Showing posts with label birthday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label birthday. Show all posts

28 February 2020

What are the Odds?


Jan Grape
The night of February 27th, 1948, I was 8 years old, but the next day would be my 9th birthday. Not only was I excited about my birthday; that night my mother was having a baby.

I wasn’t exactly sure how the doctor was going to get that baby from my mother’s tummy. And I could tell the grownups weren’t going to explain anything to me because they were sending me off to a neighbor’s house. Yes, my mother would have the baby at home, but with our doctor in attendance. Post was a small town, which didn’t have a hospital. Mother definitely didn’t want her and my step-dad to make a crazy 40 mile trek to Lubbock to the nearest hospital. Besides we knew and trusted our wonderful young doctor, Glenn Kahler.

Late afternoon came and I was happily sent off to my girlfriend’s house to play and do a sleepover. My girlfriend’s mother went to my house to help the doctor make the delivery. Thank goodness I had learned the stork didn’t really bring babies. Doctors, nurses or midwives took on this major task.

Sometime in the wee hours, a knock on the neighbor’s door woke up the whole house. It was my Daddy, Charles. The plan had been for him to wait until morning to come get me but he was excited. “Your baby sister is here and I want you to see her right now.”

The excitement in his voice captured me while I pulled clothes on over my pajamas. But I couldn’t find my shoes.

Daddy Charles said, “Don’t worry about your shoes. I’ll carry you.”
And carry me he did. Diagonally across our street and two houses down. It wasn’t far and at eight years old I was skinny and not that heavy.

It was a cool, February night. The 28th, to be exact. My birthday. But I was too excited to even think about a birthday. I was going to see my new little baby sister, Sharla.

We got to our house and he set me down on the cold concrete porch and led me by hand inside the warm house to the middle bedroon to the beautiful bassinet (like a cradle but with no swing or rocker) my mother had lovingly made for the baby to sleep in.

I crept up and looked inside and there she was, my brand new baby sister. Big brown eyes looking up at me and looking all around. A big beautiful baby doll. I just knew she was thinking, “Hello world. Look out cause here I come.”

“Happy Birthday,” my mama kept trying to say. Then she said, “Take this,” as she held out her hand. I touched her hand. Nothing was in it. “Take this needle,” she said. Daddy Charles said, “Pretend to take it. The doctor gave her medicine and it made her a little loopy.” I didn’t understand exactly, but I pretended to take the invisable needle. “Thank you,” Mama said and closed her eyes and went to sleep.

Still to this day, after all these years, I still can feel that wonderment and excitement and the overwhelming love I felt for this little sister.

Now comes the one in a million odds. The year was 1950, and again it was the evening before my 11th, birthday, February 28th,. My mother was having a baby. Of course, it wasn’t planned.

Once again I was sent to my neighbor’s house to play with and do a sleep over with my friend Toni. Doctor Kahler was again there along with my friend’s mom to assist the doctor.

Jan, Patsy, Sharla
Jan (13), Sharla (5), Patsy (3)
This time Daddy Charles did wait until morning to come and get me. A second sister, Patsy had been born again on my birthday. The excitement, wonder and love once again filled my heart. A big eyed beautiful living doll lying in the ruffled yellow trimmed bassinet. Happy Birthday, Janice.

These two sisters are always part of my life and we always, always talk about our special connection. Not twins or triplets but the shared birthday is always thought of as the 28th, of February rolls around. Patsy likes to tell me, “I was the best birthday present you ever got.” She’s right but I have to then say, “Both you girls were the best presents I ever got.”

No more sisters or brothers born on 28th, of Feb. But my mother’s sister had a boy, named Michael who was born on Feb 28 a year or two later. He was my aunt’s second child and that made four out of five Grandchildren born on February 28th,.

Someone want to figure up those odds?

24 February 2014

My Unusual but Happy Birthday



Jan Grape

by Jan Grape


Have to say, most people don't make too big a deal about birthdays. Mine has to have a special mention. Not because I'll be sixty-fifteen on the twenty-eighth of February, this coming Friday, but because the 28th of Feb. has been extra special since I was nine years old.

