The first big
story I wrote as a newspaper reporter was about a cold murder case. I was
fascinated by how the case that had gone cold for 23 years had eventually been
solved by two detectives. They let me look through all of the investigation
files once the court case was closed and a woman had been sentenced to 9 years
in prison for killing her husband. She shot him in the back with a 12-guage
shotgun early one morning in the shoe repair shop they owned. She put their
six-month-old daughter down to sleep in the back office, picked up the shotgun
and loaded it, and went into the store to kill her husband.
Then she called
the police. Crying, sobbing, and barely understandable, she said her husband
had been shot during a robbery. A strange man shot him and fled out the back
door into an alley. There was a manhunt and over the ensuing months several
suspects were lined up for her to identify, but she never claimed any of them
was the guy. The case went cold.
But the key to
its solution lay right in the heart of the police department. When the two
detectives went back over the files 23 years after the murder, they noticed
something missing: an interview with the widow where the detectives confronted
her about the disastrous state of the family finances for which her husband
held her responsible, and the improbability of anyone choosing to rob a small
shoe repair store with a shotgun early on a weekday morning, and then vanishing
into thin air. Why hadn’t they grilled her about her story?
Because the lead
detective on the case, a star in the department, was having an affair with her.
whether murder or otherwise, are fascinating partly because they have already
defeated the people whose job it was to solve them. Maybe the detective had a
giant blind spot, or there just wasn’t any evidence. The colder the case, the
tougher to solve. But also, when a case has gone unsolved for a long time, the
people involved go on about their lives, sometimes they change, sometimes they
reinvent themselves, sometimes they bury secrets so deep even they can’t
This week WMG is
having a special promotion of one of our most popular series: Dean Wesley
Smith’s Cold Poker Gang. A small group of retired Las Vegas detectives get
together to play poker once a week, eat Kentucky Fried chicken, drink iced tea,
and solve cold cases. Oh and indulge in a little romance.
reviews of these novels have been very entertaining, partly because people are
so clearly enjoying the books. Here’s a typical review from a reader:
Retirees to the rescue!
Who says retirees have to sit on the porch in a rocking
chair? These retired detectives sure do not. Mr. Smith created a great mystery
and an underlying story as well. I really liked that cuss words were
unnecessary as were gory details. It just goes to show that when you are a
great writer, you don’t have to use these. Can’t wait to read more of the adventures
of these retirees!”
The series starts with Kill Game, and it is free! The rest of the series (eight novels so far) are lining themselves up for anyone who is ready to get a start on their summer reading.
Dean says he often starts a book by choosing a title. He was a professional poker player so all of the Cold Poker Gang novels have titles that relate to poker: Cold Call, Calling Dead, Bad Beat,Dead Hand, Freezeout, Ace High, and Burn Card. The next novel, Side Pot, has had me wondering what it’s about since he announced it…
I’ll have to
wait to find out. In the meantime, play big to win big and get the whole
series. You could end up with a royal flush!
I imagine the
conversations between my two elderly male cats as sounding like Vladimir and
Estragon (Didi and Gogo) from Samuel Becket’s play Waiting for Godot. Didi and Gogo’s dialogue runs along the lines: “Gogo:
Let’s go. Didi: We can’t. Gogo: Why not? Didi: We’re waiting for Godot. Gogo:
My Ollie and
Grayson would no doubt sympathize with Cookie Monster when he called Sesame
Street’s production, Waiting for Elmo,
“A play so modern and so brilliant it makes absolutely noooo sense to anybody.”
But, really, waiting
is as natural to cats as napping. Deep thoughts, likewise. Given the time and a
quiet space, cats will solve all problems, mostly by out-waiting them.
the noiseless tenor of Ollie and Grayson’s way was abruptly demolished. It
happened like this:
black and white; Grayson, large and gray; both washing up in readiness for
their post-breakfast naps.)
(A sound of
(They lift their
heads in unison.)
Ollie: What was
that? Is someone here?
Ollie: Who is
Ollie: Let’s go.
