Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Authors I Like

I'm going to start a new "series" here, listing authors that I like and why. Reading is on the decline in the United States, and while I'm assuming that most people who read this blog love books, there's always the chance that I might snag someone who was here for the recipe(s).

My favorite mystery author is James Lee Burke. There is a lyricism, a poetry, about his writing that is unusual in crime fiction. On the negative side, his women tend to be one-dimensional (except for the prostitutes and lowlifes), and he also has one plot: one man (with a little help from his friends) fighting internal and external demons. But I never let that stop me. Burke has a tremendous amount to say about institutionalized racism in the south, corruption so widespread it's almost genetic, the raping of the environment. His latest book, "The Tin Roof Blow Down," another in the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Detective Dave Robicheaux series, deals with the corruption and destruction in the wake of Katrina; it is a stunning read, a love letter to Louisiana and its citizens.

My favorite book of his has kind of a woo-woo factor. I don't know how well it sold, but I imagine it's probably not one of his best sellers because of the ghost aspect to it. His publishers probably pulled him aside and said, "Jim, cut the supernatural shit." I recommend it highly: "In the Electric Mist of the Confederate Dead." If you're an American reading this, it says so much about the Civil War, the people who fought it, the guilt of the survivors (us), the honorable men who fought an dishonorable war, the stupidity, and the slaughter.

Writer envy meter: five stars

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Been doing the promotional dance for the last few weeks. Had a wonderful signing at M is for Mystery. That's such a wonderful store. If you're ever near San Mateo, California, stop on by and pick up a few books. They have EVERY possible mystery you could want.

Had a great evening at Janet Ruldoph's house. She is the editor of Mystery Readers Journal. She hosts author soirees (don't you love that word?) at her house for authors and readers to get together and discuss, what else, mysteries. The current issue is devoted to historical mysteries, and the next issue is set in San Francisco. I've been asked to write a snippet, so I might have to reread Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon" and revisit the restaurants in that book. I know John's Grill features prominently, but what else? Hmmm.

I shared the evening with Jane Cleland, who is just out with her latest Josie Prescott Antiques mystery, "Deadly Appraisal." It was fun to connect again with Randal Brandt, who has compiled a bibliography that contains over 1,500 titles of mystery, detective, and crime fiction with the action, or significant parts of the action, set in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Check it out: Golden Gate Mysteries. Yours truly is included.

It's truly been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Had a WONDERFUL signing at Mrs. Dalloway's on College Avenue in Berkeley. Friends and family arrived en masse and bought lots of books. It's the sort of store that has been particularly vulnerable to the chain store onslaught, but Marion assures me they are doing well. There were several books on gardening that I was salivating over and a healthy fiction section. Drop in the next time you're on College Avenue in Berkeley and buy something!

It's stores like this and M is for Mystery that host relatively small authors like me. Please, support your independent bookseller!

When my husband and I were in college at U.C., we used to walk from our grungy college digs to Botts ice cream for gigantic ice cream cones. We'd walk through the Elmwood district, ogling all the wonderful craftsmen bungalows and wood-shingled two-stories, so endemic to that neighborhood. Without shame, we'd peep into lighted living rooms and dining rooms, hoping that one day we'd have a home in this fabulous neighborhood. Having been in exile in suburbia for a number of years, living in nothing more than a rectangle, we still haven't given up this dream, and are now plotting our final and last move back to Berkeley once the kidlets are done with high school.

My next event is on June 3rd at the San Bruno Library with the wonderful Cornelia Read, whose latest book "The Crazy School" is a great read. Then we've got high school graduations and middle school graduations and someone to get on a plane to Ireland, and like, whoa. Life is busy.

Oh yeah, that next book to write. Got to get cracking on that as well.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Malice Redux and Book Rec

So, attended Malice, had my little panel. Met fellow PPP authors Beverle Myers and Aileen Baron. Waved and said "hi" to Judy Clemens. Con Lehane was on my panel, so we got to chat for a little beforehand. Exchanged puzzled WTFs with Penny Warner, whose Nancy Drew Handbook is a must buy (I bought one for my daughter for Christmas and she loves it), because Penny was not on the Nancy Drew panel. Hadn't seen Marcia Talley in years so we chatted a wee bit. Meant to way lay Sujata Massey but that never happened. It was a nice Malice, although attendance seemed down to my (admittedly inexpert) eye. All in all, lots of fun, although am rethinking this free ticket Southwest thing. Sunday's trip home I was in the air or parking my butt in an airport chair for close to ten hours. FYI: Midway in Chicago does not have free WiFi, Albuquerque does.

Usually I buy a ton of books at these events, but I'm really trying to watch my spending so only bought one book. And it's great. And I'm passing on the title to you because I think it has some truly marvelous advice. Although it's geared to the mystery writer, I think the advice in this book is applicable to anyone who writes.

"Don't Murder Your Mystery," by Chris Roerden, Bella Rosa Books.

It won the 2006 Agatha Award for best Non-Fiction. I think this is a great book. It's marketed toward writers who are trying to get their submissions from getting thrown into the slush pile, but ignore that shtick. It had some damn fine advice about starting and ending chapters with a hook, how to effectively include backstory, etc. Lots and lots of shiny advice. She uses examples from mysteries so that you can see what she is talking about. Recommended. It's in paperback so it's relatively cheap.