When I was seven my mother remarried, she had first been married to my father, Tom Barrow. They divorced when I was three. In 1946, she married Charles King Pierce. Mother, Iva "Pee Wee" Pierce was 25 years old and Daddy Charlie was 35. He had been in World War 11 and they met and corresponded for several months and when he came home, they were married. The three of us went to live in Post, Texas, forty miles southeast of Lubbock, nestled under the Cap Rock formed by the Llano Estacado.  A small town founded by C.W. Post of the cereal fame. He originally had hoped to build his fortune there but the climate was too dry and he moved to Battle Creek, MI where he did well.

Post didn't have a hospital anymore in 1948, but mother had an excellent doctor who would deliver her baby at home. On the evening of February 27th, the parents somehow knew the baby was due to be born so I was sent to my friend, Toni's house down the street two houses and around the corner three houses. The plan was I would come home the next day after the little boy or little girl was born. This was back in the days when sonograms hadn't even been discovered so no one knew the baby's sex before hand.

In the middle of the night the whole household where I was were all awakened by an excited pounding on the door. It was Daddy Charlie telling us my baby sister had arrived and he wanted me to come home immediately and see her. I found my clothes but couldn't find my shoes, I was so excited. Daddy Charlie, said, "Never mind I'll carry you." And he did; down the street, around the corner and to our house.

He actually carried me inside and set me down in the bedroom. My mother was in a bed, looking a bit tired but pleased. I was encouraged to look in the bassinette. I looked and thought I was looking at a baby doll, but it was my little sister. She had big brown eyes and was looking at me as if to say, "Hi there. I'm hoping you're my big sister."

Mother, her words a little strange because she was coming out of her pain medicine said, "Happy Birthday, Janice. This is your new baby sister, Sharla." (It wasn't until I graduated from High School and started X-ray School in Ft. Worth, living with my father and step-mother, that I shortened my name to Jan. I thought it went better with Barrow.)

Wow, a baby sister for my birthday. What a birthday present. Okay, that makes February 28 fairly special in my house. Yet, maybe not anything too unusual.

So this is where things turn extraordinary. Two years later, in 1950, please look at the scenario once more. My mother in once again expecting a baby. I'm eleven years old and Sharla is two. We still don't have a hospital, but Dr. Kahler is still taking care of mother and will deliver her baby at our house. Once again, I'm spending the night with my friend Toni, the night of February 28th. I don't think any of us went to sleep, we somehow expected news shortly. A few minutes after midnight, Daddy Charles came after me. This time I quickly dressed and put on my shoes. Good thing because I was almost too big to carry. Same bedroom, same bassinette, a little baby sister. Mother and Daddy Charles said, "Happy birthday, Janice. This is your second birthday present, your little sister Patsy." Yep, she had actually been born about three minutes before midnight on the 28th.

I don't remember what the odds are that three girls would be born to the same mother on the same day, although the age difference was obvious. Birthdays in our house were fun. Mother somehow managed to have our parties on the same day, but once that one was over she didn't have to worry
about birthdays for the remainder of the year.

A few years later, my mother's younger sister had her second child on February 28th. She called my mother and said, "You thought you had a monopoly on February 28th. That made four out of five grandchildren (on mother's side) with the same birthday. Any mathematician want the figure out the odds on that?

I love my birthday and my sisters, we don't have the chance to all be together on February 28th, but sometimes we can and when we do, it's extra special.

Next post: back to writing.



Patsy, Janice, Sharla, Easter-1951



Birthday: 1955,  Patsy's fifth birthday
Sharla's seventh birthday
Janice's sixteenth birthday

29 September 2013

So Soon?


by Louis Willis
Happy Second 

Anni-verthMONTH
When I started this article, I didn’t know whether to wish us “birthday” or “anniversary.” Dixon’s post on September 20 solved my dilemma, only I changed his word a little since my post wouldn’t be on the 17th. Thanks Dixon. It seems like it was only a few months ago that we celebrated our first anni-vertmonth. 

