Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What limitations don't I have???

Writer's Log - Star Date 5:31:11.10:11

When sitting down to write this entry I was forced to confront truths I have long suppressed:

1 - I am made up primarily of flaws and limitations.
2 - For most of my life I have been blissfully ignorant of these flaws and limitations.
3 - I watch way to much Star Trek - if there is such a thing as too much Star Trek

Let's start with Flaws and Limitations - since we have limited time I will concentrate on the flaws and limitations specifically related to writing - otherwise this will become a really long post.

Right at the top my inability to spell, use proper grammar or even know what proper grammar is and recognize homonyms is a definite limitation. Oh, I also don't really know where you are supposed to put the commas in. My agent is convinced that I must know exactly how to use them otherwise I couldn't possibly use them as perfectly wrongly as I do.

On the other hand - thanks to spell check, a few patient readers, my agent and the copy editors, this limitation has not seemed to hold me back at all. I am free to tell the story, work on the dialogue where grammar is irrelevant because no one uses it when they speak anyway, and others can do the rest.

In fact - I feel like a actually performing a service. If we all wrote perfect prose we wouldn't need copy editors and the unemployment rate would go up a few more notches tipping us back into recession and the possible collapse of Western Civilization as we know it. So really - my inability to spell or use proper grammar may be all that stands between us and Anarchy - fortunately it isn't going anywhere.

And that leads to my second major limitation - ignorance.

You see I got into this writing thing - thinking I could dash off a book in "about a year" and then, once it hit number one on the bestseller lists, start living it up on the French Riviera, gambling at Monaco Casinos, drinking medium dry vodka martini's, shaken not stirred. And then...

Five years passed before I finished my first draft of my first book.
Another five years of learning passed before I had a book good enough to get an agent.
Another two years passed before it was published.

Fortunately, like my inability to spell, my blissful ignorance is also permanent. If you had asked me at any time during those years how far I was from Monaco and my Vodka Martini's I'd have told you "about a year." When it finally happened, it actually felt like it had only been about a year. Ahhh - blissful ignorance.

(PS - still haven't made it to Monaco and I'm more of a Budweiser guy than a Vodka Martini man - honestly there is little more disgusting to me than olives.)

Now - don't let all of this make you think I believe in not evolving as a writer, because one of my other flaws is that every time I get good at something - I want to try something new. And maybe that's the flaw that helps you overcome all the others. Never being satisfied - so yes I'll never be able to spell well and yes, my brain will continue to struggle with the difference between "their", "there" and "they're" but as long as I keep striving for new ways to screw up - no one will have a chance to get bored with the old ways.

Live Long and Prosper

Limning Limitations

by Josh

God, I love limitations. Without limitations, where would be our challenges and heroic struggles? Without limitations, how would we know when we've exceeded them?

As writers, we all deal with limitations on a daily basis. Most obviously, we do battle with the limitations of language. There are just so many ways in which a person, place, thing, or action can be described, and we are burdened not only by a finite number of words but by a finite number of organizational possibilities, and that's if we toss aside some of the more constraining rules of grammar. However, with every word we invent or rule we break, we run the risk of alienating our audience or at the very least baffling them to indifference. There is a reason why James Patterson sells better than James Joyce. I happen to prefer James Joyce, but that's only because I enjoy literature that forces me to think and analyze and question my preconceptions about everything from basic human expression to the identity of God. James Patterson's novels don't encourage anything other than the turning of pages, and that's fine, but I'm greedy. I want more.

As to the limitations I deal with as a writer which are of a more personal nature, well...

I can't type correctly. I mean, I type correctly, insomuch as I know where the keys are without looking at them and all that, but I only use my index fingers and my thumbs. I'm self-taught. That said, for someone who types incorrectly, I do tend to be both speedy and accurate (and apparently very loud). But I've been typing like this since I was, like, six years-old, so this old bad habit isn't going anywhere. And the funny thing is this: when I actually try to concentrate on my typing, it becomes plodding and messy. Physical activity is very much not my forte, and I only excel at physical activities which require little to no thought.

Um, interpret that however you wish.

Another limitation I have as a writer is my absolute inability to listen to songs when I write. I know many writers who love to crank up some tunes to get them cooking at the keyboard, and I wish I were one of those writers because I am a huge fan of music, but I am also hugely distractable, and if a song is on, I want to roll around in the lyrics and it's really difficult to meet a deadline whilst rolling around. I am slightly more successful with wordless music, such as concertos and film scores, but only slightly, as the harmonies and crescendos of a great piece of music simply demand one's attention. Music is divine and I'm only human.

Bonus news: I'm still running a contest on my website! Purchase the 99 cent ebook of my critically-acclaimed first novel
Nuclear Winter Wonderland from either Amazon or B&N and email me a proof of purchase and be registered to win a $50 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice!

Enter by tonight's deadline!

