Past Blog Posts

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

AMW Sponsors FREE Fiction Workshop @BookPeople!

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Have you ever wanted to write crime fiction?  Or, want to learn more about how your favorite authors create those fast-paced plots and complicated characters that manage to keep you up all night reading? 
Come to our FREE special one day event:  Anatomy of a Mystery @ BookPeople on Saturday, November 9th, 2013 from 9:30am-3:00pm.
Our panel of highly-acclaimed mystery novelists will give you the inside scoop on what it takes to create some of today’s most memorable mysteries. Janice Hamrick, Karen MacInerney and Reavis Z Wortham will cover topics ranging from plotting and characterization to how to balance action and humor in crime fiction.  
Special Bonus:  First 25 attendees receive a FREE Austin Mystery Writers notepad and pen, plus a chance to win a free AMW tote along with other raffle items including books and more!

Doors open at 9:00am

Reavis Z. Wortham, Balancing Action, Humor and Pacing, 9:30-10:30am
Karen MacInerney, The Nuts & Bolts of Mysteries, 11:00am-noon
Lunch Break 12:00-1:00pm
Janice Hamrick, The Craft of Creating Interesting Characters, 1:00pm-2:00pm
Panel Discussion with Authors, 2:15pm-3:00pm
If you love reading crime fiction or want to learn how to write a mystery, this is the event for you!
Questions? Please contact Laura Oles at
Austin Mystery Writers

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Evening with Laurie R. King


BookPeople in Austin, Texas, always has an impressive schedule of author events on the calendar, so it can be difficult to decide which ones to attend.   When Laurie R. King’s name appeared on the roster, I cleared my schedule for that evening (well, after hustling kids to soccer practice, helping with homework, cooking dinner, you get the idea) and made my way to Lamar Blvd.

I had the pleasure of meeting Laurie at this year’s Malice Domestic conference in Maryland.  She was funny and kind and extremely gracious with her time.  As the conference’s chosen Guest of Honor for Malice Domestic 2013,  she still found a way to make time for every person hoping for a moment of her attention.   There are few things more wonderful than realizing a favorite author is also a gem of a human being.

Laurie discussed her latest novel, The Bones of Paris, which is set in the City of Light at the end of the 1920’s.  When asked why she chose this particular time, Laurie said, “The end of the decade was when things began to fall apart, and I find that to be much more interesting for a crime writer.”
The Bones of Paris received a starred review from Booklist and Publisher’s weekly was equally kind with its praise.  Exploring the dark underbelly of Paris’ Jazz Age through the eyes of Harris Stuyvesant will have readers up all night in anticipation of what he discovers next.  While Mary Russell remains a crowd favorite, it’s clear that Harris Stuyvesant will garner loyal readers as well.  After all, there’s room on our nightstands for more than one compelling King protagonist.
When asked by an audience member how she was able to juggle writing multiple series, she answered that she found herself easily bored and preferred switching from one project to an entirely different one.  Loyal King readers are thankful for this view as it gives us a broader range of stories from which to choose and affords us the opportunity to experience King’s storytelling prowess in numerous ways.

Laurie can’t speak in public without someone asking her about her decision to take on the character of Sherlock Holmes through her vision with Mary Russell.  She confesses that early on, she was surprised by the uproar from some Holmes fans.  She says that one message board started flaming her on the Internet, back in the early days of such boards, but that she wasn’t on the Internet so all their disparaging efforts went on without her knowledge, something that still brings a smile to her face.  “They were getting all worked up and I had no idea for the longest time,” she says with a grin.

In truth, she was fascinated by the idea of taking many of Holmes’ traits and seeing how they would manifest in a young, intelligent woman who would stand as his peer.  She was interested in “how it would be the same and how it would be different.”   Needless to say, the success of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice captured the imagination of those who loved Sherlock Holmes as well as those who loved the idea that she would take the character and explore him through more current times and with compelling twists on the classic detective.
One question that often comes up at such events–from curious writers– involves the debate between being an ‘outliner’ or ‘pantser,’ which has since evolved into the ‘organized vs. organic debate.’  Want to know under which camp Laurie King falls?

While she does take notes on certain scenes or particular characters, Laurie finds it best to write organically.   In fact, she co-authored a book with Michelle Spring titled the Arvon Book of Crime and Thriller Writing, which details the two authors’ differing approaches to crafting a novel.
She says her first drafts are often “300 page outlines with characters disappearing and such.”  Struggling novice novelists will be grateful to hear that someone with King’s writing chops turns out a less than perfect first draft.  She does write 1,500-2,000 words per day until she hits a slowing point, which signals that she has more ‘back of the mind’ work to do in figuring out what happens next in the story.  She finds it best not to continue to force the writing and uses the slowed pace as a signal that more questions need to be answered before continuing.
When asked which authors she currently enjoys reading, King offers up Lyndsay Faye.  “She’s such a talented writer.  I loved the Gods of Gotham.” She also gives kind mention to Tony Broadbent, author of the Smoke series featuring Jethro, a jewel thief and cat burglar.

King is hard at work on her next projects and promises that we will see more of Mary Russell in the future as well as other characters that have captured her imagination (and ours).  King readers can rest assured that whatever the author brings next, it will be well worth the wait.

To learn more about Laurie R. King,
–Laura Oles

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Kaye George Returns to Texas

The members of Austin Mystery Writers were clustered at their literary haunt in the BookPeople café on Thursday morning, eagerly awaiting the arrival of famed author and Grand Poobah emerita Kaye George.

