Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yikes! I am TAGGED!

Yikes! Linda L. Richards has tagged me!

The deal, she says, is that those tagged must:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged YOU.

So... here goes:

Lucky for me, Elizabeth George's "Careless in Red" just arrived and was to the right of my desk. The sixth through eighth sentences are part of a dialogue:

"You and I both know she's lying through those pretty white teeth of hers. Your job is to find out why."
"You can't possibly require me–"

Wow, ok, I'm hooked!

And I tag Caroline Leavitt, Wendy R, Karen E. Olson, Victoria Zackheim, and Deb Grabien. You're it, gals! And if anyone else feels like grabbing a book and chiming in, please do!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Because I just can't watch this too often. Dance, kitties, dance!

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Art and the muse

One of the wonderful things that happens when the writing has gone well is that on re-reading you discover you were writing more than you knew. To explain, as I'm re-reading "Probable Claws," which is simply intended as a fun mystery, I'm realizing that the theme of commitment and its opposite, letting go, runs through it. I don't know what that means, but I've written it on a sticky and so now I see it every morning as I sit down to work.

And because we cannot control when, or whom, the muse will inspire: A kitten playing the theremin. Watch to the end for an unforgettable reaction shot. As my friend Brett notes, "Everybody's a critic!"

Maybe there's a statement about art to be made here.

Kitten Plays Theremin

Friday, April 18, 2008

How big is too big?

I've finished – at least I think I've finished – the first draft of Probable Claws. It's a little over 85,000 words. Is that too big?

Tomorrow I start reading it through to see if it makes sense.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Gossip

The band, not the dirt, that is. But for any reader out there who wonders what Violet Hayes's band sounds like, well, if this guitarist were a short woman with purple hair, this would be it:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Slightly overstuffed, but fun

"A Carrion Death," Michael Stanley's debut, resembles its protagonist, Detective Kubu. Sensory overload, but in a good way.

Speaking of... I just had one of those marvelous moments that you writers will recognize. Partly, it's that I was coming back from the gym and the blood was flowing. Partly it's the combination of listening to vintage disco/'80s rock/New Orleans funk on my iPod (Poison to the Hot 8 to Chic) and reading Ned Sublette's wonderful "The World That Made New Orleans" at the same time, a heady combination. Partly it's because I have been wondering for some time, just why does my heroine suddenly see the killer for who (s)he is? And it hit me: another character, who has gone missing, calls her and casually mentions a discarded shirt and, well, it all falls into place. I've now made notes to work on the conversation tomorrow. To me it makes sense. I hope it will to you all, too. Time to shower.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Can we make Musetta a saint?

OK, it's sort of old news, but according to Galleycat, the "I Can Haz Cheezburger" guy, Martin Grodin, has a book deal. What is new is that he's created an open source site for people who want to create a LOLCats Bible and publish it. For all those scholarly LOL kitties out there.

humorous pictures
see more crazy cat pics

No, the above is not a record of Musetta's misspent youth.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Amphibimania, part 2!

Another cool frog story! You know I love my frogs and toads!

So, if this dude (Barbourula kalimantanensis) had a fight with the giant toad (Beelzebufo), who would win? What if the fight was in the water, so Beelzebufo couldn't come up for air?

David Simon on the birth of "The Wire"

From the same Boston Phoenix blog, or "phlog," this tidbit from Kafka's letters, about housebreaking his cat:

“How hard it is to arrive at an understanding with an animal on this question. There seem to be only misunderstandings, for the cat knows, through blows and other explanation, that there is something undesirable about taking care of her needs of nature, and that the place for it has to be carefully chosen. So what does she do? Well, for example she chooses a spot that is dark, that will in addition show me her affection...But from the human side this spot happens to be inside my bedroom slipper.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Kitty hypnosis

Why do I suddenly find myself craving Greenies?

O tempore, o mores

I love the New York Times. This story, for one example, almost makes up for the front page, above- the- fold headline, "When Foreigners by the Factory." (This has already been corrected on the electronic version, so I can't show it, but it ran.)

oh yeah, and it's opening day at Fenway. Go Sawx!
(Photo by Dan Juaire, see full caption.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Process, process, process

How do you write?

I don't outline, really, but I do have a synopsis (partly because my editor demands one) and I usually start a book with a broad overview of how the story will go in my head. Despite these, I usually just sort of write, letting my characters sort things out between themselves, the plot resolution just a goal on the horizon, all subject to change. I do all of this on the computer. I type faster than I write and I love the clarity of type. I can read what I've typed easier than what I've written by hand, and the translation from mind to written word has long seemed easier this way, ever since I got my first Kaypro computer back 20 years ago.

But recently I've found myself writing long-hand notes, too. Lists, mainly, of plot points that I want to bring up in a given scene, and some lines of dialogue. Often by the time to write comes my notes are completely illegible, even to me. But the writing of them seems to serve a purpose.

Are you a list maker? An outliner? Do you write by hand or on the computer?

Fenway hawk update

When a redtailed hawk attacked a 13-year-old at Fenway Park last night, it made a big splash in the local news. (The young woman is ok, the talons scratched her scalp and she was treated but it doesn't sound like there was any serious damage.) Turns out, the hawk was nesting nearby and most stories end with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Boston's Animal Rescue League removing the nest, which contained an egg. This seemed unfair to me - why blame the hawk? Why not just cordon off the area until nesting is over? But Christopher Smalley at ARL has explained. The egg, which was deemed nonviable, was removed from a steel beam near the nest. (It had fallen out; this new story has details.) The nest was not. Smalley writes in an email:

By state law, the ARL of Boston is only able to remove injured or deceased wildlife. The non-viable egg was transported to the DFW. The ARL of Boston did not remove the nest. It's our understanding that the Hawk is still in the vicinity of Fenway Park.

Good to know.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The real cost of pets

Hmm... I understand the point of this New York Times article on the costs of having a pet. The writer is trying to alert folks on a budget about the often overlooked expenses of living with an animal. Or she just got a copy of the 2008 APPMA pet products trend report and pitched it at her editor as something fun. (Hey, we journalists do that.)

But talk about missing the boat. First, she mentions not buying a dog from a pet store in a kind of obligatory way. BUY a pet? Reputable pet supply stores no longer sell pets. They pair with shelters to do adoptions, but they do not sell puppies or kitttens, and those sad, grimy little corner stores that do ought to give any half sensible person fair warning. Yes, you might be the last chance for the poor animals there, but odds are you won't get a healthy animal. Then, she talks about adopting from a shelter but seems surprised that "you cannot just walk in and pick up a dog or a cat." She mentions that the usual fee may include shots and/or neutering, but not why shelters ask questions. It's not just to screen out the crazies (that, too), but it's also often part of a national effort to better pair people with pets. People who know what they're getting in terms of temperment, health, needs, and lifespan, are better able to make the lifelong commitment. The shelter asks questions because they don't want that cute kitten coming back in six months, when she's no longer quite so adorable. Or that frisky puppy returning in a year, untrained, because his once-playful antics no longer amuse the clueless owner.

Yes, regular vet visits are expensive. As is proper food, bedding, litter, etc. But if someone is going to write about who pays the real cost in improvident pet adoption, that writer should at least note that too often it's the animals who pay – and they pay with their lives.

(Thanks to Scott Delucchi of the Penninsula Humane Society for explaining how shelters are making sure more animals have healthy "forever" homes. Look for more in Probable Claws.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why cozies? A guest blog by Diana Vickery

Diana Vickery runs the great Cozy Library and she and I have been talking about the merits of the so-called cozy, or traditional, mystery. I posted my own Defense of the Cozy a few months back. Here is her take.

Why do I read cozy? A more fundamental question is “Why do I read at all?”

Mom wrote in my baby book that, at age two, I could entertain myself for a long time with a book. I theorize I enjoyed books because, being a very nearsighted little girl, a book within reading distance was the only clear image in my otherwise watercolor world. By age eight, when I got eyeglasses, the reading habit was ingrained.

I wasn’t a precocious child who taught myself to read. No, I was happy to look at pictures and learn reading from Sister Eugene Marie. My early reading is mostly a blur, but I do remember
The Boxcar Children, The Bobbsey Twins and The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.

Later favorites included
Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen, The Source by James Michener and, in college, Too Far to Walk by John Hersey. It wasn’t until after graduate school, while working as a college administrator (I had lots of time on my hands) that I ceased going down someone else’s reading path started going where I wanted.

About that time, my friend Laurel introduced me to Agatha Christie. Since I tend to be obsessive about reading all of an author’s books, it was about a year later I emerged from a cozy cloud with some new best friends: Jane Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, and Parker Pyne.

What I most enjoyed about Dame Agatha’s stories was that they weren’t overly taxing. After all, I had done enough heavy reading and was looking for light entertainment. I also liked that she didn’t rely on graphic sex, explicit violence or coarse language to keep me engaged. (I was known in my 20s to cuss with the best of them. Later, I came to believe that casual profanity is the refuge of people who don’t know how to express themselves very well.)

Next, I read my way through two more hardboiled series: Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct stories and John D. MacDonald’s rainbow-hued Travis McGees. That took about a year. By the late 1970s, I was longing for something “cozier,” although I didn’t use that word to describe my reading habits.

I discovered Dorothy Gilman’s Miss Pollifax books; Charlotte MacLeod’s mysteries featuring Sarah Kelling and Peter Shandy (I thought Ms. MacLeod, may she rest in peace, went off the deep end with Curse of the Giant Hogweed); police procedurals by Lillian O'Donnell; Marcia Muller’s private eye Sharon McCone …

When Dorothy Cannell’s
Thin Woman came out in 1984, she became my new favorite author. I loved that story, which was as cozy as they come. After that, I sought out books that read like Dorothy Cannell. My list grew: Susan Wittig Albert, Nancy Atherton, Jill Churchill, Diane Mott Davidson, Jack Finney (Fantasy), Lee Harris, Carolyn Hart, Harry Kemelman, Margaret Maron, Katherine Hall Page, Connie Willis (Fantasy/Sci-Fi) and Valerie Wolzien. To this day, I’m adding new favorites but now I’m putting them on my website to share with like-minded readers. We are very lucky that good, new authors (like Clea) are cropping up all the time.

My taste for sweet, cozy stories hasn’t abated. I will stop everything I’m doing when a new book by a favorite author shows up. When I see Ms. Cannell’s latest (thank goodness she continues to write), I count on it to give me what I want: a friendly locale, characters I want to have coffee and chat with, a tidy plot with all threads tied up when we arrive at a very happy ending. I guess you could say my real life is “cozy” and that’s also what I crave in my reading.