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AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR HARRIETTE SACKLER

March 26, 2014 2 comments
Harriette Sackler

Harriette Sackler

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR HARRIETTE SACKLER

I recently had a short story, Who Dat? Dat the Indian Chief! published in the Mardi Gras Murder anthology. Of the thirteen stories included in the book, Queen of the King Cakes by Harriette Sackler particularly caught my attention so I decided to interview Harriette.

1. Tell me about your writing and your motivation to write.

Harriette: Of my many interests, writing is close to the top of my list. When I began writing short stories, I was motivated to continue when my first story, “Mother Love,” which appeared in the Chesapeake Crimes II anthology, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Short Story.

2. Give me a plot teaser about your Mardi Gras Murder story.

Harriette: “Queen of the King Cakes” is about a young woman who is determined to fulfill her dream of achieving success in an area she is most passionate about. However, one decision changes the course of her life.

3. How did you come to write Queen of the King Cakes? Where did you get the idea for the story?

Harriette: I find that somehow, my stories just come to me. Some of them are based on observations or incidents that have stuck in my mind over time. This story actually revolves around a woman who lived on our block when I was a little girl and the wonderful times I spent with my grandmother who shared a passion similar to my protagonist.MGMFrontCover

4. Did you need to do research for the story?

Harriette: Yes, I did research for this story. I read about the history of King Cakes, the geography of New Orleans, and the Louisiana penal system.

5. Anything else you want to say about the story or the Mardi Gras Murder anthology?

Harriette: I truly hope readers will enjoy my story and would love to hear from them at http://www.harriettesackler.com I also want to give a shout-out to Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo for providing short story writers with another venue for their stories.

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Harriette Sackler serves as Grants Chair of the Malice Domestic Board of Directors. She is a past Agatha Award nominee for Best Short Story for “Mother Love,” Chesapeake Crimes II.  “Fishing for Justice,” appeared in the Sisters in Crime-Guppies anthology, Fishnets. “Devil’s Night,” can be found in All Hallows’ Evil,” a Mystery and Horror, LLC anthology. “Thanksgiving with a Turkey,” appeared in a Shaker of Margaritas: a Bad Hair Day; and “The Factory,” was published in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder.

Harriette is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Sisters in Crime-Chesapeake Chapter, and the Guppies.

She lives in the D.C. suburbs with her husband and their three pups and spends a great deal of time as Vice President of her labor of love: House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary. She is a proud mom and grandmother.  Visit Harriette at: http://www.harriettesackler.com.

 

Guest Blogger S.L. Smith: Researching Everything Under the Sun!

February 23, 2014 6 comments
Author S.L. Smith

Author S.L. Smith

Researching Everything under the Sun! by S.L. Smith

Few things turn me off faster than books with factual errors. I tend to put them down—permanently. For that reason, it’s important I get it right. If I don’t know it, I research it. I’m talking about the smallest details. Some of the research is almost as fun as the writing. Some of it is a headache.

Let’s start with the enjoyable stuff. I ventured into writing mysteries only because a friend spent thirty-five years as a cop, and agreed to perform a reality check on the law enforcement aspects. One battle won.

It didn’t take long to discover I also needed a contact in the medical examiner’s office. I had to muster the courage to make that call. Thankfully, I connected with a gem. This investigator answered all of my questions for book one, Blinded by the Sight. When the book came out, I met him and gave him a copy. That paid off in spades.

He assisted, again, with Running Scared: The Second Pete Culnane Mystery. At that time, he mentioned several items I should verify with my law enforcement expert. I explained this time my law enforcement expert needed, but lacked, an insider’s knowledge of the St. Paul Police Department.

He lined up two. One is the head of homicide. The other is a retired investigator/detective.  He obtained permission for me to call both men, and provided their direct phone numbers. Thanks to him, both St. Paul PD contacts took my calls and answered all of my questions. I was blown away! I learned so much from them.

I spoke with the St. Paul Fire Marshall to determine which vehicles would be sent to the scene, who would be in the vehicles, and what they’d do on site. Needing answers about hospital procedures and descriptions of the injuries, I connected with an emergency medicine physician. Both of those men were wonderful!

High school kids play a significant role in Running Scared. I called local schools to learn the times school starts and lets out. I had to know the procedures parents follow if their kids are ill. I needed the dress code. After all, the story occurs in Minnesota—in January. I had to put clothes on those kids.

Interviews are the fun part. The rest is interesting—but often a challenge.

The kids also needed names. The Internet provided popular names for the relevant decade. I use that same system to help select names for most characters in my novels.

One kid claims he wouldn’t play a part in the crime, because he’s intent on getting into Notre Dame. The Notre Dame website indicates whether the kid has an acceptance letter by the time the story occurs.

In Running Scared, the victim is struck by a car. The driver had to escape post haste, so the car couldn’t have air bags. Online, I determined the year air bags became01_RunningScaredfront_FINAL standard equipment. I selected a car, and still had to determine if it had air bags. Once I had the make and model, I also had to learn the exterior colors available that year.

The two investigators remark on the vehicle stolen to commit the crime, and the fact that across the street sat the car most commonly stolen at the time. Yup, I had to find out what car was most commonly stolen that year.

This book includes a U.S. citizen who works in Canada. I had to learn whether jobs in Canada are available to U.S. citizens, responsibilities for the selected job, common living arrangements for this transplant, travel methods and time required for this person to return to the U.S., as well as conditions that would delay an emergency trip home.

