If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Our reason for creating WWK originated as an outlet for our love of reading and writing mystery fiction. We hope you love it, too, and will enjoy our holiday gifts to our readers with original short stories to celebrate the season. Starting on 11/16 stories by Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Paula Gail Benson, Linda Rodriguez, KM Rockwood, Gloria Alden, and E. B. Davis will appear every Thursday into the New Year.

Our November Author Interviews: 11/8--Ellen Byron, and 11/15--Sujata Massey. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

November Saturday Bloggers: 11/4 Margaret S. Hamilton and 11/11 Cheryl Hollon.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," just published, will appear in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Thanksgiving War by Warren Bull

Note: This story was first published in Kings River Life Magazine http://kingsriverlife.com   http://kingsriverlife.com/11/23/the-thanksgiving-war-thanksgiving-mystery-short-story/ 

The Thanksgiving War

Dad looked at me seriously and said we need, “to talk.” I knew it wasn’t that talk. We’d had that one months ago. I don’t know which of us had been more embarrassed and uncomfortable. In my mind I ran through the possible screw ups that I'd done that were major enough to warrant a talking to. Dad had already found the fireworks I was keeping hidden in the garage for Jimmy.  Dad didn’t like my explanation that Jimmy’s dad would have had a cow if he’s found them. Dad said he wanted to be the father who was the excuse for not doing something stupid. I’d already been punished for that. As far as I knew, I hadn’t done anything excessively stupid since then.

He turned off the television where a breathless reporter had been talking about, the continuing search for Willard Lenard, the dangerous psychotic killer who escaped from the Williamsville asylum for the criminally insane located only thirty miles away.

“You know it’s been nearly a month since Halloween,” he said.

My stomach fell like the elevator with innocent people in it that an arch-villain had sent plummeting down the shaft in a super hero movie.

“It hasn’t been that long,” I protested. “It can’t be almost Thanksgiving.

“Yes, I’m afraid it is. You know what Thanksgiving does to your mother. I need you to support her and to give her nothing at all to worry about here or in school. Understand?”

Sadly, I did. Every Thanksgiving we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s Loony bin. Their name was Loony and, boy, does that describe Mom’s family.  My personal nemesis, Enormous Scott, would be there with plans to pummel me at every possible moment. Uncle Ricky would challenge Dad to a drinking contest. Dad would decline. Ricky would spend the rest of the time calling Dad a wuss and worse names. And Dad and I were the lucky ones. We were the walking wounded.

It was Mom who was most effected. She was the major casualty. She had grown up in the Loony family. As she put it — There was no fun in their dysfunction. Her sister, Patty, would praise Scott for all the progress he was showing in whatever classes he was failing this year.  Then her sister, Barbara, would talk about the conspiracy of the day that her radio prophet of doom was beating a drum about. They’d compare their cooking to Mom’s and dramatically re-do any food item they hadn’t brought themselves as if only the two of them alone in the whole world could prepare food properly.
“Do we have to go this year?” I asked. “I might be sick. I can feel it coming on.”

“Would you rather go there for Christmas?” Dad asked.

He had me there. He knew I would not. Christmas was my favorite holiday. I shuddered to think of how the Loonys would massacre the whole idea of Christmas.

“We could join in the hunt for Willard. It would be safer than going to the Loony Bin.”

“Don’t say Loony Bin around your mother. You know it upsets her,” said Dad. “How many people did Willard kill today?”

“Just two, but it’s only early afternoon.”

“Go be nice to your mother.”

I felt like I was walking through molasses as I dragged myself into the kitchen.
There was Mom staring at a lumpy white mess with flour on her face, hands and apron.

“Hi, Mom. What’s up?”

Opps, that was a really bad thing to say.

“I’m baking bread, but the dough won’t rise. I seem to have forgotten the exact recipe.”
You should know that Mom is pretty much an expert on pretty much everything pretty much all of the time. Thanksgiving was the one exception. Dad told me that for Mom Turkey Day brought back memories of her childhood so strongly that she behaved like the clueless little girl she had been. Her sisters had been merciless in their take no prisoners attitude at anything food-related, especially baking.

Every year the kitchen became Mom’s battleground in the unequal struggle against her sisters.
“Yeah, but every year you manage to figure it out,” I said.