Monday, May 30, 2011

My Kryptonite

My most regrettable limitation as a writer is my need for research. I don't mean to say that my research skills are weak. Far from it. I have mad ninja skills when it comes to research. I love it. And that's the problem. I want to cram all of that research into the story.

For example, I lack knowledge regarding police procedures, and yet I write about cops. Specifically federal agents who happen to be vampires. Fortunately, I can pass some of my limitations in knowledge off under the differences between human and vampiric law. Unfortunately, that only goes so far, especially once I bring in the forensic science guys. (Yes, my vampires are high-tech and use forensics to help them catch the bad guys.)

Since my lack of knowledge does impact how I approach a scene, such as a crime scene in which my characters are supposed to make intelligent and skilled observations based on their years of police experience, I have to go to great lengths to either circumvent my lack of knowledge (in other words, I just make something up and hope it sounds good) or I research the heck out of the subject. I can easily spend weeks combing through books, magazines, journals, and websites to gain the information. Once I feel I understand what my characters are seeing and about to comment upon, I will write.

Oh, and for the record, I tend to limit my characters' profound forensic/procedural observations to a few lines, maybe a paragraph or two if dialogue is included. So...yes, I conduct massive amounts of research for little bits of writing because I have no practical knowledge or experience in the field.

I love to discover new and interesting bits of information. However, no one but me is really interested in certain facts. Such as the average human stomach can only hold roughly four pints of liquid, but the average human body holds roughly eight pints of blood. Therefore, all the vampire movies and books in which the vampire completely drains his/her victim of blood in one sitting are scientifically inaccurate. Unless the author/director is willing to explain the differences in human and vampire anatomy (most don't) the blood draining thing is simply overlooked and written off as "willing suspension of disbelief." (But I still know it's not right and completely changes how I read DRACULA.)

I've also been known to get caught up in the research process and forget to actually write. I've had days where I started looking into something "for just a minute" and Point A leads to Point B leads to Tunnel C that leads to Rabbit Hole D and...suddenly it's 4:30 in the afternoon, I'm getting a text message from The Hubs that he's coming home from work, and I've written two sentences for the day. That's when I start to panic. The panic leads to shutting everyone and everything out of my life except for the writing. That's when I write 250-pages of a book in two weeks. Only to have to rewrite most of it later because it sucks.

Because I love to research and can become lost in it, I enforce time limits for myself. I try to restrict my research hours to weekends when I'm not actively writing anyway. (Yes, I take the weekends off from writing unless under a deadline crunch.) Sometimes I will research at night during the week but I try to avoid it and use that time to decompress from the day. If I simply must research something during the day, during work hours, I set a time limit -- usually 15 minutes. I keep an egg time by my computer and set it. The very loud ticking works to keep me focused on the task at hand and when the even louder bell sounds, I back away from the research and continue writing. Most of the time I don't need the full 15 minutes so I'll use the extra to play on Twitter or Facebook. (Hey, ya gotta goof off once in a while otherwise it feels too much like real work.)

Research is my Achilles' heel. My Kryptonite. It's my strength but it's also my weakness. And I don't know that I would have it any other way.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

No Regrets

By Hilary Davidson

I've killed a lot of people. Sure, I've only published one novel so far (second one coming on February 14, 2012!), but I've written plenty of short stories, and they have given me ample opportunity to rack up a body count. In some cases, I've been glad to kill off certain characters (see "Son of So Many Tears," "Stepmonster," and "Good Bones"; I think you'll understand my sentiments). In other stories, the deaths are unjust, yet essential to the story (see "Fetish," "Cheap Bastard," and "Insatiable"). The Damage Done has a mix of both: some awful people get what's coming to them, and a couple of characters who deserve better come to a sad end. Still, all of those deaths were necessary to tell that particular tale. I don't regret any of them.

Since I've loved the Criminal Minds' version of truth or dare over the past two weeks, I've decided to follow suit. Below are five true statements about me and five false ones. Can you tell which is which?

1. My brothers' nickname for me is "Beast."

2. I am terrified of swimming in open water. Actually, I just hate swimming, period.

3. I've studied martial arts since I was eight years old. I have a black belt in karate and have also taken lessons in judo and krav maga.

4. I played Reno Sweeney in my high school's production of Anything Goes.

5. My first trip outside of North America was to Ireland.

6. My face has been on the cover of a national magazine.

7. I've gone swimming with sharks. I mean that literally.

8. I have a tattoo of a sphinx on the back of my right shoulder.

9. I met my husband, Dan, while on vacation in France.

10. I learned to scuba dive in the St. Lawrence River.

(PS The photo above is from Book Expo America this past week; I had the pleasure of signing The Damage Done at the Mystery Writers of America booth, along with one of my writing heroes, Megan Abbott [center], who signed The End of Everything, which comes out July 7th. Book blogger extraordinaire Jen Forbus [left] came by to say hi.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Evil Twin Rebecca de Mornay Project

Reece Hirsch

I have never felt any remorse about killing off a character. In fact, there were a few left alive at the end of my first book that I would have iced without batting an eye if the opportunity had presented itself. But I may still get my chance. That’s what sequels are for, right?

