Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Get Ready for Some True Halloween Mystery, Mayhem . . . and Marx Brothers?

This year the boys went really retro with the costumes, choosing to channel Groucho and Harpo Marx. The amazing thing was that they took on the persona of their characters. A couple of people asked Ian for a Groucho joke before they gave him candy, and he complied with ease. Graham wouldn't speak at all, being a true Harpo, and Ian had to thank people FOR him. And I was thrilled to see how many people recognized the costumes--adults, of course, because most kids, sad to say, have never seen the Great Marx Brothers.

Graham also learned the true suffering of a wig--something women have known for ages. In between houses he'd make me hold the hat and wig so he could scratch his head--but then he gamely put them on again so that he could be in character when the doorbell rang. They have so much candy that stomach aches are almost guaranteed, but they enjoyed their costumes immensely.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Those Unexpected Writing Moments

I was all dressed for work today when my son tottered down the stairs, weak and trembly from some virus or other. I had to call in sick, and now there he sits, watching the obligatory sickness cartoons while the cat lounges at his side, momentarily loyal. While Graham gets back his strength I find myself with time I didn't think I'd have!

So it's back inside the three books I'm reading (one for homework) and then a chore here or there (a brief blog, as you see), and then--maybe, if the planets are in proper alignment and the boy doesn't grow more ill--some writing!

But first I must go do my Florence Nightingale routine. Graham says he has a terrible taste in his mouth, so I must find some food that will counteract that flu-ey feeling.

But surely there will be some time in the afternoon . . . .

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tale Two: The Little Booksigning That Could

Today's booksigning at Curves in Oak Park went much better than the last one, which I entitled "The Sad Little Booksigning," despite the fact that number one was in an actual bookstore, where one might expect to meet people who wanted to buy books. Perhaps today's success was due to the help and interest of the manager, Carla, and Curves staffers Jessie and Roberta, who helped, chatted with me throughout the day, and even became customers themselves. That's Carla in the pink shirt, and Jessie on the right. Roberta became shy and avoided the photo.
Thanks, Carla and Jessie! See you next week.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Happy Birthday to Two Women Writers

Today is the birthday of Emily Post, who notably wrote ""Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use." Ah, Emily, where have you gone? Our nation turns its lonely, etiquette-starved eyes to you. (With apologies to Paul Simon). Would that you were still here to write a whole new book about e-mail etiquette, so that you could tell people it's not okay to ignore e-mails people send them, and worse still to send an e-mail BACK to the person who sent it to you with a note saying "I thought you'd like this." Of course I would, you fool, I sent it to YOU."

  Posted by PicasaAlso born today, in 1994, was my niece Cashie (Mary Katherine), pictured here with her handsome father, my brother. Cashie is a writer, too, who is writing a book, but also enjoys writing stories and poetry. In one of her poems she reflected on the joys of "writing poetry and stories in a journal in my Three Seasons Room, while watching the rain; Looking into my back yard with falling leaves from the trees and the comforting smell of a bonfire."

That's a lovely image, Mary Katherine. Happy Birthday to you.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sue Ann Jaffarian Talks About Her Plus-Sized Mysteries and The Curse of The Holy Pail

Hi, Sue Ann! Thanks for chatting with me. Your protagonist, Odelia Gray, is “middle aged and plus-sized.” Do you hear from a lot of readers who are glad to see a heroine who is, let’s say, more realistic than most?
Absolutely! I get lots of e-mail from women (and even some from men) of all ages and sizes saying they find it refreshing to see a not-so-young, not-so-thin heroine – someone they can relate to very well and who faces many of the same issues in her life.

Jaffarian is a neat name. What ethnicity is it?
It is Armenian – I am half, obviously on my father’s side.

Speaking of names, how did you come up with “Odelia”?
I found it in a baby name book. I don’t know why, but I was determined to have a character whose name began with an O. She was Olivia in the very early stages, but it never seemed to fit, so I bought a baby book and studied the names until I found one that suited the character.

You’ve got some amazing blurbs. Not to sound envious, Sue Ann, but how did you make all of these big-time writer friends?
Meeting these wonderful folks came naturally during my involvement in both Mystery Writers of America and Sisters In Crime. I also have attended a lot of mystery conferences where I have met many writers who live outside of Southern California. One of the fabulous perks of being a writer is meeting and getting to know the people you’ve been reading for years.

You list Jon Stewart’s Daily Show as one of your favorite shows. Do you and Jon have similar political leanings, or are you both just fans of good satire? Or both?

It’s definitely both. I love his dry wit and irreverence, and do indeed share many, if not most, of his political leanings. Absolutely no one can mimic George W’s laugh like Jon Stewart, although Wanda Sykes does an admirable job. (BTW, I’m impressed. You had to comb my website to get this info.)

Thanks. Your character, Odelia Gray, has a green, one-eyed cat. Does this continue your theme that people shouldn’t judge by appearances, or were you just trying to create a really memorable pet?
The odd thing is, I was just trying to give Odelia a funny pet, an animal quirky like her, but after Too Big To Miss was done I realized what a connection Seamus makes to the underlying theme of the book. It was totally something that happened on an unconscious level, but not while I was actually unconscious.

Good distinction. :) Your website doesn’t have too much biographical information. Are you a mysterious woman?
Nah, boring maybe – I go to work; I come home; I write. I’m single and live with two cats and have dinner most nights with Jon Stewart.

The Holy Pail (from your second book, The Curse of the Holy Pail) is a lunchbox, and an important clue. What came first, the clue or the title?
The lunchbox came before the title. I was kicking around the idea of centering a plot on a lunchbox and an old TV cowboy and during my research came across a collectible lunchbox actually nicknamed “the holy pail.” It was a perfect fit for the story and a perfect lead into the title.

Odelia often has very emotional attachments to food. I can relate to this, because my mom was (and is) a very food-is-love sort of nurturer. Did you grow up with this sort of family dynamic?
Not really. My mother was not a good cook and had very bad eating habits, which, of course, I picked up. Eating is emotional for me also, but not in a food-is-love way; it’s more of a food-is-legal-dope way. I think Odelia is more like me in that regard.

Greg, Odelia’s boyfriend, is wheelchair-bound, and her best friends are black. Does Odelia sometimes seek out people who she feels might be stereotyped for one reason or another?
I don’t know if Odelia sought out Greg and the Washingtons for that purpose, but I sure did. (Actually, Zee is patterned after a good friend of mine in real life.) But I like bringing real people into my books, and I want readers to see real people within the pages. For me it brings more realism to the stories. I strive to make every book a slice of life in Southern California and that includes the disabled, Asians, blacks, Latinos, even dwarfs, as well as wealthy matrons, GQ handsome bosses, and criminals.

Odelia says, at one point, that she never felt young, even when she was young. Did you ever feel this way?
Absolutely, that thought came straight out of my own life. I remember being 16 going on 32. I think this often happens to people forced to take on a lot of responsibility at a young age.

Odelia, after book one, has an interesting bullet wound. How did you decide to write this into your plot?
Again, it was something that came about naturally. She was shot; she’d have a wound from that and the wound would now be part of her physical being. It also helped me weave some background from the first book into the second one without giving too much away.

