Monday, December 31, 2012

Drum Roll, Please

Today is the official release date of the especial, India Black and the Rajah's Ruby.  Download.  Enjoy. And Happy New Year to you all.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Three Days

The eSpecial India Black and the Rajah's Ruby officially goes on sale December 31st.  I recommend reading it with a glass of champagne.  Here is Page's impression of the story.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Time for a Christmas Song

There's just something about a swinging band and Christmas music.  I'll be back in a few days.  Merry Christmas to you all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

My near namesake, Carol K.  had a brilliant idea for her holiday blogging.  She invited a number of writers (and was nice enough to include me) to share a few of their favorite things about Christmas.  It's my turn today, and you can read the post here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Treats

Finally, winter weather has arrived.  Ten days ago we had the A/C on, but today a storm is blowing through and it's snowing.  It's a nice day to stay inside and have some treats.

These gingerbread Oreos are delicious.  Sadly, you can only find them at Wal-Mart this year, because as we all know that company really needs to offer exclusive products because not enough people shop there.  Equally delicious is Memory Lane's eggnog.  Do not give these to small children you are babysitting.  I will not be responsible for any damage occurring before the sugar rush wears off.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another Impression of the Rajah's Ruby

Noa at the Paperback Dolls blog has written up her impressions of India Black and the Rajah's Ruby.  So glad you enjoyed it, Noa!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wherein I Do A Guest Post

The nice folks over at Get Lost in a Story (all very fine writers-you should check out their work) invited me over for a guest post.  You can read it here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

An Appetizer Before The Main Course

Here's a perfect little description of India Black and the Rajah's Ruby, from the internet's most certifiable book nuts at The Lit Asylum.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It Was Criminal

Every time Guy Fieri visits a southern cafe where the owner ladles up shrimp and grits, I want some.  I finally nagged cajoled TC into trying his hand at it.  He used Paula Deen's recipe, which involves bacon, and, um, bacon grease.  I'm sure this was a pre-diabetes recipe.  I'd guess that if you ate this thing on a regular basis, it would be a contributing factor.  Having said that, I will recommend that you eat this occasionally because it's so delicious, it's criminal.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom

It's Mom's 84th birthday today.  I've been blessed to have her in my life.  She and my dad taught by example: working hard, setting high standards for themselves and for my brother and me, and treating people with kindness and respect   I have her to thank for teaching me to read before I went to school, and kindling my love affair with books.  She's still teaching me.  Now the lessons are about growing old with grace and dignity.  Long may you ride, Mom!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hey, India Made the List

One of the funniest and most charming bloggers I know, Elaine of Random Jottings, very kindly included India's first two adventures in her list of favorite books for 2012.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Madame Soula

Greece is in turmoil and its economy is on the verge of collapse.  Salaries and pensions have been cut and people are struggling to make ends meet.  In the struggle to survive, funds for schools and amateur sports clubs have dried up.

But thanks to a local brothel owner, the soccer club in the town of Larissa, Greece, is still playing.  Madame Soula, the 67-year-old owner of the Villa Erotica, is helping fund the team.  Her only requirement:  the team must practice in pink uniforms.  Not very manly, but then this is soccer.  You know, the game where players who are brushed by an opponent's pinkie collapse onto the field in agony.  Perhaps it's fitting after all.

Anyway, Madame Soula does not confine herself to charity for the footballers.  She also bought a copy machine for the local grade school, which was returned when school officials discovered that Madame Soula ran a brothel.  I'd be curious to know how many of Madame Soula's detractors have availed themselves of her services.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Ruby for the New Year

If you'd like to learn how India Black came up with the money to open her brothel, Lotus House, then fire up your Kindle, Nook or other ereader and download a copy of India Black and the Rajah's Ruby, available December 31st at the usual places you can purchase ebooks.  My first especial is a 15,000 word short story and provides a peek at India's background, prior to the arrival of Mr. French.

The first review of the especial is up, courtesy of Bev at MY READER'S BLOCK.  It's a generous one, and I'm grateful to Bev for kicking off my holiday season with such a nice write up.

