Monday, March 31, 2008

Feline Fakery

Today's mystery quiz is to find this cat in the second picture. Rose is a master of finding places within places; I'm starting to understand why cats are so often linked with mysteries. If there is a cubicle, compartment, hole, aperture, or open door, Rose is interested in going in there. Of course it's not only Rose. I've seen many a cat find many an odd resting place--hence the saying about cats and curiosity. But maybe there's more to it than that. Maybe cats are drawn to mysteries!
In any case, Rose was convinced she was entirely out of view here; maybe when she's full grown she'll do a better job of self-concealment.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Mystery of Vision

On this day in 1853, Vincent Van Gogh was born. He lived only 37 years, at the end of which he took his own life, but he remains a significant name not only in the art world, but in popular culture. Van Gogh is in many senses a mystery, but one that his beautiful and distinctive art makes people believe they can solve.

In his famous song, Vincent, Don McLean sang of the torment and passion of a great artist:

"Now I understand . . . what you tried to say to me; and how you suffered for your sanity, and how you tried to set them free--

They would not listen, they did not know how; perhaps they'll listen now."

McLean also sang the line "This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."

But I think Vincent had a special place in the world, and continues to reside there.

(art link here)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Places We Visit in Books

My recent change of setting has made me think about books with settings that appealed to me. I've always been drawn to Miss Marple's little town, St. Mary Mead, and other wonderful coastal towns mentioned in Agatha Christie's fiction--Torquay, Dartmouth.

Christie wrote in her autobiography that places were very important to her: " . . . places remain very firmly in my mind. Often, returning somewhere after five or six years, I remember quite well the road to take, even if I have only been there once before."

Another setting that always influenced me greatly was Rosamund Pilcher's Cornwall, where one seems never to be far from a sandy beach or a rocky cave, and life slows down for the celebration of holidays and healthy walks and church jumble sales.

Books with evocative settings have a lasting effect.

What's your favorite place from fiction?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Restful and Lovely

Our break was all that we hoped it would be; as early tourists we were faced with an almost silent town, still closed up but undeniably pretty and, for the most part, sunny. We looked down on the river, onto this very pier, and were able to watch the changing moods of the water by its current. On the third day the water was clear as glass and the sun was just right, so everything I photographed had a mirror image in the river. A tourist's delight.
We did our fair share of walking, eating and napping, but I'm afraid I did no writing at all, and only a smidgen of thinking about writing. I'm hoping the advanced laziness of my break will inspire some sort of intensive thinking in the future. The boys were an almost constant distraction, saddled as they were with parents in a silent town which offered not much in the way of other young people or things that are "fun" in the adolescent sense. Graham made his own entertainment by fashioning disguises out of green silly putty. He was surprisingly good at it.
The only problem is that a man with a green beard is NOT going to blend into a crowd, nor would he be a successful spy. Still, I think he wears it well. :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

We're Off to Play

We are finally leaving this morning for our spring retreat. I'll bring you a souvenir. Sadly, it is not to be a long journey, so I'll check back in on Wednesday night--no internet connection where we're going.

Until later, then--weeee! It's vacation time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mission: Rejuvenation

Every spring my family and I take a little trip--just a quick getaway during our Easter break. Last year our retreat was buried deep in the Michigan woods--a lovely place that inspired peace and eventual inspiration (see photo above). By the very next DAY, however, we found ourselves under a winter storm watch (and it was April, mind you) and our retreat looked like this:
This year Easter came much earlier, as we all know, and so we may be facing even colder weather on our "spring retreat." Unfortunately, I made arrangements dreaming of warmer weather. Our hideaway is right on the river, with a little balcony from which we can watch the boats:

The weather forecast for Michigan tells me that the temps should be somewhere between 30 and 40; I'm not foreseeing too much balcony time, nor do I think too many people will want to take their boats out on the frigid water. But who knows? Maybe this weather and the quiet, off-season time in a resort town will be the very thing I need to inspire all sorts of writing.

