Saturday, November 17, 2012

101 Things to Do before You Die (for Crime Writers)

When I started this list 3 1/2 years ago, I only had 30 items on it. I'm glad to say the list is finished.   Enjoy, and have fun with it!

  1. Write a minimum of 500 words a day, every day of the year, every year, until you die.
  2. Subscribe to Crimespree magazine.
  3. Attend Bouchercon.
  4. Take the Konrath Quiz!
  5. Read The Rap Sheet and then visit the links listed on the right sidebar…all 511 of them.
  6. Read An Unquiet Night by Patricia Carlon. Be amazed.
  7. Join Crimespace. Then go to Australia. Track down Daniel Hatadi (creator of Crimespace). Buy him a beer. Praise him highly in front of the other bar patrons (while you’re still sober, so they know you really mean it).
  8. Write your own obituary. It's your last chance to promote yourself (and keep the skeletons in your closet hidden).
  9. Read agent Janet Reid’s blog. If you get a chance to meet her at a writer’s conference, introduce yourself, and thank her for the priceless advice. Then shake her fin.
  10. This year, query three agents a week until you snag one. Start here and here.
  11. Get your mystery novel published.
  12. Go to your local library and give a talk about your book or the mystery genre.
  13. Visit San Francisco and stop at all the landmarks mentioned in the novels by Dashiell Hammett.
  14. Buy a bottle of Maker’s Mark. Sip it while you read the August Riordan PI series by Mark Coggins. Note: There are several books in the series…you may need more than one bottle.
  15. Get on a panel at a writer’s conference, as a moderator or participant & teach your fellow writers about a topic you’re an expert on or excited about.
  16. Learn how to kill someone with poison and get that story published.
  17. Read the noir novels of Dorothy B Hughes, including In A Lonely Place.
  18. Contact your local coroner and ask to witness an autopsy. Go on an empty stomach and take nose plugs.
  19. Write and publish a story from the killer’s point of view and make him/her sympathetic.
  20. Ditto from the victim’s point of view, but make him/her despicable.
  21. Meet Sarah Weinman, editor, crime fiction critic and commentator extraordinaire. Prostrate yourself before her while you chant “I’m not worthy!” Read her on Tumbler and browse her blog.
  22. Write a book review and get it published in your local newspaper, whether it’s the New York Times or the Small Town Gazette.
  23. Attend the Love is Murder conference in Chicago. If you see Hanley Kanar, the conference organizer, say hello and tell her Thanks.
  24. Participate in National Novel Writing Month. One month...50,000 words. You can do it. More important, you'll learn from this.
  25. Read all of JA Konrath’s Jack Daniels novels. As you read each one, have a drink from the recipe in the front of the novel.
  26. Post a large map of the United States on your wall, cover your eyes, and throw a dart at it. Drive to the spot you struck, then write a crime story about the trip. Please note: The high price of gasoline is not technically a crime.
  27. Join Sisters In Crime. They take men too.
  28. Meet Ben LeRoy of Tyrus Books (and the founder of Bleak House Books). Tell him thanks for publishing some great novels. Then buy a few and read them.
  29. Attend a pitch session at every writer’s conference you attend.
  30. Send an autographed copy of your novel to David J Montgomery, because those are the ones he keeps. Thank him. Read his blog, the Crime Fiction Dossier.
  31. Write a cozy, a police procedural and a thriller and get them each published under different pen names.
  32. If you’ve never tasted it, try absinthe.
  33. Visit Hemmingway's home in Cuba.
  34. Research a high profile criminal case in your city. Go to the courthouse and arrange to see the trial transcript (it's in the public record). Then read it cover to cover.
  35. Learn to read a foreign language. Read a foreign language mystery novel in the original. Then translate it into English, or your native tongue.
  36. At your next writer’s conference, go to the lobby or main meeting room after all the panels are done and read one of your favorite mystery stories out loud, even if no one is listening.
  37. Meet Julie Julie Hyzy and chat with her. Be inspired by her optimistic and bubbly personality (you can actually hear the bubbles in her voice…it’s quite amazing). Oh, and read her books, starting with State of the Onion. Ask her about being interviewed by the Secret Service.
  38. Visit the grave of Edgar Allen Poe, at night. Leave a rose.
  39. Write a story about your boss. Use a pen name (trust me on this one).
  40. Read Vanish by Tess Gerritsen. It’s the one she’ll be remembered for a hundred years hence.
  41. Create your own blog. Promote your writing. Don’t forget to credit the other writers who helped you along the way.
  42. Attend at least one writers conference a year. If you go to two or more, choose at least one you’ve never attended. The fresh faces you meet will energize your writing.
  43. Visit your local police department and ask to participate in a ride along one night to see your hometown through the eyes of a cop.
  44. Read Spinetingler Magazine.
  45. Each December create your own Top Ten List of favorite mystery novels published that year and post it on your blog. Exclude the best sellers. Give us something new.
  46. Plan the perfect crime...with one flaw. Then write a story about it. Hide the fatal flaw that catches the bad guy/girl until the very last sentence.
  47. Go to the library and stroll down the fiction aisles. Find a novel or collection of stories by a writer you’ve never heard of until this moment. Then check out the book and read it.
  48. Subscribe to the DorothyL website, or follow them on Facebook.
  49. Using creative thinking and all the research tools at your disposal, try to determine how many novels by James Patterson have actually been written only by James Patterson (the number is higher than you think).
  50. Send a copy of your published book and a handwritten fan letter to your favorite author, with return postage, and ask them to autograph it.
