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.
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.
For those who love to read mysteries as well as write them, Bouchercon is where you will find your people– and they will most likely be hanging out in the hotel bar.
The 47th Bouchercon World Mystery Convention found its home this year in The Big Easy. The combination of a compelling locale along with some of the biggest names in crime fiction created the largest registration to date. Over 1,900 guests flocked to New Orleans in search of panels, book signings, author sightings and fabulous food, along with intentions of connecting with old friends and making new ones.
I found all of those things.
This was my first Bouchercon as previous attempts to attend have been thwarted by schedule conflicts, work issues and school events. This year, somehow, we made it work. Embarking on a road trip with fellow AMW member Valerie Chandler, the two of us packed the car and hit the road, following IH-10 all the way across state lines and into the heart of New Orleans. Nine hours in a car sounds like a chore, but we fared pretty well. We found each other to be entertaining company–and the snacks were pretty good, too. A successful road trip hinges on these two things–the right people and the right munchies.
Walking into the hotel on Wednesday evening thrust us in the middle of a party already in progress. The bar area bustled with animated conversations and activity. Clearly, people were already in the “laissez le bon temps roulez” frame of mind. Writing is such a solitary process that it was a wonderful thing, seeing these mystery lovers together sharing stories and spirits. The bar served as the community meeting center for the conference, with people coming and going (and some staying all night). It was an event in and of itself.
Registration to Bouchercon includes a trip to the conference bookstore. Shopping in the Bouchercon Bookstore was a real treat. Along with our registration goodies–T-shirt, tote bag, water bottle–each attendee received six coupons for free books. The store was stocked with all the latest titles (and a few ARCs) from authors attending the conference. It took some time to make my selections, as I debated which titles to take home. These books now sit on my nightstand waiting for my attention, which I fully intend to give them after I complete the latest round of edits on my own novel.
On Thursday morning, Michael Connelly interviewed Harlan Coben, and it was one of the best exchanges between two powerhouse authors I have ever witnessed. They tackled the realities of writing vs. the fantasy of it and shared the stories of their successes with humor and humility. Harlan explained that it was his tenth book that finally garnered him some success–his TENTH. So, for those of us who do not yet have that number as a backlist, his advice is to keep writing. And when you’re done, write the next one. Tough love, people.
The panels were fantastic and the conversations afterward were equally interesting. On
average, there were six panels offered in each key time slot, making it difficult to decide which ones to attend. My conference schedule was highlighted and notated as though I had been preparing for an exam.
Bouchercon encompasses a wide variety of sub genres, and it was interesting to hear discussions related to so many different kids of mysteries– how they are constructed, how they are marketed and how they find their way to readers. I think that this broad scope of inclusion is one of the elements that makes Bouchercon so unique. It doesn’t narrow itself to a small slice of mystery. It’s about the entire pie.
Speaking of dessert, I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a moment fawning over the New Orleans cuisine. The dining options were vast, varied and with rare exception, all excellent. We found the Palace Café, located on the foot of the French Quarter, and loved it so much that we returned again a second time. The atmosphere was very NOLA, with its sharply dressed waiters, white table linens and black iron spiral staircase. The shrimp tchefuncte was fabulous and flavorful, and I still miss the bananas foster. It was that good.
Sisters in Crime celebrated 30 years at the conference, and the breakfast meeting brought some of the most talented–and supportive–crime writers working today. The breakfast, held on the 41st floor of the NOLA Marriott, was elegant yet casual, the view of the city through the hotel windows serving as the perfect backdrop for the conversations taking place. This group of women and men, who come together for the purposes of promoting equality in the field of crime fiction, have accomplished a great deal in three decades. While there is more work to be done, it is clear that their commitment has created substantial progress.
Having time to spend catching up with friends, many of whom I only see once or twice a year, was a true treasure. Those connections and conversations are experiences I bring home and keep with me as I return to the daily work of writing solo. They remind me that, even though I write alone, I am far from it.
I now return to real life, and it’s nice to be home. Still, I wish I could find a way to bring the community of Bouchercon and the New Orleans food with me. The memories will have to do, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to attend. So, friends, until next time. Maybe I’ll see you in Toronto at Bouchercon 2017? –Laura Oles
The Royal Mail is observing the occasion with a special stamp issue focusing on six of Christie’s novels. Each stamp contains clues and features related to a specific book. “As the solving of mysteries is the focus of Christie’s art,” said a spokesman for the Royal Mail, “it is fitting that the public have to turn detective to find the hidden words and images in each stamp.”
