Wednesday, August 31, 2011

There’s a Cult for Everyone

By Tracy Kiely

My protagonist, Elizabeth Parker, is a young woman with a penchant for Jane Austen, all things English, sarcasm, and rash behavior. Not only that, but she has a face that prompts most family and friends to advise her to avoid playing poker. Ever. Therefore, the idea of her infiltrating a cult gives me pause. (Actually, it makes me laugh out loud in that horrible snorting manner that I’ve been trying to curtail, but I thought the whole “gives me pause” bit sounded better.)

Anyway, that said, there are only a few cults I could see Elizabeth infiltrating with any kind of believability. They are as follows:

· The Cult of Jane Austen – Originated in 1915, by Miss Emily Jacobs of Devonshire, England, this cult not only promotes the constant reading of Jane Austen’s works, but its members are required to insert portions of Ms. Austen’s dialog into their daily conversations. Members are also required to be able to recite both Captain Wentworth’s letter to Ann on command, as well as both of Mr. Darcy’s proposals to Elizabeth. Failure to do so results in immediate punishment, which varies from public rebuke all the way to the dreaded ‘Lydia Treatment’ wherein the member is tricked into thinking they are going to a Scottish retreat, but instead are sent to a dodgy part of London and forced to entertain a drunk man. Members meet once a month at a hidden location, where they dress in Indian muslin, drink tea, eat marzipan, and engage in snarky batter. The precise number of members is unknown, but it is thought to be in the millions.

· The Cult of Colin Firth – Founded in 1996 by Ms. Edwina Jennings of Trenton, New Jersey, the Cult of Colin Firth was created for one simple purpose; the tracking and monitoring of Colin Firth. Members are required to be able to recite every movie Mr. Firth has been in (in chronological order), recite most of the dialog from these movies, and know his current location within a tenth of a mile. The ultimate goal, of course, is to find him again emerging from a lake wearing a thin white shirt. Members are punished by being forced to watch continuous showings of two of Mr. Firth’s regrettable cinematic forays, What a Girl Wants and Mama Mia!, for days at a time.

· The Cult of Wanting to be English - Founded in 1932 by Ms. Jenna Marshal, the cult’s philosophy is very simple; the life of the upper class English, as depicted in the movies and books of the day, is preferable to reality. Members learn to speak in the upper class manner that suggests they are being slowly strangled. Muttering is also encouraged. Members must learn to ride (or at least be able to discuss riding at length) and must be able to not only play and understand cricket, but become irate if their access to the latest scores is in anyway thwarted. Female members must wear enormous, structurally unsound contraptions on their heads to every social function, and men must own at least three tweed jackets, eight scarves, and one bloodhound named “Duke”. All members must smoke. Members are punished for any infraction by being sent to Las Vegas for a month, and while there are forced to watch A Tribute to Manilow nightly. Its membership numbers are in the millions – with a particular spike occurring after most Superbowl halftime shows.

These are the cults that Elizabeth could penetrate, if needed. They are not well known, but they are not to be trifled with. Should the occasion arise for Elizabeth to infiltrate and right a wrong inflicted by any – or all – of these cults, you can rest easy, and know that she has the talent and ability to get the job done.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blending in with a Cult?

By Rebecca Cantrell

Hannah Vogel does manage to infiltrate the cult of all cults: the Nazi party. Let’s run through the cult checklist: overbearing leader, fanatical devotion, mind control, serious consequences if you leave, questions or doubts strongly discouraged. Yes, on all counts.

So, how did she do it? It helped that she looked like their ideal. She has the protective camouflage of blond hair and blue eyes. And, as a woman, she’s not taken seriously enough. Luckily.

The second step was picking a strong ally within the group. She partnered with Lars Lang, a high ranking SS officer. He was already accepted by the group, so she got a de facto acceptance too. This got her past the initial hurdles, but not without a cost. Lars is not always the easiest guy to work with: his loyalties are complex, he runs the risk of being found out himself, and the stress of living a double life cause him to act unpredictably, sometimes dangerously.

After that it was a matter of having strong nerves in difficult situations, learning to lie, and developing the ability to parrot back Nazi ideology with a straight face.

All those things served her well in “A Trace of Smoke,” “A Night of Long Knives,” and “A Game of Lies.” But in next year’s book, “A City of Broken Glass,” all those factors work against her.

Being Hannah is tough work.

Monday, August 29, 2011


I don’t know which of my 7 Criminal Minds cohorts came up with this week’s question, but it’s reasonable to assume it was someone who doesn’t write amateur sleuth mysteries. Unless she stumbled upon a cult of murderous cross stitchers, scrapbookers, or quilters, I think Anastasia Pollack would be hard-pressed to blend in.

Really, think about the various cults that crop up on the news. Skinheads? My reluctant amateur sleuth doesn’t sport a single tattoo, and the only piercings are the ones she has in each earlobe. If those holes are still even open. Anastasia isn’t someone who has time to bother with earrings most mornings, so it’s safe to say those holes may have closed on their own from disuse.

Religious cults? That might be even harder for Anastasia to pull off. She’s basically a lapsed whatever. Again, she hasn’t had time to attend church ever since her dead louse of a spouse left her in debt up the wazoo, and after the crap she’s had dumped on her over the last year, she’s on the verge of seriously beginning to question whatever beliefs she once held. One recurring question she’s pondered is what the hell did she do in a past life to warrant the troubles she now faces in her present life? Not that she ever believed in past lives prior to the start of her troubles, but there’s got to be some explanation for the bizarre turn her life has taken.

Satanic cult? Anastasia definitely would not be able to keep a straight face at the idea of a red guy with horns and a tail living within a brimstone and fire pit. And can you imagine what would happen should she suddenly hit early menopause and have to deal with all that excess heat?

Voodoo cult? She’d toss her cookies during the ceremonies where they sacrifice livestock.

Witchcraft cult? Again, she’d have a hard time keeping a straight face.

