Monday, November 20, 2017

Memories tried and not so true...

Here's the full essay that ran last month in the wonderful Crimespree blog.

How reliable is memory?
According to neuroscientists, not very. While we may view any particular memory as a continuous film of a past scene, those who study how the brain processes describe it as something more like a collage. As a 2012 Psychology Today article summarized, every time we conjure a memory, we are not so much reviewing a complete set of stored data as re-configuring a complex scene from disparate parts. In other words, every memory is newly re-assembled, and even if the pieces are accurate they may be prone to reinterpretation. Our current situation may sublimate the pain of a heartbreak – or accentuate the regret over a path not chosen – to shift our focus. In the process of recall, therefore, we may be reacting more to our present lives than to anything that happened way back when.
This unreliability is why eyewitnesses cannot always be trusted, particularly when contradicted by physical evidence. In fact, one-third of cases overturned through the work of the Innocence Project through DNA testing were originally based on eye-witness testimony, according to a 2010 Scientific American article.
Such questions about memory are at the heart of my new mystery, WORLD ENOUGH. The answers won’t necessarily explain the deaths – one twenty years ago and one in the present time of the book – that we hear about at the start of the book. But they are key to how the narrative unfolds, and what will happen to our protagonist, a woman named Tara Winton who finds herself at personal and professional crossroads.
WORLD ENOUGH opens in Boston, 2007, right before the financial crisis, when the city – much like my protagonist – seems poised on the edge of the unknown. Bored at her corporate job, divorced but still seeing her ex, Tara lives for her nights out with the old crew – other forty-somethings who still play and enjoy the music they created twenty years before. When she is solicited to write an article revisiting those days, she leaps at the chance. Who wouldn’t want to relive the best period of one’s life?
As Tara recalls it, the ‘80s was a decade of community and creativity. On her own for the first time, she found herself drawn to the music then being generated by dozens of young bands in Boston. When a chance acquaintance had suggested she help him start a “zine,” a fan magazine, she seized the opportunity to jump-start her life. Not only could she recast herself as a writer – a dream so deeply buried she had barely articulated it to herself – but by doing so she could install herself in the nocturnal world. She was no longer a “tourist,” or fan; she had a role to play. A reason to come out each night to the clubs.
For a while, everything was wonderful. She built a reputation and traded the ‘zine for a paying job. She made fast friends and met the man she would marry. She felt herself an integral part of an artistic movement. And then, suddenly, everything fell apart. While she knew there had been problems – drugs, alcohol, a fickle music industry, and the general unsustainability of the frenzy – she still wonders what happened. Even as she interviews the survivors and revisits old haunts, Tara looks back on the decade as a golden period for herself and all those in the scene.
But was it? Were there clues she missed, in herself and among her friends? Was her little punk paradise really, as her favorite song went, world enough?
To write this book, I drew on my own life, including my past as a rock music critic. But this experience is not exclusive to any one subculture or time, except possibly to time of life – somewhere past forty and no longer up to going out every night. For those of us who have reached this point, it is, perhaps, natural to idealize our youth. We had more energy, and more potential. Everything seemed more exciting, because it was new to us. And the frustrations of those days – the insecurity of fledgling careers and relationships – are easy to dismiss in retrospect years later. These are factors Tara faces as her assignment takes on added meaning. As she must break down all she once accepted to find out what is real and what never existed at all.
Maybe such re-evaluations are also part of life, of looking forward. One early reader of WORLD EHOUGH called it a “coming-of-middle-age” book, and I believe there is some validity to that. The Tara who finds herself once more researching a story – revisiting those long-gone days – is a different person than the young zine writer we have also come to know. The older Tara has more information and, just maybe, more perspective. They say the truth will set you free, but in Tara’s case, it may simply raise more questions as the mystery unfolds.
Clea Simon

Friday, November 10, 2017

Before I was a writer...

Writers talk about finding their “voice” – their personal style – as if it’s a positive thing. But, sometimes, that means discovering that you are completely tone deaf.

I’ve always loved music, maybe as much as I love writing. And long before I became an author, I was a musician.

Drawn to the string bass in grade school – it was so big! The sound so rich and deep! – I was playing in community orchestras by my teens. Of course, by then, I was consumed by rock and roll, too. And since my friends all wanted to be guitarists or singers, up front and center, I was recruited. For the grand sum of $35, I purchased an electric bass, used, at the mall. Someone got a drum kit – a birthday? Christmas? – and we formed a band. It was heaven of the loudest sort, and I was sure I was besting John Entwhistle, playing and singing harmony too, nights and weekends in basements and garages all over town.

I still recall our first professional gig – playing a friend’s Sweet Sixteen. We ran out of tunes about 45 minutes in, and jammed on Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” for a good hour longer. Yeah, I learned how to solo early on – I did it all!

I didn’t intend to keep playing in college, but once again I was recruited. A bass player – one with actual musical training – will always be in demand, especially if she sings. Before long, we were gigging at campus parties and frat houses around New England, known for getting people dancing with our mix of originals and New Wave covers and a professional sound system that could fill a room. (We were less popular at our weekly Tuesday slot at the local pub. I can still hear the thwack of darts hitting the board, in the silence between numbers.)

With that sound system, we saw the opportunity to improve. We could tape ourselves, and we did, sitting down to listen track by track: Lead guitar, singer, rhythm guitar. Backing vocals… Good lord! How had I never known? I don’t recall if any of my bandmates said anything as we listened to my out-of-tune caterwauling. They didn’t have to. I stuck to bass from then on.

