Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Writer's Conference Red Carpet

You know that chaotic scene at the Oscars? Stars everywhere, spinning in their expensive fashions, flashing their whitened teeth at the cameras?

As I began to pack my things for Love is Murder, I contemplated what it would be like if there were a book conference red carpet, and everyone made a big deal about authors. This is what I imagined:

Me, trudging through the parking lot, my bag slung over my shoulder.

REPORTERS: (forming a mob with mikes and flashbulbs (do they still have flashbulbs?)
Julia! Julia! Who are you wearing, Julia?

ME: What? Oh--uh--I think this is from Sears. Or maybe Penneys. Something with a catalog.

REPORTERS: How about the shoes?

ME: My shoes? I'm not sure. But they have special orthotics to accomodate my heel spurs. And they're made especially for people in standing professions--you know, extra cushioning.

REPORTERS: (looking disappointed) Are you wearing anything original?

ME: Original? Well, I think it's sort of bold to put this color blouse with these pants. And I thought the lapel pin was a whimsical touch. See? It's Shakespeare at a typewriter.

REPORTER: What's in the bag, Julia?

ME: (looking vaguely at my bag) Hmm? Oh, well, a couple copies of my book, and some business cards and postcards. A banana and a power bar. An action figure that ended up in there somehow--I think it's Hobgoblin. I'll ask my son . . . My glasses in case my contacts get--

The reporters have lost interest and are wandering away. One of them yells, "Hey, look, there's Julie Hyzy! She's got a cute skirt on! Let's go!


I'll blog about this a bit more during my Deadly Daughters time on Friday.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Haydens, L.C. and R.L., Talk about Writing, Roswell, and The Wrong Side of the Miranda

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Hi, L.C and R.L! Thanks for chatting with me.

R.L., you wrote a novel called Cover-Up about the Roswell incident. Okay, I’m all ears. What really happened at Roswell?
That is probably the most asked question I’ve heard. I know that everyone wants one of the investigators to jump up and down screaming, “I’ve found it, I’ve found it.” But that isn’t going to happen. I am a firm believer that something did happen, maybe just not what the people are saying. Possibly the military created this incident to cover-up a bigger one that happened elsewhere, which is the premise of Cover-Up.

Your website says that while you were in the Philippines, you “experienced [your] first UFO event.” I am a person who wants to believe in the Loch Ness Monster. Ever since I watched Close Encounters I have scanned the night sky with great curiosity. So I’m dying to know: what was your UFO event?
In the novel, I tell the story of that event, but in essence, one night while I was special handling radio messages in the naval communications center, one of the machines started to ding-a noise alerting me that a ‘special message’ was on its way. I had to visit the communications library to find the manual that told me how to special handle that particular message. (JANAP 146B).
I was to break the hard copy machine (this was a radio teletype center), before they sent the message, then before I sent it out to the next station (in Hawaii) I was to break all the backup ticker tapes on the machine I sent it on. Afterwards, the tape of the message itself was to be ripped into four pieces and scattered in four burn bags to be destroyed at the end of our shift.

The message was about a contracted merchant ship delivering goods to Viet Nam. It had seen something fall into the ocean, and when they got closer, they thought something was under the water. They called for backup before losing all their electricity. A navy destroyer showed up a few hours later, and both of them were stranded without any power. About an hour after the destroyer showed up, a flying saucer showed up and dropped into the water. For about a half hour, there were flashing lights from below. The water bubbled, then both of the saucers rose out of the water and took off.

The merchant captain told the naval captain to report the incident, as he wasn’t going to look foolish to his company. According to procedure, the naval officer had to forward an incident report that ended up in some dusty file, probably near the Blue Book project.

That is an amazing story! Now everyone will want to buy your book! I think we mystery writers love to hear about inexplicable events.

Will you be writing another novel?
I am currently working on two projects, one involving the main characters from Cover-up. They will be in Sedona, AZ., then in several places in Canada and Alaska, and then will probably end up back in Sedona. It involves a body falling out of the sky, HAARP, and whatnot.

The other one is a retired couple that move to Homer, AK., open a coffee shop, and fall into all kinds of problems.

This will be my first dip into mystery writing, as I prefer action, thriller stories.

Do you and L.C. ever write together?
No, we haven’t. I prefer action/thriller over mystery. But we do help each other over the humps sometimes.

L. C., you’ve written many books, and the latest is called Why Casey Had to Die. That’s a catchy title. Why DID Casey have to die? Is it because he came to bat and struck out?
Cute! I like your answer—so much more original than mine. I’m taking the fifth in here. The answer to that is an integral part of the story and the answer is revealed at the very end. All I can say is, read and find out.

How did you get started in the mystery-writing biz?
Writing is something I’ve always enjoyed doing. I feel life is a mystery, so I’m fascinated with the concept of mysteries. Naturally, when it came time to write the novel, I chose the mystery genre—haven’t regretted it at all. But before I wrote mysteries, I freelanced for magazines. There’s an interesting story as to how that came about.

While in college, I had two term papers to do. One was for a professor who was known for his strict rules. I spent all my time doing the paper for him. I finished the paper four days before it was due. It was then that I remembered I had another term paper to write. I grabbed my finished paper, along with its note cards and bibliography cards. I dashed off to the library. I began by re-reading the paper. I found two typing errors (days before computers, sigh.) I made a mental note to retype those two pages.

I set everything to the side and began the research for the second paper. At 2:00 AM when the library closed, I grabbed everything and headed home. The next morning I reached for the finished term paper so I could retype those two pages. It was then I remembered I had set the paper to the side and left it there. I ran to the library, but it was gone: the paper, the outline, the thesis statement, the note cards, the bibliography cards. Everything. Just like that. Gone.

I knew if I approached the professor and told him what happened, he’d say “Tough luck. Paper is due Friday.” I had no choice but to redo it. Somehow in the next three days I redid the entire paper and finished the other paper.

When I got the papers back, on the paper I had to redo I got a C and it only had one comment: And you want to be a writer--ha! On the other term paper, I got an A+ with the comment that this was publishable if I took off the footnotes and revised it. I went to the professor and he showed me the ins and outs of magazine writing. That was my first published work--and I got to be a writer--ha!

Success is the best revenge, eh? Did you read mysteries as a child?
Unfortunately, I was a late bloomer. I read animal books as a child, then somehow in my early 20’s I was introduced to mysteries and I’ve been hooked ever since. That makes it ten years now that I’ve been reading mysteries since I’m only in my 30’s. . . Hmmm. . .

Me, too. What sorts of things do the Haydens do for fun?
Need you ask????

Oh, my. I walked right into that one.
Okay, seriously, we geocache (in fact, Why Casey Had to Die deals with geocaching), scuba dive, travel, read, go to movies, take walks, go camping, and write. Rich is a ham (amateur radio operator and a computer geek) and I like working with my hands: creating crafts, painting, that sort of thing.

