Lascaux Review, Submission Reminder

lascaux-newsite5-browndropThe Lascaux Review, a showcase for emerging and established writers and artists has announced a call for submissions for its short fiction contests, The Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. Submissions opened October 1st for previously published or unpublished stories. Prize of $1,000 to the winner. The winner and the finalists will appear in the 2015 Lascaux Prize Anthology. Deadline is December 31st.

Also, the are still accepting manuscripts for the Christine E. Eldin Memorial Fellowship, an inaugural contest for unpublished middle-grade fiction which opened for submissions on September 1st. Prize of $1,000. Deadline for submissions is December 31st.

For more information and complete details on all the contests, click onto The Lascaux Review.com/contests

Ebola Outbreak, Life Imitating Art

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This is why we write, okay, one of the reasons we write.

Outbreak, the 1995 movie, smacked of truth. The fear of pandemics, the mutated viruses resistant to antibiotics from overuse, in particular, in intensive animal farming, for years we’ve heard and read about these medical concerns.

With the recent Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which is spreading at an unprecedented rate, one of the authors, either Laurence Dworet or Robert Roy Pool, was interviewed stating this was exactly what they had in mind when they wrote the story.

In Outbreak, a fictional Ebola-like virus called Motaba, outbreaks in Zaire and later in a small town in California. Sound familiar?

With regards to the real outbreak, researches say “The genomic sequencing also offers hints as to how the Ebola “Zaire” strain at the heart of the current outbreak — one of five types of Ebola virus known to infect humans — likely ended up in West Africa in the first place. Researchers said the data suggests that the virus spread from an animal host, possibly bats, and that diverged around 2004 from an Ebola strain in central Africa, where previous outbreaks have occurred. The New York Times, September 28, 2014.

Of course the movie veers into a sinister plot, but Its primary settings are government disease control centers and the CDC. We’ve had our share of mis-steps by the CDC and the Texas hospital.

When we write, we reflect the human condition, and/or foretell the future. The nearly two decade old movie, Outbreak, is a great example of both.

 

 

 

 

Virgil’s Working on Deadline

Deadline by John Sandford is the eighth Virgil Flowers novel, and the quirky detective continues to put the pieces of some truly challenging jigsaw puzzles together. What sets these books apart is Sandford’s trademark humor and interesting police procedures.

51o81BLmPEL._AA160_Virgil is visiting his old friend, Johnson Johnson, who asks a huge favor of the BCA agent. Some scoundrel in the town of Trippton is kidnapping dogs. Though this hardly seems like a case for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Virgil starts investigating with the hope of avoiding trouble from the gun-toting citizens who are searching for their prized hunting dogs and valued pets.

In the midst of this curious investigation (and it is a strange one), Virgil is called in to check out the random murder of a local reporter. Like most of Virgil’s cases, the murder is the tiny tip of an iceberg. Much of what he needs is hidden well below the surface.

I feel Sandford scored another winner with this one. There was lots of humor, some good fight scenes, and an interesting case study. We know who the bad guys are, but it’s interesting to watch Virgil struggle to bring all the pieces of the whole together.

There’s a lot of hillbilly lingo and local slang in this one, but Sanford handled it well. It’s a small town, with small-town problems, and small-town people who think they can get away with, among other things, murder. As always, it has the perfect recipes: secrets, lies, and family squabbles.

Check out Deadline, especially if you’re a dog lover!.

Story Writing from an Expert

On August 7, I posted a blog here about writing short stories. No big secrets about how to do it –if only! – just my musings about how I couldn’t do it at all, and then I could. Now Sisters in Crime-NY has published the brand new anthology, Family Matters, edited by Anita Page. The older two were reissued with spiffy new covers thanks to new publisher, Glenmere Press and Lois Karlin.

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So, when the chapter had a meeting with SJ Rozan speaking on the topic of short story writing, there was a lot of interest. A lot. We had a packed house last night.

SJ Rozan has won just about all the mystery world awards, including an Edgar for best Novel AND an Edgar for best short story. She is a genuine expert, though I doubt she would say so. Myself, I’ve heard her speak before and know it will always be interesting and always be fun.
Build

She read us a recent very short story and took us behind the curtain to see how she made it work in such a constrained structure.

