April 2011

April 10 Meeting

Satish Chundru, M. D.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for Travis County


Forensic Pathology for Real

Our Sisters in Crime April 10 meeting features Dr. Satish Chundru, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for Travis County.

Dr. Chundru received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He graduated from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and served a residency in pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. After training in forensics at the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Department, he joined the department staff. In 2008, he moved to Austin, where he serves as Travis County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner. He has been practicing forensics for seven years.

Dr. Chundru will discuss a variety of cases that forensic pathologists commonly deal with, including natural, accidental, suicidal, and homicidal deaths. He will describe the purpose and function of the office of medical examiner and will discuss the differences between real-life forensic investigation and its portrayal by the entertainment media.

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter, meets monthly on the second Sunday of the month at 2:00 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. Meetings are free and open to all. For more information, check out the Sisters in Crime website at www.hotxsinc.org or contact Joyce Arquette, Publicity, at (512) 266-6543.


If You Missed Last Month’s Meeting

Texas Rangers: “Tasked with the Unknown”

Sgt. Cody Mitchell. © Jean Vertrees

Maj. John B. Jones. Capt. Jack Hayes. Capt. Leander McNelly. Texas Devils. Capt. Frank Hamer. Capt. Bill McDonald. Capt. Manuel “Lonewolf” Gonzaullas. The names of these Texas Rangers are tightly woven into Texas lore and legend.

At HoTXSinC’s March 13 meeting, Sgt. Cody Mitchell, Texas Rangers Company “F,”  placed these names and others in historical context as he presented an overview of the oldest law enforcement organization in the United States.

The Texas Rangers had their beginnings in 1823, when empresario Stephen F. Austin authorized formation of a militia to provide protection for  Texian settlements. During the colonial period, this small group of men–Hispanics, Indians, and Anglos–were “tasked with the unknown”: defending settlers against hostile Indians and other threats to security.

An early depiction of a group of Texas Rangers...

Depiction of Texas Rangers, ca. 1845--Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

In 1835, lawmakers created a force, fifty-six men in three companies, officially known as the Texas Rangers. During the Texas Revolution, they served as scouts and also fought alongside the Texian Army. Under the Republic, they continued to defend against Indians, border guerrillas, and Mexican forces.

When the Mexican War broke out in 1846, a year after Texas entered the Union, Rangers acted as scouts and guerrillas for the U. S. Army. Accounts of their exploits made them “sensations” in U. S. newspapers. In 1861, the governor formed frontier regiments to provide security during the Civil War.

Capt. Leander McNelly.

Capt. Leander McNelly-- Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

In 1874, following Texas’ re-admission to the Union, the Frontier Battalion and Special Force were formed to police the frontier. McNelly’s Rangers, Special Force, led by Capt. Leander McNelly, became known for its operations in South Texas. Outlaws Juan Cortina, Sam Bass, and John Wesley Hardin were among their adversaries during these years, during which the Rangers continued to transition from security force and militia to police force.

Sam Bass Texas Ranger History

Sam Bass--Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

From the Oil Boom in 1901 into the 1940s, Rangers were involved in keeping order in boomtowns and enforcing Prohibition. Concern over unrest on the border led to mass induction of Rangers, which in turn led to vigilante behavior. A severe reduction in the force followed, along with stricter qualifications for service. In 1932, Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson replaced Rangers with political appointees. An investigation of the Ferguson administration led to the dismissal of Governor Ferguson’s appointees and the formation of the Texas Department of Public Safety in 1935. As a result, professionalism increased. Capt. Manuel “Lonewolf” Gonzaullas earned the title of “Father of Science” by creating a modern lab and introducing science and technology into the division’s criminal investigations.

Captain Frank Hamer circa early 1920s

Capt. Frank Hamer--Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

One of the most famous incidents involving the Texas Rangers during the 1930s occurred when Capt. Frank Hamer and Capt. Manny Gault ended the “careers” of outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in an ambush in rural Louisiana. Capt. Hamer also exposed and put an end to the banking association’s policy of offering rewards for the delivery of dead bank robbers.

photo of six-man posse who killed Bonnie & Cly...

Photo of six-man posse who killed Bonnie and Clyde, May 23, 1934--Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

The Texas Rangers now comprise the investigative division of the DPS. By law, the division may not be abolished. (Tex. Gov’t Code Sec. 411.024). Rangers’ duties include major incident crime investigations, unsolved crime and serial crime investigations, border security operations, public corruption investigations, and officer-involved shooting investigations. Rangers aid in apprehending escaped felons and conduct crime scene investigations. They support local law enforcement when requested and work with law enforcement from other states and from the federal government. Rangers have state-wide jurisdiction and, like DPS officers, sometimes operate outside the state. Rather than merely react to crimes, they actively network in order to have contacts before crimes are committed. The FBI sometimes calls on Rangers for contact information to help them “get through doors.”

In fact, the Texas Rangers have been compared to the FBI, Scotland Yard, Interpol, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. During World War II, Army CID trained with Rangers at DPS headquarters. Rangers do not seek publicity. Employees of the state, they prefer to see local authorities receive credit for investigative success.

