Monday, April 30, 2007

Waiting for the Existential Punchline

Tomorrow it will be May, and graduation is fast approaching. My seniors and I just finished discussing Waiting for Godot, Beckett's masterpiece of existentialism. The girls spent most of the play looking at each other out of the corners of their eyes, as if to say, "Is it just me, or does this make no sense?" I love it, of course, because it focuses on the ultimate mystery, this existential play: should we hope, or should we despair?

On Friday I gave the girls one of my teachery sermons. There are few days left, I told them, and some of you have significant work missing. "Do not assume," said I rather pompously, "that because I am a good natured person you cannot fail senior English. It is not a matter of your teacher failing YOU, but YOU failing to do what was required." Blah blah. My yearly rant, I'm afraid, when the girls get lazy in their own existential rebellion.

Finally, looking at the zeroes on the sheet in front of me, I asked, "Seniors, I look at this missing work, and I wonder: what are you waiting for?"

Without missing a beat about five students piped, "We're Waiting for Godot!"

I had it coming, really. They actually coaxed a smile out of me. And now you know how to please an English teacher: you don't even have to READ a great work. Just say the name of it out loud to her so that she knows that you know it exists, and that might be enough to placate her for a short amount of time.

But tomorrow? It's back to sermonizing. And maybe some spouting of the poetry they're going to see on their graduation cards: Girls, two roads diverged in a wood . . .

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Happiness According to Horace

"Happy the Man
And happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
"Tomorrow, do thy worst, for I have liv'd today!"

--John Dryden (translating Horace)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Gwen Freeman on Loving Mysteries, Creating Art, and Having Top Secret Clearance at the CIA

Gwen, you are an accomplished woman: a philosopher (your major), an artist, a writer, a lawyer. You once worked for the CIA. (More questions about that later). Do you consider yourself a Renaissance Woman?
I would be honored to be so described, but to me all of these endeavors are a form of puzzle solving. An aesthetic challenge, a plot that needs to be worked out, a client’s legal problem. Since I enjoy problem solving, I can’t take a moral high ground doing what I do. (Although I’ve heard that the view from the moral high ground is wonderful.)

Selfish pleasure aside, I would like to think I will leave the world better off than when I came in. I have always liked the concept that, when we are born, we are each given our own “bag of tools and book of rules.” To use the talents and skills we have to enrich the world, even by just one contribution--such as a child raised to be a good and loving person, or a joyful attitude that makes people happier--is purpose enough.

What got you into mystery writing?
For my twelfth birthday, my BFF Lindy gave me Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, and I was hooked. When I was reading a good mystery, I was blissfully happy. By the time I got to law school, and my leisure time was limited, I stopped reading anything that didn’t involve a body and a denouement. The summer of my second year (at the University of Virginia Law School), I got the internship at the CIA, and my hours were 6:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon. Well, all my friends had jobs at law firms that summer, and worked until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. This left me a lot of time on my hands. In order to keep myself amused, I decided to see if I could write a mystery myself. No false modesty, it was just awful! But I had fun doing it and I felt I could do better so I carried the manuscript—and the dream—around with me for years until the kids got older, the lacrosse games got fewer, nobody needed me to drive them anywhere, and I realized that once again I had time on my hands.

Your book, Murder, Suicide, Whatever has a quirky heroine named Fifi Cutter, which I find to be an interesting name. How did you come up with it?

Do you remember that country song “A Boy Named Sue?” Same concept. I was going for a silly name that at first glance would give the impression Fifi’s parents hadn’t given any rational thought at all as to what to call her. A name that would irritate the already cranky Fifi every time someone commented on it—-but there will be a revelation in a book to come that will add a whole ‘nother dimension to the name.

Her brother Bosco is a sort of loveable jerk. Is he based on any brothers you know?

Partly based on my brother John, with his ridiculous ability to charm everybody. He came to stay with me in LA one summer, and within two weeks he couldn’t walk down the street in Hollywood or Santa Monica without somebody calling out “Hey Freef!”.

But, unlike Bosco, John is very honest, and has become very hard working. Bosco’s less savory characteristics are P.G. Wodehousian, added purely for comic effect.

I visited your gallery online, and I love your work, especially the way you use color. Did you minor in art?
The University of Virginia (I went there as an undergraduate as well) would not permit a declared minor, but I took enough art classes to have declared a major. I was afraid, though, if I declared a double major in art, that it would be negative when I tried to get into law school. But my art studies began much earlier than that, I started drawing at one and half (my mother has the little stick figure to prove it), and took painting from Judith Wengrovitz, and Elizabeth Campbell, two noted Washington D.C. area artists. And thank you for your kind words, I love color. Sometimes I wish there were even more colors than there are.

Your father is “the scientist who pioneered night vision technology for the U.S. Army.” What does that mean? That he invented it, or tried it out? How did that work out for him?

My father was the Chief Scientist for the Night Vision Laboratories. He was the principal genius and analytic force behind the second generation of night vision technology. The first generation, in limited use in WW II, was based on heat, and not very reliable in many battle situations. But the second generation was based on the break through realization that there is always some light, even if undetectable to the human eye. The idea is to magnify that light to a sufficient degree, and then you could see. That is the “green” night vision in common use today. My dad appreciated and relied upon many brilliant people that he worked with, but seventeen of the principal patents that went into the technology are held in his name. (Unfortunately for the fortunes of the Freeman family, the US government is the owner of the patents.)

Wow. You come of brainy stock. You now work at a law firm in L.A. How does it compare to Virginia, where you grew up and went to school?
Virginia is very beautiful, and I will always love the state, and be tied emotionally to the sad and noble history (as you may know from reading my website, my Mother was a civil rights activist). The people are gracious and admirable. But we gotta face facts: I’m a yoga-practicing, vegetarian Unitarian. As an old boyfriend once said “A woman of strange sensibilities.” I love my rag top sports car, Ethiopian food, outsider art galleries, and the LA sense of humor. I’m also a complete wimp when it comes to bad weather. I have never taken a beautiful day for granted.

