Friday, April 29, 2011

Purgatory Chasm--A Review

by Joyce

I don’t get ARCs to read very often and it’s always a treat when I do. I was especially excited this time because it’s a debut novel from one of Janet Reid’s clients. I’m going to assume everyone knows who the Sharkly One is. I’ll just say that her clients write damn good books.

The whole thing started a month or so ago when Janet’s godsend, Meredith Barnes, mentioned on Twitter that they had “plans” for the Working Stiffs. I wasn’t sure whether to jump up and down or shudder with fear. Not long after that, Bente forwarded an email from Meredith asking if one of their clients, Steve Ulfelder, could do a guest blog or two. Of course I said yes.

Today’s post is my review of his debut mystery, PURGATORY CHASM. Steve will be back for an interview on Thursday, May 12th. Hopefully, Steve will stop by today and say hello.

The protagonist of PURGATORY CHASM is Conway Sax, a former racecar driver, mechanic, and alcoholic. He belongs to an AA group called the Barnburners. When any of the Barnburners has a problem, he make it his mission to fix it. As Conway says, “Barnburners saved my life. I help them when I can. No exceptions.”

When Barnburner Tander Phigg asks Conway to retrieve his old Mercedes from a shop called Das Motorenwerk, he agrees, even though he thinks Phigg is an asshole. When Phigg ends up dead, Conway becomes a suspect because he was the last person to see him alive.

PURGATORY CHASM is one of those books I had a hard time putting down. It grabbed me with the first line and I had to keep reading to find out what kind of trouble Conway was going to get into next. And there was plenty of trouble. There were loads of twists and turns and an ending I didn’t see coming. I thought about it long after I finished the book.

Every character was well-drawn and compelling. Conway is a guy you just have to root for. His friend, Randall—an Iraq war veteran with a prosthetic leg—is Conway’s conscience and tries to keep him on the straight and narrow. Charlene is Conway’s on-and-off girlfriend. She’s been disappointed by him several times, but somehow their relationship survives. I especially liked the relationship between Charlene’s daughter and Conway. Even minor characters who only make one-time appearances are interesting.

If you like P.I. novels with lots of action, compelling characters, and an ending that will blow you away, PURGATORY CHASM is definitely a book you need to pick up.

Steve Ulfelder is a race driver and co-owner of Flatout Motor Sports in Framingham; a company that builds race cars. He was a business and technology journalist for 20 years.  In addition to trade and automotive magazines, he wrote for the Boston Globe, Boston magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. For more about Steve, visit his website at  PURGATORY CHASM, his first novel will be released on May 10, 2011.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Revisions and Titles and Contests, Oh My!

by Joyce

I'm about halfway through my revisions and I'm pleasantly surprised that this manuscript is actually in pretty good shape. It seems like I've been working on it forever. I tend to edit and revise as I go along, so maybe that's why.

I have a couple of chapters that I'm going to switch. I think they would work better if the second one comes first. I've done that with scenes, but never with an entire chapter, so it'll be interesting to see how that goes.

I have one scene that I really like where my protagonist is out with the hunky new guy, but it may have to go unless I can squeeze some little plot tidbit into it. The scene is basically these characters getting to know each other a little but I think it needs more. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know. Even if I don't come up with anything, I might leave it in for now and see what my beta readers think (ahem. Annette).

I also had to add a few clues to the early chapters because when I wrote them I had no idea who the murderer was. And I definitely need to flesh out the climax and the denouement because I kind of rushed through them because I wanted to get the f***ing book finished.

Which leads me to another dilemma--I don't have a title. Although Annette has suggested several times that I keep calling it The F***ing Book, something tells me it might give people the wrong idea. I thought for sure that a title would come to me by the time I wrote The End, but it didn't. So here's where I ask for help.

I'd like to run a little contest. I'm going to give a prize to whoever comes up with the best title for the book. Since I don't have anything to give away, I thought of a prize that won't cost me a dime: I'll name a character in my next book after the winner. You can have your pick whether it will be a good guy, a villain, a farm animal, whatever.

Here's what my current book is about:

Irma Jean Bennett, secretary for the tiny Spite, West Virginia police department knows it's not her day when the chief drops dead in her office. Her efforts to find out who poisoned him are hindered by the mayor who wants to keep the murder under wraps because he's afraid of scaring off the non-existent tourists, the new acting chief who happens to be her ex-husband, her pink Cadillac-driving mother hiding out from her fifth husband, and the hunky guy renovating the downtown hotel. When one of her suspects ends up dead and Irma Jean is fired for breaking into a tool shed, she knows she's on her own.

And that's all I got. I'm still working on the blurb. I haven't figured out how to end it yet. That's harder to write than the f***ing book.

Anyway, thanks for your help!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Classic Triangles by C.L. Phillips

Today I'm thinking about conflict, and classic triangles.  The classic character triangle gives writers fertile conflict.  We can play characters off each other, in a wide number of combinations.  In our own lives, we find triangles between real people every day.  My favorite, the mother-in-law, husband, wife triangle.  But I digress.

Common triangles in literature include the love triangle, the hero-sidekick-villain, or the hero-sidekick-mentor.  What other triangles are out there?

One of my favorites is the Hero-Sidekick-Villain.  I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  Was there ever a better hero-sidekick?  Maybe it's the new Sherlock Holmes movie, complete with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law that makes this dynamic duo so easy to recall.   Holmes was always in the lead, but Watson never let him down.  Dr. Moriarty served as the ultimate villain, a mysterious presence.

A more recent trio comes to us from the Hunger Games, with Katniss, Peeta and their mentor Haymitch.   Katniss and Peeta are rivals until their survival depends on each other.  Haymitch is a wounded mentor, a man that never reveals the true price of participating in the Hunger Games until the end of the journey. Is this an example of the Heroine-Sidekick-Mentor trio?

Another recent trio, more lighthearted, can be found in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, with Stephanie, Morelli, and Ranger.  This trio plays both sides of the street with professional danger and romantic tension.  I often wonder how long Stephanie can go back and forth between Morelli and Ranger without choosing, yet the audience seems to enjoy the indecision and prolonged sexual tension.  Sixteen books and counting.  Has any other trio been so frustrated?

I'm thinking about trios and triangles as I contemplate my next project.  Are there other classic triangles that give mystery writers a great example of archetypes for the story?  Do you recognize a triangle when you see it early in a novel?  What about novels that don't have a triangle, but instead rely on the duo structure?  Like Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware series.   Or what about the stories with four characters involved in the mix, like Star Trek (with Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scottie)?

