Tag Archives: Texas Book Festival

October 2011

October 9 HoTXSinC Meeting

Marian K. Williams

Postal Inspector/Public Information Officer, Houston Division

U. S. Postal Service Service

presents

The U.S. Postal Service Is Also a Crime Fighter

Sisters in Crime is happy to have Marian K. Williams as our speaker on October 9.  Marian is the Postal Inspector/Public Information Officer, Houston Division, for the U. S. Postal Service.

United States Postal Inspection Service

Image via Wikipedia

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First appointed in 1772, Postal Inspectors were America’s first federal law enforcement officers. As the primary law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service supports and protects the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure, and customers, enforces the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use, and ensures public trust in the mail. To learn more, visit http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov.

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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.

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Before & After the Meeting                                                                          

Before the meeting on October 9, 2011, HoTXSinC invites you to join us for lunch around 12:30 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 speaker, Marian K. Williams of the Postal Inspection Service, to La Madeleine Westlake, around the corner from Hangtown Grill, at the opposite end from Barnes & Noble, along the same drive.  La Madeleine has a selection of entrees, and a buffet with salads, quiche, soup, and, of course, desserts.  You can usually get a meal there for $10.00 to$15.00.

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SinC Celebrates 25th Anniversary

October marks the beginning of Sisters in Crime’s 25th anniversary celebration. All chapters are encouraged to participate. To see how some chapters are celebrating, click here.

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2011 Texas Book Festival 

The 16th Texas Book Festival will be held at the Texas State Capitol on October 22 and 23. More that 250 authors will be in attendance. The official poster is Mark Burckhardt’s Full Cry.

Steven Saylor at the 2007 Texas Book Festival,...

Stephen Saylor at the 2007 Texas Book Festival - Image via Wikipedia

Mystery authors participating in the 2011 Texas Book Festival include Austin Bay, Kathy Reichs, Stephen Saylor, Margaret Coel, Joe Lansdell, and Jim Lehrer.

For more information about the Texas Book Festival, click here.

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Scott Montgomery on Bouchercon: “That was fun,” or “Scarred for life”

Scott Montgomery, Crime Fiction Coordinator at MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s “store-within-a-store,” sat down with us in the BookPeople coffee shop to share some of his experiences at last month’s Bouchercon, the world’s largest crime fiction conference.

Bouchercon XLII (2011) was held in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 15-18. Named for mystery fiction critic, editor, and author Anthony Boucher, the conference has been held in a different city each year since 1970. Between 1500 and 2000 people attended this year; more than 150 authors were in attendance.

Named “Stunt Coordinator” (“crazy guy for ideas”) by 2011 chairman Jon Jordan of Crimespree magazine, Scott moderated a special evening panel discussion: “Bad Seed: Sex, Violence, and Bad Language: Everything That Makes a Book Great.” He also chose the panel members: authors Scott Phillips, Jonathan Woods, Ben Whitmer, Craig Johnson, Chris Holmes, John Rector, and Christa Faust. S. J. Rozan, though not officially on the program, sat in on the discussion as well. Scott joked that, after sitting through the lively discussion, members of the audience reported two reactions: “That was a fun panel,” or, “I’m scarred for life.”

Scott also moderated a panel focusing on crime fiction that takes place in the West. He noted that in Indianapolis two years ago, a similar panel included only one woman. Three of the five participants on this year’s panel were women.

Asked about other trends, Scott said that more women are writing noir fiction, and that they’re “going new places where male authors haven’t”: writing honest depictions of sexuality and relationships. He mentioned Christa Faust (whose Choke Hold is MysteryPeople’s Pick-of-the-Month) and Kelley Armstrong (Exit Strategy).

He also said that rural noir is “taking off.” As examples, he noted Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone, Frank Bill’s Crimes in Southern Indiana, and Peter Farris’ Last Call for the Living.

Scott characterizes the authors who attend Bouchercon as both writers of mysteries and fans of the genre; they appreciate their fans and are happy to be among them. He advises soon-to-be-published writers to attend to network–meet readers and other authors, and get blurbs for upcoming publications.

Bouchercon, however, is not all about books. This year’s conference included a basketball game, a bowling tournament, and a dance with music provided by Max Allan Collins’ ’60s band, Cruisin’.

Ending our talk on a more serious note, Scott said that the late David Thompson, publisher and publicity manager of Houston’s Murder by the Book bookstore, was to have served as co-chair of this year’s conference. Thompson’s sudden death just over a year ago left a void felt keenly other conference planners. They set out to put on a conference their friend would have been proud of. When Bouchercon was over, Scott said, all involved agreed they had accomplished their goal.

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Scott Montgomery is Crime Fiction Coordinator at BookPeople’s MysteryPeople. He informs buyers about mystery fiction, blogs, interviews authors, coordinates author events, teaches the History of Mystery class, hosts the History of Mystery book club, and maintains MysteryPeople.

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Premeditated Prose

This month’s fiction selection is “Jacob Grimm, Hollywood P.I.,” by Gale Albright. Gale 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. She originally authored this story using the nom de plume Gale Hathcock.

“Jacob Grimm, Hollywood P.I.” chronicles just another day in the life of a legendary West Coast gumshoe. 

Jacob Grimm, Hollywood P.I.

By Gale Albright

 It was going to be another hot, sultry day. A puff of gritty wind whipped a newspaper down the cracked pavement in front of my office. It wrapped around my Wingtips for a moment. The headline read “Studio Mogul’s Daughter Killed in Fiery Crash.” I kicked the paper away and climbed the narrow, dingy flight of stairs between Jake’s Barbershop and Harley’s Liquor Store. My office was at the top of a dim landing‑‑dim because the cheapskate landlord never heard of a light bulb bigger than 25 watts. The top half of the door was frosted glass, stenciled with my name: Jacob Grimm, Private Investigator.

My office was a dingy little dump. All I had was a big, scarred desk littered with papers and overflowing ashtrays, a couple of cracked leather chairs and a beat‑up file cabinet. I didn’t have a fancy peroxide blonde secretary waiting for me with a cup of hot coffee in her manicured paws. I didn’t have an office on Sunset Boulevard or Hollywood and Vine like some of my well‑heeled competitors. I was strictly the low‑rent type.

I sat down in my creaky swivel chair and called the answering service. A tired female voice answered. “Grimm Investigations.”

“Hi, doll. This is the old man. You got any hot tips for me?”

Her voice turned surly. “Just one, Mr. Grimm. There’s a Mister Babe Bear wants to talk to you. Something about a missing person. His number is Fairfield 975.”