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“Gosh,” I said to the group. “I hope she remembers the little people.”
I need not have worried. With all her usual charm and warmth, Kaye George appeared wearing a big fedora, carrying a giant magnifying glass, and blinding us with her dazzling smile.
We had missed Kaye George. Once a guiding beacon in AMW in Austin, she had moved to Waco, then Knoxville, Tennessee, too far away to attend the weekly critique group meetings.
However, that didn’t stop Kaye from being an active participant in AMW. She’s still a major player in the group, we’re glad to say.
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Kaye George has been an inspiration to fellow writers. She fought hard to become a published author, always refusing to give up her dream of publication. Her organizational skills are truly amazing. She blogs, writes short stories and books, and participates in panel discussions and book tours. In fact, she’s on her way to the upcoming Killer Nashville conference. She is a force to be reckoned with (yes, ending with a preposition, but it sounds good).Kaye’s first novel, CHOKE, was published in 2011 and was nominated for an Agatha award for Best First Novel.  In 2012, she added the sequels SMOKE and BROKE to her new series, the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas mysteries.  In April 2013, EINE KLEINE MURDER (a Cressa Caraway Musical Mystery) was published by Barking Rain Press.  In June, her Neanderthal mystery thriller, DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE, was published by Untreed Reads.  Kaye hopes to have an audio version of CHOKE available this fall, as well as a boxed set of the Duckworthy mysteries.

Kaye has a three-book contract with Berkeley Prime Crime and is hard at work to complete her first finished Fat Cat cozy mystery by September 15. She will write this series using the nom de plume Janet Cantrell.

-Gale Albright

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Marvelous Time at Malice Domestic 2013

I’ve gone to a few writers’ conferences over the past ten years or so, but this was the first time I’ve attended a conference that’s designed for both mystery writers and readers.
I had no idea what I’d been missing!
My schedule doesn’t usually afford me the ability to travel in May (read: three kids all playing sports with better social calendars than Mom), but after thinking about Malice Domestic for a year or two, I decided to commit and figure out a plan later.
The first thing that struck me when I walked into the Bethesda Hyatt Regency was that it seemed the staff were as excited about the conference as the attendees.  It’s not every day you have Sherlock Holmes offer to have your bags sent to your room.
Our first night was filled with friendly conversation in the hotel bar, and I was struck by how open and welcoming this group of authors and fans were to us newbies.  Kaye George, author of Eine Kliene Murder and the president of Guppies, took me under her wing and graciously introduced me around.  After a very happy hour (or two), we slipped away for dinner.  While the food was good, the company trumped the menu.  Nancy G. West, Kaye, and Karen MacInerney were wonderful dinner companions.  The topics ranged from writing to family to life.  I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
Laura Lippman served as Toastmaster this year and she filled the role with humility and humor.  As someone who enjoys reading her books, I was pleased to find that she is a kind and generous person with both her talents and her time.  We spent a few minutes swapping motherhood stories at the cocktail hour before the Agatha Awards Banquet, and I enjoyed learning more about her foray into the fabulously chaotic jungle that is childrearing.  Motherhood isn’t for sissies, that’s for sure.
Friday morning came early, and with it, the hunt for coffee and some form of pastry with zero nutritional value.  After attending the Malice 101 Introduction (make sure you go if it’s your first time), I headed over to the Crime Lab Gab.  Max Houck may be a scientist but he’s got the comic timing of a professional stand-up artist.  Seinfeld should be scared.  I couldn’t possibly retell his presentation and do it justice, but one story included a felon and saran wrap.  He also reminded us that the National Criminal Justice Reference Service was an excellent resource for crime writers (
One panel that I enjoyed the most centered on the Agatha Best Short Story Nominees.  As someone who is new to the short story form, it was interesting to learn how each author approached short story structure and how ideas evolved into tales.  One important takeaway was the reminder that a short story project can be a welcome break from working on a novel or longer project.  It’s a way to stay in story mode but the author experiences a sense of completion more quickly due to the smaller word count requirements.  Art Taylor mentioned that it’s also a way to play with an idea or character that may not be able to hold up an entire novel but would be perfect for a short story.
Luci Zahray’s presentation on poisons intrigued and terrified me all at the same time.  Her ability to articulate the impact arsenic, strychnine and cyanide can have on the human body is downright chilling.  I immediately started thinking of ways to use arsenic in my current WIP.  While Zahay has the knowledge of a skilled pharmacist, she has the heart of a storyteller. It was a strong program packed with information.
I’ve always been fascinated by those who can write multiple books per year so I attended Double Trouble: Authors Who Write Multiple Series. The authors included Maggie Barbieri, Joelle Charbonneau, Kaitlyn Dunnet and Denise Swanson.  These ladies manage to complete a staggering number of books between them each year, and while they tried to convince us that they were ordinary ladies, I was pretty sure they had some Superwoman capes tucked beneath the table.
The conversations were lighthearted, the banter hilarious, and the tips really came down to these women all working on very little sleep and being strict taskmasters with their projects while juggling family lives, work and community commitments.  The panel did give me hope, though, because they once again proved that there really isn’t any magic formula to finishing a novel.  You simply make it a priority and steal whatever time you can from any place you can.
Malice Domestic was a wonderful adventure of a weekend.  It was an opportunity to share time with those who love to write and read mysteries, who will willingly spend hours pulling apart storylines and dissecting plots and will gladly help you map a murder scene while waiting for the main course to arrive.  And really, don’t we have these conversations in restaurants just to mess with the waiters?  It’s just one more perk of being a mystery writer.–Laura Oles

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