This, our second means it’s 

So, where is the PARTA?


With the many outstanding and enjoyable articles, we had a good second year. I’m looking forward to an even better third year and maybe a party.

13 September 2013

Happy Boid-Day


by R.T. Lawton



Somehow, I envision two broad shouldered, heavy-set guys in dark pin-striped suits standing in front of a birthday cake which is resting on a highly polished wood bar in a classy speak easy. I see candles on top of that frosted, multi-layered cake. The candles spell out two words.

The guy in the grey pin-stripe suit and matching fedora has a five o'clock shadow that has probably been there since noon. As he leans forward to light the candles, his suit coat opens far enough to divulge a glimpse of a shoulder holster containing a blue-steel Colt .45 automatic. He also keeps a tommy gun in a violin case somewhere close by.

Then the other guy in the blue pin-stripe beckons us all closer and raises his arms. I don't know what the rest of you are going to do, but I'm going to sing. And I'm going to do it loudly. He drops his hands like a philharmonic orchestra director and leads us in song with his gravelly voice and East Coast accent.
Happy Boid-Day to you
Happy Boid-Day to you
Happy Boid-Day dear Sleuth Sayers
You're now age two.

They both blow out the candles. Then one pulls a switchblade. My nerves twitch and my feet want to run, but it turns out he's only going to cut the cake. I gratefully accept my piece. There's no way I'm going to mess with either of them two guys, cuz they know what they're doing. And, I'll be doubly careful not to get crosswise with their beautiful secretary Velma.

There can be some mean streets out there in this thing of ours if a person isn't careful, so yes sirrie, boss, I'm writing as fast as I can. One more year of crime, criminals and everything that goes with it. Nothing personal, it's just good business.

Have a good one.

12 September 2013

Happy Birthday!


by Eve Fisher

So SleuthSayers is 2 years old this week!  I just went to a birthday party for my god-child's daughter, so I'm all up on 2 year olds.  This means SleuthSayers should be walking, talking, rebellious, curious, determined, and eating all the cake it can get its little hands on before doing something unmentionable behind the playhouse.  Sounds appropriate to me.


I have been contributing here for a year and a half, and I feel (1) grateful to be a part of it; (2) right at home with the rest of the crazies - you know who you are - and (3) amazed at how fast time flies, especially when you're talking crime. And what a crowd we have!

Both David Edgerley Gates and Leigh Lundin are always good for scaring the crap out of me about privacy and security, on-line and off.  (Although deep down I don't believe there is any such thing as privacy other than what's between my ears.  But more on that another time.)

Fran Rizer's article on "Adolescent Sexist Swill" sent me racing down memory lane to the ASS I have read and strangely loved, but then all of Fran's articles trigger me.  Her amazing life story deserves a book of its own.

And speaking of backstory - I look forward to each and every one of R. T. Lawton's many tales from his undercover days. Keep them coming! 

Elizabeth Zelvin understands intimately life with and around and infused with addiction; it's so nice to know that someone else lived a dysfunctional life! 

Rob Lopresti - well, besides his wonderful articles here (my favorite is probably "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern want something"), go over and check out his Facebook page.  Some of the best zingers in the house...

John Floyd is the go-to guy for verse around here, that's for sure.  Remember his "Candy is Dandy"?

Terence Flaherty's "The Wordsworth Trap" really got me thinking about the self - past, present, future - and the endless tinkering we do.




Brian Thornton and I share a special bond - an endless on-line infatuation with a certain British agent (the name is Elliot, Charles Elliot).  Let's put it this way, when I found out that Our Man Elliot was related to Robert Louis Stevenson, Brian was the first one I e-mailed.


Louis Willis' "Surrounded by Bigfoots" brought back all sorts of Southern memories, not to mention legends of the foggy Appalachian mountains...

Dale Andrews (whose grasp of mysteries - movies and novels - is amazing and entertaining), Dixon Hill (my favorite - "To Weave a Tangled Web"), Jan Grape (who seems to understand every problem that I encounter in writing, but with more solutions), Janice Law (what a great book "Fires of London" is - get it now!), you have all entertained and informed me.  If I have left anyone out - what can I say?  We have a stellar crew here.  Period. 