So, as I pack and head off to our cold spring break, I ask you: what's your favorite writer's or reader's retreat?

Happy Easter!


Happy Easter Sunday to all. Here is our attempt at familial egg-coloring. Not bad this year. :)

Here's an appropriately hopeful quotation from the last Pope:

"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song."
Pope John Paul II

Friday, March 21, 2008

Are March Snows Like April Showers?

The snow is coming down again; this really has been a most bizarre winter. To herald spring, Mother Nature has sent more snow, just so that we don't assume we know more than she does by merely naming seasons.

However, I am guessing that flowers like these are just around the corner--I took this picture in spring, as well, and just looking at it I can smell those flowers and feel that warm sun. Not literally, of course, since I have to go shovel now, but figuratively, the image warms the heart.

And if April showers bring May flowers, then March snows must bring something . . .

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mystery Memoir: Just One Sentence, Please

Smith Magazine is challenging people to write a six-word memoir. It's much harder than it sounds, as I discovered while I sat here wasting too much time trying to think of one.

Take their challenge, but tell me what you would write!

Here's one my son wrote for his dog: "Ate, pooped, slept: achieved it all."


Trace Adkins Teaches Me a Lesson

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chicago Chooses Crime

Mayor Daley has chosen this year's One Book, One Chicago title: Raymond Chandler's THE LONG GOODBYE. A great choice! Here's a link to the city library's website, and here's a look at what The Outfit has to say. (Scroll down to Libby Hellmann's article).

I taught this book for several years in a crime fiction course, and it really is Chandler's best: moody, mature, funny, sad.

Give it a read and then come back and talk to me about Mendy Menendez, one of the greatest pieces of characterization in the 20th century.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Eternal Optimism

an image from the Hubble Telescope

"Anything is possible . . . you just need to believe."

--Adele Basheer

"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."

--Albert Camus

"It is not the situation. It is your reaction to the situation."

--Bob Conklin

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My New Secretary

Recently, before I was hammered mercilessly by the flu, I invested fifty dollars at a second-hand store and bought this roll-top desk. I've always wanted a "secretary desk," as they are sometimes called, but could never afford it, and even the fifty dollars was rather a splurge. But I cannot express how much I love this desk, despite the fact that it needs new drawer hardware and has scratches and nicks all over. It's already re-organized my life in necessary ways, and I find the process of paying bills quite effortless now.

I am apparently a woman of simple needs--this desk cheers me considerably, even in my current listless state. What is a writer, really, without a desk?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fate the Great

A big congratulations to my friend Robert Fate, who received a starred review in Kirkus for the third in his Baby Shark series, Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption.

Among the nice things they said about the book were these gems: "Love her or hate her, everyone knows Baby Shark is lethal. A lively addition to a highly diverting series."

I interviewed Bob about a year ago; to read the interview, click here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Third Affliction

Yes, bleah, Snoopy and Linus, because I have my THIRD illness of 2008; this time I've selected the flu with all the trimmings. :)

So I am not a-bloggin' too much right now, what with the fever and such. (Although that might inspire me in a hallucinatory kind of way).

As my little niece used to say, "I can't even ableeve it!"

And here's a final thought: doesn't my blog title sound sort of like a Robert Ludlum novel?

My blog challenge today: write the first line of the novel called THE THIRD AFFLICTION. Entertain me, I beg you, while I lie about. :)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Writer J. F. Englert on Loving Labradors, Sussing Spy Codes, and Reading The Economist

J. F. Englert has a new mystery series narrated by a very intelligent labrador.

J.F., thanks for agreeing to chat about your writing.

Thank you, Julia.

