Laura Oles’ “Oceans Fifty” and M. K. Waller’s “I’ll Be a Sunbeam” are two of the twenty-four stories appearing there.
Posted by M. K. Waller
Laura Oles’ “Oceans Fifty” and M. K. Waller’s “I’ll Be a Sunbeam” are two of the twenty-four stories appearing there.
Posted by M. K. Waller
How do you say goodbye to a friend?
When I last saw Gale, just two days before she unexpectedly passed away, it was at the Wimberley Library where our group, Austin Mystery Writers, had given a program on writing short stories. The program went well, and we went out to lunch afterwards, enjoying the beauty of a Hill Country restaurant and the company of friends.
When I said “goodbye,” I meant “until next time,” not realizing that there would be no next time.
I don’t offer this to be dramatic, only to articulate the fact that I’m still trying to sort out the reality that we won’t share company again, that I won’t get to hear about her projects, her short stories, her weekend plans. Gale had an energy that was unique–pointed and direct but also funny and sarcastic in a way that I mean as high compliment. She loved storytelling and storytellers, and occupying those spaces where storytellers gathered. A self-proclaimed workshop junkie, she was the first to volunteer to coordinate an event. Her energy was infectious, and even when she nagged you about a deadline, you loved her for it.
My inbox still has emails from her. I can’t make myself delete them. I’m sure it’s some form of denial at work, but I’m okay with that. Maybe I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet.
Austin Mystery Writers won’t be the same without Gale’s energy and attention to detail. We have an empty chair at our table now, and we will, at some point, figure out how to move forward with our projects without her. But it will be different, unsettled.
Still, I can hear her in my ear saying, “Laura, just get on with it.”
We will miss you, Gale.
Gale Albright leaves such a big hole in the writing community. She was not only president of the Austin SinC chapter, Heart of Texas, she was coordinating the second Austin Mystery Writers anthology and, when she died, was in the process of leading a NaNoWriMo group at her local Hutto library. She has recently done a bunch of promotion for the last AMW anthology, Murder on Wheels, and heaven only knows what else she was taking charge of and leading. She rose to the top, like cream. She was a true original, feisty and funny and so full of sparkle that I still can’t believe she’s gone.
I remember the day I met her. She and Kathy Waller wanted to join the AMW group. They both came to our meeting and read some of their writings. We were all blown away by how talented both of them were and we welcomed them into the group. Others fell away and moved away and they’ve been core members, both of them, since that day. Gale leaves so many gaping holes. I’ll miss her so much for a long, long time.
What can I say about Gale Albright?
Before I had met her in person, at my first meeting for Austin Mystery Writers, I had to critique a story she wrote. I laughed and guffawed and knew I had to amp up “my game” as a writer to keep up with her and the others in the group. I was eager to meet her the next day. Who was this crazy woman?
Over the next couple of years I had the privilege to know her. From her disregard of authority to her love of noir, she had me laughing everyday. I came to know that when she got a certain gleam in her eye, it meant the wheels in her head were turning and we would probably be doing a workshop or another anthology! She always thought big.
I can hear her now, “Hey, let’s take it step further and do a writers’ convention!”
“Whoa, Gale, slow down.”
I loved her energy and excitement. And no one can write a mash-up of noir fairytales like she could.
I miss you, Gale. Thank you for all you gave us. You were one cool customer. The best kind of dame there is.
When I think of Gale I remember her great sense of humor and lovable personality. Her short stories were so crazy and funny and clever, and I’m glad two of them were published in Murder on Wheels and another in the AMW upcoming anthology. I loved her middle grade novel, Eva, too– that was my favorite, and I wish more people could read it. Gale was still polishing it last I heard, but it was already great. She will be missed.
Posted by Kathy Waller
I did it again: prepared my piece for November 21 well in advance, set it aside for later revision, forgot to post it.
As we in the writing trade say, AARGH.
As my fourth-grade teacher said, Better late than never, but better never late.
As I say, take what my fourth-grade teacher said, chop off the clause starting with but and read on.
UnCon comprised five full days of sessions heavy with both information and inspiration: not so much how to write, but how to dig deeper, make richer, write better.
The week was intense. I’m going to have to think about it for a while before I can write about it.