With help from a Facebook friend, I learned the age of homes in the neighborhoods playing a part in the book. I rode through those neighborhoods, getting a feel for the landscape and houses. I even learned the types of trees.

I wanted to know what the victim and attacker saw, so I could paint a realistic picture. For that reason, I repeatedly traveled the path they followed in the book.

Wondering how all that fits into a single novel? Check out Running Scared.

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S.L. Smith, a lifelong resident of Minnesota, was born in St. Cloud and moved to the Twin Cities after graduating from St. Catherine University in St. Paul.  She is the author of Blinded By the Sight and Running Scared: The Second Pete Culnane Mystery.  When writing mysteries, S. L. draws upon her degree in psychology, a career with vast amounts of law enforcement interaction, and her thrill for the investigative hunt.  A voracious reader since childhood and a lover of mysteries, she uses her knowledge of Minnesota and human nature to create stories.

S. L. is a member of Sisters in Crime.  Feel free to contact her at:

http://www.slsmithbooks.com
slsmithbooks@gmail.com
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627700301

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger Grace Topping: Revenge! Exorcizing Bad Memories Through Your Writing

January 20, 2014 21 comments
Grace Topping with Debra H. Goldstein

Grace Topping with Debra H. Goldstein

REVENGE! EXORCIZING BAD MEMORIES THROUGH YOUR WRITING

by Grace Topping

All of us have them. Those pesky, uncomfortable memories that make us blanch, screech, moan, grimace, shudder, or cry. Thankfully, most of them are buried deep in our subconscious and don’t come to mind often. But when we least expect it, a scent of cologne, a bit of music on the radio, or even a billboard along the highway can cause a memory to invade our thoughts like an unwelcome intruder.

Some memories might be nothing more than the recollection of something embarrassing, while others might be truly painful. Embarrassing or painful, our experiences are the things that shape and give texture to our lives, and our memories of those experiences are fodder for our writing.

Some memoirists talk about writing to exorcize ghosts from their past. In fiction, writers boast about taking revenge on someone by loosely basing a character, preferably a murder victim, on that person—in a way killing off a memory. If we can learn to laugh at things that happened in our lives, we might be able to move past them. What better revenge than basing a ridiculous character on someone who hurt us. It just might help do the trick.

The memory of falling in high school in front of the three best-looking guys in my class who laughed and stepped around me used to make me cringe. It always seemed to come to mind around the time for high school reunions. In my yet-to-be published mystery, I took that experience, added an attractive father who deserted the family and a handsome unfaithful husband and used them as the basis for my main character’s dislike of handsome men. It was a character flaw that caused her problems when she had to work with attractive police officers and other characters. It makes me laugh to think that three now middle-aged pillars of the community are immortalized in my manuscript. Now, if that memory were to intrude, I can laugh.

It would be wonderful if we had a pill or button that enabled us to zap uncomfortable or painful memories. But until such a thing is developed, why not take some of those memories and turn them into memorable characters and intriguing plots. They are free for the taking.

Do you have a ghost of a memory you’d like to exorcize?

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Thirty years of writing about computer systems was enough to drive Grace Topping to murder—or at least writing about it. Grace’s yet-to-be published mystery features a professional home stager. When she isn’t writing, she’s busy helping friends stage their homes. She is a member of the Chesapeake and Guppy Chapters of Sisters in Crime and of Mystery Writers of America. Grace and her husband reside in Northern Virginia.

It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish) by Debra H. Goldstein

It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish) by Debra H. Goldstein

Recently, I listened to Barbara Cook’s rendition of the Cy Coleman and Dorthy Field’s signature song “It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish” from 1973’s Broadway show, Seesaw. Forty years after the song debuted, the words remain true.

Whether one is writing a novel, short story, or poem, the process is the same. “It’s not how you go, it’s how you land.” Writing requires coming up with an idea, getting it down on paper, rewriting, possibly tossing out one’s original thoughts, and writing the piece again and again until the words flow. It often is a solitary process, but the sisterhood of writers have the ability to inspire and help each other.

The reality is “If you’re going to last, you can’t make it fast,…Nobody starts a winner, give me a slow beginner.” At Malice Domestic, I had the privilege of riding an elevator with Carolyn Hart. I’m a pretty confident person, but as the elevator went up, I stumbled over my words telling “Ms. Hart” how much I enjoy her books. During the conference, where she was honored with the Amelia Award, I heard how her writing career didn’t take off. Her first few books either were not published or failed to sell well, but she kept writing. When she became an overnight success, it had been a long night. Our paths crossed a number of times during the conference and at the Sisters in Crime breakfast. Ironically, we were in the elevator together again leaving the conference. This time, I congratulated “Carolyn” on her award and we actually laughed about spending the conference in the elevator.

Thinking back on the difference in my behavior during our elevator rides, I realize that the change in my attitude came from being impressed with her writing abilities and with her persistence and willingness to help other writers. Even during the hour interview tied to her award at Malice, she took the time to give a new writer a shout-out. She was the only one to do so. It takes a big person to share one’s limelight with others. Her work ethic and her generosity illustrate the premise that “Your final return will not diminish/And you can be the cream of the crop/It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish/And you’re gonna finish on top.”