Showing posts with label American Crime Writers League. Show all posts
Showing posts with label American Crime Writers League. Show all posts

21 May 2012

Departure of an alien, and other thoughts


by Jan Grape

Jan GrapeThe Alien in my house has returned to his home planet, taking the captured female humanoid with him.  She practically lived here with us for the past 2-3 months. No, they didn't get married, but the Greyhound Bus carried them both away this past Wednesday evening. I gave them both a hug and wished them luck in their new adventures.

Some Aliens and some grandmothers probably just weren't meant to live in the same house. Too much age difference.  His music didn't make sense to me and mine was all too country for him.  His constant, "Whaaazzup Nana," grated. All those squawks and beeps and raps from those things stuck in his ears were nerve-wracking. I guess if I'm totally honest, I'm just too ancient to be around aliens anymore. My sense of time and space, right and wrong, good and bad is just not geared for the teen-age male and I was probably too quick to react to warnings of "Danger, danger."

So life at my house is slowly returning to normal, whatever normal means.  A friend once said, "Normal is just a setting on the clothes dryer."  Nick and Nora are now my only and best companions.  They do talk back but "Meow," is fairly easy enough for me to understand.  Food, water, clean litter box and many nice strokes and face rubs keeps them happy.

I am excited to think about getting back to a more organized writing schedule. Something about other people in my house and my brain sometimes had trouble focusing on my work.  Some people write in any situation, but it's always been hard for me to focus when I'm constantly interrupted by  other noises and talking and trying to manage a taxi service.  I know writers who have small urchins who live in their homes and who seem to be able to turn them out and keep to their writing schedule.  I think I could do things like that when I was younger but that's been so many years ago I'm not sure I remember.

I have a feeling that after a few weeks I'll be able write a good story about dealing with aliens in my house and most likely it will be a good story.  Young aliens seem have a particular love of drama. Almost everything they want to see and be and do has to be the most important thought and deed of the day.  They also live only in the moment. I can barely get through a day without a little bit of planning and routine. 

In the meantime, the anthology that I co-edited, MURDER HERE, MURDER THERE is due out any moment.  I actually received author copies in the mail and was able to hold the book in my hand. That's always an awesome experience.  I'm very proud of the work my co-editor, R. Barri Flowers and I did on this anthology.  He and I both feel it's better than the first, although, MURDER PAST, MURDER PRESENT was excellent.  We have nineteen writers, all members of the American Crime Writers League, all award-nominated, and/or award-winning authors.  The stories are actually set from East to West Coast and points in between with some overseas locales thrown in for extra added flavor. Our publisher, Twilight Times, brings out lovely books and our editor/publisher Lida Quillen is a delight to work with. 

Today I attended the Heart of TX Sisters In Crime meeting and our program was by the Barbara Burnet Smith Mentoring Authors Foundation. Barbara was a mystery writer, mother, grandmother, mentor, wife and friend. She authored the Purple Sage mysteries, a short novel and several short stories and had started a second mystery series with a wonderful character whose hobby was beading.  Barbara and her son, WD had loved and traded and played with beads for many years. She was a member of HOT-SinC and was President of Sisters in Crime International, 1999-2000.

Before she was ever published and I only had a couple of short stories published, she, Susan Rogers Cooper, Jeff Abbott and I formed a critique group. Susan and I were the only ones published at the time. Susan had three or four novels to her credit, all in the Milt Kovak mystery series.

After Barb was published she began mentoring other mystery writers, helping to inspire new comers to the field. With this foundation, we honor her each year.  Aspiring writers send a few chapters and an short synopsis to published mentor authors.  I've been mentoring almost every year. Each year W.D. Smith, Barbara's son and the SinC chapter give out the Sage Award, named for Barbara's Purple Sage series. Chosen by a group of writing peers, the foundation honors the mentor chosen and to show appreciation for their mentoring.

Barbara was one of my best friends and I miss her, but am pleased and excited to help mentor new and up-coming mystery writers each year.
 

