Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Cambridge Voices" anthology is out!

Cambridge Voices: A Literary Celebration of Libraries and the Joy of Reading is out! I have five copies in my hot little hands (well, ok, on my bookshelf) and I cannot wait to read the contributions by such luminaries as Jill Lepore, Matthew Pearl, Robert Pinsky, Gail Mazur, and others (my own contribution is a Dulcie short story). Supposedly, those who do not live in our fair city will soon be able to purchase this pretty little collection from the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library website. Otherwise, give a call to Harvard Book Store or Porter Square Books. This nifty volume would make a great last-minute gift - and it supports our library, too!

Meant to post this earlier - my review of "The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein," by Peter Ackroyd, a really fun and smart reimagining of the classic.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kenmore Kitty finds a home

After months of living like this, this friendly, playful tabby has been trapped and taken home by a T trolley operator. A real-life happy ending! Yay!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Probable Claws" for the holidays!

Signed hardcovers make the best gifts - don't they? – and signed first editions of both of my two latest mysteries, Probable Claws and Shades of Grey, are available at Harvard Book Store (call 'em, they ship). But for those who just want something to read, Worldwide today unveiled its mass market paperback edition of Probable Claws – for less than $5! This is a web-only deal, but at this price, it's pretty unbeatable! (And yes, I'll sign any edition of my books.)

Oh, and it seems Worldwide still has the mass market Cries and Whiskers in stock, too!

Happy December (rabbit, rabbit)!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Whose Muse?

My Muse! I am pleased as punch to announce that I won the 2009 Cat Writers Association Muse Medallion for short story for my animal psychic mini-mystery, "Dumb Beasts," from Dead Fall: Crime Stories by New England Writers. Whoopee! And now... to bed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cat Writers, here I come!

Heading down to White Plains, NY, this weekend for the annual Cat Writers' Association annual conference. I'll be giving a "Mystery 101" talk to aspiring whodunit authors and listening eagerly to reports on everything from the feline genome project to new media marketing. But basically I'm going to chill with my peers – and to attend the Westchester Cat Show.

Conference registration is now closed, but if you're in the area on Saturday, please come by the cat show. The CWA will have 29 of its authors signing books at our booth, 3-5 p.m. Some of us (okay, me) will be there as early as 1 p.m. Come say hi and see the cats!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Celebrating our NEW LIBRARY!!

The Cambridge Public Library's main branch - right by me - has been closed for several years while the original, wonderful Gothic-style 1889 main building was renovated and a beautiful high-tech green wing was built. Jon and I have watched the building, etc., come together, oh so slowly, and on Sunday we joined the THRONGS (yes! throngs! This is Cambridge, after all) who came to the grand opening. SO PSYCHED!!

From the Boston Globe:
"The Cambridge library is one of the best recent pieces of architecture in the Boston area. And it’s one of the best pieces of old architecture, too..."

photo courtesy of Bob Coe. Click through to the library's site for the full slide show.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thanksgiving comes early!

Well, in this house! Just heard from my publisher that Shades of Grey has sold out its first printing and is going into a second run. Yay! (This is one of the best things about a small press - they may do small press runs, but they can go back QUICKLY. That, and you get personal emails from the production folks.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cats can get swine flu?

Great, another thing to worry about: a cat catches swine flu from his people. (Though this cat is "85 percent recovered.") Anyone sneezing on Musetta has to answer to me about it, got it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I seem to be writing

The new project is coming along - I'm now at the stage where I believe this can become a book. It's funny, this being November - the month of NaNoWriMo - but I'm writing this book more slowly than any of its predecessors. Doing some every day, taking time to think about it, to plot (and then to ignore said plot). Maybe this is just going to be a contrary book. We shall see...

Anyway, excuse me if I keep my head down and write for a while. I'll be at the Cat Writers' Association annual conference in a few weeks (and that means I'll also be selling books at the Westchester Cat Show on Saturday afternoon), and I'll blog about that. In the meantime, just writing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Celebrate National Cat Day

Every day is National Cat Day here at chez Musetta, but still, more reason to celebrate.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The new project

It's funny. I've been talking to friends recently about how difficult my new project is, and so few of them believe it. When I say I'm having trouble getting started and that at times I don't know if what I'm writing now will coalesce into a book, they scoff (a little). They say, "oh c'mon" or (the more encouraging) "you'll have a draft by March." They look at my track record – eight books in print, another in production – and they don't believe that I doubt myself, or this project, as much as I do.

Maybe this would make sense if I had a multi-book contract and a set formula. The contract, after all, would provide both financial incentive and a deadline, two elements that kept me going in journalism for many years. A formula would, well, be easy. But right now I have neither. In particular, the book I'm trying to write is somewhat different from any I've written thus far. It's crime fiction, rather than a "whodunit" style mystery with a private detective. It's darker, more terse. Yes, there's a cat in it. Somehow, my single female characters always have a cat. But the cat is really quite incidental. And I am having trouble with it. Right now, as I finish up some editing work and look ahead to at least a few hours to write, I am very aware that this will be only the third consecutive day that I've been able to make myself work on this new project. Been able to make myself actually commit words to paper. I'm actually blogging now because I'm a little scared to start. I have a rough idea of the next scene – I have an idea of who will be in it, how they will come into conflict – and I'm excited. But I'm also a little nervous. Is this new style any good? Is this project going to be any good? Will it ever all come together as it has in the past, or have I somehow lost that?

In some ways, I find my friends' faith in me – even their refusal to believe in my very real turmoil - encouraging. Maybe I am too close. Maybe I will do it. But cut me a little slack, folks. Yes, I am the one who chose to work outside my comfort level, but that lack of comfort is real. This is scary stuff, to me.

And now... to work.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mystery Conference without leaving home

Am I jealous of all my colleagues at Bouchercon? You bet. But while I'm home getting work done, I'm also preparing for the Poisoned Pen Webcon to be held next Sat., Oct. 24. The first-ever online mystery conference will have it all: live events, text "panels" with mystery authors discussing topics. Even a coffee house for folks to gather in. Where will I be? Check out the panels on cozy mysteries and historical mysteries. See you in the coffeehouse, too!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


1. I think I'm healthy! Am almost afraid to say that out loud. But I think I may truly be myself again, germ free.
2. I think I have started another book. This is a surprise to nobody but me, I think, but I'll tell you, for a while I was near despair. I'd come up with an idea, a great scene or dilemma and within hours, I'd realize why it wouldn't work. But after long talk with beloved agent and much soul searching, I seem to be writing. Slowly - but Jon assures me that many of my books have started this way. I'm thinking this is kind of like childbirth in that if I remembered how painful it could be, I'd never do it again.
3. Hilary Mantel has won the Booker Award. She's my favorite writer and I'm thrilled!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And so it begins...

A young woman falls from a window during a party. Everyone was drinking. She was apparently having fun. Was it an accident? Was she pushed? Did she jump?

I'll tell you in 200 pages or so.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thank you, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Fiction review: five mysteries

Published: September 27, 2009

You're without a definitive idea for a thesis, you've had to have your beloved cat put down, you're working temporarily in a corporate snakepit, you've discovered your temporary roommate's murdered body -- and you're suspected of killing him.

Grad students' lives aren't generally this complicated, but Clea Simon makes it all work in Shades of Grey (216 pages, Severn House, $28.95), the first in her projected series featuring Dulcie Schwartz. The author of four books featuring Cambridge, Mass., rock journalist Theda Krakow, Simon steps boldly onto a new path with Harvard student Dulcie.

