Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Full disclosure

By Bill Kirton

The author's true likeness
Yes, full, unremitting disclosure this time. I mean, we’ve all known for ages that Google, Facebook and the rest spy on us, target us for advertising purposes and so on, but I, for one, didn’t realise that the CIA followed this blog. And, naturally enough, they have every right to do so because I’m a foreigner. So, to make it perfectly clear that nothing I write here has any ulterior motive, coded message or other intent than to be completely open about my attitudes to life and writing, I just want to clear up any possible misunderstandings.

First, my name is not Bill Kirton. I am Freda Dirge, a woman of a certain age (I’m sure even surveillance operatives allow a lady the usual discretion re. her birth date), and I have two convictions for shoplifting and one for arson. Otherwise, my conduct has been blameless, which is more than can be said for the writer of the books to which I refer on social networks, my great-nephew, Jason, who is at present a guest of Her Majesty in a relatively lenient correctional facility near Watford. The identifying photograph carried elsewhere on the Murderous Musings site was copied many years ago from an article in the Daily Mail on ‘Tell-tale physiognomies – The Faces of Evil’. As part of this disclosure, I’ve used my real likeness to illustrate this blog. It was taken at my parents’ wedding in 1953.

I have been married three times, once to my cousin and twice to Gerald String. The cousin episode was a mistake, which was rectified at the reception so no harm was done. I’d first married Gerald in 1959 when he was working in a pet shop in Soho. His conviction for indecency two years later made me turn to my cousin for comfort. I divorced Gerald, married the cousin on the rebound, but then, at the reception… well, I’ve already mentioned that.

Gerald and I remarried when he was released. He operated a barrel organ on the promenade at Brighton until that unfortunate incident with the budgie. Since it was his second offence, he was put on the Veterinarians’ Recidivists List and has since found it difficult to find employment. I wrote about his peccadilloes (is that how you spell it?) on my FaceBook page and was touched by the warmth and sympathy I received from my many friends there. Overwhelmingly, they said I should ‘get rid of the b*****d’ so I did. Unfortunately, his joblessness means that the (theoretical) alimony I receive from him has been halved, which is why my IP Address has changed. I am typing this on a computer in the library (as you obviously know already from your records) since I can no longer afford one of my own.

Two of my six children live in the tenement next door. The other four (my daughters) are in the army. None of them speaks to me any more, which is fine by me because they all take after their father. (That’s Gerald, not the cousin.)

I hope this clears up any misconceptions about the mythical ‘Bill Kirton’ and his ‘books’. He is, in fact, a very unpleasant character I’ve invented to unmask the stupidities associated with leftist thinking. Finally, can I say that I think you’re doing a wonderful job protecting us? Thank you.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Setting Writing Goals

by June Shaw

Many writers set goals for their work-in-progress, while maybe even more of them don't.

For goal setters, I've heard many writers mention going for creating one new page a day. Then by the end of the year, of course, they would have enough pages for a book. Many others say they go after the number of words they write each time they sit at their computers. A computer page is about two hundred and fifty words, so those with little time often go for that short goal, which at least keeps them creating new work.

Most often what I've heard writers say is they aim for one thousand or more words at one sitting. Those who have or make time to really work fast sometimes mention they do twenty-five hundred new words a day. I did that once. My shoulders were aching. So was my rear. But wow, was it exciting to see the number of words I'd come up in one sitting.

How about you? If you're a writer, do you set goals for how many words you plan to write in a day?

If so, do you meet those goals?

Looking forward to hearing from you.



Thursday, May 22, 2014


Exciting news! My publisher has verified that my new Grace Cassidy mystery THE CORPSE WHO WALKED IN THE DOOR, will be ready to purchase online by May 30. The trade-paperback will be available later in June.
On Sale May 30, 2014
This book, second in the series, moves a bit slower than the first, but the stakes are higher. Grace fears her son Brand is getting too involved with the ditzy housemaid, Sandy Walker, and she’s not ready to be a grandma.

Our heroine longs for a quiet, orderly life. She yearns for time to become acquainted with the woman she really is, not the cardboard caricature of her former self. No wonder she bored her husband Charlie. She always did everything he expected.