Closed Casket,Sophie Hannah’s second Hercule Poirot novel, was released on September 6th, just in time for Hannah to take part in the festivities, including a book signing at Christie’s holiday home, Greenway.
(Kirkus Reviews on Closed Casket: As in The Monogram Murders (2014), Hannah provides both less and more than Agatha Christie ever baked into any of her tales. But the climactic revelation that establishes the killer’s motive is every bit as brilliant and improbable as any of Christie’s own decorous thunderclaps.)
And BBC One will produce seven more adaptations of Christie’s works.
Austin Mystery Writers, alas, couldn’t attend the festivities in England, so we celebrate here in our own small but sincere way–by letting the Queen of Crime speak for herself.
*The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.
*Many friends have said to me, ‘I never know when you write your books, because I’ve never seen you writing, or even seen you go away to write.’ I must behave rather as dogs do when they retire with a bone; they depart in a secretive manner and you do not see them again for an odd half hour. They return self-consciously with mud on their noses. I do much the same.
*All I needed was a steady table and a typewriter…a marble-topped bedroom washstand table made a good place; the dining-room table between meals was also suitable.
*Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop… suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head.
*Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.
*There’s no agony like [getting started]. You sit in a room, biting pencils, looking at a typewriter, walking about, or casting yourself down on a sofa, feeling you want to cry your head off.
*One problem is that the interruptions are generally far more enjoyable than writing, and once you’ve stopped, it’s exceedingly difficult to get started again.
*One’s always a little self-conscious over the murderer’s first appearance. He must never come in too late; that’s uninteresting for the reader at the end of the book. And the dénouement has to be worked out frightfully carefully.
*I myself always found the love interest a terrible bore in detective stories. Love, I felt, belonged to romantic stories. To force a love motif into what should be a scientific process went much against the grain.
*God bless my soul, woman, the more personal you are the better! This is a story of human beings – not dummies! Be personal – be prejudiced – be catty – be anything you please! Write the thing your own way. We can always prune out the bits that are libellous afterwards!
*I know nothing about pistols and revolvers, which is why I usually kill off my characters with a blunt instrument or better with poisons. Besides, poisons are neat and clean and really exciting… I do not think I could look a really ghastly mangled body in the face. It is the means that I am interested in. I do not usually describe the end, which is often a corpse.
*If I were at any time to set out on a career of deceit, it would be of Miss Marple that I should be afraid.
*Three months seems quite a reasonable time to complete a book, if one can get right down to it.
*I am like a sausage machine. As soon as [I finish a novel] and cut off the string, I have to think of the next one.
*When I re-read those first [detective stories I wrote], I’m amazed at the number of servants drifting about. And nobody is really doing any work, they’re always having tea on the lawn.
*I’ve always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worry and only half the royalties.
*I am not mad. I am eccentric perhaps–at least certain people say so; but as regards my profession. I am very much as one says, ‘all there.’
*It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.
*If one sticks too rigidly to one’s principles, one would hardly see anybody.
*I married an archaeologist because the older I grow, the more he appreciates me.
*What they need is a little immorality in their lives. Then they wouldn’t be so busy looking for it in other people’s.
*A man when he is making up to anybody can be cordial and gallant and full of little attentions and altogether charming. But when a man is really in love he can’t help looking like a sheep.
*Mr. Jesmond made a peculiar noise rather like a hen who has decided to lay an egg and then thought better of it.
*Coffee in England always tastes like a chemistry experiment.
*I know there’s a proverb which that says ‘To err is human,’ but a human error is nothing to what a computer can do if it tries.
*I can’t imagine why everybody is so keen for authors to talk about writing. I should have thought it was an author’s business to write, not to talk.
*People should be interested in books, not their authors.
*If anyone is really determined to loan you a book, you can never get out of it!
*I’ve got a stomach now as well as a behind. And I mean – well, you can’t pull it in both ways, can you? … I’ve made it a rule to pull in my stomach and let my behind look after itself.
*Writing is a great comfort to people like me, who are unsure of themselves and have trouble expressing themselves properly.
*I would like it to be said that I was a good writer of detective and thriller stories.
(Alexandra Burt is our guest author today. Born in Germany, she moved to Texas, married, and worked as a freelance translator. Determined to acknowledge the voice in the back of her head prompting her to break into literary translations, the union never panned out. She decided to tell her own stories. Her books include Remember Mia and The Good Daughter. She is working on her third novel.)
