Sunday, February 28, 2010

2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalists

I don't know that I could limit my mystery/thriller list to five finalists, but these five books made the list:

Mystery/Thriller Finalists

Megan Abbott, Bury Me Deep (Simon & Schuster)
David Ellis, The Hidden Man (Putnam)
Attica Locke, Black Water Rising (HarperCollins)
Val McDermid, A Darker Domain (HarperCollins)
Stuart Neville, The Ghosts of Belfast (SOHO Press)

I've read four, all but "The Ghosts of Belfast", which is on my to be read pile. As a devoted McDermid reader, I'm going with her, but all were exceptional in plotting, characterization and dialogue.

Aspiring crime fiction writers could learn a lot from these artists.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


"Don't own one." "Never will."

"Give me my printed books."

"I want to hold the binding in my hands, slip the pages one over another."

Such is the emotional attachment to books. Books. Not e-books, but real books.

Is our emotional response rational? Maybe. Maybe not.

Let's consider technology. Is technology emotional? I don't know, ask Bill Gates. His new tech replaced a lot of old tech. Take the typewriter, our once valued tool to get words out of our heads faster than with pen and ink. Sure, I know writers who still write with pen and good for them. It works, but I was happy to embrace computer technology those many years ago in a newsroom, where I learned to cut and paste with scissors and a glue pot.

Other examples of old tech giving way to new tech: horses to automobiles, bows to guns, records to CDs and iPods. (Remember those old 78s? Before my time.) But old tech never went away. We still write with pens, cops ride horses and buggy rides are de rigueur in tourist places, bows are still used to hunt deer. I haven't seen an old record in some time, but I bet they're still being played. I know of a few Victorlas that work and of juke boxes spinning 45s.

So will e-books take the place of print books? Will leather bindings crumble on library shelves?

A reader may well say: writing the book is one thing, but reading it is another.

And how about the not-so-old audio technology? I've not gotten used to "hearing" a book.

Cutting to the chase, what do the three transmission methods of words and sentences and punctuation marks have in common? The story. The plot. The characters. The enjoyment of ideas drawn from the brain and delivered to make an enjoyable love story or thriller.

These are a few things e-books must overcome in the next ten years: the sensual pleasure of seeing three dimensional print, smelling ink, touching paper; the trips to the library; the leather or paper bindings on book shelves and in quiet libraries; the memories of a worn Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes falling apart from so much page-turning.

Media technology will continue to evolve. One day, perhaps, readers will be saying, give me plastic and a screen. None of this words-floating-on-thin-air nonsense.

Possible? Ask Bill Gates.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


In the last six months we lost several authors, one is Dick Francis, famous for his horse-racing novels. He was 89.

I started reading Francis's novels when I was a teenager. I grew up on a farm with horses and sundry other animals. Horse became my passion. Horses and writing. So, of course, Dick Francis was my guy. I never raced a horse, except against my brother, and I had the faster horses. He had cutting and roping quarter horses, while I went for the walkers and Thoroughbreds, English saddle style.

Many years later, my jumping days ended when I went off the back of a 17-hand hunter-jumper. Broke L-4 and my back will never let me forget it.

That's me. I've written a few mysteries - romantic suspense and traditional, nothing compared to my favorite novelist those many years ago. Along the way, I became and journalist and had to stick to facts.

A champion jockey in the 1940s and 1950s, he retired to write over 40 best-sellers, starting with Dead Cert. I'll never forget that book. How could I? I must have read it ten times in as many years.

His awards are numerous and he became a CBE.

Rest your soul, Dick Francis. You've contributed mightily to the mystery-reading community.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Received this email this morning: Won't add to the bank account, but am delighted to get a perfect review and the possible honor of Book of the Week.

From Long and Short Review:

We offer a weekend poll at The Long and the Short of It romance reviews-- we want to know which book or story sounds like the best read based on our reviews. The winning author gets a nifty button and the privilege of having their book or story featured at the top of that page the entire next week!

Your story "When Serpents Die" was reviewed by us this week and is up for Book of the Week honor this weekend (voting runs from Saturday, 2/13, through Sunday, 2/14). We thought you might like to know. You can find the information here on Saturday:

Thanks and good luck!

Judy"Reviewing Romance One Happy Ever After at a Time"

Thursday, February 11, 2010


One day I hope my book will be listed here. I have room on my shelf for the coveted Thin Man Trophy.

The Hammett Prize is given for excellence in crime writing for U. S. and Canadian authors.

The International Association of Crime Writers (IACW) has announced the 2010 Hammett Prize Nominations:

Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott(Simon & Schuster)
Devil's Garden by Ace Atkins (Putnam)
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (Penguin)
The Long Fall by Walter Mosley (Riverhead)
The Way Home by George Pelecanos (Little, Brown)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Moriah Dru’s weekend off with her lover, Lieutenant Richard Lake, is interrupted when Atlanta juvenile court judge Portia Devon hires Dru to find two sisters who’ve gone missing after their foster parents’ house burns down. An ex-cop, Dru established Child Trace, Inc., after leaving the force. Judge Devon sees to it that Lake is assigned to head the police investigation, because Dru and Lake together have a habit of solving cases.