But that was all in the past. Now she’s surprising and delighting herself with this new persona. Being a woman is a lot more interesting than being a perfect-lady. But life interferes with her plans.

The boss-from-hell, Wilbur Wimberly’s identical twin, thought to be long dead, shows up at the family reunion. Her son is accused of attempted murder, and later of rape. Her cat Trouble finds a dead body in the bathroom of her room. And ex-husband Charlie wants to come back.

All of this and Police Sergeant Sam Harper, who wants to move their friendship to a relationship.

Once again, Grace has her hand’s full.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Simple pleasures...


Why do flowers give us pleasure? Does it go back to prehistory, when blossom was a promise of fruit to come? Certainly it seems to be embedded deeply: Consider the lilies of the field...even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.

Be that as it may, to most if not all people they're a source of continual enjoyment. Here are some that have delighted me in recent days.

Walking by the river-- Is this a wild viburnum? (Classification and "naming" is also a source of pleasure to some of us!)

 One within reach, and one way over my head...and for some unfathomable reason the fact that it's way over my head pleases me
In my garden

 Those that return year after year of their own accord:
 And those that start anew every Spring:

And last but not least, an exotic intruder:

This was a reward for taking part in an "inspiring women" panel for teenage girls. Of course, being regarded as an inspiring woman also has its pleasures...

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Huge Debt of Gratitude

By Mark W. Danielson

I’ve spent twenty years living in Texas in cities from the panhandle to the Gulf Coast.  Each city and region has its own special characteristics, but San Antonio is by far the most historical because of what is known as The Alamo.  Many know of its famous battle between Texan rebels and the Mexican Army, but few realize our entire western expansion is a result of the defenders of this small outpost.  While it’s impossible to discuss its significance in this blog, I can present a simplified timeline, and why Texas was governed by six countries.

When Spain assumed control from French in 1691, they named the new land Texas [pronounced Tey Has].  As with much of Spain’s western expansion, the Catholic Church established missions to aid in colonization and their interpretation of civilization.  In 1718, Mission San Antonio de Valero was established near a river where crops could be raised.  The hurricane of 1724 destroyed the mission, but the suitable location prompted the church to rebuild its lost structures.  The first stone church was erected in 1744. 

By 1793, the mission role had been fulfilled so secularization designated the compound as Pueblo [meaning town] of Valero.  Threats to Spanish Rule dispatched the Company of Alamo de Parras, later known as Alamo Company, to the compound to occupy it as a fort.  As time passed, the compound simply became known as The Alamo.

In 1806, famed outdoorsman Daniel Boone petitioned to settle in San Antonio de Bexar [pronounced Bay-Har] because of a land dispute in the U.S.  Settling there, Boone became a gunsmith for the Spanish until he was ironically killed by Indians.

1810 brought more war to the region as the Mexicans fought for their independence.  This goal was not achieved until 1821 when a Mexican flag flew over the Alamo.

In 1823, an effort to populate Texas led to the Mexican government offering land to U.S. citizens, granting 4,428.4 acres for a tax of $117.00, payable over a six year period.  Soon-to-be ex-patriot colonists eagerly took the bait and rapidly increased the population from 500 to over 30,000, with James Bowie being among them.   

Ever-present change led to a shift in government in 1824 when Mexico adopted a Federalist Constitution and divided Mexico into 18 states.  Texas was designated the Department of Texas and placed within the State of Coahuila y Tejas.  The political change led to friction between Centralist and Federalist supporters.

The Texas colonial expansion ended on April 6, 1830, when Mexico passed a law to stop the flood of Anglo Americans.  Tired of losing control of their lives, native and colonist Texans began organizing opposition to the Federal government.  Because of ongoing civil strife, the Mexican Army’s Alamo Company returned to The Alamo in 1832. 