Who are your mystery inspirations?
If there is one author who has given me a vision for my own writing it would be the late Anne George, author of the Southern Sisters mysteries. I remember reading one of her books and knowing immediately I wanted to write mysteries that made people laugh about everyday events and everyday people.

Odelia loves food, and I’m guessing Sue-Ann has her favorite foods, too. What’s the best restaurant in the world, in your opinion? If I were in town, would you take me there? What should I order?
I don’t really have a favorite restaurant – I have restaurants that serve favorite items. But if you were visiting me in West Los Angeles on a weekend I would take you to the Overland Café for the best brunch in LA, and it’s walking distance from my home. You dropping by anytime soon?

Hey, you never know. I wouldn’t rule it out. :)

Odelia, at the beginning of Holy Pail, talks about how many commandments she has broken. Are you willing to confess? What’s the most recent commandment Sue-Ann has broken?
Boy, I wish I could say it was something horribly shocking. Let’s see, I just ate half a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Brownie Batter and swore at myself for doing so. I guess it would be taking God’s name in vain. Told you I was boring.

Odelia has a boss she really loves to hate. Not to make constant Odelia/Sue-Ann comparisons, but have you ever had a boss like that?
I have worked in the legal field for over thirty years, so the answer would have to be yes. But I have never had a boss exactly like Michael Steele. He is a compilation of all the stereotype bad traits of an attorney, except that he is ethical. He had to be ethical or Odelia would never work for him.

What’s the most rewarding piece of fan mail you’ve received for your Plus-Sized mysteries?
I received one recently from a reader who said that after reading Too Big To Miss she was loving herself more and thanked me for that. I’ve had several along those lines over time and each one warms my heart like you wouldn’t believe. But the most triumphant was an e-mail I received from a man who said he’d read my book because he wife had enjoyed it so much. She didn’t write, but he did to tell me he’d never look at fat women quite the same again and would think twice about how he treated them in the future.

That is indeed an accomplishment to be proud of. Is it difficult to maintain a day job and a writing career?
Absolutely – there’s not much down time for just relaxing. I have to schedule everything, even cleaning the house. When I’m not at my day job, all my focus seems to be on writing or promoting my books, or attending writers’ events. It can be exhausting. I don’t know how people do it with day jobs and families.

How many Odelia mysteries do you anticipate writing?
In addition to Too Big To Miss and The Curse of the Holy Pail, I have four more planned. Midnight Ink has bought the third book in the series, Mother Mayhem, and it is scheduled for release February 2008. I will know by book five if there will be more after the sixth one.

Where do you write your books? Do you have a cozy office? Or do you write on a laptop at lunch, or at your kitchen table while dinner is cooking?
Most of my writing is done on a PC at a desk in a corner of my bedroom and usually both my cats are nearby. Raffi likes to sleep in a chair pulled up next to mine (and he’ll whine until I do pull it close) and B likes to stretch out between the keyboard and the monitor.

Thanks for the interview!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Mysterious Maria Vasalis of The Netherlands

I got this from my new e friend Carola Rummens, who currently lives in Belgium but is from The Netherlands (Did I get that right, Carola?) and has a beautiful blog with her own photos and reflections. Carola has kindly found a poem translated into English by one of her favorite--and mysterious--poets from Holland.

Hello Julia,

Inspired by your Blog, I want to tell you something about a mysterious poetess from Holland called Maria Vasalis. She was born in 1909 in The Hague and studied Psychology. In her time [it was] very special for a lady to study at a university. [She] became a psychologist and later a poetess.

She lived in a small village called Roden near the city of Groningen in the northern part of The Netherlands. That is where I heard from her because she lived in a very mysterious white house in the woods very close to my house. I had to ride on my bike through the woods every day to school and passed the house. Sometimes when the fog was hanging in the trees and nobody to see around the house it was a house and a writer to fantasy about. Maria Vasalis was very shy; she only once in her life gave an interview. She would definitely not have a Blogsite if she still lived. She died in 1998 in Roden. She wrote her poems a lot about nature. I found one for you translated in English:

If you were a landscape

by Maria Vasalis

If you were a landscape through which I could walk,
stand quietly and look with my eyes wide open
and stretch long out on the hard ground,
and press my face up against and say nothing.
But most of all it's like the arch of sky above
where there's space for outdoor light and dark clouds
and for the free wind in between
that whirls in my hair and covers my face
with kisses, without asking, withous promising.


Thanks for this lovely poem, and your mysterious memory, Carola!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Not Clear on the Distinction

Here's a head-scratcher of a poem that I found on the web.

No Great Mystery

Life is no great mystery,
Just Something
We Don't Understand.

Egal Bohen

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Today's Brooding Bard

I found this poem satisfyingly depressing. I felt like brooding over life's cycles today. Ironically, though, poems like this end up lifting my spirits rather than deflating them. What is it about poetry, depressing or otherwise, that makes a person feel so good?

Plus this went well with my autumn photo, which I managed to snap while my dog was doing his business under this beautiful tree. Talk about life's ironies. And yes, I did pick it up, but I didn't have a bag, so I had to use jumbo leaves.

And with that gross image, I give you W.B. Yeats:


by William Butler Yeats

Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
Now I may wither into the truth.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Carole Shmurak Talks Science, Show Tunes and the Joy of Reinventing Herself

Hi, Carole! Thanks for chatting. Your website says that you always wanted to be a writer, but instead went into science research. Why? Had you heard that the math and science jobs paid the big bucks? :)

Partly my family - my dad was a pharmacist, my two older brothers were doctors, so I was raised in a family that lived and breathed medicine. Partly the times (post-Sputnik), when every bright kid was encouraged to go into science. Partly my own inclinations: I was fascinated with DNA and molecular biology. I honestly never thought about money. And I wasn’t in research long; I went into teaching fairly quickly. I just didn’t have the right temperament for research.

When you returned to writing, what made you choose mysteries?
I read mysteries as a girl (Judy Bolton), then became too busy reading other things in high school and college. But shortly after college, I discovered Dorothy L Sayers. After I’d read all of Sayers’s and Allingham’s novels, I read some of Sayers’s essays on detective fiction, which led me back to Trent’s Last Case and some of the other pre-Golden Age stuff. In the ‘80s, with the appearance of Kinsey and VI and the other women sleuths, I started thinking about writing some of my own.

You love Broadway musicals. So do I. What’s your favorite? Do you sing along when you listen to the cds?
I sing along in my car, or when no one is listening (except my husband). It’s so difficult to name one favorite. I think Guys and Dolls and Finian’s Rainbow have near-perfect scores. I love some of Sondheim (Follies, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George - a little hard to sing along with that one!). I think Gypsy has the best overture ever, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has the best opening number. I could go on and on…More recently, I loved Wicked, Avenue Q and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and seeing Harry Connick Jr. in Pajama Game.

You have a daughter named Jill Susannah. Every time I look at this name I want to sing “Jill Susannah, oh don’t you cry for me!" Does anyone else do that?
I hope not! Of all the names that her friends have called her, my favorite is Shmurakulous.

Okay, enough with the silly questions. Tell us how you came up with your first book,
Deadmistress,which was named a Notable Book in the Writer’s Notes Magazine Book Awards contest for 2005.

