October 2010

The Truth about Private Investigators:
eating Believable P.I. Characters

Ernesto (Ernie) Patino
Former FBI agent turned Private Investigator

October 10, 2010
2:00 p.m.

Barnes & Noble in the Village at Westlake

Readers have their own ideas about what a “private eye” must be really like-usually based on favorite series stories. Ernie Patino is the real deal. With a background as a Special Agent for the FBI, he can help us make our own stories and believable, while still making our P.I. a unique characters. Besides his 23 years with the FBI, he now wears two hats: that of a writer and that of a P.I. He will tell us the facts of the investigator’s practice from beginning to end.

Ernesto Patino grew up in El Paso where he graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso. He received a Bachelor of Music degree and taught school for a couple of years before joining the FBI as a Special Agent. His career spanned 23 years, most of which were spent in South Florida. He now lives in Tucson, Arizona, and divides his time between writing and working as a private investigator. Ernesto is the author of a children’s book, A Boy Named Paco, and three novels: Web of Secrets, The Last of the Good Guys, In the Shadow of a Stranger. Ernie will be available to answer questions after his talk.

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter, meets monthly on the second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. at the Westlake Barnes & Noble bookstore, located at the southeast corner of Loop 360 and Bee Cave Road, in The Village at Westlake shopping center.

Sisters in Crime is an international organization of women and men whose purpose is to promote mysteries written by women, and combat discrimination against women mystery authors.   Speakers include published mystery authors and technical experts who help writers craft better mysteries and readers enjoy what they read. Meetings are free and open to all. For more information, check out the Sisters in Crime website at www.hotxsinc.org.

For information contact:  Joyce Arquette, Publicity (512) 266-6543


September – HoTxSinC Members Investigate Mock Murder

by Sue Vertrees

On Sunday, September 12, 2010, the members and friends of HoTxSinC participated in a CSI Experience aided by the Georgetown, Texas, Police Department. Ruben Vasquez, a Crimes Against People Detective, provided interesting information on interviewing individuals, using a kinesic interviewing method and other techniques and working with the Crime Scene Investigator. He emphasized that detectives are always working for the victim.


Ruben Vasquez, Detective, Police Services


Detectives do not touch or move anything until the CSI has completed his or her tasks, which include photographing everything–from the exterior to the interior–and documenting all evidence. The chain of evidence must be preserved in all cases. Only upon a release from the CSI may the detectives proceed to the crime scene. They may have already begun their interviews with individuals not at the scene. As in all cases, time is of the essence.

Armed with information, HoTxSinC members and other participants attempted to solve a crime based on a created crime scene. Three teams alternately examined the crime scene, inspected the evidence, and interrogated the suspects. Each team arrived at a different conclusion…unfortunately, none of them was exactly correct. George was the lone culprit and his motive was money. So easy when one has all the facts.

For more training, we plan to ask Detective Vasquez to do a presentation at one of our meetings. He was kind, gracious, and informative, and we offer a heartfelt thank you to him and Lieutenant David Morgan for a pleasant and productive afternoon.


Sue Vertrees


Sue Vertrees is Assistant Editor of Hotshots!


July – Gerald Hurst Presents Timely Program on Fire Science

The Austin Statesman.com reported last week that District Judge Charlie Baird will hold a hearing on October 6 and 7 in his Travis County court to determine “whether Texas wrongly executed Cameron Todd Willingham, convicted of murdering his three young children by setting fire to his Corsicana home in 1991.” Willingham was executed in 2004.

Gerald Hurst, who spoke at the July HoTxSinC meeting on “The Evolving Science of Fire Investigation and the Role of Personal Bias,” was the first investigator to conclude that Willingham had been convicted on “bogus evidence.” His findings were later confirmed by eight nationally known fire investigators.

Hurst, a chemist, refers to traditional fire investigation methods as “black arts.” A chemist, he relies on the scientific method in his investigations. Working pro bono, he has helped to free a number of people convicted of arson. He has testified as witness for the defense in dozens of arson cases.

The Willingham case, he says, still bothers him.


Critic or Critique?

by Gale Hathcock Albright

I grew up admiring critics.

