Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wise Words from a Nobel Prize Winner

"The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas."

This inspiration for the day comes from Linus Pauling, who was born on this day, in Portland, Oregon (hear that, Bill Cameron?) in 1901. According to the website of the Linus Pauling Institute, "He is the only person ever to receive two unshared Nobel Prizes — for Chemistry (1954) and for Peace (1962)."

Ironically, Pauling's peace-loving attitudes interfered with his career as a scientist. "Pauling often urged scientists to get involved in politics and society: "It is sometimes said that science has nothing to do with morality. This is wrong. Science is the search for truth, the effort to understand the world; it involves the rejection of bias, of dogma, of revelation, but not the rejection of morality... One way in which scientists work is by observing the world, making note of phenomena, and analyzing them."

In 1964, Pauling gave up his tenured position at Cal-Tech because of pressure from conservative administrators and trustees who disapproved of his activities.

Read more about Linus Pauling at

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Beautiful Icicle

" . . . the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon."

from "Frost at Midnight"

I'm very proud of this photo, which I took last night. It captured both the icicle, bright with the reflection of my flash, and the icicle's evil twin there on the snow. As a writer I tend to see symbolism in a photo like this, but I'll let you find your own. :)

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Snow Continues

The snow continues here, making a comfy chair and a mug of hot chocolate more appealing than any sort of outdoor activity (although it's lovely to watch from the inside).

My children, a hardier sort, want to march right into the whiteness the moment it begins to descend, although half an hour is usually enough to soak their clothes and lessen their high spirits; then they trudge back up the stairs and inside, where warm dry clothes await.

Today, snowbound as I am, I shall spend some time writing a new book (instead of avoiding it, a behavior at which I've become quite talented).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Congratulations, Sandra

Big congratulations to my friend and fellow Deadly Daughter Sandra Parshall, whose mystery THE HEAT OF THE MOON was nominated for Best First Mystery in the Agatha Awards competition.

I've read the book, and it's quite compelling and seamlessly written.

Good job, Sandra!

Her next book, DISTURBING THE DEAD, will be available soon.

And The Snow Keeps Falling in the Midwest . . .

Last night, as we watched the snow shawl down outside our window, a relief of white against the blackness, I was reminded of this poem:

Acquainted With The Night

by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain--and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat,
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sometimes My Cat Can't Face His Problems

He's a lot like me that, way, is young Pibby Tails. When confronted with a huge project (say, a new novel or the revision of an old one), I am at first more likely to press my face into the chair in the way modeled above by my gray feline.

Eventually, however, one must come to terms. I do think that sleep is a remarkable healer, and it can even give one courage, assuming one sleeps for the proper length of time. In my case this can be up to ten hours. In Pibby's case, it can be twenty-four. :)

Friday, February 23, 2007

J.A. Konrath on The Hard Work of Promotion, The Importance of Buying Beer, and The Truth Behind his Mysterious Moniker

Thanks for talking with me.

Do people ever try to guess what your initials stand for? James Anthony? Joshua Albright? Jonathan Abelard?
They stand for Joseph Andrew, though if you talk to my wife she’ll tell you they’re short for a synonym of ‘donkey.’

Wives tend to be right most of the time. The name Konrath sounds Hungarian, like Namath and Horvath. Do you have Slavic roots?
Konrath is Austrian and/or German. I don’t know much about my ancestors, but I believe that I was somehow descended from them. That’s only a guess, by the way.

Your protagonist is a woman named Jack Daniels, and the titles of your books are all the names of drinks: Whiskey Sour, Rusty Nail, Bloody Mary. Is it a challenge, as a teetotaler, to come up with these titles? :)
A lot of research goes into every title. At least, that’s what I’m telling the IRS.