As tensions rose, the Mexican Army attempted to reclaim a cannon loaned to the nearby town of Gonzales.  Rebel forces answered with a shot at Mexican forces, yelling, “Come and Take it!” waving a flag with the same words.  The beginning of the Texas Revolution is attributed to this October, 1835, incident.  The Mexican Army responded by fortifying The Alamo, but successful rebel attacks, particularly at the Battle of Bexar [now known as San Antonio] defeated the Mexican forces after a 56 day, door-to-door siege.  With the enemy defeated and sent back in shame, rebel forces claimed The Alamo for themselves.

Unamused by the defeat, President/General Santa Anna [elected to that position in 1833] issued the following orders on December 7, 1835:  “The foreigners who are making war against the Mexican Nation, violating all laws, are not deserving of any consideration, and for that reason, no quarter [mercy] I will be given them.  They have, with all audacity, declared a war of extermination to the Mexicans, and they shall be treated the same way.”  While the Texas Volunteers watched from a few hundred yards away, Mexican forces continued to build in San Antonio.  

Believing it impossible to adequately man The Alamo with volunteers, on January 17, 1836, Texas General Sam Houston wanted to level The Alamo and evacuate it to keep it from enemy hands.  The next day G.B. Jameson presented engineered plans to further fortify it and the compound remained intact.

On February 25, 1836, Colonel Bartes, Assistant Major of President General Santa Anna, demanded unconditional surrender of The Alamo.  Texas Colonel William B. Travis answered with a single cannon shot, to which the enemy responded with harassing bombardment.  Inside, Travis ultimately drew his famous line in the sand, offering open gates for anyone wishing to leave.  Most chose to fight and die as patriots of Texas.  

With thousands of Mexican troops surrounding The Alamo, the inevitable attack began before the sun rose on March 6, 1836.  Exhausted and severely understaffed, the first Mexican troops were able to enter undetected, but soon all hell broke loose.  Outnumbering the Volunteers nearly twenty to one, the Mexican Army promptly defeated the Texans with Travis, Bowie, and David Crockett among them.  Surprisingly, twelve survivors, including Travis’ slave, Joe, were released.  To clear the battlefield, Santa Anna had the rebel bodies burned.

Determined to rid the region of rebels, Santa Anna then marched his troops to the Goliad region where rebel forces were gathered, held in the mission, and then executed on Palm Sunday.  As with The Alamo, women and children were spared to tell the tale.

But rather than deter the rebel spirit, The Alamo and Goliad massacres rallied supporters from the United States.  On April 21, 1836, General Sam Houston’s troops made a surprise raid on the Mexican Army, capturing hundreds, and killing hundreds more.  Santa Anna, who escaped the battle, was captured alone two days later.  As supreme commander of Mexico, his capture led to his seceding the land that became Texas, New Mexico, California, Utah and Nevada.  As a result, Texas became an independent nation.  The Republic of Texas ended in 1845 when voters agreed to be annexed by the United States of America, but in 1861, it flew the Confederate Flag during the Civil War.  Texas flew the U.S. flag again in 1865.     

Again, there is no way for me to adequately tell the tale, but to understand The Alamo is to understand why Texans are proud of their heritage.  When visiting The Alamo, take the outside tour with a docent before going inside, and then take time to listen to the audio tour.  Then walk over to San Fernando Cathedral where Santa Anna raised his blood red battle flag and where the remains of the Defenders of The Alamo are interned.  Do this and you will barely notice the exploding city surrounding The Alamo as Santa Anna once did.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Sparrow wins again

by Bill Kirton
When my novel, The Sparrow Conundrum, won the Readers’ Choice Award for Humor and Satire on the website Big Al’s Books and Pals, it seemed natural to me to find out  how the news might be greeted by its protagonists. They had, after all, been the ones who’d earned it, so I envisaged the scene.