The idea came to me sitting in the faculty lounge of the girls’ prep school I was teaching at in the ‘80s. We were griping about the headmistress, and someone remarked that since she had a British accent, everyone awarded her 10 extra IQ points. At first I thought about acquiring a British accent myself, so everyone would think I was smarter too. Then I thought, what if she really wasn’t British and was just putting us all on? And then the character of Sabena Lazlo came to me - a headmistress who was not who she pretended to be. I didn’t start the book till ten years later and didn’t finish it till 2001 - life kept intervening (like starting a whole new career in the ‘90s).

Did you learn lessons from the publication of that book that you were able to apply to your second, Death by Committee? Great title, by the way.

Thank you. Everyone who has ever worked in an academic community loves that title, because we’ve all been on so many deadly committees. Lessons? Hmmm. I learned a lot from my Writers’ Group while I was writing the second book, but I can’t think of what I learned from the publication of the first mystery, except maybe how much work it is to promote a book. I already knew about the pluses and minuses of publishing with a small press from my YA series, which I co-author under the name of Carroll Thomas.

Diana Vickery has reviewed you quite positively on her Cozy Library website. Do you have difficulty reading your own reviews?
So far, my mysteries have received mostly positive reviews. My one non-fiction book got an unfair and wrong-headed review in an academic journal, so that was difficult to read.

You spell your name Carole, with an e. Are you named for Carole Lombard?
Oh, you are so smart!! My mother had this thing for movie stars; I have a brother named Leslie for Leslie Howard, and I am indeed Carole with an E for Carole Lombard. (Unfortunately she picked two actors who died in plane crashes.) But did you notice that my detective is also named for her? Susan Lombardi.

Ah--that one I hadn't noticed, so I guess I'm not that smart after all.
What sort of touring will you do for Death by Committee?
Not a lot. I’m speaking in dozens of bookstores and libraries in CT, and attending book parties in Cambridge MA and Chappaqua NY, but not doing much else.

Well, that's a lot in my book. You grew up in New York, but you and your spouse live in Connecticut. How do the two compare for you? Do you miss NY?

We both grew up in the NYC area and get there as often as we can. We both start smiling when we get the car parked and start to walk around Manhattan. In CT, we have a house we love on a nice wooded lot and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of our home, but for museums and theatres and restaurants, what compares to NY? (But I do have to mention that as theatre junkies, we also spend a week each summer in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, where the quality of the productions matches and sometimes surpasses almost anything you can see on Broadway.)

Cool. Your books have great covers. Do you have any input into the designs?

Thanks, I love them too. I have had minimal input: for Deadmistress, I got them to change the dead woman’s hair from blonde to brunette. For Death by Committee, I got to tell them what my favorite was among three possible covers, but the sales manager had the final say. Fortunately, he agreed with me. And Sterling House has a very talented artistic staff.

How does your family feel about you being both a scientist and a mystery writer? Do they help with P.R?

Well, I’m not a scientist or even a science teacher anymore. I think my family and friends are tickled by the way I re-invent myself every couple of decades. My husband and daughter don’t do any PR, but I do have some friends that help get the word out about my books (for example, the book parties I mentioned above).

How can readers find out more about you and your books?
Visit my website (and read about my YA books too):

Read Diane Vickery’s review of Death by Committee at Cozy Library (link listed above)

Read Kim Malo’s review of Deadmistress at Mystery Morgue

Read the first chapter at my publisher's website

Read an excerpt from the middle of the book at MyShelf.com:

Thanks for the interview, Carol! Now you've got me humming showtunes!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My Writing Doppelganger

I have long known there are other Julia Buckleys. There are two Julia Buckleys in England, and I believe they are both writers. One of them has a popular blog about her book-in-process, but it is her fun blog that has brought her attention.

She has mentioned me recently (www.buckleyontheblog.blogspot.com)because she has also sort of discovered my existence, thanks to the glorious worldwide web. However, she referred to me as the "creepy" Julia Buckley, because my book cover is rather sinister looking. I mentioned that I wasn't fond of the nickname, and we had a brief blog conversation, JB to JB.

Now I think we are best friends. :) If anyone else named Julia Buckley would like to add her name to the list, do comment here. (If you are not blessed with this wonderful moniker, you may comment anyway. :)

(Art from the Abergavenny Historical Society)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Prolific Ed Lynskey On Titles, Technical Manuals and Troglodytes

Hi, Ed. Thanks for chatting on the blog. Your mystery novel, The Dirt-Brown Derby, has earned some praise from some big names: Barbara D’Amato, Bill Crider, Steve Hamilton, and Linda Fairstein. Wow! Have you met all of these icons?
Hi, Julia. Thank you for letting me participate on your wonderful blog. I hate getting blurbs, but it seems part of the business now. Bill Crider, Bill Pronzini, and Ed Gorman knew my writing essays on the pulp writers for Mystery File and Noir Originals, two ezines specializing in crime fiction retrospectives. Charles Ardai’s comment came from my manuscript, the first one anybody had ever submitted to Hard Case Crime, a hard-boiled/noir publisher. John Lutz, Jerry Healy, and Steve Hamilton I knew through Private Eye Writers of America.

I met Ed Dee at a book festival and I saw John Lescroart on a panel at the same festival the following year. Charlie Stella had liked my work from an ezine that he guest-edited. My cool editor Al Guthrie knows Ken Bruen. Finally, I’d read and admired the books by Linda Fairstein and Barbara D’Amato.

That’s a ton of name-dropping. But I’ve generally found established writers are generous helping those like me starting out if they’ve the time to spare. Of course they’ve got their own writing projects and promotions to do. You respect that and feel very grateful for the blurbs you’re given.

Hey, name-dropping can be fun.

Your novel takes place in the aristocratic world, on a “horse estate.” Is this a world you are familiar with, or did you have to research the horsey set?

No, I understood the horsey set, at least from the outside looking in. I grew up and lived for many years in Warrenton, the county seat of Fauquier County that sits right next door to Middleburg, Virginia. This is where the affluent horse squires live on their immense estates. Foxhunting is popular.

The Gold Cup Races are held in Warrenton every May. My co-worker’s father was Paul Mellon’s chauffer (He was called Mister Mellon). My dad, a lineman for the power company, also had stories to tell whenever they worked at the estates. One autumn I was a campaign worker for a political race held up in the horse country.

It’s interesting how suburban sprawl has rolled out west from Washington, D.C. and leapfrogged Middleburg only to start up again, leading up into the mountains of West Virginia. This certainly creates a unique society.

My character, PI Frank Johnson in Dirt-Brown, grows to have a cynical regard for the aristocrats he works for there, but I take a “live and let live” mentality. How can you not love driving around and grooving on all of that still rural countryside?

Okay, first things first: How many people have sung that Glenn Campbell song to your dad: "I am a lineman for the Coun-TEEE?" Or is it just me that started humming that?

Anyway. How did you happen upon the idea for the novel?

Good question. As I said in Dirt-Brown, the horse riding accident was suggested by the tragic death of a local girl, Shelly Malone, who was allegedly trampled to death by her horse. I’d heard stories on her riding accident and found an article citation from The Washington Post. But I did no research, as I wanted Dirt-Brown to use its own original plotline. But Ms. Malone’s accident was Dirt-Brown’s launch pad in my mind.

