Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Next Big Thing blog hop

Welcome to this blog hop.
What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way that readers can discover new authors, because with bookstores closing and publishers not promoting new authors as much, we need to find a way to introduce readers to authors they may not see in their local bookstore.

Here you have the chance to find many new authors. Here you’ll find information about Amy Shojai and her dog-centric thriller novel, LOST AND FOUND, which NY Times bestselling author James Rollins calls, “Riveting, heart-wrenching, brilliant, the debut of a stunning talent.” Also see links below to five other authors you might like to check out.
I’d like to thank fellow author Amy Shojai for tagging me to participate. Click the links below to find out about Amy Shojai’s book.

In this particular hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered 10 questions where you get to learn about our current work in progress as well as some insights into our process, from characters and inspirations to plotting and cover decisions. I hope you enjoy it!
Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!
1: What is the working title of your book?
A Spot of Death: A Pru Marlowe pet noir
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
I've been collecting news stories about wild animals that are kept, inappropriately, as pets for a while now...
3: What genre does your book come under?
Amateur sleuth - sort of a not-too-cozy cozy
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Pru is a dark-haired bad girl. I'd love to have Claire Danes play her, with a dye job. Wallis the tabby would have to be portrayed by a very strong-willed tabby.
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When a newcomer is mysteriously mauled, murder-by-beast is suspected.
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
I am represented by Colleen Mohyde of the Doe Coover Agency, and this book is being written under contract for Poisoned Pen Press.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I'll let you know when I'm done.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Well, it is in the spirit of Dogs Don't Lie, Cats Can't Shoot, and this spring's upcoming Parrots Prove Deadly, the earlier books in this series.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I am having such fun with these characters, I want to keep going.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Pru and Wallis have a prickly, but very real relationship that any cat-person will recognize, and anyone who has read about - or wondered about - keeping a wild animal as a pet should be intrigued by the possible complications.

Below you will find authors who will be joining me by blog, next Wednesday. Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on WIPs and New Releases! Happy Writing and Reading!

Tina Whittle:
Bernadette Pajer:
Dusty Rainbolt:
Sheila Bonham:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thank you, Kirkus!

"As paranormal talking cat mysteries go, Simon’s latest gives her humans their due and a little bit more."

Hey, Kirkus is renowned for the "Kirkus kick." This is more plot summary than review, but I'll take it!

TRUE GREY (reviewed on December 1, 2012)
A graduate student finds that life imitates art a little too closely in the gothic romances she studies.

Dulcie Schwartz (Grey Matters, 2011, etc.) doesn’t understand the meaning of her recurring nightmares, in which she finds a body—sometimes red-haired, sometimes dark-haired—from which the “precious ichor glistened jewel-like no longer.” She does know that under the watchful eye of Thomas Griddlehaus, chief clerk of her university’s famed Mildon Collection, her dissertation about The Ravages of Umbria is moving along nicely—at least until the arrival of celebrated gothic scholar Melinda Sloane Harquist leads the Mildon to be locked down under the orders of Dean Haitner, who wants to give Melinda sole access to its treasures. Ignoring a warning from Mr. Grey, her dearly departed cat, who comes periodically from the other side to counsel her, as well as the concerns of her current pet, the younger but equally talkative Esmé, Dulcie goes to Dardley House to confront Melinda. She finds her rival sprawled out like the figure in Dulcie’s dream and every bit as dead. Now, Dulcie is a person of interest in the investigation, and her friendship with Detective Rogovoy of the university’s security force doesn’t help much when she’s questioned by the Cambridge police. Adding insult to injury, Dean Haitner slaps her with plagiarism charges. Now that her boyfriend, Chris, is working a night shift and her thesis advisor is giving her wide berth, Dulcie has almost no one to share her sorrows with—except of course her feline friends.

As paranormal talking cat mysteries go, Simon’s latest gives her humans their due and a little bit more.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8215-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Severn House
Review Posted Online: Nov. 19th, 2012
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

That reminds me...

... have to order my bird for next week. (Yes, this is a real photo of my yard and Beakie, the Beacon Street turkey, an occasional visitor.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thank you, Bristol Public Library!

"The best so far..." Wow, thank you, Bristol Public Library.
Bookblog of the Bristol Library
Reviews by the Reference Department of the Bristol Public Library, Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee.

True Grey by Clea Simon

Melon ponders whodunit in True Grey.

