Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oh, the Places a Blog Will Go! (with apologies to Dr. Seuss) by Lesa Holstine

Happy Birthday, Lesa!!

Lesa Holstine has been blogging and reviewing books at Lesa's Book Critiques for over five years.  Born in Ohio, she was a library manager there, in Florida for eighteen years, and in Glendale, AZ for almost six. Lesa reviews women’s fiction for Library Journal and mysteries for Mystery Lovers’ Journal.  Lesa's Book Critiques is syndicated through Blogburst, and reviews have been picked up by Reuters, USA Today and other news distributors. She was the winner of the 2009 Spinetingler Award for Best Reviewer. She considers two of her greatest accomplishments the chairing of the Authors’ Committee for the Lee County Reading Festival for five years, and the Authors @ The Teague program.

 Lesa's Corner a/k/a her "Blogging Place"

 Lesa and her late husband, Jim - her reading partner

“Oh, the Places a Blog Will Go!" (with apologies to Dr. Seuss) by Lesa Holstine

My boss said go;
A workshop for three days.
Three days of chatter,
I was left in a haze.

PR was not new.
Grant-writing I hate.
But, learning to blog,
Now that was my fate!

I picked out a name,
(After Nikki, my cat)
Loving reading and books,
I’d talk about that!

Nikki’s World was the title,
It worked for a time,
‘Til Maddie James & my husband said,
Lesa’s Book Critiques should be mine.

So, I’ve interviewed authors –
Penny, Pintoff and Ryan,
Made friends like Jen Forbus,
Without even tryin’.

I reviewed mysteries by the score.
Won a Spinetingler Award,
Hosted authors at the library,
So Teague’s reputation soared.

I’m Desert Sleuths’ guest in August,
And a Sister-in-Crime.
Review for Mystery Lovers’ Journal.
Having a heck of a time!

So, I’ll see you in Scotsdale,
At Barbara Peters’ Poisoned Pen,
And Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe.
Where will it all end?

So, accept with a smile
When your boss tells you go.
It may change your life.
See how a blog grows?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

ITW 2010 Thriller Awards Finalists

ITW has announced the 2010 Thriller Awards Finalists

Best Hard Cover Novel:
VANISHED by Joseph Finder
LONG LOST by Harlan Coben
FEAR THE WORST by Linwood Barclay
THE NEIGHBOR by Lisa Gardner
THE RENEGADES by T. Jefferson Parker

Best Paperback Original: 
SHADOW SEASON by Tom Piccirilli
URGE TO KILL by John Lutz
THE COLDEST MILE by Tom Piccirilli
NO MERCY by John Gilstrap

Best First Novel:
FRAGMENT by Warren Fahy
DEAD MEN'S DUST by Matt Hilton
DRACULA: THE UN-DEAD by Dacre Stoker
RUNNING FROM THE DEVIL by Jamie Freveletti

Best Short Story:
A STAB IN THE HEART by Twist Phelan
ICED by Harry Hunsicker
BOLDT'S BROKEN ANGEL by Ridley Pearson

2010 Thriller Awards Winners to be announced at ThrillerFest V - July 10, 2010. 
Grand Hyatt, NYC
Congratulations to all the finalists! 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I'm Nothing Like My Characters, Except . . . by Kris Neri

Kris Neri's  published books include HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE, a Lefty Award-nominee, NEVER SAY DIE, THE ROSE IN THE SNOW, and the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity Award-nominated Tracy Eaton mysteries. With her husband, she owns The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, Arizona.

I’m nothing like my characters, except…

by Kris Neri

Readers often wonder how closely we writers resemble our characters. In my case, I have to say, "Not a bit!" After all, I write the madcap Tracy Eaton mysteries, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN, DEM BONES’ REVENGE, and my latest, just-debuted novel, REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE. Tracy is too much the offspring of her reality-challenged, zany parents, movie stars, Martha Collins and Alec Grainger, to be anything like me.

The question I often hear from fans is, "Who are you parents? Anyone I’d know?" See, they assume my parents are also major motion picture stars, or how else could I write the hilarious scenes I create between Tracy and the banes of her existence? I'm flattered that readers regard Martha and Alec as so real, they can't imagine that I simply made them up. But that's what I did.