I continued to play in bands for a while after college, even as I began writing about music instead. Over the years, I turned from music journalism to the fiction that now occupies my time. I still sing in private, too. But I’ve found better uses for my voice.

(This essay originally ran in the Dear Reader email newsletter on Oct. 24.)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mysterious Bookshop tonight!

As you read this, I'm on my way to NYC! I'll be reading and chatting at the renowned Mysterious Bookshop tonight at 6:30 (58 Warren St.) - the world's oldest and greatest mystery fiction specialty store. Hoping to see some old friends and family – and maybe some new friends as well! But if you can't make it, please feel free to call the store today at 212-587-1011 and order your copy of World Enough. I'll sign it for you tonight and the store can mail it out.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I wanted to go but...

I'm hoping to see you tomorrow (Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m.) at Mysterious Bookshop in New York City (58 Warren St., in Tribeca). But if you can't make it and still want a signed, personalized book, you can get one. Please just call the store and tell them you want me to sign one for you – the number is (212) 587-1011. (You can always order a book on line, but please call to make sure they know to put it aside for me to sign.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Going dark...

You should write romantic suspense.

That was how it started. A possibly offhand comment by my publisher over drinks at Crimefest that sent me off into a tizzy. After 22 mysteries ranging from cozy to paranormal, I was being directed to change things up. I’d written harder books, for sure (my Blackie and Care mysteries are positively dystopian), but all my mysteries had an essential sweetness to them. And cats – lots of cats – all based more or less on either my late, great Cyrus or my constant companion and muse, Musetta. Romantic suspense? I didn’t know where to start.

“Do you have any ideas?” My agent echoed the question my editor had voiced, when I’d next touched base. “Something you’ve always wanted to work on, perhaps?”

Well, yeah, I told them both. I did have a manuscript in the drawer – what writer didn’t – but I wasn’t sure if …

“Why not try it?” I don’t remember if my agent said that, or my husband, or some voice in the back of my head. All I know is I dug out that file – 100 pages I had worked and re-worked so many times I couldn’t remember – and I thought, “yeah, I could do this.” I read the opening scene, and I thought, “I want to do this.” A few pages later, and it hit me: “I’m ready to do this.” The book I had wanted to write for more than ten years was something I now could write. At some point, I broke it to my agent that the project I was diving into wasn’t anything at all like romantic suspense. By that point, I was already committed.

Those pages became the basis for my new World Enough, a rock and roll mystery that’s as close to a true noir as I’m ever likely to write. The setup is simple: A woman walks into a bar. It’s a bar filled with old friends, for sure, but also with history. The band that’s playing that night is one she’s followed for more than twenty years, as has the rest of the sparse crowd gathered there. The woman – Tara Winton – is a corporate PR drone, but back when the band was in its heyday, she’d been a rock critic, part of the garage-punk club scene. Back then, anything had seemed possible. Drugs and other dangers had taken their toll on the scene, but Tara is glad to be out. Glad to be among her surviving crew. Until, that is, she finds out that another of the old gang has died. Before long, she’s covering the scene again – asking questions that calls not only the present but her idyllic memories of the club days into doubt.

Yes, I was a rock critic, back in the day. I covered bands like the Aught Nines and the Whirled Shakers. But no, as I have now told several early readers from those days, I am not writing a thinly veiled exposĂ© about any real bands. It’s funny, but none of htem ask if I’m writing about myself. If Tara, with her illusions and faulty memory, is me. That would be a harder one to answer, and it would touch on why it took me so long to be able to write this book. Why it took me so long to get the club world right.

How did it feel it leave cozies behind for sex and drugs and rock and roll? In this case, liberating. In this new voice, I could depict the world I remember, without inhibitions. I could work through more complex, conflicting emotions than I’d felt capable of tackling before. Bigger issues – and, yes, I already have ideas for the next book. A rocker, getting on in years, who must re-visit the trauma that both made her and kept her stuck in place as the world moved on.

It also made me appreciate my cozies more. World Enough is rough, at least emotionally, and I missed the warmth and whimsy of magical cats and benevolent spirits. I confess, I found myself longing for a career like Catriona McPherson’s, alternating cozies with harder-edged books. Maybe that’s why I dove into another Pru Marlowe while waiting for World Enough to come out. And why I’m absolutely thrilled that Polis Books has now picked up my “Witch Cats of Cambridge” series (look for the first book, A Spell of Murder, probably in early 2019). I got the news of the Polis offer during a particularly rough couple of weeks, which saw the decline and death of Musetta, so the idea of withdrawing into a magical world of friendly felines has been just the comfort I need. I like to think that this new series will offer readers that same kind of haven – playful and homely and sweet.

The first book is due in January, by which point I will have been talking about World Enough for several months, even pairing up with some of the rockers from those days here in Boston. Will I want to go dark again, after spending time with the warm and fuzzy? Maybe. We’ll see where the muse takes me – or the spirit of Musetta, perhaps, inspiring my next move.


This originally ran on the Wicked Cozies blog

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Launch party tonight!

FINALLY! We're celebrating the release of World Enough at Harvard Book Store tonight with a reading, chat, and more (Harvard Book Store is right in Harvard Square, at 1256 Mass. Ave., Cambridge). Won't you join us? If you can't be there physically, you can still get a signed/personalized book. Please just call the store at 800-542-READ (or 617-661-1515) and order a copy. Tell them you want me to sign it for you, and they'll put it aside before arranging for delivery. (You can also order online at harvard.com)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Boston Book Fest!

