Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse

 

 

DAY OF THE DARK (Wildside, July 2017)

 

Interview for Day of the Dark

 

Are you excited about the upcoming eclipse on August 21rst? Well you aren’t the only one. And Austin Mystery Writer members, Kathy Waller and Laura Oles, contributed stories to an anthology titled, Day of the Dark. Every story takes place during the eclipse. The idea for the anthology came from the imagination of former AMW member, Kaye George.

Amazon says: A recipe for disaster: take one total solar eclipse, add two dozen spine-chilling mysteries, and shake the reader until the world ends in Day of the Dark!

So if you don’t mind, I’d like to get Kaye George, Laura Oles, and Kathy Waller to tell us more about it.

VP Chandler- Kaye George, where did you get the idea for the anthology?

KG- I got the idea as soon as I heard about the eclipse and how rare they are in any one location. I wanted to write a story on it and thought others might, too.

 

VPC- Nice! This question is for everyone. How did you choose the location of your story?

KW- I had the idea of using Marva Lu, the protagonist from a previous story. She lives in North Texas, so I had to set the story there. I knew the eclipse would darken the day enough for my purposes. The story hinged on her being on her home ground. Away from there, she would be a different person.

VPC- I remember Marva Lu. Wasn’t she is that awesome and amazing anthology, Murder On Wheels? Pretty sure I’m right. 😉 What about your setting, Kaye?

KG- I chose my own neighborhood because I’m so excited that we’ll see the total eclipse right in my back yard. And my front yard, too.

VPC- How exciting! I’m jealous. What about your story, Laura?

LO- Our family has spent many long summer weekends in Port Aransas, and the island life–the slow pace, the mix of locals and tourists, the pull of the ocean–is something I keep returning to. It has its own special magic.

 

VPC- Port A is special. The people are just as interesting as the setting.

Now for question #3, in my experience I’ve worked on some projects that came to me right away and flowed easily, and some projects were painful to get onto the page. Which was it for your story in this anthology?

KG- I’d call this one medium. Not too hard, but didn’t flow like a river.

KW- Once I finally started writing, it flowed. With the time I had, it had to.

LO- I knew immediately where the story would take place and I knew the main character. I needed some time to consider how his life would be turned upside down and what role the eclipse would play.

 

VPC- I know that writers know their characters much better than readers do and they often leave background information out of their stories. Tell us something about your protagonists that the reader doesn’t know.

KW- If the reader has read Hell on Wheels in Murder on Wheels, they probably know as much about the protagonist as I do. Until I wrote I’ll Be a Sunbeam, I didn’t know she sang duets at church, or that she taught Sunday school. I learn things about my characters as I write. I’m sure she likes dogs and cats, but she can’t have a cat because she has a gerbil.

LO- There is more to the story of why he left his life in Denver and moved to the coast.

KG- My protagonist, she’s older than the age she tells people. Her husband doesn’t even know her exact age.

 

VPC- Here’s a question I like to ask other authors.  How much of you is in your antagonist?

KW-  Probably a lot more than I want to admit. Our minds are always buzzing, we’re always arguing with ourselves and with everyone else inside our heads, we’re always plotting. And those are the least objectionable qualities we share.

KG- I’m not sure who the antagonist is. Either the young mother or the young father, I think. They aren’t very good parents, so I hope there isn’t too much of me in them.

LO- Not much similarity between me and the antagonist.

 

VPC- Well, you both like Port Aransas.

Another question, what do you think of the anthology as a whole? Is there one    particular story that is your favorite? Is there a story that surprised you?

KG- As the compiler and editor, I can’t play favorites, but I think there are stories here for a lot of varied tastes. I hope everyone finds a favorite!

KW- Cari Dubiel’s Date Night is mind-boggling. Joseph S. Walker’s Awaiting the Hour is rather sad, touching. Debra H. Goldstein’s A Golden Eclipse surprised me–a clever interpretation of the theme. And Katherine Tomlinson’s The Path of Totality is timely; I laughed until the very end, when alt-facts took a scary turn. If I’d read the other twenty-three stories before submitting, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to send Kaye mine.

LO- What I love about this anthology is the variation. While they all have the eclipse as an important element, each story is different from the others–I’m grateful to be Included with so many other talented authors.

 

VPC- How many of you are planning on seeing the eclipse?

