Sunday, October 31, 2010

Money, Money, Money

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

A couple of weeks (or was it months?) ago, we did a blog about how we, as impoverished authors and penniless scribes, would react if we were to have that magic ticket that leads to financial independence, the lottery ticket. Since my readers, those who’ve met me in person anyway, are always remarking on how much I am similar to my protagonist Sara, I thought this blog would be easy. Ditto. Done. Except…that money thing. It really is more personal than a finger print. Everyone has they’re hang-ups and Sara is worse than most.

On the up side, Sara is far more likely to actually win the lottery than I am. I can see her buying a ticket (which I believe is holding me back from cashing in). She might even spend a dollar a week to dream. Everyone knows the point of buying the ticket isn’t to win although I hear some people think that’s pretty good. No, with the odds being what they are, the point of buying a lottery ticket is to spend a little time imagining what winning would do for your life. Dreaming of castles and trips around the world and unlimited liposuction. Sara’s practical side could concede a buck a week to that moment of fantasy. Not more than that, though, because she’s barely making ends meet and she’s not going to ask her rolling in it husband for money. Community property may entitle her to half but no way is she going to get tagged a gold digger.

That brings us to deep-seated lottery conflict number 1. Sara doesn’t trust money or those who have it. Even her husband. Money is power. The attorneys in her office have it and use the disparity to enforce a workplace caste system. The clients that have it use it to get away with all manner of wrong-doing. And Connor’s ex-fiancee takes every opportunity to flaunt the family engagement ring she still wears in Sara’s face. Sara doesn’t have the power that money brings so she is ever vigilant in not acknowledging that she needs a bank balance to win a drop trou contest. The rules, those established by people with money and therefore power, would have her taking dictation from the princes of industry instead of forging her own path. The rules have never worked in Sara’s favor, aren’t supposed to work in her favor, in fact, so she isn’t “buying” in. A big bank balance would strip her of her underdog status while leaving her in the sub-caste of new money. Lose-lose.

Conflict number 2 – not sharing. Sara has been vehement about not making money an issue in her marriage. His is his and her is hers and if she’s got to have tuna fish four times a week, well, he’s off with those SEAL guys and he’ll never know. If she won the lottery, she couldn’t keep it and tell Connor. He’s living under the delusion that it’s “their” money. His, anyway. Men can be so dense. Setting up bank accounts and writing wills doesn’t make a woman feel secure enough to hand over the power that money brings into a relationship. Sara’s never going to write a check on any of those accounts. If she won the lottery, she would happily give over half to him except he still wouldn’t get it. To Connor, money is just green paper. He’d still think there weren’t any money issues in their relationship. To Sara, it would be you get half of mine but I’m not touching yours. Better to just not have the conversation. Relationships run so much more smoothly when you just don’t talk about this stuff. Of course, if he were to find out, he’d be mad. Not about the money. About the not talking. Men are dense and indecipherable.

Conflict number 3 – sharing. If Sara has a winning ticket, she’s giving Russ half. He’s her best friend. He’s gone to scary places with her. He fixes her hair when she starts to look like Medusa and tells her when those shoes really, really don’t go with that dress. He’ll take it. He’ll also have fifty ideas in the first five seconds on ridiculous, fabulous ways to spend the winnings as mad money. Rent out Benaroya Hall for a Marie Antoinette fancy dress ball. Set up a Victoria, British Columbia weekend with English high tea and quaint bed and breakfast accommodations for a hundred. Hand out hundred dollar bills at the Union Gospel Mission and the tent city for the homeless. The money, no matter how much, would be gone lickety split. Like Connor, Russ has no respect for money. It’s a means to an end. And the end is a good time and good works. Unfortunately, that kind of kindness is the sort of thing that would get out and Sara would be back to facing Connor’s wrath for the no-conversation approach she finds so comforting.

How would Sara spend her half? Matching Russ. Being out of debt. Maybe a new pair of running shoes and a couple of thousand in the bank for emergencies. The rest, well, Sara would give away. She’s lived close enough to the edge for long enough that she can see the there but for the grace of God go I line. It makes it easier not to judge. Besides, being a have instead of a have not would dull her instincts – for corruption, for evil, for survival. And those instincts have gotten her this far in life when it would have been a lot easier to just accept crumbs. I’m thinking she’ll stick with them. They’re more valuable than any one in 79 million chance.

Thanks for reading and I hope you get your own chance to decide how to spend your lottery winnings.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Buying a chance on freedom

Lydia McKenzie isn't the type to buy a lottery ticket every week. But she buys them occasionally, when she wants to dream about possibilities. Because, hey, ya never know!

She would not doubt splurge right away on a ridiculously expensive film camera that she always dreamed of owning, like a $3,000 Hasselblad medium format camera, and buy a bunch of vintage clothes. And then maybe she would splurge on a vintage sofa that caught her eye. But then she would probably stop the big purchases. She doesn't have expensive tastes. She has a bike she likes and doesn't want to have to park a car. She might start fantasizing about a Vespa, though.

If I was my character's financial adviser (which I suppose, in a way, I am) I would tell her to not quit her day job. At least not right away. Before she actually considers blowing it all on a trip around the world, she should probably invest in real estate. Her rental situation is tentative at best (I detail this more in book #3, MURDER UNDER DEVELOPMENT, which has just been completed). She needs a foothold in the future, and if she can't make a commitment to a guy, she could at least buy a 1-bedroom apartment.
I would also advise her to slip some into an IRA for retirement, because who knows if twenty-eight year-olds will ever have any social security to speak of, especially after this election.  I don't want her eating cat food when she's seventy. She's my character and I care about her. But knowing her, she probably wouldn't get to it. The whole shebang would sit in an account for months gathering a measly 2% interest while she tried to decide what to do.
But most dangerously for me, I'm not sure whether or not she'd continue working as a PI. She would no doubt try to be a full-time artist if she could and leave the D'Angelos behind. That would be the end of my series. So I'm counseling her right now to spend her cash on sure things. Like Metrocards. And art. Because I care.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Flu, I Hate You . . .

By Shane Gericke

If Detective Emily Thompson wins the lottery, she'll build herself a new house.

Which will promptly get blown up by a serial killer.

Just like the last two houses she built.

Nothing she can do about it, of course. Because that's how serial killers roll.

And, uh, I think . . .

Ahhhh, who am I kidding? This essay totally stinks, and it's the best I had. My apologies. I don't like to give you twaddle, unless it's funny twaddle, in which case it's A-OK. Which this isn't. Everything I've written this week is sucking like vampires at a blood bank.

Cause I got me the influenza. Plus an ear infection.

Thanks, Bouchercon!!

Not surprising, really. Crowd 1,200 people into a room, someone's gonna be packing--and passing along, however unintentionally--the flu. I, unfortunately, caught it.