More and more, I find myself drawn to the trio, but don't know why.   Could it be that the classic triangle has a power I don't recognize?  Could it be the pyramids?   Who knows.  One thing is certain. The classic conflict triangle gives me the structure I need to create great conflict.  The recipe :  three characters, each with a conflicting agendas, and a willingness to say what polite people will not.

So what impolite, politically incorrect thing do the folks in your triangles say?

"The Rich and the Dead"

By the time you read this, I will be en route to New York City for tonight’s launch party for the new Mystery Writers of America anthology “The Rich and the Dead” edited by Nelson DeMille and featuring 19 additional mystery writers, including Michael Connelly, Lee Child, S.J. Rozan and Frank Cook.

 You might be wondering about the last guy, but he's the one I’m most interested in seeing at The Mysterious Bookshop tonight because he’s my spouse -- and critique partner. And now the man I occasionally refer to as Husband No. 1 also will be known as the author of the fabulous short story “The Gift.” We were ecstatic when the Publishers Weekly review named it as a standout in the anthology.

Tonight he and Nelson DeMille will be together not only in “The Rich and the Dead,” but also at the launch party. If you look at the alphabetical list of authors, he’s next to Michael Connelly, too. How cool is that? Here’s the list:

Ted Bell, Peter Blauner, K. Catalona, Tim Chapman, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Frank Cook, David DeLee, Nelson DeMille, Joseph Goodrich, Daniel J. Hale, Roberta Isleib, Harley Jane Kozak, David Morrell, Caroli Mullen, Twist Phelan, S.J. Rozan, Jonathan Santlofer, Elaine Togneri and Angela Zeman.

For those of you unfamiliar with the MWA anthologies, they are published annually and edited by a well-known mystery author who asks nine colleagues to contribute stories. The remaining 10 slots are filled with tales selected by a panel of judges from a pool of  “blind submissions” by MWA members.

Pat Remick & Frank Cook
Frank and I both sent in stories for consideration after each reviewed the other's story. We've been editing each other's work for over three decades now and I can truly say that everything I write is better because of him. We've successfully co-authored two professional development books but when we attempted to write a mystery novel together, we concluded our marriage was more important. Now we stick to editing only when it comes to fiction.

As you might imagine, there was great rejoicing when his story was chosen for the anthology (as was a story by my fellow New England Sister in Crime Roberta Isleib), although I admit to a tinge of regret that mine was not. But I laughed when Frank explained, "This just shows I know more about being rich and dead than you do."

Since Frank hasn't shared the "being rich" -- or dead -- things with me, perhaps I need coaching in these areas. Last week I read about a new web site,, that offers one-to-one video chats with "coaches" who are leaders in their fields. For example, you can video chat with Nobel Price-winning economist Gary Becker for $5,000 an hour, according to the Bloomberg News article. I doubt he could provide any insight into being dead, but I bet he could tell me about the rich part.

There aren't many authors on the site yet, but it got me thinking. If I had an extra $5,000 and could talk to any author in the world about writing, who would it be? There are so many wonderful possiblities that it's likely I'm still pondering that question even as you're reading this.

Who would you choose -- and why?

Monday, April 25, 2011


by Gina Sestak

"Murder your darlings."  We've heard that command before.  It generally refers to slaughtering our favorite words and phrases.  I'm using it in a different sense today.  I'm talking about killing off our characters.

Don't think for a minute this is easy.  Characters are real to us.  They live within our minds, offer guidance on our plots, let us know their innermost desires.  Killing them can be traumatic for the writer.

Let me back up a little and explain why I'm writing about this on a rainy Monday morning.  I'm not in the process of disposing of anyone in my WIP, thank goodness.  That's hard enough.  No.  Today I'm finishing up another kind of project.

I've mentioned before that I've been taking classes at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.  I've just completed a short course on Screenplay Character Development and am in the process of finishing up the final project for Advanced Acting for the Camera.   That's where the murdering comes in.

Let me back up even further.  Last year I took an Acting for the Camera class.  It was a horrifying experience, not only because I look so utterly dreadful on screen, but because the camera picks up and emphasizes every flaw in a performance, no matter how minor.  It's frightening to watch.  That class required a final on-screen monologue, lifted from a real movie.  The idea wasn't to imitate the actor who'd originally done the scene, but to do it as if you had been cast in the part.  I chose to take my scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the section where the old witch (played brilliantly by Geraldine McEwan in the original) warns the Sheriff of Nottingham about what the future might hold and tells him the truth about his background.   It worked out fine.  I got an "A" in the class.

For the present class, students were required to pick a particular actor to study.   Of course, as those of you who have been reading my posts about my Bollywood addiction might suspect, my first choice was Shah Rukh Khan.

The instructor wouldn't let me use him.  His films aren't in English, for one thing, although he does have some spectacular monologues in Hindi.  I had to find somebody else.  I thought about another favorite, Alan Rickman,

but he doesn't have that many monologues to choose from and I didn't think I could get away with spending three minutes on screen looking shifty-eyed.   I finally settled on Emma Thompson.

Which brings me back to the topic of this post.  The obvious choice of monologue would have been the scene from Sense and Sensibility when Elinor reveals to Marianne that she really does have feelings. I didn't make the obvious choice because another scene was calling out to me, a scene from Stranger Than Fiction.  Has everybody seen that film?  It's brilliant.  Emma Thompson plays a writer, Karen Eiffel, who ---   But let's just watch the trailer:
See the connection?  For my final project, I will be performing a monologue about trying to figure out the best way to kill off Harold Crick, a scene we can all identify with.

Wish me luck, okay?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just One More Page

by p.m. terrell

The most terrifying moment you can experience is a threat from someone—or something—you cannot see. It’s the door knob rattling in the darkness of night.

Breath on the back of your neck when there is no one there. It’s the raging storm that cuts off your communication, leaving you vulnerable to the shadowy figure that lurks just beyond your door.

The sound of footsteps as you cower in the corner of the closet, waiting for the door to open—and praying that it never does.

It’s the fear of the unknown that causes your heart to race out of control, your breathing to come quick and shallow, the adrenaline to pump wildly through your veins.

And it’s the fear of the unknown and the overwhelming desire to see what is beyond that door, to confront the demon and move past it into the arms of safety that keeps the reader turning the pages of a book well into the night.

