Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for October: 10/5 Carolina Crimes: Rock, Roll and Ruin 10/12 Alicia Beckman, Blind Faith 10/19 J. Woollcott, A Nice Place To Die 10/26 Carol J. Perry, High Spirits

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning A Sampler by E. B. Davis

I’ve had the privilege of having two stories in the SinC Chesapeake Chapter’s anthologies. Wildside Press recently released the chapter’s new anthology, Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning. I read the stories and wanted to pose one question to each author to give readers a sample of what they could expect. You will enjoy these well-written stories.        E. B. Davis

"Cabin Fever" by Timothy Bentler-Jungr

You left Minnesota for a good reason, didn’t you?

Absolutely! I think people who grow up in more gentle climates can never really grasp what it is like to live where just going outside can literally kill you. I always hated the winters and escaped as soon as I could. The people are great, though, and surprisingly few are driven to homicide by the harsh weather. I love to go back and visit--every summer!

"The Knitter" by Robin Templeton

Do you think of storms as an opportunity or as a threat?

Storms can be terrifying. I grew up with tornadoes in Michigan, and my grandfather was deafened and disabled by a lightning bolt. On the other hand, my personal life-storms frequently clear the atmosphere for positive growth and a new perspective. I'd like to think that the storm in my story offered opportunities for both Jess and the mysterious Knitter. But I'll leave that for the reader to decide.

"Whiteout" by Maddi Davidson

What is a waxwing and why do they cause problems while drunk?

Cedar Waxwings are one of the few North American birds that specialize in eating fruit. When fruit has become overripe and starts fermenting, the birds can in some cases become intoxicated. Extremely drunk waxwings are sometimes known to sing karaoke at high volume with strange hats on their heads.

"Frozen Assets" by KM Rockwood

I know you’ve worked in prisons, but have you worked or volunteered at a Rescue Mission?

I've worked as a foster parent in a group home/transition program for court-adjudicated teenage boys. While I haven't worked at a Rescue Mission directly, I have worked with them, both to find alternative placements for boys (sometimes young men up to the age of 20) who showed up at the missions or shelters, and to familiarize the clients with these resources.

When I was working as a special education teacher in an alternative high school, specializing in seriously emotionally disturbed students (sometimes in the program until age 21) I would introduce the students to missions and shelters, since they were resources which the students might want to use at some point in their lives.

When I was working in a county jail, I remember having a conversation with one inmate who spoke longingly of his time at one specific Rescue Mission, and his intention of returning there after he finished his sentence. He said it was the most fulfilling time in his life he could remember, where they gave him a job in their recycling operation, provided a place to sleep and three meals a day, and emotional support.

"Stormy, With A Chance of Murder" by Alan Orloff

Does trouble come in threes?

Yes, trouble does come in threes. Absolutely.

But in crime fiction, trouble also comes creeping down the alley alone, in deadly duos, in gangs of five, by the dirty dozens, and in the teeming hundreds. Crime fiction is all about Trouble, with a capital T, and how our protagonists can wriggle out of it—or cut their way through it with a chainsaw. The more trouble, the more our heroes suffer—and the better the story.

"The Last Caving Trip" by Donna Andrews

What is a “controlled cave?” Was it all research or do you have first-hand knowledge of spelunking?

I do have some first-hand knowledge of caving—not a lot, because I'm somewhat claustrophobic. Some of my friends are avid cavers—could be their eccentricity, but they usually just call it caving, not spelunking—and they took me on some of their trips. And from the first moment I managed to crawl into my first cave, I knew it was something I had to write about. Fortunately, my caving friends all know I'm a writer, so when I said, “I need to murder someone in a cave!” they just laughed and helped me figure out the ways and means. But there was no way a claustrophobe like me could make murder in a cave funny—so fair warning: don't expect a lot of laughs!

