December 2011

December 10 HoTXSinC Meeting

HoTXSinC Members

Mike & Karen Cross


Christmas Mysteries

English: Ilex species; Common Holly. I noticed...

Image via Wikipedia

Our December 11 Sisters in Crime meeting features Mike and Karen Cross.  The Cross’s discovered, through a conversation about Clyde Barrow, that they had mutual ancestors and were related to Jan Grape, one of our famous local authors.  This was their introduction to Sisters in Crime.  Karen has volunteered and substituted in schools for many years.  Mike, who lost his vision when he was a child, has a master’s degree in mathematics. He is currently writing a book to help the blind use computers and is also writing a memoir about his family.

Mike and Karen love all things Christmas and love mysteries.  That has led to a tradition of collecting and reading Christmas mysteries.  They have found that was a great way to get into the holiday spirit as well as to discover new authors.  There are Christmas stories to cover every mood; some have recipes or crafts, some are humorous, some are sexy, and some address the spiritual issues or the disappointments that can occur during the Christmas season.

Come to our December 11 meeting to share in the discussion of Christmas mysteries.

If you have any Christmas mystery books or stories that you have read and would like to trade to other members, please bring them.


Clyde Barrow mugshot, 1932

Clyde Barrow Mug Shot, 1932--Image via Wikip


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.

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


Before & After the Meeting    

Before our meeting on December 11, 2011, we invite you to join us for lunch around 12:30 p.m. at Hangtown Grill at The Village at Westlake Shopping Center–down the drive from Barnes & Noble Westlake.  They have a selection of burgers and sandwiches, and you can usually get a meal for about $10.00.

After the meeting we will be taking to dinner our speakers Karen and Mike Cross at La Madeleine Westlake around the corner from Hangtown Grill, at the opposite end from Barnes & Noble along the same drive.  They have a selection of entrees, and a buffet with salads and quiche and soup and of course desserts.  You can usually get a meal there for $10.00-$15.00.


Book Review

NOBLESSE OBLIGE by Cynthia Smith

Review by Vallie Fletcher Taylor

This was my first introduction to Ms. Emma Rhodes and it could not have occurred at a more precipitous moment. I was alone at the ranch listening to blustery winds howl, watching assorted terrified cats race for shelter beneath pieces of furniture as unfamiliar   thunder claps shook windows and enjoying the magnification of sound as each drop of relentless rain collided with our metal roof. This was the arrival of our long-awaited whopper of a storm doing its best to soak this portion of drought parched Texas.

To add to nature’s welcome drama, the mail woman arrived at my front door to deliver a package so I would not drown making my way down a hilly private road to reach my rural mail box. How perfect! A fire was blazing and the package contained a book I had never read.

Emma Rhodes is a woman whom most female readers will either want to cheer on and adopt as a role model or dislike intensely due to jealousy dealing with her championship attributes.

Ms. Rhodes is intensely intelligent, outrageously outspoken, fiercely competitive and powerfully aware of her effect on the opposite sex. She will not hesitate to explain that all men fall in love with her and that she has had more proposals than she can count.

The story begins in Brussels, where she thwarts the kidnapping of a young boy by throwing a rock at the driver of the get-away car. Before you can say, “Thwack,” the driver is knocked senseless, the boy is saved, and our gal Emma is approached by a high police authority with “startling deep blue eyes.” He is just the first in a line of handsome police authorities in several countries with whom Emma will eventually work.

Inspector Heist (I did not make this up) takes Emma to visit little Juanito’s grateful family, who just happen to live in the palace. With her “instant comprehension and superb insight,” Emma is able to grasp that she is speaking with none other than Queen Fabiola of Belgium.

Pretending to be a writer, since nobody understands what a Private Resolver is, Ms Rhodes accepts the job of finding Bernardo, husband of the queen’s niece and father of Juanito. In taking on clients who have problems to be resolved, Rhodes explains that she only deals with wealthy people and that is why she is able to own and maintain an apartment on New York’s Fifth Ave., a flat on King’s Road in London, and a casita overlooking the ocean in Portugal. Her constant travels have helped her to remain fluent in a number of third-world languages, aiding her greatly with her assigned task of locating Bernardo. There are terrorists who inhabit the world she has suddenly stepped into.

Returning to the palace to attend the Queen’s ball, Emma meets Luis (“He was the exact replica of Tyrone Power.”) who, along with his family, becomes important to the unraveling of this implausible ball of yarn. They are stimulating characters but readers must wonder what concealed motives and clandestine methods are buried beneath the façade of their flourishing business.

I suspect that author Cynthia Smith enjoyed a lot of tongue-in-cheek moments as she created Emma Rhodes, her story, and the characters who help, or hinder, her problem resolving. The more Emma speaks to the reader about her magnificent beauty, her extraordinary intelligence, and the persistent pursuit of men who are so attracted to her, the more familiar this story became. Surely, I have not met another heroine like Emma.

