14 July 2012

The Beauty in the English Language


by Elizabeth Zelvin

I received this as an email from an Israeli friend who's spoken fluent English since I first met her in 1965 and who has lived in the US and traveled all over the world. My first impulse was to correct the errors, but when I thought about it, I suspected that they were a side effect of the fact that Hebrew is written and read from right to left. The email included what I assume was the title in Hebrew, but unfortunately, I found I couldn't copy and paste the Hebrew characters to the blog. I think it has a certain charm, besides offering a view on language that's right in line with posts from some of my SleuthSayers blogmates. So I'm sharing it with you as is.


  The Beauty in English Language!



ONLY THE ENGLISH COULD HAVE INVENTED THIS LANGUAGE

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Then shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!
 Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England ..
 
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,
grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends
and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposite
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns
down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out,
and in which an alarm goes off by going on. 
And, in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother's not Mop? 

AND IF PEOPLE FROM POLAND ARE CALLED POLES THEN PEOPLE FROM HOLLAND  SHOULD BE HOLES AND THE GERMANS SHOULD BE GERMS.,

13 July 2012

Working for The Woman


by R.T. Lawton

A few weeks back, I went to the mailbox with my usual expectations of both hope and dread. The writer's hope of good news, such as a contract or something of interest from the world of writing. But then, there's also the dread of receiving a very unnecessary rejection of one's most excellent creation. Of course, the box could contain nothing more than junk mail and bills. Those, I give to my wife, Kiti.

On this day, nestled in with the utilities bill, an offer of a free steak dinner if we listened to a lecture on how to invest our money in a retirement fund, two health insurance companies who desperately wanted my future business, plus several discount coupons from various stores offering to save me some money, was a single, plain white, #10 business envelope with one of my address labels on it. No return address. The postmark was Seattle.

I quickly recognized this envelope as the SASE I had enclosed with a mini-mystery manuscript submitted to Woman's World Magazine. In the more distant past, such an envelope would contain two pieces of paper. They would either be a form rejection letter and the first page of the rejected manuscript, OR they would be a very nice congratulatory letter of acceptance and a one-page contract stating when this story was to be published and the $500 fee the author was to receive in a few weeks.
HOWEVER, last year in reply to my 24th submission, I had received an e-mail from Johnene Granger, the column editor, stating that she needed an electronic copy of my manuscript because the head editor wanted to be able to look at a mock-up of the proposed magazine issue on screen before he made his final decisions. Thus, an e-mail request meant the column editor liked the story and there was only one more hurdle to pass. A follow-up e-mail would then provide info on acceptance or rejection, and the contract still came in one's SASE.

Advance notice on what to expect in the snail mail. I could live with that, after all that's how they bought my 24th submission in 2011. Problem now was here I stood holding the return envelope on my 25th submission and there had been no advance e-mail from Seattle. CRAP!

My questioning fingertips felt the envelope. Yep, it was the usual two pages thick. Same as always. And, you can't tell a one-page contract from the first page of a rejected manuscript.

Should I pour a Jack and Coke before opening, or just tear into the envelope and pour the drink later? Maybe pry up one corner of the seal and sneak a peek? Nah, be a man and take it on the chin. All or nothing. It's not the end of the world.

RIP!

TEAR!

PULL OUT!

Sonofagun, it's a contract and a congratulatory letter of acceptance. A hand-written personal note at the bottom of the letter says, "Thanks for another good one, Johnene Granger."
Whatever happened to the advance e-mail notice program and the mock-up on screen for the head editor before accetance? At this point I don't really care. The Woman has just accepted my 25th submission. Let's see, that makes 10 acceptances and 15 rejections. A whopping 40% goes to the plus side for that market. My average is improving. It's another writing credit, which you the reading public can run right out to your local grocery store and find "Officer, It Was Self-Defense" in Woman's World Magazine, issue #31 with an on-sale date of July 19th. Hey, that was yesterday. Better hurry, that issue is only on the racks for one week. (Actually, Dix had a last minute uploading problem, plus his Dad was having eye surgery, and he flat ran out of time. Therefore, we swapped weeks and  this is early, so don't look for that magazine until next week.)

Moving on. Tune in next time when I go over some personal notes about writing those 700 words or less, $500 mini-mysteries. But right now, you'll have to excuse me, I have to go back to working for The Woman.

12 July 2012

The Power of a Strong Vocabulary


by Deborah Elliott-Upton

I keep hearing there is a dumbing down of America. I don't want to believe it, but I'm reminded that:
  • Educators have stopped teaching cursive writing in elementary schools.
  • We are relying more and more on spell check rather than knowing how to spell.
  • More and more we are using a text-derived shorthand language, which is neither correctly spelled or as a gauge of a good vocabulary.   

Editors have said the average language level for our novels and short stories should be written for an eighth-grade reading audience.

Just as I am buying into the "dumbing down of America," I find a spark of hope. The last couple of years, I've spent considerable time with young people on a regular basis. From my new grand daughter and our time with children's programming on television to the college students I've been fortunate to interact with, I can vouch that the reading audience is out there and selectively reading on a better grade level than what we have been told to expect.





Cuddled with my grand daughter, we found on Sesame Street, Eva Longoria presented the word of the day: exquisite.




That afternoon, Word Girl concentrated her energies on the word pensive. These are early school educational programs. It looks like the writers for those programs expect the next generation to have extensive vocabularies. Good for them to recognize the need for quality education for our little ones.


Those books that reach a popularity with the masses that have introduced new words for our dictionaries --like muggles from the Harry Potter series -- and quark  from Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce and the word, robotics, from Isaac Asimov, have done a great service to readers. They made reading FUN.

Something about knowing the new "in" words found in a story we love and then sharing them with our friends is a wonderful way writers can ensure readers continue being readers all their lives. I think those authors finding ways to encourage their young reader's to embrace a larger vocabulary with choices like tesserae and apothecary from The Hunger Games, is doing anything but dumbing down American readers.

So what about the adult mystery audience? I don't enjoy novels that force me to head for the dictionary every page, but I do like learning a new term or phrase. It's my opinion if we can keep learning, we grow old slower than those who have given up on additional knowledge.

The idea of being the writer of great mysteries means delivering all the clues in just the right measures to allow the reader to almost guess the outcome.

As a writer, I've read between the lines too much not to usually guess who-done-it and why. That's why when I discover writing that surprises me with its delicate hiding of clues where I should have noticed them like the envelope hidden in plain sight in Poe's The Purloined Letter, that I am in awe and more than eager to read more from the author.