LO- We have the eclipse on the calendar but aren’t sure where we will be yet. The whole family plans on getting together to experience it.

KW- I’m going to Blue Springs, Missouri, near Kansas City, for the event. I have family there. It was my husband’s idea. Fortunately, he arranged for airline and hotel months ago.

VPC- And I know Kaye will see it from her home. Kaye, I think I heard that the profits will be donated to charity? What is the charity?

KG- Fourteen of the 24 authors have picked personal charities. Mine is Earth and Sky. Four other authors, including Laura, are donating to that one, too.

VPC- I love Earth and Sky!

KW- Mine will go to Texas Museum of Science and Technology (TXMOST) in Cedar Park.

 

VPC- That all sounds good to me. Thanks for your time. I can’t wait to get my copy.

 

Available in ebook or paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Day-Dark-Stories-Harriette-Sackler-ebook/dp/B073YDGSL5

 

More websites with information about Day of the Dark:

 

https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/07/qaa-with-kaye-george-editor-of-the-anthology-day-of-the-dark

 

https://kayegeorge.wixsite.com/kaye-george/day-of-the-dark-anthology

 

http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/2017/07/day-of-dark-anthology-debuts-by-debra-h.html

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Morning Pages: Don’t Speak. Don’t Judge. Don’t Fall Asleep.

Browsing through the AMW blog, I came across the title, “Morning Pages: Don’t Speak. Don’t Judge. Don’t Fall Asleep.” And I thought, What a cute title. I wonder who the author is. A couple of clicks later I discovered the author was moi. I wrote it in 2014. Quelle surprise, as those of us who took one summer class in French just for fun say but can’t remember how to spell. (I looked it up.) I also found I kind of liked it,* and since it’s mine, I’m giving myself permission to re-post. 

***

Karleen Koen

The first day of last summer’s Writer’s League of Texas retreat, author-instructor Karleen Koen told students that every morning before class, we must do Morning Pages: Wake up, don’t speak, take pen and paper–not computer–and, while still drowsy, write “three pages of anything.” Don’t judge. Keep the pen moving. In her course notebook, Karleen listed the following:

Stream of consciousness, complain, whine, just move your hand across the page writing whatever crosses your mind until you get to the end of page three.

Karleen stressed that she didn’t invent Morning Pages. The technique, minus the name, came from the book Becoming a Writer by teacher Dorothea Brande, published in 1934 and reissued in 1981. Author John Gardner, in his foreword to the reprinted edition, states it was “astonishing” that the book had ever gone out of print.

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Ms Brande advises aspiring writers to “rise half an hour, or a full hour, before you customarily rise.” She continues,

Write anything that comes into your head: last night’s dream, if you are able to remember it; the activities of the day before; a conversation, real or imaginary; an examination of conscience. Write any sort of early morning reverie, rapidly and uncritically. (Brande, p. 72)

Julia Cameron, in her bestselling The Artist’s Way, published in 1992, named the process Morning Pages and made them the cornerstone of her Artist’s Way program. Cameron considers them a form of meditation.

Why we do Morning Pages? To quiet the internal critic; to tap into the subconscious; to discover what you know; to remember and to capture the present; to build fluency, the ability to “write smoothly and easily when the unconscious is in the ascendant.” (Brande, p. 72) And, as Koen notes, to whine and complain.

When I do Morning Pages, I like to focus on whining and complaining. Words of discontent virtually flow from my pen when I follow Brande’s instruction to rise early. To wit:

The morning after Karleen assigned Morning Pages, my roommate and I woke to my cell phone alarm at seven rather than the previous day’s eight. (I think that was the morning the phone flew from the nightstand and landed on the concrete floor.) I propped myself up on a couple of pillows, gathered the pen and the notebook I’d placed on the nightstand before retiring the night before, and started to write.

While I wrote, my roommate sat on the side of her bed. Instead of picking up her notebook, she spoke. I reminded her we weren’t supposed to talk. She told me she didn’t care what we weren’t supposed to do. After violating the rules once or twice more, she started on her Morning Pages.

Roommate Gale Albright drinking tea and smiling

In my usual all-or-nothing fashion (a tiny bit of OCD), I wrote through hand cramp and shifting pillows. Halfway through, I fell asleep. When I woke about a half-hour later, I resumed scribbling.

My roommate had already finished her Pages. She had dressed. She had sat on the porch and drunk a cup of hot tea. She was smiling.