I feel awkward telling my readers that growing up I never had an inclination toward becoming a writer. Too often I’ve heard of authors writing since they were children. Jane Austen is known to have flexed her creative muscle as a teenager, writing sentimental stories to entertain her family and Virginia Woolf produced magazines about family outings. Their early efforts prepared them for dozens of novels they would write later in life.
I had never written a single word until about seven years ago. Reading a particularly bad book, I thought I could do better as if armed with my love of reading was enough to write a breakout novel. I spare you the details. Let me just say it became apparent that much was to be learned and it took years to pen a story that was remotely well crafted, coherent, and entertaining.
If you want to write, there’s good news and bad news. The good news first: you can become a solid and successful writer without coming from any sort of literary DNA or being born with a pen in your little clumsy hand destined to take the world by storm. The bad news is that you have to put in the time and learning the craft of writing is hard work. Like… hard work.
I went after it with a baseball bat. Hours a day. Every day. I read, I enrolled in classes, studied books on writing, and I wrote. Every day. I still wrote badly and did so for a very long time. See, epiphanies and experience take time, no ifs, ands, and buts about it, but eventually my stories became coherent. What I learned along the way was that craft was nothing more than using the tools of the trade and we all know what a good story calls for: a hook, a compelling setup, a killer plot, thrilling beginnings followed by perfect middles, completed by satisfying endings. The tools of the trade are nothing more than the application of POV, tense, dialogue and action, narrative and exposition. All those tools at your disposal allow you to masterly lure the reader into the worlds of your characters.
But having those tools does not a book make.
A novel is like a wristwatch; there’s the rather unassuming case that houses the watch mechanism, a clock face, and two hands. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But crack open that case and intricate parts and mechanisms become apparent; there are springs controlled by more springs, unwinding into a controlled and periodic release of time. A force is transmitted through a series of gears which oscillate back and forth and with each swing of the balance wheel the hands move forward at a constant rate. And in the background you hear a constant ‘ticking’ sound. Like a wrist watch uses a mechanical apparatus to measure the passage of time, a writer—unbeknownst to the reader—aligns the elements of an intricate story at a certain pace and in the end, if the writer times it just right, the reader will rejoice and give you their time and feel as if they’ve been in good hands.
But there’s more. There’s a part of writing I call art. If craft is execution, art is the design of the novel. If craft is the metal case that houses the watch mechanism, the clock face and the hands, the screws that hold it all together, the springs and gears, then art is the way you put the parts together, the way they connect with fickle timing, and the constant ticking in the background. Like every single component inside a watch, the individual parts must be assembled just right to tell time accurately, to produce that tick tick tick. It’s nothing you do overtly. It’s not like you sit down and tell yourself I’m going to produce a work of art. It’s just you telling a story the way only you can. So in a way you are your art.
See, you are all you have and if you are so inclined, take the leap and tell a story. Steady and balanced, combine craft and art, build something that causes a ticking sound in the background, alive like the beat of a heart.
This is the last installment of the AMW member interviews. Who did I leave out? Me! So some of my fellow members have asked me questions. I must admit, I was a little nervous. Ask me anything! I’ll give you an answer. And this goes for you too, reader. Ask me anything. I’ll try to answer what you throw at me. *Gulp!*
Kaye George (former member but still active in many AMW activities!)- How long have you been writing toward publication?
VPC- I plead the fifth. (Already!) Okay, I’ll answer. I’ve been working on my book, in its many incarnations, since about 2009. It’s had big changes and I’ve also worked on other projects in the meantime.
KG- Do you find it hard or easy to fit writing into your schedule?
VPC- Most days I can fit in some writing. It’s the days that have unexpected challenges, like an emergency trip to the vet, that make it hard. And on some days, like today, I’m doing things like writing a blog post. Lots of things take time away from working on book projects.
I’ll also fess up that I’m also a procrastinator, so I sometimes have to trick myself into working. “I have to work at least 20 minutes.” Then next thing I know it’s been 3 hours and I got a lot of work done.
KG- Do you work outside the home?
VPC- I volunteer for my church. I do the website and sometimes fill in for the secretary. I also help with websites, Facebook pages, and projects of organizations like Writer Unboxed and our local chapter of Sisters in Crime.
KG- How many rattlers have you actually killed?
VPC- LOL! I know you’re asking me this because you’ve read a draft of my book. The answer is, a lot. Back when we lived at our ranch, I wondered the same thing and started counting them up. At that time the number was about 150. When I got to number 200, I bought myself a gun charm for my charm bracelet. I figured I deserved it! So all in all I’d say I personally killed about 250 snakes.