I don't want to be treated like someone without a brain who needs someone to lay the clues all out like a clear blueprint which a child could understand.

As a reader, I want to be entertained and elevated by the language. As a mystery reader, I want to be mindful of the careful plotting and clues being planted and tenderly cared for so as not to be disturbed before they are ready to emerge like tiny buds on a rosebush. Pretty enough to keep my interest and just thorny enough to be dangerous is exactly how I like mysteries.

I adore films and television, but not so much those that are expecting not to know when to laugh so I'm provided with a prompting laugh track. I don't want to know in the first scene who committed the crime. I don't want the detective in a series to deduce the criminal's motives in the initial setup.

That's probably why I was astounded to find how wonderfully written the television series "Revenge" turned out to be this first season. 

Good writing is being done everyday all over America. Isn't it nice we still have an audience for such clever authors? 

American readers are smarter than they are given credit for being. Thanks for being one of them!

11 July 2012

The Writing Life


by Janice Law

My dad used to say that education was the one thing that couldn’t be taken away from you, but he didn’t add that knowledge tends to stay with you in erratic ways. Take high school Latin, which was de rigueur for ambitious pupils back in the dark ages. I had two years with a nice old duffer and only later discovered that my academic interests would better have been served by Greek and my personal concerns by any modern language.

However, certain old Latin tags remain and lately I’ve had reason to revisit two of them, which I think should be emblazoned above every writer’s desk along with Nora Ephron’s Mom’s “It’s all copy, dear,” and my own dear mother’s, “It costs nothing to be polite.”

They are De gustibus non est disputantum, most felicitously translated for writers as “You can’t argue with editors,” and ars longa vita brevis, which, though it is usually presented as the permanence of art as opposed to the transience of life, may be rendered for the benefit of the scribbling trade as, “Live long if you want to profit.”

I have been thinking about these two old saws, because lately I have been able to empty my file cabinet of several stories and at least two books. Pieces written five, ten, even twenty years ago and rejected by the multitudes have suddenly brought me credit, if not cash. One story, close to my heart, will show up in Vengeance, the new MWA anthology, a fact I only mention because the story had gotten thumbs down from editorial desks for nearly six years.

Another, a novel, this time, was first written around 1990. I loved it – which doesn’t mean too much, being, as it were, the interested party, but my then agent, the now retired and still lamented, Kay Kidde, loved it too. So did a big time editor at a big time New York house. At least, he loved the beginning but then, alas, he sobered up or changed his brewski and decided he didn’t love it quite enough.

A bad omen. No one else loved it at all. Or if they loved it, they loved it with reservations, mostly about how many folks with cash in hand could be persuaded to take it home with them. In short, mice had eaten the edges and the setting had almost moved from contemporary (ripped from the headlines as one of my former editors used to say) to historical novel status, before Wildside e-books rode to its rescue. We’ll see how that works out.

Nor has that been my only triumph of late. Another novel which I initially thought a sure thing with a gay, promiscuous genius painter as protagonist and the Blitz as background seemed set to share a similar fate. I liked it, a new agent liked it, the editorial world, however, counted up my sales figures and didn’t like it at all. Or maybe it was the protagonist’s old nanny? Whatever, it has only now, half a dozen years on, found a home at Mysteriouspress.com.

Does this modest dose of good fortune indicate that there has been a wholesale, and wholesome, revolution in taste? I rather doubt it. I’ve just out-waited the fates. At this rate, and with my genetics – my late father survived into his 99th year– I have some hope of eventually publishing all the novels and most of the stories I have written in a life misspent at the writing desk.

A couple of other stories, long resident in the file drawer and the hard drive – am I the only writer who has to keep updating manuscripts as word processing programs go out of date? – have also gotten on the publishing docket, thanks to changes in editorial chairs.

And there’s where we come to de gustibus non est disputatum. Quality is not the only thing that determines whether pieces get sold. Luck and timing are easily as important, and influence in the form of friendly recommendations and tips about markets has to count for something as well.

Particularly now, when there are few magazine outlets (paying) for stories, when the most profitable companies are all subsidiaries of media cartels, and when print book reviews seem a dying art, the gustibus of a few key people becomes overwhelmingly important.

What’s a writer to do? Remember that non disputantum, only write if you love it, and live as long as possible. And unless you are one of the charmed few, hang onto your day job.

10 July 2012

Civility


By David Dean

It is probably not uncommon for most people to look at previous generations and think, "People were nicer to one another back then; they had better manners."  After all, we live in contentious times and the country appears somewhat polarized these days.  It's hard to imagine George Washington being rude to anyone, or that anyone would ever think of being rude to him.  Ditto for Franklin, Jefferson, etc...  Our nation's forefathers all appeared so stately, calm, and resolute.  We, on the other hand, seem so quarrlesome and mean-spirited.  Not to mention pretty foul-mouthed.  It's hard to walk among people, whether in the mall or in the workplace, without being bombarded with the f-word and other oft-repeated, and unpleasant, adjectives and nouns.  I use them far too often myself--I plead twenty-five years in law enforcement as my flimsy defense.  Violence appears to go hand-in-hand with our current posture.  Even murder has to be pretty damn sensational to raise an eyebrow these days--unless, of course, it involves someone close to you.

That being said (or written in this case), a rose-colored view of those that have gone before us is just that--rose-colored...and inaccurate.  If you think our present-day politicians are intractable and rude to one another, then you don't know much about their predecessors: fist-fights and canings were not a rare occurence in the capitol of young America.  In one instance, a duly elected official was nearly beaten to death with a walking stick on the floor of Congress by another.  The run-up to the Civil War was particularly contentious, but there were plenty of unpleasant incidents from the very start.  The name-calling; the wholly slanderous accusations, make our current crop of politicians appear positively restrained and angelic.  Even death couldn't be ruled out for national figures--remember the Burr-Hamilton duel. 

The Infamous Duel at Weehawkin, New Jersey

What suggested this topic to me is a story that I am currently working on.  It is a period piece set in the Ante-Bellum South.  It involves ferocious acts of violence by characters who are, by and large, very polite.  It got me to thinking about civility and vilolence, murder and manners.  A close friend of mine once said (and I paraphrase), "If it weren't for manners here in Georgia, half the population would murder the other half!"  I'd like to think that's not strictly true, but I understood his point.  We need some ritualized behavior in our lives that makes resorting directly to conflict, or violence, a longer road to travel.  Manners present an acceptable way to speak to people and to behave in the company of others.  It gives us an alternative to thoughtless words, affrontive attitudes.  They buy us time to think things through.