In perusing your website, I see that you two take many trips, including several to Alaska. Is Alaska a special place for you?
All you’ve got to do is mention Alaska and Rich begins to drool. I don’t know what it is about that state that completely captivates him. As for me, I do love Alaska, but I also love Hawaii, Texas, New Mexico, Florida. . .

Do you like traveling together?
Love it, love it, love it. Rich gets to drive and I get to write. Oh, yeah.

L.C., you host a talk show for MWA called Murder Must Air. Is this fun? How do you prepare for an individual show?
I love doing Murder Must Air. It really is a blast and I’ve “met” some really cool people. When Cindy Daniel, Task Force MWA officer, called me and asked me if I was interested in being their talk show host, I never realized how much work it involved. But every bit is worth it. I’m really having a blast.

To prepare for each show, I need to contact the speakers. Once they agree to be my guests, I do background research so when we do talk it sounds like I know everything about whatever topic we’re covering. Then I prepare a set of questions, which I send to them. We discuss them. I send them the Speaker’s Agreement Form so they can be paid. All during this time, I’m answering emails that come to I promote the show wherever I can, inviting people to call in. I’ve found that while people do call, they don’t ask questions. Most of them, in fact, email and ask me to ask my guest this or that. After the promoting is done, I contact the guests one more time to make sure they have the right contact information and finalize any plans. Now it’s show time!

Afterwards, there are thank you cards to be sent, there's listening to the show to make sure all is okay before contacting the audio folks. They send the recording to Beth at MWA so she can be put it on the national website for everyone to hear at his convenience. Oh yes, there’s also the writing of the articles to inform everyone who next month’s guests will be.

Once that is done, I start the procedure all over again.

L.C., you taught high school for 26 years and then retired. I teach high school; should I retire? Do you recommend it? Don’t make me too jealous.
Go for it! Retirement is sooooo wonderful. I’m so busy now I wonder how I managed to find time to teach. I don’t think I ever really retired, I just changed jobs.

Teaching has its great rewards and I loved doing it when I was doing it, but now I’m free to do what I want when I want.

School’s out! School’s out!

I said NOT to make me jealous. :) On your website you say that I should ask you about your FBI story, which coincides with the publication of your first book, Who’s Susan? So what IS this story?
One day the principal called me over the intercom and told me he wanted to see me during my prep period. That was 6th period, I remember so well. I was a good little teacher, so I didn’t worry.

When I walked into his office, instead of the principal being there, there was a man dressed in a suit, tie, vest. He reached behind him and locked the door. Okay, what do I do now? He reached for his back pocket and showed me his badge. “I’m Detective So-and-So from the police department.”

My first thought was oh no, one of my students must have really done something bad.
He asked me to sit down. I did and once again he reached into his back pocket, took out a card, and said, “You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to have an attorney present. . .” and he continued to read me my rights.

What’s going on? I thought. I don’t even speed! He shoved a piece of paper between us. “This is what it’s all about,” he said. I looked at the paper and nodded. My first book, Who’s Susan? had just been published and I had been talking to my editor. He said, “Now, L. C., if you want people to buy your book, you’ll have to come up with a brilliant campaign. If they go to the bookstore and say they want to buy. . .and they forget the name of the book, you’ve lost that sale.”

So I thought and thought and came up with a brilliant campaign. I would send out three different mailings to a select group. The first would have no return address and the paper inside the envelope would simply say, Do you know who Susan is?

I knew that as soon as people received this first promotional piece, they would be wondering what’s all this about? Who is Susan? They’d start talking and word would spread.
Two weeks later the same people would get the second mailing. Again, there would be no return address and this time the paper would read: Did you find out who Susan is? Check your mailbox for a future answer.

Again, tongues would wag. Word would spread.

Two weeks later, the same people would receive the final advertising and this time the envelope would have a return address and the paper inside would explain that Who’s Susan? was my first novel and I was inviting them to the Barnes and Noble signing I was going to have. That was how it was supposed to work out.

This is how it actually turned out: after people received the first mailings, they called the police because someone was sending them an antiabortion campaign through the mail. How they got that out of the flyer, I have no idea. Naturally, the police ignored it because they have more important things to pursue. But the callers insisted that the police do something about it.

My problem is that I’m basically a lazy person. The post office was two blocks away from the high school where I taught. But did I choose to go to the post office? Nope. I mailed the letters from the school’s mailbox. That made it a federal offense. They had to call the FBI.

Now the FBI knew it couldn’t be an antiabortion campaign. They knew it was much more. It was a new drug, called Susan. So they brought in an undercover agent to ask the students about the new drug. The students simply shrugged and asked, “What new drug?”

When that didn’t work out, they knew they had made a mistake. It wasn’t a drug at all, but a gun movement, code name Susan. Again, they brought in another undercover agent to come investigate. Again, the students shrugged and asked “What gun movement?”

“So who’s Susan?” the frustrated agent asked.

“That’s Mrs. Hayden’s new mystery novel,” one of my students answered.

In the meantime, I was in the principal’s office, having my Miranda Rights read.
Sometime, it doesn’t pay to advertise!

Oh my gosh! You'd think they'd try to get that info BEFORE they read you your rights! By the way, if I send you some money, can you send me some Susan? See, my drug lingo is so unbelievable. I should have said "hook me up" or something. I have to work on my dialogue.

What made both of you decide to use your initials instead of your first names? Is that just how it’s done in El Paso?
L. C.’s story:
Prior to writing mysteries, I freelanced for several magazines. One of them was the treasure magazines. I researched and wrote the article. Rich took the pictures. I sent it in. It came back. “Thanks, but we’ve just bought a similar piece.” I tried again. It came back. “Thanks, but we’ve just assigned this to someone else.”

I tried again. It came back. The articles always came back. Filled with frustration, I asked aloud, not really expecting an answer. “This is exactly what they want. Why are they not publishing me?”

Rich picked up the magazine and pointed to the title page. “Look at the articles. They’re by John, by Steve, by Mike, no Marys, no Susies, no Elsies" (my real name is Elsie).

This was on the days before computers (told you I was only in my 30’s!) so I took out the first rejected manuscript and retyped the first page. The only change I made was the byline. I changed it from Elsie Hayden to L. C. Hayden.

The article was immediately accepted. So was a second, and a third. . . I got used to using the initials and when it came time to write my mysteries, it felt natural to continue to use L. C. instead of Elsie.

Rich’s story:
Well, I don’t have a great story like L.C.’s. I’m just a lazy person, and thought that using initials was a lot shorter than using my name, and it “sorta” started a tradition.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Since Rich already answered this, I’ll answer this all by my lonesome self. I am busy working on the next Harry Bronson adventure. This time he is in Custer State Park, Georgetown, CO, and the Twin Cities in MN.

I’ve also started a new series and am shopping around for an agent and publisher. This one is about a loveable reporter in S. Lake Tahoe who gets into all sorts of adventures.

I’m also working on a sequel to my angels book, Angels Around Us. If you have an angel story you would like to share, I’m all ears.