John ambled into the kitchen. “What’s cooking?”
“Mushroom gravy.” Mary stirred.
John frowned. “Toadstools. Fungi. Dorothy Sayers killed someone with Amanita.”
“These are morels.” She added salt. “Everybody eats mushrooms.”
He sat down. “Where’d you buy them?”
“I picked them.”
“Aunt Helen helped. She knows ‘shrooms.” Mary held out a spoonful. “Taste.”
“Well . . . ” John tasted. “Mmmm. Seconds?”
“Yoo-hoo.” Aunt Helen bustled in. “Like my new glasses? Those old ones–yesterday I couldn’t see doodly squat.”
Mary looked at the gravy, then at John. “Maybe you should spit that out,” she said.
I thought I’d do a little something different today and share a story with you. I like to mix genres, and this one is no different. In our anthology, Murder On Wheels, I wrote a story, Rota Fortunae, set in 1800, about a teen who stowed away on a merchant ship bound for America. There is murder and some supernatural components as well. Intrigued? Buy the book! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) You can find links here on our website.
Today’s story is very short. I had a lot of fun with it. It’s not exactly a mystery, but a western with a twist. I hope you enjoy it.
And I would like to thank Mystery People for featuring it on Crime Fiction Friday on their blog. Thank you!
“Hurry up with them biscuits and gravy, old woman!”
Cooter laughs and wipes brown spit from the corner of his mouth. Damn if we wasn’t having fun. Things have been going our way since we left San Antone last week even though folks warned us not to venture so far west. Said the Comanche were still riled up after skirmishes with the Rangers.
But I got plans. Plans for me and Becky. And I can’t wait any longer to get money. When I heard she was engaged to that son of a bitch Whitney, it took the wind right outta me. So Cooter and me have been working our way west, raiding homesteads as we go. Since the Comanches have been hitting the farms, we thought we’d do some raiding of our own.
Damn if this old woman ain’t slow. “C’mon now. I’m hungry!” I poke her in the back with my knife to make my point and then laugh while I grab a chair to sit in. “Say, when’s your man coming back from mending the fence? That’s what you said he was doing, right?” It’s easier getting a corncob from a pig than to get an answer outta this woman.
“Uh huh,” she says while stirring the gravy.
Cooter wipes more spit with his shirtsleeve. “Those biscuits smell real good. It’s been a long time since we had us some real food.” He’s always antsy, fiddling with stuff. He starts poking around and finds some hats under the bed. He laughs and puts on a worn out, sweat-stained straw hat that’s way too big. Then he pulls out a dusty pork pie that’s too small. We laugh at that.
Cooter looks around some more while I start getting nervous thinking about the old man returning. I get my rifle and stand on the porch to keep a look out. It’s hot and the wind’s picked up. Sand’s blowing and makes the ground shimmer. I reach up and bat a short length of rope probably used for drying game birds.
My stomach growls. I miss my ma’s cooking. She can cook up a mess of dove like nobody else. Seeing them ropes hanging reminds me of how Ma tried to hang flowerpots on our porch. I guess she thought she’d make our place more livable. But you can’t pretty up a piece of trash. And Pa always tore down anything hopeful she’d ever done.
What a sorry place this is. We come so far west, practically nothing but desert and prickly pear. These old people got nothing – empty pigpens, empty corral, a couple o’ bare trees. One’s blood-stained from slaughtering pigs at one time, still has the rope up.
Movement in the distance catches my eye and I raise my gun. About a quarter mile away I see a damn Indian’s watering his horse at a shallow tank. I can tell he spies me by how he stands up slow-like and keeps looking in my direction. He keeps his eyes on me. I think about riding out to kill him, but I’m running low on bullets. He leaves.
I go back inside. “You know you just had an Indian watering his horse from your tank?”
She turns around and wipes her hands on her apron. Getting a gander at her now, she looks more like a hundred. Her skin’s so old and dry with brown patches and it looks about to crack from the deep grooves. “We let them water their horses and they leave us alone. Apache, Comanche, don’t matter to us. This is the only watering hole for miles. We ain’t got no troubles with them. Sometimes they bring us food. Mostly it ain’t good quality, but we take what’s provided.” She turns back around to her cooking.