And though this is a fine whodunit, it's not just another mystery. Simon gives it a hint of the supernatural -- Dulcie thinks the spirit of her late cat, Mr. Grey, is trying to warn and protect her -- as well as subplots involving hacked computers and Gothic novels.

Dulcie's an intriguing and sympathetic lead character, Simon's plot is well-conceived and the feline angle satisfies without being overplayed. And "Shades of Grey" reminds us that our pets are never gone from our hearts. Give this one a blue ribbon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One more reason to shop an indie bookstore!!

Amazon now says "Shades of Grey" ships in 1 or 2 MONTHS?! That's ridiculous! But you can order a copy today - signed, no less - from Harvard Book Store or Brookline Booksmith. You can order online, just the same as with Amazon. Or call them! Yup, they ship - and you'll be dealing with a real, live person at a real, live local and independent bookstore.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: "Thank You for Not Reading"

One great thing about getting back out in the blogosphere is that I've reconnected with Patti Abbott, whose blog features weekly "Forgotten Friday books," a great place to discover – or rediscover – great, but not best-selling reads.

Maybe it's my mood. Maybe it's the latest rejection for my Dogs Don't Lie (a good rejection, but still...). Maybe it's Mercury still being retrograde. Whatever the reason, I found myself looking through my bookshelf for Dubravka Ugresic's spot-on skewering of the publishing industry, Thank You for Not Reading, and choosing it for my Forgotten Friday book.

Now, TYFNR isn't that old - it was first translated into English in 2003 and I found it as a Dalkey Archive paperback the year later. But it never received the attention it deserved. I guess that's what happens to small press authors without a country (Ugresic writes about feeling at loose ends ever since the dissolution of Yugoslavia) unless they fall into one of two recognized categories: the Gloomy Writer (an Eastern European we welcome, because he confirms our stereotypes) or the self-styled Great Man (as in "The Great Bulli"), one of those self-important, macho types (think Saul Bellows, I did) whose existence depends on subservient women. Ugresic herself is not at all gloomy. Despite the depressing subject matter, this is a laugh-out loud book, at least for those who have lived through the rejections, the silent (or missing) agents, and the general foolishiness of this industry ... and still keep on writing. What kind of world is it where Joan Collins can open a book fair? A very dark and silly one. "Come back, cynics!" Ugresic concludes one particularly sharp essay. "All is forgiven."

This is a great book for days like today, when you get a rejection and are able to think, "Well, at least it's a good rejection." You know who you are.

On a serious note: "The literary market does not tolerate the old-fashioned idea of a work of art as a unique, unrepeatable, deeply individual artistic act. In the literary industry, writers are obedient workers, just a link in the chain of production..." Yup, what more needs be said?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Things you'll do

I found out last night, when a neighbor's pitbull went through my back screen door like it was wet Kleenex, that I am the type of person who will throw herself on a pitbull to save her cat.

We are both ok. (Me and Musetta, that is. I do not care about the dog, whose owner was close behind and took him away.) Interesting thing to know about oneself. Case manager at my mom's rehab asked if this would go into a book. I don't know. It's way too soon.

I don't even think I can write any more about this here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The waiting is the hardest part...

(Wrote this for the Sept. Shedunnit, the Sisters in Crime newsletter, and thought I'd share here:)

“The first things writers want – and this sounds so basic, but you’d be surprised how unbasic is is in the publishing world – is a quick response. Once they’ve finished a new manuscript and put it in the mail, they exist in a state of suspended emotional and psychic animation until they hear from their editor, and it’s cruelty to animals to keep them waiting.” – Robert Gottlieb, The Paris Review Interviews

Recently, I completed a manuscript for the second book in my Dulcie Schwartz series. It was a difficult birth, seeing as how for some reason I can no longer recall, I’d told my editor that I could easily turn it in within four months. I’d figured out, I think, that if I wrote a mere 2,000 words a day, I’d churn out enough copy and to spare for a cozy-length mystery by my deadline, and still have, oh weeks, to revise the thing.

Did I have a plot at that point? No. Did I have new secondary characters, a crime, a motive, or even a theme? No. Did I have other work – editing, a class to teach, a ghostwriting project? Yes. But you know what? The hardest part of writing what will now be “Grey Matters” (slated for Dec. ‘09 UK publication with Severn House, thank you very much) wasn’t meeting my own, somewhat ridiculous deadline. Nor was it even climbing over the growing pile of discarded papers, opened books, and journal articles that I scrambled through for research. Or even the heartfelt apologies to friends and family members who were either ignored or burdened with impossible tasks (“Of course you were supposed to shop and make dinner – how could I take time to tell you? I’m writing!”). The hardest part by far was the seven weeks following my agent sending the beast off to my editor. It was that month in a half during which I vacillated from “It’s the best thing I’ve ever written” to “it’s utter crap,” from “Well, at least it’s better than the first book” to “does a ghost cat even make sense?” with increasing rapidity. That waiting was relieved, briefly, when my agent sent out a tentative query and we found out that the editor hadn’t received the manuscript. (She must have figured that I simply hadn’t met my own deadline.) We then re-sent it and had a final two-plus weeks, during which I was alternately weepy and brittle, proud and prone to utter despair.

Why is the waiting, to paraphrase Tom Petty, the hardest part? I think largely it’s because for all our isolation, we writers are communication junkies. We want feedback. We deal with our hours alone, muttering things like “minimum lethal dosage,” because they are necessary in order to make the crazy worlds inside our heads into something that we can share. And when they are made as real as we can make them, we want those outside our heads to rush in, walk around, spot the bodies, and scream. When theydon’t, we are disappointed. We feel abandoned. And we slowly go nuts.

Friends, with all the best intentions, tell us to “enjoy the time off.” Like that was possible. They couldn’t see that fun for a writer is synonymous with being hip-deep in a new project, where an overheard comment or a street sign makes you start scribbling notes. When we interrupt family dinners to ask about the force needed to drive a fork through someone’s eye. This is what fun is for us, for me, anyway, and I don’t want time off.

There’s a cure for the ills of waiting. It’s known as starting another project. Because as soon as we get involved in a new story, the old one loses its grip. It becames stale, yesterday’s news. And that has the double benefit of giving us distance, which helps when that manuscript comes back and we need to be gimlet eyed to root out all the errors and awkward bits that we so blithely read over the first thirty-eight times.

Usually, I can do this, too. In fact, while I was waiting on my latest Theda Krakow mystery (Probable Claws), I’d drafted a new work, with a hard-boiled animal psychic. So, at first, when Grey Matters> went off, I went back to that “pet noir,” revising that one more time before handing it to the agent. But then that went out, too, and I was not only exhausted, I was at loose ends. Should I attempt another Dulcie or another pet noir? Return to the dark rock-and-roll mystery that I’ve been kicking around for two years now? Try to write something that didn’t feature cats? Pen an article for Shedunnit?

The latter seemed like a good idea, the methadone that would wean me from the shakes and the cravings. But while I dithered and tarried, picking up books (like those Paris Review interviews) and putting them down again, I had news. My editor had accepted “Grey Matters,” and I had to get to work on revisions. No word on the other project yet, but that’s okay. I’ve got a deadline again. A project. And so of course, I immediately got to work on this. Just keep those deadlines coming, folks. Anything less is cruelty to animals, and you know how I feel about that.

Monday, September 7, 2009

So you want a signed book...

I wish I could travel everywhere, but small press budgets (and small-writer budgets) don't make that possible. However, even if you can't come to one of my readings, you can buy a signed book from these lovely, indie bookstores. If you buy your book BEFORE my event, I can even personalize it – sign it to you (or your cat). Both these stores ship and will have extra signed books on hand after my events. Call or email them for details:

Brookline Booksmith Brookline MA. 617-566-6660. My reading is THIS Thursday, Sept. 10, 7 p.m.

