Friday, September 30, 2011
So I was chuckling over the posts from fellow authors this week about their embarrassing naked moments, until a comment from Gabi caught me eye. She's said she was glad that she wasn't posting this week. Uh-oh. We share Fridays. That means, gulp, that I'm up this week. So I need a naked story--fast.
I could toss off my clothes and streak through my neighborhood in the hopes that something exciting happened that I could write about. But I'm honestly too lazy and we have too many mosquitoes here. I'd really rather use my imagination. Maybe I could just pretend to do it and then tell you later that my neighbor was taking out the trash and screamed when she saw me, or that a car slowed down when its lights rested on me and I had to dive into the bushes, or I almost got caught by the cops and had to take evasive maneuvers and run through a back alley...
I have to say that being naked is not one of my personal hang-ups. I grew up with hippies -- need I say more? I know that lots of people regularly dream that they're out in public and then they look down and notice they have no pants on or something. I have never had that dream. Perhaps this means that I do not fear ridicule or something. Or perhaps this just means that I've never forgotten to wear my pants. (I routinely dream that I'm falling off tall structures, but that's another story).
So... funny naked stories... let me see. Got it.
I've just moved back to my hometown after twenty years away exploring the big wide world. I'm at the public pool changing out of my swimsuit after swimming laps, when I look over and see my high school history teacher naked by a locker. A more tactful and more easily embarrassed person might at this point have pretended I hadn't spotted her, and pulled on some clothes before I said hello. But not me. "Hello, Nancy!" I called out (I went to a progressive school where we called our teachers by their first names). She peered at me for a moment before she said, "Oh Meredith! How are you?" Luckily she only seemed only slightly taken aback. And we caught up while we got dressed.
The fact is, when you swim as often as I do and spend time in locker rooms, you become a little less embarrassed about meeting someone you know while naked. It's bound to happen sooner or later (and especially in a small town). So I feel a little bit of pity for the women who feel like they have to change in the bathroom stall (very unsanitary) or bring a giant towel from home to wrap up in. Life is too short to stress out like that.
I just have one small piece of advice for those going naked: use some sun screen and don't put the pix on Facebook, or the above shot is sure to happen to you (and appear on someone's blog).
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Authors are naked all the time. We bare our souls in prose, then stand in the wind waiting for people to whistle or jeer. Enough, already! You want naked, check out the video of Sally Rand below (she makes an appearance in CITY OF SECRETS, and was a delight to write).
Now that that's out of the way, I'm going off on a tangent to talk about something else ... banned books.
This is, after all, Banned Books Week. A week devoted to celebrating the works that challenge the intolerant and make certain so-called Boards of Education foam at the mouth.
These are books that offend the delicate sensibilities of the people that know they know best ... about what's right for you, your children, and society. Dissent is not tolerated--they won't listen to any arguments, and don't want their children too, either. The books--horror of horrors!--often present uncomfortable truths, truths that are not only inconvenient, but unacceptable to the world view of those who, after all, know better ...
In the words of Jack Nicholson:
What are some of the books? Let's start with a list of children's literature (including Newberry winners) that was recently published on the Huffington Post by the American Library Association and look at the reasons they were "challenged" by modern day fascists.
1. A Wrinkle in Time (one of my favorite books of all time, and a huge personal influence. I read it at the age of nine).
Reason: "undermines religious beliefs."
2. "Hansel and Gretel"
Reason: "teaches children that witches are evil and that it is acceptable to kill them."
3. Harry Potter series
Reason: "witchcraft, magic, darkness, cults, Satanism, etc. etc. etc."
4. The Lorax (Dr. Seuss' most important and heartfelt contribution to the planet)
Reason: "criminalizes the timber industry"
5. "The Little Mermaid" (an edition that apparently showed too much cleavage on the mermaids)
Reason: "pornographic and contains Satanic pictures"
The list of banned books for adults reads like a literary honor roll. As quoted on the ALA website:
"According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts."
Some of those books include:
1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
So stand up for yourself, with clothes or without, and read a banned book this week. Help libraries preserve the right to read. Comment here on banned books you've read and banned books you plan to read.Keep the Goebbels and the Falwells and those who would ram their private beliefs down everyone's throat away from your library, your television and your bedroom.
The book you save may be your own.
CITY OF SECRETS just came out two weeks ago ... hopefully it'll make the 2012 banned book list!
Kelli writes the award-winning Miranda Corbie series and lives in San Francisco ... a city which, if it could be banned, probably would be.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Or are we talking about mental nudity. The kind of truth about ourselves that we try to keep hidden? I'm going to tackle the mental side with this revelation. Sometimes I don't know what to write or say or draft. It's not exactly writer's block because it doesn't usually happen on a project. No I'm talking about those public moments at conferences and signings or even just standingnon the bus.