I was nasty sick most of this past week. Spent most of it in bed, sleeping, with so little energy the few hours I was awake, I could barely dredge up the muscle to turn over. Chills, fever, exhaustion, intense aches--"Flu" is a humorous lil' word for a cripplingly big-ass body killer. Kinda like naming an NFL linebacker, "Twinkles."

Fortunately, it's passed with the help of time and meds. A good thing, too--as you read this, I'm flying to Irvine, CA for the annual Men of Mystery book conference. It's tomorrow, with 50 authors and 500 readers who'll spend the day talking about books. Check it out at

Hope to see you there.

Without Twinkles :-)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Want Money ...

By Kelli

... that's what I want. At least it was what the Flying Lizards (and pretty much everyone else around in the '80s) wanted. (And yes, they were really called the Flying Lizards, and yes, I have too many brain cells devoted to odd New Wave 80s bands. The song is actually from the late '50s, and has been covered by a lot of artists).

Just click here to watch it:

OK, you back now? The 80s was a time of rampant greed and materialism (cue to Madonna singing "Material Girl" and Robin Leech announcing Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous). Me, I was only a poor student, so other than leaving me with a life-long craving for truffles, I emerged unscathed.

I like money--who doesn't?--but only for what it can do in terms of making life easier. And in that regard, my attitude reflects that of my protagonists.

Take Arcturus. He's a doctor, and currently very well-off by Roman standards, since his patron is the governor of Britannia. However, his patron is about to be recalled to Rome, and Arcturus himself has made enemies of some very important (and wealthy) people. He's going to have to economize--and that'll be OK with him, since he was poor for a good part of his life. But if Fortuna smiles again and he wins a mammoth bet on a chariot race--without getting knocked off before he collects--you can bet he'll go back to spending money on what's important to him: his wife, his house, and helping people. And animals, of course. In The Curse-Maker, he finds a broken down donkey to add to his menagerie. He might buy an expensive bottle of wine ... but ale is fine, too.

Arcturus is not really good with money, and if he has it he spends it. If he doesn't, he eats cabbage.

Miranda's attitude toward money is more problematic. She distrusts people who have a lot of it, and despises those who seem to worship it. She doesn't trust it--she's seen too much of what it can do to people--and teaching farm workers in the Valley during the early days of the Depression left her bitter about the exploitation of the poorest people in our country. Nothing she's seen since has really changed her opinions about banks, corporations and businessmen.

Finding herself thrust into the class of people she despises would rock her already fragile sense of identity. So ... she'd more than likely set some money aside, keeping it in the bank and living on the interest. And then she'd go on working, but not chained to the cases she would rather not accept. She'd use the money, a little at a time, to help people she felt needed help. She'd probably bankroll a refugee operation, maybe even smuggle them over herself, if necessary. Miranda would use the money to go on fighting her war ... because that is who she is, regardless of how much money is in the office safe. In her line of work, it's usually boom or bust, and she finds herself in financial jeopardy at the opening of City of Spiders (soon to be changed to a different title).

So there you go. As for what I'd do if I won the lottery ... I'd pay off all my debts, remodel our house, and take a trip with my family to Europe for a few months. Possibly buy a little cottage outside Dorchester in England. And of course, I'd write ... all the time! :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lottery Winners...and losers

SO the first question I had was - are they winning the 192 million power ball or is it just a measaly couple of mill from the local ticket?

Perhaps it matters less to my main characters because they don't pay taxes - one small benefit to being a mercenary on the wrong side of the law. On the other hand living a life like that tends to burn up cash:

Souped up Turbo- charged Humvee (With armor plating) - $187,000

Roof mounted rotary cannon or 7.62 mm minigun - $571,000

Doppler - side scan and vertical scan radar, $900,000

Advanced groiund to air missiles
(American) $3,000,000
(Russina) $1,200,000
(Chinese) $458.29 (Everything is cheeper when you make it in China.)

Ability to destroy your enemies on land, sea or air - Priceless

It ain't cheep being a top notch mercenary these days. To begin with, all the tin pot dictators of the world now EXPECT you to pay your own airfare into their little Banana Republic war zones. Used to be transportation was provided. Either you hopped a free shuttle or at least rode a dirty old bus with chickens and goats. But no more free rides, not even a car pool.

Also - wars have become BYOG events (Bring Your Own Gun) - and since you have no idea what anyone else is going to bring, you have to BYOA (Bring Your Own Ammunition) as well.

And then once you get there and fight and win there is far less payoff than before - once upon a time you got paid in gold or a share of the gems or oil that your blood, sweat and tears had secured. Thing is that kind of incentive is gone, for the most part its a flat hourly rate, and once they take out Medical (very costly for mercenaries), Dental ( same thing - a lot of teeth get busted out in bar fights), and Banana Republic taxes ( the bad countries not the semi -okay store) you barely come out ahead.

So if my characters were to win the Powerball I think they'd be okay and able to arm themselves for whichever coming struggle was actually coming at the time. And if they won the small lotto - well - all it gives em' is enough money to retire on. So I guess that's what they'd have to do.

Still want that Hummer though - I don't think you'd have to worry about anyone cutting you off on the highway.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If my fictional character won the fictional lottery...

What would my protagonist do if she won the lottery?

By Bekka Black (aka Rebecca Cantrell)

If it were Hannah Vogel’s month and she won the lottery, I think her first order of business would be to hire someone to put out a hit on me so I stop messing up her life and let her live a happy and peaceful life in Switzerland. But, luckily, it’s not her month. :)

This is October and that’s iDrakula’s month. I’ll give the lottery to Mina Murray, the teenager hunted by Dracula through the streets of New York with only her trusty cell phone and a pre-med student named Abe Van Helsing by her side. She’s tough and smart though, so Dracula had better look out!

Mina’s a practical sort, with a kind heart. If she won the lottery, the first thing she would do is give money to the Red Cross to support blood donations. Mina, of all people, understands the importance of getting fresh blood when you need it.

Next, she would start some kind of Vampire Killing Club to track down vampires around the world and settle the score for the humans. They eat us, and clearly that can’t be allowed to continue. Mina worked hard enough to make New York vampire-free. She’s a think global, act local kinda girl. But she can branch out. I imagine the foreign arms, particularly Romania, would need the most funding initially, but vampire legends put them everywhere on the globe. Good thing her iPhone has a translator app.

I think the VKC would also need a very cool research and development arm. My son suggested the first item to develop: a machine gun for shooting stakes. It’s really indispensable if you’re faced with multiple assailants, want to take them out from a distance, or want something that looks really cool. I like the one in the picture because it's got an 1890s Steampunk aesthetic that the original Mina Murray would have admired too.

I experimented with a ring of fire idea in the climax of iDrakula and I think that would be important shielding technology. Not like a flamethrower, more like a ring you can stand in that surrounds you with fire. I think there would be some weight issues with this, so suggestions are welcome.

Any other suggestions of other projects for the VKC?