You recently went on a much-publicized 500-store (actually 612) book tour to promote Rusty Nail. How did that work out for you? Are you able to measure the results by the piles of diamonds, rubies and emeralds in your secret vault?
I was gone for 68 days, hence my wife’s nickname for me. It wasn’t easy, but I found it very effective. I met over 1400 booksellers, and thanked all of them in the acknowledgements of DIRTY MARTINI, coming out June 2007.

Results are tough to gauge, but I believe, with all of my effort, I sold five or six extra books.

Seriously, though, you are seen as an expert in the realm of promotion. Do you have a background in sales? What sorts of jobs have you had in your life?
I was a bartender. Go figure.

I also was a bookseller for a few years, which I loved.

I began to learn about marketing and promotion the hard way---by getting published. But it’s amazing how much you can pick up if you’re paying attention. For example, I just picked up a quarter I found on the floor.

What are you writing now? How would you say your time is divided between writing and promotion? Is one more difficult than the other?
I just finished a stand alone that my agent is going to shop around, and now I’m working on the fifth Jack Daniels thriller, FUZZY NAVEL.

But I only spend about 10% of my professional life writing. Mostly, it’s promotion. And that’s definitely harder.

You edited the newly-released anthology, These Guns for Hire. How did you make the leap from author to editor? Did you enjoy the process?
I have a lot of author friends, and I thought it would be fun to pester them incessantly for hit-man stories.

It was. The collection is wonderful. You need to buy a copy, right now. Visit to learn more about it.

You mentioned on a panel at Love is Murder that no one can get into one of your anthologies unless they buy you a beer, and you’ve already told me that I can’t just send you the money. :) What if a wonderful writer lives far from you, in New Zealand, and has not the option of buying you a beer? Can they send you cyber champagne?
If they want it bad enough, they’ll hop on a plane.

You wrote on your blog recently that you are going to be taking a vacation and putting your workaholic tendencies aside. While on that vacation, will you be visiting bookstores?
Absolutely not. I need a break from all the promotion. Vacation will be dedicated to spending time with my family, and stopping in a few libraries for quick speeches.

I assume you're kidding about that last part. Have you always been a workaholic?
No. I’m actually pretty lazy. I love lounging. I’m very good at it.

Unfortunately, no one wants to pay me to lounge around.

What are you reading right now?
I’m blurbing. Just finished MARKED BY FATE by Laura Bradford, and am halfway through ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS by JT Ellison.

Both are excellent, and I’m not just saying that because the authors bought me beer.

Do you make long-term plans? Do you have a plan for the Jack Daniels series? Will there be a new series with a new protagonist in the future?
No plans. I would like to do some spin off series, but not with my characters. Think Lee Child would let me do a Reacher book?

Maybe if you bought him a beer?

What was your first publication? Do you remember your reaction to finding out you were published?

Whiskey Sour was my first sale. I was pretty pleased, because I’d had over 500 rejections at that point for nine previous novels. Both my wife and I began to scream in joy, and a neighbor called up because they thought I was murdering her.

You’ve met a whole lot of authors at book conferences. Is there an author out there somewhere that you’ve never met but would like to meet? If so, who is it?
I haven’t met Robert B. Parker yet, and I’d like to someday.

I’d also like to meet John D. MacDonald, but he isn’t much into conversation lately.

What’s the farthest you’ve gone (geographically) to promote your books?
I drove over 17,000 miles on my last tour, to 29 states.

Your website is quite a labyrinth of information, puzzles, and special offers. Did you create it yourself?
Yeah, I do my own website. I’m pleased with the content, not so pleased with the visuals.

How can people find out more about you and your books?
They can ask my mom.

Thanks for speaking with me, Joseph Arthur.

