Things I Learned at Malice

Malice Domestic 2017 was even more fun than usual this year. I congratulate all the Agatha winners, nominees, and honorees. Most memorable to me are some of the fun facts I learned from the panels.

Did you know …

That K.M. Rockwood draws on her prison background for many of her short stories, having supervised an inmate work crew in a medium security state prison. As she is the maternal sort, she was often given the inmates who most needed a mom.

Murder Shorts: Mystery Stories panel. Bottom: Leone Cipronin, Teresa Inge, K.M. Rockwood; top: Alan Orloff, Maggie King. Mo Walsh was camera shy.

Portland, Oregon is a mecca for plump drag queens. Author Angela M. Sanders shared this tidbit that she learned while researching her Joanna Hayworth Vintage Clothing Mysteries. Portly in Portland? Surely someone is using this title to good effect.

Camille Minichino is a prolific author (Malice attracts many prolific authors) who writes under a number of pseudonyms. And she follows the sage advice, “write what you know”—for her Sister Francesca Mysteries she draws on her seventeen year stint as a nun.

Having a father in law enforcement exposed Heather Weidner to dinner table discussions about grisly murders. She was shocked when she learned that most families avoid such topics at mealtime—or at any other time!

Mary Feliz features the looming issue of undocumented immigrants in her upcoming Dead Storage, #3 in her Maggie McDonald Silicon Valley series.

Dru Ann Love received the Raven Award at the 2017 Edgar Awards. She positively beamed as she posed for photos.

Sheila Connelly is likely the most prolific of the many prolific authors at Malice (how do these folks break away from their computers long enough to attend conferences?). Her oeuvre—love that word!—is beyond impressive. She now lives part-time in County Cork to turn out her series of the same name.

My panel, Murder Shorts: Mystery Stories, featured three of the 17 authors who contributed to 50 Shades of Cabernet: Teresa Inge, Alan Orloff, and myself. The aforementioned K.M. Rockwood and Mo Walsh joined us. Leone Cipronin moderated (see our group photo above).

Moderators Joanna Campbell Slan and Rick Ollerman are really, really funny. Do I sound like Donald Trump with the really, really?

Put April 27 – April 29 on your calendars. David Suchet, the ultimate Poirot, is the 2018 Amelia Award recipient!

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The Land Down Under: Books, Film, and a Geography Lesson

I’ve been on an Australian kick.

In the past year I’ve read Bittersweet by the late Colleen McCullough  (I read The Thorn Birds decades ago); The Lake House by Kate Morton; and the wonderful mysteries of indy mystery authors Christina Larmer and Morgana Best.

And now I’m enjoying The Doctor Blake Mysteries, a TV series set in 1950s Victoria.

I never realized how spotty my knowledge was of Australian geography. Before Doctor Blake, I had heard of Victoria (I think), but I couldn’t have told you anything about the place—was it a city, state, territory? I didn’t know. My trusty atlas showed me that Victoria is a small state in the southeastern part of the continent.

Here’s a map that I appropriated from Wikipedia. Victoria stands out in red:

I found Ballarat, the city where Dr. Blake lives, practices medicine, and solves murders. I realized that I had often heard of Melbourne, the state capital. If pressed, I would have put it New South Wales.

Honestly, I took Geography in school. Really, I did. Of course, that was eons ago, but still. In my mind’s eye I could place New South Wales, Sydney, and Canberra in their correct spots on a map—although I had NSW much larger than it in fact is, eclipsing Queensland. And I knew of Perth from the movie Shine and because I had a boss who came from there. But that was it.

So my Australian kick has been quite educational. And now I’m hankering to visit. Maybe I’ll get to meet some of the great people I’m friends with on Facebook. Of course, there’s the daunting idea of the air travel … but I know the day is coming when I’ll arrive in the land Down Under.

Map in hand.

I always like to read up on my destination in fiction:

The Aussies wield a mighty pen. Here’s a long, long list of Down Under novelists.

A list of Australian mystery authors from Stop! You’re Killing Me.

Patricia Carlon. I read her suspenseful novel, Whispering Wall, years ago.

A couple of extras:

Everything about Victoria, and then some.

Sydney Chic Blog: I follow this guide to restaurants and lifestyle on Instagram.

Suggestions are welcome.

 

 

 

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Can a Western Be a Mystery?

Can a western be a mystery?

Why not? We American writers seem to be more obsessed with categorizing stories than our British counterparts. Genre is simply a label attached to a work to give a potential reader an idea what it might be about. But few works of fiction can really be narrowed down to a single label and even experts seem to disagree on the issue.

While we’re familiar with the usual bookstores breakdowns of mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy and so on, the Canadian critic Northrop Frye breaks it down into four even more obtuse categories–novel, romance, anatomy and confession. In his view Moby Dick is defined as an anatomy while Pride and Prejudice is simply a novel and not a romance.

Try asking your neighborhood bookseller for a particular book in Frye’s genres and see what kind of blank look you get.

When I set out to write Geronimo Must Die I was thinking in terms of a traditional western. In strictest terms, a western is a story set in the American Old West, most likely in the 19th century. Yet, the more I got into it, the more I realized it was also a mystery, fiction relating to a crime or disclosure of secrets. There are also elements of romance, humor and action/adventure.

In fact, few novels abide by the definition of a single genre. Most are a mix of several elements. The most important aspects of a novel are characters and a story that will intrigue the reader and keep him/her reading to find out what happens next. I hope I’ve achieved that kind of interest in my novel.

