Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fatales


This week's question is a stumper.

My imagination is pretty good, but I can't conceive of wanting to spend time with anyone other than the person I've spent (gasp) over half my life with. So ... I thought it might be handy to instead turn to the subject of (what else?) film noir.

Inspired by Hilary's post earlier in the week, I figured I'd run down a list of the top five sexiest male and female "fatales" in classic noir. They inspired lust--crime--murder--obsession. Some killed without compunction, and without remorse ... but one and all, they were probably worth killing for. ;)

So here's a look behind the steamy car windows while the rain splatters on neon-soaked streets ... the femme and homme fatales in noir.

Homme

1. Burt Lancaster in ... well, almost anything. With a the body of a lusty, ruddy-haired god and a kilowatt smile--and all that energy!!--Burt was a real killer, and not just in the eponymous film. Look for him in Criss Cross with Yvonne DeCarlo, Brute Force and Kiss the Blood Off My Hands. And of course don't miss the steamy beach scene with Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity.

2. Robert Mitchum. He of the gravelly voice, sad sack eyes, wide shoulders and laconic stare. Mitchum was an irresistible hunk, and (to me, at any rate), the perfect actor to play a shamus, which he did in many a role (even essaying Marlowe when he was too old--but he was still terrific). In noir, though, he can be a real patsy. Look for him in Out of the Past (with Jane Greer) and the slightly comedic His Kind of Woman (with Jane Russell) ... the latter has a great fight scene with plenty of hot and sweaty Mitchum.

3. William Holden. William Holden is considered a huge hottie in my household ... something about the boyish charm, the chiseled features, and the wavy hair. You can see why Gloria Swanson fell for him in Sunset Boulevard, and he should have filmed more noirs ... though my favorite Holden performance is his underrated comedic turn in Born Yesterday, with Judy Holliday.

4. Glenn Ford. Another boyish looker who could turn a raffish grin with the best of them, the young Glenn exuded intensity and passion. In his team-ups with the screen goddess to end all screen goddesses, Rita Hayworth, he holds his own as an object of lust, frustration, and desire. Don't miss him in Gilda, The Big Heat or Human Desire (the latter two with Gloria Grahame).

5. Robert Ryan. One of the most underappreciated actors of the golden age, Ryan steamed up the screen with the best of them. Ruggedly handsome, his craggy features could twist themselves up villainously (Crisscross; Beware, My Lovely), but I prefer his sympathetic boxer in The Set-Up, and his witty writer in Born to be Bad.

Femme

1. Who else but Rita Hayworth? She helped inspire Miranda Corbie, and would be the perfect person to portray her. Rita projected a combination of innocence and allure that was less overtly sexual than Marilyn Monroe's, and more romantic--the ideal pin-up girl for the GIs in WWII. Her iconic role, of course, is Gilda ... and I've witnessed a packed movie theater go hushless when she struts on stage in the backless Jean Louis gown, singing "Put the Blame on Mame." Don't miss her in Lady from Shanghai, either.

2. Gloria Grahame. Gloria may not have been as beautiful as some of her colleagues, but the way she walked ... the way she talked ... and the way she stuck out those inimitable lips in a seductive pout made her the queen of noir. See her in anything (even It's a Wonderful Life), but most particularly in In a Lonely Place with Humphrey Bogart. Also Sudden Fear (with Jack Palance) and The Big Heat (with Glenn Ford and an unforgettable scene with Lee Marvin).

3. Jane Greer. Watch the way Jane moves in Out of the Past (with Robert Mitchum) ... watch the way she sits on the beach and breathes in his ear. And watch the way she watches him ... then you'll understand why he utters those immortal, fatal words "Baby, I don't care" when asked about the consequences ...

4. Ava Gardner. The Killers made Ava a star ... and it's easy to see why. She excelled at playing wild girls, untamed, feckless, passionate, half force of nature, half woman. Her personal life seemed to mimic her onscreen persona, and she was a natural to play the goddess of love in One Touch of Venus. We could only mourn the fact she didn't make more noirs. Don't miss her in The Barefoot Contessa or as the perfect Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises.

5. Barbara Stanwyck. Barbara was in her 40s when she made Double Idemnity, long after her nubile pre-code heyday in Baby Face. Her allure (and the infamous anklet) could make you forget that she wasn't conventionally beautiful ... and made you understand why Fred MacMurray was so anxious to sell her insurance.

There you have it, folks ... share your favorite hotties from the golden days of the black and white crime drama! From Dana Andrews and Tyrone Power and Humphrey Bogart to Linda Darnell, Joan Bennett and Lauren Bacall, I've omitted quite a few ... and the wonderful thing is they're only a Netflix away. :)

So who would you walk the dark side for? ;)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There can be only one...

I thought about this question long and hard - that is after I pulled up the blog and wondered why no one had posted today and then realized it was because it was my turn.

Note to self - there is this thing called a calendar - learn how to use it.

So after being in shock and thinking "I'll come up with something quick" I take a look at our question. Unless I'm mistaken we are to chose "one" fictional character to run away with. And there in lies the problem - who wants to run away with just one fictional character. If I'm running off somewhere I might as well have a time - you know what I mean?

So I'll start with Danielle Laidlaw - one of the lead characters from my own books - she's smart, tough, sexy. Just the kind of girl I like. So much so, that when I first let my wife read a draft of the book her response was unexpected: she cut her eyes at me and said - "I hate her. Who is she? And don't lie to me!"

Moving on - you all know my affinity for Bond Girls - so why not run off with a few of them - they usually have rich "uncles" or benefactors and lots of time to play in wonderful places like Monaco and the Caribbean. Anywhere that a skimpy bathing suit is considered proper attire.

Although there is a draw back to this plan - I would probably have to end up in a bathing suit too and aside from blinding casual onlookers with my lizard like white, underbelly ( all those who were not wearing welders goggles) , I also look nothing like Daniel Craig when splashing around in the water. So... perhaps we go skiing with the Bond girls instead.

And finally looking back into fiction from an earlier era there are two of my favorites - sort of. There is Ms. Scarlet O'Hara - yes she of the 17 inch waist and endless drama. Honestly, my decision to send time with her is really just for conditioning. You see I could never understand what took Rhett Butler sooooo long to give her the "heave ho" and mean seriously she was annoying to me pretty much right from the beginning - "Oh Rhett, Oh Ashley, Oh Rhett - Oh who shall I chose?" - - OH SPARE ME.

For Clark Gable to put up with all that - there must have been some amazing fireworks going on if you know what I mean? So it might be worth investigating.


And that brings me to my final thought - who better to run away with than Barbara Eden's Jeannie from the classic TV show I Dream of Jeannie.