I wrote down the address and number. Hey, maybe some rich hubby was looking for his runaway wife. Maybe I could get some moola today. “Anything else, sweetheart?”

“Mr. Grimm, the boss wants to know when you’re gonna pay your bill. It’s two months overdue right now and…”

“What? You haven’t got the check yet? Doll, I mailed that two weeks ago. Are you sure? Maybe it got lost in a file or something.”

A man’s voice came on the line. “Look, Mr. Grimm, this is Chick Little, and I’m telling you unless you pay up by noon on Friday, you can kiss this answering service goodbye. We don’t do business with deadbeats!”

“Take it easy, pal. It’s not like the sky’s falling down or nothing.”

He kept on squawking, so I clicked down the receiver.

I called this Bear guy up. A snooty sounding dame answered the phone. “Bear residence. May I ask who’s calling, please?”

“Hey doll, this is Jacob Grimm. I got a call from a character named Bear. Would that be you, honey?”

I could hear her heavy, ragged breathing. “I’m afraid you’re mistaken, young man. You must have the wrong number. Please don’t call back.” Then the dame slammed the phone in my ear.

I lit a Lucky Strike and picked the tobacco off my lips. I knew that dame was lying, just as sure as I knew Joe DiMaggio was the Yankee Clipper. Acting on a hunch, I put on my fedora, straightened my tie, and headed down the stairs and out to the cabstand.

When I found a hack driver I told him to head out for 1725 Woodsy Way and make it snappy. He tried to start a dumb conversation, but I ixnayed that. I didn’t have time to listen to some hack driver’s life story. “Just drive, buddy. Leave the entertainment to Jack Benny.”

Woodsy Way was an old neighborhood that had seen better days. Most of the houses could use some paint, and I noticed a couple of “For Sale” signs in the front yards. I paid off the hack and strolled down to 1725. It was a little white cottage with a sagging front porch and some tired old trees drooping over it. A sign in the front window said “Room to Rent.” So much for Mrs. Rockefeller on the telephone–I knew that dame was a phony with that high‑toned act. This street was strictly on the skids.

I strolled across the withered yard and stepped into the porch shade. It was a scorcher alright. I took off my hat and wiped my forehead with the back of my sleeve. I grabbed the tarnished brass knocker and rapped it hard against the front door. I must have stood there rapping that damn knocker for a good five minutes. Finally, the door creaked open about an inch. I saw a bloodshot eye peeking through the crack. “What do you want? If you’re selling something please go away.”

It was Mrs. Rockefeller. I shoved the door open with my shoulder. A skinny little dame in a flowered housecoat and high-heeled mules stood weaving in the dim foyer.

“Oh,” she gasped, and I caught a whiff of gin.

“Hey doll, I’m Jacob Grimm. Remember our little phone conversation? I’m here to see Babe.”

Her eyes widened and she blew some more gin breath on me. “Young man, I told you not to call back.”

I elbowed past her and walked into the living room. “Hey, is there a Babe Bear here?” I yelled into the gloom.

The old bat stumbled into the room after me and headed for the phone. “I warned you. I’m calling the police,” she said, only it sounded like “poleesh.”

Suddenly, out of the dark hallway, a young guy appeared and took the phone away from her. “Please mother,” he said in this real soft voice, “Don’t do that. Just go to your room and lie down.” He was a short guy, maybe in his mid‑thirties, with wavy red hair and thick glasses. I pegged him for a real mama’s boy.

“Babe, make him go away,” she said, beginning to stagger.

Babe grabbed her arm and took her down the hall. I heard the floorboards creak and a door close gently.

The living room was crammed with bric‑a‑brac and overstuffed furniture. I had to try three chairs before I found one that was just right. It was hotter than a Turkish bath. The old lady must be part lizard to live like this. When Babe came back, I motioned him out on the porch where it was only about a hundred and ten degrees. I took off my hat and lit up a butt. I offered one to Babe, but he shook his head primly. “No thanks, I never indulge. Mother doesn’t like it.”

I shrugged and took a deep drag. “Okay, pal, you got a missing person around here? If you need somebody found, I’m your man.”

Babe chewed on his lips and looked anxiously at the front door. “There’s a girl who stays here. She’s renting a room, I mean. And, uh, I haven’t seen her since last Tuesday night.”

“What’s her name, pal?”

His voice got dreamy. “Goldie. Her name’s Goldie Lox. She’s twenty‑one and very pretty. She’s got long, blonde, curly hair and big blue eyes.”

I could tell the guy was stuck on this Goldie dame. “You got a picture?”

He shook his head. “No. But she’s been in the movies. She works as an extra for King Studios. She was about to get a big part when she disappeared.”

Goldilocks Gardner, the third daughter of Mast...

Image via Wikipedia

“What makes you think she disappeared,” I asked, blowing smoke rings lazily up to the porch ceiling. “If she’s such a good-looking young doll, maybe she’s shacked up with some producer. A lot of these guys are big, bad wolves, you know.”

Babe flushed bright red. “No, she wouldn’t do anything like that. She’s a nice girl. She and I go to the movies and the malt shop together all the time. She likes me, believe it or not, Mr. Grimm.” His blue eyes glistened with tears. “I know I’m no Prince Charming, but Goldie Lox really likes me.”

I kept my opinion to myself. “Where’d she come from? Have you heard from her folks?”

Babe shook his head. “No, she was an orphan. She just showed up in Hollywood one day, right off the bus. She was looking for a room. She was so sweet. My mother didn’t like her, but mother is … well, mother’s not well.” He turned suddenly and grabbed my arm. “Look, Mr. Grimm, I want to hire you to find her, please. I’m so afraid something might have happened to her.”

“I could certainly use the job, pal, but why haven’t you called the police?”

He looked alarmed and glanced at the front door. “Oh, no. Mother couldn’t handle having the police come around here. It’s her nerves.”

“Okay, pal, I’m your man.” I put on my hat. “Did anybody drop by or call for her last Tuesday?”

He nodded. “She got a phone call from a Mr. Woodsman. He works at King Studios. She told me it was about her big break in the movies.”

I left him sitting there on the sagging porch. Poor sap. I guess Mama Bear didn’t think little Goldie Lox was good enough for her baby. I caught a cab on the next block and had it take me to a drug store just across the street from King Studios. I bought a pack of Luckies and used the payphone to call this Woodsman character. I wondered if he was a big shot and if Goldie was just a little tramp looking for a meal ticket.

I told the studio receptionist I was an LAPD detective and she put me through to Woodsman on the double. His voice was deep and soothing, kind of like an undertaker’s. “Yes? Is this the police?” He sounded curious. Or maybe a little nervous.