Monday, October 25, 2010


What would my protagonist do if she won the lottery? Unfortunately, she’d no longer be my protagonist. And that would be the end of my new mystery series before the first book hits the shelves in January. Anastasia Pollack, the protagonist of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series, is my protagonist precisely because she has no money.

Anastasia was living the American dream until her husband, a man with (unbeknownst to her) a secret gambling addiction, permanently cashes in his chips at a Las Vegas casino. He was supposed to be at a sales meeting in Harrisburg, PA. Within days Anastasia learns that dear departed hubby had been lying to her for years. She’s left with no money, no life insurance, and debt up the wazoo. And that’s before she gets the phone call from dead hubby’s loan shark, demanding payment of the fifty grand he claims dead hubby owes him.

Did I also mention Anastasia’s nasty Communist mother-in-law? Anastasia is stuck with her now, too. The hell with the loan shark. If Anastasia won the lottery, the first thing she’d do is move her mother-in-law and her vicious demon dog from hell out of her house and into an apartment of her own. Preferably on the other side of the country. Then she’d pay off the loan shark. After that she’d pay all the past-due bills and replenish her kids’ college funds and her retirement fund. Then she’d take a nice long vacation on some secluded South Seas island where she’d lounge on the beach while sipping potent drinks with paper umbrellas and try to forget her dead louse of a spouse.

So although I know Anastasia would love to win the lottery, I’m hoping she never finds a spare dollar with which to play.

Lois Winston would like to keep Anastasia destitute as long as possible to keep her new series running for as long as possible. Read more about Lois and Anastasia at and

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Police Blotter

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

Seattle Police Department Blotter

Incident Date: 3 August 2007
Title: Assault of a Police Officer
Summary: A woman was questioned in connection with an injury sustained by a police officer in Pioneer Square. The officer required several stitches to his chin and the woman was rendered unconscious.

Incident Date: 3 August 2007
Title: Filing a False Insurance Document
Summary: A woman was questioned at Swedish Medical Hospital after it was revealed that although she checked single on her insurance intake form two men claimed to be married to her during her physical examination. A medical professional called the police following the incident. The woman cited a psychological condition which was confirmed by one of the witnesses present.

Incident Date: 5 August 2007
Title: Breaking and Entering
Summary: A local law firm reports that at least two incidents of breaking and entering have occurred over the past week. The break-ins were reported by the security company for the building. Despite a security review, the only loss appears to be several bags of chocolate covered caramel candy bars.

Incident Date: 8 August 2007
Title: Assault
Summary: A local woman was questioned in connection with the brutal assault of a well-known local businessman. The woman apparently used a wireless computer keyboard to bash the man several times rendering him insensible. The “k” and “g” keys were also permanently damaged. The keyboard which belonged to a Mercer Island resident was no longer under warranty.

San Diego Police Blotter
Incident Date: 10 September 2007
Title: Unlawful discharge of firearms within the city limits
Summary: The police are looking for a Caucasian man and woman who were involved in a shooting in a known gang location three days ago. The man and woman, both over the age of thirty and appearing not to have a gang affiliation, are wanted for questioning in the death of a local deejay and for the exchange of automatic gun fire in broad day light. Police were made aware of the incident following the arrest of a drug dealer on unrelated charges.

Date: 12 August 2007
Title: Stray Dog
Summary: Animal Welfare was called to the upscale Coronado neighborhood on the report of a stray Labrador mix dog. When Animal Welfare arrived, the dog was gone but a new Chevy Blazer was engulfed in flames at the spot where the dog was previously seen. The dog is not wanted in connection with the damage to the vehicle.

Date: 14 August 2007
Title: Assault and Counter-assault
Summary: The police were called to the San Diego Yacht Club during the Annual Charity Gala. Two female guests were warned following an altercation that became physical. Both guests were wearing the same dress and no one sustained non-emotional injuries.

Stanfield Police Blotter

Date: 17 September 2009
Title: Horse Theft
Summary: The local sheriff Pete Graville was called to his aunt Jill’s ranch after Moon Dance was reported missing through some Seattle law firm and insurance company. Moon Dance wasn’t in the barn. Steven Blair was found dead with a pitchfork sticking out of his chest. Steve’s death appears to be a farm accident.

For all of Sara’s “incidents,” or Russ’ and Connor’s for that matter, she has yet to be formally charged and therefore has a pristine criminal record. Just goes to show you how accurate those are.

Thanks for reading and not filing charges.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the Right Side of the Law

By Michael

Joe Kozmarski, my fictional PI, is good hearted and good souled, but he screws up in almost every way imaginable. He drinks too much and crashes his car into newsstands. He aims his camera into private citizens’ windows. He drives over a cop’s foot. If PI Associations offered such awards, they would name him “Most Likely to Land in Prison for Ten to Fifteen.”

But Joe has limits. He never commits sexual violence and does nothing sordid with children or animals. His transgressions are those that could happen to . . . well, not to anyone, but to any guy who, like Joe, constantly throws himself into the middle of messes and then tries to fight his way out.

Deep in his desk drawer, Joe keeps a list of laws that (along with laws prohibiting sexual violence and depravity with children or animals) he hold more or less sacred. These are real laws, on the books in Illinois, where Joe works. As long as he lives, so help him God, Joe will never break . . .

(1) The Champaign-Urbana law against peeing in one’s neighbor’s mouth.

Note: To tell the truth, Joe finds the idea of peeing in his neighbor’s mouth unappealing and dislikes the idea of his neighbor peeing in his mouth even more. Joe is tolerant: he respects others’ lifestyle choices, whether sexual, religious, or urinary. But his neighbor on one side is a three-hundred pound man who rides his Harley in a short-sleeved t-shirt even in the middle of the harshest Chicago winters, and his neighbor on the other side is a nice older woman who once baked cookies for Joe’s eleven-year-old nephew and Joe doesn’t like even thinking about her needing to pee.

(2) The Cicero law against humming on public streets on Sundays.

Note: On Sundays, Joe prefers to whistle.

(3) The Chicago law against fishing while sitting on a giraffe’s neck.

Note: Joe would love to try this except for his aversion to depraved acts involving animals.

(4) The Chicago law against getting a dog drunk on whiskey.

Note: Joe wonders (a) whether mojitos are okay and (b) whether it’s legal for dogs to get their owners drunk on whiskey and, if so, where he could find a willing dog.

That’s it. Anything else goes. Or almost anything. Joe does have limits. He just sometimes has a hard time finding them.

(Additional note: I’ve drawn my list of laws from the Dumb Laws website:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Felony Deflowering ... But First, Meet Your CMers!

By Shane Gericke

Before I tell you why poor Detective Emily got herself thrown in jail the other day, I want to show you a photo. It's a portrait of all the Criminal Minders who attended Bouchercon, the world's biggest mystery conference, last week.

