Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Hell of a Woman edited by Megan Abbott

I can't be there but maybe you can...

A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir
Schedule of Events

Laguna Beach
Latitude 33 Bookshop with Theresa Schwegel, Eddie Muller
and Christa Faust
Date: Friday, November 30, 2007
Time: 6:30PM
Location: 311 Ocean Ave, Laguna Beach, CA
Contact: (949) 494-5403

Los Angeles
Mysteries to Die For with Theresa Schwegel, Cornelia Read,
Eddie Muller and Christa Faust
Date: Saturday, December 1, 2007
Time: 10:30AM
Location: Thousand Oaks, CA
Contact: (805) 374-0084

A Hell of a Woman Launch Party
at the Mystery Bookstore
with Christa Faust, Naomi Hirahara, Charlie Huston, Eddie Muller,
Cornelia Read, Theresa Schwegel, Kevin Burton Smith and Robert Ward.
Date: Saturday, December 1, 2007
Time: 2PM
Location: 1036-C Broxton Ave, Westwood
Contact: (310) 209-0415

A Hell of a Woman Group Signing with Christa Faust
and Cornelia Read
Book Em MysteriesDate: Sunday, December 2, 2007
Time: 1PM
Location: 1118 Mission Street, Pasadena
Contact: 626-799-9600 1-800-4BOOKEM New York City

Partners & Crime Bookstore with Sarah Weinman, SJ Rozan,
Charlotte Carter, Annette Meyers, Alison Gaylin, Sandra Scoppettone,
Rebecca Pawel, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jonathan Santlofer,
Wallace Stroby and Charles ArdaiDate: Thursday, December 6, 2007
Time: 7PM
Location: 44 Greenwich Avenue (corner of Charles)
Contact: (212) 243-0440 January San FranciscoNoir City
Date: January 26, 2008
More details to come. February Texas

Murder by the Book with Christa Faust
Date: Saturday, February 23, 2007
Time: TBALocation: 2342 Bissonnet Street, Houston TX
Contact: (713) 524-8597

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trying to Keep Sane Here

And writing this blog helps.

Here's a question: In several recent films, the villain is almost a blank slate, no psychological or other motive is given for his infamy. Is this a good thing? Is evil so universal that we don't need to understand it? If we require psychological underpinnings for our heroes, why not our villains? Even cartoon villains used to have a back story. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The cost of aging

We are faced with the probability of spending about $120,000 a year to take care of my parents who now require substantial help. Luckily my savvy brother has managed to parlay their modest savings into something that would allow us a few years of this sort of care. How does anyone afford this otherwise? It is obscene that people who worked hard all their lives often have to end it warehoused. Why don't we provide good health care in this country. European countries value it. Where did we go astray? Why is it better to spend our money on waging war?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Eight Dogs Named Jack by Joe Borri

Just heard about a fellow Detroiter who's published a dynamite book of stories about Detroit and the woods of northern Michigan. It was a finalist in the 2007 USA Today contest in the short story collection category. The stories sound like our kind of thing even if they're not traditional crime stories. Check it out. I will. I added his link to the right if you want to know more about him.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Or does this holiday make you nervous too? Are you afraid that Aunt Em won't get along with Cousin Harry? Will Grandmother Nellie forget her brother is long dead? Will the vegetarians insist on a laboroius main course with brussel sprouts and cumin? Will the meat eaters make fun of the meatless side dishes? Will the males watch football, waiting for the call to the table? Did we give the great grandparents enought attention? Will long-standing grievances be brought out to air? Will the question of when dinner should be served be bandied about? Will the side dishes be a source of anquish? Is a bottle of cheap wine recompense for hours of labor? Will the same people do all the work? Will the out-of-towners expect to be feted while those at home sulk and stew? Will we get into the annual war on religion-whether it has ruined the world or provides comfort and a moral code? What are the best movies of the year? Does Hillary Clinton deserve our support? Are Detroiters more racist than New Yorkers or those from Los Angeles or Minneapolis? What do we do about illegal aliens? I'm ready to run and hide. How about you? Is Thanksgiving at your house a peaceful day? And those damned Lions are gonna lose?

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's Your Favorite Magazine

Back home and there's three weeks worth of magazines to read. I love the luxury of piling them up and going through them over the next few days. We get a lot of magazines. Some I never get to. The pile included The New Yorker (3), The New York Review of Books (2), Real Simple, Bon Appetite, Cooks Illustrated, EW (2), Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek (2), Vegetarian Times (no, we're not but Megan is). We also get Crimespree, Deadly Pleasures, a gardening magazine or two and more I'm probably forgetting. (Those cooking and gardening magazines are my husband's.)
What magazines do you get? Maybe we're missing some good ones. Is magazine reading dying off as more and more publications are zines?