Monday, December 3, 2012


One of these days I may write something about writing or reading or publishing.  Until then, you should really make Henri's acquaintance.  Poor Henri.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Great Man

It's Mark Twain's birthday today.  He'd be one of the attendees at my dream dinner party.  HuffPo has a nice selection of quotations here.  It's hard to choose a favorite, but since we've just survived another election, I'll go with this one:

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Cockney Bible

Okay.  Thanksgiving is over, Mom has visited her doctor, India #4 is being emailed to my agent today and it's time to get back in blogging mode.  Except my muse is still enjoying a long holiday weekend.  So, here's a  video about the Cockney Bible.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Gatekeepers

If you read much about the current state of the publishing industry, you'll soon run across a defender of traditional publishing protesting that without agents and editors there will be no "gatekeepers."  No one to keep us from reading those awful self-published novels.  No one to stop the publication of poorly written books.  No one to halt the spread of poor grammar, misused metaphors and tautologies.  I'm so glad we have gatekeepers.


Great job, gatekeepers!  Thank you for ensuring that only the quality stuff gets published.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


This is the new library in the city of Dalian in China:

The architecture is dazzling, but this is not a proper library.  Compare and contrast to the "Long Room" at Trinity College Library.  This is a proper library:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I haven't been posting much lately because...I don't have much to say.  TC is reading India #4 and wielding his red pencil with relish.  I just wish he'd stop marching into my office and announcing:  "I found another mistake."  We need to have a talk about how editors should handle sensitive writers.  Actually, I'm grateful for his anal thorough editing skills.

While he's been working hard, I've been indulging in a real reading binge.  I've read nearly 4,000 words in the last two weeks.  One more Lee Child and TC should be finished with his review.  Then I have to get back to work.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We Don't Make Hasty Decisions Here

On Monday night before the election I was reading the guide put out by the League of Women Voters and learned that I would be voting on whether to return control of the St. Louis Police Department from the state of Missouri to the citizens of St. Louis.  Huh?

It seems that during the Civil War, the governor was a Confederate sympathizer and wanted to get his hands on the federal arsenal in St. Louis, so he found a way to remove the city's control over its police force and grant it to a board of commissioners appointed by the governor.

We've left this law on the books for 150 years?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Random Penguins

Last week a momentous moment occurred in the publishing world:  the announcement that Random House and Penguin would be merging, giving the resulting company 25% of the world's publishing market.  The companies both announced that the purpose of the merger would be to benefit from the synergies created, which as one writer pointed out, is Wall Street speak for layoffs, consolidation of divisions and the elimination of competing imprints and duplicate departments.  Fewer imprints and editors mean fewer places to pitch books, and agents and authors are already muttering about the negative impact of the merger.

In fact, it's hard to find anything very positive in the coverage of the merger.  Some writers are downright hostile, with one commenting that the move should be expected when these businesses are run by English majors wearing Daddy's work clothes.  I don't know if I'd go that far (or be that snarky), but I don't think the merger will prove to be good for authors.  One analyst (quoted in this week's edition of The Economist) says that the merger will mean many mid-list authors will be jettisoned, as the two publishers focus on their stable of best-selling authors and more spin-offs of Fifty Shades of Grey.

The new company, to be called Penguin Random House, has announced it will using the savings generated by the "synergy" to explore and expand their digital publishing options.  I read one article which raised an interesting point about how the companies might do this.  In the past, the German publishing company which owns Random House held a small stake in Barnes & Noble.  The writer suggested that we should keep our eyes peeled for a potential deal between PRH and B&N.  PRH could gain a foothold in the ereader business with the Nook, and B&N would get a shot of cash necessary to keep their brick and mortar stores open, a retail outlet which, of course, Amazon does not have.  This is better than a soap opera.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Since I'm writing about Victorian London, I want to be someplace else entirely.  That's why I've been reading about intrigue, espionage, assassinations, murders and all sorts of dirty deeds in the modern era.  Very relaxing stuff. Here are some authors I've been reading.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Don't Do Costumes

I have lovely memories of Halloween as a child, trotting down the streets with a plastic pumpkin in my hand, sweating under my little mask, tripping over sidewalks and driveways because I couldn't see where I was going, then gorging myself on candy until I was sick.  Ah, those were the days.