“Yeah, this is Jacob Grimm. I got a report on a missing person name of Goldie Lox. I’d like to talk to you about her.”

There was a long silence. “I don’t understand.”

Oh, he understood all right. “Look pal, there’s this party that’s missing from her house on Woodsy Way since last Tuesday night. There was a witness saw you pick her up.” This was total baloney, but I had a hunch I was on to something.

There was an even longer silence than before.

“Look, Mr. Woodsman, how about I come to your office and you answer a few questions for me. Or we could go downtown.” That got him. It usually gets them. He told me to come to his office. I walked out of the drug store and across the street to King Studios. It was all fake adobe and red tile roofs and palm trees. I told the guard at the front gate that I was expected by Mr. Woodsman. He confirmed it on the phone, and directed me down to some tan-brick bungalows. I knocked on one of the doors. A mammoth-sized guy opened it.  He was as big as a grizzly and almost as hairy.

“I’m Orion Woodsman. Are you Detective Grimm?” It was the same voice, deep and firm. I stepped around him and went into the office. It was a swell layout, with lots of blond furniture and a white carpet.

“I’m here about Goldie Lox.”

“I’d offer you a drink, but since you’re on duty I guess you can’t…”

“Sure. You got any Bourbon?” I took off my hat and put in on his desk. I lit up a Lucky Strike. He looked at me strangely. “It’s okay, pal. I’m a detective, but not a police detective. So I’ll take that Bourbon.”

His mouth twisted and he slammed down the bottle. He looked big enough to do considerable damage to my willowy frame.

“Hold on, pal,” I said, “Don’t do anything reckless. You wouldn’t have let me come in unless you knew something about this Goldie dame.”

“Why Orion, I didn’t know you had a visitor,” said a deep, husky voice.

A dame stood in the doorway. Of course, calling her a dame was like calling the Mona Lisa a postcard. She was tall and blond and built like that Venus de Milo character, only she was wearing all her clothes. She smiled at me with those big, lush, red lips and glided into the room smelling like a whole bottle of Chanel No. 5.  I knew who she was. She was Regina Power, the “queen” of King Studios, the biggest star in Hollywood.

I tore my attention away from Regina Power and glanced at Woodsman. He had turned about two shades whiter, and I could swear I saw his hands trembling. “Miss Power, this is Jacob Grimm. He’s investigating a missing person.”

She looked at me with her big baby blues. “Missing person? Anyone I know?”

“I’m looking for Goldie Lox. She’s been missing from her house since Tuesday night. I’m here looking for leads.” I offered her a cigarette. She took it, and I lit it for her. I could be a gentleman when I had to be.

“Goldie Lox? Oh, yes, I think I’ve seen her. She’s just an extra isn’t she?” She was looking at Woodsman.

“Oh, yes, she is. Just an extra. That’s all.”

I took a drag off my Lucky. “I heard she got a big movie break last Tuesday. That was the last time anybody saw her.”

“Why that’s awful, Mr. Grimm. Orion, please do anything you can to help find the poor girl. Very pretty and blond, isn’t she?” She smiled and took a deep drag on her cigarette. “My husband is very protective of his people–even the bit players and the extras.”

Her husband was like a god in Hollywood. Bob White had founded King Studios back in the ’20s when he started cranking out pie-throwing, slapstick silent comedies. Now he was as powerful as Louie B. Mayer or Harry Cohn. Then I remembered the newspaper headline I’d seen that morning. The girl who just died in a fiery crash was Regina’s stepdaughter, Snow White.

“I’m very sorry about your stepdaughter,” I said, stubbing out my cigarette in a big crystal ashtray. “I just heard the news today.”

“Yes, it’s very sad. Her father is simply devastated. She’s his only child, and of course I loved her as though she were my very own. Last Tuesday was the worst night of our lives. When the police came to the door and told us Snow had crashed her car off the coast highway–well, her father just went to pieces. Her body was burned beyond recognition, but the police found an antique ruby ring on her finger. It belonged to her mother.”

Woodsman poured himself a shot of Bourbon and muttered, “Yes. Very sad. We’re all devastated. I’ve known her since she was a little girl. I came to work for Miss Power here when Snow–I mean Miss White–was just five years old.” He looked dreamy. “She was so pretty. She had skin like snow, hair like ebony, and lips as red as blood.”

“Orion!” Regina Powers glared at him. “For god’s sake.”

They exchanged a look. I didn’t know what it meant, but it meant something. I decided to put the pressure on Woodsman. “What do you do for Miss Power?”

He looked startled. Regina Power smiled and patted him on his burly shoulder. “Orion is my bodyguard. He takes very good care of me.”

Woodsman grabbed my hat and shoved me toward the door. “You’ve worn out your welcome, Mister Grimm. Can’t you see we’re in mourning for Snow White?” He slammed the door in my face.

I walked back to the drug store and called the service on the payphone. Babe Bear had called again. I hung up before Chick Little could squawk at me anymore about my overdue bill and called the Bear house. Babe answered on the first ring.

He sounded angry. “Mr. Grimm, my mother made a confession to me. She told me that she saw Goldie leave the house last Tuesday when I was at work. Mother saw her get in a big black Duesenberg. But she didn’t see who was driving.”

“Had she ever seen this car before?”

“No. But she noticed something odd. Goldie had dyed her hair black.”

I frowned. “Black?”

“Yes. Mother said it was as black as night. She told mother that the studio wanted her to dye it for her big part. She loved her blond hair. It must have been a pretty good offer for her to dye it black.”

I promised him I’d call him as soon as I found out anything and hung up. All kinds of alarm bells were going off in my head. Just like when I was torpedoed in the South Pacific and my ship sank. I lit a Lucky and got a cup of coffee at the soda fountain. I watched the studio through the plate glass window. I went to the payphone and called the receptionist again. She said Mr. Woodsman had just left the office.

I paid for my coffee and flagged down a cab. We idled in front of the studio for about five minutes, the meter running, until I saw a big, black Duesenberg pull out of the front gate.

“Follow that car, buddy.”