So if Anastasia found herself in need of investigating a cult, chances are, she’d have to find a patsy, uhm…an assistant…to infiltrate for her. She’s just not that good of an actress to pull it off herself. Unless, of course, we’re talking about a cult of crafters. If that’s the case, Anastasia is your go-to girl.

Lois Winston recently finished the third book in her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. The first book, Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun, was a January 2011 release and received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Death by Killer Mop Doll will be a January 2012 release. Visit Lois at and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog,

Sunday, August 28, 2011


By Darrell James

(Thanks to friend, Sue Ann Jaffarian, for graciously offering me the opportunity to post as a guest today on Criminal Minds. )

Question of the week: “You’re in the back of a police car with your phone, who/what would you tweet?” (A dilemma, for sure, but fortuitous to have a phone.)

As the series character in my debut thriller Nazareth Child, Del Shannon, is one person who is no stranger to the back seat of a patrol car. As a teenager, growing up with her abusive father, she was in and out of trouble quite a bit. But, through the careful mentoring of her kindly probation officer, Del, it seems, has turned out all right. Or has she?

As we meet our girl for the first time, she is 29 years old and working for Randall Willingham, owner of Desert Sands Covert, an investigative firm in Tucson, Arizona. Del specializes in finding and recovering missing persons (an irony not lost on Randall, as Del’s own mother has been among the missing since Del’s infancy). After only two years on the job, she has already gained something of a reputation for being especially good at what she does.

We first come to see Del through Randall’s eyes:

Randall Willingham’s first impression of Del Shannon—  maybe a dancer from one of the clubs.  She was slender in tight-fitting jeans and sandals, a halter top snugged down to a flat, bare midriff. She had a small gold ring pierced into her navel and a tiny, yellow crescent moon tattooed on the outside of her left wrist. She had attitude, this girl.
What threw him, though, was the hair. It was cropped short like a boy’s. A blonde sprig of it had fallen across her eyes¾that day she walked out of the elevator and into his office.

Del, we see, is independent, tough and smart. But mostly she’s determined. She’s beautiful, seemingly without being aware of it. She’s accustomed to desert life. More often than not, wears boots and jeans. She drives a red Jeep Wrangler and carries the Baby Eagle handgun—the smaller sister to the Desert Eagle and built with a smaller profile and weight to accommodate a woman’s grip—usually tucked into her waistband at the small of her back.

Her love life is mostly hit and run. Has a tendency to take unnecessary risks (something that troubles Randall deeply). She’s not prone to hysterics. But, rather, operates with something of a manifest destiny to her cause. When confronting dangerous fugitives, her favorite response is: “There’s something you should know about me, (insert favorite villain’s name here)… I never bluff.”

She’s not one to Facebook or Tweet.

So, this morning, as we find Del surprisingly back in the back seat of the police car, her cell phone in hand, she places a call to Tucson Police dispatch and asks to be patched through to Officer Ripley, the very patrolman who has just placed her in the back of his cruiser.

Officer Ripley, is just beyond the car window, tidying up notes for his report, when his cell phone rings. He answers, “Ripley.”

Del says, “…”.

This is where you come in, reader/writer. I’ve given you her profile, something about her attitude and behaviors. What would you have Del say? The commenter with the best dialogue response (in my sole and unbiased discretion) will receive a FREE copy of Nazareth Child. I will announce the winner in my own comment at the end of the day, midnight, Sunday. Along with my own response to the question.

Give it a try! Remember, she’s one cool chick!

“Del Shannon has the makings of a solid series character.”
Publisher’s Weekly
“A compelling, psychological journey and powerful debut. Filled with strong, realistic characters, biting dialogue and tense, turbulent action.”  
Stephen Jay Schwartz, L.A. Times Bestselling Author of Boulevard and Beat

Darrell James is a fiction writer with residence in both Pasadena, CA, and Tucson, AZ. His short stories have appeared in numerous mystery magazines and book anthologies, and have garnered a number of awards, to include finalist in the 2009 Derringer Awards. In addition, his personal odyssey to publication appears in the Writer’s Digest book HOW I GOT PUBLISHED, along with J.A. Jance, David Morrell, Clive Cussler, and many other notable authors. His latest short story will appear in the Lee Child (MWA) anthology, VENGEANCE, coming from Little Brown in spring of 2012. NAZARETH CHILD, his first novel in the Del Shannon series, has just been released from Midnight Ink/Llewellyn Worldwide.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Butts & Tweets

by Gary

My hope is I’m sober in the back of the police car. That I wasn’t foolish enough to have left the tavern, no doubt bending the elbow with fellow writers bemoaning our lot in life, and got behind the wheel of my ’92 Caddy El-D smashed. I actually do own a Cadillac Eldorado of that vintage bought off my friend, the late screenwriter and director (Bad Day at Black Rock, Convicts Four, etc.) Millard Kaufman. So one I wouldn’t want to take the chance of causing any harm to anyone or harming that car. In that order, really. And oh no, the vehicle isn’t showroom floor pristine; it has some bondo on it, and the driver's side leather seat is torn at the seam a bit. But that just makes in the kind of car some desperate character in an Elmore Leonard novel would drive.

Anyway, back to the back seat. I gotta be sober ‘cause like Michael Wiley mentioned, I don’t friggin’ tweet and this task will take all my concentration. I know, I know, all writers should be tweeting but I keep hoping Kim Kardasian, or any of them Kardasians for that matter, all of whom apparently have legions of Twitter followers, will go gaga for one my books – tweeting about how much she enjoyed the butt waxing scenes in my book. That’s her in the photo here in the lab coat standing next to an x-ray of said backside attesting to its authenticity. Heh. Okay, so let’s pretend my wife gave me here hand-me-down iPhone because she’d gotten the newest one and showed me how to work the damn thing. Which I know involves a touch screen so I have half a chance of being able to accomplish my goal.