You’re welcome, Juliette. :)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Keith Raffel Chats About Sales, Scottish Names, and Silicon Valley

Keith, thanks for chatting with me! Your book, Dot.Dead, came out this year. What lessons have you learned since the publication of your first mystery?
To appreciate the female reader. When I stand in a bookstore with a tabletop of books to sell, about 75% are purchased by women. Men come into the bookstore and head over to the nonfiction areas like science, business, sports, history, and biography. Women make a beeline for fiction. As Ian McEwan has said, “When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”

Good for both of you. You spent twenty years working for “high tech companies, big and small.” Did you like working in Silicon Valley?
Starting my own company, building it up to success, working with an enthusiastic team – wow! That was terrific even if it transformed me into a monomaniac. At times, though, I have found myself tied up like a dogie on the range in the bureaucracy of larger companies. In those cases I just remind myself – like a caveman of yore going hunting mammoths with a club – that I am doing it to feed my family.

The name of that company was UpShot Corporation, and in 2003 you sold it. I think we all want to know: are you as rich as Bill Gates? :)
There’s a great Talmudic saying which I have hanging on the wall in my office that asks the question “Who is a rich man?” and answers it by saying “The man who rejoices in what he has.” By that criterion, I am a very rich man indeed.

You are wise beyond my understanding. :) What’s the premise of your mystery?
Ian Michaels is a Silicon Valley hotshot. One lunchtime he comes home to find a young, beautiful woman stabbed to death in his apartment. Gwendolyn Goldberg was a stranger to Ian, but her family, old boyfriend, and the Palo Alto police seem to think they were lovers. He waits for the police to start looking for the killer, but realizes they are building a case against him. It’s up to him. As the investigation heats up, so does Ian’s interest in Gwendolyn’s sister, Rowena. By the end of the book, Ian realizes that there are far more important things in life than stock options and business success.

What are you writing now? Is it another Silicon Valley tale?
Way back when, I was counsel to U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee where I worked on anti-terrorism legislation, reports, and such. That’s a rich vein of literary ore to mine. Currently, I’m working on revising a book called Coup, where a Stanford history professor is called back to D.C. to work for – what a coincidence! – the Senate Intelligence Committee.

You have a wife and four children. That’s a fairly big family by today’s standards. Do you find yourself torn between work, book promotion, and family time?
Is it a big family? I know people who have told me they’re only having two kids because they live in a three bedroom house and want the kids to have their own bedrooms. Then I ask them who their favorite person is. Usually it’s a grandparent. Then I ask if that grandparent had his/her own bedroom. “Oh, no,” they laugh. “She grew up with seven siblings in a two-bedroom flat on the Lower East Side.” Typically, they don’t even notice the incongruity. Well, enough ranting on that.

I started a software company. That was all-consuming. I worked long hours six days a week (taking Saturdays off). On the day I signed the papers to sell the company, I got home at noon or so. My then 5-year old said, “Is it bedtime already?” (I have a good time in Dot Dead making fun of the fanaticism endemic to start-ups.) My current schedule is a lot easier than that was.

Your website tells me that much of your novel was written at “the crack of dawn.” Are you an extremely disciplined person?
Disciplined? I don’t think so. I do my writing at a café where there’s no WiFi so I can avoid the tempting diversions of email and the World Wide Web. Goal-oriented? Definitely. My objective was to get Dot Dead written and then published. I put the manuscript away when I started my company, but came back to it. Then after finishing it up, I queried dozens of agents before finding Randi Murray. I met Jackie Winspear at a Left Coast Crime; she’d worked with Randi and told me, “Don’t worry. Randi will find the right publisher.” And so it proved.

Growing up, you watched “local orchards and dairies replaced by tilt-up buildings filled with software engineers.” How did you feel about that? Did you see it as an inevitability?
In Dot Dead, I take an impish delight in contrasting the way Silicon Valley was when I grew up and how it is today. As an entrepreneur, I certainly have been a beneficiary of my hometown becoming the focal point of the world’s high tech industry. Still the changes are definitely not all for the better. When I went to Palo Alto High, the parents of classmates included school teachers, custodians, and shop owners, not just the venture capitalists, executives, lawyers, and doctors who are the parents today. Back in those days, we left our front doors unlocked. My mother dried apricots in the backyard every year. In fact, the old nickname of what’s now Silicon Valley was “The Valley of Heart’s Delight.” I can’t help missing those days and wonder why Silicon Valley should end up here, in the midst of some of the world’s most fertile farmland. Still, I feel awfully lucky to have grown up in the “good old days.”