And that's a good thing. You interned at the CIA. Did they let you do any covert stuff?
I was an overt employee, which meant that it was presumed to be known by our enemies that I was employed by the Agency, such that I would not have been welcome in, say, the Soviet Union (remember the Soviet Union? Ah good times!) But I had a top secret security clearance, on a need to know basis. I sat on the Afghanistan desk, and received raw data from the teletype. Seriously. The teletype.

I then edited the information, and sorted it by importance and sensitivity. I can’t tell you a lot about what I read (because I don’t remember, not because it was so secret), but I can tell you this: when the US surveillance was taken off Bin Laden in the summer of 2001 I told my husband that it was a bad idea. When the Taliban blew up the twin Buddhas, I said to anyone who would listen “We’d better step in and stop them now. They’re testing us.” And when I read in the LA Times that Taliban operatives had shot the opposition leader three days before, I sat down on the bed with great foreboding and said “Oh this is bad.” My Mother called from DC at that moment, hysterical. I ran and turned on the TV. As I watched the twin towers fall, I turned to my husband and said “It’s Osama Bin Laden!”

So at the risk of further fueling the conspiracy theorists, I have a sad feeling that on September 10, 2001, there was a young woman sitting on the top floor of a nondescript office building in Northern Virginia, in what purported to be a temporary employment agency, getting instant feed on her computer, putting it into a classified report, and trying to tell everyone that something bad is going to happen soon.

Wow. That's pretty intense. But I think all mystery fans like a good conspiracy theory.

What are you reading now?
I just finished Martha Grimes The Old Wine Shades and The Winds of Change; she’s a favorite author along with Reginald Hill, Ian Rankin, Janet Evanovitch, Joyce Porter, and PD James. As for newer authors, I just finished David Skibbins Eight of Swords and I have Lori Lacefield’s The Seventh Survivor on the top of my “next” pile.

Are you writing another Fifi Cutter book?
I am. I am about 80% through with it. It will feature a trial with VJ, but won’t be too courtroom-y. And of course Bosco will be scheming to come up with outrageous plans to make money and get the girl. One of the girls. Okay, one of the many girls. You know Bosco.

And love him.

As an attorney, you specialize in cases dealing with insurance coverage and bad faith. Does that mean you’ll know if I don’t go to church on Sunday? :)

Well, I won’t know, but I know Somebody who will know, and you can’t get insurance coverage for the consequences of dissing Him.

I have interviewed many of your Capital Crime compatriots: Robert Fate, Troy Cook, Sheila Lowe. Do you ever tour together?

We have not, not all together, although it would be great. One of the good things about a small publisher, or at least Capital Crime, is the camaraderie the authors have with each other. Robert, Bruce, Sheila and I did a signing together at the Barnes & Noble in Valencia, and Sheila and I have done two signings together, one at The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood and one at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks. And both Robert and I have had our launch parties at Mystery and Imagination Bookstore in Glendale, but not, of course, together. Mystery and Imagination is just two blocks from our offices, and Knapp Petersen & Clarke (my law firm) sponsored my launch, which was very touching. My partners all came, as did a lot of clients. Meant a lot to me.

Your book is set in L.A., and demonstrates great knowledge of that area (and that attitude). Did you ever consider setting one in your home state?
Absolutely. How could I not? The clash of Old South and New West is irresistible. Remember that revelation about Fifi’s name I teased you with? Well, in book three, Fifi’s Dad’s family trace their roots back to Virginia, and…

Ah, darn. I hate dangling carrots. :)

Who is your favorite mystery writer?

My very favorite? Yikes. Okay, deep breath…for never-get-tired-of-and-read-over-and-over, I’m going to have to say Joyce Porter and her Dover series. And Reginald Hill, as much for Joe Sixsmith as for Dalzeil and Pascoe. I know, that’s two. But I just can’t.

When you write, what’s your most constant craving? Does the Dalmatian in your photo sit with you while you compose?

When I write I am happy, so cravings are banished. And Milo does sit with me, as does his “brother,” Stitch, the hyper-active, crazy Weimeraner/Greyhound/Whippet/Dalmation mix, except there’s not so much sitting on the part of the crazy one. Stitch makes an appearance in Book Two. I did a very LA thing last weekend, and had a professional photographer of some serious note, Frank Bruynbroek, come to take their portraits. I haven’t seen the proofs yet, but Frank called my husband Andy last night and said he was very pleased. He might even to include Milo in his upcoming book, which is fair since I have now incorporated him into my book as well.

Where can readers find out more about Gwen Freeman and her new mystery?
My website will be updated in the next few weeks, as soon as I can come up with a great title. I liked “Life’s a Trial” but Capital Crime is of the opinion that it doesn’t say “mystery” so I have to nut up here and think harder!

Thanks for chatting with me, Gwen!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Elaine Viets Book Tour

Mystery writer Elaine Viets, who has recently suffered a stroke (but is expected to recover, thank goodness), will not be able to go on tour for her new book, MURDER WITH RESERVATIONS, which is available soon.

I met Elaine for only about thirty seconds at Bouchercon, but she seemed like a friendly and fun person, and like everyone who has heard about her unexpected ill health, I'd like to do my share to talk up her new book and help it on its way into people's homes.

Click on the link to get some information about Elaine's book tour by proxy! More on this next month.
Elaine Viets

Bury My Heart Under This Pile of Papers

I'm grading research paper rough drafts this week, so my blogs will most likely be short and sweet. Each year I'm convinced I can get through them quickly and efficiently, but each year I am inundated with notecards, outlines, VERY rough drafts, and a slight headache right between the eyes.

I am learning, however, some interesting things about Ibsen's Nora Helmer and her quest for independence; Hermann Hesse's fascination with Eastern religion in the writing of Siddhartha; Fate as a driving force in Oedipus Rex; and why both Camus' Meursault and Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov create their OWN alienation. :)

It's an important time, though, when students begin to think of themselves as scholars, and that needs to be nurtured. So off to the great pile of scholarship I go!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Sue Grafton

I still remember finding A is for Alibi on a table at my local bookstore, years and years ago. I had heard about this "alphabet author" and feared her books might be gimmicky. Still, I picked it up and read the back cover. Then I read a little of the first chapter. I ended up buying the book, and I never looked back. I have read every one of the mysteries in Sue Grafton's alphabet series, and I haven't tired of her writing yet. I have my personal favorites, of course--G is for Gumshoe was, I thought, a perfect little mystery, and I is for Innocent was a wonderfully complex bit of plotting.