We followed the Duesenberg past Hollywood and Vine, past Metro and Warner Brothers, past MGM and RKO.  After awhile, we got onto the highway and headed north. We passed an endless row of brown hills, and then the Duesenberg turned left on Route Six. That’s when I saw the circus tents. Now I remembered. The circus was in town and camped out at the old fairgrounds. The Duesenberg parked close to the sprawling tent city and Woodsman got out. He hurried toward the flapping sheets of canvas. Somewhere a lion roared. An elephant answered back. I told the cabbie to wait and hurried after Woodsman. I wound between the tents, smelling hay and manure and popcorn. I couldn’t tell where one tent ended and the other began. Suddenly, a choked scream came from behind me. I fumbled for a slit in the canvas and stepped inside. Woodsman had a woman by the throat, forcing her against the tent pole. I shoved him off her and gave him a right to the jaw. He staggered back. I finished him off with a punch in the gut. He lay there gasping for breath. I looked at the dame. She was cowering by the pole, holding her hands over her face. She had on sunglasses and a cheap-looking blond wig.

I grabbed her and dragged her up to the lantern light. She fought, but I was stronger. I snatched off the sunglasses and ripped off the wig. She stood there, blinking her eyes and gasping for breath.

She had skin as white as snow and hair as black as ebony. And lips as red as blood.

“Hello Miss White,” I said. “You look very nice for a dame who burned up in a car cr

Snow White's Scary Adventures

Image by BestofWDW via Flickr

ash on the coast highway last Tuesday.”

Tears welled up in her big, dark eyes and she trembled. “I didn’t know what to do. He said Regina would kill my father if I didn’t…”

I caught a whiff of Chanel No. 5. I turned around and saw Regina Power holding a rod in her beautiful hand. She wore a wide-brimmed black hat and a black dress that hugged her body. I figured she had dressed for my funeral. Woodsman stopped choking and stood up slowly, brushing dirt off his expensive suit. He looked like he wanted to do some serious damage to me.

“Well, well, the gang’s all here,” I said.

“Don’t move,” said Regina, leveling the gun at my chest.

Her baby blues burned with fury. “You betrayed me, Orion. I knew something was wrong when you were acting so nervous in the office, so I followed you. You promised you’d kill her. So what’s she doing here?”

Woodsman looked sick. “Regina, I tried, but I just couldn’t…I’ve known her since she was five years old…she’s been like a daughter to me. I came here to take care of her tonight, but I don’t know if I could have gone through with it.”

Snow started to sob. Her shoulders shook.Reginasmirked at her.

“Just can’t get rid of you, can I sweetie? I didn’t know old Orion here was so sentimental.”

Woodsman clasped his hands together. “Regina, you know I love you. You know I’ll do anything for you. But I can’t do this.”

“So, let me see if I got this straight,” I said. “You get this doll Goldie Lox, an orphan with no folks, you tell her she’s got a movie part, get her to dye her hair black, and then Woodsman picks her up last Tuesday night. How did she wind up in Snow White’s car?”

Snow wiped her eyes. “Mr. Woodsman kidnapped me from the studio and forced me to drive my car out to the coast highway where the Duesenberg was parked. He made me give him my mother’s ruby ring and then he tied me up and gagged me and threw me in the back seat of the Duesenberg. I must have fainted. When I woke up, I smelled gasoline and Mr. Woodsman was untying me. I could see flames shooting up from the beach. He said my car had gone over the rail. Then he drove me here to the circus and said if I didn’t disappear permanently,Regina would kill my father.”

Regina laughed. “Well, darling, it’s not too late to make you disappear permanently. I’m so sick of hearing that you’re the apple of your father’s eye. You’re nothing but poison to me! If you think I’m going to let your father put you in the movies, you are very wrong. I’m the queen of King Studios, and I don’t need a magic mirror to know there’s room for only one queen in Hollywood. When I finish you off, I’ll take care of your father, too. I can play the grieving widow very convincingly. Then I’ll own the studio.”

I crushed my cigarette butt in the dirt. “So, you didn’t want any competition from Miss White. You were afraid when the audiences saw her, they’d say she was the fairest of them all.” I looked at Snow. “And you were right.”

Regina waved the gun around. “I’m going to get rid of you and this little bitch. And Orion is going to help me. Aren’t you darling?” She smiled at him. “We can rule this town together, don’t you see?”

I was gathering myself to rush her when all of a sudden her legs went out from under her and the gun went flying up in the air. She fell in the dirt, right on her beautiful nose. Seven little men swarmed into that tent and held her down. They were dressed in dusty work clothes and had straw in their hair. One of them ran up to Snow White and hugged her. “Are you all right?”

She hugged the little guy back and nodded. She looked at me. “Mr. Woodsman used to work in the circus before he came to work for my stepmother. He asked his friends here to watch out for me. They wanted to call the police, but I was afraid Regina would hurt them.”

I stepped over to Snow White and took her in my arms. She was the most beautiful dame I’d ever seen. No wonder Regina was jealous. I looked at her blood-red lips and kissed them.

“No more tears, princess. This story definitely has a happy ending.”

And while the music swelled and the screen faded to black, I knew it was just another day in LA for Jacob Grimm, Hollywood P.I.

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“Jacob Grimm, Hollywood P.I.” was published in New Literati, St. Edward’s University New College Literary Journal, Copyright © New Literati, New College Writers, 2006.  One time publication rights for individual works. All rights retained by authors.

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Book Review

Blacklands, by Belinda Bauer

Reviewed by Margaret-Anne Halse

Blacklands is not your ordinary thriller. It does not involve international conspiracies and wild chases after colorful criminals over half the world. The world of this book is narrowly defined; it is a town on the English moors. The setting, with its evocative descriptions of rain, wintry countryside and general gloom, provides a backdrop in harmony with the unhappiness of the family whose story this is.

The author of what is primarily a psychological study has taken on a challenging task: to convey to the reader the worlds of two people, seen largely through their own eyes, and tie them together in a satisfying conclusion.

The first person is a young boy called Steven. His family, consisting of his mother, grandmother and younger brother, was devastated by the murder of his uncle, a young boy himself at the time, nineteen years before the story opens.

Because of the circumstances, his uncle’s body was never found, and the lack of a final resolution haunts the damaged family and twists the relationships among them. The reader learns about Steven, his life at home and at school, and his hunt for some sort of release from the emotional misery of his home life, as his inner thoughts are exposed.

This inner turmoil follows Steven into his friendship with another young boy, Lewis, a kind of love-hate interaction that is loaded with emotional ambiguities. Lewis betrays Steven’s friendship at one point, but in the end redeems himself by helping to save Steven.

Running in parallel with the story of Steven is the tale of Avery, a serial killer imprisoned for the murder of several children some years ago. He is a man who is without empathy or remorse, and interested only in getting out of prison and picking up where he left off, in the interests of exercising power.

The connection between Steven and Avery is established early on in the book. The bulk of the novel develops and elaborates this connection as the protagonist’s point of view switches from Steven to Avery and back again.