After questioning the neighbors, the couple decide that the abduction of the girls looks like more than an ordinary kidnapping. Dru learns that in the past eight years two other foster children from the area have gone missing. The investigation turns up a snitch who tells Dru he’s heard that a secret sex organization, with members named after chess pieces, is bound for Costa Rica with two girls. The chase is on to stop the kidnappers before they escape the country.

Amazon blurb: The latest winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, The End Game features a strong new heroine in a vivid Southern setting. Gerrie Ferris Finger puts a new spin on the classic mystery novel.

Friday, February 5, 2010


As an author, and I know I speak for other authors, we live to write. Period. We create stories in our heads, and, using our fingers - first pen and ink, then typewriter, now computer - we extract scenes that won't emerge like we want them to because they have a dastardly life of their own. It ain't easy, but we are compelled. It's in our DNA.

Then we have to make agents and publishers want to represent and buy our manuscripts. That really ain't easy.

Then we have to promote our novels or non-fiction works by traveling to book stores and sitting at tables looking pleased and prosperous even if people aren't flocking to us like we're Dan Brown. We promote on social networks hoping our friends don't feel like they're being shilled.

Then along comes a disagreement between our publisher and the A Number One Bookseller in the country over the price of their Kindle books. And that bookseller gets its electronic pages in a snit and pulls the BUY button on our books, thus unfriending our publisher.

What's a writer to do?

We can do nothing but sit back and wait, and, voila, Amazon declares our publisher, Macmillan, has the right to set its own prices, and eventually the BUY buttons are returned and all is friendly again.

Or is it? For now it is, but is there a next chapter?

These are difficult times for writers, publishers and book sellers, particularly brick and motar stores. Let's hope Amazon uses its internet deep pockets wisely so it's a win-win for everyone in the book business.

That's all for now.


A man walks out to the street and catches a taxi just going by. He gets into the taxi, and the cabbie says, "Perfect timing. You're just like Frank."

Passenger: "Who?"

Cabbie: "Frank Feldman. He's a guy who did everything right all the time. Like my coming along when you needed a cab, things happen like that to Frank Feldman every single time."

Passenger: "There are always a few clouds over everybody."

Cabbie: "Not Frank Feldman. He was a terrific athlete.
He could have won the Grand Slam at tennis. He could golf with the pros. He sang like an opera baritone and danced like a Broadway star and you should have heard him play the piano. He was an amazing guy."

Passenger: "Sounds like he was something really special."

Cabbie: "There's more. He had a memory like a computer. He remembered everybody's birthday. He knew all about wine, which foods to order and which fork to eat them with. He could fix anything. Not like me. I change a fuse, and the whole street blacks out. But Frank Feldman, he could do everything right."

Passenger: "Wow. Some guy then."

Cabbie: "He always knew the quickest way to go in traffic and avoid traffic jams. Not like me, I always seem to get stuck in them. But Frank, he never made a mistake, and he really knew how to treat a woman and make her feel good. He would never answer her back even if she was in the wrong; and his clothing was always immaculate, shoes highly polished too.
He was the perfect man! He never made a mistake. No one could ever measure up to Frank Feldman."

Passenger: "An amazing fellow. How did you meet him?"

Cabbie: "Well, I never actually met Frank. He died.
I'm married to his friggin widow."

Glad you're not perfect?

Monday, February 1, 2010


In 2009, I won The Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Minotaur Best First Traditional Novel Competition for THE END GAME, to be released by St. Martin's Minotaur on April 27, 2010.

I grew up in Missouri, then came South to join the staff of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I researched and edited the columns of humorist Lewis Grizzard and co-wrote a news column with another reporter for three years.

Lewis became my mentor, and when he passed away, I joined the newspapers' Southern Task Force. As a reporter, I traveled the Tobacco Roads of Georgia, Virginia and Alabama, and the narrow, historic streets of New Orleans. I wrote about Natchez, Mississippi's unique history, Florida's diverse population, and the Outer Banks struggle to keep the Cape Hatteras light house from toppling into the sea. Also, I served on the National News Desk and on the City Desk's City Life section.

When I retired, I knew I would write crime fiction. I covered crime for the newspaper. Real crime is sordid, with no romance or redeeming features. Justice often doesn't prevail. Real people go back to miserable lives. In writing fictional crime, I can make the good guys winners and give the bad guys what they deserve.

In 2009 I signed a contract with Desert Breeze Publishing for two romance e-books: The Laura Kate Plantation Series, Book I, WHEN SERPENTS DIE (04/01) and Book II, HONORED DAUGHTERS (10/01). WAGON DOGS, Book III, will be released in October, 2010