See Sharon Short!

Saturday!  2/22/20!  Join us to welcome our next guest Sharon Short (pen name; Jess Montgomery), a Dayton author whose background includes being a newspaper columnist for the Dayton Daily News, writer-in-residence at Thurber House, former director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, three-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council grant, and published author of several mysteries, including The Kinship series (Minotaur Books) which she’ll be discussing at our upcoming meeting.  Where, you ask?  Upper Arlington Library (2800 Tremont Road, Upper Arlington), Meeting Room B, at 12:30 p.m..  And just to give you a taste of what we’ll be talking about, BCW asked Sharon some questions about writing, her most recent series, and her love of pie . . . be there to learn more, and join us for lunch afterwards.

BCW:  So you’ve got two books out now in The Kinship series (congrats, btw):  The Widows (2019) and The Hollows (2020).  Both take place in Appalachian Ohio during the 1920’s and center on Lily Ross, the female sheriff of a small town who got the position after the former sheriff (also her husband) was killed.  Note:  this is also based on an actual event from that time period.  What made you think of this as the story you wanted to write?

Sharon:  I happened upon the story of Ohio’s true first female sheriff when I was researching hiking areas for a visit to our daughter, who attended Ohio University. I was struck by the notion of a female sheriff in the mid-1920s in a rural area, and that inspired my version, loosely based on the true first female sheriff. Additionally, my family of origin is from Appalachia — one county in Eastern Kentucky — on both sides. I’m the first Ohioan! So, though I consider myself a child of Appalachia in how I was reared and my childhood experiences, I was not geographically born in Appalachia, so I somehow thought I couldn’t write an Appalachian setting. Finding this story gave me a sense of not just permission to do so, but “coming home.”

BCW:  You’re a fan of Daniel Woodrell (confession; same here).  His books take place in Ozark culture and involve dirty, gritty, dark scenarios, comparable to William Gay, Donald Ray Pollock, or Cormac McCarthy.  Also very “male.”  By contrast, Annie Proulx also writes in this style.  Would you compare yourself to any of these authors, or is it something different?

Sharon:  Oh my. These are such terrific authors. I would not compare myself, though I’m honored if others do. I’ve also been compared to Sharyn McCrumb and Louise Penny for evoking setting. I’ll definitely take those comparisons too!

BCW:  Do you plan on more novels in this time period?  What else would you like to explore?

Sharon:  I am contracted through books three and four in the Kinship series–hurrah! I’d love to write more beyond that as well, if I’m so blessed. My imagination tends toward mid-century U.S., but I can also envision exploring other eras and areas.

BCW:  Finally, your blog features a pie of the month.  Fess up:  which is your favorite?

Sharon:  To bake: French Coconut, Buttermilk, or Sugar Shaker. So easy, and always a pleasure. I enjoy eating any of those, but also like French apple and chocolate cream — those are more difficult but so tasty! (You didn’t think I’d stick to one variation, did you?)

Winning entry from the holiday party

As promised, we had our 200-word writing contest at the holiday party! To refresh your memory, the rules were posted here.

The winner of the contest was Trudy Brandenburg! Her story, “Reindeer Games,” beat a strong field for the top prize. Here is the story:

“Great shot, Loreen,” Elmer, the director of the local shooting gallery said. “You’re sure to get a nice turkey for the holiday.”

“I ain’t out to shoot no turkeys,” Loreen said, aiming the old electric-powered rifle at the cut-out target again.

“Oh? What then?”

“Deer. Great big uns. I seen ‘em twice now–early the past two Christmas mornings. They’re lined up and have a big sleigh behind ‘em. I told that old fat man with a white beard to get offin’ my property both times. He just laughed and waved and headed off with a big bag. I’ll give him somthin’ to laugh about. I’m tired ah them big ruts in my yard, them deer pawin’ and snortin’ at the ground.”

“When did you say you saw them critters and that fat man?” he asked excitedly.

“Early Chrismas mornins, round three. I seen ‘em when I got up to go to the outhouse the first year and the last year, too. One of ‘em’s got a bloody nose.” 

“Loreen, I don’t think you should shoot them deer,” Elmer said, wide-eyed.

She fired off a few more shots before she lowered the gun and looked at him quizzically. “Why not?”

2019 BCW Holiday Event!

It’s that time of year again. No, not visiting with family, trading gifts, and reveling in the shared humanity and peaceful coexistence of friends, colleagues and neighbors. It’s time to gather with others (like you) who spend their free time imagining how to creatively murder complete strangers! Then writing about it! In the hopes that millions of people will read it! All while thinking, ‘Damn, this (gal/guy) is one twisted $#@%* . . . when does the next book come out?’