“I don’t remember how.” She frowned.  “Take a look at the loaves I made and tell me which one you like best.”

There were a series of white blobs of various textures on the kitchen table. One was still bubbling so I stayed away from that. There was a puddle of liquid followed by a cube that resisted every knife I tried to cut it with. A mound of dark brown that looked like it had vanilla icing sat next to what resembled a jellyroll with a brown outside and an oozing white inside.  I don’t know how Mom managed to have such a variety of whatever they were. I was seriously considering the chance that she’d been cursed.

“The one that looks like a cake with white frosting isn’t bad if you scrape off the frosting and outer crunchy layer of the brown part.”

“Thank you, dear.”

She gave me a hug.

“You know we could buy a loaf,” I said gently.

“No. My sisters would never let me forget it. I can’t say I baked it if I didn’t.”

“But they lie about stuff all the time. They say Jumbo Scott is making A’s in naming colors or whatever the class he’s in does. They claim Uncle Ricky has a job. Stuff like that.”

“I won’t stoop to their level. I’m going to bake bread and tell them I did.”

“Okay. I love you, Mom.”

She was already engrossed in reading another bread recipe from one of the dozens of baking books she had.

“That’s nice dear.”

 Thanksgiving messed up my day at school too. All the other kids were talking and joking, not even pretending to work this close to the Thanksgiving vacation. I had promised Dad not to put any pressure on Mom and I didn’t understand the newest chapter in my math textbook.

Mr. Collins had written math problems on the board like, “If Killer Willard executed ¼ of the 50 police officers in Springfield, how many officers were left to write parking tickets?”
He made no objection to kids chatting if they kept the noise level down.

I walked up to his desk.”

“Mr. Collins, I don’t get this new chapter in our book.”

“It might help if you did the homework.”

“I did and I didn’t get the right answers.”

“You did? Really? Show me.”

I went over the problems with him. He explained how to work them. We did two together. Then I did two more while he watched but did not help me.

“I think I’ve got it now. Thanks.”

“Hey, no problem. Thanks for asking. I prefer teaching to babysitting any day.”

When I got home I went to the kitchen where Mom’s latest efforts were arranged on the countertop. A soot-colored pyramid sat next to an Albino octagon.

“Hey, you’ve got the temperature and time in the oven surrounded. Maybe try the middle between these two loaves.”

“Thanks, Kenny, but for those two I had the oven set to same temperature and I took them out after the same time.”

“How about if you read the ingredients to me, I mix them and you put them in the oven? Or you could mix the ingredients and I could put them in the oven. You’d really be the baker either way.”
“Thanks for trying to help, dear, but I am determined to do the whole thing by myself.”

When Dad came home he asked me how school was.

I almost told him about Mr. Collins helping me in math. Luckily I caught myself. If he knew about it he’d want me to pay attention in class before every holiday.

“The rest of the kids were goofing off. Even the Brainiacs. They were arguing about how Willard escaped when the prison is supposed to be so closely guarded.”

“I heard on the news that he took a guard’s uniform off his body and pretended to be searching for himself. Apparently he’s very smart and able to act like everybody else when he wants to. How’s Mom doing?”

“Well, the stuff out of the oven is starting to sort of look like bread.”

“That’s good. Have you thought about what you are going to do about your cousin, Scott?”

“Sick Willard on him?”

“You tell me that you’re smarter than Scott is. I believe you. I think you ought to put that brain power to think strategically about how to survive being around your cousin.”

Maybe Dad was right. I was smarter. Maybe I could come up with a plan to minimize the damage he could cause me.

The night before Thanksgiving Mom was tottering on her feet from exhaustion.

“Go lie down, dear,” Dad said.  “Your loaves are in the oven. I can take them out and they’ll be ready tomorrow.”

“Can’t remember how…” she wobbled off in the direction of the bedroom.