This year you will publish a second novel called The Blue Cheer. What’s it about?
Actually the publication schedule has slipped on The Blue Cheer, so we’re looking at maybe early next year right now. Anyway, I tried to imagine what a world-weary PI might do if he’d had his fill and wanted out. So, my PI, Frank Johnson, decides to move to the West Virginia mountains and loaf.

Of course that can't be if we’re to spin a tale. So, Frank clashes with an atheist hate cult called The Blue Cheer, which has terrorist designs. For one thing, The Blue Cheer has gotten its hands on some old Stinger weapons. I wrote technical manuals on Stingers for eighteen years, so writing that part was a little easier.

How do you come up with your titles?
I’m lousy at creating my titles; they sound goofy. But The Dirt-Brown Derby occurred to me while eating at an Outback near our home. I remember chewing on a steak at the time. Dirt-Brown Derby seemed to fit the novel’s grubby themes and sardonic tenor.

The Blue Cheer’s origin was a little bit different. I recalled a headbanger rock band from the sixties called Blue Cheer. I’d never listened to their music, just recalled the kids back in school referring to the band. Later I found out Blue Cheer was an old laundry detergent and later co-opted to label a potent LSD used to expand minds in the Haight-Ashbury days. Recently, I saw a church songbook using the title. So, there’ve been a number of Blue Cheers running around out there.

Do you have a “day job”?
I try to juggle my fiction with my non-fiction projects. Recently I restarted my pro book review activities after a long hiatus. I guess all that qualifies as a “day job”. It sure feels like it on most days. Like with everybody, time management becomes important.

What do you like to read?
I’ve been reading many of the old pulp masters like Ed Lacy, Charles Williams, Bart Spicer, Hal Masur (who recently passed away in Florida), Bruno Fischer, Wade Miller (who’s still living), and Dorothy Uhnak (who also recently had a tragic death) for my articles. I believe it’s important to understand the genre’s traditions and pedigree. Current writers I enjoy reading include George Pelecanos, Gar Anthony Heywood, Bill Pronzini, and Stephen Greenleaf. Tess Gerritsen’s medical thrillers blow me away. Sean Doolittle, Duane Swierczynski, Al Guthrie, and Ken Bruen write with great power and interest. I guess that list is long enough.

If you could cast your own book with current movie stars, who would play your main characters?
Wow. My only published protagonist, PI Frank Johnson, would be a tough call for me. I’d like someone with a fresh look to play him, maybe an unheard of actor who fits the role. But I’d hate for the role to typecast the actor. Maybe if Ralph Meeker could be made in his early thirties now, he’d be a good bet. I’ve never really pictured Frank’s face in my mind. He’s always been sort of a nebulous presence like Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer.

What part of the country do you live in? Do you find you tend to set your books where you live, or elsewhere?
I live six or so miles from the Pentagon across the Potomac Rover from Washington, D.C. 9/11 was also an uneasy time for us. I’ve lived or worked in all the locales I’ve hung my novels on. The fourth PI Frank Johnson book, Troglodytes, takes place in Turkey’s Cappadocia region. The weird rock formations and colors there make it look like a science fiction landscape.

Okay, hang on--You live near the Pentagon and you used to write manuals about The Stinger. What gives? Are you a weapons expert? A weapons designer? CIA? :)
Nothing so sinister. I worked for a private aerospace company who made the Stinger rockets. I just happen to live near the Pentagon. I've never worked for the CIA. Ha, that might make for an interesting bio. but I can't make the claim.

What are your goals for the coming year?
I’d like wrap up a few more projects, including my two amateur sleuth manuscripts. Quiet Anchorage, set in a small town, is making its way through the reading rounds at a mystery publisher. The Tree Surgeon’s Heart is finishing final edits for its submission campaign. PI Frank Johnson has two more titles under contract, Pelham Fell Here and Troglodytes. A science fiction title, The Quetzal Motel, is also due out in 2008. I relish the variety of working in several different genres.

Geez, you're prolific! Maybe some of that will rub off on me.

How can readers find out more about you and your books?

Well, I had a web site until the webmaster blew away all the code on a Linux server. Now, I’m trying to build a new one to set up elsewhere. Meanwhile, an author link for Dirt-Brown exists at:


An e-book of PI Frank Johnson short stories titled Out of Town a Few Days can be found on Fictionwise.

All of my books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the usual outlets. The Blue Cheer out from Wildside Press will receive a national distribution to the chain bookstores.

Thanks for chatting, Ed!

And thanks for letting share a few words with you, Julia. I’ve enjoyed it!

Monday, October 16, 2006

An Autumn Reflection

by Christopher Brennan

Autumn: the year breathes dully towards its death,
beside its dying sacrificial fire;
the dim world's middle-age of vain desire
is strangely troubled, waiting for the breath
that speaks the winter's welcome malison
to fix it in the unremembering sleep:
the silent woods brood o'er an anxious deep,
and in the faded sorrow of the sun,
I see my dreams' dead colours, one by one,
forth-conjur'd from their smouldering palaces,
fade slowly with the sigh of the passing year.
They wander not nor wring their hands nor weep,
discrown'd belated dreams! but in the drear
and lingering world we sit among the trees
and bow our heads as they, with frozen mouth,
looking, in ashen reverie, towards the clear
sad splendour of the winter of the far south.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Writing Mysteries is Like Eating Noodles

An odd metaphor? Perhaps. And yet I see a parallel, especially to the idea of trying to master the chopsticks. Trying to get those slippery noodles between those two pieces of wood--well, that's trying to wrestle your plot into shape. And then there's the other struggle--that long string of noodles that you can't bite off without looking rude. I see that as a lovely analogy for revision. Where to cut it off? Too much? Too little? How to decide? There's a lot of pressure here; people are watching, after all.

And of course they say that when you eat stir-fry food you end up being hungry again in what seems like just a few minutes. When I struggle through a mystery I think, okay, that's IT. I'm finished. And yet it's not too much later that I find myself jotting notes for a new idea, because I'm not truly FULL. I have to keep writing.

Does my noodle comparison work? You tell me. But in all honesty I just wanted to post this picture of Graham and his first attempt at chopsticks. (And by the way, he was a natural). :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mystery Writer Martha Powers Talks About Determination, Death Angel, and Dinner with Michael Korda

Hi, Martha! Congratulations on the debut of your book, Death Angel. At your signing you posted today, you were giving out chocolate truffles and Guardian Angel pins. Did you take out a loan to do your promotion? :)
Thank the Lord for Ebay and Costco. I try to keep my marketing efforts at an affordable level.

How has the promotion been going?
It’s been going well. I did Bouchercon and a Seattle conference and now I’m doing some West coast signings. This is the lucky thirteenth book so I’m better at this than I used to be. I used to prefer all booksignings and appearances to be behind a very large potted plant. For some unknown reason I’m more comfortable this time around.