The first book I could not put down was What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson, originally published in 1978 (Putnam). Though other books were certainly compelling and many have remained with me over the decades, this book was such a page-turner that after I finished it, I began all over again. But this time, I dissected Matheson’s writing in a yearning to know how he manipulated me into turning those pages well beyond the moment that I should have taken a break.

The answer lay in his use of cliff-hangers.

As my eyelids grew heavy, I would glance ahead to determine how many more pages existed before the end of the chapter. I would promise myself I’d stop when I reached that natural pause. Inevitably, though, a cliff-hanger arose in those final paragraphs—one so dramatic that I could not put down the book before I discovered what happened next. And it continued that way through every chapter to the very last page.

I have used that technique in every novel I’ve written. Readers know once they’ve read that first paragraph, they won’t sleep until they’ve finished the final scene. The most common comment I receive from readers is, “I couldn’t put the book down.” That’s what you want in a readership. Because the next time they see your name on a book, they’ll remember how you took them on a journey they’ll never forget. And they’ll want to go on another ride with you.

When I was learning how to write—because the technical aspect is every bit as important as the creative—I often heard of the “midway” slump. The author may have an interesting beginning and a suspenseful ending, but the middle sags. Quite by accident, I discovered my books never drag in the middle because I work toward a climactic scene in the middle.

I know, for example, that my book is going to be approximately 400 pages. Rather than write that first page with a goal of reaching the climactic scene on page 390, I decide on a pivotal scene in the middle. A scene so compelling that it causes the reader to sit straight up, widen their eyes, and realize everything they thought was happening might be leading to something else entirely. So assuming that pivotal scene is on page 200, I have only half the book to get the reader to that moment: to lay the groundwork, to set the stage, to place the players where each needs to be. It means that every scene must do double duty—it must be instrumental to the plot on its own, but it also must propel the plot forward by setting the stage for the next scene.

Once the reader reaches that pivotal scene, they are propelled forward at the speed of light until they reach that suspenseful climactic scene at the end.

Because, in the end, the goal of a writer is to take the reader on that journey: to make them feel the anxiety, the tension, the anger, the fear—and propel them forward until they’ve faced the demons and they’ve landed in safe arms.


p.m.terrell is the award-winning author of 12 books including the internationally acclaimed suspense/thrillers The Banker’s Greed, Exit 22, Ricochet and The China Conspiracy and the historical suspense, River Passage and Songbirds are Free.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I’ll Take Mine With A Twist

By Paula Matter

After reading C.L.’s post last week, I was all prepared to write about my favorite endings in books. Like, the very last line because how a story is wrapped up is just as important as the beginning and middle.
Then I realized I’d might be dishing out spoilers left and right of books y’all haven’t read yet, so nixed that idea.

While pondering what to write about, I went on the Internet to so some important research... Oh, who am I kidding? I went over to Netflix to add to my queue and came across one of my favorite Kevin Spacey movies: The Usual Suspects. Talk about a great ending! Without giving the ending away, have y’all seen that movie? Seeing as how it came out in 1995, I’m sure most of us have seen it by now, but I still don’t want to give it away.

I wandered around Netflix a little longer when bingo! I’d make a list of my favorite endings to movies for my blog post.

Since most of us are mystery or crime writers, I feel safe in assuming we also like the same kind of movies. Which makes me feel even safer about creating this list because there's a good chance y’all have seen some of these movies.

In no particular order:

The Last of Sheila
High Crimes
Double Jeopardy
Murder by Natural Causes
The Third Man
Matchstick Men

And so many more! After watching a lot of these movies, I couldn’t help but wish I’d come up with the idea. How about you? Have you seen any of these movies? Any favorites not listed here? Any movies that you did know the ending before everyone else?

There’s one movie I couldn’t find and I’m hoping someone can help me out. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who was in it, even an inkling of its title, or when it was released. (Big help I am, huh?) I remember the final scene where the young woman is at the wheel of a boat speeding across the water. An earlier scene was someone getting her (his?) teeth yanked out. Yet another scene shows a person’s head getting bashed in with a rock.  Sounds worse than it actually was, I promise. Please, someone, anyone tell me you know anything about this movie!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's Real!

By Annette Dashofy

For the last several weeks, I’ve been walking around feeling like a fraud. Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology was out. I’d seen the ads. I’d posted about it on Facebook. I’d tweeted about it and blogged about it. I even had a copy of it on my Nook.

Yet, it didn’t feel real. Other authors’ books on the Nook felt real. But not mine.

Other people told me they’d received their trade paperback versions of it, so I knew it was out there. Well, part of me did.

I decided I’ve gotten too good at lying to myself. Oh, I’m a lousy liar to anyone else. But I write fiction, so in sense I tell lies every time I sit down to work. And if what I write is any good at all, I have to believe it. I have to be convinced that my characters are flesh and bone with secret pasts. They have to bleed real blood and cry real tears. If I don’t believe that, how can I expect my readers to believe it?

So I live in a fantasy world with my make-believe friends. And it’s okay, because I’m a writer.

But I started to think this whole Fish Tales thing was yet another figment of my fertile imagination. Or maybe a dream. After all, I had no hard evidence that the book existed anywhere other than in my mind.

Until Monday afternoon when I drove to Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont to pick up my copies of it. I pulled one out of the box and checked the contents page. Sure enough, there was my name and my story listed. I thumbed to page 137 (yes, I have it memorized. Heck, I may play that number in the state lottery!) and discovered it hadn’t all been a cruel joke. “A Murder Runs Through It” was there right before my eyes.

And more copies of Fish Tales sat on the store’s shelf.

Sorry for the fuzzy picture. I think my hands were shaking.

Feeling a little bit less like a fraud, I headed down the street for some supper at Casey’s before making my way to the Oakmont Library to see one of my favorite people in the world, Lisa Scottoline…who also just happens to be one of my favorite authors.

I was early, so I set up camp front row and center with my fellow Sister in Crime and former Working Stiff Laurie Kassim, who whipped out her copy of Fish Tales (did EVERYONE get theirs before I did???) and asked me to sign it.

Now, this is a strange and wonderful thing, when someone wants you to sign your name on something other than a check or a contract or a loan application. I like it!

Lisa came out and entertained a packed house—ahhh—library with stories about life and family and what brought her to write her latest thriller Save Me.

I have a feeling once I start it I’m not going to sleep until I finish it. Lisa’s writing has that effect on me. More than once, I’ve blamed her for my sleep deprivation.