Dad gave me a strict warning by the expression on his face and trotted out of the house. When Mom came wearily out of her bedroom, I herded her back in with assurances that her bread would be fine. I stood in the hallway between the kitchen and the bedroom until Dad came back carrying French loaves in sacks labeled, Boulangerie. He turned the oven off and took the bread out of the sacks. He removed the deeply crusted loaf pans in which unknowable chemistry was at work from the oven. He got clean loaf pans and inserted the French bread. Then he put the actual bread in the oven. He pried the chemistry experiments out of the pans, left the pans to soak and took the so-called loaves away. I hope they ended up safely in a toxic waste site.

The following day Mom pulled the bread out of the oven.

“Beautiful,” said Dad. “You pull it off every year.”

“I wish I remembered how,” said Mom.

We drove to the Loony house and, after all of us took a deep breath, we entered the combat zone — the celebration.

The place was buzzing like a killer bees’ hive with activity. My cousin Julia was there with her husband, Ben, and their baby, Mercedes, who had been born in September. Gigantic Scott had a scowl on his face looking at the infant. Maybe he was afraid that acting like a baby was no longer only his role in the family.

My aunts exclaimed over Mom’s bread in one breath and criticizing it in the next.

I didn’t know all of the people present. My contact is limited to once a year and I try to keep that as short as possible. I settled down next to man about Dad’s age sitting where there were only two chairs together.

“Do you know all theses people?” I asked. “Because I sure don’t.”

He shook his head.

“I hope you don’t mind me sitting next to you, but I’m trying to get away from Huge Scott. See, he’ll pound me any chance he gets.”

He nodded.

“Thanks, I appreciate it. Will you save my seat? I want to get a soda. Can I get one for you too?”

“Thanks,” he said. His voice sounded faint and scratchy, like he didn’t use it much. I returned with the sodas. I was telling him about how Mr. Collins helped me understand the equations, when Julia’s husband, Ben, came into the room.

“Hey, Kenny, we’re getting together for a little touch football. Do you want to come?”

Get out the mad house and have some fun?

“Sure.” I turned to the man sitting next to me.

“Nice to talk with you.”

Ben was one captain. Scott’s Dad, Mick was the other. They picked players one by one with the older guys going first. When only Scott and I were left, Ben picked me. He told me to block Scott. It was like blocking a boulder. Scott pinched me and tried to knock me down, but he didn’t get near Ben who was the quarterback.

Before the next play Ben said, “This time, Kenny, you act like you’re going to block and then go out short. If the long receiver is covered I’ll toss it to you.”

Scott scooted at me as slow as a snail. When I left him to become a receiver, he didn’t try to follow. I would have sworn the receiver going long was open, but Ben tossed the ball to me. Scott couldn’t catch me, of course, and I covered a lot of ground before I got tagged.

“Scott, Kenny is your man. Cover him,” Mick yelled.

The next play I was a blocker again. Scott didn’t bother to go after Ben. He just kept shoving me and poking me.

Then Ben told me to go long. He made a perfect pass. I caught it on the run, and dodged the guys trying to tag me, until I made it between the trashcan and the tree, which was the goal line.
Scott’s Dad ripped into him again. I almost felt sorry for whale-sized Scott. He couldn’t move his bulk fast enough to keep up with me. I scored a second time before the uncles said they were winded and we needed to stop.  Maybe Dad was right about figuring out how to stay away from Blubber Boy Scott. 

I talked to Dad when we got back inside.

“So Ben threw me the ball and I danced past all the old guys.”

“Hey, take it easy on us old dudes. It sounds like you found a way to avoid you know who”

“Yeah, I sat by this guy where there wasn’t a chair for jelly-belly Scott. He was really nice.”
I lowered my voice. “He’s got to be an in-law.”

We both laughed.

I stuffed myself like always at the kids’ table. Scott sat near me but with so many adults around he didn’t have a chance to wallop me. After dinner I went looking for another safe place. The man I had sat by was back in his spot.

“Hi, can I sit by you again?”


“Pretty good food, wasn’t it? The loony family may be loony but they can cook.”

He nodded.

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here. I mean Ben is cool and I like you, but except for Mom and Dad I would avoid people in this crowd if I could. This year is actually pretty good but most years I just want to get away, to get out of here. I felt trapped with no way out. Did you ever feel like that?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Sometimes these people make me want to scream at them or even…”

“Kill them all,” he said.

“Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel,” I said. “I wouldn’t actual hurt them, you know. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I don’t remember your name.”