Sometimes it is better to bend the rules.

At break time, I quoted to Karleen the first sentence of my Morning Pages: I don’t like Karleen any more. (I said it in bold font.) She laughed and asked if I knew how funny I was. I didn’t tell her I was dead serious. I knew that before the end of the day I would like her again, and if I told the truth now, I would have to apologize later, and I just didn’t have the energy.

Since I’m confessing, I might as well admit that, while I was scribbling, I figured out a fool-proof way to make Morning Pages a positive experience: Use a notebook with little tiny pages. They fill up faster.

Looking back, I’m ashamed of the thought, but at the time it seemed a darned good idea. Sometimes it still does.

Anyway. Having griped about that miserable experience, I’ll also admit that Morning Pages work. I’ve done them off and on since 1998, when I heard Julia Cameron speak at the Austin Whole Life Festival. A small group of young men stood outside Palmer Auditorium holding placards and begging attendees to abandon chakras and crystals and choose reason instead, while inside, Cameron shared the most reasonable ideas on stimulating creativity.

So I read The Artist’s Way and, although a 17-cent spiral notebook would have sufficed, I bought a copy of The Artist’s Way Journal. (The Journal had enormous, narrow-ruled pages that took forever to cover, but having the proper tools is important to us obsessive types.)

Then I wrote. And whined. And complained. As I did, the garbage in my head oozed down my arm, through my hand, and onto the page. By the time I got to page three, my mood had lightened. When I turned to other writing, the garbage stayed trapped inside the Journal.

Once the brain has been cleared of debris, words can flow.

That’s my experience. Others have their own reasons for writing those three pages per day. But those who engage in the practice swear by it.

Adequate sleep

As I said, I’m not consistent. I’ve done Morning Pages for months at a time, then skipped one day and failed to resume the habit.** Nearly every time I’ve given up,  fatigue has been the cause. A long commute before and after an extra-long day makes early rising unpleasant if not impossible. The same thing goes for getting to bed too late. Morning Pages require adequate sleep. But so does good health. So does good writing of any kind.***

Before leaving the retreat, I bought a special notebook for my return to Morning Pages. The signature on the cover looked like Dickens but turned out to be Darwin. No matter. Darwin and I are friends, too, and I wanted the green one. I’ve not yet made peace with going to bed at a decent hour. I’m trying. But when I stay up into the wee hours working on a blog post, my morning edges toward afternoon.

Oh–I’ve just remembered: A situation unrelated to fatigue once interfered with Morning Pages. It involved the repaving of twenty miles of FM20, a wintry-cold house, and a new box of cat litter.

But that’s a story for another post.

###

Charles Darwin’s signature on elegant green notebook

* Re-reading old work and liking old work don’t always occur together.

** Morning Pages is about the only habit I’ve ever managed to break.

*** I’m not sure about sleep being necessary for good writing of all kinds. I suspect Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald might have stayed up past bedtime. But I bet Willa Cather kept regular hours. And, as people with any discernment at all recognize, Cather is at the very top of the American novelist pecking order.

***

 

M. K. Waller

M. K. Waller (aka Kathy) blogs at  Telling the Truth, Mainly Write (http://kathywaller1.com) and at the group blog Writing Wranglers and Warriors. She has set aside her novel manuscript for a while to concentrate on writing short stories. She likes writing short stories so much, she may declare the novel officially defunct.

Her stories appear in Mysterical-E; AMW’s first crime fiction anthology, MURDER ON WHEELS;

DAY OF THE DARK (Wildside, July 2017)

and in the brand new DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of the Eclipse, edited by Kaye George and released by Wildside Press on July 21, 2017.

A second AMW anthology is with the publisher and will be out shortly.

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Writing as Business: An Epiphany

Please join us at the DAY OF THE DARK launch party Friday, July 21, on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/199463997250907/

The following post first appeared on Writing Wranglers and Warriors. 

*****

Writing is a business.

That’s what experienced writers tell the wannabes.

For a long time, I thought business applied to action alone: Write every day, attend classes, network, become familiar with various routes to publication, learn the market, read submission guidelines, stay in good physical shape, and on and on… Items on a list, they could be checked off at the end of each day.

Recently, I discovered another aspect of writing as business that I can’t quite fit onto a list.

