Friday, August 30, 2013

Killer Nashville Ate My Blog Post

I am scheduled to post my blogs on The Stiletto Gang every fourth Friday. Now, those among you who are very on top of things may have noticed that this is the fifth Friday of the month. Those of you with indecently strong memories may recall that no new post went up on the fourth Friday of the month just past (I have always maintained that a faulty memory is a kindness to others). Yes! *hangs head in shame* I missed my scheduled blog post this month, and this is a make-up post. But I have a good excuse. Killer Nashville ate my blog post.

I have my blogs scheduled on my Google calendar, which sends me reminders a day ahead of time to write and post a blog for that fourth Friday, and the calendar keeps good track of this, even when there are five Fridays in a month.  I, on the other hand, tend to imprecisely think of my post as due on the last Friday of the month, which it usually is. So when I left at the crack of dawn with my husband and a good friend from Border Crimes, my local Sisters in Crime group, to drive from Kansas City to Nashville for the conference, I left behind all possible reminders that I had a blog post due. It was only earlier this week when I was home again and cleaning out the overflowing email inbox that I encountered that reminder of a long-past-due post and had to throw myself on the mercy of my blog sisters. “But if you had been there having all that fun and learning things and meeting people—did I mention that Anne Perry and D.P. Lyle were guests of honor?—you’d have forgotten the doggone blog post, too.” So my blog buddies said to tell them and you about Killer Nashville to redeem myself—and as a writer, I’m all about redemption.

Vinnie Hansen and Julie Tollefson

In the beginning was the drive—and in the end, as well—and it was a drive of biblical dimensions. Billed by Mapquest as an 8 ½-hour drive, it was stretched to 12 hours each way when we encountered severe road construction all across the states of Illinois and Kentucky. Ben and I were glad we had our friend, Julie, along to help with the driving and keep the atmosphere light. When we finally burst through into Tennessee, it quickly became a favorite state among us for its notable dearth of orange barrels, closed lanes, and gridlock traffic standing still for miles and miles.

Nashville is a lovely city set in the midst of beautiful forested mountains. Our raveled nerves healed and reknit as we drove through such peaceful vistas. Soon we were at the conference hotel, and Julie was checking in while Ben and I picked up registration materials and then found our way to a writer friend’s house where we were staying twenty minutes from the hotel. While our friends fed us healthy, delicious, homemade food, Julie was getting snockered at the wine-tasting where she’d arrived late and tried to make up time on an empty stomach. She gave that first program high honors next day, though.

Molly Weston

What can I say? The panels and programs were great. I cherry-picked ones featuring my good friends Chris F. Holm and Hilary Davidson right off the top—and they were superb on writing the short story and on writing dark. Then, Ben and I had lunch with Julie and our dear friend, Judge Debra Goldstein, where much fascinating discussion and flat-out hilarity ensued. Back at the conference, I checked in with Molly Weston who was in charge of the Sisters in Crime table and reception later that evening. Throughout the conference, I tried to take time to spell Molly at the table or keep her company. I felt this was my responsibility as a local chapter president—and I just love the chance to spend time with Molly. That evening, we all helped with the Sisters in Crime reception, which was full of good food and drink and lots and lots of great people. After which, Ben and I adjourned eight blocks to meet our hostess, who runs the MFA in creative writing program at a local university, and a handful of her students at Nashville’s Shakespeare in the Park for the funniest, best version of Midsummer Night’s Dream we’ve seen (and with Ben’s Ph.D. in theater and film, we’ve seen a lot of versions of that play).

Saturday offered workshops with law enforcement professionals (one of the great features of Killer Nashville—tons of chances to work with and meet ATF, TBI, and other law enforcement pros). We even had a wonderful presentation by a former federal black ops agent who offered great detailed explanations of how he was recruited and trained and how he operated in the field—and the human toll it took on him and his family. D. P. Lyle, a forensic consultant for major crime writers and crime TV shows and movies, gave a great presentation, and bestseller Anne Perry gave such great and inspiring presentations that she warranted a standing ovation. (I’m still resonating from her talks and finding more and more to return to all the time.)

