Friday, December 30, 2011

City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore

I'm so excited about this book.  I read an early version several years ago and LOVED  it. LOVED it.  Stephen Blackmoore has voice. He has darkness.  He has humor.  And he has heart. 

And to give you an idea of Stephen's voice, here's a little excerpt from his short story, World's Greatest Dad, taken from the Deadly Treats Halloween anthology. Below that, some early reviews of City of the Lost (release date January 3).

By the time Franklin Delacorte wakes up, he's been dead six hours.

He's confused, disoriented.  Wondering why he's naked and surrounded by multi-colored candles in the middle of a crypt. 

He sits up, wobbles a bit.  Steadies himself on the top of the stone sarcophagus he's been lying on.  Yellow light gutters through the room, throwing scattered shadows along the stone wall. 
The candles are a little unnerving.  Scented.  Vanilla, spice, potpourri.  It smells like his grandmother's house. 
"Dude," someone says behind him.  "You so have to see this." 
Franklin looks to the door at a vaguely familiar teenager.  Can't quite place him.  Pimples, greasy hair, wearing an old army jacket.  A cigarette dangles on the kid's bottom lip, his mouth hanging open.  After a moment the cigarette falls to the floor. 

and a little later....

Franklin sits in the back of Billy's busted up Cougar, the body bag from the morgue wrapped around his waist.  The Cougar would be a classic car if it wasn't mostly rust with an engine that sounds like a wood chipper.  Billy keeps working on it, but it never seems to get any better.
"This is what I get for busting my butt to keep you boys out of trouble.  Didn't you learn a thing in Sunday school?  Like don't play with the forces of the devil?"
"Jeez, dad, we said we were sorry," Jake says.
Franklin's a little worried.  He's seen movies.  He knows how this sort of thing turns out.  "I don't even want to know how you did it, but I swear if I start gnawing on brains I'm gonna start with yours."  
World's Greatest Dad, Stephen Blackmoore

Praise for City of the Lost:


"The gritty streets of CITY OF THE LOST are filled with snappy dialog, and fascinating characters, as well as a rollercoaster of a plot that doesn't slow down from beginning to end. This is the zombie crime novel we didn't know we were all waiting for."
- Seanan McGuire, author of DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON

"CITY OF THE LOST is the best kind of paranormal noir: gritty, breakneck- paced, and impossible to put down. Joe Sunday is a new antihero to watch, and the next installment can't come soon enough."
- Caitlin Kittredge, author of THE IRON THORN

"Bruja, demons, bloodsuckers, the living dead and bucketloads of bloody magic - you'll find all of those in CITY OF THE LOST, but the real magic is how Blackmoore deftly breathes secret supernatural life into the City of Angels. This is an auspicious debut that's at turns violent, hilarious, and tragic. Can't wait make a return trip to Blackmoore's voodoo version of L.A."
- Chuck Wendig, author of BLACKBIRDS

"For a debut author, Stephen Blackmoore knows perfectly well how to snatch up his readers and barrel away with them from page one. In Joe Sunday, he's created the perfect hard-boiled anti-hero - an inexorable protagonist who's short on tongue-wagging and long on visceral brutality, yet is totally sympathetic due to his singular narrative voice. Oh, yeah. He's also dead. CITY OF THE LOST is one hell of a fast and thoroughly enjoyable ride. The perfect book for fans of crime noir, urban fantasy, and horror. One of my favorite reads of the year."
- John Hornor Jacobs, author of SOUTHERN GODS

"The funhouse reflection of L.A. Blackmoore conjures is at once vibrant, seedy, and mysterious - streets so mean, they feel as though plucked straight from Chandler's DT nightmares. CITY OF THE LOST effortlessly blends the grit with the fantastical, and paints a world in which magic is to be feared - but not nearly so much as the people behind it."
- Chris F. Holm, author of DEAD HARVEST

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Almost free!  Grab a copy while you can.
I happened to look at Amazon yesterday and was shocked to see that The Orchard had been discounted to 1.99. I have no idea how long this sale will last, so grab it while you can. Regular price is 11.99, and I have to admit I when I saw the 1.99 I wondered if it was some kind of Amazon glitch. But it's also 1.99 on iTunes.  I always thought the 11.99 was way too high. 4.99 - 5.99 seems much more realistic to me.  But 1.99 is pocket change! 

It's thrilling to see The Orchard making some Best of 2011 lists

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Stillwater, Minnesota, during the Christmas season...

What could be sweeter?

My last book event of the year is this Sunday:

When:  December 18, 2:00
Where:  Valley Bookseller,  Stillwater, Minnesota.

  I'm not sure if this is a signing only, or if I'm talking about The Orchard a bit.  But anyway, if you're in the Stillwater area and are looking for a last-minute gift...  Stop by!  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When the problem becomes the solution

This happens to writers all the time.  We write scenes we love, but maybe they don't quite fit. Maybe they don't advance the plot.  Maybe they just kind of hang there and interrupt the story flow. But one thing I always forget is that anything can be made to work, and everything can be fixed. I'm working on a suspense novel right now, and I have a scene I love. It introduces a main character. But I didn't feel it fit. and it definitely interrupted the flow. And it definitely seemed to just be this disconnected scene that wasn't progressing the plot in the way a page-turner should. When I have this kind of problem, I always put it aside. Then, as soon as I wake up, before I get out of bed, I think about it. And OMG, I came up with the best idea. And now the scene I was going to toss has become pivotal. Now it not only advances the plot, in propels it.  

Monday, November 28, 2011


Back before The Orchard sold, my agent and I had a talk about names. I did not want to publish it under my real name.  I didn't even want to use Frasier.  Names I came up with were Terry Ahlberg (grandmother's last name) and Anne Ahlberg.

 Why use a pseudonym for a memoir?   I didn't want anybody to easily figure out the innocent and not-so-innocent players in the story.  I explained to my agent why I didn't want to use my real name, and her response was: "How will anybody back there even know about the book?"  And that kind of says everything, because I was thinking just the opposite: How will they NOT know?  If you aren't from a small town, you don't understand these things.  So we put the name issue aside, agreeing to worry about it later, when and IF (highly unlikely) the book sold.  Once it did sell, I brought up the name issue again. I told my editor that I'd rather not publish the book under Weir. I think there was some discussion about it behind the walls of the publishing house, and later I was told that since it was memoir it really needed to be published under my real name. 


 I doubt I will ever be comfortable with that decision.  But on the other hand, I completely understand why it was made.  I know it's weird that I would want to protect certain people from exposure, but that's the way I am. And I think the whole Frey thing has made publishers paranoid about putting anything out there that might seem suspect. The result is that that they work extra hard to make sure everything is transparent.  I suppose it was  horribly naive of me to think I could use a different name. But I still like Ahlberg. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dear Alfred


What would Alfred do?

Dear Alfred Hitchcock,
I've reached the point in my suspense where I have to make a decision. Do I let the reader in on the secret? Do I show the reader the bad stuff? The secret stuff? Or do I forge ahead, keeping the reader and the protagonist in the dark?