Your book, A Dog About Town, is narrated by a black Labrador Retriever who happens to be incredibly intelligent. What made you decide to write a book narrated by a dog? Was it influenced by the Labrador with which you are pictured in the back of the book? :)

A Dog About Town –specifically, Randolph, the pudgy Labrador Retriever, who narrates the book— sprang into life basically complete. His voice was quite distinct and he definitely had a story to tell. It was my job to listen. Was it influenced by R. Englert, the dog I’m pictured with at the back of the book? Yes. To the extent that R. Englert introduced me to the ways of dog in New York City then it was influenced by my experience with her. But this is more a reporting concern. On another level, I’m hesitant to draw too many comparisons between Randolph and R. Englert, since the former is a male and has distinct –sometimes objectionable— opinions about things and R. Englert is a female and is never objectionable in her opinions about anything

The narrator, Randolph, lives in a New York apartment with a man named Harry, and both man and dog are suffering from the loss of their loved one, Imogen. I have two literary questions:

First, is Imogen inspired by Shakespeare’s Imogen, daughter of King Cymbeline? If so, can we take that play as a clue to the lost Imogen’s whereabouts?
You are an excellent reader and I am very impressed. In terms of using Shakespeare as a decoder key though for the larger, ongoing mystery, I would be careful. As many a spy and code breaker will tell you, certain landscapes are a wilderness of mirrors and there is seldom a pristine and perfect guide to sorting out the muddle of a mystery. This particular mystery I fear will see Harry and Randolph caught in several dizzying wildernesses around the globe before it is over with Imogen always before them in the ungraspable, middle distance as a living beacon (or not) … .

Okay. Second, I am reminded for some reason of Poe’s “lost Lenore,” perhaps because of the men brooding in their apartment at midnight over the missing woman and the fearful question of what might have happened to her:

vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow — sorrow for the lost Lenore —
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore —
Nameless here for evermore.

And Randolph is of course reading a book in chapter one. He also says that Imogen “had made better males of us both” and that “men need to be loved or they will slowly and invariably go bad.” Harry has sought occultists to help him find Imogen, and Poe’s narrator is reading a book about the occult (at midnight!).

Am I imagining the Poe influence here?

Poe certainly matters to me (as he should to any halfway serious reader or writer). And I tend to think that unless we are desperate doctoral students trying to stamp our bit of arcana on the literary map our instincts about influences are seldom unfounded. Here, though, I confess to not being conscious of this influence, but Randolph, my co-writer, that clever old sod, probably has a different idea.

Okay, that was a long question, so here’s a short one: is writing your full time job?
Yes, when I’m not selling Randolph’s signature collection amethyst dog bangles on the Home Shopping Network to feed his insatiable appetite for spare ribs. Would you like to buy one?

No, thanks. Do you intend to write a whole series of Randolph mysteries?

Randolph insists on it, although he claims that I’m the one who won’t let him find their Imogen and save all from imminent harm so that they can nestle once again as a family in their sun-dappled apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Do you get fan mail from dog lovers?
I have gotten some wonderful mail from dog lovers who have found A Dog About Town and have become attached to Randolph. One woman will be baking nonfictional, organic treats for him which he is sure to enjoy. People in Italy where the book has come out in glorious hardcover under the name Elementare, Randolph are excited because of Randolph’s affection for Dante and his general love of food. The response has been exceedingly positive to Randolph … overwhelming in a way and by overwhelming I mean overwhelming for me in that it has confirmed what I first sensed when I “heard” his voice beginning to tell me, his rather dense typist, a story and a little bit about life (both human and dog).

I love the Italian title.

You went to the Columbia School of Journalism. Have you worked as a journalist?

Not as a daily journalist but some magazine work including one assignment that saw me kayak around Manhattan in the dead of winter in hypothermically lethal waters. Something in the final scene of A Dog Among Diplomats and future books has been gleaned from these reckless inquiries. There is something about floating in New York harbor with a dry suit on that alters your perception of the world.

I would imagine. Do you read mysteries? If so, do you have favorites?
I am still working my way through the classics, mystery and other. We pigeonhole ourselves too easily these days I think. Perhaps we do this in the absence of a sense of belonging that an earlier civilization or society once provided. We claim our niche like it’s a feudal village. Who knows? I hold with the highbrows and the snobs without being willfully exclusionary like them. I believe that everyone should want to challenge themselves, push themselves and be more than occasionally uncomfortable in their reading and in their lives. There’s nothing I think will hurt a writer more than to believe that a reader won’t stick with him or her through the “difficult” and “complex” parts or give up because of a handful of “big” words. Our potential audience should be everyone if we’re going to write anything good and everyone should have pride and curiosity enough to try to get a little bit better even when they’re being entertained. This is a long way of saying, I don’t think genre beyond the basics: nonfiction, fiction and verse.