I have a picture of the dead snakes that we killed on our busiest day, but I won’t post that here. If anyone is interested, I can post it in the comments. We killed 18 snakes that day. It was just after Thanksgiving and that’s the time of year that they are mating and looking to hibernate. I can tell you more about that day later, if anyone is interested.
An added note: I know some people will be upset that we killed rattlesnakes. There were thousands of snakes where we lived and we didn’t kill any of the nonpoisonous one. AND our son was only three years old so it was a matter of life or death. Again, I can discuss more about that in the comments if anyone wishes to.
Elizabeth Buhmann- Your settings always have a wonderful Texas feel to them. You are a native Texan, surely, but hasn’t your family been here for a while, too?
VPC- Yes. I have a direct ancestor who arrived about 1834. It’s funny that I’m descended from a Winters and I moved to a town where one of its earliest settlers was a Winters, my
4x great uncle. (I think that’s the right number of greats.) When I learned that, I figured it was meant to be for me to live here!
EB- Your father was a criminal justice professional, wasn’t he? Tell us a bit about him and how he has influenced your writing.
VPC- He was a criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State and he influenced me greatly. I believe his specialties were criminal history and organized crime. He loved to tell stories about cases, including those he was involved in during his time as Director of Public Safety in Corpus Christi. He and my step-mother were also avid readers of mysteries so we often talked about those too.
My father’s parents also had an influence. My grandfather was a pathologist, the first one in South Texas. And my grandmother was an accomplished photographer. She worked with him by taking the photos to document his findings. Both were friends with Erle Stanley Gardner and he sometimes asked their advice on forensics. He mentions them in the Foreword in his book, The Case of the Careless Cupid.
I didn’t get a chance to know them back in those days, but I’ve heard many stories about what they did and accomplished.
EB- Are you a Texas history buff? Your first novel (which I had the privilege of reading in draft form) is set about a hundred (?) years in the past. What sort of sources did you use to paint such a realistic picture of what Texas was like then?
VP- Thank you! I used to hate history. I thought it was so boring. And, like many things, the older I got the more I found it interesting. I like learning about people and how they overcame obstacles. One of the best resources I’ve found is the Texas State Historical Association website. It’s incredible!
Other sources were just various things I could find by using Google and asking friends who are knowledgeable. My Facebook friends are great! I also collect hard to find, out of print books about Texas.
Gale Albright- Has being a member of Austin Mystery Writers improved your confidence in your writing?
VPC- Yes! Tremendously. I can’t imagine where I’d be if it wasn’t for this group and the feedback and support we give each other.
GA- Can you tell me the pros and cons of being a member of a critique group?
VPC- One of the best things about a good critique group is getting honest, and polite feedback. Another plus about AMW is that we are a group of people with a variety of backgrounds, so we can approach a story from different experiences. We also have different things that we notice in a story, like punctuation or pacing. So we can give a variety of suggestions on how to make a story better.
GA- Austin Mystery Writers’ short-story anthology, Murder on Wheels, recently received a Silver Falchion Award at Killer Nashville. What’s your reaction been to that?
VPC- When we were nominated, I was like, “Whaaaat?” LOL It didn’t sink in for about a day. I didn’t want to let myself get excited. Then when we won, I couldn’t believe it. I was very pleased. I’ve been telling everybody!
GA- You have a big interest in historical novels. Do you think you’ve found a niche for yourself, or do you plan to branch out to other types of writing?
VPC- Good question. This is something I think about a lot. I love historical fiction, and plan to write a series set in Texas. Hopefully my first book, Gilt Ridden, will be the first in a series. I have about five other stories planned out for my characters. I like the idea that my antagonist, Kay Stuart, solves current problems (murders), by finding the answers in Texas history.
I also have an idea for a series using one of her best friends, Jessie Reese, who is a modern deputy sheriff. Those will be straight up mystery/suspense with no history.
BUT I also love to write horror. I’m working on a story that may be a novella or novel that is sci-fi/horror.
So I guess my answer is that right now I’m focusing on historical fiction/mystery with a side jaunt into horror. But I find I’m having so much fun writing horror, it may be more of a focus of mine in the future. I plan to just write what is fun to write. And when I do that, the writing is better anyway.
GA- What’s the most fun part of writing for you? What is not so much fun?