In other words, it’s time for the annual BCW Holiday Event! If you haven’t been, this is the one event of the year not to be missed. Where we all gather at a local restaurant to eat, drink and be merry, talking about our writing successes and failures, our hopes and dreams, and discussing the upcoming BCW 2020 year. In addition, we’ll be having our annual book exchange, with our own Carolyn Melvin reciting another variation of the Wright family travails to keep us thoroughly discombobulated.

Plus, there’ll also be the BCW Short Story Contest, where prizes of dubious value will be awarded and the winner will be published on the BCW website (see details below). So mark your calendar/Outlook for noon, Saturday, December 7, 2019, at the New Albany Rusty Bucket (180 Market Street, New Albany). Spouses, relatives, friends, significant others, and anyone just looking to hang with like-minded people on a Saturday afternoon are also encouraged to attend . . . just remember to bring a wrapped book from yourself and each member of your entourage (and be prepared to explain your choice when the wrapping comes off). See you there!

2019 BCW Short Story Contest!

As mentioned above, BCW is having a Short Story Contest for our last meeting of 2019. The concept: write a story of 200 words or less involving the photo included with this post. The only condition is that your story mentions the holidays/season. Otherwise, write whatever you want: be murderous, humorous, mysterious, use first/second/third person, an unreliable narrator, scatter red herrings like breadcrumbs . . . go nuts. Then turn it in by midnight, Thursday, December 5, to buckeyecrimewriters@gmail.com (just one submission per entrant, and don’t forget to include your name). Afterwards, show up at our holiday event Saturday (see above) for the awards and the basking of glory to be heaped upon all submitters. So why are you still reading this? Start writing . . . now!

NaNoWriMo 2019

An airplane mechanic works on a plane's propeller.
It’s time to crank it up!

Me (BCW President Patrick Stuart):  Wake up. It’s time for NaNoWriMo! 

You (you):  NaNowuuuhhhhhh? 

Me:  You heard me; NaNoWriMo. National. Novel. Writing. Month. That time of year where you burn incense to the writing gods, sacrifice a Stephen King novel or two, and start warming up the Keurig maker. Because you’re going to be rocking that caffeine to get a 50,000 word rough draft done by the end of November.

You:  Hahahahaha! (wiping tears from eyes). I thought you said ’50,000 words.’

Me:  I did.

You:  Holy (word redacted). You’re serious!

Me:  Damn straight. We do this every year. It’s a 30-day writing marathon that started in 1999 with 21 people in San Francisco.  Fifteen years later there were over 400,000 participants. 

You:  And how many met their goal? (skeptical face)

Me:  About one in ten.

You:  That’s not very many.

Me:  It’s the journey, not the destination, grasshopper.

You:  I hate it when you do that pseudo-Buddhist (word redacted).  Besides, I’ll bet those manuscripts sucked.

Me:  That’s not the point. The point is to end up with a rough draft, or at least a good start on one. Which can then be refined into something beautiful later.

You:  Like what?

Me:  Water for Elephants , by Sara Gruen. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Or The Darwin Elevator series, by Jason Hough. All of those started as NaNoWriMo manuscripts.

You:  So you’re saying if I finish 50k words, I’ll soon be sitting on a six-figure publishing deal?

Me:  Hahahahaha! (wiping tears from eyes). That’s funny! 

You:  You’re a terrible president.

Me:  True dat. But NaNoWriMo is about starting, not finishing. Or as my grandpa used to say, when the ‘poop hits the propeller.’ So go to the Bexley Library, 2411 E. Main Street, Bexley, Ohio on Saturday, November 16, from noon to 4:00 p.m. BCW has the Technology Room reserved, so you can sit with your fellow writers and write your fingers to the bloody nubs. We’ll even have refreshments, and a cattle prod in case you fall asleep. Would you like a demonstration?

You:  Yeah, right (zzzzzzzzzzzz-snap). Sweet (several words redacted). That hurts!

Me:  Pain is just weakness leaving the body, grasshopper. See you there.

WhoDoURead&Y?

Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl.  Paula Hawkins and The Girl on the Train.  Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell, Jo Nesbø, Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Sue Grafton, Stieg Larsson, or (insert your favorite author here).  But what makes them special?  Do the quirky British characters of Agatha Christie awaken your inner Anglophile?  Are the pages of a Carl Hiaasen book tinged with sultry weirdness, coconut oil and mosquito repellant?  Or does Janet Evanovich’s over-the-top bounty hunter protagonist make you secretly wish for big hair, hoop earrings and a Joisey accent?