There are currently about 150 Rangers responsible for the state’s 254 counties. The division is diverse in both gender and ethnicity. Applicants for appointment face stiff competition and must meet high standards.  They must have eight years’ experience in law enforcement, including four with the DPS, and must be commissioned members of the department. They go through a rigorous screening process focusing on background, intelligence, character, and work ethic. Rangers are on call 365 days a year and at times go for days without sleep. Their assistance may be requested by sheriffs, prosecutors, police departments, the FBI, and other officials at any time. Per division policy, they do not turn down any request for help. In sparsely populated areas, one Ranger may cover a wide geographic area. In a small county, a Ranger may be the only investigative officer, responsible for doing his own crime scene investigation. Rangers must receive permission to leave their assigned counties and must also get another Ranger to substitute their during  absence.

After speaking about the Rangers’ history and current operations, Sergeant Mitchell described in detail a recent investigation, an apparent automobile accident that ended in the conviction of three persons for arson, insurance fraud, and/or hindering apprehension. It is important, he said, never to prejudge. An investigator must keep an open mind and follow the evidence.

Sergeant Mitchell organized his talk around a Power Point presentation, but questions from the audience frequently led to equally interesting digressions: guns (he carries a Springfield); border operations;  changes in division policies (there is now a physical fitness requirement); modes of transportation (everything, including horses); violence along the Texas-Mexico border. He graciously offered to speak for as long as listeners were willing to stay and later continued answering questions over dinner at La Madeleine.

Most interesting was his description of the “Interdiction for the Protection of Children,” a first-of-its-kind national training program Sergeant Mitchell co-created. The program teaches DPS officers the indicators that can lead to the discovery of missing/at-risk children or the presence of child predators while officers are conducting normal duties. During traffic stops, trained officers actively look for signs of kidnapping or child abuse. Implementation of the program has been instrumental in identifying a number of missing children and returning them to safety.

Sergeant Mitchell’s talk was both informative and entertaining. HoTXSinC appreciates the enthusiasm he demonstrated for his subject and for sharing his knowledge.

At one point during his presentation, Sergeant Mitchell noted that when Capt. Bill McDonald explained why only he had been sent to quell a riot–“One riot, one Ranger”–the remark wasn’t entirely accurate: there was no riot, and several other Texas Rangers happened to be on the scene.  Given the depth and breadth of the division’s jurisdiction, responsibilities, and expertise, however, Capt. McDonald’s statement appears to contain more than a spark of truth.

Sergeant Cody Mitchell has been in law enforcement for approximately fifteen
years and holds a Master Peace Officer license.  His work history includes
experience as a city police officer, a deputy sheriff, and a Texas Highway Patrol
trooper stationed in Houston, Texas.  Awards received include medals for
merit, lifesaving, 2008 Harris County 100 Club Officer of the Year, and Texas DPS Directors Citation, as well as two medals for valor. He is currently stationed in Austin, Texas.

More information about the Texas Rangers can be found at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.


Writing Book Reviews

Writing Book Reviews

by Helen Ginger

I’ve been blogging since August 17, 2006. Every once in a while, I would post a review. As authors began to email to ask if I’d like to read their book, I started doing more reviews. I’m not out on the Internet asking for books. The books just come to my mailbox from authors, publishers and publicists. The main explanation is that once you start writing reviews, people notice, and then they start sending books. But they’re not going to submit books to you unless you have followers of your blog who will stop by and comment on the reviews.

To get followers, you need to have a consistent, interesting blog. To get those followers to comment on your reviews, you must write honest, informative reviews, telling readers why you liked the book and what the book is about. By happenstance, I also discovered that it helps if you give them something extra.

Since my blog is called Straight From Hel, I created a rating system that fit the blog. No stars, no numbers:

Hel-No (didn’t like it)
What the Hel? (didn’t understand it)
Hel-Yeah (liked it)
Hotter Than Hel (Romance)
Hel-O! (new author or new series)
Hel-of-a-Writer (great writing)
Hel-of-a-Story (lots of twists and turns)

Not long ago, the FTC decided to require that all book reviews have a disclaimer, even blogs like mine. So I began adding a disclaimer to let everyone know how I came about having the book and whether that influenced my review. And I tried to make those disclaimers interesting. Here are three:


FTC Disclaimer: Mary Kennedy sent me this book. That did not influence my review. As I said, I like the people living in Cypress Grove. It’s a small town where people know each other and nothing ever happens. Except murder. Because of that, I’m hoping two things. One, no one begins to notice that the murders began after Maggie arrived in town. Two, Cypress Grove doesn’t suffer the Murder, She Wrote effect and run out of live people. I’m waiting on the book where a hurricane hits. I’ve already got a plot in mind and a title. I see Maggie hunkered down at the radio station when a body flies past the window. It’ll be called Passing Wind. If you want the details, just call me, Mary. And if YOU want to hear from Mary Kennedy, come back tomorrow when she’ll be posting here on Straight From Hel.


FTC Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, but that did not influence my review. The author did not ask for a review, although she did, in her autograph, say, “Please enjoy!” I took that as encouragement, not a demand. And, no, I did not read this during jury duty. That would be a no-no and would get me kicked off. If I got caught. Which I didn’t. Besides, have you seen the cases they try in Federal Court? I bet the government has its own squad of dream assassins who come after people who hide books in their laps or listen to audio books with a teeny ear plug. Not that I did that. I didn’t. Shoot. Now I’ve scared myself and won’t be able to sleep tonight.