A recurring theme is that of digging, literally and figuratively. Steven digs on the moors; he also digs in his little vegetable patch, where he is growing carrots with the help of his “uncle”, an old boyfriend of his mother’s who is a strong and loving influence in his young life. He digs around in the past. Avery digs, too.

And the author digs about in the minds of Steven and Avery, to reveal their shapes and textures. If you flinch from the excavation of a murderer’s thoughts and motivations, this is not the book for you. It requires a strong stomach to stick with Avery.

The tension in the story builds to a cliff-hanger of an ending, which takes place fittingly enough on the moors. The critical reader may find some of the events that get Avery to the meeting place a little too serendipitous to be true, but it is a small price for the final payoff after all that digging.

Blacklands
Simon & Schuster, January 2010
Hardcover, 240 pages
ISBN-10: 1439149445
ISBN-13: 9781439149447

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FTC Disclaimer: A review copy of Blacklands was provided to HoTXSinC by the publisher. That did not influence the reviewer’s opinion.

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Margaret-Anne Halse is a member of HoTXSinC. She was a Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writer in 2011.

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The Word on Our Members

On October 15, Janice Hamrick, Robin Allen, and Kaye George will give a panel on their  mysteries at the Pflugerville Public Library, 1:00-3:00 p.m.

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Dave Ciambrone has two books coming out in 2012. In June it is another Adam Thomas mystery called The Trashy Grommet. In the fall is another Virginia Davies series mystery called Dangerous Threads. Dave is also working on an as yet unnamed novel about a coroner (Jack Parker, Ph.D.)  for a New York publisher who requested it.

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In October, Sisters in Crime member Vallie Fletcher Taylor will venture south from her Hico area ranch to spread the news of her book Eyes in the Alley around south central Texas. On October 10, Taylor will speak to the Victoria Genealogical Association.This group meets at First Christian Church located at 2105 N. Ben Jordan St. The meeting begins at 7:00 pm. Taylor’s message will include the importance of first person narratives written by ordinary people rather than individuals who became famous celebrities, politicians or military commanders.

“I am either blessed or cursed with a non-stop memory” says Taylor, “which lets me travel at will back to the Great Depression and World War II when my family lived in San Antonio. My book stresses the extreme differences in family, school and community life from the world in which we live today. I do this in the same manner ancient wisdom keepers once taught tribal history around campfires…I simply tell stories. I think readers may get a much more realistic view of family life in Texas during the Great Depression than they would from the writings, filled with dismal terms, penned by social historians. People who are still in a state of shock over our current economic downturn will find a lot of (unintended) advice when they realize we lived quite happily without things they consider an absolute necessity.”

On October 26, Val will be guest speaker at the San Antonio Academy of Learning in Retirement. Professor John E. Fagin will be introducing the Great Depression to his adult class which is sponsored by the North East Independent School District Community Education. The class meets at 1:00 p.m. at 8750 Tesoro Drive.

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Kaye George spoke on “Getting Your Name Out There” on October 6, at the San Gabriel Writers’ League at the Georgetown Library.

On October 13, she will be the distinguished local author at the Taylor Public Library Gala, 6:30-8:30 p.m. The cost of the benefit is $25.00.

On November 5, she will sign copies of Choke at the Arboretum Barnes & Noble, 2:00-4:00 p.m.

On November, she will be interviewed in KAZI for the new anthology, All Things Dark and Dastardly, 12:45-1:00 p.m.

On November 11-13, she will be at Comic Con, selling All Things Dark and Dastardly.

And on December 2, she will sign copies of her books at Hill Country Bookstore (name changing to Square Books) in Georgetown, 5:30 p.m.

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 Opportunities

“The William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grants Program for Unpublished Writers will award grants to two unpublished writers in the malice domestic genre at Malice Domestic 24 in April 2012… Materials will be accepted between September 15 and November 15, 2011 only…” The two $1500 grants are to be used to defray expenses related to attendance at a writer’s workshop or conference. Grants also include registration and lodging at the following year’s Malice Domestic. See item under Events, below, for more about Malice.

*****

Links

New SinC officers and board members can be found at the SinC website.

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Jane Friedman provides “A Checklist for Marketing Your e-Book,” on Writer Unboxed.

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Need help naming your characters? American Surnames  is a collection of links to websites listing surnames from a variety of geographic and ethnic origins.

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SinC Guppy and attorney Leslie Budewitz shares “A look at the mystery convention,” on The Book Case, the Book Page blog.

Leslie’s book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure is available this month from Quill Driver Books.  Lee Lofland, author of Police Procedure & Investigation, calls it, “The Bible of legal research for writers.”

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Subscribe to Book Page’s E-newsletters here.

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For information on personality disorders, check PubMed Health.

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Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, reports on how readers discover e-books, on the Smashwords blog.

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Julie Ann Dawson explains “Why Your Sales Have Dropped,” on Write to Publish. (She also explains how to fix it.)

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TinEye allows you to discover whether your online photos are being stolen. See how it can be used on HeatherBlog. 

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HoTXSinC member Kaye George, Steve Metz, and Mary Ann Loesch discuss their new anthology, All Things Dark and Dastardly Anthology—Finding the Darkness Within, as guest bloggers on Rasana Atreya’s On Getting Published, Good Books, and Living Goddesses.

*****

Calendar

10/11 @ 7:00 p.m.John Sandford will speak and sign copies of his new novel, Shock Wave. MysteryPeople @ BookPeople.

10/19 @ 7:00 p.m.Jeff Lindsay will speak and sign copies of his new novel, Double Dexter. MysteryPeople @ BookPeople.

10/22 @ 7:00 p.m.Daniel Woodrell will speak and sign copies of his collection of stories, The Outlaw Album. MysteryPeople @ BookPeople.

10/30 @ 7:00 p.m.Jeri Westerson will speak and sign copies of her new novel, Troubled Bones. MysteryPeople @ BookPeople. (“Put on your medieval garb…and join us for refreshments…”)

11/6 @ 4:00 p.m.John Connolly will speak and sign copies of his new novel, The Infernals. He will also speak about his mysteries and the latest Charlie Parker thriller, The Burning Soul. MysteryPeople @ BookPeople. 

*****

HotSinC 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

HotSinC 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

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Nolo Contendere

Please send news for the October issue of HOTSHOTS! to katherine.waller68 (at) gmail.com by October 25.

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

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Advertisements

February 2011

February 13 Meeting

Claudia Grisales

Austin American-Statesman Crime Reporter

speaks on

Crime Reporting in Austin

Our Sisters in Crime speaker, Claudia Grisales, is a crime reporter with the Austin American-Statesman and has been with the paper for over ten years.