As you well know (because of our many conversations),  I'm a deep POV person, so I lean toward not telling. I lean toward letting the reader find out along with the main character.  Because I want the reader to BE the main character.  But I know it depends upon the situation. I know it depends upon the story.

 How do I get the most emotional bang for my buck? Because it's all about emotion, isn't it?  When we really strip it down? No matter what we're writing. Fiction. Nonfiction. Science Fiction. Romance. Mystery. Thriller.  Suspense.

Dear Uncle Alfred, can you tell me? Should I let the reader in on the person hiding in the closet?  What would you do?

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Things have slowed down a bit, but I still have a few readings and signings on the calendar. 

Wednesday, November 16, I'll be reading at Common Good Books in St. Paul.  The event starts at 7:30.  I'm not sure of the format... Maybe read a half hour, then sign?  Or do a puppet show?  

I like the idea of a puppet show. I'll have to work on that.  

Below is a photo I took of Common Good Books several years ago.  The store located in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood of St. Paul, an area that is just as beautiful as it sounds. 

December events: Magers and Quinn, Minneapolis, December 10, 1:00
Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, Minnesota, December 18, 2:00

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Have you met my kids?

Free download of the new Chambermaids single.
Love this song!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Baking by the seat of my pants

I’m a baking rebel who must always change at least one measurement or ingredient in a recipe, and often more than one. Most of the time I use no recipe at all and just eyeball it. Results have been some of the worst things I’ve ever made--those culinary disasters that are carried to the backyard and chucked over the fence. But some of my experiments, especially my apple pies, have gone down in history as one-time magical works of art that can’t be duplicated.

The road to a magical pie is simple—start with a basic pie recipe, then tweak it.

Things to keep in mind when baking an apple pie:

* Most bakers will tell you that the best apples pies come from a combination of apples, and I agree. I never bake a pie using a single variety. By mixing them up, you combine apples of different strengths and qualities, the main ones being flavor, texture, and moisture.

* Good apple-pie apples include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

Jonathan: You can never go wrong with a Jonathan. It has all of the qualities of a good apple, especially when it comes to flavor and texture. A Jonathan apple might seem boring, but there’s a reason it’s been such a popular apple for so many years—it keeps well, has a good flavor, and doesn’t turn to mush when cooked.

Winesap: Winesaps are all about flavor, and a couple of these in your pie can add interest.
Granny Smith
Golden Delicious: Never bake a pie of all Golden Delicious, but adding one or two will increase flavor, moisture, and sweetness. If you add Golden Delicious, you can decrease the sugar.

*Never bake with a Red Delicious apple. I’m guessing that the Red Delicious is the most photographed, painted, and drawn apple in the land, and it’s graced the cover of many a magazine and book. But the Red Delicious apple is an example of getting by on looks alone. The Red Delicious is bland, grainy, and tasteless, but undeniably gorgeous.

Here are some combinations I might consider when plotting my apple pie:
Four Jonathan, two Winesap, one Golden Delicious
Four Granny Smith, two McIntosh, one Winesap
Four McIntosh, two Winesap
Four McIntosh, one Jonathan, one Golden Delicious
Three Granny Smith, two Winesap, one Golden Delicious

Other things to keep in mind:
* Size matters. I’ve experimented with this, and apples slices can be too thick or too thin. Too thick creates pieces that might not cook thoroughly, and too thin creates a pie that is too dense.

* It might be tempting to slice the apples directly into the pie pan, then sprinkle the dry ingredients over the top. I’m a lazy baker and I’ve done this. I can tell you that it works, but the pie won’t be as tasty. Coating the apples evenly is important if you want a magical pie.

* Adjust sugar according to the sweetness of the apples used. For instance, I would reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup or less if adding two Golden Delicious apples. Also, nutmeg isn’t necessary; it’s a matter of preference.

Standard pie recipe


2 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts
7 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
In a bowl combine apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Place mixture in a pastry-lined 9-inch pie plate. Dot with butter and adjust top crust that has been vented.
Place in oven and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 275-300 degrees and bake 40-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and apples are tender. Let cool and serve.

A comprehensive apple resource: Orange Pippin

Monday, October 24, 2011

Excelsior Bay Books

Tonight is the last event of my book tour which began September 20. The past several weeks just flew by, but when I think about the launch at Once Upon a Crime...that seems so long ago!

Tonight the tour closes with an event hosted by Excelsior Bay Books in Excelsior, Minnesota. This get-together of food, discussion, and signing will be held at 318 Cafe. I'm going to arrive early and plan to grab some food and chat with people. Join us!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fear and Bravery

“You were so brave to write this book.”
“This is a story that needed to be told.”
“Thank you for writing this book.”
“Weren’t you afraid?”
“Aren’t you afraid?”

These are the things I’ve heard the most on tour for The Orchard. Some come with hugs and tears, some with hand-wringing and worry. And fear. Whispers of things seen, but never shared. Reports sent to government agencies, stacks of them, ignored, covered up.

Hopelessness. Helplessness.

And yes, I was afraid. And yes, I am afraid. Fear holds all of us back at different points in our lives. It’s okay to be afraid, especially if we push through it. Especially if we can use that fear to drive us forward.

You meet it, and you take it with you, and you use it for fuel.

I often asked myself what my legacy would be if I did not tell this story. I owed it to myself, my children, and the biggest key player of all, someone who wanted this story told to the world. Someone who never had a voice.

I was asked to do two things—plant a birch tree in a very specific location, and write this story.

The birch tree (a tree that symbolized a different geographical location and freedom) didn’t happen because I was unable to get permission to plant it, and the story took me a while, but I did it.

I’ve always been an observer of life, not a participant. But sometimes we reach a point where we know it’s time to participate. It’s time to speak up. And if people think major publishing houses don’t have a heart and soul, the publishing of The Orchard is proof that they do. They have big hearts, and they have big souls. And they know an important book when they see it. Yes, it was brave of me to write this book, but it was brave of Hachette/Grand Central Publishing to publish it.

I applaud all of the unsung heroes within the publishing house who embraced this book. Editors, editorial assistants, marketing, reps, publicity. I think there's been a sense that this is bigger than individuals, and it isn't so much about numbers as it is about the world we live in, and the world we want to leave our children.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Have you heard of an authors feast, but had no idea what it was? Same here. But now that I've been to one, I can tell you all about it. Authors lie naked across a banquet table, and booksellers eat food from your body while you tell them about your current book.

Wait a darn minute.

I'm not sure that's right. I think that was a dream. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was a dream. Okay, scratch the naked on the table part. Now I'm sitting fully clothed at the table. Booksellers around me. They eat while I talk about my book. (All attending authors are fed before the event. One author to every table.) After ten or fifteen minutes, we're told to change tables. An escort leads us to the next table where we are surrounded by booksellers and we tell them about our book. After ten or fifteen minutes, we're told to change tables and we do it all over again. I'm guessing there were twenty to thirty tables at the event I attended in Detroit (GLIBA, Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association). Each writer visits three tables in all. It took me one table to really get into the groove. Sorry, first table. I couldn't quite grasp that I was supposed to do almost all of the talking all of the time. That seemed rude, but by my second table I understood that this is all about sharing my book with booksellers. It sounds weird, but it was actually very nice.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Tour

I'm in the middle of my book tour, but I wanted to drop in with a couple of photos from Raven Hill Orchard located in Julian, California.
This was a book event put together by Susan McBeth of Adventures By the Book. She partnered with Slow Food Urban San Diego, and the adventure was truly the best book event ever.

