Friday, March 24, 2017

Happy #FelineFriday

Fans of my Dulcie Schwartz mysteries (like the new "Into the Grey") know that the Harvard Libraries are full of wonders (and some mysteries). I'm sure she would approve of this #FelineFriday share from the Widener Library blog featuring some whimsical cat-bird cooperation from a Polish children's book.

Countdown to "As Dark As My Fur"

To celebrate #FelineFriday and as the countdown to the official pub. date of "As Dark As My Fur" begins, I'm thrilled to post advance reviews. Here's one from a bookseller's blog: "It's very good read and I really enjoyed watching the young girl upset the plans the bad man had in mind. She's just starting out, so I look forward to reading more about her and Blackie. They make a mean team..."

What more can one ask for in a review? Read the full review here: Journey of a Bookseller.

Oh yeah, As Dark As My Fur officially launches on April 1. No fooling!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

RIP Colin Dexter

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Speaking out for the NEA and NEH

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

End game ... with ships

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

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

New England Mobile Book Fair needs your help!

New England Mobile Book Fair needs your help!

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A very good read..."

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

A librarian's cats celebrate #FelineFriday

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The "Aha" Moment

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Simon does a masterful job..."

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

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

When your witness is a robot....

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

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A girl stands up to Wall Street

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A day for heroines

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017



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

Friday, March 3, 2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Happy World Book Day!

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

Four stars for "As Dark As My Fur"

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