A cosmetics demo gone wrong at a Raleigh beauty convention, a washed-up farmer driven mad by windmills on his land, a World War II-era police chief with an unusual identity – these are the plots of just a few of the short stories in “Carolina Crimes: 21 Tales of Need, Greed and Dirty Deeds.”
“Carolina Crimes,” edited by Chapel Hill author Nora Gaskin Esthimer, is the most recent anthology from Triangle Sisters in Crime, the local chapter of the international association of mystery writers. The book is now available, and contributors, including Sarah R. Shaber of “Simon Said” fame, will attend the book launch at McIntyre’s Books near Pittsboro on Saturday, Aug. 19.
“You get new and experienced writers both in it,” Shaber said of the book. “(The new writers are) going to be in there for other people to discover. … They all write really well.”
Shaber joined Triangle Sisters in Crime when it was just starting in 2012. The chapter has about 45 members, but the national organization has more than 3,500.
This is Triangle Sisters in Crime’s second anthology – the last one, published in 2015, was “Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, And Longing,” which sold around 800 copies.
“We have a great community because we’re all in a really difficult business. ... You can give back to new writers like you were given back to,” said Shaber, who counts Johnston County writer Margaret Maron, winner of Edgar and Agatha awards, as one of her mentors.
Shaber’s “All That Glitters” is the first short story in “Carolina Crimes” and takes place in the American West during World War II. A trip to the Grand Canyon and surrounding landmarks in the summer of 2016 inspired her.
“All that landscape was new to me,” Shaber said. “I thought, ‘What would life be like out here?’ ... When I started to read up about it, there was a lot going on. There were a lot of air bases. There was all kinds of mining going on. They had just started ... the gambling business.”
Perhaps she has more than one short story in her about the protagonist of “All That Glitters,” Shaber said. Right now, she’s working on her seventh book about North Carolina girl Louise Pearlie, who moves to Washington, D.C., and gets caught up in the world of espionage.
“(The upcoming book) doesn’t take place in Washington,” Shaber said. “Most of it takes place on board a Liberty ship (a World War II United States cargo ship). That’s about all I’m ready to say.”
A few stories after “All That Glitters,” readers can dig into “The Windmills,” Gina Lea Schmidt of Garner’s first short story credit (her pen name is Gina Lea). It’s about an eastern North Carolina farmer having a hard time coming to terms with the wind turbines on his land.
When she’s not writing, Schmidt manages Dunkin Donuts restaurants in the area. She’s published one novel, 2014’s “Defining Destiny.” In it, friends Sara, Alex and Diana deal with family secrets in the town of Destinybay, reminiscent of coastal towns New Bern and Wilmington.
Schmidt grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, but spent summers on her grandparents’ tobacco farm near Asheville. The setting in “The Windmills” is a mix of her childhood experiences and the North Carolina she lives in now.
She joined Triangle Sisters in Crime in 2015 and says its events give her inspiration. She’s working on a young adult novel, so she was particularly excited when the group invited young adult author Carlie Sorsiak to talk about having her book “If Bird Fly Back” published by HarperCollins this summer.
“(Triangle Sisters in Crime is) a very supportive group for anyone wanting to write, especially mystery or crime,” Schmidt said. “I can’t praise those guys enough.”
Evie Fordham: @eviefordham
What: “Carolina Crimes: 21 Tales of Need, Greed and Dirty Deeds” book launch
When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 19
Where: McIntyre’s Books, 2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro
You can find Triangle Sisters in Crime’s 2017 anthology online here.