The truth is sometimes were not that witty or interesting or particularly eloquent in person. I have signed books and written the wrong name because I wasn't paying enough attention to the person who gave it to me. She said hi my name is Mae but please sign it to... Too late I already wrote "To Mae".
I have sat blank faced trying to think of something witty to wrote in a book when someone wants something personal. It's like signing highschool yearbooks all over again. And I love signing books it's one of our only tangible connections with the readers. So I try not to write the same thing over and over. But the most embarrassing moment for me on this was a time I started signing and personalizing an inscription and then forgot what I wanted to write. Now what? Do I cross it out and start over? Do I mush something together where the two halves kind of make sense and hope thus is not the copy that ends up on antique road show in a hundred years. "Well we can clearly see that he was a lunatic because his inscription makes no sense - but your in luck that doubles the value. This book is worth... $14."
No I couldn't risk that. I did what all self respecting writers should donundet such circumstances. I ripped the page out like it was a loose leaf note book. And then - amid stares thatcwouls make the Angry Birds proud - I just took the book and hid it under the table.
"excuse me - that's my book."
"I beg to differ. It has my name on it. Clearly it's mine and I've decided to put it under the table."
We'll you could see where this was going. So we reached a compromise. I took this reader to the Barnes and Noble and bought them a shiny new copy of my book. Swim win I thought. New book for them. One sale closer to royalties for me. Only problem was I still didn't know what to write on the is inscription.
By Tracy Kiely
Ummm… seriously, who came up with this one? I love that the topic isn’t “Tell us about an embarrassing naked moment,” but “Tell us about your most embarrassing moment.”
‘Cause, apparently, most people have several.
Although, somehow, I’m not feeling left out on this one.
However, in keeping with the theme of “an embarrassing moment,” I will share the following tidbits from my illustrious past:
- Three days into my job at the American Urological Association, I had grown used to my husband crank calling me with silly questions. Therefore, when the male caller with the slightly muffled voice inquired about my thoughts on penile implants, I immediately shot back with, “Well, you know what they say - you can’t churn butter with a toothpick.” Unfortunately, the caller was not my husband.
- At a neighbor’s house, I joined (late) a conversation about plastic flowers. Laughing, I shared a story of a woman who had hung numerous baskets off her front porch filled with the plastic variety. As it turned out, the host had a similar arrangement out front. She did not join in my laughter.
- In church one Sunday, I heard the priest refer to Jesus as a Jewish carpenter. In a voice that could be heard all the way in the back row, I said to my mother, “Hey! I thought we were Catholic!”
- I had a great uncle who enjoyed his libations. A lot. One evening he called our house to talk to my grandmother. I answered the phone and then handed it to my father, saying, (again rather loudly), “It’s Uncle Frank. I think he’s drunk again.”
So, no naked stories. However, please feel free to share your own. Best story wins a copy of my latest book,
Naked on the Streets, Murder Most Persuasive.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Today I'm hosting the very talented Sean Black, author of the Ryan Lock thriller series. The first in the series, LOCKDOWN, sold in the kind of heated auction that most writers only dream about. It went on to sell oodles of copies and was followed up by the bestselling DEADLOCK and GRIDLOCK, all featuring elite bodyguard Ryan Lock. For more information on his books, stop by his web site seanblackbooks.com.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Here’s what happened:
Years and years ago when I was a young mother, I got up early one morning to shower before my toddler and baby woke. It was a chilly, rainy early autumn day, and we hadn’t fired up the furnace yet. I stepped out of the steamy bathroom, and within seconds the smoke detector started blasting a high pitched warning. Wearing only a flimsy cotton bathrobe and with a towel wrapped around my head, I grabbed my kids and rushed next door to call the fire company. (This was pre-cordless phones.)
Embarrassing Naked Moment #1: By the time I arrived at the neighbor’s house, I was drenched from the rain. Remember, I said I was only wearing a flimsy cotton bathrobe? Keep reading.
Embarrassing Naked Moment #2: The smoke detector had been set off by the steam from the bathroom. There was no fire.
Embarrassing Naked Moment #3: Fast forward to the following summer. We’re at the town swimming pool. My husband is speaking with someone I don’t recognize. He asked the man, “Do you remember my wife?”
He was one of the firemen who had responded to the 911 call. I think I’m going to kill him off in my next mystery.
And speaking of next mysteries, I attended Bouchercon recently and signed advance reading copies of DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL, the next book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. I came home with a few copies, and I’m giving two of them away. To enter the drawing, all you have to do is sign up for my author newsletter by sending an email to LoisWinstonAuthorNewsletteremail@example.com or by adding yourself as a follower at Anastasia’s Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. Then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know which you’ve signed up for.
Follow Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth
Sunday, September 25, 2011
1) He Dun her Wrong
2) My African Vacation
3) Mistaken Identity
4) Murder in the Castle
5) More Murder in the Castle
6) The Good Daughter
7) Southern Justice
8) The Lady and the Handmaid
10) Five Thousand Pounds a Year!