Reviewed by Jeanne

Dulcie Schwartz is just starting to see some daylight at the end of her long academic tunnel. She has a hot lead on the anonymous author she’s been researching for her thesis, and she thinks she may be ready to start writing. Then the incredible happens: a visiting scholar shows up who claims to have already found the missing novel and is about to publish her paper on the topic. Dulcie is devastated. Years wasted! In hopes of finding out if maybe there’s still something left from which to carve out a thesis, Dulcie tries to contact this Melinda Sloan Harquist despite several warnings that she shouldn’t. There is a meeting at last, but Melinda is dead and Dulcie has blood on her hands—literally.

True Grey is the fifth in Clea Simon's Dulcie Schwartz series and I think the best so far. Dulcie is a bit more settled in her life. After several false starts, she’s finally making some real headway with her paper. She and boyfriend Chris have settled into a steady relationship. Esme, the willful little kitten who captured her heart after the death of her beloved feline Mr. Grey, seems to be growing up a bit. Did I mention that Esme can talk? And that Mr. Grey is also still looking out for Dulcie? Both offer help after their own fashion, but advice from felines can sometimes be a bit obscure. Like the Oracle at Delphi, one has to attach one’s own meanings to some of their pronouncements.

I especially enjoyed these little interludes with the cats, but the whole book is fun—especially if you are or ever have been a member of the Professional Organization of English Majors. Actually, anyone who’s been involved in academia will recognize how passionate people can be over things the general public would think to be totally inconsequential. Think of the TV show Big Bang Theory,only with less slapstick and Engligh majors instead of physists. People carve out their own areas of expertise and are focused on that to the exclusion of almost everything else, so that someone studying the Gothic tradition sniffs at someone studying the Victorian era and vice versa. Simon catches the atmosphere perfectly, even having Dulcie accept being a murder suspect with relative equanimity but being shattered to learn that she’s suspected of –GASP!—plagiarism!

Another aspect I particularly appreciate is the way Simon has the story mirror some of the material Dulcie studies, with its portents and foreshadowings which the headstrong heroine ignores. Dulcie has a good number of these both from her cats (alive and otherwise) and from her New Age mother, who calls to inform Dulcie when the signs are unfavorable. Dulcie, so intent and earnest in her evaluations of fictional situations and so heedless when it comes to real life, makes me smile in recognition. I also like Dulcie’s thoughts on the anonymous author of The Ravages of Umbria and comments on the early feminist movement as she tries to reconstruct the author’s life.

The subplot with the anonymous author remains one of my favorite aspects of the books and I’m interested in seeing how it plays out. That said, I think these books can be read as standalone mystery novels. As with most series, it’s a bit better to read in order to see the character growth but it’s not mandatory.

Full disclosure: I was given a copy of the book-- or rather, Melon was given a copy of the book-- but it did not influence my review.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thank you, Publishers Weekly!

TRUE GREY is "intriguing... authentic and appealing." I'll take it!





Issue: 22ND OCTOBER 2012

True Grey: A Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery, Clea Simon. Severn, $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8215-8

An academic rival poses a threat to Harvard grad student Dulcie Schwartz in Simon’s intriguing fifth paranormal cat cozy (after 2012’s Grey Expectations). Melinda Sloane Harquist, a visiting scholar, is preparing to publish a biography of
the anonymous 18th-century author of The Ravages of Umbria, the same author
Dulcie has been researching for her doctoral thesis. If Melinda is able to publish first, Dulcie’s thesis will be ruined. When Dulcie decides to pay a friendly call on
Melinda at Melinda’s university lodgings, she’s dismayed to find that someone has brained Melinda with a marble bust. To prove she wasn’t the killer, Dulcie turns for help to her usual supporters—her spectral cat, Mr. Grey; her telepathic feline, Esmé, now past the kitten stage; and her boyfriend, Chris Sorenson. Simon, who attended Harvard herself, provides an authentic and appealing view of campus life

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A "True Grey" siting

Melon settles down with "True Grey." To which I can only say, "look at that belly! Look at that belly!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In which I get to chat with Michael Chabon

Only by phone, but still... fun.(Full link here)

"Michael Chabon has a thing for pop culture. From comic books (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) to Sherlock Holmes (The Final Solution), he's taken our collective pulse through our amusements. In Telegraph Avenue, his first novel in five years, the objects of obsession are vinyl records, specifically of the '70s funk hybrid known as "soul jazz," beloved by his record-store-owning protagonists Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe. But he — and they — are just as smitten with such other late-20th-century artifacts as blaxploitation films, muscle cars, and kung fu, all of which come into play as the two negotiate the twisted fortunes of relationships (both familial and romantic) and retail in Oakland, California, in the fall of 2004. The result, as fans could expect, is chock-full of detail and humor.