What I like best, of course, is Kinsey herself, and that sassy attitude that I always liked to think would be my attitude, too, were I as free as Kinsey (who keeps herself determinedly free). Grafton is a smart, funny writer, and it's not a surprise that she is at the top of the mystery writer hierarchy.

Grafton makes no secret of the fact that Ross MacDonald was one of her influences; this is something that she and I have in common. I fell in love with MacDonald's books around the same time that I fell for Grafton's. There are some similarities in their writing, but Grafton's work is lighter and funnier, even when the mysteries themselves have dark themes. MacDonald was never funny, but his metaphors are some of the best I've read in any genre: the sort that stayed with me, haunted me, after I had finished the book.

Sue Grafton is a beacon of hope for every mystery writer who aspires to have a long-running series. She will make it to the end of the alphabet, and she will do it because Kinsey is a clever creation who continues to grow and learn, even while maintaining her fun and sass, over the course of many novels.

Good for you, Sue! Thanks for all the page-turners.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!

In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, I'll share my favorite Shakespearean sonnet:


"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."

(I also blogged about Will at

Happy Shakespeare's Birthday!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spring is Here

I think the snow is finally gone from Chicagoland, and this weekend was the most beautiful in recent memory. Today we put up the patio umbrella and swept away the leaves that clustered in the corners of the bricks. I mowed the lawn. The boys played baseball with their dad. It was wonderful!

I thought I'd share this picture of my dog enjoying the sun.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Bronte

On this day Charlotte Bronte was born in 1816, one of six children of a clergyman in Yorkshire. She wrote often, even as a young person, perhaps as an escape from a rather dreary life. In adulthood she wrote under the name Currer Bell. Her greatest work, of course, is Jane Eyre.

I often teach Jane Eyre to freshmen, and I would have to say that it is the most underestimated and unappreciated work of all the literature that I teach. The young people, in general (despite a few fans in every class), cannot seem to relate to Jane Eyre, and yet I wonder why. It's wonderfully Gothic, and young people still appreciate the Gothic elements in their books and movies; it has a touching love story, a strong sense of mystery, a focus on the underdog--the very plain Jane. Yet it often leaves them cold.

I suppose the difference is that many young people can no longer stomach the style--the long sentences, the formal diction (much of which they don't know and often refuse to look up), the antiquated sensibility. This is about a girl, then a woman, who is continually oppressed. What the girls don't always see, however, is the gradual journey Jane makes: from weakness to strength, from ignorance to awareness, from anger to enlightenment. It's a remarkable work, and my continuing job as a teacher is to try to make them see that.

I first discovered Jane Eyre on my mother's bookshelf when I was very young--eleven or twelve,perhaps. I wanted to read it because it looked very adult: it was big, leatherbound, and intimidating. But when I opened it and found Jane sitting behind a curtain at Gateshead, hiding from her horrible adopted family and looking out at the dreary November day, I was hooked. Bronte was a brilliant storyteller, and Jane is such a worthy protagonist that reader can't help but be drawn into her life and to root for her success.

And of course one of my favorite things about Jane Eyre is its mystery; the wonderful sense that there is something going on that Jane doesn't understand, which creates tension for long portions of the book. I don't wish to spoil anything for those of you who might now be inspired to pick up Jane Eyre in honor of Charlotte's birthday, so I'll just say that the mystery itself has made an indelible imprint on our literary culture, and Jane Eyre remains as a beloved work of English literature.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Defense of Clytemnestra

Recently, in a night class, I read the Orestia--three short plays by Aeschylus. Clytemnestra, in Greek legend and in the play Agamemnon, is depicted as a monstrous woman, a woman who would dare to plot the murder of her husband and then carry it out in bloody triumph, even as her husband returns, victorious, from The Trojan War. Therefore, Clytemnestra is painted as an aberration, an unnatural woman.

There’s more to the story, of course: Agamemnon killed his own daughter, sacrificed her to the gods so that his ships, which were stalled, would have fair winds to speed them to the Trojan War. This entire detail is given short shrift in the play; after all, this is ancient Greece, and women are second-class citizens. If a man has to kill a female for the sake of his own glory, then he will have to make that sacrifice.

Ironic, though, that Agamemnon is not depicted as a monster, but a hero, and his wife, who exacts premeditated and bloody revenge for the loss of her child, becomes the only “evil” character. Granted, murder is horrible. But isn’t the Trojan conflict full of murder—men savagely slaughtered on battlefields, ostensibly, in debate over the ownership of a beautiful woman? Still, there doesn’t seem to be much literary defense of Clytemnestra’s motives.

Sure, I don’t suppose I would murder my husband if he killed my child, but then again, who knows? Grief itself is monstrous, and can twist a person in different ways. Certainly I did not see in Clytemnestra the horrifying creature that the men in my class did. In general, the women looked at her and saw someone consumed by loss.

It’s not fair, I suppose, to impose a modern sensibility on an ancient story. Clytemnestra is meant to be seen as a monster, and so I am supposed to look for the things that make her horrifying. I find that I just can’t do it, though, especially when I read The Odyssey, and even in Hades Agamemnon, that great egotist, can’t get over what his wife has done to him, and rails about it to every shade who floats his way, and to Odysseus, the visiting human.

What I am looking for is an Agamemnon who seeks out the dead Iphigenia, his murdered daughter, to ask for her forgiveness. That doesn’t happen, of course, nor does Clytemnestra find solace in anyone’s understanding of her deed. Her son condemns her and kills her himself to avenge his father’s death. That son, Orestes, never mentions his dead sister.

Since history will not condemn Agamemnon, I will not condemn Clytemnestra.