Yet again, however, it would be naive to think these practioners of politeness are immune, and certainly incorrect to think that the mannered classes of any era had a lock on good behavior.  In fact, those same courtesies could be bent and purposed to achieve malicious goals.  It was not uncommon for one man to prick and goad his chosen target, in the most polite language, of course, until the tormented man could take no more and issued a challenge.  During the dueling days of our nation the man who challenged surrendered the right of choosing weapons.  So the silver-tongued devil that truly engineered the fight gained the advantage from the beginning.  This could seal a man's fate in some cases.  In fact, a man might be such a master of a particular weapon that it was virtually murder on his part to insist on its use.  Hence the incentive to be challenged and not the other way around.

Duels, though couched in myth and legend, were hardly polite even when they were highly ritualized--and they weren't always even that.  Oftentimes, after the heat of the challenge and during the planning phase of the contest, tempers might cool.  In this case, the seconds (usually close and trusted friends and advisors of the combatants) would get together and discuss honorable terms for resolving the conflict without violence.  These efforts were very often successful, as few people, given a little time to think about it, want to risk death or maiming over some heated and, probably, alcohol-fueled, exchange.  Not always though.

Once it was decided to carry through on the challenge, the opponents would meet in a secluded area away from the prying eyes of law enforcement.  Duelling was generally illegal.  Having met, the opponents, if armed with pistols, had several decisions to make: Upon being given the command to commence, one, or the other, could fire their round into the air, signifying that honor had been satisfied by the courageous behavior exhibited so far by both parties.  This was a dangerous choice.  If the other man had not yet fired, he still had the right to do so.  The first man was expected to remain standing on the field until he did...or didn't.  To flee was to expose himself to being shot by any member of the opponent's party of seconds.  It would also brand the man a coward.  To remain standing there must have been a nerve-wracking exercise.  If the other man fired his pistol into the air, then honor was satisfied all round.  Brandy was, no doubt, produced and everyone went home with a good story and reputation intact. 

Or...you got shot.  This was usually accomplished with a .50 caliber ball that did a lot of damage even if it wasn't fatal.  The odds were excellent that you would die of blood loss or infection before all was said and done.  Sometimes you just lost a limb.

The same rules applied if you fired and missed.  You still had to wait the other guy's turn.  If you both fired and missed, then the option of retiring from the field with honor was discussed.  If this was not mutually agreeable, the pistols were reloaded and the whole ritual was repeated until someone got shot--not your normal day at the office.

German Sword Duelists
Dueling with swords was not as popular in America.  It seems we have always been a gun nation.  Knives are another matter.  Largely thanks to Jim Bowie, knife fighting went through a period of popularity in the early 1800's.  James Bowie was credited with the invention of the 'Bowie' knife.  Historians think that it was actually his brother, Rezin, who designed the famous blade.  As the original has been lost in the mists of time we shall never know exactly what it looked like.  What we do know is that it was designed with the specific purpose of self-defense.

A replica of what the original was believed to look like.
 Jim made the Bowie knife a household word after his famous "Sandbar Fight."  This bloody brawl was the culmination of several years of bad blood between two political rivals and their supporters in Mississippi (what did I tell you about these old time politicians?).  A duel was arranged on a sandbar in the Mississippi River that was often used for this purpose.  The aggrieved parties, their seconds, and their supporters, all showed at the duly appointed time...and all hell broke loose.  Before it was over several men had died by Bowie's blade and he lay grievoulsy wounded and near death--a legend was born.


Bowie recovered and went on to kill more people, though it would be unfair to characterize these encounters as duels--like the Sandbar, they were fights and brawls.  He was not a nice man.  Even so, a fad of sorts was begun and knife duels flourished for a short while.  Knife fights were particularly brutal and ugly affairs and the outcomes uncertain in the extreme.  Hence the time-honored joke: How can you tell who is the winner of a knife fight?  Answer: He's the second man to die.  Oddly, the mystique has persisted.  Even when I was young (a scant few years ago) a certain glamor was attached to knife duels.  Fighting knifes (daggers and such) were sometimes referred to as Georgia boxing gloves.  Thankfully, I was never on the receiving end of any such encounter.          

In spite of all the romantic hogwash surrounding dueling, most of our American forebears frowned on the practice (scratch Andrew Jackson on that, as he both liked and was good at them).  Beyond the moral and legal implications, there were the practical concerns to be considered: What of the families left behind? Who would take care of them?  How would they survive?  There were no safety nets then.

So, as you ponder the woeful state of  our national discourse, and shake your head at the coarsening of American civility, just remember this, it could be worse...you could be living in those far more polite, mannered, and deadly days of yore, when your opinion might cost you your life, and stating it required actual physical courage.   



 



                   

09 July 2012

Numb and Nummer


By Fran Rizer

Note: Two weeks ago, I promised this week would be more about pseudonyms,but I've been too busy to finish the research, so that will come later.


Last year both of my hands went numb. They'd been tingly and uncomfortable before, but not like this. When they weren't numb, the pain was agonizing, excruciating enough to wake me from a sound sleep.  Being type 1 diabetic, I attributed the problem to neuropathy, but my endocrinologist insisted I have testing.  For those of you who've never needed these tests, the technician sticks needles in varying points on the patient's arms and hands, then presses buttons that send jolts of electricity from one needle to another.  The time between the shock above the hand and its arrival at points in the hand can be interpreted by the physician to show degrees of neuropathy and carpal tunnel syndrome.  My tests showed mild neuropathy and extreme carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands.  Carpal tunnel syndrome is compression of the median nerve at the wrist.


My first surgery was scheduled for December, but I postponed it because I was spending all my time with Mom then.  The right hand was "fixed" in May, and since then, what writing I've done has been left-handed hunting and pecking.  I'm still having therapy on the right hand but plan to have surgery on the left in August.



If you're reading this, you have access to computers and can look up Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) for yourself, so I won't go into many medical details, but there are a few facts I've learned that I believe writers should know.  First, there are treatments that help before surgery becomes necessary. (I ignored symptoms until they were severe.)  Second, if surgery is necessary, its success is somewhat limited by the degree of infirmity in the hands.  Third, the surgery isn't always successful and is not so minor as I thought.  Frequently, six months to ten months pass before recuperation is considered complete and the surgeon knows how much success there has been.