According to an article by Fred Zipp, Thursday, June 18, 2009, “Getting people indicted is one of the real prizes in journalism. It means we have found evidence of misbehavior and presented it in
so persuasive a fashion that the justice system is moved to action.

“Bennie Fuelberg and Walter Demond are innocent until proven guilty, of course. But American-Statesman reporter Claudia Grisales deserves a big share of the credit for getting them indicted Wednesday on several felony charges related to their actions at Pedernales Electric Coop.”

That was only one case, but we will hear about others from Ms. Grisales on Sunday, February 13, 2:00 p.m., at the Westlake Barnes & Noble bookstore.

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

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The Changing State of Publishing

Who is Candice Adams, what is Editor Muse, and what is the State of Publishing? These questions were answered December 12 when Candice Adams, owner/editing director of Editor Muse provided information on The Changing State of Publishing.  This soft-spoken, highly qualified lady, with an MFA from Notre Dame and hands-on experience from tutoring to working as a Project Editor/Coordinator for Newgen-Austin, presented an overview of the publishing world.

Significant change began in publishing about 1960, when a consolidation of the major publishing houses began. Many small publishing houses were acquired by the larger ones. Currently there are six major houses: Hatchett, Harper Collins, McMillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. With consolidation it became more difficult to breach the sacred walls of the literary world. Thus, the creation of the Literary Agent was inevitable.

The literary agent acts as a liaison between the author and the larger publishing houses.  Many of the large publishing houses are looking for high-concept books with film potential and books with public relations potential.  With the author’s interests in mind, the literary agent should provide direction to the best publishing house. The agent is paid about 15% of the author’s earnings.

The growth of retail chains is another change to be considered.  The publisher works directly with the retail chain, which then passes the book on to the consumer.  The books are sold for up to two times their cost, but in many chains they are returnable for two years. Retail chains make up to 95% of the publishing revenue for the house.

The digital revolution and self-publishing are two more events that have affected the publishing world.  The digital revolution began with music in the 1990’s and then spread to newspapers, magazines, and, finally, books.  The Sony Reader was presented in 2006 and the Kindle debuted in 2007. The Nook is also on the market and Google is making a foray into e-publishing.

Self-publishing or author-funded publishing has specific benefits to the new author but has drawbacks also. It takes less time to publish but the out–of–pocket expenses can mount.  This means of having one’s book on the market is closest in production and quality to traditional publishing; however, the costs and mark-ups can be expensive. Also, the company may not be invested in your project.

To learn more about the world of publishing and for expert assistance in moving your work to market, contact Candice Adams at www.editormuse.com.  She and her staff of editors will be happy to assist you.

Sue Vertrees is Assistant Editor of HotShots!

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Words from Our Members

HOW TO GROW UP TO BE A PI

Hi, it’s me, Imogene Duckworthy, again, with PI advice. This is advice mainly for my daughter, Nancy Drew Duckworthy, in case she ever decides she wants to be a private eye. Sad to say, she doesn’t show any inclination toward the profession, being more taken with Barbie dolls and rodeo queens at the moment. But maybe, by the time she’s five, she’ll have outgrown all that. So I want to get this set down in writing for her.

Not everyone has an example in the family and, to tell the truth, I don’t either, not exactly. But Daddy was a police detective who got shot during a robbery, and I’m very proud of him. Mother would never in a dog’s age let me go into police work, but I think that, someday, I might bring her around to accepting me doing some private detecting.

So, IF Drew (that’s what we call my daughter for short) were to ever come to her senses and put away those hideous Barbie dolls that Mother keeps buying for her, I could give her good advice.

Read detective stories!

That’s mostly it. You can learn tons from reading about how detectives work in the books people write about them. I expect Drew, of course, to love Nancy Drew books. After all, she’s named after them. I think she’ll like the Hardy Boys, too. I know I did. George Wyatt’s Brains Benton books are good, and the  Saltlick Public Library has lots of Enid Blyton books, and the Dana Girls, and Encyclopedia Brown, too, a whole shelf.

I also want her to know that she can begin to solve little crimes when she’s very young. Like that time when Mother and I were at the mall in Dallas, Christmas shopping, and my shoelace was untied when we went up the escalator. My shoe got stuck at the top. I was able to kick it off so my foot didn’t get chopped off, but the guy behind me fell over my shoe–and me–and all the stuff he had shoplifted fell out of his coat. The mall detective thanked me.

When she’s a little older, we’ll read Trixie Belden, also to show her that age is no barrier to sleuthing. As soon as she can read well enough, I’ll get her some Choose Your Own Adventure books for her education. I want her to read The Boxcar Children by herself because I had such joy reading them at night, under the covers with a flashlight, when I was supposed to be asleep.

She might like The Three Investigators, too. I had a crush on that Jupiter Jones. He was so smart! I wanted to be smart like that. I did try to make the microwave better once, and managed to solve a crime doing it. I figured that if there were more wires in the cord it would work faster, so I took the cord apart one summer afternoon while Mother was working at the library. When I put it all together with tape and plugged it in, this bright blue light flared up outside with a big POP. Well, somehow, that made a meth lab in the next block blow up. Two of the criminals survived and got arrested–because of me! Drew will be able to do things like that when she’s older.

Eventually I’ll start reading Sherlock Holmes stories to her at bedtime, then we’ll move on to Agatha Christie. After that, I’ll probably let her start choosing her own reading material. As long as she doesn’t start picking up glamour magazines. She may if I let her have her head. But, you never know. She might even like those Kaye George mysteries. There’s something very familiar about them.

Kaye George’s first Imogene Duckworthy mystery, CHOKE, will be published by Mainly Murder Press in May 2011. Check out her web page, Travels with Kaye (http://travelswithkaye.blogspot.com/).

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JEFFERY DEAVER: MASTER OF SUSPENSE

Jeffery Deaver, a prolific author of mystery novels, is one of the best suspense writers I have ever read. He always starts his books with a bang, right from the very first page. His plots twist and turn like eels. There’s always a surprise within a surprise.

The Bone Collector is the first in Deaver’s series about Lincoln Rhyme, a brilliant forensics expert, and Amelia Sachs, who becomes his protégé. Rhyme, the country’s top criminalist, is former head of Central Investigations Resources Division of the New York Police Department. Rhyme is injured at a crime scene, when a wooden beam crashes down on him, damaging his C4 vertebra. He loses all feeling and movement from the shoulders down, except for his left ring finger, which operates his computerized environment. Everything is damaged except his face and brain. In order to survive, he must have constant care.