But then I grew up, and for the life of me I can't understand why adults want to dress up for Halloween or turn their home into a miniature haunted house.  I don't do costumes or lighted jack o' lanterns lining the walk.  If I buy candy, it's for me.  What do you call a Scrooge at Halloween?  And as for people who dress up their pets?  Don't get me started.  Okay, I'll admit this one is funny:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Martyn Ashton

Nope, not a new writer.  A rider.  Of bikes that is.  Watch this full screen and leave your house with a smile on your face.

Friday, October 26, 2012


This week I made it through the first draft of India #4.  This is always the ugly part, where I find that I left plot holes (see what I did there?) large enough to envelop giant trucks.  Much red ink is spilled during this process.  Paragraphs and sometimes entire pages move around willy-nilly.  Characters' names are changed, their appearances altered and inevitably I cut something out that I thought was pretty darn good.  I just love chunking that first draft into the waste basket.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Really, Really Bad News

It was a hot summer here and I spent a good part of it relocating my mom from her apartment to an assisted living facility.  Around 3:00 every afternoon, I found myself flagging.  A drive through McDonalds and a large mocha frappe and I was set.  I'm ashamed to say I became addicted.  Last Friday I stopped (after working out, mind you) and picked up one.  Did I mention that they're only $2.78 from 2:00-4:00?
It's only coffee, right?  And a little Hershey's syrup?  And a big blob of whipped cream from a can?  How bad can it be?

680 calories
96 grams of carbohydrates
87 grams of sugar


Monday, October 22, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

The TBR Pile

As I traverse the world of book blogs, I hear a universal complaint:  TBR piles have grown to gargantuan proportions and are taking over bloggers' homes.  I've found a solution to that.  Just purchase an ereader.  My TBR pile is now contained in my Kindle and my iPad.

No more piles of books, no more shoe-horning bookshelves into every available space and no more culling books when the herd becomes too large. Genius!  Even better, no feelings of guilt about all the books I'll never get around to reading.  I don't have to open that iPad if I don't want to.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I'm Not Confused Anymore

Silly me.  I thought this political campaign was about important issues like the economy and jobs.  It turns out that here in Missouri, it's actually about whether the state's name is pronounced "Missouree" or "Missouruh."
According to the NY Times (!), this is a burning issue, with candidates flip-flopping like hooked trout, trying to curry favor with the rural dwellers and older voters (who apparently tend to favor "uh" over "ee") and trotting out "ee" whenever they talk to urbanites sipping lattes.

Thanks for clearing that up, NY Times.  This issue goes straight to the top of my list.  A word of advice:  why don't you talk to someone from Missouri who is NOT a politician, linguistics professor, or political operative?  Then you might have learned that most people here could care less how the name is pronounced and find your article downright stupid.

And by the way, is there any chance you'll actually report something substantive about the election in the near future?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Heroes Coffee

My to-do list is too long.  The only way to cope with it is ingesting massive amounts of coffee.  Even our itty-bitty Midwestern city (that's cute, isn't it?) sports several coffee roasteries.  I tried out a new one a few weeks ago and now I'm hooked. 

Heroes Coffee doesn't look particularly inviting, but step inside and smell the Costa Rican and Ethiopian beans roasting.

It's pretty basic inside, with just a few tables and a counter.

The real action takes place behind the plate glass window.

Worth checking out if you're in the area, and they have several franchised coffee shops in the Ozarks.  You can read about them here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Q & A with Mark Pryor

It's my pleasure to welcome Mark Pryor, author of The Bookseller.  Not only did Library Journal give it a starred review, the book was also awarded "Debut of the Month."  I reviewed it on Monday, and asked Mark to share some more information about himself and his novel.

You’re English by birth, so what prompted you to write a thriller featuring a Texan as the hero?