“You probably didn’t hear it. My name is Lenard.”

“Nice to meet you, Lenard.”

“Nice to meet you, Kenny. I like talking to you. There are too many nasty people in the word. I’m glad you’re not one of them.”

“Thanks. Oh, there’s Dad I want to talk to him. Excuse me.”

I walked over.

“There you are,” said Dad. “We’re going to go soon. I couldn’t find you. Where were you?”

“I was talking with Lenard. He’s ..”

I looked but his chair was empty

“Oh, he’s gone.”

“He must be here for the holiday. Get your stuff.”

I headed off to get my coat. When I passed a doorway to one of the bedrooms I caught a glimpse of Lenard. I went in to say goodbye.

Lenard was shoving cornbread down the throat of Scott’s dad, Mick, who was clearly dead.

“He put green peppers in the cornbread. I hate green peppers. You can’t tell when cornbread has green peppers in it by looking. I tried to discuss it with him, but he just yelled at me. Green peppers and yelling at me. What else could I do?”

“Th-that sounds awful,” I said.

“You’ve probably figured out that Lenard is my last name.”

“Willard is your first name?”

“Yes. I like you. I hope you aren’t going to be unpleasant about this.”

“Uh, no I was just going to tell you I’m leaving and say, goodbye.”

“That’s nice. I should probably leave too. Bodies always disturb people.”

“Mr. Lenard, are you a relative of the Loonies?”

“No, they were just hauling things in from parked cars. I picked up a tray of olives and followed them in. Then I went back and carried in more food. Nobody said anything. I guess they all thought I was somebody else’s guest. Kenny would you please close the door after I leave? I’d like you to stay here and not mention me for ten minutes. I need to get away, you see.”

“S-stay here with…”

I pointed at the dead body.

“He’s dead. He’ll be no trouble at all to anyone ever again. People just don’t appreciate what I do.”

“Okay, I’ll stay.”

“Thank you. I knew you were a good guy”

I watched the clock on the wall and stayed there for ten minutes. When I left I saw Dad.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” he said.

I couldn’t get the words straight in my head so they would come out clearly . I grabbed his hand and led him to the body. Dad called the police. Scott’s mom overheard him. She started screaming. Scott started crying. Everybody got upset. 

A police detective took Mom, Dad and me to the station. He let my parents stay in the room while he talked to me. He told them not to interrupt no matter what I said.

“He was very nice to me,” I said. “I told him about my school teacher and my parents. When I talked about how weird Mom’s family was, he seemed to understand.”

“He likes polite people,” said the detective. “He hardly ever kills anybody who’s been nice to him. And talk about weird families? You should meet my wife’s.” 
Happy Holidays to Writers Who Kill Blog.  I’ll be back in the new year.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

An Interview With Sujata Massey

by Grace Topping
I first discovered Sujata Massey through her award-winning Rei Shimura mystery series set in Japan. Everyone around me seemed to be reading her books, starting with The Salaryman’s Wife, which won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for the Barry and Macavity Awards for Best First Mystery and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original. She went on to win or be nominated for a number of other awards, including the Edgar. When I learned that she was writing a suspenseful historical fiction series set in 1920s India, I was delighted and contacted her to learn more about it.
The Widows of Malabar Hill Jacket Copy
Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her.

Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious, especially since one of the widows has signed her form with an X—meaning she probably couldn’t even read the document. The Farid widows live in full purdah—in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate, and realizes her instincts were correct when tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are in further danger.
Welcome, Sujata, to Writers Who Kill.
The Widows of Malabar Hill is the story of the fictional first woman lawyer in Bombay, Perveen Mistry. What inspired you to write about a woman lawyer, and why in the 1920s?

Sujata Massey
 Actually, the setting was the original driving factor. I wanted to write a mystery set in 1920s India, a period that I fell in love with while writing my 2013 novel, The Sleeping Dictionary. While going through history and memoirs, I learned that in the Edwardian period, a significant number of young Indian women studied at colleges in India and Britain. These students wanted to take on professional jobs in their home cities. I discovered that India’s first two female lawyers worked in the 1890s through the 1920s; both shared a similar religious background, progressive parents, and an Oxford education—as well as hailing from Maharashtra, the western coastal state that was called Bombay Presidency during British rule. I believe a woman lawyer would have more freedom than other females to ask questions of people and become involved in dangerous situations such as theft, kidnapping and murder. Thus, a heroine was born!