Friday, November 16, 2007


Does this kid rock or what?

I know I should be beginning to make the changes on my ms. an agent suggested. He/She didn't promise to take it if I did, but said it would be a good novel if I did some of what was suggested and that it was good enough to finish even the first read, poor thing that it was. According to the info at Backspace Agents Conference, this is a good sign. The changes are both small and large. One change would be fairly major but I think it's a good one.

I know I should also send out queries to other agents in case I can never satisfy this one.

I want to write a flash piece for JR's new site. I have a few shorts that just need a last go-over. And yet here I sit doing none of the above. I just finished reading one of the middle-brow novels I am attracted to when away from home. It was wayyyyyyyy too long. Are all middlebrow novels too long? I find that they are.

What do you do when immobilized to shake yourself out of it? It's time to go home and sit in my room and work harder than this setup allows me.

Plus my darling grandson started walking while we were away. Nine steps or more. Darn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Trying to come up with the right name for a character, I realized all the names I never use because they have too much baggage associated with them. This can apply to famous fictional names or famous real names. Name someone Stella and how can you not remember Stanley Kowalski hollering for her in the street? Though young'uns may not have the same association. I'd never use a host of names too closely associated with one character/person.
Another problem is that names date. A person of either age ninety or two could rightly be named Vivian, Ella, Harriet, Evelyn, Isabelle etc. In between we have the generations of Carol, Barbara, Nancy, Pat. Followed by Jennifer, Amy, Chris and Laura.
Someone reading my novel recently hated the protagonist's name (Violet). Said it made her seem like an old lady. Well, yes it did if you were over fifty and you remembered your great aunts having that name. But under thirty, you'd pick it for your baby. It's fresh for them.
Do you have trouble with names? What do you think about the name Violet?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Perhaps in the novel No Country for Old Men, Anton Chigurh was a full-bodied villain, somwhat if not fully explained. Perhaps the reader was given insight into the reasons he'd become a killing machine. But the movie was content with portraying him as merely relentless -no explanation necessary. I think this is a current fad and perhaps reflects the society we live in, but I prefer my villains more along the lines of Norman Bates, with at least some half-baked pscychological reason attached to him. The best villains, at least the ones who are not completelety insane, have some humanity attached to them-only if it's only the love for fine food.
Who are the best villains for you? Lex Luthor, The Termintor, Moriarty, the Poet, Hannibal Lector, Goldfinger? What makes a villain great? Do they have a common trait?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Exiting the theater, the guy ahead of us in a soldout show said it was the haircut that made it work. He had a point. It was both the haircut and the weapon. This was one of the most violent movies I've ever seen and it was combined with a humor, which sometimes make the violence even less palatable. Laugh now, hide your eyes later. And I did hide them a lot. I don't know what the body count was. Some ungodly number. Did I like it? You bet. Great acting, great diaglogue, great cinematography. I can't remember a bar of music. Was there any? It wasn't exactly fun, but it was great. Does that make any sense?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pat Dostine

The first thing I do every day is go to Pat Dostine's blog to see if a new picture is up. Pat does his painting after his three tiny children are in bed at night and after a long day as a policy analyst in Detroit. This is one he did recently. He has kindly given me two and I bought a third at a ridiculously low price for my daughter.
A few weeks ago, some guests at our home saw his paintings and immediately contacted a gallery in Chelsea. Michigan and now Pat is going to have a show there. We are so excited for him.
And if you want to get in on the next big thing before it's the next big thing, take a look at his paintigs at or on the link to the right. He's brilliant. (He is also a great writer and plays a mean guitar).

Thursday, November 08, 2007


And I am. My story "A Saving Grace" was selected for THE YEAR'S FINEST CRIME AND MYSTERY STORIES edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg. The story originally appeared in The Thrilling Detective and I thank Gerald So and Kevin Burton Smith for publishing it. A few years ago, I had no confidence I would ever have any success with this business. I still never use the word "writer" to describe myself. But I am starting to believe it might be true. And I thank all the people out there who've helped make it possible for me to believe it. I mentioned most of them in the last post. But now I add the people associated with this project to my list. I am humbled.

Overheard today in New York: "And I told her I wasn't going to let her spend all that money building a monster."


I'm in great company in the lastest issue of Spinetingler. Nice job as always, Sandra.

Also check out the issue of The Thrilling Detective for a good story from Stephan Blackmoore et al.