Critics like Dorothy Parker and Rex Reed. Their comments were witty, dry, often acerbic. For many years, Rex Reed has been known for his acidic movie reviews. Just a small example among many is this one, from the New York Observer, July 13, 2010:

“At the movies, incomprehensible gibberish has become a way of life, but it usually takes time before it’s clear that a movie really stinks. Inception, Christopher Nolan’s latest assault on rational coherence, wastes no time. It cuts straight to the chase that leads to the junk pile without passing go, although before it drags its sorry butt to a merciful finale, you’ll be desperately in need of a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card.”


Screenshot of Katharine Hepburn from the trail...

Image via Wikipedia


Pretty funny, eh? And then there’s the iconic Dorothy Parker, whose critique of a youthful Katharine Hepburn’s performance on Broadway has become legendary: “Miss Hepburn runs the emotional gamut from A to B,” Miss Parker is supposed to have said to a colleague during the play’s intermission.

So, naturally, I thought you were supposed to basically heap scorn on books and movies and performances you didn’t like. As long as you were witty, dry, and often acerbic. A good critic made expert use of sarcasm and unkind jokes and metaphors.

I thought the critic was the center of attention. The bringer of wit and laughter.

I learned that the origin of the word sarcasm was from Latin for rending the flesh. Apt indeed.


National sarcasm society

Image via Wikipedia


The trouble is, when your flesh is rent, it doesn’t feel very good. As a person who thought cheap shots and ill-considered comebacks were the height of wit, I discovered how devastating it was to be on the receiving end of those oh-so-clever comments and witticisms.

Especially when it involved something I had written.

When I went back to college after intervening years of Real Life, I decided to major in English Writing and Rhetoric. To my chagrin, I had to take some classes in which, among other things, we had to learn the proper manner of critique. Critique etiquette, as it were.

I found I was not the second coming of Rex Reed or Dorothy Parker. Nasty, witty comments were strictly taboo. I had to learn how to give constructive criticism to classmates.

At first, I had a very hard time. What if I just hated what the other person wrote? What if it was stupid, boring, idiotic, or insane? Too bad.  And I had to do it over and over again. In short, I hated it. I felt totally out of my depth.

It was pure torture. Witticisms leaped to my tongue, only to die a stillborn death within my mouth. It was discipline. It was a change of habit. It was hard.

Then I understood. A critic is a star. She is the center of the universe. She earns her money by saying clever, often unkind things. But a person who offers a critique is not a star. To offer a critique is to offer a somewhat educated opinion, encouragement, and suggestions. One endeavors to be honest without being cruel or funny. I had to learn that I was not the director of the show. My lofty pronouncements did not come straight from Mount Olympus. I was merely a handmaid in the service of some other writer’s creative birthing.

At school I was told to start out a critique by telling the writer “what worked” in the piece. Sometimes I had to look pretty hard to find something “that worked.” It was like your mother telling you that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Except, the catch was, you couldn’t abstain. You had to give feedback.

After stressing the positive parts of a piece of writing, the critiquer would then write down “What didn’t work so well was ….” And say it without making a cruel comment at the writer’s expense.

All the critiquer has to offer is a personal opinion. It is to be hoped that critiquers in writers’ groups are people who love reading and writing, so that their opinions might have some literary weight. But it’s still just a solitary opinion.

As a critiquer, I’m not writing a syndicated column. I’m not an agent or an editor. I’m a fellow writer who needs another pair of eyes to look at my work. I want feedback, gentle feedback. It’s a balancing act.

I can’t lie and say something is great when it’s not. That’s evading one’s responsibility as a critiquer. But I’m not mean. The aim, I should think, of a writing group, is to keep the writers writing and coming back to the critique group. You don’t want to be so witty and sarcastic and cruel that a writer quits the group, shreds all her writings, shoots her laptop and treks off to Tibet in search of the spiritual peace of which you robbed her.

If a writer seeks out a critique group, obviously said writer, number one, wants to be read and, number two, wants feedback. Number three, said writer probably wants to continue writing.

A writer puts his heart and soul and ego on the page. A writer needs tender treatment. Tell the truth, but do it in a constructive manner. To critique is to help a fellow writer improve, not implode.

