Tag Archives: Federal Bureau of Investigation

November 2010

My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know. ~ Arthur Conan Doyle, The Blue Carbuncle

Oct.31:

Sherlock Holmes by Paget Image via Wikipedia

We all know Sherlock Homes, the detective.

At HoTXSinC’s November meeting,

Dave Ciambrone

provides insight into

Sherlock Holmes, The Man: Who Is He?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2:00 p.m.

Barnes & Noble at the Village in Westlake

For our November 14th Sisters in Crime meeting, David Ciambrone will discuss “Sherlock Holmes, the Man:  Who Is He?”

Dr. David Ciambrone is a retired scientist, Oceanographer, professor, magician, US Treasury Commissioner, environmental and forensics consultant, manager and corporate director, and author living in Georgetown, Texas with his wife Kathy. He has published six Virginia Davies Mysteries: Laguna Treasure, Napa Nights, Pelican Cove, Castle Finlaystoke, Left at Georgetown and Quest for the Crystal Skull. He is also the author of the Adam Thomas series mystery with the first novel, San Gabriel’s Secret. Another Adam Thomas mystery is scheduled for 2011 and another Virginia Davies mystery is in the works for a 2012 release.  Dr. Ciambrone has also published three management books for Taylor and Francis. He has also written a handbook for mystery writers called The Poison Handbook for Writers.

Dave has been a speaker at writers’ groups, schools and colleges, and conferences internationally. He does talks about how to commit murder right, (Murder 101), poisons, forensics, mystery writing and various writing topics. He has been past vice president of Sisters in Crime, Orange County, California; President of Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas chapter in Austin, Texas; a member of Mystery Writers of America, Member of the Board of Directors of the Writer’s league of Texas, Austin Mystery Writers and past president of the San Gabriel’s Writer’s League in Georgetown, and a member of the Williamson County Coroners. He has been appointed to the Georgetown Library Advisory Board by the City of Georgetown.

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.

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

Looking Backward: HoTXSinC’s October Program

How to Spot a P.I.

Ernesto (“Ernie”) Patino, former music teacher, FBI agent, and currently an experienced Private Investigator and author, shared some of his experiences and insights on how to create a believable P.I. in mystery stories.

Ernie started his career as a music teacher but decided teaching was not his life’s path. An opportunity arose for him to join the FBI and he did. After training he took an undercover role in Austin, where his guitar case, a perfect prop based on his previous music experience, added to his cover. After being the sole contact in the agency for the deep undercover agent, Ernie was reassigned to Puerto Rico and later Miami. He retired from the agency after twenty-three years and began a new life.

Mr. Patino provided us with some specifics for creating a believable P.I. character in our novels. Following are the six highlights:

The P.I. Character in a Mystery Novel

1.  Background: must explain what makes him qualified to be an investigator.

  • Former cop
  • Former federal agent
  • Other – worked for a licensed P.I., as in in-house investigator for a large company, ex-military investigator, etc.

2.  P.I. Business

  • How long has he been a P.I?
  • Work alone or with a partner, large P.I. firm, law firm, etc.
  • Have an office or work out of his home
  • Specialize in a particular kind of case: missing persons, divorce matters, civil, criminal cases, etc.
  • Does he do his own research or does he rely on someone else to do it for him?

3.  Personal Life

  • Married, divorced/single (have a girlfriend?)
  • Physical appearance: good looking, thin, heavyset, etc.
  • Personality: cocky, soft-spoken, flamboyant, etc.
  • Personal flaws: heavy drinker, womanizer, gambler, etc.

4.  Carry a gun?

  • What type: revolver, pistol, etc.
  • May determine what kind of cases he handles.

5.  Professional contacts and connections.

  • Have friends in the P.D., courthouse,the morgue, etc.
  • Informants: bartenders, hookers, cab drivers, strippers, doormen, etc.
  • Network with other private investigators.

6.  Reputation as a P.I.

  • Is he respected by other private investigators? Police and federal agents?
  • Does he bend the rules/laws if he thinks it will help his client?
  • Does he work on a high-profile cases that generate a lot of publicity?

Big Blend” online. There, in the “Ask Ernie” column, find insightful answers to some of our questions.

Thank you, Ernie, for your time and the information provided. May our P.I’s more accurately represent these faithful, interesting, albeit nondescript characters. How better to blend in?