Read more:

Friday, August 31, 2012

"Where are my royalties?"

Musetta doesn't like to pose. Not when she feels she's owed...

They're HERE!

I just sent off the ms. for Dulcie #6, "Grey Dawn," went shopping and came home to find a box on my doorstep! True story!(And you can pre-order it here.)

"CATS" makes the Washington Post!

Last spring, when both Grey Expectations and Cats Can't Shoot came out, some things went wrong. For starters, a mix-up with the printer meant that most of the review copies of "Cats," my second Pru Marlowe pet noir, did not go out. That meant, no Publishers Weekly review. Very little press in general. But, well, it was a good book, and I was working on the next one, so I tried to let it go.

So imagine how thrilled I was this week when Sheila Connolly, a sister member of Sisters in Crime, sent me this link, showing that "Cats Can't Shoot" had been chosen as one of five mysteries for a "cozy" crime fiction write-up in the Washington Post!

"Animal behaviorist Pru Marlowe knows that Cats Can’t Shoot (Poisoned Pen, $24.95)," Washington Post contributor Kathy Blumenstock writes. "But when a blue-eyed white Persian in Clea Simon’s new mystery is accused of pulling the trigger that killed her owner, Pru is on the case...." Click here to read more!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Busy, busy, busy...

Sorry for the radio silence, folks! I've been busy: Sent off a slightly tweaked ending to Pru #3 Parrots Prove Deadly that ups the tension and drama (the idea came to me while relaxing on the beach, go figure). And now I'm busily revising Dulcie #6, Grey Dawn (there's a were-kitty! Were kitty? You'll see). And somewhere in there, I read the page proofs for Dulcie #5, True Grey, which will be available SOON! (Officially, it pubs in the U.S. in Dec., but it will be out end of Sept. in the U.K., so expect copies to start showing up online). PHEW!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tana French's "Broken Harbor"

Love the author. This new book... not so much. Here's my review from the Boston Globe:

At her best, Tana French writes characters. Her dark, moody novels may be categorized as crime fiction, but they rise and fall on the twisted and often conflicted survivors who people them.

As “Broken Harbor,” her fourth novel, opens, the value of survival is questionable. Someone has brutally attacked a family, the Spains, who had been living in a desolate housing development on the Irish coast. When the police discover that the mother, Jenny, has been severely injured but is still alive, her endurance is seen as a mixed blessing. With her husband and children dead, what kind of life will this young woman wake to?

(To read more, click here.)

Monday, June 25, 2012


And here it is! That wonderful quote is dummy type, alas (can't I get a critic to say exactly that?). I love that the cover artist used an African gray – the parrot in the book – as well as a tabby cat (though I suspect Wallis never looked that innocent). Have now gotten my edits from my editor, and they all look quite reasonable and do-able, so I see no reason that this shouldn't all go according to schedule and be available as a hardcover, paperback, and e-book next April, 2013! Pru and Wallis live!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mr Grey sells out?

It's true! The hardcover edition of Grey Expectations is just about sold out! I found out about this from a bookstore, the lovely Book Rack in Newburyport, where I'll be taking part in a Sisters in Crime Beach Reads panel on July 23 as part of the store's grand reopening. Maeread, the events coordinator, emailed to tell me that Grey Expectations is out of stock. I was shocked – and followed up with my publisher, Severn House.

What I found out is cheering, but also a little scary: It's true, except for a dozen or so books in a warehouse in Oregon, the hardcover of Grey Expectations is just about gone! Some bookstores still have them: I'm pretty sure Harvard Book Store in Cambridge has a few signed copies, and I know that Brookline Booksmith has ordered some of that last dozen for when Susan Conant and I do our "cats and dogs in crime fiction" chat there July 23. Both bookstores take phone orders, by the way, and if you want me to personalize a copy for you, I can – give them a call, order a copy, I'll sign and they'll ship! On a less personal note, it seems the big A – Amazon (shhh!) – still has some, too. But that's it.

The book isn't going out of print. Severn House wouldn't let that happen: Grey Expectations, the fourth Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery, is getting the best reviews of the series. Publishers Weekly called it "enchanting," and Booklist says, "this is definitely more than just another cat mystery." The story – with its cats and ghosts and romance – will continue, only in different forms. The audiobook is out now. The paperback will be out this fall (well, Dec. 1 in the U.S.). Libraries around the world – bless them all! – have copies to borrow. And an ebook will follow soon, at some point.