Then it hit me… I live down the road from one who has told me identical stories. My friend, we’ll call her Dee, was under the influence of both booze and drugs. Due to a wealthy father and generous divorce settlement from a Texas cattle baron, she maintained the services of a special drug courier who delivered her stash of designer marijuana directly to her ranch for years. Then, she cleaned up her act and now is embarrassed over her imagined grandeur.

Emma, it seems, is too smart to give in to substances that would mess with her mind. So, I hope that Ms. Smith lets her come out and play in more exotic locales as she outwits the bad guys and causes susceptible swains to vow ceaseless allegiance to her charms. Readers will find this remarkable lady is quite engaging and await her next adventure into the Land of Superlatives.

Vallie Fletcher Taylor is  the author of Spirits of Texas and Eyes in the Alley: Memories of San Antonio and the Great Depression. A member of HoTXSinC, she can be contacted at vallie46 (at)

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


The Word on Our Members and Friends

The next book in George Arnold and Ken Squier’s Detective Craig Rylander Clover-Mystery Series, will be on the shelves of Barnes & Noble and available at the second week of January. Through a special arrangement with Eakin Press, advance copies of UNDERCURRENTS: The Van Pelt Enigma may be purchased at a pre-production price of $20.00, tax and shipping included. Copies will be signed by both authors and inscribed to the person(s) of your choice.

At 368 pages, UNDERCURRENTS is fully 50% longer than ENIGMA, the introductory book to the series. For those who may not have yet read ENIGMA, a limited number of signed and inscribed first editions are available at the same $20.00 price.

For more information, see


 Opportunities lists contests and more for mystery writers. Subscribe to the newsletter here.



Jane Austen

Jane Austen--Image via Wikipedia

Mark Twain, who despised the works of Jane Austen, wrote, “It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.” According to author Lindsay Ashford, Austen’s death might not have been natural at all. For the details, read “Jane Austen ‘died from arsenic poisoning,'” in The Guardian.

(Twain was right about most things, but he was dead wrong about Jane. ~ Ed.)


For a list of writing contests, consult In Reference to Murder.


For information–and warnings–about entering contests, see the Writer Beware page on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website.


Kristy Lahoda explains the differences between low explosives and high explosives in “Forensics Q&A: Not All Explosives Are Created Equal,” on

*’s compilation of “Essential QT Blog Posts” appears here.


“Amazon Won’t Pay Self-Published Author for Books It Mistakenly Gave Away.” Read about it at


“If you write fiction, you NEED this book.” Read more of Kaye George’s review of the ebook Writers’ Devils: The Grammar Guide for Fiction Authors.


Read about the history of the literary agent in “The New World of Publishing: Why Bad Agent Information Gets Taught,” in The Writings and Opinions of Dean Wesley Smith.



12/28/11 @ 7:00 p.m. – Hard Word Book Club discusses Nineteen Seventy-Four: The Red Riding Quartet, Book One by David Peace


1/18/12 @ 7:00 p.m.-  Taylor Stevens will speak and sign the second book in her Vanessa Michael Munroe series, The Innocent (Crown; $26.00; 12/27/11) – MysteryPeople @ BookPeople


1/22/12 @ 3:00 p.m. – James Carlos Blake will speak and sign his new novel, Country of Bad Wolfes – MysteryPeople @ BookPeople


1/27/12 @ 7:00 p.m. – R. J. Ellory will speak and sign his award-winning novel, A Quiet Vendetta (Overlook Press; $25.95; 1/5/12) – Mystery People @ BookPeople


HoTXSinC 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 10 – Satish Chundru, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner
  • May – Texas Mystery Month
  • May 15 – Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Event
  • 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 – Hector Gomez: Lone Star Fugitive Task Force
  • 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

HoTXSinC 2012 Program Schedule

  • January 8 – Detective Ruben Vasquez presents “Murder Investigation Step by Step”
  • February 13 – Gordon A. Bowers presents “Property and Evidence Management”
  • March 13 – Durriyah Chinwalla presents “Banking as You Don’t Know It, or Laughter Is the Best Medicine


Nolo Contendere

Please send news for the January 2012 issue of HOTSHOTS! to katherine.waller68 (at) by December 27.


As always, if you find errors or omissions in this (or any other) issue of HOTSHOTS!, please notify me at katherine.waller68 (at) Blogs are forgiving–I can easily make necessary changes.


Christmas tree in Texas

Christmas Tree in Texas--Image via Wikipedia


Image by ShellyS via Flickr

Happy Kwanzaa Card

Image by bon_here via Flickr


Image of Clyde Barrow by FBI.Wildhartlivie at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Image of Jane Austen courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Image of Christmas tree in Texas courtesy of photographer, released to public domain.

Image of menorah by ShellyS via flickr, CC BY-NC-SA-2.0  

Image of Happy Kwanzaa card by bon_here via flickr, CC BY-NC-2.0


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