After her talk, I waited until the very end of the mile-long line of fans waiting to get their books signed to present her with a copy of Fish Tales. I figured she’s been so supportive of me (she’s always giving me names of agents to send my manuscripts to!), I wanted to give her a small token of my appreciation.

Besides, it’s really cool to be able to sign a book to Lisa Scottoline!

And a little cross promotion never hurts.

Okay, I really hope this isn’t the peak of my career—I still want to get a full novel (or two or three or thirty) published—but Monday night was definitely a high point. And with all the rejections and disappointments in this business, we have to celebrate each success in whatever form it takes.

And, for what it’s worth, I no longer feel like a fraud.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Too Dumb To Quit

By Martha Reed

I’m at a funny point in my life. When I started my first novel I didn’t really have any idea of how to complete one but I kept at it until it was done.

Some folks call it stubborn. I prefer to call it persistence or, as they say in Texas, too dumb to quit.

I let that first manuscript go and started the next one, more out of habit than desire because I felt like there was still more of this story to tell. As I finished editing Chapter Twenty-Nine on Sunday it hit me: I’ve written another one of the damn things. I mean, it was all part of the great plan: write a novel, polish a pitch, get ready for the Pennwriters Conference in May but I guess I never really believed that I would actually write two full-length novels.

That’s approximately 700 pages or 200,000 words, in the right order.

At what point do you say: Gee, guess what? I’m a novelist!

When did you realize that’s what you are?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Live and Learn

I've moved on.  After working on my current project until I reached the point of "it must be done", I've decided to adopt a new way of proceeding with my next project.  I'm writing the synopsis and log line first.

This cannot be an original idea, right?

After finishing my last novel, I did a post-mortum review.  I borrowed this technique from my day-job life as a product manager.  After you finish a project, you answer the following questions:

1)  How did the project unfold?  What were the major problems?
2)  What techniques or processes worked well?  What did not work?
3)  Compare your original schedule and work plan to your final - what adjustments will you make to your schedule and work plan on future projects?
4)  What changes do you want to make to your process?

I would share the answers, but it's a bit like telling everyone what you weigh.  Either everyone will want to kill you because you are too perfect, or everyone will turn away because nobody wants to admit that anyone could weigh that much.  So I'll gloss over the details and focus on the biggest change I'm making to my process.

I'm going to write the synopsis and log line for my novel first.  Then I'm writing the query letter and back cover blurb.  And then, I'm going to ask trusted readers for feedback on which project I should write next.

Does anyone else do this?  I've got so many projects rolling around in my mind, I feel conflicted on which one to pursue.  I figure this approach could add the reader's point of view into my process.  Couldn't hurt, could it?  After all, there are some stories that folks don't want to read, right?

So what do you think?  Am I on the right track?

Live and learn.  Or as my old daddy says, "Live and learn.  Die and forget it all."

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Special Place To Write

Pat Gulley

A Writing Room—Office—Computer Room?

 Where do you write? Do you have your own room to do it in? Is it exclusively yours? Do you have to call it something else, like The Sewing Room, Den, Library, Storage Room or Junk Room as well as your writing place?

            While sitting contemplating my naval and wondering what to blog about, I lifted my eyes to the ceiling in the hopes that the great ceiling writer in the sky would have something all written out for me. But GCWITS must have been busy because all I saw was a dirty light fixture and on the lower edge of my vision, pictures on the wall. So I scanned the rest of the room and decided I had a real, no diversions WRITING room. Computer and related equipment, files, file cabinets, document shelves and holders, tons of pens and pencils, a printer and supplies, a ton of friends and favorite author bookmarks and postcards scattered all over, a bookshelf full of how-tos, favorite books, convention program books and collectibles that make me happy and put me in the mood....TO WRITE. Oh, and most of the walls are covered in art, all SF and Fantasy, but that’s inspiring for me. They may be weird and unusual on first sight, but they can provide some great personality traits for characters. Did I mention collectible oddities? Lots of dragons, perfect for the good the bad and the weird.

            So, yes, I do have a special room. I don’t have to use that dust-collecting, huge old laptop and float around the house looking for inspiration; I do have a place dedicated strictly to my writing. Everything is very familiar, I can sit and stare at each and every piece and have memories that will lead to an idea, good or bad, that I can try out in my present WIP or a half-dozen other partially started stories sitting in my documents. Even start another document if something really interesting formulates in the old brain pan. As an example, what if I wanted to write a story about a woman and her dog. Just to the left of my computer is a print of one of the original ideas of what a Klingon (pre three breasts) and her dog should look like. Okay, it could be a cat, who cares—it’s her pet. Fierce looking, both of them, so to be sure any story I’m ever going to write about a woman and her pet is never going to take on anything soothing and sweet. And to Ms. Klingon’s left is a small print of Menolly and her nine fire-lizards. So nothing ordinary in the pet department for me.

            But if I look elsewhere, I loose all interest in pets, and my mind can wander around and find things to write about. And even if I don’t come up with something, everything causes a pause to contemplate some idea and can switch quickly to something I’m writing and send me on to several pages of new stuff for my protagonists to deal with. And I can thank my own private space for the ideas.

            But being a woman, I will admit to being practical and storing other stuff in the closet. Non-Christmas decorations, pieces of costumes, DirtDevil, etc, etc and some sewing stuff. That sewing machine tries to stick its nose out every so once in a while, but rarely gets any attention unless grandkids’ clothes and stuffed toys get damaged. This room is for writing; I spend more time here than I do in the kitchen, and it gives the TV room and bedroom a run for their money. It is my favorite room, I do love it.

            Since one of the blogs this week was about first lines, please repair back there for the questions.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More on Beginnings

by Joyce

This is going to be a really short post. I'm in the middle of about a dozen different things right now, two of which are revising my WIP and the never-ending bathroom remodel. I'm grouting at least a gazillion square feet of space between the tiles. At least it seems that way.

Anyway, C.L.'s post yesterday got me thinking about our own first lines. When I'm planning a book or short story, the first line usually just pops into my head. Sure, it gets tweaked a few times, but so far I've never had to ditch the line entirely.

In one of my manuscripts (the one that was agented) the first line was, "April used to be my favorite month of the year." Not great, but it does make the reader wonder why it's no longer her favorite month.

One of my short stories, Agatha, begins with, "Agatha. God, she hated that name."

An unfinished short story starts, "Angela Dunham's problems were over."

An unfinished police procedural begins, "One thing worse than getting called out at four in the morning was getting called out for a body cut up in pieces and stuffed into garbage bags."