I realize it was sort of a bizarre, male fantasy from the 60's - be an astronaut, live with a gorgeous woman who has magic powers, is always tan and rarely wearing a lot of clothing, disappears when you need her too and calls you master - and if you really want some peace, you can just cap the bottle and keep her from bothering you - and unlike everything else from the 50's-60's you don't even have to marry her. At least not right away.

Plus, I think she got all the pay per view stuff for free in that bottle.


Graham Brown is the author of two novels: Black Rain and Black Sun - neither of which involves a magical, scantilly clad Jeannie. But maybe next time.




Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Damage is Done

Today on 7 Criminal Minds w'ere hosting the talented author Hilary Davidson. No, it's not a cheap attempt by me to get out of answering the question, it's because Hilary's critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Damage Done, comes out today! Publisher's Weekly called it "A razor sharp mystery debut...offers a great portrait of sisterly love, despite a dysfunctional past, as well as a highly satisfying mystery." It's winning high marks from every reviewer I've seen and I can't wait to get my hands on a signed copy (Bouchercon, maybe?).

Thanks for joining us today, Hilary!


The question for Hilary was: Which fictional character would you leave your spouse or significant other for?

My first thought when I saw this question was, I must be reading the wrong books. There are characters in books that might be worth leaving my flesh-and-blood husband for? I closed my eyes and considered the ones I’d encountered in novels recently…

The Prospects: Ray and his sidekick Manny (from Dope Thief by Dennis Tafoya)

Pros: Ray is kind to his stepmother and clearly has a good heart, and Manny can be pretty funny.

Cons: For starters, they are actually cons. Their racket involves shaking down low-level drug dealers by pretending to be cops. That gets them points for creativity, but loses more points for ethics. Also, they’re both heroin addicts so that’s an instant strikeout. I know I’ll never find a fictional boyfriend if I’m too picky, but a girl has to have some standards.

The Prospect: Paul Cole (from Memory by Donald Westlake)

Pros: He’s handsome — the man was an actor, after all — and as the book goes on, he gets very fit from all the manual labor he does.

Cons: He’s doing that manual labor because he’s lost most of his memory thanks to a beating he got for sleeping with another man’s wife. So, when he had his memory, he was a cad; after he lost it, he’s just lost. Next.

The Prospect: Kyle Nevin (from Pariah by Dave Zeltserman)

Pros: Superficial charm that allows him to seduce his victims.

Cons: The book is called Pariah for a reason. That reason is Kyle.

That’s when I set the books aside. If Dr. Phil saw what I was reading, he’d tell me I was making my own problems. How was I going to be seduced by a fictional hero if all I did was hang out with fictional lowlifes? I needed leading men… which I would find in the movies! Whoever came up with the question didn’t say fictional character in a book, did they? So a fictional character from a movie should do just as well. In fact, there was a very attractive man in the last movie I watched…

The Prospect: Charlie Oakley (from Shadow of a Doubt, played by Joseph Cotten)

Pros: Sweet to his sister and her children. In fact, gives them generous gifts of jewelry engraved with curious inscriptions. A handsome charmer who’s very good at getting his way.

Cons: Only visits his sister and her family when police start closing in on him for suspicion of murder. Seems to have a temper. Hands twitch strangely near certain women’s throats.

Okay, maybe the movies weren’t the way to go for me, either. Deep down, I know the real problem is with what I’m writing, because that’s affecting what I read and watch. When I was working my first novel, The Damage Done, I pictured the main character, Lily Moore, as a fan of classic film noir. After watching The Killers, I decided she looked like Ava Gardner. It fit in a funny way, because Lily had fled the US for Spain, just as Ava had. Their reasons were different — Ava was partying with bullfighters, Lily was writing books about Spain — but something felt right about the pairing. I put a photo of Ava up on my desk to keep me company while I wrote, and after a while I started to read about her. That was when I discovered Ava’s father had died when she was 13, just as Lily’s had. But that was a detail I’d written about in chapter one, before I’d thought about what Lily looked like. Suddenly the connection felt slightly spooky. Then I read about Ava’s tumultuous love life and realized she and Lily had even more in common.

In The Damage Done, Lily is called home from Spain to New York when she’s told her sister, Claudia, has died, only to discover that the corpse belongs to a woman who’d stolen her sister’s identity and that Claudia is missing. While Lily searches for her sister, she finds clues that suggest her former fiancé, Martin — whom she jilted before she ran off to Spain — had a closer relationship with Claudia than he’s willing to admit. Lily’s love life starts to look as complicated as Ava’s, which is really saying something.

Even though I’ve been immersed in fictitious love triangles and hanging out with imaginary con artists, I realize that there is some part of me that must have been yearning for a perfect man. I say this, because there is one character in The Damage Done who could make me swoon. His name is Jesse, and he’s a Gregory Peck-lookalike who mixes a mean cocktail and is a great shot. He’s fond of quoting Will Rogers, loves 1940s film noir, and appreciates vintage glamour. He’s not like my husband, who rolls his eyes when I try to show him my latest thrift-shop find. “Oh, look. Another dress,” is about as much of a reaction as I get from him. Jesse would never do that. Not only would he admire my taste, he’d probably go shopping with me. Now that’s a fictional character I could fall for.

There’s just one little problem. Jesse wouldn’t be interested in me as anything but a friend. My husband, on the other hand, would be just his type.

Thanks again, Hilary! And good luck out there with The Damage Done! Happy Launch Day!

Here's a wee bit more here about The Damage Done:

Lily Moore, a successful travel writer, fled to Spain to get away from her troubled, drug-addicted younger sister, Claudia. But when Claudia is found dead in a bathtub on the anniversary of their mother’s suicide, Lily must return to New York to deal with the aftermath.

The situation shifts from tragic to baffling when the body at the morgue turns out to be a stranger’s. The dead woman had been using Claudia’s identity for months. The real Claudia had vanished, reappearing briefly on the day her impostor died. As Claudia transforms from victim to suspect in the eyes of the police, Lily becomes determined to find her before they do.

Is Claudia actually missing, or is she playing an elaborate con game? And who’s responsible for the body that was found in the bathtub? An obsessive ex-lover? An emotionally disturbed young man with a rich and powerful father? Or Lily’s own former fiancé, who turns out to be more deeply involved with Claudia than he admits?

As Lily searches for answers, a shadowy figure stalks her and the danger to her grows. Determined to learn the truth at any cost, she is unprepared for the terrible toll it will take on her and those she loves.

Monday, September 27, 2010

IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE…


When I was a kid, nearly everyone seemed to be named Kathy or Linda, Robert or Richard. Everyone except me. I was the only Lois I knew and apparently, the only Lois anyone else knew -- except for Lois Lane. Kids being the mean little buggers that they tend to be at times, love to pick on any kid who is different. My name was all I needed to set me apart and have them set their sights on me. I grew up feeling like a huge, flashing neon arrow hung over my head. From as far back as I can remember, I was teased unmercifully. Every day on the way to school, then in the afternoon on the way home, I’d hear the constant taunts of, “Hey Lois! Where’s Superman?”