How did you come up with the idea for Death Angel? And before you answer that, how did you happen to start writing mysteries?
I was raised on mysteries. Started with Nancy Drew and went right to Agatha Christie. That’s always been my read of choice so the first things I wrote were mysteries. I actually came up with the idea for Death Angel about fifteen years ago. I don’t think I had the maturity as a person or as a writer to do the story justice. There are certain benefits to aging.

Elaine Viets called Death Angel your “darkest vision yet.” How dark is your vision going to get?
I think she called it dark because the premise is frightening. It’s the double nightmare. A child is dead and the parents are suspected. I can’t imagine anything worse. In a perfect world we would say this could never happen. Unfortunately there are cases in the headlines where this is what happens.

You are also a humor columnist, freelance editor, and public speaker. Geez, Martha, do you cater your own events, too? What sorts of things do you speak about?
Civilians are always fascinated by the process of writing. I tell a little bit about how a book is created and the way it gets published. People ask us how we get our ideas because they are curious about the process. My usual answer is that it’s magic. As authors we know the mechanics of writing a book but really so much of it’s magic that it’s hard to put in words. It sounds like I doing lots of things but in actual fact I try to fit it in when I’m not playing golf.

In Dickensian fashion, you cite your current career as “the best of times.” You also reference some low times. What was a low point in your career?
I started out by writing romances because there is no better group for learning the craft of writing than the Romance Writers of America. Their craft workshops are the best. I was a history and geography major who didn’t have a clue how to put a book together. No one can give you the talent of writing but they can teach you the mechanics. So I wrote romances until the itch to get back to mysteries got strong enough and I had the confidence to just quit and try a thriller. The low point was being two years without publishing and getting rejections from agents and never getting a chance to get a book in front of an editor.
What are you writing now?
I’m working on a new thriller. Working title is FORGET ME NOT. It’s about a 29 year old woman who discovers she was adopted and her search for her parents.

What sorts of books do you like to read? Do you have a writing icon?
Thrillers and mysteries are my preferred reading. As with most writers, if I don’t have anything to read, I’ll read the back of a cereal box. Too many icons to single out anyone in particular. Love John Sanford books and Nancy Pickard and Janet Evanovich. I belong to the Florida chapter of MWA and we have dozens of great writers who I can rub shoulders with: PJ Parrish, Elaine Viets, Diane Vogt and Jim Born to name a few.

You wrote that it took you over a year to find an agent for you work. How did you go about trying to find one? How did you end up having dinner in New York with Michael Korda?
I sent out about fifty query letters to agents and either got rejected or they’d ask to see the book. Those who saw the book wanted major revisions but their vision was not my vision. One night watching Charlie Rose I saw an interview with Michael Korda. Talk about an icon. He’s always been a personal hero of mine. I sent him a one page query letter and told him my book was perfect for Simon & Schuster. He told me to send the book. He called me and told me he wasn’t going to buy the book. In my stupidity, I thought he called everyone. We talked about the book for about twenty minutes. Then he said he was going to send me a ticket to New York and we’d get together to see where my career was going. Who knew I had a career? I met him in New York for dinner and we talked about another proposal I’d sent. He mentioned some changes and said if I could make the changes he’d buy the book. That book was SUNFLOWER, my first thriller.

Wow. Martha, you're an inspiration. Can I take you and Michael Korda to lunch? :)

You seem like a very determined person. Is that my imagination?

I was raised to believe if you wanted something you needed to go after it. As most writers will tell you it’s determination that gets you published. It’s hard having a life and being a writer. Sometimes you can’t strike a balance and something has to give. However, some people quit once they realize it won’t happen in a day, a month or a year. The trick is to stick with it.

How do you like Vero Beach, Florida? How is it different from the Midwest, where you lived most of your life?
I love Vero. I loathe winter and will be happy to see snow only on TV. It’s sad not to see the change of seasons but my husband and I play a lot of golf and can spend much more time together than we did up north. The only thing I really miss are the friends we had up north, however since we’re in Florida most of them have found their way south in the winter months.

Well, guess what? It's October 12, and it snowed today in Chicago. I'll bet you miss it NOW.

Are you touring for Death Angel?

Yes. I’m out in Seattle and San Francisco doing conferences and signings. Most of the rest of the signings will be around Florida after this so I can get back to writing.

How can readers find out more about you and your writing?
My website is: www.marthapowers.com. To get a better idea of who I am, you should read my humor columns. My thrillers are all about what frightens me and how I deal with those fears.

What aspect of your career makes you the proudest?
I feel proudest that I’ve grown with each book. Psychologically you tap into your own emotions when you write and dig to find out what you value in your life. These are reflected in your writing. I’ve matured as a writer. I try to make each book technically and emotionally better. Writers should never stop learning because who you are as a person and a technician seeps into your writing.

Thanks so much for talking with me.

Thank you, Martha!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

David Skibbins On Writing, Promoting, and Living in the Most Beautiful Place on Earth

Hi, David! I’m glad to have met you at Bouchercon, because now I can picture you while I pose my questions. So here’s the first one: your very cool website offers Tarot readings, and of course your protagonist, Warren Ritter, reads Tarot cards. Why the Tarot connection? Is it a fascination of yours?
I always loved the Tarot. Oh, sure, I did astrology and I Ching and all those Sixties groovy explorations. But the Tarot stuck. I love the imagery, and the mysteriousness of the whole thing. Also I have a long and convoluted theory about how a particular spread of the cards is reflecting the chaotic patterns of the universe as they emerge every moment, but I'll spare you the pseudo physics.

Should I make life decisions based on my Tarot reading from your site? Or could Warren Ritter be wrong?
Well, I can't guarantee anything Warren says as truth, but in his next book The Star (coming Feb. 2007) he says about eating doughnuts, "Everybody knows the rules: maple bars are for depression, coconut is for focus and bran muffins are for losers who think eating 350 calories is a path towards health." And my wife tried it out this week and found out he was right.

Some folks have written my amazing stories about the readings they got on my site. Blows me away!

You won the St. Martin’s Best First Mystery Contest. How did you happen to enter?
I was reading everything I could about mysteries and ran across this contest surfing. I entered it knowing it was a stupid waste of paper. I was sure the only way to succeed was to get an agent. So six months and 47 rejected query letters later I was ready to give up. I'd almost forgotten about the contest. On Monday of a particularly bad week I swore I was going to give up if nothing happened that week. On Tuesday I got the call that I won.

Wow. Your novel, Eight of Swords, introduces the aforementioned Warren Ritter. How did you go about creating Warren? Did he just appear in your psyche one day?
No, I set about creating him very intentionally. I was determined to get published, after my great literary novel had been rejected by everyone. So I decided on mysteries, since they were the most stable genre. I loved Berkeley, California, so it was a perfect setting. But the only mysteries set there are about cops. Cops and Berkeley just didn't mix. So I made him a street vendor, and ex-revolutionary, and a manic depressive. Now he fit right in to the Berkeley scene. Heck, with credentials like that he could be elected mayor.

Warren Ritter has a therapist, and you yourself have been a therapist and are now a “life coach.” Okay, a few related questions:

How does your therapy background inform your fictional work?
I always look deeply into a particular psychopathology in every book: Bipolar Disorders in Eight of Swords, Sociopathy in High Priestess and Borderline in The Star.

