Friday, November 11, 2005

The Face of Murder

Mr. Thrilling and I were recasting MacMillan and Wife the other night for the remake that I fondly hope someone will make one of these days. They remake cartoons into movies, so why not rework a successful series?

We'd started out recasting Banacek--since that was what we were watching at the time--which was one of Mr. Thrilling's boyhood favorites. He was rather disappointed to learn that I did not care for Banacek in my formative years--in fact, I faithfully skipped every episode. Anyway, Mr. Thrilling envisions them bringing Banacek back as a MOVIE, and therefore he selected George Clooney for the title role. I tried to tell him that we were working with a TV Land budget here--and that no one would be interested in a Banacek movie (even with Clooney, who has aged rather well--at least I really liked him in that flick where he played the smarmy lawyer...what WAS the name of that film?). Mr. Thrilling, however, is a man of conviction. He also saw Mark Wahlberg as the chauffeur, but that would only work if we were going to really beef up the chauffeur's part. Mr. Thrilling is SO unrealistic about these things. There was also that really annoying girl-woman character (Callie? Cassie?), but we didn't get around to casting her last night. Maybe that chick who played Karen Cisco?

Anyway, then we moved on to casting MacMillan and Wife, which is (was) the FAR BETTER show, IMHO.

I was handicapped in my selections by the fact that I just don't watch much current television. Basically I hang out at TCM and the Mystery Channel (which should be called the Horror channel, since the mysteries they show are few and far between--do NOT subscribe to STARZ on the basis of the Mystery Channel; you'll be wasting your time and money).

So anyway I came up with Jennifer Love Hewitt as my new Sally, to which Mr. Thrilling made gagging sounds. I was sort of going by the fact that she LOOKS like I picture Sally MacMillan--and I think she can sort of act (I saw her in a horror flick a while back), and although she seems like she would be ghastly at comedy, you never know.

Mr. Thrilling suggested Sandra Bullock, who is adorable, granted, but waaaay out of our budget, as I tried to remind him.

So then I threw out Angie Harmon, who is my absolute favorite TV actress. Eventually we both agreed that she would be terrific in a PI show--and maybe we should write one for her--but that she wasn't really Sally MacMillan material. Sally has to be sort of...well, not ditzy, exactly...but a little naive and a little impulsive. Cute. More cute and intuitive than brainy.

So then I turned my expert attention to Mac, since I would rather think about handsome men anyway. I came up with Chris Potter.

He's Canadian, so it was difficult for Mr. Thrilling to nix him, however, based (I think mostly) on the fact that I was raving just a little too much about how abso-damn-lutely perfect Chris was--and maybe I should play Sally, Mr. Thrilling said, no. He said Chris was too young to be a police commissioner with a heroic war record and a thriving law practice.

Mr. Thrilling suggested CLIVE OWEN. He suggests Clive Owen for just about everything, so I don't feel that it really counts as a choice. I'm partial to Clive too, don't get me wrong, but not for Mac.

So here are our choices for the MacMillan and Wife remake:

For the role of Mac:
Chris Potter
Chris Noth
Jeff Fahey
Peter Wingfield

Here's my logic--you want someone experienced with a lot of "character," but who hasn't These guys are all underappreciated and can really act.

For the role of Sally:
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Jenna Elfman
Neve Campbell

Yes, I know. Not a lot of variety there. I really need to watch more TV.

Yeah, THAT'S what I need to do! Because that writing thing is fun, but where is THAT going to get me?

Hey, remember to vote for your favorite MacMillan and Wife cast. Vote smart and vote often, that's what I always say.

The New Phone Book is Here! The New Phone Book is Here!

Name that quotation and win a free copy of the Laser Hair Removal link!!

Just kidding. That's sort of how I feel, however, announcing that the new and improved Girl Detective website is up and running.

It doesn't look like most people's websites, of course, but I like it anyway. It' That may not exactly be a good thing, but surely it's not a BAD thing?

Mr. Thrilling worked his fingers to the bone to carry out my ever-increasingly wild demands, and of course he still has other "tweaks" in mind, but this will do for starters. (Wait til you see what he has in mind for the site map, though--I can't wait til he implements that one!)

It has been an extremely hectic week--and it only goes downhill from here as the holiday madness begins. I've done zero shopping so far, and I still aim to have three writing proposals in the air before the end of the year--and really at some point Mr. Thrilling and I must concede defeat and CLEAN THIS PLACE UP.

I don't own this mapback. It would make a nice Christmas present for me (are you listening, Mr. Thrilling?) but I chose it for the title, which seems apropos. You just know a mystery that involves footprints on the ceiling is going to be fun--it seems like something the Little sisters would have come up with it. We do not actually have fingerprints on the ceiling so far, but there are fingerprints just about every place else--and a layer of dust you could stay warm under. My dad was kind enough to tell me that it made for a wonderful Halloween touch, and not to worry about it.

I'm getting those end of year blues. Well, not really BLUES, but don't you feel sort of pensive when it gets to be this time of year? The temperature is dropping (48 degrees last night) which means it's time to bring some of the potted plants inside--the succulents definitely, and apparently morning glory can't handle much colder than 40 degrees (UUUUUUH oh); and it's dark early, which somehow makes me sleepy by about 7:30. I should have been a bear; I think I'd enjoy hibernation. (Can you read between naps?)

I like the winter, though. I love rain and dark skies--I'm just tired of driving in it because California roads (and drivers) are not built for wet weather.

I do seem to be rambling today. I'm putting off working on the new project. I keep promising myself that if I meet my commitment to have all three project proposals out by the new year I get to spend ALL of December reading (well, reading, shopping and cleaning--at this rate).

Oh well, it's Friday, and I get to sleep in tomorrow. Heaven! We little bears have to grab all the sleep we can get on the weekend.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Between the updates to the soon-to-be-relaunched website, working on proposals ("Darling, will you publish me?"), and the usual necessary distractions (including that working for a living thing), I have been a laggardly blogger--not to mention housekeeper, hence the name of today's blog--which, by coincidence, is the name of one of my recent Ebay finds.

Yep, somehow there was time to buy a book or two on Ebay, though not time to seriously examine the haul.

Great cover, isn't it?

I'm excited about the new website--one thing that I think (hope) will be popular with readers is the new Grace Notes blog. This is the secret journal of Grace Hollister, and it will include all kinds of bits and pieces--everything from recipes to poetry snippets (possibly even some of Grace's less appalling efforts) to travel log notes to filling in the blanks within the series. At least that's the way I envision it now. Lots of fun stuff for fans of the Poetic Death series.

It probably sounds insane, since I can't keep up with ONE blog. But sanity is not all it's cracked up to be...if you know what I mean.