What are you reading now?

The Economist. I have a subscription because I believe that The Economist is so good that if I could only manage to read through it every week I could actually see far into the future. It comes to my mailbox every Friday and so far I’m not seeing past the following Tuesday but I’ll keep reading and running to the dictionary or Wikipedia when they throw the occasional stumper my direction.

You currently reside in New York. Have you always lived there?
I was born in New York but then we moved to Staten Island which is a whole other story about which Randolph will have no part in the telling.

I love the cover of your book. Were you happy with it when you saw it for the first time?
I think it’s brilliant and, as you suggest, I had nothing to do with it. I had some sense that there should be a dog on the cover, but I was as close to ecstatic as I get when I saw what Daniel Craig did with it (I was further amazed when Randolph –whose information about such things is beyond reproach— told me that this same man is the current James Bond on the silver screen).

He is indeed multi-talented! :) How can readers find out more about you and your books?

They can visit

Thanks so much, J. F..
Thank you, Julia! This has been a terrific experience and your insights have left Randolph and me immensely impressed and gratified.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Some Words on Writing

"Nine tenths of all existing books are nonsense."

--Benjamin Disraeli

"Writing books is certainly a most unpleasant occupation. It is lonesome, unsanitary, and maddening. Many authors go crazy."

--H.L. Mencken

"Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing."

--Sylvia Plath

"A painter can hang his pictures, but a writer can only hang himself."

--Edward Dahlberg

"Books for general reading always smell bad; the odor of common people hangs about them."

--Friedrich Nietsche

"Nietsche was stupid and abnormal."

--Leo Tolstoy

Some Words on Writing

"Nine tenths of all existing books are nonsense."

--Benjamin Disraeli

Another Take on the Cat's Demise

"Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect."


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mystery Writer Elizabeth Zelvin on Empathy, Hootennannies and The Renaissance Soul

Though we have never met, Elizabeth Zelvin and I are co-bloggers on Poe's Deadly Daughters. Liz's new mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, comes out next month, and she has begun her promotional blog tour. Liz is also a licensed online therapist, which is one of the things we discussed in the interview below.

Liz, I have shared a blog with you, Poe’s Deadly Daughters, for a year now, but in studying for this interview I’ve learned that you are quite the Renaissance woman! You are a poet, a singer, a former Peace Corps volunteer, a psychotherapist, a mystery writer. How do you make that work? And what matters most to you?
A friend of mine, Margaret Lobenstine, has a book out about what she calls the Renaissance Soul—her gender-free version of the term “Renaissance man.” She says a lot of multi-talented people take flak for not focusing on one thing rather than appreciating and enjoying all their gifts. I’ve reinvented myself every few years, and I find my different areas of creativity shift from the front burner to the back burner and vice versa every so often. I just go with the flow. But the writing is the closest to my heart. I first said, “I want to be a writer” when I was seven years old. So when people ask me how long it took to write Death Will Get You Sober and get it published, I can say it took 57 years.

You just mentioned your mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, which obviously deals with the notion of alcoholism. What prompted you to write about such a serious issue?
Yes, alcoholism is indeed a serious issue. But in fact, my intention was to write about recovery. I wanted to get Death Will Get You Sober out there for the same reason Mr. Obama is running for President: I have a message of hope. Alcoholism is a chronic illness that destroys people in many different ways. Yet millions of people do recover, thanks to the 12-step programs and also professional treatment. Every one is a walking miracle. I wanted to write about that miracle in an authentic way and even make jokes about it—which people in recovery, especially in AA, do all the time.