A journey with Adventures By The Book is like diving into a pop-up book.

Readers join authors on a wonderful trip that allows them to experience the book in a personal way. We took a bus ride to Julian, California, where we toured Raven Hill Orchard, picked apples, wandered through the town, ate lunch, drank beer, ate apple pie, talked about books, talked about writing, talked about Slow Food Urban San Diego, talked about The Orchard, and then returned to San Diego while watching the wonderful documentary Queen of The Sun. The package was inexpensive, and all of the readers received a copy of The Orchard. The weather was as perfect as weather could be. About 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. A perfect, perfect day.

The following day I had lunch with the most lovely group of women ever. Almost everyone at the luncheon had already read The Orchard and loved it, so that was extra nice. It's a different kind of event when readers have read the book beforehand. The discussion unfolds naturally, and the enthusiasm for the book seems to energize the room. So rewarding for a writer. Both experiences were fantastic in different ways.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


In conversation, I might accidently say something about the apple farm where I grew up. And then I have to correct myself and say the apple farm where I once lived. But sometimes it seems that my life truly started when I moved to the apple orchard, and ended when I left. This is not to minimize the life of city dwellers or suburbanites, but life on the farm, no matter how hard, no matter how isolating, feels real times a hundred.

On the farm, we can sense fall before it arrives. It’s not the temperature, but more of an instinct. Subconsciously we know when the sun disappears below the horizon in a certain location, apple season is upon us.

On the farm, we watch and test the apples, cutting samples daily as we wait for the right level of ripeness in order to commence harvest. It varies depending upon variety. Cool nights will put just the right amount of blush on a Winesap, and a dip close to freezing will make Red Delicious almost purple. The flavor itself is determined by soil and rainfall, sunlight and magic. In a perfect season, everything happens at the right time, and harvest launches into full swing long after those tart summer apples have come and gone, long after they’ve been turned into applesauce and consumed at a family picnic.

As the days grow shorter and the evening air takes on a chill, it’s time to attach flatbeds to tractors and haul large wooden boxes to the orchard where the containers are dropped off at trees that await pickers. Early morning comes, and the pickers pile into trucks that take them to the orchard. Once there, they strap on metal picking baskets and balance tall ladders with wide bases and narrow tops against horizontal limbs. The metal baskets fit against the body like a baby carrier, leaving both hands free to pluck ripe fruit from the highest branches. Once the baskets are filled, the picker climbs down and unwraps the ropes that open the canvas bottom of the picking basket, gently releasing the apples into the wooden boxes that will later be delivered to the sorting room.

Every day of picking brings us closer to a complete harvest. Every storm that misses the farm and every freeze that doesn’t happen brings us nearer to season’s end.

Full crates are stacked on pallets, and a barn that was empty gradually fills, the smell of apples increasing with each day, saturating our flannel shirts and hair until we lose track of where we end and the orchard begins.

We’re up before dawn, and in bed long after midnight. On cold mornings, sluggish bees cling to apples as if trying to stop the approaching winter. Dew-covered fruit is dumped on a conveyor belt that sorts by size while workers manually watch for bruises and blemishes, plucking the imperfect from the line. The sorted apples are crated, most ending up in the saleroom for purchase, but seconds and small apples will find their way to the cider room to be pureed and layered between cider cloths and wooden slats, pressed until no more juice can be extracted. What’s left between the cider clothes is called pummy, and it looks like light-colored chewing tobacco. Nothing is wasted, and the pummy is driven to a pasture and fed to cattle that follow behind as the apple remains are shoveled from the wagon while bees hover drunkenly.

The best cider is made from a combination of apples, the foundation being traditional varieties such as Jonathan to ensure that the result isn’t too sweet. True cider is 100% juice with nothing added. As with cider, the best pies come from a combination of both tart and sweet, and also a combination of textures--apples that stay solid and apples that cook down. Experiment. Add a little nutmeg. Let every pie be a new creation. No two pies will ever be the same, and no two growing seasons will produce the same flavor of apples.

On those beautiful fall days, customers drive from the cities and small towns to the salesroom in order to inhale the aroma of newly picked apples and fresh cider. They have a vague notion of the labor and of how the apples got there, got into this bag on this table in front of them. Most don’t care how the trees were pruned in the cold of winter, or how bees were trucked in to pollinate the blossoms in the spring, or how half of the crop was lost due to an early frost. They want the experience of the moment. They want to touch something hard to define. Maybe it’s their past. Maybe it goes back even further, to Adam and Eve.

What I'm doing:

I'm preparing to participate in a few events In California. One is the brainchild of Susan McBeth and Adventures By the Book. You can read about it here.

The following day takes me to Manhattan Beach, California and Ladies, Lunch, and Literacy
, followed by a signing at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in Redondo Beach.

The comment section is closed due to my book-tour schedule.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What's this about arsenic in apple juice?

Several people contacted me the day the Dr. Oz arsenic episode aired, asking what I thought about it, wondering what I knew about arsenic in apples.

A little history of lead arsenate in the United States:
Lead arsenate was used heavily in the early 1900s, but fell out of favor when DDT came along and became the new darling. And we know how well that worked out. Once DDT was banned in 1972, lead arsenate made a reappearance and was a mainstay for the majority of orchards until 1988 when it was banned in the United States. But unlike DDT, no worldwide ban on lead arsenate was issued.

When it comes to pesticides, we can follow a history of chemicals being introduced into the environment, then later banned once the dangers are brought to light. This is kind of how it goes: When a pesticide is banned, notices are sent out, and farmers are made aware of the ban long before it takes place. This gives them time to stockpile the banned substance, which they can legally use for a time after the actual sale and production of the product ceases.

The alarming thing about lead arsenate is that it doesn’t go away. Do an online search and you will find more than you want to know about soil and well contamination from lead arsenate. So if you’re thinking of buying ground that was once a charming and beautiful orchard, get the soil tested. Get the well tested.

It’s a given that most apple juice contains a certain level of carcinogens. After all, apples have been named the most pesticide-laden fruit in the country. All you have to do is look at how cider is made to realize that unless you’re buying juice from an organic orchard, the juice you’re drinking most likely contains toxins. Yes, apples are usually run though a cold-water rinse before being ground—skin, seeds and all—to make cider, but cold water alone doesn’t do a lot to remove pesticide residue. And apple seeds, in a high enough dosage, are toxic. Cheers.

Due to my book-tour schedule, the comment section has been shut off temporarily.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I love indie bookstores. Love them, love them, love them.

There are a lot of different ways to support your indie store in this tough economy. It's true that indie stores usually charge more than Amazon, but at an indie, or even a B&N, you don't have to pay for shipping, your books don't arrived damaged, and a trip to a cool shop immerses you in book culture. And where else will a bookseller ask you what you like to read, zero in on your likes and dislikes, then hand you a book you've never heard of, but end up loving? And I don't think I even need to mention all of the wonderful author events.