I've completed the Chick Fic essays--from now on I'll do them in blog format, and that will allow the rest of you to post your opinions and thoughts on these writers--I really would welcome that. Haven't quite completed the Mary Kelly serial: one more chapter to go, I suspect. I hope to have that done by Christmas, and then I want to work on putting together the proposal for a Mary Kelly novel. I have no idea if there would be interest in such a novel (beyond my own), but I love that character, and I notice that there have been a few recently published novels like This Dame For Hire (set in the 40s) by Scoppettone and Tears of the Dragon by Holly Baxter.

Haven't been able to get through the Baxter book. I reviewed This Dame For Hire at I Love A Mystery, but I digress.

Oh, and here's a bit of news I should probably share: I'm the featured author this month at Mystery Lovers Corner

It's a nice little site put together by Dawn Dowdle; she's got reviews, interviews, a bookstore, updates--very nicely packaged. So of course I'm pleased to stand in the corner, as it were. And I didn't even have to get sent to the principal first.

What else? A little essay I wrote for Mystery Readers Journal is out now. It's their Bibliomystery issue, and I'm planning to head home tonight and read the thing from front to back. I love Bibliomysteries. It occurred to me the other day that nearly everything I write has to do with books, bookstores, writers or publishing. Does that make me a Bibliotech?

Friday, October 21, 2005


One interesting discovery in my blogging adventures is how many spammers use other people's blogs to try and promote their own totally unrelated products--everything from laser hair removal to selling life insurance policies. God knows it's never anything interesting. Let alone relevant.

I can't imagine this is very effective advertising, since (speaking only for myself--but I know I'm not unique in my disdain for spam and the inbred halfwits who perpetrate it) I instantly delete these idiotic ads the second my email alerts me that they've been posted (which is about ten seconds after they show up).

Like here's an example:


"I just came across your blog about ebay selling techniqueand wanted to drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with the information you have posted here. I also have a web site & blog about **keyword** ebay selling technique so I know I'm talking about when I say your site is top-notch! Keep up the great work, you are providing a great resource on the Internet here!"

Uh, well, I like to think so, but it's not actually a resource for ebay selling techniques. In fact, anyone who follows my technique is in for trouble--and probably refinancing. My dear Anonymous, can it be that you did not actually bother to READ WHAT MY BLOG IS ABOUT????

Golly. Are you just targeting every place on the web that mentions eBAY selling? Is your winning strategy truly no more sophisticated than random machine gun fire? Is this how financial wars are won and lost--and fiscal security achieved? You simply spam everyone on the web who mentions eBAY in passing?


(Kind of like newbie writers who send book announcements to an entire mailing list directed towards "everyone who loves a good mystery!" Yes, there are still people out there that...gosh, what's a nice word for it?...Naive?)

I know some of these goofs aren't even that subtle. They merely watch to see who has recently updated his / her blog, and then they add a little congratulatory post (often in broken English) with a spurious link to some weird product or service that only someone like themselves would be interested in. I mean, seriously, if I was going to indulge in laser hair removal, I wouldn't be scouring the web for a provider.

Does any of this stuff work? That's my question. These people must imagine it does.

Question of the day--heck, let's hear what the spammers themselves have to say, because after I post this, we'll get a couple of the usual "YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB COME SEE MY SITE OF SWEATERS MADE FROM HAIRBALLS COUGHED UP BY PEDIGREED CATS." Or the like.

Sorry. So the question of the day you respond to spam? Those email offers or blogged advertisements: do you ever click through and check 'em out? And say you do, have you ever bought anything from one of those sites?

Speaking of which, think about it. It's not like we're exactly high traffic here--the spammers are our most faithful readership. So how sad is that? They're wasting their grand promotional efforts on each other--and something tells me they're not the best listeners in the world. They're wasting their time and energy on every little blog or site that happens to mention keywords like...eBAY???? That's a lot of hopeful clicking and clacking.

But getting back to Anonymous and his (her?) recent post. You've got to wonder if these random acts of spamming reflect the avaunted (Avaunted? Is that a real word? Did I just make it up?) bidding technique. Or was it her selling technique? I forget. I mean, if she's (he's?) so successful wouldn't she at least have written a book that she could be spamming us about on discussion lists?

Anyway, let's go fishing and see if Anonymous will show up on cue and prove my point. I feel like we're after the Loch Ness monster or something!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

'Til Death Do Us Part

I'm not going to pinpoint exactly how old I was in 1971, but let us say that I was old enough to say stay up and watch the NBC Mystery Movies on a school night, but young enough that MacMillan & Wife had a distinct impact on my schemes for the future. Not that I planned to marry a police commissioner or solve murders for a living (or even for a hobby), but I did picture myself living an action-packed, amusing and affluent life-style with a handsome guy who adored me.

(Three out of four ain't bad! We definitely need more cash around here, though.)


In case you're quite a bit younger than me--or spent your formative years more productively--here's the official lowdown on MacMillan & Wife, the first season of which is newly released on DVD.

"They were the happening '70s answer to Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man movies, and when McMillan & Wife premiered as part of the "NBC Mystery Movie" lineup (in three-way rotation with McCloud and Columbo) on September 17, 1971, they were an instant hit with both critics and viewers. The two-hour pilot "Once Upon a Dead Man" set the serio-comic tone for the series: San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan (Rock Hudson, his film career in decline) and the goofy doofus Sgt. Enright (John Schuck) frequently found themselves in the midst of a mystery, typically beginning when McMillan's cute and kooky wife Sally (Susan Saint James) stumbled onto telltale evidence or a murder scene. The McMillans were the perfect image of '70s California cool, attending trendy parties and charity benefits while solving robberies, murders, and other malicious goings-on, sporting the latest fashions (Hudson's handlebar moustache and longish hair perfectly complementing Saint James's bellbottoms and shag hairdo) and verbally sparring with some of the goofiest dialogue this side of Hope & Crosby's Road movies."

How fun is that? Very fun, let me assure you as someone who has spent the last week watching them in bed (me in bed, that is, although Sally and Mac spent a fair amount of time between the sheets). And, best of all, NO SCHOOL TOMORROW!!.

The simplistic plots (Tolstoyian compared to some of what passes for prime crime time these days--the ghastly MONK, anyone?) were padded by the romantic interplay between Mac and Sally (Hudson and Saint James' on-screen chemistry was considerable regardless of off-screen preferences). I think the lack of nastiness between them is part of the charm. Mac teases Sally and Sally teases Mac, but there's no cutting edge to the banter--and that's refreshing in a day and age where meanness is so often mistaken for wit.

