Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw— For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law. He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair: For when they reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!
The Macavity Awards, established in 1987, are a literary award for mystery writers. Winners are nominated and voted upon annually by members of the Mystery Readers International, the award is named for the “mystery cat” of T. S. Eliot‘s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The award is given in four categories—best novel, best first novel, best nonfiction, and best short story. Congrats to all this year’s nominees!! Winners will be announced at the San Diego Bouchercon which runs from August 30 to September 3.
You just boarded a plane to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The family will only survive if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.
T.J. Newman, the author of the suspense internationally acclaimed “Falling”, graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a degree in Musical Theater in 2006. She moved to Queens and hopped from job to job, facing rejection at many of her acting auditions, and eventually moved back to Arizona.
Head held perhaps a little lower because of so many slammed doors, Newman persevered and landed a job working in a bookstore. Then, the wanderlust that runs in her family caught up with her. She began her new career as a flight attendant for Virgin America Airlines. It was here, surprisingly, that she found her love of writing.
Newman was struck by inspiration while on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to New York. Using cocktail napkins, a move reminiscent of great songwriters and inventors, she began to jot down ideas for her book during layovers.
Her job allowed her to people-watch constantly, which contributed to her keen eye for detail. Newman recalls that she never let anyone know she was writing a book, saying it was less scary to write and never have anyone read her work than to stand in front of a panel of dismissive judges and audition for a play. This only goes to prove the quiet bravery of embarking on an impassioned experiment turned full-blown career. When her draft was finally complete, Newman taught herself how to contact publishers with the help of a book called “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published”. She was turned down by countless people on account of her inexperience, but pushed onwards until someone said “yes!”.
Today, the rights to T.J. Newman’s novel have been sold in 24 foreign territories as well as to Universal Pictures (motion picture coming soon). The book was named “Best Book of the Year” by many organizations and hit #2 on the NYT Bestseller list at its debut. Her success allowed her to leave her position as a flight attendant and pursue her passion for authorship full-time.
Let this story be a message to all of the aspiring writers out there: you are never too old, too busy, or too deep in a career to follow a dream.
“T. J. Newman has written the perfect thriller! A must-read.”
“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.”
“Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.”
“Amazing…Intense suspense, shocks, and scares…Chilling.”
In recent years, the landscape of crime fiction has become delightfully unpredictable, reshaping the genre’s expectations and norms. The once rigid boundaries of classic whodunits, thrillers, and noir have transformed into a fluid arena, thriving on audacious experimentation. If you’ve been following crime fiction, you’re likely to have noticed some fascinating trends that are captivating readers across the globe.
Firstly, the genre is currently experiencing a significant shift towards inclusivity and diversity, a reflection of the broad societal demand for representation. While crime fiction has always been a lens into society’s nuances, it is now delivering narratives from a wider range of cultural, social, and geographical perspectives. The protagonists and settings have become more eclectic, the mysteries and crimes more layered. The inclusion of diverse authors also means authentic voices and distinct storytelling styles, enriching the genre’s oeuvre.
A prominent example of this trend is the burgeoning sub-genre of “Glocal” crime fiction – narratives that blend global themes with local cultures and situations. Such stories tend to explore socio-political dimensions of crime while deftly weaving in cultural nuances. The Scandinavian noir wave, with its unique blend of grim settings and sharp social commentary, has paved the way for other regional influences, such as Latin Noir, Asian Noir, and more.
Secondly, crime fiction has evolved from linear “whodunits” to complex psychological narratives that prioritize “whydunits.” The genre’s focus has transitioned from just solving a crime to exploring the motivations and mental intricacies behind it. This shift towards psychological crime fiction is fueled by readers’ curiosity about the darker recesses of the human mind. Consequently, crime fiction’s palette has grown richer, delving into the perpetrator’s psyche and blurring the lines between villain and victim.
Another fascinating trend is the rise of the “unreliable narrator,” a trope that enhances the enigma and suspense of the story. This technique, where the narrative is relayed through a character whose credibility is compromised, keeps readers on the edge, as they grapple with layers of deceit and ambiguity. It creates a pervasive sense of unease, a hall of mirrors, where distinguishing truth from illusion becomes a challenging exercise.