Sue Vertrees

by Sue Vertrees, Assistant Editor


A Word from the President

Dave Ciambrone

The September Sisters in Crime / Georgetown Police Crime Scene Workshop went very well. The people I spoke to afterwards said they learned a lot and had a good time. SINC made some money on it as well. We also had some lessons learned should we do it again. We had approximately forty people there. It was a success.

The Word from Our Members

So You Want to Be a P.I.

Me, too! It’s been my dream my whole life, all twenty-two years of it. I’m Immy, by the way, Imogene Duckworthy. I live in the little town of Saltlick, TX, but it’s pretty close to a big city. Wymee Falls has stoplights, a big library, a shopping mall, and lots of other big city things.

Mike Mallett, my boss, is teaching me how to become a PI. He already is one. For instance, files are supposed to be in alphabetical order first, and then in date order second. I’ve also learned that PIs are out of the office a lot, talking to clients and watching people. Spying on them, really. It sounds exciting, but believe me, it’s not. I’ve tried it. Pret-ty borrring.

In Texas, it’s hard to become a real PI. First you have to have an agency. To get to be a licensed agency you have to follow a whole bunch of rules, like have three years experience, pass a hard test, and prove that you have liability insurance. I know that because I have to send in Mike’s insurance payments as part of my job. (My title is receptionist, but I’m pretty sure Mike expects me to become a PI eventually.)

I’m taking an online course so I can get my new title as soon as possible. My course is from Stangford Institute of Higher Learning. I know it’s a reputable online school because the S is so fancy. You’d have to see it to believe it. I aced the first test, in Crime Scene. I don’t think Mike goes to many actual crime scenes, but when he does, I’ll be able to assist him.

I’ve learned about disguises and interrogations from my online course book, too (I read ahead sometimes). I feel so lucky that Wymee Falls has a costume shop where I can get all kinds of disguises. Sometimes I take cases to investigate on my own. I can’t charge anything until I get my license (whenever that will be), but I want to be ready and I like to help people solve their problems. Disguises come in handy.

To become a real PI, license and all (and maybe my name on the door), Texas makes you do all this stuff:

  • be at least 18 years of age;
  • not have been convicted, in any jurisdiction, of a felony level offense;
  • not have been convicted, in any jurisdiction, of a Class A or equivalent misdemeanor;
  • not have been convicted, within the past 5 years, in any jurisdiction, of a Class B misdemeanor or equivalent offense;
  • not currently charged with, or under indictment for, a felony, or a Class A misdemeanor;
  • not currently charged with, a Class B misdemeanor;
  • not have been found by a court to be incompetent by reason of a mental defect or disease and not have been restored to competency;
  • not have been dishonorably discharged from the United States armed services, discharged from the United States armed services under other conditions determined by the Board to be prohibitive, or dismissed by the United States armed services if a commissioned office in the United States armed services;
  • not be required to register in this or any other state as a sex offender.

See? It’s pretty complicated. Sometimes I wish I lived in Alaska or Idaho, or someplace like that where you don’t even have to have a PI license. But then I would be far away from my family, my mother Hortense and my daughter Nancy Drew Duckworthy. I couldn’t stand that!

All in all, I’m glad I live in Texas, and I’m working on not being charged with any felonies, or Class A or B misdemeanors. I think I have the rest of it nailed, although some people would disagree on the mental part, I think.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Immy used these sites for sources. She’s very adept at getting around the Internet.

http://www.tali.org/licensing_requirements.htm

http://www.einvestigator.com/links/license.htm

submitted by Kaye George on behalf of Imogene Duckworthy

Kaye George’s first Imogene Duckworthy mystery, CHOKE, will be published by Mainly Murder Press in May 2011.

Nancy Drew bookcover

Nancy Drew Book Cover Image by Crafting with Cat Hair via Flickr

The Word on Our Members

Kaye George

Kaye George has published a short story collection, A PATCHWORK OF STORIES, which includes her Agatha-nominated story. It’s $2.99 at both Smashwords and Amazon. Links to both are provided at http://kayegeorge.com/

Kaye describes her publication process in her blog, Travels with Kaye: A Patchwork of Stories (October 13) and Not Quite There Yet (October 27).

Since Kaye obviously has made it there, we look forward to reading the rest of her story. ~ Ed.