There's a lot of cuddling and tickling and flirting--they even have a special toast. (Which I wish someone would explain to me--Arriba, Aruba, Arigula? WHAT ARE THEY SAYING???) He adores her and wishes she would stay out of trouble (she's the daughter of a famous criminologist, however, so snooping is in her blood). She worships him and wishes her chest were bigger. I'm telling you, it's as real as it gets.

So, in short, I am advising you to buy this DVD in bulk, so that they will put out Season Two right away and I can add it to my Christmas list. And if you buy it through Mr. Thrilling's website, we will have more cash around here, and all my childhood dreams will be coming true.

You probably want to know what you'd be getting for your money. Eight episodes or about ten and a half hours, starting with Once Upon a Dead Man (the pilot). In this one an Egyptian sarcophagus is stolen during a charity auction that Sally helped organize. (No wonder I loved this series.) This is a fun one, though they had yet to define what the series would ultimately be.

In Murder by the Barrel, the MacMillans are moving into their new home when Sally discovers a body in a barrel that should contain her good china. I HATE it when that happens! This introduces Sally's enviable yellow roadster (a nice little Nancy Drewish touch) and we finally get to meet Mildred the Maid (Nancy Walker) who is amusing in small doses, but frankly needs her ass fired. (Okay, okay, but they did sort of overdo the eccentric family retainer thing in later seasons.)

The Easy Sunday Murder Case has some very funny bits concerning a woman who is more concerned with her kidnapped dog than her MIA boytoy husband.

I'm still not sure what was happening in Husbands, Wives and Killers since I drifted off--my last vision of Mac in a pink bunny suit (or did I dream that?). A valuable necklace becomes the target of a master thief at a masquerade ball.

Death is a Seven Point Favorite was clearly aimed at the male audience. I think the show was successful because they gave everyone a little something. Sally is smart but scatty--she's a non-threatening little darling but she plays a crucial role in solving crimes. Yes, Mac would undoubtedly solve the crimes without her help, but neither he nor we would have as much fun. And as for Mac, he is a man's man (yeah, yeah, we know) and he may suffer the occasional pratfall, but he is never the butt of any (female's) jokes. See what I'm saying? It's actually a delicate balance. She's not so dumb that she annoys the female audience or so capable that she annoys the men--and everybody loves Rock.

But I guess if they were going to offend anyone, it was the female audience, because a lot of Sally's dialog consists of bits like this:

Sally: "I know, Mac. I guess you're right. It's just that Billy is so terrific!"

Eeegah! Still, she's awfully darn cute and a lot of fun.

(This is not a photo from the first season, but I do remember this episode rather well--I bet you do too!)

Sally is kidnapped by a master jewel-thief (a lot of master jewel thieves turned up in the series--probably a social class thing) in The Face of Murder, but not for so long that it ruins the story. May I say here that I even LOVE the lead-in to the series? The music (this is scary) is sort of corny lazy 70s jazz--Harry Mancini, am I right?--that just seems perfecto, and those great photo overlays of Sally and Mac--they have a sort of nostalgic even poignant charm--and then all those terrific historic shots of San Francisco. Setting is a great part of what makes this series special--talk about a romantic locale!

'Til Death Do Us Part is probably the episode I best remember. It's one of the most original, although it's certainly the most preposterous I now realize. The tension slowly builds up to that moment when Sally and Mac wake to find their home tented by exterminators.

And then, last show of the first season: An Elementary Case of Murder. It's kind of The Parradine Case meets MacMillan & Wife. I have to confess I found Sally's pregnancies tiresome and disruptive (even as kid myself). Not as disruptive as when the imbecillic writers/producers decided to kill off her character in the last season (WHAT is the matter with these lame-brains--and I use the term deliberately. Do they honestly not credit the audience with the smarts to separate the actress from the role? The only time it doesn't work is when they don't pick the right replacement person). Anyway, I guess in those days it never occurred to anyone to CONCEAL Saint James' pregnancies, or that the child-bearing thing was liable to be a drag on the sleuthing.

One of my pet peeves, as you can tell. Don't get me started on The Mummy Returns AKA How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Franchise.

So that's it, the first season of the show that probably is at least partly responsible for my love affair with amateur sleuths and the crimes they solve. My private pet theory is that it was partly inspired by...wait for it... Bullit?

Or maybe not.

Anyway, they don't write them like this anymore.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

No Crime For a Lady

I'm feeling oddly content at the moment--odd, because I'm essentially stressed out of my mind between the day job (gack!); music (Laura is suffering from a slipped disk, which puts the next three gigs in jeopardy); writing (got the copy edits on Sonnet of the Sphinx and just started a new project); and gardening (the weather has turned unseasonably chilly for September, so the race is on to get everything planted and repotted and mulched before the first frost hits). But it's a productive time, and feeling like I'm getting Things Done is the secret to my happiness.

Speaking of happiness, Ebay has been very disappointing lately. The book collections are nothing that interests me, and the Dell mapbacks are selling individually (which means shockingly overpriced). So I'm not buying, which is probably a good thing since the holidays are coming and my budget is about to go crashing out the window like a banker on the dawn of the Great Depression.

It doesn't matter as I'm still sorting through treasures previously purchased.

The Lady Regrets by James M. Fox, 1945 Dell mapback.

I bought this one based solely on the cover. This is often the case with the Dell mapbacks--the covers lure me in. Sadly the books themselves often don't live up to the promise of the artwork. The Lady Regrets takes place in 1945 Los Angeles.

Persons this Mystery is about--

Major John Marshall
Six feet plus of sophisticated, action-loving brawn and brain, has just bid four years of army routine a fond farewell. Never one to shy and mystery or murder, the young major finds himself plentifully supplied with both upon accepting a stranger's invitation to spend his terminal leave at a swank California estate.

Suzanne Marshall
The major's russet-haired bride and joy (cute!), 115 pounds of Varga Girl curves, is from Dixie way but she talks like that only for a fee. Devoted to Johnny, she is not one to stay at home and knit while her husband is out enjoying some nice danger.

Husband and wife sleuths--I love it. This one is going right to the top of the heap, although I do have a stack of contemporary stuff to work my way through first. (It helps to keep track of what the other girls are writing.)

First line:
"As far as I'm concerned it never pays to speculate about the laws and principals of fate, if any."

Five Passengers From Lisbon by Mignon G. Eberhart, 1946. Popular Library edition.

I'm very fond of Eberhart (in fact, I've got her slated for one of my Chick Fic essays one of these days), and she does a great job of creating truly death-deserving victims as well as moments of screaming tension. There's generally a nice little romance at the heart of the mystery.

