Thursday, March 23, 2017

RIP Colin Dexter

The creator of the beloved "Inspector Morse" series was, by all accounts, also a kind and generous man. This appreciation by fellow crime writers in the Guardian says it all, but in addition to this lovely tribute, I have been seeing dozens of remembrances of this eminence grisé, who died at his home in Oxford earlier this week at the age of 86. I am sorry I never got to meet him, but it confirms my suspicion that crime writers are the nicest people. Maybe it's because we get our aggressions out in print. Maybe because we have made ourselves face the evil people can do. All I can tell you is the generosity in this community has amazed me. I hope to emulate Mr. Dexter, at least in this respect. Rest in peace, sir.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Speaking out for the NEA and NEH

Yup, I'm one of them - a writer who wrote a postcard voicing support for continued NEA and NEH funding as part of this LitHub campaign. After all, this funding amounts to less than 1% of the federal budget, but it pays for programs that bring the arts and humanities – history, literature, poetry, painting... – to ALL Americans. As I wrote on my card (can you read the scrawl?), "Arts are not just for the wealthy!" Share if you agree, or write your own card! #NEApostcards

End game ... with ships

I'm not a plotter. Far from it – instead, I am very much a "pantser," writing by the seat of my pants, so to speak. But as I explained a week or so ago, at some point, I do have to sit down and figure things out. Sometimes, the endings of my books make themselves obvious to me (of COURSE her best friend is implicated in the murder!). At other times, I realize I've made complications for myself - side stories that have taken on a life of their own and that need their own resolutions.

In my latest WIP (the third Blackie and Care, tentatively titled "Cross My Path," the follow up to "As Dark As My Fur"), I found myself researching the infamous Triangle Trade that enabled slavery in the New World – but enriched the Old World. I first learned about from the musical "1776," in the song "Molasses to Rum to Slaves." But I found myself learning a lot more as I read. And even though the Blackie and Care books take place in a fictional world – a strange dystopian city where everything has broken down – what I've learned has become part of a side story, one that must be properly resolved. How will I do it, dear reader? That is the mystery I am working to solve now.

Monday, March 20, 2017

New England Mobile Book Fair needs your help!

New England Mobile Book Fair needs your help!

Hey, local authors and readers! You know how NEMBF has always been there – a big, sprawling treasure trove of a bookstore? Well, now it – and owner Tom Lyons – needs your help.

The store is looking for a new home – ideally 3,000–4,000 SF of sales space at no more than $7,000/month triple net. Lyons is looking at Natick, Canton, Waltham, West Roxbury, and Needham, but is open to other possibilities. He is also seeking an investor/partner, if you or anyone you know has always wanted to get involved with a bookstore.

Bottom line: the current store is huge (over 16,000 SF) and the bulk of that space is for bargain books, which are just not paying their way. The new store would likely be tighter and more focused (no more religion or university press books, probably). But the big-selling genres – MYSTERY! other fiction, and children's books – will remain. This move has to happen, says Lyons, because costs are now so high, he is having trouble buying inventory. No books = no bookstore.

Tom will also be looking for help. Right now, he’s boxing up the first edition, signed mysteries. Want to help? Know of a good, safe storage space? Further down the line, he'll also be asking for more help packing – and there are also going to be those lovely wooden bookshelves for sale.

Can you help? Contact Tom Lyons at tom.nembf AT gmail.com (you know how to put that together, just trying to foil the bots) or by phone at 617-964-7440 (have him paged).

PS - This all means that bargain books over $5 are now 50% off!! What a deal!

"A very good read..."

Why, thank you, Journey of a Bookseller weighs in on AS DARK AS MY FUR, concluding, "I look forward to reading more about her and Blackie. They make a mean team." Read more here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A librarian's cats celebrate #FelineFriday

Jeanne Powers, who blogs for the Bristol (VA) Public Library, always has the best photos to accompany her book reviews. Of course, some of the outtakes are the best... I like this one!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The "Aha" Moment

I'm what is known as a "pantser," rather than a "plotter." Rather than figure out all the twists and turns of a book before I begin to write it, I start with an idea – a problem or a question – and then start writing. This can be difficult. I end up writing some dead ends that I have to scrap, and I must revise really carefully to make sure everything makes sense. On the plus side, this allows me to surprise myself, when characters or scenes suggest innovations that I never would have thought of if I had tried to bang out the entire story before I started writing.