What goes around comes around. Yesterday’s witty, cruel comments may come back to haunt you when your own heart and soul are exposed on the page.

Writers. Handle them with care.

Gale Hathcock Albright was a Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writer in 2009. She was the 2008 winner of the Writers’ League of Texas’ Manuscript Contest, Young Adult Division, for her historical novel, Eve. A founding member of JFTOI Writers, and a member of the Austin Mystery writers, she has two manuscripts in progress. She blogs at Write Pretty.


Wolfmont’s 2010 Charitable Anthology Released

Murder to Mil-SPEC, a collection of short crime fiction pieces from Wolfmont Press, has just been released. Each of the twelve stories features veterans or active duty military personnel. This year’s anthology benefits Homes for Our Troops, which builds accessible housing for severely disabled vets. Several members of Sisters in Crime are contributors.

For information on purchasing, click the Murder to Mil-SPEC link above.


Short Story Recordings for the Blind

If you are a short story author of mystery/suspense thrillers, here is an excellent opportunity to gain free publicity and have your story recorded and broadcast. Plus, you will be sent a copy of the recording for  your files.

If your story is chosen, it will be recorded and broadcast over a Houston radio station on a program for the blind and visually impaired.

To listen to a story Sylvia Dickey Smith submitted, go to her website at http://www.sylviadickeysmith.com and click on the link to Free Short Stories. Then click on the title Growing Up Dead and adjust the volume of your computer as needed.

These recordings and broadcasts are a community service. They are not an infringement of copyright since all you are doing is allowing someone to record and read your story out loud. You still retain all rights to the story. If interested in more information, contact Sylvia Dickey Smith at sds (at) suddenlink.net. Include in your email a little bit about yourself and the story: length, type of story, and so on.


The Word on Our Members

Jan Grape‘s new book, What Doesn’t Kill You, has been released by Five Star Press:


Jan Grape


“Nothing ever happens in their one-horse Texas town, sixteen-year-old Cory Purvis tells her platonic boyfriend, Ty-Ty. Then the two of them find a body in the haunted old Whalen house a few miles outside of Bent Bell. Half-naked, tied up and very dead, the victim is Vickee Allen,a missing classmate of Cory’s. Ty-Ty knew the dead girl all too well, and that plus his half Native American ancestry makes him the top suspect until Cory starts nosing around. Sharp, observant, and unafraid of much, Cory is determined to clear Ty-Ty and find justice and find justice for Vickee. She forges ahead despite tough opposition from those with secrets to hide, including a deeply flawed sheriff with something to prove. Even when someone poisons her beloved horse, Miss Dumpsie, Cory won’t give up. Through its scrappy, youthful heroine, this brooding, atmospheric coming-of-age mystery reminds us that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
~ Cover, What Doesn’t Kill You

“…tumbles to a nail-biting finale.” ~ Publisher’s Weekly (Sept. 2010)


Murder Mystery and Music on the High Seas. Award-winning mystery writer Jan Grape will be joining singers / songwriters friends: john Arthur martinez, Mike Blakely, and Walt Wilkins on a five-day Western Carnival Cruise on April 16th, out of Galveston, Texas. Jan will hold two mystery writers workshops: “Creating Realistic Characters” and “Writing About What You Don’t Know.” These will be hands-on classes where you may participate with your ideas, but have fun joining in, too.

john Arthur martinez is a singer / songwriter who came in second on Nashville Star a few years ago and who just won Texas Music’s “Best Song of the Year” for “Utopia.” Mike Blakely is a singer / songwriter / western historical novelist who recently added a second Spur Award from the Western Writers, the first for a western historical book and the second for his song, “The Last White Buffalo.” Walt Wilkins is a singer / songwriter whose band “The Mystiqueros” were in the TV show “Friday Night Lights,” singing their “You’ve Got a Way.”

In addition to talking mysteries, there will be lots of live music, private musical performances, and a meet-and-greet for an opportunity to purchase CDs, books, and other merchandise, or just get that long-sought-after autograph.