If you can't make it to your favorite bookstore, and if you have an ereader, think about purchasing ebooks from your indie bookseller. Most of them have gotten into the ebook business, and their prices are surprisingly competitive. So be sure to visit their websites before automatically going to that other place...

Don't know if there's an indie store near you? Check out IndieBound.

Friday, August 12, 2011


DEADLY TREATS is now available!

Deadly Treats can be ordered through any independent bookstore, and is also available through Adventure Publications, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Group discussion and signing at HarMar Barnes & Noble, Roseville, Minnesota
When: October 6, 7:00

Lance Zarimba
David Housewright
Shirley Damsgaard
Leandra Logan
Marilyn Victor
Michael Allan Mallory
Mark Hull
Paula L. Fleming
Theresa Weir/Anne Frasier

This anthology would make a great Halloween gift. The stories range from hilarious (Lance, Mark, Paul), to dark and slightly disturbing (LK, Stephen, Kelly). A lot of dark humor going on (Leandra, Pat, Marilyn, Julia), but some of the stories are just simply lovely (Patti, Bill, Heather). No other way to put it. Then we have the classic, flashlight-under-the chin pieces by David, Daniel, Michael, Jason, Shirley, and Paula, all perfect for reading by candlelight at a Halloween party or event.

And check out this wonderful review at The Occult Detective where the anthology is highly recommended: "Deadly Treats is an anthology that delivers and is a perfect companion for those long and lonely nights when the air turns chill and you bury yourself in a blanket on the couch, book in hand."


About the book:

1. Patrica Abbott, The Angel Deeb

When a pickpocket begins to have serious health isssues, he finds himself contemplating a new line of work. If you’ve never read Patti Abbott, you’re in for a treat.

2. Bill Cameron, Sunlight Nocturne

Ex-cop Skin Kadash spends Halloween day building a bat house with his neighbor, four-year-old Danny, while helicopters circle overhead looking for a murderer who might be hiding nearby. This wonderful story skillfully contrasts a lazy fall day with a brutal murder and police search. Bill Cameron writes crime fiction, and is the award-winning author of Lost Dog, Day One, and the recently released County Line published by Tyrus Books.

3. Pat Dennis, Dead Line

Sibling rivalry and a suburban Halloween decorating contest cause Kate to take a pitchfork to her sister’s yard display. Pat is a stand-up comic, popular writing instructor, publisher, and published author.

4. David Housewright, Time of Death

A young girl under arrest for the brutal murder of her cheating boyfriend attempts to convince the investigator that she is innocent, claiming the murder was committed by a ghost. David is an Edgar-winning author, and writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

5. Stephen Blackmoore, World’s Greatest Dad

By the time Franklin Delacorte wakes up, he’s been dead six hours and is unsure of how he feels about his sons turning him into a zombie. When Franklin's behavior gets out of control, the boys feel compelled to undo what they’ve done, but Daddy knows best, and Franklin doesn’t want to stay dead.

Stephen Blackmoore has an uncanny skill for writing black humor, and World’s Greatest Dad is a hilarious zombie tour de force. Look for his upcoming DAW release, City of the Lost, January, 2012.

5. Heather Dearly, Troubled Water

The anniversary of two deaths brings about the return of the Grim Reaper to Anya Madjigijik’s house on Cemetery Road. A haunting, moody, and beautifully written tale by this previously unpublished author.

6. Mark Hull, Friday Night Dining with Marianne

It’s Halloween, and a food critic finds herself dining on chubby Boy Scout, mountaineer eyeballs, and sea monkeys. If Bram Stoker had written comedy, it would look exactly like this. Mark Hull’s Friday Night Dining is pure charm and delight from beginning to end.

7. Leandra Logan, You Called

A bitter, lonely woman spends Friday nights drinking cheap wine and entertaining herself by redialing the days unanswered calls to harass telemarketers. But she finally meets her match. Leandra is a multi-published, bestselling author.

8. Marilyn Victor, The Ogre of Her Dreams

Fledging witch Aurora Piddleworth wants a soulmate, and she blackmails instructor Olympia Dalrymple into creating the man of her dreams.

This is a clever, well-drawn, delightful story from beginning to end. Marilyn Victor is half of the crime-fiction writing team of Marilyn Victor and Michael Allen Mallory, known for their zoo mysteries.

9. Julia Buckley, Motherly Intuition

A mother’s job is never done, and death is no reason to keep Daphne’s mother from looking out for her daughter. Julia Buckley always delights, and Motherly Intuition is a great showcase for her charm and humor. Julia is author of the Madeline Mann series

10. Lance Zarimba, Fangs and All

It’s love at first bite for Billy Joe Jim Bob when he brings his first vampire home in this hilarious and deliberately clichĂ©-packed story. Lance is a multi-published author.

11. L.K. Rigel, Slurp!

Feed your Muse takes on a whole new meaning when a writer has a breakdown on Halloween. A wicked, fresh, and clever tale by a talented writer.

12. Kelly Lynn Parra, Graveyard Soul Sucker

It’s Halloween, and group of college students visit a graveyard in an attempt to reanimate a dead serial killer with a ritual found in an ancient book of spells. Kelly Parra is the award-winning author of Graffiti Girl and the more recent Carina Press release, Criminal Instinct.

13. Jason Evans, She Came on the October Wind

A stray black cat appears nightly at Natalie’s window, bringing with it memories of a sister who ran away years earlier. Jason is the author of the blog, The Clarity of Night, where he hosts and judges a popular flash-fiction contest.

14. Paula L. Fleming, Tricks, Treats, and Terror in Tin Lake

Halloween is the one day of the year when alien Adeela can shed her costume and walk freely among the humans.

Paula L. Fleming is a short-story writer and busy freelance editor living in Minneapolis.

15. Shirley Damsgaard, Bewitched

So what if you don’t have the right ingredients to cast a spell? Rachel buys a magic book from an antique store and uses household ingredients to bring Mr. Right back into her life. Shirley is the author of the popular Ophelia and Abby mysteries.

16. Anne Frasier, The Replacement

After a young man is reanimated, he has forty-eight hours to find a replacement for his empty grave if he wants to remain above ground. The best candidate for replacement is the man who murdered him. Anne is a USA Today bestselling author. Her memoir, The Orchard (Theresa Weir), hits stores September 21.

17. Paul D. Brazill, This Old House

If you want a job done right, do it yourself. Or in the case of This Old House, never hire an idiot to burn down your home. Paul is a resident of Poland and brings a fun, unique voice to the mix.

18. Michael Allan Mallory, Boo!

A lonely widower discovers that his old Halloween pranks no longer cut it with the new generation of jaded kids who are too old for trick-or-treat anyway. But when an unexpected visitor shows up at the widower’s door, they hatch a plot the teenagers won’t forget. Michael Allan Mallory is the co-author of Killer Instinct and Death Roll.