Sunday, I was scheduled on a panel, but first I had to attend Debra’s panel, “Order in the Court,” with her (a federal judge), a state judge, and a prosecuting attorney.  I knew it would be excellent, just by virtue of Debra’s  presence on it, but it was fun and funny and full of useful information for writers. Right after hers came my panel, “Fiction on the Fringes: Writing Other Cultures, Closed Communities, Countercultures.” (I’ve written in more detail about this great panel and the remarkable audience we had on my blog here )

Then, it was goodbyes all around and drive into and through the night (or stand still for miles at a time in Illinois and Kentucky). We finally arrived exhausted in the wee hours of Monday morning, and poor Julie had to get in her car at my house and drive another hour to her own. Valiant and stalwart woman that she is!

It was worth the horrible drives, and I had the chance to see folks I missed at Malice this year and made new friends. And Anne Perry’s  remarkable, passionate presentation is going to keep unfolding inside me until I write something about it, I’m sure. If you have the chance to go to Killer Nashville, I’d advise you to take it. It was worth even twelve hours of driving with 3 ½ of those pretty much standing still.

And that’s how Killer Nashville ate my blog. I promise I won’t do it again. Have I redeemed myself?

(Thanks to Kaye George for the top two photos and to Julie Tollefson for the last one.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Celebrity Crush

by Maria Geraci

Go ahead and admit it.

 You have a celebrity crush.

Not a crush as in, that guy is cute (I have those too! Mine would be Jesse Spencer from Chicago Fire). But if you're like most people you have some sort of fascination for someone in the limelight. Someone say, like, Princess Kate.

Yep. I'm a sucker for Kate and William. And now, add little George to the mix. I can't go by the checkout line at the grocery and NOT buy a magazine that has their picture on it.

I was never a big Princess Di fan. Nor am I an anglophile. I do admit to staying up years ago to watch Diana's wedding to Prince Charles, but I think half the nation did that and I was young and in college and it was kind of the thing to do. But any fascination I might have had with Diana slowly ebbed as it became apparent that her life was anything to be admired.

Not so with Kate. She seems to have it all. A somewhat handsome (if slightly toothy) husband who seems genuinely devoted to her, a loving family (normal parents and sister), a career, a good relationship with the mother-in-law, and a sensible head on her shoulders  Plus, she has great hair. What's not to love about her?

Please, Kate. Stay normal. The world needs more celebrity role models like you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The End

by Bethany Maines

For our first date, my husband took me to see the movie Hot Fuzz, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. We had both loved Shaun of the Dead, made by the same folks and we were excited to see it. Since the film wasn’t a summer blockbuster, I kept describing it to friends as, “you know, that British film,” which caused several people to ask why he was taking me to see British porn. Hot Fuzz is actually a loving satire of buddy cop movies and part two of the Cornetto Trilogy, part one is the zombie flick Shaun of the Dead and part three being sci-fi pub crawl flick, The World’s End, which was released last Friday. Of course, we eagerly bought tickets to revisit or first date and hopefully laugh a great deal.
If you’re thinking, “How do a zombie movie, cop flick, and a sci-fi… something relate to each other? They don’t sound like a trilogy.” Well, the movies are pretty much only linked through Cornetto’s, the cast, and a theme of male friendships. But when the movies are that funny, do you really need more than ice cream, friends, and the same two dudes, to make a trilogy? I say, no.
Should it be surprising that the end of a story is significantly different from the beginning? I don’t think so. Whether it’s because writer’s want to keep things “realistic” or they want to leave room for sequels, it seems like there are a lot of stories lately in which a character and the world doesn’t evolve. I think too many stories tip-toe up to the edge of change and then get scared to go any further. I love stories and characters that aren’t afraid to blow up their status quo, tear down normal, and bring on change! Now if only I were that bold in real life…

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Milestones, Big and Small

Yesterday, Evelyn David mentioned some things I'd like to follow up on.

Labor Day and whether or not to stop wearing while shoes. I don't own a pair of white shoes, so that's no problem. When I was in high school, in the fall we wore sweaters and wool, or other heavy fabric, skirts, bobby socks and Joyce shoes (and guess what, they were white--kind of like nurses' shoes, with a bit of a platform, and very expensive--my mother made me buy mine with my own money.) No one ever wore tennis shoes to class--only in gym and they were called gym shoes--ugly.)