A friend of mine who tweets like a sonofagun has met some interesting media pundits in person because of tweeting tells me Facebook is for your friends from high school and Twitter is for people you would have liked to have been friends with in high school. Them I don't know, but do know a few criminal defense attorneys and also from my buddy says you can direct message a person as long as one is a follower of the other. To build the proper tension, I should only have one opportunity to tweet a short message. I know the officer in the passenger seat, and there’s two of them ‘cause that’s just how I roll and it’ll take two of ‘em to take me in I tell ya, will notice in the review my shoulders jack-hammering. My hands are cuffed behind my back and it takes some maneuvering to angle the phone around enough to partially see the screen let alone use my thumbs to get to the right app and do my tweet. A direct message to a lawyer? To my wife? A tweet to TMZ alerting them that I’m the writer Kim enthused about?

Okay, I’ll take the Kevin Smith route and turn this negative into a positive. When brother Smith, he of wide girth as am I, got his fat butt tossed off a Southwest plane for not fitting properly in his seat, he tweeting like a son of a gun about this and got all kinds of media. My tweet to all my followers then is:

“Arrested. Frame Up. Was Researching Police Corruption Novel. If Not Heard From in Two Days, You’ll Know Why…You’ll Know Why.”

As Mr. Burns would say in his sibilant tone, “Exxxcellent.” Now all I have to do once I make bail, is wait for Hollywood to call. The pic will star Kim Kardasian as a hard-charging investigative reporter, directed by Kevin Smith.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Felony Contwition

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

Benjamin Franklin said, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” That Ben had a lot on the ball. If he’d been born in a later time, or even just given a chance to modernize such sage advice it would read something like, “Neither a tweeterer nor a twit be.” Particularly if you are sitting in a paddy wagon.

It probably seems like a great idea. Take advantage of the narrow window between hook-up and mug shot to call in reinforcements, feed your mom a story about car trouble or post a quick update for other members of the bachelor party. Hard to imagine but this great idea is worse than the great idea that got you the pat down in the first place and I’m not even sure what bad idea that was. Whatever it was, those 140 characters are not going to make the situation better. In fact, on a per character basis, they’re riskier than the Hole in the Wall Gang. That said, in my moment of sobriety and clarity, I can imagine what might end up on a Twitter page somewhere. Sort of the techie version of “Cops” complete with caricatures playing the roles of actual people.

The Twoosher: WTF. N bck of crewsr. Twaggle also n cufs. OH po 2 pad. Dump stash b4 cop chks. Gun 2. Totl Tweetard. Get peeps 4 alibi. Screw da sht cop. LMAO.

The Speeter: $!

The Tweetex: B had me bustd. B’lv dat chik?

The Drunktwitterer: WTTTF/ Got no bet do, dud. Ned ball. That u ma? Sht. Ment 2 cal. BRB.

The Celebweeter: Punched by Penn. Gr8 pic. N da $$. R-estd 4 aslt. B’lv dat sht? More $.4 me.

The Politweet: Gr8 411 n mayrs trash. R-estd 4 tres. Hold p1 4 scup.

The Tweetfel: R-estd 4 B&E. Totl BS but L8 4 mtg w prob off. Lookg @ 3d strik.

The Twitwit: I tawt I taw a puddy tat.

The Clieneeter: LAWYER.

Maybe it’s just me but it’s like the whole world has vanity plates in a foreign language. And not any foreign language. A combination of Klingon (spoken by a select few) and American sign language where non-signers aren’t even sure that flick of the hand is supposed to mean something. Worse, when I practiced the handcuffed behind my back technique, all of my texts made me look like the illiterate drunktweeter having a bad day. Maybe those smart phones with little tiny keys would make it easier for the cops to use my public blathering in a case against me but with my limited skills and the touch screen of my iPhone, I might actually catch a break. Unless they speak fluent gibberish, my texting could only support my claim of diminished capacity.

I promised myself I wouldn’t go all legal here but do remember, should you find yourself in a panda under lock down, you have no expectation of privacy. A tweet is public. It’s like screaming the words. Even if you haven’t heard the Miranda warning yet, excited utterances (and their technical tweet equivalents) will most likely be used against you. Maybe that Miranda needs a touch up. You have the right to remain silent and, hopefully, the smarts not to tweet. If you give up that right or do something incredibly dumb like post pictures committing felonies for all your friends to see, that will be held against you in a court of law and you’ll look really dumb besides. If you cannot afford and attorney or a techie to establish that your account was hacked and those entries were made by someone else, we’ll appoint a lawyer who won’t understand either the technology or your brain cramp. Good luck with that.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, August 25, 2011


By Michael

This week on Criminal Minds, we’ve given ourselves the following topic: “We’re in the backseat of a police car with our cell phone. Who/what do we tweet?” This is an easy one for me. I would tweet no one/nothing, because I don’t tweet – not that I won’t in the future, but I don’t plan to start tweeting when stuck in the back of a police car. If I did, I undoubtedly would tweet something embarrassing like Help or HelpHelpHelp . . . , which (for the non-mathematicians out there) I could say thirty-five times before hitting the last of my one hundred forty characters, or I could include an exclamation mark (Help!Help!Help!) twenty-eight times. Worse, I might tweet Mommy also twenty-eight times, or with exclamation marks twenty-three times with two characters to spare (Mommy!Mommy!Mommy!!!).

No, you won’t find me tweeting from the back of a police car. You’ll find me using the same nineteenth-century technology that Alexander Graham Bell would use when he got arrested.

“Who/what” will I call? Well, I’ll make a list, which, Alexander Graham Bell be damned, I can do on my twenty-first-century phone.

  1. First, I’ll call my wife and tell her that no matter how bad it looks, I didn’t do it. Yes, the photographs suggest otherwise, and the eye witnesses might be a problem, and as for the fingerprints, well, as they say, no two snowflakes are exactly alike. But I was elsewhere when it happened and I didn’t even know her or him or them or it.

Before we hang up, I’ll tell my wife that I love her and then whisper in four characters or five (including the exclamation mark), Help!