"Boarding the ship was like entering a dream for Marcia Colfax. At her side was the man she loved. (Uh oh.) Awaiting them was long delayed happiness. (I'm thinking the happiness is going to be further delayed.)

"But now a bloodstained knife had slashed her plans to bits. (What did I tell you?) Now her dream had turned into a nightmare. Now her voyage to happiness had become a race against death as murder stalked the shadowed decks."

Now her...oh. Sorry. I got carried away.

First line:
"The three women sat miserably in the cramped stateroom and waited for orders to abandon ship."

Hey, that's pretty good!

Made Up To Kill by Kelly Roos, 1940 Dell mapback.

This is supposed to be one of the best of the Kelly Roos novels. Kelly Roos was the pen name for a husband and writing team writing about husband and wife sleuths, (although the books are always labeled "A Jeff Troy Mystery").

Jeff is "six feet one inch tall and handsome from any angle, pretends to be in the advertising business but has the most fun when he turns detective. Ambitious and energetic, he's trying right now to make enough money to marry his best girl."

Ah ha, so this is before Jeff and Haila were married? That could mean lots of witty repartee. Or not. Why is it, with the exception of the Thin Man movies--that married couples just do not banter as wittily as unmarried couples? What is about waking up side by side that knocks all the great comebacks out of young lovers wherever they are?

(With the real life exception of me and Mr. Thrilling, who banter just like we always did--and, of course, we find ourselves funny as hell.)

First line:
"I pushed the elevator bell and its feeble pinging sound floated up from the basement."

Yes, I seem to hear a feeble pinging myself...

The Murder of a Fifth Columnist by Leslie Ford. 1940, Popular Library. The cover offers a gun, a sword, a gold key and a crumpled envelope. Clews, my deahs!

Leslie Ford is one of my very favorite writers. Very popular in the 30s and 40s, she's somewhat underrated these days. Some people find her depiction of black characters patronizing. Interesting, because if her housekeeper had been a stereotypical Irish woman, we'd still find Leslie's work too too terribly charming. Or am I being cynical?

Leslie (pen name for Zenith Jones Brown) too is destined for an eventual chick fic essay.

"Sylvia Peele was beautiful, charming--and powerful: her newspaper column told international society things it never even dreamed about itself. Her friends were princes, millionaires and presidents; her enemies were legion.

"One particular enemy had front-page plans for Sylvia: smash her career, destroy the man she loved--and kill her with a very special vengeance."

I'm thinking we can make the funeral arrangements for Sylvia right now, since Ford prefers innocent ingenues in the romantic roles, and Sylvia sounds like a worldly career woman (always fatal).

First line:
"It was Pete Hamilton who first called the great J. Corliss Marshall the Fifth Columnist."

Maybe it was a publishing in-joke?

Skeletons by Glendon Swarthout. 1979 Pocket Books.

I was pretty sure that 'Glendon Swarthout' was a pen name, but it turns out that Swarthout was a Pulitzer-nominated writer of westerns (plays, films, books, etc.)

"The skeleton in Jimmie Butters' closet is his ex-wife, Tyler. She is beautiful and obsessed, and enjoys painting coins and men's personals with red nail enamel. Her skeletons are two long-dead grandfathers and an old Colt revolver which she carries about with her like a doll. Tyler is also brilliant in bed and after a showdown between the sheets in New York, she sweet talks Jimmie into galloping to New Mexico in his classic Rolls-Royce to track down some crimes, dig up some graves, and sample the regional cuisine."

Jimmy, it turns out, is a Gucci-wearing children's book author who is enlisted by his ex-wife when her lover is murdered after a visit to Harding, New Mexico. It actually sounds kind of intriguing.

Opening sentence:
"I love GOOD and hate EVIL." First person narration from the point of view of the city slicker Jimmy.

We used to spend summers at Lake Isabella, and some very happy times were passed in the company of cowboys. Real cowboys, just for the record--elderly gents who had terrific stories to share about the good old days. I grew up reading Zane Grey and Louis Lamour and Max Brand, but somehow the delight of gun fights gave way to sneakier and stealthy death. Your normal teenage instinct.

No Crime For a Lady by Zelda Popkin, 1942 Dell mapback.

THINGS this Mystery is about:

A shattered STREET LIGHT
A quantity of DYNAMITE
A nice shiny LIMOUSINE (come on, how mysterious is that!)
A snowstorm PAPERWEIGHT (murder weapon, I'm guessing!)
The wooden handle of a PICK (wouldn't the OTHER end be more useful?)

First line:
"I'll be glad to kill him," Mr. Dengler said."

Holy moly. That's nearly the exact line I had in mind for the fourth Poetic Death novel, as yet untitled and as yet unwritten. Except for that first line. Lordy, lordy.

Murder on the Menu by Beverly Byrne. 1980 Leisure Books.

Another relatively contemporary offering. Isn't it weird to think that the 1980s were twenty years ago!? This one is about fine cuisine and France--two things I am rather partial to.

"The search for a fabulous recipe involves a celebrated chef in a young girl's violent death!" Sounds yummy.

Opening sentence:
"The trip from New Haven to Ridgefield is made into a swift asphalt passage by using Route 84. Louis Tisserant noted that his wife chose the backroads through the spring-flecked countryside."

The chef sounds portly and middle-aged and dissatisfied. Just the right sort of person to get involved in murder.

Well, speaking of chefs, the steaks are on the barbecue and a Corona (attached to my husband) is calling my name. May as well make the most of my remaining weekend hours. Hope you are enjoying yours!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Mona Lisa Smile

So I'm lying there in surgery, and the doctor says, "I want you to smile for me."


I sort of glance up doubtfully--I'm not exactly having the time of my life here--and he says, "No, I'm serious. We're very close to the facial nerve that controls the muscles that move your lips."

Oh. My. God.

Just like that everything can change. And that always makes good material for novels, but--as I smiled weakly for my doctor--I realized that although these are the kinds of things that are supposed to build character, I would not deal well with this sort of challenge. Which is why I am abjectly grateful that everything went well, and I can still smile--and stick my tongue out. (And kiss.)

I can still sing. (Would I have been able to sing with paralyzed facial muscles?) And, believe me, I feel like singing.

I've been celebrating by working in the garden. There's something very grounding (no pun intended) about working in the dirt. The feel of the sun on your skin, the smell of earth and flowers (the hair blowing in your eyes, the sweat trickling down your back). Mostly I've been replanting pots. (Er--repotting plants.) I couldn't figure out what was wrong with all the plants this year; we had such great success by container planting last summer. Then, belatedly, it sank in on me that it wasn't the heat or lack of food or water--most of these plants are root-bound. That's the downside of container planting, but the soil is so lousy here, containers are often the best bet.