A brilliant, proud, and often acerbic man, used to being in charge, Rhyme feels useless and hopeless. He decides to commit assisted suicide rather than continue life as a quadriplegic. Then, much to his aggravation, his old associates from the NYPD come to ask him for help with a puzzling case. A man has been kidnapped, murdered, and partially buried next to a railroad track. The sadistic perpetrator leaves a gruesome calling card, deliberately taunting the police. Against his will, Rhyme gets sucked in. Soon, he finds himself heading a task force to find the kidnapper, who goes on a serial murder spree in the city.

He meets Amelia Sachs, a beautiful redheaded patrol cop, who is haunted by inner demons. She bites her nails ragged, scratches bloody wounds on her scalp, and drives her souped-up Camaro like a maniac. Although she is a crack shot and a fearless fighter, she is afraid of being confined. When she has the audacity to stop a train because it might contaminate a crime scene, Sachs gets in trouble with the downtown brass, but wins Rhyme’s admiration for her chutzpah. Over her protests, he demands she be assigned to the new task force as his assistant so she can act as his legs and eyes on the ground at the gruesome crime scenes. He talks her through “walking the grid” with a microphone, observing and collecting evidence. Rhyme and Sachs, both stubborn, obsessive and hot-tempered, fight each other all the way, but end up sharing mutual respect and trust, not to mention extreme personal danger.

The chemistry between them grows throughout the series. Rhyme is a man of little sentiment, for himself or anyone else. He is obsessed with solving crimes. He believes in concrete evidence, and has little patience with what he sees as “hunches” or “feelings” about crime. Sachs leads more with her heart and often feels Lincoln is too cold, more concerned about the chase after the criminal then the plight of the victims. She humanizes him and he teaches her forensics and gives her the stability she needs so desperately.

One of Deaver’s best mysteries is The Empty Chair. Sachs accompanies Rhyme to the University of North Carolina Medical Center so the criminalist can have experimental medical surgery for his paralysis. Sachs is very much against the procedure and tries to talk him out of it. A local sheriff asks them for help in finding a kidnapping victim. Sachs jumps at the chance to delay the medical procedure, and persuades Rhyme to at least give the sheriff a few hours of assistance. He does so reluctantly, not wanting to lose focus on his upcoming surgery. In nearby Tanners Corners, a dismal hamlet with a startling absence of children, Sheriff Jim Bell and his deputies tell the criminologist that a beautiful young graduate student was kidnapped by The Insect Boy, a strange teenager who adores insects and has trouble with people. The locals suspect the boy has committed other crimes, even murders, including one in which a woman was stung to death by a nest full of hornets. The boy knows the nearby Dismal Swamp like the back of his hand and uses his knowledge of insects to lay traps for his pursuers. What starts out as a mere forensic consultation ends up with Rhyme and Sachs on opposite sides of the law, with life-threatening consequences. There are armed pursuits through the hot, deadly wilderness, where in the blink of an eye, the hunter becomes the hunted. When the woods are full of people with hidden agendas, the bodies start to pile up. One is never sure who the villains and heroes are. Don’t count on anything being what it seems. Just when you think you know what’s going on, get ready for a big surprise.

Deaver does more than deliver top-notch action in his crime novels. The characters he creates are complex human beings, not cardboard stereotypes. In The Empty Chair, Sachs is afraid that Rhyme will die if he gets the surgery. But she also fears that if he gets better, he might not love her anymore. Rhyme wants the surgery so he can give more to the relationship with Sachs. He worries about her recklessness and wants to protect her. Their increasing dependency on each other brings both pleasure and pain.

All the crime novels in the Lincoln Rhyme-Amelia Sachs series are good, but my special favorites include The Stone Monkey, about a vicious human smuggler, and The Coffin Dancer, about a mysterious hit man. The Broken Window and The Burning Wire are also excellent novels of suspense. In Cold Moon, Deaver introduces a new character named Kathryn Dance. She is a special agent in the California Bureau of Investigation. Her expertise in body language and interrogation helps Rhyme solve a baffling new case. Rhyme, initially skeptical of any crime-fighting technique that doesn’t involve concrete evidence, eventually comes to respect and appreciate Dance’s gifts as an investigator. In fact, Dance is so good that she gets her own mystery series, starting with The Sleeping Doll and Roadside Crosses, both set in California.

Deaver has written a number of stand-alone novels, among them A Maiden’s Grave, Garden of Beasts, and Speaking in Tongues. My favorite of the stand-alones is The Blue Nowhere, about a brilliant madman named “Phate” who hacks into people’s computers, finds out everything about them, then uses the information to trap and kill them. The police need a “wizard” hacker who can give them a chance to catch this evil genius, so they reluctantly spring young computer geek Wyatt Gillette from prison to help them. Gillette, convicted under a federal computer crime statute, is a complicated character. Brilliant and obsessive, he hacks high-security computer systems just for the thrill. Skinny and pale, addicted to Mountain Dew, Pop-Tarts, and cyberspace, he nevertheless has a good heart. He is pitted against an egomaniacal killer who has no heart at all. Some of Gillette’s police handlers don’t trust him, don’t believe he can help them, and can’t wait to throw him back in the slammer. Gillette is still in love with his ex-wife Elana, who left him when he was busted for breaking the law. When he hacks into her e-mail, he finds out she’s planning to leave the state with a mysterious stranger. The Blue Nowhere is a first-rate, edge-of-your-seat thriller.

Jeffery Deaver’s books regularly appear on international best-seller lists. He has received the Steel Dagger and Short Story Dagger from the British Crime Writers’ Association, three Ellery Queen Reader’s Awards for Best Short Story of the Year, and the Nero Wolfe Award. The Mystery Writers of America have nominated him for six Edgar Awards. And the list goes on. His current project is writing the new James Bond novel.

If you haven’t read Jeffery Deaver, do yourself a favor. Read him. And be afraid. Be very afraid.

Here is the link to Jeffery Deaver’s official website: http://www.jefferydeaver.com/index.html

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.

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HoTXSinC Announces Texas Mystery Month

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter is pleased to announce the Thirteenth Annual 2011 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.  In preceding years,  Austin, College Station, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Seguin, and Waco all celebrated Texas Mystery Authors with activities in May, Texas Mystery Month.

2011 Texas Mystery Month events currently scheduled include the  Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Project, February 15-May 15, sponsored by Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter and the Barbara Burnett Smith Mentoring Authors Foundation. Contact Sarah Ann Robertson, <hotxsinc@yahoo.com>.

For more information please go to www.hotxsinc.org, or e-mail hotxsinc@yahoo.com .