Finally, I’ve written my first two children’s books. They’re both picture books. I haven’t submitted them to anyone yet and don’t plan to do so for a while. I’d like to promote this book in my grandson’s school and classroom. Next month, March 07, he will turn two, so I have a little bit of time to wait.

I do have one horror novel out, The Drums of Gerald Hurd, but I don’t think I’ll be writing any more horror novels.

How can readers find out more about L.C. Hayden’s mysteries and R.L Hayden’s Roswell novel?
Please check out our websites: has three sections. One is
L. C.’s part. The middle part belongs to us (our trips, our whatevers) and the last part is R. L.’s. In addition, I, L. C., have an “official” website:

Thanks for talking with me.

Thanks to you. This was a blast for both of us!
L. C. and R. L.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Too Beautiful This Year

God's World

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart, -- Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me, -- let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Frozen Sea Within Us

When I'm crunching across the ice in January, I sometimes think of this quote by Franz Kafka, which is such a passionate understanding of the role of literature:

“ . . . the books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation—a book should serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us.”
--Franz Kafka

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Edith Wharton

Though Edith Wharton didn't write mysteries, she is among my favorite writers, mostly I suppose because of her understanding of life's ironies, and her adept manipulation of them in her plots. She had the power to drive readers to anger at the injustice endured by her unfortunate heroes; she could also elicit a wry smile with a masterful ironic ending.

She broke my heart with Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth. She amazed me with the delicacy of her prose in The Age of Innocence.

In her honor, I quote some words she once wrote which could be anyone's daily mantra; they are quietly inspirational:

"In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways."

or this interesting metaphor:

"Life is always a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope. "

-- Edith Wharton

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Agatha's Early Inspirations

I recently stumbled across a book I got for Christmas long ago called In the Footsteps of Agatha Christie, by Francois Riviere and with photos by Jean-Bernard Naudin. The book is simply breathtaking with its images of Agatha's Torquay and of the many settings she made into the settings of her books. My particular favorites were the little English village of Miss Marple and, of course, the old seaside resorts.

The book recounts tales from Agatha's life, one of which was her determination to write The Mysterious Affair at Styles and how she ended up staying in moody Dartmoor for inspiration (this Dartmoor photo from

Here's a little excerpt which I find particularly interesting and ironic:

"Mrs. Miller suggested that she leave the hospital for a while and stay in a hotel which they both knew well, on the edge of Dartmoor.

Dartmoor is a bleak tableland in the very heart of Devon, scattered with weirdly shaped rocks and haunting to susceptible spirits. It is a remote, empty, windswept place at whose centre only two roads of any note cross. Seemingly uninhabited, except by ponies and sheep, the impressive scenery had always fascinated Agatha. As a child she had followed her parents looking for prehistoric traces known as 'hut circles', which seem to fade away as one draws near. She also remembered picnics on the moor in the pouring rain, and, like many of her contemporaries, had been marked by The Hound of the Baskervilles, that long investigation conducted by Sherlock Holmes in an other-worldly atmosphere and the setting of Dartmoor. It was to this land of dreams and mysteries that Agatha came to regain her forces and set her imagination to work again. . . .

The manuscript of The Mysterious Affair at Styles was completed in 1916 and sent to four publishers in succession. The first three replied with a polite refusal. The fourth, John Lane of The Bodley Head, did not deign to answer."

Even Agatha, the woman who would become the GREAT Agatha, couldn't get past those rejection letters. And that should give hope to us all. :)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Happy Monday

For some people "happy" and "Monday" are mutually exclusive, and there are days that they are for me, too. But today is exciting for a few reasons. First, I begin all new classes. Sort of a clean slate psychology there. Second, I've had some nice exchanges in the book business lately that I'd like to mention.

I got a lovely e-mail from Robert Fate last night. I loved Baby Shark and in fact have a lot of theories about where the series might be going. Bob told me, via e-mail, that he read and enjoyed my book and wanted to tell me how beautiful my writing was. LOVE him.

I finished Hope McIntyre's book, How to Marry a Ghost, and thought it was terrific. Really hard to put down, especially for the last 100 pages. LOVE her, too.

Bob Morris was kind enough to send me an ARC of Bermuda Schwartz, and I am getting ready to begin. He signed it "For Julia, who gives great interview," and I'm inordinately pleased about that. Sort of like I'm in high school and the captain of the football team spoke to me in the hall. Never mind that I'm 42 and spend most of my time driving my children around town and telling them at various volumes that the house is messy.

Right now I'm just enjoying an unexpected perk of having written a book--the people that I've met, the talents to which I've been exposed, with the added knowledge that they're not just names on covers; they're real people, inevitably warm and kind.

Like the ladies with whom I've joined a blog called Poe's Deadly Daughters. Check them out at Here are some more women that I've gotten to know--especially Sandra Parshall and Lonnie Cruse--and their books, too, were great fun to read and highly suspenseful. I'll never run out of books to read, not with so many people to recommend them.

So that's something to smile about this Monday morning.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pauline Baird Jones Talks About Time Travel, Sexy Octogenarians and Protecting the Muse

Hi, Pauline! Thanks for chatting.

Your website is called Perils of Pauline. Did you watch that cartoon when you were little?
Actually, I got the idea from a very old movie, called The Perils of Pauline. Pat Boone played the hero. I remember his teeth would sparkle when he smiled. It had a villain and lots of peril. When all the stuff about author branding began to hit cyberspace, I was a bit stumped, because my books cross genres and then I realized I’d been using my brand all along. All my books have peril.

Your latest novel, Out of Time, has its protagonist, Mel Morton, traveling in time. Is this a concept that’s always interested you?
Yes, I’ve always been drawn to time travel shows, even the really lame ones. I love the “fish out of water” aspects of traveling through time. And I like the idea of being able to “redo” a bad decision or change the future. That led me naturally to: what if you did change something and you really messed things up?

If you could go back in time, like Mel, where (or when) would you go?
I’d probably go back to WWII, too. I know I wouldn’t want to go to any time period without bathrooms! Or electricity. Or chocolate. And I’d want to take comfortable shoes with me.

Mel meets Jack Hamilton, a “sexy octogenarian, genius/scientist and former WWII bomber pilot.” None of the octogenarians I know are sexy. What makes Jack such an attractive guy?
Think Sean Connery. That guy is STILL sexy and he’s getting on in years.

In my story, I think partly what makes him interesting to Mel is who he is. She doesn’t just see an older man, she sees the pilot she’s heard stories about all her life. And he’s held up real well.

Are you particularly interested in World War II? What sort of research did you do for the novel?
I think I’ve always been fascinated with the period. It was a time of great danger and people rising to combat it with courage and dignity. My dad is WWII vet, as is my father-in-law.

I had to do a LOT of research, which was fun, but also challenging. I was able to ask questions of the men who actually flew B-17’s, which was way cool. But I also found that their memories didn’t always track with each other. I came to realize that they all had their own experiences and I tried to steer a path through that in a way that would feel real to anyone reading the book. I had some color footage from the period and even that contradicted a lot of what I was reading.