Tracy also brings the most eccentric approach to crime solving. I'm sure if I were an amateur sleuth, I'd never make my escape from captivity by shimming up a rope with my mother on my back, as Tracy and Martha did in DEM BONES’ REVENGE. Or when they eluded the bad guys by posing as hookers so the cops would arrest them for solicitation and whisk them away.

In REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE, free-spirit Tracy cheers when her stodgy husband, Drew, finally loosens up enough to rearrange the nose of his boorish boss, Ian Dragger. Too bad the next time anyone saw Ian, he was floating face down in the Eaton pool, deader than disco.

I certainly didn't draw on my life for that. Not only isn't my hubby stodgy, I don't even own a pool.

Still…I have to admit offbeat things always happen to me. Wherever I go, if there's a person who merely flirts with the periphery of sanity, he gloms onto me like I'm his long-lost twin. My husband always asks if I send out a homing signal that only wackos can hear. I don't know. Do I?

I also always find myself faced with problems that nobody else has to deal with. For instance, I went to a party recently in a gate-guarded community, The road that leads to it is a tough-to-navigate, narrow S-curve that takes a sharp dip where it crosses a creek, which is heavily studded with boulders.

When I stopped beside the gate speaker box, I realized I couldn't remember the code to open the gate. No problem. There were instructions for dialing the houses. Too bad that didn't work. Again and again. In six tries, I got mostly busy signals, although I also hit the voicemail a couple of times. I didn't feel too helpless babbling, “Uh, I'm here, but…”

Okay, Plan B. I decided to call my husband at home, since he wasn't coming. If he didn't know the code, he could call our friend and get it. Why do we have cell phones if not for emergencies? Oops! No signal.

Hmmm. There was no way I could back out of there. I must have played hooky the day they taught reverse in Driver's Ed, since I've never learned it. I had barely navigated that entry going in. If I lived there, I'd just park the car in the creek and get it over with. And the passage was too narrow for a k-turn. Maybe a hundred tiny k-turns would do it, but I'm not too swift on those, either.

Since I arrived late, I wasn't sure when someone else would pass that way. I ended up staying there until a woman walked near the gate and shouted out the code. I was the only partygoer who didn't just breeze in.

Turns out the gate-phone connection stopped working sometime before I showed up, but after everyone else did. What are the odds? But that kind of thing always happens to me. I can't be the only one who's out-of-synch with virtually everybody else. There must be others marching to the un-syncopated beat of goofball drummers that nobody else can hear.

If I were writing that experience for a character, I'd make it read funny. Tracy's always wrecking her vehicles, so that would be a perfect bit for her. I'd just send the car off the road, where it would float along, crashing into boulder-after-boulder, like Mother Nature's own bumper car ride.

Only in real life, I make payments on that car, and I pay for insurance. I'd be the idiot whose claim the folks working at the insurance agency would laugh themselves silly over — right before the company cancelled my coverage.

Okay, so maybe I am more like Tracy and her gang of daffy misfits than I'd like to admit. Maybe I really am living my wackiest characters' lives. I'm just not having as much fun with them as they are.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Don't Get Haircuts; I Just Update My Profile by Libby Hellmann

Libby Fischer Hellmann's 6th  novel, DOUBLEBACK, a thriller, was released in October, 2009, by Bleak House Books. In it PI Georgia Davis is paired with video producer and single mother Ellie Foreman, the protagonist of Libby's other 4-book series. Libby also writes short stories and edited the acclaimed CHICAGO BLUES. Originally from Washington DC, she has lived in Chicago for 30 years and finds the contrast between the beautiful and the profane in that city a crime writer’s paradise.

I Don’t Get Haircuts anymore -- I Update My Profile
by Libby Hellmann 

Drew Barrymore ‘s riff in He’s Just Not Into You was probably the best thing in that otherwise unremarkable film. She was talking about dating, and how people no longer meet each other organically. That the entire process is now either on voicemail or online.

