Monday, March 31, 2008

Dinner and a motivation

So, we had our buddy Chris over last night for lamb stew and "John Adams" on HBO, but of course we were all talking about our latest projects. Jon, my husband, is learning violin and has now been playing one year. Chris couldn't make his recital, so Jon reprised his three tunes, which sounded great. Chris told us about some issues with her work in progress – I don't want to reveal what it is until she gives me the okay, but take my word for it, it's going to be great. And we all agreed that at some point you just have to muddle through. The next phase will reveal itself in time. And I started thinking about my current WIP, "Probable Claws" (aka, Theda #4). I'd planned on a scene and I no longer remembered why that scene was in there. Jon pointed out that it would be fun to see the characters interacting, but I'm trying to work on my plotting skills, so I was thinking, "How will this scene advance the plot? What will readers learn in this scene that I need them to know, or what misdirection will be applied?"

Well, I came up with a list and now I have to do it. I don't know if it was the company of creative people or the wine, but I'm inspired! So, what are you working on? How's it going?

(Oh yeah, and me on the new Benjamin Black, "Silver Swan.")

Friday, March 28, 2008

Take two kittens and call me in the morning

A new study from the University of Minnesota has found that people who cohabit with cats have a 40 percent lower risk of fatal heart attacks. Of course, the cats may be the result of a lower stress lifestyle, rather than vice versa. But still a nice bit of news.
(P.S. Dog owners are at lower risk, too.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Criticism (WTF)

So I'm talking to my buddy Lisa about criticism, about rejection, about how at some point you just have to (as poet Bill Corbett once told me) write your own damn book. And she started telling me about when she sang in a band and got some of the wierder critiques I've ever heard. Now, if you listen to the tracks on the linked MySpace page, you'll hear she has a lovely voice, truly, but some critic (male) heard the band and said she "sang like she had an angry vagina." WTF?!?

To which, I can only respond with the words of the immortal and wonderful Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas:

Put a hump in your back
and jam right on.
Let the people know
you got it going on...

(Oh yeah, the entire song is also available on Rhapsody)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hoarding in the headlines

If you've read my Mew is for Murder, you know something about animal hoarding, aka the "crazy cat lady" syndrome. Well, now Today on MSNBC is on it, too. This story has lots of good information, and there's also a video clip that includes a visit to a home where one misguided hoarder housed more than 100 cats. Check it out. (For more on hoarding: read this.)

And on another level entirely: "Our water bill is going to be outrageous."

Monday, March 17, 2008

A woman must have a code

Love food. Didn't love this book. And, to file under "I refuse to let 'The Wire' die," loved this. Are we in denial yet?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A kitty with movie star moxie (guest blog)

In September 2007, Anthology Film Archives, downtown Manhattan's prestigious avant-garde repertory cinema, mourned the passing of its beloved mascot, a cat named Max.

The tortie girl, who enjoyed a good game of ping pong, showed up at Anthology's door seventeen years ago. By adopting her, Anthology enabled Max to live the dream of many hardcore cinephiles: being surrounded by celluloid art 24/7.

To mark Max's passing, tonight at 8 p.m. Anthology will screen a selection of cat-centric avant-garde films by Brakhage, Hollis Frampton, Joyce Wieland, Martha Colburn, and Pola Chapelle, including Frampton's "Maxwell's Demon," the film that gave Max her name.

According to Anthology's Stephanie Gray, Max's cinematic tastes were surprising. She was mesmerized by Stan Brakhage's "Dog Star Man," and showed a special interest in any movie with subtitles.

Gray notes that, by the end of her life, "Max had clocked more years at Anthology than any but our two stalwarts, founder and artistic directo Jonas Mekas and librarian and director of collections Robert Haller (and even they tended to go home at night)."

"Come help us give Max the classiest memorial of any cat in the repertory film world," reads Anthology's irresistible invitation. Cats are welcome to come pay their respects, admission free.
See you there >^..^< – Julia Szabo
Julia Szabo manages the Cinematic Dog blog on

Thursday, March 13, 2008

crime and R&B

I write about radio for The Boston Globe, and so over the last few days I've witnessed a lot of schaudenfraude in the industry (along with jokes about "pay for play") that Eliott Spitzer was going to clean up. But now that I hear that the woman at the center of the Governor-felling scandal, Ashley Alexandra Dupre aka "Kristen," is an aspiring singer, I can't help but wonder... could this have been set up by a station?

Nah, probably not, but how long before we start hearing her "What We Want" on hot hit radio?

***Oh! On this week's Animal Connection, Vicki Croke talks animal forensics and the return of the Eastern gray wolf! More reason to keep your kitties inside. (Click on the wolf to hear.)

"How Do I Get Reviewed?" a guest blog by David J. Montgomery

I review as well as write, and so I am occasionally queried by authors who are desperate for coverage. I’ve been in the same boat myself, way too often. But most of my reviews, as I tell these authors, are assigned by my editors. Therefore, I turned to reviewer and Crime Fiction Dossier blogger David Montgomery to answer the question: How do I get reviewed?

The perennial question, the thing critics always hear, but never have a very good answer for: "How do I get my book reviewed?"

When I'm being flippant, I say, "You don't." With review space drying up like the Gobi Desert, the number of books being reviewed in the major newspapers is probably smaller than it's every been before. So realistically, your chance of getting reviewed in those outlets is pretty damn small.

That doesn't mean you have to give up. But it does mean that you might need to change your expectations and start looking in different places. You shouldn't discount the big papers, but you shouldn't count on them too much either.

On the other hand, local newspapers often have potential for review coverage. (Most newspapers like to write about local authors.) Even if the paper doesn't ordinarily review books, that doesn't mean they won't do it. Contact the Features Editor and make your pitch to him/her. Even there, though, the amount of space is small and the number of books is large.

You should consider popular websites and blogs. Online reviews don't have the readership of the major newspapers, nor do they carry the same cachet. There are, however, a lot of them and they review many more books. The important thing is to target the right sites -- you want those that have a lot of traffic, that review books (or will consider reviewing them), that appeal to the kind of people who would buy your book, etc.

The various niche magazines (like mystery magazines or whatever is applicable to your type of book and its subject; for example, if you've written a thriller about a fisherman, considering pitching fishing magazines) are also worth pursuing. Just keep in mind that they require a significant amount of lead time, so you'll need to make sure they get the book early.

Your publicist should be doing this stuff for you... But we all know that often doesn't happen. So what do you do? I advise authors to (cautiously) contact reviewers themselves. If it's done in the right way, I don't think anyone would be offended. It might be a waste of time, but on the other hand it doesn't require much of an investment. You don't need to sell yourself or the book. Just a simple email with the pertinent details is sufficient:

"Dear So-and-So:
My new mystery novel is being published June 15 in hardcover by Poisoned Pen Press. It's about a one-eyed private detective from Mars who's trying to solve a nasty ring of catnappings taking place at bed and breakfasts in the wine country.
May I have my publicist send you a copy for review consideration?"

Once you do that, leave it alone. If you don't hear back, move on. If you do hear back, make sure your publicist (or you) sends a copy of the book. After that, leave it alone. Don't follow up. I would recommend you not attempt any further contact with the reviewer. It's unlikely to help your cause.

If the reviewers are aware of your book, you've done all you can. You need to be realistic about your chances for much review coverage. There are hundreds of mysteries published each month, but only space to review a handful of them. Even if you've written a good book, the math is against you. But if you persist -- and if you write a great book -- people will eventually notice. Good luck!

David J. Montgomery writes about authors and books for several of the country's largest newspapers. He blogs at the Crime Fiction Dossier.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Remember that day, summer past?"

Last night, the incomparable crime drama "The Wire came to an end. Some people got lost in the flood, some people got out all right. But one in particular breaks my heart. If you saw it, you know what I mean. Thoughts? (The New York Times' take.)

On another note, is the new Benjamin Black as good as "Christine Falls"? I weigh in at the Boston Globe.

Question of the day: Whose "The Wire" story did you expect to end differently – and why?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Georgia on my mind

The wonderful David C. Tucker interviewed me for the DeKalb County Public Library blog today. How nice! Also up today, my review of "Mozart's Ghost" for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Soundtrack for today: The HorrorPops' "Heading for the Disco."

Shout out for the day to Eric Ruben, former lawyer-turned-actor. He takes my phone calls – "Okay, I'm caught holding a dead body, with the murder weapon in my hand" – and walks me through the legalities without even blinking.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Getting back to work...

Or trying to, anyway. Seeing this makes me think others have the same problems with procrastination. (With thanks to Karen.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"You look good, girl"

Say goodbye to the gangbanger girls. This week, we've lost Snoop as well as Margaret B. Jones. Both were fictional, but only one was a work of art.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sleuthfest highlights...

Way overtired and too much to catch up with, but a few highlights:

Blaize Clement noting that we need pets to love, that we all talk to our pets, and that having characters talk to their pets can be very revealing about their characters. (I am absolutely loving her "Curiosity Killed the Cat-Sitter.")

Sun-Sentinel reviewer Oline Cogdill describing the mystery as the contemporary social novel. Whatever issue you care about, you'll find it discussed, dissected, turned this way and that in a mystery.

Ace Edwards creatorRandy Rawls (author of "Jasmin's Fate") reciting a passage from a J.A. Konrath mystery ("Bloody Mary") by the pool as an example of beautiful and on point writing (and then going on into very funny stories about being in the armed forces).

oh, and seeing pelicans, getting out of the cold, and more....