Cabin rates start at $611 per person for an interior cabin, $861.03 for a balcony, and include amenities such as a $50 credit per stateroom and a bottle of wine per stateroom. Check out www.sailawaytravel.biz ,or e-mail Lenora Shope at info (at) sailawaytravel.biz, or call Lenora at 904-469-8747.


Kaye George‘s story, “Shipwreck,” appears in the Autumn 2010 issue of Dark Valentine. Read it here.

Kaye George is interviewed by E. B. Davis in Writers Who Kill. Kaye discusses her road to publication, her new book deal, and the inhabitants of Saltlick, Texas, who populate her novel to be published next spring. Part one of the interview appeared on September 8; part two, on September 15.


Gale Hathcock Albright’s “Taffy and Lomita” was awarded first place in the Brazos Writers Writing Contest, Short Story Division. To read her story, go to Brazos Writers News.


Kathy Waller‘s “Personal Experience” was awarded second place in the Brazos Writers Writing Contest, Short Story Division.


No Joke – Support Your Local Authors at TBF & Receive Candy

Russ Hall and Sylvia Dickey Smith will share the Austin Area Authors booth at the Texas Book Festival on October 16-17, 2010. They invite you to stop by and say hello.

They will be selling their books, as well as sharing giveaways that may even include a piece of candy or two. This is a perfect chance to support your local authors and get your autographed copy of their books. (If you can’t find their booth, look for the one with the long line of buyers.)

No joke, they would love for you to stop by and say hello.



October 13 – The Mystery Book Discussion Group will discuss Jack and Jill by James Patterson during their monthly meeting. Barnes & Noble at the Arboretum, Austin, 7:30 p.m. For information, call Janice Langlinais at 512-418-1013 or e-mail her at crm2536 (at) bn.com.


October 16-17 – The Texas Book Festival will be held on the Capitol Grounds in Austin. The Festival is free and open to the public. A schedule of events and a list of authors appearing there is available at http://www.texasbookfestival.org.


Enjoying a good book at the 2009 Texas Book Fe...

Image via Wikipedia



Writer‘s Corner

The dog ran.

Instructions: Take the kernel sentence above and expand it. Shoot for forty words. See what you come up with. If you’ll e-mail us the result, we’ll post it (or not, as you wish) in a future issue.

(The dog in question is possibly the same one that did not bark in the nighttime. Feel free to use this quasi-factoid when you compose.)


Blogs and Websites

In SinC into the Depths of Mystery, Joyce Tremel lists eleven group blogs “essential for mystery writers.” She will profile more blogs in upcoming posts.


“I watch Twitter, so you don’t have to,” says Jane Friedman. Since April 2009, she has published weekly a list of the Best Tweets for Writers. Find the entire list see her blog, There Are No Rules.


C. L. Phillips“Happy Belated Birthday, Dame Agatha,” on the Sisters in Crime blog, commemorates the 120th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie. She provides a link to Christie’s official website, as well as to a recipe for Delicious Death, Christie’s favorite cake.


Kimberly Gray, a winner of the Malice Domestic Grant, writes about what the grant has meant to her career with Ramona DeFelice Long.


National Novel Writing Month begins November 1. The goal: Write a 175-page (50,000 word) novel by midnight, November 30. Learn the details at the NaNoWriMo website.


Editor’s Atelier

Here are some photographs taken at the Crime Scene Investigation workshop at the Georgetown Police Department in September. More will be posted on a separate page on the Hotshots! blog.

If you find errors or omissions in this issue of Hotshots!, please e-mail kathy.davis.waller (at) gmail.com so corrections can be made.

Hotshots! is a work in progress. We welcome your comments and encourage you to share your ideas for future issues. We also welcome submissions from writers–articles, essays, columns.

And if you see any apostrophes pointing the wrong direction in this issue, rest assured we saw them, too, and tried to correct them. We don’t know why they are turned around, but we will investigate and try to keep them from doing it again.


The deadline to submit content for the November Hotshots! is October 25. BUT if you miss the deadline, send your info anyway. Our format is flexible, so we can generally fit in extras at the last minute. E-mail to kathy.davis.waller (at) gmail.com


The articles cited below were suggested by Zemanta, a service that provides WordPress blogs with photographs and links to articles and websites related to their text.  We hope you find something of interest.