I've been living in Texas for the past ten years and there's something fascinating and romantic about the place.  Larger than life in so many ways, a place that, whether you love or hate it, conjures images of  the kinds of things great stories are made of-- heroes, bad guys, guns, horses, wide open plains.  But I always knew my novel would be set in Paris so somehow it made perfect sense to put a Texan there.  An old-fashioned Texan in cowboy boots amid the chic-ness of Paris… there's tension before a word's even written!

You’ve succeeded in making me want to visit Paris in the winter.  What is it that draws you to the city?  And why did you choose a winter setting?

Why thank you.  Several things draw me to the city.  In my humble opinion, it's the most visually appealing city in the world.  It's one of the few major European cities not bombed in the war so there's very little of that hideous fifties and sixties concrete that you'll see elsewhere.  It's also a city that's easy to explore on foot, and while you're doing that there are a million cafes where you can sit and rest your weary feet.  The food, too… love the food.  I've heard Paris described as a small city, not just because it's so accessible, but because its many arrondissments are like mini-cities themselves, each with its own nuance and flavor.  I definitely agree with that assessment.

As for the setting being winter, I was there in winter when the story came to me.  Simple, but there you are.  That said, I do think that the weather can be like a character in a book, creating moods and even obstacles for the characters to overcome.  I didn't try for too much of that, but it definitely plays a minor role.  I should also admit that I wanted Hugo to wear a hat and I only wear mine in the winter, so it seemed like he would, too.

Which appeared to you first, your character Hugo or the plotline?

The plot.  I wanted to write a story that revolved around the booksellers who work alongside the River Seine, the bouquinistes, so I began with that.  As I thought more about it, and came up with my crusty old bookseller Max, I wondered who might be a good counterpoint.  Hugo developed fairly quickly in my mind, a sort of coming together of people I've known.  He and Max have enough in common plus enough differences that a "friendship with sparks" seemed natural.

You started work as a journalist.  What initiated the move into law, and the subsequent decision to write?

I did.  When I moved to the US I did some freelancing but found it hard to land a full-time job because I didn't have a US journalism degree.  So, I went to UNC-Chapel Hill to complete that but while there became involved with an anti-death penalty organization, representing death row inmates.  From there, a move to law school seemed logical (oh, about the law v. journalism thing, I tell people, "If I'm going to do a job where people don't respect me, I might as well get paid well for it").  Now, from that background to being a Texas prosecutor, there's another story…!

As for the writing, well, I've always meddled.  I suppose about ten years ago I really thought I'd try and finish a story.  I did, and it was… average, probably.  Then I wrote another, which I liked a lot more.  The desire to write  has always lurked within, it's the end product that's really evolved (one hopes).  Now writing is less a choice than a compulsion--I have two non-Hugo stories I've started to put down on paper and am desperate to finish.  But before I get to them, I have a non-fiction (true crime) deadline and two more Hugo books to finish up.  It's a wonder I have time to work for a living…

Is The Bookseller your first novel?  Could you share with us how it came to be published?

It's the first one I've had published.  I wrote and tried to sell two before, but they never got off the ground.  I'm sure it's because they weren't good enough.  The Bookseller took me about six months to write, then another six months to land an agent.  That was exciting, I can tell you, after two abject failures to have a fair amount of interest from agents.  And I consider myself oh so lucky to have ended up with Ann Collette of the Rees Agency. 

She and I worked for about three months on tightening the book, changing the beginning a little to accelerate the action.  Then I was on submission to publishers for a year, and we got very close with some of the bigger houses but in the end they passed.  That turned out to be a blessing in disguise because  a year after being on submission I got an offer for a three-book deal from Prometheus Books, their new mystery imprint called Seventh Street Books.  The Bookseller is one of two that launches the imprint in October, and the folks there have been simply amazing to work with.

I’ve always assumed an author writes the kind of book he likes to read.  Are you a committed thriller fan?  Who are your favorite writers in the genre?

Yes, I am.  It's pretty much all I read, to be honest.  My favorite author is probably Alan Furst, I devour everything he puts out.  The way he can set up a scene, create atmosphere without drowning the reader in words, it's impressive.  And he's very much in the vein of other writers I like, the older ones like Eric Ambler or Cornell Woolrich.  Really, there are so many great writers out there these days, it's a treat for readers who love the mystery/thriller genre.