19. Daniel Hatadi, Playpen

When eight-year-old Tim vanishes while playing in Kids Playhouse, his best friend Manny must solve the crime and convince adults that there is more to Tim’s disappearance than a human abduction or childish prank.
Daniel Hatadi lives in Australia and is the mastermind and puppet master behind Crimespace, an online writing world for crime-fiction writers.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


About a year ago I had 250 slides converted to digital files. I'd put it off for a long time because I was afraid to mail my slides anywhere. So nervous about sending off the only copy of something that could never be replaced if lost. So for a few years I went back and forth about it. Thought of doing it myself at home, but I knew I would have to set aside weeks to process everything. That just didn't appeal to me. I also knew that a lot of digital transfer places actually send the slides out of the country. That freaked me out all over again. I picked out about twenty choice slides and took them to National Camera in Minneapolis where they do the transfers onsite, but it was pretty expensive, and I knew there was no way I could afford to have them digitize 250 images. So after a lot of online research, I ended up settling on a place in New Jersey called Fotobridge. They were wonderful, and I highly recommend them. They let you know when your slides arrive, they let you know when they are being processed, they let you know when they've been shipped for the return journey. And they don't ship them to another country for the conversion. That was important to me. I think the whole process took about two weeks. Maybe a bit longer. Could have been closer to three from the time I mailed them until they arrived back at my door.

My plan had been to use the images to enhance blog posts about The Orchard, but I emailed a few images to my editor, and she suggested they use some in the digital version of The Orchard. They picked out about fifteen images that will be included at the end of the book.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Below is the guest piece I wrote for The Clarity of Night.

Blood Moon
Anne Frasier/Theresa Weir

I was born under a blood moon. At least that’s what my grammie always tells me.

“Girl, you came shootin’ out like you couldn’t wait to start raisin’ hell,” is what she says. And then her face darkens and she reaches for the bottle.

It ain’t easy knowing your birth killed your own ma. And not a day goes by but Gram doesn’t remind me that I’m a murderer. And not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could turn back the clock and be unborn. But it don’t work that way, and when the townspeople come to the swamp to have their fortunes told, I cling to their soft, perfumed hands longer than I should because I want to feel something besides my life with Gram. And even if I sense bad things, I don’t tell the customers. I look for the positive and happy. I want to see their shoulders relax in relief. I want to see them smile. And it don’t hurt that they tip more for good news.

Once they leave, I take the money to Gram and she puts it in a jar and we sit down by the bed, one on each side. And just like we’ve done for the past sixteen years, Gram rubs olive oil on my mother’s leathery arms and legs while I brush our dead darling’s hair, lightly, barely touching so I won’t do any more damage.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


A few days ago I attended a pre-pub dinner in Minneapolis. I’ve been writing for 30 years, but I’d never heard of a pre-pub dinner until recently. I’m still not sure if a pre-pub dinner is relatively new or if it’s something that’s been kept kind of a secret. My publicist was there, along with the Hachette rep. Both wonderful people. Guests were booksellers and bookstore owners from Once Upon a Crime, Excelsior Bay Books, Carleton College Bookstore, and University of Minnesota Bookstore. All but one of them had read The Orchard, and we basically just talked about the book. It was an all-about-me night! And almost everyone said: “It reads like fiction.” Another thing I’ve been hearing: “It’s your voice. It’s still your voice!”

Of course it is! ☺

Many memoir writers come straight from a nonfiction background, but I’ve been developing my writing style for thirty years. Before I started writing the memoir, I made a conscious decision not to change my fiction-writing voice in order to write nonfiction. I saw no reason to dilute what I consider my strength. So yes, The Orchard is written in what would typically be considered a fiction voice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Elemental" Short Fiction Contest

Another sure-to-be wonderful contest is going on at The Clarity of Night.

Jason's contests have become so popular that he's had to limit the number of entries, so get your story in early. And if you can't participate this time around, be sure to read some of the entries. This is always a fun event.

BTW, Jason has a great short story in the upcoming Deadly Treats anthology.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Yesterday I visited an apple orchard for the first time in fifteen years because my publishing house hired a company to make a book video for The Orchard. On the way there, I thought I was going to black out, and every time I imagined getting that first glimpse of the orchard, my heart slammed in my chest. I had to stop at a café for a drink. Not a booze drink, although that might have been better, but just a glass of green tea so I could collect and fortify myself.

But once I got to the orchard, I was okay. Partially because it was very small and the trees were scattered, not in rows, not symmetrical. Not the kind of orchard I was used to seeing, if not for real anymore, at least in my mind. But it was still odd, because it felt like I was pretending to be someone I haven’t been in years. The girl in book, the girl in The Orchard. I’m not that person anymore. I haven’t been that person for a long time. The person I am now hadn’t stepped foot in an orchard for fifteen years until yesterday. And the person I am now started eating apples again not long ago. Until recently, I couldn’t even look at an apple, and don’t get me started about cider. The word alone gives me a little hitch in my throat not unlike a gag. So yesterday was very odd and surreal. Most of The Orchard (the book, not the place) is about my twenty-something self, and I think the idea was to capture the mood and setting of the book, except that now I’m a curmudgeon who recoils and lifts my black cape to the sun.

I wonder if readers will expect me to be that person in the book, or will they understand that she's gone?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


We've been talking about doing this forever. We make plans. Something happens. Cancel plans. A year passes. Another year. Well this weekend a few of us writerly people got together at my place. And WROTE!

Well, we did a lot of other things, like talk and laugh and eat. And eat some more. But in order to keep this a bit on track, we decided to set a timer for a hour. And WROTE!

Then we ate and talked and laugh. Then set the timer for another hour. And WROTE!

And then of course we ate some more and shared our stories. Pat had the highest word count with something like 1600 words. Not only did she have an impressive word count, she had a great story! I had around 1200 words after the first hour. The second hour was spent editing (weeding), so I ended up with 1000 total. I hadn't thought at all about what I was going to write until the timer starting ticking. I'd originally thought I would write a nonfiction piece I'm planning for a magazine, but I just didn't feel like writing nonfiction. I was in a fiction mood. It took about fifteen minutes for my brain to finally make sense of what I was typing, and after 45 minutes I could see where the story was going.

I gave it an edit, but nobody else has proofed it, so it might have some mistakes. If you want to read it for free, you can find it on Smashwords.

I'd just post it here, but it will lose all formatting.
It's a fantasy about a time shift, a dreamscape, an alternate world, a pale boy, a goth girl, a coffee shop, and a business card.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


This week the apple was named the most pesticide-laden of all fruits and vegetables, so what’s a consumer to do?
How do you eat an apple?
Should you eat apples?
What should you do with the non-organic apples you just bought?
Is it okay to eat non-organic apples if you peel them?

Everybody should know how to clean an apple. Let’s say you’re on a tight budget and you haven’t purchased your apples in the organic section of the grocery store.

Like radiation, exposure to pesticides is cumulative.

You can’t eliminate all pesticides from your diet, but you can cut down on how much you ingest. How? Wash the fruit.