I've moved about 17 plants of various sizes and shapes to larger pots, and I've got another ten or so to go, including five large vines. (I'll get them moved just in time to put everything to bed for the winter.)

I think one of the best things about a garden is that hard work pays off. It takes time and requires patience, but you will be rewarded. Hard work doesn't always pay off and you don't always get your just reward in this life, but you do tend to get it in a garden.

Uh, which is why my garden currently looks like hell. (But the writing has been very good.)

I think by tomorrow afternoon I should be back in writing mode. I NEED to be. I've got deadlines and commitments. And one thing I've learned, you have to keep that creative muscle warmed and working.

And speaking of muscles, creative and otherwise, the last batch off Ebay are all Dell mapbacks. (I don't know why I get such a kick out of those goofy old maps and the even goofier "What This MYSTERY Is About" and "Persons This MYSTERY Is About" lists.

DATE WITH DARKNESS by Donald Hamilton, 1947. The map on the back is of the Chesapeake Bay area "Where action is rough and tough in DATE WITH DARKNESS."

The front cover offers a guy in a red shirt getting ready to punch a girl already falling out of her shirt. The girl looks more thoughtful than worried; I imagine she should know.

First line: "He took down her suitcase and her fur coat. She said she did not have a hat."

(No, it is not chick lit--there is no mention of her shoes.)

I noticed this one was going for $12.99 last time I checked on Ebay this afternoon, so perhaps it's well known.

SLIPPERY HITCH by Gerald Butler, 1949. Man and a woman tussling over a boat oar.

Fear came into her eyes.

"Then--you're a--" Horror choked her voice...

He's a--a--what?! Jeez!

The back cover is not really a map. There's a line ink drawing of a map and then five little illustrations: A terrified girl prisoner in a madman's car--Johnny and Bob must stop him...Not daring to ask police aid, they wait for a ticket while their quarry vanishes...Until an unexpected curve appears at the edge of a high cliff...A wild hunch leads them to a cottage on a lonely lane...Blood flows when pursued and pursuer meet and the chase goes on...

Actually I can't tell from the little arrows if the high cliff comes before or after the wild hunch and the flowing blood. Maybe it comes after because THE CHASE GOES ON!!!

The back blurb reads:
The savage passions of a twisted mind makes life a living hell for two men and a girl in this forthright psychological thriller.

TWO men and a girl? Someone is doomed.

What does "forthright psychological thriller" mean? Is this a polite way of saying the madman has his wicked way with the terrified girl? Or are they going to hammer us with a lot of medical terms? Inquiring minds want to know.

First line: "Johnny had never hit a woman before, and when he saw her go down, and lying there, her face and her hair in the light of the street lamp, suddenly knowing it was a girl, he felt sick and dizzy."

Kind of effective, if confusing.

HUNT WITH HOUNDS by Mignon G. Eberhart, 1950. I already have (and love) this book, but I couldn't resist it in a mapback. The cover shows a man in a red hunting jacket menacing a woman in a ball gown (it's the Hunt Ball, right enough). The cover reads PINK COATS AND RED BLOOD--Three murders terrorize an exclusive hunt club.

Sounds a bit like a gay mystery, doesn't it?

The back offers a map of the state of Virginia, then a smaller map of Bedford County, then a nice little picture of The Laurels. It's a good one. The blurb reads
Blooded horses, baying hounds--MURDER, terror, intrigue and false accusations in the Virginia fox-hunting country.

This book was part of my inspiration for the fox hunting motif in VERSE OF THE VAMPYRE. I really enjoy Eberhart's work although she did create some of the most aggravatingly helpless heroines in the history of crime fiction. Never did these chicks fail to pick up the fallen murder weapon or deign to speak in their own defense.

First line: "There had been, as Ruby said later, no other kill that day."

Ah, fox hunting...

JEWELS FOR A SHROUD by Walter de Steiguer, 1950. "She was the victim of a madman!" The spine reads, DIAMONDS AND DEATH. (Sounds like my wedding.)

The map is not really a map so much as four stamp-sized illustrations. The Big City Slept While Murder Combed the Causeways. (I do like well-groomed causeways.)

First line: "On a small piece of land near the junction of Fifth Avenue and one of New York's swankier cross streets stands a building that is better known in some circles than most of the city's tallest and more famous steel and stone spires."

Architecture as opening gambit. Hmmm.

I always find first line comparisons intriguing. First lines and last lines, but you generally have to read the entire book to fully appreciate the last word.

Speaking of last words, the last word for tonight is...Goodnight.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Run Run, Baby, Run Run, Baby, Run...

I think of myself as a philosophical person, but it occurred to me yesterday evening as I was driving home from work that fantasizing about having machine guns mounted behind my headlights so I could blow all the lousy drivers off the road, is maybe not an indication of my philosophical nature.

Was I always this impatient?

Anyway, it's a nice long drive for thinking--and generally my thoughts are of a more positive nature. The road winds through the pine trees and mountains, and now and again I see deer or a bobcat or a fox--there's a little black mountain goat I see most mornings. It's a good time to unwind, and often I'll sing with whatever is in the CD player (this morning it was Garbage's BLEED LIKE ME--hence the title of today's blog) or work out various plot points on the project of the moment. And on those days that I don't want to be alone with my thoughts, I'll pop an audio book into the player and amuse myself that way. I've heard a lot of good books over the past couple of years--things I might not otherwise have bothered with.

I like this Garbage album. I actually bought it for a song that turns out not to be on the album (further proof that I am not the master of organization that I believe I am). I almost didn't buy the album--the idea of a group named "Garbage" seemed to demonstrate that Trying Too Hard thing that I'm so weary of. But it's not bad. There's a song called "Happy Home" that moves me.

In my happy home I barely breathe
In my lovers arms I find relief
And there's a sky that's changing and a bird that sings
I never once in my wayward life was heading to run out

But then I am in a strange mood these days. It must be the end of summer. I'm an autumn baby, and every autumn I start thinking about reinventing myself...

The focus these days is almost entirely on writing. This month I'm planning to hammer out the partial on a project my agent and I have been kicking around. The interesting thing about this project (nameless for now) is that it is so totally NOT me. It's a challenge to write another person's idea, but it excites me--partly because it is a challenge, and partly because I find it very freeing to work outside of my own head. I sketched out a few pages last month, and glancing over them, they look like they have potential, so I'm forging on. Three chapters, that's the goal.

And it's time to think about winding up the Mary Kelly serial.

And, and, and... There's always got to be some project, the next goal. It's getting to the point where I'm trying to schedule my spontaneous outbursts.