You’re an assistant district attorney in Austin, Texas, and have a family.  How and when do you make time to write?

My family has been so supportive and encouraging, that's the "how."  They make time and they don't mind if I take off for a few hours by myself.  I usually go to the library, maybe four to six hours a week, and I write very fast so I can knock out a chapter or three every week.  And when I'm not actually writing, I plan the next scene in my head quite carefully, while I'm working out or walking the dog, for example.  That way, when I do sit down with my laptop it flows from the dense mass that is my head onto the page without too much trouble.

Because I love cowboy boots, I just have to know:  what brand of boots does Hugo prefer?  Or does he have them made by hand?  Describe his favorite pair, please.

Great question!  He has three pairs, one for work, one for casual, and one for formal events.   All are quite plain, with fairly minimal stitching, he's not a flashy kind of guy.  His casual pair are his favorites, made in Texas by Lucchese.  They are brown and ten years old, worn and a little frayed, but they fit like a glove.  Or two gloves.  As any cowboy will tell you, putting on shoes is a part of getting dressed, whereas pulling on your favorite boots is a pleasure all its own.

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Author, Great Book

Add a new thriller to your bookshelves.  The Bookseller is Mark Pryor’s debut novel, and it’s a cracker.  Library Journal has given it a starred review and named it “Debut Novel of the Month.”  Isn't that a great cover?

Here's the summary from Amazon:

Max—an elderly Paris bookstall owner—is abducted at gunpoint. His friend, Hugo Marston, head of security at the US embassy, looks on helplessly, powerless to do anything to stop the kidnapper. Marston launches a search, enlisting the help of semiretired CIA agent Tom Green. Their investigation reveals that Max was a Holocaust survivor and later became a Nazi hunter. Is his disappearance somehow tied to his grim history, or even to the mysterious old books he sold?

On the streets of Paris, tensions are rising as rival drug gangs engage in violent turf wars. Before long, other booksellers start to disappear, their bodies found floating in the Seine. Though the police are not interested in his opinion, Marston is convinced the hostilities have something to do with the murders of these bouquinistes.

Then he himself becomes a target of the unknown assassins.

Hugo is the sort of understated hero you often find in Alan Furst’s work, with perhaps a bit more grit given his ranching background in Texas and his work as head of security at the American Embassy in Paris.  Hugo is an engaging character, urbane and polished, but also possessing a Texan’s independent streak and a dogged determination to solve the mystery of his friend Max’s disappearance.  There are plenty of red herrings to lead you astray in this very fine and fast-paced debut.  Pryor excels at creating memorable characters; even those who make the briefest of appearances are fully realized.  I particularly like Tom, the semiretired CIA agent.  With his fondness for the bottle and his foul mouth, he makes a great foil for Hugo. 

Let’s see, have I missed anything?  Oh, yes.  There are Nazi hunters and Nazi collaborators, a sexy reporter who may or may not be playing Hugo, an aristocratic bibliophile, and gunplay.  Not enough for you yet?  Add some dazzling descriptions of Paris in winter and a peek into the history of the booksellers who inhabit the stalls along the Seine, and you’ve got an appealing and exciting new thriller to read.  I’m already looking forward to Hugo’s next adventure and hoping there will be many more.  

Mark is an assistant district attorney with the Travis County District Attorney's Office, in Austin, Texas. He is the creator of the true-crime blog DAConfidential. He has appeared on CBS News's 48 Hours and Discovery Channel's Discovery ID: Cold Blood.  Come back on Wednesday when the author graciously consents to answer a few questions for us.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Few Days Off

From writing, that is.  I've been working on arranging reviews for upcoming publications, contacting bloggers who have written reviews of the previous India Black books.  Don't you have a publicist, you ask?  Yes, I do.  But a writer who relies on their publicist to get the word out about new releases is not doing anything to help herself.  The publicist will cover all the major institutional reviewers, such as Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.  She and I will work together to produce a list of bloggers who'll receive the ARC's, but much of this work depends on me.  I know who's reviewed the books in the past, and I'm the one who is constantly searching for new bloggers who might be interested in reading my work.  It takes a lot of time to establish these contacts, but it's worth it.  Not only have I spread the word about India, I've made a number of new friends via the internet.   