To that end, it struck me recently that I no longer do anything much “organically.” In fact, I don’t have much of a physical, tactile life. Over the past 10 years, almost everything I do has moved online.

For example:

I just canceled my subscription to the Chicago Tribune. At least during the week. Why? I get all my news online. The Trib sends me a daily email; so does Huffington Post and Salon. MSNBC is my home page on the computer. I follow a bunch of news outlets on Twitter. And I’ve bookmarked a slew of other publications and blogs which I visit daily.

Professional Life
I get most of my crime fiction news on line. Wait – who am I kidding? I get it ALL online: DL, 4MA, Sisters in Crime, Shelf Awareness, bloggers like Kaye and Sarah Weinman and Joe Konrath, CrimeSpree, Goodreads, plus PW Daily. (I know I’ve left out a ton of others). I do almost al my research online, order books for my research online, and – well – let’s not even get started on marketing online. Suffice it to say I’m here and here for starters. With bells on.

Book Discussion Groups
I am a member of two online Mystery Book Discussion Groups, plus a private group that focuses on love of our genre. I actually write book reviews (well, a few) and get most of my book recommendations from these lists. I also belong to a flesh-and-blood mystery group at my library, but guess what? We did an online chat with an author last month!

This winter saw me redecorating a bit, and I got some fabulous things from In addition, I ordered two new TVs from Amazon, plus a camera (they had the best prices). I book airline tickets, buy clothes, gifts, and office supplies online. Oh, and I make restaurant reservations online too.

Facebook has taken over my social life. What little is left goes on Twitter. My war with the skunks has been well documented, and I’m in touch with friends from waaay back in my life. I’ve probably been on every dating website there is -- with less than stellar results, unfortunately, but that’s another story.

I play Scrabble online, do Suduko puzzles online, and play solitaire on my computer. I listen to music online, forward YouTube clips to friends, as well as greeting and birthday cards. Sometimes I even email thank you notes. I renew library books online, decide where to go on vacation online. I watch through Netflix. Åll my photos are on my computer – I haven’t had a physical photo album since 2001.

Whenever I have an unknown symptom or health problem (which happens more frequently these days), I don’t automatically call the doctor. First I check online. Of course, that can be a double-edged sword since I’m prone to thinking the worst. It could be just indigestion, but I’m convinced it’s ulcers… or worse.

I pay 90 per cent of my bills online. Haven’t needed new checks in years. And I do my accounting on the computer as well.

I make charitable contributions online, volunteered for Obama online. I receive at least one solicitation, maybe more, a day.

I can’t remember the last time I used a phone book. Or asked for directions. If I can’t remember who directed a film, I no longer blame it on a failing memory. I just Google it (if I remember). I receive a lost pet alert every few days, and I even communicate with my handyman online. And what would I do without Angie’s List?

I don’t have a Kindle yet but am considering an iPad, but most of my books are on Kindle and the other e-book format (at Smashwords). And I’m thinking of publishing an e-collection of my short stories this summer. Of course, if I go ahead with it, I will do all my marketing and promotion online.


So, what’s the point? The internet has made my life much more convenient (as long as the computers work), but it’s also somewhat unsettling. Because I leave tracks wherever I go, it’s a certainty that someone could develop a detailed dossier on me, warts and all. And if it’s true that – as some predict – it’s possible to take control of the internet, what would happen to my online life if they did? Could I be erased? Could someone eliminate or – worse -- take control of my virtual footprint? And if they could, what would the ramifications be in real life? Am I, and are we all, heading toward virtual disaster?

It’s almost spooky to contemplate. Happily, I don’t have time to consider it. I have to update my profile.

Btw, I’m sure I left out many activities people do online… What have I missed?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's Vegas, baby! by Karen Olson

Karen E. Olson, winner of the Sara Ann Freed Memorial Award and a Shamus Award finalist, writes the Annie Seymour mysteries and the Tattoo Shop Mystery series. The second Tattoo Shop mystery, PRETTY IN INK, came out earlier this month. She spent more than 20 years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor before deciding to ditch newspapers before they ditched her. She now works part time editing a medical journal at Yale and being chauffeur to her 13-year-old daughter. Her website is and she blogs with the First Offenders at

She has no tattoos.



