there, closing the decades-old murder of Officer Max Wilgus. I was just a kid when he was ambushed in that very boneyard, but I never forgot. How could I? Tabloids published countless photos of a man wearing a ghoulish mask and goggles speeding away after the shooting.

When I saw the identical mask and goggles at an antique store recently, I grabbed them. “Where’d you get these?” I asked innocently. “Maybe they have something else I could use for a project.” Amazingly, the clerk gave me the man’s name and address.

Next day, I slipped a flyer under the killer’s door: “Feeling guilty? Visit Sarah the Psychic.”

I knew he’d come. He did. When “the spirits” slid a doctored photo in front of him — half cop, half skeleton mask — he blanched and bolted.

I followed him to the cemetery.

Rushing to the ambushed officer’s grave, he tripped hard on its stone coping and smashed headlong into the tombstone.

I smiled. “Case closed, punk.

“Grampa Max, you finally got him.”

3: Cemetery Justice


Pat Remick


My favorite walk is through the town cemetery. It’s peaceful until my final stop, the grave of K-9 Officer Brett Thomas. Sometimes I think I see my ex-partner near the Thomas family plot, in his uniform and signature dark shades, grinning, and taunting me and the world to take him on. Brett was a tough SOB, but no match for a hail of bullets. They hit me, too, but I limped into forced retirement. I still can’t fathom how a routine check of a vandalism report in Pineview Cemetery exploded into an unsolved murder. Lately, I’ve noticed a man loitering near Brett’s grave. Even from a distance, I see him shudder when he glances at the headstone, as if startled by something. Maybe Brett’s ghost. Usually, the man crosses himself and disappears before we reach him. Today was different. He smiled and nodded at my companion, who has moved in with Brett’s widow and me. I understand now. Growling and barking won’t change things. However, I’m trained to kill so I attack repeatedly, mortally wounding both. But not before the loiterer gets off a shot, reuniting me with Brett forever.

“Congratulations to all the writers, and to the winners!” ~ Bookouture judges and Writers’ Police Academy

*The contest winners will receive the Golden Donut Award via shipping. Runners-up to receive certificates by U.S. mail.


2024 Killer Con registration opens in January 2024.

Be ready to sign up because this is a KILLER event that’s not to be missed!

Visit a homicide scene and solve the case using tactics, tools, and techniques learned throughout the event.

2024 Killer Con Guest of Honor is internationally bestselling author Charlaine Harris.

Click the link below to visit the Killer Con (Writers’ Police Academy) website to view the schedule of events, classes, instructors, and special guest presenters.

2024 Killer Con

Each year, the Writers’ Police Academy hosts a wildly popular hands-on law enforcement training event for writers, readers, fans, and anyone else with an interest in police procedure and the forensics used to solve crimes. MurderCon 2020 is a special event hosted by the Writers’ Police Academy, and Sirchie, the global leader in crime scene technology and products. If you’ve attended in the past you already know the event is like no other. If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend then you should sign up TODAY while there’s still time. It is truly an event of a lifetime.

The WPA is a massive production, one that requires multiple venues, busing, facility rentals, speaker and instructor expenses, training materials, equipment, supplies, caterers, etc. It’s expensive to say the least. Far more costly than, for example, a typical conference where the main expenses are hotel meeting rooms and A/V equipment. And we have those as well.

To help keep registration costs at a bare minimum, the WPA, in addition to an exciting auction (hint … REACHER!!!!) and raffle, we host two writing contests as fundraisers—the annual “Tales From the Graveyard Shift” anthology, and the Golden Donut 200-Word Short Story Contest.

The contests are fun and are beneficial to those who enter, the WPA, and the attendees of the Writers’ Police Academy events.

The WPA Anthology Series

Book Two …

People Are Strange: Tales From the Graveyard Shift (August 2020)

The winners of three available spots in the Writers’ Police Academy’s annual anthology contest will have their stories published in a traditionally published book, along with tales written by several top bestselling authors, such as Heather Graham, Phoef Sutton, Reed Farrel Coleman, Lisa Regan, Denise Grover Swank, and more.

Lisa Gardner is writing the foreword for PEOPLE ARE STRANGE, the 2020 WPA anthology.

Book Description

In the eerie glow of storefront neon lights and winking, blinking traffic signals, top bestselling thriller author Lisa Gardner emerges from the shadows onto a desolate, rain-soaked and uneven cobblestone street. It is from there, between the hours of midnight and dawn—the graveyard shift, that she introduces this collection of gripping tales of thrills, chills, and mystery.