Meanwhile, I'm off to the pen this weekend, where hopefully I will come up with more material for another blog.  Again, Happy Birthday and thanks for all the criminally cozy, murderously funny, grimly hilarious entries over the last two years!  And more to come!

09 September 2013

Of Love and Sardines and Chocolate


by Fran Rizer

Leigh Lundin reminded us that SleuthSayers will be two years old on September 17, 2013, and asked each of us to write about the anniversary of its birth.   </



What should I write about?

How about the unusual birthday customs of other lands?  I know a lot about that because I taught ESL classes and frequently bought birthday cakes for students who'd never had one before.  To be honest, writing about that idea fell flat because it was too much like writing a lesson plan.


SleuthSayers is "A criminally compelling website by professional crime writers and crime fighters," but there's more to this spot than that. We've had posts about authors, explosives, undercover police procedures (some funny, some scary), writers' seminars, swimming in the ocean, book reviews, computers, publications and awards, movies, lists, and more. I even wrote about bras near Christmas last year.  As Robert Earl Keen, Jr., wrote "The road goes on forever."

Sometimes the blogs are about specific problems encountered by writers.  One of my difficulties relates to similes and metaphors.

The problem is two-fold.  I over-react to writers who don't know the difference between a simile and a metaphor because that's taught in fourth grade, and I don't use as many metaphors as others because, quite simply, mine seem weak and I generally delete them before reaching my final revision.  

A gentle reminder, dear reader:  Both similes and metaphors are comparisons with the primary difference being that a simile uses the words like or as.  Examples:  "The clouds are like cotton candy in the sky" is a simile.  "The clouds are cotton candy in the sky" is a metaphor.


When I taught fourth and fifth grades, I always taught similes around Valentine's Day and introduced the topic with Robert Burns's "My love is like a red, red rose."  The students loved hearing about Burns's life. (What other teacher discussed pubs with them?)  Then they wrote poems beginning with "My love is like..."  Their homework was to find an example of a simile.

By far the most common example given on homework papers was the quote that Forrest Gump attributed to his mother:

Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're going to get.


Allan Rufus gave us this:

Life is like a sandwich                   
Birth is one slice 
and death is the other.
What you put in between
the slices is up to you.

My delight with the student who brought in the next one can be attributed to what many of my friends call my "quirky" sense of humor.


                               Alan Bennett wrote:

Life is rather like a tin of sardines--we're all of us looking for the key.

My absolute favorite though is from the late Leo Buscaglia in one of my favorite nonfiction books, Living, Loving, and Learning:
Leo Buscaglia

I love to think that the day you're born, you're given the world as your birthday present.  It frightens me to think that so few people even bother to open up the ribbon!  Rip it open!  Tear off the top! It's just full of love and magic and joy and wonder and pain and tears.  All of the things that are your gift for being human.

In its two years' of life, SleuthSayers has become, in its own way, like both a box of chocolates and a beautifully wrapped gift. You never know what you'll find when you open it, but you can depend on finding something good. 

I'm proud to have been part of it!  

Until we meet again...take care of you!

17 September 2012

Happy Birthday, Baby!


by Fran Rizer

Today is SleuthSayers's first birthday– beginning the second year of life. Most of us view our creations somewhat as our infants, and to the writers, SleuthSayers is another of our children. Let's personify our professional association and take a look at our baby, SS.

Developmental milestones are accomplishments most children achieve by a certain age. During the first year, babies learn to focus, reach out, explore, and learn about the things and people around them. They also develop social and emotional attachments while physical milestones include sitting up, crawling, pulling up, and walking.

SS has definitely experienced a year of reaching out, exploring, and learning about people, including each other and our readers. Among other things, SS has explored writing methods and habits (along with writers' block), mystery books and films, locations, and exciting experiences including police and legal procedures. SS has taken a look at explosives, crimes and criminals, and amusing word-plays as well as delving into plot-driven vs. character-driven and genre vs. literary. Professional, social, and emotional attachments have formed. Physically, this baby has sat up, crawled, pulled up, and is walking.