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Dues Due

HoTXSinC dues are due. They can be sent to

Sarah Ann Robertson, Membership/Treasurer
Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter
Post Office Box 170014
Austin, Texas 78717

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The Word on Our Members

Kaye George was interviewed by Cassy Pickhard at Mysteries and Margaritas (http://www.mysteriesandmargaritasblogspot.com/2010/12/cassys-corner-interview-with-author.html).

Sylvia Dickey Smith’s A War of Her Own made the Top 10 Reads TWICE at the Hill County Bookstore in Georgetown, Texas and was reviewed in the Dallas Morning News on Sunday, January 2, 2011. Sylvia was also interviewed by Tumbleweed Smith and his Sounds of Texas radio program.

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New Marketing Opportunity for Authors

On February 7, 2011, Sylvia Dickey Smith resumed her weekly live Blog Talk Radio internet talk show. The format has changed from Murder She Writes, to Writing Strong Women. The 30-minute program airs at 1:00 p.m. CENTRAL time, every Monday. Conducted over the telephone, live, it will also be archived for those listeners who cannot tune in at that time.

Sylvia will be interviewing published authors who write any genre, any time period, fiction or non-fiction, whose work supports her theme of strong women. Listeners may also call in to ask questions or comment.

This opportunity is free and the format is relaxed and casual.

E-mail Sylvia at sds@suddenlink.net to book a time slot and look forward to a fun half hour talking about YOU!

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Websites and Blogs

HoTXSinC has created a webpage to encourage and promote the mystery writing efforts of the Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writer Project’s Mentor Authors and Aspiring Writers. Find it at http://hotxsinc.org/Barbara_B_Smith_Project/Mentors_Writers/mentors_writers.html.

SinC into the Depths of Mystery at the SinC blog: http://sisters-in-crime-sinc.blogspot.com/

To subscribe to Brian Jud’s Book Marketing Matters Newsletter via e-mail, go to http://www.bookmarketingworks.com/mktgmattersnews/

To subscribe to the Guide to Literary Agents via e-mail, go to http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/?et_mid=40206&rid=3001824. Each month you’ll receive a newsletter “filled with submission tips, industry updates, and more.”

Kaye George alerts us to the article “A Rose by Any Other Name: Pros and Cons of Pseudonyms,” which appeared in Writers’ Digest in 2003. The article focuses on the hows and whys of adopting a pen name, including copyright provisions relating to works published pseudonymously.
Digest in 2003: http://www.mbbp.com/resources/iptech/pseudonyms.html

Literary Austin is a blog devoted to supporting local writers and literary organizations. Access it at http://literaryaustin.com.

Sisters in Crime’s “The Mystery Book Consumer in the Digital Age” appears at http://www.sinc.affiniscape.com/associations/10614/files/ConsumerBuyingBookReport.pdf

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2/13 & 14/11  Capital City Mystery Players perform A Valentine Cruise Ship Crime at 7:00 p.m., Spaghetti Warehouse. For reservations, call 404-9123.

2/15/11 – 5/15/11  Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Project

2/16/11 Join the Texas Book Festival and the Austin Film Festival for a Conversation with Hook Screenwriter James V. Hart and a Screening of the Movie. Conversation, 6:00 p.m. at the AT&T Conference Center; screening, 7:30 p.m. at the Bullock Museum. More information at http://www.texasbookfestival.org/pdfs/aff_tbf_release.pdf.

2/19/11  Brazos Writers Movie Boot Camp, a half-day workshop. Details at http://www.brazoswriters.org/images/PDF/moviebootcamp.pdf and http://www.brazoswriters.org/images/PDF/moviebootcamp.pdf, or e-mail Mark Troy, metroy@suddenlink.net

2/26/11  MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Milton T. Burton, author of Nights of the Red Moon, 3:00 p.m.
*    Sheriff Bo Handel already has a sordid case when the body of the
minister’s wife is found on the church steps.  But when the FBI arrives at
the crime scene, he may have a big city drug war in his small town. Texas
author Milton T. Burton has created an engaging and witty rural hard-boiled
mystery that was our MysteryPeople December Pick.

2/26/11 Houston Writers Guild presents Firm Up Your Middle, a workshop, with Kate Morris, Sugarland First Baptist Church. More information at http://www.houstonwritersguild.org/Workshops.htm.

2/28/11 MysteryPeople at BookPeople presents Brad Parks, author of Faces of the Gone, 7:00 p.m.
*    Following his fast paced, witty, and Shamus Award-winning debut, The
Faces of the Gone, Brad Parks returns with Jersey reporter Carter Ross in
Eyes of the Innocent. Ross is looking into a house fire that killed two
boys with a missing mother, taking him into the dark side of urban real
estate. Parks, a veteran newspaper man, is a funny and engaging speaker who
loves talking with readers, so don’t miss out.

3/3/11 Deadline to register for Houston Indie Book Festival (4/2/11). Details and registration form at http://indiebookfest.org.

3/3/11 Deadline for submissions to Houston Writers Guild Spring Contest. More information at http://www.houstonwritersguild.org/Contests.htm. Rules at http://www.houstonwritersguild.org/Contests.htm#GENERAL%20RULES.

3/6/11 History of Mystery Class, BookPeople, 5:00 p.m.

3/11/11  MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Jasper Fforde, author of One of Our Thursdays is Missing, 7:00 p.m.

3/13/11 MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Sara J. Henry author of Learning to Swim and Darryl Wimberley, author of Devil’s Slew, 5:00 p.m.

3/15/11 Deadline for submissions for the annual Gulf Coast Prizes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Contest guidelines are at http://www.gulfcoastmag.org/index.php?n=7.

3/16/11  MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Taylor Stevens, author of The Informationist, 7:00 p.m.

3/20/11   MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Ian Rankin, author of The Complaints, 3:00 p.m.

3/29/11  MysteryPeople at BookPeople Presents Harlan Coben, author of Live Wire, 7:00 p.m.

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

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.

4/29 & 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.

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

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

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The Editor’s Atelier

The links below were suggested by a service provided by WordPress, which hosts HotShots! I hope you find them interesting and useful.

Please send information for the March issue of HotShots! to kathy.davis.waller (at) gmail.com by February 25.

If you notice any errors or omissions in this issue, please e-mail me at the above address so I can correct them.

Happy Valentine's Day and All My Love to My De...

Image by faith goble via Flickr

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

~e e cummings

Happy Valentine’s Day

Image of Valentine by faith goble via flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Related Articles

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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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

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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.

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Next Month’s Hotshots!

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

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Happy Thanksgiving

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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!

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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.)

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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