And then when my characters got shot down in France. Oh my. Let’s just say they spend a LOT of time in the dark.

You’ve written seven books. Do you learn a bit with each new one?
I think that’s the fun of writing, you learn different things from each book. Sometimes it is the research, but I also learned something about the process of writing and story telling. I try to stretch myself with each book, do something I’ve never done before. When I wrote Out of Time, the challenge was writing in a historical period. That’s probably why I’m writing a book set in space at the moment.
<strong>On your website you give advice to would-be writers: set realistic goals. Is this a lesson you’ve learned, as well?
Yeah, and learned the hard way. It is sometimes very hard to stay motivated in this business. So much rejection and success doesn’t always feel successful. You have to find ways to feel successful that aren’t always obvious to someone who doesn’t write. I’ve also learned to avoid negative influences like the plague. I protect my muse like a tiger.

I need to hang around with you, Pauline!
What sorts of goals have you set for the coming year?
Probably my biggest writing goal for this year is to finish this huge, unwieldy sort of sci-fi novel I’m working on. I don’t know where it came from, but the story has me by the throat and won’t let me go until I finish it. Once a book is turned in, then my goals focus more on promotion. I really have to pump myself up to promote. I’m naturally shy. (My husband says I’m a hermit.) Emerging from seclusion to promote is very hard for me—though once out, I find I love talking books with people. Readers are amazing, and for the most part, kind. ;)

The beginning of Out of Time has Mel Morton hurtling out of a plane (wearing a parachute). Have you done this? Do you go that far to research your books?
LOL! I don’t hurtle anywhere anymore. I did go crawl through a B-17 and endured having my picture taken. And I once hiked part way up Long’s Peak in Colorado for a book. Had to stop when we hit snow and I had sandals on. Oh, and I let my brother talk me into rappelling down into a cave. I wanted him to tell me what it felt like. He showed me. Once.

Mel hosts a show called Make Me Cry Uncle, and she’s never given in. Did you want her to be seen as a role model for women?
I like writing strong, female characters who do things I’m too much of a wimp to do. But I’d also had her character in my head for a long time. Just hadn’t found the right book for her until Out of Time. I got the idea of an adventure reporter watching George Plimpton (many years ago!).

What’s your writing day like? Do you have any particular rules for yourself?
Let’s see, my writing rules are: only three cans of Diet Dr. Pepper and then you HAVE to drink some water.

My vice is Diet Coke. Same problem. It has some water in it, doesn't it? Back to your rules:
Eat chocolate. No Solitaire until you’ve got at least three pages down. And the first two rules are the most important.

With some books, sitting down to write is easy and others I have to circle for awhile before I can settle down and write. My latest book doesn’t want me to sleep, so I’m putting in long days. I hope my next book has better manners.

Your books are full of romance and adventure. Are these also the kind of books you like to read? Do you have some favorite books you can name?
Yes, I love reading books that mix it up. I discovered Mary Stewart when I was about twelve and was totally hooked.

I LOVE Mary Stewart! I put her in the acknowledgements of my book!
I also love Helen McInnes, Alastair Maclean, Elizabeth Cadell, and Georgette Heyer. I’m also a fan of Harry Potter and Jasper Fforde’s Tuesday Next books. A new favorite is Diana L. Driver’s Ninth Lord of the Night. The climax blew me away. I read across genres, so my books tend to cross the lines, too. I know I’m forgetting some others!

What’s the best experience you had as a writer this year?
I was notified that Out of Time was a nominee for an EPPIE by EPIC ( :)

Congratulations! Does that success feel like success?
Finaling does feel great and it would be great to win. But its always about the next book, isn't it? I keep thinking I'll know when I'm "there," (sort of like I'll know when I'm a grownup), :) but so far I don't feel there. I'm still loving the journey!

How can readers find out more about the Perils of Pauline, and the books of Pauline Baird Jones?
You can visit Browsing the site will tell you more than you wanted to know about me…and it has links to my blogs. :)

Thanks for chatting, Pauline!
Thanks for having me!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mr. Poe

Today is the birthday of the mysterious Edgar Allan Poe, who dominated the Romantic period with his tales of horror and his surprisingly lovely poetry. It wasn't Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, but Poe's Auguste Dupin who became the archetype for the classical fictional detective, so naturally Poe deserves much honor in mystery circles.

However, it's not "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" that I'd like to pay homage to today, but one of my favorite poems by Poe.

To Helen (1831)

Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
The weary, wayworn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand!
Ah, Psyche, from the regions which
Are Holy Land!

--Edgar Allan Poe


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

These are my friends Bev Irwin and Liz Lytle; I met them at Bouchercon, and we've chatted on and off via e-mail since then. Bev and Liz are both writers, and both on the verge of their first contracts, so naturally this is an exciting and yet a nervous time for them.

Still, they've both taken the time to support ME and my endeavors with my first book. Liz recently read it and sent me a wonderful e-mail, which I shall partially quote here to show you the sort of fuel that keeps writers going:

"Wow, Girl! Where to start? I jumped right into The Dark Backward last night, and read from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m., far later than I had planned to be awake, and that slim book was the first thing I reached for when my eyes popped open at 6:50 a.m. when my mind conjured the name LILY – and I couldn’t wait to continue. I finally put the book under my pillow to avoid temptation and assure I did something but READ with my new day!

I am in awe of your mastery of the language, which you wield in such a concise and riveting fashion! As a fellow teacher of English and Brit Lit, may I say your adroit, deft and powerful conjuring of The Bard’s own phrases floats on the surface of the reader’s mind like a whiff of cardamom detected by a gourmand – mmmmmm—enticing!"

The amazing part is that I didn't even pay Liz for that endorsement.

But boy, was it helpful to me! Because what I learned after the publication of my book is that one's fears and uncertainties don't go away, and neither does the neediness for praise.

So Liz, thanks for making my day, and blog readers, reach out and tell a writer you like their work today. You may think they don't need to hear it, but you'd be wrong. :)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sheila Lowe on What Handwriting Reveals, and How it Relates to Mystery

Hi, Sheila! Thanks for talking with me.
Thanks for the opportunity!

You are an expert in handwriting analysis. Let’s say that I am an evil, psychopathic killer. Is there any way that this could be revealed in my HANDWRITING? Let’s say if I wrote a letter to the police? Or can handwriting be used mostly as a tool after the fact of a crime?
What a great question, and the answer is…maybe. Handwriting is truly a picture of temperament and personality—it’s behavior that’s already happened—sort of like looking into a time machine. It can’t predict future behavior like a crystal ball, but by describing the writer’s core personality, we can talk about the potential for future behavior, both good and bad. I had the unfortunate opportunity to do exactly that in my own life when my daughter met a man and fell in love. When he sent me his writing at her request, I was concerned about the potential for explosive behavior and discussed it with both of them. Having reached the ripe old age of 27 without ever listening to Mom, Jen figured she could deal with it. To cut a tragic story short, within a year she became the victim in a murder/suicide (in 2000). I couldn’t have predicted this outcome from his handwriting, but the potential was there.