  51. Make a movie trailer for your first/next book release and post it on your blog and on Youtube.
  52. Check the obituaries to find recently deceased authors whose stories you've never read.
  53. Enter one writing contest a year with a novel length unpublished manuscript from your drawer.
  54. Serve on a jury.
  55. Read Sandra Scoppetone's Jack Early or Lauren Laurano series. Check out her blog, Sandra Scoppetone's Writing Thoughts.
  56. Join a writer's group and actively participate.
  57. For one month, take the bus or train to work. This alone will give you enough material for three novels.
  58. Ask your family doctor the most effective way to kill someone. Explain that you are a mystery writer before he/she reaches for the phone to dial 911.
  59. Send the FBI a request to see your file. (Don't may have one). If you have one, they must give it to you by law.
  60. Subscribe to Mystery Scene magazine.
  61. Learn how to pick a lock. Warning: Practice on your own lock only, or you'll be getting an FBI file sooner than you think!
  62. Teach an adult to read.
  63. Interview a member of your local law enforcement...a police officer, detective, prosecutor or judge. Publish the interview. If you can record the interview, post it as a podcast.
  64. Write a story in which the victim is murdered by a member of the animal kingdom.
  65. Every month, read at least one newspaper from each continent. For some suggestions, start here: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America, and Ireland (OK, so Ireland isn't a continent, but we have expats on every continent). Wants more choices? Click here for dozens of world newspapers.
  66. Pick one novel or story that the world cannot live without, and commit it to memory.
  67. Get your PI license. Fill out the application, study for the exam, and pass it.
  68. Write a crime story in which the weapon of choice is a computer connected to the internet.
  69. Take a literary vacation and visit the homes of your favorite authors.
  70. Review the police logs in your city. You may have to request these in person, so if you go to your local police station, make sure you have no outstanding warrants. (You would not believe how many people fumble this one).
  71. Go into the attic and dig out an old family photo that has a scene or family member who no one remembers or can name. Study the photo. Write their story. Include a crime.
  72. Eat right and get enough exercise. Writing takes stamina and besides, you'll need to live a long life to finish all the items on this list.
  73. Take a train trip across America. See this country from a vantage point other than an interstate highway. You'll see railroad yards, bustling factories, mighty rivers and breathtaking natural wonders. Gotta be a story in there somewhere.
  74. Take a tour of Alcatraz.
  75. Interview someone who is behind bars because of his/her crimes, OR interview a member of Congress who got elected because of his/her crimes.
  76. Find an obscure and irrelevant law that is still on the books and write an article about it in your local paper. Try to get it repealed. (Eg: In Kansas City, MO, Minors are not allowed to purchase cap pistols, however they may buy shotguns freely.)
  77. Volunteer at your local church, homeless shelter or women's shelter.
  78. Learn to shoot and handle a gun. Take a gun safety course. Get your concealed carry permit, even if you don't own a firearm, just because you can.
  79. Spend a full day at the New York City Public Library main branch, browsing the shelves. Take a map, so you don't get lost.
  80. Who gets your royalties...Spouse? Children? The dog? Write a will, before you die. It's really hard to write one after. Do it now, or some stranger in a black robe will decide.
  81. Read Lee Lofland's blog, The Graveyard Shift on a regular basis. The tips will make you a better crime writer.
  82. There are over 10,000 pieces of artwork still missing from the looting of Europe in World War II, by both Allied and the Axis nations. Behind each one is a crime story. Write one, fiction or non-fiction.
  83. Keep a diary.
  84. Learn how to identify edible plants and poison mushrooms. Go on a mushroom hunt. Cook your harvest (have an expert check it). Write the story. Include a crime.
  85. Broaden your horizon by following the blog, Detectives Without Borders.
  86. Write a crime poem.
  87. Visit the National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C.
  88. Listen to some Crime Jazz while you write. Click here for a good example, from the original movie version, The Taking of Pelham, One, Two, Three.
  89. Commit to memory the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution (you should know these anyway). Pick one and use it as the basis of a crime story.
  90. Write a story about International Smuggling, using one of the Big Three: Drugs, Wildlife, or People.
  91. For a fascinating look at the history of crime in America, check out the FBI's website, especially the page on Famous Cases and Criminals.
  92. Keep a copy of George Orwell's Essay, Politics and the English Language, at hand while you write. Re-read it as needed.
  93. Take a class at your local college in Criminal Justice. If you have some expertise, try to arrange to teach a class.
  94. Once a year, check out Writer's Digest list of “101 Best Websites For Writers”.
  95. Interview a power line repairman or telephone repairman. Ask them to tell you their stories. You'll be amazed at what they've seen.
  96. Go on a writer's retreat for at least a week. Leave the retreat's phone number with family for emergencies only. Turn your cellphone off. Do nothing for 7 days but write, eat, sleep and occasionally walk around. No internet, no TV. (You can read the local paper). Just write. Oh, and don't forget to breath...deeply. Very important.
  97. Don't give up on a novel or story until you have at least 50 rejections. Then set it aside and work on something else. Let it ferment.
  98. Learn to accept constructive criticism. Your editor and agent are your friends, not the enemy.
  99. Got your epitaph finished? Keep it simple, but memorable. Inject some humor. Here's mine:


Friday, November 16, 2012

Who Killed Ginger? A 5,500 year old mystery.

At the British museum this month you can stroll in and scan the body of a murder victim. The man's family won't object, since they can't be located. This crime happened almost 6,000 years ago. Check out the link for more info on this truely "cold" case.

Click here to read more about: Who Killed Ginger?

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Veteran's Day Salute

Veterans who fought with the pen as well as the sword.

Here's a salute to the veterans who fought for our country and our allies, and a look at some of them who survived long enough to write about it. Although war cannot be rendered through written words alone, these men have tried to help us see what they saw and felt. We are the richer for their efforts.

Ambrose Bierce Served with distinction and honor in the Civil War. He did not shrink from describing the horrors he saw, and yet loved being on the battlefield. His short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek, is an American classic. After the war, he wrote about politics and corruption surrounding the Central Pacific Railroad. The company tried to bribe him to shut up, failed, and was forced to pay back 75 million dollars to the taxpayers. In 1913, at the age of 71 and still hungering for adventure, he went to Mexico to cover the revolt by Pancho Villa. His last letter from Chihuahua, Mexico was dated December 26, 1913. It was the last anyone heard from him. To this day, his disappearance remains a mystery.

  Wilfred Owen English soldier and poet who saw action at the front lines in France during World War I, the war to end all wars. His most famous poem, DULCE ET DECORUM EST, described the cruelty and suffering experienced by victims of a poison gas attack. In 1925, the Geneva Convention banned the use of poison gas in war. As of this year, 188 nations have agreed to be bound by international law restricting the use of chemical weapons.