I wish I knew.

Truth be told, I would have loved Superman to swoop down from the sky and carry me off in his arms. I fantasized about it constantly. The only thing better would have been to have superpowers of my own. I spent many years alternating between wishing I was Supergirl and having the Man of Steel fly to my rescue.

When I was old enough to walk to the corner store by myself, I reinforced those fantasies with monthly issues of Superman and Supergirl comic books. I eventually outgrow my yearning for the guy from Krypton, but I will admit that as an adult, I went to all the Superman movies and watched
Lois and Clark religiously. After all, a girl always remembers her first crush. And I do from time to time still wish I was Supergirl. Life is tough. Having superpowers would certainly help.

Funny, you’d think with a background like that, I’d be writing science fiction or fantasy, not amateur sleuth mysteries.

Anyway, when I saw the topic for this week, I gave it a lot of thought. My husband is a great guy. I’ll admit, I’d probably consider ditching him for one of the heroes I’ve created in my books, but that wouldn’t be playing quite fair. Don’t all authors write heroes that they’d want to fall in love with?

After considering and rejecting various other heroes by other authors, I came to the conclusion that it would take a really super guy to tempt me. A super man. Superman. So there you have it. If you happen to see him flying around Metropolis, let him know I’m interested. Otherwise, I’ll keep the super guy I’ve got.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Doctor Is In


Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

Physician heal thyself. Okay, so no medical school has given me a diploma and no state would be, excuse the technical terminology, crazy enough to give me a license to practice. I also think this is a bit like the attorney who represents himself – you have a fool for a client. Since fool isn’t a formal diagnosis (but, man it does sound about right), I’ll have to spend a little couch time to try to intuit my deepest darkest psychological issues.

Forget the couch. There’s no way to write in that position. And it’s not all really my mom’s fault. Most of it, sure. I am not adopted. Although that’s not her fault either since I know for sure we can trace back some serious crazy at least a couple of generations and she wasn’t adopted, either. Nope, traditional Freudian theory isn’t going to work here.

I could try the ink blot test. The problem is they all look like ink blots. Maybe they shouldn’t call it the ink blot test and stick with Rorschack. No, that wouldn’t work either. It makes me think of that guy in Welcome Back, Kotter with the pushy pick me and bad hair. Frankly, next to him I look positively sane. Not an easy task. When I don’t think of the ink blots as, well, ink blots I think they looked like smashed insects. Now, we’re getting somewhere.

Kafka. Metamorphoses. Insects evolving into higher forms of life as a metaphor for the transformation of the human psyche through intellectual challenge and an openness to new experience. The only problem there is that I really do just think of the blots as bottom of the shoe higher life form stomps lower life form. It’s just in my head. I’m actually one of those relocate spider people who transplant non-paying residents to their natural state rather than commit unprovoked murder of a species who exponentially outnumbers mine. But it’s dark, right? To see a bad Bic as death? Maybe it’s a symptom? It doesn’t seem enough to lead to a diagnosis all by itself.

So what other indicators exist? Hmm. Let’s see. I see all inanimate objects as potential weapons. The crystal ash tray (it’s got to have some purpose, right?), the lamp cord, the ice tongs – all have potential. Of course, I could be defending myself from an intruder on the most serene Hawaaiian island, Maui, whose psychosis has been documented, medicated and jumped the shark to physical aggression. Nope, that seems more like his issue than mine and shouldn’t delicate little me be allowed to defend herself in her own suite at the Grande Wailea?

I have asked “friends” to ride in the trunk of my car so I can hear what it sounds like to have them fighting to get out. I have chased others up dark stairs and then openly discussed if I were a knife-wielding villain whether or not they would survive the jump to the pool three floors below. I once had a homeless man come to my defense when a tourist tried to help me when I was lying in an alley trying to imagine what it would sound and smell like if I lay there dying. But heck, everybody does that.

Okay, I’m on vacation as I write this, sitting on the veranda with an ocean view and a pleasant trade wind. I’ve just come from sliding the fabulous slides into various pools and went for a run this morning before it got hot and just as the hard body paddle boarders were stripping down for an ocean adventure. Maybe in Seattle in February I suffer from seasonal affective disorder, multiple personality disorder and psychotic tendencies but here I’m mellow mellow. And despite rumors to the contrary, quite frighteningly sane.

If Lucy van Pelt were to hang her Psychiatrist 5¢ sign here, she’d go broke.

Thanks for reading and playing along with what is clearly a need medication now delusional disorder.

Gabi

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Issues

By Michael

Joe Kozmarski, my fictional PI, has a hard time talking about his feelings . . . as sometimes does the man who created him. We both grew up in the Midwest where feelings are an embarrassment and so we generally pretend that we don’t have them. That often leads to trouble. At least it does for Joe because despite his tough exterior he’s an only semi-dormant volcano of emotions, and every now and then he vents and lava hits one of his friends or lovers in the eye. And, as anyone who ever has been hit in the eye with molten lava will tell you, it stings (which is a Midwestern way of saying that it fucking hurts).

So, in the interest of Joe’s interpersonal relations, I’m sending him to a psychologist today.

Joe arrives on time, fills out the paperwork, and the psychologist invites him into his office. All’s well until the psychologist asks Joe to lie down on the couch and Joe says, “Thanks, I’d rather stand.”

“Okay,” the psychologist says, and he asks Joe to tell him about his fears and his loves.

Joe says, “Death and pierogi.”

The psychologist asks, “Can you explain that in more detail?”

“Nope,” says Joe.

They go back and forth like this for a half hour until the psychologist says, “I have the feeling that you’re not very comfortable opening up, are you?”

“Nope,” says Joe.

“Let’s try an experiment,” the psychologist says. “I’ll leave you here alone with a pen and a piece of paper. I want you to write a poem about your fears and loves.”

Joe raises his eyebrows and says, “A poem?”

“Yes,” says the psychologist. “A sonnet, an ode, an epic, whatever you want.”

“I’ve never written a poem,” says Joe.

The psychologist smiles, says, “Here’s your chance,” and leaves Joe alone with his thoughts and the pen and paper.

Fifteen minutes later, the psychologist returns and finds Joe standing exactly where he left him, the pen and paper still in his hands. “Did you come up with anything?” he asks.

Joe hands him the paper, and the psychologist reads:

“My Fears and Loves”

I’m very scared of cottage cheese

And clerks who try too hard to please –

Dick Cheney, George Bush, Barbara Streisand,

Manatees, small dogs, rats, and mice and

I’m scared of my kidneys, too, but why

I can’t explain. I could defy

Anxiety with Lexapro

Or Xanax or Celexa, though

A glass of whiskey does the trick

– But too much whiskey makes me sick –

And so, to treat my phobias,

I think of women in lacy bras,

’Cause I love women in lacy bras –

And leather boots! They give me pause,

They calm my mind, they make me glad,

And I forget the fears I’ve had.