VPC- I love writing squeamish or emotional scenes. I like the idea of making the reader laugh or cry. Such power! Bwa ha ha ha ha ha !
On the other hand, I hate it when the plot or the scene just isn’t coming together. It’s excruciating! I literally have to get up and walk around. Sometimes I have to stand at the table to write. I also don’t like long descriptions. I hate reading them and I hate writing them. I like to get to the point.
GA- Do you have any fun research trips planned?
VPC- I wish! I will be going to Bouchercon in New Orleans next week with fellow member Laura Oles. I guess I’ll keep my eyes open for inspiration. I’ll also be going to the Writer Unboxed Un-Conference in November, which (witch?) will be in Salem, Massachusetts. Kathy Waller will also be there with me. Maybe we’ll find some ghosts!
Thank you for all of the questions! I love being a member of AMW. I can’t imagine going through this journey of being a writer without their support and guidance!
Does anybody have anymore questions? Bring ‘em on!
She flew into town last week to visit grown children and to see us of course, her Austin Mystery Writers “branch” of the family.
We met at our BookPeople haunt last Thursday to hug and laugh and talk about many things, most of them involving writing. And a lot of other stuff.
I first met Kaye George several years ago through Kathy Waller, who had just joined Austin Mystery Writers. Kathy asked Kaye, who was the head poohbah, if I could join as well. It was a critique group with several members. But, as is often the case with critique groups, members faded away for various reasons, and at one point the group consisted of Kathy, Kaye, and me.
I remember the vicarious thrill I felt when Kaye’s mystery novel, Choke, received a publishing contract. After ten years of patiently slogging away at her writing, Kaye was a professional! We were all giddy with delight. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.
When you have a really good critique group, the heartstrings are involved. It’s not just about writing. You start to genuinely care about all the people in your group in a personal and professional way. Kaye’s victory was our victory as well.
Kaye’s first three mysteries in her Immy Duckworthy series (Choke,Smoke, and Broke) were published, followed by three Berkley Prime Crime Fat Cat who-done-its (under the nom de plume Janet Cantrell), the Cressa Carraway series, the Neanderthal mystery Death in the Time of Ice (Untreed Reads), as well as various short stories. She was on a roll.
Unfortunately for us, she was also gone. First, she and her husband moved to Waco, then on to Knoxville, TN, where they now reside.
Kathy and I were members of a two-person critique group for a bit, but luckily we acquired fabulous new members for Austin Mystery Writers, gleaned from the ranks of the Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter—Valerie Chandler, Laura Oles, and Elizabeth Buhmann.
Now for the fun part.
Thanks to Kaye, who had the original idea and pushed it to fruition, Austin Mystery Writers’ first crime anthology, Murder on Wheels, got published by Wildside Press in 2015. Flash forward a year. Murder on Wheels just won the Silver Falchion Award for best fiction short-story mystery anthology at the Killer Nashville writing conference for 2016.
On top of that, we are hard at work on our second crime anthology, whose title is a bit up in the air at the moment. It’s about Texas and crime. Enough said.
Although we all worked very hard on Murder on Wheels, I give Kaye the credit for riding herd on the project. I thank her for her vision and guidance.
We all wish Kaye would move back to the Austin area. She’s just too far away. But, thanks to the miracle of e-mail attachments, digital photography, and FB posting, we can still create our dreams together.
Each writers’ conference has its own personality. If I were to summarize Killer Nashville, I would describe it as a broad embrace of mystery sub genres with an inclusion of indie, hybrid and traditionally published authors, all carried by an undercurrent of noir appreciation and a love of Nashville music culture.
I know. I’m casting a wide net.
The first night kicked off with a Wine & Shine event, which after a full day of hustling kids to school and flying from Austin, left me with more whine and no shine. My efforts in networking resulted in little more than two sips of merlot paired with a chocolate chip cookie while slouched on a chair in the hotel lobby.
The next two days were packed with learning sessions and special events. Killer Nashville’s panel schedule offered five options per time slot, leaving many attendees to make tough decisions regarding which discussion to attend. Programs ranging from “How to Write Effective Plot Twists” to “Law Enforcement, Soldiers and PTSD” demonstrate the range in programming. Topics covering technique, marketing, publishing and collaboration were also offered, along with breakout sessions with bestselling authors Janet Evanovich, Anne Perry, Kevin O’Brien, William Kent Krueger and Robert J. Randisi. I attended as many panels as I could fit in my schedule and left with several pages of notes and insight. I still don’t know how Robert Randisi, co-founder of Mystery Scene Magazine and founder of the Private Eye Writers of America (and the coveted Shamus award), writes 25 books a year. Like many things in our profession, this remains a mystery.