What is a life coach?
I work with healthy, motivated people who want to attain specific personal goals in their lives. Together we craft a plan for doing that, and week-by-week I help them implement that plan.

Will you coach my life? How much of a fee must I pay for you to put my life in order?
I charge $350 a month for three half hour calls.

Okay. As soon as I have 350 dollars, I will call you. :)

You say you are a two-fingered typist. Does this mean writing is a slow process, or have you adapted so that you can type quickly with those two fingers?

I'm not in a big hurry. Slow typing lets me feel the sound of the words as they come out.

You live “on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.” This sounds very beautiful to me, and naturally my first response is envy. Is it pretty great living where you live, aside from hurricane season?
It is the most beautiful spot on Earth. I feel very close to nature (wild turkeys in the back yard, raccoons in the trash shed, red tailed hawks overhead as I walk along the bluffs. Soon whale migration season starts, and we can watch them breeching and spouting just off shore.) I feel the seasons change, watch the constellations move through the year, and always know what phase the moon is in, and when high tides are due. I'd never move!

Wow. It makes me want to move, though! What sorts of things have you done to promote the book? Are you pleased with its sales?
Of course, we all want a Da Vinci Code. But my books have done middling well. Eight sold well in both hard and paper, and the sales of High Priestess were very good. I spend my whole advance, and then some on promotion. I fund all my tours and conferences so far. I look on it like I am an entrepreneur, and the books are my products. It's up to me to get them launched. The more I do, the more St. Martin's is willing to do stuff on their side.

Tell us about your new book, High Priestess.

High Priestess tells all the secrets hinted at in Eight of Swords. We see how Warren's past as a bomb throwing revolutionary back in the Sixties comes back to haunt him, and almost kill him. The fun part was creating an imaginary devil worshipping cult that was sympathetic and believable.

You will be signing High Priestess at the Four Eyed Frog in Gualala, California. This is very cool and California-sounding. Is the Four Eyed Frog a sort of new age bookstore? And how do you pronounce Gualala? (I’ll be it’s not the way I’m pronouncing it).
"Wa la la." Four Eyed Frog is this amazing local bookstore that has sold hundreds of my books and loves to promote me at every turn. If, for any cockamamie reason, you have traveled up two and a half hours north of San Francisco on twisty Route One, stop by. It's almost worth the ride.

On your website you give advice about book tours, one piece of which is “Don’t go too cheap on the motels.” Did you have some bad experiences?
No bed bugs, yet. Cops outside the door, drunken crazed neighbors, Sad, pathetic scenes of dysfunctional families. But at least no bed bugs.

That is a small mercy. You were just at Bouchercon. Did you have a favorite moment from this event? A best panel, perhaps?
Hey, one of my high spots was dinner with you and some of the Killer Year folks. It was inspiring what you all are doing to promote each other's work! I love that about this Mystery Community. Folks are so helpful, it sometimes makes me want to cry. Not at all what I expected.

Well, I'm not in Killer Year, but I am always happy to help promote someone's work, and Killer Year is a noble experiment.

Tell us a bit about Murder Thursday. How did you put this promotion together?

I wanted lots of folks to be able to interview mystery writers. But in a non-chaotic way. I had taught classes on big phone bridges before, so I knew it was possible. So I designed this so that folks could listen in, but be on mute. They also could email me live and I would weave their questions into the interview. It's a lot of fun, and I get to chat with the greats of this field. My interviews are available to listen to or download on my web site. On Nov. 9th I' am talking with Jan Burke! Is that cool or what? At: 7PM Pacific (10PM Eastern) just dial in 646-519-5800 and enter code number 3867#. We chat for an hour, and you can send me questions ahead of time at davidskibbins@aol.com

Great! Your website is very cool. Did you do it yourself?

Heidi Mack the web designer at Xuni.com is a frigging genius. She specializes in mystery writers' web sites, and she is totally amazing!

How can readers find out more about you and your cool sleuth, Warren Ritter?
Well www.davidskibbins.com is a great place to start. Check out the cool pictures and quotes from the book to get a feel of the place. Get your cards read by Warren. Then go to a local independent bookseller and buy every book of mine in site. If they don't have any, beg. (Ditto for a chain store if there are no independent booksellers around you.) And for those in Antarctica, Amazon carries all my work. But if you like it, please try not to buy it used. Too many of my fellow authors get cut from the lists even though they have a big fan base. Used books don't count for publishers. Here is my rule of thumb. Buy the first book of the series used (Eight of Swords in my case) to see if you like it. But if you do like it, support the author and buy the rest of the series new.

Great promotional skills, David! And thanks for agreeing to the interview.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A True October 9th Gangster Escape--Life Writes the Best Plots

October 9, 1942 : A Chicago bootlegger escapes from prison

I got the following story from the History Channel website. This particular Chicago gangster (who escaped from prison on this day in 1942) was downright innovative in his operation--but he's a great lesson that crime doesn't pay, especially when you're up against Al Capone.

"Chicago bootlegger Roger "The Terrible" Touhy, escapes from Illinois' Stateville Prison by climbing the guard's tower. Touhy, who had been framed for kidnapping by his bootlegging rivals with the help of corrupt Chicago officials, was serving a 199-year sentence for a kidnapping he did not commit. He was recaptured a couple of months later.

The son of a police officer, Touhy had served in the navy during World War I and later set up a trucking business in the Chicago suburbs. But when business faltered during Prohibition, Touhy realized he could earn a better living through bootlegging. Along with his partner, Matt Kolb, Touhy began brewing his own beer and shipping it to speakeasies all over the state. His beer was widely considered the finest available at the time.

When organized crime leader Al Capone heard about Touhy's operation, he wanted to get in on the action, but since Capone was not really familiar with the environment outside of the city, Touhy had an advantage. Arranging to borrow several machine guns that he could prominently display in his office, Touhy shouted orders to his fictional gang over the telephone when Capone's henchmen showed up. Capone's men reported back that Touhy was not someone to mess with.

But Capone was undeterred. He kidnapped Matt Kolb, forcing Touhy to cough up $50,000 for his release. When he ordered Kolb's murder in 1931 anyway, the feud escalated. Capone helped to orchestrate a fake kidnapping, which he pinned on Touhy. In 1933, with assistance from Daniel "Tubbo" Gilbert, a Chicago police officer known as "the World's Richest Cop," Touhy was convicted for abducting con man Jake Factor and sent to prison.

Shortly after his escape in 1942, Touhy was returned to prison. But his attorneys successfully persuaded an appeals court that the Factor kidnapping was a hoax, and Touhy was finally released in 1959. Three weeks later, as he was entering his sister's home, Touhy was hit by several shotgun blasts. Before he died, he was reported to have said, "I've been expecting it. The bastards never forget." No arrests were made."

From The History Channel Website (http://www.history.com/tdih.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1151)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Jeff Buckley

Today is my husband's birthday. He was born in 1960. In his honor, I'll reflect on some of the things that happened that year (besides the birth of little Jeffrey).