But do you want a hardcover of Grey Expectations? A first edition of Dulcie and Mr Grey's latest adventure? Do you want to read Grey Expectations this summer? Well, folks, time is running out.

Monday, June 4, 2012

First glimpse: TRUE GREY

True Grey, the fifth Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery, will be released Aug. 31 in the UK and Dec. 1 in the U.S. Very exciting!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thank you, Richmond Times-Dispatch!

"Talent and Passion" Wow, thank you, Jay Strafford of the Richmond Times-Dispatch! This review ran April 29.

Numerous mystery authors write more than one series, but it's a rare occurrence for one writer to publish entries from two of them simultaneously. But that's what the versatile Clea Simon has done for the second year in a row, releasing installments from her Dulcie Schwartz and Pru Marlowe novels this month.

In "Grey Expectations" (215 pages, Severn House, $27.95), Harvard grad student Dulcie is continuing work on her thesis about an obscure, incomplete 17th-century gothic novel when she finds herself embroiled in multifaceted trouble. Two of her colleagues — Roland Galveston and Trista Dunlop — have gone missing, and so has the Dunster Codex, a valuable book dating to 11th-century England and the prize possession of Harvard's special collections. And Dulcie soon realizes that someone is trying to set her up for a big fall.

Meanwhile, she is receiving fewer messages from the ghost of her late cat, Mr. Grey, and not picking up on those from her new kitten, Esmé. But Dulcie's determination — seldom dormant — kicks in to help her unravel the disappearances.

The feline in "Cats Don't Shoot" (276 pages, Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95 hardcover, $14.95 softcover) is alive but endangered, accused of accidentally — and fatally — shooting her owner.

Enter animal behaviorist Pru, whose abilities include that of "hearing" what her charges are saying. When wealthy Donal Franklin is found dead, and his white Persian's fur and paw prints are found on the antique dueling pistol, the authorities rule the case an accident. But Pru, who has fled New York City for her hometown in western Massachusetts, isn't convinced. And her investigation propels her into a case of guns, greed and multiple murders. When the cat, who has refused to communicate with Pru, vanishes from a local animal shelter, Pru must find the real killer in a litter of suspects in this true whodunit.

Simon, a self-described "recovering journalist" who lives in the Boston area, brings talent and passion to her novels. Ailurophiles, naturally, will find them a tasty treat — but so will readers who enjoy the author's creativity and characters who inspire great affection.

To read the full mystery column:

Monday, April 30, 2012

A day in the life of Dulcie Schwartz, grad student

Good morning. Thank you for meeting me here, in the library. I know it sounds funny to say, after five years of research, that I am under the gun. But the truth is, I am. You see, I’m working on my doctoral thesis and every day counts. I don’t want to be Dulcie Schwartz “ABD” – all but dissertation – and so I really have to get to work.

That said, I’m happy to talk with you. Sometimes, I know, I can get a little caught up in my own head. Even though my boyfriend, Chris, is an applied science student, a computer geek, I know I tend to stick with the bookish types in the English and American Literature and Languages department, my friend Trista, especially. And we do tend to keep to ourselves. Which, come to think of it, may be why none of them have stumbled across a dead body in a while.

Ghosts? Do I believe in ghosts? Of course not! Yes, you’ve probably heard that Lucy, my mother, is a former hippie and that I was raised on a commune. And, yes, she’s always calling me to tell me that Jupiter is aligned with Venus or that she’s had some dream or other. But that’s part of the reason I’m a graduate student. I believe in the life of the mind. In rational thought. In reason – and in books. Well, yes, I am visited on occasion by the shade of Mr. Grey. But Mr. Grey was a special cat, a very special pet, and he only comes by to keep me company sometimes, when I get down. Well, yes, sometimes he has helped me out, but not too much. I mean, you wouldn’t expect a cat to tell you what to do – or who to suspect, would you? Why should a ghost cat be any different?

Right now, though, I could use some help. You see, the acting head of my department has been looking at me funny. He seems to think I’m involved in the theft of a real treasure, the Dunster Codex. Yes, I know it’s only a book – but a very ancient and rare one. But I swear I’ve only seen it once or twice, and I know Trista isn’t involved, whatever the cops are saying. Though, no, come to think of it, I don’t have any idea where she has disappeared to, either. Mr. Grey, could you help?

This blog originally ran in Dru's Book Musings:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A day in the life of Wallis the tabby

What, you were expecting a person?