Last winter, Kaye George put out a call for submissions of stories for DAY OF THE DARK, an anthology to celebrate the total solar eclipse that will be visible from parts of the United States this summer. Each story would contain an element of mystery and would be related to an eclipse. Kaye would edit, and Wildside Press would have the book out before the August 21 eclipse.

I’ve known Kaye for a number of years, ever since I joined Austin Mystery Writers, which she was facilitating. I watched as her career took off–a contract for one mystery series soon turned into contracts for three more series. At the same time, she wrote and published short stories and articles, and appeared on panels, and made it look easy.

Periodically, I said, “I don’t know how she gets it all done.”

And someone would respond, “Now, you mustn’t compare yourself to Kaye.”

And I would say, “I’m not comparing myself to her. I just don’t know how she gets it all done.”

I knew, of course, that she did it by checking tasks off that list. What I wanted to know was–where did she get the energy? (I still want to know.)

When I read her call for submissions, I didn’t consider sending a story. As usual, my mind was blank. My mind is always blank–what could I write about an eclipse?–until the last minute. As usual, at the last minute, I came up with an idea for a story.

But.

I don’t like to work for friends. I don’t mix the personal and the professional. If I sent Kaye a story and she rejected it, I wouldn’t be hurt, I wouldn’t be angry, I wouldn’t be devastated–but I would be embarrassed, not by rejection, but by the knowledge that I’d had the audacity to submit an inferior product, a story I should have known wasn’t worthy–

Here’s where the epiphany comes in:

It dawned on me that–what a concept!–Kaye is a businesswoman. She intended to put out the best book possible. She would choose only stories that fit her purpose.

And epiphany, part 2:

I was a businesswoman. I would submit a story. It it was accepted, I would be pleased. If it was rejected, I would accept that as part of doing business, set the story aside, tweak it, submit it elsewhere. Or, if I discovered it wasn’t tweakable, I would set it aside and leave it there.

Write, submit, be accepted/rejected, get on with life.

So I wrote a story titled “I’ll Be a Sunbeam,” submitted, was accepted, and, after dancing

around the room for a while–dancing is also part of the writing business–I saw another call for submissions, wrote, submitted…

Today, July 21, a month before the coming eclipse,  DAY OF THE DARK is being released. It will be available in print and for Kindle.

I’m thrilled my story was accepted for DAY OF THE DARK. I’m thrilled to be in the company of the twenty-three other writers whose stories appear there.

And I’m thrilled to finally understand that the writing business is really a state of mind.

*****

To read more about stories in DAY OF THE DARK, see Debra Goldstein’s Day of the Dark Anthology!!!! – Part I . Part II will appear on July 31.

M. K. Waller, aka Kathy, 
has published stories 
in Austin Mystery Writers’ 
MURDER ON WHEELS
and in Mysterical-E.
She blogs at
Telling the Truth, Mainly.

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Sneak Peek: DAY OF THE DARK

Today we get a look at the cover of DAY OF THE DARK, a crime fiction anthology edited by Kaye George and due out from Wildside Press on July 21.

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

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What’s Happening?

Posted by M. K. Waller

The Austin Mystery Writers blog has been quiet for several months, but we’re still living the Writing Life. Here’s what’s been going on.

V. P. Chandler and Laura Oles at the AMW panel discussion, Wimberley Village Library, November 2016

In November, AMW members, along with Scott MontgomeryCrime Fiction Coordinator at MysteryPeople in Austin, appeared on a panel discussing AMW’s crime fiction anthology, MURDER ON WHEELS (Wildside, 2015), at the Wimberley Village Library in Wimberley, TX.

Laura Oles is editing her novel, DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN, to be published by Red Adept in winter of 2017. Her story “Ocean’s Fifty” will appear in DAY OF THE DARK, an anthology compiled and edited by Kaye George. DAY OF THE DARK will be released by Wildside Press on July 21, 2017, exactly one month before the total solar eclipse that will occur on August 21. Kaye describes the anthology in “More Eclipse Glimpses “ on her blog, Travels with Kaye. Laura also attended the mystery conference Malice Domestic 29 in Bethesda, MD on April 28-30.

In November, V. P. Chandler’s story “Kay Chart” appeared on the MysteryPeople blog. V. P. categorizes “Kay Chart” as historical suspense and says it’s “creepy.” (It is.) She’s now revising GILT RIDDEN, a historical mystery set in the Texas Hill Country. She details more of her activities on her blog.