Had you always imagined yourself as a mystery writer, or was this just a surprising tangent to your other professional work?
As I said, I’ve always been a writer, and writing mysteries came well before my becoming a therapist. I wrote three mysteries that a good agent shopped but failed to sell in the 1970s, and I went back to school for a master’s in social work in the 1980s. That was one of the times I reinvented myself, and going back to mystery writing was another.

How did your knowledge of therapy and substance abuse counseling help you in structuring your novel? Did you have to be careful about the point of view?
One reason I wrote a whodunit is that the basic structure is predetermined: crime, investigation, denouement and solution. My professional experience allowed me to set the story in some interesting places: a detox on the Bowery, the church basements where AA meetings take place. And it certainly determined the characters. I’d say I got to be the opposite of careful in writing from my characters’ point of view. Originally, I had two first-person protagonists: Bruce, my recovering alcoholic, and Barbara, the over-the-top codependent who in the published version has become a sidekick. Bruce sprang to life from somewhere in my psyche and started talking in his own voice immediately, wisecracks and all. I’m very proud of him, because he’s nothing like me, and it feels like I’m not responsible. I certainly didn’t construct him deliberately, and I couldn’t have forced or faked it.

Your list of credentials is long and impressive. One which is particularly moving is that you counseled some New York City police officers after 9/11 regarding post-traumatic stress disorder. How do you, as the therapist, not become bogged down in the sadness of some of the people who seek your help?
To answer the first part of your question, I’d better clarify and explain that it wasn’t counseling. In 2003, about 18 months after 9/11, I was hired by an organization called POPPA, which provides support for police officers who want it through a hotline staffed by volunteer cops trained as peer counselors. POPPA got some funding to send out teams of these counseling cops and “cop-friendly” clinicians like me to do outreach and education about post-traumatic stress to uniformed officers all over the city.

I must have talked to a thousand cops in nine months, and I got to know some of my police teammates well. I developed enormous respect and fondness for NYPD officers. We deliberately didn’t try to get the cops we visited to “open up”—they wouldn’t have, certainly not in a group and often not to anyone who wasn’t on the Job. But they needed to hear our message. After we began the outreach, the POPPA hotline started ringing off the hook. PTSD can set in long after the traumatic event, and some of these men and women were really hurting.

As to not getting bogged down in the sadness of others, when you do clinical work, it’s important to have good boundaries. If I let every client’s pain overwhelm me, I can’t be effective and I will burn out quickly. If I’m centered within myself, I can reach out with empathy and compassion as well as my professional expertise and really help people. In Al-Anon, the 12-step program for friends and family of the alcoholic—which also figures in Death Will Get You Sober—they call it “detachment with love.” It works in coping with a loved one’s alcoholism or addiction, and it’s a great tool for therapists too.

If I’m not mistaken, you’ve lived in New York all your life. What do you love best about New York?
I’d say it’s the coexistence of an infinite number of little worlds. We may not enter or even know of all of them, but they’re there, and in the course of a lifetime in New York, we can visit or even belong to many of them. In Death Will Get You Sober, I shine a spotlight on a number of those little worlds, some of which are vanishing as we speak. When I started writing the book, the old Bowery, the world-famous skid row, still existed, although it was dwindling fast. Now the neighborhood is completely gentrified, although a couple of addiction treatment programs for the homeless are still located there.

Is it helpful to your mystery career to live in a city full of agents?
You’d think it would be! And in fact, between Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, I’ve had many, many opportunities to meet agents. But I had one a few years back who failed to sell the book. I didn’t have one when St. Martin’s took the book, although I’d made many, many queries and submissions in the interim. Then the agent I got to negotiate the contract didn’t fall in love with my material, and we’ve recently parted company. So I’m looking again.

Your mystery website has a photo section that is like a Who’s Who in mystery. Are you a social butterfly in the mystery world? And is photography another of your many talents?
Yes, that’s one of the advantages of living in New York. I didn’t go to a lot of parties—none, in fact—before I became an active mystery writer. Now I get invitations—to the Edgars and MWA’s holiday party, for example—that say, “dress to kill.” And I do love to take pictures, especially since I started using a digital camera. All the photos on both my websites are mine, except for the ones of me.