Wow, do you know about the Boston Book Fest? With authors, bookstores, readings, talks, and giveaways, this event has grown in its ten years into a wonderful citywide festival. While there are tons of things happening today – see the schedule here – I'm hoping you'll find time to drop by and say hi to me. I'll be at the Mystery Writers of America booth, 2–2:45 p.m. and the Sisters in Crime booth, 3–4 p.m, talking about these GREAT organizations (and books as well!)on Copley Plaza. Please come on by and say hi!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Before I was cozy...


Back in the day, there was little that was cozy about my life. Sure, I had creature comforts, thanks to a part-time secretarial job that paid most of the bills., and even a long-haired grey cat whom I loved dearly. But what I needed for soul sustenance was loud, hard, and fast.

For the first few years, after I graduated from college, the local music scene was the center of my life. The clubs where bands played original music – the Rat, the Channel, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Storyville, among others – became my “third place,” not home, not work, where I could go. Through it, I found my tribe of friends and lovers. My first profession – as a music critic. More fundamentally, in the loud garage punk scene of ‘80s Boston, I found an outlet for the emotional turmoil I had grown up with in a family plagued by mental illness and dysfunction. The friends I made there understood this – many of them had similar stories – and the late nights were as often as not joyous celebrations of relief and release as expressions of pain or rage.

Perhaps it is the nature of things to change. At any rate, things did. The writing I was doing for music magazines led to more mainstream, more stable, jobs. The clubs I knew closed, the bands broke up, and between the need for more sleep and the pleasures of more secure relationships, I felt less of a need to learn the rhythms of new ones. The books that had been my salvation growing up ¬ – from C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Beatrix Potter to Lillian Jackson Braun and Rita Mae Brown – once again claimed center stage, and I rediscovered the joy of whimsy and mystery. I started writing cozies.

Granted, there was some overlap. My first cozy, Mew is for Murder, featured a freelance writer trying to establish herself as a music critic. Throughout the six books of that series, my heroine Theda Krakow’s sidekick was a purple-haired punk musician who calls herself Violet Haze. But in the 12 years and 16 other mysteries since, the music scene has receded. Granted, not all my books have been cozies – my editors usually prefer the term “amateur sleuth” and I’ve dubbed one series “pet noir” – but they’ve been gentle. No cursing, no overt sex. As the old saw goes, “the blood is dry before it hits the page.” And the music, when it plays, is secondary, no longer the life blood – the pulse – that it was.

Until now. For World Enough, I’ve created Tara Winton, a heroine who shares many characteristics with the woman I once was. Isolated, somewhat disconnected from her family and her past, back in the day Tara too found solace and a community of sorts in the clubs. Twenty years later, she’s not doing as well, though. She’s marking time with a boring corporate job and drifting emotionally, unable to move on from her divorce. Until, that is, she runs into an old friend – now the editor of a glossy city magazine – at the funeral of a former scenester, a bartender/bouncer who had settled down with a wife and kid before dying in what appears to be a freak accident.

Tara and her buddy start talking at the wake, and he throws her a lifeline – an assignment to write about the old scene. In particular, about a band – the Aught Nines – that should have been famous. That would have been – if only the singer hadn’t OD’d, twenty years before. That rising star had a tenuous connection to the man whose funeral they’ve just attended. In many ways, all the attendees are connected. And so it makes sense for Tara to start interviewing her old cohort. Her ex Peter and her best friend Min scoff at the assignment, but Tara is grateful for the chance to write again about something she cares about. To reconnect with a world that once meant so much.

That world is rife with drugs and sex. With petty rivalries and struggles for fame and attention. It is the world I once knew and still, in some part of me, love. It is not, in any sense, cozy. But it is a world that I was ready to revisit. A story that maybe, after 22 lighter mysteries, I finally had the discipline to explore, the skills to chronicle, and the will work into the larger plotline of a double-edged (and morally ambiguous) mystery.

Will there be others? At this point, I think so – though I am very much enjoying the playful feline-centric cozy that I’m working on now. Maybe it took this long for me to be able to go back and write about the club scene, to balance its attractions with its excesses and flaws. Maybe I needed the distance to be able to see what really happened. Or maybe I’ve simply reached the point where I can put on an old record – vinyl, even – and think, “Damn, that was something, wasn’t it?”



After three nonfiction books and 22 cozy/amateur sleuth mysteries, Clea Simon returns to her rock & roll past this fall with World Enough (Severn House), an edgy urban noir. She is also the author of four mystery series with cats in them, the most recent being the black cat-narrated As Dark As My Fur (Severn House) and the “pet noir,” When Bunnies Go Bad (Poisoned Pen Press). A recovering journalist, Clea lives in Massachusetts. She can be reached at www.cleasimon.com


This essay originally ran on Mystery Fanfare, the blog of Mystery Readers International.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My rock star moment!

I'm opening for Kristin Hersh! And for Nick Flynn's Shaker/Flynn music project! Well, not really. Hersh (of Throwing Muses and solo fame), Flynn, poet Kelle Groom and myself will be reading, talking, and, yes, playing music (well, some of us) tonight at WORDS & MUSIC, a free event at Emerson College in Boston. Part of the Boston Book Fest LitHub, you can find out more (and nab some free tickets) here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New England is for readers (and a giveaway!)