One thing for sure, my sadly neglected garden is going to get some quality time. I walked out there last night and nearly cried. Even the lavender is dying. I mean, lavender is practically indestructible. There's not a rose on a bush--the only thing thriving are the weeds. Especially sad when I think how beautiful everything was just two months ago before this hellish heat hit.

The thing about a garden is that it teaches patience--it demands it. And it rewards hard work. It's so amazing what a little sweat and a lot of fertilizer can do--beautiful to look at, of course, but there's also the scent and texture of flowers and herbs and the other plants. It's almost narcotic. Anyway, maybe because it's so physical and so different from writing, but I find it relaxing to snip and prune and dig and plant and water. All of it. I enjoy all of it. Okay, I'm not crazy about bees or worms, but they are necessary, so I try to keep the squeaks of dismay to a minimum.

One day I'll tell you about my crazy little hummingbirds and the doves that wake me on Saturday mornings...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Murder, She Says

The original plan was to try and post weekly. You know, keep it fresh, keep it lively--give the folks at home a reason to check back. Gulp. Easier said than done. It's gig season--which I love, don't get me wrong. What could be more fun than hanging out with my sisters (okay, Cousin George is pretty entertaining too, and that GRANT! What a wild man!) and singing our hearts out--not to mention drinking beer and hearing how wonderful we are by people who have clearly been drinking more than us. (I'm kidding, because there is nothing more flattering than the instant and heartfelt appreciation of the audience at live performances.)

The gigs are just part of it. I had to wrap up one book, do the revisions on SONNET OF THE SPHINX, and plot out three other projects that I hope to finish before the end of the year. There was that article due to Mystery Readers Journal and book reviews for I Love a Mystery, and the online Buzz Your Book course I'm taking. And you know, between all this, there is THE GROOMING.

I mention The Grooming because Mr. Thrilling finds my daily routines a never-ending source of merriment (though I am quite confident that he appreciates the results). Yes, the rafters ring with hilarious comments on the heavy equipment and hazard signs that fly up when I What can I say? I enjoy being a girl.

So anyway, safe to say, I've been busy. Not, however, too busy to shop.

I have to keep reminding myself that I do not need to buy every old mystery every written--only the ones that interest me. Well, maybe not even every single one that interests me, because that would lead back to every old mystery every written. You really can't tell if they will interest you until you start reading.

The latest eBay haul is four, count 'em four, rather nifty paperbacks.

CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON by Earl Derr Biggers. A Pocket (ah, my own publisher) Book (cute little kangaroo with reading glasses logo on back). This was the 10th printing (1945) for Pocket alone. The thing had been printed about a zillion times before, which gives you some idea of how popular the gentle and genial Asian sleuth was (even in war time).

Charlie Chan--the films at least--has come under some heat from the "Asian Community" (like there could ever be such a thing--as if all Asians believed or thought the same way on any issue--anymore than the so-called "Irish Community" are as one mind and one heart). One sore spot is the fact that Chan was portrayed by non-Asian actors (which I sort of agree with, but news flash, Jack Palance, Ricardo Montalban or Rock Hudson were not of Native American extraction either--and Linda Hunt is not actually a half-Chinese male--and here's a shattering thought: movies are make believe). And there's also the complaint that Chan was stereotypical, which is like complaining that Sherlock Holmes is a stereotypical Englishman or Jane Marple is your stereotypical silver panther.

But I digress...

It will be no surprise to hear that I love the Charlie Chan movies (the earlier ones, when they still had a plot and some writing), and I'm fond of the novels too. CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON was the first Charlie Chan novel I ever read. I was probably about eleven. If you're at all familiar with Charlie you realize that "carries on" does not refer to any wild behavior on the part of our hero.

As I recall this one starts out in London with Chief Inspector Duff of Scotland Yard investigating the murder of an American industrialist on a world tour. I was shocked and astonished when midway through the novel, Duff gets injured (I believe in the movie version he actually gets KILLED) and Charlie Chan takes over. This was the very first time I had read a novel where the main character (or the character I innocently believed to be the main character) was abruptly sidelined in favor of another character. It would seem that the importance of the title escaped me.

Anyway, I've read a number of the Chan novels, and I still think this one is the best. Granted it's possible that I wasn't the most critical reader at age eleven.

Next up THE SAINT GOES ON. (There are a lot of Saint novels floating around on eBay for anyone interested.)

The Saint novels, of course, were written by Leslie Charteris, and I still haven't managed to read one! In fact, I've had to confine my reading to books I'm going to be reviewing for I Love A Mystery

Just finishing up Sara Paretsky's FIRESALE and Harley Jane Kozak's DATING DEAD MEN. The Kozak book is especially entertaining. I say this with a measure of irritation because she's an actress, so what the hell is she doing writing mystery novels? But I guess this could be said about folksingers who take Crimeland detours. Anyway, the book is tres amusant, and I've already purchased her next one.

None of which has anything to do with The Saint. The Saint (always nice covers) is a New Avon Library selection from 1943. It actually seems to be three short stories or possibly novellas. In "High Fence," "the Saint matches wits with that daffodil of the Metropolitan police force Junior Inspector Pryke..." (Does "daffodil" mean what I think it does? Does "Pryke"?) In "The Elusive Ellshaw," "there follows quite a bit of shooting and a canoe ride." (Sounds like my life with Mr. Smith.) And then we have the "Frightened Innkeeper" whereupon "the Saint and his bodyguard Hoppy tangle with the red-faced man, and the mystery of the broken down motor truck." Ugh. The Mystery of the Broken Down Motor Truck? That's not fiction, that's the very sort of thing I read fiction to escape from. In later cases did the Saint tackle Dishwashers with Leaky Seals and The Can-opener That Went Kaput?

I vaguely remember The Saint TV show from my misspent childhood. I had no idea what was going on, but I thought Roger Moore was very handsome--I liked that twinkle in his eye. I didn't mind him as James Bond, either, he brought a sort of lazy affability to the paid assassin gig.

The best looking of the bunch is THE DRAGON MURDER CASE by S.S. Van Dine. This one's from Bantam in 1949. Great cover by A. Freudeman. "DEATH lurked in a moonlit pool!"

But you know, DEATH is better than what some folks pick up in moonlit pools--particularly hot tubs.

Very interesting comment on the back: "This low-priced Bantam book, complete and unabridged, is made possible by the large sale and effective promotion of the original edition, published by Charles Scribner's Sons." (With an even better cover, by the way.) Doesn't that seem like an odd thing to share with the reading public?

(Mr. Thrilling's opinion is that this is because in the good old days reading paperbacks was considered low brow.)