Janet Evanovich’s lunch program was both fun and fascinating. She is open with her advice and opinions, both of which were appreciated by the audience she addressed. Her honesty about the empire she’s building–she currently writes or co-authors four books per year with the support of her husband and children– made me tired just listening to her talk about it. She. Never. Takes. A. Break.
The Mock Crime Scene was exceptionally well done. Its primary architect, Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Dan Royse, composed a puzzle well supported by clues, evidence and online interviews. Attendees had their work cut for them out in identifying the culprit. The smile on Dan’s face told us all we needed to know–he was going to make us work. Hard.
The awards banquet was a sold out event and included a buffet-style dinner and some fantastic live music. I had the opportunity to meet several authors, including fellow Claymore nominee Mercedes King. Before long, attentions turned to the awards portion of the evening. I was honored to accept, on behalf of Austin Mystery Writers, the Silver Falchion award for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology, presented by Anne Perry.
The Claymore was awarded to R.G. Belsky for Forget Me Not. It was an honor to make the short list for the Claymore, and I was grateful to be amongst such talented writers. I’m interested in seeing how these authors’ careers unfold over the next few years. I imagine some fabulous stories will be shared, and I’m looking forward to adding them to my reading list.
With Killer Nashville 2016 now over, I’m back to my daily grind but with a new perspective on both my own work and the industry in general. Most important, I’m reminded how lucky I am to be able to tell stories and spend my time around others who love to do the same thing.
The idea for MURDER ON WHEELS came from a late-night group e-mail session. As Kaye George explains in her Introduction, she and her husband had taken a ride on a large commercial double-decker bus, the Megabus, that runs between major cities.
“I started thinking that the bus would make a good setting for a murder,” Kaye writes. “There was only one problem–where to hide the body.”
One night, when all the AMWs were online, Kaye mentioned the idea. That led to members suggesting other vehicular settings: Bopped on a Bicycle, Creamed in a Car, Vaporized on a Velocipede… The thesaurus got involved, wordplay began, and an idea formed–we would all write stories around the theme of wheels. Once momentum started to gather, there was no getting off that bus.
So we wrote. Each of us contributed one or two stories. We were pleased to have two guest writers, Reavis Wortham and Earl Staggs, contribute as well. Ramona DeFelice Long edited the manuscript. MURDER ON WHEELS was published by Wildside Press in April 2015.
The final line-up goes like this:
A NICE SET OF WHEELS, by Kathy Waller
FAMILY BUSINESS, by Reavis Z. Wortham
ROTA FORTUNAE, by V. P. Chandler
MOME RATH, MY SWEET, by Gale Albright
THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO ROUND AND ROUND, by Kaye George
BUON VIAGGIO, by Laura Oles
APORKALYPSE NOW, by Gale Albright
HAVE A NICE TRIP, by Kaye George
DEAD MAN ON A SCHOOL BUS, by Earl Staggs
HELL ON WHEELS, by Kathy Waller
RED’S WHITE F-150 BLUES, by Scott Montgomery
We’re also pleased to announce that member Laura Oles’ manuscript, THE DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN, is a finalist for Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award.
Winners of the 2016 Silver Falchion Award and the Claymore Award will be announced tonight at the Dinner and Awards Banquet at Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference in Franklin, Tennessee.
We’ve all heard, It’s an honor just to be nominated. In this case, it’s not a cliche. Austin Mystery Writers are honored to be nominated for these awards.
We’re also delighted, ecstatic, effervescent, excited, flabbergasted, frolicsome, joyous, jubilant, thrilled, thunderstruck… and in a veritable tizzy.
We all know the importance of getting feedback from other writers, not just from friends and family. For many writers, that feedback comes from a critique group.
Last summer, Sisters in Crime hosted a meeting about etiquette for critique groups with special guest Tim Green, from St. Edwards University. Members of several local critique groups joined the discussion. The following guidelines and suggestions emerged.
Professor Green offered a general framework for face-to-face critiques. First the writer speaks, then readers take turns offering their comments. Finally, the whole group can engage in a general discussion, summarizing what they agree about and answering each other’s questions.
The writer can introduce her work briefly, explaining what she’s trying to accomplish, whether her draft is rough or finished, and what kind of feedback she wants.
Readers should begin with the strengths of the piece (‘What works for me is…’) and move to questions…