Image: Clytemnestra After the Murder (John Collier, 1850-1939)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Einstein and the Mysteries of the World

On this day, April 18, in 1955, Albert Einstein died. Einstein--the physicist pioneer who radically changed humanity's perception of the relationship between time, space and motion, and who won the Nobel Prize in 1921.

Like everyone, I admire Einstein's ability to think in a different way and to allow that thinking to lead him to discovery. What I admire the most, however, when I read his writings or things written about him, is his attitude toward the many mysteries of life, which is one of wonder. Einstein loved the endless possibilities posed by the universe, and because of this even death did not frighten him, since perhaps for him another cosmic mystery was being solved.

On the subject of life's mystery, Einstein said:

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."


" The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."

There are many interesting books about Einstein, but the most recent one I've read is called "Driving Mr. Albert: Traveling Across America with Einstein's Brain." It's an interesting read, and yes, Einstein's brain was in the trunk of the car.

Talk about interesting mysteries . . .

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blogging about Talking about Blogging

Sunday found me back at Centuries and Sleuths bookstore in Forest Park, where Libby Hellmann and I gave a presentation on blogging to the Midwest Chapter of the MWA. Mostly we discussed the advantages/disadvantages for a mystery writer who might wish to use the blog as a way of becoming known to potential readers.

Libby, of course, blogs at The Outfit, and I blog here. My take on blogs is that they are a good thing, a positive thing, and certainly a valid forum for expression. I've come to enjoy my own blog, and for that reason alone I would keep it going, whether it sells my books or not. Still, hope springs eternal in the writer's heart. :)

That's mystery writer and MWA Vice President Julie Hyzy standing on the left, by the way. Julie had just visited the Cook County Morgue, and was sharing the interesting details. Only in the mystery world, eh?

The New Regimen Update

It's spring, and it's time for me, the sedentary writer, to re-assess my new health regimen (you know, the one I posted about, where I was going to be in better shape in thirty days?). Here's a sad fact: I'm still pretty sedentary, thanks to my love of writing, reading, and sitting in front of this computer. We just had spring break, during which we went to restaurants and I ate like King Henry the VIII. And now I sort of look like him, too.

So it's time to re-assess, to put this body into motion before it fossilizes to the chair, and to try to pretend that I don't love food. Supporters, please come back and give me your diet/exericise tips. I have fallen off the horse and I need to get back on.

This bunny shall be my first cheerleader. :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jane Finnis on The Roman Empire, The Beauty of Yorkshire, and the Glorious English Apple Pie

Your mysteries, Get Out or Die and A Bitter Chill, are set in First Century Roman Britain. Living in England as you do, were you always fascinated by the Roman ruins in your country? Or did this setting emerge generally from a love of history?
I’ve always found history fascinating. I remember as a small child marveling at the straight Roman roads in East Yorkshire where I was brought up, and being awed by the mediaeval Minster at York, where we went every year for the Christmas Eve carol service. Then when I was about thirteen, I read Robert Graves’ wonderful pair of books, I Claudius and Claudius the God, and from then on I was hooked on Ancient Roman history, and I still am.

Your heroine’s name is Aurelia Marcella. What sort of research did you do to place Aurelia authentically in the ancient world?
I did, and still do, a mass of research on the Roman Empire in the first century AD. I love research, so it’s no hardship. I read hooks, by modern historians and also by classical writers; I use the Internet (but one needs to be cautious here, because some websites are richer in enthusiasm than scholarship;) I pick the brains of experts, and find people very generous with information.

Your home in Yorkshire, pictured so beautifully on your website, looks a little bit like paradise to me. You were born in this country, moved away from it, and have now returned. What’s it like living in Yorkshire?
In a word, great. Yorkshire is England’s biggest county (though I know it’s small by U.S. standards,) and Yorkshire people have often been likened to Texans. We don’t merely believe that our home area is the biggest and the best, we know it is! We have a big variety of countryside – dramatic peaks and moors, gentle green wolds (where I was brought up, and my books are set,) sandy beaches, tall cliffs, rich farmland. We have all kinds of towns also: the business city of Leeds, historic York, Scarborough by the sea, and any number of small market towns. And don’t forget the villages and hamlets…I’d better stop, this is turning into a tourist promotion.

But it's working! You told me that you also once lived in Wensleydale, in the Dales, which were made famous, for me, in the James Herriott books. Isn’t Wensleydale also famous for its cheese? (I learned this from watching Wallace and Gromit, mind you).
There’s a white Wensleydale cheese, and a blue version. They’re made from cows’ milk now, though long ago sheep’s milk was used. The white one is a mild cheese which goes well with apple pie; other cheeses do this too, as long as they’re not too strong. There’s a Yorkshire saying, “An apple pie without some cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.”

Now I have the strongest desire for pie . . . You share a blog with The Ladykillers: Rhys Bowen, Cara Black, Mary Anna Evans and Lyn Hamilton. How did you all come together to begin this blog (aside from being mystery writers all)?
Rhys Bowen invited me to join the blog when it had been going some time, and another mystery Lady Killer dropped out from pressure of work . Of course I was delighted, especially as Rhys and I go back a long long way – we were at College together in London in the swinging ‘60s (we were both very precocious children, you understand!) We were writing even then – we wrote and performed comic sketches and songs together around the University. We always knew we wanted to write for a living, and here we are – though nobody then foresaw the Internet, let along blogs. What surprises await today’s young would-be writers, I wonder?

On your blog, you recently posted about the fact that you love to come to America, but that your experience going through Customs was so unpleasant that you would think twice about making the trip again. My husband had a similar experience trying to LEAVE the country when he recently went to South America on business. Do you think that the post-9/11 world has created this problem, or did airport officials always enjoy abusing their authority?
In my experience, confirmed by other travelling Brits, the rudeness and aggression of US immigration officials are a post 9/11 development. The unpleasantness of it all makes me very angry, and also very sad.