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Some takeaways: short stories are an opportunity to experiment with style. They are also an opportunity to work on getting every word exactly right. They should be like a liquor store robbery- get in and get out, fast. (She added that a book more resembles a long con, which may or may not work) The focus for a story is on the reader. How will it appear/ affect/ intrigue that person? The limitations of form and, often, topic, provide excellent exercises for our writing chops.

Personal note: “Eldercare,” my story in Family Matters, is decidedly creepy for me. Yes, it was a good exercise to change up my whole approach.

She talked a little about the practical side of writing stories, pointing out that there is a lively market. She had a few useful tips, the first being one of the oldest for any writer: know your audience. In other words, don’t send the cute cat story to Akashic, where they love noir! She recommended introducing yourself, without pitching, to anthology and magazine editors at mystery events. While they may not remember you, it gives you a little hook to contact them later. Ah. Calculating but in a good way.

And then we did a mini-workshop. Ten random words from the audience, and write a short story using all of them, right there, right now. So we tried. Some used all the words but didn’t quite get to the end, the payoff, of the story. That would include me. But I surprised myself by maybe getting the beginning of a real story. Some actually wrote a complete short-short on the spot, maybe using all the words, maybe not. Everyone learned something from the exercise.

In the Q & A, SJ told us she always has the end of the story in mind, which is not true for her books, but admitted she does not always know how to get there. It was encouraging to hear that even an expert has trouble with the evil middle! And one more piece of advice to remember: don’t write what you know; write what you want to know.

A Lot About Sam McCain and A Little About Terrie Moran

My life is fluctuating rapidly between family issues and some personal medical tests and treatments this month, so technically I am not supposed to be posting, BUT, I had to stop by to tell you that one of the great advantages of medical issues is that in between stupid stuff, there is an occasional  chance to read. So when issue Number 136 of Mystery Scene Magazine  showed up in my mailbox on Saturday, I was ecstatic when I saw one of the cover articles was titled “Small Town Hero: Ed Gorman’s Sam McCain novels.” Now everyone knows I love Sam McCain. I talked about the latest and final *sob* *sob* Sam McCain novel, Riders on the Storm over on Criminal Element a few weeks ago.  So I couldn’t wait to read the fabulous article by Tom Nolan in which he talked about mystery readers’ introduction to Sam in The Day the Music Died (1999) right up to this month’s publication of Riders on the Storm.

cover_LizardsArdent_525wAfter reading Tom Nolan’s article twice, I turned to the place I usually start reading, the short story review section written by Bill Crider. I read along enjoying Bill’s take on some excellent collections and anthologies. Then I saw a cover picture of The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform, the anthology David Cranmer put together to honor his nephew Kyle J. Knapp. And without blushing I print here exactly what Bill Crider wrote:

And speaking of out of the ordinary, the award for strangest title goes to The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform, edited by David Cranmer, who explains the book’s origin and purpose in his introduction. The stories are a mixture of crime, noir, and the “new weird.”  Terrie Farley Moran’s excellent dark crime story, “Dust to Dust,” is reason enough to buy the book, but all the other stories are fine and strange.

So, pardon me if I smile.

Terrie

Novel Night: A Benefit for the Hoboken Public Library

Next Saturday evening, I’ve been invited to be one of the guests of honor at a dinner for Novel Night, a fund raising benefit to support the Hoboken Public Library.

My Host, Susan Moore, filled me in on the particulars of the event. Novel Night, which occurs every other year, with Novella Night in intervening years, is conducted by a group of hosts—this year 21 people—who open their homes to offer a book-themed dinner to raise funds for the library. Each host invites 10 people who contribute to the library fund and get to meet an author whose book is being highlighted. This year, Susan, who is planning an Italian dinner, graciously invited me to participate and to discuss my first novel, Telling Lies, which features Florence, Italy in many chapters.telling_lies

Novel Night has brought in between 20 and 25 thousand dollars at each event. Originally, the goal was to raise funds for the preservation of the library’s historical collection, but that has moved to providing funds for particular projects related to the historic renovation of the library. Recent funds will be providing for the installation of an historically appropriate door for the building.

Susan also mentioned that the concept has been adopted by other towns in New Jersey, including Ridgewood where Novel Night raised over $50,000 for their project last year. It might be an idea that your local library could benefit from.

Finding Inspiration

Meeting creative and humorous writers on this site and others is a joy, but also a must. On LinkedIn’s group, Crime Fiction, I have the pleasure of joking around with other writers as nutty as myself. The good natured ribbing brightens my otherwise isolated day, since I work at home. Crime Fiction has several threads going at the one time on a given aspect of writing generally being about a new book, and new ideas before they become books.