(He jumps off the bed where most of these conversations occur. Ollie pauses by the bedroom door. He thinks, “Closet? Kitchen cupboard?” Where to hide? What’s closer, safer? He makes his calculations .)
breaks loose outside. Banging so loud it hurts the eardrums and knocks a
picture off the wall. Men yell to each other and laugh—the brutes! An
excruciating wrenching sound, like the Titanic breaking up as it goes down in
icy waters. Pounding, pounding—will it never stop? Ollie bolts for the closet. Grayson,
fatter and arthritic, looks around helplessly, and then heaves his bulk off the
bed and lumbers down the hallway to the “safety” of the kitchen.)
Let us draw a
curtain on this tragic scene. It went on all day. The drama did not end well.
For cats, anyway. Certain indignities and hurt feelings should be relegated to
the dark shadows of unrecorded history.
The new siding
for the house looks nice, but boy it makes a lot of noise going up.
As always, Pulphouse offers up a smorgasbord of
short fiction, some of which tickles you, some knocks you upside the head, and
some slaps you on the back with slightly off-color bonhomie. The first story
this time is called “The Fur Tsunami,” by the late Kent Patterson. It, like
Beckett’s Godot, is an absurdist
comedy with tragedy at its core. And it’s about cats. Lots and lots of cats.
issue includes stories from Pulphouse
favorites such as Patterson, Annie Reed, Kevin J. Anderson and O’Neil De Noux,
along with some who are new to this publication, Brenda Carre and Robert J.
The Cutting Edge of Modern Short
A three-time Hugo Award nominated
magazine, this issue of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine offers up
fifteen fantastic stories by some of the best writers working in modern short
fiction. No genre limitations, no topic limitations, just great stories.
Attitude, feel, and high quality fiction equals Pulphouse.
“The Fur Tsunami” by Kent Patterson “Unnatural Law” by J. Steven York “A Cherub by Any Other Name” by Annie Reed “PMS and a Hand Grenade” by Brenda Carre “The Disappearing Neighborhood” by Robert J. McCarter “Hello Brain, It’s Me” by Ray Vukcevich “Eye of Newt: A Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. Adventure” by Kevin J. Anderson “Knock on Wood” by Rob Vagle “Featuring Martin and Lewis” by O’Neil De Noux “Double Date” by William Oday “Sleeping with the Devil” by Kelly Washington “Upgrade? Up Yours” by Jerry Oltion “Between” by M. L. Buchman “The Thousandth Atlas” by Robert Jeschonek “The Injustice Collector” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch “Minions at Work: Burn Noticed” by J Steven York
Get this lively
issue full of entertaining stories by your favorite authors starting Tuesday,
you could just spare a sympathetic thought for cats; the demons who are replacing
the siding on our house will continue their dark rites on Monday.
I am an opera
lover—not a taste that I share with many of my friends. Years ago when the
Metropolitan Opera still toured the country every year, I would go and sit
night after night alone to experience La Bohème,
Tosca, Madame Butterfly, and Carmen.
Opera is really about emotion and music, and particularly in the great tragic
operas, it’s about Fate.
The stories themselves
could be ripped from today’s headlines: poor young girl dies of tuberculosis
after quarreling with her lover; woman commits suicide when her heartless
foreign lover deserts her; when a rather naïve soldier falls for a gypsy
dancer, he kills her after she leaves him for a famous matador. They could have
ended differently; Butterfly blackmails her unfaithful former lover into
providing for herself and their child, and becomes a wealthy businesswoman, for
But Fate! Fate
will not be hoodwinked into prosaic endings. When Carmen turns over her cards
and each one says La Mort, death!,
she understands quite well that nothing awaits her but doom. (No one tries to
comfort her by saying, “Well, everything happens for a reason.”)
All of this came to mind this week as we prepare to release Kristine Grayson’s whimsical trilogy, The Fates. Her Fates are quite different. For one thing, there are three of them, and they can’t agree about much of anything let alone dooming lovers to premature death; for another, Grayson’s Fates do not hide in the background and move people around like chess pieces; they get right into the action and mix themselves and everyone else up. But the biggest difference is that no matter what they do, their endings are always happy. Ever after, in fact.
Sunday I spent a
couple of hours talking to my oldest friend. She is exactly three months
younger than I am and we’ve been like sisters our whole lives. We live on
opposite coasts, so our main communication these days is very long phone
conversations a few times a year.
catching up on life and family, old friends and books, we ended up talking
about writing. Our fathers were English professors, so maybe it was natural
that we both loved reading books and writing from the time we were little. We
wrote stories and poems and plays, performed some of them, too. Because it was
Mina went on to
get an MA in English and teach professional writing for many years. I ran off
to the theater, filmmaking, and journalism. Neither one of us writing fiction. Every
ten years or so I’d painfully crank out a short story. Stash it in the
proverbial drawer and go back to real life.