The fourth trend is the incorporation of technology in crime narratives, mirroring its pervasive impact on our lives. In a world dominated by the digital revolution, tech-savvy detectives and cybercrimes are increasingly featured in plots, replacing the traditional magnifying glass with the high-powered microscope of digital forensics.
Lastly, true crime narratives have found a new home within the realm of crime fiction. Inspired by real-life events, these narratives are blurring the line between fact and fiction, offering readers an exciting blend of authenticity and narrative invention.
In essence, contemporary crime fiction is continuously evolving, mirroring the changing facets of our society. Its current trends reflect an all-encompassing world, a deeper understanding of the human psyche, a sophisticated integration of technology, and a fluid mix of reality and fiction. As writers, it’s an exciting time to be part of this genre’s evolution, as crime fiction continues to stretch its boundaries and shatter its own cliches.
I fought my way into this world backward – my mom reminded me of that til the day she died. I made quite an impression on her. It made such an impression that I’m surprised she had any more children. She did wait five years though to make sure the coast was clear and no more hellions were going to pop out.
I was a curious and energetic rascal. I wore my mother out to the point where she quietly abandoned me to my grandmother. It was not that she could manage me, but in her fifties, she could still outrun me. Her strategy, for which I am forever grateful, was to find me an occupation that would settle me. She bought me a book.
I’m sure she bought more than one but I seized on that one like it was the Bible. It took me into my seventies to find a copy of that book, “Three Mice and A Cat,” but I never give up on anything. By age three, I could “read” it out loud. While it didn’t keep me from roller skating in the house or chunking apples at the neighbor boy, it fired a love affair that lasted a lifetime.
The “word” was a tantalizing instrument of magic. It spun a carpet-ride of tales that I longed to play a part in. It brush-stroked lush worlds and adventures I wished to visit. It carried me far from the chaos that spun like an F5 tornado in my house.
I was a tiny little critter, bird-like in frame and flighty. To my grandmother’s dismay, I had the energy of a hummingbird. Nonetheless, my grandmother could entice me from running and jumping and generally creating upheaval in the neighborhood. I could sit with her without stress on my part or threats on hers. I sat absorbed in assimilating the mysterious which included the names and habits of flowers, how numbers could speak and family stories which I loved above all.
My grandmother had grown up the oldest of five. She was the only girl at a time when the education of girls was not only an afterthought but could be outright forbidden. I often regret that I never asked who in her family was her champion. Everyday she rode her bike on rutted dirt roads to a tiny schoolhouse where she transformed herself from farm laborer and prospective wife to an empowered woman. She was the first in her family to graduate high school.
And what an empowerment that was. She married the handsome police chief of the nearby town. My grandfather taught me to dance and play poker and tell jokes. He won a city council seat. Always the natty dresser, he turned women’s heads wherever he went. His weakness was get-rich-quick ideas. It would be my grandmother who ended up managing his fast money businesses and making them work.
And make them work she did. My grandmother was a quick study who helped her farmer brothers get sizeable refunds every tax season. She bought real estate. She bailed out my clothes horse mother who shared more traits with her father than what she viewed as the unglamorous psyche of her mom.
My grandmother was no feminist by modern standards, but she understood the high value of independence and knowledge and the economics that engendered those values. Never crass, never at the forefront. She was my rock.
It was she who assisted with homework that befuddled my mother. As I grew older, I had to live with my parents and attend the school in their district. My grandmother provided school lunch money every day for me and my three siblings. She cooked dinner for us every night. And she provided me money for books, books from school, from bookstores and from mail order back in the day. I soaked it all in.
I was reading Machiavelli and Red Badge of Courage long before my age level. I curled up in refuge with horse stories about the likes of Flicka and Black Stallion and my favorite of all time, Misty of Chincoteague, a legend local to where we lived. I thrilled to Call of the Wild and White Fang. I could talk to my grandmother about these books; my mother did not have time.
My grandmother took me out into the world to places that made my mother nervous. She took me to the circus and the movies. She made summers at the beach possible for our family. It was she who gave me good counsel about who was a good guy and who was suspect.