Oh my God, that's terrible. I'm so sorry.
I've come to a place of acceptance; I don't even hate Tom, I just hate what he did.

That is an amazingly healthy response. I admire you.

Your expertise is sought for many reasons, and your website says that “for employers interested in human resource management, integrity screening, sales force building, and drawing crowds to their booths at trade shows and conventions. Private investigators retain SLA in cases of anonymous notes, harassment, and screening of surrogate parents/adoptive parents, as well as in employment or other types of background checks.”

First, what is integrity screening? Can you tell whether or not I have integrity by looking at my handwriting?
Integrity screening is a simple term to describe a very complex aspect of my work. Most employers want to know whether they can trust the person they’re hiring and handwriting does contain indicators for potential (there’s that word again) dishonesty. But there’s no “this-means-that” relationship, such as “if you cross your t’s this way it means…” Integrity and honesty/dishonesty require a thorough examination of the whole handwriting sample by a well-trained professional (“don’t try this at home!”). After forty years in the field, I hope I qualify :).

If I got a harassing note from a fan (we’ll pretend I have fans), what sorts of things would you be able to tell me by reading that note?
I’m sure you have lots of fans, Julia; I’m already one. Seriously, one of my private investigator clients provides security services for celebrities. Sometimes fans write letters to their clients and the PI wants to know whether I think the writer is dangerous. So, the sorts of things I would report on are whether the writer understands and respects social boundaries, whether s/he’s in touch with reality; whether I believe s/he may be dangerous. Stuff like that.

How did you get involved in this business?
I was in high school. My boyfriend’s mother analyzed my handwriting and I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how well she described me—how the hell (well, back then it was “heck”) did she know I was emotionally “stormy,” or that I liked to write poetry, or any of the other things she’d written about me? I immediately went to the library and checked out all the graphology books I could find and started collecting handwriting samples. It wasn’t until ten years later that I took some courses and eventually became certified as a graphologist. In 1985 I became qualified to testify as an expert witness.

Now you have started a mystery series based on your experiences. Your protagonist is Claudia Rose. Is there any significance to the name?
Claudia seemed ever so slightly elegant and it’s a name I’ve always liked. Rose is one of my middle names (Rose Mary). I wish I had a more interesting answer.

Claudia is my sister's name; I'll tell her you find it elegant. :)

Your titles, Poison Pen and Written in Blood, cleverly hint at your content. How much is Claudia like you in the process of solving a crime?
When it comes to analyzing handwriting, Claudia and I use the same process. Where we part company is, she’s much braver (or is that foolhardy?) than I am. She goes where I wouldn’t dare. We both consult in criminal cases, but I sometimes turn down assignments. For instance, not long ago, I was asked by an investigator to work a case involving a Satanic cult whose members had framed a man for murder and kidnapped his wife. After learning they had severely beaten one of the witnesses, I asked the investigator how he planned to protect me. When he hesitated, then admitted he really couldn’t, I begged off. Knowing Claudia, she would have charged ahead and infiltrated the cult, then analyzed all the members’ handwritings. Hmmm…do I feel another book coming on?

If I were a criminal and I wanted to DISGUISE my handwriting, would it be possible? Or would my deceit itself be evident in my handwriting?
We write the way we do because of who we have grown up to be, and handwriting changes naturally as we experience life. Trying to change our handwriting to look like someone else’s (or simply not like our own), though, is akin to changing the way we walk or talk, which is harder than you might think. For one thing, you’d have to consciously remember to keep up the changes, which would slow down the handwriting considerably. Slow handwriting (when it’s not due to lack of education or poor health) is one of the key signs of dishonesty. Most people, when attempting to disguise their handwriting, change the size, the slant, and the capital letters. A professional who looks at literally thousands of variables is unlikely to be fooled for long.

How much psychology is involved in handwriting analysis?
As the exploration of human behavior as manifest in graphic communication, handwriting analysis is entirely psychology. Anyone who studies handwriting analysis also needs a good foundation in developmental and abnormal psychology to be really competent. Otherwise, all you’d get is a laundry list of traits without a context for the behavior, and what good is that?

Good point. Did you study the handwriting of famous people while you were learning the craft?
Yes, I’ve always found it interesting to look at the handwritings of people we see in the media and discover whether they’re showing their true self or not. My second book, Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, has handwriting samples from Galileo to Princess Diana and beyond. My latest non-fiction book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, Second Edition (excuse the BSP, please), which was just released, has dozens of celebrity samples as illustrations.

What sorts of things would you expect to find in, say, Hitler’s handwriting?
As it happens, Hitler’s handwriting is in my non-fiction books, and it shows exactly the sorts of personality traits you’d expect—brutality, intense anger, need to be in control, yet lack of emotional control; depression. Hitler’s signature deteriorated over time until it was barely more than a slash. Interestingly, the same thing happened to the signatures of Napoleon and Richard Nixon.

Wow. That is really fascinating.

Do people ever feel reluctant to write something in front of you?
People sometimes say they don’t want to write in front of me, but I think that often they really want to, and would like to know what their handwriting reveals. They shouldn’t worry—unless it’s a really unusual sample, I usually only analyze when it’s work.

What’s the most interesting thing that you ever encountered in handwriting analysis?
This is the hardest question of all. After analyzing more than ten thousand samples, how in the world can I answer? Hmmm…I can’t pick on any particular handwriting, but I’ll share something important I’ve learned overall. Handwriting reveals a lot of significant information, but it can’t tell everything about the writer; people are just too complex. But handwriting doesn’t lie. There’ve been times when I’ve met someone and gotten a certain impression, then I’ve seen their handwriting and thought, “No way! She can’t be like that.” Then, later, as I got to know the person, I discovered, Oh yes, she is. So, I’ve learned to trust what I see in the writing.

How many Claudia Rose books do you have planned?
Book two, Written in Blood, is finished and I’m currently outlining Dead Write. If those sell well, I’ve got a bunch of ideas for future books. It all depends on the readers.

What sorts of books do you like to read?
I confess—I’m not at all well read. 99% of the time the book on my nightstand is a mystery. Recently, though, I’ve branch out and enjoyed Memoirs of A Geisha, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Lovely Bones. A friend gave me Dean Koontz’ Odd Thomas, which really resonated with me because of what I’ve learned about the spirit world after my daughter’s death. I actually wrote Mr. Koontz a fan letter and guess what—he wrote back! He gets 20,000 letters a year and he sent me a handwritten letter. Imagine what that meant to me, on several levels. From a graphologist’s standpoint, he has beautiful handwriting (I’ve shared a bit of it in the Idiot’s Guide, 2nd Edition).