Here’s the blurb for Geronimo Must Die:

Geronimo and rascally half-breed Indian scout Mickey Free have never been friends.

Yet, Mickey has already saved Geronimo’s life twice (without acknowledgement) and is the only one who can keep the great Apache leader out of the sniper’s sights now. The sniper has already murdered several tribal leaders and Mickey believes it’s all a plot to prompt a great runaway from the hated San Carlos reservation.

Mickey’s efforts are stymied by Al Sieber, head of scouts, and John Clum, reservation agent, as well as suspicion of other Indians. Adding to his problems, Mickey is in love with a girl whose name he keeps forgetting to ask and who may be allied to the plot.

Only perseverance, risk to his life and, eventually, Geronimo’s help will enable Mickey to resolve this dangerous situation.

J.R. Lindermuth, a retired newspaper editor, lives and writes in a house built by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill Cody. He has published 16 novels and a non-fiction regional history. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and is a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Links:

Webpage: http://www.jrlindermuth.net

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jrlindermuth

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/john.lindermuth

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/John-Lindermuth-175253187537/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrlindermuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1005496.J_R_Lindermuth

In addition to Sundown Press at http://sundownpress.com and Amazon, his books are also available from Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores.

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How Did a Teetotaler End Up in a Wine Anthology?

Cabernet is the star in 50 Shades of Cabernet, an anthology of wine-themed mysteries created by 18 authors. The stories range from light-hearted puzzles to darker, heavier tales of deceit and murder.

I don’t drink Cabernet. I don’t drink wine—or anything alcoholic. So why did I say “yes” when asked to contribute a story to the 50 shades anthology? Aren’t I supposed to “write what I know?”

The requirements for story submission were few: “The only requirements are that your story includes a mystery of some sort (not necessarily a murder), and that there is at least one mention of Cabernet wine somewhere in the story.”

I’m a mystery writer and have penned short stories. I could certainly mention the word Cabernet without sampling the beverage.

My friend Marcia took me on a tour of the extensive Cabernet section at Total Wine where I took pictures of various labels and accompanying descriptions. So now all I needed was a story!

I belong to the Greater Richmond, Virginia branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and we host an annual wine-tasting fundraiser at a local church. I took inspiration from this event to turn out “Wine, Women, and Wrong.” Here is a description of my contribution to this stellar anthology:

Tommy Bradshaw has two items on his bucket list: to solve a murder mystery and to marry Camille Pettit. Fat chance of either happening. Then, when Camille attends a wine-tasting fundraiser and the wine merchant is found in the parking lot, impaled by a hunting knife, Tommy gets his chance to play one of the Hardy Boys. In the process of finding the stabber, Tommy is besieged by women: the glamorous and sexy oenophile who’s hell-bent on seducing him; and the cop who would love to woo him away from Camille. In addition, Tommy finds that detecting isn’t as easy as it is in books.

Joining me in 50 Shades of Cabernet’s are these 17 talented authors, all members of Sisters in Crime: Betsy Ashton, Lyn Brittan, Barb Goffman, Debbiann Holmes, Maria Hudgins, Teresa Inge, Jim Jackson, Kristin Kisska, Douglas Lutz, Nancy Naigle, Alan Orloff, Jayne Ormerod, Rosemary Shomaker, Jenny Sparks, Heather Weidner, Tina Whittle, and Ken Wingate.

Back to my teetotaling ways. Many famous people share this life choice, including Jim Carrey, Shania Twain, Rob Lowe, George W. Bush, Natalie Portman, Elisabeth Hasselbeck …

And Donald Trump.

 

Purchase your copy of 50 Shades of Cabernet here.

Visit the 50 Shades of Cabernet web site here.

50 Shades of Cabernet is on Facebook!

… and on Twitter!

Enjoy the stories. And please write a review.

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War on Words

With President Donald Trump’s “war” with the mainstream news media, sales of George Orwell’s 1984 have skyrocketed. In this tale of a dystopian society called Oceania, government fights back against any threats to its power with propaganda and media censorship. The novel’s protagonist, Winston, spends his days at the Ministry of Truth, revising past newspaper articles to better support government positions.

Alternative facts, anyone?

I don’t recall reading 1984 in high school. If I did, I happily managed to forget the experience. In the actual year of 1984 the book was prominently displayed in bookstores who hoped to capitalize on the current time period. I don’t know if they succeeded, but I did put the title on my TBR list. Seventeen years later in 2001 I finally read the classic.

And I won’t repeat the experience. I still get chills when I think of 1984. It tops my list of Important Books That I Wish I’d Never Read (I don’t really have such a list). If I need to “re-read” it I’ll peruse the Wikipedia entry.

However, I think YOU should read 1984. Or re-read it as the case may be, especially if you don’t share my icky memories.

Since the election, I’ve added these titles to my TBR list:

Handmaid’s Tale by the gifted Margaret Atwood. This futuristic tale set in New England tells of a totalitarian regime that has taken power and stripped women of their civil rights. Like 1984, it is enjoying a comeback.

Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson is a non-fiction account of the career of William Dodd, the American Ambassador to Germany during the years 1933 to 1937, when he and his family lived in Berlin.

Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1953, during the McCarthy era. He once stated that he wrote the dystopian novel because of his concerns at the time about the threat of book burning in the United States.

I may put Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here on my list. Published in 1935, it recounts the rise of an authoritarian fascist leader in the U.S.

The Huffington Post offers a reading list of 10 Orwellian books about censorship and the power of words.

Readers, feel free to offer your own reading suggestions in the comments.

Happy reading, everyone.

 

 

 

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