Anyone else want to share? Come on, you know you do!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Lines -- What are your favorites?

I've fallen in love with the first line.  But like an unfaithful lover, I'm flitting from book to book, creating a list of my *all*time*favorites.  I thought I'd give you a few of my favorites, and hope that you will respond with your favorites.

"The morning air off the Mojave in late winter is as clean and crisp as you'll ever breathe in Los Angeles County."  Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly.

"Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery."  The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling.

"It was Father Martin's idea that I should write an account of how I found the body." Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James.

"Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking car to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen."  The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

"The scream that pierced the dull yellow November sky was preternaturally high-pitched." In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff.

"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"  - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

Why these first lines?  No reason, except I've read each of these books at least three times and cannot figure out why.  Do you think the first line set a hook that can never be removed?

What are some of your favorite first lines?  What makes a first line compelling for you?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Training for Writers

Baseball players have spring training, basketball players play exhibition games, tennis stars have warmup events. But what of the writer getting ready for the sometimes grueling demands of the book tour?

You’ve been at your computer for months. Your social skills have been reduced to “here, kitty” and “Maxie, wanna go for a walk?” and yet you’re expected to shift gears and miraculously morph into Marketing Girl!

Once you’ve updated your website, sent out a newsletter, blogged, flogged, tweeted and bleated about your book, eventually – unless you’re JD Salinger (which isn’t likely since he’s dead and probably not reading this) – you’re going to have to leave your room and talk to actual, living breathing people. Despite the proliferation of blog tours, pressing the flesh is a time-honored way of meeting readers and booksellers and generating that all important word-of-mouth.

So what am I doing to prepare for this year’s tour? Eating raw eggs and running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Wrapping my wrists and whacking my elbows for the marathon signing sessions? Calling my friendly local pharmacist to refill prescriptions? I am not.

Here’s what I’m packing.

-An HP Mini. At two and half pounds it weighs less than my pencil case (yes, I have a pencil case and favorite pencils, email me if you want to know why.) It has made airport security – if not a pleasant experience – at least a lot less irritating.

-Flash drives. These little suckers have changed my life. They’re probably already retro – I never said I was an early adaptor – but I don’t care. But now, I obsess about “where’s the flash drive” and can frequently be seen wearing the darn thing around my neck lest I lose it or leave it behind in a hotel room along with the phone charger. Given the pencil case, can a pocket protector be far behind?

-Black yoga pants – don’t leave home without them. You can get away with them from the gym to a nice dinner out. Okay, maybe not if you’re a guy and you don’t want to look like Baryshnikov. (If you look anything like Baryshnikov, by all means wear them.)

-Exercise tubes. I won’t use them but they take up less space in the bag than the exercise ball I didn’t use, although I have gotten some strange looks during random bag checks because mine are pink and black and could be mistaken

-Vitamins and green tea drops. I’m not fully convinced that they do anything, but I love the mechanics…the pills…the dropper..the amber glass bottle. Feels mysterious. (Perhaps this means I’ll poison someone in book five.)

-A scarf, gloves and silk long johns – no matter where I’m going. (Hey, I get cold.)

-The all-purpose black jacket. True, if you see pictures of me at various events it looks like I only own one jacket, but I promise they’re not all the same. If fact I own 49 black jackets – but that’s another blog post.

So armed and dressed for battle - Let the games begin!



Rosemary Harris’ latest title in the Dirty Business mystery series is Slugfest and it comes out today. She is past president of Sisters in Crime New England, president of Mystery Writers of America’s NY Chapter and a member of CAPA (CT Authors and Publishers Association). She kicks off her non-virtual tour tonight in Massachusetts at a Dedham Public Library event to be held at the Borders in Legacy Mall, Dedham, and Wednesday at the Ames Free Library in North Easton – she’ll be the one in the black jacket. For complete schedule visit Follow her on facebook or twitter @rosemaryharris1

Monday, April 11, 2011


by Gina Sestak

When we talk about characterization, we often seem to focus on creating a believable fictional person.  We try to imagine a convincing backstory, if only for our own purposes.  We ponder the idiosyncrasies.  What color is his hair?  How tall is she?  Where was he born?  What's her favorite tv show?  Does he like lilacs?   Will she ever jump out of a plane?  How do we convey this information to a reader without turning the book into a laundry list of traits?

Even assuming we succeed in creating a compelling character, this approach leaves out an important part of the equation.  No one exists in a vacuum, not even fictional people.  They come most alive when interacting with each other.   In order to create compelling characters, we need to come up with equally compelling relationships.

So, there it is.  One more thing to worry about in a universe of "what to keep in mind while writing novels."

We've all been told most stories need a certain set of characters: a protagonist who's central to the action, a nemesis for challenge, a buddy to bounce things off of, a wise mentor, a romantic interest.   The question is, how do we establish compelling relationships between these folks?  Do they have to fall in love?  Or hate?  Can they just co-exist without becoming boring?

The subject came up in a critique group meeting last Saturday, when we were discussing movies.  I mentioned how much I loathe Two For The Road, a 1967 film starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney.  I never felt anything for the two main characters, I think because they never seemed really connected to each other, even though they play an ostensibly romantic couple falling in love.

If you want to see falling in love done right, here's a musical clip from a Bollywood film, Kabhi Khushie Kabhie Gham.   Believe it or not, the tagline for this film is, "It's all about loving your parents."

[I can hear the critique group members groaning already.  "Oh, no," they're saying.  "She's been sending us Bollywood clips all weekend!  Not another one!"  Well, you can relax.  I've already sent you this one.]

I'm not saying every character in fiction has to be in love.  I'm just saying that a character should be in something.

Think about Harry Potter, for example.  One thing that propels the series is Harry's strong emotional attachments - his hatred of Snape, his idolization of Dumbledore, his love for his deceased parents and for his friends.   Can you imagine Harry without Ron or Hermione?

So, how do we go about putting relationships on paper, when we don't have actors, pyramids, or  cinematographers available?  Darned if I know.  Does anyone have any good ideas?  Please share them if you do.

Friday, April 08, 2011

I'm a Big Girl Now

by Ramona DeFelice Long

A few weeks ago, I visited my parents in south Louisiana. On Thursday, I drove my mother to her weekly appointment at the beauty shop, which is owned by my cousin Linda. I’ve been to Linda’s beauty parlor… oh, seven or eight thousand times…but because my mother is my mother, she had to give directions, including this gem:

“Turn right to cross over that bridge. On the other side you’ll have to make a left. There is no left turn arrow, so wait until there are no cars coming. And make sure the light is green.”