How can people find out about you and your books?
Your readers would be very welcome visitors at my web sites. has information about handwriting analysis, and is dedicated to my fiction books. And anyone is welcome to email me at

Thanks, Sheila!
Thank you, Julia—you made me think, and believe me, at this time of night, that’s a challenge. :)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Cornelia Read on Being Hip, Reading Nabokov, and Eating Sassy Sauce in Syracuse

Hi, Cornelia! Happy New Year. (I know, that’s not a question).
Happy New Year back to you! (I know, that’s not an answer, but still...)

I think you’ve probably been asked all of the mainstream questions already, so I’ll stay on the periphery with mine. First, Lee Child called you “wry, knowing, hip” in his assessment of your debut, Field of Darkness. Have you always been hip?
I think I was hip once for about eight minutes in 1967. Unfortunately, I was both four years old and asleep the entire time.

I'm guessing you're too modest to attest to your own hip-ness. Some DLers were comparing your jacket photo to the stylish Grace Kelly. Are you a fan of her flicks? Aren’t there some interesting parallels between you and Grace? Aside from your blonde beauty?
I am sitting here at the computer hugely blushing at your very kind words, O Most Gorgeous Julia, (Note to self: buy stock in Photoshop. Photoshop is my friend.)

I think I told you at Bouchercon that I feel like I always look like either Queen Victoria or The Joker in photographs—depending on whether or not I smile.

And poor Princess Grace must be spinning in her afterlife at tremendous velocity! She is of course impeccably coiffed and Chanel-clad, despite the RPMs. I am wearing an Ernie Ball Guitars T-shirt (“Balls are Best!” and second-hand jeans that are better left undescribed, for the sake of the children. Also, my intrepid spouse has just informed me that I have a big fat wad of dryer lint in my hair (hair which cannot be described as blonde without heavy reliance on “air quotes.”)

That would pretty much shoot down the parallels?

She made wonderful movies. I am especially fond of Rear Window.

I don't see The Joker thing, but there is a certain proudness to your profile that I can see as regal. Not a bad thing.
As you know, I read and loved Field of Darkness, and I saw on your Naked Authors blog that your next book is called The Crazy School. What’s the premise for Madeline Dare’s next adventure? When does the book come out?
I think I just finished the final edits on The Crazy School this afternoon, at long last. It’s due out about a year from now—winter, 2008.

Madeline’s teaching at a “therapeutic” boarding school for emotionally disturbed kids outside Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1989. The students are great, but the school’s administrators are so vile that Madeline’s husband Dean tells her, “if you stay in that place one more week, they’re going to shave your head and make you sell flowers in an airport.”

I taught at a very similar place in 1989—The DeSisto School, outside Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

I am still haunted by what was done there in the name of therapy, and have never felt more strongly that I was in the presence of pure evil.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts finally pulled the school’s license two years ago. I guess they could no longer ignore what was going on there, following reports that school staff had waited ninety minutes to call 911 after a student swallowed razor blades.

The Crazy School is fiction, but there’s a lot of truth in it, all the same. I still wish I could have loaded all the kids into my station wagon and taken them someplace safe.

That's terrible!
So, staying Mary Poppins in tone, I shall veer immediately to: Did you have a nice holiday?
It was awesome. We went to Syracuse for a week, which was oddly warmer than Berkeley for pretty much the entire time. My inlaws are way cool, and we got to eat wings from Sal’s Birdland, “home of the sassy sauce.”

Do you have any special writing resolutions
for 2007?
I would really like to find some emotional middle ground with writing this year. It makes me either writhe in abject terror or get insufferably pleased with myself. Probably 94% writhing, 5% undecided, and 1% insufferable. Stephen Blackmoore once summarized this brilliantly on Naked Authors as “the ‘I'm God,’ ‘I'm wormshit’ cycle.”

I would like to just get over myself and give full concentration to doing the best work I can, without all the Wagnerian boom-chaka-laka “dude, you SUCK” stuff playing on my inner radio.

Probably a hopeless cause.

I've never gotten to the "I'm God" feeling, but I'll take your word for it. :)
What’s your writing environment? Do you keep to a strict schedule?
My writing environment is a cupboard-desk thing we got for free off Craigslist, several years ago. It’s on a side wall in our living room, jammed with papers and books. I try to keep a strict schedule (working while my kids are in school), but I’m a terrible procrastinator.

You’re not the first person I’ve interviewed who lives in California but writes about New York. Is this bicoastal contrast a spur to creativity?
It is for me, but it’s always a little jarring to resurface at the end of the day—especially since I’m also writing about a different decade. If I get a phone call in the middle of working, I usually apologize for being so out of it, mumbling about how I’ve just come back from “Pittsfield in 1989.”

We both have main characters named Madeline. Was there a special inspiration behind your character’s name?
Originally, I was going to call her Caroline Dare, which is an anagram of my name. But several chapters into the first draft of A Field of Darkness, her buddy Ellis shows up, and I just heard this soundbite of her bursting through the door and saying “Madwoman…” as a nickname for Madeline, so I changed it. Ellis did unexpected things a lot, as I was typing. Very determined character. She changed the course of the entire plot, at one point. Thankfully, I think she improved it.

It looks like you’ll be writing about Madeline Dare well into the future. Do you have any other writing irons in the fire?
Megan Abbott invited me to contribute a story to an anthology of “Female Noir” she’s editing, in which women who might have been minor characters in classic pulp fiction take center stage. It’s due out this summer from Busted Flush Press, and I’m really honored to be part of it.

I’m happy to say I met you at Bouchercon. You seem to be good about attending a multitude of conferences. Does it ever get exhausting for you?
I loved meeting you at Bouchercon, and I love conferences— it’s so much fun hanging out with grownups, plus I get to sleep late and somebody else does the dishes! They are a bit exhausting, though, aren’t they? Just being around so many people who are passionate about reading and writing… I want to talk to everyone so much, and then I’m always afraid I’ll miss something if I go to sleep.

Would you have expected, five years ago, that you would be doing the things you are doing today?
Never in a million, billion, jillion years. Except for the procrastination and the dishes. Everything else just astonishes me, and I am very grateful.

What books are you reading right now?
I’m reading a two-volume biography of Vladimir Nabokov by Brian Boyd, which is the first non-fiction—not to mention non-mystery—that I’ve picked up in a long time. It’s languished on my bookshelf for years, and I started it on a whim right before the holidays. I’m at the point where Lolita has been published in France, but not here.

Is there a writer you haven’t met at a conference that you’d really like to meet?
Barbara Seranella. I’ve seen her, but I haven’t ever gotten up the courage to introduce myself. I think I’d just blurt, “Dude, you are so awesome…” and then I would start blushing and faint.
In the historical notes on your website, you mention that the Erie Canal was known among its detractors in the 19th century as “Clinton’s Folly.” What do you think would be called “Clinton’s Folly” in the 20th Century? :)
Well, of course there’s that blue dress from The Gap…

No, seriously, the Erie Canal altered the history of the United States irrevocably in a very short time—it was opened for travel in 1825, but was basically replaced by railroads starting in the 1840s. Without it, our financial capital would probably be New Orleans, rather than New York. DeWitt Clinton did right by his state, as governor.