On-line chats are great, but sometimes, I need an infusion of creative energy in real life. As a member of Sister-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America, I go to meetings. The dynamic women at SinC meetings are in various stages of creation.

When I leave for home, I’m full of positive energy and with two feet jump back into the project. My first mystery, which I was ready to drop, came back to life after a meeting and I wondered how I could ever doubt myself.

Several mystery book sites send emails on a regular basis. I visit and comment on book reviews and the author interviews. Goodreads friends, also, discuss new books.

I’d love to add to my list more sites designed for readers, such as Criminal Element. com. with the hopes of getting my books into their hands.

What sites do you visit? And why?

 

Finding Your Writing Nook

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Every book written on how to get published includes a section on “making space” to write. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a spare room or an office you can call your own. If you’re like me, you may be relegated to a corner of a room. In my case, my writing corner was also being used to fold laundry, wrap presents and hem the occasional pant leg.

In a cleaning frenzy fit this past summer, I tried to reclaim my corner. The draft of the second book in my Sketch In Crime series, featuring CeCe Prentice, an eco-friendly, sketch artist, needed a permanent home.

I bought a plastic bin, tossed in the loose laundry and banished it to the hall. At a family meeting, I announced that I would no longer fold socks. My sewing machine went back in its case and piles of bows and tape found their way to the basement. While in the basement, I rescued a lovely antique oak table and dragged it upstairs. All it took was a light sanding and a dollop of antique oil, and I had a new desk. Yeah for me!

So about that desk? I’ve never used it. I have discovered, however, that it’s great for folding laundry. I’ve come to realize that my writer’s nook is anywhere I can craft a sentence. Right now I’m in my living room, but I’ve got my eye on my porch for my next stop. There’s a cozy wicker chair and just the right amount of light.

Time to move on.

.Drawing Conclusions

 

Women of Mystery (and Graves) in the New York Times!

Our own Triss Stein and I both attended last Sunday’s event, held as a joint fundraiser and writers workshop by the Woodlawn cemetery’s Conservancy and MWA’s New York Chapter. Here’s a tidbit from the NYT article by James Barron:

The question was about the shotgun shells. Had anybody actually used shells that were made that way, or were they just keepsakes?

“Actually used,” Ernie Kassoff said from behind a lectern.

Mr. Kassoff said the shotgun shells had been made with ashes from a body that had been cremated.

Tell that to an audience of mystery writers, as Mr. Kassoff did on Sunday, and possible plot points whirl. “I thought, ‘What could I do with that?’ “ said Triss Stein, who has written two mysteries set in Brooklyn, where she lives. “It’s so weird, and that’s what writers want.”

I’m pretty sure that with her name and the word Brooklyn, anyone will be able to find her fine series, including the latest, set largely in Woodlawn’s sister cemetery in Brooklyn, Green-Wood, and also featuring abundant Tiffany glass.

Sunday was purely gorgeous, sunny and in the low 60s with an autumnal nip in the air. The art and monuments on the site were inspiring. I kept losing my tour group as I stopped for photos. I will not inflict every one of those pictures on you (yet) and may be saving some for another purpose–more on that later, I hope. But here I present some goodies from the day that I think writers will really appreciate. One of our three sections of presentations was given by Mitch Rose, CEO and President of The Woodlawn Cemetery. He delivered the Interment and Entombment section with lots of backstage, operational information, talking us through a gold mine of info in our folders! Pardon all the blurs in my cell phone photos, my under-caffeinated hands were shaking.

Within this handsome and colorful folder reside bunches of brochures and site information, also copies of relevant forms and laws used, so handy for nosy writers!

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L to R: Packet of plot information, forms, and interment orders–better focused items from this below/ also an Authorization for Cremation and Disposition/ even a set of the New York State Crematory Regulations!

Below is an order for interment (burial). You can see it has all the information about who and where and when, not to mention the status of payment. Cemeteries look bad suing people, so all fees and costs must be paid in advance or at “time of need.” Without a death certificate and one of these, nothing happens.

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Order for Interment

But sometimes, after an interment, there needs to be a reversal or a do-over. Thus, the disinterment permit below. Disinterment or exhumation happens more often than most people imagine, we were told. Families get new plots, relocate, there are actually many reasons people want to and do move the already-buried.