According to Wikipedia, a September 17th birthday makes our childe a Virgo. I must confess I was hoping SS was a Libra. How cool it would have been for the astrological sign to be scales--as in scales of justice. Alas, we're stuck with Virgo, the only female symbol of the Zodiac, sometimes represented as a potentially creative girl, sometimes as a somewhat older woman, rather pedantic and spinsterish. What are the supposed characteristics of Virgos, whether male, female, or of a non-specific gender like our baby is?


Virgos are supposed to have considerable charm and dignity. "They are intellectually inquiring, methodical and logical, studious and teachable. They combine mental ingenuity with the abiliity to produce a clear analysis of the most complicated matters." After all, what is solving mysteries? Clearly, it involves analyzing complicated matters. These descriptors came from Astrology-Online, and I agree that SS has these traits.  (I left out the negative ones listed for Virgos because, as parents, we like to think of our children in positive terms.)

No time to go into all the other forms of Astrology, but as a great lover of moo goo gai pan, I'd be remiss not to mention our child's Chinese astrological associations. Once again, reality is not what I would have chosen. Don't you think SleuthSayers should be a tiger or a dragon? Not so. Yin. Metal. Rabbit. The only thing I can think of about our babe being a rabbit is that perhaps sometimes as the calendar gets away from us and we prepare our postings at the last minute, we have to be quick like bunnies. (You didn't think I was going elsewhere with that, did you?)

Numerologically, "SleuthSayers" adds up to the double digit 12, which reduces to 3. Though the playful articles on numerology in magazines stress the reduced number, a quick check of dreamtime.com/numerology reveals that serious numerologists consider both the double digit and reduced numbers.

Three is considered male, charming, outgoing, self-expressive, extroverted, active, energetic, and proud. The vibration of 12 is similar to the vibration of 3 raised to a higher level and with a little more idealism thrown in. Note that Virgo being represented by a female and 3 being male doesn't designate gender of the baby, but of the characteristics. SS exhibits all the good traits, but the comment I most appreciate is, "Gets along well with others." We love that comment when it appears on our kids' report cards--"Plays well with others"-- don't we?

If we were reading Cosmopolitan, we could look to see what other astrological signs are best suited to our Virgo baby, but that's really not necessary. After all, this babe isn't sitting on a bar stool in the eighties hoping someone of a compatible sign will offer to buy a drink.  We all know that SS is attractive to and attracted by writers, readers, and solvers of mysteries.

Checking out the pages of Woman's World, which is becoming almost as familiar to us as AHMM and EQMM and is being bought by more and more of my male friends to analyze John's stories to learn why WW keeps sending them polite rejections, I  find horoscopes. Do we really need to read magazines to learn SleuthSayers's future?  No way!

We're confident SS will continue to grow, expand, learn and develop friendships next year. Our baby sits, crawls, and walks. I predict that the coming year will be one in which SS runs and dances!


16 September 2012

SleuthSayers First Anniversary!


by Leigh Lundin and my fellow SleuthSayers

Tomorrow SleuthSayers will be one year old!

Our first year has been wonderful to us, our cadre of crime-writers and crime-fighters. A few of us have been together 51/2 years, although it's not longevity that makes a SleuthSayer, but camaraderie and a penchant for damn good writing.

We're pleased to count among our colleagues a police chief, a DEA Special Agent, a military explosives expert, a Washington lawyer and insider, and a crime scholar. We also feature cosy novelists, historical authors, and popular pasticheurs. While we embrace all genres of crime-writing, we probably have more short-fiction specialists thanks to our Criminal Brief days. With further ado, hear from my colleagues about the past year and the next.