Our den mom, Kelli Stanley (right, in orange chapeau), who a little over a year ago organized this tuna boat of love we call CM (well, I do, anyway; the others are much more sophisticated than me), arranged for us to brunch at a lovely restaurant in San Francisco, one of the world's true garden spots. We sat outdoors. It was breezy and nice, and near the water, and across from this weirdly wonderfully big rocket statue, and there was a view of the bay and bridge.
(Not the Golden Gate, the other bridge, Oakland I think it's called, which is even longer than the Golden, and thus more beautiful to look at, even if it isn't slathered with Anti-Rust Orange.) The talk flowed, as did the coffee, and I tried a gin smoothie at 11 in the morning, and it was Good, and I was delighted to finally meet the few CM'ers I've never seen face to face. So check us out, your all-star CM lineup! From left to right we are: Joshua Corin, Michael Wiley, Shane Gericke (me!), Kelli Stanley, Tracy Kiely, Rebecca Cantrell and Meredith Cole. To see the rest of the zany crew--Graham Brown, Bill Cameron, Gabriella Herkert, Jeannie Holmes and Lois Winston,plus our occasional All-Star Guest Stars--you'll have to wait till next time we gather, so I can finish the family portrait. Till then, check out their nice photos shots in the column on the right side of this page.

And now, what you've all been waiting for, this week's topic, "Why would your protagonist be arrested?" . . . in Shane-o-Vision!


It's kinda weird, arresting a cop.

But it's Chinatown.

Uh, Naperville.

Her name is Emily Marie Thompson. Em for shoret. She's a Naperville Police detective. She has the right to stay silent, to have an attorney present during questioning, and all that.

Her crime?


Of flowers.

Only in Naperville ...

The tony Chicago suburb in which I live prides itself on its pride. In real Naper-life (as opposed to in my books, where mayhem flows like whisky and platitudes at book convention) there is very little "real" crime: murders, rapes, arsons, like that. So, our 150,000 citizens have a fairly low trigger on what constitutes a reason to call to 911 in a lather. In Chicago, 30 miles to the east, a call to 911 for, say, a noisy motorcycle will get you laughed at openly. In Naperville, that's practically a felony, and demands a police response. Yes, we have high, uh, expectations, of our boys and girls in blue.

So, who did poor Detective Thompson kill to get herself put in the literary pokey?


From TORN APART, where a serial killer has just kidnapped a young girl and shot two citizens and is being chased on foot through a neighborhood by Emily and her partner, SWAT commander Annie Bates:

    “Naperville nine-one-one—”
    “People are running through my yard,” the woman complained. “They made a mess of my chrysanthemums. I want you to arrest them.”
    “What do they look like, ma’am?” the dispatcher said.
    “Well, they’re purple and yellow and in very full bloom—”
    “The runners,” the dispatcher interrupted. “Describe the runners.”
    “Oh,” the woman said. “There’s two. One’s a short blond, the other’s brunette—”
    “I found ’em,” the dispatcher shouted.
    “Why do you keep interrupting me?” the woman said. “Don’t you know I pay your salary?”

Like I said . . .

Shane Gericke (pronounced YER-kee) is the national bestselling author of TORN APART and other crime novels. His work is in translation worldwide, and Suspense magazine calls him “one of the twenty-first century's favorite authors.” Past chairman of ThrillerFest and an original member of International Thriller Writers, Shane was a senior editor at the Chicago Sun-Times before switching to fiction. He lives in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, where his series is set and is also the home of famous crime-fighter Dick Tracy. He does not resemble Detective Tracy in any way except square jaw and steely glint. Catch him at He mentions this here because Shane has only told you about himself 75 or so times, and he knows that repetition is the key to having someone besides his mom buy his books. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In Which Skin is Pilloried for Doing What's Right

by Bill

I pretty much expect to be arrested for this myself any moment, so it will be no surprise when jackbooted corporate mercenaries under joint contract from the Department of Defense, the FBI, the CIA, and the Saudi government simultaneously, but preceded by flash-bang grenades, crash through Skin Kadash's doors and windows and gitmo his ass for …


So far, each of my books has a different theme. In Lost Dog, the theme is (*gasp*) loss. In Chasing Smoke, the theme is mortality. In Day One, the theme is isolation. And in my next book, County Line, there are dueling themes of betrayal and trust. But all my books feature an underlying theme, one which is foundational: contempt for authority.

That theme comes out most clearly in the character of Skin Kadash, who embodies a You Not Tha Bossa Me attitude which is one of the few traits he and I share. With rare exceptions, I detest the polemic novel, and so I do my best to avoid Making A Point when I write, but attitudes and values inevitably come through. I'm not looking to write a story with a moral, and I try my best to be fair and true to all my characters, even when they have values and beliefs I don't share.

Skin is as close as I come to having a soapbox in the pages of my books. He's different from me in many ways, not the least of which is his ability to stand tall in the face of the adversity (I'm more of a Slinkie). But there are certain values which I hold dear and which I try to channel through him. Most of these traits he carries off far better than I can. What I imagine is thus what I aspire to, even if I can't always achieve the heights of my own ideals.

Here is what Skin is: loyal, committed, dedicated, trustworthy, honorable, and true.

And yet Skin is none of these things to: governments, nations, corporations, sports teams, soft drink brands, economic systems, and other generally detestable human constructions designed to separate people from their cash and/or their well-being. If something has a board of directors, stockholders, elected offices, a rigid hierarchy, or a logo, Skin doesn't trust it.

(I'm going to take a moment to address the, "Wait, you had 'nations' in that list. That means Skin—and by extension you—hate America!" I get this a lot. But, no, neither Skin nor I hate America. Among the things we both have in common is that we both served in America's military, and both would have died in its defense had it come to that. But that doesn't mean we're kneejerk loyalists unwilling to call out bullshit when we see it. We mistrust nationalism, and share with Samuel Johnson the belief that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. And America the nation is filled with scoundrels, many of whom are currently thumping their chests for your vote so they can turn around and sell your lives and livelihoods to the nearest multinational corporation. Which is all I'm going to say on the matter.)

For guy with authority issues, Skin has sure spent a lot of time in organizations defined by rigid hierarchy and an irrational belief in the exercise of authority over the exercise of judgment. He volunteered for the Army during Vietnam, and served there as a member of the MPs. Holy crap, you don't get much more rigid and hierarchical than that. Upon his return to stateside and discharge (honorably) from the Army, he went to college then became a member of the Portland Police Bureau, where he served for 25 years in another hierarchical organization.

Ah-hah! He's a hypocrite! Busted!

No. He's conflicted, and he lives in the real world, not some idealized utopia free of ill-mannered louts shouting at you to stand in line, bend over, and take one for the team—even though the team would set you on fire if it meant adding a nickel to the profit line on the balance sheet.

The essence of story-telling is conflict, and Skin's authority issues come up again and again in the books. His career is essentially bouncing from one conflict with this superiors and supervisors to another. In Lost Dog, he stood aside and laughed when another cop got punched out by a citizen. The bastard deserved it, after all. In Chasing Smoke, he bucked his lieutenant at every turn in order to rip a hole in a petty corruption he discovered. It goes on and on. Given a choice between doing what he's told and doing what's right, Skin will take doing what's right every time.

