Nancy Drew and Ruth Bader Ginsburg

kp gresham

By K.P. Gresham

Ninety years ago the first Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret of the Old Clock, was published. Since then, over 70 million copies of that series have been sold. The fictional female teenage sleuth was originally conceived by publisher Edward Stratemeyer, whose other brainstorms included The Hardy Boys, and my personal favorite as a five-year-old, The Bobbsey Twins. (Okay, I’m old. Get over it.)

Believe it or not, Stratemeyer firmly believed in traditional roles for women, but his mostly female ghostwriters under the shared pseudonym of Caroline Keene, had different plans. Mildred Wirt, who wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books, turned Nancy into a fierce, fearless, feminist heroine that inspired young girls to be the same ever since the books hit the shelves. Many prominent and glass-ceiling-shattering women count Nancy Drew as an inspiration in their youth including First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush and Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor and the recently departed and dearly loved Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Oddly enough, critics panned the series when it first came out. Nancy broke too many stereotypes, being frequently outspoken and authoritative. Librarians, educators and parents also considered the books too “formulaic” and feared they would negatively impact young readers and their future book choices.

As you may recall, they said the same thing about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series.

The Secret of the Old Clock is the mystery that began it all for America’s controversial female teenage sleuth. In this story, sixteen-year-old Nancy wishes to help the Turners, who are struggling relatives of the recently deceased Josiah Crowley, find the missing will would give them claim to the Crowely’s estate. She becomes interested in the case because she disliked Crowley’s snobbish nouveau-riche social-climbing heirs.

Justice for the downtrodden? Fighting for the underdog? Outspoken? Authoritative?

Sounds familiar. Rest in Peace, RGB.

K.P. Gresham is the author of the Matt Hayden Mystery series and Three Days At Wrigley Field.

Take Control of Your Life! Write!

kp gresham

 

by K.P. Gresham

 

This pandemic thing is getting really old. (A quote from Captain Obvious, obviously) But we writers have one thing in our arsenal that others don’t. We can create a world where we want to be.

Lori Rader-Day

Lori  Rader-Day, National Sisters in Crime President and award-winning mystery author, spoke to our Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter last Sunday. Besides promoting her new book, The Lucky One (which is an incredible must-read psychological suspense mystery), she also talked about how the pandemic is influencing her writing.

Authors, in our stories we get to create whole worlds that we can completely control. Our characters must acquiesce to our every whim. The settings can be places we want to hang, RESTAURANTS we want to eat at, crowded parks where we can watch fireworks with friends and family, churches where we can go to worship. As Ray Bradbury said, “Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to get up for in the morning.”

This is a time where we can escape into our stories. Want to say something pithy in the real world? Act it out in your characters. Want to kill somebody? Do it on the page. (I can speak to this. It’s very cathartic.) The empowerment that comes by sitting down to the computer and writing just 250 words can produce those happy endorphins that’ll spark you right up. At least William Faulkner thought so. He said, “The right word in the right place at the right time can soothe, calm and heal.”

Full disclosure now. For the first two months of the pandemic I wrote absolutely nothing. Maybe I was too rattled, or just waiting for this pandemonium to pass, or in denial–bottom line I didn’t write one word.  Then I got mad. I wanted to scream at the TV. I wanted to rant on Facebook, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” After a few more weeks, I finally realized that this angst had to be released or I’d go crazy. And then I remembered how I had released that angst at different low points in my past.

Oh, yeah. That’s right. I wrote.

So I offer that you give it a try. Sit down, create the world that you CAN control and say what you have to say. As Walt Disney wrote, “That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”

Take control of your world! Write!

***

K.P. Gresham authors the Pastor Matt Hayden mystery series. Her latest is MURDER ON THE THIRD TRY.

 

And The Finalists Are…

VP Chandler

 

 

by V.P. Chandler

 

Due to the Covid19 pandemic, writing conventions across the world are changing their tactics for the 2020 season, and that includes Killer Nashville and Bouchercon. While they will not be meeting in person, people have still been nominated for their outstanding writing. And three of our AMW family have been nominated this year! (I think this may be a record for us.)

K.P. Gresham, Laura Oles, and Scott Montgomery have all been nominated for awards!  Please scroll through the lists and look at the finalists. I’ve also enlarged the titles and names of friends whose works I recommend.

Enjoy adding many more books to your TBR (To Be Read) list!

And congrats again to K.P., Laura Oles (with Manning Wolfe), and Scott. Well done!