Tessa was busy investigating the latest batch of agents who’d been found bloodless in graveyards with two puncture wounds in their necks. She found vampires as believable as politicians so she suspected this was a twisted April Fool’s stunt. When the phone rang she grabbed it and barked a curt ‘What?’ into it.
‘Tessa?’ The caller was tentative.
‘Yes, who’s that?’
‘Chris. Chris Machin.’ Then, with an embarrassed chuckle, ‘Sparrow. You remember?’
How could she forget?
‘What d’you want Chris? I’m busy.’
‘Ah, you haven’t heard then?’
‘Don’t mess me about. Heard what?’
‘The book. It’s won the Readers’ Choice Award for Humor and Satire.’
‘Oh great,’ said Tessa. ‘Terrific.’
Her tone was heavily ironic.
‘I thought you’d be pleased,’ said Machin.
‘Why, that some hack has had his ego massaged for distorting the facts about our line of business? Just think for a minute, Chris. It’s OK for you. You’re a teacher. Nobody knows you exist. But what about me? I’m supposed to be involved in clandestine activities. With all the media attention we’ll be getting now, that’s me well and truly buggered, isn’t it?’
A scream from the outer office made her jump. It was followed by the sound of wood splintering as heavy boots kicked at her door until it was hanging from its hinges and a terrifying figure stepped through it. In its left hand was a red wig. Tessa recognised it as belonging to her secretary, Barbara, whose struggles with shampoos and conditioners were constantly being chronicled by lifestyle advisers in various magazines.
‘Chief Inspector Lodgedale. What a pleasant surprise,’ said Tessa.
She pointed at the wig.
‘I take it Barbara did something to incur your displeasure,’ she added.
‘Shut it,’ said the policeman, throwing the wig to the floor and taking from his pocket an Oxo-sized lump of cannabis resin wrapped in cling film.
‘Ah, no need for that,’ said Tessa. ‘I already have some in my drawer here.’
As well as tangling with him during the adventures recorded in The Sparrow Conundrum, Tessa had had this beast of the constabulary under surveillance ever since he’d arrived back from Russia, sent home by bosses in the Lubyanka who’d found his treatment of prisoners too harsh. Her agents had watched him planting drugs and condoms in nunneries, arresting shoppers who were walking too slowly and subduing pedestrians before they even had time to provoke him.
She put down the phone. The moment Machin had heard the name Lodgedale he’d begun to cry and hung up.
‘Can I help you with your enquiries?’ she said.
‘I’ll be the judge of that,’ said Lodgedale, bafflingly.
‘Indeed,’ said Tessa. ‘And will you be using your new water-boarding facility to do so?’
Lodgedale had indeed had such a facility added to the suite of offices he’d demanded in his new role in Aberdeen’s anti-terrorist organisation.
‘Because, if I may say so,’ Tessa went on, ‘the media interest in the recently-awarded Readers’ Choice accolade might misinterpret its significance.’
Lodgedale’s usual response to words he couldn’t understand was to assault the speaker but he was wary of Tessa. She had access to wrestlers who bit lumps out of teak.
‘What’re you on about?’ he said.
Tessa saw at once how she could get rid of him.
‘Ah, you haven’t heard then,’ she said. ‘I had a call from Chris Machin. Remember him?’
The anger that flushed up through his face as he heard the name made her question redundant.
‘You know, Sparrow,’ she said.
‘I know bloody Sparrow,’ said Lodgedale. A good pluck, that’s what he wants.’
‘Well, you’ll be pleased to hear you can go and give him one. He’s at home right now, celebrating the award.’
‘What award?’
‘Better ask Chris. All I know is the media will no doubt want to ask you about your interpretation of the term ‘justice’ and your predilection for applied sadism will come under close scrutiny.’
‘Bloody Sparrow again,’ yelled Lodgedale.
Tessa scribbled on a Post-It note.
‘Here’s his address,’ she said.
Lodgedale hesitated, then grabbed the paper and stamped out. As Barbara began to scream again, Tessa sighed and reached for the phone. Her bearded boss, Mary, needed to know about this.

Weird how, in my head, these characters (even though ‘caricature’ would be more accurate for some of them), have an independent existence.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Dilemma: Which Corpse Comes Next?

by Jackie King

THE CORPSE WHO WALKED IN THE DOOR, my 2nd Grace Cassidy mystery, is with my publisher. Now my time needs to be split between promoting this book, promised to be ready for sale (at least in e-book form) by the end of this month. So far, no art work. So most of that is on hold. (Could this be payback for missing my deadline by a country mile? The publishers have long memories.)