When a gal reaches my age, a scar or so is not going to be as upsetting as to ladies who receive scars that interfere with their bikinis.  In CTS, the scars will be either on the wrist or the palm of the hand.  I'm pleased that my surgeon makes the incision at the bottom of the palm instead of on the wrist. I think it's less noticeable and won't ever be mistaken for a suicide attempt.  Besides, when the brace  comes off, these will be scars that can be shown off without having to remove any clothing.  The doctor did tell me that though the incision was less than an inch and a half, he lifts the skin and actually operates about four or five inches in length.


If you're still with me, you're probably wondering why I chose to talk about this. After all, SleuthSayers isn't a medical blog.  CTS is not about writing, is it?  Actually, it is.  Mine is probably the result of excessive writing, both on and off the keyboard.  My point today is that I didn't know until my surgery that it could have been more easily corrected earlier.  If you're having early signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (tingling, pain, numbness and/or difficulty in moving fingers), it's advisable to have a doctor check it sooner instead of later.

Until we meet again,  take care of. . .YOU!





08 July 2012

Free Office Suite Software!


Microsoft Wordby Leigh Lundin

If you want free word processing software– or for that matter couldn't care less– skip to the end. If you'd like a little background and assurance these are truly quality programs for free, read on.

The last two versions of Microsoft Office for Windows disappointed (and disgusted) me so much, I avoided the corresponding Mac editions, choosing to stick with MS Office 2004. Three months ago I bought a MacBook Air, a beautiful, slim piece of sculpture that happens to be a laptop. Unfortunately, the MacOS 10.7 'lion' operating system no longer supports older applications. Because word processing files are the lingua franca of our profession, I had to consider either upgrading Microsoft Office or going with one of the free (yes, free as in 'gratis') office suites available to users.

I did both. I downloaded the most recent NeoOffice and waited until I spotted a deal on Microsoft Office 2011. I'm happy to report the Macintosh version of Office 2011 isn't as abhorrent as the equivalent Windows version, but I still have complaints as do the many Microsoft Word and Excel users who desperately seek help for anything more complex than bold italics.

Grumble, Grumble, Grumble

Although MS Word 2011 for Mac has annoyances the Mac 2004 version didn't have, the good news is that it isn't nearly as obnoxious as Word 2010 for Windows or its predecessor, Word 2007. For example, I can no longer paste into the Find/Replace dialogue box (although I can still paste into the Find field (but not replace) in the menu bar.

Another problem is Microsoft can't seem to update itself if it's installed anywhere other than the boot drive. I separate documents into one partition and applications into another, apart from my operating system ( drives I named 'Huey', 'Dewey', and 'Louie') to reduce damage in case of a catastrophic crash. The old version understood what I'd done; the finicky new one doesn't. My Windows friends say "Yeah, live with it," which sums up why Mac users are leery of Microsoft.

Alternatives to Microsoft Office

As Unix users have known for years, you can live without Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint very nicely, thank you. Indeed, thanks to the Unix open source community, you can download sophisticated office suites without charge.

About fifteen years ago, the German company Star Division developed a package called StarOffice. In 1999, Sun Microsystems bought the German company and released the software package to the open source community as OpenOffice for Mac, Windows, and Unix. During their stewardship, the package 'forked' (split off) into two other products, NeoOffice (Mac only) and LibreOffice. Two years ago, Oracle bought out Sun and donated OpenOffice to the Apache organization.

All three products have the same basic applications (word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program) plus two additional programs, a database and a drawing module superior to that found in Microsoft programs.

The Way of the Lotus

Meanwhile in 2007, IBM's Lotus group deployed Lotus Workplace as a foundation for a new suite with a name reminiscent of the DOS days, Lotus Symphony. IBM migrated their entire corporation (400,000 employees) from Microsoft Office to Lotus Symphony at a significant cost saving. IBM also made the program available for free to the outside world, for a confirmed total of 12 million registered users.

Early this year, IBM announced they would also donate Symphony to the Apache project with an eye to combining it with OpenOffice, although IBM continued support with another update in March.

Free as a Bird

I mentioned these programs are free for everyone, so here's where to find them.



NeoOffice


OpenOffice
(Mac, Unix, Windows)
LibreOffice
(Mac, Unix, Windows)
NeoOffice
(Macintosh only)
Lotus Symphony
(Mac, Unix, Windows)


Next week, I'll discuss basic formatting with Microsoft Word.

07 July 2012

Home Alone


by John M. Floyd


A few weeks ago our family--my wife and I, our three children, and their spouses and children--spent a week in the mountains of east Tennessee.  Thirteen of us, five of whom are under the age of seven, lived together for six days in a four-story, six-bedroom cabin, and somehow managed to do it without any major arguments or threats to life and limb.  I can't say we were roughing it, because the place included a pool table, hot tub, Wi-Fi, and seven TV sets--but, to our credit, none of the TVs even got switched on, except for the night our oldest son plugged his camera into one of them to show us a movie he'd made of a kindergarten music-program featuring one of his kids.

Anyhow, we had a great time; the weather was cool and clear and totally unsummerlike for the whole trip.  Every day after breakfast, the Floyd clan hiked up and down mountains until two of us (guess who) were wheezing and had our tongues hanging out.  Lunch was always a picnic somewhere along the trail, and by five o'clock or so we were usually back at the cabin, where we had a group supper and got all the kiddos calmed down and in bed.  The eight grownups then sat around on the deck and snacked and propped up our sore feet and visited until the wee hours.

You guys go ahead--don't worry about me . . .

But my column today, believe it or not, isn't about road trips or backpacking or family reunions.  It's about writing.  Because on the first of those six days in the wild, I was recovering but still suffering from a head cold and chose to stay behind while the rest of the family packed up and trudged off into the black forest.  From eight o'clock until around four-thirty that day, I sat around by myself, taking it easy and occasionally taking in the view.  And writing.

I wrote for most of the day, and while I wish I could tell you I was writing a SleuthSayer column, I wasn't.  I was writing a short story--what used to be called a mini-mystery and is now called a "solve-it-yourself" mystery--for a magazine called Woman's World.

I was surprised at how smoothly it went.  Part of it was the quiet and the solitude, I guess, and the knowledge that there really wasn't anything else to do while the rest of my crew were off someplace having a good time.  Whatever the reason, the ideas and the words seemed to appear in my stuffy head without much effort at all.  It did, however, take some effort to make them appear in tangible form, since I was using an ink pen and a yellow legal pad I had thrown into my briefcase for the trip.  (My iPad worked well for e-mail and websurfing but I had not yet--and still have not--installed a word-processing program on it.)  I do actually remember how to write words by hand, though, and within half an hour I had jotted down a rough draft on the first four sheets of my lined pad.