Your protagonist’s name is Ian—a very cool name which I chose for my first-born. How did you go about naming your sleuth?
My mother said she wanted to give me a name unusual enough so that when she called me for dinner, I was the only one who showed up. That’s how I myself ended up with a Scottish first name. If it was good enough for me, I reckoned it was good enough for the protagonist of Dot Dead. When it came to the murder victim, I played around a little with the incongruity of a Celtic first name and a Jewish last one and named her Gwendolyn Goldberg.

Your plot begins with sort of an homage to some of the classic mysteries: a beautiful woman is found dead in a man’s bed. Are there any writers in particular who inspire you?

Besides that woman who wrote The Dark Backward?

Your flattery is most effective.

More than the books of any writer, I think the films of Alfred Hitchcock provide inspiration to me. You know, there’s some poor shmo blithely leading a middle class life when out of nowhere he or she gets caught up in a spy ring or a murder mystery. We have this ordinary person --played most often by Jimmy Stewart, but also by Robert Donat, Teresa Wright, and even Cary Grant -- who is confronted by an extraordinary challenge and has to raise his/her game and become heroic. That’s what I tried to capture in Dot Dead.

Stuart Kaminsky describes your hero, Ian, as “befuddled.” Is this a plot device, or just a way to make your character seem more human?
Ian had never been a suspect in a murder before. It would be a little unlikely for him to discover that he has an inner Jack Reacher. So of course, he’s confused just like one of us would be.

What’s an average day like for Keith Raffel?
Roll out of bed. Do some push-ups, 33 minutes on the exercycle while I read the Journal, Times, and Mercury, then eat breakfast, and drive to the office listening to a book on tape. At the office, go to meetings, talk on the phone, write memos, and answer e-mails. On the way home, stop at the local café and get in two hours of writing. Then dinner, spend time with the kids, read to my eight-year old (now in the midst of Peter Abrahams’ Behind the Curtain), read on my paisley armchair for an hour. If I haven’t fallen asleep reading, stumble into bed. Next day, the whole thing over again, just like Groundhog Day (one of the best 10 movies of the last quarter century).

Groundhog Day was very existential. And I admire the push-ups. I’ll have to try those. In case you didn’t notice on my blog, I invited you to lunch with me in Chicago. Will you ever be touring in this part of the world?
I’m a native Chicagoan (a Northsider, for those who care about such things). When I was a boy and student and went back to visit, I would be overwhelmed by grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins. Last time I was in Chicago was for a relative’s funeral. They’re all gone, either passed away or moved away. It’s kinda sad. Lunch with you though might be just the draw I need to get myself back there.

Okay, then. What are your hobbies, aside from buying and selling software companies?
I used to love betting on the horses. In fact I supported myself that way for six months – pre-wife, pre-kids, pre-high tech job, pre-writing. Who has time now? I read, I write in my “spare” time. That’s it. Oh! One more thing. I love going to a few mystery conferences a year. They’re sort of like summer camp for adults.

How can readers find out more about Keith Raffel and his mysteries?

Like you, I have both a website ( and blog ( It would be great to have people stop by the blog and leave a comment. Sometimes I think I’m just talking to myself there. It’s nice to have company.

In space no one can hear you scream. :)

Thanks for chatting, Keith!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

T.S. Eliot Reflects on The Day

There's a wonderful solemn contrast between Carnival and Ash Wednesday; I hope to work it into a novel some day. Human beings have a long history of acknowledging their own mortality. Once upon a time when a person received the ashes they were told "Remember, Man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." The words have been softened considerably now, but the solemn implication is there, and it's ultimately rather satisfying. Here's a bit of Eliot's famous poem:


by T.S. Eliot

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy Fasching!