Dale Andrews: Choosing a favorite mystery from the past year would be difficult– too many contenders. But my favorite mystery-related event is easily identifiable– the pre-Edgar Award cocktail party hosted by EQMM/AHMM that I attended in New York last April. I don’t make it to every one of these gatherings– the train ride from DC to NYC and back is a bit dear. But where else, in two short hours, does a mystery writer get the opportunity to visit such fascinating and revered comrades in arms? This year I chatted first with the sponsors of the event, Janet Hutchings and Linda Landrigan. Then I headed across the room to visit Frederic Dannay’s son Richard and his wife Gloria. We discussed Blood Relations, the recent collection of the letters of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee edited by Joseph Goodrich, and then shifted smoothly to Jeffrey Mark’s planned new biography of Dannay and Lee. After that it was great to re-connect with my SleuthSayers’ partner David Dean, who was an honored guest, an Edgar nominee for his short story Tomorrow’s Dead. While David and I held down the fort for SleuthSayers, our predecessor blog, Criminal Brief, was even better represented with James Lincoln Warren, Steven Steinbock and Melodie Johnson Howe all in attendance. The opportunity to visit with these folks and others during the party was easily worth the cost of those train tickets. But in many ways the best was yet to come. When the party ended I found myself in a fascinating three-way conversation on mysteries and Ellery Queen in particular on the walk back to Penn Station with Joe Goodrich, editor of the afore-mentioned Blood Relations, and my old friend Francis (Mike) Nevins, preeminent Ellery Queen scholar and the author of another upcoming retrospective of Dannay and Lee. As the Dos Equis “most interesting man in the world” says concerning the two party system, as between the two it is the after party that you really want to attend! Dale Andrews
David Dean David Dean: It has been an interesting year for me. Not only did I retire from police work last November, but after a mandatory visit to its corporate HQ (location undisclosed as per contractual agreement), I also signed on with SleuthSayers. It's a great gig, and with the checks that keep rolling in, I've made several additions to my collection of vintage British roadsters. No less exciting, my story, "Tomorrow's Dead," July 2011 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, was nominated for an Edgar. An obscure Brit took home the actual prize, perhaps in retaliation for my buying up all their good roadsters. My horror novel, "The Thirteenth Child" will be released Oct. 5th by Genius Book Publishing--as the name of the company suggests, they only publish works of genius, so please ignore any snarky reviews that may be forthcoming. Mostly, I continue to scribble away, trying to fashion something that people might read.
Deborah Elliott-Upton: Although I have been a writing instructor, I enjoy being on the opposite side of the desk, too. My life's goal is to never stop learning. A new piece of knowledge is like quality chocolate: delicious, appetizing and leaves one with a taste for more. Despite my other obligations, I decided to return to college. This summer, I took two courses: philosophy and psychology. Both proved interesting, both as a student and as a writer. Both of my instructors were writing books; one a nonfiction text, the other fiction. In classroom discussions, the fiction writer and I realized we had much in common and following the end of classes, we became fast friends. I have enjoyed introducing her to my other writer friends and we have attended a writer's workshop together. What is more fun than sharing your time with people of like interests? The nonfiction writer/instructor asked if I'd be interested in editing his book, so that may still come to pass, after I finishing editing my pastor's book. The great mystery in life is how to get everything finished, but as in writing any project, it will be done step-by-step by putting one foot in front of another. Deborah Elliott-Upton
Eve Fisher Eve Fisher: 2012 saw two notable things for me: (1) I started contributing to Sleuthsayers as a blogger and (2) I discovered a whole new fan base in China, where my works are being translated by a mystery man in Shanghai who loves Laskin, SD! I’m not getting paid for it – but he shared the web site with me. The most interesting crime-related event of 2012 was at our local prison, where I volunteer and found that I had one former student as an inmate and another as a prison guard. Both of them were happy to see me.