I sat down (well, virtually) with Jen Rose Smith, the author of the new Moon New England Road Trip travel guide to talk about my mysteries, New England authors, and more. Moon is also giving away two of my books: the Boston-based World Enough and the Berkshires-set When Bunnies Go Bad. You can enter below.

JEN: Is there anything essentially New England about your mysteries?

CLEA: Setting is most definitely a character in my mysteries. My brand new book, World Enough, could only take place in Boston. It starts in 2007 – just before the crash, when real estate in the city was booming and the waterfront area was being transformed by tech companies, like the one my heroine, Tara Winton, works for. But it quickly jumps back twenty years, when the waterfront was the home of a rough and tumble rock club, called the Casbah. That’s where Tara found her community and several lifelong friends, and where the multiple mysteries at the heart of the book begin. Although the clubs and the companies are fictional, the setting – and some of the darker aspects of the story, such as the drugs – are real enough. In fact, my publisher Severn House is calling World Enough a “Boston noir.”

My Pru Marlowe pet noir mysteries, which are lighter, are set in a fictional town in the Berkshires. In books like the recent When Bunnies Go Bad and the upcoming Fear on Four Paws (Poisoned Pen Press), Pru and her tabby cat Wallis have to deal with all the very real conflicts of an old Berkshires mill town that now relies on tourism to get by – all with some absolutely gorgeous scenery.

JEN: But you didn’t grow up in New England, did you?
CLEA: No, I was raised in suburban Long Island and only came up here to attend college. But I immediately fell in love with the sense of place and history in New England. Suburbia can feel pretty generic, but cities like Boston and Providence, and towns like Northampton and North Adams, in the western part of the state, have distinct personalities. I do miss the easy access to the beach – but the beauty of Cape Cod, especially Provincetown, makes up for the longer drive (or ferry ride).

JEN: New England's full of mysteries and creepy tales, from the Salem witch trials to haunted places—do you have any favorites?
CLEA: I’m not really a fan of horror, though I do love me some Nathaniel Hawthorne! And you do know Edgar Allen Poe was born in Boston, yes? There are some contemporary writers who are doing more playful fun takes on creepiness – Dana Cameron writes Fangborn mysteries, which have werewolves in them, and the hero of Leigh Perry’s skeleton mysteries is a skeleton named Sid!

JEN: Are there any places in Boston that you like to go for inspiration?
CLEA: Many! The clubs I write about in World Enough pretty much don’t exist anymore, but the city still has a vibrant live music scene and I always find myself revived after a night out at Once in Somerville or the Sinclair or Regattabar in Cambridge. And because I grew up near the shore, I always find myself inspired by the ocean. I adore Provincetown and try to get there as often as possible. And, of course, I find myself walking into Harvard Square pretty much every weekend. The Square has changed so much during my years here, but I can still always find a bookstore to browse and a cafĂ© to sit in, with whatever new title caught my fancy.

JEN: New England has such a rich literary tradition, who are some of your favorite writers from the region?
CLEA: Which century do you want to know about? I studied literature at Harvard, so I still find myself muttering lines from the Puritan sermon“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” at inappropriate moments. Other than that, J. Anthony Lukas explained a lot about the city to me in his Common Ground. As a mystery writer, I owe a ton to Robert Parker, whose Spenser novels introduced so many of us to this city. And Michael Patrick MacDonald’s All Souls (as well as his Easter Rising, which has some parallels with World Enough) really get at the underside of the city.

JEN: Do you have any plans for other New England mysteries?
CLEA: Yes! My very first mystery series was set in Cambridge, and I’ll be returning to Cambridge with a new series in 2019. Although I now live in Somerville, I adore the mix of old and new, counterculture and academic that still makes Cambridge, the home of both Harvard and aging hippies, fun and funky. My new series – the Witch Cats of Cambridge, with Polis Books – couldn’t take place anywhere else.

JEN: Any New England trivia you care to share?
CLEA: When I worked in Providence (for the now-defunct Providence Phoenix), I learned that coffee milk is the official drink of Rhode Island. The only way my parents could get me to drink my milk when I was little was by putting a dash of sweetened coffee in it – so I felt like I’d found my people! And, yes, I married a man from Woonsocket, RI!


Moon & Mysteries: New England Giveaway

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Pru is back!

Well, she will be. Just sent off the completed manuscript of "Fear on Four Paws," a Pru Marlow pet noir, off to my editor. Projected pub date is August 2018. Phew...

Monday, October 23, 2017

Taking a deep breath....

This week, it begins. On Thursday, I'm doing a really fun musical event (with Kristin Hersh! Nick Flynn! Kelle Groom!) at Emerson College and next week my new mystery World Enough launches, with events at Harvard Bookstore and more. Oh yeah, and on Wednesday, I'll be announcing a contest – stay tuned! And I've got new books to write. So I might be quiet for a few days.... that doesn't mean that something fun isn't brewing!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

"A dark and compelling mystery..." Thank you, Kingdom Books!

"She's quietly brought us four different semi-mystical cat and amateur sleuth mystery series over the past decade -- and some edgy nonfiction before that. Now Boston author Clea Simon lets her inner rock 'n roller out of the back room and rips into a dark and compelling murder mystery of Boston's music nightlife in WORLD ENOUGH, due to release on November 1." So begins the book blog of Kingdom Books.

The book roots in Simon's own passion for rock 'n roll ..." To read more, click here.

Friday, October 20, 2017

How reliable is your memory?

How reliable is memory?