The psychologists considers Joe’s poem. He stares at Joe awhile. He reads the poem again. Then he sighs and says, “This has gotten me thinking, Joe. Maybe there’s some value to uncommunicative repression.”










Friday, September 24, 2010

First Your Brain Thunders. Then You Scream . . .



By Shane Gericke

It's no wonder poor Emily has PTSD. Wouldn't you?

From Blown Away, 2006:

Emily knew she was screaming because she felt it in her throat, that she was firing from the jerk-jerk-jerk in her fist. She couldn’t hear shots couldn’t hear anything but watched orange flames spurt from the Glock’s steel snout—one-two-three-nine—and bullet holes pock the van and the killer's cherry windbreaker. But he wasn’t falling, just sitting there, calm, turning the deadly bullet stream their way.

She crouched for the protection of the engine block then remembered Commander Branch wasn’t wearing his bulletproof vest and instead leapfrogged sideways, arms flailing, trying to stretch herself larger. A laser gunsight lit her midsection then a million sledgehammers slammed home, pounding breath from her lungs.

“Ahh,” she hissed, her joints melting. The Glock skittered across the parking stripes. Her head cracked off the blacktop, and, vision fuzzing, she splayed herself over Branch’s limp body. She absorbed most of the machinegun bullets but felt several thwock his hip. She begged her arms to grab the .45 from Branch’s unmoving hand but they refused—her muscles were frozen solid from shockwave. Helpless, she watched the serial killer throw her a sloppy kiss, then roar up the driveway to freedom . . .

Uhnnnnnnnh. She was shot to pieces, unable to move, unable to feel, dying like her parents and husband. Black fog shrouded her head, bagpipes chanted Amazing Grace. Then the music faded and the fog began lifting. “Why are you doing this?” she screamed at the lingering wisps of exhaust. “What do you want from me?” A strangled “Wuhhhhh” was all that emerged.

From Cut to the Bone, 2007: 


The electric chair spit as Emily's rescuers cut the last strap holding her down.

“Ahhhhhgh!” she howled as the lightning bolt lit her.

She flew off the chair as if backhanded, slammed the viewing window like a slapshot. Bounced sideways, hit the floor upside-down, skidded back toward the chair. Her head clanged. Her tongue tasted like burnt sirloin. Her brain became a fun mirror of faces, hands, feet, knives, and electric chair.

She passed out.

And from Torn Apart, 2010:

Lightning freeze-framed the woods into a series of still photos. Thunder shook the trees, churned the pond. The rain roared like end times. Emily's heart beat out of her chest. The panic dragon eating her out-screamed all of it. She ran for the closest photo, hoping to lose her pursuer.

The Uzi stuttered.

She heard the sewing-machine zip and dove into a pond. The bullets missed, but she felt their fire, they were so close. She rolled through the wormy mud, dead leaves and needles sticking to her nude flesh, then scrambled to her feet and resumed her pursuit of the ridge.

The Uzi stuttered again . . .

It's a real malady. It happens to real people

Emily Thompson isn't real, of course. She's a fictional character, the star of my crime series, as is Martin Benedetti, her co-star, boyfriend and fellow cop.

But the PTSD that affects her is all too real.

By the third book she's developed full-blown Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD for short. It's a genuine malady, and it's been in the news for years with all the wars we've been having. It's an emotional disorder caused when a serious traumatic injury happens to a person. If it is not treated promptly, the trauma so burns itself into the person's brain cells that he or she literally cannot forget it. The PTSD lingers, as if a live electric wire was threaded into the brain, one that shorts out from time to time. Each short-circuit causes flashbacks and nightmares and panic and other fun stuff. If the injury was severe enough, "time to time" becomes "all the time."

Cops get it. Firefighters get it. Soldiers, in particular, get it. No surprise, really; their work is full of violence and trauma and blood not infrequent death.

But it can strike anyone, any time. Men, women, boys, girls. All it takes is being involved in, or even witnessing, a violent, traumatic event--shooting, knifing, explosion, fatal car wreck. A violent attack on a loved one, or on yourself. Watching your child die. If the event is heavy and scary enough, particularly when you're young and not yet callused to the realities of life, the PTSD worm can lodge deep inside your head.

PTSD is characterized by flashbacks to the traumatic event. Than can occur months, or even years, after the event. Sometimes, the person will be fine and happy for decades--and then an unexpected triggering event will cause it to erupt as a psychological volcano. (The terror attack of September 11 triggered sleeping PTSD in a lot of Americans witnessing the horror that day.) The person will replay the old trauma, over and over and over, down to the last micro-detail, to figure it out, try to cope with the pain it inflicts. The person will get headaches. Nausea. Unexplained soul-curdling fears. Panic disorders. Panic attacks, which gives the person the true joy of feeling like he is literally dying, both physically and psychologically--slam-down-the-coffin-lid time. Rich and colorful nightmares occur, ones that seem so real the person bolts awake as if being stabbed. Sometimes the person will fuse the dread into an imaginary object, to keep some kind of control over it. Emily, for instance, sees her panic attacks as a fire-breathing dragon, come to roast her alive. She sees the beast as if it were in the bedroom, next to her triple dresser.

If the PTSD gets strong enough, the person can become emotionally crippled. Can lie in bed for hours in a fetal position, chewing his fist, afraid to leave the room. Turn to alcohol or drugs to kill the pain. Become riddled with OCD--Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder--to create unbreakable rituals to keep the fear away. (See: Monk.) Become paranoid that it's going to happen again, and this time it will kill you dead.

But fortunately, modern treatment can save the person from that dreadful fate. Emily isn't stuck with the 1950s version: Suck it up and forget all about it, you'll be fine. 

Cause that's just not possible.

Here's when Emily finds out her PTSD is more than just the occasional quick flashback. It's a nightmare that occurs right after she finds that, for the third time, a serial killer has targeted her for death. Again, from Torn Apart: 
 
Emily floated through the doorway, into the room.

She looked around, not quite sure where she was or what had brought her here.
The ceiling, floor, and walls were the unrelenting black of shark eyes. A bed with
corner posts of stacked body parts sat squarely in the center. An incandescent
bulb dangled from wires stripped to bare copper. Its meager glow died when it
reached the dark corners of the room.

She watched herself float to the center of the bed. She hovered a moment, then
descended, halting six inches from the mattress. Her arms raised, lowered,
raised, as if salaaming. Her clothes fell off her body and floated off into the
bathroom. They arranged themselves neatly on a claw-foot tub, their corners
perfectly squared.