I've never been a big fan of Philo Vance, with his "ice-cold brain" and numerous affectations. When I pulled this one out of the box, Mr. Thrilling quoted Ogden Nash: "Philo Vance needs a kick in the pants." Very possibly, but since this is the title I'm most familiar with (I think William Powell played Vance in a movie version) I'll give it a shot. If I keep picturing Vance as Bill Powell all will be well.

"That sinister and terrifying crime which came to be known as the dragon murder case, will always be associated in my mind with one of the hottest summers I have ever experienced in New York."

Had I but known!

Next up, THE CAT SAW MURDER by D.B. Olsen. A Dell mapback (woohooo!) Murder at a beach house. I like this already.

D.B. Olsen also wrote CATSPAW FOR MURDER, THE CAT'S CLAW, ETC. A kitty fetish, I guess.

"Detective Lieutenant Stephen Mayhew has been heard to complain that the murder of the Sticklemann woman was the damnedest case that he ever met up with; that solving the thing was like working a jigsaw puzzle upside down and backward; that it got progressively worse as it dragged along; and that it set him at such insane tasks as pulling hairs out of Miss Rachel's cat (ah, the cat appears in the very first paragraph!) and forcing a timid fat woman to scream (pretty thrilling stuff, I must say). He has said with embellishments, that he hated the thing from beginning to end."

I surely do hope this does not foreshadow my own reading pleasure.

And last but not least, THE OPENING DOOR by Helen Reilly. Also a Dell mapback (1944). Reilly (per the wonderful site known as A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection) "was a prolific author of mystery novels, whose career stretched from 1930 to 1962. Her books feature New York City police Inspector Christopher McKee. They were among the first American novels to stress police procedure."

"The murder didn't take place until after 7 p.m. on the night of December 2nd." Sort of a crisp understated way of getting the body on the first page.

So there we have it. And one of these days maybe I'll have time to actually read them...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Around and about

Yesterday I did a signing at TEA AND SYMPATHY at the Pomona Highland Games. Actually, this is the United Scottish Games--it used to be held in Costa Mesa. Well, according to a faded and battered program my dad dug out of the garage a few days ago, the very first Highland Games in Southern California were held in Santa Monica. Admission was .50 and some of the fab events included the Men's Three Legged Race--probably more like a genuine old time games. My dad used to go to these things when he was a young piper.

I always enjoy the T&S signings, although they are not at all like a normal signing. For one thing, I trade rather heavily on my Browne Sister status (You make me want to La La...) and for another, many of the people buying books did not come in the vendor hall intending to buy books--although many of them do regularly buy books (generally historical romances) from the T&S author lineup.

I usually sign with two really terrific women--they could probably model for their own heroines. They're frank and funny--and were, from the very start, welcoming to the chickadee from Mysteryworld. (I was going for a swans and ugly duckling metaphor, but it's too much work when I haven't even had my proper caffeine dosage yet.) I confess that I've never been a huge fan of historical romance (Laura Kinsale and Georgette Heyer excepted) but I've glanced these books over, and they look well-researched and fun. Anyway, if you do enjoy historical romance I heartily recommend Glynnis Campbell and Lauren Royal

So... a very enjoyable day selling books, sipping beer, and chatting with Lauren and Glynnis (Glynnis, by the way, is also a talented musician and voice-over artist). Still it was a relief to have sold enough that I could take today off and get back to the writing.

This is the on-going challenge: to balance writing time with promotion time. It's not enough to write good books (which I think that I do--granted we all believe that) you have to get out there and sell yourself. And if you are at all shy, it can be very tiring. I am a bit shy, but it's easier for me because I like people and I'm interested in them, so I'm able to stop focusing on myself and concentrate on the other person, and I'm usually okay.

I've committed to doing at least one signing a month, and so far this year I've stuck to it, although I haven't managed to PROMOTE the fact that I'm doing these signings (one step at a time, folks). And on Friday I signed up to take a short online course on promotion from MJ Rose. MJ Rose is kind of the poster girl for self-promotion. I've tried hiring a publicist, but I was very unsatisfied with the results, so I'd rather invest the money in myself and learn the basics. It might be less expensive in the long run--or at least this time around I'll have only myself to blame.

What actually convinced me to try MJ Rose's course is completely irrational. She wrote a book called SHEET MUSIC, and I was so amazed that she could write--in fact, a couple of times I found myself getting teary (the subplot regarding the heroine's coming to terms with the death of her beloved mother). Believe me, that rarely happens. I had always assumed that this woman was a master of PR, but probably only a mediocre writer. This is dreadful to say, but 95% of everything contemporary that I read falls in the oh-okay class. But this book moved me.

Anyway, I signed up. Not that what necessarily works for one person will work for another, but I figure it can't do me any harm to learn what I should be TRYING to do at least. Don't worry, whatever happens, I will not start spamming friends and family with unwanted book promos! This is an interesting experiment for me because this third and possibly final book with Pocket will be the first one for which I tried to form a marketing plan. So we'll see if it works.

One thing every writer I meet seems to agree on: you cannot make a living at this unless you have more than one book coming out a year. Which means writing AND promoting/marketing two books a year.

Considering that many people go into this business believing that the publisher will take care of all that for you...!

But enough of business blab. I picked up another great batch of books on ebay, and I'll be talking about them next time!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Yo? Yo ho ho!

So there I am gloating over my e-bay treasures last night, and Mr. Thrilling walks in and drawls, "My God, it's like living with Captain Kidd!"

There were a few more remarks about booty, but those were of a more personal nature. So anyway, here's what I got!

SILENT TERROR by T.C.H. Jacobs. A 1944 Bulls-Eye Detective novel.

"The terror surrounding the murder of a well-known daughter of joy is the ominously quiet kind. Inspector Ruggles Radford (no WAY!) , summoned from his favorite cocktail bar, could find no marks on the body. Possibly the woman was hypnotised and ingeniously strangled."

Possibly. Or maybe Ruggles was hypnotised and she was ingeniously strangled, because how can you be strangled but have no marks on the body? Just how long was Ruggles in that cocktail bar anway?

I'll have to read the book. I'll keep you posted.

THE SAINT VS. SCOTLAND YARD by Leslie Charteris. 1945 Avon Book Company.

I've never been a big Saint fan. By which I mean I've never been interested enough to read any of the novels. All that's going to change, and I'll let you know how it goes. In this adventure he seems to be battling an arch-nemesis known as the Scorpion.

THE PINBALL MURDERS by Thomas B. Black. 1947 with the cover blurb "Suspense, sex and action." But no, it's not about dating.

This one has a killer opening, and I'll probably read it first.

"The little guy cried, and that did it; I said I'd look for his wife."

Then we have O AS IN OMEN by Lawrence Treat. 1943.