Since I grew up in Los Angeles, it was often very hot in the fall--and sometimes on into and through December. Didn't matter, sweaters and skirts were what the girls wore. (No female wore slacks to school. This was in the late 40s and early 50s, I graduated in 51.)

In the spring, when it was over overcast and cool, we wore dresses, cotton skits and blouses. We still might wear our Joyces with bobby socks--but sometimes we changed to Capezio ballet shoes. Expensive and you had to go to the store in downtown L.A. to buy them. And they weren't meant for wearing on sidewalk--so they didn't last long.

I love all the TV shows Evelyn does--but I have to fight to stay awake for Dancing with the Stars--I fight and I lose sometimes. The series shows I wait and order the whole season from Netflix and watch a year behind everyone.

And that brings me to the big milestone in my life. I turned 80 on Saturday and I celebrated with my girls and their spouses in youngest daughter's home in Camarillo. (Son stayed home because his daughter and her family came to visit.)

The celebration began on Friday when we arrived--a homemade enchilada dinner and a wild pool tournament. (They played for quarters--I watched.)

On Saturday, after a lot of visiting, we headed to Ventura and had lunch at the Aloha Restaurant where we could watch the ocean. From there we went to the actual marina and took a cruise and got to see how the rich folk live with their huge houses right on the water and their yachts parked at their own docks.

We also saw lots of brave souls on stand-up paddle boards and others kayaking among the seals. (The boat captain told us sometimes dolphins come in and once a whale decides to visit.)

We ventured out just beyond the breakwater--and it was a beautiful day!

When we returned to our home base in Camarillo, son-in-law Rick barbecued tri-tip, ribs and salmon--and daughter Lori made the sides. For desert (my request) we had hot fudge (or whatever kind anyone wanted to build) sundaes. We were joined by my youngest granddaughter, Alyssa, who is now 20, and granddaughter Genie with her family.

After all the food, we played Tripoli and hubby and I lost all of our pennies, but had a lot of fun.

A great weekend, and yes--a big milestone for me.

Now, I need to get busy and get some writing done!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday, Monday

The last Monday in August is when my post is due here. This is what happens when you have no idea what to write. You just ramble until something rattles around in your brain.

Labor Day is approaching. Do they still have the Fashion dictate of no white shoes after Labor Day?

Fall is coming. Which means school is back in session, but more importantly, it’s TV Fall programming time and I can’t wait.

Returning shows I’m eager to see:
  • Bones – that was a dinger of a cliff-hanger 
  • Castle – love that season ending cliff-hanger 
  • Criminal Minds 
  • Elementary 
  • Hawaii Five-O 
  • The Mentalist 
  • Person of Interest 
  • Raising Hope – my guilty pleasure show 
  • Amazing Race 
  • Dancing With The Stars

As for the new TV shows, nothing has struck my fancy, so it will be a wait and see once I start viewing it.

You know what I miss? NBC’s Mystery Movie TV show.

You know what else I miss, the old TV Guide that was reader’s digest size.

Is there any show you can’t wait to see return? Any of the new shows to recommend?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sleeping with the windows open

by Maria Geraci

First, I must apologize for missing my blogs last month. What was I thinking? Well, clearly, I wasn't. This time last month I was in the middle of the RWA conference and there was lots of other stuff going on and I simply forgot. So sorry!

Now, onto today's blog, which I'm writing in the midst of a stuffy, humid house.

Yep, our air-conditioner broke down yesterday.

I first noticed it early in the morning when I woke up. The house felt stuffy. But since temps generally drop to the mid-high seventies at night and our thermostat is set to 75, I figured the unit just hadn't turned on.

By late morning I knew something was wrong. And by the time mid-afternoon came and the temp in the house hit 85 I definitely knew something was wrong. So I called Buddy, our air-conditioning guy (yes, we're on a first name basis with our air-conditioning guys down here in Florida) and he came out last night and told us we need a new compressor. Getting one asap, which isn't fast enough for me. Hopefully, tonight I'll be able to get some good sleep.

Which brings me to the topic of my post. I haven't slept with the windows open in forever. Usually, in the cooler months, I have the windows open all day, then shut them up at night. But open windows, all night long? I haven't done that since I was in college and I'm not sure why. We live in a very safe neighborhood, have never been the victims of any crime (thank goodness), and have screens on all our windows, so, why not sleep with the windows open more often?