Harvard Book Store, 1256 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, MA 617-542-READ. My reading is next Tuesday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Shades of Grey" September!

Yow, it's September! And Shades of Grey, my first Dulcie Schwartz mystery, is making its US debut (in reality) with a (virtual) tour.

Yes, I will be doing some live in-person readings. But this time out, I'm focusing on the online world. That means you can drop by and say "hi" at:

Lesa's Book Critiques, Sept. 1 (interview)
The Conscious Cat, Sept. 4
One Writer's World, Sept. 5
"The Well-Read Donkey," (Kepler's Books blog) Sept. 8
Lesa's Book Critiques, Sept. 8 (guest blog)
Caroline Leavittville, Sept. 9
Musings of a Bookish Kitty, Sept. 10
Mayhem and Magic, Sept. 10
Cozy Chicks, Sept. 13
"The Well-Read Donkey," (Kepler's Books blog) Sept. 15
Cozy Murder Mysteries, Sept. 25
The Lipstick Chronicles, Sept. 26

I'll be talking about "Shades of Grey," sure, but also about other books, reviewing, publishing, research... you name it. And I'll be offering some giveaways, too. No, I won't say at which posts! You'll have to come on by, leave a comment, ask a question. Join in for Shades of Grey September!

"Cries and Whiskers" in mass market!

Finally! Cries and Whiskers – the third Theda Krakow mystery – is now available in a mass market (read: cheap) paperback edition from Worldwide. Cool new cover, too!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Laying back

Got back from vacation this week and haven't done much of anything – nor, for the first time in a long while, do I have a new project on deck. In part, I'm waiting for the page proofs of "Grey Matters," which will pub in the UK in December (and the US soon after). And my agent has sent out "Dogs Don't Lie," my "pet noir," not that we'll hear anything till after Labor Day. And next month, "Shades of Grey," the first Dulcie Schwartz mystery, officially pubs in the US. So it's not like I haven't been busy (and I do have my hands full with various editing assignments, a nice change of pace). But I'm wondering what to work on next. Several readers have queried me about another Theda Krakow book, to follow up "Probable Claws." So maybe I should work on one of those. Or maybe in a few weeks, my Dulcie publisher will ask if I'm game to sign up for two more of those mysteries. Or "Dogs Don't Lie" will sell to a publisher who wants a sequel. Or maybe I'll be moved to start something entirely different.

It's Friday, so I'm definitely not starting anything today. But what should I do next? Wait for a clue from outside or....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Truth in fiction

We were on the beach in Provincetown when the news broke about the CIA hiring Blackwater to carry out assassinations. Strangely enough, this kind of thing was what I talked about with Joe Finder, author of the great new thriller Vanished, in this week's Boston Phoenix. Read it here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Oline Cogdill likes "Shades of Grey"!

"It's easy to get caught up in the adventures of grad student Dulcie Schwartz." – Oline Cogdill, Sun-Sentinel

Big sigh of relief - and big thanks out to Sun-Sentinel critic Oline Cogdill!

Simon makes her elements of the supernatural work in `Shades of Grey'

-"Shades of Grey," by Clea Simon; Severn House (216 pages, $28.95)
It's easy to get caught up in the adventures of grad student Dulcie Schwartz in the start of this new series by Massachusetts author Clea Simon.
The appealing Dulcie is at a crossroads in her life: She's looking for a thesis topic in gothic literature; her best friend and usual roommate is gone for the summer; and she's just had to put her beloved cat, Mr. Grey, to sleep. To add to her woes, Tim, her housemate for the summer, is a self-centered jock who has little patience for education and a snobby girlfriend.
Duclie soon thinks she's in a gothic novel herself when Tim is killed. The trauma of having someone murdered in her own home is hard to comprehend. Now his girlfriend keeps coming by looking for something hidden in his room.
Her temp work in an insurance agency takes a weird turn with computer viruses and petty thefts. Then there is the little matter of the ghost of her cat that she swears keeps popping up.
Simon makes her elements of the supernatural work by keeping this aspect as believable as possible in "Shades of Grey." Simon brought that same sense of realism to her four cat mysteries by showing how the felines enhanced the lives of their owners. In that series, she never stooped to making detectives out of the cats, as have other cat mysteries. She brings the same standards to "Shades of Grey."
Simon also layers on the gothic ambience as she shows the joys of a library and the terrors it can hold after dark.
Dulcie is a likable, intelligent young woman who also often says the wrong thing and worries that she doesn't always fit in. She aces the test of realism in "Shades of Grey."

© 2009 San Luis Obispo Tribune and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thank you, Library Journal!

"This series launch ... is for readers who like their feline cozies mixed with a touch of the paranormal." – Library Journal on Shades of Grey

Full review (including what I hope is a typo: Theo?)

Issue: 1ST AUGUST 2009
Shades of Grey, Clea Simon. Severn, $28.95 (240p), Sept 2009, ISBN 978-0-7278-6781-0

Graduate student Dulcie Schwartz is working as a temp and renting a room to another student for the summer to make ends meet. When her roommate is murdered, Dulcie hears her dead cat’s voice warning her about dangers. VERDICT This series launch by the author of the Theo Krakow series (Cries and Whiskers) is for readers who like their feline cozies mixed with a touch of the paranormal.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vicki Lane cracks me up

Vicki Lane, author of the marvelous Elizabeth Goodweather mysteries, never fails to entertain. I had the pleasure of meeting her at Bouchercon a few years back and ever since have read and thoroughly enjoyed her carefully crafted, smart whodunits.Though I believe she may now be working on a standalone, her main series features a smart, feisty widow who runs an herb and flower farm in the Carolina hill country. The latest, In a Dark Season, is up for an Anthony award. And she also provides a monthly newsletter. Today, the newsletter included the following clip - which reminds me of both Elizabeth and (forgive me) Vicki herself. This is what I aspire to.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thank you, Booklist!

"Well paced and tightly plotted, Shades of Grey debuts a promising series from the author of the Theda Krakow mysteries." Thank you, Booklist!

Publication: BOOKLIST
Issue: 1ST AUGUST 2009
Shades of Grey, Clea Simon. Severn, $28.95 (240p), Sept 2009, ISBN 978-0-7278-6781-0

Twentysomething Dulcie Schwartz is a doctoral student at Harvard, struggling to find a thesis topic, mourning her recently deceased cat Mr. Grey, and working a summer temp job. Then, one afternoon, she thinks she sees Mr. Grey and believes he warns her not to go home. When she enters her apartment, she finds her despised subletter dead with her knife in his chest. Mr. Grey, Dulcie’s mother informs her, is her spirit guide; that’s fortunate because Dulcie could certainly use extraterrestrial help, seeing as she finds herself suspected of both murder and hacking into her computer system at work. Well paced and tightly plotted, Shades of Grey debuts a promising series from the author of the Theda Krakow mysteries (Probable Claws, 2009). With scholar Dulcie as the main character, and most of the action taking place on the Harvard campus and inside the Widener Library, it should appeal to a wide audience, including fans of both cat cozies and fiction that uses an academic frame story (Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, 2005).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy day!

It's my birthday and my editor emailed to thank me for my revisions and the copy editor has already touched base with some proposed cover copy (all this for "Grey Matters") and Jon is making dinner tonight and all is good!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One small step for man...

What do you remember about Apollo 11? Has it retained any magic for you?
I was seven years old, one week away from my eighth birthday. And although I was allowed to stay up, I fell asleep - but I remember being shaken awake to see that historic broadcast. We had landed on the moon - and it was on TV! All in time for my birthday! With all the hoopla surrounding the anniversary, I still get a little choked up thinking about it. How about you?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thank you, Bristol Library!