You’re working on a new Aurelia Marcella book called Buried Too Deep. What’s this one about?
Part of the book takes place near the sea, and part, as before, at Aurelia’s inn. Aurelia’s sister Albia and her family get caught up in a feud between two rich and powerful landowners, who both appear determined to acquire all the neighbouring smaller farms, including Albia’s own. The crimes of a band of sea-raiders add to the violence and confusion. Aurelia and her brother Lucius the investigator get drawn in to try to stop the feuding, as does Timaeus, a Greek doctor who lives near Aurelia’s inn. (If you’ve ever wondered about Roman medical procedures, you’ll learn some of them here.) Various killings and a missing shipment of gold combined with unforeseen consequences of a long-ago family drama make Aurelia’s effort at peace-making an extremely dangerous undertaking.

I have not wondered about Roman medical procedures, but I will now. Your mysteries have a similar setting to those written by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer (interviewed on this blog). Do you three know one another?
We’ve never met – I hope we will some day – but I feel as if I know them, especially Mary, who originates from Britain, not far from Yorkshire in fact. We’re all published by Poisoned Pen Press, and the PPP authors are a lively and supportive group, keeping in mutual touch through our own email list. Mary is a regular contributor, and I think it was she who came up with our group’s nickname – the Poisoned Pen Press Posse.

You have a red Cocker Spaniel named Copper. Do dogs ever appear in your mysteries? Did people keep dogs as pets in Ancient Rome?
I love dogs, and Copper, though a rascal, is a lovable one, who came to us from a dog rescue place. Dogs do take part in my mysteries; one plays quite an important role in A BITTER CHILL, when…well, never mind. Romans kept dogs, cats, and other creatures as pets, and Aurelia has several dogs, but hers are farm dogs really, employed for herding and guarding as much as for their company.

Do you speak Latin?

Speak it, no. Read it, yes, but slowly and with frequent dips into my dictionary.

You also have broadcasting experience. What sorts of things did you do in the broadcasting world?
I worked first as a radio producer for the British Information Service, and then went freelance as a radio reporter and documentary maker, mostly for the BBC. I still do very occasional odd reporter jobs for the BBC if they need a stringer in my area. It’s a wonderful job, though you’d never make a fortune at it; but it gives you a licence to meet fascinating people, ask interesting questions (and sometimes daft ones,) and if you’re making a documentary, you get to research in depth. Programmes I remember with special pleasure are a series about ESP, another about modern farming which took me all over the UK, and a documentary about women in history who served in the armed forces disguised as men (like the 19th-century US “marine” Lucy Brewer.)

You have a pond on your property, which is home to fish, frogs, a newt, and various butterflies who like to visit there. This seems idyllic; do you ever sit there and plot your stories?
Yes, often. I write there sometimes too, using a laptop, but the British weather isn’t always very co-operative, (and truth to tell, I’m too easily distracted by the lovely setting!) so I do most of my writing indoors in my office.

I am terrified of planes, but if I ever get on one I will fly to England. Yorkshire is one of the places I’d like to visit—where else would you recommend that I go, assuming I had all the time in the world? :)
Heavens, what a question! There’s so much choice, you’d certainly need all the time in the world! I’ll just pick five of my personal favourites for now, aside from Yorkshire, which of course contains York, one of my favourite cities because of its long history. First London, still one of the world’s great cities, a wonderful mixture of past and present; second, the woods and coastal area around the New Forest (Hampshire and Dorset, the south coast;) third, the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lake District; fourth the historic city of Bath, a special favourite of mine because of the remains of the Roman baths there; and fifth, the unspoilt countryside of the Wye Valley near the Welsh border.

You have me drooling now. I am an Anglophile who has never been to England, but someday . . .

The historical mystery is a very popular genre. What do you think draws people to this combination: history blended with mystery?

You’ve put your finger on the reason, using the word “blended”. Historical novels have always been popular, and so have mysteries, and if a writer can successfully combine these two strong elements, he or she is onto a winner. Even people who “don’t like history” (usually because of poor teaching at school) find they like learning about a different time and place, if they can do so while enjoying a good plot and interesting characters.

Were you a fan of Ellis Peters?
Yes, especially of the Brother Cadfael books. I think my favourite is probably Monkshood.

What are you reading now?
I’m between books as I write this: an unusual situation for me, and it won’t last long. I’ve just finished The Empty Chair by Geoffrey Deaver, and enjoyed it, especially the mounting tension towards the end. I’m about to start The Last Precinct by Patricia Cornwell. I haven’t read any of hers before, so I can’t say yet whether it will be my cup of tea, but I’ll enjoy finding out. After that, coincidentally, will be a book by another Cornwell – Bernard this time. I love his Peninsula War novels about the riflemen Richard Sharpe and Sergeant Harper, and bought Sharpe’s Havoc just the other day.

What sorts of interesting details have you pulled up about life in Ancient Roman Brittania? What did they eat? What games did they play? Are there any other curiosities you’ve uncovered?
Heaps and heaps of them. The details of food, clothing, and home life in general which I put into my books are as accurate as I can make them. For the book in progress now, I’ve been finding out about Roman medicine, which was surprisingly sophisticated, considering they didn’t have microscopes, didn’t know about germs, and had no anaesthetics of course. Their doctors could successfully mend skull fractures, set bones, and stitch up wounds. Some of this I describe in the book, but I try to keep a balance between telling it how it was, and making it too gory.

That would be a delicate balance, I fear. As a lover of history, do you ever wish you could travel in time? Do you enjoy reading time travel stories?
I’d love to travel in time; first to – you’ve guessed it – Roman Britain, but then to almost any other era and place, as long as I was certain I could get back to my “home” period. Perhaps Restoration England for starters, then France at the time of the 1789 Revolution, then back to Britain for Victorian times. I enjoy time travel tales: among my favourites are Wells’ The Time Machine, and Daphne Du Maurier’s The House on the Strand.

People sometimes criticize English food, suggesting that it is bland. Is this true?
No it isn’t, although we do have our fair share of tasteless “junk food” here. But English food at its best is a world-beater. You won’t find anything tastier than a joint of roast British beef or lamb…roast duck with orange sauce…a good rich game pie…or for simpler fare, fish and chips, freshly fried and still sizzling. Round off the meal with sherry trifle, or apple pie (ours is just as good as the American kind!) And if I can broaden my answer to include Scotland, smoked salmon from there is wonderful, and they grow the best raspberries you’ll ever eat.