January 1 - Cameroon gains its independence.
January 22 - In France, President Charles de Gaulle fires Jacques Massun, commander-in-chief for the French troops in Algeria.
January 22-January 23 - Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh descend into the Marianas Trench in the bathyscape Trieste, reaching the depth of 10,916 meters.
January 23 - Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, in the bathyscaphe USS Trieste, break a depth record when they descend to the bottom of Challenger Deep, 35,820 feet (10,750 meters) below sea level in the Pacific Ocean.
January 24 - A major insurrection occurs in Algiers against French colonial policy.
January 25 - The National Association of Broadcasters reacts to the Payola scandal by threatening fines for any disc jockeys who accepted money for playing particular records.


February 1 - In Greensboro, N.C., four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter. Although they are refused service, they are allowed to stay at the counter. The event triggers many similar nonviolent protests throughout the South, and 6 months later the original four protesters are served lunch at the same counter.
February 10 — In Brussels, a conference about Congo independence begins.
February 11 — Twelve Indian soldiers die in clashes with Chinese troops at the border.
February 11 — The airship ZPG-3W is destroyed in a storm in Massachusetts.
February 13 — Nuclear testing: France tests its first atomic bomb in the Sahara.
February 18 — The 1960 Winter Olympics open in Squaw Valley, California.
February 29-March 1 (night) — An earthquake totally destroys Agadir, Morocco


March 3 — Elvis Presley returns home from Germany, after being away on duty for 2 years.
March 6 — Vietnam War: The United States announces that 3,500 American soldiers are going to be sent to Vietnam.
March 6
— The Canton of Geneva in Switzerland gives women the right to vote.
March 21 — Apartheid: Massacre in Sharpeville, South Africa: Afrikaner police open fire on a group of unarmed black South African demonstrators, killing 69 and wounding 180.
March 22 — Arthur Leonard Schawlow & Charles Hard Townes receive the first patent for a laser.
March 23 — Nikita Khrushchev meets Charles De Gaulle in Paris.


April 12 — Eric Peugeot, youngest son of the founder of Peugeot, is kidnapped in Paris. Kidnappers release him April 15 in exchange for $300,000 ransom.
April 13 — The USA launches navigation satellite Transat I-b.
April 13 - The Blue Streak missile is cancelled, heralding an end to the United Kingdom's imperial ambitions.
April 16 — Gunman David Pratt attacks South African Prime Minister Henrik Verwoerd in Johannesburg, wounding him seriously.
April 16 - The Times of London abandons use of the term "Imperial and Foreign News", replacing it with "Overseas News", and changes its house style from "to-day" to "today".
April 18 - On the campaign trail in West Virginia, Senator John F. Kennedy says, in reply to a question about his Roman Catholic faith, "I don't think that my religion is anyone's business."


May 6 - President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law.
May 9 — Reproductive rights: The Food and Drug Administration approves the sale of the birth control pill.
May 10 — The nuclear submarine USS Nautilus completes the first underwater circumnavigation of the Earth.
May 15 — Sputnik 4 is launched into Earth orbit.
May 16 — Nikita Khrushchev demands an apology from U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower for U-2 spy plane flights over the Soviet Union, thus ending a Big Four summit in Paris.
May 16 — Theodore Maiman operates the first laser.
May 20 — In Japan, police carry away Socialist members of the Diet; Parliament then approves a security treaty with the United States


June 4 — The Lake Bodom murders occur in Finland.
June 9 — Typhoon Mary kills 1600 in the Fukien province of China.
June 15 — Violent demonstrations occur at Tokyo University — police arrest 182; 589 are injured.
June 30 — Belgian Congo gains independence from Belgium — civil war follows.
June 30 - Public demonstrations by democratic and left forces, against Italian government support of the post-fascist Italian Social Movement, are heavily suppressed by police.


July 4 — Following the admission of Hawaii as the 50th U.S. state the previous year, the 50-star flag of the United States debuts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
July 11 - U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy is nominated for U.S. President at the DeJuly 20 — Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) elects Sirimavo Bandaranaike Prime Minister, the world's first elected female head of government.
July 21 — Francis Chichester, English navigator and yachtsman, arrives in New York aboard Gypsy Moth II — he has made a record solo Atlantic crossing in 40 days.
July 25 -- The Woolworth's counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, the subject of a sit-in which sparked sit-ins and pickets across the southern United States in February of 1960, serves its first black customer.
July 27 — The OECD is founded.
mocratic National Convention in Los Angeles, California.


August 6 — In Congo, Albert Kalonji declares the independence of the Autonomous State of South Kasai.
August 7 — Côte d'Ivoire becomes independent.
August 9 — Singapore becomes independent.
August 11 — Chad becomes independent.
August 13 - Central African Republic becomes independent.
August 15 - Congo-Brazzaville becomes independent.
August 16 — Joseph Kittinger parachutes from a balloon over New Mexico at 102,800 feet (31,333 m). He sets unbeaten (as of 2005) world records for: high-altitude jump; free-fall by falling 16 miles (25.7 km) before opening his parachute; and fastest speed by a human without motorized assistance, 982 km/h (614 mi/h).
August 16 — Cyprus gains its independence from the United Kingdom.
August 17 — Gabon gains independence from France.
August 19 — Sputnik program: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 5, with the dogs Belka and Strelka (Russian for "Squirrel" and "Little Arrow"), 40 mice, 2 rats and a variety of plants. The spacecraft returns to earth the next day and all animals are recovered safely.
August 20 — Senegal breaks from the Mali Federation, declaring independence.
August 25 — The 1960 Summer Olympics open in Rome.


September 5 — Cassius Clay wins the gold medal in boxing at the Rome Olympic Games.
September 5 — Congo president Joseph Kasavubu fires Patrice Lumumba's government and places him under house arrest.
September 8 — In Huntsville, Alabama, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally dedicates the Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA had already activated the facility on July 1).
September 14 — Colonel Joseph Mobutu takes power in Congo in a military coup.
September 14 — Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela form OPEC.
September 22 - Mali, sole remaining member of the Mali Federation following the withdrawal of Senegal a month earlier, declares full independence as the Republic of Mali.
September 26 — The 2 leading U.S. presidential candidates, Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy, participate in the first televised presidential debate.


October 8--Little Jeff Buckley was born in Chicago, Illinois.
October 12 — Cold War: Nikita Khrushchev pounds his shoe on a table at a United Nations General Assembly meeting, to protest discussion of Soviet Union policy toward Eastern Europe.
October 12 — Otoya Yamaguchi assassinates Inejiro Asanuma, chairman of the Japanese Socialist Party.
October 14 — U.S. presidential candidate John F. Kennedy first suggests the idea for the Peace Corps.
October 24 — A rocket explodes in the Baikonur Space Center during fueling, killing 91.
October 26 - Robert F. Kennedy calls Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, and secures his release from jail on a traffic violation in Atlanta, Georgia.
October 29 — In Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Clay (who later took the name Muhammad Ali) wins his first professional fight.
October 30
— Michael Woodruff performs the first successful kidney transplant in the United Kingdom, at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.