FTC Disclaimer: This signed book was sent to me by the author, but that’s not why I’m recommending it, nor did it influence my review. Nor was I influenced by the starred reviews and Sandra Parshall’s Agatha Award. Lots of people have awards. I, myself, received the Best Mom award from my son. My daughter is still undecided. I’m thinking I’ll get it from her — I am her only mom, after all. She’s holding out, though. I’m a bit worried since she now lives in another state. I suspect she’s trying out other finalists for the Best Mom award. That’s okay. There’s still her birthday, Christmas, money and bribery. Whadda ya think? Five bucks? Ten?

I’m not the only one writing interesting disclaimers, of course. Here are a couple by blogger, author and Managing Editor of Winnsboro Today, Maryann Miller:


FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own enjoyment and even though I know Craig, he did not pay me, or bribe me, or threaten me in any way to influence this review. I just happen to think he is a damn fine writer.

Review of:
The Summer Son by Craig Lancaster


FTC Disclaimer: Thank you for sharing another review, Carl. Since he does not include an  FTC disclaimer when he sends these out for us to use, I will just state that I did not receive any benefit from this review, other than the fact that I did not have to write a post. And I don’t pay him to send them and he does not pay me for using them.

Review Of:
Tomb with a View by Casey Daniels
Reviewer: Carl Brookins
(Disclaimer: Maryann Miller)

And lastly, one that I wrote when I reviewed Maryann Miller’s book, Open Season:


FTC Disclaimer: The ARC was sent to me by the author, Maryann Miller, but this did not influence my review. What did influence my review was the realism in the book. The characters were real, yes, and the turbulence between them was real, yes, but the realism I’m talking about is the mall murders. I really hate malls or shopping in general so I can certainly believe that a berserker killed people in the mall. I mean, come on, you’re walking in the mall, you turn a corner, and there’s a gaggle of teens coming toward you and they have no intention of moving an iota so you can get past and you left your Taser at home in your other purse … never mind, my personal story is not relevant since this killer does his work after hours. Just check out Open Season. It’s a good mystery.

My disclaimers are not all funny, but I try to write them so they add something to the book or so people will remember the book.

Then once the review posts on my blog, I put it up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads. And I tweet and Facebook the review.

Reviews are important to authors. They should be important to reviewers.


Maryann Millers’ website: Maryann Writes

Maryann Miller’s blog: It’s Not All Gravy


Helen Ginger is a freelance editor, blogger, and writer. Her free international ezine, Doing It Write, is now in its twelfth year of publication. She’s also an Owner/Partner in Legends In Our Own Minds®, a past Executive Director of the Writers’ League of Texas, past President of the Heart of Texas chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a current Volunteer Chair for the Texas Book Festival. Her first three books with TSTC Publishing, TechCareers: Automotive Technicians, TechCareers: Avionics and TechCareers: Computer Gaming, are now available. She is also on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


Book Review

Still Life by Joy Fielding

Reviewed by Gale Albright

Joy Fielding’s Still Life is a mystery-suspense novel with a compelling twist. The heroine can’t move, see, or speak. She is a prisoner trapped in her own injured body. She faces overwhelming odds and fights for survival with only one weapon–her brain.

Casey Marshall, young, successful, beautiful and popular, has everything going for her. She even has a wonderful, sensitive, handsome husband. And she’s planning to start a family. Then, as Casey walks to her car in a downtown parking garage, an SUV slams into her at top speed. Her body is broken and battered from head to toe. Worst of all, she’s in a coma, from which she may never awake.

Even though she is lost in a dark world, unable to move or speak, Casey gradually becomes aware of sounds. She recognizes the voices of her husband, sister, close friends and various doctors and nurses. She hears them talking about her medical condition, saying she may never recover. Her husband wonders aloud if he should take her off life support. Casey panics and tries desperately to let people know that she is alert and can hear what’s going on.

One would think this is as bad as it could get for our heroine, but there’s much worse to come. It seems her accident was no accident, but a deliberate attempt at murder. And some of the comments she overhears are enough to chill her to the bone.

Having one’s heroine immobile and mute throughout most of the book does not pose a problem for author Joy Fielding. She keeps the situation from becoming static by using two techniques: extensive internal dialog and flashbacks.

When other characters are talking, Casey forms responses in her head, but can’t follow through physically. However, the reader can follow her thoughts and reactions juxtaposed against what other people are saying and doing. Casey has flashbacks about her relationships with the important people in her life. Between her interior thoughts and emotions and her interactions in the past, we go beyond the hospital bed and into our protagonist’s persona. Fielding handles this skillfully so the reader can visualize Casey’s personality, history, and values even though she can’t speak or move.

The suspense and pacing keep the reader turning the page. Just how will Casey, who literally cannot lift a finger, save herself?

If you like a good, suspenseful read, this book is for you.


FTC Disclaimer: HoTXSinC received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. Receiving the book did not influence the review.

Gale Albright is a member of HoTXSinC, a former Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writer, and a 2008 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest Winner, YA Division. She is working on a historical novel for middle grade readers and a mystery novel.