Therefore, I’m going to do what several of my fellow Criminal Minds have done this week and take up last week’s question. Of these ten things, five are true and five are false. Can you spot the lies?

  1. I have been in the middle of a mosh pit during a Clash concert in Brixton.

  1. In middle school, I was the campaign manager for a fictional candidate for class president.

  1. I have family ties to New Iberia, Louisiana, stomping ground of Dave Robicheaux and James Lee Burke.

  1. If you’ve recently received a letter telling you that you may be a victim of identity theft, there’s a decent chance that I had a hand in preparing it.

  1. If you have recently been a victim of identity theft, there’s a decent chance that I stole your personal information.

  1. I was once given the hellish assignment of pitching screenplay ideas for the “evil twin Rebecca de Mornay project.”

  1. I was a contributing writer for Fence Industry magazine.

  1. I am a pathologically loyal fan of the Green Bay Packers.

  1. I once spent four hours floating in a white, egg-shaped sensory deprivation tank.

  1. My mother and grandmother ran an establishment called Reece’s in Marceline, Missouri (Walt Disney’s childhood home) that is believed to be the model for the soda shop on Main Street USA at Disneyland.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Killing--it ain't easy

by Meredith Cole

For some people, the murderous acts we must commit in our mysteries is the hardest thing for them to do. For some people, it's the whole reason they began writing mysteries in the first place. I admit to being pretty squeamish, and not always supplying all the, um, details about my murders. But do I regret any characters I kill?

Some people use their books to kill off people in their lives that are particularly hideous and horrible. I've never done that. I don't think Lydia McKenzie, my amateur sleuth, would care to investigate if the person who died had been awful. Instead I try to make the person who dies someone who is mourned and missed. So I am full of regrets.

A smart friend once told me that my first book, POSED FOR MURDER, was really about a person in mourning. I really liked that description. Lydia's friend Marie is a talented photographer with a great appetite for life. She loves throwing big parties and traveling. So when she dies, Lydia misses her terribly. And then she finds out she was hiding quite a few secrets. That's a big shock to Lydia, but it doesn't make her miss Marie even less--or wish she was still around.

In DEAD IN THE WATER, the victim isn't a close friend of Lydia's. Glenda is a prostitute and one of the subject's of her photography. But there was something special about Glenda, despite her addictions and craziness. She lived life on the edge and paid the price. Lydia wishes Glenda's life could have been different, and mourns the woman she might have been--a loving mother to her three children, a good friend, and someone who might have had a good job if she'd had all the benefits that Lydia had been given.

Regrets? I've got them. But not enough to go back and change my victims. They lost their lives for the good of my story.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Truth, Half-Lies and Outright Falsehoods

By Kelli Stanley

First things first: the answer to this week's question.

Death in my books is a dark, black thing, the one inescapable tragedy of life. I feel pain when I write about victims ... I feel a sober sense of resolute justice when a victimizer is slain. I don't celebrate death, even when the person is a mass-murderer and evil incarnate. I breathe a sigh of relief, and thank the Fates (and the Navy).

As a writer, I've regretted only the necessity of writing about the death of an innocent person. In CITY OF DRAGONS, one of the murders affected me almost as much as it did Miranda. In CITY OF SECRETS, too, writing about Pandora Blake--her back story--was an emotionally devastating experience.

Because I write noir, the criminals guilty of causing such pain and destruction are not always punished, let alone killed ... in this, the genre tends to mimic real life. Miranda does kill a man in CITY OF DRAGONS ... and he most definitely deserved to die. I had no regrets. Miranda, however, was scarred by the experience. Violence always leaves a mark, and taking another life--even one so resolutely sadistic as this one--leaves a wound.

One she deals with in CITY OF SECRETS ...

So, enough of that question. Let's move on!

Michael really scared me on Tuesday, so I've got to make this harder (especially because I can't remember what I've revealed at Bouchercon bars) ... 8 items below are true, 7 are false. Pick which ones are which!

1. I’ve sold advertising to an escort agency.

2. I turned down a scholarship to ACT (American Conservatory Theater).

3. I took Greer Garson home after a play.

4. I walked through a wax museum with Jason Robards.

5. I was arrested for disorderly conduct after a political rally.

6. I ate lunch with Robert Downey, Jr. and Leif Garrett during a political rally.

7. In college I earned infamy for spending the weekend at a rich oil scion’s ranch.

8. I once judo flipped an Italian on a Florence street.

9. I sang for tips in high school.

10. Anton LaVey (Church of Satan), Nicolas Cage and Robin Williams were customers of our family business.

11. I play the harmonica, piano, and clarinet.

12. I’ve written my own music.

13. Spiders bother me.

14. In college I hitchhiked through Europe for ten days.

15. I spent a weekend in a Florence hospital because of natural gas inhalation.

Let the guessing begin!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cheating Death

By Tracy Kiely

I am cheating this week. I know the topic is have you ever regretted killing a character, but the sad fact is I have not. Everyone one of my characters (that were killed) was a major pain in the ass to those around them and deserved to die.