And: Today’s the last day to enter to win a signed copy of Negative Image. Leave a comment with your email address. If you don’t like to put your e-mail on a public place, you can send drop me a line at me at email@example.com
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Now to the renaming of the classics, eh? Understand the list here may not be Mr. Chip’s list of classics, but the following books are classics nonetheless. Not all of these would be classified as mystery novels, but crimes to various degrees occur in all of them.
In no particular order:
1. The Big Revenge
2. The Wondrous Machines of Prince Dakkar
3. For You, Jack
4. The Murder House
5. Joppy’s Joint
6. The Best of All Possible Worlds
7. The Chauffer at the Door
8. The Three Lives of John Russell
10. The Disappearing Burglar
Friday, September 23, 2011
Catnapped and Doggone
We’ve all read them. We’ve reread them. We’ve watched them adapted for film and television and we’ve sometimes had to dissect them to find some deeper meaning under the watchful eye of a teacher who is convinced we didn’t noodle out the last dreg of relevance. Here’s what I know. Classics are classics because they make you think. Not just in the moment you turn the last page, but later, out of context, out of the zone. You carry them with you even when you don’t know it and you take the lessons and ask yourself ‘What Would Jane Do’ even when the circumstances you find yourself in are far beyond the elegant dresses and delicate dance of social class found in Austen’s oh so properly English drawing rooms. Here are my roses, which smell as sweet, and whose thorns remind me that their existence can continue to prick my mind with their lingering ideas.
1. We’ve all read them. We’ve reread them. We’ve watched them adapted for film and television and My African Safari
1. We’ve all read them. We’ve reread them. We’ve watched them adapted for film and television and My African Safari
2. Stalker: Every Girl’s Guide to Dealing with the One Who Just Won’t Go Away
3. The Debt Crisis: A Bird’s Eye View
4. It’s Gets Better: It’s All About Surviving the Teen Years
5. I’d Vote for This Guy
6. It’s Not About Me
7. Maxed Out
9. The Millionaire Matchmaker
10. Dilbert’s Greatest Hits
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I can’t watch Al Gore’s documentary without thinking about the dust bowls of the American west. I cannot read anything about our failure to commit to the Kyoto Protocol and not believe, passionately, that our next big wind might be our last because we didn’t learn anything from Steinbeck. He put environmental devastation in real people terms in a way that Rachel Carson could envy. The eroded farmland of Kansas could easily be the overfished waters of the Atlantic, the oil-drenched oyster beds of the Gulf Coast or the melting ice caps of the Antarctic. Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Most of the good stuff has enough truth to be believable because it is true. Which means Steinbeck’s 1939 masterpiece should be a learning place, a listening spot, an education for the reader and all with whom he has a chance to discuss it. Please, oh please. Before we’re all loaded on a truck trying to drive beyond the wasteland.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. This one was a recent revelation for me. I remember it as required reading complete with weeks of intensive literary criticism. Every word, every action was determined to be laced with nuance and theme. It’s a lie. A big, bald-faced, it’s heavy so it must be good and if I just examine it closely enough I will find Truth. It’s the paper version of Woody Allen is so unfunny he must be a genius. Conrad wasn’t any of those things. He was actually in Africa watching as King Leopold of Belgium plundered the Congo and turned it into his own mid-century version of a personal ATM. The characters in Heart of Darkness are based on real people, although some are composites, well known to the Belgian business people and government exploiters who colonized the Congo like a swarm of fire ants, leaving nothing in their wake. Read King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild. It will give you the real perspective necessary to see Conrad’s Darkness for what it was, his journal of his time spent among the rubble.
Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte. This is one of those girl guides every single lady should get before she goes off to college. Broody is good and interesting with a limited sales-by date. Broody can be appropriate for the age but if he keeps turning up “by coincidence” years later with the same old bag of I’m a dark and twisted sole and only your love will save me, RUN. Do not walk. Do not leave a forwarding address. This is what restraining orders and Louisville sluggers kept in the umbrella stand are for. Sure, have a little bad boy in college. Then go off and a) always be ready to take care of yourself and b) pick somebody who can do the same.