*Lisa Gardner’s internationally acclaimed novels, published across 30 countries, have won awards from across the globe. She’s also had four books become TV movies and has made personal appearances on TruTV and CNN.

*Level Best Books publishes the “Tales From the Graveyard Shift” anthology series.

After Midnight: Tales From the Graveyard Shift (2019)

Book One …

Book Description (foreword by Lee Child ):

The curtain rises on this collection of twisted tales, revealing the words of bestselling thriller author Lee Child. Child sets the stage for a series of mysterious and strange goings-on that occur between the hours of midnight and dawn … the graveyard shift.

Contributing authors in this first anthology produced by the Writers’ Police Academy include bestselling mystery and crime authors, top television writers, true crime experts, and more.

Heather Graham
Phoef Sutton
Robin Burcell
Allison Brennan

Ry Brooks *contest winner
Carrie Stuart Parks
Lisa Klink
RJ Beam

Joe Bonsall
Katherine Ramsland
Denene Lofland
Michael A. Black

Emilya Naymark *contest winner
Mike Roche
Les Edgerton
Shawn Reilly Simmons

Rick McMahan
Marco Conelli
Cheryl Yeko
Howard Lewis
Linda Lovely
Lee Lofland

Copies of “After Midnight” are available here.

Golden Donut Short Story Contest

Winners of this challenging and fun contest receive the coveted Golden Donut Award along with a free registration to a Writers’ Police Academy event (the 2020 contest winner receives free registration to the 2021 WPA).

Golden Donut Short Story Contest Rules

The rules are simple. Write a story about the photograph using exactly 200 words — including the title. Each story needs an original title, and the image must be the main subject of the story. No clues as to the subject matter of the image or where it was taken. You decide. Let your imagination run wild. Remember though, what you see in the image above absolutely must be the main subject of your tale.

3 submissions allowed per person.

Submission deadline: Midnight (EST) July 1, 2020

Enter HERE

200 Words

No more. No less. Including the title, the story must be 200 words. “Don’t” is two words. “OMG” is three words. “Smith-Jones” is two words. Count them.

Finished Product

All stories are to be polished and complete. They must have a beginning, middle and a twisted, surprise ending.

Fairly Judged

The Golden Donut contest is judged blindly. Each entry is assigned a number so the judges do not see the writers’ names.

Reader Panel

A panel of readers will select their 12 favorite stories and then forward them to the final judge. All decisions are final. The judge will review and send the winning entry to the WPA.

About the 2020 Golden Donut Judge, Linda Landrigan

Linda Landrigan, editor-in-chief of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine

Assuming the mantle of editor-in-chief in 2002, Linda Landrigan has also edited the commemorative anthology Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense (2006) and the digital anthology Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Thirteen Tales of New American Gothic (2012), and has found time to be active on the board of the New York City Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. In 2008, Linda and her “partner in crime,” Janet Hutchings – editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine – were presented with the Poirot Award from Malice Domestic for their contributions to the mystery genre.

She will read the top twelve entries and then pick the winning story.

Announced at the Banquet

While the winner will be announced at the 2020 WPA banquet. The winner does not need to be present to win.

Open to All

Contest is open to everyone. You don’t have to attend the conference to win. You don’t even have to be a writer.

Let the games begin!

New Arc Books, an imprint of Level Best Books will soon be publishing a collection of Golden Donut short stories.

“The curtain rises on this collection of twisted tales, revealing the words of bestselling thriller author Lee Child. Child sets the stage for a series of mysterious and strange goings-on that occur between the hours of midnight and dawn … the graveyard shift.” 

I’m pleased to announce that the Writers’ Police Academy’s first anthology, AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT, made its debut August 2, 2019 at MurderCon, in Raleigh, N.C.

Now with its second printing already underway, it’s time for you to grab a copy so that you can begin your own deliciously mysterious trek into the creative minds of some of the WPA staff members, instructors, speakers, and sponsors of the Writers’ Police Academy. It was this collection of talented authors who penned this wonderful collection of twisted tales, not only for your entertainment but in support of an event that’s designed to help writers.

For over a decade the Writers’ Police Academy has delivered thrilling presentations, from helicopter landings to police pursuits to attendees performing PIT maneuvers.

We’ve launched live-action scenarios such that include recreations of current events such as the Boston bombing and active school shooter situations. Why, we’ve even detonated C-4 charges during explosive building entries. Exciting? Absolutely!

Over the years, the WPA has donated well over $100,000 to various criminal justice educational programs, such as scholarships for students, funding Skills USA trips and events, and providing funds for police academy equipment, tools, and officer training.