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Disinterment Permit

And that’s where this next one comes in. If family members are in dispute about which wife is being buried on Dad’s right side, or who has the right to relocate Aunt Edna, unless there are specific legal documents to the contrary (and most people just don’t bother or want to think about it), later on, the legal priority of those claims will be established through lineage. This chart explains the order of who gets to make the calls.

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A chart of lineage showing the legal priority of descendants.

That’s just a taste of the nuts-and-bolts info we got, and we had 2 other sections in the morning, including Cremation with Ernie, who’s mentioned in the NYT article linked above. He had a slide show with pictures of the equipment and its operation, and had tons of slightly ghoulish and fascinating information to share about the history and popularity of the practice. Did you know that about 42% of people are cremated now? They think it will be over half in another decade.

In our third section, we also all got to tour highlights of the grounds with Susan Olsen, Woodlawn’s Director of Historical Services, who did the lion’s share of organizing this event (thanks to her volunteers as well!). She spear-headed it because of her own love for crime writing and desire to see authors get the information right. One of the places we viewed is the famous Harbeck mausoleum, incredible inside and out for its architectural grandeur and Tiffany windows. Since my images are still in my memory card, I borrowed this magnificent photo of it at night from the Woodlawn Cemetery’s website. It’s part of a collection by Gavin Ashworth, and you can browse much more of the history with gorgeous images through a brand-new book, Sylvan Cemetery: Architecture, Art and Landscape at Woodlawn, released concurrently with an exhibit of even more images and materials at Columbia University through November 1, 2014.

Harbeck-at-NightAfter the three “stations,” we had a picnic box lunch before beginning the afternoon with author panels in the Woolworth Chapel. The first panel featured bestselling authors Linda Fairstein and Heather Graham discussing their personal and literary connections to cemeteries, as well as their research methods. Then there was a slideshow of international funerary art by novelist and travel writer Hilary Davidson, who joined Lyndsay Faye and the legendary (but perfectly real) Lawrence Block for the final panel discussion of the afternoon.

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L to R: Lawrence Block, Heather Graham, me (grinning like a plum fool–wouldn’t you?), Lyndsay Faye, Hilary Davidson, and Linda Fairstein.

Closing out the afternoon, we got goody bags (see examples in front of the authors), with this essential writer’s tool.

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Woodlawn Mug- mine’s already broken in.

Heather Graham also gifted us all with books–how cool! This one’s set in Salem, Massachusetts, with a distinctly post-mortem vibe.

Hexed-by-Heather-Graham-swagAnd last, here’s a little event souvenir I put together for attendees to get signed, because who knows when these leading lights shall be assembled again, or at least, who knows when else we could ever get people to sign their own gravestones? : )

Autographed-CardI think a great day was had by all, and I hope to have more images and info to come, but right now… I seriously need more coffee, dark, dark, dark as the grave.

The Yankee Club: Fiction Filled With Characters

51WyTkX4X-L._AA160_In Michael Murphy’s new novel, THE YANKEE CLUB, a noir thriller set in 1933, Prohibition is almost over and the country is struggling through the depression when Jake Donovan returns to New York. A former Pinkerton detective, and now a famous author, he’s come home to win back the woman he left behind, Laura Wilson, after she refused his proposal of marriage.

But not so fast and not so easy. Laura, a Broadway star, is now engaged to, a millionaire banker involved in a nefarious plot to overthrow the government. Plus, Jake’s old partner, Mickey has been murdered and it seems part of the conspiracy. Getting together with his buddies at their old hangout, The Yankee Club, a speakeasy in Queens, Jake decides to find Mickey’s killer and is shot and kidnapped for his trouble.

Besides great storytelling, what I enjoyed most about this mystery is how Murphy mixes his characters with real people from that era. As Jack investigates, he not only pals around with Dashiell Hammet and Lillian Hellman, but also helps them overcome writers block and work out the plot of a new play, in that order. He runs into Babe Ruth who’s out on the town, and doesn’t just hang around with Cole Porter, he’s in on the creation of his new musical. In this story, virtually anything goes. And, as the plot thickens, we meet Joe Kennedy newly appointed head of the SEC, as Jake tries to save the country from a terrible fate. To me, it was a treat to rub up against these famous people I didn’t expect to encounter and see them in situations I wouldn’t have imagined.

Does it all work out in the end? Do Jake and Laura get back together? You’ll just have to read THE YANKEE CLUB, a story with wit and style, to find out.