John Floyd: Of all the mystery/crime-related books and stories I've read this past year, my favorite is probably a novel by Steve Hamilton, called Die a Stranger– the ninth book in the Alex McKnight series, set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I've enjoyed all the McKnight mysteries, as well as Steve's two stand-alones (Night Work and The Lock Artist)– but in my opinion Die a Stranger is distinctive in that it has one of the best, most logical endings I've read in a long time. It's the kind of seamless wrap-up that makes readers gasp with delight and makes fellow writers wish they could do half as well. Personal-favorite event: I was fortunate enough to place short stories in three back-to-back issues of The Strand Magazine: the Oct. 2011-Jan. 2012 issue, the Feb.-May 2012 issue, and the (current) June-Sept. 2012 issue. I'm not sure if my stories were good or if The Strand had three slower-than-usual submission periods, but I prefer to believe the stories earned their keep. John Floyd
David Gates David Edgerley Gates: My earliest influence as a storyteller was Kipling, and then the duck stories from Carl Barks– if you don't know, I'll happily explain. My best read of last year was Alan Furst, Spies Of The Balkans, and this year, his new book, Mission to Paris (I almost said, Night Train to Paris. evocative of Eric Ambler, one of Furst's big influences). My favorite crime event was local, a stripper hired to discredit a mayoral candidate here in New Mexico: I wrote a story about it, "Heavy Breathing." I found some new writers, or new to me, and not necessarily generic, Orhan Pamiuk (his book about Istanbul), Michael Chabon (The Yiddish Policemen's Union), and some old faves, Harlan Coben and Laura Lippman don't phone it in.
Jan Grape: One year ago, Sleuthsayers began. Strangely enough, my cats and I'd just moved from a 375ft2 RV into a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house. I'd barely settled with my furry felines, Nick and Nora, when we were joined by an Alien from the Planet Nashville in the Tennessee constellation– the youngest son of my daughter, Karla. Now I know exactly why she offered to buy this house for me. (Ha.) She thought I wouldn’t figure out her master plan. (Haha) Alien Cason and I managed to survive 8 months together and just before the men in the white coats with the straight jackets came for me, Cason and his female companion unit, Justine, who'd lived with us two months, headed back to his home planet. They’re doing well, both working and have their own apartment. I do miss the alien and not only on nights when it’s time to take out the garbage. Although my writing suffered from alien activities and ear/sinus infections punctuated by a Grape family reunion in NJ, I co-edited an American Crime Writers League anthology, Murder Here, Murder There, including my short story “The Confession”, inspired by a song by a friend, Thomas Michael Riley. I’m working to get my books on Nook and Kindle, and I hope to return to Broken Blue Badge, 3rd in the Zoe Barrow, Austin Policewoman series. Happy Birthday! Jan Grape
Dixon Hill Dixon Hill: This year has been rough for my “writing department,” due to extended family concerns. However, I’ve thankfully had time to read—quite a bit of it spent, unfortunately, in doctors’ offices and hospitals. The four top new writers I’ve run across include our own Fran Rizer and her wonderful Callie Parrish Mystery Series. What’s not to love when the protagonist wears an inflatable bra and her best friend is a phone sex operator? Well, actually, there’s a lot more to her stories, but I don’t want to give anything away—they’re great from stem to (ahem) stern! Then, there was Pistol Poets by Victor Gischler. Though it had a few technical flaws concerning weaponry and tactics, imho — I couldn’t help enjoying it. I’m now seeking time to enjoy a couple of his other titles: Gun Monkeys (Hey! Who wouldn’t wanna read a book named Gun Monkeys??) and Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse. I also recently read Jake Hinkson’s Hell on Church Street, a veritable fire-ball of murder that burned to the last page faster than Time Fuse and reminded me of some of the best of Jim Thompson’s work. Last, but far from least, I discovered Marcus Sakey’s excellent The Blade Itself and Good People, as well as a fantastic short story of his. Finally—here’s a toast: To next year being easier on everyone’s “writing department”!
Janice Law: It’s always nice to find a good new mystery, and this year so far, I’ve found two, neither from long time favorites. The Fear Index by Robert Harris is not only well plotted and timely, but works interesting changes on a favorite plot line. A sort of financial thriller, science fiction mashup it not only works very well but anticipated the recent runaway computer trading on Wall Street. Second is Mission to Paris by Alan Furst, whose well reviewed previous novels never clicked with me. This one is highly appealing with its movie star lead who, surprise, eventually falls for an age appropriate woman. Brisk and more realistic than usual this one could give nostalgia a good name. Janice Law