Although Perveen Mistry is a lawyer, she is prohibited from appearing in court. With that limitation, how can she practice law? At what point could women lawyers appear in court?

Perveen Mistry has completed all requirements for a Bachelor of Civil Law degree at Oxford University. In the British system, legal advocates either are barristers (arguing cases in court before a judge) or solicitors (the ones who draft contracts and formulate the arguments for barristers to use in court). Prior to 1922, Oxford allowed women to study there but didn’t grant women academic degrees. The London Bar and Bombay Bar wouldn’t admit women as barristers until Oxford and Cambridge’s prohibition against female degrees was ended.  India had one woman lawyer, Cornelia Sorabji, who worked from the 1890s through the 1920s. She was a solicitor who specialized in offering service to female clients. Cornelia’s clients—typically wealthy or royal Hindu or Muslim ladies living in seclusion--were sometimes exploited by their families or household agents. Her interventions saved women their fortunes—and sometimes, their lives.

Perveen represents the interests of three widows of a Muslim. Why does she go to such great lengths to protect their interests, especially since they are all willing to sign away rights to their inheritances?

Interestingly, Muslim law protected women in a way that was different from Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. In Islamic law, a man pays dowry to a woman in two parts: the first half given at the marriage, and the second at the woman’s time of being widowed or (unlikely) divorced. Perveen knows a little about Muslim law so she is intrigued when a letter arrives at the law firm, ostensibly signed by three widows of a wealthy businessman named Omar Farid (Muslim men could marry up to three wives). The letter states the Farid widows wished to give up all their dowry. Perveen is suspicious whether all three women could understand the English document. She decides to meet them, to make sure that they really understand what they’re about to give up. And from that point, the adventure begins.

Perveen’s job as a lawyer in India sounded quite complex with different laws for different groups of people. For example, she has to address the issue of Muslim law as it pertains to the rights of inheritance. Also, a Muslim woman could not be ordered to appear in a court of law. Are there still different laws in India?

When the British began formal rule of India in the mid 1800s, they sat down with leaders of the Hindu, Muslim and Parsi community to draft family law that was consistent with each group’s specific desires. Sikhs, Christians, Jews and others were governed by British common law. Customized laws made the various communities more likely to comply with British rule. The separate religious legal systems have endured to the present days, although many of the laws surrounding divorce have been liberalized.

The widows of Malabar Hill live in a section of a house called a zenana and lead a purdah life. You wrote that after taking a short tour of a zenana, you felt that the life of an Indian maharani or a Muslim begum living in a zenana seemed like imprisonment. Why?

I toured the Udaipur City Palace in Rajasthan, the seat of the Mewar royal family, where one maharani lived in purdah through the 1970s. Although the rooms were gorgeously decorated and furnished, all the windows were shielded by jali screens. One literally could only see fragments of the outdoor view--and that gave me a very closed-in feeling. Many royal women grew up confined in these environments and socialized exclusively with other women and children. They would only see a father or husband if he came to the zenana quarters. If such ladies traveled, they went in a purdah carriage or car with curtains that kept outsiders from seeing them. It’s true that they were beautifully dressed and did very little work—but that doesn’t seem like a prize given how much else in life they missed.

Life was hard for women during this period. Has much changed for women in India?

Things have changed tremendously! Seclusion is no longer practiced, except in some rural areas. Two-income marriages are the norm, and there are many women with good jobs in STEM fields. There are more love marriages, more divorces, and some women who choose to remain single are adopting children. Women have freedom of dress, drive personal cars and taxis, and pilot planes. Life for an Indian woman is a lot like that of her American sisters.

The Widows of Malabar Hill is not the first book you wrote featuring Perveen. Please tell us about other books you’ve written about her.

I have a novella, Outnumbered at Oxford, which is a prequel novella: a mystery taking place during Perveen’s college years in England. Outnumbered was published within an anthology of my short India fiction called India Gray Historical Fiction.