Little Dorritt by Charles Dickens. Dickens wrote about the man on the street, the one living the life of the times. In Little Dorritt, the reader gets to see the deficit crisis, the jobless rate, the uninsured problem and the individual effects of every political action and non-action without the rose colored glasses of someone who can write a chapter and start it with ‘except for me’ life was a misery. Maybe we should reinstitute debtor’s prisons. Not for those individuals befallen by circumstances beyond their control but for those people in a position to promote the well-being of the fifty percent of Americans who fall below the poverty line and the additional forty-nine percent of Americans who combined represent less than 2% of the nation’s assets. A little cell time might give the 1% and their elected officials a chance to walk in the shoes that could take them down the path of reason.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Without the lovely period pieces and the splendor of the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli movie version, this is the story of two horny teenagers and their rebellion against their parents. Dan Savage’s public service campaign, ‘It Gets Better’ addresses the horrors of high school for gay teenagers in particular but could easily be applied to any Clearasil wearing, Sixteen Candles watching, anxiety-ridden adolescent trying to get a darn diploma and then the heck out of Dodge. In a paraphrase of Dickens from The Tale of Two Cities, these are the best of times, these are the worst of times and if you just hang in there and not pretend to be someone else, you won’t end up with your head in a basket. It sucks for everyone.
Boomsday by Christopher Buckley. Probably not considered a classic, yet, I am waiting for this candidate. Yeah, he’s an empty suit but he cops to it. Yes, he doesn’t have a moral compass but that’s what staff is for. And I must agree that his ability to run a country is severely limited by his inability to see beyond his own reflection but it’s not like we, the electorate, haven’t run into him before. But he says what we are all thinking, regardless of party partisanship, shut the f*&^% up. It’s code for I’m tired of listening, show me something. Do already. Because doodoo simply isn’t cutting it.
The Gift of the Maji by O Henry. It’s hard for me not to see everything I read, or have read, through today’s political lens. Here are two people who understand that stomping their feet and demanding their way won’t get it done when resources are limited. They also live the political nightmare, you finally get what you want only to discover that not talking to each other and staying abreast on their changing views, you’ve given the husk and not the fruit. Maybe it’s time to have a real conversation with the people you’re in bed with.
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss This one works on so many levels. Not only do the Whos have so many presents that an entire sleight needs to carry far beyond its capacity to accommodate the misbegotten loot, but poor little Max simply can’t bear the burden of schlepping the bounty up the big hill. Plus, let’s face it, for all the press time that little Cindyloo Who gets, Max is the heart of the story.
Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen. Honestly, if you were to redact the dates in this book published in 1932, you’d think this social scientist was Diogenes’ long-lost last honest man and writing contemporaneously with the current political, cultural and economic quagmire sucking at his feet. It is positively creepy how someone who died in 1939 could not only have analyzed the two decades of a generation’s life experience prior to his death, but he could extrapolate the same conditions to their it-never-goes-out-of-style repeat performance of the last couple of years. I feel like sending copies to everyone in Congress (with the key parts highlighted to make it easier for them) and a little note that says you might want to check out the problem-solving and public backlash sections for tomorrow’s headline.
Emma by Jane Austen. I think Patti Stanger, who stars in this reality-series train wreck, did write a book about her experiences with clueless men with money and beautiful, smart, interesting women who are prepared to exchange all that for boorish, unkempt, clueless men with a black American Express card. I didn’t get it then. I don’t get it now. Including the part about how the matchmaker can’t even figure out her own life so why would you entrust her with yours? I love Austen. I reread some of her work every year. But this one…I’ll admit, it doesn’t call to me. Then again, I’m single and bitter. And long in the tooth. Maybe it’s just jealousy.
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. Every cube mate whose ever gotten on your last nerve, every boss you arranged to die in your most recent thriller, every customer you wanted to bang over the head (reapeatedly) with your phone can be explained by this book. It’s the Meyers-Briggs home game on crack. It’s the How to Win Friends and Influence People book written for people who don’t have time while doing three jobs that used to belong to them and two other people no longer with the company to read business books and who, frankly aren’t looking to make friends of these nuts. With this primer, you can figure out how to get just the information you need from Owl without the discourse, dodge Rabbit in the break room and score the honey in your next salary negotiation. 100 Acre Woods just became the Fortune 500 Acre Woods and you’re tight with Christopher Robin.
Thanks for reading. Thank you more for thinking about what you're reading and have read.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Ten classics, renamed. Can you name the originals?
(3)Three Pokes in the Eye
(4)A Red-Letter Day for Hester
(8)Animatronics and Artificial Intelligence for Dummies
(9)Prince of Darkness
(10)Where the Heck Did I Put that
(Michael is the author of, most recently, A Bad Night's Sleep, also known as Ambien Blues.)
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
So here are my 10 classics, as I see them. Have fun! I'll post the answers on Tuesday morning.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
An editor asked me recently how I decided on Lily Moore’s name. It was hard to explain. I came up with the idea for The Damage Done more than a decade ago, when I was still living in Toronto and taking a writing workshop at Ryerson University. I think of Lily as a little old-fashioned, something that appears delicate while actually being quite tough. Her last name took more thought, and it only came to me while I was writing the book. I wanted a name that was simple and elegant, yet signified something about the character. While working on a character sketch of her, I wrote: “There’s always more going on under the surface with Lily.” That was it. More became Moore.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
By Reece Hirsch
I’m going to follow Kelli Stanley’s lead this week and duck our assigned question. Instead, I’m going to indulge in a little wish fulfillment and imagine that I’m at the bar of the Bouchercon conference hotel in St. Louis this weekend, schmoozing with a bunch of my favorite writers and friends. And if I were at that bar, here are a few things that I might overhear:
1. “My agent says that because my last book didn’t sell, I’m going to have to publish my next book under another name. In fact, it was so bad that she says that my wife and kids are going to have to change their names, too.”