(hint:  you know it does)

And more importantly, as writers how do we tap into this nebulous and diabolical vein of readership desire?  After all, we can string words together too.  But it’s concocting that #%$*& secret sauce.  That pinch of missing ingredient, to create the perfect combination of plot, dialogue, mood, character, setting . . . whatever.  Crafting the right proportions to make people feel.  Think about us on the subway ride to work.  Taking a shower.  Being trapped in a conversation with a boring neighbor.  Having that last, final conscious thought before drowsing off to sleep at night.  How do we occupy that space?

If you want to know, join us on Saturday, October 19, at the Hilliard Library (4500 Hickory Chase Way), from 12:30 – 2:30.  Together we will discuss our favorite authors, what we like about them, then list and compare those traits to (hopefully) create a roadmap for how to reach that same rarified level of Hamilton-like popularity.  Note:  whether you’re a reader, writer or both, novice or expert, this will be an interactive discussion so be prepared to participate.  Pinkie-finger-promise though, it will be an awesome, transformational and inspiring experience (or at the very least, a good way to kill a couple of hours).  And as usual, please feel free to join us for lunch afterwards, where we will discuss writing, the Buckeyes, home repair, Balinese shadow puppetry, or whatever else strikes our fancy.   But until then . . . keep writing.

So, you want to promote your book on social media, eh?

Writing a book is a huge challenge, of course, but once you get there, the next trick is – what to do with it? More importantly, how do you sell it? There are many answers (and all of them take some work), but one of the cheapest, yet hardest, is to promote it on social media.

Three of Buckeye Crime Writers’ members will lead this session on how to make the best use of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and will touch on some other methods, such as joining podcasts. These are all free (unless you choose to pay for additional advertising). Dan Stout (author of Titanshade), Eileen Curley Hammond (author of the Merry March series), and Jim Sabin (longtime journalist and public relations professional) will share their tips for finding your social media voice, knowing which social media to use (and how), and how to deal with the inevitable trolls. Join us at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Old Worthington Library, and stay tuned to this space for more details.

Let’s play Name That Bandit!

Quick, which writer invented the Church Lady Bandit?

How about the Droopy Drawers Bandit?

How about the Two-Hat Robber?

These are not characters from a cozy or the latest murder mystery. They were actually real people, though their nicknames were conveyed upon them not by some enterprising journalist, but by an FBI agent. Contrary to what you may have heard in Men In Black, FBI agents DO have a sense of humor that they’re aware of, and now-retired FBI Special Agent Harry Trombitas used his to humanize the bank robbers he was charged with catching.

Trombitas will bring those stories, and many more, to our next meeting, and we can’t wait to hear them!

Trombitas served in the FBI from 1983 until his retirement in 2012. He worked in Omaha, Nebraska, St. Louis, and New York before coming to Columbus in December 1991, and he served as spokesman for the Columbus office from 2003 until his retirement. Before that, he worked as a police officer and detective at Northwestern University and director of public safety at Creighton University. He has a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Ohio State and a master’s in counseling and psychology from Creighton, and is a lecturer in sociology at Ohio State. He is also the system vice president of security operations at OhioHealth and director of the Police Executive Leadership College for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.

His wife of 40 years and his two children all graduated from Ohio State, so he’s clearly a Buckeye through and through.

Please join us Aug. 17 at the Old Worthington Library, 820 High Street, Worthington, at 12:30 for your chance to hear about Harry’s career and observations.

Too hot outside? Come learn about cybercrime!

Now that summer’s kicked off, we’re diving in, ready to soak up all the info we can about cybercrime! How DO criminals surf the web and use the internet to steal and wreck havoc on people’s lives?    On July 20, from 12:30 – 2:30 at the Bexley Library, our guest speaker, Jessica Kim, will supply the answers.

Description:As the public employs emerging technologies to prosper and improve the quality of life, criminals target and employ those same technologies as instruments of crime.  Since the early 1990s, cyber crime, also known as internet and high-tech crime, has rapidly increased, posing grave threats and corresponding challenges.  This presentation will highlight the following topics:   Social media and online investigations Cryptocurrency: a primer and current issues Theft of intellectual property Cyberstalking Phishing and business email compromise Cyber crime cases and coordinating with DOJ Obtaining electronic evidence in criminal investigations Venue in cyber cases (including international challenges)   The presentation will also highlight how to identify and investigate a crime, who is involved, and what roles different players serve, including the criminal, law enforcement officers, and attorneys.