  1. Next, I’ll want to call my lawyer, but I won’t have one, so I’ll look through the side window of the police car and dial the number of the law firm advertising on the roadside billboard – the one that says, “ARRESTED?” in enormous red letters and includes a picture of a lawyer who looks like he (not I) should be shackled to a metal ring in the back of a cruiser.

When he comes to the phone, I’ll say, in my calmest, most professional voice, Help.

  1. Third, I’ll call Sushi Café, which makes the best sushi in town, though it’s been slipping a bit since the guy who managed the restaurant got busted for harboring illegal aliens, though the food still is a hell of a lot better than anything I can expect from the jailhouse kitchen. If the manager from Sushi Café occupies the cell next to mine, I’ll share my dinner with him.

I like sushi enough that while eating I might forget my need for help.

  1. I’ll call my wife again. Just checking in, I’ll say. I’m still innocent, I’ll say. Help! I’ll say. Help!Help!Help!

She’ll promise to pay bail – if I promise to take her out for sushi as soon as I’m released. I’ll promise.

  1. I’ll calm down. I’ll get to thinking. Thinking will be dangerous – it’s what has landed me in the back of the police car to begin with. Caution be damned, Alexander Graham Bell be damned, I’ll think anyway. I’ll come up with an idea.

The idea: I’ll call my agent and pitch a new book. It’ll be true crime, I’ll say, and will include a scene with a middle-aged guy panicking in the back of a police car. If I do a good enough job pitching it, my agent might tell me he thinks he can help.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Post from the outlands

The question has been asked - what would you tweet from the back of a police car.

Ironically enough - I think it depends on what you are doing in the back of a police car.

For instance - if you have just successfully heisted a hundred million dollars in art - you probably want to tweet something like -"I've been framed!"

If you just got caught with four hundred cheesburgers and a plume os strange smelling smoke wafting from your car ala Snoop Dog or Cheech and Chong, tweeting - "What? I was a little hungry," probably isn't going to cover it.

Also if arrested by an attractive officer, tweeting: "cop is smoking hot - I hope she's really a stripper" is probably isn't going to get the charges reduced.

And finally its never wise to tweet about "being hassled by the man - the man just trying to keep a good tweeter down."

It just doesnt sound right.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Room

by Kathleen George

Things are different for women writers these days, right? Ahem.

I’m sure male writers have their problems, too. Perhaps uncles and neighbors who build their lives around insurance policies and two-week vacations see them as lazy, dreamy, stay-at-homes. But women have been criticized for writing for all kinds of reasons. Erica Jong’s mentor said, “[Women] don’t know blood and guts and puking in the streets, and fucking whores . . .” as if that is the only story. But by the way, we can write tough, too. Mary Gordon’s mentor said, “A woman writer is like a female bear with a lot of stopped up shit which she gets all over the cave.” Is it so different from male shit?

Even generous and well-meaning mentors have done their damage. Mostly they worry about disinvolvement, detachment, solitude. “Come out of that room, that self-involvement, and just be normal” is the message. At least that’s the one I got from childhood up. Janet Sternberg has come up with a central image for that detachment: a woman behind a closed door. Closing that door is the defining act. It then takes work to move in and out of that private place at will.

The ROOM also figures strongly in Anne Tyler’s account of herself when she talks about the god-like occupation of moving lives around on a playing board.

The place to write, the place to be wholly oneself, is precious. I found it as a child. I can remember taking a fan to our attic, sitting at a rickety table intoxicated by the smell of dust, hot raw wood, mothballs, and my aloneness. My father seemed amused. My mother frowned with worry. This was as bad as reading. She worried so much that I buried myself in books that she began hiding my books. She wanted me to develop personality. That was a specific thing. It was effervescence, a “bubbling over” that she just loved and that she thought was the only way for a woman to be.

Over the years I found my way to other alcoves. And I wrote sentimental Christmas plays, puppet plays, stories of all sorts. I thought, yes, this is what I want to do. So when I was a senior in college, a writing major, I went to the office of one of my teachers, a good mentor who encouraged me. He wasn’t in. His office mate was. The office mate said, “What do you want to be a writer for? You’re too pretty to do that to yourself.”

Huh? (Now mind this was the time before glam dust jackets.)

He continued, “”Women writers are unhappy people and they’re always bad looking. They live miserable lives.”

Oh, how he scared me. I wanted to be a writer but I also wanted to have a life. I ran away from writing. I took money to go to school in theatre where, I thought, being around all those people might help me develop some personality. And maybe it did. But I learned soon enough that when I directed plays, I was actually writing, narrating, controlling every move.

One summer I didn’t have anything to direct and I sat down. I put pen to paper and I wrote. I’m not exaggerating to say my life began to flower when I was doing what I wanted to do. It was at that point that I met my husband (a writer). His mentoring was different from that guy in the English department office. Instead of scaring me that my life would fall apart, he made a private office for me in our house. He told me to go hole up and write.

And I did.

Home. After all those years away.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Famous Last Words

Topic: You're in the back of a police car with your phone. Who/what do you tweet?

Famous Last Words
Jeannie Holmes

I inhale a pungent mix of stale sweat, upholstery cleaner, and hot metal. Blue and white lights strobe above and around me with flashes of red. Sirens wail in the distance.

The more the merrier, I think as another fire truck skids to a halt.

Men wearing heavy coats with reflective bands across their chests, backs, and arms jump from the truck. Orders are shouted and hoses pulled. Water seeps from around the hastily made connections to hydrants, forming tiny rivers that twist and creep their way over the broken asphalt.

I watch one of these rivulets as it passes beneath the police car in which I sit. I'd asked the cop to leave the door open because the air inside was stifling. The air outside isn't much better.

A loud crack and shouts of caution draw my attention. Orange and yellow flames jet through a new opening in the roof, seeking oxygen to fuel its anger. Embers and flaming timbers tumble from the covered bridge's weakened supports. They sizzle and pop as they splash into the churning river. Superheated air beats against my soot-streaked face.

I look at the personnel from various agencies racing around the scene. I shake my head. The bridge is a goner. Everyone knows it. All that can really be done is contain the damage and keep it from spreading.