When I was a youngster, my mother, who was raised in Germany, would greet us each Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with a joyous "Happy Fasching!" This is the German equivalent of Mardi Gras, and my mother would make us an after-school feast of warm homemade jelly donuts rolled in sugar, which we would eat with great contentment while we contemplated what our evening costumes would be. Fasching, you see, requires some sort of costume or mask, and this is a tradition that goes way back. As the Fasching website reveals,
"In Catholic Bavaria and Austria people celebrate Fasching. The word "Fasching" is assumed to be a derivation of the Middle High German vaschanc or vastschang (Fastschank), the last drink served before the Fast. Historically, during Fasching the lower classes were allowed to wear costumes and masks and to mimic aristocracy and heads of church and state without fear of retribution for mockery. When things got out of hand, the custom was forbidden, for a while anyway. Even Empress Maria Theresia (1717-1780) decreed at one point that masks would no longer be allowed in the streets; whereupon the revelry was moved indoors. This was the beginning of the splendid balls, for which Vienna has become so famous."

Now, Mom is not from Bavaria or Austria--she's from a little West German town called Paderborn, but the tradition was very much alive there and throughout Germany, and therefore it was alive in our Illinois home. So tomorrow I will celebrate Fasching again--my last Catholic hurrah before the beginning of Lent on Wednesday. I haven't picked a costume, but I'm sure I can persuade my children to don one--or at least to eat jelly donuts. :)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Meeting Bob Morris, The Caribbean King

I was thrilled to hear that Bob Morris would be in Chicago promoting his new book, Bermuda Schwartz (which I had read and enjoyed). I brought my husband Jeff to the event, and it was no big sacrifice for him, since Bob made the traditional drink of Bermuda, the "Dark and Stormy," for everyone present, and those are some tasty drinks.
Jeff thought so, too, and he is excited about starting the book tomorrow, now that it's signed by Bob and the two of them bonded over the pleasures of rum.
Here is the ubiquitous J.A. Konrath, who I was surprised to see with liquor in his hand. :)
And Henry Perez made it, too, although he had to come a long way and, like me, he got caught in a snarl of Chicago traffic. Still, Bob made all our problems go away with his fun talk and the Dark and Stormies he passed out to the crowd. He told us tales of the far flung islands, including his first trip to Jamaica as a fifteen-year-old boy, which made such an impression on him that he knew he would write about the islands some day. And now he does. Great meeting you, Bob!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Nothing that is Not There

The Snow Man

Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold a juniper shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any miseries in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Mysterious Vera Ellen

I've always admired Vera Ellen, who was born on this day in 1921. I watch her every year in White Christmas and marvel anew at the extreme thinness of the woman, and yet the supreme strength contained in her little body as she taps and twirls and leaps across the dance floor with the wonderful Danny Kaye.

A little research reveals, however, that Vera Ellen is a rather mysterious figure in Hollywood lore, and that when her career ended rather prematurely in the 1960's (after her second divorce and the loss of a baby to SIDS) she holed up in her house, rather like Greta Garbo, and died much too young in 1981.

Because Vera Ellen "disappeared" from the public view, she is perhaps not as famous as women who kept a high profile, although she will always be one of my glamour favorites. My brother, after about 45 years of watching her dance in black and white movies, is still as in love with her now as he was as a boy.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Greatest Loves . . . in Mystery

In honor of the day, I've been contemplating some of my favorite romantic relationships in the world of mystery and suspense. Many of these, for me, are in the romantic suspense novels of Mary Stewart back in the sixties and seventies. Stewart had a gift not only for sophisticated plotting, but for creating characters that you rooted for, even if those characters seemed unlikely as a romantic pair. Some of her characters top my list, but I've added in some other favorites, as well. Please do comment and tell me your favorites!