The cutting-room floor

The rewriting was the only thing that was hard.  I do a lot of rewriting, and always have, but I'm a bit spoiled; after all, editing my own work on a computer screen is easy.  On paper it's not.  I did a few markouts and additions and other corrections on the sheets I'd already written, but most of my revisions were accomplished by starting over and writing a complete second draft, and then a third.  And since these WW submissions must have a short and very specific wordcount, I even wound up (don't laugh) counting the words each time, right down to every "a" and "the."  Which can be a tiresome job, and a reminder of how things "used to be."

When I was done I had filled a dozen pages, the first eight of which, of course, were now worthless.  The last four pages contained the almost-final draft of my handwritten story.

By then it was past lunchtime, so I gobbled down whatever food I could find in our Ponderosa-sized kitchen, caught a nap, and then took my better-(I hoped)-but-not-yet-completed story out onto the third-floor deck to read it over. I have always--even during my college and Air Force days--been able to do some of my best thinking when my feet are elevated to at least the level of my head, and one of the adjustable lounge chairs was just right for this phase of my creative process.  By the time my weary and sweaty kinfolks had returned from their day's adventures, I had made all my final edits and had a story in hand that now was . . . well, I won't say perfect--but was as perfect as I thought that particular story could be.  I had a product that was ready to be taken home, typed, and submitted to the WW fiction editor.

Post-production notes

Every day after that, I hiked through hill and dale with the rest of the family; my cold was better and my story was finished and safely packed away.  When we wrapped up the week and had driven the five hundred miles back to our house in Mississippi I did indeed send that story off into the world to try to make something of itself.  I haven't yet heard anything back about it, so I don't know if it'll prove to be a winner or a loser, but at least I'm satisfied with it.

I've completed several more stories since then, but all of those have been written right here in this chair in my home office, using my trusty iMac.  My future plans include installing the Apple version of MS Word on my iPad, but until then, on any trip I take, I plan to again pack plenty of paper and a few Foray rollerball pens.  Just in case I find myself grounded for a while.

Call it a wilderness survival kit.

06 July 2012

Blue Light Special


by R.T. Lawton

Along about the Summer of 1980, I got orders for a special down in Miami. These "specials" came up from time to time whenever the agency temporarily needed extra manpower to help out in a certain region. For this one, the Miami group which normally worked with Customs and Coast Guard was headed down into the Caribbean for their own special operation in some of the islands, so the agency brought in other agents from all over the U.S. to replace them. That's when my name came up in the rotation and I got drafted to Miami.

In those days, Castro had already emptied many of his prison cells and put the inmates on boats headed for Florida. You've probably seen Al Pachino in Scarface. Well, those were some of the Marielitos that ended up in Liberty City under the Interstate overpass. Liberty City as a holding center was winding down by the time we got there, which meant many of its inhabitants were now residents of Miami. This was also the era of the Cocaine Cowboys, low-flying planes dropping clandestine loads in the Everglades, go-fast boats running in from the Bahama Banks and mother ships coming up from Colombia. Miami was flush with drug money and vibrated with adrenaline.

Most nights, our group hooked up with Customs agents a few hours before dark. They'd take us to a Cuban restaurant for supper and then it was down to the docks for a briefing. One or two of our guys always got assigned to the Customs tug that had radar on it. The rest got singled out to go-fast boats previously seized from smugglers and paired up with Customs agents.
Out on the water, sometimes in sight of the city lights and sometimes sitting off some dark part of the Florida coast, the tug would take up a position in the middle of our long, thin line, while the go-fasts spread way out to either side. We hunted in wolf packs, waiting for a radio call from the tug that their radar had picked up a fast moving blip coming in from Jamaica, the Bahama Banks or elsewhere. Smugglers trying to make a midnight run with offload crews waiting at a secret rendezvous.

The Customs agent in my go-fast would slap a blue Kojak light on the prow, kick the engine to life and away we'd go. Nobody had uniforms to identify ourselves, except the Captain and the First Mate on the tug. The rest of us in those days wore plain clothes. All we had were our badges, side arms and that blue revolving light.

When smugglers saw that flashing blue light, they'd try to turn to one side, but if we had done it right, then we'd soon have other flashing blue lights converging on both sides. Most times, if they could, the smugglers would keep on going, run their boat up on the nearest beach and disappear into the night landscape. They'd merely abandon their vessel and its contraband load. Better than a stretch in federal prison.

What we found out later was that most smugglers wouldn't even think of stopping because of other actions happening further south in the Keys. Seems there were some good ol' boys in some of the back waters who had their own go-fast boats, but didn't have enough front money to get involved in the drug trade, so they went out and bought their own blue lights. They'd motor out into the southern Florida waters and pull over boats they thought were smuggling. If they caught a load, they'd steal it, shoot up the other boat and maybe its occupants. This made smugglers a little antsy about pulling over for any blue light. Can't say I blame them, but it made our job harder.

On quiet nights, if the Customs agent got bored, he was likely to slide our go-fast up next to a private fishing boat in the dark, slap the blue light on, knock on the hull with his knuckles and announce his authority. When a head appeared over the rail, he'd tell them we were coming aboard to check records and maybe search the guy's boat. Some smugglers relied on hidden compartments and the appearance of normalcy to bring in their loads. Thus, we ended up searching for fresh seams or paint in the cabin and after deck. Anything that looked newly reworked or out of place.

Of course, the trick for us landlubbers gone to sea for the first time was learning how to board from one dead-in-the-water boat to another dead-in-the water boat while both platforms were bobbing up and down in ocean swells out of synch. One mis-timed leap and you could either land on the far side of the other deck with a lot of momentum headed for the outside rail and a quick bath, or one could find himself suddenly pressed flat against the other hull and sliding down....towards a quick bath.

Like most surveillance, the majority of nights were quiet and boring. But then, came those nights filled with adrenaline, excitement and the BLUE LIGHT SPECIALS. We're not talking K-Mart here.

05 July 2012

A Cautionary Tale


By Eve Fisher

Ah, the High Plains.  Where the living is easy, there's more freedom, less government intrusion, and you can do any damn thing you want to do.  Sorry, but there’s no such place.  Sure, you get enough  acres, you can do just about any thing you want out in the middle of it.  But you’re still going to have to behave yourself once you come out of there:  for one thing, there are such things as OTHER PEOPLE.  Even in South Dakota.  We don't have a huge population up here, but that only increases everyone's dependence on everyone else, no matter what they think of that concept.  And, as always, it helps if you treat people decently, and don't quarrel with them, or else you could end up like a man I will call Gus Olson.  (All names, and some details, have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.) 