I'll tell you why. It sounds like a dang forest outside my house. Crickets, cicadas and all kinds of creepy crawly things (not to mention, owls. I had no idea I had owls hooting in my backyard). I guess I'm just not a nature girl. I like the soothing sound of a fan whirling above my head. And that's it.

How about you? Do you sleep with the windows open or closed?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A New Beginning

Summers around here are tough on this writer.  Everyone is home from school--and since hubby is a teacher, that means him, too--schedules are disrupted (teenagers sleep REALLY late), and there are more people in my office area at one time than at any time during the course of a school year.  Although I try mightily to stick to my usual routine--get up, feed animals, walk 5 miles, write, work, etc.--I can't get as much done as I would like. So with the wheels totally off the proverbial bus (my routine), I struggle to keep the narrative of my story going (mine and the book I'm working on) while dealing with the demands of a house filled to the brim.

Go to the library to write, you say?  If only.  Like my needy West Highland Terrier and assertive Maine Coon, I am a creature of habit.  I write at my desk, in my attic, taking the occasional break to look out the window at the woods beyond my house.  That's how it works.  The library is probably cool, quiet, and filled with other people trying to achieve some kind of educational or work-related goal but I know myself:  I would be looking up at the circulation desk every time someone checked out a book or asked a question.  Here in the attic, my only views are my seldom-used exercise bike (I know!  I need to ride it more!) and the litter box (which sees more action than my exercise bike).

Go to a coffee shop?  See paragraph 3.  Replace the circulation desk with a counter and you'll see why that's not a great option either.

So, this summer, instead of banging my head against a wall about my lack of progress on my work-in-progress, I decided to put the book in a sort of time-out, to not put a great deal of pressure on myself if I didn't write 5000 words a week or flesh out that character who needed more of a backstory.  As a result, when I did get to write, it felt virtuous and productive.  By focusing on what I could do--instead of what I wasn't doing--I felt less guilty, got more accomplished and did a whole lot less fretting.

January is less of a new beginning for me than September.  September brings routine and order and yes, homework, but it also brings me back to the attic, where I create the characters that I love to create and the murder and mayhem that seems to be part of the DNA of my imagination.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What I've Been Up to in the Writing World

I'm a great believe in not putting all of your eggs in one basket. This belief comes from experience. I've had two publishers die, three close their doors, dealt with three crooked publishers, had agents who did nothing and I truly mean nothing (when I asked to see rejection letters was given one after 4 years of my thinking the agent was busily working for me).

Because of that past history, at the moment I have three publishers.

My Rocky Bluff P.D. series is published by Oak Tree Press, a small independent publisher. The latest book in that series is Dangerous Impulses. I've already written the next one and my critique group is hearing it (and critiquing it) chapter by chapter. Next I'll have it edited before I send it off.

My Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is published by Mundana Press, also an independent publisher, but much larger than OTP. The next book is called Spirit Shapes and should be available in early fall. I don't have a cover yet--but I am busily working on a blog tour for October.

The previous book was called Raging Water. I'll soon be planning the next one.

In the meantime, I've been rewriting and editing some older books for Kindle. No, I'm not doing them myself, just don't have time right now. I've gone with a brand new ebook company for these. They approached me and I thought, heck why not.

The first one out, and only .99 is Deadly Feast. It had another life another a different title. That publisher is no longer in business and rights reverted back to me. None of that publisher's books were on Kindle.
Deadly Feast is a mystery and began as a Deputy Tempe Crabtree tale--however when I was through, I knew it wasn't Tempe so I changed the main character and the setting, but Tempe fans will recognize some similarities.

And then, I sent them what I call a YA Christian horror--Deeds of Darkness, and it now available for Kindle too. It is a very scarey tale and the young heroine is a Christian. This was written a long time ago, so I had some updating to do, but It was fun. Though the book does have witches in it who cause all kinds of havoc in the small town of Yokut Springs, the cover is more sensational than the content of the story.

It is a great story for Halloween.

And last, I am editing and updating yet another horror novel--this one for adults--with Christian overtones and really scary. It's called Cup of Demons.

And that's what I've been doing lately.