*

Robin Allen

The release date for Robin Allen‘s humorous amateur sleuth mystery, IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT, A POPPY MARKHAM: CULINARY COP MYSTERY, is May 8, 2011. Additional information is available on her blog: http://robinallentx.blogspot.com/ and on the Midnight Ink website: http://www.midnightinkbooks.com /product.php?ean=9780738726076.

Why yes, that is a hot dog on her badge.

*

Dave Ciambrone will sign copies of his new book, QUEST FOR THE CRYSTAL SKULL, on November 20, at Hill Country Books in Georgetown.

*

Jan Grape

Long-time friends, Marble Falls resident Jan Grape and former resident Russ Hall, will appear November 27th from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at the Book Shop, 212 Main in Old Downtown (Georgetown) to sign their books and visit with friends.

Grape, a multi-nominated, award-winning author of the Zoe Barrow series, has spun agripping Texas tale full of quirky characters and a pinch of real Texas dust in the air. Jan will sign her latest, WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU. She will also have copies of her Austin policewoman books, AUSTIN CITY BLUE and DARK BLUE DEATH.

Here’s what national reviewers are saying about their books:

WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, Jan Grape

Publisher’s Weekly
The brutal stabbing of nursing student Vickee Allen drives this disturbing mystery from Grape (Dark Blue Death). Cory, who believes TyTy is innocent, turns amateur detective, while her store-owner uncle, Giff Purvis, reluctantly pitches in his two cents. . . this grim morality tale eventually tumbles to a nail-biting finale.

Genre Go Round Reviews
Sometimes you get what you wish for as soon as the teen heroine opens her mouth that nothing happens in Bent Bell they find the corpse.  Cory is a courageous caring person who, though upset with TyTy and saddened with Vickee’s vicious death, investigates with youthful innocence. — Harriet Klausner

BONES OF THE RAIN, Russ Hall

Genre Go Round Reviews
Austin private eye Travis is a “Blue-
Eyed Indian” half-breed. His DNA means nothing to country music rising star Johnny Gringo, who hires him . . .Bones of the Rain is an entertaining regional private investigative tale. Trav is a fabulous lead. . .the story line is loaded and brings a sense of how vast and diverse the Lone Star State is as readers will observe the differences between the capital and Hill Country. — Harriet Klausner

SOUTH AUSTIN VAMPIRE, Russ Hall

Publisher’s Weekly
Hall skillfully captures Austin’s music scene through the rueful eyes of his laid-back sleuth. . .

Library Journal Review
Enchanted by the unusually beautiful voice of singer Lola Pilloccherosi, PI Travis (Bones of the Rain) is shocked to find that she has been murdered, her body drained of blood. Then other bodies, with punctures in their necks, are discovered, followed by alarming media reports about a vampire on the loose in Austin, TX. Travis, one of the most unassuming and altruistic sleuths of late, with the help of his ex-girlfriend Cassie and her hard-as-nails sister, Joz, tracks down the bad guys. VERDICT: Tongue-in-cheek humor and larger-than-life Texas characters add to this mystery’s charms.

The Mystery Gazette
. . . an engaging Austin whodunit in which the city’s music scene and the accompanying underbelly make for a fun atmospheric investigation. . . .fans will enjoy Trav’s Texas two-step trot.  ~ Harriet Klausner

*

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.

*

Well-known radio personality Tumbleweed Smith recently spent the afternoon at Sylvia Dickey Smith’s house, interviewing her for his The Sound of Texas radio program. They talked about Orange, Texas, during World War II, and about Sylvia’s latest book, A WAR OF HER OWN, which is set in Orange during the war. They also discussed other books Sylvia has written.

Sylvia expects the interview to air early in 2011.

*

Helen Ginger

Helen Ginger and Sylvia Dickey Smith will present a dog and pony show for the Books N Authors & All That Jazz conference April 30, 2011, at Weatherford College in Weatherford, Texas. They will speak on “Jazzing Up Your Characters.”

Sylvia Dickey Smith

Sylvia will also present another session: Writing Strong Women.

The Writer’s Corner

Last month’s prompt was, The dog ran

Kaye George developed the core sentence thus:

The dog ran. Trouble was, hot dogs are supposed to be solid, not
liquid. But the dang thing slid right outta the bun onto my sneaker.
I’d have to think of something else to deep-fry for the fair next
year. ~ Kaye George

This month’s prompt:

Merle slipped

Expand Merle slipped into a sentence, or a paragraph, of approximately forty words. E-mail it to kathy.davis.waller (at) gmail.com. Publication is practically guaranteed.