Perveen’s best friend, Alice, an English woman newly arrived in Bombay, appears on the surface to have more freedoms than Perveen, but also faces many restrictions. What will life in India be like for her?

Alice Hobson-Jones is Perveen’s best friend from Oxford. Alice is typical of the British women whose fathers had prestigious careers in the British Indian government. M.M. Kaye, who wrote The Far Pavilions and other novels set in British colonial India, wrote a series of memoirs about her life as the daughter of a top Indian Civil Service officer in the early 20th century. Mary Margaret Kaye always had a grand house to live in but was expected to represent her family in a very proper manner. There was a scarcity of European women in India, so she was widely courted by young Englishmen working for the government. After marrying, Englishwomen could do charity work in India—but little else. It wasn’t seemly for an Englishwoman to work for an Indian, because Indians were supposed to be underneath the British. However, British females sometimes worked for Indian nobility as governesses, or in the employ of religious groups as missionaries and doctors or nurses. Alice is of their ilk—seeing Indians as fellow human beings with a lot to teach her, rather than as servants.

Will we see more of Alice in future books?

She will reappear in Book 3, I hope!

This book was so rich in detail. Did you travel to India to do research?

It’s always a challenge to decide how much of what I’ve learned can be included without distracting from the story line. I started my research for the book using the memoirs of India’s first woman lawyer, Cornelia Sorabji. After I had half of the book written, I traveled to Mumbai (as Bombay is now called) to fill in details on setting and also meet with Parsi and Muslim women to learn more about their traditions. I plan to visit India frequently as I continue working on this series. It’s a real pleasure for me, because I have friends and family in several cities.

I enjoyed your Rei Shimura series immensely—along with everyone I worked with. With parents from India and Germany, what inspired you to write a series about a Japanese-American living in Japan? Have you lived in Japan?

I wrote the Rei Shimura books because I had the great luck to live in Japan for the two years that my husband worked as a medical officer for the U.S. Navy. We were stationed in Yokosuka, about an hour south of Tokyo. I wanted to write a mystery set in Japan that explored the cultural arts I adored studying: flower arranging, food and antiques. I also worked as an English teacher, which is a pretty common job for foreign women in Japan, and that influenced Rei’s character.

There are more references to India and Germany in my Indian novels than the Rei Shimura series. This is because a long cultural interchange between Germany and India runs all the way from a German passion for movies made in India in the early 1900s, to Indian freedom fighters going to Germany for help during World War II.

You’ve won the Agatha and Macavity awards and been a finalist for the Edgar, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark prizes. Does having earned such acclaim put more pressure on you with each book you write?

Awards are such a surprising and delightful gift. I don’t see them as negatives for the writing process in any way. Awards ebb and flow—they shouldn’t define success for a writer. In the end, what counts is having loyal readers who stick and the ability to bring new readers to your work.

What’s next for Perveen Mistry? I hope we’ll be seeing more of her.

I don’t yet have a title for Book 2, but I’ll tell you a little about it. Only forty percent of the Indian subcontinent was under British rule—the other sixty percent was a patchwork of hundreds of princely kingdoms that agreed to pay the British with crops in order to retain their right to self-rule.

In this next mystery, the British government asks Perveen to travel to a princely kingdom near Bombay to investigate the welfare of the Yuvraj, an eleven-year-old boy who’s supposed to inherit the throne at eighteen. The Yuvraj’s father, the last maharaja, is dead, a twist allowing the British government to consider the Yuvraj their ward. While interviewing the Yuvraj’s family and servants at the palace, Perveen gets the sense his life might be in danger. At the same time, she has to deal with an attraction that is completely out of bounds. And because this is a story set in the jungle, monkeys, dogs and tigers also have character roles!

Thank you, Sujata.

Sujata will be awarding two copies of The Widows of Malabar Hill to be drawn from individuals who leave comments by November 22.

The Widows of Malabar Hill in hardcover is being released in January 2018 and is available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indy retailers.

To learn more about Sujata Massey and her books, visit http://sujatamassey.com. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Editing an Anthology: Five Stages of Grief

Today J. Alan Hartman of the publisher Untreed Reads tells us about his experiences as editor in putting together his most recent Thanksgiving anthology, The Killer Wore Cranberry, a Fifth Course of Chaos. (Full disclosure: I have a story, Turkey Underfoot, in the an thology.)