Yes, I supposed I should cede this space to Pru. My roommate – the one who opens the cans – is Pru Marlowe. She’s also the one who dragged us both out of the city and to this godforsaken town a little over a year ago, as you people reckon it. Couldn’t handle the pressures of city life. The men, the fun. Couldn’t handle that suddenly, after a bad bout of flu, she could hear me, Wallis, the cat. Not her cat, please. May as well call Pru my human. Considering who does most of the thinking around here, it really would be more accurate.

Not that I get out much anymore. At 12, I’m a mature tabby, and really, keeping up this fine tiger-striped coat takes a good deal of time. No, I leave the adventures, such as they are, to Pru. She’s half in love with that old muscle car of hers, anyway, driving around this little podunk – excuse me, scenic – Berkshires town. And now that she can hear us, she’s always getting in trouble. Saving the animals, she calls it. Saving humans from themselves is more like it, though, yes, I’ll admit it. Sometimes my fellow quadrupeds do need a human hand to help them out.

Take this Persian, for example. Now, as a proper cat, I have little use for those flat faces. But this girl? I don’t care about the gun powder in her white fur – she could bathe, you know. I don’t believe she shot her person. From what I hear about the other humans in that household – that scolding wife, the pretty but vapid “aide” – I think old Donal was the best of the bunch. At any rate, a gun – even a rare antique dueling pistol – is not a weapon for a cat. No, I think Pru may be right on this one. I think someone has framed that cat. You humans have an expression, something about a “cat’s paw,” don’t you?

Still, couldn’t Pru leave it to Jim Creighton, that handsome young cop? I like the way he pets me, smoothing my thick fur down right. He likes her, too, though she can be a bit odd around lawmen. Maybe it’s because of her history. She’s been a bit of a wild one. Maybe it’s because her ex is in town. Now he’s feisty, a regular old tomcat. I don’t know what his connection is with the Persian, or with that gun, but I’m sure Pru will figure it out. I’ll help, of course. After my nap.

This blog originally ran on Dru's Book Musings:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The writing life: Doubt, joy, and the importance of good friends

Writer extraordinaire first ran this interview on her blog, but she gave me permission to reprint it. It was so much fun, I couldn't resist:

Caroline: I first met Clea Simon on this writing site we both frequented. I really liked the funny, smart way she was presenting her ideas, but more than that, I was thrilled that she was the author of Fatherless Women, a book I loved. We became friends online first, and then began to manage to see each other once a year. I read more of her books and loved all of them. We go to each other's readings, we do a daily email check in, we boost each other up and cajole and nag and talk about everything from writing to money to morale--honestly, I depend on Clea and I don't know what I'd do without her.

I'm thrilled she has two absolutely terrific, smart new mysteries out, with another coming out next year--and I'm even more thrilled she's here on my blog. Big hugs and thanks, Clea!

Writing is a lonely business, which is one reason I’m so lucky to have Caroline as a writing buddy. She and I email each other all the time, complaining of plot complications that won’t be resolved. Character flip-flops that caught us unawares, and inevitable insecurities of the wait, when the agent, the editor, the reviewer reads our work. Sitting here, alone in my office, I don’t know how I’d get my work done if it weren’t for friends like Caroline.

But even as we bat our anxieties back and forth, and she reassures me that, yes, after thirteen books, maybe I am a “real” writer, I’ve become increasingly aware of a major difference between us. You see, for the past few years, I’ve been writing series mysteries. Specifically, I am now writing two series for two different publishers: the Dulcie Schwartz mysteries, which feature a graduate student in Gothic literature, who happens to get visits from the ghost of her late cat, and the Pru Marlowe pet noirs, which feature a tough-girl animal behaviorist who can hear what animals are thinking (and has an even tougher tabby as a sidekick). This month, I’ve got the two newest books in each series out – Grey Expectations (Severn House) is the Dulcie, Cats Can’t Shoot (Poisoned Pen) is the Pru. Next year, when Caroline’s next book will be out, I may have three.

Crazy, isn’t it? Caroline and I go through so many of the same processes – the electric thrill of inspiration, the crazed zone of furious writing, the doubt, and the joy – but these days, I seem to be doing it double time. And so when she and I talked about what I could guestblog about, I thought that writing series might be a good topic, and she obliged by asking me some questions.

What is your schedule this year?
I’m actually writing three books right now. Severn House decided they wanted my Dulcies to come out a little more frequently, and they contracted me for two more. How could I say no? But I also had the last in my three-book Pru contract due, so... I turned in the manuscript for the fifth Dulcie, True Grey, last month, and am awaiting edits. I am now finishing up Parrots Prove Deadly, the third Pru book, which is due in June, and when I’m done with that, I have another Dulcie due Sept. 1. What I’m hoping is that going over the edits for True Grey will get me back in the Dulcie mindset and remind me of the threads I left hanging. (I also have pretty good notes.)