It’s Vegas, baby!
by Karen Olson

When I was talking with my publisher about my new tattoo shop mystery series two years ago, we discussed where I should set it. I wanted to keep writing about New Haven, Connecticut, my hometown, and a great place to put a tattoo shop, in my opinion. Sadly, my publisher didn’t agree. Because of shows like Miami Ink and L.A. Ink, they were veering toward something a little more glitzy and glamorous. After some discussion, we all finally agreed on Las Vegas.

I love making the setting a character in my books, and Vegas is so full of character that it’s so easy to bring it to life on the page, even though the time I’ve actually spent there has been so short. I love the craziness of the Strip, where people wander from casino to casino along the palm tree-lined main drag; the amazing resorts, which give us Paris, Venice, Rome, and New York all in one place; and the stunning views of the desert and mountains at Red Rock Canyon.

I felt that when I created my real characters, I needed them to match the city: big and colorful. Which is why writing about a tattoo shop in Las Vegas is absolutely perfect.

Brett Kavanaugh, my protagonist who owns The Painted Lady in the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes, is a tall, slender redhead with Monet’s water lily garden extending down her arm, a dragon tattoo that curves around her torso and up over her cleavage, and a tiger lily stretching from breast to hip on her side. She gets another tattoo sleeve at the end of PRETTY IN INK, but I won’t give away what it is.

Her employees are colorful, too. Joel Sloane is a big guy with a long braid down his back and barbed wire tattoos on his neck. He looks like a biker but he’s got a much gentler nature. Bitsy Hendricks, the office manager, has no tattoos, but she’s a little person with a huge personality. Ace van Nes is the pretty boy tattooist who craves to be a “true” artist. Brett’s nemesis, Jeff Coleman, who owns Murder Ink, a rival tattoo shop, matches the gritty side of Vegas. He’s an old-school tattooist whose shop is lined with flash, stock tattoos.

Because Vegas is so over-the-top, when I was devising a plot for PRETTY IN INK, I knew the sky was the limit. So in this particular book, I’ve got drag queens playing a major role. They’re wonderfully flashy, with names like Britney Brassieres, MissTique, Shanda Leer, and Miranda Rites, and tattoos and costumes to match. And even though I discovered that there’s a huge drag queen contingent in New Haven, I know the storyline and characters just wouldn’t have worked here. They had to be in Vegas. Just like the series.

Have you ever been to Vegas? If you have, what’s your favorite thing to do there? And if you haven’t, do you want to go?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring is coming . . . BUT . . . by Earl Staggs

 Earl Staggs spent most of his life in Maryland and working as a salesman. When he and his wife gave up the cold winters of the north and moved south -- first to Florida and now in Fort Worth -- he decided to try something he’d always dreamed of. He’d always dreamed of being a fiction writer. That was in 1995, and the first step was to join a class at the local community college in Gainesville, Florida. The class happened to be about writing short mystery stories, so that’s where he started.

Over the next few years, his stories appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies. One of them brought home a Derringer Award as Best Short Mystery of the Year. He joined the Short Mystery Fiction Society and served as its Vice President, then President. He also served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, a role he feels was a great help in developing his own writing abilities.

After honing his skills with short stories, Earl wrote a mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER, which received twelve Five Star reviews on and B&

Spring is coming. . .BUT. . .
by Earl Staggs

Don’t you hate it when a sentence ends with a big BUT? Remember back in the day when your best girlfriend would say, “My boyfriend brought a date for you, BUT. . .? Or your cousin would say, “I brought your red dress back, BUT. . . .” For us guys, it was more like, “I brought your car back, BUT. . . .”

Well, spring is coming in this weekend, BUT it’s arriving here in North Texas with a severe cold front and the possibility of snow. That’s right. Snow. We’ve already had a record snowfall this year, but they’re saying we will probably get a little more right on the heels of the official arrival of spring.