Nice sentiment from an Irish Catholic lass, eh?

But seriously, they did deserve to die. That’s why writing mysteries is so fun! (Well that and the huge financial rewards that inevitably follows.) When you write a mystery, you can finally kill off that girl who plagued you all through high school, or the boss who made you clean his house before a staff event. You are the God and they are your subjects. The nice ones are rewarded and the evils one are dealt with appropriately.

Now before you think I’m some sociopath in need of therapy and a heavy dose of meds, let me be clear. By killing these people off, I let off steam, lower my blood pressure, and am able to “let things go.” And, if the nightly news is any indication, this is a major problem for loads of others people in the world.

So. No remorse.

Which leads me back to the cheating part. Because this post is so short, I will take up last week’s challenge. Five truths about me and five falsehoods.

1. I’ve jumped off a bridge.

2. I can ask where the bathroom is in three languages.

3. I once was stuck in an airplane bathroom for over an hour.

4. I am pretty sure that my cat is trying to kill me.

5. I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket.

6. I lived in Canada.

7. I have a tattoo of the date Pride and Prejudice was published on my left ankle (1813).

8. I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family, the youngest of five.

9. My first book is being made into a film.

10. I was surprised to be alive on May 22.

The first one to correctly answer will receive a copy of my latest book Murder on the Bride’s Side. Good luck!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Truth or Dare?

What are true things and five false ones about me?

By Rebecca Cantrell

1. I broke an arm during a naked photo shoot.

2. Although we met in Berlin, I was a Croatian war bride.

3. I was once bitten by a shark in a marine petting zoo.

4. I swore my way out of the Cairo Airport.

5. The building where I had my first kiss is now a museum.

6. I smuggled aluminum money out of East Berlin in a diplomatic car.

7. I won third place in the nation in Records Management.

8. My high school was burned down by an arsonist. It wasn't me.

9. I flew a helicopter across the Bering Strait.

10. I can play the piccolo.

And one more thing, this one true. I have a paperback coming out TODAY! It's the FIRST THRILLS anthology and it contains my short story "On the Train," along with Kelli Stanley's "Children's Day" and stories by
*deep breath* Sean Michael Bailey, Ryan Brown, Ken Bruen, Bill Cameron, Stephen Coonts, Jeffrey Deaver, Karen Dionne, JT Ellison...

*another deep breath* Theo Gangi, Rip Gerber, Heather Graham, Gregg Hurwitz, Joan Johnston, Alex Kava and Deb Carlin, John Lescroart, CJ Lyons and...

*final deep breath* Grant Mackenzie, Michael Palmer and Daniel James Palmer, Marc Paoletti, Cynthia Robinson, Karin Slaughter, and Wendi Corsi Staub.

Click here for more information!


Killing Regrets: Have you ever regretted killing a character in a novel or short story?

This could wind up being a very short blog post because the answer to this week’s question is: no. So now what? I think my blogging buds would be rather annoyed if I ended my post at this point, but that’s really all I have to say on the subject. Everyone I’ve killed deserved to be killed, and I have no regrets.

So how about if I answer last week’s question instead? That one asked us to tell five true and five false things about ourselves without revealing which are which. I can do that. Here goes:

1. I can name all of Shakespeare’s plays in alphabetical order.

2. I can play
6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon in 3 degrees.

3. I can speak three languages fluently.

4. I graduated 32
nd in a class of 803.

5. While still in college, I designed a poster for
Sesame Street.

6. I hate peanut butter.

7. I run three miles a day.

8. I’m a
USA Today bestselling author.

9. I own a parrot.

10. I backpacked across Europe.

Now, you figure out which are true and which are false.

When Lois Winston isn’t playing
To Tell the Truth, she writes the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN is available now, and DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL, the second book in the series, will debut in January 2012. Visit Lois at
http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at http://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sue Ann Tosses the Bull

If you are reading this, it's safe to assume the world did not end yesterday as predicted by all the Doomsdayers. I was really torn over writing this post. You see, I'm writing it several days in advance, so if the world is going to end on Saturday, this post might be the perfect time and place to let loose with some of the deepest and darkest truths of my life. After all, who would know? And I might feel somewhat purged before I enter the Great Void.  Then again, if the world doesn't end before this post goes live, do I really want folks to know THAT about me?

Decisions. Decisions.

Below are 5 lies and 5 truths. Let the BS begin!

1. I have been thrown out of a Denny's for disorderly conduct.
2. I was married once for less than a year.
3. I have performed on stage wearing nothing but a see-through negligee and a red feather boa.
4. I have been arrested more than once.
5. I tried out for one of the first seasons of Survivor.
6. I worked on John McCain's campaign.
7. I once worked in a sewer pipe factory on the production line welding.
8. For my 50th birthday, I gave myself a 24 year old.
9. I've had a boob job.
10. I have published erotica under a pseudonym.