I was interested to learn you have two websites. What’s the difference?
I launched my author site when I signed the contract for Death Will Get You Sober. It tells about the book and me as a mystery writer. I have a page listing all my events and appearances. I’m doing a book tour all over the country in May and June, and you can go to my site and check exactly where I’ll be. There’s a separate page for my virtual tour, everywhere I’ll appear online in March and April. As you observed, I have a mystery photo gallery that I keep adding to, and there’s a link to our blog, Poe’s Deadly Daughters.

I’ve had my online therapy site, since 2001. I see clients via chat and email. I also have pages about my poetry and music on that site. I was doing both actively when I started my online practice, and I found that online clients searched and found my other activities, sometimes before making the first appointment. Clients in a traditional face-to-face practice are incurious in comparison. They may wonder, sometimes intensely, about the therapist’s life, but they usually don’t make any attempt to find out on their own.

After having your own office practice (since 1987), what made you switch to online therapy?
Therapists in private practice all over the country have found it more and more difficult to stay afloat since the advent of managed care. I had a day job as well for many years, directing alcohol treatment programs, but when I left the last one—the one on the Bowery—I was quite burned out. I learned about online therapy almost by accident, and it rekindled an enthusiasm for helping people professionally that I’d been missing for a while. I have clients all over the world, and I can integrate the practice with my writing and the rest of my life, because I do it all on the computer. I love it!

As a therapist, would you say that writing is good therapy?
For those who feel comfortable expressing themselves in writing, it certainly is. In fact, that’s the premise of the online work I do, especially with clients who choose email. Chat is a lot more like traditional therapy, except the client and therapist are keyboarding text instead of talking in an office. It can be very stimulating, intense, and emotional. On the other hand, there’s a big difference between journaling to express feelings and conduct therapeutic self-exploration and writing for publication. To get published, as I know you know, we have to apply structure and face up to critique and revision. Therapeutic journaling can be completely spontaneous. For some people, it taps right into the psyche.

You’ve written many articles for scholarly journals, one of which is entitled “When Is It Time To Worry About Your Drinking?” I don’t drink, but I know people whose drinking seems problematic. What are the main warning signs that someone is not in control?
For the record, that one is more of a pop article that is posted to my LZcybershrink website. You’d be surprised how many people ask that question or its equivalent on search engines. About problem drinking: uncontrollable drinking itself—not being able to stop once you start—is a symptom. It doesn’t even need to happen every time you drink to spell trouble. Unfortunately, another hallmark symptom is denial. Alcoholics rationalize, minimize, and lie not only to others but to themselves more and more as the illness progresses. Increased tolerance is another key symptom. You know how some drinkers boast about their hard head or hollow leg and claim they can “handle it” or “drink anybody under the table”? That’s actually an indicator of alcohol dependence. It takes more and more to get the alcoholic drunk—until the liver starts to go, when decreased tolerance sets in because the body can’t process the alcohol as efficiently any more.

Do you ever sing to your patients? Or are they called clients?
Clients. Doctors have patients. I’m a licensed clinical social worker. And I had a New York State alcoholism and substance abuse counseling credential for 20 years, but I’ve recently retired that, so I’m now a counselor emeritus. (It should be “emerita,” but I wasn’t going to correct the State.) I’ve never sung to a client, but I’ve had clients who sang to me. If they offer—to make a point or express a feeling—I’m happy to listen. I don’t tell them I sing too. We’re not there to talk about me.

Your website says that you “grew up with hootenannies” and sang at Girl Scout camp. What’s a hootenannie? And how is Girl Scout camp different from the Campfire Girls?
Girl Scouts are Hertz. Campfire Girls are Avis. And a hootenanny was a folk song sing-along with an emphasis on “progressive” music. Think Pete Seeger leading a bunch of people in old union songs. I hope people still know who Pete Seeger is.