Isn't it wonderful that people like Sandra, Kevin, Bryon, Megan, Tony, Todd, B.J. D.Z. Mike and all the others who run these zines are willing to do this for so little return. Truly where would we be without you. Thanks to all of you.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Miami Blues

Wow! I loved this book. I also loved Pickup but it's hard to belive it's the same author, even if many years separate the two novels. Pickup could have been written by William Kennedy. It barely feels like a crime novel-it's about down on their heels drunks, stumbling through life. It's heartbreaking, tragic.
Miami Blues could have been written yesteday by any of a bunch of current writers, except Willeford is better, making it impossible to put down. It's funny, scary and quick.
What should I read next and can I find it here in NY? I hope so.
I want more. Give me more.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pitch Workshop

Four of the eight of us in this workshop are writing crime fiction. The other four are writing sci-fi, historical fiction, lit fiction and nonfiction. We all share one thing. We can't write a decent pitch. In my case, once I say aloud the initial sentence, I'm babbling. And even the first sentence isn't great because I must take two breaths to fit it in. Of course, I smoked years ago and that might account for it. Our coach is brilliant at extracting the elements to emphasize. If only we understood our novel half as well. After some work, I come up with this: Raising the Dead is a suspense novel about a Detroit photographer nearing forty and desperate to succeed. She uses her relationship with a mortician to produce edgy pictures of dead black men. Her new obsession with this subject takes her into still darker territory, involving her in murder, mutilation and the racial and sexual politics of Detroit. What do you think? Remember it's two in the morning. I might come up with something better tomorrow. Does the "politics" thing make it sound like she's running for mayor. HELP.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Before the Devil Know You're Dead

This was a good film yesterday when I saw it. Since then it has risen to a very good film. What I like most about it is that it is not just about a heist gone wrong. It's about a family gone wrong that leads to the heist. Hawke does more with his face than I would have thought possible. His slitty eyes convey weakness and limited intelligence in the subtlest way. His mouth twists with indecision. And Hoffman's always amazing. He breaks your heart but infuriates you in the same frame. He's as out of shape as Marisa Tomei who plays his wife is in shape. Lovely but still playing the slutty wife. Why doesn't someone hire her to play a musician or a missionary?
Albert Finney is the father they deserve. Or they are the sons he deserves. See it. You won't be sorry.

We have lived in a lot of temporary housing in our lives. There are certain things that are always missing: a bathmat, enough lighting, clean pots, a dishpan. And certain other things are always present: mold, dust, the smell of decay. (Okay so we can't afford a first rate rental).
And why does the smoke alarm battery always die on our watch? This is the second time we have lived in this same shitty place. The last time we bought a lamp, a TV table, a bathmat. Only the TV table remains three years later. I get the disappearing bathmat but who took the lamp.?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

How Far Would You Go

I may have posed this question last year when I was trying to find an agent for a collection of short stories. (What a dream that was). But now it's more pertinent as I head toward a conference. How far would you go in making changes to a novel based on one agent's opinion. In other words, if Agent X says I'd consider taking this on if you cut the first five chapters would you do it? Would you change the ending? Would you redo it first person instead of third? Would you cut out a character the agent doesn't like? Obviously, you're the author, but let's face it in this market, you might have to be willing to go some distance. Or would you do anything without a contract? Do you have enough confidence in your work to remain firm? I don't think I do since it's a first novel. I'm like a five dollar whore on a slow Monday night in Salt Lake City about now? And much like advanced age wouldn't help her draw business, it doesn't help me.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Skeleton Sculptures

I will desist from writing a travel narrative after this, but I found the celebration of the Day of the Dead at my daugher's agency Union Settlement in East Harlem so interesting I had to share. These little babies, and they are tiny, are sculpted from sugar and last indefinitely. The celebration also included a mariachi band, an altar with a skeleton, flowers, candles and incense, dancers. poetry and speeches. Whole families turned out to participate. If I had kept up my Spanish, I could have followed it more closely.

On a darker note, I'm supposed to be writing five things for the Pitch workshop I am attending on Monday night. 1)Why did I write the book? 2)What's the book about? 3)Who's the audience 4 How does it stand out from other books? 5)Three important things to convey to an agent about it. All of the advice is about how to not be too smartass or gliv or immodest. Is that the way people are because my impulse is to put my head down on the desk and sigh. Why the hell did I write this book?

Thursday, November 01, 2007


"Stranded on Third" is a non-crime story. I think it's funny but who knows. Here's the link and hey, I'm in NY looking out at 29th street.