How do you get it all done?
I’ve had to become super disciplined. I don’t outline, I find it kills creativity, but I do have a good idea of the direction of each book. And I make myself write at least a certain number of words each day. The good part is, when I’m writing regularly (1,500 or 2,000 words a day is standard for me), I find the ideas keep coming. The problem is that sometimes I get so caught up I lose track of time. Over the winter, there were many days when I did not get outdoors during daylight. And I’ve learned to keep a portable egg timer with me. Too often, I’d put up something for dinner and not heard the timer down in the kitchen going off. We had many scalded pots and acrid artichokes before I started carrying my little egg timer back up to my office with me.

Do you worry about repeating yourself?
Yes, I’m terrified of it. But there is so much out there, so many possibilities, that what usually happens is that I run into something that I think I can use and I can’t fit it in. And I rely on happy accidents: I was having Pru work with a raccoon and it hit me: She gets that close to a wild animal, it’s going to bite her. Suddenly, I was researching rabies and rabies vaccines, and my book was going off in a whole different direction.
Both your protagonists are so different. Is it difficult to switch voices?
Yes, I need a little rest time between. When I’m writing Pru, as I am right now, I think of Dulcie as a wimp. Naïve and silly. But when I’m in a Dulcie book, I adore her, and I think of Pru as an unsympathetic bitch. At some level, it’s probably good for me to explore both these characters!

What are the other challenges of writing series books on deadline?
I’m terrified of what I might miss. I force myself to be hypervigilant when I’m revising, and I am extremely grateful both to my small, core group of readers and my editors for their input. But still, in Cats Can’t Shoot, there was a stupid gun error – I don’t even want to repeat it – in the ARC. A reader caught it, and I was able to make the change before the printed version, but that’s what gives me nightmares. I try to write freely and wildly, but I have to be extra careful in every stage of revisions, because there’s just no time.

Yikes! Are there advantages?
Yes, indeed! I love my characters, and I love watching them grow and change from book to book. Relationships are developing and changing. All sorts of stuff that really has no connection to the mystery in each book, but is deeply gratifying to me. Plus, I get to avoid that post-book post-partum depression. I know I’ll see these folks again soon.

Still, you must have some pet peeves?
Oh, I do. It still amazes me how many people look down on mysteries– they say they’re “just” mysteries, not “real books” – like mysteries are automatically a lower form of writing. Yes, I write quickly, but I revise carefully – and writing slowly is no guarantee of quality. When you’re in the zone, you’re in the zone. That said, I’ve written more serious books, nonfiction, and this is what I want to be doing now, so I try not to let that get to me (too much).

Sounds like I should let you get back to it!
It was lovely to take a break with you, Caroline! Thanks so much for letting me talk about the series side of writing. – Clea

Excerpts from Clea’s books may be found on her website, at

This ran originally on Carolineleavittville at

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fun with rabies...

Shh… don’t tell anyone, but I’m having fun with rabies. And I’m not the only one. When I told Jessica, the publisher of Poisoned Pen Press, that I was researching rabies, she got nearly as excited as I was. After all, it’s a fascinating disease. What other viral infection has an incubation of anywhere from 10 days to seven years? A virus that can be stopped by a vaccine (these days, usually through a series of four shots), but if its not, makes its inexorable way to your brain… from which it cannot be cured. (And,yes, people have survived rabies recently – thanks to some risky treatments, including medically induced comas, but its still overwhelmingly fatal.) What other lethal disease can be contracted nearly anywhere in the world? Even the UK, where rabies was virtually eliminated for years, is now falling victim: rabies-infected bats have been found in Scotland. It’s a disease so innately terrifying that you’d think Pru Marlowe, my bad girl animal psychic/animal behaviorist, would take it seriously. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

You see, I shouldn’t be doing this now. I should be celebrating my new Pru Marlowe pet noir, Cats Can’t Shoot. After all, it’s officially out this month from the Press, and I’m very excited about it. I have already made notes on the talk I’ll give at my book launch at my local indie, Harvard Book Store tomorrow, and have traded some ideas with my fellow Sisters in Crime panelists for our presentation at the Popular Culture Association‘s annual conference (to be held on Friday the 13th, hmmmm…). But what I’m really caught up in right now is the next book. Yup, Pru #3, a lovely little adventure I’ve been calling Parrots Prove Deadly. And its for this book that I’ve been reading CDC pamphlets, talking to vets, and bugging my local hospital to show me the needles used in this famously painful (ok, they say the newest version isn’t that bad) shots. So, yeah, I should be living in the moment. Celebrating my new book. But really? I’m out in the field, helping Pru save a raccoon who may or may not have just signed her death warrant.