In order the understand how to wash an apple, you need to know what happens to an apple in the field and after harvest. Pesticides are applied with a carrier, and that carrier is usually oil-based. Pesticides are horribly, horribly, horribly expensive, and the oil makes the pesticide stick to the fruit so that it doesn’t wash away in the first rain. Another thing to know: Apples are sprayed all season long, from first bud (to make them set) to just before harvest. Pesticides can’t be sprayed within a certain time frame, I think it’s maybe two weeks before picking, but I’m not sure about the exact time restriction. The final chemical application might be something called Stop Drop, not a pesticide, but a product that keeps the apples from…you guessed it, dropping. This can be applied two to five days before harvest.

After the pick. This rarely applies in small orchards, but you want to know what makes those beautifully displayed apples so shiny? Wax. They go through a wax bath before hitting the shelves. So you have wax and oil and pesticides. This is why water alone isn’t the best method for cleaning fruit, and why it’s best to wash apples with soap. The soap (in products like Fit, a fruit and vegetable wash) will cut the wax and oil.

So if you haven’t eaten an apple in quite some time and you want to eat a shiny, beautiful apple, wash it with soap and rinse it well. Of course it’s simply best to buy organic, but we can’t always do that. And I don’t know what to say about peeling. I’d like to know how much poison leaches through the skin. It would depend on the apple. A thick-skinned apple like a Winesap or a Jonathan might not have much leaching at all, but something thin, like a Transparent, would most likely have more.

Pesticides create perfect, beautiful apples.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


“Yesterday I was put to sleep.” Kitty memoir

It shouldn’t hurt this much, but it’s like the death of a person. I wish I’d waited one more day. And one more day. I retrace the past week, I examine and wonder, and see the days through a different lens every time I look at them. One minute I think I waited too long, years too long. Another, I think I didn’t wait long enough. I wish he were with me right now. That’s all I know.

He was old. Almost twenty.

The princess and Latoya, St. Paul 2003

The last animal from what I call our old life, the life on the farm.

“He’s so charming,” people always said.

He loved it when a group of people got together and sat around talking and laughing. He loved the sound of laughter.

It’s like the death of a person.

He showed up on our farm as a kitten, probably a dump.
“Don’t touch it,” I told my daughter, who was already mentally cuddling the animal. “It might have some disease.”
“It has devil eyes,” my husband said. “Look at how it’s looking at me. Making eye contact.” There was fear in his voice. “Don’t feed it and it’ll leave.”

But the cat didn't leave, and we began calling him Latoya, thinking he was a female.

He hung around the corncrib and caught mice.

One day I found him there, sick. I took him to the vet.
“Pneumonia,” the vet said. “Never seen a case this bad. If he lives, he’ll always be in bad health.” I found out he was a boy, not a girl.

So I took him home and put him in a box in the basement.
“I don’t want that devil cat in the house,” my husband said.
“What is he going to do? Put a spell on you?”
The cat recovered and he was returned to the outdoors. I got him neutered, but we continued to call him Latoya.
He was always around. In the field near the house. In the evenings, when I went for a jog, he would follow me, get tired, and wait in the roadside ditch for me to return, then follow me home. I fed him, and he became my cat.

In 1994, I went on a trip.
“Don’t forget to feed Latoya,” I told my son and husband. “I don’t want him roaming, searching for food.”
While I was gone, my husband accidentally ran over Latoya with a sickle mower, a mower used to trim ditches. He was so mangled that he should have been put to sleep, but my son coaxed him out of the culvert where he’d gone to die. The vet did what he could. “I don’t think he’ll live, and he’ll never walk or use the litter box. Take him home, but you’ll probably need to have him put down.” Poor Latoya had two and a half legs, and half a tail. They’d shaved him, and he was as naked as a mole rat.

Over the next month, pieces of him fell off, but he slowly recovered, and the devil cat became a housecat. My constant companion.

St. Paul, 2005

He had no trouble getting around, and could even run and climb a tree if taken outside. Like the vet said, he had respiratory issues off and on his whole life. But he lived and lived and lived.

Two years ago, he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, but he couldn’t tolerate the medication. And as time passed, he got so he could no longer go up and down the stairs to sleep with me in my bed. His weight dropped from sixteen pounds to five.

Church house, 2009

I would spend evenings downstairs in the living room with him, watching television. He lost his hearing, and began to yowl if he thought he was alone. The social butterfly. A few days ago, my daughter came by and we realized he could hear us, and he enjoyed sitting with us as we talked and laughed. He still loved the sound of laughter.

This day has been coming for a long time, but I didn’t know it would hurt so much. He was a cat. A cat. But it feels like the death of a person. I don’t understand how humans bond so strongly with their pets, but it’s something profound and crazy and painful and maybe beautiful. I’m not sure about the beautiful. It hurts too much for beautiful.

Twenty years. He was with me through the death of my husband, my move from the farm to Iowa, my move to St. Paul, my move to Wisconsin. In the past several years, he required constant care. Because of that, my adult children and I took him with us when we went up north and stayed at a cabin for a week. I’m not sure if he enjoyed it, but he took it all in stride, the way he did everything.

Me and Latoya at cabin, 2010

I’ve had a lot of cats in my life, but he was special. Unique and almost human. I can’t believe he’s gone. The house is so empty. There’s a giant hole in my heart that I don’t think any other pet could ever fill.

Monday, May 16, 2011


If you happen to read The Orchard, you’ll know that I lived just outside the town of Burlington, Iowa, before moving to St. Paul, Minnesota. My place was located four miles out of town, up a steep and rutty dead-end road. At the bottom of the hill, before the challenging road, was a farm owned by a strange little man who wore nothing but brown jockey shorts that had once been white, striped tube socks, and tennis shoes. His name was Dewey, and I never saw him in anything but the shorts, although I assume he wore more clothing in the winter.

Dewey’s style of undress wasn’t unlike that of the Naked Bookseller immortalized by Lee Goldberg back in 2006.

Lee is the one wearing clothes.

Dewey sold ear corn out of his barn. A person could just drive into the barn, put a bag in her car, and leave money in a wooden box. I never ran into Dewey while buying corn to feed the squirrels. There were times I was sure he was in the house, and times I could tell he’d just been there. Like a bowl of milk left for the cats. The best way to get a halfway decent look at him was when he was walking his dog along the road, or when he was in the field on his tractor. I was told he wore the underwear to town, and that he’d been escorted out of the mall on more than one occasion. I was told the only person he liked was his mother, and she was dead.

He and I were both antisocial misfits, but I liked to think mine was temporary. I was healing, and I knew that one day I would emerge from my self-imposed exile ready to reconnect with the world. For Dewey, it wasn’t a phase. And I imagine when he was kicked out of stores, he didn’t see himself as the one who needed to conform.

One day I notice a lot of activity just across the road from his house, on the edge of a cornfield.

Dewey was building something.

Every time I passed, he was working away. Digging and prepping the ground with an end loader. Pouring cement. Tractoring in huge cement crosses that eventually made a fence. He painted them white. It took weeks. A monument? It looked like he was building a monument of some kind.

And then one day a metal archway arrived.

Dewey Byar Farms Forever.