Now, keep in mind this is Texas where snow is rare. My wife and I spent most of our lives in Maryland where we were used to two or three real blizzards every winter with the white stuff measuring from twenty to thirty inches each time. Our big snowfall here this year only amounted to fourteen inches, BUT that is huge for here. It certainly didn’t compare with the thirty inches my brother had in Maryland or the twenty-six inches our daughter had in New Jersey. And if you look at Kaye’s pictures right here on M&M, you’ll see she and Donald had one relentless dump of snow after another all winter.

BUT, you know what? Even if we get a dusting of snow this weekend, it will be gone by the next day and spring will still be here. I love spring and not even freezing temperatures and a smattering of snow will ruin it for me.

Spring is a new beginning. It means we’ve made it through the worst and the best is yet to come. Here in Texas, the countryside will burst into color with the blooming of wildflowers. Breathtaking displays will sprout up in yellow, white, pink and red along with the official state flower, the Bluebonnet.

There’s already new life in the pastures. I’ve spotted new calves and foals cavorting and kicking up their little heels, but not straying too far from their mommas. Plump and furry little prairie critters are sticking their heads up out of their underground condos and saying, “The coast is clear, guys. Come on out.” Over in the brush, the hungry coyotes hunker down, saying, “Steady, boys, they’re coming out.” Ah, the cruel cycle of life.

Trees and shrubs are awakening in yards all over the neighborhood to change the drab browns of winter to the greens of spring. All this means, of course, getting the tools and equipment of the season ready. The mower needs to be cleaned and oiled and blade needs sharpening. There’ll be trips to Home Depot for fertilizer, weed killer and maybe a new hose.

BUT. . .all that’s okay. None of that will dampen my spirits for spring. It’s a new beginning for another year and I’m going to enjoy it. I hope you do, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday Morning Meanderings and Memories From Home

We're making a few changes around the house.  Much needed updating, and I'm excited about it all, but you know what this means - - - one thing leads to another.  And while that's fun, it also costs more than you originally thought, right?  big sigh.

The upholstery man is supposed to come this weekend and pick up a chair and a loveseat and when he returns them it'll be a whole new look.

This little loveseat

will come home with this fabric replacing the old blue checks

and this tired old chair

which has been around dressed in many different looks for an awful lot of years (it was originally in our apartment in Cambridge when I was still living at home with my folks), will come back dressed in this

I'm excited.

But now I also have to find a new rug to replace the old blue braided rug which, obviously, won't do at all.   Finding one we both like that will also fit in the budget is proving to be tough.

Last night we did something that we didn't think had a thing in the world to do with the remodeling.  And it for sure was not in the budget.  We went to Cheap Joe's Art Stuff to see a local art show.  If any of you are artists, I know you're familiar with Cheap Joe's - they're well known for their first rate on-line catalog for art supplies.  They've also become quite well-known for their classes.  I was lucky enough to take one of those classes a couple years ago.  It was taught by watercolor/mixed media collage artist Cathy Taylor, and it was one of the coolest things ever.  I hope to do it again one of these days.  Going to an art class from 8 to 5, Monday through Friday was a whole different feeling and mindset than working those same hours at a "real" job. 

The art show was top notch and very impressive.  Our friend Jill placed 2nd and that was very cool.  She's an exceptionally talented woman and it's a thrill to see her work recognized.

After visiting the show, we discovered that Cheap Joe, aka Joe Miller - artist extraordinaire,  now has a small gallery just off the retail area of the shop.  oh my. 

We came home with this

The name is "Purple Glens of Grandfather."  And I just love it.  We hung it in THE perfect spot, and looking at it is like finding a single point of serenity.

Grandfather in the title refers to Grandfather Mountain which is a local treasure.  Grandfather Mountain is  almost 6,000 feet high and gets its name from the fact that the ridge resembles an old man's profile.

And all this has reminded me of a funny "growing up in Cambridge story."

You've heard me wax poetic about Cambridge, Maryland where I was born and raised and is still the home of my heart.

You've heard me talk about the apartment we lived in from the time I was 3 months old until I was 16 - The Arcade Apartments.