Oh, did you know that you don’t even have to be bitten to be infected? That’s right. And the symptoms? Well, they start with anxiety, maybe a little tension or excitability. Before long, the thirst will get to you – the muscle spasms and the inability to swallow. But don’t worry, really. By the time the convulsions start, there’s really nothing you can do anyway. Rabies… the gift that keeps on giving.

This blog originally ran on the Poisoned Pen Press blog:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pru gets another starred review from Booklist! Thank you!

"Simon excels in creating unique and believable animal characters as well as diverse and memorable humans"

Wow! I am overjoyed! This review won't be officially out until April 15, but I have to share it now:

Publication: BOOKLIST
Issue: 15 TH APRIL 2012
Cats Can’t Shoot, Simon, Clea (Author), Apr 2012. 250 p. Poisoned Pen, paper, $14.95 (9781590588697).
*Starred Review*
The second Pru Marlowe mystery has the soon-to-be-licensed animal behaviorist defending a Persian cat that may have shot its owner with an antique pistol. Pru is convinced that cats can’t shoot, but the cops sure think this one did. Normally, Pru would use her psychic abilities and ask the Persian what happened, but the cat ain’t talking, leaving Pru on her own. Her first instinct is always for the animals, something the rest of humanity doesn’t always understand. In fact, Pru’s animals-first philosophy, combined with her nosy investigating, is giving her quite a reputation as an eccentric, but she doesn’t care as long as she keeps her charges safe. Pru’s strongest and clearest communication has always been with her own grumpy feline, Wallis, but she’s expanding her range to actual conversations, which turn out to be a great boon for an investigation, as animals often have evidence no one else could gather. Between the vengeful widow and a strangely similar-looking mistress, Pru is dealing with some tough women. And when a Russian mobster arrives in town looking for one of Pru’s sometime boyfriends, the tension escalates still further. Simon excels in creating unique and believable animal characters as well as diverse and memorable humans, and this sequel is just as good as Dogs Don’t Lie (2011). A perfect read-alike for fans of Rita Mae Brown and Shirley Rousseau Murphy.
—Jessica Moyer

Sunday, March 11, 2012


And I am over the moon:
Grey Expectations:
A Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery
Clea Simon. Severn, $27.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8134-2
Simon’s enchanting fourth Dulcie Schwartz mystery (after 2011’s Grey Zone) finds Harvard grad student Dulcie still at work on her doctoral thesis on late 18th-century gothic fiction and still trying to identify the anonymous author of “her long-time favorite adventure,” The Ravages of Umbria. Esmé, Dulcie’s telepathic tuxedo kitten, provides distraction. When an 11th-century manuscript, the Dunster Codex, goes missing from the rare book collection in the Widener Annex, suspicion falls on Dulcie’s brash Victorian studies friend, Trista, whom the police already suspect of having something to do with the disappearance of visiting scholar Roland Galveston. Dulcie, aided by her ghostly cat, Mr. Grey, and her live-in boyfriend, Chris Sorenson, seeks to solve the puzzle, which soon takes a murderous turn. Fans of academic paranormal cat cozies will be in heaven. Agent: Colleen Mohyde, Doe Coover Agency. (May)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Definitely more than just another cat mystery."

Thank you, Booklist!

Grey Expectations, Simon, Clea (Author), Apr 2012. 208 p. Severn, hardcover, $27.95. (9780727881342).

The fourth in Simon’s Mr. Grey and Dulcie series, following Grey Zone (2011), continues successfully to marry the apparently very different subgenres of the cat mystery and the academic mystery. Finally writing her thesis, Dulcie isn’t in the mood for dramatics, even from her grad-school pals. All she wants is peaceful time in the library to continue her research. But when a rare book goes missing from a locked archive to which only she and the other English students have access, she must emerge from her writing fog and start investigating. Usually, she has the ghostly feline, Mr. Grey, to help out, but he seems to have transfered his affections and communications to Dulcie’s boyfriend, Chris. Meanwhile, the new kitten, Esmé, continues to bite and play more than talk. After best friend Tris disappears, Dulcie is on her own, which is too bad because it seems that Dulcie may be being framed for the theft. Using Dulcie’s ongoing struggles with her dissertation to frame each entry in the series provides good continuity and keeps readers engaged. This is definitely more than just another cat mystery. – Booklist, 3/15/12

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Had God intended Women onely as a finer sort of Cattle...