2. “At every panel at Bouchercon, there’s always that one guy in the front row who wants to explain to everyone during the Q&A how self-published e-books have killed traditional publishing. I know it’s not always the same person, but it feels like it’s the same person.”
3. “If I had Barry Eisler’s hair, I would rule at the Romantic Times convention this year.”
4. “Forget biorhythms. I never feel better than when my Amazon rating spikes.”
5. “My next book is a stand-alone, but it could also be the first book in a series. It’s a mystery, but it has thriller, paranormal and dystopian elements. It’s the Swiss army knife of books.”
6. “I’m going to be so hung over for my panel tomorrow morning. If I throw up on Laura Lippman, I’ll never forgive myself.”
7. “I’m writing a YA noir. With the economy and the environment in the toilet, kids are going to need to understand earlier than ever that life is bleak and unjust.”
8. “My cover art looks like it was drawn in poo on the bottom of the monkey cage at the zoo. And not by a smart, Rise of the Planet of the Apes monkey. No, I'm talking about the other monkeys.”
9. “For my next book, I’m doing a virtual book tour. I’m going virtually nowhere.”
10. “After four or five stiff drinks in the bar at Bouchercon, this whole publishing business starts to make sense to me."
Friday, September 16, 2011
Character names are tricky things. They can say so much about a character and be absolutely perfect--or they can be completely wrong and very distracting. Ever read a historical novel where the main character was named Tiffany? Or Brent? It just doesn't fit. If feels too modern.
Also bad are character names that are so pat that they're cutsey. The blonde bombshell named Bunny. The crazy killer named Lucifer. The sweet ingenue named Angel. Puh-lease.
So what's a writer to do?
I have a strange way of figuring out names, but it works for me. Sometimes characters appears fully formed with a name, but sometimes I have to search for one. But I never start out just calling them "detective" or anything like that. I'm afraid it would make the character too wooden and stereotypical. Unless they're a beat cop, or some other character with just a walk-on role in my book, they get a name. And a name with some thought.
So before I start writing about a character, I give them a name right away that seems to work okay. (Erin, Jane, Pam, Cindy, Michelle... Hmm. Michelle. That sounds okay). But I keep the name for the character only as long as I feel it works. If it's too similar to another name (Whoops! I have a Mark, Melissa and Michelle... Something has to give) or just doesn't feel right, I go off to look for another name.
Something to be avoided at all costs: everyone in the book has a name that rhymes or starts with the same letter--this becomes extremely confusing for the reader very, very fast. Also to be considered: giving someone a name that's not appropriate for a character's age. Of course, all those Brittanys will someday hit social security age, but try perusing Social Security most popular names site if you're wondering how many little Brittanys were born five years ago or even this year. You may be shocked to learn (especially if you don't have small kids) that there were far more little Isabelles, Emmas, Olivias and Avas than the names you remember as a kid. Names go in waves, and while there may be tons of Susans who are aged 60 and over, there are very few nowadays that are ten years old.
I have a baby book (which can sometimes be helpful), and the Internet to help me out if I get stuck for a good name. There are all kinds of ethnic baby naming sites on the web that I find useful (especially if you want to give characters names that are appropriate, but not stereotypical). I have had to find good Puerto Rican, Hasidic, Polish, and Russian names before, since Brooklyn is a real melting pot. And I've turned to the New York phone book when I need a good last name for someone.
In the end, after all the research, it all comes down to a gut feeling. And then there's no turning back. The character owns the name and it become a part of them. And the writing just flows...
Thursday, September 15, 2011
As delightful as the question of the week is, I can't answer it for two reasons:
1. I don't believe in stock characters, even when playing Clue;
2. CITY OF SECRETS just launched on Tuesday and as of this moment (12:01 AM EST on September 15th) I am probably in the Bouchercon bar and not capable of much (except, of course, singing "Go See What the Boys in the Backroom Will Have" in my best Dietrich voice, a, er, talent which never seems to abandon me).
So, instead, I thought I'd natter on about book launches.
They sound rather heroic and even patriotic in a way, kind of like NASA. Rocket launches make an awful lot of noise (and lots of cool visuals) ... book launches, on the other hand, are quieter affairs, except in the heart and gut of the author and her family and friends.
They're a time of great optimism--it takes an awful lot of optimism to write a book and publish it, even if what you're writing--maybe especially if what you're writing--is noir. They're also a time of supreme worry, fear, and anxiety, which is one reason why there are always so many authors sitting in the Bouchercon bar.