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life's Little Pleasures

I've taken off a few days to steel myself for the task of proofing India #4.  Here's a pictorial essay about my activities over the last four days.  I ate some vegetable korma:

And some chili:

Read this:

And this:  

Watched several games of this:

And several episodes of this (Antiques Roadshow, the British version):

And cleaned this (not really my bathroom, but I like it better than mine and think I'd enjoy cleaning it more than I do my own):

And finally, made a trip to Heroes Coffee and bought some of their Costa Rican decaf roasted on site (you can see the roastery through the window to the right):

What an exciting life.  I start proofing tomorrow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Code Breaker

Did you know we had female code breakers during both world wars?  Me neither.  Right now I'm reading Inferno by Max Hastings, a riveting history of World War II.  Hastings lauds the work of Joseph Rochefort, a cryptanalyst at Pearl Harbor, who played an instrumental role in the battle of Midway.  I looked up Rochefort on Wikipedia, which led me in turn to this woman:

Agnes Meyer Driscoll.  She graduated from Ohio State University with majors in mathematics, physics, foreign languages and music.  Having no talent in languages, science or music, the thought of one of those is enough to send me into a panic.  Imagine mastering all four.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Coming Up For Air

I just printed out the first draft of India #4.  The working title is India Black and the Gentleman Thief.  The last word of the book?  "Zulus."

I like to get out of the house occasionally and write in a different environment.  My favorite hideout is The Mudhouse, a coffee shop downtown.

Here's where I wrote the last scene of #4.  That's my open laptop on the table in the corner.

My second favorite place to sit (but the guy in the blue shirt got there before me):

A couple of miscellaneous pics.  The coffee's great, the magazine selection is awesome, and the music is eclectic.  They were playing something tribal on Thursday, heavy on the drums and ululating women.

Come back Monday, when I post a review of a new thriller I think you'll enjoy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crunch Time

I'm two weeks away from wrapping up the first draft of India #4.  I've reached the point that every ounce of creativity emanating from my brain (which ain't much) is devoted to producing the last 18,000 words of the novel.  I could post cute photos of puppies and funny stuff I find on the internet on here for the next 14 days, but instead I'll take a break, returning around the first of October with cogent, witty, amusing and riveting blog posts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Need A Lift?

Time for a book review.

Dee De Tarsio is one of the funniest women on the planet.  I’d love to see her do stand-up, but until she opts for a career change I’ll just have to read her books. 

She excels at writing hapless heroines, wacky characters and situations that spiral delightfully out of control.  Her latest, Haole Wood, is a standout novel featuring Jaswinder Park, who has had orgasms that last longer than some of her jobs.  When her Korean-Hawaiian grandmother Halmoni is arrested, Jaswinder is dispatched to Maui by her family to extract the old woman from jail.  Since granny is an “herbalist” (yeah, right), keeping her out of trouble is a challenge for Jaswinder and one that she fails when Halmoni is arrested again.

But this time, the charge is murder.  A handsome developer who has tried to buy Halmoni’s property is found dead and Halmoni was the last to visit him.  If only Jaswinder could provide an alibi for her grandmother, but our heroine needed to blow off steam and spent the evening (a) getting wasted, (b) meeting the developer at a local bar and licking salt off his palm, and (c) hooking up with a handsome young doctor.Can Jaswinder save her Halmoni?  Can Jaswinder save herself?  You’ll just have to read this utterly charming book to find out.  But beware, you’re liable to spit out your daiquiri when you do.  I had to read it behind closed doors because I got tired of my husband asking “What’s so funny?”