26 March 2012

Lovely Spring Day



Jan Grape
by Jan Grape

Today is a lovely spring day in Central TX. We've finally had a bit of rain and lots of sunshine and the wild flowers are blooming and the Texas Bluebonnets are awesome. They are all over the place and even a few plants in my front and side yard are blooming. I've always wanted bluebonnets in my yard but this is the first time. I didn't plant them, the wind and birds must have seeded my whole neighborhood. Makes me happy to see them. So happy that I even decided to cook this evening. Now that is a rare treat because I don't usually cook a meal. I eat out at least 2 nights a week, going to my favorite restaurant and listening to local singer/songwriters and visiting with the other regular Tuesday and Wednesday night music lovers. Then at least one night a week, if my grandson, Cason, is home, we order pizza from our local pizza place. They use only fresh ingredients and make your pizza to order. The other nights if Cason isn't home, I sorta eat whatever I have on hand. Maybe only a sandwich or a bowl of soup. But today I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes and green peas. I also had the makings for a salad but forgot to do it. (Never said I was a gourmet...lol.) But it was all good and I had a nice glass of wine. Cason seemed to enjoy it all except the peas which he said he really didn't care for too much.

This week-end I've been doing some copy-editing on the anthology that I'm co-editing. R Barri Flowers and I have co-edited our second American Crime Writers League (otherwise known as ACWL) anthology. This one, MURDER HERE, MURDER THERE is due out around May 25th from Twilight Times Books. Our first ACWL anthology was MURDER PAST MURDER PRESENT. All of the stories are by members of ACWL and include such names as Jay Brandon, Kris Neri, Dakota Banks, John Lutz, Taffy Canon, Ed Gorman, Robert Randisi, Bill Crider, Candace Robb. We have as many members who are multiple winners and nominees for all the mystery awards than any organization around. This new book features some of the same authors as in the first anthology, but also Marlys Millhiser, Noreen Ayres, Valerie Malmont, Edward Marston Claire Carmichael, Jim Ingraham & Lauren Haney. Some of the finest short stories I have ever read are soon to be available to everyone.

I love good short stories and although there's not a big demand for them right now, I think they are perfect when you just have a few minutes and want to read a little mystery but don't have the time to devote to a full-length novel. My daughter, Karla, mentioned several years that because she was a busy, working mother that she really didn't have time to read a novel but she could sit down for a few minutes or an hour and really enjoy the suspense and pleasure in a short story. It's also a good way for writers to stretch their writing and play with some new characters rather than always writing about their series characters. However, sometimes a writer will use series characters in short stories but place them in a different time or place and just have a lot of fun with a shorter length.

My writing career actually began with short stories. I published around twenty-five short stories before I ever sold a novel. For this anthology, I wrote a story with my female private-eye characters, Jenny Gordon and C.J. Gunn. The story is titled, "The Confession." I haven't written anything with Jenny and C.J. in several years and enjoyed visiting their lives once again. I never had a novel published with them but wrote around a dozen short stories with the owners of G & G Investigations. In fact, one story with Jenny and C.J., won the Anthony Award at the Bouchercon in Philadelphia in 1998. The story, "A Front-Row Seat," was published in the VENGEANCE IS HERS anthology from Signet.

If you have time, read a short story and enjoy spring, where ever you happen to be today.

IN MEMORY:

A young soldier, PFC Payton Jones, from Marble Falls, TX, age 19, was killed in Afghanistan a few weeks ago and his body was brought home for services and burial. As usual with many small towns there was an out-pouring of respect for the young soldier and his family. Several hundred people, myself included, lined the street as the procession came into town from a nearby airport. The final leg of the soldier's 7,000 mile journey home.The Kiwanis Club always has flags for patriotic days and for something like this showing support and respect. The Patriot Guard of motorcycle riders, all veterans, came first, followed by Firetrucks, EMS vehicles, police and sheriff vehicles all from surrounding communities, then the white hearse carrying our hometown hero, his family and friends to the funeral home. It was a sad moment but also heart-felt as we all stood at attention along both sides of the street, hands over hearts, most of us holding a large flag on a metal pole or waving a little flag. Only a small gesture, but in some small way letting his family know, we were heartbroken with them. RIP Private Jones.