Bio: Jessica Kim is an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Ohio, where she focuses on white collar crimes, public corruption, and cybercrimes.  Since December 2016, she has served as the district’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) coordinator for the Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton offices.  In 2018, Jessica was awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Contributions by a New Employee for exemplary work as an AUSA, including the landmark prosecutions of the district’s first two cyberstalking cases.  She was also awarded the Federal Bar Association’s 2018 Younger Federal Lawyer Award, a national award for government attorneys who have exemplified outstanding legal ability and commitment to the community.   Prior to joining the USAO, Jessica served as a law clerk to the Hon. G. Steven Agee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Hon. Edmund A. Sargus Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.  Jessica received her B.A. from Miami University in three years and her J.D., with high honors, from the Ohio State University.  Since 2014, she has served as an Adjunct Professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where she teaches white collar crime.  Jessica also currently serves as President of the Columbus chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

And as a preview for August, we’re sticking with the federal law enforcement theme. Retired FBI agent Harry Trombitas, former leader of the Columbus bureau of the Bureau, will join us Aug. 17. Let’s just shatter any illusions of a stuffy federal agent, though; this is the man who brought us the Droopy Drawers Bandit and other colorfully-named criminals! The location will be announced soon.  

No sunscreen needed for this meeting. Hope to see you July 20!   The BCW Board

May meeting: Writing critique

It’s that time of year again.  No, not taxes, baseball season, Cinco de Mayo, National Scurvy Awareness Day (May 2nd, look it up), yadda yadda.  It’s the annual Buckeye Crime Writers writing critique!  Where you submit your work to a bunch of sadistic creeps your fellow writers!  To have them pick it apart and rip it to pieces carefully read it and offer constructive criticism!  So that you can go home and cry yourself to sleep gain useful advice and improve your writing!  Hey, wait!  Hold up!  Where you goin,’ Owen?

No, really, this is what you’ve been waiting for.  One of our biggest and most popular events of the season.  If you’ve been working on a manuscript, novella, short story, rough draft, revision, whatever, this is el momento de la verdad.  The way it works: 

  • Rule #1:  submit up to roughly 10 pages (more or less) of whatever you’re working on.  Send it to buckeyecrimewriters@gmail.com by Wednesday, 5/8/19. 
  • Rule #2:  if you submit, you will then receive copies of everyone else who submits material.  Why?  Because if you want to be reviewed, you also need to review.
  • Rule #3:  meeting is Saturday, 5/11/19, 12:30 – 3:00, at the Northwest Worthington Library (2280 Hard Road).  Show up with printed copies of everything you’ve reviewed, with your comments.  After each submittal is discussed by the group, you’ll give your copy to the particular author.  Hint:  using the ‘comment’ feature in Word and then printing submissions is an easy way of doing things.  Or you can print first and handwrite comments as you read.  Your call.
  • Rule #4:  be cool.  Critique professionally and accept critiques of your work with the same composure.  It’s all good, we’re here to help each other, and then we all go out afterwards to eat, drink and be merry.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Everyone who submits a writing sample will receive all the samples from each participant, and you’re kindly expected to provide feedback for each. 
  • Writing samples should be submitted in Time New Roman or Courier font, 12 pt., with 1″ margins.
  • Your Name and Title should appear in the header.
  • Pages should be numbered and double-spaced.

So that’s it.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  Show your work to your peers, get some good advice and progress as a writer.  And remember:  we’re taking June off (our summer break) so you’ll have you’ll have lots of time to think, ponder and revise as you develop that million-dollar hit with your new-found knowledge.  So come out and waste a Saturday afternoon in the literary arts with us.  And until then?  Keep writing.

April meeting: Linda Kass

Linda Kass
Linda Kass, author and owner of Gramercy Books

We had a fantastic visit in March with author and professor Katharine Weber. For our next meeting, we have another treat – author and owner of Gramercy Books Linda Kass!

Linda Kass is the founder and owner of Gramercy Books in Bexley, Ohio, an independent bookstore that opened in December of 2016. She grew up on Columbus’ east side. After receiving an MA in Journalism from Ohio State, she spent her early career as a reporter for regional and national magazines. She worked in Detroit and New York in corporate communications, then returned to Columbus three decades ago where she resumed her writing career, in both nonfiction and fiction. Her work has been published in TIME, The Detroit Free PressColumbus Monthly, Full Grown People, and forthcoming in The MacGuffin. Her first novel, Tasa’s Song, set in eastern Poland during WWII, garnered widespread praise following its May 2016 publication. She has served, and continues to serve, in numerous leadership roles in the education, arts and literary communities, while building her bookstore into a destination for people throughout central Ohio.

Linda will join us April 20 in the Bexley Public Library, conveniently across the street from Gramercy Books. The meeting begins at 12:30 and wraps at about 2:30. We hope to see you there!