2011 Program Schedule

  • January 9 – Jerry Carruth, Retired Federal Prosecutor, and George Sanchez, Retired Federal Investigator: Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling
  • February 13 – Claudia Grisales:  Crime Reporting in Austin, Texas
  • March 13 – Texas Ranger Sergeant Cody Mitchell: The Texas Rangers
  • April 10Satish Chundru, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner
  • MayTexas Mystery Month
  • June 12 – George Arnold & Ken Squier present:  An Author’s Guide to Successfully Selling Your Book
  • July 10 – Jennifer Aguirre: Crime Scene Analysis
  • August 14 – Shelia Hargis: Making Sense of Crime in Austin–Crime Analysts in Action
  • September 11 – Detective Ruben Vasquez: Murder Investigation Step by Step
  • October 9 – Marian K. Williams: The United States Postal Inspection Service
  • November 13 – Ron Franscell, Author of Delivered From Evil: My Life of Crime: A Crime Writer’s Journey
  • December 11 – Karen and Mike Cross: Christmas Mysteries



Texas Mystery Month Spotlights Texas Mystery Authors

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter is pleased to announce the schedule for the Thirteenth Annual Texas Mystery Month in May.  The purpose of Texas Mystery Month is to spotlight Texas Mystery Authors.

Texas Mystery Month events include panel discussions, book signings, author presentations, and more.  Austin, Houston, Lubbock, Marble Falls, Round Rock and San Antonio plan events to spotlight Texas Mystery Authors with activities in May, Texas Mystery Month.

2011 Texas Mystery Month events currently scheduled include the following:

February 15-May 15 – Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Project, Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter and the Barbara Burnett Smith Mentoring Authors Foundation. Contact Sarah Ann Robertson, hotxsinc (at) yahoo.com.

5/5/11 Texas Mystery Author presentation, 1:00 p.m. at Marble Falls Library Mystery Book Club, Mary Jackson, Director, mjackson (at) burnetcountrylibrary.org, 1-830-693-3023. 101 Main Street, Marble Falls, Texas 78654.  Event Contact:  B. Ochandarena arenas (at) nctv.com .

5/14/11  Robin Allen’s book launch If You Can’t Stand the Heat, 3:00 p.m. at Book People, Scott Montgomery, Crime Fiction Coordinator, wildremuda (at) yahoo.com 1-512-472-4288, 603 N. Lamar, Austin TX 78703.Saturday, 3:00 p.m.,

5/15/11  Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Event with presentation of the Sage Award, and the 2011 Mentor Authors and Aspiring Writers, 2:00-5:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble-Westlake.  Bob Kissinger, Manager, crm2757 (at) bn.com, 1-512-328-3155, 701 Capital of Texas Hwy S. #P860, Austin Texas 78746.  Event Contact: Sarah Ann Robertson. hotxsinc (at) yahoo.com.

TBA   Texas Mystery Authors presentation at The Book Spot, Danny Woodfill, Manager, info (at) JuliesBookSpot.com 1-512-278-5411, 1205 Round Rock Avenue, Round Rock, Texas 78681.

TBA   Texas Mystery Authors presentation at Barnes & Noble-Northwoods, Jacki Dyess, Community Relations Manager crm2927 (at) bn.com> 1-210-490-0937, 18030 Hwy 281N Suite 140, San Antonio Texas, 78232.

TBA – Texas Mystery Authors presentation. Barnes & Noble-San Pedro Crossing, Debra Castanon, Community Relations Manager, crm2802 (at) bn.com 1-210-342-2386, 321 NW Loop 410 #104, San Antonio, Texas 78216.


Margaret Atwood’s “Publishing Pie” Video Online

Margaret Atwood gave the keynote address at the 2011 O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference in New York City last February. The video of her presentation, Publishing Pie: An Author’s View,” is posted on her blog (as well as numerous other places on the web. Atwood’s analysis past, present, and possible future of the publishing industry is thoughtful, intelligent, and downright funny. It’s well worth watching.


Film Review

The Conspirator, directed by Robert Redford

Review by Gale Albright

Mary Surratt was hanged in 1865, just a few weeks after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Accused of conspiring to murder the president, Mrs. Surratt, a Southern sympathizer during the Civil War, was tried in a military court and was the first woman executed by the federal government.

Was she innocent or guilty? The Conspirator, Robert Redford’s new film, explores the fate of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), a widow who runs a boarding house in Washington, D.C. John Surratt, Mary’s son, is a friend of John Wilkes Booth, the man who shot the president. Mrs. Surratt and several of her boarders are arrested and a manhunt ensues for her son, who has disappeared.

A young lawyer and former union combat veteran, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), is assigned by his mentor Reverdy Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to act as defense counsel for Mrs. Surratt. Aiken believes she is guilty and is reluctant to take the case.

The trial is a mockery of justice. The alleged conspirators, all civilians, are tried by military court. Evidence is trumped up, false testimony is allowed, and the prosecution is openly favored by the military judges. The prosecutor, JAG Holt (Danny Huston), believes the public needs to see swift punishment for the accused conspirators. Even if they are not actually guilty, their executions will help heal the divided nation, according to Secretary Stanton (Kevin Kline), who thinks the end justifies the means.

Aiken, however, knows the Constitution is being shredded in a rush to convict the conspirators without giving them a fair trial. He believes Mrs. Surratt is being held hostage by the government to force her fugitive son to give himself up.