I should know better than to ask a writer about food--they always make it sound so good! You refer to Yorkshire as “God’s Own Country,” so it’s obvious that you find it beautiful; but if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve been lucky and have traveled fairly widely, but there are still so many places left to explore, or to re-visit: Italy, the French Alps, northern Spain; Arizona and the south-west of the USA, Hawaii, perhaps on the way to Australia and New Zealand.. And if I live long enough, I’d like to travel in space, to see the Earth as a blue ball floating against the stars. Now that would be something!

It really would. Thank you so much for chatting with me, Jane!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

In Praise of the Wonderful Jill McGown

Jill McGown won my heart way back in 1983 or thereabouts, when she published her first novel, A PERFECT MATCH. I read that mystery compulsively, turning pages as fast as I possibly could while still devouring every word written on them. The plot was so clever, so seemingly complicated--and yet so simple in its resolution--that it reminded me of the work of Agatha Christie. Except that I thought Jill McGown was better than Agatha Christie.

Christie's talent was undeniable, especially for plotting, but McGown's clever plots were matched by her gift for characterization, and from the start I loved her characters, Inspector Lloyd and Judy Hill, and I've loved them for more than twenty years as they have grown and changed over a number of mysteries--and I've read ALL of Jill McGown's mysteries.

It wasn't just that McGown created a memorable romantic mystery; in fact, she has attested that she never set out initially to write a mystery at all, much less a love interest between her main characters. She was of that school of writers, though, who sat down and started writing and waited to see what came out. I admire this sort of writing, which I see as brave, even adventurous. McGown's books, though, are very carefully plotted--there's nothing of a haphazard feeling about them.

I can't even define what makes her books so compulsively readable. Of course the mystery is dominant, and she leaves enough unanswered questions that the reader is compelled to keep turning pages, just to find some answers; but in the process of pursuing that mystery, the reader also finds that they've grown to like her characters so much that the resolution of their problems is equally important. McGown always found that perfect balance.

I was horrified to learn of Jill McGown's death, and a part of me refuses to believe it. Here is the effect that writing can have. I have never met Jill McGown, but I came to rely upon each new book (and I hope that one more Lloyd and Judy book will be forthcoming), and through her author newsletters I came to love her voice, her real voice, which came through as she chatted about her life in Corby, England and the house in which she had lived since she was a child. I loved her posts about her cat George and about her beloved niece and grand-niece, and I felt, somehow, as though Jill were a sort of neighbor of mine--a neighbor in a far away and beautiful place.

Now she is in a far away place, (and I hope it is beautiful), and she will not be writing here again; but what a splendid lifetime of work she has left behind, and how I will enjoy re-reading every volume!

Thank you, Jill McGown.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

We Suffer a Reversal

As promised, we went off for our two day spring escape, into the beautiful wilds of Michigan (but near to resorts) :) This first photo was the view from our cabin window.
And this was the driveway to our little retreat. Things couldn't have been going better: beautiful woods, great directions that got us there quickly, the excitement and anticipation of us all.
We even had idyllic moments like this, where the boys fed ducks in the little resort town. We were all running around in sweatshirts or fleece jackets, and we planned to hike and shop and wander all the next day. And then, THIS:
Same driveway, one day later, but a whole different season. And though you can't tell from this photo, it's still coming down, and it came down ALL DAY LONG. The roads were so obscured that we were unwilling to go too far from our remote cabin, for fear that we would be snowed OUT--that is, away from our luggage. So we went boldly into town, ate a quick meal, and then made our slow and mostly blind way back. We holed up in the cabin for the rest of the day and night. Not exactly the plan, but it was a sweet little cabin.
So our spring break photos look like this.

Did I get any writing done? About two pages, which I suppose isn't bad. I'm guessing that very few successful writers ever had children, at least not children they didn't lock in the cellar or attic. Graham got a slingshot as a souvenir (his choice) and he spent almost the entire time launching little spongy balls around the house. Not the most inspirational environment for a writer, unless my book were to be called CUT IT OUT!

Still, I can't say it wasn't a fun vacation. And we're hoping to check out the cabin again in summer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Check Me Out

I have a new website that is not entirely completed, but I'd love to get some feedback. It actually has nothing to do with the visual here, but I just hate to post without a picture; I'm a visual learner. :)

Check out the site at

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, April 09, 2007

A Rejuvenating Jaunt

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

So said Thoreau in his book Walden, and I recently sent this quote to Bill Cameron when he went to on his own woodsy retreat to do some intensive writing.

Now, because it is our spring break and for once our whole family finds itself together, we are taking a couple of days in the woods, as well. Our budget is about $10.75, so we won't be able to do much more than pay for gas and sit around looking at trees, but the NOTION of being somewhere else, somewhere beautiful and different, is sometimes all it takes to feel refreshed. These photos come from a different visit to a different forest, in days of yore, but I think they still get the point across. :)

Soon I shall be able to post photos from our new hideaway, where I hope to do some writing on my latest book. However, there will be children who want to take walks and find gross things in the dirt, and naturally that must take precedence.
Perhaps, though, the act of investigating the physical world will help to stimulate my cerebral world; I have found in the past that the best ideas came to me when I was relaxed and not inundated with workday stresses. But quitting my job to relax and write is a long way off--after all, I just spent my $10.75.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

"Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there."