Lucy Waring and Max Gale

(Mary Stewart)

Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane
Dorothy L. Sayers

Simon and Deborah St. James
(The Elizabeth George Series)

Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson
(Carolyn Keene)

Chief Inspector and Dora Wexford
The Wexford Mysteries
(Ruth Rendell)

Stephanie Plum and Joe Morelli
The Stephanie Plum Mysteries
(Janet Evanovich)

Claire Malloy and Peter Rosen
The Claire Malloy mysteries
(Joan Hess)

Henry and Emmy Tibbet
The Henry and Emmy mysteries
(Patricia Moyes)

Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson
(Elizabeth Peters)

Nick and Nora Charles


Which ones am I forgetting?

Monday, February 12, 2007

But If It Had to Perish Twice . . .

These photos were sent to me in an e-mail; they were taken in a town called Versoix, Switzerland, and the title of the missive was "You think you're cold?"

The images got me thinking of setting and its power to evoke mood, both in life and literature. This is not just ice, it's a city turned to ice, frozen motion, and there's something both terrifying and beautiful about it, almost as though we have to be reminded of Nature's power in different ways, sometimes, in order for us to see that it is universal.
And naturally, because everything reminds me of poetry, either that someone has written or that I would like to write, I thought of Robert Frost's famous poem, "Fire and Ice."

Fire and Ice

by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is just as great,
And would suffice.
I also wonder about the people of Versoix. Is this a regular occurrence for them, something they take in stride each winter? Or were even they surprised by the intensity of this ice, the seeming permanence of it, as though Poseidon had cast a frozen curse upon the land?
In any case, the e-mail served its purpose; sure, it's snowing again here in Chicagoland, and it's supposed to snow all week, but it won't be that much of an effort for me to flick the light stuff off of my car windows. And when I do I'll think of the ice in Versoix.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tim Maleeny Chats About Dangling Participles, Dragons, and Dangerous Euphemisms

Hi, Tim! Thanks for chatting with me. Your name is Irish, but your book, Stealing the Dragon, is set in China, on Alcatraz, and in San Francisco. You didn’t want to do an homage to the family turf by setting it in Galway or Donegal or somewhere?
I suppose I could have written a novel called Stealing The Shamrock, but that didn’t occur to me. I’ve always been fascinated by China and fell in love with Hong Kong when I was there, so writing Stealing The Dragon was a way to mentally return whenever I wanted, through my characters.

Your website ( is fabulous. Did you design it? If so, will you design mine?
My web designer is Heidi Mack of (, an insanely talented woman who works with a lot of crime writers, including Lee Child, Ken Bruen, David Corbett, Cornelia Read, Barry Eisler, and Louise Ure, to name a few. What I love is how every website she creates reflects the unique style of that particular writer, no two alike. She’s amazing.

How did you come to write mystery novels?
I wanted to write the kind of book that I like to read, and most of my favorite authors are crime novelists. And now that I’ve met some of the writers I’ve admired for so long, I’m glad I chose this genre. Though it might be counter-intuitive, mystery writers are the nicest people you’ll ever meet – I think they get all their aggressions out of their system and onto the pages of their novels. Maybe the world would be a better place if everyone wrote stories about murder and mayhem.

Your second book has the intriguing title of Beating the Babushka. My Hungarian Grandma wore a babushka every time she went out. Is this a mystery about a Hungarian grandma?
Babushka actually means “grandmother” in Russian, but the headscarves often worn by old Russian women are sometimes referred to as babushka in English, but in Russia they would never call them that. Beating The Babushka deals with the Russian mob and their involvement in the movie business, and the title comes from a pivotal scene with a retired Russian gangster living in Brighton Beach. But since another writer recently asked me if Beating The Babushka was another euphemism for masturbation, I’m relieved it just made you think of head scarves.

Well, NOW it makes me think of masturbation. Regarding your exciting titles: I notice you use the present participle for a more active feel. Are you afraid you’ll run out of present participles? Or are they infinite, like space?
As long as my participles don’t dangle, I’m good.