The canal immediately dropped the cost of transporting goods between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean by 95%. I don’t know if the advent of any government-sponsored 20th-Century American infrastructure could rival its initial impact—even the highway system or the Hoover Dam. Maybe landing on the moon.

I took the Struwwelpeter quiz on your website and failed, mostly because it was in German. This would horrify my mother, who is German. What was it that drew you to this story that became an important aspect of your novel?
When we were kids, there was a family who lived nearby with a bunch of daughters—the Angels. They used to babysit for us a lot. One day they brought over a box of kids’ books they’d outgrown, among which was a copy of Struwwelpeter, in German. Scared the CRAP out of me, especially since I didn’t know what the text meant—it was just a jumble of pictures of children getting their thumbs cut off, or bursting into flames, or falling down wells, or withering away to stick figures while seated in front of a bowl of soup.

It still gives me the creeps.
It's interesting, though, that you had neighbors named The Angels.

What was it like touring with Lee Child? Do you feel tempted to send him flowers on a daily basis because he was so instrumental in launching your book?
I have often said that it's pretty much impossible to describe Lee without sounding suspiciously like Frank Sinatra's character in The Manchurian Candidate: the guy who's been brainwashed to say, "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful person I've ever known in my life," whenever Shaw's name is mentioned.

This is because Lee Child is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful person I’ve ever known in my life. Also he’s really funny.

Touring with him was profoundly amazing, and I’m proud to say I only threw up once.

I definitely feel tempted to send him flowers on a daily basis, but I don’t want to scare him.

Okay, one more. How can readers find out more about you, your writing, and your upcoming release, The Crazy School?

There’s a bit more about me on my website,, and I’m part of a wonderful group writers’ blog with James Grippando, Paul Levine, Patty Smiley, and Jacqueline Winspear at I am, perhaps not surprisingly, Wednesday’s child there.

Thanks a million for the interview, Cornelia.
Thank you, Julia! You are wonderful to have invited me, and I loved your questions.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Kate Stine Chats about Mystery Scene, Philanthropy, Good Reads, and The Future of Mystery Publishing

First, thanks for chatting with me, Kate! Mystery Scene sponsored a fundraiser to help libraries affected by Hurricane Katrina. Do you think people are already starting to forget the devastation caused by Katrina? Sort of an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality? What prompted you (and therefore Mystery Scene) to get involved?
I think the sheer scale of the disaster is daunting to many people. We came up with our fundraising idea after reading about the clean-up effort sponsored by the American Library Association during their recent convention in New Orleans. (Eight of the twelve branches in the system were entirely destroyed by the flooding and the remaining four were damaged.)

We started the fundraiser in September at Bouchercon with $500 and a pledge to donate $5 to NOPL for every back issue of Mystery Scene we sold in 2006. Thanks to the enthusiasm of our readers (some of whom simply sent money for us to pass along) we were delighted to send the Library Foundation a check for $2,000 in December, 2006. We’ll be extending the back issue donation for 2007 and coming up with other ideas, too. Our website will have updates as will the magazine.

You just finished up your Winter issue. What fun features can readers expect?
We’ve got profiles of Alaskan mystery writer Dana Stabenow, the cozy with an edge novelist M.C. Beaton, and a new writer, Matt Beynon Rees, whose first novel is set in the Palestinian community in Bethlehem. Plus, we’ll have an article on the use of maps in mysteries, the Crime Lab Project that author Jan Burke helped start, and undercover identities in publishing, among other items.

You acquired Mystery Scene in 2002. How did you acquire it?
Ed Gorman, Mystery Scene’s editor & publisher at the time, had been sick and wasn’t able to keep up with the workload. He called and asked if we wanted to become publishers – and we really did.

Happily, Ed’s health has stabilized and allowed him to continue as a regular contributor.

What’s an average day like at the Mystery Scene office?
Hmmm. An average day is lots of email & phone calls, carting magazines & books around, a trip to the post office, cursing the computer, etc. Your usual office routine. I do most editing at night or on days when I banish everyone from the office.

Doug Greene calls you “one of the premier authorities of the genre.” But I am guessing that this authority stems from a basic love of mysteries. When did you start reading them?
I started with the usual suspects – Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, etc., then moved on to Dick Francis and Elizabeth Peters at a fairly early age. I’ve always read mysteries but I read lots of other kinds of books, as well.

I’m not sure I would call myself one of the premier authorities of the genre but I do have a nicely varied work history in the mystery field: book editor (Mysterious Press, Otto Penzer Books), magazine editor (The Armchair Detective, Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine, MWA’s national newsletter), website editor (, organization director (The Agatha Christie Society) and assorted consulting work (Scribner, the Christie estate, Book of the Month Club, etc.).

When you’re under a stressful deadline, what’s your snack food of choice? Or are you not a stress eater? If not, do you have a stress crutch? Caffeine? Cigarettes?
Caffeine is my drug of choice. When I’m really under deadline pressure Brian will toss me rolls of a Canadian candy called Wine Gums.

Mystery Scene is “an extension of [your] consulting business,” but it must take up the majority of your time! How do you balance all of your tasks? Do you ever feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day, or is that just me?
I do spend most of my time on the magazine these days. Very occasionally I’ll take on some outside projects but usually it’s to help out a friend.

It can be very hard to manage the workload of our small magazine – and sometimes I don’t, quite frankly. Correspondence or side projects can be delayed because my priority has to be getting the magazine out. Technology is a great help, though -- we work with most writers, designers, proofreaders, our printer, etc., via the internet which speeds things up a lot.

The magazine seems to have grown and expanded under the your leadership, and that of your co-publisher Brian Skupin. What are your goals for the magazine in the coming years?

We would like to see Mystery Scene’s circulation continue to grow. Being carried by Barnes & Noble, Borders, Waldenbooks, etc., has helped that a lot but we’ll be trying other methods as well.

At some point, I’d like to publish six times a year instead of our current five times. Brian is working on a host of new features at the website and I always have plans for editorial changes, etc.

If you could interview a deceased mystery writer, who would it be? What’s your dream scenario?
My dream scenario would be finding a fabulous journalist to interview a sober Edgar Allan Poe. I really don’t want to write for the magazine myself, it’s more than enough work to edit the thing.

Mystery Scene also reviews television shows. What’s your favorite tv show? Do you have time to watch tv?
Brian and I generally watch an entire year of a TV series when it comes out on DVD. Right now we’re going through the third year of 24. When that’s done, we plan on watching The Wire.

I recommend Arrested Development. I got it for Christmas, and we've been watching like addicts. And we find new jokes each time.

Running a magazine has to be hard work; but you must also have had some terrific experiences. What’s one of your favorite memories?
Winning the Bouchercon’s Anthony Award in Brian’s hometown of Toronto was a great experience and nice encouragement early on when we really needed it. Receiving MWA’s 2006 Ellery Queen Award as co-publishers of Mystery Scene was right up there, too. It meant a lot to me to see Brian get the credit he deserves for his work at Mystery Scene.