A nice introduction to my Theda series, from a librarian's blog.

Farewell, Kate's Mystery Books

Kate Mattes started me writing mysteries. We've all known that she was trying to sell the store for quite a while now, but just heard about this last night and I'm sad. Thank you, Kate!

Kate's Mystery Books closing on August 1
An e-mail from the Porter Sq Neighbors mailing list.

Many of you have been aware that I have had the building which houses the store on the market for awhile. I have finally sold it. I of course have mixed feelings about this but know it is the right decision for me. The new owners have allowed me to stay on for a while but Kate's Mystery Books will be closing on August 1st. Between now and then, everything in the store will be sold at 25% off. On Saturday, August 1st, we will be having a packing party from 11-5 AND we will also have our Annual Yard Sale (books $1 and under) at the same time.

I hope you can get in in the next few weeks to say good-bye although I won't actually disappear. We will be having author events at different venues and of course we will have the annual holiday party so there will be opportunities for the mystery community to get together. You will get notices of them from me.

It is sad though to close the store. I hope you can join us on August 1st to celebrate the good times we have had and to help pack everything up. I know we can do it, as we have done it before. (Remember the bus?)

It is been a true joy for me to have had the opportunity to me such interesting and diverse people and i will definitely miss you.

Best, Kate

Kate's Mystery Books
2211 Mass. Ave.
Cambridge, MA. 02140

Hours: Sun.-Mon: 12-5
Tuesday: CLOSED
Wed-Thurs.: 12-7
Fri.: 12-6
Sat.: 11-5

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

Happy Bastille day!

A really fun read for the holiday: Dancing on the Precipice:The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era.

From my review: "Lucie de la Tour du Pin may have been only minor nobility, but her status guaranteed her a front-row seat at the major events of the late 18th century, while allowing her to survive upheavals the likes of which Europe had never before seen...."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Revision hell

I am in revision hell. Basically, I am re-reading "Grey Matters" for the umpteenth time and it is driving me nuts. I want to second guess every sentence, replace every image. This is my last change to make serious changes (though I'll see it again after the copy editor gets through and again on proofs) and the pressure is enormous.

I don't know why it should be this way. I liked this book before I sent it off. And my editor likes it a lot, too. In fact, she had very few suggestions for changes and the book is already scheduled for publication. I've printed out her email to remind me of this, whenever the going gets too rough.

Still, reading and revising again feels like pulling my fingernails out. And then trying to replace them. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. OK, back to work.

Monday, July 6, 2009

She likes it! (BIG sigh of relief)

Heard from my Severn House editor today and GREY MATTERS is a go! This is just a private email, and of course, she's the editor who bought the series so she's biased, but I cannot tell you how nice it is to read bits like "As well as a good story, it's a fascinating and very realistic picture of the academic world with all its rivalries and politics." Well, I'm not sure how realistic it is, but if I made it believable, I'm thrilled.

Some minor revisions to make – adding more kitty bits, I think – and then onto copy editing! Plan now is for Grey Matters to pub in the UK next Dec., which probably means US release in March 2010. Phew. A little hard to believe. And now... back to work!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Nice bit of advance news (thank you, Examiner!)

This makes me so happy!

"The first release in Clea Simon’s Dulcie Schwartz series, SHADES OF GREY (Severn House, September, 2009) has everything a mystery-lover could hope for–an engaging heroine, an intriguing plot, plenty of smart, sophisticated dialogue, and wonderful secondary characters. " – Mary Kennedy,

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The internal editor

I originally posted this on the Kepler's writers' blog last week. But I find myself talking about this topic with friends and thought I'd repost here:

“Bash it out now. Tart it up later.”

This has become my mantra since my buddy and fellow writer Brett Milano first passed it along several years ago. The phrase originates with pubrocker Nick Lowe (who also penned the deathless “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?”), he tells me. All I know for sure is that those eight words have saved my writing life.

Bash it out. That’s the essence of this advice, and the reason it is key is that this is the single most difficult part of writing. Bashing it out. Getting the words on paper. Putting word after word to make a sentence, a paragraph. A scene.

Apply butt to chair, I frequently tell prospective writers. Start typing (or scribbling). Just (to paraphrase a shoe ad) do it. That’s the first hurdle, the threshold into being a writer. And it is both high and hard to overcome.

Why is this simple first step so horribly difficult for so many of us? I blame the internal editor. Face it. There is nothing so wonderful as the book you are about to write. We are dreamers. Storytellers. Idealists – or we wouldn’t want to write at all. In our heads, before we’ve committed anything to paper, our ideas are quicksilver. Starlight. Translucent. But as soon as they appear in the light of day, they become fixed in the physical world with all that implies: They become leaden, earthbound. Not fun. It’s a terrifying transition from limitless possibility to concrete immobility, and it is enough to freeze up even the most experienced author. Whatever we write cannot compare to what we imagine. And so to our internal editors – our writing superego or our internalized mothers or high school teachers – it isn’t good enough. We aren’t good enough. And so we don’t write.

We tell ourselves that we are writing. That we are just searching for the right word. The right phrase. The opening scene that will spark everything off. But in truth we procrastinate. We fiddle. We cook. When I’m trying to start a project, I do more loads of laundry than a two-person household demands. I know this about myself now and accept it as part of my process – and then, I sit down and start the work.

Because if we are going to write, if we are going to be writers, then at some point we have to do the deed. We have to actually set words down and build them up, scene by scene, into something that others can read. We have to overcome the horrible, crippling doubt and dare to make it real.

Over the years, I’ve learned various techniques to get me over the threshold. One of those is, of course, fear of deadline. When you earn your rent by what you write, fear is a great motivator. This often works for students, too, and explains why so many assignments are penned only hours before deadline. This fear can be useful, and I confess I’ve allowed myself to wallow on occasion on a more nebulous, existential variety: Maybe I don’t have any more books in me. Maybe I’ve done it all and should simply teach full-time or take up PR. For while there is absolutely nothing wrong with either profession, the idea of not writing terrifies me – and gets me back to work.

I’ve said before that I believe the ability to write is like a muscle, and keeping the muscle in shape helps, too. All those years doing journalism have given me some fall-back techniques – surefire “ledes” to start a story that I can use in fiction, too, if need be. I’ll also assign myself fairly arbitrary word lengths – say, 1,000 words a day – and make myself do them.

But basically these techniques only work because of the second part of the mantra, the “tart it up later.” I can use a hackneyed device (“start with a quote”) or bash out 1,000 words of transitional sentences because I know I can fix it later. I tell myself that in a month or two, whenever I have a draft, I can choose to rewrite the entire work – or toss half of it. I can bash it out now, because (as I remind myself), I will have the opportunity to tart it up later. That’s the promise I make myself and to my internal editor. In exchange, she lets me write.

That sounds a little like a trick, doesn’t it? But it’s not so much outwitting the internal editor, as it is buying her off. I’m just typing, I tell her. You’ll get your turn later. And for a little while, she leaves me in peace.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thank you, January Magazine!

"We engage with the work of the authors we love on many levels." So begins today's January Magazine Author Snapshot. It then goes on to say incredibly nice things – concluding: "Mystery, music, nightclubs, animals in danger: on a certain level, it’s an unlikely combination, yet, somehow, it works very well. And why? That special blend, I think: passion, heart, understanding and voice, voice, voice. Simon’s is as strong and clear as the passion she brings to the stories she tells."