November 1 — While campaigning for President of the United States, John F. Kennedy announces his idea of the Peace Corps.
November 2
— Penguin Books is found not guilty of obscenity in the Lady Chatterley's Lover case.
November 8 — U.S. presidential election, 1960: In a close race, John F. Kennedy is elected over Richard M. Nixon, becoming the youngest man elected to that office.
November 13 — Sammy Davis, Jr. marries Swedish actress May Britt. Interracial marriage is still illegal in 31 U.S. states out of 50.
November 14 - Belgium threatens to leave the United Nations, due to criticism of its Congo policy.
November 15 — The Polaris missile is test-launched.
November 22 — The United Nations supports the government of Joseph Kasavubu and Joseph Mobutu in Congo.
November 28
— Mauritania becomes independent of France.
November 30 — Production of the DeSoto automobile brand ceases.


December 2 — The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Geoffrey Francis Fisher, talks with Pope John XXIII for about an hour in the Vatican. It is the first time in more than 500 years that a head of the Anglican Church had visited the Pope.
December 15 — Royal wedding in Belgium: King Baudouin of Belgium marries Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragon.
December 16 — U.S. Secretary of State Christian Herter announces that the United States will commit 5 atomic submarines and 80 Polaris missiles to NATO by the end of 1963.
December 16 — 1960 New York air disaster: United Airlines DC-8 collides with a TWA Super-Constellation over Staten Island, New York City. All 128 passengers and crew on both planes are killed, as are 6 persons on the ground.
December 17 — Troops loyal to Haile Selassie I in Ethiopia suppress the revolt that started on December 13, and give power back to their leader upon his return from Brazil. Haile Selassie absolves his son of any guilt.
December 19 — Fire sweeps through the USS Constellation, the U.S.'s largest aircraft carrier, while it is under construction at a Brooklyn Navy Yard pier, injuring 150 and killing 50.
December 20 — Discoverer XIX is launched into polar orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, to measure radiation.
December 27 — France sets off its third nuclear test blast at its atomic proving grounds at Reggane, Algeria.

(Site Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Bedtime Tale: The Sad Little Booksigning

I'm terrible at sales. Once when I was young and desperate for employment, I went on an interview for a sales job; my hotshot 25-year-old interviewer pushed a Bic across the desk and said, "Sell me this pen." I started laughing. That's about how well I've done ever since, so I've avoided sales-type jobs all my life: avoided the pyramid schemes, the Avon or Tupperware or Pampered Chef recruitments, even tried to avoid my own children's school fundraisers.

So now I have the one product I can put some faith in, a product I believe in--my own writing. But even now I can't seem to sell. I don't have the big giant salesman balls it takes to do it.

Today at my signing at Books A Million they kindly and strategically put my table right in front of the door. Sometimes, when a person would walk in, I'd venture, "Do you like mysteries?" in the voice of a shy first grader. And the answer was always, "Sorry, no." After a number of those I lost my will to live. I averted my eyes when people walked in, fearing rejection.

Now I know that all those writer/salesman types would tell me, "You have to grab them right when they walk in the door." But I wonder why? So I can frighten them? So they can get that sickly look people get when they fear they've been confronted by a salesperson, or perhaps a sociopath?

At one point, a little old lady with a babushka on her hair came to sit next to me, explaining that her feet were tired. I had an extra chair, apparently to accomodate the fans who might want to get right up in my face and express their love. Instead, my little babushka friend told me why it's good to read nonfiction. Then she pointed at my book, with its spooky cover, and said, "That looks like UFO's. Is it UFO's?"

"No," I said, sort of regretfully. Maybe if it had been about UFO's it would be selling better. Maybe that was an idea for my next book . . . "No UFO's. Just suspense."

She nodded. "There's too much of that UFO stuff."

Before I left in defeat, I bought a couple of books for my sons. The sympathetic clerk at the register said, "It's pretty dead today. Maybe because it's so nice outside. Plus the 1-3 shift is never very good."

I was tempted to ask why I'd been slotted in the 1-3 shift, but I am not assertive that way. Plus she may well have said that just to make me feel better. So I thanked her and took my purchases and returned to my car with my proverbial tail between my legs.

On the upside of things, I went to pick up my boys at my sister's house (she had generously offered to take them so that I could go sit at Books A Million) and I got to see my niece Pammy in her Halloween-costume-in-the-making: a Renaissance lady. My talented sister is making the dress herself, and Pamela will be quite the OCtober queen, which is doubly important, since her birthday is on October 29.

All hail Queen Pamela! And Julia the lousy salesman sadly slipped into her cave.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Seventh and Final Blog Chapter: Enough with Bouchercon, Already!

A week ago today I was wheeling, white-knuckled, toward Madison for my first Bouchercon, so it is only fitting that today be the last day of my reminiscences about that event. And I had to share some last images, like this one of the teens and their colorful parachute, wafted up and down on the wind, apparently only for the aesthetic enjoyment of Farmer's Market shoppers.

Or this guy, who sold honey and wore a beehive hat to advertise his trade, like someone out of a medieval marketplace (but he did accept modern currency).
Or these lovely ladies who shared lunch with me on Friday at the Mexican Restaurant called Frida's: Kim Reis and friends (Kim or friends, remind me of two more names, because my memory is not as good as it should be).

And of course I had to post my blackmail photo (slightly blurred),of Bill Cameron with a lovely blonde. A thousand dollars in crisp one hundred dollar bills, Bill. Or just some chocolate. Whatever.
So farewell, lovely Madison, and now I must return to the business of writing. And interviewing, of course. Watch this blog for some great author insights.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bouchercon Six: Fun People, Fun Place

This man, lit so romantically in a Madison restaurant called Ovations, is DL's own David Skibbins, with whom I had the pleasure of dining on Friday evening. David has kindly agreed to do a blog interview in the near future, so we can all be looking forward to that. And maybe I can get him to do a Tarot reading.
Here's a motley crew: Anne Frasier (the mentor of Bill Cameron), Russel Maclean of Crimescene Scotland, and the man they call Tribe. Russel shares my love for the Badger Badger Badger song.
Brian Skupin and Kate Stine were kind enough to pose for me in the book room, where they were selling, among other things, back issues of Mystery Scene to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Kate will also be a visitor on the blog in the near future.
Jess Lourey shares her signing with a small purple elephant. This was the last photo I took before heading back to Chicagoland. To Jess's left is Julie Hyzy, a fellow Chicago mystery writer. Jess, of course, comes from the frozen Northlands of Minnesota.

This picture turned out too dark, but I had to include it, since it WOULD have been a nice shot of Barbara Moore of Midnight Ink, who I was thrilled to meet at long last, and Deb Baker, my new pal, author of Murder Passes the Buck.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bouchercon Report Five: Fortuitous Encounters

Julia Pomeroy was staffing the MWA table when I found her; I was thrilled to meet this former interview subject. She was very nice and personable, and even prettier than her book jacket picture.
I also got to meet my DL friend Caroline Upcher, who is clowning here with Cornelia Read. Caroline was my very first interview on this blog (or maybe the second after Bill Cameron).
Andi Schechter told me to find her at Bouchercon (since I was nervous) and so I did. Thanks to Andi's e-mail and description of herself, I was able to pick her out and say hello.
Here's Enid from Rue Morgue books, doing a great job in the book room. Imagine how long four days was for the people selling the books. Great job, Enid and other booksellers! (This answers the question, how many times can I say the word "book?")
Here Luisa Buehler cozies up to Robert Goldsborough. Robert didn't seem to mind that I had to take three different shots.