Of course they do! I hope. As a result of this love of folk music, you learned to play the guitar. What songs do you like to play? When we meet, can we sing “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” in harmony? How about “Wayfaring Stranger?”
I confess I like to perform my own songs best, although at the moment I’d have to rehearse to remember all the lyrics, it’s been so long. But in high school, we would bring our guitars to parties, and I was much appreciated because I would sing “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” and “This Land Is Your Land” so people could sing along. The more skilled musicians among us turned up their noses at songs they thought were corny. And hey, if you can sing harmony, you’ve got a date if we ever get to the same mystery conference. I’ll bring my backpacker guitar.

I'm there. When did you start writing poetry? Do you have a favorite poem or poet?
I’m an old English major, but I didn’t connect to poetry until the mid Seventies, when I discovered women poets like Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. I don’t think either considered herself a feminist, but I could relate to them in a way I hadn’t to Wallace Stevens and Hart Crane and the other male poets I’d studied in college. I wish both Anne and Sylvia had had access to today’s psychotropic medications. A favorite, no, but I have a lot of admiration for two terrific poets I’ve known personally, Sharon Olds and the late Enid Dame.

On your LZcybershrink website is a link which allows people to hear two of your original songs. This is neat. First of all, what clever lyrics! And your music is very folksy, with a Joan Baez or Arlo Guthrie kind of vibe. Have you gotten a big response to your singing? It’s interesting to hear someone’s voice after you’ve been e-mailing them—a sort of partial reality that your song “Online Loving” deals with. Was it inspired by all of your computer chat?
Some people love my singing, though I’ve always wished it sounded a little less plain and folky. And I’d rather have great backup from talented musicians and harmony vocalists than learn to play the guitar better. I had both for the songs on the site.

“Online Loving” was written for my stepdaughter, who met a Brit on the Internet and went back and forth with him for five years while they tried to figure out how to be together and employed at the same time. They’re now married and living in London. She wouldn’t let me sing it at the wedding, though.

What are you writing now?
Who has time to write? I’ve been in a whirl of preparing for publication and my virtual and geographical book tours since New Year’s. I have three more manuscripts in the series written, so my next task will probably be revising the first of those one more time to submit to St. Martin’s.

How can readers find out more about you and Death Will Get You Sober?
One good place to read about Death Will Get You Sober is my author site at, which I keep up to date with news and listings of my events and appearances. I also have a page on MySpace at And throughout March and April, I’m appearing on quite a number of mystery blogs with guest blogs and interviews. I love how different each interviewer’s questions are, because it keeps me from repeating myself. And thank you so much, Julia, for giving me the opportunity to go on and on about myself. I’m realizing it’s one of the perks of being an author—though I’d better remember not to overdo it!

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Liz! Good luck with the book!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Long-Remembered Child

Today marks the sad date that Charles Lindbergh, Junior, or the Lindbergh Baby, as he came to be known, was kidnapped from his parents' home in 1932. They never saw their child again.

The abduction of this baby, which prompted "The Trial of the Century," made him perhaps the most famous baby in the world. He was twenty months old at the time of his kidnapping and death. Theories abound, and some insist that the Lindbergh baby never died at all--in fact several claimants came forward insisting that they were the famous missing baby. The story given the most credence, however, is that the child, who was recovering from a cold, was taken from his bed by a lone kidnapper who had made a homemade ladder for the crime. The ladder, which was really two ladders connected, did not hold the weight of the perpetrator once he was holding the baby, and it broke--sparking the theories that he dropped the baby and that it died at the scene.

This did not prevent the kidnappers, however, from their plans of seeking ransom. It was two months before a child's body was found, and Lindbergh identified it as that of his missing son. Conspiracy theorists are troubled by the fact that Lindbergh had the remains cremated very quickly after identification.

More than two years passed before police linked the crime to Bruno Hauptmann, who never did admit to the crime, despite being offered cash and a lesser sentence if he confessed. He was electrocuted on April 3rd, 1936.

The story of this baby and his demise remains one of the saddest I have ever heard.

(photo link)