I’ve only been driving for cough-cough years but thanks, Mom, for clearing up how to perform a left turn without plowing into oncoming traffic.

Later that same day, she asked me to check the mailbox. It’s across the road from their house. The trek is only a few yards, but this also required instructions:

“I saw the mail truck go down the street, but I don’t know if he came back up. So go to the edge of the yard and look down the lane for him. It’s a white truck. It says US Postal Service.”


My dad is just as bad. One evening, I was chopping vegetables for dinner. He stopped at my side and said, “Don’t cut yourself.”

Really, Dad? I am cough-cough years old. You think that, without that warning, I’d have gotten confused and lobbed off my left pinky instead of this onion?

But what can you do? Parents are parents. It’s their job to perpetually treat you like a six-year-old even though, I’m sorry to say, they are the ones getting less reliable.

The week before, at Linda’s beauty parlor, my mother lost her keys. They were missing for four days, and eventually found under the dryer. She made it home because she always carries a spare set. That’s because she has locked her keys in her car so many times—once with the engine running--that the sheriff’s deputies know her by name. (Hint: Even though he may be such a polite young man, don’t try to give a law enforcement officer a five dollar tip for unlocking your car.) My dad is still a big tough cowboy who bales hay in 90 degree weather, but he won’t allow the air conditioner to be set below 80 because he swears his pacemaker lowers his internal body temperature.

I’m not poking fun here, even though the scenarios earned a chuckle or two. It’s tough to get older, and it’s tough to see your parents get older. I’m not around on a daily basis, so I see the cumulative changes rather than the gradual ones. Shrinking, loss of hearing, forgetfulness, frailty, walking sticks, questionable fashion choices, it’s all there.

But I’m still their little girl who needs reminders about left turns and kitchen knives.

As some of you know, after years of editing mystery novels, I am in the middle of writing one. I have included a minor character, an older lady, who gets into a fender bender. It’s not her fault, but her overprotective grandson seizes the opportunity to take away her car keys. It’s the right move, and she knows it, too, but she wants to give them up, not have them taken away. She may be older, but she still has her dignity. I wanted to show that. As part of the story, I had my MC orchestrate a turning over of the keys that was sad, but allowed the lady to do it of her own accord.

I thought a lot about the indignities of aging while on my visit. With my parents, I handled it by teasing. At a 4-way STOP, I threw up my hands in mock terror and cried, “Oh no! What do I dooooooo?” My mom laughed and said she couldn’t help it, she’d been giving directions all her life. When my dad asked for my new cell phone number, I wrote it on my business card. I pointed at my email address and said, “If hell freezes over and you get a computer, you can contact me there, too.” He grumbled that it would take hell to freeze over, etc., etc., but I could tell he was a little thrilled that his daughter had business cards. The way I could tell was because he asked for nine or ten to give to his friends.

But the real telling point came when it was time for me to leave. I carried my bags and loaded them into the trunk of the car. My parents locked up the house like it’s Fort Knox, as is their habit, and my dad asked my mother 32 times if she had her house keys, which annoyed her, as is their other habit.

Out on the carport, my dad held out the car keys…to me.

“Do you want to drive?” he said.

This was a first. My mother instructed me to get into the left lane a good ten miles before I needed to take a left exit, and my dad shut all of the AC vents near him, but the drive to the airport went without incident.

When we arrived, my mother announced, “You’re a good driver.”

“Yup,” my dad said. “I wasn’t scared even once.”

My next visit will probably be in early fall, although I usually avoid hurricane season. I will take my chances with the weather, as think their seasons are numbered, and I want to give them as many chances as possible to treat me like their little kid.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Writer's Different Stages

By Alan Orloff

Thanks so much for inviting me to guest blog today. Us working stiffs have to stick together…
[Thank you, Alan, for being here today!]

If you’re a writer, you’ve been there. Some of us may dread it, others may relish it. Others may lock themselves in their rooms to avoid it. I’m not talking about housework; I’m talking about starting a new writing project.

Typically, I go through different stages.

The Procrastination Stage. I’d like to dive right into something new, I really would, but (inevitably) the idea needs more time to percolate. Then I decide I’ve really got to nail down the outline before starting. And those darn character sketches should be fleshed out. Of course, wouldn’t it be better if I waited until Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter/the new millennium when my story takes place so I can really capture the mood? Wait, there’s a Star Trek marathon on TV? Excellent!

The Abject Terror Stage. OMG! There is no way I’m going to be able to write a novel. No way! Do I remember how to string sentences together? Even though I’ve done it before, this time, the words just aren’t going to come. And if they do, they’re going to stink. Might as well not even try. I AM DOOMED!!

The Time-to-Clean-the-House Stage. (See Procrastination Stage, above)

The Million Questions Stage (sometimes this stage gets combined with the procrastination stage. Who am I kidding? Sometimes EVERY stage gets combined with the procrastination stage).

Will it be fun to write?
Will it be especially difficult?
Will it be marketable?
Should it be first-person or third-person POV?
Vampires or no vampires?
What kind of research will be necessary?
Are the characters “people” I’d like to spend a significant amount of time with?
Are their names easy to type?
Does the project have depth?
Is there series potential?
Will I be able to write this under my own name, or will it be another story by “Chuck Wagon”?
Are there similar works “out there”?
Will this be something my critique group will want to read? (ie, genre, tone)
Can I even type eighty thousand words? And get them all in the correct order?

The Sharpening-of-Pencils Stage. This is where I sharpen all my pencils and align my pads of paper. Make sure my erasers are handy. See to it my muse is fed. (Note: this stage is purely metaphorically.)

And finally, The If-I-Don’t-Start-Writing-NOW-I’ll-Hate-Myself Stage. ’Nuff said.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing to do. Right after I check my email.

What about you, Stiffs? How do you tackle a new writing project?

The first book in Alan Orloff’s Last Laff Mystery series, KILLER ROUTINE, is now available, at your favorite booksellers and on-line. His debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, came out last April and was nominated for the Best First Novel Agatha Award. For more information about Alan and his books, please visit

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Our Secret Ingredient

by Guest Blogger Mercedes Goldcamp

Hi Everyone. Thanks for having me. And thanks so much to Annette for giving me a chance to drop by and say hello!