Cooter gets all jumpy and wipes his mouth again. His sleeves always have a permanent brown stains. Damn, some people just shouldn’t chew tobacco. “You sure he’s gone? We don’t need no trouble like that.”
I laugh. “Why you worried? We took care o’ that other son of a bitch we saw.” I walk near to the woman and lean against her sideboard while she does a quick peek in the oven. “Yesterday we come across a guy, was he Comanche?” I turn to Cooter, not like he’d know.
He nods. “Maybe Apache, but I think more like Comanche.”
I turn back to the woman. “Anyhow, he tried to run which made us work harder. So that didn’t help my disposition none. But Cooter here’s a good shot and brought him down. Hoo! He was a tough one.” I give that Indian credit, he didn’t break until the last. I let him rest and told him I’d make it easier on him if he told me of a homestead nearby. I know he understood me. He looked right at me and said, “Kay Chart” and he pointed us to this place. When I asked again he pointed us here. I laugh now, thinking how the old woman’s luck went bad on account of an Indian, and her still thinking she might get outta this alive. I wonder if that Indian had some kind of quarrel with her.
“Biscuits are ready.” She pulls them from the stove and starts fixin’ our plates.
Cooter smiles and rubbed his hands together. He spits his chaw onto the floor, ready to eat.
She puts our plates in front of us.
I say, “Bet you don’t get many visitors out here.”
We dig in and it’s good. This is the life! Forget working yourself to the bone with cows or farming. I’ll get rich, and Becky’ll marry me. I smile at Cooter and he smiles back, cheeks full o’ biscuits. Life is damn good.
Then my mouth starts burning. “You put peppers in this?”
She leans back against her sideboard, arms across her chest. “Not exactly.”
My mouth and throat burn and I spit my food onto my plate. I look over at Cooter and he looks back, tears running down his face and foam starts to coming outta his mouth and nose. His hand goes to his throat and he starts clawing. His eyes are big and he won’t stop looking at me.
I try to drink water but nothing helps. My throat and insides burn. Foam fills my mouth and my throat’s closing up. I look at my rifle, thinking about killing the witch, but my muscles are getting tight and I can’t move. I fall on the floor and started twitching. I’m so stove up, I can’t even blink.
The old woman grabs my heels and pulls me out to the porch and down the steps. It hurts like hell when my head bounces. I try screaming but nothing comes out. I’m too young and nothing to show for it. No more Becky, no more Ma, no more nothing.
The hag drags me across the yard and to the hog-killing tree. Breathing’s getting harder as foam fills by nose and my throat gets tighter. I can’t get no air. I feel her wrap the rope around my ankles and she hoists me up. Bitch is stronger than she looks.
She crouches down in front of me so’s I can see her. She pulls out a butcher knife she had in her apron. “You fool. ‘Kay-chart’ is Comanche for ‘evil one.’”
At least she runs the knife across me quick.
Some of the books written by our HOTXSINC authors include
MURDER ON WHEELS, winner of the 2016 Silver Falchion Award
for best short story anthology at Killer Nashville
Noreen Cedeno’s FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN, finalist for
the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category
Manning Wolfe’s DOLLAR SIGNS
Helen Currie Foster’s GHOST LETTER
Eugenia Parrish’s A COLD BLUE KILLING
K.P. Gresham’s HARDSCRABBLE HOMECOMING
The mission of Sisters in Crime is to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry.
Heart of Texas Chapter meets the second Sunday of each month–with the exception of November 2016, when it meets the third Sunday–at the Yarborough Branch of the Austin Public Library, 2200 Hancock Drive, Austin, Texas, at 2:15. An informal gathering is held at La Mancha Tex-Mex Tavern after the meeting.
You never know what former AMW member Kaye George is up to! She’s very busy and always working on many projects so I thought I’d ask.
VPC- Hey, Kaye George! What have you been up to lately? What’s your latest project? I heard you were in an anthology. Can you tell us a little about it?
KG- It’s Cooked To Death: Tales of Crime and Cookery. It’s an anthology of mostly Minnesota writers. Each writer contributed a crime story and a recipe, and the food was supposed to play a part in the story. I was invited to submit because I know one of the instigators and thought it was a fun project. The editors are Rhonda Gilliland and Michael Mallory. He’s the one I know. An idea I hadn’t used yet would work for this, I was pretty sure, so I went for it.