Stealing the Dragon comes out next month. Are you excited? How are you promoting the book? Do you still work a day job?
I work in the sordid world of advertising, an industry that involves enough irrational behavior to make you want to kill someone, which might be the real reason I chose to write crime fiction.

For Stealing The Dragon I’ll be visiting as many bookstores as possible, getting the word out online, and appearing at a number of writers’ conferences over the coming months. And, of course, doing interviews on influential blogs like this one.

Thanks. I am incredibly influential--in Bizarro World. When do you write, and what sort of writer’s environment works best for you?
I have a wife and two daughters at home, so between my day job and wanting to spend time with my family, I have to steal time to write whenever I can. Writing professionally for so many years has made me pretty fast on the keyboard, so while I try to write every morning, sometimes I write late at night when everyone’s asleep, and I’ve written more than a few chapters on airplanes or in restaurants while traveling.

How long do you want to continue the Cape Weathers series? More importantly, how did you come up with the name Cape Weathers? Was that your name when you played cops as a kid?
I didn’t really play cops as a kid. Superheroes were big, and I always dreamed of writing comic books. It’s great to see accomplished mystery writers like Denise Mina, Gary Phillips and Ian Rankin writing graphic novels, people who were obviously comic fans growing up and still are.

As for Cape’s name, it came to me as I was grocery shopping, out of the blue. I liked the sound of it, and the character has some fun inventing a plausible backstory for his name.

You have a book coming out in 2008 called Jump. Why no present participle? And is this also a Cape tale?

This reveals the temptation and the risk of having a website, since even my publisher doesn’t know this book exists yet. The title is different because it’s a stand alone novel, featuring a couple of characters I developed for a short story that’s running in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine later this year, a San Francisco cop and his retired ex-partner.

Cool. Your website says that your first Cape Weathers mystery involves “the aid of two neurotic cops, a drug lord, an autistic computer genius, a mayoral candidate, and a reporter with sentient hair.”

--First, what is sentient hair?
There is a character named Linda Katz, an investigative reporter for one of the San Francisco papers, whose hair has major attitude. I describe her hair as a reflection of her mood, sort of a Medusa-style expression of her subconscious. If Linda is pissed, her hair will let you know.

--Second, don’t they weed out the neurotic cops in the training sessions? :)
The two cops, Beau and Vinnie, share that dynamic you see in two people that have been together so long they finish each other’s sentences, get on each other’s nerves, but trust each other implicitly. Sort of like an old married couple with guns.

That perfectly describes my husband and me. What are you writing now?
Trying to finish the third Cape Weathers Investigation, which will take place in San Francisco and Mexico. The title is Greasing The Piñata, which is my favorite title yet. (If you smiled when you read that title, then we’re off to a good start.)

When you sell the movie rights to Book One and head off to Hollywood (and we know it’s just a matter of time, what with your exciting plot and setting), will you let me be the Key Grip?
I’m not sure what a Key Grip does – it sounds like something I’d put in the title of one of my books – but if my wife doesn’t object, consider yourself hired.

What sort of books do you like to read?

Mystery, science fiction, some historical novels, and nonfiction related to a book I’m researching. In the mystery genre, anything by Loren Estleman, Carl Hiassen, Robert Crais, Lee Child, Joe Landsdale, Laura Lippman or SJ Rozan, but that’s a small subset of the crime writers I enjoy. If only I could read (and write) faster!

Here are some suggestions for your future titles. Let me know what you think:

Eating the Cookie Dough
Strangling the Dog
Taking out the Garbage
Falling Asleep

Oh, wait—that’s just my to-do list for today. :)
Mine, too.

We have so much in common, Tim. How can readers find out more about you and your soon-to-be released Stealing the Dragon?
Visit my website,, and then visit your local bookstore. If they have a copy on the shelf, please buy it, but if not, they can order it. After you’ve finished, send me a note and tell me what you think. And if you enjoy the book, I’d recommend buying one for a friend. But if you don’t enjoy it, then buy several for your enemies.