I wish there were some sort of herbal Xanax for authors, a kind of happy pill we could take when we reach one of those benchmarks that shape our careers ... you know, the agent hunt, the publisher hunt and finally the scariest hunt of all ... the reader hunt.
The sanest way to deal with all the inner (and outer) turmoil associated with launch day is basically to back away. To go back to your keyboard and write. Unfortunately, you can't do that.
You are expected to be out there shouting your book from rooftops, blogging your heart out and tweeting until there are bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover ... you can and you must, even though it is healthier for your emotional state to retreat, to remember why you love to write, to remember how hard and how long you've worked for this chance. Sorry--you don't have the luxury during the launch period.
Even Charles Dickens had to travel on a lecture tour to help his numbers. So, dear writer, must we.
Onward, brave scribes. My friend Laura Benedict once compared publishing (and the will-they-like-it-will-they-hate-it period when you're waiting for reviews--make that praying for reviews) to putting your baby on display and waiting to hear someone say that it's ugly. What you really want, of course, is for someone from Baby Gap to come along and say "What a beautiful child ... how about a modeling contract?"
Once in awhile, it happens. And until it does ... get out there and smile, baby, smile!!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
By Tracy Kiely
My husband and I have three children. We could not have a fourth. Not because of time constraints, medical conditions, or financial limitations, mind you. We simply ran out of names we could agree on. I’d suggest a name for a girl, and my husband would be assaulted by some memory of a mean little girl who picked her nose. He’d suggest a name for a boy, and I’d have a vision of that kid who got waaaaaay too into Dungeons and Dragons.
Shakespeare once famously opined “That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet,” and since he’s Shakespeare, for goodness’ sake, most of us nod our heads in respectful agreement and murmur, “Oh, yes. How very true. Spot on.”
However, at the risk of incurring the wrath of English teachers everywhere, I respectfully disagree. Now before you start screaming at your monitors (all two of you), hear me out. While I have enormous respect for the Bard, I would tender the argument that were we to call said flower, oh, I don’t know, let’s go with “butt rot,” there might be some among us who might hold off on sticking our noses into an arrangement of them. Yes, it would smell nice were we to overcome our hesitation to give it a full-on sniff, but would we?
Names matter. They suggest. They imply. They are the first glimpse we have into a person’s background (via their parent’s preferred nomenclature). You introduce yourself as “Donny Joe,” and I will hazard a guess that you own at least one plaid, flannel shirt. You present me with a card that reads “Winston Thorpe, III, Esq.” I will likewise infer that you might own a silk tie. Or at least you want me to think you do.
Is this a fool-proof plan? Absolutely not. Do people still judge anyway? Absolutely.
In picking names for my characters, I go with what those names suggest to me. I might use the name of that kid who got a tattoo to celebrate his elevation to Dungeon Master or I might use the name of an old boss whom I despised. Really, really despised.
(Legal Disclaimer: For this latter example, I, of course, immediately rejected that tactic as being horribly immature and beneath me, and so did not. I may have mentioned his greasy hair and lack of oral hygiene, but not his name.)
I don’t have a list of stock names for the good, the evil, or the daffy. Instead, I try and think of my character’s background and what their parents might have named them. I also wonder what said character would have done with that name. Would they have changed it? Glorified in it? Made a nickname out of it? For me, that’s what begins to shape the character.
And so, it’s far easier to shape a character on a page by presenting them with a name than it is to shape the character of a child. Can you imagine what kind of nursing home Winston Thorpe, III might stick me in one day? You just know it would be horrible.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Think about it. What comes to mind when you think about this Question of the Week? For me, I immediately think about Jay Ward’s wonderful characters from 1960’s television. So here are my picks, and if I’ve misinterpreted this week’s question, in the immortal words of Bullwinkle J. Moose, “Quick! Let’s go to a commercial!”
|Snidely Whiplash, Dudley Do-Right, Nell Fenwick, and Horse|
|Boris Badenov, Natasha Fatale, and Fearless Leader|
The Evil Villain: a tie between Boris Badenov and Snidely Whiplash
The Evil Boss: Fearless Leader
|Rocky and Bullwinkle|
|Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman|
|The Clueless Author: Lois Winston|
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Vicki Delany here with my first posting as one fourteenth of the virtual panel! How exciting. I’ll be here every other Sunday. Many thanks to the gang for inviting me to take part.
As an introduction to me and to my books, I’d like to have a contest to give away a signed hard cover of Negative Image, the fourth Constable Molly Smith book from Poisoned Pen Press. Please leave a comment after this post with your e-mail address, and I’ll draw a name at random. If you don’t like leaving your e-mail address publically, you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contest closes in time for my next posting, Sunday Sept 25.
Before I attempt to address the question of the week, please allow me to introduce myself and my work. I’m Vicki Delany and I write a variety of different several sub-genres of crime novels. I have ten books published to date, with two more scheduled for next year, and one old book that I self-published into e-book formats just for the heck of it titled Murder at Lost Dog Lake.
My first two books published by Poisoned Pen Press were standalone novels of suspense. You know the sort of thing: old secrets long buried come to life. Scare the Light Away was first in 2005 and then Burden of Memory (perhaps the more gothic of the two) in 2006.
I then switched tracks and started a police procedural series of the sort that I like to read: Cops solving crimes in a small town while their friends and family form an important background to the books. The first Constable Molly Smith book came out in 2007 and is titled In the Shadow of the Glacier. There are five books now, the latest is Among the Departed. I’m taking a break from the Molly Smith books and writing a new standalone. It will be titled More Than Sorrow and is very much a modern gothic. Publication date for More than Sorrow is Sept. 2012, from Poisoned Pen Press.
I also am the author of the Klondike Gold Rush books from Dundurn, set in the Yukon during the Great Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. Gold Digger and Gold Fever are out now, and Gold Mountain will be released in April 2012. These books are intended to be on the light-hearted side, a bit of a mad-cap romp through the muddy streets of Dawson City in the summer of 1898.
Now, the question! A tequila experience.
FIONA MACGILLIVRAY, half-owner of the Savoy Saloon and Dance Hall, “The finest, most modern establishment in London, England, transported to Dawson” most certainly would never have had a tequila experience in her life. First of all, she wouldn’t even know what that is. They served whisky in the Savoy, and good stuff too. Not the gut-rot one found in less respectable establishments. Along with water (drinkable water too, as required by law) and lemonade for such ladies as might wander in in search of refreshment, or a good story.
And even if Fiona ever did come across a bottle of tequila, she would never have consumed any. As a woman living on her own, and on her wits, since the murder of her parents when she was ten years old, Fiona would never (could never) afford to let her guard down. Not for a moment.
MOLLY SMITH on the other hand. Think of a middle-class Canadian girl off to university for the first time. A small-town girl from a close, loving family on her own in the big city of Victoria for the first time.
Think of the possibility for getting into trouble.
There was that night, the first month into University when Molly (newly freed from the shackles of the hippie name Moonlight bestowed on her by her flower-power, draft-dodger parents) and her new roommates – small town girls all - hit the town. Tequila – and more tequila – flowed. When the bars closed it was back to the house of a bunch of guys they’d met, and the party carried on.
At this point Molly has lost track of events. Something about joints being passed around (good B.C. Bud too, the best). And police arriving on a noise complaint, to find that distinctive scent of coffee mixed with skunk drifting out into the hallway. People fleeing down the fire escape, flushing joints down the toilet.
And Molly, alone in the living room, sitting on the couch, joint in hand, smiling prettily at the nice young officer.
Good thing he was a nice young officer. She got a ride home in the back of his cruiser, not a ride to the station. And a warning not to get caught again.
The next morning she didn’t know it was possible to be so sick and still live.
Since that day, Molly Smith has never touched a drop of tequila. Nor smoked another joint.
Which is probably a good thing, as six years later she applied to the Trafalgar City Police, her home town, for a position as Probationary Constable.
If you’d like to learn more about Fiona and Molly and all my other books and characters, the first chapter of many of them are up on my web page at www.vickidelany.com. I can be friended on Facebook or Liked at www.facebook.com/vicki.delany, and at twitter @vickidelany. My personal blog is titled One Woman Crime Wave – click here.
Don't forget - leave a comment for a chance to win Negative Image.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
How many times have I wished that while imbibing the fruit of the mescal plant I was indeed like the Most Interesting Man in the World, the silver fox dude on those Dos Equis commercials – who apparently has a pet cougar, the four-legged kind, jumping all over his kitchen island.
“His doctor has him autograph his chest x-rays…”
“Women scream his name when giving birth…”
But no. I know from a painful past I sound something like Elmer Fudd with a head cold after a few glasses of the stuff. Now as it happens, I don’t have to speculate about my protagonist and a conjectured misadventure with tequila. For a friend’s self-published anthology, that few if any of you have seen or heard about, called Tequila Tales, I wrote such a cautionary story. Well, cautionary is not quite the adjective here.
The story involves a sheriff’s deputy named Woody McElvane. A local product, Woody’s thankless task is the foreclosure beat. He has to go to houses and condos where the once owners have been evicted for falling way too far behind on their mortgages. His job is to serve them the court papers and ensure they leave. On one such call as the story, “The Second Stringer,” begins, he’s making a call on a guy he played basketball with in high school. That is this individual was a starter, Woody rode the pine mostly. The man, Roy “Run and Gun” Nielson, even went on to a brief career in the pros.