None of this made sense. She tried to stop it.

Couldn’t.

She began to turn slowly, as if on a spit. Six revolutions and she was screwed
tight to the mattress, facing the doorway through which she’d been entered.

A puff of smoke wandered around the frame and into the room. She smelled its
cellar dankness. Felt its heat on breasts and belly. She didn’t flinch. She was
stronger than the heat.

Another puff floated through a closed window. She couldn’t see the puff or
window; she was faced the wrong way. But something was whispering it was
there. Something evil.

Shards of anxiety broke off her body and into the shadows, where they
shimmied like the mercury from a broken thermometer.

She tried to decipher the smoke puffs. They weren’t the speckled gray of a
house fire. They were red and yellow, blue and white. They doubled in size every
sixty seconds, folding in on themselves, milk condensing to cheese curds.
Marty floated through the entry door. He wore deer antlers and camouflage
pants. Otherwise, he was naked, and shorn of all hair but his moustache. His lips
and jaw moved. No words emerged. She urged him closer, so she could hear. He
joined her on the bed.

The puff-colors grew richer, as if infused with gold and platinum.

They tried talking with their eyes, but couldn’t decipher. The colors swirled in
the superheated air. Sweat gushed off their slickened bodies. Her stomach
morphed into a nest of squealing rats. They gnawed at her belly lining, trying to
escape.

Head pulsing with fear, she tried grabbing Marty and running for the door. She
couldn’t. She looked down to find out why. To her shock, she had no legs. They’d
been hack-sawn at the knees, leaving a pair of ragged stumps that somehow
didn’t bleed.

The dense smoke fractured into a kaleidoscope, melting and mending, shifting
and collapsing. Color shards flew down Emily’s throat, slicing her open from the
inside. Rats boiled out, flaying her with titanium claws. Her body bloated with
blood, tinged red and yellow, blue and white. She daren’t breathe for fear she’d
drown. Her anxiety smoldered to flash point, the colors becoming a fire hose,
blasting so hard that color slammed up her nose and down her throat. She
vomited. What came out were smoke tendrils, red and yellow, blue and white.
The expelled colors danced briefly at their freedom, then twisted themselves into
the snorting beast she hoped she’d never see again.

The panic dragon.

The last time she saw this monster, it was burning her and Marty to death
inside their exploding house. They managed to escape, and she thought it was
gone forever.

She was wrong.

The dragon roared its happiness at reuniting with its favorite victim, then
wrapped its tail around her scarred neck. Emily coughed and drooled, fighting
the choke. The dragon slapped her with its razor tail. Her cheeks separated from
their anchoring bones. Multicolored pus flooded her eyes and face. She blinked it
away only to see her leg stumps melt into the same hues as the dragon’s tail. Fire
roared through the room. High-pitched steam bounced off the walls, multiplying
the noise thousands-fold. Color, smoke, flames, keen, and panic became a
compressed ball of Crayola, ready to blow with the tiniest of reagent—

The window by the tree cracked from the heat. Cold, wet air roared inside.

The explosion lopped off Emily’s head. She watched herself bounce across the floor, settle upright on her shorn neck. Watched Marty fly backwards through the storm, and the dragon turn his way.

She tried to scream, distract the dragon from raining its fire. But her tongue
had liquefied into a bubbling milk, spilling down her chest in red and yellow, blue
and white. Marty mewled as his body crackled from the dragon’s hell breath, and Emily wept steam tears. He was doomed because she didn’t know how to beat the
dragon. The best thing that ever happened to her was burning alive because she
was so weak and pathetic and useless. . . .

The panic screamed with laughter.

Emily screamed fire.

Emily gets help, and is saved

The nightmare is so profound and so deep that Marty cannot wake her from it. He has to jump on her, screaming at her to wake up. He has to slap her, hard and more than once, to get the panic dragon to let go and let her back into the light.

Emily finally realizes she needs help, because this malady has taken over her life. With therapy, medications, time and understanding loved ones, she finally frees herself from PTSD's vile grip.

Not that I'd know anything about it, of course.

P.S.

Whew, what a downer! But it's a great relief to know Emily is living large and completely free of the panic dragon, right? Right. For a far happier take on writing, see my guest post, "Love and Bullets," at the Romance Bandits blog, by clicking here.

And thanks, as always, for reading Fridays With Shane.

Shane Gericke is the  national bestselling author of TORN APART and other thrillers. He is a founding member of International Thriller Writers and past chairman of ThrillerFest. Please visit him at his website, www.shanegericke.com 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Which You Need To Lock Up Your Stuff



by Bill

In Lost Dog, protagonist Peter McKrall takes things, not as the result of criminal intent but due to compulsion.

Peter is a kleptomaniac.

Kleptomania isn't something you have alone. It's not its own disorder, but an expression of other disorders, and typically accompanied by other negative behaviors. Peter's real problem wasn't taking things—impulse control was his struggle. But the most visible expression of his disorder was such that you'd better hope your stuff was locked up when he was around.

When Lost Dog came out, a common question at events and from readers was, "So, how exactly do you know about kleptomania?" This question was typically accompanied by a chuckle with just an edge of nerve hanging on the back end. Because, after all, we've all heard the dictum, "Write what you know." So, um, how exactly do I know about kleptomania?

The good news for your stuff is I learned about kleptomania the old-fashioned way; I stole things.

No, no. That was a joke. Heh heh?

In early drafts of Lost Dog, Peter was not a klepto. He was mostly just bitchy. Which was not working for my early readers. The problem is his bitchiness wasn't well-motivated. We all know people who are simply assholes, and there have been compelling assholes in fiction, but in proto-Peter's case it wasn't enough.

My first thought was to make into someone with permanent foot-in-mouth disease, a sort of lovable troglodyte. But that wouldn't work with the tone and theme of Lost Dog, which was a story about child abuse and murder, nor would it work with the incipient romance Peter would have with Ruby Jane Whittaker. Whatever I did with Peter, it needed to be dark, something driven by grim forces beyond his control.

And that was the key phrase. Beyond his control. Peter's problem would be a compulsion, something which came out of him despite his best efforts to keep it inside. Impulse control can express itself in so many ways, ways I could use to enhance the essential tension and the dramatic arc of the story: binge drinking, oppositional response to authority, and, yes, taking stuff. Furthermore, the kleptomania presented the opportunity to add another layer of conflict in Peter's already dicey situation. After all, you steal shit, and you get caught, the cops will have something to say about it, as will the people you steal from.

Once I reached that conclusion, all that remained was to show readers what it felt like to have no choice but to take what you see before you, no matter what it is, no matter how hard you try not to, no matter what the consequences may be.

And that nervous question, "So, how exactly do you know about kleptomania?" suggests maybe I pulled it off.