Ah the humble anthology. At first it seems like creating one would be a load of fun.  As an editor you think you’re going to have the time of your life. After all, you’ve had a simply brilliant idea for a theme, you’re going to get tons of submissions and the stellar ones are going to shine through like a beacon in the night, the selected authors are going to shout from the rooftops how wonderful the anthology is and how everyone should buy a copy and everyone lives happily ever after in a state of anthological and royalty bliss.

Of course, then you actually start to work on the thing and you realize there’s a definite difference between the fantasy of creating an anthology and the reality.

The fantasy part was me back in 2010 when I put together the very first entry in what would become our annual anthology titled The Killer Wore Cranberry. I had decided that the stories would all be humorous mysteries and crimes taking place at Thanksgiving and featuring a traditional foodstuff from the holiday table.  Seven years later and five entries in the series (in fact, volume five titled The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos just dropped in ebook and print this past week) I’ve certainly learned a lot and come a long way from that first experience. But, for the sake of this blog, let me show you how putting together that original anthology was very much like going through the stages of grief. 

(Well, in fact, it still kind of is.)

Stage 1: Denial

I couldn’t possibly have 150+ entries to read, nearly all of which are spectacular and that I must limit to around 10. There’s no way I have all of these contract questions to answer.  I don’t want to think about the fact that I’m going to have to somehow figure out royalties to be split among those ten people evenly when the book is being sold through 20+ vendors around the world with 20 different royalty reports. Let’s face it, I’ve done stupider and harder stuff in life, right? And sleep is overrated anyway, yeah? As long as the noose is around my neck I might as well jump off the horse. There’s no way it can be as complicated as it all seems, right?

Stage 2: Anger

Why are there so many stories with mashed potatoes but nobody can do one damn story with a turkey? Why are there so many stories where everybody lives on a farm and talks like an idiot?  Why are there so many stories that aren’t even related to the theme of the anthology? Who thought of this stupid idea anyway? Why am I bothering with this when nobody seems to be buying anthologies? Look at the insane number of hours I’m putting into this. I’m not sleeping, barely have time to eat and now I don’t think I want to celebrate Thanksgiving ever again. Or any holiday.

Stage 3: Bargaining

OK, if I can just get through five more submissions tonight then I can have that whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Core. If I format two stories than I can allow myself 20 minutes of a nap. 50 more pages of edits and I can collapse in the shower and let it rain down on me like the shower scene in Psycho minus the blood. Five more social media posts of promotion and I can watch one episode of Breaking Bad. Then again, maybe I should just make my own meth and sell it and forget about this anthology.

Step 4: Depression

What if nobody buys this? What if people think I have a lousy sense of humor because of the stories I picked? What if all the authors that got rejected hate me now and are spreading vicious rumors about me on Facebook that I once kicked a puppy and laughed? What if the authors don’t help me promote this because they hate it, then get upset when it doesn’t make money and blame me? What if all of this time and effort was for nothing? It’s awful, isn’t it? The stories are in the wrong order. I should have chosen something else to end the anthology. My introduction was too personal. My career as an editor is over and nobody will ever trust me to publish anything ever again.

Step 5: Acceptance

You know what? These authors are amazingly talented and these stories are hilarious. They won’t be for everyone but there’s going to be people who will love the anthology and have favorite stories and won’t be able to wait until the next volume. Screw any reviews, they’re just one person’s opinion. This is a fun work, and regardless of the hell I went through to get here I wouldn’t change a thing.

Repeat Steps 1-5 for every future anthology.

The Killer Wore Cranberry, a Fifth Course of Chaos and the previous anthologies in the series are available at https://www.untreedreads.com/store/ and through the usual sources, including Amazon.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Cormac McCarthy Loves My Dog

by Linda Rodriguez

I’m a big rescue-animal person. I’ve had rescue dogs and cats all my adult life. When I’ve lost a dog to the cancers and other vicissitudes of old age, always a heartbreaking situation, I go looking for a replacement in the dogs on death row—those scheduled for euthanasia. I have found so many wonderful dogs in this way.