Last week, I wrote to a few dozen college professors asking for their help in spreading the word to their graduating seniors about Craft and Career, our upcoming Pennwriters conference.

My first point was that by the time you add up the 45+ hour long workshops, agent pitch sessions, and critique sessions, what you get is a New York writer’s conference at a Pittsburgh price. It was an easy case to make, one that could be proven with simple math and a comparison chart.

My second point was a bit more nebulous, and I’m not sure I pulled it off. What I wanted to say was that in addition to putting on a great conference at a great price, we also do something that is a bit harder to quantify.

In business letter-ese it came out this way: “At a Pennwriters conference, beginning writers comfortably mingle with best-selling authors. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming, and encouraging. In short, it’s the perfect environment for an aspiring writer to learn how to network with industry professionals.”

Which basically translates to: “Fear not, young writer. If you show up, we’ll be nice to you.”

It’s a point that I suspect may seem like an insignificant one to a student used to the artificially supportive cocoon that is college.

And this makes me wish that I could have figured out how to work in a paragraph or two about some of the conferences I’ve gone to that were anything but welcoming.

Once, at a really famous conference best left unnamed, I stood in the atrium and watched in disbelief as a team of hotel employees used saw horses to erect a barrier designed to keep us--the hundreds of paying attendees, away from them—the agents and editors who were having a private schmooze-fest, complete with complimentary cocktails and free hors d’oeuvres, on the other side of the very same room.

The schlumpy body language on our side of the atrium, where there were exactly zero drinks and snacks, said it all. A girl who looked like she was in her early twenties said, “It would be different if they were also going to have a party that included all of us.” The segregation continued for the entire weekend. If you wanted to interact one-on-one with a publishing pro, you signed up for it. And you paid extra. Beyond that, the step aside peon message came through loud and clear. I happened to be riding in an elevator with a writer I greatly admired. And I told him so. He did a little chin jerk which I guess meant thank you. And then he looked away. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The truth is that what took place at that New York conference reflects the real world of writing and publishing, where, at least for now, there are still gates, and gatekeepers. In the real world, the Us vs. Them mentality happens every day. Not everywhere of course and not all of the time. But how else do you explain the glee some writers are expressing now that it looks like the digital revolution may dislodge a few gate keepers from their towers?

Maybe the Schadenfreude comes from writers who think they have been treated like peons for too long. Or maybe being thin-skinned is just part and parcel of being a writer. I don’t know about any of that.

What I do know is that the Us vs. Them thing doesn’t happen at a Pennwriters conference.

I’m not sure why this is true. And frankly, I can’t even prove it. Except to say that two years ago I went to my first conference and after three days I knew that I was going to be a member for life.

It started at the Friday night keynote dinner. I got there late, and didn’t see any familiar faces. So I sat next to the friendliest looking person I could find, a guy wearing a loud shirt and a kind smile. He turned out to be Jonathan Maberry. And for the next hour he treated me, and everyone else at the table, as though we were old friends. We talked about writing in picayune detail. It was wonderful.

That same inclusive spirit seemed to be present in every workshop and at every meal. And for me at least, it’s a feeling that has carried on to this day. It’s there at our monthly area meetings, and on our free-wheeling, always interesting Yahoo discussion loop. We are writers who enjoy the company of other writers.

I’ve heard other people use the word family to describe our organization, so I’ll use it too as I offer up this friendly reminder:

This year’s family reunion will be in Pittsburgh at the Airport Marriott on May 13-15. Hope to see you there.

And PS--if you happen to notice any freshly-minted college grads wandering around, I know you’ll make them feel right at home.

About Mercedes O’Connor Goldcamp. Before taking time off to raise her children, Mercedes worked as an advertising copywriter and free-lance reporter. She’s currently serving as the Publicity Chairperson for the 2011 conference. She’s also writing a middle-grade mystery novel.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Living the Dream

by Martha Reed

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of going to a book launch party for my friend Nancy Martin who came out with her fiftieth book. That’s right, 50. When I looked around the bookshop at the party I saw six other published authors in attendance, all of whom I admire and one of which was nominated for a national award last year for her book. Now, that’s some pretty heavy talent standing around eating cake and it shocked me when I realized that this was my peer group. Granted, I don’t have a book contract (yet) but I’m certainly working at it hard enough and that made me wonder what more I could be doing to ‘live the life’.

So this morning, over coffee, I sat down and tried to imagine what it would be like to actually get a book contract and how that would impact my life. Would I give up my day job? Could I afford to? I’ve been building my corporate career for over thirty years – would I want to keep my hand in it and work part time? Could I juggle two jobs? If I could afford to leave my day job, would I stay in Pittsburgh? If I could afford to live anywhere I wanted to, where would it be? Do I have the nerve to move there and start over?

The other question I considered was my identity as a writer. I know that is what I am. I’ve known it since I was eight years old. I’ve had three short stories published but I’m still working on the break through novel and it has been going on for fifteen years. Last week I met some friends of my mother and when I introduced myself as Irene’s daughter, they asked: Are you the donut one? No, that’s my sister Joan. Oh, you must be the real estate daughter? No, that’s Boo. I’m the writer daughter. Which opened a whole can of worms: What have you written? And I found it odd and funny to explain that yes, I am a writer but no, I don’t have any books available that you can actually read.

How about you? What are your plans for your writing life? How do you define yourself as ‘a writer’? Please post your answers. Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Left Coast Crime-A Personal Experience.

Patricia Gulley


What a good trip. We flew Southwest to Albuquerque, and I really worried about that no seat assignment thing, however it seems they have these posts that are lettered and numbered that you stand between and the boarding was easy-peasy. The shuttle to Santa Fe was right there and on time. Santa Fe is a very pretty place. They have these rules about building height--no more that three stories (a government building has 5, but two are underground) and they all have to be adobe brown--fake or real.

I think I was a bit nervous about the panels, especially the one I moderated, but that one went VERY well. Creating Characters Before Your Eyes required audience participation. Rob Kresge, the panel was his idea, bought the little baskets and small note papers that the audience would fill out, and while they were doing that we four panelists spoke briefly about ourselves and our books. Three slips of paper were filled out, Pink-for sex and age, Blue-occupation, Yellow-a character trait. They passed them all forward and each panelist took a handful from each basket, separated the slips by color, and using one of each created a character that would interact with the other panelists’ creation. As the moderator, I then had to select which was the protagonist, killer, victim and either love interest or sidekick. Then we'd throw it out to the audience to recommend titles. It was a hoot, got lots of laughs (we did try for funny) and Daryl Gerber Wood, (Avery Aames) shot back some of the funniest titles. They really got laughs too. The other panelists were Kaye George, Kay Stewart and Robert Kresge.