The First Grace Cassidy Mystery

My current work-in-progress, a novella, has the working title DANGER VISITS THE GOLDEN DRILLER. It's set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I live. I’m writing this story for Smart Women Writers, an ultra-cool group of first rate writers. I‘m editing the draft now.
The Golden Driller--Tulsa Oklahoma
The tough decision facing me: which mystery should I write next? Characters from two different plots are vying for my attention. One is Grace Cassidy, my evolving character from her own series. My family brainstormed with me on Thanksgiving day with this plot idea, and the working title is THE DISAPPERING CORPSE. The story will be set in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I’m very excited about the plot twists. (Did I ever mention that both of my granddaughters are writers? Isn’t that cool? The oldest is enrolled in the University of Texas film school. The youngest (almost 16) has published online.
Lauren Keithley
Lauren Keithley, Writer

Morgan Sohl, Writer
(Enough from a bragging grandma and back to talking of writing.)

The competing protagonist hasn’t told me her name yet. She’s pitching her story idea, and it’s a good one. Needless to say, she’s fast becoming my Best Pretend Friend. (I fear that Grace is getting a little tired of me. Perhaps we’ve been spending too much time together and we both need a break.) Of course, I could introduce this new person in THE DISAPPEARING CORPSE and let her spin off into her own series, sans Grace.

The third possibility is working on both of these novels at the same time. I’ve never done this, and would love to hear from other writers who have. Give me the pluses and the pitfalls.

All suggestions and comments will be appreciated and seriously considered.



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Can you name them?


Some more pics from Left Coast Crime.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Left on the Cutting Room Floor

By Chester Campbell

The familiar saying about snips of film left out of the finished movie applies to segments of a book that don't survive the final edit. Overture to Disaster, the third book in my Post Cold War Political Thriller Trilogy, ended up way too long and had to be trimmed down. Even with the revisions, it still wound up the longest novel I've published at 511 pages.

The snip I've included below was part of the background for retired Air Force Col. Warren (Roddy) Rodman, one of the main characters in the book. He was the pilot of a Special Operations helicopter shot down during a mission into Iran to bring out a high-level defector. Though innocent of the charges against him, he was court-martialed and forced out of the career he loved. Here's the cut:

It gave him the same sensation he had felt during the first landing he had ever experienced in a small airplane, the event that had set him on an irreversible course toward a flying career. He was ten years old at the time. The plane was a four-place Cessna, and it made him feel that he could reach out and roll up the clouds like cotton candy, or, closer to the ground, snip off the spindly tops of the trees.

His father worked as an electrical engineer for a public power system in Texas. A company that made transformers had invited the senior Rodman on a hunting trip into northern Idaho. He had decided to take young Warren along. The remote Rocky Mountain lodge was nestled deep in a wilderness area that could only be reached by running the rapids on a rushing river, packing your way in by horseback, hiking or flying in a light plane capable of short takeoffs. Air, of course, was the preferred method for flatlanders.

The narrow dirt landing spot beside the meandering river looked like a dusty brown bandage strip from high above. A rugged, rock-faced 8,000-foot peak rose across the river. A range of hills not much lower flanked the makeshift runway. The spiraling descent fascinated him. He had lived and breathed flying ever since, pestering his father to take lessons at sixteen. Two years later, he organized a lobbying effort with the local congressman to assure getting an appointment to the Air Force Academy.

End of cut.

I hated  to leave out this segment as it concerned an actual experience. Back in the eighties, during my career as an association executive, I won a prize from one of the exhibitors at the American Society of Association Executives' convention. It involved transportation and a week for two at Harrah's Middle Fork Lodge, located on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the heart of Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.

After the spiraling descent onto the riverside strip, we boarded a large rubber raft and floated through a section of rapids to the lodge. It was quite an experience. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. In another part of the book, I used the lodge andrip its isolation to keep Rodman's copilot out of touch until just before the court-martial.

The trip into the River of No Return Wilderness Area was one I'll never forget. It was one of man y personal experiences I've used in my books.

For a great review of Overture to Disaster, check my Mystery Mania blog.