Soft bluish-white light highlights the grime covering my arms as I turn on my cell phone. I snap a picture of the inferno and tap on the Twitter app. While it loads, I think of what to say, but there's really only one thing to say...

I type my message, attach the photo, and hit send. I wait for it to show in the live feed. I drop the phone to floor and slip out of the car.

Everyone is focused on the fire. I round the end of the car and head in the opposite direction. Shadows grow darker with each step, the air less heated. The cacophony of sirens and shouts fades. Soon only the steady free beat of my heart and the sounds of a riverbank under the sway of a full moon's spell are all I hear. I pull of box of matches from my pocket and toss them into the dark waters.

Thinking of my last message, I smile and whisper it into the gathering darkness, "This is not the end."


A Note from Jeannie:

Hi, everyone!

I've had a fabulous time being a part of the Criminal Minds blog. I feel that I've been truly privileged to know so many wonderful, loving, and talented authors. However, the time has come for me to move aside and let another voice take my place.

Sue Ann Jaffarian will be taking over my Monday post starting September 5, and the very talented Vicki Delany will be moving into Sue Ann's usual spot on Sundays.

Thanks to all the readers who have followed my posts and commented on them. I appreciate each of you. Huge thanks to my fellow CMers for making my time here unforgettable. I love you all!!!

Good luck to everyone and I'll be dropping in from time to time...just to be sure everyone's behaving. ;)

Love and luck,
Jeannie Holmes

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Keith Rawson Tells It Like It Is

Hilary here, with a special guest: my friend Keith Rawson. Even if you haven't discovered Keith's fiction, you already know his work as an editor. Keith, along with Cameron Ashley and Liam José, revived Crime Factory ezine in January 2010, filling the publication with original fiction by authors such as Dennis Tafoya, Sophie Littlefield, and Dave White, as well as articles and excerpts from the likes of Ken Bruen, Dave Zeltserman, and Reed Farrel Coleman. Keith also co-edited Crime Factory: The First Shift, a collection of new short stories by Crime Factory; it will be released in September by New Pulp Press.

I'm thrilled to say Keith has just released his own collection of short stories, The Chaos We Know. Here's what Roger Smith, author of the acclaimed Wake Up Dead, had to say about it: "Keith Rawson wields his spare prose like a wrecking ball, laying bare a world of whores, petty criminals, crooked cops and meth heads. These short, sharp portraits of users and losers are deranged snapshots from deep in the underbelly of contemporary America. No tired noir tropes here, this is tough, unsentimental and savagely funny dark fiction that charts its own course.” The collection has also been praised by Benjamin Whitmer, Frank Bill, Anthony Neil Smith, and me ("Reading Keith Rawson’s short stories is like strolling through a minefield: you know you’re in for trouble, and there’s no going back. Powerful, twisted, fierce and profane, this is take-no-prisoners fiction").

Keith is a terrific guy with a beautiful family, but you'd never guess that from his dark, depraved fiction. Since he's also a good sport, he agreed to take on this week's panel question at Criminal Minds. I'll let him take it from here...


What, are you kidding me? The first time I guest blog for Criminal Minds and this is the subject I have to write about? I mean, come on, folks, you, me and everybody already knows why fools fall in love.


And I’m not talking passionate, head over heels sex here, either. I’m talking plain old run of the mill Wednesday night married couple date night sex. You know, the type of boot knocking that lasts five minutes because both participants are so warn out from the week they can barely keep their eyes open but feel obligated to perform because Wednesday night has always been date night.

I know what you’re thinking: How could that kind of dispassionate, boring sex make someone fall in love? Hell, if that was me, I’d run for the hills after such a somber coupling—I wouldn’t even leave a fake number, I would just grab my clothes and hit the bricks.

But let me explain, if you’ve ever read my stories (and chances are you haven’t, thus why I always use ‘little known pulp writer’ in my author bio) you know that most of my characters are basically animals: They’re creeps, lowlifes, junkies, thieves, whores—guys and gals who are looking for a quick buck or they’re only out to hurt someone.

But most of them are also incredibly lonely.

They’re people who will do anything to make some kind of connection, even if that connection is 2 or 3 minutes of awkward letdown, because chances are these schleps have never had mind blowing, around the world sex. They’ve had nothing but chance encounters or alcohol fueled quickies in a gas station bathrooms or they’ve had to pay for it. So when someone comes along and exhibits any type of tenderness or caring (even if it’s manufactured and meant to manipulate the person into committing some inhuman act.) the character jumps headlong because they want the connection, they want something to make them feel human, feel normal.

And it’s this way in most hardboiled fiction (and what attracts me most to it.) From Woolrich-to-Guthrie, the stories are filled to brimming with the disenfranchised and desperate longing for brief moments in which to feel anything beyond their flat, oftentimes harsh lives and make them great targets for the shysters and psychopaths who dominate these stark realities where even bad sex can be turned into an opportunity.

* * *

Thanks so much for visiting Criminal Minds, Keith! You can find out more about his work at his blog, at Day Labor (the Crime Factory blog), or you can watch him curse people out on Twitter (kidding! well, mostly). His official bio:

Keith Rawson is a little known pulp writer whose stories, poems, essays, reviews and interviews have been published widely both online and in print. He is the author of the short story collection, The Chaos We Know (out now from Snubnose Press), and Co-Editor of Crime Factory: The First Shift. (Available from New Pulp Press September 20th) He’s also a staff writer for Spinetingler Magazine and the forthcoming LitReactor. Rawson lives in Southern Arizona with his wife and daughter.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Nic Cage Is Always Money In My Book

By Reece Hirsch

Why do fools fall in love? Well, here are a few things that this fool has fallen in love with recently.

Drive by James Sallis. I’ve heard good things about the new Ryan Gosling film adaptation, but I’d recommend that, if you haven’t already, read Sallis first. Even if the film is great, you wouldn’t want to dilute any of the pleasures of reading this fast, dark and poetic noir about an L.A. stunt driver who works as a getaway driver at night. How about this for a first sentence? “Much later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake.” Mmmm, neo-noir goodness.