If you happen to be in the Portland/Vancouver, WA area on October 2nd, please consider coming out to hear me natter about character-driven fiction at the Vancouver Writers Mixer, Cover to Cover Books, 1817 Main Street, Vancouver, WA 98660 at 5pm. Tickets are free!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In which I examine the psychological ailments exhibited by my protagonist and me

By Tracy Kiely

I suppose there is a little bit of me in all of my characters; each one a faint reflection of an aspect of my personality, be it light or dark.

We’ve all heard the expression ‘write what you know.’ But to be a true artist, you can’t merely record your experiences. You need to move beyond the shallow realm of your existence and create. For instance, I am an only child of Irish Catholic decent who hails from Northern Virginia. After high school, I attended a small women’s Catholic college where I graduated with a degree in English.

When I set out to create my protagonist Elizabeth Parker, I deliberately did not create a fictional clone of myself. Elizabeth is an Irish Catholic from Northern Virginia who attended a small Catholic women’s college and received a degree in English but she has an older sister.

It’s these details that separate fiction from reality. So with that said, I will attempt diagnose Elizabeth’s psychological ailments and then compare them with mine. I will differentiate the differences between us by the clever use of alternating font.

Feelings of Guilt:

Elizabeth is Irish and Catholic, so she carries twice the normal amount of guilt. She also had a strong sense of wrong and right; so much so that she consistently sticks her nose into situations that she thinks are unfair in an attempt to redress the wrong. In Murder At Longbourn, when the police incorrectly suspect Elizabeth’s Aunt Winnie of murder, Elizabeth immediately sets out to find the real killer.

As a child, I was deeply troubled by the Rabbit’s inability to eat a bowl of Trix and repeatedly and frantically called the 1-800 number to vote “YES” on the Let the Rabbit Eat Trix question.

Humor:

Elizabeth grew up watching an inordinate amount of “old” movies, especially the British black comedies (The Trouble with Harry and Kind Hearts and Coronets being two such examples and anything from Monty Python being a third.) This has resulted in her, at times, completely irreverent humor.

I once attended a funeral coordinated by a pompous ass who, in trying to invoke a Kennedy-esque Cape Cod atmosphere, played a CD of waves crashing onto a beach. Unfortunately, the funeral took place in DC where a street crew was busily jack hammering out front. The two sounds combined, leaving me choking on a fit of giggles.

Social Awkwardness:

I decided to create a past for Elizabeth that included a feeling of awkwardness in high school as I have read is a common condition among many young women in our society today (I believe writers need to be aware of current issues facing our society). Elizabeth hides this awkwardness behind a veil of sarcastic wit, gleaned mainly from memorizing the lines from popular movies and Dorothy Parker antidotes.

My college yearbook quote was Dorothy Parker’s “I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound -- if I can remember any of the damn things.”

Dating

Elizabeth’s awkwardness also led her to date several silly and unsuitable young men. Her sketchy dating record has left her insecure – another condition I understand (through extensive reading on the subject) is on the rise these days.

I once dated a guy who stood me up for prom.

So, as you can see in creating Elizabeth I have created a character that who, like a prism, only reflects a portion of me. What can I say? I’m an artist while Elizabeth has issues.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bad tastes

by Josh

Let's take a journey through one of my favorite cookbooks, the Diagnosis and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR).
I just love this book. It's insane!

The DSM-IV offers a smörgåsbord of 15 (yes, 15!) categories of clinical disorders. And you thought the menu at your local diner was expansive. Best of all, each disorder comes with free nuts.

By far the most popular category is Mood Disorders, because you never know when you'll be in the right mood to go off the deep end. Some of the recipes in this category include Bipolar Disorder (Sherlock Holmes edition) and Depression (Roderick Usher variant). In my first novel, Nuclear Winter Wonderland, my villain was a manic-depressive nuclear terrorist. Here he would fit right in.

My favorite of Dick Wolf's cop shows, Law & Order: DSM (ha), pulls many of its cases from the hearty appetizers known as Sexual Disorders. And here you thought all sexual disorders were related? Only incest, my friend. Sexual disorders can range from issues of gender identity (see, Norman Bates technically wasn't psycho), paraphilia (don't stand so close to me, Humbert Humbert), and that come-one, come-all: sexual dysfunction. The titular villain of my second novel in the Esme series, Before Cain Strikes, suffers from this one, but that's actually a secret not revealed until my third novel in the series, because if there's one thing I can't abide, it's premature manifestation.

By far the glitziest page in our cookbook is devoted to Psychotic Disorders. Some entrees you can choose from here include such juicy dishes as schizophrenia (patron saint: Joan) and delusions (patron saint: Adolf). For an alternative, if you're already especially pleased with yourself, sample a Personality Disorder. There's the obsessive-compulsive (yes, you, Mr. Monk) and the borderline (be careful with that ax, Lizzie) and the personal favorite of my villain in my novel While Galileo Preys: paranoia.

As for me? Like Jeannie I gravitate toward the busy platters offered by the Anxiety Disorders. Unlike Jeannie, I tend to favor Panic Disorder, which I enjoy so much that I decided to bless one of the supporting characters in While Galileo Preys with its succulence. Want to know what a full-blown panic attack feels like? Oh, who doesn't! It's all there in lucky Chapter 13.

I could go on and on about the DSM-IV. Certainly the DSM-IV goes on and on. And I haven't even gotten to Somatoform Disorders or Adjustment Disorders or Impulse-Control Disorders or...oh, it's crazy how many recipes are offered here. Really, take your time with it. Don't bite off more than you can chew (because that would be an Eating Disorder).

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to bounce.

One of the advantages of living in a rubber room.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm not schizophrenic. Yes, I am. Shut up both of you.

Roses are red, Violets are blue
If I'm schizophrenic, then I am too
Whatever it takes to escape

-- The Chosen, Voltaire*

This week my fellow Criminal Minds and I are to self-diagnose the psychological ailments suffered by both us and our protagonists. First, I’d like to say that diagnosing my protagonist with any psychological ailment is difficult. Alex is a vampire and therefore doesn’t think like a human. What we, as humans, consider “abnormal” may not be so for a vampire. With that in mind, I set out to diagnose Alex’s particular brand of issues and finally found something that sort of fits.

The protagonist in Blood Law, Alexandra Sabian, is the daughter and youngest child of Bernard Sabian, a vampire whose murder was the catalyst for vampires revealing themselves to humans. Alex was five-years-old when Bernard was killed…and she discovered his decapitated and staked body. Given this rather traumatic experience, and others that occurred after she became an Enforcer with the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation, I think I can reasonably say Alex has a mild form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are flashbacks (reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating), bad dreams, avoiding places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience, feeling tense or “on edge,” and having angry outbursts. These are only a few in a long list of possible symptoms but are the most relevant to Alex and her situation.