I still wasn’t sure just what I was looking at. A monument to his farm?

A few weeks later, I drove by and saw something new inside the square of white cement crosses. A fresh mound of dirt. A grave. Flowers. And I realized Dewey had built a cemetery for himself. At home, I checked the obituaries and found that he'd died of cancer.

The evening before I moved from Iowa to St. Paul, I thought about the cemetery and rushed down the hill to take some photos before it got too dark.

Isn't it equal parts sad and fantastic?
And aren't people weird and wonderful?

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I've always had a fascination for Aldo Leopold, mostly because of his environmental and conservation ethics, but also because he's from my hometown of Burlington, Iowa. Like me, he moved from Burlington to New Mexico, then back to the Midwest and Wisconsin, and he and his family are buried in Aspen Grove Cemetery (Burlington) not far from my grandparent's graves. I look him up whenever I visit.

Really want to see this documentary.

Looks like you can purchase a DVD here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


What do you think of this cover?

I spent a week trying to find the perfect image, but everything I came up with missed the mark. Nothing really evoked the feel of the book, which is decidedly dark Gothic, but with a tiny bit of camp thrown in.

Finally found this image, which I sent to the great Robin Ludwig, who worked her font magic. I also had the book professionally formatted, and it can now be found at Barnes&Noble as well as Amazon. The iBook will be next.

I chose Play Dead for this makeover because it outsells all of my other titles, and I wanted readers to have a more satisfying reading experience. I also think Play Dead has held up better than most of my Frasier titles. Why? In my opinion, it's because it didn't adhere to the expectations of the police procedural. This can be a tough sell on release day, but in the end I think writing outside the lines has given Play Dead a longer life because it doesn't feel dated and it doesn't feel like a plot you've read a million times.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


You'll find a lot of cool things at Brenda Novak's Annual Auction for the Cure of Diabetes.

Like full manuscript evaluations from agents, vacations, dinner with writers, shopping trips, cruises, and a lot of books.

Brenda Novak's annual auction

I used to ask people to leave a comment in order to enter a drawing. I would actually write down the names and put them in a bowl, but Goodreads has this handy little thing that does it all for you.

The only drawback is that it tries to match readers with books. That's good for a writer, but maybe not so good for people who read my blog because you will be competing against many people who've probably never heard of me and might not even care that much about winning a book. But I thought I'd give it a try.


Saturday, April 23, 2011


Weird things people say when they find out I've written a memoir.

“Who is the memoir about?

Some people think you need to be a celebrity to publish a memoir. That confusion is understandable. A few agents told me the memoir wouldn’t sell because I wasn’t a celebrity, so if the gatekeepers are saying no, then it’s understandable that people who aren’t even in the business would be confused.

“Maybe I can finally figure out who you are.

This might seem a strange comment, but it actually makes sense.

I never talk about myself. I never talk about my past lives. I willingly left them behind. And how do you convey an event or a series of events in a light conversation? In a few sentences? It can’t be done, so why try to share it? Especially if the story is dark. People don’t want to hear about that kind of thing when you’re out for dinner. It’s not the time. And maybe if you got wasted enough to share some dark corner of your life, chances are you’d regret it once the hangover wore off. So I can totally understand the bafflement 95% of people feel when I tell them I’ve written a memoir. And stranger still, that anybody would want to publish it. Because live and in person, I’m pretty ordinary. Boring, really.

But as you get older, you begin to realize that those events you stuck away shaped who you are, and maybe it’s time to take them from the bottom drawer and examine them. If you dare. Because it’s a head trip.

I’m working on a second memoir, and more bafflement comes my way. “A second one? I don’t get it. Why would anyone write more than one?”

I’ve come to realize that many people, including the media, confuse memoir with autobiography. There’s a huge difference. Memoir is an artistic interpretation of an event or events. It could be about a day, a week, a month, a year. Or a lifetime. So a single person might have many memoirs in her.

I thought this second memoir would be easier, but I'm struggling with the same issues that I now suspect come with the memoir territory. How to make true life a page turner. How to broaden the story so it is more than the sum of its parts.

A dead body. I'd kill for a dead body right now. Really wish I would open a closet door and find the beef-jerky remains of a man dressed in a leisure suit. Or at the very least, a fetus in the attic.

I have to remind myself that I've been through this before. And the story came together before. And it will be okay without a dead body. And once it starts sounding like a memoir, I know I'm off track.

This week I sent out fifteen ARCs of The Orchard, and realized that no one outside people in the publishing world, the publishing world including friends who freelance edit, have read this book. No one. Gulp.

I still have a few ARCs left, so if you are a reviewer or bookseller and would like a copy, let me know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Another year has rolled around, and the latest issue of The Lineup, Poems on Crime is now available!

This is such a labor of love, and such a wonderful chapbook. Let's all support it. And speaking of support, I was in my local library yesterday where a copy of The Lineup #3 was displayed on the checkout counter. And they are eagerly anticipating #4.

I read somewhere that people have asked Gerald So why The Lineup isn't available as an ebook, and it's because the formatting gets lost in the conversion. And poetry is so much about format. I kind of like the fact that it's only available in print, although I believe you might be able to get a PDF file. ?? It's a chapbook that, in my opinion, captures a very specific time in crime-fiction writing, and I applaud Gerald for his years of dedication to this very special project.

update: The first three issues of The Lineup are available from as PDFs.

Everything you need to know about the Lineup #1, #2, #3, and #4 can be found here:

The Lineup #4 (2011)

Edited by Gerald So with Reed Farrel Coleman, Sarah Cortez, and R. Narvaez

Poems by Ken Bruen, Michael Casey, Reed Farrel Coleman, David Corbett, Mary Agnes Dalrymple, Mary Christine Delea, Jeanne Dickey, H. Palmer Hall, Paul Hostovsky, David Jordan, Laura LeHew, Thomas Michael McDade, Peter Meinke, Keith Rawson, Chad Rohrbacher, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Nancy Scott, Kieran Shea, J.D. Smith, J.J. Steinfeld, John Stickney, Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson, Randall Watson, Charles Harper Webb, Steve Weddle, Germaine Welch

As you can see, The Lineup #4 has...well, a great lineup of writers/poets. I hesitate to single anyone out, but I especially enjoyed Paul Hostovsky's Stealing the Bowling Shoes.

I thought I'd end with my contribution to last year's Lineup #3.


Sun sinks behind barren trees
Temperature drops to twenty below
The dogs know the way

The sled moves silently over
A broken path, cut that morning
Through northern wilderness

The distracted moon reveals a frigid landscape
An eerie glow as harnesses jingle like dull bells
The dogs know the way

Lamp in the window
Barks of excitement
A final sprint for home

No vocal command
Their master unmoving, one small hole between his eyes
The dogs know the way

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Last week I read The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon (pub date: May 4) and loved it. I would give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

It has an interesting structure, moving back and forth between central characters while covering a large passage of time. Rachel Simon did a fantastic job of weaving everything together while opening up the story to reveal the importance of earlier clues.

Here is a description from the Hachette website:

It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: "Hide her." And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia-lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.