And when it was time to decide if I could go to college which I so longingly, desperately wanted to do, we worked out arrangements where I would work part time and she would fill in gaps. As I write this even now I feel that swell of excitement and gratitude for one of the greatest milestones in my life.
It was in a local teacher’s college that I learned not all people, all families are the same. I was awed by professors in convocation robes, they seemed at the time superior beings whose knowledge was borne out by the school colors in their academic hoods. I wanted to know what they knew.
Because of my grandmother’s assistance, I met another of those pivotal people that fortune presents along our way. I started classes with the most difficult English professor in the college, one every freshman and on up tried to avoid. I wanted what I knew she could give me – discipline in the craft of understanding good literature and the ability to express my ideas.
That professor, long departed from the lectern, descended on me and my pitiful attempts at writing. In the beginning she thought me a pretender and she told me so in blunt terms. I threw off harsh words. I asked for her time. I asked for direction. Each semester I came back wanting more. She finally accepted my sincerity and she gave me her time. She gave me guidance. She gave me the head and the eye and the skills I sought. In my senior year she nominated me for scholarship. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.
I took her training onto graduate school. Once again, I got help from my grandmother. I also secured a teaching assistantship – and a job. I went on to finish my masters. My grandmother was bursting with pride on the day I graduated.
From that moment on, I wrote – on planes and in hotel rooms and after meetings were over. Like that intellectual discipline painfully acquired through my former professor, I was determined to make my work as memorable as the works I admired and envied. When you stumble out last from the starting gate, it takes a while to overcome the deficit, but I was in the running and that’s all that mattered.
I doubt if my grandmother ever heard of the butterfly effect. We don’t have to know it or comprehend it order to be a fortunate recipient. You must, however, be open to recognize wisdom even from the most unlikely of sources. She prepared me to be that student for whom the teacher would appear.
Now each time sit to compose, I honor her memory. I craft the story. I choose the words. I am willing to put in the time. I am unafraid of the self-reveal which every good writer unwittingly discloses. I will dig as deeply as I can to be my true self in every page.
I do not claim perfection. But every time, I write, I travel back to that corner of a sofa where a spindly little girl looked up in awe at a woman who opened a book and a door to a world where I could bloom, no matter where I was.
To friends and fellow authors who carry their dream like a talisman, I saw a moment in history this weekend. It could be a history for any of us.
I captured the video of a woman who did the work every day, who dared to aspire and who saw her work transport her beyond the wildest dreams. Jena Antonucci is the first woman trainer ever to win a Triple Crown race.
Look at the raw emotion in the video and think of yourselves. Imagine the feeling as your eyes capture ascent to your one moment in time.
Your chest swells and your knees weaken. You try to make time stop and you hold your breath because it seems unreal. You experience a rush so intense you think you might expire. But you live it like you’ve never lived before.
“You have to work your butt off to do this. Sure, it’s a little harder for a woman but dig deeper, work harder. Winning the Belmont Stakes wasn’t atop my list of things to do but if you do things right, good things will happen.”
Jena Antonucci made no bravado claims. As writers, we spend our time writing and developing our craft much like the trainer who lays out a plan for her charge and works that plan. The dream of our publishing. The dream of author success. Those are our dreams.
Jena Antonucci labored with love in a field of endeavor where only men have succeeded – until now. She knew the odds – like us. She knew the work – like us. She made her own way – and that is what we will do.
We will never back down from our work and what we have set our course to achieve. While no place is assured us, we will make our own table and take our place.
Tina Turner was an unstoppable artist and performer who made her way into people’s hearts across the globe. She’s survived every kind of adversity—from segregation to a hard and exhausting marriage to Ike Turner—and rose from the ashes spectacularly.
Tina became a superstar in her 40s (!) and continued to top the charts for many years following—she is an inspiration to any woman with a dream.
Tina died on Wednesday in her quiet home in Küsnacht, near Zurich, after battling illness for many years. May she rest in peace.
Tina taught us a lesson in personal power. She gave us hope in rising up and redemption. She lived an example to follow in staying always on the high road.
You’ve touched our hearts, Tina; you’re Simply the Best.