A Perfect Getaway. This is what used to be called a B-movie. The film, starring Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich, about two couples hiking on Kauai with a serial killer in their midst, admittedly doesn’t sound promising, but it’s much more entertaining, funny and well-written than it has any right to be. The secret ingredient is Timothy Olyphant, playing a guy who is either a former “American Ninja” Specials Ops soldier or a big fat liar. Yes, there’s the requisite twist (which you will probably see coming) and an over-the-top ending, but it’s the characters that make this movie so insanely watchable. The good guys (when you figure out who they are) are endearing and likeable and the serial killers (when you figure out who they are) are convincingly sociopathic. Favorite line from Olyphant’s character: “Well, Nic Cage is always money in my book. I like how he gets all intense right at the end of a sentence!”

Intriguer by Crowded House. When I first heard this CD, I thought it was pleasant, but nothing special. But after a few listens, its melancholy, Beatle-esque melodies began to burrow into my brain (in a good way). Neil Finn has always been one of the best melodists working, and "Intriguer" is, in its quiet and under-the-radar way, one of the New Zealand band’s best.

Cyrus. I liked the early efforts of Mark and Jay Duplass, the writing-directing-producing brothers behind films like “The Puffy Chair” and “Baghead,” but wasn’t sure they’d ever graduate beyond their resolutely indie, "mumblecore" aesthetic. The premise of “Cyrus” sounds like another super-broad Will Ferrell comedy (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that): a lonely divorced guy (John C. Reilly) gets lucky in love (Marisa Tomei) only to find that Cyrus (Jonah Hill), his new girlfriend’s 21-year-old electronica musician son, is living with her and determined to sabotage the relationship. I loved “Cyrus” because it manages to be funny and weird without turning its lovelorn characters into caricatures. Favorite line, said by Reilly's character to Tomei's: “I’m like Shrek. What are you doing in the forest with Shrek?”

Uberlin by REM. I knew that REM was still out there making music, but I had sort of stopped caring a few years back. However, I loved them so many years ago when they were still playing dances at Georgia State and the I&I Club in Athens. This gorgeous, soaring song reminds me why I loved them. Added bonus: the song title has an umlaut (irreproducible here). As all headbangers know, everything is better with an umlaut. It's like having an amp that goes to 11. Favorite line: “I know what I’m chasing. I know that this is changing me.”

Morning Joe. I’m addicted to MSNBC’s morning talkfest “Morning Joe.” Admitting that fact is the first step toward recovery. I love that the show manages to represent both liberal and conservative perspectives in some depth (the show is three hours long), without shouting, without talking points (for the most part) and without idiocy. At a time when our political discourse has sunk to a sub-atomic level, “Morning Joe” is refreshingly civil and rational. It’s like sitting in a K Street bar and eavesdropping on a table full of the most insidery Washington insiders. Favorite talking head: the ever-erudite Jon Meacham. Favorite Morning Joe drinking game: counting the number of times that Joe Scarborough references his tenure in Congress. Caveat: If you’re on the West Coast and you’re not an insomniac, you need a DVR to watch “Joe” -- it’s on from 6-9 a.m. EST.

Friday, August 19, 2011

People Will Say They're in Love

by Meredith Cole

The interesting thing about writing a book and having it published is that it starts to belong to someone other than you. I don't mean someone steals your copyright or anything. I just mean that people start feeling some ownership of your characters and start expressing their opinions of your work. I once had a reviewer who was quite outraged that my second book, DEAD IN THE WATER, didn't do Lydia McKenzie justice. I consoled myself with the knowledge that they must have really, really liked POSED FOR MURDER. Enough to get all upset, anyway.

So now my characters are out there and I have two books published, my readers have all sorts of opinions about what should happen in book three. Lydia should move out of New York. Lydia should focus on her photography. Lydia should give up her photography. Lydia should become a PI. Lydia should quit working for the D'Angelos. But mostly I hear that Lydia should get together with Detective Daniel Romero. Soon. And I hear that a lot. Even from my agent.

It's important to introduce romantic tension (as well as lots of other kinds of tension) in a book, and sparks flew immediately between my photographer sleuth and the Puerto Rican New York City cop. They rub each other the wrong way. He thinks the worst of her. She thinks he's a lousy dresser and ridiculously hostile. He hauls her in for questioning. She withholds evidence from him. They fight. They forgive each other. He saves her life. She solves the case. They hug and then are embarrassed. People will say they're in love...

And in homage to Rebecca Cantrell, here's a movie star who could play Romero. The talented and handsome Javier Bardem.

So now I imagine you're thinking Lydia McKenzie is really crazy not to hook up with him. But, like life, it's complicated. Romero has an ex-wife and a small son to think about. Lydia is still trying to figure out where her life is going to take her, career-wise. And they only come into close orbit when there is a murder going on. That makes it difficult to get too cozy and comfortable.

But here's the real reason they haven't hooked up on a permanent basis before now. It would destroy the tension. You know what I mean. You've read those series where the couple is fighting and carrying on and as soon as everyone gets lovey-dovey and gets married--poof! The series becomes deadly dull and the writer has to end it. There's no conflict. And without conflict, well, there's just no drama.

So will Romero and Lydia ever hook-up? Um, maybe. But one thing is certain. I will leave you in suspense a little longer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Falling in Love Again

By Kelli Stanley

First, a little Dietrich. Click the video and wait a few seconds (past the artifacts) and you'll see why Marlene became a legend.

As for why fools fall in love? A noir writer shouldn't answer this question ...

After all, we deal in amour fou (though it could be legitimately asked if there is any other kind).

Amour fou, for the uninitiated, is that state of headlong, heedless, passionate, thrilling, incapacitating, obsessive, sweaty state of complete desire for a woman or a man whom you know -- the small part of you that is able to cling to rationality -- to be no good.