When you need to get away from it all, where do you go? Do you have a favorite vacation spot, or maybe just a favorite chair?
Brian and I go up to our house in the Hudson Valley where I spend most of the time gardening and he revels in his own private office.

Do you think readership of mysteries is growing or waning?
I think it’s growing and will continue to grow for some years. The Baby Boomers are in their prime reading years and now that their kids are through college and out of the house, they have more time, and more money, to spend on books.

What are you reading right now? Aside from magazine submissions?
One book I’m reading is The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Mathew Beynon Rees, a former journalist for Time in the Middle East. It’s a remarkable inside look at the very difficult lives of average Palestinians. He’s definitely a writer to watch.

Another book I’m enjoying is Steve Hockensmith’s On the Wrong Track, which comes out in March. This is the follow-up to Holmes on the Range, which introduced the sleuthing cowboy brothers, Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer. Smart, funny, very well-written with a lot of heart-- I really love this series.

What events will you attend in 2007?
We always go to the Edgar Awards in New York. In May, we’ll be in the Washington DC area for the Malice Domestic Convention where we sponsor the New Authors Breakfast every year. We’ll probably be at ThrillFest this year and we’ll definitely be at Bouchercon in Anchorage, Alaska, in the fall.

Thanks for chatting, Kate! It’s nice of you to take the time when I know how busy you both are. And thanks for Mystery Scene!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It was a lovely Christmas after all; the children (eleven in all four families) put on a pageant at the end of the day. Pamela is dressed as St. Lucia, complete with candles in her crown, and she offers her hospitality in the form of chocolate chip cookies. My kind of saint.

Many of the kiddies read poems or Christmas prayers, one read a story; Anna played a haunting Christmas song on the flute, Thomas played the recorder, and Daniel played something called a "pipe dream" which is sort of like a xylophone made out of pipes. Very neat.

Now to the New Year: Love is Murder is just around the corner, and while I work on regaining my strength for that fine event, I shall do a few more wonderful interviews with the people who write the best books in the world: MYSTERIES.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Last Best Christmas

Today I celebrate my final Christmas party with my extended family. Sadly, due to my stomach flu, I won't be able to indulge in the usual hilarity, overeating, and silly antics.
I'll mostly be sitting in a corner, trying not to die.
However, it's a nice way to end the Christmas vacation.
And, as it's the 12th day of Christmas, Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, January 05, 2007

How The Stomach Flu Hinders Mystery Writing

Is this not unbelievable? First the dreadful cold, now the horrible flu. And all over Christmas break, the "relaxing" time of year. :0

I blame this unnaturally warm weather. So many viri, so many inviting hosts.

I did, before I succumbed to the evil, have a meeting with my Writer's Group last night. They liked my draft of the novel, but of course had many suggestions which will help me greatly. More on that later.

Now I have a date with some ice water and a soft couch.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog: If Dylan Thomas Wrote Mysteries

Mysterious Dylan

I was just perusing Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, Dylan Thomas's lovely collection of stories chronicling the days of his youth. Of course, he never really got to be anything much more than a youth, dying as he did at the age of 39. And what a loss to the world of literature!

I sometimes wonder what Thomas would have done with the mystery genre; certainly he captures many mysterious moments in his prose.

For example, this bit from a story called "Just Like Little Dogs:"

" . . . I was a lonely night-walker and a steady stander-at-corners. I liked to walk through the wet town after midnight, when the streets were deserted and the window lights out, alone and alive on the glistening tram-lines in dead and empty High Street under the moon, gigantically sad in the damp streets by ghostly Ebeneezer Chapel. And I never felt more a part of the remote and overpressing world, or more full of love and arrogance and pity and humility . . . I leant against the wall of a derelict house in the residential areas or wandered in the empty rooms, stood terrified on the stairs or gazing through the smashed windows at the sea or at nothing, and the lights going out one by one in the avenues. Or I mooched in a half-built house, with the sky stuck in the roof and cats on the ladders and the wind shaking through the bare bones of the bedrooms . . . "

He packed his paragraphs with mood and mystery, as well as a heartbreaking understanding of the loneliness of humanity. But the words above speak for themselves, don't they?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Love is Murder News

The Chicago Area Love is Murder Conference is a mere month away! (February 2-4, Rosemont, Illinois).

I'm thrilled to be a part of the conference, and looking forward to meeting many people that I've only met in the gray halls of cyber.

Here is some fresh exciting news from the LIM newsletter:

"Love is Murder is happy to feature
something new this year!

On Saturday we will be featuring different demonstrations of interest to both fans and writers of the mystery genre.

Chicago Swordplay Guild will kick things off with an encore demonstration of the history and use of blades and armor, featuring swords, daggers, spears, and other weapons of Western hand-to-hand combat.

And look for Dr. Bill Ernoehazy to expound on the damage these blades could inflict to the human body. This will be of interest to anyone writing or reading historical fiction, or simply interested in the trauma caused by blades.

There will be a demonstration of a polygraph machine, how it works, how it is used, and what kind of information can be obtained by it. An expert will present a detailed program about this machine and hopefully will have time to include a demonstration of it.

Our third slated demonstration is on grapho-analysis. Find out from an expert how penmanship is analyzed and learn what kind of information can be gleaned from such an analysis. Find out what can be used in an investigation or a court of law."

Just some of many reasons why people should visit this terrific conference. Click on the link ( and check out all of the writers on the event schedule! It's going to be a very fun time.

I'll be there all day Saturday, and I hope to see many people!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Most Common Resolutions for Mystery Writers

A quick perusal of the web tells me that the most common New Year's resolutions, year after year, have to do with weight loss, quitting smoking, spending quality time with family, getting out of debt, blah blah. Very predictable (even if a lot of them are the ones I made--AGAIN).
But mystery writers have a whole different set of resolutions that they make, I think, in their hearts. And that list would look something like this:
1. Write a new novel, and make sure this one is a bestseller.
2. Find John Grisham, befriend him, and then get a blurb from him.
3. Fawn over everyone in power in the publishing world.
4. Go to conferences and sparkle this time. Sparkle!
5. Arrange for a joint blog with Sue Grafton.
and finally:
6. Be realistic.
That's not too much to ask, is it?

Mantra for a New Year

"For all that has been, thanks.

For all that will be, Yes."

--Dag Hammarskold

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 in the Rearview Mirror

Posted by PicasaHappy New Year!

New Year's Day always feels like an odd sort of bridge between the year that feels familiar and the year that now is.

Last night my friend Lydia mentioned that she didn't like the look of 2007; it looks odd and unwieldy to her. But there's always that sense of awkwardness with a new year, isn't there? It's like naming a baby--it takes a while for that little stranger to BECOME the name you've given him. And it will take a while for 2007 to be the date I write on checks. :)