~Clarence W. Hall

Friday, April 06, 2007

Travel Post 2: The Hula Girl Visits South America

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the single most commonly photographed part of my husband's trip was this lovely and mostly-naked young woman. If I had to guess the location of this resort, I would of course have said Hawaii, but this is in good ol' Argentina, which Evita told not to cry for her.
Jeff tells me that at each vineyard/estate they visited, local entertainers would perform for the tourists, and these costume-clad people were demonstrating some of the local customary dances.
The gentleman who hired them, it seems, is a wealthy landowner with vineyards on both sides of the Andes Mountains and palatial estates to prove his success.
Naturally, Jeff enjoyed all of the entertainment, but the preponderance of cute young girl photos reveal that men, in general, are not mysterious at all. :)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Travelogue Post One: Wine and Leisure in The Andes Mountain Region

As I posted yesterday, my husband just got back from a trip to Chile and Argentina, which are premiere wine regions. Jeff had the onerous task of touring vineyards and wineries and being fed lots of free food and wine. When I looked up the grape in my flower symbolism manual, I found that it was the "flower of drunkenness." Naturally, the grape is connected with Bacchus and all of his love of pleasure, but of course the true connosseiur cannot swallow the wine during a tasting, so Jeff remained (perhaps to his regret) sober throughout the trip.
He was able to take these remarkable photos, though, so that I can live vicariously through him--and now you can, too, if you wish. Here are some pictures of the Montes Winery in Chile, with the mighty Andes range in the background. The weather was sublime, I'm told, while here in Chicagoland it reached a new April low of 28 degrees and snow flurries scampered past the windowpanes.
As a writer, I'm impressed by all the potential for description here: the lush vineyards, the rich purple of the grapes, the musical dialogue of my husband's tour guide, who sounded, Jeff insists, "exactly like Ricardo Montalban."
In addition to that wonderful potential for dialogue study, he was traveling with a group of New Yorkers who had their own colorful way of commenting on the tour. Jeff had a terrific trip, although he had nothing but bad things to say about the airport and one airline in particular. More on that later--that will come under the heading of "characterization." :)

More gorgeous pictures to follow!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Visual Splendor

My husband returns today from a one-week trip to Chile and Argentina. He toured wineries and vineyards and was treated to some amazing meals (he said he ate a lot of seafood). Among other memorable events, he flew (in a plane, of course) over the Andes Mountains.

Naturally, pictures will be posted soon. :)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

If I Have Made A Farthing . . .

Happy Literary Birthday to the great Washington Irving, author of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Irving was born on this day in 1873, and was named after General George Washington, whom his parents particularly admired.

My favorite work by Irving is a story called "The Devil and Tom Walker." While it has the same folk tale tone as his other famous works, it delves more deeply into the notion of human corruption; Tom sells his soul for the sake of greed. When he famously says "The Devil take me if I have made a farthing," the Devil does.

As a morality tale, it's entirely satisfying.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lev Raphael on Identity, Social Commentary, Civil Rights, Jesus, and Keith Carradine

Lev, thank you for agreeing to chat on my blog.

First, I must say that you have a terrific name. Did you always have a sense that it would look great on the spine of a book?
You know, I thought less of my name on a book than of some book of mine being on a shelf with other books in a library, part of the great conversation. I felt this way as far back as second or third grade when I started writing fiction and was endlessly borrowing books from our local library which was a turn-of-the-century Gothic-style building and awed me every time I walked in.

Your website tells me that you are “widely sought after as a keynote speaker, panelist, moderator, and conference speaker.” Which is your favorite? And when you are sought, are you found?
There’s something special about keynoting, because you help set the mood for what follows. It’s an honor, and quite a responsibility. But I recently did an after dinner speech for a literacy foundation and that was a whole new challenge—and exciting. What I like best, I guess, at this point after having done hundreds of talks and readings, etc., is something I haven’t done before--if possible! As for being found—most requests come via email through my web site, and I always reply, even if I won’t be able to do the event due to scheduling or some other reason.

You have your own radio show and have been a commentator for NPR. How did you get involved in radio?
I actually gave up the show because it was too much work, but it was wonderful to do while it lasted. I got to interview authors like Salman Rushdie, Erica Jong, Julian Barnes, Linda Fairstein. Now I understand why there’s a lot of burnout in radio, which I started in as a reviewer for a show in Ann Arbor. That got syndicated by NPR and then I also did work for two public radio shows in the Lansing, MI area, one of which was interested in my doing a weekly book show. It was fun and I think the authors enjoyed being interviewed by an author who had actually read their books and done research. Because I wanted to make sure the interview reflected me and the author correctly, I did the production, too, and that was sometimes mind-numbing, sitting there editing the tracks, timing everything, listening to some bits over and over. And then there were the occasional technical problems I had no control over--

Aside from seven Nick Hoffmann mysteries, you’ve authored fiction and non-fiction, and your “stories and essays are on university syllabi around the U.S. and in Canada; [your] fiction has been analyzed in books, scholarly journals and at scholarly conferences, including MLA.” Do you have a work that you consider your best? Or do you have an “I don’t love one child more than another” philosophy?
Because I write so many different kinds of things, I have lots of favorites. I think the new mystery,Hot Rocks, has the best plot. I think the story “The Tanteh” in my collection Secret Anniversaries of the Heart is my best story. I’ve done hundreds of reviews, and I know the one I did of an Alan Furst book, a very long one, for Boston Review, was my best. Then there’s the literary historical novel I recently finished that really still blows me away—I never expected to work in that genre, but when the idea hit me last April, it wouldn’t let me go. I’ve never written anything this complex, and it’s definitely the strongest novel I’ve done.

You have written some critically acclaimed works about the Holocaust, including your book of short stories called Dancing on Tisha B'Av. As the son of Holocaust survivors, did you always feel it was your destiny to write about this event in history?
I came to that late, that is, in my twenties, when I started claiming a positive Jewish identity since I’d grown up without one, and realized that I had something special to share with people as the son of survivors. I started with teaching, then writing about it. But that’s just one side of my work, as you know. I see the mysteries as offering entertainment, and then there’s my best-selling children’s book, which has been translated into a dozen languages, which focuses on self-esteem. Everything’s written for some kind of purpose or other.

Did your parents’ survival story tend to inspire you as a young person, or did it make you sad? Or angry, perhaps? And did those feelings compel you to write, or would you have become a writer regardless of your family history?
I sought refuge in books from my angry, unhappy family, and loved the myriad worlds I discovered there. But even in a different family, I would have been a writer because I loved storytelling from a very early age. I still do. Or I wouldn’t be writing.

