November 30, 2014

Guest Post: Kathleen Kaska

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 11:00 pm

Murder At The Driskill

Kathleen Kaska is no stranger to the blog; she wrote a Made It Moment in 2012. But with the release of her fourth Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Driskill, Kathleen decided to do a blog tour about famous, infamous, and legendary locales in Texas’ state capital of Austin–a city whose promo campaign is “Keep Austin Weird.”As a big fan of non-virtual touring, I can tell you that Austin is one of my favorite stops–Go, Book People! Go BookWoman! Go Bobbi Chukran and the Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime!–and a place I don’t find weird at all. But let’s see what Kathleen has to say…

By the way, at the end of the tour, Kathleen will give away a signed copy of her book. To be eligible, just leave a comment below.

Kathleen Kaska

I relocated to Austin at the right time. In the mid-seventies, the Capital City was beginning to thrive. I remember an article published in a national newspaper that proclaimed Austin the most inexpensive place in the county to live. Soon after, the city of near 300,000 began to grow to the tune of a thousand people a month. Almost forty years later, that growth continues. But back then, Austin was a laidback town and Sixth Street, which bisects downtown, running east/west, was considered a bit seedy. A few bold entrepreneurs recognized the area’s potential and opened bars, restaurants, and pool halls. Among a few were Maggie Mae’s restaurant and bar, Paradise Café, Esther’s Follies, and The Old Pecan Street Café, an eatery not much wider than a hallway, which had a courtyard in back and served exquisite desserts. Italian Cream Cake was one of their specialties. Soon locales began to brave the downtown area and it seemed as if a new place opened every week.At the time, I was waiting tables and working my way through college. After work, my friends and I often found ourselves on Sixth Street to check out a new venue. Even through Sixth Street was becoming trendy and safe, I remember venturing into a popular dive called JJJ’s, or the Triple J. In Murder at the Driskill, I modeled the Blue Mist after it. The story opens with my protagonist, Sydney Lockhart, dressed as a guy, on stake out to discover which bartender had been dipping his hand into owner, Jelly Bluesteen’s till. Here’s a short excerpt:

It was my third night at the bar. My sleuthing required that I dress in male disguise and smoke and drink while trying to keep a low profile, which was easy since most folks came to the Blue Mist to do just that, except for the dressing in disguise part. But, hey, I might be wrong. After all, it was 1953, and weird things happened in downtown Austin, Texas.

I suspected this particular bartender the first night. He had a pattern to his pilfering. Once the joint became busy, he’d move to the far end of the bar where the overhead lights failed to reach. When someone paid for the drink, the guy pretended to stuff the money into the register, but instead he executed a quick flicking motion with his fingers, and the bills slid up his cuff.

Tonight had been busier than normal and I watched as a small fortune filled the bartender’s sleeve. At closing time, Jelly came out from the back room and caught my eye. I nodded toward the guilty party. The bartender noticed our sly communication and he suddenly became twitchy. Jelly hurriedly ushered the last drunk out the door, flipped off the neon open sign, and reached for his billy club. In one swift motion, the bartender snatched a wad of cash from the register and my coat off the rack and made a beeline for the door. Since Jelly was too fat to run, I took up the chase, alone.

Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Her first two books, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Her Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida) was published in 2012.

November 11, 2014

Made It Moment: Bob Gillen

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:14 am


We talk a lot here on the blog about the self-publishing movement and the way it has opened doors for many writers. What we speak less often about is when one of those doors is in the writer’s own mind. Bob Gillen had to walk through such a door to realize his creative capacities…that he could become one of the creative types he had nurtured and taught during an already prolific career. Helped in his journey by a book we all probably know, Bob has now come out on the other side, and entered a whole new world.

Bob Gillen

My Made It Moment is now. Right now! After years writing non-fiction, interviewing writers and other creatives, I published a novel on Amazon Kindle. Three characters came to life. Cabe Wray, whose twin sister disappeared 40 years ago. Turo Fonseca, a filmmaker who creates a video to help Cabe search for his sister. And Kelsey Graf, a young actor who portrays the twin sister in the video.

I moved from writing about writers, to sharing my own fiction with them and with all the world. It feels good!

You see, all my life I have been a non-fiction writer. An effective one. Back in the mid 1980s, my wife Lynn and I had our interview with Eddie Rabbitt, a country music singer/songwriter, published in Goldmine magazine. We published more interviews, then transitioned to writing teacher study guides for the historically-accurate TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. While the guides never got published, the project allowed us to spend hours working on the set with the staff and crew.

That experience in turn gave us the background to team-teach a media production class for 11 years at the high school senior level. While we did that, we also wrote a five-year series of online discussion guides based on magazine articles for a national print magazine.

Five years ago we transitioned into working exclusively online, creating and publishing our own website,, aimed at young filmmakers. And then in 2013 I began a blog called Creating Story. Between the site and the blog, we have interviewed over 60 media professionals. And we turned the core of our media teaching program into two filmmaking how-to ebooks.

Through the years I told myself, you’re a non-fiction writer. Forget fiction. A few years ago, while reading Natalie Goldberg’s Thunder and Lightning, I finally let go of my resistance. I began writing stories. Bits and pieces at first. Months of doing Natalie’s “writing practice.” And it  grew into two short novels. I am presently re-writing the first, Lie by Lie, in play format. The second, Apart, is just now launching on Amazon Kindle.

I’m happy to be in the community of creative writers. Natalie Goldberg helped me find the courage to reach inside myself and create a story. And what keeps me going, looking for more made-it-moments, is a quote I saw recently: keep writing until you’re empty.

Bob Gillen is a writer based in Los Angeles for the last 27 years. He was born, raised, graduated college, and lived in New York City prior to his move to LA. With his wife and writing partner, Lynn, he publishes a website for young filmmakers and a blog on creating story. He has written articles and teacher study guides for national magazines, taught media production to high school seniors for 11 years, and published two ebooks on filmmaking and an article on journalists in combat zones for Amazon Kindle.

Now a full time writer, his second novel, Apart, tells the story of a businessman who quits his job and his career to intensify his search for his long-missing twin sister. As he makes a video to help with the search, he discovers his own unwitting role in her disappearance.


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