Blogs and Websites

More on Holmes

Sherlock Holmes Public Library
http://sherlock.mindcop.net/

Text–Facsimiles of the four novels and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as they appeared in the Strand Magazine. (Links to the contents of other titles resulted in a 404 error on 10/30.10.)

Audio–Recordings in MP3 format of novels and stories, many by Basil Rathbone and Tom Conway.

Links–Sherlock Holmes-related links, including Old Time Radio (more than Holmes–some downloadable for free) and Societies

*

Good news! In The Book Deal: An Inside View of Publishing, consulting editor Alan Rinzler writes that “Mystery and Crime Fiction is Bloody Blooming!” (October 27)

*

At SinC into the Depths of Mystery, Joyce Tremel aids writers setting out on the “dreaded query process.” See “So, You Want to Know About Query Letters?” (October 7, 2010)

*

E-publisher Books to Go Now, http://www.bookstogownow.com, is accepting submissions of short stories between 2,500 and 10,000 words. Check submission guidelines.

*

Jane Friedman compiles Best Tweets for Writers at There Are No Rules.

NaNoWriMo

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul …– then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Melville chased whales to cheer himself up. Contemporary writers keep the blues at bay by chasing words. For the details, read on.

National Novel Writing Month–NaNoWriMo–started at 12:01 a.m., Monday, November 1.  The goal: to write a complete novel, from scratch, before midnight on November 30. Official participants who write at least 50,000 words and upload them to the NaNo site for confirmation of word count are WINNERS and receive a certificate (suitable for framing, we presume).

Register at the NaNo website (http://www.nanowrimo.org/user/register) and get started. Write-ins are planned throughout the Austin region. It’s free and just for fun.

NaBloPoMo

National Blog Posting Month began November 1 as well. Really.

The goal is to post to your blog every day in November. Read about the event and register at the NaBlo website (http://www.nablopomo.com/). You may post on your own blog, on your page at the NaBlo site, or at both sites. NaBlo will also display a link to your blog on its blogroll. Like NaNoWriMo, it’s free and for fun.

It’s not necessary to join the “contest” or to post every day to use NaBloPoMo. The site is available all year.

Editor’s Atelier

Mea Culpa

The title of Gale Hathcock Albright’s short story that won first place in the Brazos Writers Writing Contest last summer is “Taffy and Lomita.” And Gale’s YA novel EVE won the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest in 2008. Those are the facts that should have appeared in the October 2010 issue of Hotshots!, not what did appear. I apologize for the errors. ~ KW

*

Belated Birthday Wishes

Agatha Christie plaque -Torre Abbey portret

Image via Wikipedia

We regret missing the celebration of Agatha Christie‘s 12oth birthday last September. It’s never too late, however, to read and reread Christie’s stories and novels. Several recent publications and a website offer more information about the writer’s personal life as well as about her work.

Agatha Christie: An Autobiography 2010 includes a CD of voice recordings Christie made forty years ago. (Christie’s biography was originally published in 1977.)

Hilary Macaskill’s Agatha Christie at Home (2009)

Laura Thompson’s Agatha Christie: An English Mystery (2007)

Richard Hack’s Duchess of Death: The Unauthorized Biography of Agatha Christie (2009)

John Curran’s Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making (2009) offers insight into Christie’s methods by close analysis of seventy-three private notebooks. The volume also contains two previously unpublished Poirot stories.

Agatha Christie–a comprehensive Christie website: books, timeline, chat, blogs (including her grandson Mathew’s blog), and games. Sign up there for the newsletter. Even sell or swap Christie products through classified ads.

*

Next Month’s Hotshots!

Please e-mail information for next month’s Hotshots! to kathy.davis.waller (at) gmail.com by November 20.

*

Happy Thanksgiving

*

Photo Credits

Image of Holmes by Paget is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

Image of Nancy Drew book cover courtesy of Crafting with Cat Hair under Creative Commons license. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en

Image of Agatha Christie–Used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
Subject to disclaimers.

Images of leaves released to the public domain by Titus Tscharntke; courtesy of burningwell.org

Other images used by permission of author.

Related Articles

The following list of articles was electronically generated by Zemanta, based on the content of Hotshots!

Advertisements

October 2010

The Truth about Private Investigators:
Cr
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.

********************

Events

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.