According to neuroscientists, not very. While we may view any particular memory as a continuous film of a past scene, those who study how the brain processes describe it as something more like a collage. As a 2012 Psychology Today article summarized, every time we conjure a memory, we are not so much reviewing a complete set of stored data as re-configuring a complex scene from disparate parts. In other words, every memory is newly re-assembled, and even if the pieces are accurate they may be prone to reinterpretation...

(To read more, please jump over to Crimespree,the wonderful crime fiction/mystery blog that is hosting me today: here!)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Boucheron in pictures

What happens when something like 1,700 crime fiction fans (authors, publishers, librarians, and fans - all of us readers) gather in one place? Craziness – and a lot of love. I'm now catching up after spending Thursday through Sunday at that party, also known as Bouchercon, an annual celebration that, this year, was held in Toronto. (That's where the auction in my last post took place.) Of course, I have the "con cold" now (it was worth it), so I'm not going to go on at length. But here are just some of the pix ... see if you can name the authors. Hope to see you all at the next Bouchercon, next September in Saint Petersburg, FL! (OH YEAH, what's up with those Aught Nine t-shirts? Email if you want to know more .. or if you want your own [while I still have some]).

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Going once, going twice ...

So one of the great things about Bouchercon is that it pairs with a charity, usually literacy related, to support reading (of course). But this being Bouchercon, it's done in a fun way. This year's beneficiary was Frontier College, is a longstanding cross-Canada literacy organization supporting people across Canada as they work to increase their literacy skills.

How do we raise money? Well, by auctioning off things like the right to name a pet in an upcoming pet noir, of course!


Donna Andrews and Chris Grabenstein served as our auctioneers:

And these are the wonderful winners, Sarah Byrne and Peter McDonald, whose kitty Bunbury Bandersnatch will have a cameo in "Fear on Four Paws."

and here's the newly minted star himself.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Indie bookstores rule...

When the Moon travel guides asked me to blog about my local independent bookstores, I jumped at the chance. New England has such a rich literary history, it makes sense that we have a rich bookstore history too – and this piece has links to great stores, reading series, and more!

"What do Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Parker have in common? They both lived and worked in New England, and whether they sought the serenity of Walden Pond or roamed the tough streets of Boston, this region informs their work. Add in greats such as Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sylvia Plath, and Atul Gawande, and you’ll get a glimpse of the range of authors who call this area home... to read more, click here.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Life lessons from a kitty

For this #FelineFriday, I look back on what Musetta (and Cyrus before her) have taught me. Here – and on the Pulpwood Queens' Beauty & the Book Blog – I share that wisdom with you!

There is no longer a Musetta here at Chez Musetta. The round tuxedo longhair who used to supervise my daily writing is gone But even though my beloved pet left us two weeks ago – after a long life and a blessedly brief illness at the age of 16 ½ – the lessons she taught me about how to live my own best life remain. In her memory – and in anticipation of the next feline who will come to share our home – I share these feline secrets with you.

Find the sunny spot: Cats are masters at finding the sunny spot on the rug, to the point where we called Musetta our solar-powered kitty. Now, maybe we can’t all lie around, warming our fur, as the morning turns to lazy afternoon, but the message is the same: Find the warmth and the light in your life – in the people around you, in your work, in your home – and take it all in. You’ll find you too are recharged, and then you can share that warmth with others.

Share the purr: Once you have found your sun, share that light with others. What is cheerier than a purring cat? When you have a vibrating kitty beside you on the sofa or on your lap, you can’t help but be cheered. So when you feel good – about anything – don’t hold back. Express yourself. Purr – and spread the joy.


Set your boundaries: On the other hand, don’t fake it when you don’t feel it. Too often we women, in particular, bend ourselves into all kinds of shapes trying to please others or squirming to fit ourselves into roles that simply aren’t us. That’s something cats never do. They are who they are, and they aren’t afraid to show it. Kitty doesn’t want to be pet? She walks away. Pull her tail? She hisses. Some people put cats down for this, saying they should be more dog-like and obedient. But the real message here is that we should all be more like that kitty. She demands respect, and as a result, she gets it.

You are beautiful, just as you are: Sure, we may make fun of fats cats, but they don’t care. A plump puss is a lovely puss, and those of us who really love cats know that it’s fine to have more of that feline to snuggle. And cats don’t fuss about their weight either – do you ever see a feline trying to fit into a too-tight fur? No! So whether you’re fluffy or svelte, take a cue from your cat and understand that you are perfect.

Take the time for self-care: Cats can groom for hours, working from nose-tip to tail tip, with breaks to individually manicure each claw. They don’t worry about being late for a play date or missing dinner. They know self-care is vital for our inner well-being. We may not follow exactly their beauty regimen – I prefer a comb to using my tongue – but the basic rule remains the same. Give yourself the time you need. Take care of yourself. Then you can take care of – and take on – the world.

Stay wild: Not all cats are hunters, and that’s fine. My kitties have all been indoor-only cats, whose “prey” are toy mice (and the occasional confused moth). That’s safer for them, and the birds in my yard are grateful, too! But even the most pampered pussycat becomes a tiger when she plays. Just watch a kitten stalk and pounce, and you’ll have a window onto the rich interior life that keeps cats from getting bored with their lot. These games reveal the importance of imagination and instinct – and of the inspiration and creativity we can draw from the wild side of our nature.

Relax! Life goes on whether you’re at the window supervising the squirrels or napping on the couch. Take time out, when you need it, whether that means dozing or just spending some time staring at the sunbeams. You’ll be better for it.