There have been costs. Nations and governments and corporations and logos don't like people who choose what's right over doing what they're told. Such entities exact a high tariff for such seditious actions, but the payoff for Skin, I believe, is higher.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Elizabeth Parker Arrested

Tracy Kiely

Well, my oh my. I can’t believe that you are asking this question, given the recent revelations about Elizabeth’s dark obsession (see October 6th’s Elizabeth Parker Caught In Vampire Sex Ring).

But you thought you smelled blood, didn’t you? (Get it? Smelled blood? Vampire Sex Ring? Whatever.) You thought that there was more to our Austen-quoting gal from Northern Virginia. You with your suspicious minds – pestering a nice girl like Elizabeth who has never done anything to hurt you.

Well, you would be right. Smarty pants.

Elizabeth Parker, mystery aficionado, was arrested last Thursday and charged with criminal trespass, nuisance, and unnecessary harassment of farm animals. These acts were conducted while the accused attempted to locate one Ms. Barbara Mertz (a.k.a. Barbara Michaels, a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters). But it really wasn’t all Elizabeth’s fault. Elizabeth’s great Aunt Winnie was the one who goaded her into the whole mess.

But that aside, the facts are as follows:

On Thursday last, Elizabeth and her aunt (one Winifred Reynolds) decided to make a day trip to Frederick Maryland to attend the Frederick Harvest Festival. Of course the fact that their favorite mystery writer, Ms. Mertz, lives in Frederick was just an added attraction. While they strolled thought the quaint streets, they hoped they might catch a glimpse of the famed creator of the Egyptologist sleuth Amelia Peabody. Knowing that Ms. Mertz lives in an old farmhouse in the area, they kept their eyes peeled for such an establishment. Aunt Winnie even suggested that they be on the lookout for decor featuring a pith helmet (perhaps in the form of a mailbox). They were unsuccessful in this causal attempt and thus felt the need to “step it up a bit.” (For the record, these words were uttered by Ms. Reynolds.) Next began an increasingly intense and at times wholly inappropriate interrogation of local business men and women into the whereabouts of the farmhouse. (Of particular note, major apologies are due to one Father Murphy of St. John The Evangelist Church who was lulled into thinking that he was hearing a confession by Ms. Reynolds only to be badgered as to the address of Mrs. Mertz. Witnesses claim that shouts of “It’s vital to my salvation!” could be heard from the confessional). Finding the stubborn loyalty of the locals to be “quite vexing,” Ms. Parker and Ms. Reynolds then took matters in their own hands and began an intensive search. Locals became alarmed when a woman described to police as “in her seventies with bright red hair and a vulgar mouth)” was witnessed scaling the fence into the farm of one Mr. J. Anderson. Mr. Anderson’s stud bull “Boco”– who was apparently out of sorts due to an earlier unsatisfactory performance – grew testy and gave chase.

The suspects panicked and threw various items at Boco (in particular, one large purse which was later found to contain the license of Elizabeth Parker). Authorities were called by neighbors concerned at the alarming shouts of distress, both human and bovine, coming from the farm. Upon arriving at the farm, police attempted to detain Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Parker, but Ms. Reynolds instead took off in her car. The pair was arrested without incident after a high-speed chase that ended with Ms. Reynolds claiming that she thought the police were most certainly chasing someone else and as a good citizen she just was just trying to get out of their way.

Bail was posted by one Peter McGowan.

As of press time, Ms. Mertz had no comment.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

While Galileo Prequels

by Josh

The hollow clank of the holding cell's iron door locking into place sounded much better on the other side of the bars. To Esme, taking her seat on one of the cell's wooden plank benches, it sounded like the echo of a gunshot - or perhaps the echo of a memory of a gunshot, of a 9mm bullet fired from a Glock, of her finger on the trigger, of the laser sight pinpointed at Hooper's forehead, crinkled in childlike confusion.

This was not how the evening was supposed to go down.

She and Tom had made sure local law enforcement were stationed at every egress to and from the sports bar. It had taken the two agents a little over thirteen days to match Hooper to the murders and another three days to track him to the sports bar, and they were going to allow him exactly the same opportunity for escape he had offered the six young girls: none. Yes, the takedown was going to be at night, and yes, the sports bar had its usual rowdy crowd of frat boys (and ex-frat boys), but, as Tom often reminded her, waiting for the perfect time and the perfect place was best left in the hands of perfect people, and raise your hand if you're perfect.

She took a position at the bar. Tom meanwhile wandered his way into a pool game and proceeded to hustle two hairy-knuckled psych majors of all the cash in their alligator-skin wallets. All the while, Esme shook her head in amusement and sipped her virgin cranberry daiquiri. She knew that, all the while, as ball after ball banked into pocket after pocket, Tom was keeping an eye on Hooper, who sat alone at a table and was gobbling a fried steak, but far be it from something as trivial as the capture of an interstate spree killer to deter a veteran special agent from enjoying a little fun. Plus it did help him blend in. She, on the other hand, spent the next twenty minutes politely shrugging off one advance after another. The natives were getting restless. Christ, how long did it take a man to finish a steak?

And could this jukebox please - for the love of God - play something other than loud, proud Toby Keith? She considered strolling over and sliding a dollar bill into the machine. She also considered whipping out her 9mm and popping two rounds into its neon pink belly. But she did neither. She remained on her stool and sipped her virgin cranberry daiquiri and counted the seconds until Hooper paid his check and made his way to the door and her first active case as a field agent in the FBI came to a tidy conclusion (due in large part to her deductive sleuthing, thank you very much). Truth be told, she was impatient for new puzzles to solve. For all intents and purposes, in her mind, at least, Hooper was already over.

It was when he got up to go to the men's room that everything went to shit.

With some sixteen armed and armored police officers standing at the ready outside the sports bar, Tom and Esme's task was relatively simple: keep an eye on the prize. It was Esme's additional duty to report any movement into the clear com piece taped to her left wrist so as to prepare the sixteen armed and armored police officers for The Moment. When Hooper sidled toward the men's room, she dutifully reported the news to her wrist. However, the babble of the Friday night crowd - not to mention the bleating of Toby Keith - must have rendered her words incoherent because the basso profundo voice of the SWAT team captain thundered from the com piece in her left ear, asking her to repeat. Several days later, when the audiotape of the takedown was replayed, it was obvious that the real fault lay not the Friday night crowd's babbling or in Toby Keith's bleating but in the sheer fact that Esme, novice that she was, simply spoke too quietly.