Gus lived in an old house on a corner lot in a town much smaller than Madison.  The trouble all started with his old cars.  First he had two, then he had five, then he six, then he had eight, next thing you know a dozen, and they were all junkers, piled up on top of each other and rusting away.  Well, there were complaints, and the city council gave him warnings, all of which he ignored.  Except for some choice language.  He quit repairing or painting his house.  Trash started piling up.  So did the citations.  Eventually he put up a ten foot high board fence running all the way around his property, which cost him a lot more than moving the cars and hauling away the garbage would have.  

Now Gus had decided he was being persecuted back when people complained about the junkers.  So he started warning people to stay the hell off of his property.  Nobody took him real seriously until he started standing on his front steps with a shotgun.  Didn't shoot, didn't threaten, just stood there.  Technically, it was legal, but it was sure unfriendly.  Basically, Gus made it plain that nobody – NOBODY – was to set foot on his property.  He met the postman down at the sidewalk, and he stood right next to the meter reader as she read his dials.  A couple of people tried to talk to him, but he chased them all off.  He put up signs all along his property:  
"ABSOLUTELY NO TRESPASSING!
THIS MEANS YOU!"
He quit talking to just about everybody in town, except to snarl at them.  He showed up at city council meetings and school board meetings and county commission meetings to rant about how persecuted he was, and how he’d have anybody’s hide that touched one thing on his property.  That a man’s home was his castle, and the rights of private property were absolute.  There was no doubt he meant every word of it.  And legally - we have "castle doctrine" big time in SD - he was absolutely right.

So, when Gus’ garage caught fire one night, the fire department – did I mention that up here small town fire departments are all volunteer? – showed up and did nothing but wet down the tall fence, and even doing that, they felt they were risking their lives.  After all, Gus had personally threatened to shoot each and every one of them if they ever set foot on his property.  So they stood there and watched as Gus’ garage burned to the ground, and half his house went with it. 

For some reason, he was pissed off about that.  He wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper saying, and I quote, "I don't understand how they could stand there and do nothing.  I know I said I'd shoot them all, but still, they should have tried to put out the fire." 

So, what do you think the fire department should have done?   As for Gus, he's still around, but he's not nearly as mouthy as he used to be.

04 July 2012

Five Red Herrings, the Second School


by Robert Lopresti

1.  Missed connection
On this blog and its predecessor I often write about my Work In Progress, whatever that happens to be.  On the rare and wonderful occasions when one of them turns into a Work In Print I usually mention the previous column, but this time I forgot.  My story "Shanks Commences" was published this spring, but I wrote about the process of writing it back in 2009  and I even quote a draft of it here. 

2.  Quite Interesting

This has nothing to with crime or writing, but I know a lot of us like puzzles.  Go to Youtube some time and search for QI Fry.  QI (Quite Interesting) is the most intellectually challenging quiz show you are likely to run across.  The questions are so deliberately obscure or tricky that the panelists are not expected to answer any of them correctly.  Therefore they get points for coming up with interesting wrong answers.  However, they are penalized for boring wrong answers (boring defined as any answer the show's writers predicted).    The panelists are usually comedians which keeps it entertaining. 

If one of our American networks every wants to bring their own version I know one of our citizens with the brains and wit to replace Stephen Fry as host: Ken Jennings.

3.  The Horror...The Horror
If you haven't had your recommended daily allotment of schadenfreude, let me commend you to this piece.  Mandy DeGeit writes horror fiction and she recently had her first story accepted for an anthology published by Undead Press.  She bought boxes of the book for friends and relatives and then made the mistake of opening one of them.  The title of her story appeared as:

“She Make’s Me Smile”

Okay.  So an apostrophe had wandered in where God never intended one to be.  Not so tragic if everything else is okay.  At least the editor didn't, for example, add a couple of paragraphs describing animal abuse that were not in the original piece.

Oh, wait.  The editor did that?

And more, as it turned out.  DeGeit wrote to the editor to discuss this and for her trouble she received a reply complaining about "unstable" and "ungrateful" writers.  And you thought you were having a bad day.


4.  Parks on the Road to Hell


I just discovered Richard Parks blog  courtesy of Sandra Seamans' invaluable blog My Little Corner. This is one of the best pieces about the importance of first lines I have come across.  Quite a different view than you usually hear.


5.  Dr. Doyle, call your office.

I have been reading the Mystery Writers of America Annual, which is provided to everyone who attends the Edgars Banquet, and then sent to other members.   One of the many essays is by Leslie S. Klinger, the editor of the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes.  He mentions that after giving a presentation at a library he was thanked by an enthusiastic member of the audience.

"I'm so glad I came today," she said.  "I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, and I didn't know there were books!"

Hoping life holds some pleasant surprises for you as well.

03 July 2012

Brief Versus Short


 by Dale C. Andrews

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
    Last week I received an eagerly awaited piece of mail – a check.  The amount of the check, paid in compensation for a 26 page document I wrote this year, may not have been huge, but neither was it all that modest.  It was, for comparisons sake, more than  my annual salary  back in 1972 when I was still programming computers.  It was also about 8 times more than I have received in total for the short stories I have sold over the past few years.  Unlike those stories, this novella length document wasn’t fiction at all.  The check was payment for a legal brief that I agreed to write in a case involving a challenge to new consumer regulations published by the United States Department of Transportation. 

    I know, I know.  I make a point here and elsewhere of being a “recovering” attorney.  But this case tempted me back into the legal arena since I was asked to defend regulations that are pro-consumer, and with which I personally agree.  Also the payment would be, well, generous. 

    The last 20 years that I practiced law I was the Deputy Assistant General Counsel in the Department of Transportation’s litigation office.  For a host of reasons I enjoyed that position much more than I had my previous 15 years of practice in the private sector.  At DOT almost everything that I did revolved around the written word.  I specialized in appellate and Supreme Court litigation, so there was no interviewing of witnesses or trial work for me.  Rather, I spent my years writing and editing the writing of others.  When I was in private practice it bugged me no end to think that every hour I spent on a project needed to be billed to someone.  Time and money were stapled together at the ankles.  Separating hours worked from compensation received is one of the greatest joys in working for the government.   While work still stacks up, there is nevertheless the opportunity to give each task the amount of time it requires rather than the amount of time that can justifiably be multiplied by an applicable hourly rate.  Nonetheless, I am human, and I like money as well as the next guy.  So I admit that it was the prospect of those billable hours that enticed me to write that brief this year.