However, confirming a diagnosis of PTSD in a vampire is extremely difficult. For example, Alex does experience very intense flashbacks to her father’s murder as well as bad dreams. The problem with saying these are a result of PTSD isn’t completely viable because Alex possesses a high degree of psychic ability so when she’s having flashbacks, she’s actually entering an altered mental state in which she’s able to communication with her dead father, Bernard.

Another example is the avoidance of places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic event. It’s a little hard for Alex to avoid being reminded of the murder when she’s working to solve a series of murders that are very similar to the way in which Bernard was killed. She would love to avoid dealing with the case, but as the only Enforcer in the area, she has no choice but to pursue it. As for feeling tense or “on edge” and having angry outbursts, it’s normal for anyone to feel that way when tracking a killer and your bosses decide to send in some unexpected help – who just happens to be your ex-fiancé.

While Alex may suffer from some form of vampiric PTSD, given her different thought process and psychic abilities, it’s very difficult to say with 100% accuracy that she suffers from any psychological ailment and isn’t simply a vampire cop under a lot of stress. On the other hand, diagnosing myself is much easier.

My mental health isn’t a topic I usually because I do actually have an “ailment.” I was diagnosed about eight years ago with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I’ve been a “worrier” my entire life, but I didn’t have a “name” for it until recently. Thankfully, it’s a mild condition and doesn’t require medication – I can control the worst symptoms through behavior modification techniques – but it does present a number of problems, especially when I attend conferences or author signings because public speaking is a huge trigger for me.

Some of the symptoms commonly associated with GAD include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, and lightheadedness. I’ve experienced all of these to varying degrees, largely depending on the amount of anxiety/stress I’m feeling at the moment. As a result of my generalized anxiety, I’ve also developed three severe phobias: arachnophobia (fear of spiders), astraphobia (fear of thunder and lightning), and hydrophobia (fear of water). So naturally I live on the Gulf Coast where all three of these triggers are in abundance. I admit I have anxiety issues…I never said I was smart.

Dealing with GAD, for me, has mostly become about being able to recognize triggers and acknowledging that the anxiety is out of proportion for the situation and talking myself down to a more relaxed state – that’s where meditation comes in handy. I employ various types of meditation and visualization. I’ve found that art is a great outlet for my anxiety so I tend to draw, paint, and sculpt because these activities force me to relax and let my mind blank out for a while.

So, there you have it. You know my little secret. Be sure to tune in the rest of the week when we learn what neuroses lurk beneath the calm exteriors of my fellow Criminal Minds.

-Jeannie





* Song lyrics from "The Chosen" by Voltaire

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fresh as a Daisy, Smart as a Whip


Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2010

In a surprising move, Chief Executive Officer Christoper Robbins of 100 Acre Woods, Incorporated announced today that he was taking his highly lucrative Fortune 500 company private. The Wharton School of Economics graduate stated that his senior staff, particularly his head of strategic development, Owl, believe that by returning to their roots as a private company, 100 Acre Woods can focus on their new principle-based development strategy and move away from the shareholder-return concentration that publicly traded companies are forced into given the current market structure.

The Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing, Tigger, insists that if any company can change its stripes, its 100 Acre Woods. Tigger said he expected the company to bounce back strong with innovative new products designed for sustainability and limited environmental impact. The Chief Financial Officer, Rabbit, urged people to take a wait and see attitude and not jump to any conclusions. “The numbers, the numbers, they’ll speak for themselves but for now I simply can’t make predictions.”

Company spokesman, Piglet, said that 100 Acre Woods has been successful as a public company because of its people. “We’ll be even more successful as a private company because of our people. We’re like a family. Look at Kanga and Roo. They’ve been working in operations on packaging and transportation that doesn’t increase our corporate carbon footprint. Two generations committed to our group as a whole. We’d be nothing without each other and we’re everything with each other. We’re in this together and to me, that means everything is going to be just fine.”

After several unexplained disconnects while trying to reach, Winnie the Pooh, the Executive Vice President of Human Resources, we received a muttered “Oh, bother,” without being able to pose a single question. We are taking that as a “No comment.”

Messages left with General Counsel Eeyore were not immediately returned.
President Barack Obama has asked the 100 Acre Woods team to work with business and financial advisors to draft a new economic and moral model for the government. According to the President, "America Now" is epitomized by the teamwork, commitment to the environment and loyalty shown by this team. We can learn a lot from them. American business needs more honey and this group knows how to get it."
Thanks for reading and believing that what we learned in kindergarten can translate into very adult, and worthwhile, ideas and actions. The good ideas can always make sense in the here and now.
Gabi

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Don't go changing to try to please me

We're supposed to rewrite a classic this week, but unfortunately I can't participate. I have a new resolution. I will not try to change anyone else's book ever again.  I'm about to start teaching Mystery Writing at UVA in one short week, and I will have 15 students who will all be bringing me their manuscripts or stories to read. I am allowed to identify problems. That's my job. But I can't offer concrete suggestions for fixing a broken plot.

"Why?" you might ask. "Why not help them if I have ideas?" Well, it's like this. I fell into that trap the last time I taught writing, and it was a mistake. A big mistake. I offered a few students some ideas on where to take their stories, just to help them see how they could up the stakes. And when they attempted to adapt the ideas I threw out on the spur of the moment, it was not good. The ideas hadn't come from them, so they had no idea what to do with them. It would have been better to just let them come up with their own ideas (bad or good) and keep my mouth shut.

I'm not sure if I need to extend my new resolution to the classics, though. Hmm. I doubt many writers who reach classic status need a lot of help with their plots, and they certainly won't be showing up in my class.

So here goes. I am in the middle of re-reading THE MALTESE FALCON, and I have to say there are definitely places it could be updated and improved.  I'm having a hard time distinguishing the women in the novel. They all sound like hard dames and none of them has a particularly unique personality. And there seem to be a lot of fat bad guys. Can't one be thin? Or a different ethnic group? It would be helpful.

Sam Spade is also not very sympathetic. He hasn't pet a puppy yet, and he's not very nice to the women in the novel. He also just slept with Bridget, who is clearly unhinged. I think it would have been a better move to steer her towards a good detox program, as well as a little counseling. Okay, so maybe that would have destroyed his bad boy image, but I really didn't even feel a twinge of regret when one of the fat bad guys kicked the sh*t out of him a few pages ago. It was described so clinically that it had all the drama of a dental exam. And afterwards, he was so manly about the beating, I didn't feel his pain.

Then finally the bird arrives after much anticipation, and the plot starts to chug along a little better. Sam gets to show how clever he is by negotiating with the bad guys. Although locking a girl up in jail isn't the most romantic move, or setting up the boy for a fall. Hmm. Will he end up with the secretary in the end? I'm thinking that's a bit too stereotypical.