R.T. Lawton R.T. Lawton: This last year has been a time of re-reading old favorites, making new writing friends and getting a story into the MWA anthology. Some of my old favorite reads are the Chester Himes paperback novels featuring his Harlem Detectives, Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones. I found those in a used book store in Washington, D.C. during 1971 when I had free time from BNDD Basic Agent Class #15 and wanted something to read other than training manuals. Three of his novels were later made into movies. As for the new writing friends, that’s those blogging at SleuthSayers, plus readers who chime in from time to time. Some of you I hope to meet at the annual EQMM/AHMM cocktail reception in NYC this coming April, and the rest of you at one of the future Bouchercons or Left Coast Crime Conferences. And lastly, after three attempts at the MWA anthology, I finally made it into the one for 2013.
Rob Lopresti: I debated displaying some false modesty but hell, you guys know me by now. My favorite mystery-related experience of the year was being on the cover of Alfred Hitchcock's. It's an honor and I felt honored (still do). I suspect one reason my story made the cover is that it was easy to find a file picture (as opposed to a commissioned artwork) that would work with my story. Not that I'm complaining; the picture worked fine. This reminds me: the thing that thrilled me most about my first published story was the fact that it was illustrated. After all, for all I know the editor could have purchased it without even looking at it, but damn it, the artist had actually read it. Rob Lopresti
Leigh Lundin Leigh Lundin: As I write this, I'm housesitting in a beautiful cliffside home on the Indian Ocean where whales and dolphins frolic in the waters below and the sound of the surf helps me write… 9th grade math textbooks in this case. It's been a great year launching SleuthSayers with the help of my colleagues and board members, which is where much of my creative energy's gone. During the Royal Show here (like a state fair), I chatted with a world-renown police rescuer Jack Haskins. Who knows– you might read about him on SleuthSayers! For some reason, authors names don't stick until I connect with them, and during the past year I now have a dozen more friends and colleagues. EQMM and AHMM are delivered every month to my door here in South Africa, so now when I see the author list you can hear me say, "So that's who that author is!" Here's to the next year…
Fran Rizer: The past year was traumatic for me and I escaped into reading. There were many exciting and intriguing mysteries by the big dogs, but the book that I enjoyed the most and read over and over is a collection of short stories that equal any I’ve ever taught on the college level— Blood in the Water by Janice Law. These pieces and the ones by other SleuthSayers that I read in AHMM, EQMM, and Woman’s World inspired more interest in writing short stories. Three of my recently written shorts were chosen to be included in the SC Screams Anthology. My thriller was published under a pen name that I’ll soon share, and the fifth Callie Parrish mystery, Mother Hubbard Has A Corpse in The Cupboard, will be released the first of 2013. Like several other SleuthSayers, I write music, too, and am proud as a peacock that Gene Holdway’s new CD, Train Whistle, includes six of my original songs. Fran Rizer
Louis Willis Louis Willis: For me, a reader and reviewer, the past 12 months reading articles of SleuthSayer members has been instructive. I've learned how writers of fiction think when creating a story. I’ve felt the agony they go through while writing; the anxiety they suffer after submitting it to an editor and waiting for a reply; the disappointment they feel when the rejection slip arrives. I've also felt the ecstasy they feel when the story is accepted and the excitement when it is published. When I receive my copies of the AHMM and EQMM, I search the contents for stories by SleuthSayer members. It has been fun. I look for to the next 12 months of delightful and insightful articles.
Liz Zelvin: SleuthSayers has given me some enjoyable new blogging experiences--sharing the virtual stage with crime fighters as well as crime writers and with blog brothers as well as blog sisters. It's been a good year for me in terms of creative projects too, with a couple of long-awaited publications: Death Will Extend Your Vacation, the third novel in my series featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler, and "Shifting Is for the Goyim," my paranormal whodunit e-novella on Untreed Reads, as well as the release of my CD of original songs, Outrageous Older Woman, a dream thirty years or two years in the making, depending on whether you start counting at the point of writing the songs or recording the album. Elizabeth Zelvin