Unfortunately, upon repeating the news to her left wrist and thus to the anxious SWAT team and to Tom Piper, his earpiece invisible even to the college boys he was ball-busting, Esme remedied her initial error and repeated the news - "Suspect heading to men's room" - very, very loudly. Even more unfortunately, though, was the fact that the song on the jukebox had ended a second earlier. Even more unfortunately than that, though, was the fact that a busboy had, simultaneous to the song ending, dropped a stack of plates, momentarily silencing most of the sports bars' conversations and all eyes turned to him and the mess of shattered porcelain on the maplewood floor. This silence usually would have been punctuated by a round of neanderthal-like jeers and raucous applause, all at the clumsy busboy's expense, but instead, instead, everyone heard: "Suspect heading to men's room."

And everyone included jowly Mr. Hooper, age 42, who very quickly surmised, as he was the only person there heading to the men's room, that the news report was about him. That was when he grabbed the waitress by the throat. Or perhaps he grabbed the fork first and then the waitress. In giving her report, several hours later, Esme was unclear about this particular series of events. Either way, the man had a hostage, and the hostage, who couldn't have been older than eighteen years-old and was still wearing braces for Christ's sake, had four metal prongs poking at her fat blue jugular vein.

"Let her go, Hooper!" cried Tom. His well-oiled .45, which had been concealed in an ankle-holster, was already out and aimed and he had a clear shot at Hooper's right shoulder, which was not blocked by the waitress's lithe body and which, if struck, would force the bastard to drop the fork, clenched as it was by his right hand.

Hooper glanced from Esme, who just now was retrieving her pistol from her purse, to Tom, and then to the jukebox as it launched into its next county-western dirge.

"Do it, Hooper," Tom said. "I really don't want to kill you and you really don't want to die. Just let the girl go. Right now, it's the easiest thing in the world."

Hooper's entire face drooped in thought and he may very well have let the girl go, but then Esme's laser sight, finding its way to the man's forehead, caught him in the eye and distracted him from his own common sense and his brow furrowed in confusion and the fork began its push into the waitress's bare neck and that was when Esme pulled the trigger.

The subsequent events occurred rather quickly. Sixteen SWAT officers, alerted by the gunshot, poured into the sports bar. Tom scampered over to the waitress, who, like Hooper, had collapsed to the maplewood floor like a stack of porcelain dishes - except oh-so-very silently. Her neck bled out, but Tom stopped the wound with a gaggle of paper napkins and, with a glance to Esme, who remained ten feet away, a mere arm's length from her bar stool, he informed her by the very relief in his eyes that the girl was going to be OK.

Esme could hardly say the same for herself.

And so a corpse was zipped up in a body bag and witnesses were cordoned and interviewed and official reports were recorded and asses were chewed and it was back at the local station-house, just shy of 6am, that Esme had her first chance since the shooting to speak to Tom.

"I fucked up," she said.

He gave her a once-over, poured himself some coffee from the machine, and replied, "Mm-hm."

"At least the waitress is going to be fine, right?"


She bit her lip to keep from crying. "How bad is this going to get?"

"For you?"


"I wouldn't worry about it."

"Really?" She felt the tension in her back uncoil ever-so-slightly. "Are you sure?"

"That I wouldn't worry about it? Yeah. But you're going to worry about it the rest of your life. That's just a fact. I want to show you something."

He wandered over to one of the cops on duty, whispered in the woman's ear, and then let her lead him toward a door in the back. He turned to Esme and waved her to follow them, and follow them she did. Their path ended at the kennel of holding cells in the rear of the station-house. All the cells were empty save for a few boozy vagrants who were napping on cots. This was not a large town. The female police officer unlocked one of the empty cells and stepped back.

"Go ahead," said Tom to Esme. "Have a seat."

Esme blinked. Hadn't he just said - or at least implied - that the shooting had been clean, that there wouldn't be repercussions? When an agent discharged his or her firearm in the line of duty and the resulting action ended up with a loss of life, the agent was temporarily assigned to desk work, not...this. My God, did Tom think this was a homicide?

Tom rested a hand on her shoulder. "I never had any kids, so I don't know what kind of father I would've been. Probably God-awful. My own father liked to smack me with the backside of his hand so his knuckles could leave imprints on my jaw. He was a funny man, my pop. But the worst punishment he ever gave me was when he sent me off to my room. Go to your room, Esme. I'll come get you when I think you're ready to return to the good graces of our fucked-up little world."

Esme again swallowed her tears. She had never felt so ashamed or in need of love as she did in that moment. Then, for a moment, right before Tom turned to walk away, she noticed four evenly-spaced dents just below the five o'clock shadow across his left cheek. She sat on the wooden plank bench and closed her eyes as the holding cell's iron door shut with the clank of a gunshot.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It was all completely justifiable...

Good day. I'm Buddy Feehly, attorney for Enforcer Alexandra Sabian, and I'd like to begin by saying the charge of corruption leveled against my client are outrageous. She puts her life on the line everyday to protect the vampire community of Jefferson, Mississippi and has given over twenty years of her life to the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation. To even think someone of her caliber could be capable of committing these crimes is, well, preposterous.

Now, let's hear your questions...

Ah, yes. She did disobey a direct order from a superior office. We won't deny that. However, those orders were counterproductive to course of this particular investigation. If Enforcer Sabian had followed those directions, countless vampires could be dead right now.

Well, yes, she did bite a non-donor human, which is serious crime under vampiric law, but she didn't swallow. And, in all due fairness, said non-donor human was actively trying to Enforcer Sabian.

Contamination of a crime scene? Surely, you jest? It was more like preservation of a crime scene! If Enforcer Sabian hadn't stopped those men -- despite great personal risk, I might add -- the evidence garnered from that scene would've been destroyed.

Assault on a junior Enforcer? Uh...well...she did ask him, politely, to move out of her way. His subsequent injuries are a direct result of his own foolishness, in my opinion.

Yes, I agree the death of one suspect, much less two, is always unfortunate, but Enforcer Sabian can't be held responsible for those deaths. After all, she was--

Well, yes, she was present but I hardly see where--

Now that death was most unfortunate and is a clear case of self-defense. What was Enforcer Sabian to do? Her partner had just been shot before her eyes and a vampire brutally murdered--

There is no way Enforcer Sabian could've known that vampire was already deceased when that stake pierced his chest!

Damages? What damages?

Enforcer Sabian has already offered to pay for the replacement of the plate glass window shattered during the apprehension of the suspect at Jefferson Memorial Hospital.

As you can see, my dear ladies and gentlemen, despite my client's admittedly unorthodox methods, there is little evidence to support your claims that Enforcer Sabian is some sort of a rogue vampire cop. There are extenuating circumstances surrounding each of these incidents you're presenting as "evidence" of corruption. Why, if anything, Enforcer Sabian should be awarded a medal for her years of outstanding service to the Bureau.

Now if you have no further questions for my client, she and I will bid you good evening.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Round for My Friends

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

We’re flying without a net this week. Given that all of us write books, short stories, screenplays, even greeting cards with little or no guidance (or adult supervision), I’m having a few adjustment issues working on a blog without a panel topic. I know that Shane is going to be wickedly funny. Kelli will be sentimental and deeply personal. Josh, if it’s his week will be irreverent. Michael elegant. Who am I?