Clea Simon is pleased as punch that her new rock ‘n’ roll noir World Enough is a Pulpwood Queens October alternate read. But before this new darker book, she wrote 22 cat mysteries – from Mew is for Murder to As Dark As My Fur – as well as the nonfiction The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats. The winner of multiple Muse Medallions from the international Cat Writers Association for her writing about felines and about the human-animal bond, she will be bringing her best feline spirit to Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in January.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Yes, more cat mysteries are in the works

Feline left out? Please don't let your fur get all ruffled. Although my upcoming World Enough (Severn House) is a rock 'n' roll noir, I've got several cat mysteries in the works, ranging from cozy to claws out.

First up, the feline sleuth Blackie will return in Cross My Path (Severn House). This third Blackie & Care adventure tackles the mystery of Blackie's past as the duo take on a murder and a missing person in their dark and dangerous city. (June 2018)

Then, bad girl Pru Marlowe and her wisecracking tabby Wallis return in Fear on Four Paws (Poisoned Pen Press). This seventh pet noir mystery revisits the Berkshires, where Frank the ferret has a secret... (tentatively August 2018)

On the horizon, I'm working on a new cozy series, the Witch Cats of Cambridge, which will debut with A Spell of Murder (Polis Books). This fun, light-hearted series will feature a young woman who desperately wants to be a witch, all the while unaware that it is her three cats who have the real power ... and who must use it to solve crime and keep their person out of trouble. (Tentatively January 2019)

Will there be more rock 'n' roll noir after that? I hope so! Stay tuned, dear readers. Purrs out!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Lisa Unger LOVES "World Enough"

"With a colorful cast of characters, a gift for detail, and intricate plotting, Simon takes her readers deep into the esoteric world of the Boston music scene ..." – Lisa Unger.


I am breathless. Thriller queen/bestselling author Lisa Unger said THIS today on the Poisoned Pen bookstore blog:


Ah, remember the eighties? The alternative music, the underground clubs? When it was cool to be an outsider and a misfit? Clea Simon certainly does and she captures it perfectly in this atmospheric, twisting, time machine of a mystery featuring former rock journalist, turned corporate cog, Tara Winton. My pal Erin Mitchell sent this one. And when Erin tells me I’m going to like something, I always do. With a colorful cast of characters, a gift for detail, and intricate plotting, Simon takes her readers deep into the esoteric world of the Boston music scene as Tara’s questions about the “accidental” death of an old friend, lead her on a dangerous, twisting path to the past.
(Really!! See it here.)

wow

Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy new year – and new books!

Wow, what a week.

A week ago today, Musetta was still with us. Still herself. But maybe something had already changed. I was sitting at my desk, writing, and she came over and reached up to me – grabbing onto my thigh with her claws and asking to be lifted onto my lap. She hadn't done that in a long while. I hadn't thought about it – or if I did, I attributed it to her arthritis (for which we gave her injections), which made jumping difficult – but I knew what she wanted. I lifted her up to my lap and, reaching over her to my keyboard, went back to work. She jumped down soon and went about her business, but that was okay. I was nearing the end of a manuscript and I had another pending. I had no time to waste.

That night, Jon and I opened a bottle of champagne. I'd had a good offer for a new project, and although the details were still being ironed out, we wanted to celebrate. For us, that meant bubbly with our Friday night Korean takeout and movies. We did wonder why Musetta didn't come downstairs, as usual, to join us and both went up to "her" room to check on her. She seemed fine – alert, and looking up at us in her "do you need me for something? I was napping" way. Still, I woke up around five the next morning and went upstairs to her room (OK, the guest room - but she'd claimed it as hers). She was still lying on the futon, where we'd seen her the evening before, which wasn't unusual, but still... I lay next to her for a while, and when Jon woke and came up to join us, she jumped down from the futon and looked down the stairs at him. Everything seemed normal, and we went back to our own bed, leaving her in her domain.

It was all downhill from there. And while we were so, so not ready, our darling kitty was. At 16 1/2, our little jellicle had lived her life to the fullest and (after vet visits, feedings of baby food and B vitamins, various not-too-invasive procedures, and Jon playing violin for her, a story for another time) on Wednesday, Sept. 20, we said goodbye to her.

Over Monday and Tuesday, my wonderful and caring agent had worked out the details with my new publisher, Jason Pinter of Polis Books. She was very respectful of my feelings, but I had emailed her, telling her that I could use the distraction. Somewhere in there, Jason wrote me a lovely welcome letter, and I gather I managed to send him the bio and photo he needed to make the announcement (I was certainly on autopilot). When he shared the Publishers Marketplace announcement with me yesterday, Thursday, I initially agreed to share it – then realized I couldn't. He got it, and told me to take my time.

I did, and I will. I am certainly still mourning the mighty soul in the little fuzzy body who was my constant companion and muse for nearly 17 years – through my entire mystery-writing career. But I am also, now, excited about the future.

This fall, I have what I think of as my biggest, best book ever – World Enough – coming out. This book is a departure for me, being more noir than cozy, but it is the culmination of decades of writing, thinking, living... At any rate, for me it is huge. Officially, World Enough will be published in the U.S. on Nov. 1 by Severn House, but I'll be starting publicity for it soon (Bouchercon, New England Crime Bake, events at Harvard Bookstore and Mysterious Bookshop, among others - click here to see if I'll be coming to a store or library near you).

The book I have been trying to finish up is a new Pru Marlowe pet noir – the first in two years! Tentatively titled Fear on Four Paws, it should be out next August (from Poisoned Pen Press).