I'm currently working on the third Blackie and Care (the followup to "As Dark As My Fur"), and I thought I had hit a major block. I was just about to take a break, to start re-reading the manuscript desperate to find some new thread to follow, when the magic happened. I bashed out a scene, and then went for a workout. I wasn't consciously thinking about my book problems as I ran, but something clicked. As I hit the 20-minute mark, I had one of those "aha" moments. The scene I had just written reached the wrong conclusion – but once I rewrote it, I saw what would happen next, and, in fact, how the rest of the book, using all the odd bits I'd written over the previous weeks, could come together into an exciting (I hope) conclusion.

Now the only problem will be reading my own sloppier-than-usual post-workout scrawl!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Simon does a masterful job..."

Wow, just wow, this review from the Bookblog of the Bristol Public Library: "Simon does a masterful job of creating atmosphere, using Blackie’s narration to go beyond mere visual description to evoke the dark, cold feel of the city with the smell of refuse, the biting wind, and the hungers of all types that eat at the inhabitants....
Yet there is a hope in the bleakness. Care is a brave, compassionate girl willing to take on thugs or even the system itself in order to right wrongs."

There's more, if you want to read it here. And, of course, there's a great illustration. Here's Nuit, with As Dark As My Fur.

Monday, March 13, 2017

When your witness is a robot....

One of the hot topics among mystery writers is how to deal with current technology. After all, if our heroine is threatened these days, all she has to do is whip out her smart phone, call for help, and maybe film whoever is threatening her. She can even do a search for incriminating evidence or film suspicious activity.

That can make creating a mystery challenging. There are only so many times you can reasonably have your protagonist lose her cell – or have the battery run down, right? Well, the situation just got more interesting. Investigators in an Arkansas murder investigation want to access material from an Amazon Echo (aka, "Alexa"). This technology is always on and waiting for a voice prompt, so it may have heard something that could shed light on what happened that night, when a couple of buddies crashed after a night of beers and talk and one ended up floating in the hot tub... dead. Read more here.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A girl stands up to Wall Street

A reminder that we must stand up to power even when it's not International Women's Day. Be brave! Stand up! A girl stands up to Wall Street.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A day for heroines

Today is International Women's Day, celebrating the strength and diversity of women around the world as we struggle for equality. Here, in the U.S., some of us are honoring this day as a Day Without Women, in which we avoid working (if we can) or shopping (except in women and/or minority-owned businesses). As an independent contractor, I can't avoid working today – but I am not shopping today. I am also joining thousands of others in wearing red today. Won't you join us?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017



Tonight I'll be joining Sisters in Crime Julie Hennrikus and Frances McNamara to talk about mysteries, writing, and "The Modern Heroine." Come join us at 7 p.m., at Memorial Hall Library, Andover, MA. Free, of course!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Happy World Book Day!

Read a book! Give a book to a friend! Take a book out of the library! Let's celebrate World Book Day!

Four stars for "As Dark As My Fur"

"I read a lot of books per year," writes reviewer Kath on Goodreads. "Every so often I crave something different. For me, this was that book." She is writing, of course, about my As Dark As My Fur, a mystery she says, that "can be read on different levels." She then goes on to talk about the characterization and the "cat bits," which she loves. She concludes: "All in all, an interesting, different but satisfying read." What a thoughtful review! I'm so grateful! Want to read the full review? Click here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Happy Mardi Gras!

Happy Fat Tuesday, everyone! But, please, take care of yourself (and your friends). Don't be this kitty:

Friday, February 24, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

SWAT Cat gets a condo - Happy #FelineFriday!

Do you know about SWAT cat? This stray calico adopted - and was adopted by – the Boston Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactical (SWAT) unit. She's had some adventures – including a worrisome period in December 2015 when she went missing. But now she's back and has a new home, a lovely kitty condo, courtesy of the BPD. Full story here.

photo courtesy of the Boston Police Dept.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blackie comes to the U.S.!

Official U.S. pub date isn't until April 1 (no fooling!), but Amazon now has "As Dark As My Fur" available in hardcover with FREE SHIPPING! (Click here to be connected.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cat love for Valentine's Day!

"Got a bunch of cat love, no stopping that! Hand's up, let's adopt a cat!" Rapper Moshow shows his feline feelings in this video. And while he's honoring his local Portland, OR, shelter, you know there's a shelter near you with kitties willing and able to love you!

What is love?