On the “controlled cave:” Most caves, at least in this country, are owned—usually by whoever owns the land on top of them—and access to them is increasingly likely to be controlled by whoever owns the land in which the entrance is located, which could be an individual, a business, a nonprofit organization, or the state or national government. There are a variety of reasons for controlling access to a cave. They're technically wilderness areas, and some of them provide an irreplaceable habitat for rare species. One of the caves I've been in is closed during the breeding season of the bats that live there—that's not unusual, and the cave in my story is controlled for that reason. Even during times when they're open, many caves permit only limited numbers of visitors, to reduce the kind of damage that heavy foot traffic would cause.

Caves are closely connected to the aquifer, so any contamination that happens in caves can spread widely into wells, springs and rivers—another reason to keep down cave traffic and ensure that only responsible cavers are allowed in. Some caves may be off-limits to the average caver because they contain priceless archaeological sites or tribal sacred places. Some caves may be closed because they're unstable and prone to cave-ins, or dangerous in some other way. And some landowners may prohibit or limit access on their land because they've had bad experiences with irresponsible cavers—cavers who litter, start fires, leave pasture fences open, etc. An unfortunate case of a few irresponsible cavers ruining it for everyone.

I'm probably making it sound as if it's impossible to go into a cave—it's not! But cavers generally are becoming much more conscious not only of the dangers we humans might face in a cave, but also of the ways we endanger caves and their inhabitants. So unlike the guys in my story—who are bad examples!--responsible cavers only enter caves with permission, and they treat caves with respect.
"Inner Weather" by Carla Coupe

Do you believe in angels?

Short answer: no.

Slightly longer answer: Angels, as in winged messengers from a Supreme Being? Still no. But as messengers from our subconscious? Well, then I’d have to shrug and reluctantly say, “possibly.” The mind is a slippery, tricksy place. If your conscious mind is in conflict with deeply-held-but-suppressed morals, the subconscious could conceivably try to break through by using the image of another being, real or imaginary. And dressing it up with wings (not to mention a harp) adds to the weird-but-cool factor, maybe allowing its message to punch through the wall of “la la la, I can’t hear you” around the conscious mind. It’s a theory that I explore in my story, and the reader can decide what's real and what. . . isn't.

"Shelter From The Storm" by Shaun Taylor Bevins

Unlike many of the other authors’ stories, your main character has an option for freedom. Is it important that your main character survives and thrives?

I think what’s important is that Silvia, the main character, feels she has options. The story starts with Silvia making a choice to leave a caustic relationship. Given her new circumstances, it would be easy and understandable if she reverted back to her role as the victim. But Silvia’s reached a point where waiting out the storm is no longer an option.

The weather, especially a storm (and in Silvia’s case a blizzard), is a great euphemism for life’s more trying moments. Silvia seeks shelter from one storm (her ex) only to naively put herself in the path of another storm, a potentially more dangerous one. Ultimately, I wanted the reader to decide whether or not she survives and thrives. To me, both possibilities are equally as interesting.

"The Second Storm" by Marianne Wilski Strong

Where were you during Agnes and what did you do?

When the Susquehanna River, swollen by Hurricane Agnes' rains, broke through the dikes at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, my home town, I had just returned from Paris. After several frantic calls to my family, all resulting in busy signals for hours, I called the Red Cross. They told me that everyone had been evacuated to shelters.  So I loaded my car with food and started the drive up from Washington D.C., laboriously following army convoys on their way to rescue and clean-up operations.  When I arrived, I found my parents safe and sound in their untouched home. So I set out to help other relatives and friends. Anyone who has helped clean up a flooded area never forgets the experience:  shoveling a foot of smelly mud from every inch of a house; wrestling a stove, chairs, tables, a refrigerator from wherever in the house the flood waters had carried them; getting tetanus shots; searching for any valuables - from jewelry to toys - that flood waters had carried out into yards.  Rumors ran rife: bodies washed from the cemetery where the dike had broken; people stuck on rooftops; televisions, suitcases, pots, jewels washed into the street from stores.  Those rumors became the inspiration for my story.

"The House On Shiloh Street" by Adam Meyer

Is one person’s kindness another person’s cruelty?