Although this trial occurred in 1865, the lessons it teaches are applicable to our lives today. Assaults on the United States Constitution are nothing new. Innocent people are sometimes used as scapegoats by unscrupulous politicians and demagogues. If Mary Surratt had been tried in a civilian court by a jury of her peers, what might have been the outcome?

The Conspirator, a suspenseful, political thriller, is also a moving story of the growing relationship between Mary Surratt and Frederick Aiken, the only person who stands between her and the powerful machinations of the federal government.

The cast, headed by James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Danny Huston, and Tom Wilkinson, is superlative, and Robert Redford’s direction is excellent.

This is the first production by The American Film Company, a new enterprise dedicated to making historically authentic and meaningful films about American history. Other film ventures under consideration are The Arsenal, about abolitionist John Brown, and Midnight Riders, about Paul Revere and the American Revolution.

The Conspirator is AFC’s first venture, and it is a thrilling one. Moral issues and thorny political considerations aside, it is crackling good entertainment.

The Conspirator will be released nationally on April 15, the anniversary of President Lincoln’s death.


FTC Disclaimer: The reviewer viewed this film at a pre-release screening courtesy of the American Film Company. This did not influence the review.

Gale Albright is a member of HoTXSinC, a former Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writer, and a 2008 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest Winner, YA Division. She is working on a historical novel for middle grade readers and a mystery novel.


The Un-Comfort Zone with Robert Wilson

Good Habit – Questionable Motive

I would like to share with you a story about my mom, a woman who was very insecure about her background. She grew up in a blue-collar family where neither her mother or father finished eighth grade. Mom completed high school, but only with tutoring by my father. She would frequently say to me, “I was born on the wrong side of the tracks.”

At age 19, she married my father, the handsome son from a wealthy family. Her beauty and charm trumped all the debutantes in town, and swept Dad off his feet. She thought she had it made and that all her fears would go away. Money and position, however, would not erase her feelings of inferiority. Those feelings were intensified instead. The contrast between her education and her in-laws with professional degrees was intimidating.

Mom wanted to fit in, join the discussions, be an authority in her own right. In short, she wanted to feel important in her new family, and she realized that she needed more knowledge. Determined to find a way to reduce her education deficit, Mom threw herself into reading.

Any subject appealed to her at first, and over time she found her favorites and pursued them to excellence. One thing she had no time for was fiction.

It was a habit that served her well, and in 1960 paid off in a big way. That year my dad was diagnosed with kidney failure and given less than a year to live. There was no cure, and my parents were advised to start planning for the day he would die.

Three years old at the time, my recollections are that my strong daddy could no longer pick me up and carry me. That he did not go to work very often, and spent his days in bed. I noticed Mom took over all the driving and occasionally pulled off the road so Dad could vomit.

Mom and Dad sold their house and used the proceeds to buy a four-unit apartment house with the plan that Mom, my sister and I would live in one unit and live off the rents of the other three. The plan was for my mother to work part-time until my sister and I were old enough for school, then she would work full-time. Until Dad’s illness, she had been a stay-at-home Mom.

After high school, Mom trained as an X-ray technician, but had not worked in years. She began to take temp jobs to beef up her skills and to develop a network of potential employers when the inevitable day arrived.

At one of those early temp jobs, the X-ray machine broke. An extended period of down time ensued, and Mom went to the magazine rack in the doctor’s lobby for something to read. She passed over the popular magazines of the day after finding an out of date medical journal. “This looks like something good for my mind!” she thought.

In an article about physicians in Boston conducting experimental surgery, she learned of the world’s first kidney transplants. At the time of the writing, the doctors were looking for volunteers. Her pulse quickened. As she read on, she discovered there was a prerequisite. The volunteers had to have an identical twin. Dad happened to have an identical twin.

At that point Mom ran to the nearest phone and dialed Boston until she got one of those doctors on the line. “Yes,” he replied, “we are still looking for volunteers. Send me your husband and his brother.” That night they went to visit my Uncle Ralph, who said, “To save your life, absolutely! Yes, you may have one of my kidneys.”

I share this story because Mom developed a lifelong habit of reading non-fiction because she wanted to impress her in-laws and other people who intimidated her. In the end, her habit saved my dad’s life. He became the 12th person in the world to have a kidney transplant and live. And, I got Dad for 18 more years.

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.

Connect with Mr. Wilson at http://twitter.com/robevanswilson, http://www.linkedin.com/in/graffitiguy, http://www.facebook.com/robevanswilson,
Graffiti Guy Gifts (Funny stuff from Robert Wilson) http://www.cafepress.com/graffitiguy, www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com (Speeches & Seminars), and
www.graffitiguy.net (Comedy Roasts).


Anne Lamott to Speak at St. Edward’s University

BookPeople and St. Edward’s University will present An Evening with Anne Lamott on Saturday, April 9, 2011, at 6:00 p.m. Lamott is the author of fifteen books, including the popular book on the writing life, Bird by Bird. She will speak about writing and about her new book, Imperfect Birds.

Tickets are on sale at BookPeople for $16.50, which includes tax and a copy of Imperfect Birds. For more information about this event, click here.


The Word on Our Members

2010 Sage Award Winner and author Sylvia Dickey Smith and editor and author Helen Ginger will present a workshop at Books ‘N Authors ‘N All That Jazz in Weatherford, TX, on April 30.