This will follow a third Blackie & Care mystery, which I finished in the spring. On Feb. 28 (UK)/June 1 (US), Cross My Path will bring back my brave black cat narrator as he unravels the mystery of his own life and transformation, all while he protects and aids the fearless girl whom he loves. (Thank you, Severn House, for believing in this series!)

But as this new year dawns, I am now getting ready to tackle a new project, near and dear to my heart: A Spell of Murder, the first in the Witch Cats of Cambridge cozy series. The witch cat series combines so much that matters to me – cats and their people, a touch of magic, whimsy, and a lot of love. I'll tell you all more about this soon, but I have to say, in all my sadness, I am so excited to be going forward with A Spell of Murder for Polis Books. My funny little person won't be sitting beside me for this one. But I like to think that Musetta – like my late, great Cyrus was as the spectral Mr. Grey of my Dulcie mysteries, and in the spirit of Theda Krakow's Musetta, Dulcie's Esme, and Pru's Wallis, whom she inspired – is still with me. I can feel her there now, purring in approval and curled up so comfortably right by my feet that I really must write just one more sentence before I quit for the day...

Musetta, March 28, 2001–Sept. 20, 2017

l'shana tova, folks. Happy new year to you all.

Some cheering news (new books!)

This happened this week, too. More cat mysteries on the way. So that is cheering!

From Publishers Marketplace: September 21, 2017
Digital: Fiction: Mystery/Crime
Author of the Pru Marlowe series Clea Simon's A SPELL OF MURDER, the first in her new "Witch Cats of Cambridge" series about a newly single woman training to be a witch, unbeknownst to her that her three felines are the ones with the real powers and must band together to solve a crime when their owner is accused of murder, to Jason Pinter at Polis Books, in a two-book deal, by Colleen Mohyde at The Colleen Mohyde Agency (World).

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

And then there was Musetta....

Again, from The Feline Mystique (St. Martin's, 2002):

In early March, we go to Texas and close-dance at the Broken Spoke. We eat barbecue, and buy cowboy boots. (THat's not why we went, but as I admire my ostrich-clad feet, I must say it was a high point.) I have begun to feel like myself again. One awful moment: After the long flight, as the cab nears our building, I hear it in my head as loudly as if he were saying it, Jon's voice exulting, "We're going to see a kitty!" just like he used to whenever we returned from a trip. (I hope he forgives me for revealing this.) My heart leaped in anticipation. Only he's not saying that, and we won't, ever again. I've lost my kitty. But then we go indoors, and I think I'll be okay.

On May 19, we adopt Musetta, a longhaired black-and-white female with an off-center star on her nose and round eyes like owl's. She wasn't the only kitten at the Animal Rescue League that day, and we told each other that we didn't need to choose any yet. But then she reached out for us, little white mitten extended to draw our fingers close, and our hearts were hooked as well. She's got the loudest voice I've ever heard in a kitten, and when she peeps for attention she stares straight at you to make sure she's getting it. Just seven weeks old, she's not the most coordinated bundle of fur on the planet, and when she hops down the hallway she looks for all intents and purposes like a long-tailed bunny. She's not the old friend that Cyrus was, but she is adorable, and already she lets me stroke her belly. I see how trusting she is, and how soft. When she falls asleep next to me, purring like a little engine, I feel myself warm to her. This is, after all, a love story.
* * *
Remembering our dear Musetta, who we lost today, 16 1/2 years after I wrote this. Our riot grrrl, our funny little kitty, who brought us so much joy.

Remembering Cyrus, 1984-2001

(from The Feline Mystique)

JANUARY 25, 2001

Well, our dear kitty – the sixteen-year-old perfect master – is gone. It was as good as it could be. He spent the last night with us. First he dragged himself into the living room and we lifted him onto the couch and he crawled onto my lap and purred. Then we took him to bed with us and he spent most of the night there. He even kneaded my arm weakly. At around 5 a.m., he wanted to get down. He tried to walk to the foot of the bed where the steps were for him, but he fell over. I pulled him back from the edge so he wouldn't fall off and soon he tried again, so I helped him down to the carpet and he made his proud, stiff way back to his bed in the office, slow drag by slow drag by slow drag. Most of the morning we sat with him. He came out of his bed and ate a little, drank a little, lying on the rug. Then he dragged himself back into his bed, and we sat with him.

At two o'clock, Melissa came. Cyrus was so weak, he was like a warm doll when Jon picked him up out of his bed and brought him into the living room and handed him to me. We sat on the living room floor with him, and he growled at Melissa just like old times, only a little softer. I looked away away as she gave him the first shot, to sedate him, and Jon held both of us, then I passed him to Jon who held him awhile, and we both kissed him and talked to him. He was unconscious, floppy as a rag doll, but still warm, still our kitty. Then Jon handed him back to me and Melissa gave him the shot that stopped his heart and I held him and Jon petted him and I felt his pounding heart slow and stop. Melissa then left us along for a while, and we held his little body and cried and said good-bye again.

We went out for a long walk after Melissa left (she took him for cremation), stopping finally for a beer and some food and later, the movie Chocolat. Don't ask if it was good or not, and don't read further if you plan on seeing it. All I can tell you for certain is that Judi Dench's character had a cat, a fine healthy cat, and that made me cry. I think Jon was crying too. Then Judi Dench died, and we both bawled out loud. I think the cat was okay, although I don't clearly remember i you see him again or not, and I never want to see that movie again.