Read this book if you need a laugh, and read it if you need a vacation.  Dee brilliantly evokes the lush island atmosphere.  You can practically smell the sunscreen.  It’s been years since I’ve been to Maui but this book made me wonder why I haven’t been back.  I do have one regret:  I wish I’d saved this book for January.  It would be the perfect antidote to the winter blues, but honestly, you’ll enjoy it whenever you read it.  Treat yourself.  It's available in paperback and via Kindle at

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekend Miscellany

I've been working hard on India #4, so I took off the past weekend.  Washed the car (ooh, shiny).  Looked at Cat Saturday on Chive.  Picture No. 3 on there reminded me of that famous website. "Cats That Look Like Hitler."  Read something intellectual, Lives of the Mind  by Roger Kimball, and something fun, The Detachment by Barry Eisler.  Worked on a short story which features this:

Ate one of these this morning.  Shouldn't have.

Now I'm going to watch a rugby match and have one of these.

That is all.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I Wish I Could Have Met Her

Occasionally I'll take a break from writing and do some surfing.  The other day I stumbled upon a site that includes some interesting information about female Victorian authors.  I've never heard of Rhoda Brougham, but two paragraphs from the website made me laugh.

Although often referred to as a sensation novelist, her work is notable for being slightly risque, rather than sensational.  Anthony Trollope commented in his Autobiography that 'she has made her ladies do and say things which ladies would not do and say.''

Anthony, of course, being the final authority on what Victorian ladies said and did.

In later life....she established herself as something of a society wit.  Oscar Wilde is said to have felt intimidated by her, and she apparently had a voice that could be heard from the other side of Harrod's Food Hall.

Intimidate Oscar Wilde?  One of the wittiest men who ever lived?  Wow.

You can read the entire article here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Self-Publishing - Is the Stigma Gone?

TC and I had interesting conversation over dinner the other night.  I've been reading a lot about the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.  The future of publishing is being hotly debated at the moment, and the issue of self-publishing is coming to the forefront.

Several years ago, when I was first beginning to write and hoping to land an agent, I would never have considered self-publishing.  At the time, that activity consisted of paying several hundred dollars to a small publisher for a print run of a few hundred copies.  Digital publishing was in its infancy, as were ereaders.  Self-published books were considered to be inferior and their authors lacking the talent to find an agent or publisher.

Things have really changed.  For one thing, there's a new nomenclature out there.  Now a self-published author is an "indie author."  The Romantic Times Convention has a book fair devoted to e-books, indie publishers and graphic novels.  Some famous authors (Barry Eisler) are jumping out of traditional publishing to sign deals with Amazon, or to self-publish.  Of course, there are a couple of authors going the other way (Amanda Hocking and E.L. James), but this illustrates the fluidity of the industry.  What's your view?  Has the stigma of self-publishing disappeared?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The British Sense of Fair Play

In connection with last week's post about writers buying reviews, here's an even more disgusting story about a celebrated British crime writer who wrote his own and then trashed his competitors on Amazon.  His apology gives new meaning to the word "lame."

Friday, August 31, 2012

Status Report

I'm a little over halfway through India #4.  Here are a few tidbits regarding same:

1.  I still don't have a title for this one.
2.  I'm over halfway through the novel, but not yet finished with page 2 of my 6-page outline.  Oh, dear.
3.  I keep stopping to research certain scenes.  Why didn't I do this before I began writing?
4.  I'll have a new editor for this book.  I'm rather nervous about that.
5.  I've entered the "zone" now, which means I can't be bothered with mundane things.  Must. Finish. Book.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Reviews and Book Sales

Continuing on the theme of what drives book sales, here's an interesting (as in, "wow, I had no idea things were this bad" interesting) article about the validity of the book reviews you find online.  It's long, but worth reading.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Social Media and Book Sales

It's an article of faith among publishers, publicists, various marketing gurus and quite a number of writers that an author must be a committed user, producer and consumer of social media. Before publication of India Black, my publisher sent me an extensive guide to establishing a web presence.  If a writer isn't writing, then she should be updating her website, blogging, tweeting, posting on Facebook, or otherwise using social media to market her work.  We are advised to brand ourselves and to understand our target audience.  Since I'm interested in selling my books, I've read dozens of articles and interviews with P.R. types on this topic.