@ the Writer Unboxed UnCon, Salem, MA, November 2016

V. P. also attended the second Writer Unboxed UnConference in Salem, MA in November. She’s a moderator of the Writer Unboxed website and a contributor to WU’s Author In Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published (Nov. 2017). The book comprises over 50 essays by professionals in all areas of the industry and covers the writing process from pre-writing to post-publication.

 

Patric Sanders

Patric Sanders is working on HOSTILE HARBORS, the third book in the Wolf Richter series, set in New England and New York City, and on a thriller, LETHAL ENCOUNTERS, set in Germany, the Pacific Northwest, Italy and Hawaii. Patric’s first novel, THE TREASURE OF THE BARRIER REEF, an adventure story set in Australia, was published by Random House-Germany. Inspired by events of his life in East Germany during the Cold War era–he witnessed the construction of the deadly Berlin Wall, served as a draftee at a secret radar station in the People’s Army, was harassed by the secret police Stasi, was fired because he ‘fraternized’ with British engineers, and planned an adventurous escape to breach the Wall–he wrote the first two volumes of the Wolf Richter-series: Chasing the Sun: Action-Packed Cold War Thriller and  Singed By The Sun. To learn more about Patric, read V. P. Chandler’s interview with him here.

The House of the Seven Gables, Salem, Massachusetts, November 2016

Kathy Waller’s story “I’ll Be a Sunbeam” will be included in DAY OF THE DARK, along with Laura’s. Kathy’s “The Snake” won the Knife Story Challenge presented to members of Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas chapter by member author Eugenia Parrish. Kathy also attended the Writer Unboxed Unconference in Salem, where she attended a session at the House of the Seven Gables, the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel. After some online confusion with another author writing under the same name, Kathy now writes under the name M. K. Waller.

And–[drum roll!]–the publication of MURDER ON WHEELS (Wildside, 2015), winner of the Killer Nashville 2016 Silver Falchion Award, was such an exhilarating experience that Austin Mystery Writers are now putting the finishing touches on a second manuscript: an anthology comprising stories by four AMW members and eight of their writer friends, tentatively titled TEXAS TOUGH.

So watch this space! When TEXAS TOUGH is ready for reading, you’ll be the first to know.

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Saying Goodbye To Gale…

How do you say goodbye to a friend?

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Gale Albright

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.

–Laura Oles

***

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.

–Kaye George

***

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.”
“Too much?”
“Yeah.”

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.

–Valerie Chandler

***

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.

–Elizabeth Buhmann

 

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In Memoriam: Gale Albright

 

Posted by Kathy Waller

Gale Albright

Gale Albright, November 2016

Gale Albright, 2016 president of Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas chapter, a member of Austin Mystery Writers and the Writers’ League of Texas, an author, and our dear friend, died on November 19.

Gale was born in Tyler, in the Piney Woods of East Texas, where her family has lived for generations. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, and in the late 2000s completed a degree in English Writing and Rhetoric at St. Edwards University.

In an interview posted on the Austin Mystery Writers website, Gale spoke of how important her East Texas upbringing was to her writing:

“I always have to write about Texas. I had many conversations with older people in my family when I was a little kid, so I heard a lot of stories about hard times picking cotton, taking a lunch to school in a lard bucket and going barefoot until it was time to start school in the fall. I am fascinated with the Great Depression and the WW II years, all from an East Texas point of view. I love Southern story telling, all the rhythms of language and colloquial expressions.”

Gale had a fine ear for language. One of her stories, Eva, winner of the 2008 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest for Young Adult Fiction, and based on her aunt’s childhood in East Texas, demonstrates her ability to duplicate the rhythms of East Texas speech on the page. You don’t just read Eva; you hear it.

In the following passage, for example, the main character, twelve-year-old Eva, describes the new boy at school:

Mama had raised me to be polite and not stare at folks, but it was hard not to stare at this boy. He looked like he had slept in a mud puddle. His overalls were patched and filthy and his shirt collar was ragged. The shirt was so dirty I didn’t even know what color it used to be. And he was barefoot. Now, some of the farm boys kept on coming to school barefoot, at least as long as the warm weather held, but this boy’s feet were solid black! …

West Jonah was a small town in East Texas. Everybody knew everybody else. Where had this boy come from? It had been three years since the hard times started, but things kept on getting worse. It was 1932 and we still had hungry strangers coming through, looking for jobs, looking for a meal. Whole families sometimes, in beat-up old cars with furniture piled high and kids sitting on top of the furniture. But I had never seen a boy my age on his own.