 

2020 KILLER NASHVILLE 

SILVER FALCHION AWARD FINALISTS

 

Mystery


A Dream of Death, by Connie Berry

The White Heron, Carl & Jane Bock

The Mammoth Murders, by Iris Chacon

Blood Moon Rising, by Richard Conrath

Fake, by John DeDakis

Lovely Digits, by Jeanine Englert

The Marsh Mallows, by Henry Hack

Murder at the Candlelight Vigil, by Karen McCarthy

Murder Creek, by Jane Suen

The Deadliest Thief, by June Trop

 

Thriller

Red Specter, by Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson

All Hollow, by Simeon Courtie

Deadly Obsession, by Shirley B. Garrett

The Gryphon Heist, by James R. Hannibal

Low Country Blood, by Sue Hinkin

Hyperion’s Fracture, by Thomas Kelso

Rise, by Leslie McCauley

The Secret Child, by Caroline Mitchell

The Silent Victim, by Dana Perry

Downhill Fast, by Dana J. Summers

 

Suspense



Fade to the Edge, by Kathryn J. Bain

Below the Fold, by R.G. Belsky


Murder on the Third Try
, by K.P. Gresham

Queen’s Gambit, by Bradley Harper

The Strange Disappearance of Rose Stone, by J.E. Irvin

Revenge in Barcelona, by Kathryn Lane

The Daughter of Death, by Dianne McCartney

VIPER, A Jessica James Mystery, by Kelly Oliver

Downhill Fast, by Dana J. Summers

The Scions of Atlantis, by Claudia Turner

 

Action or Adventure



Westfarrow Island, by Paul A. Barra

The Measure of Ella, by Toni Bird Jones

Dangerous Conditions, by Jenna Kernan

The Best Lousy Choice, by Jim Nesbitt

Angel in the Fog, by Tj Turner

Cozy



Two Bites Too Many, by Debra H. Goldstein

A Sip Before Dying, by Gemma Halliday

Bad Pick, by Linda Lovely

The Fog Ladies, by Susan McCormick

Twisted Plots, by Bonita McCoy

 

Procedural or P.I.



Russian Mojito, by Carmen Amato

Apprehension, by Mark Bergin

The Things That Are Different, by Peter W.J. Hayes

Paid in Spades, by Richard Helms

The Dead of Summer, by Jean Rabe

 

Juvenile or Y.A.



Daughter Undisclosed, by Susan K. Flach

Speak No Evil, by Liana Gardner

The Clockwork Dragon, by James R. Hannibal

Kassy O’Roarke, Cub Reporter, by Kelly Oliver

This Dark and Bloody Ground, by Lori Roberts

 

Short Story Anthology or Collection



Couch Detective, by James Glass

Words on Water, by Harpeth River Writers

A Midnight Clear, by Lindy Ryan


Last Call, by Manning Wolfe and Laura Oles

The Muse of Wallace Rose, by Bill Woods

Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror

The Line Between, by Tosca Lee


A Single Light, by Tosca Lee

To the Bones, by Valerie Nieman

Moon Deeds, by Palmer Pickering

Dreamed It, by Maggie Toussaint


2020 ANTHONY AWARD NOMINEES for Bouchercon 2020

Best Novel

Your House Will Pay, by Steph Cha

They All Fall Down, by Rachel Howzell Hall

Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman 

The Murder List, by Hank Phillippi Ryan 

Miami Midnight, by Alex Segura

 

Best First Novel

 

The Ninja Daughter, by Tori Eldridge

Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim

One Night Gone, by Tara Laskowski

Three-Fifths, by John Vercher 

American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson

 

Best Paperback Original

 

The Unrepentant, by E.A. Aymar

Murder Knocks Twice, by Susanna Calkins

The Pearl Dagger, by L.A. Chandlar 

Scot & Soda, by Catriona McPherson 

The Alchemist’s Illusion, by Gigi Pandian

Drowned Under, by Wendall Thomas

The Naming Game, by Gabriel Valjan

 

Best Critical Non-Fiction Work

 

Hitchcock and the Censors, by John Billheimer

The Hooded Gunman: An Illustrated History of the Collins Crime Club, by John Curran

The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women, by Mo Moulton

The Trial of Lizzie Borden: A True Story, by Cara Robertson

The Five: The Untold Stories of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold

 

Best Short Story

(Read each story for free by clicking the link in the title)

“Turistas,” by Hector Acosta (appearing in ¡Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!: Stories to Benefit the People of Puerto Rico)

“Unforgiven,” by Hilary Davidson (appearing in Murder a-Go-Gos: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of the Go-Gos)

“Red Zone,” by Alex Segura (appearing in ¡Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!: Stories to Benefit the People of Puerto Rico)

“Better Days,” by Art Taylor (appearing in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, May/June 2019)

“Hard Return,” by Art Taylor (appearing in Crime Travel)

 

Best Anthology or Collection

 

The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods, edited by Michael Bracken 