It’s different when we have a topic. It’s like we all have a role we play. Without pre-planning or coordination, we tend to round out the weekly topic with everyone taking a different point of view. Or twisted prism in Bill’s case. Strange as it sounds, it is like a real conversation for me. Of course, I write on Sundays, sadly the least read blog day statistically (everyone reads at work, I guess) so, although I frequently write my blog well in advance I’m forever surprised how I would write the same angle even if I read everyone’s blog entries before I sat down to scribe. If it were possible to order a round for everyone in cyberspace, I would, if only to keep the intellectual give and take going.

The panel questions are just the starting place. I don’t think there’s a day when I read someone else’s entry that I don’t think, “I didn’t know that. That tells me something interesting about the writer. That blogger is brave to say that out loud (Jeannie, I’m talking to you). That is a character trait, a point of view or a visceral reaction that one day, soon, will make its way into something I am working on.” I know that when that happens, my work is better. More interesting. Textured.

Now, I haven’t had a book released in two years for a variety of reasons, some mine, some industry. That is a very long time to go without readers and feedback and community. Some days, I think I’ll never get another one published. I worry that I’ll have all these stories and no chance to share them. I’m spoiled, of course. Few writers have had the opportunities we CMers have had to see our babies take their first steps, to get an email from a stranger who took the time to say ‘good job’ or to sit on a panel, virtual or otherwise, where we get to talk about our passion with people who share it. So, despite the publication withdrawal symptoms, I get to come here and talk about something that matters to me with people who care about it.

This blog has 103 (as of today) regular followers. I get some feedback from posting on Facebook, but the vast majority of followers don’t post comments. When I said that the conversation begins with the post, I mean it. If you’ve never read the comments, you’ll see how the conversation takes on a life of its own. It’s like lunch with Dorothy Parker’s vicious circle or one of those great chemistry roundtables in the bar after the last panel of the day during a conference. I know it’s loud and you have to shout to be heard and a few of us might be slurring a little bit but we want to hear what you have to say. I’m going to be bold and speak for my fellow bloggers. There’s no us and you. Publication means nothing. It is not a line that divides us. Whether you’re a writer or a reader, you’re our people. And we’d like to buy you a virtual round and share stories. All kinds of stories. Bring your friends. Use the tools to post any blog topic or entry that speaks to you to your Facebook or Twitter account. If you’re in a book group or at the library, point them in our direction. We don’t exist without you. As someone who is working through publication issues on her recent work, I need company more than ever.

Otherwise, I’ll have to go back to talking to myself. My neighbors are already giving me strange looks.

Thanks for reading. And participating.


Friday, October 15, 2010

The Streets of San Francisco

This week I am at the Bouchercon mystery conference. It's only the second one I've been to. My first Bouchercon was in Baltimore (so much fun!). My book wasn't out yet, but they put me on a new book panel. I got to meet some of my favorite authors, and I met lots of new friends.

This year it's San Francisco, which just so happens to be one of my favorite cities. I would consider moving there if it weren't so far from family (and didn't have earthquakes).  I spent time here as a kid (my step-father grew up in Palo Alto). I also have a couple of great friends who live here, and I'm lucky enough to get to stay with one of them. Joanna and I met at Smith and worked in the college archives together. She's a mystery fan, and attending the conference, too.

San Francisco has been extra magical this week. The weather is amazing--incredibly warm and sunny, and yesterday I was starting to believe that I could not take a bad picture of the city.
When I joined this blog back in May, I knew Kelli Stanley and CJ Lyons. I had never met any of the funny delightful bloggers on 7criminalminds. We're having brunch Saturday, but happily I've run into Michael, Tracy, Joshua, Rebecca, Sophie and Shane already. They're just as charming and delightful as their blog posts, and so our brunch today should be a blast.
My panel isn't until tomorrow, and I know we'll only get the Sunday early risers. But with Alafair Burke, Dana Cameron, Sheila Connelly and Rachel Brady on the panel, it's sure to be lots of fun. We're giving away books and prizes to attendees who can guess some facts about us, and of course talking about our books.

I will definitely be going home exhausted on Sunday night, but with a suitcase full of books and happy memories.

Ah, Bouchercon...

Aw, nuts . . . Friday Is TODAY??????????

By Shane Gericke

So I'm at Bouchercon, and I'm in the hotel bar a little after midnight--yes, midnight this morning, thank you--and I'm having a drink with my friend Jen, of Jen's Book Thoughts, who is smart and lovely and talented and her blog is too, and then I'm stopping mid-sip to ask her:

"Is this Thursday?"

No, she explained, it's Friday, and asked why, and I said, after some well-chosen curses:

"My blog runs today."

Whereupon I explained that Fridays With Shane runs every Friday, hence the name, and before I left for San Francisco, which is where Bouchercon is this year, I pondered whether I write a filler blog about something fanciful and free, or if I should report the news this year as it happens from Bouchercon, not unlike Walter Cronkite, for those of you who remember Walter Cronkite, so Fridays With Shane readers will feel fulfilled by Their Faithful Correspondent for treating them with respect, and so I said to myself, All right, I'll gather news items all week at Bouchercon and present them in a fun and fanciful measure Thursday night so that the freshest peanuts of news appear on this blog bright and early Friday, and then I realized it was well after midnight now, and I have to be up at 7 a.m. for an 8:30 panel I'm speaking on, and so decided, fuck it, my readers will understand, for surely they have forgotten important things themselves time to time, and so instead of a lovely blog from me this week you get this:

Which, frankly, I'd sure as hell rather look at than more twaddle from the likes of forgetful me.

Back next week, and with any luck, bearing fun fresh news from the fabulous world of writing!

Until Then,
Your Faithful Correspondent,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bouchercon by the Bay!

Pity the poor writer. I know a whole weekend of parties, dinners, bar hopping, book selling, talking, moderating, paneling, nail-biting (during awards ceremonies), catching up with friends, agents, editors, etc. may seem like a giant vacation ... but it's still a lot of work, and takes a lot of preparation! And this week--starting today--is the biggest, best, and mostest convention of them all, Bouchercon--right in my own city of San Francisco.

When this posts on Thursday, I'll be summoning my inner Energizer bunny--my day starts at 8:30 in the hotel and will officially end at about 11 PM in North Beach with Subterranean Noir, and in between I've got panels, signings, parties and everything else. Y' see, writers live these kind of two-headed lives, where we hole up in front of our computers for months on end, and then go hog-wild crazy at conferences.

All this, by the way, is a preamble to explain why I'm leaving you with a couple of videos this week, instead of actually being clever ... the truth of the matter is that my brain is already in the red zone in terms of overload, and as I type, I've still got a bunch of stuff to do to prepare for Bouchercon.

I hope if you haven't actually experienced one of these conventions that you get a chance to do so one day ... and if you have, and are in San Francisco at Bouchercon 2010--please stop by and say hi to one or more of the Criminal Minds--we'll be there in force!