Hopefully, we'll all be here on Sunday and I'll have some explaining to do.

Win a book!  The commenter on the Criminal Minds blog today that gets the most right will win a copy of which ever book of mine they choose, including the upcoming Baited Blood or Gem of a Ghost. In case of a tie or ties, the winner will be picked at random from those with the most correct answers.  Comments must be placed no later than 9pm PT.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Not Quite the Whole Truth

Understand that as a teller of tall tales, truth and fiction often merge for me. I’m mindful of a story about the late President Reagan who in a particular speech of his would relate seeing powerful documentary footage of soldiers liberating a death camp during World War II. As the years progressed, Reagan, who’d served stateside in the Army’s Motion Picture Unit, became one of those soldiers -- recounting in that breathl4ess way of his details of the sights and smells of that day -- liberating the death camp in his speeches.

Make of the following what you will but one thing is true, my brief plug for you gentle reader to check out the retro cool Green Hornet Casefiles out soon from Moonstone. The stories, of which I did one called “Soldanus, the Sultan of Crime,” are all set in late ‘60s, early ‘70s Motown. Sweet.

Oh, and to set our mood, this cat over to the right is the original Crying Man (take lessons John Boehner), the great fallen televangelist Jimmy Swaggert, first cousin to Jerry Lee Lewis. He had to admit his mendacious ways on the tube. Imagine I’m weeping like him as I tell you the following:

1. I was once wrestling on the roof of a house as a kid, fell to the ground, got up, went home and watched TV.

2. I was once in a party that was shot into. As bullets burst out the windows and people panicked, a couple of screaming individuals grabbed me to use as a shield as they climbed on the couch. Oddly I was calm, time slowed down and I flipped out of the way.

3. Once while pitching a producer on a project, he had some kind of seizure, fell to the floor and figuring this wasn't merely a caustic reaction to my idea, I administered CPR.

4. I was kicked out of the Hair Club for Men

5. Once, while in Cuba, I accidentally busted out the rear window of a bus while riding in it.

6. Down in the Mississippi Delta where my mother’s folks came from this small town called Shelby next door to Clarksdale, birthplace of the blues, I stood at the Crossroads and heard, faintly, the wail of Robert Johnson’s guitar.

7. Me and a friend once saw a creature waddling along the sidewalk that looked like a cross between a pigeon and a duck with a massive horned bill, grinning at us -- and it scared the holy bejezus out of us.

8. Once while snorkeling in Hawaii with my family, a shark brushed past me. This time I was not oddly calm.

9. I was once chased in a parking structure by two women in wheelchairs

10. When first married, my wife hit me with a folding chair. Then we made crazy love.

Yeah…that’s the ticket

Friday, May 20, 2011

Who, Me?

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

Truth and fiction. We spend all our time writing fiction most of which is true. It’s the classic write what you know. Recently a group of old and new friends threw me a going away party before ,I left for Austin. At one point, we went around the room and everyone told a ‘Gabi’ story. True stories. The kind that no stranger would ever believe unless they met me on the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. And yet…so here they are, the true and untrue Gabiisms. Good grief!

1. I once parked a US Army tank and then couldn’t find it later.

2. My sister and I threw my brother off a train station when he was too afraid to climb back down. He beat us home.

3. Before I was old enough to roll over, my sister painted my nose with fire engine red nail polish so we could play circus and I could be the clown.

4. I wore two left shoes to an all day job interview. They made me an offer.

5. I singed my eyebrows and eyelashes off on a wood stove two days before senior pictures.

6. I had stitches eleven times in one summer and was not a victim of abuse.

7. I have been arrested twice for loitering and once for vagrancy while researching my first book. No convictions.

8. I objected at a friend’s wedding and knocked the candle over in my haste to get to my feet. His family still thinks I’ve been done wrong.

9. I dated four members of the same soccer team over the course of a year.

10. I joined the Catholic church because they served Chipwiches instead of the Protestant grasshopper cookies.

Even I can’t believe some of the stuff I’ve done. And some of the things I still want to do.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lies, All Lies

By Michael

I don’t play poker because when I do I betray myself with little tells that expert players can use to win against me. For instance, if I have a good hand, I’m liable to smile (albeit almost undetectably) and say something like “Whoopee!” or “I’m going to beat your asses, suckers!” And if I have a bad hand, I might cry just a little bit (uncontrollably) and whisper, “shit, shit, shit!”

But writing fiction is also a lying game, and it’s one that I hope I play better than poker (if for no other reason than that my readers aren’t the room with me when I say, “Whoopee!” or “Shit!). So, here’s the test: five of the following statements about myself are true and five are lies. Can you tell which are which?

(1) Like all good PIs, I carry a fragment of a bullet in my jaw.