I believe that kindness and cruelty are distinct, and yet there are so many small moments in our lives that could turn either way -- you choose to do something nice for someone, or you hurt them.  It's that choice, played out again and again, that comes to define who we are and how we live.  In real life, small acts of kindness generally don't have huge repercussions, nor do small acts of cruelty. But in my Storm Warning story "The House on Shiloh Street," I wanted to look at the "what if" -- what if, in a very tense and dramatic situation, someone faced a choice to be generous or selfish ... which would they choose?  And what would the ripple effects be of that one small action?

"StepMonster" by Barb Goffman

Do authors live vicariously through their characters?

I expect some of them do at least sometimes. I know I did with "Stepmonster." This is a hard question to answer because I don't want to spoil anything for the reader. But I will say that this story involves a woman who wants to avenge her father's death. That fictional death is based on my own father's death. I had a lot of anger after my dad died, and writing this story allowed me to release some of it. The story is fiction (I promise!), but I certainly pictured a particular person as I wrote it, and some of the details in the story came word for word from real life.  I found the whole experience cathartic, and I hope readers will get the same pleasure out of the story that I do.

"The Gardener" by Kim Kash

How did you research American compound life in the Middle East?

Easy! I live on one! In 2009, my husband and I moved from Greenbelt, Maryland, to a residential compound for a large oil company in the Middle East. It’s a much more international community than the one I describe. We have neighbors from Egypt and Venezuela, Germany and Canada, Turkey, Ethiopia, Jordan, Austria, and on and on. Culturally, it feels like neither America nor the Middle East. However, this compound was built by Americans in the 1940s, and it looks very much like a suburb in Arizona or southern California. I certainly did not base my story on actual events, and (happily) I can’t say that anyone in my community is quite as, um, avid a gardener as Tricia. But the details about the gardeners and the mechanics of gardening in the desert are all reasonably accurate based on my own gardening experiences here. 

"Parallel Play" by Art Taylor

Why is murder cold and betrayal hot?

Ah! Such a good question—though I have to admit I immediately began to wonder how well it holds true…. On the one hand, we tend to think that a person would have be cold-blooded in some way to kill another person, but so many murders are committed in the heat of anger as well. And then with regard to betrayal, you surely have passion driving adultery (in most cases) but you could also have someone betraying another person in a business deal maybe, maybe as an act of revenge—and as the old saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold.

But partly all that is what makes this question so interesting—and drives my interest in such issues in my own fiction. “Parallel Play” centers on questions about betrayal and murder, and it also looks at characters whose motivations run both hot and cold at different times, and what fascinates me—and hopefully will intrigue readers as well—is sorting through the overlaps between all that, digging into the gray areas where things might not be quite what they seem and where no easy answers are immediately evident.

My thanks to the authors for answering questions about their stories. Look for Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning at Amazon or order directly from Wildside Press.                                


Kait said...

Wonderful post, Elaine. It would be hard to find richer anthology. What a great group of stories.

Art Taylor said...

Thanks for hosting us today, Elaine! Such fun to read through everyone's answers.

Barb Goffman said...

Thanks so much for featuring Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning today, Elaine. You often hear that writers shouldn't start with the weather, but we threw that rule out and asked our contributors to make the weather a front-and-center part of their stories. And the result is fifteen rich stories of murder and more during blizzards, hurricanes, and dust storms. I hope readers will check the book out. It's available in trade paperback and e-book.

Shari Randall said...

Elaine, this was such a fun post. I picked up a copy of STORM WARNING at Malice and have already read some of the stories. My prediction? We'll see some of these stories nominated for the Agatha next year.

Warren Bull said...

An excellent idea for a blog, EB and what great answers the author gave.

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks for highlighting our new anthology, Elaine! What a cool idea for a blog post. If you haven't read them yet, it really is a fine collection of stories from a fine group of writers. And I'm not just saying that!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

looks like a winner! congrats to all

Julie Tollefson said...

Thanks to all of you Chesapeake Crimes folks for giving us a peek at your stories. The anthology sounds terrific.

KM Rockwood said...

What an honor to have a story included in this anthology. Thanks for the opportunity to "talk" about it.

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