Let’s go back to Nick Hoffmann. What drew you (and continues to draw you) to the Mystery genre?
I love the mix of crime, puzzle, and social commentary. Mysteries these days are a lot about exposing some kind of corruption in tandem with the exploration of the what and why of the crime, and they take us into different worlds. As for the series, I love coming back to some familiar characters in between working on other books in other genres—it’s like a vacation for me at an all-inclusive resort. I actually set my previous mystery, Tropic of Murder, at a Club Med, because I’d attended a mystery conference at one, and done research at another, and thought it would be a perfect setting for crime. Both trips were paid for, by the way, in a lucky turn of events. Leaving Michigan in mid-winter for the Caribbean was lovely.

I'll bet. What is the premise of Hot Rocks, your new book?
Nick is at his palatial health club and discovers a body in the steam room. He’s a prime suspect, of course, and driven to find the murderer, he discovers a whole web of secrecy and deceit among members and employees of the club. It’s got sex,fitness, and conspicuous consumption.

Oh, and as Henslowe says in Shakespeare in Love, “and a bit with a dog.”

Dogs sell. :) There’s a beautiful piece on your website called “Writing a Jewish Life,” which was both a published article and a keynote address that you gave not long after September 11th. It details some of the confusing emotions of your childhood as the child of Holocaust survivors, then your struggle to emerge as a young man and a young writer in college. You wrote, poignantly, that writing is “a hazardous enterprise at best, an arena of life where it would be best to inject your self-esteem with novocaine if such a thing were possible.” Wow, what a great way of putting it. After all the acclaim, do you still feel this way?
I don’t think rejection ever stops stinging. I don’t think you ever forget the lost opportunities or the most savage reviews. The pain fades with good news, but failure and false starts are wounds that can start throbbing quite easily. Between my first and second published short stories I lived through a blizzard of rejections that lasted over five years.

That stays with you. And then there are further disappointments of all kinds. To be a writer, you need more than just patience on top of your talent, you need a high tolerance for hard knocks.

Now, I've had a lot of great things happen in my career, like one book selling over 250,000 copies; getting two European book tours; winning a prize where the contest was judged by D.M. Thomas who wrote The White Hotel; having people teach my work in colleges and universities; getting invited to places like Oxford University and the 92nd St. Y. But I've also had a lot of terrible things happen in my career, like when one publisher purged all its mystery authors and I found out via email rumor, or another publisher canceled a contract the day before Thanksgiving. The list could go on. That's the reality of a writer's life.

You also quoted Janet Malcolm, who said, “Art is theft. Art is armed robbery. Art is not pleasing your mother.” Again, that seems to be a universal truth. Did your mother come around in terms of your writing career?

I think it’s a Hallmark Card fantasy that our parents will like what we write—why should they? In my life specifically, my mother fell ill before she could read my mysteries, a genre she loved. That’s very sad to me.

What are you reading now?
A book about the Spanish Civil War; a mystery set in 1947 Egypt about the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Gospels; and The Utility of Force by a British general writing about the nature of war vs. insurgencies. I didn’t used to read more than one book at a time, but now I find it almost impossible to stick to just one, unless it’s riveting. Or short!

I’m also reading a few German language guides because I’m doing a two-week book tour in Germany next month for my third book published in German and I need the brush-up.

Sounds exciting! You have an M.F.A in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in American Studies; you once taught, but left academia to write full time. When were you busier—then or now?
I left almost twenty years ago, which amazes me. I loved teaching, but knew I could never do more than publish stories and articles because I only had summers off and that wasn't enough time to do a book. I suppose it’s a different kind of busy now, perhaps? When you teach writing, for instance, you’re bombarded by all those different student voices, not of your own choice (as opposed to when you pick your reading material). You have endless grading to do, and student conferences, and lessons to plan (plus meetings to attend). I didn’t write as much then, because I didn’t have the time. I’ve been much busier as a writer and reviewer since I quit teaching.

You need a tremendous amount of time around the time you write, so to speak, time to not feel pushed and pulled. And then writing doesn’t just happen at the computer or wherever—the subconscious is always working. I frequently have ideas or work tangles out in something while I’m walking the dogs, working out, grocery shopping, showering, falling asleep.

So you're busy writing without looking like you're busy writing. And when I was reviewing, sometimes I'd have to read 3-5 books a week just to keep up, so the ten years I did that were truly hectic.

Wow. You are in Michigan, and you credit the finding of your Jewish identity to the fact that you left New York and moved to Michigan. Is this because Michigan is a Jewish place, or because it’s not?
The latter, but then writers often find themselves away from home. It worked for James Baldwin when he left Harlem for Paris. He saw himself and America much more clearly. Leaving New York helped me develop a better sense of my audience and what I had to say in my fiction, at least to begin with, and it broke the dry spell I spoke about earlier.

Do people ever tell you that you resemble Jesus?
I wish those twelve guys would stop following me around. It’s embarrassing.

I have in the past been taken for Keith Carradine, which is more fun. Especially if I was flying first class. Or in New York when staying at a ritzy hotel and my hair was cut a certain way.

Well, I would think that Jesus would get his room comped. But I suppose Keith Carradine is a more likely sighting. :)

You married your partner in Canada. Do you think America will ever re-define its notion of marriage? Perhaps to encompass the “marriage of two minds” rather than only of two genders?

I hope so, though I don’t care what it’s called. Western Europe has moved that way, even South Africa! Who would have thought the U.S. would be behind the former apartheid state in a question of civil rights?

One last plug: should people start with your first mystery, or should they buy Hot Rocks and work backwards?
Read something, anything, I need a new toaster!

Seriously, I’ve written the series so that it can be picked up anywhere, though Nick does change over time. People should approach the series however they like to read a series: obliquely, from behind, ambush, whatever works.

Good advice. I need a new toaster, too--I don't think they make them as sturdy today as they once made them.

Lev, thank you so much for talking with me. Now that I’ve read the beautiful pieces on your website I will certainly be seeking out your mysteries.