And not just no good. Rotten to the core, corrupt, scheming, and worst of all, using you for his or her own ends. You're a laughing stock at the end of the affair, and probably impoverished.

That's the happy ending. In the unhappy ending, you're dead.

In the scene from The Blue Angel, above (the movie that made Marlene a star and brought her to Hollywood), she's the object of the amour fou. The fou, of course, is Emil Jannings ... the wreck of a man who's still ogling her.

Film noir is full of this sort of tale ... ad nauseum. Some are done superbly well (Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity, for instance), some not, but the genre--for all its dark reputation--is obviously quite concerned with amour, fou or not.

Amour fou tends to be the device through which women are demonized in noir, so you don't see much of it in my writing. Sure, Arcturus had a youthful fling with a dangerous woman named Dionysia, but then again ... the Roman noir series is told from his perspective. And it's obvious that he's madly, passionately, heedlessly devoted to Gwyna.

As for Miranda ... well, plenty of men have lost their heads over her. Will she ever be able to love again? I can't say. She's a complex woman with complex issues. Amour of any kind requires trust. And she's nobody's fool.

Men tend to fall in love with her because ... well, here. Just watch this video.

Miranda combines strength, intelligence, passion, beauty and a palpable, sexual allure with an aching vulnerability. She won't be owned, but they know she's been for sale, and the combination can be overpowering.

So why do fools fall in love? I'll let Shakespeare have the final word:

"Love is a familiar. Love is a devil. There is no evil angel but Love."

That's from Love's Labors Lost. Y'see, the Bard was a noir writer, too.

City of Dragons will be out in paperback on August 30th!
"Memory Book" (a new Miranda Corbie story) will be published September 6th as an ebook and on The Criminal Element. September 13th brings CITY OF SECRETS, the sequel to City of Dragons. To read the first chapter of CITY OF SECRETS, just visit my website.
And now, back to your regularly scheduled program!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Do Fools Fall in Love?

By Tracy Kiely

Ahhh…the eternal question (right after who invented liquid soap and why). Minds greater than mine have tackled this theme throughout the years in poetry, prose, and verse. (Wait, is poetry the same as verse? It is, isn’t it? Never mind, you get the idea.)

The best I could come up with was big boobs and a fast car, depending on your perspective, of course. This, of course, is based after years of research (i.e. high school).

It also makes for a very short (though largely accurate) post.

So, instead, in keeping with the spirit of high school, I am giving a pop quiz!

My question to YOU, my dear students, is how well you know some of the greatest foolish loves of literature. (I’ve decided to skip the whole poetry/verse genre for obvious reasons.) So, see if you can match up the lovers below with their silly reasons for choosing their mates. All participants will receive my free short story, Battle of the Bonnets, in which Austen and Brontë fans duke it out over whose heroes are better (go to and sign up for the newsletter). The first participant to correctly pair each couple with their ill-fated reasons to hook up, will receive an advance copy of Verse For Idiots my latest book Murder Most Persuasive. Good luck!

The Couples:

A. Dolores Haze/Humbert Humbert

B. Marianne Dashwood/John Willouhby

C. Charlotte Lucas/Mr. Collins

D. Cathy Earnshaw/Heathcliff

E. Madame Bovary/Léon Dupuis

F. Scarlett O’Hara/Charles Hamilton

G. Bridget Jones/Daniel Cleaver

H. Rebecca/Maxim de Winter

I. Dulcinea del Toboso/Alonso Quixano

J. Lucie Manette/Sydney Carton

The Reasons:

1. Stability

2. Cool, psychotic behavior

3. Sweet nature and large forehead

4. Good looks and posh accent

5. Making your true love jealous

6. Beauty, Brains, Breeding (3B’s)

7. A love of nymphets

8. Personification of perfect woman

9. Good looks and views on poetry

10. Bordom

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Men Who Love Hannah Vogel

Men Who Love Hannah Vogel

By Rebecca Cantrell

This week’s question “why do fools fall in love?” is deceptively simple and completely impossible to answer. So, instead I decided to run through the fools who have fallen in love with Hannah Vogel. Considering her complicated lifestyle, it’s actually a fairly long list. I’ll try not to reveal any spoilers. And, since I just wrote a post where I cast the whole Hannah Vogel series at “My Book, the Movie,” I’ll paste in some pictures of the characters here (Hollywood version, British version, German version).

Walter. He never even gets a last name, but he and Hannah were engaged when she was seventeen. They never married because he was killed at the end of the Great War. If he had lived, she probably would have settled down into as a German housewife and started raising kids.

Paul Keller. He was delivered into the hospital where Hannah worked as a nurse with serious injuries to his leg and shell shock. She helped nurse him back to health and he proposed. She gave it a lot of thought, but turned him down because she did not want that housewife life after all. They remained friends and he helped to get her a job at the newspaper. In spite of his rudeness in A Game of Lies, he is my personal favorite for Hannah.

Boris Krause. Hannah meets him in A Trace of Smoke. He’s a banker with a teenaged daughter. His wife died in childbirth, so he’s been alone for a long time. He’s a solid dependable guy who can still hold his own in a car chase or a gunfight. He’s charming and handsome and a good father. He’s probably the guy she should marry.

Aaron Eckhardt Rufus Sewell Sebastian Koch

Lars Lang. Hannah meets him in A Trace of Smoke too. He’s a police kommissar who is also a member of the SS. Lars has the toughest journey of any of the characters so far. He’s devoutly loyal to Hannah, but he has a dark past, and a dangerous one. He is exactly the guy she shouldn’t get involved with, even though he has saved her life on numerous occasions (she’s saved his too) and they work well together as an espionage team.

Edward Norton Michael Fassbender Thomas Krettschman

So, whom should Hannah pick? Whom would YOU pick? And, which actor should play each character? (casting ideas for Paul Keller are welcome!)

Monday, August 15, 2011


Why do fools fall in love? That’s a question Anastasia Pollack has asked herself many times, ever since she discovered the man she married wasn’t who she thought he was. Now she’s in debt up the wazoo and has a loan shark breathing down her neck, thanks to her dead louse of a spouse. Will she ever be able to trust a man again? Let alone fall in love again? Those are also questions that plague her.