07 November 2011

Ideas R Us


Jan Grape by Jan Grape

Almost every time I talk to a group about writing and get to the Q and A portion, I’m asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I have a couple of stock answers which usually get a laugh. One is: “I belong to ‘Ideas of the Month Club’ and they send me ideas once a month.” (I think I stole that from mystery writer, Les Roberts.) The other is: “I just go to “Ideas R Us” and buy one when I need it.” (Am sure I stole that from someone, too.)

My own real answer is: Ideas are in the air, all you have to do is pull one down when you need one.

Deadly Allies III wrote two short stories that were inspired by songs. One story was “Scarlett Fever” in the Deadly Allies II anthology and my inspiration (idea) came from a song by Kenny Rogers, titled “Scarlett Fever.” In the song, this guy kept going to a club to watch a dancer named Scarlett and fell in love with her. One night he goes to the club and she’s not there anymore and he’s devastated. My idea was: what happened to this girl? Did she really leave for brighter lights as the club manager says or did something bad happen to her?

My second story is “Deathbed Confession” based on a song by a local Texas writer, Thomas Michael Riley. I can’t really say much about the song without giving away some of the story but it will be published next spring in ACWL Presents: Murder Here, Murder There. This will be the first Jenny Gordon, C.J. Gunn, story in several years and it was nice to find out how the female private investigators were doing. Nice to know that G & G Investigations still is in business. Murder Here, Murder There is the second anthology written by the members of the American Crime Writers League and is co-edited by R. Barry Flowers and myself and published by Twilight Times.

Another story was inspired by a name. A friend of mine, writes a newsy-about-town column in a local weekly newspaper and she writers under the nom de plume of “Ima Snoop.” I thought the name was funny and asked permission to use it in a story called, “The Crimes of Miss Abigail Armstrong.” That story is in the first anthology, from Twilight Times, written by ACWL members and co-edited by R. Barri Flowers and Jan Grape.

My Austin policewoman series was inspired by taking a ten week class, Austin Citizen’s Police Academy training which was offered by the Austin Police Department. In these classes we learned about different departments such as fraud, firearms, robbery homicide, SWAT, etc. After the training was over, I was involved in the alumni association and went out to the academy on numerous occasions to assist in the new cadet training. Training offers set up scenarios using alumni graduates as bad guys and the cadets would have to participate and discover the crime or non-crime committed. Cadets learn how to use their computers, the patrol car’s siren, their walkie-talkies and to quickly access a situation and act accordingly. That was fun because I got to role-play as a bad guy, which soon led to a voice I kept hearing in my head. Fortunately, I began writing Zoe Barrow’s story in Austin City Blue, published in 2000 by Five Star and wasn’t hauled off in a strait-jacket by the guys from the funny farm.

My latest novel, What Doesn’t Kill You, came from seeing a little girl with ears that stuck out like open taxi doors, who was in a bookstore with her grandfather. She wanted to buy a magazine, but gramps said they couldn’t afford it. Somehow that little girl stayed in my mind and eventually became the sixteen year old, Cory Purvis, in that book.

Just yesterday, a friend asked me to do some research on sleepwalking for her. Who knows– I may come up with a character who kills when sleepwalking or so he/she claims.

Today I read a short article in my Sunday newspaper about people selling lollipops which have been licked by children with chickenpox. The buyers are people who don’t want to vaccinate their children but want them to catch the childhood disease. People could go online and look for: 'Find a Pox Party In Your Area' the article said. Cost was $50 a pox-licked lollipop. The sellers are selling these all over the country, sending the candy by mail. Sending diseases and viruses by mail is a federal crime. So some arrest have been made and prosecutors warning parents. Can you imagine giving your child a lollipop, supposedly with chickenpox virus on it? What if it were AIDS virus, or hepatitis? What if it were a more deadly lollipop like Anthrax or something similar? That news article idea sounds like a great plot for a book and I’ll bet we’ll see that used in one very soon.

Newspapers, TV news reports, TV shows, songs, books or stories by other writers, something read on the internet all can give you ideas. So in my humble opinion, ideas are everywhere and all you have to do is pull one down. As a last resort, just go to the mall to IDEAS R US and buy an awesome idea.