By lunch time, everybody was calling the new boy “Dirty Billy.”

Gale Albright check for grant from the national SINC to Lake Travis Community Library Director, October 2016

Gale Albright presenting check for grant from the national SINC to Lake Travis Community Library Director, October 2016

Gale’s first ambition was to be an actress–she said by the time she was three years old, she was singing and dancing for an audience of women in her grandmother’s beauty shop. Years later, she played the role of Stella in a little theater production of Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire. But for a profession, she turned to writing and editing. In a training program at the Chicago Tribune, she learned to typeset news and proof galleys when the technology involved hot metal. Later she worked for twenty-three years at the University of Texas as a typesetter and an administrative assistant, first for the Petroleum Extension Service, and later for the School of Engineering, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and finally, the School of Law. After retiring, she wrote and edited for the Hutto News.

Gale loved her family: her husband, Joe; her daughter, Sarah; her brother, Stuart Inman, and her sisters, Molly Inman and Dawn Holmes. She loved her friends and co-workers at UT; the members of her Sisters in Crime chapter and of Austin Mystery Writers, and many others.

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AMW members Kathy Waller, Laura Oles, Gale Albright, and Valerie Chandler, outside Habana Restaurant.

She loved the butterfly garden she was building in her yard in Hutto; Pashmina shawls and scented soaps; reading crime fiction; going to writing workshops–“I’m a workshop junkie,” she said; organizing workshops; going on writing retreats, especially those held in Alpine, Texas; and her cat, Maggie, a rescue cream tabby she adopted from Austin Pets Alive!. Maggie supported Gale’s writing career by spending a goodly portion of her time meowing to be let into and out of Gale’s office. (Gale spent a goodly portion of her time opening and closing the door).

Gale loved the Hutto Public Library and belonged to Friends of the Hutto Library. She volunteered, wrote about the library for the Hutto News, and took Spanish and drawing classes there.

And Gale loved writing.

She did say, now and then, that she’d been avoiding working on a piece because writing was hard, and that she knew if she just started writing, the words would begin to flow, and what had been torture would become fun; and that she was so frustrated because she avoided doing something she would inevitably enjoy. Actually, I usually said that to her and she agreed. But for a person who admitted to avoidance, she put a lot of words on paper.

She loved National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrimo). Every November, she focused on writing 1667 words a day–a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. Last year she organized two NaNoWrimo Write-Ins at the Hutto Public Library, and this November, she hosted another for the 2016 round. She proudly wore the tee-shirt proclaiming her a NaNo winner.

I met Gale at a Writers League of Texas meeting dedicated to helping members form critique groups. We read a few pages of each other’s work, decided we could work together, and agreed to meet once a week. Of course, we wanted to be published, but we’d been told writing just to be published wasn’t a good idea–because publication is an iffy thing–our reason should be deeper, more philosophical. So we chose a reason and a name to match: the Just for the Hell of It Writers. At the time, Gale was working on a mystery novel entitled One Small Monkey. It was set in the 1970s Austin music scene, a time she remembered fondly.

Austin Mystery Writers: Gale Albright, Scott Montgomery, Laura Oles, and Valerie Chandler.

Austin Mystery Writers: Gale Albright, Scott Montgomery, Laura Oles, and Valerie Chandler.

A year or so later, we dissolved JFTHOI and joined Austin Mystery Writers. In the larger group, we read more manuscripts, heard more comments about our own work. Gale was a discerning reader. She focused on the positive elements in a manuscript and gently pointed out negatives. She explained how she learned to critique in a blog post: “Critic or Critiquer?”

In 2015, Austin Mystery Writers published its first crime fiction anthology, MURDER ON WHEELS. Two of Gale’s stories appear there: “Aporkalypse Now” and “Mome Rath, My Sweet.” Both showcase her ability to infuse suspense with humor.

“Aporkalypse Now” is the story of a woman obsessed with pork ribs and pistachio ice cream, and resentful–and suspicious–of her husband’s sudden obsession with his bicycle.

In “Mome Rath, My Sweet,” she merges Lewis Carroll, the Brothers Grimm, and Raymond Chandler.