    By contrast, each of us here at SleuthSayers, I will bet, is marching to a different drummer.  You basically can’t make anything close to a living writing short stories.  The last mystery writer who may have been able to eke out that sort of living was Ed Hoch, and I would be very surprised if there are any more of his ilk out on the horizon. 

    This was not always the case.  O. Henry wrote virtually only short stories, and apparently lived well.  Shirley Jackson left a handful of novels, but was principally known for her incredible short stories.  Faulkner, Hemmingway and Steinbeck each cut their teeth on short stories, as did Stephen King. 

    It is interesting to speculate as to what has changed since the heyday of magazine fiction.  John Floyd, in a column last week, set forth a list of outlets that currently pay for new short stories.  That list is paltry compared to the publications that were readily available at neighborhood news counters in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.  And why is this the case?  Economics teaches us that the magazines that are no more ceased to exist only because readers stopped purchasing them.  It’s pretty simple – when readers go away the market contracts.  Since the demise of many of those short story outlets coincided with the rise of television it is tempting to link the two.  Did readers leave because of the advent of television?  If so, why was that the case?  Mystery stories were a hallmark of radio programming before televisions entered our living rooms and yet the market for printed short stories thrived alongside radio dramas. 

  Thinking about this I was reminded of an episode on the Twilight Zone – actually, the 1985 re-boot of the show on CBS.  The episode, part of the 1985 Christmas show, was titled “But Can She Type?” and centered on a much-abused secretary who was transported into a parallel universe where secretarial skills were revered.  The scenario of that episode is not unlike the situation that short story authors find themselves in – we seem to be stuck in a universe that no longer fully appreciates our contributions.

    It is possible, with the advent of epublications and stories and books that are obtainable over the internet without ever being published in hardcover, that the pendulum may now be swinging back to a more amenable position.  But I still am a bit of a skeptic.  After all, the demise of all of those mystery magazines that we bought as kids was not a fluke – they left the shelves because the public stopped buying them.  Does the ability to download a book or a story heighten the public’s interest in acquiring the story?  Of course from an economics standpoint it could be that the readership market, while still narrow, is also deep, and that on-line availability of mystery fiction will appeal to those still interested in the genre who, for whatever reason, are not frequent purchasers of hardcopy books and magazines. 

    Regardless of whether these new outlets are harbingers of better things to come, at least, as John pointed out last week, there are markets that are out there right now.  But there are also strange disparities.  I spend roughly the same amount of time on a short story that I spent on that brief to the D.C. Court of Appeals.  My writing style changes somewhat when I shift from fiction to persuasive rhetoric, but it doesn’t really change all that much.  I still end up using the same words, the same organizational approach, and pretty much the same cadence.  But one of those efforts, if successful, brings monetary rewards that are probably at best only about five percent of the potential of the other. 

    In any event, no matter how the economics sort out, those of us committed to spinning yarns are in this for non-monetary gratification.  We are also in it for the long run!

02 July 2012

What’s Up With a Bunch of Grapes?



by Jan Grape


As I write this on Friday night I’m trying to finalize some housekeeping chores and getting everything ready to pack  because I’m flying to New Jersey for our Tri-annual Grape Family Reunion. Yep, a whole bunch of Grape get together every three years to see what’s going on in the lives of the seven offspring of the family I married into forty-four years ago.  In 1975, Mom Grape, who lived in Loma Linda CA, passed away and my late husband, Elmer went out for the funeral.  His oldest sister, Ina was in the hospital in VA having just undergone mastectomy surgery and was unable to attend.  Elmer thought it was just too cruel to only get to see his brothers and sisters in the time of tragedy but half lived on the west coast and half on the east coast and he’d settled in Texas.  He was next to the youngest but always seemed to be listened to because of the three boys he was the most outspoken and so his idea was to have a family reunion the next summer, 1976, and have it at our house in Memphis TN where we’d lived since ‘72.

When he got back home and told me, I readily agreed.  I had met all of his brothers and sisters already and knew there was a good chance we’d have a darn good time.  And we did, despite the fact that the last two weeks of August turned out to be one of the worst summers for Memphis because of unusually high humidity.  We’d lived in Houston previously but you never get used to high humidity. All of the brothers and sisters came with spouses except one sister recently widowed and one sis who have never married.  A number of nieces and nephews came, I don’t recall exact number of each but we had 48 people who came during that two week time-frame. We had a small house, (1350 sq. ft. 3 bedroom,1-1/2 bath) but we had a camper and a friend loaned us a trailer and a next-door neighbor who was out of town loaned her house for bathroom privileges.  A couple of people came in a camper of their own and everyone else fought for a space on the floor for a sleeping bag. We had snagged 3-4 army cots for a females only dormitory in the living room. We claimed all step-children and adopted children without any problems and still do. Everyone took turns cooking and everyone helped with clean-up. We took a riverboat ride on the Mississippi, visited the new shopping mall that Elmer had built. He was a superintendent in commercial construction and this was the first two-level mall within a five hundred mile radius. 

It was decided that we’d have these reunions every three years because everyone lived so far away and that long time in between would give folks a chance to save up vacation time and extra money to make the trip to the next location.  In 1979 we went to Fairfax, VA,  to Ina’s house. And our sweet  never married Esther  had just married at age 57. She came but her new hubby couldn’t make it, then in 1982 we went to Cory, PA to Roger’s who is the youngest boy.  In 1985 Elmer & I had moved back to Houston and once again hosted. Oh horrors, heat and humidity once again but we survived. We also had a wedding that year, Easter & Mom Grape had raised & adopted Jeanie and she and Alan had a lovely formal wedding with the reception at our house.  Our house was a little larger, we did have 2 bathrooms yet somehow we managed although we had suitcases lining the hallway and sleeping bags once again littered our floors.

In 1988 we had moved to Austin and our niece Dona lived directly behind us, so guess who agreed to have the reunion.  She had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and so did we. We had a gate in the back yard fence so people could walk back and forth easily. Plus we also had a Motel 6 just across I-35 which worked out nicely. But that year I said it was time for the younger set, the nieces and nephews, to take over the hosting job. In 1991 we went to Hyde Park, NY, in 1994 Council Bluffs, IA, in 1997 Bergen, NY and in 2000, our daughter Karla hosted the reunion in Nashville, TN.  In 2003, our niece Dona hosted us at her lovely home on Inks Lake, TX (75 miles west of Austin.)  In  2006, Kissimmee FL, I missed  our reunion for my first time. Elmer had passed away only 5 months before and I just wasn’t up to going. In 2009 we went to Sacramento, CA. We had a fantastic time and as usual did a lot of sight-seeing.