In order for readers to love, hate, admire, root for your characters, you must flesh them out to the point where you not only know how they look and where they went to school, but you know how they will react in any situation and what they dream about at night.

Their presentation will take you beyond knowing what characters look like, when they were born and where they live. Instead, it will focus on looking into the core of characters and jazzing them up from one-dimensional paper dolls to breathing, thinking, emotional people.

If you want to create memorable fiction, you must create memorable characters.

10:15 – 11:45 a.m., Saturday, April 30, Workshop

11:45 – 12:45, Saturday, April 30: Q&A Panel Discussion

The workshops are free. Just go to the website and sign up!


“Twenty-two tales of mystery and mayhem from the rising stars of mystery!” ~ Fish Tales’ Facebook page

HoTXSinC member Kaye George’s “The Truck Contest” is one of twenty-two stories published in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long. For a look at more titles and authors, check out the Fish Tales page on Facebook.

Fish Tales is available from Mobipocket now as an eBook. The paperback can be purchased from Amazon.com.


Robin Allen’s Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop mystery series is a cozy, clean, and humorous series that features an Austin, Texas public health inspector. In the debut, If You Can’t Stand the Heat (Midnight Ink, May 8, 2011), Poppy’s territorial stepsister is accused of murdering an insufferable Michelin-rated French chef. Even though she doesn’t like her stepsister, Poppy decides to figure out who really killed him before Poppy is forced to take her stepsister’s place as chef of the family restaurant.

The following Texas tour dates are set:

May 14, 2011 | Saturday
3:00 PM

603 N. Lamar
Austin, Texas 78703

For more information about the book and to read an excerpt (not for the squeamish), visit Robin’s website: http://robinallentx.blogspot.com/

If You Can’t Stand the Heat, has received its first major review: “[A] red-hot saucy debut…Readers will want to see more of this laid-back Austin-style snoop.” –Publisher’s Weekly


Sylvia Dickey Smith received word this week that her latest novel, A War of Her Own, placed first in the Press Women of Texas Communications Contest. Sylvia will be honored  with a presentation at the Awards Dinner, Saturday, April 30, during the annual conference in Georgetown.  Details of the conference are posted on the website presswomenoftexas.org. More information is available at http://www.prlog.org/11408673-texas-author-wins-award-for-novel-of-the-world-war-ii-homefront.html.  Crickhollow Press announces Sylvia’s win on its blog.


Susan Wittig Albert will read, take questions about, and sign copies of her mystery, Mourning Gloria, the 19th book in the China Bayles series at Barnes  & Noble – Arboretum, on April 14, 2011, at 7:00 p.m.


Hear Sylvia Dickey Smith interview recording artist Shannon Micol at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/conversationslive. Click on the link. Then scroll down until you see Sylvia’s interview. Click on the arrow.


Links and Websites

Sisters in Crime’s home page (www.sistersincrime.org) has been updated and redesigned to offer “a more welcoming landing page with a number of new additions.” Read about the changes at the SinC blog, SinC into the Depths of a Good Mystery (http://sisters-in-crime-sinc.blogspot.com/).


Ellen Hart’s March 26 post in the SinC blog announces SinC Links: The EBook Edition, which will arrive in members’ mailboxes the 24th of each month. This initiative, says Hart, is aimed at connecting “members to information that will help them negotiate the transition [from print to digital publications]. Not only that, we want to provide you with the latest information–the best of the web–on what’s happening in the brave new world of e-publishing.”


More from the Sisters in Crime blog, SinC into the Depths of Mystery:

“And the Beat Goes On: Creating Characters with Legs, Part 1andPart 2(Mary Kennedy on “creating characters that go on forever”)
A Useful Tool for the Writer (Dana Stabenow on Google Alerts)


The website Ask a Forensic Artist offers “interviews with real forensic artists, tips and tutorials, news updates, career information, training opportunities, and case studies.” The site’s blog posts updates and items of interest related to the field. Readers may also submit questions via e-mail.


HoTXSinC’s March speaker, Texas Ranger Sgt. Cody Mitchell, spoke of the importance of a law enforcement officer’s ability to clearly articulate his observations in a police report. Elaine Collett’s “The Art of the Police Report,” provides a an interesting look at specific techniques one policeman uses to make his reports both truthful and convincing. This article was recommended by Mary Jo Powell, a member of Austin Mystery Writers. It was excerpted from The Writer’s Chronicle (Dec. 2010), and appears in the March-April 2011 Utne Reader.


Read Gretchen Haertsch’s interview with Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries on Birth of a Novel.


Looking for a writers’ conference (festival, retreat, workshop, community…)? Check out ShawGuides, a comprehensive website that lists writers’ conferences and sponsoring organizations.


Rasana Atreya writes about “Contests to Avoid,” at her blog On Getting Published, Good Books, and Living Goddesses. The site she references, Winning Writers: Best Resources for Poets and Writers, will send e-mail notifications about contests to those who sign up for its mailing list.

For a listing of over 25 legitimate writing contests, subscribe via e-mail to Rasana’s blog.


Founding QueryTracker blogger H. L. Dyer, M.D., posts a two-part lesson on writing an  item “more fearsome than the dreaded query letter!”: the synopsis. Find it on the QueryTracker.net Blog,Quantum of Synopses – Novel Synopsis Basics,” (March 21, 2011) and In Short: Writing a Novel Synopsis That Rocks” (March 23, 2011).