Gale Albright and novelist Marsha Moyer at the MURDER ON WHEELS book launch, BookPeople, August 2015.

Gale Albright and novelist Marsha Moyer at the MURDER ON WHEELS book launch, BookPeople, August 2015.

The story begins, “Joey Dormouse was dead and I was heading for a fall.” With that terse statement, private eye Jacob Grimm turns down the brim of his fedora, leaves his dingy office, and tangles with turquoise-eyed women and tough-talking men to rescue Alice Wonderland from the clutches of the gangster Mome Rath.

This story is probably the only example of noir fiction featuring a dormouse.

Gale joined SINC Heart of Texas in 2009. As vice president for programming, she introduced the chapter to many local authors. She edited the chapter newsletter. She coordinated the annual Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Event. She helped facilitate a writing workshop co-sponsored with BookPeople bookstore. She moderated a panel at the Writers’ League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference, and, with host Hopeton Hay of radio station KAZI 88.7, interviewed mystery author Sue Grafton. For the December 2015 party, she wrote, produced, and acted in a radio play, “Holly Through the Heart,” in which Sherlock Holmes meets Tiny Tim. Gale brought  new energy to the chapter. And her involvement wasn’t going to end after her presidency–there were other projects she wanted to pursue.

Cast of "Holly Through the Heart": Alex Ferraro, Kathy Waller, Dave Ciambrone, Gale Albright, and Valerie Chandler; Book Spot, December 2014.

Cast of “Holly Through the Heart”: Alex Ferraro, Kathy Waller, Dave Ciambrone, Gale Albright, and Valerie Chandler; Book Spot, December 2014.

And there was her own writing. At the time of her death, she was working on edits of two stories to be included in Austin Mystery Writers’ second anthology. She was also revising Eva for middle grade readers.

Gale is survived by her husband, Joe Albright; her daughter, Sarah Hathcock; her brother, Stuart Inman; and her sisters, Molly Inman and Dawn Holmes.

She also leaves behind many friends. We miss her.

A memorial service for Gale will be held on Saturday, December 10, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., at the Northland AA Group, 2809 Northland Drive, in Austin.

Memorials may be sent to Friends of the Hutto Library or to SINC Heart of Texas chapter.

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Read more of Gale’s writing at her personal blog, Crime Ladies, and at the Heart of Texas chapter’s newsletter, HOTSHOTS!

Watch a production of Gale’s “Holly Through the Heart.”

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Some of the information in this post was provided by Gale’s husband, Joe Albright. Some came from the linked sources, above. Most came from memories.

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‘Shrooms: A Story in 100 Words

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.

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Because I recently attended Writer Unboxed’s UnConference in Salem, Massachusetts, I planned to write about it this week.

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.

So this week, following V. P. Chandler’s lead, I’m sharing a story I wrote for Friday Fictioneers. It’s not crime fiction–or maybe it is. I’ll have to think about that, too.

 

Friday Fictioneers Prompt. Copyright Erin Leary.

Friday Fictioneers Prompt. ©Erin Leary.

‘Shrooms

 

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.”

“I don’t.”

“Suit yourself.”

He sat down. “Where’d you buy them?”

“I picked them.”

You?

“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.

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“‘Shrooms” first appeared on Telling the Truth, Mainly. A few words about how I came to write this story appeared April 12, 2015 on Austin Mystery Writers

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Click the link for Friday Fictioneer instructions. Visit Rochelle Wisoff-Field–Addicted to Purple for this week’s photo prompt. A new prompt is posted there every Wednesday.

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political road - cropped

Kathy Waller blogs
at Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.

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A Short Story To Jumpstart Your Day

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!

Photo courtesy of xandert

Photo courtesy of xandert

Kay Chart

“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.”

“Not many.”

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.

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Sisters in Crime Read & Sign at Malvern Books on October 30

 

Please join ussinc-heart-2

Members of Sisters in Crime ~
Heart of Texas Chapter 

will read and sign at

Malvern Books 

619 W. 29th Street
Austin, Texas
info@malvernbooks.com

Sunday, October 30, 2016
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Among those reading will be 

Alexandra Burt
Noreen Cedeno
Valerie Chandler
Helen Currie Foster
K.P. Gresham
Eugenia Parish
Kathy Waller
Manning Wolfe

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.

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