Coming home was terrible. Going to bed without him was terrible. As I write this it's the next day, and that's terrible too. He was the perfect companion, so much personality in such a little package.

Today, I have a cat-sized hole in my heart

Musetta is gone.
March 28, 2001–Sept. 20, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

#FelineFriday - Hidden Tiger edition

Good news from the big cat world! According to this story in the New York Times, the Javan tiger – which has been considered extinct – may still be wandering in the wild!

As the report reads, "Rangers at Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java last month photographed a big cat unlike any previously seen in the preserve. The pictures, released this week, set off a flurry of speculation that one of Indonesia’s legendary species was still alive..." (read more here).

Meanwhile, snow leopards are being taken off the endangered species list. That doesn't mean that they're not still at risk, though. (Read more here.)

Prefer your cat news in mystery form? Sign up for my newsletter here for the latest in cozy kitties and rock and roll cats! (You can unsubscribe at any time!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"Gritty and Gripping" (thank you, BOLO Books)!

BOLO Books (as in "be on the lookout") previews fall crime fiction, and I'm THRILLED to say that "World Enough" made the cut of books to look out for!

BOLO writes: "As always, competition for these slots was tough. Which books are generating that elusive buzz in the publishing industry? Which are books that I have been waiting for?"

The post then goes on to cite new books by greats like Val Mcdermid (I'm reading her "Insidious Intent" now)and the first in Victoria Thompson's new series (love her). And right in there is "World Enough," saying, "Clea Simon is typically known for her cozy writing, but here she makes a strong departure with a crime novel centered around Boston’s club culture and secrets that lie buried in the past. I’ve heard it is gritty and gripping." I hope it lives up to the hype – and I'm ever so grateful that BOLO is giving it a shot!

You can read the full post here: APB - Fall 2017.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Rock trivia!

Hey, Greater Boston-area rockers!
Come on out tonight for Rock 'n' Roll Trivia tonight (Monday) at Once in Somerville. Erin Amar (of Rockerzine) and local legend Brett Milano will be handling the main duties – and they've asked me to help out too! We'll help you organize into teams, if you come alone and want to team up. And among the MANY prizes, we'll be giving away a copy of my "World Enough." Plus, it's taco night!

Friday, September 8, 2017

I can haz news?

Gearing up for the new school year means new books! If you want to hear the latest on what I'm writing, who I'm chatting with, and what's coming up next, please consider signing up for my (very occasional) newsletter here. (You can unsubscribe at any time!) There's lots brewing that I want to tell you about – and I'm going to be offering prizes, too! (And happy #FelineFriday!)


Musetta, hard at work

Thursday, September 7, 2017

No, I'm not writing about your band

"So, tell me the truth. What band is the Aught Nines supposed to be?"
"None. It's fiction."
"Ha! I thought you'd say that. You just don't want to tell me."

I'm hearing this more and more these days, as advance copies of World Enough go out and readers – members of the local scene – weigh in. But I'm not hiding anything, it's true: While I try to depict the rock scene of the mid- to late-'80s, with all it wild fun, fury, and excess, the people in my mystery are not based on real characters. The scene, however, well, that's real. I mean, did I ever see a drummer get so drunk that he vomited and passed out, falling off his stool before the band could play its first song? No. But did it happen? Yeah, probably. That's how things were back then...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Into the Grey" in paperback!

My latest Dulcie Schwartz mystery, "Into the Grey," is out today in paperback!"Well plotted," says Publishers Weekly!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Helping Houston

There are so many people who need so much - the Red Cross is a great place to start. But for those of you who, like me, are animal lovers, here is a link to SPCA Texas: spca.org or here. SPCA Texas has also posted an Amazon wishlist for those who would rather donate specific items: here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The best band you've never heard of...

They should have been huge...

if they existed at all!


World Enough, coming Nov. 1, 2017, from Severn House.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Can cats see things we can't?

Happy #FelineFriday! To celebrate what we've all long suspected, I'm sharing an article that suggests that cats (and dogs, too) can "see" things that are invisible to the human eye - certain wavelengths and lights. And maybe, just maybe, spirits... (click here)

Friday, August 11, 2017

That's a cougar, and I ain't lion...

Do we have mountain lions here in Massachusetts, or is the Eastern cougar truly extinct? The question was the basis of my 2014 Pru Marlowe pet noir mystery, Panthers Play for Keeps. It's a debate that has raged for years and this post on Facebook has brought it back to the public eye. Panther or no? What do you think? And happy #FelineFriday! (Read more here.)

Monday, August 7, 2017

"Simon ... gets it exactly right" (Thank you!)

WORLD ENOUGH weaves together some of my favorite things: A good mystery, a flawed heroine regaining her mojo, and rock 'n' roll. Specifically, World Enougj is set in the Boston rock scene and alternative press scene in the mid-80's. Having been there, I can say that Clea Simon has done a beautiful job of evoking this time and place before Boston underwent a tech-fuelled makeover and when the Rat was the gloriously grubby place to be. Simon gracefully handles the transitions from past to present, as her heroine Tara Winton, a bored PR associate, tries to recapture the idealism and sense of community she knew back in her youth as a rock critic and club regular. Her obsession with the mysterious death of a musician from the old scene sends her down a rabbit hole where she finds that her memories of that time dont hold up to the reality her investigation uncovers.

Many fiction writers have tried and failed to credibly capture the rock and roll life on the page. Clea Simon, a former music reviewer herself, gets it exactly right." – Joyce Millman (Village Voice, McSweeneys), writing on Goodreads.