For the second panel, Publishing Today and Tomorrow, I was just a panelist and I managed to sound like I knew something about being published by an ePress. The other 4 panelists all have multiple books to their name, so I was the real newbie with only one book. I suggested the next possible gadget reader after Kindle and Nook, and Denise Dietz patted me on the back and said she assumed I'd written some SF. Not only did we discuss eBooks, but Audio books too. Denise just had her book, Footprints in the Butter, published by Siren Audio Studio as a scripted audio book. This is really different as a cast is hired to read the book unlike most audios, which are narrated by one person. A very interesting panel moderated by Judith Van Gieson and included Harlen Campbell, Denise Dietz, Carolyn J. Rose, and L J Sellers.

They had a breakfast for authors who published their first book within the last year, and we all had our own tables. It was very well attended and moderated by Mike Befeler. He gave us a nice introduction and we stood up and gave a one minute speech about ourselves and our book.

I attended two interviews. Martin Cruz Smith had bronchitis and was hard to understand at times, but what I heard was interesting and sometimes humorous. Margaret Coel’s interview was also very interesting, made so because she was interviewed by a long time friend of hers, author Craig Johnson.

Something of interest mention later on two lists and now several other blogs is the new subgenre title: THRILLZIE. More thriller elements for a cozy mystery, many authors who write this way are very excited to have the new classification.

My 'basket' for the auction got several nice compliments, had several bids and sold for $65. I was happy, and the proceeds went to a group that promotes literacy in New Mexico, Read West Inc.

We took a one and a half hour tour of Santa Fe in an open sided van. There are over or close to 100 galleries in Santa Fe. We drove down the street they were mostly on and sidetracked for a few others. Lots of wonderful art and could take up a whole week for art browsers to see it all. But it was very cold. When we got to the top of museum hill, it really was freezing, and even though the driver had provided blankets we were still very cold. One passenger had only worn a t-shirt and shorts. Burr. But that blue, blue sky and bright sunshine was perfect, especially since we left and returned home to rain. That 40 days and 40 nights thing has nothing on Portland OR. The famous square was loaded with jewelry stores at very high prices, but when you went in to look they always had a marked down price. Along one side of the square the Native Americans set up their tables and a lot of people shopped there--especially the ones who'd been to Santa Fe before and knew the difference in quality. I purchased an embroidered hoody that I thought was made locally, but it was made in Nepal!!! I know, I know, I should have checked. Oh well, I like the Nepalese and feel a bit sorry for them, but I should have checked. If I'd have gotten it home and found Made in China I'd have been royally P----d off!!!!

Hotel, La Fonda was right on the square, very old (“400 years of gracious hospitality”), it has an American Historical Hotel designation. Great art work in all the public rooms, many done by Ernest Martinez, and many of his pieces were shown in the program book by permission. Posters from the many festivals and art shows like the corridors that led to the rooms. It had two nice restaurants belonging to the hotel, and a back door into a crepe restaurant that was great for breakfast and lunch though it didn’t take credit cards. Nice shops, too, it had a shoe store to knock your socks off. Boy was I tempted.

Kaye George hosted a table at the banquet and we sat with her. She did sweet little gift bags that contained a peeler. I had to stare at it for a few seconds as I can’t remember the last time I bought anything that needed peeling. The woman sitting next to me was surprised as she peeled every day. I ask you, what is bagged produce for??? Oh well, the magnet clip for the refrigerator was perfect.

The return flight was just as efficient and on time as the outbound. Totally Bewildering! Should I rethink my preferred airlines??? Nah!

OMG, I forgot the one ordeal of the trip. I decided to drive instead of calling the shuttle owing to my pedestrian gates were broken and I had a coupon for a free day at a lot near the airport. Well! It was spring break, so when I got to the parking lot--IT WAS FULL, reservations only and begging got me nowhere. (Just when does that pathetic old lady thing kick in and get you stuff?) I had to FIND long term! I'VE NEVER PARKED IN THE AIRPORT LT LOTS BEFORE! Driving wildly, trying to find signs, I ran a red light and made a whole bunch of drivers (one on his cell phone-illegal in OR) very angry. (Yes, tried the old lady thing again, to no avail.) Well I found it, and had to drive and drive and drive (I felt like I was heading to the other side of the state) to find a spot. I had to drag the giant suitcase several rows to get to the kiosk only to find a sign that added insult to injury: Spring break rates were $14 a day instead of $10. UGH!!!!!!!!! However, when I returned (oh yeah, I couldn’t find my car--looked for 15 minutes) I was only charged $10 per day. Then I had to worry about finding my way back to my normal route home, but it was really a very quiet, late afternoon Sunday so I crossed lanes with impunity and got back to my familiar route with NO problems.

After years (and years) of listening to client reports of their trips, this isn’t the most straight forward report you’ve ever seen about a convention. So, I sorry everything.

Friday, April 01, 2011

More fool, you

by Jennie Bentley

Twenty four years ago today, my then-boyfriend called his sister and announced, “I’m getting married tomorrow.”

His sister said, “I’m not falling for that one. I know what day it is today.”

Then-boyfriend said, “I’m serious.”

Sister answered, “Yeah, sure. Pull the other one, why don’t ya?”

And thus it was that twenty four years ago tomorrow, when then-boyfriend and I got married in the Queens County Courthouse in Kew Gardens, New York, none of his family was there.


I’ve never been a fan of April Fool’s Day. My dad would always come up with these great ideas for foolery, and I’d get all excited, and then it would turn out that there was no moose on the lawn, or no chocolate cake in the kitchen, and I’d end up being disappointed.

Disappointment sucks. So does feeling like an idiot. On April 1st or any other time.

So I will not be trying to fool anyone today. Scout’s honor.

Instead, what I’ll do is send a copy of Mortar and Murder to a random commenter who tells me the best April Fool’s Day joke they ever perpetrated on someone else, or had perpetrated on them. It’s fitting, since Mortar and Murder opens on April 1st.

On April Fool’s Day, Derek started work on his dream house. If I had thought about it I would have realized that that was a bad sign, but no, I was just too excited that he finally had something to do, to worry about anything else.

And I solemnly swear I will not come back tonight with a, "Ha-ha, just kidding!"

Happy April 1st, everyone!