Thanks for playing, Tim.

Thank you.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Chatting with the Women's Guild

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of being invited as the guest speaker at the local Women's Guild. The ladies were extremely kind and welcoming, and asked some very intelligent questions about my book. (Names to follow).
We chatted in a book-group type setting, lounging on comfy couches and chairs while we talked about the book, and then writing in general. The room was in a Lutheran church, which is why the lovely stained glass window is visible in the background.
My hostesses were most gracious (though annoyingly tall, blonde and pretty). :)
I was thrilled to see so many people holding The Dark Backward all at once. It was a writer's dream. Thanks so much, Guild Ladies!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Meeting an Icon

 One of the highlights of Love is Murder was an accidental meeting with Anne Perry, whom I had never met. Not only is she elegant and lovely, but she is a charming and humorous conversationalitst. The problem with reading someone's books before you meet the person is that you tend to give that person icon status, and then can become totally tongue-tied at one of these conventions, and might feel undeserving to breathe the same air as said icon.

But Anne Perry and the other "big name authors" that I met made me see that they do not necessarily feel this way about themselves, and are perfectly willing to mix and mingle with us lowly first-timers. :)

Even in an average dialogue, though, Anne has a way with words, and it seems inevitable that she became an author. She gave a lovely keynote speech at the dinner on Saturday night, and now I am even more of a fan.

Here she poses with Lonnie Cruse (left) and me.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 05, 2007

Interesting People, Interesting Plotlines

I was lucky enough to view a panel at LIM about the writing of violence. The two gentlemen above, Marcus Sakey and Ken Bruen, were notable members of the panel, although they were both mild-mannered and extremely funny, and hardly the type one would think would write violent books. Someone in the audience asked if the writing of violence were in any way similar to the writing of a sex scene. Marcus Sakey pointed out that there was a sex panel right down the hall, "And ya'll are sitting here." Good point, Marcus.

At right is the lovely Tasha Alexander; at left is a fan whose name I forgot to jot down. Sorry!
Phil Locascio was on a newcomers panel with me; he is not entirely a newcomer, as he's written several horror titles. His books sounded intriguing, as his focus is always on characters with a moral dilemma--rather Stephen King-esque, I thought. I will have to look up Phil's book THE SINS OF ORVILLE SAND. So many good books at this conference . . .
I was thrilled to be at the same dinner table as the beloved Charlaine Harris and the sweet Jeanne Stein. Jeanne was also on a panel with me (in fact I spilled water on her--I like to baptize all of my fellow members). Charlaine had done a luncheon interview with Nancy Pickard that was downright hilarious, and I was thrilled to get a chance to chat with her.
Here are Shane Gericke (who warned me about spilling the water, but would I listen?) and Jeff Markowitz, whose setting of the Pine Barrens sounded downright fascinating. I'll have to check out his book, too: A MINOR CASE OF MURDER.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Love is Murder Highlights

I had a lovely time at the Love is Murder Conference in Rosemont, Illinois. I had the opportunity to re-connect with Bouchercon friends like Deb Baker, pictured at the signing table with me, above. Deb and I got to chat about promotion and future books and the challenges of the writing life. And naturally we shared some laughs.

I also had the chance to meet my e-friend Lonnie Cruse, pictured here with Jeanne Stein and Shane Gericke, two people from my "First Timers" panel. Lonnie and I have recently started a blog together (Poe's Deadly Daughters), so it was wonderful to meet her in person.
This week I'll be sharing photos and stories from this terrific conference. It was a nicely planned, smoothly run event, and there were many terrific panels that piqued my interest in many authors and their books.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Imagination and Fiction

"Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life."
--Simone Weil (who was born on this day in 1909)

(image from www.forum3D.kom-net)