Scientists tell us that love is a chemical response and that it has nothing to do with our hearts, no matter how much we feel that muscle tearing apart when love dies. Psychologists tell us that love grows and changes. That initial rush of endorphins that brings a couple together is quite different from the feelings that couple will have for each other five, fifteen, or fifty years later.

There are three stages of love. The first is Romantic Love, and it’s all about physical and emotional attraction, infatuation, an altered state of consciousness. As the infatuation subsides and that initial rush of romantic love tempers, couples enter the second stage of love -- the Power Struggle. This is where all the problems in the relationship come to the forefront and couples struggle to make the relationship work. Some succeed; some don’t.

Those who do make it through the Power Struggle stage of a relationship enter Stage 3, Unconditional Acceptance. This is where we have come to accept our partners for who they are -- warts and all.

I’m not sure Anastasia and Karl would have been able to overcome Karl’s deceit, had he not died. There are some things that are unforgivable, and Anastasia would not be one of those “he done her wrong” wives who would stand by her man at the podium of public opinion while he uttered his mea culpas. Unlike some of the political wives we’ve seen of late, she’s not that big a fool. But maybe those political wives are wising up, too. Fewer and fewer of them are appearing at the podium lately.
Ex-congressman Anthony Weiner minus his wife

Lois Winston recently finished the third book in her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. The first book, Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun, was a January 2011 release and received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Death by Killer Mop Doll will be a January 2012 release. Visit Lois at and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog,

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Denise Hamilton Exercises Damage Control

Today, award-winning author Denise Hamilton is our guest blogger.  I recently asked Denise what inspired her to write her latest book, Damage Control, a stand-alone novel so very different from her best-selling Eve Diamond series.

Back in 2009, my husband and rented a BBC mini-series series called ‘State of Play’ and I was immediately hooked by this pacey British tale of murder, sex, government corruption and politics. If you haven’t yet seen it, run, don’t walk, to rent this thriller (the British version, not the American remake) and find out what happens when a beautiful young woman working for a Member of Parliament is found murdered.

The who-dunnit element was fascinating, but so were the back stories of the MP and his journalist friend, the machinations of Fleet Street to Get The Story, the MP’s beleaguered wife, some juvenile thieves, a pimp and last but not least, the mystery surrounding the murdered girl.

Right around that time, two big sex scandals broke in America: Tiger Woods multiple mistresses and the collapse of presidential hopeful John Edwards’ campaign when it was learned that he’d fathered a love child with his kooky videographer, Rielle Hunter.

I followed these scandals closely, growing especially interested in how the PR reps for these celebrity athletes and politicians handled the allegations against them.

Journalists like me (I worked for the Los Angeles Times for 10 years) have always considered the PR industry the “dark side.” But in recent years, as newspapers have slashed staff or shuttered their doors, many journos have crossed over into the lucrative, high-powered world of crisis management.

High profile PR is a growth industry – even in times of recession – because sadly, there is never a shortage of wealthy, power-mad people who get caught in financial, criminal and sex scandals. (Just this summer, we had Weinergate and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child).

And that’s where the damage controllers come in.

I wanted to create an ambitious young PR executive named Maggie Silver who’s working her way up this tricky corporate ladder without losing her moral center. But she’s also got bills to pay, an upside-down mortgage and a sick mother living with her. Still, she’s doing fine until the day she walks into her conference room and learns that her new client is Senator Henry Paxton, whose beautiful young aide has been found murdered in her Koreatown apartment.

Seeing Paxton hurtles Maggie immediately back into the past, because he’s no stranger – she practically lived at his sprawling villa overlooking the Pacific in high school, when she was best friends with Paxton’s glamorous but troubled daughter Annabelle. Then something happened on the beach one night and the girls’ friendship was sundered. It’s been 15 years since Maggie has seen any of the Paxtons, but now, as she defends her old friend’s Dad, she will be forced to confront the ghosts that haunt her nightmares and to reconnect with her onetime friend.

So that was the set-up: A political thriller with a grrrl and surf noir subplot.

But there was only one problem. I didn’t understand Maggie Silver the way I understood the protagonist from my Eve Diamond series. I’ve written 5 books about Eve, the tough-but-tender reporter. I understood her life and what made her tick because she was my wilder alter ego. She saved more innocent people and caught more bad guys than I ever did and she crossed ethical lines I would never consider in real life. She was a lone wolf, she fell in love too easily and sometimes drank too much. I knew what she’d do in almost any situation. 

But Maggie was an enigma. I had to write some flashback scenes of her as a teenager with Annabelle before she began to gel in my head. But it took writing a messy, emotional scene with Maggie and her Mom to finally understand my protagonist. Maggie comes home from a hard workday and finds her mother – a cancer survivor – has been smoking. Not only that, but she’s hastily stubbed out the ciggie, which is now smoldering in the trash and threatening to burn down Maggie’s woodframe house.

Allowing Maggie to curse and scream hateful things at her mother – and ultimately cry - was cathartic and freeing for me. It also seemed very real. I’d been reading a lot of Jodi Picoult as I wrote Damage Control, because I love the way she writes about messy family matters. There is an honestly to Picoult’s depiction of parents and children that I knew I needed for my own novel.

After that pivotal scene, Maggie suddenly came together for me and I understood her. And when it came time to write the fierce, intimate scenes of heartache and jealousy between Maggie and Annabelle and their awkward attempts at reconciliation, I saw it unfolding in my mind’s eye like a movie.

I hope if you read Damage Control, it reads that way for you too.

Thank you, Denise for sharing with our readers at Criminal Minds today.

You can visit Denise online and learn more about her numerous books and projects at

BOOK DRAWING – one lucky winner will be drawn from the comments posted to this article to receive a copy of DAMAGE CONTROL by Denise Hamilton. To be eligible your comment must be dated today through Monday. Winners will be drawn on Tuesday morning.