There are a lot of Arcade Stories and they're still told with hoots, hollers and guffaws in my family.

Here's one relating to redecorating.

Mother and Dad loved to take weekend trips.  Seems the three of us were piling into the car and going on little weekend trips all the time. This particular weekend while we were off doing who knows what, my Uncle Jimmy was going to paint our dining room for us.  Mom & Dad bought the paint and I remember them telling Jimmy to be careful with it 'cause it was really all they could afford, but it should be enough to cover the walls if he was careful.

Our dining room was a big open room with a big bay window.  The sun would shine through that window seems like all the time.  Well, the sun told tales on my Uncle Jim.

When we got home on Sunday evening, everyone seemed really pleased about how freshened up the room looked with its new paint and Mother called Jimmy to thank him.

The next day was a whole different story, let me tell you.  Whew.

Seems my Uncle Jim, who is quite an artist himself, invited a friend to help him paint.  And adult beverages were involved during the painting.  Artistic tendencies arose.  From the muses came pictures of Mickey Mouse and all his friends on our dining room walls.  The painters, at some point, realized this was not what my folks had in mind when they asked to have the walls painted, so they painted over the Disney guys.  But, not well enough.  When the sun started streaming into the windows, those images showed right through the paint.

It's made for hilarious stories since, but things were a little tense around the apartment when it came to Uncle Jimmy for awhile.  He did come back, and he did put another coat on the walls and it did help, but even years later, if you knew where to look, you could find a shadow of Mickey's face.  or Goofy's.  And, honestly?  If was a lovely thing.  What is lovelier, after all, than a home that has some whimsy and can make you smile?  That's what makes it "home."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Ides of March - - - Maybe. By Mary Welk

Mary V. Welk writes the award winning “Rhodes to Murder” mystery series, including A Merry Little Murder, The Rune Stone Murders, To Kill A King, and The Scarecrow Murders. Her short stories include “Code Blue” in Chicago Blues; The Case of the Fugitive Farmer in Missing; the 2007 Lovey Award winner A Family Affair in Deadly Ink; “Murder Most Politic” in Blondes in Trouble and “Hickory, Dickory, Doc” (Amazon Kindle shorts). Her essay Emma Lathen appears in the 2007 Anthony Award winner Mystery Muses (Crum Creek Press). A member of Sisters in Crime, Mary is a former columnist and feature writer for Mystery Scene Magazine. and




The Ides of March - - - Maybe
by Mary Welk

It’s March 15—the Ides of March—and I know what you’re thinking.

Right now the unspoken words tumbling madly through your brain sound something like this:

‘Oh, please. (dramatic eye roll) Not another lecture on Julius Caesar and his good buddy Brutus. (heavy sigh) We all know Caesar was assassinated on this day back in 44 B.C. (even heavier sigh accompanied by a semi-eye roll) And thanks to Shakespeare, we’ve all heard the words “Beware the Ides of March” and “Et tu, Brute?” at least a hundred times, if not more. (VERY heavy sigh accompanied by hopeless shake of the head) And if it’s not Caesar, I suppose you’re going to tell us about the Hash House Harriers who commemorate the Ides of March each year by running around Rome in togas (snicker, snicker), or the Dagorhir Battle Games boys who dress as medieval warriors and celebrate the day by whacking away at each other with foam swords and shields (snicker, snicker, snort). Or if you’re really out to annoy us (slight growl in the voice accompanied by marked frown), you’ll explain how the Temple Hill Association holds a dinner every March 15^th to honor George Washington who, through cleverness and attention to his enemies—the main one being Continental Army General Horatio Gates; also known as “Granny” Gates for his reluctance to attack the British army (snicker, snort, giggle)—managed to quell an uprising of Continental Army officers on the Ides of March, 1783; credit must be given to the said Temple Hill Association since it manages the historic Edmonston House in New York, headquarters during the Revolutionary War to the aforementioned and rather ineffectual General Gates (scratch of the head and shrug of the shoulders). And then…”

Okay, already! You can stop now; I got the message! I will not—and I repeat, WILL NOT—mention the present month or day again, nor will I utter the words ‘I*** of M****’ at any future point in this blog. Instead, I will share with you my thoughts on spring in general and seed/bulb/plant catalogs in particular.