According to LibraryJournal.com, HarperCollins has announced that new e-book titles licensed to libraries will be limited to 26 check-outs before licenses expire. A later LJ article concerns HarperCollins’ response to criticism of that decision.

Kate Sheehan offers a librarian’s opinion on the topic in “We’re For You, Not Against You: A Librarian’s Take On E-book Lending,” which appeared in Publisher’s Weekly on March 14, 2011.


Guest blogger Joel Friedlander discusses How to Get Reviews on Self-Published Books,” on Jane Friedman’s There Are No Rules.

Also found in recent issues of There Are No Rules are the following:

“10 Steps to Secure Your WordPress Blog from Hackers
“How to Start a Professional Newsletter for Free”
“The Most Important Moment in Your Story–a Guest Blog by Larry Brooks” (Routines for Writers)
“Too Much of a Good Thing–Overplotting Your Novel” (The Other Side of the Story)
“Head Hopping as Seen by Publishing Pros” (Flogging the Quill)
“How to Write a Press Release–A Mini-Tutorial” (The Book Designer)
“4 Top Book Formatting Mistakes to Avoid” (The Book Designer)
“Authors, Be Careful Not to Overpay for POD Services” (Marketing Tips for Authors)


And from 1st Turning Point:

“How to Have a Successful Author Reading” (Gerri Russell)
“An Interview with Editor and Author, Ramona Long” (Ann Charles)
“Library Confidential: Secrets to Creating Successful Library Events” (Deborah Schneider)


In “7 Writerly Tools,” Kat Duncan (Write About) has compiled a list of seven Internet resources, including a word counter, a text analyzer (for readability, sentence length, and such), and a visual dictionary.


Keep up with Austin literary events with Literary Austin. The Texas Mystery Month  schedule is posted there.


Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival will be held July 21-24, 2011, at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, England. David Baldacci, Linwood Barclay, Lee Child, Martina Cole, Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lehane and Howard Marks, among others, will be there. Creative Thursday, a day-long writing workshop, is set for July 21.


Austin Public Library now offers, in addition to its Ask a Librarian service, the new Text a Librarian. Patrons can send text messages from mobile phone and receive answer from APL librarians. Phone number and hours appear below:

Text (512) 522-8205
Monday – Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sunday from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m.


Beth Groundwater has announced a new contest celebrating the publication of Deadly Currents, the first in the RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series: “I want to amass a collection of photos of the book in its ‘natural setting,’ meaning bookstores and libraries. So, I’m asking you, my blog readers, to take a photo of Deadly Currents in your local library or bookstore and send it to me at my website.” Entries will be posted on the website. The photographer who sends in the most creative or original picture will win a copy of Deadly Currents. Find details on Beth’s blog. Deadline for submission is midnight on April 15, 2001.


Looking for a way to pass the time? Try MysteryNet.com. It links to mystery games, mystery stories, mystery community, mystery for kids, mystery TV, mystery film,mystery greats…



From the Upstart website: “FLASH SCRIPT: Upstart is having a Flash Film Short Script Contest. Deadline is May 1. Send one- to five-page scripts on any subject in any genre to Upstart, PO Box 365, Bastrop TX 78602 with $5 entry fee. Make sure to include contact information, including e-mail, on cover page. Upstart will produce the winning three scripts and will show them at the Off Kilter Xmas Film Fest in Bastrop in December.”


The 2011 Al Blanchard Award contest is now open for submission. Entry must be a previously unpublished crime story by a New England author or with a New England setting. The winner will receive a $100 prize, publication in Level Best Books’ ninth Crime Fiction anthology, and admission to New England Crime Bake 2011 in November. The Al Blanchard Award will be presented at the conference, but the winner is not required to attend. Deadline for submission is April 30, 2011.


Small Tales, a new anthology of cross-genre short stories, is inviting submissions for its inaugural issue, to be published in August 2011. It looks for short stories up to 5,000 words in all genres except erotica. For more information, visit Introducing…Small Tales. For details on the submission process, visit Small Tales. Submissions close May 31, 2011.


The Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University is sponsoring the Manchester Fiction Prize, an international literary competition. A cash prize of £10,000 will be awarded to the writer of the best short story of up to 3,000 words in length. Deadline for submissions is August 12, 2011. For more information, including online and downloadable entry forms, go to http://www.manchesterwritingcompetition.co.uk/fiction/.


Check out Glimmer Train’s 2011 Submission Schedule here. April’s categories are Family Matters and Standard Story.


The Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition is accepting submissions. Grand prize is $3,000 cash and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City to meet with editors and agents. First prize in each of 10 categories is $1,000 cash and $100 of Writer’s Digest Books. Deadline is May 2, 2011. Late deadline is May 20, 2011.


The Linguini Code at Spaghetti Warehouse

The Capital City Mystery Players will perform The Linguini Code on Saturday,
April 23 at Spaghetti Warehouse in downtown Austin. Price per person for
dinner and show is $33.50 plus tax and gratuity and the fun begins at 7:00.
Call 404-9123 for reservations.



4/1/11   Gemini Ink Free Reading Series presents Vallie Fletcher Taylor and Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, 6:30 p.m.