VPC- Can you give us a little “taste” of your story?
KG- My story is called “Murder with Crow.” It features a busybody old lady who has made friends with an intelligent crow. The crow loves her zucchini bread. She has some odd new neighbors with erratic schedules and misses the guy who lived there before. The new neighbors do not appreciate her and that makes her more determined than ever to get more information about them, plying them with more and more baked goods.
VPC- Uh oh, I smell trouble brewing (or baking?) Can you give us a few words about the other stories?
KG- The stories are arranged by course, with Appetizers, Soups, Entrees, and Desserts, which I think is cute. The one that stuck in my mind was Pat Dennis’ “After the Before” that concerns a “before” diet picture and a wedding. The stories range from the rather hard-boiled “Shrimp Charmoula: a killer dish” by Carl Brookins, with a knock-down fight scene, and David Housewright’s “Dog Eat Dog” about a business man collecting payments with a snarling wolf, to more moderate stories like “A Fare to Remember” by Marilyn Jax, where two women need to solve their friend’s kidnapping when the police overlook an important clue, even if means missing their day at the fair.
VPC- Sounds good! I like an anthology with a variety of stories. Are you working on anything else? Silly question, I know, because you are so busy!
KG- Another anthology came out October 1st called We’ve Been Trumped from Darkhouse Books. I have a rather post-apocalyptic tale in that one. I’m doing proposals for new series to replace the Fat Cat mysteries that are not being continued. I hope to have good news very soon on that front! I’m also trying to squeeze in a 4th Imogene Duckworthy book.
VPC- Like I said, always busy! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. It’s always good to know what our friends are up to.
If you would like to know more about Kaye George, you can find her at http://kayegeorge.wixsite.com/kaye-george
By Gale Albright
There are many articles about writing, but perhaps not so many about writing organizations.
As current president of Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter in Austin, I find myself constantly coming and going, requesting favors, soliciting ideas, applying for grants, arranging programs, and asking if someone wants to do something.
Sisters in Crime was founded in 1987 during Edgars Week by Sara Paretsky and other female crime writers, in an attempt to close the gap between the treatment of women crime novelists and their male counterparts. Women weren’t getting enough book reviews, or not getting the right kind of reviews. Female crime writers weren’t taken as seriously as men.
Since that time, Sisters in Crime chapters have proliferated across the United States and Canada, encouraging women writers in their craft and their self-esteem. I consider it an honor to be a part of the nuts and bolts machinery of this effort.
We have a monthly meeting at the Yarborough branch of the Austin Public Library, where we showcase authors and forensic experts. In addition to our meetings, we are expanding into the community to network with writers, libraries, and book festivals.
For example, our chapter steering committee wanted to have a presence at the Texas Book Festival, slated for Nov. 5-6 this fall. The national Sisters in Crime organization awarded us a grant to pay for our display table. We now have a TBF committee composed of volunteers who are making schedules and organizing local Sisters in Crime authors who want to sell books at our table. Authors and readers and book buyers meeting one another always creates a positive situation for those in the writing community.
Another opportunity to reach out presented itself when National Sisters in Crime “We Love Libraries” Coordinator Andrea Smith, asked me, as the closest SINC chapter president in Austin, if I would present a $1000 check to the Lake Travis Community Library, which was just awarded the May 2016 “We Love our Libraries” grant. I’m happy I was asked to show up and be of service to the organization. The program starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Lake Travis Community Library, 1938 Lohmans Crossing in Lakeway. I’ll present the check and give a brief presentation on the advantages of joining Sisters in Crime. Pat Dunlap Evans will then present a program on her new mystery thriller, Out and In. Community outreach is a good way to recruit new members and make new friends. That’s what you do when you work at strengthening a writing organization. You make contact, you make plans, you bring people and projects together.
Our chapter has collaborated with Malvern Books, at 613 W. 29th St. in Austin to put on a reading of Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas writers’ books at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30. Malvern will offer our books for sale and give us a venue to promote our authors.
At its best, a writing organization provides shelter, stimulation, ideas, encouragement, and an opportunity for growth. If the building blocks are sound, there will a supportive matrix to enrich writers and readers alike.