Sometimes, it's roses, sure (thank you, sweetie!). But sometimes it's taking the time to look over a friend's essay or job application. To shovel your neighbor's sidewalk, cause you're out there already and he's warm and dry. Sometimes, it's that call or email that comes "for no reason." Or when your kitty brings you her favorite orange mouse? Yeah, I think that's it. Connection – that's what love is.
Thanks, all of you, for reading. For being my Valentine. Happy day, all!

Monday, February 13, 2017

May I be your Valentine?


Tomorrow is Valentine's Day (a silly holiday but one I personally like, in small doses). If you're so inclined, take five minutes out of your day to send a valentine to a writer you like, in the form of an online review (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc - wherever you frequent).

Hell, send two, or three, or a dozen. Writers are happy to share the love. And trust me, they WILL feel the love.

(naturally I'd be thrilled if you did this for one of my titles, but embrace it as you will...) I'm going to do this. Won't you? Happy Valentine's Day!

(Borrowed from Laura Anne Gilman, a lovely writer)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Caturday

Because it is the weekend, and because we could all use a little good news - here's a clip from a new documentary called "Kedi," about the street cats of Istanbul:



The New York Times gives it "four paws up."

Friday, February 10, 2017

A very February #FelineFriday

No, "cat curling" isn't a real sport – and this isn't even an Olympic year. But still... Happy "#FelineFriday!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

I do love oysters... (books in series orders)

Funny what you find when you're playing around the Internet. When I saw a site advertising "Books in Series Order," I immediately clicked through. Sure enough, this site has an accurate listing of all my books to date. But what really intrigued me was that it had a little bio of me, apparently drawn from interviews I've given.

In part, it reads:
Most of her books feature punny titles and plenty of cats, but there is also more than meets the eye when looking at her books. The heroines that the books feature are often modeled after herself, in that each of her characters is a part of herself. There is a darkness that lines the stories that she tells through her novels, which points back to the noir connections in her writing. Her books often use murder, mystery, and music to drive her stories, all while staying true to a core of animal rights. All of this being done without ever becoming preachy or self-righteous. Those already familiar with animal rights issues will surely agree with the message that Simon is putting across with her novels, while those who are unfamiliar will find new information presented in engaging and new ways.

For the full writeup (including the series list), click here.

Monday, February 6, 2017

"Morality... this book is about morality"

"Morality. This novel, narrated by ... a cat named Blackie, is about morality." Wow, how much do I love this review of As Dark As My Fur? Sometimes, when you read a review, you learn things about your own work. Thank you, Jeannie Rigod.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Cats at Westminster? #FelineFriday

Now here's the oddest cat story of the week: This year, the Westminster Dog Show will feature ... a cat! Read about Jungletrax (that's her name) here.

AP Photo

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

"Do one thing every day that scares you." That quote, often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, may not have been voiced by the great First Lady, but it is still excellent advice for expanding your horizons. It's true in writing, too. Afraid of a conflict? Go there. Not sure you can resolve a plot point? Try. Secretly fear you can't write that novel? You'll never know unless you start it, will you? Be brave, today! Seize life and make it your own.

Monday, January 30, 2017


"We are in love with this series by one of our favorite writers," begins this AWESOME review of "As Dark As My Fur"! She then goes on to use phrases like "absolutely mesmerizing" that have me positively purring. Thank you, Miss Cuddlywumps!

Pssst: You can get it NOW here (at a discount too)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

As Dark As My Fur

A black cat, a lone girl, and a city full of trouble... Did you know you can pre-order AS DARK AS MY FUR on Amazon? Yup! Here https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Fur-Blackie-Care-Mystery/dp/0727886827/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484851421&sr=8-1&keywords=As+Dark+As+My+Fur

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Going dark

Readers may have noticed a trend in my writing - I've been going darker. From the gentle cozies of Theda Krakow ("Mew is for Murder") and Dulcie Schwartz ("Into the Grey"), I went to the sardonic sass of Pru Marlowe ("When Bunnies Go Bad") and then the black cat-noir chat of "The Ninth Life." The sequel to "The Ninth Life," called "As Dark As My Fur," will be out soon (it's available from the UK here!). But next up is a book so dark it doesn't even have cats in it! To be called "World Enough," it's my rock and roll mystery, set in the underground music scene of Boston in the 1980s, and Severn House will publish it in October. I'm working on a soundtrack, and I'll have photos of the real thing to post as publication gets closer. But don't worry, cat cozy fans! I've now gone dark enough that I've realized I want to balance things out. I've got a new kitty cozy in the works, too. Light and dark together – that's what makes a writer happy. This one, anyway!