It’s extremely expensive to produce the Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon and to do so we, of course, charge a modest registration fee. But those dollars evaporate quickly once the bills start rolling in—charter buses, massive hotel expenses, reception costs, meeting spaces, facility and vehicle rentals, instructor fees, ammunition, travel expenses, attendee meals, equipment and training material, etc. Therefore, we depend heavily on raffle donations and sales, auction items, and the donations of generous sponsors, all to supplement financing the event.

This year, with the help of our wonderful publisher, Level Best Books, proceeds from the TALES OF THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT anthology will go toward helping fund future WPA events.

Contributing authors in this first anthology produced by the Writers’ Police Academy include Heather Graham, Phoef Sutton (Phoef currently writes Hallmark TV mysteries and previously wrote the hit TV series CHEERS and BOSTON LEGAL), Robin Burcell, Allison Brennan, Carrie Stuart Parks, Lisa Klink (Lisa wrote the  STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE television series), RJ Beam, Joe Bonsall of the Grammy-winning Nashville recording artists the Oak Ridge Boys, Katherine Ramsland, Denene Lofland, Michael A. Black, Mike Roche, Les Edgerton, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Rick McMahan, Marco Conelli, Cheryl Yeko, Howard Lewis, Linda Lovely, Ry Brooks, Emilya Naymark, and yours truly, Lee Lofland .

The foreword was written by Lee Child. Yes, THAT Lee Child! The book was edited by Phoef Sutton and Shawn Reilly Simmons.

So please do help us help you by purchasing a copy of this absolutely fantastic collection of short stories. It’s available, of course, on Amazon and Amazon Kindle, and through Barnes and Noble and directly through the publisher, Level Best Books.

Order today by clicking this link!

As always, thank you for your support.

Here’s a small snippet of what Lee Child had to say about AFTER MIDNIGHT and the Writers’ Police Academy.

Lee Child – Writers’ Police Academy

“I’m sure every year writers go home with more than the instructors thought they taught them. I think it’s a truly wonderful resource.

So do plenty of other writers. They put this book together, working for free, with all the money they would have earned for these stories going to fund the Academy into the future. Because it’s an expensive proposition. Any convention wants to be bigger and better every year, and the Academy started from a super-high level in the first place. So in buying this book you’re helping a vital resource keep going. You should come check it out. Tell them you’re writing a novel. They’ll believe you.

But most of all in buying this book, you’re getting some really good short stories, some by big names, some by soon-to-be names—and best of all, some by cops. Because there is a little reverse osmosis going on. What happens when a cop wants to know more about being a writer? They’re up close and personal for days. I’m sure every year plenty of them go home with more than we thought we told them. Some of them got to work. A couple have their first-ever professional publication right here. We say thanks for the welcome to your world, and now, welcome to ours.” ~ Lee Child

Okay writers, it’s time to sharpen the pencils and get busy studying the above image and then assembling a grouping of words that’ll knock the socks off our mega-famous judge, Tami Hoag.

Yes, you heard me, Tami Hoag—THE Tami Hoag—will read the top twelve entries and then select the winning story. The contest winner, of course, receives a slew of cool prizes including the coveted Golden Donut Award!

Here’s what you need to do to get your writing in front of one of the world’s top authors (sorry for the small font—the graphic is a photo).

This is a fun contest!

Since the graphic above is a photo, the embedded links are not active. Here are the links listed within the newsletter, in their order of appearance in the piece.

  1. Click HERE for a link to more details and contest rules.
  2. If you’d like to be a first-round judge, email us at 2018goldendonut@gmail.com.
  3. Don’t forget to tell your friends who are figuring out how to budget for conferences this year that Sisters in Crime is once again offering a $150 registration scholarship to all SinC members attending the Writers’ Police Academy for the first time.
  4. If you need help with your travel arrangements, feel free to contact Darek Jarmola, the agent who handles arrangements for our guest speakers and experts. Derek is well versed in transportation options for Green Bay, Wisconsin. He can be reached at Darek@authenticeurope.com or by phoning 918-214-4582.

Tami Hoag – Writers’ Police Academy firing range


Tami after performing a PIT maneuver at the driving track. Intense action, and FUN! – Writers’ Police Academy


There is still time to sign up for the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy. HURRY!

Again, If you’ve ever wanted to attend the WPA, I STRONGLY and WHOLEHEARTEDLY urge you to do so this year. Openings are available … this year. Could be your last chance. I’m just saying …