There's only one problem with this advice.  Not once have I seen a publisher or public relations expert trot out the data proving that a jazzy website or a fascinating blog translates into book sales.  I suspect they don't provide this information for a simple reason:  it does not exist.  I sometimes wonder if we've all bought into this canard because the alternative-that we don't really know what drives book sales-is so much less appealing than pretending we can boost sales through a flurry of activity.  Certainly social media allows authors to keep in touch with fans but as for driving sales, I'm not convinced.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Writing Routine

I love to read about the process of writing, and how authors go about the business of churning out a novel.  Many live and die by routine.  They have to do the same thing, at the same time, every day.  For example, a writer might work from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m..  Then he reads the paper, has lunch, takes a walk, and proofs the day's work from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.

This sounds admirable to me, but alas, I can't do it.  Having worked for so many years in jobs that required me to be at the office by a certain time each day, I relish my freedom now.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I write in the morning because I work out in the afternoon.  Every other day but Sunday I work out in the morning, so I write in the afternoons.  Sometimes I have a nap, and then I have to write in the evening.  I don't worry about sitting at my desk at a particular time, just so long as I meet my objective of 2,000 words per day.  Oops.  This is beginning to sound suspiciously similar to a routine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Migraine (Short Political Rant)

I feel one coming on, and it's due to my electoral choices for the open Senate seat in Missouri.  Unless you've had your head stuck down a hole this past week, you'll recognize one of the candidates as Todd Akin.  You know, the mental defective who said that in cases of "legitimate rape" a woman's body sort of shuts down to avoid pregnancy.  I'm paraphrasing.  It actually sounded a lot dumber than that.

For a number of reasons I dislike his opponent, the incumbent, Claire McCaskill.  I won't bore you with my political views, but here's just one example of the brilliant leadership she's evidenced during her term in office:  while questioning the postmaster general about the post office's looming insolvency, she asked, "Have you thought about an advertising campaign to get people to write more letters?"  Again, I paraphrase.  It actually sounded a lot dumber than that.

So.  Buffoon No. 1 or Buffoon No. 2?  The two parties have figured out how to devalue our vote, haven't they?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Writing Under the Influence

After a hellacious summer, the weather has been delightful here.  I've been taking advantage of it by churning out my daily quota of 2,000 words while sitting on the back porch.  Saturday morning I set up shop, with my  laptop, reading glasses, outline and cup of tea at hand, and started typing.  A gentle breeze wafted through the trees, bringing the unmistakable odor of cannabis.  And not just the faint scent of a spliff.  For a moment, I thought the county sheriff had cracked a major drug ring and was destroying a bale or two of the stuff.  The smell lingered for quite a long time.  I haven't proofed my work from Saturday yet.  I'm almost afraid to read it, the effects of second-hand smoke being what they are.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mike or Ralph?

If Magic Mike had debuted in Victorian London India might have stepped out to see it, having, as she does, an appreciation for the male figure.  Alas, she'd have to be content with Ralph Rackstraw from Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, which debuted at the Opera Comique in London on May 28,1878.  Here's my favorite song, "Never Mind the Why and Wherefore."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Hut, a Shed, a Room of One's Own

Here's an interesting article about the private places writers have created for themselves.  I particularly like Mark Twain's hut, although that hardly seems to be the correct word for such a splendid little building.  I also notice that a couple of these have beds.  I'd find that very useful.  But where do I plug in my computer?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I'm Glad That's Over

Truly.  I spent far too much time watching the Olympics over the last two weeks, although I probably wouldn't have written much anyway.  You know, the blurred vision and dizziness thing.  So a couple of weeks on the couch was not a disaster.  But I'm ready to dive in again.  I've written 30,000 words of India #4 and plan to finish the first draft by the end of September.  Is that really just six weeks away?  Yikes.  I need to get cracking.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

India's Olympics

Knowing India as I do, I thought she'd enjoy the following Olympic sports:

FENCING.  But of course.

JUDO.  This could turn out to be quite useful.  Too bad the costume is so appalling.

BOXING.  Also useful, but that headgear would wreck India's coiffure.

SHOOTING.    We know India is very fond of her Webley Bulldog revolver.

DRESSAGE:  We know India can't ride, but this is a stunning look.

And even though the picture above reflects modern dress, the Victorian-era equestrienne was also rather stylish: