Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ask the Conductor

By Bethany Maines

Recently, I spent an hour at our historical documents library chasing down the names of the trolley stops between Tacoma and Spanaway Lake in the year 1914. Why, I hear you ask? What possible strange writer thing could I be up to? Is there a new novel in the works featuring a motorman’s adventures trying to the clear the name of a fellow conductor whose trolley appeared to take a turn too fast and go over an embankment fiery ball of flames in turn of the century Tacoma Washington? No, although now that you mention it, I would totally read that novel.

In fact this research mission was related to my day job – graphic design. While it’s rare for a design job to take me to the library, I strongly feel that both hats that I wear revolve around the same theme – I tell stories. Sometimes it’s in words and the stories are of my own in invention and sometimes it’s for a client who wants to showcase their unique narrative either in print or in the case of the trolley client on the side of their building. Yes, they take different skills, but at the end of the day, I feel like there’s a lot of overlap. Each project must have a beginning that sets the stage and leads the viewer/reader into main message and then conclude in a satisfactory manner. I think my ability to spot a narrative aids me in both lines of work. And of course, the benefit to being paid to research strange topics, is that who knows when a novel will require the use of my new found trolley knowledge.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Tales from the City of Destiny and An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Do Mystery Writers See the World in a Different Way??????

Do Mystery Writers See the World in a Different Way?? 
by Debra H. Goldstein

Do you think mystery writers see the world in a different way? My husband, children and friends do.

For the past few years they have accused me of seeing events in our lives as fodder for storytelling. Recently, they complained that when we go on vacation I view the sites as possible crime settings instead of for the beauty of the moment. I heartily disagreed; but, between us, maybe they’re right.

I try to keep my reactions in check. For example, when I saw the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, I didn’t immediately say, “If someone fell off….” Art gallerias and museums in Santa Fe, New York, London, Florence and Paris impressed me, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would take to slip a crown jewel, Mona Lisa, or a simple watercolor out the door. During the water architecture cruises in Seattle and Chicago, my mind wandered to the infinite possibilities created by approaching one of the imposing buildings or homes (think Bill Gates) from the water.

This past weekend, we visited the Biltmore House in Asheville. In addition to the normal house tour, there was a special Downton Abbey costume exhibit. Dresses, suits, and uniforms were shown in the rooms they might have been worn in. While my family oohed and aahed at the architecture and clothing, I couldn’t help but think “if I was in the in drawing room with …” or “the servant’s bell rang, but the housemaid never came.”

Even when I stay home, people question my intentions. One of my best beta readers, who has read Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (February 2016 from Five Star) and most of the short stories published in 2014 and 2015, recently took my husband aside to warn him “don’t eat Debra’s oatmeal. She has a propensity for killing off spouses.”

These accusations hurt, but what can I say? At least for me, they’re true. I do see the world in a different way. What about you?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On the Tube (Or, Should I say, Flat Screen)

By Laura Bradford

I'm not a TV watcher.

I suppose some of that is my dislike for sitting still for too long (I feel guilt over all the things I should be doing). And some is simply not wanting to get wrapped up in something that I then have to add to my already brimming to-do list.

That said, there are a few shows over the years that have captured my attention...

1) As a little girl, I was a huge Little House on the Prairie fan. I adored Michael Landon as Pa, and I wanted to be Melissa Gilbert.

2) In 7th and 8th grade, I was a huge General Hospital watcher (Ice Princess, anyone?). My friend, Diane, and I used to talk on the phone after each episode to rehash what happened.

3) In high school, I fell in love with Family Ties (or, more accurately, Michael J. Fox). :)  I never missed a show.

4) In the early 1990's As The World Turns was at its best. Great acting, great actors, great storylines (there was one about a guy with a split personality--Royce, I think--and the actor playing that part was phenomenal) That show was taped while my then-husband and I were at work, and then watched later in the evening.

5) I didn't really latch on to too much in the mid to late 90's, other than Barney. :)

6) I was an original (as in first show, first season) Survivor watcher when that came on the air (it is the only show I watch in real time--my treat). Last night's finale was great! ;)

7) Other than that, my husband and I watch a few shows on DVD. That way, when we have time, we watch an episode. We watched Breaking Bad that way (I hated that show), Dexter, and Castle.

8) I'm a little bit of an HGTV junkie as I'm drifting off to sleep (I have fellow author and former Stiletto Gang member, Maggie Barbieri to thank for this). My favorite is Fixer Upper (I love Chip!).

And that's it. As you can see, that's not a lot, especially when the first 5 of the 8 numbers were pre-2000.

So what are some of your favorites? What am I missing?


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Multi-tasking at Its Finest

By Kay Kendall 

By the time you are reading this posting, I will be busily multi-tasking in Vienna, Austria. This two-week trip with my husband combines a boatload of pleasures and missions. First, it marks our fortieth wedding anniversary and also the completion of Bruce’s arduous treatments for neck cancer only four months ago. So what if our pace will be slower than on previous journeys? We will be there and thankful. Many years ago we spent three days in Vienna and always vowed to return. This is our time.

We will return to places we enjoyed before and see others we missed—like the museum located in Sigmund Freud’s old apartment and office, where psychoanalysis was born. There is a famous coffeehouse I want to return to, CafĂ© Sperl, and of course we will return—perhaps even daily—to the Sacher
Hotel to partake of its stupendous culinary creation, the Sacher torte. Then there will be the museums and palaces of the old Hapsburg Empire and the Mozart concerts in old churches.

So much for frivolity! In addition, I will be researching some of these locations and many more for inspiration for my third mystery in the Austin Starr series. I know, I know. The second one, RAINY DAY WOMEN, isn’t even published officially until July 7, but I am keen to begin my next writing project.

In this new book my amateur sleuth Austin Starr will get ensnared in an East-West spy plot when she accompanies her husband David to an academic conference in Vienna. As I’ve often stated, I’m a student of the Cold War years—a fan, sort of—and Vienna was the epicenter for spying during many of those years.

If you’ve seen the beloved classic film THE THIN MAN, then you have some idea of what I’m talking about. After World War II, the victorious Allied powers divided control of Austria and its capital city, Vienna. This stage lasted from 1945 to 1955 as the Western powers (the U.S., Great Britain, and France) confronted their previous ally, the Soviet Union. As a consequence, both sides—West as well as East—had their spies entrenched and embattled in Vienna for a decade. 

The problems caused by divided control of Berlin culminated in the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and then ultimately its tearing down in 1989. The historic period of a divided Vienna is less well known, and Austria’s geographic location—providing a nexus between East and West—ensured that tensions would remain high even after Austria gained self-government in 1955. Fourteen years after that, I will plunk my poor unsuspecting amateur sleuth into a hornet’s nest of spies.

 All that political turmoil lends itself to drama, intrigue, and murder. So you bet I can hardly wait to dig into Vienna. While Austin Starr will come along for the ride—at least in my brain—my three house rabbits have to stay home with the dog. But don’t worry about them too much. The live-in pet sitter we hire spoils them rotten while we are away.

Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical mysteries and now writes atmospheric mysteries that  capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. She is also an award-winning international PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to the bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY WOMEN publishes on July 7 and is the second in her Austin Starr mystery series. The E-book version is available for pre-order now and the trade paperback will be soon.