And now, I'll leave you with some entertainment--snippets of some favorite noir ... enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Freedom - what does it mean for the writer

We have no topic this week...
What does that mean?

You're giving me a blank page to create on?

You're giving me..................


Okay -that sounds good. I mean, we authors crave freedom. Pretty much in the following order:

  • Freedom from deadlines - let us write until were damn well good and ready to send you something - but keep those checks coming in the mean time - we have to eat and keep the lights on you know.

  • Freedom from copy-editors - why do they insist on completely ruining the tone and flow of a piece for the sake of proper grammar? Really? (Actually mine don't really do that - but I have heard stories...)

  • You know what, add freedom from grammar in there while were at it

  • Freedom from reviewers and critics - actually most of us want more reviews, as many as we can get - at least until were big time and everyone knows us and then we don't want anyone commenting on our prowess or lack there of or grammar errors not captured by the aforementioned copy-editor,

So yes, we want tons of freedom - but for goodness sakes don't give us a blank page and no inkling of where to go - that's why we invented story structure and character arc and a half a dozen other things I should probably know about that are only slightly less annoying than grammar and punctuation!.?,;?! - What's that do for you, legalistic punctuation Nazis?

Seriously tough, with too much freedom you might wind up with something totally original - and who wants that? No wants to read a story where there are no main characters, people come and go and you only see glimpses of their lives as they intersect.

Hmm... that actually sounds kind of interesting to write - don't know if anyone would read it though. But for sure no one wants to read a story that starts in the middle and doesn't really have an end or a point or even a theme - unless of course the theme and point is that life isn't so neat and tidy - humanity despite all our efforts does not know its starting point and/or our end - it just flows together - one generation into the next.

Freedom - like water flowing everywhere and in all directions.

No, no, no. That's all wrong. And it can't be done anyway. And if you give me the freedom to try it I wont be able to resist and I will spend decades typing away on some manifesto like book that no one will read or even look at until 200 years after I've gone to the big ThrillerFest in the sky --- and then when it becomes a massive best seller I won't even get to enjoy it or cash the checks.

So keep your damnable freedom sir - it does me no good. Tell me what to write and when to write it and how to write it. Let me buy endless how to books with names like "Write the next bestseller" and such - so that I become the next big thing/mega bestseller/household name hanging out with Oprah and Barbara and Letterman - at which time I will finally be able to afford this freedom you speak of.

And of course - that's when they will take it away and tell me they want 20 books exactly like the one I just wrote - and yes Mr. Brown you've already cashed the check.

Graham Brown is the author of two novels; Black Rain and Black Sun - both of which were were edited by a group of excellent people at Random House who he is completely thankful to be working with, and without whom his books would be virtually un-readable.

* no copy editors were injured during he writing of this blog.

References Available Upon Request

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

A reference shelf. Are you suggesting I don’t have all these wonderful facts – mold forms on eyelashes of corpses left in wet climates, lithium used to treat bipolar disorder causes tremors with long-term use, the 9mm handgun has an effective range of 100 m – on the tip of my tongue? Okay, you caught me. I am not a forensic savant. Nor do I always have the literary or political cultural reference available to me without outside assistance. Just don’t tell my Mom. She thinks I’m wicked smart.

So sometimes, I’ve got to go to the experts. My first stop, since I’m almost always writing on my computer when my ‘little grey cells’ fail me, is the internet. It is the most useful research tool even if it isn’t actually sitting on my shelf. You have to be careful, though, because lots of those internet “experts” are drunk guys in bars thinking they know the answers to the pub quiz. It pays to verify with the … drum roll, please… actual reference book. Pages and binding and the smell of print. Okay, I know I’m a little nuts about the fondle-ability of the true reference manual.

I actually have a shelf dedicated to writing books. Not all of them are references for factual elements in my work. Some of them are references for the writer’s life. Let’s start with the factual ones. So I’ve gone to my shelf and brought all my books to this table and separated them into categories: mystery reference; writer’s life; writing business; and writer’s block.

For mystery reference, I favor the Howdunit series. I have several in the series all of which I’ve used to plot against friends and family. Rip-Off: A Writer’s guide to Crimes of Deception helped me with the con game in Horsewhipped. Forensics, by D.P. Lyle, provides me with the grisly details surrounding my corpses including mold, maggots and other gross bodily fluids. Dr. Lyle has been at several of the conferences I’ve attended. He’s worth seeing in person in you get the chance. Like me, he’s not at all squeamish. I am using Lee Lofland’s Police Procedure & Investigation in my newest book (called ‘the book’). I’ve never written a police procedural before and I want it to be accurate. I have read and reread Bill Blass’ Death’s Acre about the body farm. It’s fascinating how bodies reveal things during the entire decomposition process. I used Death’s Acre to put a body behind a wall in Catnapped. I also use the DSM-IV to diagnose and explain the actions of my bad guys. For Sara and my good guys, I rely on Daniel Coleman’s Working with Emotional Intelligence. It helps explain Sara’s intuitive leaps. I also use Joe Navarro’s What Every Body is Saying for body language clues for Sara to find. And, when in doubt, the Oxford English Dictionary. Yes, it’s my native language but I don’t always speak it, or write it, if you know what I mean.

For the writer’s life, or how to be a writer, I started with Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Now, I rely on just a couple of books. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron pushes me to write every day and open my mind to creating. Joyce Carol Oates’ The Faith of a Writer reminds me to keep plugging, that good days and bad days don’t matter so much as having days as a writer. My most recent addition is Touched with Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison. It’s about manic-depressive illness and the artistic temperament but it plays beyond that scope. It reminds me that workaholics and other high performing professionals can and should seek balance with their creative side. I need to work on that.

For the business of writing, I have current editions of three Writer’s Market volumes: Novel and Short Story, Screenwriter’s and Playwriter’s and the regular WM. I’m actively seeking more outlets for my work. I want to play with different genres and try new things. I’m trying to be more Josh-like. To that end, I also have a copy of the Gosford Park screenplay. I struggle with the screenplay format and I loved the dialogue of Gosford. On the money side, I have Six Figure Freelancing by Kelly James-Enger and the Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. I’ll admit I don’t use these two as much as I should but it would be nice if writing lead to eating at some point.

Finally, I have one book that I go to when I am feeling uninspired. Now, I will reread a favorite, Little Women, Jane Eyre, Winnie the Pooh, to soothe a bad day but they don’t generally work as a kick in the pants. When I need that, I turn to Freedom by Leonard Roy Frank. It is a series of quotes and passages from historical freethinkers. Basically, it’s people who worked hard or played hard in the pursuit of something bigger than themselves. That’s what the reference shelf is supposed to lead to. That’s why we write. To be beyond ourselves. To push past our nerves and our daily commitments and our fear of rejection to create something beautiful or ugly or amazing. The reference materials are the building blocks that help us get there.

Thanks for reading.