(2) In the late 1980s, I wrote scripts for a series in which Halle Berry acted.

(3) While working in a former job as a political writer, I sometimes integrated out-of-context lines from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl into politicians’ speeches just for the fun of it.

(4) My first job was picking cherries alongside migrant fruit pickers.

(5) I went to Tibet seeking enlightenment but didn’t find it.

(6) I slept with a little-known actress named Candy before I got married (and with her lesser-known sister, Semolina, after).

(7) A Guatemalan congressional deputy once swore at me in Russian.

(8) I practice Zen Buddhism.

(9) I’m afraid of airplanes.

(10) My middle name is Staley.

(Publishers Weekly says of A Bad Night's Sleep, "The relentless pacing makes the pages fly by, and the hard-edged prose is bracing." And that's no lie.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To tell the truth

Whoever came up with this question is a brilliant and diabolical figure not to be trifled with. I submit my submissions:

1 - I have allowed the supplies in my refrigerator to get so low, that all I had to eat was instant bluberry muffin mix stirred into water. Which I subsisted on for three days.

2 -I once spent the night in jail for driving 117 MPH on my way to Lake Havasu for springbreak.

3 - I have slept overnight in the parking lot of the San Diego Zoo.

4 - Jeannie and I once engaged in an Author Smackdown - (Jeannie - you are not allowed to answer this one.)

5 - Shane and I once spilled beer on Lee Child and lived to tell about it. (Shane - no telling.)

6 - I once rode a bull for 3.1 seconds - never again.

7 - I have entered this country illegally by sneaking through a border fence.

8 - I've been from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, LA.

9 - I think blogger is the smoothest, easiest to use program ever!! -okay scratch that, that's too easy. Everyone knows Blogger is the greatest.

9b - I will join the hair club for men if I start going bald.

10 - I was once a passenger on a 747 over the Atlantic when the one engine exploded like a Roman candle. We made a successful emergency landing.

As requested by our imperious leader - five truths - five lies.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Everything's five by five

Five facts and five fictions about Josh (in random order):

1. I have been kicked out of Caesar's Palace.
2. I have shoplifted one of my own novels.
3. In college, I first declared as a history major.
4. I was in the gifted program in elementary school.
5. I am pyrophobic.
6. I have seen a dead body (outside of a funeral).
7. I can read music.
8. I first published under a pseudonym.
9. I was a Boy Scout.
10. I secretly enjoyed Twilight.

Bonus news: I'm currently running a monthly contest on my website! Purchase the 99 cent ebook of my critically-acclaimed first novel
Nuclear Winter Wonderland from either Amazon or B&N and email me your proof of purchase and be registered to win a $50 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice!

Monday, May 16, 2011

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

This week the CMs are having a little fun with our readers. The assignment is to tell five true and five false things about ourselves but not reveal which is which. It's up to you, the reader, to guess. But don't be surprised if we decide to keep our secrets. After all, we are mystery writers.

So....let the games begin!

1. I sang in a hard rock band in the early 1990s.

2. One of the many jobs I had before I became a writer was as an auction "hauler." I would collect items from garage sales, estate sales, etc., clean them up, take them to an auction house, and sell them for a profit.

3. My favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla.

4. In my teens, I owned a pet buzzard named Griswold.

5. I have a motorcycle license but never use it.

6. I own a black Christmas tree and decorate it with red ornaments.

7. I'm the youngest of six children.

8. My first job was working the weekend night shift in an emergency room.

9. My favorite colors are pink and yellow.

10. I'm not really from Mississippi but fake the accent to stand out in crowds.

There are five false statements and five true statements. Who wants to be first to guess which is which? :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Guilty, Yet Lovely, Pleasure

By Hilary Davidson

At first, I found this week's question baffling. "What is your guiltiest pleasure on your bookshelf?" I scanned my (many) shelves looking for possible suspects. While parts of my collection may reveal questionable tastes (Justine by the Marquis de Sade shares space with Publicize Your Book! by Jacqueline Deval... truth be told, the Marquis would have appreciated her excellent advice), I couldn't find anything that struck me as a guilty pleasure. But that was because I had a blind spot, and it took me a while to identify it.

Two words: art books.

You need to understand how pressed I am for space to get why something as seemingly respectable as art books would be a guilty pleasure. In fact, it's their inherent beauty that makes them so insidious. If I love an art exhibit, I feel an irresistible compulsion to buy the accompanying catalogue. Museums know all about suckers like me, which is why they have these oversized, overpriced volumes available for sale as you walk out of a gallery. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the biggest offender, because it produces glorious catalogues for virtually every exhibit that passes through its halls. But almost every museum, no matter how specialized, is in on the game: the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto produced a volume called Splendid Slippers (about Chinese foot-binding) that now kicks back on my shelves. Even New York's Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology — a place that doesn't even charge admission! — is in on the scheme. That's how Gothic: Dark Glamour ended up in my home.

Basically, I am a full-grown adult who likes picture books.