¡Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!: Stories to Benefit the People of Puerto Rico, edited by Angel Luis Colón

Crime Travel, edited by Barb Goffman

Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible, edited by Verena Rose, Rita Owen, and Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder A-Go-Go’s: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of the Go-Gos, edited by Holly West

 

Best Young Adult

 

Seven Ways to Get Rid of Harry, by Jen Conley 

Catfishing on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer

Killing November, by Adriana Mather

Patron Saints of Nothing, by Randy Ribay

The Deceivers, by Kristen Simmons

Wild and Crooked, by Leah Thomas

A Dream Come True

kp gresham

 

 

 

By K.P. Gresham

Writers love to dream. We dream when we’re awake and when we’re asleep. Sometimes its hard to tell the difference. Here’s an example.

I woke to the sound of the TV news coming from the other room. This was no surprise as my husband always turned on the telly when he had his morning coffee. What I heard coming from the TV, however, stunned me.

“My fellow Americans,” the President was saying. “I know these next few weeks and months will be very dark indeed. Thousands will die from Covid-19. Many more thousands will become sick. But remember this. We are Americans. Just as our forefathers fought side by side with people they’d never met, races they’d never before even knew existed, followers of different religions, they came together to create The United States of America. Their goal? To form a more perfect union.”

I swung my legs out of bed and joined my husband in the front room, where he sat mesmerized, staring at the TV.

I saw the President was standing alone behind a podium in the White House Rose Garden. “Today it is in that unity that we must come together to help each other through this trying time. It’s amazing what a smile and a wave to a stranger while social distancing can do not only for that stranger, but for you as well. Giving joy brings joy. Sending an encouraging email tells us we can be a source of comfort. Passing on a Facebook joke brings a smile to our face as well as those we’ve friended.”

Entranced, I sat down beside my husband on the couch.

“When Pearl Harbor was attacked, thus bringing the United States into World War II,” the President continued, “the Japanese admiral who lead the attack said, ‘I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant.’ His fear came to pass.” The President’s smile was victorious. “The entire U.S. population roared to the support of our common cause. We signed up for the Armed Forces, turned our manufacturers into war machine producers, started food banks, sold and bought war bonds.  Normal citizens turned into parachute seamsters, hospital workers, night raid wardens and troops on the front line.”

My husband put his hand around my shoulder. I felt him sending me confidence through that hug.

“In the midst of this war on Covid-19–and it is a war–we as a united people under one flag, must now understand that we, too, can be part of the solution. Put on your armor, your face masks, your gloves, etc., arm yourself with sanitizer. Take orders from your generals, or in our case, the medical experts who tell you to wash your hands, stay at home, and when you do have to go out, wear a mask and stay at least six feet away from every person you see.

“Now is the time for the United States to no longer be that sleeping giant, uninvolved and inactive. Let us roar into action, together, united, knowing our attitude will be the difference between the life and death for millions of our fellow citizens. Be positive! Know you ARE the solution! Only together can we defeat this enemy.”

Yes! I thought. I can be part of the solution!

“As your President,” he continued, “I call all Americans to arms. I call the businesses of this country to retool and make the equipment our soldiers on the front lines, the first responders, need to succeed. I call on the wealthy to have a care for our service workers on whom they depend for their comfort. Remember that bartender who knows exactly how dry you like your martini. Remember that masseuse who is the only one who can get that kink out of your neck. I suspect strongly that the wealthier you are the more workers and businesses you will have on your list. I call on every person to be the support each other needs. A smile. An attitude of ‘We’re in this together and, by God (literally), we will get through this.’

“To my fellow politicians I say this.” He gazed straight into the camera. “Right now is NOT the time for assessing blame, dire predictions, threats to our medical experts, or refusing to follow the restrictions deemed best for our country. Time for all of those arguments, judgements, recriminations belongs to a history yet to be written. Right now we’re fighting a war, and as leader of this country, I say we all, including the government, will fight this war as one.”

My chest swelled with pride. We are the United States of America!

“In conclusion,” he said. “I thank all of the first responders, all of the medical experts, all of the businesses and individuals who are rising up to defeat this disease. We are a mighty country. God bless the United States of America.”

I was invigorated. Hopeful. Determined.

And apparently I was asleep.

Suddenly my alarm screamed into my hopefulness, jerking me awake. What the hell?

Then I realized it had all been a dream. Damn. My sense of empowerment and determination seeped away as I became more and more ensconced in wakefulness.

Time to get back to reality. But wouldn’t it be nice if that dream would someday come true?

Murdercon, 2019–The Perfect Ménage à Trois!

By K.P. Gresham

I’m talking about the recent crime writer’s convention recently held in Raleigh, NC. What did you think I was referring to?