"Had God intended Women onely as a finer sort of Cattle,” wrote one early 18th Century woman, “he would have not made them reasonable." Such is the sentiment of the Gothic novelist my heroine Dulcie Schwartz is studying in her latest mystery, Grey Expectations (Severn House) - and isn't it true today, too? Just loved the New York Times story (about the Shakespeare's Sister exhibit at the Folger Library) that included this quote!

Monday, February 20, 2012

"A good solid mystery..." Thank you, Bristol Public Library!

Review from the Bookblog of the Bristol Library

Things finally seem to be looking up for graduate student Dulcie Schwartz. She’s settled in with her boyfriend Chris after her own apartment was destroyed and things are good between them. Her new kitten Esme is becoming dearer to her every day, even if she does like to nip. Dulcie still gets a word or two of comfort and wisdom from her dearly departed cat, Mr. Grey, although he insists on being cryptic. Best of all, she is finally making some progress on her thesis about The Ravages of Umbria, an incomplete gothic novel written in the eighteenth century by an unknown author. Dulcie is determined to try to identify her and try to discover what happened to this courageous, free-thinking woman. Dulcie’s so obsessed that she’s begun to dream about her.

A frantic phone call turns everything upside down. Dulcie’s friend and fellow student Trish calls to say the police have been by to question her and that she’s suspected of homicide. In her efforts to help, Dulcie finds people sometimes aren’t who they claim to be, that books may be haunted, and a valuable clue to her mystery author may be hiding in plain sight.

This is the fifth in the Dulcie Schwartz series and for me, it’s the most successful. Simon has found the perfect tone—voice, if you will—for Mr. Grey and Esme, and given Dulcie some much needed stability in her life. She feels more comfortable with herself. Having a ghostly guide is a problematical thing in most books; either our heroine (it’s usually a she) keeps fighting the idea or else serves as a deus ex machina to clear up plot lines. Having a ghostly guide who’s a cat may sound just too precious for words, but it’s handled very well. Mr. Grey, while offering a word or two, believes kittens, be they human or feline, need to find their own way in the world; he tends to limit his comments to general instructions, such as “Things are not always as they seem.” Mostly he is there for a bit of psychic moral support which Dulcie needs after a life of near-rootlessness and abandonment by her father. I especially like the dynamic in this book between Mr. Grey and Esme, who have brief conversations; he treats Esme much the same way he treats Dulcie.

Equally pleasurable is the parallel that runs between Dulcie’s life and that of her unknown author. Dulcie is so close to the work that she doesn’t see, leaving the reader to feel a bit like Mr. Grey, knowing that we see something Dulcie can’t. The cast of characters, especially Dulcie’s New Age mother, are likeable. English majors will identify with Dulcie’s frustrations in researching and proving her thesis, but non-academics won’t have any trouble following that aspect of the book. In fact, I’m beginning to become as curious as Dulcie as to who this author might have been!

In short, this is a good solid mystery which is fun without being silly, and which melts my cat lover’s heart whenever Esme and/ or Mr. Grey are on the scene!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Not the brightest bulb

I just had an amusing exchange w/ an electrician. I had brought in two lamps to be rewired, and they were due to be fixed today. As I walk up to the store, I see a photo of a black cat with a heart-shaped background on the window. It says, "Have a PURRR-fect Valentine. From the Shop Kitty." I walk in, hand my tickets to the guy, and am looking around. I ask, "You have a shop kitty?" He asks, "Do you know what they look like?" I, spotting a nice-lookng, not-too-Persian black longhair, respond, "Well, I see one, right over there!" He says, "I meant your lamps."

Well, it amused me anyway. Best wishes for a wonderful Valentine's Day. From the Shop Kitty.

Friday, February 10, 2012


It's happened again. I've gotten to that point in revising where I realize that a clue, one I thought perfect, MAKES NO SENSE! The good thing is, I think I see a way to fix it. The even better thing? By the time anyone reads it - even my agent and my editor – the nonsensical part will be gone. While this is extremely frustrating now, I know I should be very happy - so much better to catch this now than later, right?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Enter to win an advance copy of CATS CAN'T SHOOT

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Cats Can't Shoot by Clea Simon

Cats Can't Shoot

by Clea Simon

Giveaway ends February 20, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Monday, January 30, 2012

A faithful reader

Melon, a librarian's cat, gets the jump on my upcoming April release, Grey Expectations (Severn House). He seems engrossed, doesn't he?