Hachette Book Group

author website

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I had no idea you could add VIEW to a blogger URL (shall we call it Earl?)for dynamic views of blogs. If you're like me and didn't know about this, you do have to make sure your settings are right and dynamic enabled or something like that. It's kind of cool because you can easily see posts going back years.
I'm not sure of the benefit of such a thing other than fun, but there might be one.

I'd briefly thought of taking both my website and blog to Wordpress, but I've given up that idea and am sticking with Blogger and my website-building for idiots. I'm messing around with my Blogger header, so it might continue to change off and on until I'm happy with it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and he was telling me a story I'd heard years ago. I laughed just as hard this time, so I started thinking about how tough it is to translate real-life humor into writing. It's not just a case of you had to be there, because the verbal teller can work the story for years and years. But when you try to write it down, it feels flat and lifeless.

Emotional replays often work better in text, so why is humor so tough?

Here's a little experiment. This is a bit of the conversation I had the other day, but I'm not sure the humor holds up in this form. This is just the beginning of the story. It goes on and on. It might help to know that Mark is a burly farmer.


We’re standing in the mall, and there’s this display of shoes at the front of a store. My wife picks up a cowboy boot and looks it over, then she hands it to me and says, “Put this on.”

I check the size and see it’s an eight. I wear a ten. Sometimes eleven. “This won’t fit,” I say, and start to put the boot back on the table.

“Put it on!”

“It’s an eight.”

“It’s on sale!”

I’ve seen that look a million times, so I sit down on this padded seat, take off my right shoe, just to show her that I can’t even get my foot all the way in the boot.

“Put it on! Force your foot in there. Just shove it in there! Shove!”

“Can’t. It’s too small.”

“It’s on sale!”

If you know Darlene, you know she won’t take no for an answer, so I cram my foot in there, mash it in there, and my toes are layered one on top of the other.

“Too small,” I gasp, grimacing in pain.

“Walk,” she commands.

I hobble around, and my toes are screaming.

“That’s a nice-looking cowboy boot,” she says.

“It’s too small,” I tell her.

I tug off the boot, and my toes pop back. I’m tying my sneaker when I look up and there she is, standing at the counter, paying for the damn boots!

Then she’s aiming herself at me, handing me the bag. “Put them on. Wear them home.”

“You gotta be kidding me.”

“Put them on.”

So I sit back down and shove my feet into the boots. I wonder how in the hell I’ll be able to stand, but I’m finally upright. Then, like a baby learning to walk, I hobble out. My knees are bent, and my feet feel like balls.

“Hurry up!” she says, looking at her watch. “What’s wrong with you?”

“What’s wrong with me? What the hell do you think?”

As I hobble to the car, she keeps casting glances at me and my new cowboy boots.

“Those look so nice,” she says, beaming.

“They’ll look a helluva lot nicer once there off my damn feet.” I’m looking forward to hiding them in the back of the closet. Maybe burning them.

“You should wear them all the time. Whenever we go to town.”

“All the time? I need a wheelchair to wear these.”

“They look nice.”

“They’re killing me.” My elbows are sticking out, but my legs are finally straight. My body is already figuring out how to walk without toes and it's like walking on stilts.

“They were on sale,” she says.

“What does that have to do with anything? There were adult diapers on sale back there, but I’m not forcing you to wear them.”

She glares at me. You know Darlene.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


It's been a busy few weeks, and I'm finally getting caught up. Went to NYC. Got home. Edited galleys. Shipped galleys. Got sick. Cold. Asthma. Found my old inhaler with expiration date of 2006. Used it. Got better. Once Upon a Crime book signing yesterday in Minneapolis. Lovely dinner last night with writer friends. Back home. Corpse Kitty wouldn't let me sleep in. Relax...

One thing I keep wondering: Does it make sense to blog? It seems that most of the people who read my blog follow me on Facebook, so I wonder if blogging is redundant. But the big advantage to blogging is that the posts don't vanish or roll off the page in a matter of minutes. But Facebook is just so much faster. And feels less formal. And people can share what you post. And people are more likely to comment. So I don't know.

But anyway, here's a bit of my New York trip that I posted on Facebook a while back but am now posting here. And I'm not even going to try to catch people up, just drop you in the middle of a scene. Because I'm lazy that way.

The cocktail party: the CEO of Hachette introduced all four authors, me, Joel Salatin, an organic farmer, Jerry West, NBA star, and Lemony Snicket. Then the publisher of Grand Central introduced me. So glad I was up first. So nervous for days, but once I was up there, I wasn't nervous at all. But definitely one of the weirdest evenings of my life. It felt like I was in a Truman Capote movie. Not In Cold Blood, but Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Almost all of attendees had already read my book. (I thought I was supposed to tell them about it!) When I was finished, I sat down next to my editor. She handed me her glass of wine which I promptly chugged. Next speaker was Joel. I finally calmed down by the time Jerry West spoke. He's written an autobiography that will be out in Oct. I really want to read it. Then Lemony Snicket. He and his illustrator were droll and charming and hilarious. He shared a baked apple recipe with me that I must try. A peeled, cored apple and Tab. Their book comes out in about a year. It's a compilation of worst (or best) breakup stories. I'm sure it will be hilarious.

Before the event: Met my editor for lunch where we ate sushi and talked. (Hadn't met her before.) Then she took me to see the publishing house which was basically across the street. Super modern glass building with a very sleek, Swedish look with pale floors and walls and pale wood. Very crisp and orderly. I had to show an ID at a desk, get a photo taken before I could pass through a certain area. Elevators require a code and don't respond until you type in the code. then the box will show which elevator you should stand in front of, A - J. Elevator won't respond until it detects you in front of designated door.

Day after event: I met my agent for breakfast in a cafe attached to Grand Central Station. Once we were done, she invited me to see the Century Association. I had no idea what she was talking about, but soon I was following her through Grand Central Station and out into the street and right in the middle of the St. Patrick's Day chaos. OMG. OMG. We lost each other several times. Streets were closed. Green drunks shoulder to shoulder, shouting in unison for no apparent reason. Finally made it to the Century Association, a club that is basically for the artistic elite of NYC. Walls were lined with paintings of members old and new. Winslow Homer. Teddy Roosevelt. First edition books from floor to ceiling. Can't even describe it, but you can find a bit about it on Wikipedia.

Now somewhere in this chaos was my daughter. I was supposed to catch up with her so we could visit Central Park. OMG again. And I have to mention how glad I was that she came with me. I can't imagine trying to navigate NYC for the first time in my life without having her along. We finally found each other in Central Park. She'd spent the past few hours trying to escape the crazy green people, so we were both wiped out and had probably walked miles by that point. But it was a gorgeous day! In the seventies!

No restrooms. A gazillion people in the streets, and no portable toilets anywhere. Restrooms in Central Park were locked. So we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and and paid $15 to pee. While we were there, we checked out Guitar Heroes and some mummies.

And then the train ride back to the hotel. Another OMG Really, I just wanted to laugh. The trains were so packed that the doors wouldn't shut because asses were hanging out. I mean real asses. And the people would stand there blank-faced while the door continued to close and open on their butts.