Monday, April 30, 2012

Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder

I joined Sisters in Crime’s Chesapeake Chapter a few years ago when I started writing. SinC provides its writers with many opportunities, including creating venues for its members’ writing. Tomorrow, May 1, the Chesapeake Chapter will release its fifth short story anthology of Chesapeake Crimes. The stories were all chosen by blind submission--so the editorial panel (Ellen Crosby, Dan Stashower, and Sandy Parshall) had no idea whether each submission was by a newcomer or a seasoned author.

To my delight, one of my short stories was chosen for inclusion in this new volume, Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder.  Award winning/nominated authors Donna Andrews, Marcia Talley and Barb Goffman edited the anthology. Some of the authors wrote about their “the story behind the story,” which I hope you enjoy. E. B. Davis

My short story thriller, “Deadrise,” was inspired in part by news reports about the rise in drug trafficking along the Chesapeake Bay. A research excursion along the bay led me to choose as the setting tiny St. George Island in St. Mary’s county, with its rich nautical history and natural beauty. I threw in ruthless drug smugglers, a resourceful investigative reporter, an attractive female police officer and a restored deadrise work boat, mixed them all together with some mayhem and danger and a touch of humor, and cooked up a tale I hope will provide the reader some pleasant diversion. – David Autry

I try to be an understanding wife, but when my husband lusts and drools over fishing boats, he strains my patience. Unfortunately, a certain store catering to men’s fishing and gaming hobbies locates its retail outlets so that they are visible along I-95 and VA Route 64, highways we use frequently. It’s a wonder there aren’t more accidents along these highways because the stores use their parking lots to showcase fishing boats and ATVs. My story, “Lucky in Death,” pays homage to an unlucky wife of a man who couldn’t resist the goodies in this store.—E. B. Davis

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free.” And so they came, many in the early 20th century, from Russia, Poland, Ireland, Italy, and many other countries around the globe. Large numbers settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, enduring the worst kinds of circumstances, as they struggled to create a better life for themselves and their children. My story, “The Factory,” is dedicated to my grandparents and those other brave souls who made that long and difficult journey. –Harriette Sackler

While taking a shower one morning, for some reason that is completely beyond my conscious understanding, I was inspired to write a tale of revenge. With hair still dripping wet, I sat down at my computer and started typing: “Athena Papas didn’t fall off the platform onto the tracks the way they reported it on the news. She was pushed.” Two hours later, hair almost dry, the first draft of “Next Stop, Foggy Bottom” was done. I think it’s very possible (I say with a wily smile) that I channeled the spirit of Athena’s disgruntled employee.—Karen Cantwell

As a military spouse, I've lived by the motto "Bloom Where You're Planted." Following this philosophy usually leads to enjoyable new experiences. Other times, when life decides to plant a water lily next to a desert highway or squeeze a sequoia into a tiny chipped pot on a third floor fire escape, it’s a bit more challenging.
A few years back, I found myself transplanted to a quiet backwater; so quiet that the biggest excitement was when the kids found snakes sunning on the driveway.
My escape was to write a mystery set in a town with a sumptuously beautiful beach.
But who would my private investigator be?
And Serena showed up. Someone as different from me as possible. She's a statuesque former lingerie model, and I, um, wear underwear. She drives a classic BMW. Me? A minivan with Legos under the seats. She's on the run from her murderous mob connected family, and, well, you get the idea. What did we have in common? We were two transplants trying to make the best of our new lives.
"Keep It Simple" was a delicious escape to write, and I hope it will be a delicious escape for you to read – wherever you are. –Shari Randall

I've long heard this piece of mystery-writing advice: Come up with a unique sleuth. I'd thought about that and realized there was one ... person ... that no one had ever used as a sleuth (to my knowledge). God. A ha, I thought. I'll use God as my sleuth. And then I realized, Oh, wait. God doesn't work as a sleuth at all. No matter what case you present, God will already know who the culprit is. So I put God on the back-burner until we'd announced the call for stories for Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder. I was talking with a friend, debating story ideas, when suddenly I realized that Job has a second meaning -- it's a well-known Biblical name. And the pieces fell into place. God could have a helper. A sleuth he sent out into the field. A sleuth who is well known for his suffering, who could look into a murder on God's behalf and encourage the guilty party to admit his sin and repent. And my story "The Lord Is My Shamus" was born. –Barb Goffman

The inspiration for my story, “Alligator is for Shoes,” was my gag reflex. I love to cook and often thumb through old cookbooks for ideas. I’d picked up a favorite, the 1970 edition of CHARLESTON RECEIPTS (inherited from my father), containing quirky recipes handed down through the generations. Giggling over titles like “Bluff Plantation Cooter Pie,” I started reading the chapter, MEATS, even though I’ve been a vegetarian for decades. By the time I noticed the subtitle, “A’ Poil et a’ Plume (Hairy and Feathered),” I was transfixed. However, the titles in this section weren’t so quaint: Squirrel Head Potpie, Corned Tongue, and Ragout of Bear. Ew. Suddenly, I realized I had the perfect ingredients for my story—a chef specializing in game and exotic animal dishes whose assistant goes missing on the eve of Gastronomic Gambles, the most important televised cooking competition of his career. Assign a newbie PI to the case, a princess who’s never cooked a meal in her pampered life, and there will be murder on the menu tonight! –C. Ellett Logan

"Murder by Mediation” emerged from a road trip I took, listening all the way to the Brother Cadfael mysteries. When I got home, certain incidents from my legal career began to rearrange themselves in my mind, urging me to write them down. A courtroom incident I witnessed, for example, involving a judge telling a female lawyer that he was so distracted by her legs that he couldn’t hear what she was saying, shouted for inclusion in the tale. But to my surprise, as the story unfolded, the peaceful pursuit of mediation to resolve divorce problems transformed into a self-help, do what you gotta do, model for dispute resolution. Main character Rainey typifies the divorce lawyer who knows there has to be a better way than fighting in court and yet, as a mediator, finds herself thrashing around in the muck of messy emotions.—Jill Breslau

"When Duty Calls" was inspired by two friends who found themselves in a working situation similar to the couple in the story, caring for an aging and very distinguished man living on his own. Any other similarities, of course, end there — both in terms of the characters and of the plot and even of the setting — but the potential emotional difficulties inherent in such a situation intrigued me: the desire to balance your own life and space against another's, and the desire to maintain professionalism (it's a job after all) against the inevitability of becoming almost like family, both good and bad. I'm not sure where the military aspect of the story came from, but the more I wrote about that older gentlemen at the story's center, the more he seemed like a veteran officer, hewing to his training and sense of duty even in his seeming dotage. And it was that perspective on him that finally opened up the story for me and let me see all of it more clearly. —Art Taylor

Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder can be bought at: Wildside Press, Mystery Loves CompanyBarnes & Noble and  Amazon. The four previous anthologies are also available at this Wildside Press location. We hope you enjoy our short stories. E. B. Davis

Saturday, April 28, 2012

On Publishing a Book

I’m writing this on the pub date for Every Last Secret, though you won’t read it for four days beyond that. As I’ve written here before, these last weeks before the launch have been a whirl of online and other promotional activity. But it’s now mid-afternoon on pub day. Soon, I will get dressed for tonight’s big launch. Even though it’s scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. and is hardly a formal or even fancy occasion, I’ll dress up in a sequined tunic over black silk pants. Other people will be there in jeans, and that will be fine with me. I want them to be comfortable. I, however, will be all dressed up, even to lipstick and mascara (which is about as far as this old hippie goes). It is, after all, a party to celebrate the birth of my book baby.

The launch will be at the main branch of Kansas City’s large and glorious library system. This branch used to be the headquarters of a major bank back when downtown banks built like the old Egyptians. It will be a palatial place for the launch. The Library is providing wine and cheese and other hors d’oeuvres. I’m bringing a huge cake decorated with my book cover. The Library has had well over 100 reservations, so I hope I’ll have enough cake.
My brother ran over to the bookstore (Rainy Day Books, one of the country’s finest) to buy 10 books for friends who’ve asked him to have me sign them. While there, he ran into an old friend of mine from the days when I ran the university women’s center, who was also buying my book. Never in a million years should my bright, slightly shaggy, canoe-loving brother and this wealthy and proper philanthropist have ever met. They simply run in vastly different circles. Yet my book brought them together.

Tonight, friends from many different circles will converge to celebrate with me the birth of this book—and, I hope, will come away with new friends from different circles. For this is one of the great things about books—they bring us together with other people, as well as bringing us comfort and company when we are alone.

As I am right now. For a few seconds, before all the fuss of getting ready and picking up the cake and getting there on time and greeting everyone and oh, my gosh! saying something. For this few seconds I intend to sit quietly and bask in the knowledge that the creative work of those days way back there has finally come to fruition. I’ll breathe in and out. And then I’ll go get dressed and rush to pick up the cake and yes! say something and have an incredible time.

Tomorrow, this will all be a golden memory. I’ll head out early in the morning for Malice Domestic on a train. Sitting by the window, I’ll have a notebook and laptop, and I’ll be starting the process all over again. This is what we do when we are writers.