Jessica Zempel, a student at Wilmot High School in South Dakota, is the winner of the first annual James & Jeanne Arneson Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to graduates of Wilmot High School who display an aptitude in creative writing by authoring a short story.
Jessica’s story, “Love, Lust, and Death,” was chosen as the winner by novelist Jon McGoran.
Set in Quedlinburg, Germany, “Love, Lust, and Death” is about a serial killer and a woman who falls in love with him and tries to reform him.
Earlier this month, Beth and I traveled to Wilmot to present Jessica with her $250 prize during Wilmot High School’s Academic Awards Program. The night before the program, we enjoyed a great dinner at Sodak Shores with Jessica, her parents, and her English teacher, Danielle DeGreef.
Jessica also received an autographed copy of Jon’s latest novel, the excellent DUST UP and an autographed copy of THUGLIT #16 featuring my short story “It Bothers Me,” set in Wilmot.
A special thanks to Wilmot High School principal Larry Hulscher for all of his assistance and to English teacher Danielle DeGreef for encouraging so many students to submit stories.
Just one new published story: “It Bothers Me,” published in the March/April 2015 of the great THUGLIT magazine (available for Kindle and in paperback). I’ll always be stoked to say one of my stories is in THUGLIT.
Scott Detrow — who, amazingly, just keeps getting better — voiced seven great short stories by the likes of Paul Brazill, Rob Hart, Merry Jones, Jon McGoran, Todd Robinson, Johnny Shaw, and Duane Swierczynski. Word Crimes also featured a fantastic story by S.W. Lauden, an interview with McGoran, and two episodes recorded live at NoirCon.
In December, we reached 5,000 total downloads, a number Scott and I are absolutely thrilled with. Thank you to everyone who’s listening!
If you’re not listening, check out Word Crimes on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Here’s a sample to whet your appetite, Scott Detrow reading “Appetite” by Jon McGoran:
It’s ridiculously over-the-top, packed with action, and it features a one-armed Norwegian train conductor saving the U.S. from a Soviet nuclear attack in July 1947.
You can listen to “Death Train to Hell” here:
In the non-fiction realm, I was thrilled to write several true-crime essays for THE BLACK HOOD comic book (which itself is written by Duane Swierczynski and edited by Alex Segura). All the essays focused on Philadelphia, where the comic is set; they covered a tale of vast political corruption, a nearly unbelievable arsenic murder ring, and America’s first serial killer.
Seeing my work appear in comic books written by Duane, one of my absolute favorite writers, with art by the likes of Michael Gaydos and Howard Chaykin was amazing. Hopefully, it will happen again in 2016. (Actually, I know it will: Be sure to check out issue #8 of THE BLACK HOOD on January 13!)
Over at SHOTGUN HONEY, I continued serving as an editor up until 11:59 p.m. last night — although, truth be told, I spent much of 2015 leaning on my co-editors Jen Conley and Angel Colon, along with head honcho Ron Earl Phillips. I’ve been an editor at SH for more than two years, and it’s time to move on. The site is amazing, and I’m proud to call Ron, Jen and Angel (along with former co-editor Chris Irvin) my friends. Kent Gowran created a fantastic site, and Ron has taken it to new levels. Now that I’m out of the editing game, I’ll definitely be submitting to SH again.
All that said, the biggest — and, by far, the saddest — thing that happened to me personally in 2015 was losing my parents, Jim and Jeanne Arneson.
They were, no exaggeration, the greatest. Mom and Dad were unequivocally supportive of everything I tried, especially my writing. From the story I wrote in first grade about King Kong to the handwritten ATARI TIMES newsletter I published in fifth grade to working on my high school newspaper (THE OCTORARIAN) to writing for NOTEBORED magazine to my first published short story (“The Murder of Ernest Trapnell” in MARY HIGGINS CLARK MYSTERY MAGAZINE) to the last published short story before they passed away (“It Bothers Me” in THUGLIT), Mom and Dad were my biggest fans.
Hopefully this video gives a sense of how great they were.
Looking ahead to 2016, my one-word resolution is: WRITE.
Jeanne (nee Scoggins) Arneson, 77, died on July 12, 2015, less than three months after the passing of her devoted husband of 46 years, James Craig Arneson. Jeanne had suffered a relatively mild stroke on April 22, but there’s no doubt the cause of death was a broken heart.
Jeanne was a force to be reckoned with. No one who met her will ever forget her. She was fiercely loyal to her husband, children, and grandchildren, to whom she exhibited a deep and inexhaustible love.
Born in Asheville, North Carolina, on September 17, 1937, Jeanne grew up in the small town of Barnardsville. As a young girl, she loved to sit on the porch swing and play with her dolls. She attended Barnardsville Baptist Church and played sports in school. She was especially fond of basketball. After her family moved to Greensboro, Jeanne graduated from Greensboro Senior High School. She graduated from Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
She worked for Pilot Life Insurance Company, Duke University Hospital, and Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem (now Wake Forest Baptist Health). After meeting Jim and moving to Pennsylvania, she worked for St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church in Devon, Levin Luminais Eye Associates in Thorndale, and Harrison House in Christiana. Eventually, she returned to school to earn a nursing degree and held several nursing jobs through the years.
Like her father, Hubert, Jeanne was a voracious reader and always one of the local library’s best customers. She also loved crossword puzzles. She was an enthusiastic sports fan, particularly of ACC college basketball. She adopted Jim’s love of the Green Bay Packers and especially favored Clay Matthews. She was also a part-owner of the team.
Jeanne is survived by three daughters, Robin Gattis, Sherri Arneson, and Lisa Williamson; a son, Erik Arneson; five grandchildren, Linsey Wheeler, Craig Gattis, Payton Willamson, Keltie Williamson, and Kayden Williamson; and a brother, Jack Scoggins. They all miss her desperately but look forward to being reunited with her in heaven.
In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution to your local SPCA (Jim and Jeanne rescued many dogs through the years), St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the Leukemia Foundation, or the charity of your choice.