Kris blogged about her youthful writing adventures last week, and it rang a bell for me. Of course, she and Dean do much more than write for fun. Among other things, they have written a whole series of books on the profession of writing, the WMG Writer’s Guides, and Kris has a magnum opus called The Freelancer’s Survival Guide. Countless people have turned to these books for guidance. And now, just in time for Kris’s Spring Writing Storybundle, we are publishing her latest, Writing With Chronic Illness.
this WMG Writer’s Guide, award-winning author Kristine Kathryn Rusch offers
words of wisdom for writers who suffer from chronic illnesses and who want to
keep working, to improve their craft and spread their creative wings.
long-time sufferer herself, Rusch reports from the trenches. She tells us her
own struggle with health issues and how they challenge her. But none of it
actually derailed her career; she worked out ways to keep writing, and in the
process became an international bestselling author with hundreds of books in
helps writers customize a plan of action based on the writer’s individual
experience. She shows how to increase productivity by developing a positive,
and realistic, outlook.
Rusch points the way to reclaim the joy of writing, and celebrate success.
The bundle has
LOTS more in it, too. Look out for it on Thursday; it includes Dean’s lecture
on Carving out Time for Your Writing,
Kevin J. Anderson’s The Million Dollar
Writing Series Boxed Set, and Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s Killing it on Kobo, and six more wonderful books of information and
advice for writers.
And now you see
why I mentioned the importance of joy. Even if Dean and Kris didn’t talk,
write, and lecture about joy often, anyone paying attention would surely detect
that the enjoyment of writing is at the heart of what they do and why they do
it. And I’m here to tell you it’s infectious.
My friend Mina
said I had inspired her to have some
fun writing, too. Maybe we can trade some stories before the next time we
I love spies. I have since I was a kid. In the mid-1960s I loved equally the blunt and brainy Harriet the Spy and the coolly calculating John Drake, hero of the TV show Secret Agent (Danger Man in the UK). The person I really wished to emulate, though, was Emma Peel. And I tried. I found somewhere a pair of soft ankle-high, zip-up leather boots with rubber soles that I could pad around in to watch and listen without being heard.
But these spies were just the tip
of the iceberg for me. I read every book by Alastair MacLean I could get my
hands on: The Black Shrike, Where Eagles
Dare, Ice Station Zebra. Graham Greene, Ken Follett, Frederick Forsyth, Ian
Fleming, Robert Ludlum and the classic spies of the Cold War era were meat and
drink to me.
And then there was John le Carré.
One balmy summer’s evening in my
twenties I sat down under an open window to read Smiley’s People. From six o’clock until eleven I didn’t look up,I was so deep in the treacherous world
of George Smiley. The next day I found out there had been a fatal motorcycle
accident in front of our house, not twenty feet from where I sat under the open
window. I’d heard nothing: crash, police, ambulance—nothing.
Such is the power of the spy
story for me.
Imagine my delight when Kristine Kathryn Rusch put together the latest Fiction River Special Edition, and it was called Spies. Did I wait until it was published to read these stories? Of course not! The delectable thing about this anthology for a spy fan like me is that every kind of spy story is here. It’s like a tray of all my favorite foods.
There is always a war going on,
of some kind or other. Wars against slavery, racism, greed, power grabs, the
Cold War, techno-wars, even a species war. And spies fight in those wars,
sometimes with outright violence, but mostly with their brains and, yes, their
Here’s hoping that as my fellow
espionage lovers consume this volume of choice morsels—some of them bitter—no
vehicles crash outside your windows to disturb you. Or not.
Speaking of great stories, we at WMG want to send our hearty congratulations to Diana Deverell whose story “Mercy Find Me” from Fiction River: Justice, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, has been chosen as a finalist for a Derringer Award. It is the poignant story of a woman who comes to terms with both retribution and mercy, as well as her own failings. Diana says the story came straight from her heart. It sure touched mine.
Pick up Justice, available as an ebook or paperback, read Diana’s story—and
then keep reading!