To create this perfect threesome, you combine Lee Lofland and his crew at The Writers Police Academy with Sirchie—the leading manufacturer of criminal investigation, forensic and law enforcement products, and add a few crazy crime writers who want to learn new and innovative ways to kill people. Then you title it, Murdercon, 2019, and put all those three elements together in Raleigh, NC for four fantastic days of murder and mayhem. More importantly, the goal of the conference is to teach the mystery writers what REALLY happens in the world of criminal investigation. What we see on TV or the big screen is often a far cry from what really happens at a crime scene and beyond.

For example, I love watching NCIS and NCIS New Orleans (shout out to Captain Archer, A.K.A. Scott Bacula), but let’s be real.  DNA identifications don’t happen in less than a day, nor do face ID’s, fingerprint analyses, or hook-ups to every street camera in the known universe.

The experts at Murdercon absolutely know what they are talking about. In fact, this year’s conference was held at the actual Sirchie headquarters in Raleigh. Okay, so who or what is Sirchie?

Sirchie, founded in 1927 by Francis Sirchie, supplies law enforcement agencies with fingerprinting supplies, advanced equipment, customized vehicles, and kitting services. He got his big break in World War II with his state of the art fingerprinting technology. The U.S. Government awarded Sirchie’s company the contract to fingerprint every World War II soldier, munitions worker, medical personnel—the list goes on. That contract rocketed Sirchie into the forensic investigation giant that it is today.

They “manufacture high-quality criminal investigation, tactical, surveillance, and other police-related solutions including customized special purpose vehicles as well as delivering industry-leading training for public safety, medical, and education communities featuring hands-on learning techniques.” That came straight from their website,  https://www.sirchie.com/. Check out what this incredible company does to keep our country and our world safe.

So, back to Murdercon. The conference was nonstop from dawn to way after sunset. I attended sessions on latent fingerprint development, fire arms and ballistics, an impromptu talk given by David Alford, one of the FBI’s lead Crime Scene Investigators of the Unibomber’s cabin, and a session on “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. (Scared the pants off of me, and yes, I’m going to use the info in a book!) We got to touch, use, experience some of the equipment Sirchie develops, and we even got a tour of their factory.

But the one-on-one interactions between the experts and writers was the best part for me.  Thanks to the patience of James Reynolds, a Sirchie guru who helped lead the conference, I was able to get my crime scene for an upcoming book “just right”. For two hours he helped me line up who had to be where, what evidence would be left, how the investigators would find it—the entire experience was off the charts. By the time we finished mocking up the crime scene in the hotel lounge, I think we’d scared some folks away—were we really planning a crime?

Hats off to those who put together this incredible conference. A perfect ménage à trois ? More like a match made in heaven!

I Love Research and Nolan Ryan!

by K.P. Gresham

Writing for me is both a compulsion and an exploration.  I know, I know, they say “write what you know”, but I’d add another clause on that. Write what you know and/or what you’d like to research.

The best book prompt that I know of is “What if?” For example, what if my heroine wants to become a professional baseball player?   (By the way, that is a cheap plug for my first novel, Three Days at Wrigley Field.) Even though I am an avid baseball fan, there’s no way I had enough baseball knowledge in my head to complete a novel on the subject.  More important than knowing that Nolan Ryan pitched seven no-hitters in his career (a record known by thousands of fans), I needed to know how he pitched those no-hitters. To that end, I purchased Nolan Ryan’s video on how he pitched. That information is integral to making the book work. (Side note: I’m nuts about Nolan Ryan. When I lived in Houston, I’d drive an hour to his hometown of Alvin just to get my hair cut. I kept hoping on the off-chance I would see this super-human walking down the street.)

Research for me is one of the most fun parts of creating a fictional piece.  For example, in my Pastor Matt Hayden Mystery Series, I do indeed write what I know. I grew up a PK–preacher’s kid (I prefer the term TO for ‘theological offspring’, but alas, that never caught on). I know a whole lot about what a preacher does, about how congregations work (or don’t work), about the ever present pitfalls for even the most devoted. But I didn’t know anything about the Federal Witness Protection Program or how to own and run a sports bar. (I hope that’s a tease–what is my series all about??)

In the coming blogs, I’m going to talk about how and/or where I do my research.  A writer may write in a bubble, but IMO they certainly can’t research in a bubble. She has to join groups, go to conferences, hit the bars J, and talk to experts in the field. (Hence why I had to hit the bar.) She has to get the facts right, or she risks losing the trust of the reader. Why is this important? A “This is bogus!” reaction from the reader means they’re slamming the book shut never to pick it up again, and, worst of all, telling others not to read it.

Research is necessary, but fun! I hope you’ll enjoy my escapades into research that I’ll share with you in coming blogs.