Worse, I've lugged giant art books home from trips abroad. One from the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid weighs 15 pounds. (I know, because I shipped it back to Toronto, then brought it with me when I moved to New York.) Its obscene bulk lolls around a shelf, taunting me. I've tried to remember the last time I lugged it out and cracked it open, and I can't. Am I going to get rid of it? Not a chance. That book owns me.

The truth is that if I wanted information about anything — say, foot-binding, or gothic art — I could find it online. Hell, if I wanted to look at the Thyssen Bornemisza collection, it would be easier to find it on the Internet than haul out that behemoth of a book. But there's something irresistible about having these books around. I can't quite explain it, but I also can't let go, even though I need the space... and I do feel guilty about that.

* * *

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that The Damage Done is a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel. This past week, I learned that my book is also an Anthony Award nominee for Best First Novel. I'm honored, thrilled, and completely stunned. A huge thank-you to everyone who nominated my book for the Anthony! You have no idea how grateful I am.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Guilty Reading Pleasures

Reece Hirsch

I write thrillers, which some readers consider to be their guilty pleasures. So maybe it takes a lot to make me feel guilty about my reading habits. I’m also a lawyer, which probably only serves to heighten my threshold for guilt. That said, here are two guilty pleasures from my bookshelf.

Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller.

Why I Feel Guilty About It: It’s an oral history that dishes copious portions of dirt about the in-fighting and petty jealousies among the cast of the landmark comedy show from the Belushi/Radner days through the beginnings of the Ferrell/Fey era in 2002. My guilt is assuaged somewhat because Tom Shales is a respected television critic (three words that you don’t see together too often).

Why It’s Great: Sometimes I don’t know why I continue to watch SNL, but I do. Maybe it’s because I still remember how vitally important it was to see every show during the first few seasons, not only to see what Belushi, Murray, Radner, et al. were up to, but for the musical guests. I found this book irresistible because it distills more than 20 years of the funniest/meanest/most revealing anecdotes from the SNL cast and crew.

Sure, there are plenty of details in this book about who was sleeping with who and what drugs everyone was taking, but there are also some very sweet moments, like this recollection from former boyfriend Bill Murray (a personal icon) about the last time he saw Gilda Radner:

“Laraine had a party one night… there was a collection of like the funniest people at the party… most of us from the show, and Gilda… she was slim. We hadn't seen her in a long time. And she started doing, ‘I've got to go,’ and she was just going to leave, and I was like ‘Going to leave?’ I felt like she was going to really leave forever. So we started carrying her around, in a way that we could only do with her… Danny did (carried) her for a while. Then I did it again. We just kept carrying her, we did it in teams. We kept on carrying her around… just carrying her around and saying: ‘She's leaving! This could be it! Now come on, this could be the last time we see her…’ She was laughing so hard we could have lost her right then and there. It was just one of the best parties I've ever been to in my life… it was the last time I saw her.”

Chevy Chase is definitely the consensus pick for biggest jerk and his behavior seemed to have been particularly bad when he returned to host the show after leaving the cast. Case in point: cast member Terry Sweeney says that Chase said to him, “Oh, you're the gay guy, right? I've got an idea for a sketch for you. How about we say you have AIDS and we weigh you every week?" After reading this book, I suspect Chase may be uncomfortably close in real life to the inappropriate-remark-spewing character he’s been playing recently on “Community.”

Blood Sport: A Journey Up the Hassayampa by Robert F. Jones

Why I Feel Guilty About It: This is one demented novel. Bill Crider summed it up well when he wrote, “It's sort of like Hemingway on crack, the ultimate macho surreal fantasy.” It’s a hard book to recommend because it’s definitely not everyone’s uber-macho cup of triple espresso.

Why It’s Great: Blood Sport is great because it’s not quite like anything else that I’ve ever read, or expect to ever read again. It’s part Deliverance, part Huckleberry Finn, part coming-of-age-story, part surreal exploration of the American outlaw mythos, and part Paul Bunyonesque tall tale, with a dash of Peckinpah on the side. This cult book is now available again after being out-of-print for many years, but I’ve always hung on to my original Dell paperback, which has an amazing full-color cover. The story follows a father and son on a hunting and fishing expedition up the Hassayampa, a mythical river that, according to legend, renders everyone who drinks from it incapable of telling the truth. Along the way, they hunt mastodon and catch fresh-water marlin. Yes, it's that kind of book, and at certain points it gets even more surreal than that.

The son gets separated from his father and falls in with a gang of outlaws led by the immortal bandit Ratanous (a.k.a. Ratnose) and is initiated into the pleasures of sex, drugs and violence. The father pursues the bandits to bring his son back, culminating in a long-distance duel to the death using fishing rods with poison flies across a swirling vortex at the headwaters of the Hassayampa.