This year, a nephew who lives in Little Falls, NJ, which is only 20 min. from NYC is hosting and I’m so excited to be going. I’m leaving from Austin Airport about noon on Sunday, July 1st and will stay until the 7th or 8th.  I’m really looking forward to getting together with everyone.  We try not to dwell on the ones we’ve lost because there are new little ones and new spouses every time you turn around.  As usual we’ll enjoy each other’s company and see some wonderful new sights.  I have no idea who will volunteer to host this awesome family reunion in 2015, but you can bet I’ll be going and having a “GRAPE” time.

Sorry, I didn’t talk about writing this time, but I’ve been recovering from a ear and sinus infection and with this upcoming super family reunion constantly on my mind, it just naturally was the only thing I could think of to write about.  In case anyone is wondering, Knut Grape,  the patriarch of this family (1871-1953) was 100% Swede. In Sweden they have an umlaut over the E but since we don’t use those marks in the USA we’re happy to just say our name is Grape. Elmer and I made two trips to Sweden and met a number of distant cousins. We now have some who come to our reunions and that is way cool.

Next time…I will be back on script.


  

01 July 2012

Loaded Magazines


by Leigh Lundin

As you may have noticed from posting datelines below my recent articles, I'm traveling, which is taking me through South Africa. At the moment, I'm being unforgivably rude by closeting myself in a corner of my friends' beach home as I dash out this article, the result of a sudden decision to take down my intended column for today and slap up a new one… with good reason.

The friends are Tig and Sue and their house in Port Shepstone overlooks the Indian Ocean, where in the distance, whales are breaching as I write. Yesterday, they give us a tour of the Oribi Gorge where the deer and the antelope play… or rather monkeys and impala, the real kind, not those bred by Chevrolet.

This sounds exotic to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, but what I've found more amazing is how comfortable, how natural South Africa feels, at least this province of KwaZulu-Natal, birthplace of the Zulus.

Family helps of course, and everyone has made me feel like family. There's English, too– North Americans don't have to struggle with phrase books because everyone speaks more English English than most of us do. S.A. politics are as mad as America's and our sense of humor shares the same DNA. Except for occasional vervet monkeys scampering through the back garden, you couldn't possibly find this beautiful land all that different from ours.

So with abject apologies to my gracious and forgiving host and hostess, on with the article.

Loaded Magazines

One of the last things I did before journeying across the seas was to forward subscriptions for Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines. Thus, I was happily able to enjoy RT Lawton's bail bond twins and Janice Law's 'Medium' in the last issue and Rob's story 'Brutal' in the current one. Damn, SleuthSayers has great authors, don't we?

Reading these stories reinforces how good these writers are. If anything, their talents are understated, because I find myself marveling and taking a sort of proprietary pride in knowing them. And before I forget, Janice Law has a historical coming out later this year, which I'll ramble about in an upcoming article.

AHMM Alfred Hitchcock

I've read all but two stories in this, the September issue. I know, I know… the magazine industry dates their periodicals like automobile companies… is the 2013 Dodge Viper out yet?

Rob Lopresti, as usual, received mention on the cover for his wicked story 'Brutal'. It's sly, it's funny, it's a groaner… I can't say more without giving away too much.

The story reminds me of one of John Lutz's parables. There's an author's adage to heap misery on the hero until he can't take any more… and then dump on even more. You might say both writers turned that adage on its head.

Read AHMM to see what I mean. But wait, there's more…

Jolie McLarren Swann, otherwise known as James Lincoln Warren, graced the previous (August) issue with 'Inner Fire', the Black Orchid Novella Award-winning takeoff on Nero Wolfe, which I was previously permitted to critique– actually rave about. You do not want to miss this story.

EQMMEllery Queen

Although Ellery Queen inexplicably omitted SleuthSayers authors in the current August issue (don't ask me to explain why the magazines' dates differ), they do contain articles by two of our friends.

Terrie Moran, our pal at Women of Mystery, has come up with a nuanced tale set in Florida. Terrie is one of those authors who never stamps out the same kind of story twice. Each seems very different from the other. Her latest seeps with research she's put into it. 'Fontaine House' reads like a southern romance… without the romance. With a pinch of love in the air, I could picture an offshoot of this story winning a RWA competition. You'll probably gulp at the end.

Melodie Johnson Howe
, our colleague at Criminal Brief, created the series Hollywood fatale Diana Poole, who appears in a new book, Shooting Hollywood, on sale at disreputable bookstores everywhere. Now I liked Diana Poole, but I love her new story, 'Losing It', a deceptive tale about a stolen shawl. I doubt most readers will come close to guessing this unusual plot; I certainly couldn't. And like I said above, you'll probably gulp at the end.

SSMM Sherlock Holmes

Jeff Baker placed a story in Sherlock Holmes #8, which I haven't seen yet. Herschel Cozine wrote a parody in the queue for December, issue #10. This is my wake-up call to subscribe.

And More Coming Up…

David Dean's scheduled for the December Ellery Queen with "Mariel."  A reprint of "The Vengeance Of Kali" will appear in an Ed Gorman edited anthology, Best Mystery Stories Of 2010.

Jan Grape co-edited an anthology released in May, Murder Here Murder There from Twilight Times Publishing, which includes her short story 'The Confession'.

Elizabeth Zelvin has a CD out. She also currently has out her third novel, Death Will Extend Your Vacation, 'Shifting Is for the Goyim', coming out on Untreed Reads very, very soon, and a story in Ellery Queen that will appear in 2013.

John Floyd has several stories in the queue… Actually John's like the British Empire… The sun never sets on John's stories– they're everywhere. John reports a story in the current Woman's World and another coming up there in August; stories coming up in future issues of Hitchcock and Strand Magazine; stories in issues #8, #9, and #11 of Sherlock Holmes Mystery Mag; one in Prairie Times; several coming up at Mysterical-E; and stories forthcoming in three anthologies. John will also release a fourth collection of short mystery stories, called Deception, scheduled for next spring.

Janice Law wrote a story in Connecticut Muse, one in the most recent Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and an entry in the recent MWA anthology.

Rob Lopresti has another AHMM story about six months from now.

Readers and writers, who have I missed? Let me know and I'll add you in.

You don't have to have your literature shipped to South Africa… find them at bookstores and newsstands now.