Spring officially begins on the 20^th of M…. er, I mean, on the 20^th day of the month following February. But it seems to me that spring actually arrives weeks earlier and comes courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service. In short, it arrives with the delivery of the first garden catalog. And this, for me, is a real problem.

You see, I have a rather large garden. It extends down one entire side of the backyard in a six-foot width, crosses the rear of the yard in a slightly narrower swath, then jumps to a ten-foot diameter circle near the pussy willow tree before edging back up toward the house next to the garage where it ends at a small pond. Another three-foot wide track follows the opposite side of the garage. Gardens also occupy three areas in front of the house, some parts of them in shade and some in sun. All this garden space makes for a great many plants, 95% of which are perennials, some of them dating back to when we moved into our house 30-plus years ago. The one thing I do not have room for is more flowers.

But the catalogs arrive, and I am tempted by the latest hybrid lily and hardy geranium. I argue with myself as I consider the “No Strings Attached!” and “Double Your Money!” coupons displayed on the catalog covers.

ME: If I divide the hosta under the birch tree, I’d have room there for a bleeding heart.

MYSELF: You planted a white one by the hosta last year and it didn’t take, remember?

ME: White ones are probably more delicate than the old fashioned pink ones. A pink bleeding heart would take under that tree.

MYSELF: Don’t kid yourself. The only thing that soil is good for is hostas. And you already have two bleeding hearts under the pussy willow. You don’t need another one.

ME: Well, I love this pink Razzmartazz coneflower. You have to agree, it’s beautiful.

MYSELF: Beautiful, smeautiful. You’ve already got three patches of coneflowers.

ME: None like this. All mine are purple, while this one…

MYSELF: …is too pricey. Besides, there’s no room for it in the garden. Chuck the catalog and save your money.

ME: But the coupon…

MYSELF: Don’t talk to me about coupons! They never cover the cost of the plants, and by the time you pay the shipping…

ME: You’re an old grouch. An old, CHEAP grouch.

MYSELF: I prefer to think of myself as ‘thrifty’. You, on the other hand…

And thus my mental argument continues until the day when I pick up the catalog and discover I’ve missed the coupon’s cut-off date by twenty-four hours. By then the snowdrops and crocuses are in full bloom, the tulips and daffodils are several inches above ground, and there’s a hint of green where the Virginia bluebells are just now returning to life. I look at the yard and realize I couldn’t squeeze one more plant into my already overcrowded garden. And that really doesn’t bother me because I love it just the way it is.

And if I didn’t, there’s always another catalog on the way.


Thanks to Kaye for giving me this opportunity to be silly in print. It must be spring fever catching up with me. Since I can’t mention the dreaded I*** of M****, I’ll simply wish you a happy two days before St. Patrick’s Day!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Here to Cheer You Up - Cornelia Read

Cornelia Read went to kindergarten in New York, California, and Hawaii--all in the same year. She still wants to live in all three simultaneously, but currently finds herself in New Hampshire, which still comes as rather a surprise every morning. Her husband used to refer to her as "the lightning rod for entropy in the universe." She now refers to him as "my first husband."

Her third novel INVISIBLE BOY is due out from Hachette/Grand Central Publishing on March 30th. If there's anything else you would like to know, please check out her website at

Here to Cheer You Up

If you ever get to the point with writing where you feel that, as James Joyce once said, "writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives," here are some jokes to cheer you up:


A visitor to a certain college paused to admire the new Hemingway Hall that had been built on campus.

    "It's a pleasure to see a building named for Ernest Hemingway," he said.
    "Actually," said his guide, "it's named for Joshua Hemingway. No relation."
    The visitor was astonished. "Was Joshua Hemingway a writer, also?"
    "Yes, indeed," said his guide. "He wrote a check." 


Do you know the difference between God and an editor?
God doesn't think he's an editor.


I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?"
She answered, "If I tell you, it will defeat the purpose." 