But now the tables have turned and Roy has fallen on hard times. Woody is not an cruel man, he’s there to do his job, no more, no less.
Back in his cruiser, McElvane told himself he didn’t feel envious. He reminded himself it wasn’t like Nielson had been shitty to him in high school or banged his girlfriend, nothing like that. But Nielson had been, well, one of the cool ones. One of the ones with game and the sweet shot. The girls taking numbers out of a cap to see which one had the honor to give him a BJ at the ditch party.
Well, when Woody winds his way back to the house a day or so later to see if indeed the premises have been vacated, he finds a wooden crate inside the empty abode: He pries off the lid.
He could make out the stuff was tequila -- Coleccion de Oro, the Gold Collection. He surmised it was an expensive brand or at least it had the appearance of such.
He put the bottle back and looked through the rest of the house and returned to the crate, glaring at it. Why would Nielson have left this? Maybe he was on the wagon and didn’t want the temptation. Or was it some sort of oblique apology from him to the deputy? But for what, him being the golden boy gone sour?
Don’t need to tell you ol’ Wood takes the box. Of course that’s when the fun begins, when that crate of tequila interests some interesting parties.
Bring up the strains of the song “Tequila” and sit back, have a sip, and relax. Whatever you do, it’s because of tequila you have the sweats.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Catnapped and Doggone
Alas, I may be the one adult in all of America that doesn’t have a personal the worm did me wrong song. Of course all of you knew that since I’m such an angel the rest of the time. On the other hand, you may have suspected I earned that halo by dancing with Jose Cuervo. Not true. He and I have never so much as shaken hands much less tangoed to the early morning hours. I’m a genuine teetotaler (as opposed to a Tea Partier which I most definitely am not). As the temperance council president at numerous writing conferences, I have had much time to focus on my many other vices none of which is the topic for today. Go ahead, Mom. Take the breath. The worst is over.
In the land of fiction, however, the devil’s water has flowed more freely. Sara marries Connor after a dirty what happens in Vegas weekend. They met when Connor followed her running shorts in a local race and increased tempo until they were standing in front of a minister (not Elvis) at the chapel in the Bellagio hotel. All of which both of them did completely sober. Two days later when Connor was off to who knew where and Sara was in the ER having the doctor remove the 18K ring to which she proved highly allergic, Sara began to feel thirsty. Having explained none of this to her best friend (mostly because alien abduction was a more believable story and Russ, well, he never lets these things go), Sara suggested meeting for drinks at the Matador in nearby Ballard. A Norwegian fishing neighborhood north of Seattle, Ballard is the hard living, hard working, serious drinking “home” of many of the Deadliest Catch boats. Let’s just say by mutual consent, crumpets will not be served. And a skull on the sign is a SIGN.
The Matador has 95 ways to lose brain cells through tequila consumption alone. With each shot, you become a little less upright impressive Spaniard and a little more non-Halloween trapped by a cape Facebook photo. So Sara and Russ do shots. One to health, given Sara’s recent hospital visit which she explains as a bee sting gone bad. One to Russ’ new boyfriend. One to Russ’ old boyfriend who unknowingly still retains the title of boyfriend. One to hot ER doctors. One to hot rich ER doctors. And on and on. Sara had deliberately chosen tequila. If your plan is to scramble your brain in the hope that, like a kaleidoscope, the picture changes if you just hold still, tequila Is your drink. Or maybe vodka in colder climates. Both harmless-looking clear liquids, ingested without swallowing for fear of requiring Poison Control, and straight to the bloodstream. Tequila has the added advantage of turning Sara’s confessionals aphasic. Yes, she form words she thinks tells all of the details of her recent escapades but it comes out more like a cross between baby talk and Serbian. Russ has had enough, despite his larger size and greater capacity, to find this amazingly funny in a way only one drunk person could find another drunk person funny. The bartender is caring enough to take the car keys as both Russ and Sara have tears streaming down their faces, albeit for completely different reasons.
Tequila resolutions come hard. Russ’ come half way through his late night radio program when his producer switches to a taped recording and gets a second trash can for the small amount of Tex-mex he had as a chaser. Russ elects to spend the night on the cement floor where the world sways less and with his head under the production console where evil light can’t spear through his eyelids. Sara makes it all the way to the front hallway of her apartment courtesy of a please not in my backseat cabbie. She’s face down, missing a shoe and has some foreign substance lodged in her hair which will harden by morning resulting in a DIY haircut that looks like it was done under the influence. She would call in sick if the phone weren’t so far away. Fortunately for her, her office BFF Joe stops by in genuine concern when she can’t be reached. He tugs her shoulders to get her completely in the apartment, takes the keys still dangling from the lock and closes the door behind him.
Two days later, after gallons of water and aspirin far in excess of the daily recommended limit, Russ and Sara solemnly vow not to do that again.
Until the next time. Thanks for reading.