Anyway, I don't disagree that The Maltese Falcon is groundbreaking, and comes out of its time period (when men had to be tough in order to survive on the mean streets). I wonder how Dashiell Hammett would have reacted to my constructive criticism. After reading his autobiography, I don't think very well. I just hope my students will take it okay.

Friday, September 17, 2010

See Dick. See Dick Seethe. Die, Jane, Die!


By Shane Gericke

This week's question: How would you modernize a classic book?

At first, I was gonna make Dick and Jane a porno. You know, change the title of the classic reading series to Dick in Jane. To prove how powerfully a classic can be changed with just one single altered word. Instead of the wholesome sweetness of Dick and Jane, you get the smelly raunch-ness of Dick In Jane.

Then I searched the Net for some illustrations. Found out a whole buncha folks had already beaten me to it. Not just porno, but everything--Dick and Jane is one of the most parodied books in history!





It's no wonder it's so parodied. The series is a brain worm, it's so . . . cloying. Like "The Family Circus," that cartoon family I want to sell into slavery I hate them so goddamn much.

Anyway. There seemed little point to redoing what others had done so well.

So, I thought: Hey! Rewrite one of your own scenes into the classic Dick and Jane style. It'd be fun. And, it might trick readers into buying my book. Lord knows I can use the sales.

Here's a small scene from the first page of TORN APART:

A gasoline tanker roared by in the fast lane, throwing up a hurricane of water. The van’s wipers sputtered across the windshield like a failing heart, trying to keep up. A wolf pack of semis pursued the gas man, throwing their own hurricanes. The van jittered and jigged, then skittered and slid.

The teenager screamed from the back.

“Shut up,” Gemini snapped, feeling his nuts tighten as he white-knuckled the van through the exploding water.

“Please,” the girl whimpered. “Let me out. I won’t tell, I swear, just don’t hurt me any more—”

Vicious slaps from Aquarius, Cancer, and Virgo. Yips and cries from the girl. A rat-a-tat of thunder, followed by rain so intense it felt like the inside of a fire hose . . .

And here's the Dick and Jane version. Mom probably wouldn't have let you read this version back in the '50s. Though she might have read it herself later that night after a martini and a shot of Laudanum . . .


See Dick. See Dick drive. Drive, Dick, Drive!

See Sally. See Sally nag. Nag, nag, nag, direct from the passenger seat.

See lightning. See sky. See bottle green sky. See rough jagged lightning. See death sword of lightning spitting Hell onto Earth--

Kaboom!

"Ow!" Sally said, clapping her hands to her ears. "Ow, ow, ow! That is loud, Dick, that is so loud, did you hear how loud, Dick, now did you? Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?!"

See Dick's nuts tighten.

"Shut up," Dick said.

"Make me, pretty boy," Jane said.

"Arf," Spot agreed.

"Boys?" Dick said.

Vicious slaps from Aquarius, Cancer, and Virgo. Slap, slap, slap!

"Yum," Sally said. "Yum, yum, yum!"

"Not workin', boss!" Cancer said. "She likes it too much!"

"Harder, sissy bitch!" Sally panted, eyes bright, face flushed. Flushed, flushed, flushed!

"Dames," Dick said, shaking his head.

"Can't live with them," Sally said. "Can't kill them."

"Can't?" Dick said.

"Can't," Sally said, crossing her arms and pouting. Pout, pout, pout!

"Spot?" Dick said.

"Arf?" Spot said.

"Kill," Dick said.

"GrrrrraAARRFFF," Spot said, slavering yellow teeth ripping Sally's throat so hard her head and spit curls and ribbons bounced sideways into the cargo hold. Bounce, bounce, bounce!

"Ow!" Sally said as thick hot gush flooded the van.

"Told ya," Dick said.

"Look," Sally's head said. "Look, look, look. Blood. Pretty blood. Pretty, pretty blood."

See Dick stare. Stare, stare, stare! At the head that's there . . no, there!

"You cannot kill you after all," Dick said.

"No," Sally said. "No, no, no."

See Dick shake his head.

As Spot licked Jane's. Lick, lick, lick!

And the van's wipers sputtered like a failing heart.

SPEAKING OF KILLERS . . .

Oh dear lord not again. Not another artist exercising her Constitutional right to mock authority. Not another blinky-eyed Islamic fascist who sees evil under every toadstool and stones young women to death just because he can.

But it’s true.

Another Westerner is on a death list.

By yet another fatwa.

And yet another artist sent into hiding to save her own life.

From the Associated Press:

SEATTLE — A Seattle cartoonist who became the target of a death threat with a satirical piece called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" has gone into hiding on the advice of the FBI.

Seattle Weekly editor-in-chief Mark D. Fefer announced in Wednesday's issue that Molly Norris' comic would no longer appear in the paper.

Fefer wrote that the FBI advised Norris to move, change her name and wipe away her identity because of a religious edict issued this summer that threatened her life.

"She is, in effect, being put in a witness-protection program — except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab," Fefer wrote. He told the Associated Press on Thursday that he had nothing further to say because it's a sensitive situation.

The FBI also declined to comment Thursday. David Gomez, the FBI's special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Seattle, told the New York Daily News in July that the agency was doing everything it could to protect individuals on a fatwa list issued by Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Awlaki said in the June issue of English-language Muslim youth magazine "Inspire" that Norris is a "prime target" who should reside in "Hellfire."

Shane's take: Who should be killed here is Sheik Awlaki. I am a man of peace. But when perfectly innocent people are threatened by these kinds of 12th Century killers?

Well, let’s just say I hope some CIA guys with access to laser-guided missiles are reading this and noddin’ in agreement . . .

AND WE'RE IN MOURNING

If you didn't see it on our home page today, here's the sad news in full:

The Criminal Minds and the crime fiction community have lost a cherished friend and passionate book advocate. Dave Thompson, manager of Murder by the Book in Houston for 21 years--and publisher of the wonderful imprint Busted Flush Press--passed away suddenly on Tuesday at the age of 38.

We extend our deepest sympathies to his beloved wife McKenna and his family. David was a much-loved member of the crime fiction family, and we are mourning his loss.

Alafair Burke has created a memorial fund to help honor David and his tireless championing of writers and books. Checks should be written to "In Memory of David Thompson" and mailed to:

7 E. 14th Street #1206
New York, NY 10003

Thank you.

Rest in peace, my friend. Rest in peace.

When Shane Gericke isn't all pissy about sheiks issuing fatwas against American citizens who have done NOTHING wrong, he's writing the national bestselling cops-vs.-killers series starring police detectives Emily Thompson and Martin Benedetti. The latest is TORN APART, and you can read a free excerpt at his website: www.shanegericke.com. He thanks you for reading today, especially considering the mere act of reading and writing anything can bring you death threats from assholes.