I’m thinking about this because next week is the adoption anniversary of our current dog, Dyson. Eight years ago this fall, we had lost our much-beloved sixteen-year-old Husky-Sharpei, who’d been adopted at seven on what was supposed to be the last day of her life and given us so many more wonderful years. After grieving for a month, we began looking online at the adoptable dogs of local shelters. Hearing that the Kansas City Animal Shelter was overcrowded, we decided to go visit and adopt one of their desperate dogs slated for death.

I walked into the shelter the week before Thanksgiving with certain criteria in mind. I wanted an older female dog who was already housebroken and calm. I knew older dogs were harder to find homes and figured I’d be able to choose among several older females. No stubborn, rambunctious, untrained young males for me. I was no longer the young, strong woman who had trained such dogs years before.

As luck would have it, someone showed us an emaciated, big, male dog with a strange brindle coat, starved and sad-eyed, who was scheduled for euthanasia the next day. He walked placidly for me on the leash and looked at us without hope. My husband and I were hooked by those big sad eyes. Even when we were informed that he had heartworm, which costs hundreds of dollars to treat, we weren’t dissuaded and signed up to adopt him that day, all the time telling ourselves how crazy this was. As we signed papers and laid down money, people who worked at the shelter began to filter into the office. “Are you the folks taking Dyson?” they would ask, and then shake our hands and thank us, telling us what a good dog he was. Then, we found out he was less than a year old, big as he was—and that he was a breed of dog we’d never heard of before, the Plott hound.

Dyson, who should have weighed at least 70 pounds at that time, was so starved that he weighed less than 40 pounds. (The first photos of him are then, the later photo of him now.) He had never been neutered and never been in a house, we discovered. We would have to keep this long-legged creature crated for weeks at first because of the heartworm treatment. If he became too active, he could have a stroke. What possessed us to continue and sign up for this dog, I can’t begin to understand.

Thus, began my education in the dogs Cormac McCarthy calls “the ninja warriors of dogdom” and of whom he says, “They are just without fear.” Developed in the 1700s by a German immigrant family (from whom they get their name) in the Great Smoky Mountains who never sold any outside of the family until after World War II, Plott hounds are the state dog of North Carolina. They were bred for centuries as trackers and hunters of bear. They are practically triple-jointed and can perform acrobatic feats while avoiding the claws of huge bears they have brought to bay. They are highly valued by big game hunters all over the world, who pay thousands of dollars for trained Plott hounds to use to hunt bear, cougars, and other large predators.

We don’t hunt. While on a leash for walks, Dyson constantly charges into the hedges and emerges with a big possum or feral cat in his mouth, which we’ll make him drop—always uninjured since he has the softest mouth. Other things we’ve discovered about
Plotts are that they are extra-smart and yet goofy and playful. And so he is. Also, loyal, affectionate, protective, and he loves fibers and textiles, often in early days pulling my knitting out without harming it and lying before it confused at why he couldn’t do what Mommy does with those sticks.

Though he was the opposite of the placid, female, older dog we wanted and he truly does seem to be without fear, Dyson has been the perfect dog for us, always a source of fun and joy. And the inevitable mischief that a young, boisterous male (for once he regained his health, he regained his personality) commits is a small price to pay for the love he shows when he lays his massive head in my lap and looks at me with love in his big, now-happy eyes.

That lack of fear that McCarthy so admired and the resilience that allowed Dyson to bounce back from abuse, starvation, and potentially fatal illness are two qualities I'm trying to achieve for myself as a writer. Dyson refuses to believe that he can't take on any challenge that presents itself. He's absolutely sure that he's equal to any task. Such confidence drives out fear, and I'm trying to cultivate it in myself. I suspect that belief in self is also linked to the resilience Dyson has exhibited, that ability I desire to be able to recover from professional, physical, and financial disaster. The sad dog I rescued has become my sensei in professional matters. If Dyson had opposable thumbs, how would he handle this? has become a recurrent question.

Happy birthday to His Majesty Dyson the Toy King Sweetie Boy Rodriguez-Furnish!

Linda Rodriguez's Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Dark Sister: Poems will be published in May, 2018, and Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, will appear August 15, 2018. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com