Like the early episodes of SNL, this book made a big impression on me as a kid, so much so that I’m not sure I dare to reread it in full at this point. However, from time to time I open it up to the chapter listing “27 Things I Learned About Ratnose” and smile, assured that this book is just as crazy as I remembered it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guilty pleasures on my bookshelf

by Meredith Cole

My bookshelf is a work in progress. But there isn't much circulation on its shelves. That's where I put books once I've read them, and occasionally I take them back down again to read again. They are also books that we don't mind sharing with our visitors--at least they're all there for anyone to see.

So where are my guilty pleasures? Mostly I get those from the library. I find it hard to pass up some authors on the new book shelf. I've read all the J.D. Robb mysteries (I know they're all mostly the same, but they're relaxing reads--really), and I pick up the occasional romantic suspense book by Jayne Ann Krentz or Linda Howard. Sometimes, if they plot loses me, I put them down and don't finish them. But they're waiting for me at the end of the day, like candy, if I've finished my word count, and scrubbed the kitchen floor and done everything else I need to do.

And then there are magazines. My library lets you check out magazines. So these days I have copies of Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Bon Appetit, Self, Vanity Fair and Atlantic Monthly piled on my bedside table. I have recently become a gardening addict, and although reading the magazine hasn't transformed my lawn into a perfect showplace, it's both inspiring and fun. So at night I page through the lives of the rich and famous, exciting recipes and yet another way to firm up your abs. I feel vaguely guilty that I'm not reading some worthy tome, brushing up on the classics, improving my French or churning out even more pages. But then I get over it. And have a few gummy bears or some dark chocolate (stashed at the back of the fridge behind the eggs). Now that's a real guilty pleasure.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

"What is the guiltiest pleasure on your bookshelf?" An un-answer to an impossible question

by Katia Lief

When I was asked to write about “the guiltiest pleasure on my bookshelf,” I wandered around looking at book covers and spines, searching for something to confess.  If the question hadn’t included on my bookshelf, the answer would have been easy:  watching the royal wedding on TV (condensed by fast forward) was a true guilty pleasure on a work morning.  But finding a guilty pleasure on my bookshelf proved elusive and, finally, impossible.It’s true, some of the books that found their way into my life bored me to distraction, and were abandoned to the shelf.  Others make me recall a passion akin to a past love affair.  And then there are the books that were good for passing the time in an enjoyable way, but that I couldn’t summon the energy to either recommend or regret or, sometimes, even remember.  Guilt doesn’t even factor into it.

The more I tried to answer the question, the more I veered away from it.  The real question, I suppose, is what am I reading now that I most enjoy but feel I shouldn’t be I wasting my time on.  Hmm.  Maybe because I write paperback thrillers, I find that question impossible to answer.  As a writer, I write for love and money.  But as I reader, I read only for love.  How can you feel guilty about love?

Even the coffee table book about shoes, stacked in my living room near the TV remotes, doesn’t shame me.  Nor do the cheap paperbacks shelved beside the literary classics.  I don’t subscribe to the idea that mass-market paperbacks are bad books—how could I?  For me, reading is not about compartmentalizing a market, branding your intellect, or how pretty a book looks in your hand.  Reading for me starts with a yearning for that ultimate escape, and I know I can get that anywhere, regardless of the subject or style, shape or look of the genre or package.

A good book is a good book, and in the endless quest to find a new one, I don’t discriminate.  At the same time, I’m impatient, and if a book doesn’t grab me pretty quickly, I move on…feeling only the faintest twinge of guilt.  I believe that any book that commands my time and attention should give me pleasure on some level, and if it doesn’t, I shouldn’t sweat tossing it.

Here’s a snapshot of my bedside table right now:  Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel; The Awakening, by Wendy Corsi Staub; Catching Fire and Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins; It’s Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini; Unexpected New York, by my friend Sandy Miller; and a few half-finished New Yorker magazines.  I’m reading a lot of young adult these days because I may be interested in writing some, and I’m totally enjoying the research.  Wolf Hall is quirkily intellectual and fun.  Sandy’s book is there to enlighten me with random surprises about a city I thought I knew.  In short, any book that ends up on the prime real estate of my bedside table is there because I want it there, because it reflects my desires and consciousness at the time I put it there, and just like the children I summoned to life without knowing them at all, I embrace each one with unconditional acceptance.  Unlike the children, however, if the book turns out to be no good, it’s cast aside…I can be ruthless that way.  I’ve never met a book I didn’t want to open, though I’ve met plenty I was happy to relinquish to that dusty place I call the bookshelf.

And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.  If a book doesn’t please me, it gets the boot.

She said.  Spoken like a queen.

The first two thrillers in Katia Lief’s new series, YOU ARE NEXT and NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME, were published by HarperCollins in the fall of 2010, and have been called “brilliantly diabolical,” “chilling,” and “impossible to put down.”  The third in the series will be published in 2011.  They will also appear in the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands.  Katia is the pseudonymous author, as Kate Pepper, of five previous thrillers. She teaches fiction writing at The New School in Manhattan and lives with her family in Brooklyn.