A writer died and was given the choice of going to heaven or hell.
She decided to check out her options before deciding. The writer descended into the fiery pits, where row upon row of writers were chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they typed, they were whipped with thorny lashes.
"This sucks," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."
She ascended into heaven only to discover rows of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.
"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"
"Not quite," replied an unseen voice. "Up here you get published."


 Q. What's the difference between publishers and terrorists?
   A. You can negotiate with terrorists.


Once upon a time, a young boy professed his desire to become a great writer.
When asked to define great, he said, "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!"

Now he works for Microsoft.


How many science fiction writers does it take to change a light bulb?
Two, but it's actually the same person. He went back in time and met himself in the doorway and then climbed onto his alter-ego's shoulders so that they could reach the ceiling fixture. Then a major time paradox occurred and the entire room, light bulb, and both guys were blown out of existence. They continued to co-exist in a parallel universe, however.


How many publishers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Three. One to screw it in. Two to hold down the author.


How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
One. But she has to stop when she's screwed it almost all the way in, then give it a surprising twist at the end.

Broken lightbulb

How many blurb writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?


How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
1st draft. Hero changes light bulb.
2nd draft. Villain changes light bulb.
3rd draft. Hero stops villain from changing light bulb. Villain falls to death.
4th draft. Lose the light bulb.
5th draft. Light bulb back in. Fluorescent instead of tungsten.
6th draft. Villain breaks bulb, uses it to kill hero's mentor.
7th draft. Fluorescent not working. Back to tungsten.
8th draft. Hero forces villain to eat light bulb.
9th draft. Hero laments loss of light bulb. Doesn't change it.
10th draft. Hero changes light bulb.


Q: How many copy editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: I can't tell whether you mean 'change a light bulb' or 'have sex in a light bulb.' Can we reword it to remove the ambiguity?


Q: How many editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Only one. But first they have to rewire the entire building.


Q: How many art directors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Does it HAVE to be a light bulb?


Q: How many copy editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: The last time this question was asked, it involved art directors. Is the difference intentional? Should one or the other instance be changed? It seems inconsistent.


Q: How many marketing directors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: It isn't too late to make this neon instead, is it?


Q: How many proofreaders does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Proofreaders aren't supposed to change light bulbs. They should just query them.


Q: How many booksellers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Only one, and they'll be glad to do it too, except no one shipped them any.


Three guys are sitting at a bar.
#1: "...Yeah, I make $75,000 a year after taxes."
#2: "What do you do for a living?"
#1: "I'm a stockbroker. How much do you make?
#2: "I should clear $60,000 this year."
#1: "What do you do?"
#2: "I'm an architect."
The third guy has been sitting there quietly, staring into his beer, when the others turn to him.
#2: "Hey, how much do you make per year?"
#3: "Gee... hmmm... I guess about $13,000."
#1: "Oh yeah? What kind of novels do you write?"


A male romance novelist was hiking in the mountains, and he came upon a shepherd who was tending a large herd of sheep that were grazing in the alpine meadow. The writer took a fancy to the sheep, and asked the shepherd: "If I can guess how many sheep you have, can I have one?"
The shepherd thought this was an odd request, but thought that there was little chance that the man would guess the exact number of sheep, so he said "Sure."
The writer guessed "You have 287 sheep," to the shepherd's astonishment, since this was exactly how many sheep he had.
The writer got excited and asked "Can I pick out my sheep now?" and the shepherd grudgingly gave his permission. The writer selected his sheep, bent over, and swung the sheep over his shoulders, to carry home with him.
The shepherd then asked "If I guess what your occupation is, can I have my sheep back?" The novelist was a
bit surprised by this, but figured that it was unlikely that the shepherd would be able to guess his occupation, and went along with the deal. The shepherd then guessed "You're a romance novelist, aren't you?"
The writer was very surprised and asked, "How did you know?"
The shepherd responded, "Put the dog down and we'll talk about it."


Q: How can you tell if a blonde writes mysteries?
A: She has a checkbook.


And speaking of Microsoft...

Got any more jokes? I could use a few....