January Magazine is a must-read, a 12-year-old online journal of the arts, with news, reviews, and interviews updated daily. I check in whenever I can, for information and just plain fun. But still, somehow, when editor (and fab author) Linda L. Richards asked me a few months ago if I wanted to be "snapshot," I said, sure and filled out an email interview. I never expected something as nice as this. Thank you, Linda! Thank you, January Magazine!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson, RIP

The weird face. The pedophilia, I know, I know...

But watching the coverage – especially those amazing early clips of the Jackson 5 and those Thriller videos – is making me sad. I grew up with Michael (well, I grew up, anyway). He was two years older than I was, which makes seeing him so young doubly poignant. I think for folks my age, he was like our Elvis: a great, seminal musician and force in music who had faded into sad irrelevance or worse. But we still didn't expect to lose him just yet.

RIP, Michael.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This explains a lot

Turns out, Severn House never got the manuscript of "Grey Matters" that I worked so hard to get in by the May 31 deadline! Am experiencing waves of relief and annoyance as I re-send. Am asking for confirmation, and if I don't hear by tomorrow will send again. Phew. I guess. You'd have thought they'd have asked, no? Only found out because agent sent out a "so?" query.

Anyway, my UCLA class starts today and I'm working on another guestblog for the Kepler's website. I think I'll write more on process, maybe on outlining or not, planning... or not.

Update: just heard that editor got the re-sent "Grey Matters." Loves the blurb, will read ms. "a.s.a.p." Which means a whole new wave of anxiety. Why do we do this again?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The fallow period...

What do you do while you're waiting for to start your next project? How do you replenish the creative juices? How do you stand it? That's the topic in my guest blog today at Kepler's Well-Read Donkey, a blog for writers and all who love books, sponsored by the great SF indie bookstore. Please drop by and share your thoughts!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I am creeped out...

by Helen Oyeyemi's "White is for Witching." As I hope my review in today's Boston Globe makes clear, I didn't love it. But it did get under my skin!

Happy Saturday.

Friday, June 19, 2009

She likes it!!

Just heard from my darling, beloved agent. The delay was because she was in fact re-reading Dogs Don't Lie and ...

she likes it! "A lot" (why doesn't she love it?). She found the characters "extremely appealing" and thinks readers "will connect with them." (So, why doesn't she love it again?)

Nevermind, I'm happy. I'm more than happy. I'm thrilled. I'm chortling with joy. And she is putting a list together so the thing can go out to editors next week. And then I can be on tenterhooks once again, waiting....

am seizing this moment of joy with both hands, boys and girls. Both hands.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

No news

... still no news, except a quickie note from my agent saying she'll "get back to me as soon as possible." Am trying to focus on other things: my UCLA course starts next week, I'll be guestblogging at Kepler's Well-Read Donkey, too. Hard to concentrate on anything else right now though.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The wait begins...

Two weeks ago, I sent off to my agent the manuscript of my second Dulcie Schwartz mystery, Grey Matters. Today, I sent her the ms. for Dogs Don't Lie. Now, the waiting begins.

No, I didn't write a book in two weeks. I had written Dogs Don't Lie for fun, starting about a year ago. The basic premise - of a hard-boiled tough gal who just happens to be able to hear what animals are thinking - comes from a short story I wrote for Dead Fall, an anthology of New England crime writers. I'd been reading a lot of noir (Megan Abbott, Linda L. Richards) and thinking about the whole cutesy "animal psychic" thing and, voila, Pru Marlowe and her irascible tabby Wallis were born. If it takes off, I want to call the genre "pet noir," as in "bete noir." Of course, we'll have to see if it takes off.

Once I had drafted Dogs Don't Lie, I got some happy news. My editor at Severn House wanted a sequel to Shades of Grey - and wrote it into the contract. And so in January, I set Dogs Don't Lie aside and threw myself into writing Grey Matters. I wrote it pretty quickly, for me. I'm sure it will need revisions, but I think I turned in a pretty strong mystery, so I have reason to believe she'll like it. And once that was sent off, I could go back to revise Dogs Don't Lie. It was sort of perfect timing – I still loved the book, but enough time had passed so I could see its flaws. Dogs Don't Lie is not under contract to anyone, and so next week my agent will just start sending it out.

Sounds good, right? I actually like being this busy and despite a sense of growing fatigue (and growing disgust with the state of my office), I've been happy these past few months. It's the new part - the waiting - that I can't stand. This part of the process just wrecks me. As soon as I'd sent off DDL, I started worrying that I hadn't hidden a crucial clue well enough. And then that I'd hidden it so well that it wouldn't make sense. Now I've even started worrying that my Severn House editor won't want Grey Matters. Basically, I'm swinging between wild optimism (these are my best works ever... Dogs Don't Lie will be my breakout book) and despair (you can fill in the blanks).

I am tired. I need to clean my office and catch up on my outside assignments. The waiting has begun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

April Smith interview

Two of April Smith's smart, subtle Ana Grey thrillers were recently reissued. I grabbed the author as she was on assignment in New York... read more here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Goodbye, Readerville

Readerville, an early online home for many of us writers, readers, and book lovers, closed down today. I confess, I hadn't visited in a while, seduced away by newer social media and by my own work. But for nine years, Readerville was home, an online watercooler where I could count on emotional refreshment during the day. I met several friends there, who remain friends in the real (as well as the virtual) world, and I'm sorry it won't be around for others. Major kudos to founder/creator Karen Templer for keeping it going as long as she did. Thank you, Karen, and best of luck with all future ventures. Readerville, RIP.

FYI - I had the honor of writing about one aspect of Readerville for The New York Times a few years ago.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lesa Holstine on "Probable Claws"

Librarian and critic Lesa Holstine reviews Probable Claws today. I won't quote the entire review here, but I can't resist:

"Once again, Clea Simon skillfully brings together the various aspects of Theda Krakow's complicated life. Not every author can intertwine cats, the rock music scene, and the problems at today's newspapers. Over the course of this series, though, Simon has managed to build sympathy for Theda, a woman who often alienates even the people who love her, as she gets so caught up in her current story or passion, whether it's cats or rock music, that she neglects her personal life. Readers who appreciate complicated characters, and intricate plots, will appreciate Simon's latest crime novel,
Probable Claws."
– from Lesa's Book Critiques

Thank you, Lesa!

Real-life drama

Does anyone else remember Stan Mack's "Real Life Comics"? As cell phones have become omnipresent, the possibilities are not only everywhere, they're hard to ignore. I just spent ten minutes behind a good-looking, well groomed youngish man in line at the pharmacy. It was quiet in there, and the following one-sided conversation was quite audible to everyone. As were, I'm afraid, his romantic woes:

"Yeah, I know, I know. If she were a man– I mean, I've been talking to people and everyone feels that if she were a man, it would be different. Yup, she's getting a free pass."
"No, it's not just the thrill of the chase."
"So it seems I'm a nice guy, but I'm just not very exciting."
(long pause)
Uh huh, uh huh." (Short pause) "To be honest, I find that borderline insulting."
(long pause)
"It's all right. I'm so out of it from lack of sleep and from 'The Deal' that I almost don't care. Oh, gotta go."
Hangs up and tells the woman at the counter. "I didn't want to be one of those people on a cell phone."

And people ask me where we get our ideas.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Think you might want to take a writing course?

I'm teaching "Essential Beginnings," a course designed to get you started (or re-started, or jump-started) writing for the UCLA Extension School's online writing program. This week, the program is hosting a free online cyber open house. Instructors teaching everything from memoir to screenplay writing, nonfiction to fantasy are all chiming in. We're here to answer your questions - but there's one catch. You have to register to join in. It's all free and you are under no obligation, but you do have to log in.

Come on, dive right in!

Update: Tonight (Wednesday) I'm doing a chat at 6 p.m. PST. It's specifically for beginning writers who may have questions about writing classes, but everyone is invited to join in.


Well, I'm just back from a weekend at the Backspace Writers Conference and I wanted to post something before inertia - and the new week - takes over. First of all, kudos to Karen Dionne and crew for putting together an excellent, small, and focused conference. I arrived midafternoon on Friday, just in time to hear Joseph Finder talk about what he's learned while writing his successful and quite wonderfully written thrillers. Lovely speaker, and a smart man - and when some overly worried newbies were stressing about whether ebooks and Kindle would change the face of publishing, he cut right to the point: Don't worry about the means of distribution at this point, he told them. Just work on your book. (My husband and I broke into wild applause at this point.) He also ended up repeating, several times, the hard truth that many writers need to hear: You need to listen to criticism. If everyone is rejecting your book, maybe you need to keep working on it. His own story of rewriting his first book multiple times was a vivid example of the labor needed to become a success.

That seemed to be the theme of the conference, certainly during my own panel on "keeping the series fresh." Jason Pinter, another thriller master, moderated and while fantasy writer Naomi Novik couldn't make it (food poisoning!), her husband, Hard Case Crime honcho and author Charles Ardai stepped in. I felt like the softie on the block -- being the only writer for whom blood and gore isn't a priority -- but I like to think I held my own in a lively (but really quite fun) discussion of everything from how do you know when a series is done (either when you or your publisher gets bored) to whether or not series characters should grow (I say yes, but Charles pointed out that in some cases, you go to series for their consistency. Hmmm... well, yes, but...) We also touched on how we choose a protagonist who can go for several books (what makes a character interesting? Sympathetic? Well, what makes a person interesting or sympathetic?) Good audience questions, too!

Sat., I had the honor of being on a panel with blogger Sarah Weinman moderated by dear friend and fantastic novelist Caroline Leavitt. The topic this time was book reviewing - and we had quite a few authors and would-be authors asking us all sorts of questions about how to get their books mentioned in print. Caroline gave out great, sound advice about pitching - and about the reality of how many books don't get reviewed. (Caroline told us the distressing reality of reviewing for People magazine: Hundreds of books are reviewed and the reviews don't run because they don't fit in the mix - she has even reviewed a John Updike novel and the review has not run! Maybe they had too many four-star reviews that week - or no-star reviews - or books by men, or .. whatever.) And Sarah taught me a few things about social networking and creating a buzz even without reviews. Basically, she said if you're going to do it, do it right - and told us about sites like and Dear Reader. I added a note of simple web etiquette - make sure you know the rules (in most cases, don't just sign on and flag your book. Make sure you participate in the conversations, etc.). Much, much more... but that's the gist. Nice people, nice crowd, lots of time for mingling... and if Jon and I ran off to have a glass of prosecco on the rooftop garden of the Met, I hope everyone will forgive us: it was our anniversary!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Win a free large-print PROBABLE CLAWS

Hi folks,
I have a few more large-print Probable Clawses than I need, so I'd love to give one to a deserving reader! It's the same, full text as the regular hardcover – only in very large type and bound in paperback.

I'd love to give this to someone who really needs to read large-print books - or to someone who will pass it along to someone with vision problems. My publisher, Poisoned Pen, does these regularly, and I know some readers really appreciate it!

So... here's the contest question: What is the name of the cat in my next (September) book? You can find out by poking about my website. Hint: it's not Musetta! Email me your answer. If I get more than one correct answer, I'll choose a winner by June 10!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Upcoming writers' conference

OK, folks, I dropped the ball on blogging about the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (zydeco/brass band/soul/blues fun in the sun), the Ponderosa Stomp (roots rockers refound), and Malice Domestic (readers/writers 24/7). But I am really going to try to blog about the upcoming Backspace Writers Conference next weekend. I'm on panels Friday afternoon (writing series) and Sat. a.m. (reviewing books), and I bet there will be a lot to discuss. (I've already picked up one of Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels - dragons in the Napoleonic wars? - in preparation for Friday's panel.) Yes, this is the same weekend as BEA and I'm trying to coordinate with one of my Poisoned Pen Press colleagues, who will be in NYC, too. But basically, it's going to be Backspace and time with the lovely friends who are hosting me and Jon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What do you think of blog tours?

Hi folks!
The new Independent Mystery Booksellers website now has a blog for authors, readers, publishers, and bookstores to share thoughts and opinions – and today I have guest blogged about guest blogging! What do you think? Please drop by and let us know. (That's the group's logo up top. It isn't live, but if you click on the logo over on the right of this page, it'll take you there.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

She likes it!!

My agent likes it! "Grey Matters," that is, the second Dulcie Schwartz mystery! Of course, she has a bunch of changes she wants me to make – catches I'm grateful for (did I always describe this one character as "wan"? Yup, I guess I did. And does my heroine always sound a bit too needy on the phone with her boyfriend? Maybe so.) But these are fixable flaws, the kind of thing I'm just glad someone pointed out to me before it's too late. But the overall book? Well, granted, she's my agent. She must like my writing anyway, but she thought that my plotting in this book was better and "more sophisticated" (her phrase) than in the first book! And she's not even a blood relative!

I've got work to do. But right now, I'm celebrating. Of course, the editor still has to like it. But this is a good start!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rolling on the river

Got to review Tim Gautreaux's The Missing for the Phoenix. Really enjoyed it. Can verify that it is dead-on about life on riverboats, too, in a way. While we were in New Orleans, we took a ride down the Mississippi on the Steamboat Natchez (last of the paddlewheels) and got to chatting with a lovely gentleman of about, oh, 80 or so. Tall, craggy looking, handsome belt buckle depicting a horse, and a Cajun accent you could slice with a knife, you. He started telling me how when he was younger, he and his buddies used to go out on the riverboats to hear the music, dance, and drink. We had some good times, he told me, although he did stop drinking once he "got the DUI." (He only had to pick up trash for four days, though.) Kept pointing out sites on the riverbank where one or another relative lived, or had lived, so I finally asked if he was from around New Orleans (his accent placed him squarely in the state). "Oh no," he said. "I'm from Thibodeaux!" Another world

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Baited" breath, changeable carpets, and more

Do you feel betrayed when your favorite author screws up? When a rug suddenly changes color in the middle of a book, or a grammatical error creeps in even as the characters discuss grammar and writing? Me, too! But it happens – and I own up to it today on Lorna Barrett's blog, "Pet Peeve Thursday."

I was also live on KKOX in Keokuk, Iowa, this morning! Did anyone hear me on Jean Meyer's "Pet Talk" program? If so, let me know. I wish this show streamed, but alas it is still terrestrial radio.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What I write about when...

I'm not writing books (or writing about books):

everything from bicycles to online learning. Ah, the varied life of a freelancer!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Creep yourself out!!

Like scary stories? Sarah Waters' "The Little Stranger" is wonderfully creepy and really gets under your skin. Check out my Boston Globe review if you want more detail.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Whatever happened to Ahmed?"

I'm plowing through Grey Matters (the second Dulcie Schwartz mystery, sequel to Shades of Grey, at least, if my editor accepts it!) and feeling a bit pressured. Yes, Shades of Grey doesn't come out in this country till September, but still ... according to my contract, this second book is due end of May, which really means May 20, because my agent wants to read it first and I want to have time to respond to her comments before we send it in. And I'm reminded of something the wonderful funny and prolific Donald Bain said during a panel at Malice. The panel wasn't about deadlines or writing series, but as is often the case, the talk moved off topic and Bain ended up talking about writing a mystery before the age of computers. Basically, he was nearly ready to turn in his manuscript when he realized he'd goofed – a character's husband had gone off to Egypt early in the book and never been mentioned again! Well, as Bain said, if this had happened post-word processor, it would've been easy to go back and re-work the missing husband back into the text. But Bain really didn't want to have to retype the entire three-hundred-odd pages. So instead, on the last page, he has one character say to another, "I wonder what happened to Ahmed?"

Needless to say, the editor loved it – and assumed Bain had done it intentionally to set up a sequel.

I haven't found anything like that in Grey Matters, but if you get to the end and someone asks, "I wonder what happened to Ahmed?" you'll know why.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Yes, I loved "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"

Really. I thought it was a great spoof of Austen's style and content and I'm not afraid to say so in public (or, really, in The Boston Phoenix.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Back from Malice

Wow, what a weekend!
just back from the Malice Domestic traditional mystery conference in Arlington, VA. During this fun-packed three-day festival of the traditional mystery, I learned about writing humor, voted during a "Sleuth Off" (Sherlock Holmes won, though I confess I was rooting for Miss Marple), kept running into the marvelous Elaine Viets and, on fewer occasions, Anne Perry, in the elevator, and got to hear about some great new books. Spoke on a very interesting and involving panel on "Social Issues in Mysteries," on Saturday morning, with Pari Noskin Taichert, Marion Moore Hill, and Elizabeth Zelvin, nicely moderated by Harriette Sackler. But as usual, it was the casual interactions – meeting fans like Robert from Georgia and sister authors like Pari that really made the weekend. And, of course, traveling a few hundred miles it the best way to meet with neighbors like Hank Phillippi Ryan and Rosemary Harris. But hey... it was all fun! I confess I skipped out before the big banquet, but congratulations to all the Agatha winners!

And while this is a different sort of Agatha, I'm thrilled to announce that these two new Christie editions – with my introductions! – are now available: The Secret Adversary and The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

(Oh, I may be wrong, but I think you can read at least one of my new introductions here!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Party time!

It's time to celebrate here at Chez Musetta!

Not only is tonight the book release party for "Probable Claws" (tonight at Ryles Jazz Club, if you're around), sponsored by the marvelous Kate Mattes of Kate's Mystery Books.

But Amazon FINALLY has "Probable Claws" in stock. Now, if you want a signed book, I strongly urge you to call or email Kate! But Amazon is really a lifeline for smaller authors, like myself, so I am very relieved!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wanda Jewell's Free Book Stimulus Plan!

Wanda Jewell has a problem. After serving nearly 20 years as executive director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA), she is overrun with books. All kinds of books: finished copies and galleys, paperbacks and hardbound, limited editions, signed, personalized, and more. Each publishing season brings more. So how will she weed her collection and support her southern indie bookstore at the same time? Wanda created her own FREE BOOK STIMULUS PLAN.

Books can be purchased anywhere, but when you buy at an indie store, you don't just stimulate your reading, you stimulate the local economy. Shopping local is an investment in your neighborhood and good karma all around. And you get a free book!

Hoping to stimulate sales at indie bookstores, Wanda is dismantling her personal library and offering it to shoppers, one free book at a time. It began April 2 and is still going on Readers who purchase a book at a SIBA-member indie store and send her a copy of the receipt will receive a book from her collection completely free of charge. Visit for details and a list of participating bookstores Print out the request form on the site and mail it in with a copy of the store receipt (which must carry the name of the store.)

Completed form and receipt must be mailed to Free Book, 3806 Yale Ave, Columbia, SC 29205 and only while supplies last. All that Wanda asks is that you pass this on. Post it to your blog, pay it forward, print it, shout it out, Tweet and Facebook about it. What a great way to increase your karmic footprint!

(Thanks to Caroline Leavitt for this info and link.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Delayed thanks

Well, this is good! It seems that nobody is quite sure what happened, but my acknowledgments will be added to the next edition of Probable Claws. Phew!

So, again, until then:

Writing is solitary work and the support of friends and family make it easier. For all the cups of coffee and tea, the queries and cheers, I’d like to thank the following: Caroline Leavitt, Vicki Constantine Croke, Brett Milano, Ann Porter, Sophie Garelick, Frank Garelick, Lisa Jones, and Iris Simon. My readers – Jon, Vicki, Brett, Lisa Susser, Naomi Yang, Chris Mesarch, and Karen Schlosberg – all focused on different aspects, and improved them all. My editor, Barbara Peters, was once again indispensible, as were all the great folks at Poisoned Pen. This title was suggested independently by Phil Mann and Rob Chalfen. Jennifer Ryser and Jacqueline and Craig Fantuzzi won the rights to name cats in Violet’s shelter through their generosity to the Crime Lab Project and Animal Rescue League Boston, respectively. For professional advice and ideas, my thanks go out to my cat experts, including Amy Shojai of the CWA, Dr. Melissa Clark Connelly DVM, and Scott Delucchi of the Penninsula Humane Society. Thanks as well to my lawyer friends Eric Ruben and Karen B. Cohen, and to Don Hogan, clerk magistrate for the Boston Municipal Court, and Officer Frank Pasquarello of the Cambridge Police Department, for the ins and outs of crime and punishment. You advised me well, and if I took liberties or made mistakes, they’re on me. Finally, once again, thank you to Jon S. Garelick – for everything.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Musings of a Bookish Kitty

What better place to unburden myself than at this wonderfully literary blog?

And - wow - check out this odd translation (into French?) and retranslation on another blog. I am "glad as a frog." (This is really worth it.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Zinged by Joyce Carol Oates!

From today's New York Times Sunday Magazine:

Joyce Carol Oates: "If you're going to spend the next year of your life writing, you would probably rather write 'Moby Dick' than a little household mystery with cat detectives."

Oh, REALLY?? And have you ever tried writing a mystery with cats in it, Ms. Oates?

Cat Fancy

Oh, and here I am interviewed on the Cat Fancy website.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

PROBABLE CLAWS acknowledgments

Not sure what happened,but here they are:


Writing is solitary work and the support of friends and family make it easier. For all the cups of coffee and tea, the queries and cheers, I’d like to thank the following: Caroline Leavitt, Vicki Constantine Croke, Brett Milano, Ann Porter, Sophie Garelick, Frank Garelick, Lisa Jones, and Iris Simon. My readers – Jon, Vicki, Brett, Lisa Susser, Naomi Yang, Chris Mesarch, and Karen Schlosberg – all focused on different aspects, and improved them all. My editor, Barbara Peters, was once again indispensible, as were all the great folks at Poisoned Pen. This title was suggested independently by Phil Mann and Rob Chalfen. Jennifer Ryser and Jacqueline and Craig Fantuzzi won the rights to name cats in Violet’s shelter through their generosity to the Crime Lab Project and Animal Rescue League Boston, respectively. For professional advice and ideas, my thanks go out to my cat experts, including Amy Shojai of the CWA, Dr. Melissa Clark Connelly DVM, and Scott Delucchi of the Penninsula Humane Society. Thanks as well to my lawyer friends Eric Ruben and Karen B. Cohen, and to Don Hogan, clerk magistrate for the Boston Municipal Court, and Officer Frank Pasquarello of the Cambridge Police Department, for the ins and outs of crime and punishment. You advised me well, and if I took liberties or made mistakes, they’re on me. Finally, once again, thank you to Jon S. Garelick – for everything.

Oh frabjous day!!

The books are here! Calloo callay, oh frabjous day, she Swiffered in her joy (hey, there's a lot of cat hair around here). Four big boxes of books have just arrived -- three go back to Poisoned Pen on Monday with my signature (which is so bad anyway, it doesn't matter when my hand gets tired).

But what happened to my acknowledgments page? Ah well... tonight we celebrate! (Tomorrow, we start signing.)

Pub date: Where are the books?

Wow, this is a first! Pub date and no books. Officially, PROBABLE CLAWS is published today, but I've not received my books (nor the 75 copies I'm supposed to sign and send back to the publisher, which they distribute to various bookstores). And now I see on Amazon that PROBABLE CLAWS is listed as "temporarily out of stock." I made some inquiries and found out the weather is to blame. Seems my book is printed in Minnesota, and so the recent horrible weather and flooding has slowed things up. Supposedly the books are on the trucks now and should show up in a day or two. Considering what people who live out there had to deal with, this is minor, minor, minor. But it is a bit disorienting to have a "pub day" without a book in hand!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Fields are supposed to lie fallow after seven seasons of planting, right? So I'm taking it easy this week. Well, I'm doing the various odds and ends (a book review, an article on online learning, etc.) that pay the bills, but nothing with mysteries, nothing creative. I think I burned out my last brain cell finishing "Grey Matters" last week. And supposedly "Probable Claws" hits the bookstores on Friday. But I haven't received my copies yet and I'm wondering what's up.

Ah well, if they're not around by Monday, I'll deal then. When I start re-reading... snooze...

Meanwhile, some nice reviews (and another).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

First draft...

I'm sort of stunned and definitely exhausted, but I think it is now safe to say that I have completed a first draft of the second Dulcie Schwartz mystery, tentatively titled "Grey Matters."

Oh yeah, and we're refinancing our mortgage, too.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"While cat lovers will be drawn to Probable Claws for its feline characters, it's the overall book itself that will have mystery readers looking forward to the next in the series." Hey, thanks! (Read the whole review here.) And thanks to Linda L. Richards for letting me know about it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

They cropped Musetta!

Otherwise, I'm very happy with this interview, which went up today on the International Thriller Writers site.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No severance pay?

All through the 1990s, I worked at the Boston Globe. I made some great friends there and I learned a lot. Now, I'm not sorry I left, but I've also always understood why others stayed. It is the biggest newspaper in the region. The most respected and seemingly the most secure. But over the last few years, I've also seen friends take buyouts. And now - layoffs. Several people I know were among the 27 employees laid off on Friday, including one dear friend. But what nobody had told me (everyone is very shaken up and teary) is something I just heard on the radio: Those laid off were not given any severance pay. None.

Now some of these are people who have worked for the paper decades. They were not "fired for cause." They've done nothing wrong except be extraneous in a lean time. And they're not given two weeks' pay? A weeks'? That is low.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Which are safer: cats or dogs?

The Globe's Judy Foreman tackles that question today. Of course, those of us who love our pets don't really look at them as a source of infection...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Powering through proofs

Hooboy, I'm reading Shades of Grey one more time – page proofs. This is my last chance to catch anything. Could the pressure be higher?

On a more fun note, I just heard that 70 copies of Probable Claws will be shipped to me next week. I sign most of those and ship them back (those pre-signed copies go to bookstores that have ordered them). Some, though, I get to keep! And I think that means it will start showing up in bookstores soon, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Remembering Eddie Bo

It's funny, I never really played his albums much. But I always turned up the radio when an Eddie Bo song came on. "Check Your Bucket" "Hook and Sling" "Check Mr. Popeye"... Any appearance by Eddie Bo was always the highlight of our visits to New Orleans. And not just because of his infectious piano-based funk and swing. Eddie was just a very good-natured and incredibly talented man. And he was always just there – abandoning the piano to get people on their feet, squatting down and butt shaking, on the stage at Tip's French Quarter or at the Fest, marshalling four or even six other pianists up to the double grand pianos at the end of Piano Night. Making people dance and smile. And now he's gone.

Great appreciation on the WWOZ site, and I'm listening to yet another tribute on the station now. (Tune in online.) "Got a hole in it..." Speaks to our hearts.

Thank you, Eddie.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

HBO takes on "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency"

And I, in turn, take on the Anthony Minghella production in my review in the Boston Phoenix. I quite liked it, largely because Minghella was quite respectful of the books. That said, he did change some things. One difference that I couldn't fit into this review was a new character, an openly gay hairdresser (in the picture to the right of Scott). He's a good character, but I found it a little odd that when the books deal quite openly with AIDS (Mma Makutsi's brother dies of it), the TV adaptation has a gay character and it is never mentioned. Also, the agency's first home is a lot nicer than it is in the book -- I felt a little bit as if the producers wanted to make Gabarone nicer and more open even than it is in the book. Well intentioned, but why?

Friday, March 20, 2009

They're here!

My new bookmarks, that is. (Pictured front and back.) Email me with your snail mail address if you'd like some!
(You can also pre-order your Shades of Grey and your Probable Claws now, too!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

California dreamin'

I'm sitting here in my Cambridge office, hoping the temperature really does hit 50 degrees today, but in my heart I'm in California. In print, too: The San Francisco Chronicle ran my review of "Revenge of the Spellmans" today. Fun book - and if any of you liked the first of the series, and the second less so, take heart. Lisa Lutz has discovered new sources for madcap mayhem in this third outing.

I've also been given a shout-out by Victoria Zackheim on the Kepler's Bookstore blog, The Well-Read Donkey. I contributed an essay to Victoria's lovely anthology, "For Keeps: Women Tell The Truth About Their Bodies, Growing Older and Acceptance," and she's the guest blogger over there this week for this wonderful Menlo Park indie. Thanks, Victoria!

Monday, March 16, 2009


Sometimes, I think writers never stop working.

I'm deep into the first draft of the second Dulcie Schwartz book, and I've started dreaming about it. Nothing useful, like "oh, she should be stalked by the killer" or "why not make the tortilla into a clue?" No, dreams that I'm about to go onstage and I haven't finished reading the script. Or that I'm posing naked (but it's ok, in the dream, I have a body like Karita Matilla's, which is all one could want for a woman of our age). It's disconcerting. I wake up and am confused to realize that I'm not writing, that I have, in fact, been asleep. But I like to think that all that subconscious stuff will play out in the text as I chip out word after word from my grudging mind.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Decisions, decisions...

So, I'm getting bookmarks made up to give away at my various events, conferences, etc. (Malice Domestic! Murder Underbones party on April 21!). I think these look pretty great, but I'm not sure about the "The feline ghost did try to warn her..." (on the back/Shades of Grey side). It's short and to the point, but would it be better as "Her late, great cat came back to warn her...."? Does that say "ghost cat" clearly enough? Is it better? Worse? Let me know! And if you want a bookmark (or five) let me know, too. (This is the front and back of the same bookmark.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy anniversary, PW blogger Barbara Vey!

Wow, can it have been two years? Publishers Weekly "Behind Her Book" blogger Barbara Vey is celebrating two years of blogging about all sorts of fun books -- romance, mysteries, you name it. She's having QUITE the party on her blog today, with tons of prizes, book giveaways, and more. The party lasts all week, but today is devoted to mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. Come on by!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Since I posted my Shades of Grey cover (left), my buddy Brett pointed out its similarity to this REM cover (right).

Well, there is a similarity in tone, I agree. But it's nothing like what happened when my first book, Mad House, came out in paperback with this beautiful, evocative cover (bottom left) and then, a few months later Hootie and the Blowfish's album "Musical Chairs" was released (bottom right):

I mean, at least I really love REM!