Did I mention, ignoramus that I am, I haven't heard of any of these writers except Charteris? Anyway, Treat seems to have been fairly prolific (17 novels and hundreds of short stories), and he's credited on one website with creating the police procedural sub-genre. I guess someone had to, but it seems a steep claim.

Opening line: "He was sweating in thin cold beads because he'd been stricken so unaccountably."


We'll see.

Then we have three books by Dana Chambers who, again, I never heard of until I became a pirate.


"Boyd shoved the big open Bently through Tuxedo at an easy sixty, and cut in the supercharger on the long straight stretch beyond."


"The Park Lane bar felt hot and close and I went on through to the little garden at the back and ordered a stinger."

I like that.


"At four o'clock of a late March morning in Manhattan the eastern sky is a deep purple just beginning to pale."

A cursory internet search turns up nothing on Chambers. Disappointing. He (she?) seems like an interesting writer.

Just spotted a slow moving vessel to the west. Time to hoist the skull and crossbones...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Dancin' by the Nile

Last week I discovered ebay. Yeeha! Or more correctly, Yahoo! Another excuse not to write.

I'm justifying the expenditure (of time and ouch! so much more money than I intended) by finding items related to writing. For example...I'm going to put an ebay addict in one of my current WiPs. And I'm finding lots of great vintage mysteries to rip off--er--inspire me. But best of all, this morning I bought this very cool replica of the Sphinx, which will be the grand prize next spring when SONNET OF THE SPHINX launches, and I do my ususal website contest. I may even pick up a few more little Egyptian-like collectibles for the promo. Since it's the third book in the series, and the final one Pocket has contracted for (so far) I really want to make a fuss of it, and focus a little harder on the promotion.

Speaking of which, according to my editor at Pocket, Micki Nuding, review copies actually should have gone out on VERSE OF THE VAMPYRE. The fact that they didn't can apparently be chalked up to...well, the vagaries of an already vague biz. I feel the lack of reviews really did affect sales, but maybe that's writer paranoia. It is interesting to see if my promotional efforts make a difference. I spent about $12,000. promoting HIGH RHYMES AND MISDEMEANORS (including publicist fees, etc.) and the book did go into a second printing. On VERSE, I spent about $3,000. (no publicist). It's too soon to know what impact, if any, this will have. I hear different theories all the time.

Anyway, back to ebay. I had no idea there was so much WONDERFUL STUFF available. Pink Depression glass candlesticks, ivy china, Dell mapbacks, and vintage jewellery--to name just a few of the items I regularly hunt for. And I do mean, regularly. Yep, I'm addicted to online auctioneering. So much of the stuff reminds me of things my grandmothers owned--etched stemware, milk glass, funky little figurines. You have to wonder about the history behind pieces that have been around for decades--those tangles of old jewellery and incomplete sets of fine china. I wonder if someone is auctioning off their granny's beloved trinkets, but the truth is many of these ebayers simply buy to resell. Apparently there are people who actually try to make money at this game.

Not me. I buy what I love. So I get a little fanatical and overbid. Where they kill you is on shipping. Ouch. .99 for a five piece set of china, and $100. shipping. Yeah, right. I didn't fall for that one, but I did get into a bidding war over a set of cork placemats that I'd prefer not to think about (although I will have to think about it every time we eat dinner). Anyway, here's my ebay tip: DO NOT THINK OF BIDDING AS WINNING OR LOSING.

It's the books that really lure me in. I buy them in lots, and I'm only interested in certain writers or certain art work, so my buying pattern is probably irrational. There's something about the hunt for old books that is like no other. I won five Dell mapbacks yesterday. A couple of them will go into someone's Christmas stocking, a couple of them may be website giveaways--and a couple of them I just cannot wait to read!

Ah, but I see I have 32m to go on a certain item. Must run...

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Birds do it, Bees do it...

Editors, agents, reviewers, authors, wannabe authors, and educated fleas do it, so it was only a matter of time before I decided to do it too. Yes, I am officially a blogger. I am a blogspot on the face of the world wide web.

So this weekend we (me and Mr. Thrilling Detective) attended the L.A. Times Book Fair. It's several years since I've been to the festival, and the first time I've appeared in my secret identity (author). I think it is no coincidence that the official event T-shirt features jungle animals reading. The festival has exploded in size--it's a zoo.

My personal belief is that half the people there do not read and do not buy books, but perhaps I'm being cynical. On the other hand, Angelenos love to party, and the Book Fair is a two day extravaganza of food and drink (no alchohol though, and how weird is THAT? We're AUTHORS for cryin' out loud. Alchohol is part of our job description) and books, books, books.

I have to be honest and say that I am not one to relish rubbing shoulders with the madding crowd--unlike Mr. Thrilling, who is a friendly and gregarious soul (despite what they say about him). Poor guy. He just doesn't mind being being jostled and jammed and trampled.

But I digress. The Book Fair is the kind of event that is A Must for local authors (and maybe even not so local authors), although--as you now know, not being especially keen on mobs of people--not my favorite gig in the world. Part of the author biz is to get out there and flog your wares (the paper kind--although sometimes it feels a little more personal). This is not easy for me. It's not easy for most of the writers I know, although some thrive on it. Most of us prefer the writing to the marketing. Although, on the other hand, writing is a solitary profession, and for some, the promotion is a great time to meet and greet.

Speaking of which, I met the talented and charming Libby Fischer Hellman (we share our agent, it turns out). I had the peculiar notion that she wrote Amish mysteries, She writes a very well-regarded series about a single mom filmmaker. She's nominated for an Anthony, how cool is that? Inside, of course, I am deeply, greenly jealous and soooo not wanting to like her or her books. (I'm kidding--at least, I HOPE I am!)

I have, in fact, added Libby to my ever-mounting TBR pile--along with a new one by Holly Baxter called TEARS OF THE DRAGON. This sounds inticing-ly like the Mary Kelly stuff I write (under D.L. Browne). Hopefully I'll manage some little review snippets in the near future.

Oh (hey, nice segue) I also met the adorable Beth Kendrick (we share a publisher, it turns out) who has a new chick lit coming out called EXES AND OHS. Beth is branching into YA, and she wanted to see if I had any objections to her using the penname Killian. I thought that demonstrated real class--and of course I fiercely refused to relinquish the "Killian" nom de plume!! (I truly am kidding.)

Anyway, I signed for a couple of hours at Crime Time Books with moderate success (no, not another author), and then escaped to the homefire delights of MURDER SHE WROTE (Season 1) and a heaping plate of "wings of fire."

And on Saturday I discovered EBAY. Oh. My. Gah.

The wonders and seduction of ebay deserves its own blog, so until then...