4/2 & 3/11  Vallie Fletcher Taylor teaches The Story of You, at Gemini Ink, San Antonio, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

4/3/11   History of Mystery Class, BookPeople, 5:00 p.m.

4/4/11     7% Solution Book Club, BookPeople, 7:00 p.m.

4/10/11   HoTXSinC presents Satish Chundru, Travis County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner

4/9/11  MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Libby Fischer Hellman, author of Set the Night on Fire, and Cara Black, author of Murder in Passy, 3:00 p.m.

4/12/11  MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Jason Goodwin, author of An Evil Eye, 7:00 p.m.

4/13/11  MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Joe Lansdale, author of Devil Red, 7:00 p.m.

4/13/11 The Mystery Book Discussion Group at Barnes & Noble–Arboretum will host “Readers Choice,” where attendees will discuss their favorite book in any genre, 7:30 p.m.

4/23 /11  Capital City Mystery Players present The Linguini Code at Spaghetti Warehouse, 7:00 p.m.

4/29 & 30/11 The Northeast Texas Writers’ Organization (NETWO) 25th Spring Writers’ Roundup at Camp Shiloh Retreat on Lake Bob Sandlin. Details at http://www.netwo.org or call 903-572-0580.

5/1/11   History of Mystery Class, BookPeople, 6:00 p.m.

5/2/11   7% Solution Book Club at BookPeople, discussing Heat Wave by Richard

5/7/11  The Writers Toolkit Conference, Houston Writers Guild, Sugarland First Baptist Church. More information is at http://www.houstonwritersguild.org/welcome.html.

5/14/11  MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Robin Allen, author of If You Can’t Stand the Heat, 3:00 p.m.

5/20/2011 Deadline for submissions to Killer Nashville’s Claymore Dagger Award. For more information, go to http://killernashville.com/cokina20claw.html.


April Birthdays

4/6    Robert Bloch aka Collier Young – Psycho
4/12  Scott Turow – Presumed Innocent
4/15  Henry James – The Turn of the Screw
4/16  Gertrude Chandler Warner – The Boxcar Children
4/21  John Mortimer – Rumpole of the Bailey
4/23  Dame Ngaio Marsh – The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries
4/23  William Shakespeare – Hamlet (Did Claudius really pour poison into old King Hamlet’s ear? Prince Hamlet turns sleuth to find out.)
4/24  Anthony Trollope – The Eustace Diamonds
4/24  Sue Grafton – The Alphabet Series
4/28  Lois Duncan – Who Killed My Daughter?
4/29  Jill Paton Walsh – The Sayers Connection


The Editor’s Growlery

Send information for the May 2011 HOTSHOTS! to kathy.davis.waller (at) gmail.com by April 20. Corrections to or omissions from this issue may be reported to that address as well.


The Manchester Fiction Prize, described under Opportunities, carries an entry fee £15.00. As of March 24, 2011, the British Pound Sterling was equal to approximately $1.6212 U. S. Dollars. On that basis, the fee would come to $24.24 or $24.27, or something else, depending on the currency converter used to make the calculation. This information is offered as an estimate only and should not be looked upon as instruction or advice.


Austin Mystery Writers were discussing at a recent meeting the best place in Austin to commit murder–literarily speaking, of course–when one member opined that most murders are probably not planned. The rest of us concurred. The next day, Mary Jo Powell sent the link to “A Stab in the Dark,” whose subtitle states that “most crime isn’t random.” So much for AMW’s theory. It is perhaps testimony of our collective integrity that as potential criminals we are less than proficient. But as mystery writers, we might benefit from a reduction in rectitude. Occasional glances from the young man at a nearby table suggested we were already on the road to ruin.


Leo Babauta blogs about his new ebook, The Little Guide to Un-Procrastination, on zen habits. No further comment on this subject should be necessary.


April is National Poetry Month, sponsored by the American Academy of Poets. On Poetic Asides, Robert Lee Brewer announces the 2011 April PAD (Poem-A-Day) Challenge: Guidelines. Participation is free, and no registration is required.


The 19th Annual Austin International Poetry Festival takes place April 7 – 10, 2011 and is free and open to the public.


This final section of HOTSHOTS! is intended to house anything that doesn’t fit in elsewhere. It began as the Editor’s Atelier, but considering the material that ends up here, that term seems a bit high-flown. A search for the appropriate word is underway. In the interim, this will be termed a Growlery, in honor of Charles Dickens. Though not usually thought of as a mystery writer, Dickens wrote at least two novels–The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Bleak House–which contain murder mysteries. Bleak House, in fact, introduces Inspector Bucket, one of the first detectives in English literature. In that novel, the mild-mannered Mr. Jarndyce has a room he calls his growlery: “When I am out of humour, I come and growl here.” There will be no growling in HOTSHOTS! But for a time, at least, it’s pleasant to live vicariously in the world of Jarndyce and Dickens.


Bluebonnets near Somerville, Texas

Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room
About the woodland I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
~ A. E. Housman

Don’t forget to see the wildflowers.



2 thoughts on “April 2011

  1. Helen Ginger

    Thanks Kathy for all the news and info. I was there for Ranger Mitchell’s presentation. It was a great one! And the recap is great, too, since I didn’t take notes.


Comments are closed.