Owen was killed in action one week before the war ended. His mother received the telegram announcing his death on Armistice Day as the rest of the country celebrated.

 Saki  A modern master of the short story, H. H. Munro wrote macabre tales that satirized authority figures. The children in his stories often turned the tables on their tormentors. His most famous story, The Open Window, is required reading in most high school and college English texts. He served on the western front from 1914 to 1916. In an ironic twist that he would have appreciated, he was killed by a German sniper while barking an order at a soldier who struck a match. His last words were "Put that bloody cigarette out!"

  Kurt Vonnegut  A veteran of World war II, Vonnegut was captured while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Imprisoned in a basement in Dresden with other POWs, he survived the firebombing that destroyed much of the city. He evetually turned this wartime experience into one of his most famous novels, Slaughterhouse-Five.

Julius Fast  Served in the US Army Medical Corps during World War II. He was a self-proclaimed outdoorsman. "My other hobby was hiking, till the army cured me of that", he quipped.

His first published work, Watchful At Night, was awarded the first Edgar ever given by The Mystery Writers of America.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

50 Years of James Bond

Celebrating 50 years of James Bond the Wall Street Journal features this video, with looks at all the Bond girls we love as well as inteviews and some fast cars (naturally).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mystery News Update

Raymond Benson Interview with the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal
Skyfall, the latest James Bond movie is out. Besides heading to the theater, see this interview with Raymond Benson, Bond expert, and the author of The James Bond Bedside Companion as well as several authorized Bond novels.
Raymond Benson Interview

Beth Groundwater New Release
To Hell In A Handbasket has just been released in paperback, the second in the Claire Hanover series. Beth Groundwater has gotten some great reviews for this excellent cozy.  Go to her blog here for the latest news, interviews and a chance to win one of her mysteries in a contest.

The Birth of Sesame Street
It was on this day in 1969 that Sesame Street was first broadcast and quickly became loved by millions of children and adults alike. Although this is not strictly a mystery news story, I still think it's a crime that anyone would want to cut funding for Big Bird. The show was controversial early on with some people (Mississippi's Board of Education banned it due to the prominent use of black characters). Read more about how Sesame Street was born on todays web edition of The Writer's Almanac.

Church Auction
And finally, St. Patrick's Church in North Kansas City is holding it's annual auction to raise money. If you're in Kansas City, stop by. You'll have a chance to bid on a donated copy of my novel, and help a good cause at the same time.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Search for H. P. Lovecraft (Among Others)

Where in the World is H.P. Lovecraft?
Dorchester Publishing, which recently sold it's list of book titles to, has a problem. They're trying to contact some of their authors so they can return the publishing rights. They've enlisted you, the reading public, to assist. So check out this link and review the list to see if anyone you know is on it. Among the authors who are missing in action are Robert Louis Stevenson and H. P. Lovecraft. I wish them luck in their search. They'll need it.
Dorchester Publishing Trying To Transfer Rights Back To Authors

Celebrating Sherlock Holmes
Kirkus Reviews has posted an article celebrating 125 years of Sherlock Holmes. For more than a century the English detective has been entertaining mystery fans in print, radio and film. Here's hoping to see another 125 years of this extraordinary crime fighter.
Read the article here: Sherlock Holmes at 125

Whitby Library Mystery Celebration continues through November
If you're a fan of Canadian Crime fiction (and you should be) the Whitby Library in Ontario continues its celebration of mystery novels with a visit by Vicki Delany and Elizabeth J Duncan. Vicki is one of my favorite authors, creator of the Molly Smith mystery series.
For details, check out the link: Whitby Library Celebrates Mystery Novels

The Ultimate Cold Case?
Police may have a difficult time finding clues in these unexplained deaths, despite the assistance of some of the world's finest forensics experts. The man and woman were found at the bottom of a well.  Most of the evidence has been destroyed, which is to be expected. The pair perished 8,000 years ago. Read more at the link below:
A Very "Cold" Case