Thursday, November 30, 2006

people doin' stuff

J.A. Konrath is giving away books.

How does a writer top a 500 + bookstore marathon? He gives away books. And just in time for Christmas. Read about it on Joe's blog:


or download from his website:
joe's free books

and Sandra Ruttan isn't one to stand still for a second. she has a new and very cool blog:


"International publishers. Smaller presses. Authors to watch for. Underground projects. Contests. E-zines. Email IN FOR QUESTIONING with publishing news. Help us help you spread the word."

move over keillor

I used to read Garrison Keillor years ago, but I reached a point where I wanted more realism to my humor. Some grit. I wanted the person telling the story to know it was real and to have lived it. and then there was that whole lawsuit thing that came up last year when keillor threatened to sue mnspeak for selling t shirts that said PRAIRIE HO COMPANION.

but anyway...

I've always wanted to be a curmudgeon, and was disappointed to find that this is something only bestowed upon men. i find that sexist.

but anyway...

enough about me. there's a new curmudgeon in St. Paul and he goes by the name of Hulles. i don't know if he's old enough to actually be a curmudgeon, but i think with the right frame of mind even a teenager can be one.

but anyway...
this is one of the funniest things i've read in a long time:

funny stuff

and i think it really captures the minnesota state of mind. nothing is a big deal even when it is a big deal.

last chance to see dead people

Body Worlds closes in a few days, so after getting my manuscript finished and emailed i headed for the science museum.

"See more than 200 real human bodies preserved through the process of PLASTINATION, invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens. Understand your body in a whole new way."

1) it cost too much -- $22.00 -- that's not including Omnitheater.

2) it was so crowded i needed a periscope to see the majority of flat-case displays.

the actual bodies could be seen because they stood on platforms, but the display cases were almost impossible to see. i felt sorry for people in wheelchairs. The rooms were simply too small, so you basically shuffled from one bottleneck to another.

3) i'm not used to rubbing up against so many strangers is such tight quarters.

highlights: fetuses, and horse with rider. i should add that the fetuses were from old collections and hadn't been put through the plastination process. unfortunately plastination makes everything look fake. On a scale of 1 to 10, i would give body worlds a 4. Maybe a 6 if not for the poor layout. should i rate the bathrooms? dirty and no toilet paper in the two we visited.

they're protecting the privacy of the donors and donor's families, but i kept wondering about the personal history. as a writer, i really wanted to know who these peope were. just a paragraph. i even wanted to know about the horse. especially the horse.

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

The Graduate

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Rap Sheet and Ali Karim

The charming and dashing Ali Karim has posted an interview with me over at

The Rap Sheet.

Ali Karim is the assistant editor of the e-zine Shots, a contributing editor at January Magazine, writes for Deadly Pleasures and Crimespree magazines and an associate member [and literary judge] for both the British Crime Writers Association as well as The International Thriller Writers Inc; and also helps judge Deadly Pleasures' Barry Awards.

Regular readers of my blog won't find anything new in my responses, but scroll down and check out Ali's next post:

The Surreal Influence of Fate. Very interesting reading.

Thanks, Ali!

Monday, November 27, 2006

my book made me bald

going telogen

a few days after the release of Pale Immortal i started losing my hair and the fallout hasn't let up.

i don't know if any of you remember the shower problem i had at bouchercon in madison. the drain didn't work. apparently every room in the hotel had its own variation of plumbing nightmares, and moving wouldn't have helped. by day 2 or 3 i broke down and actually used the shower. ick, ick, ick!! which meant the tub then contained a foot of water -- along with about a pound of hair. it looked like some poor shih tzu had been murdered.

when the hair loss didn't slow down, i went in for thyroid tests which came out fine. my doctor asked if i'd been under a lot of stress lately. (HELL YES!!!) i demurely said i had, and that the stress was work related. i didn't even bother trying to explain the whole writing thing because most outsiders tend to think of writing as a life of luxury and i knew such thoughts would immediately lead him in the wrong direction. but even skipping hints of cozy cardigans and afternoon strolls on the moor, my doctor didn't think work-related stress would be enough to make my hair fall out.

people who know about hair have asked me the same question: have you experienced an unusual amount of stress in the past few months? and my answer is i've never been so continuously stressed out over a book and its release in my life. the anxiety has been unrelenting. i think because so much was on my shoulders and i had to prove myself for reasons i won't go into here.

so let's examine the life of a hair.

A single hair follicle grows its hair strand over a period of four to six years (the anagen phase). It then rests for two to four months (the telogen phase), after which it loses the "old" hair as a new hair shaft grows and pushes out its predecessor. When the new hair grows in, it does so at a rate of approximately half an inch per month. At any time, 10 percent of your hair is in the telogen phase and 90 percent is in the anagen phase.

If lots of hair begins to fall out throughout the scalp, it's obviously due to a change in the normal hair cycle: either a short anagen phase or an increase in the number of follicles that enter the telogen phase. When the majority of hair follicles "go telogen" it's called telogen effluvium or stress alopecia. A shock to the body's system, which stresses the hair follicles, is often to blame for this change in cyclical hair events. Two to three months after the stressor hits, up to 70 percent of hairs can enter the telogen phase and commence a massive fallout.

stress isn't the only path to hair loss. other suspects are chemical changes in the body, a new prescription, or even an over-the-counter drug. some say hair dye can cause fallout, but in haircolor cases most experts say the hair will break off, not fall out by the roots. in the majority of massive hair loss, the trigger is never determined. but i'm sure i'll always remember pale immortal as the book that made me bald.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

describe a book in one sentence

One-sentence descriptions seem scary, but they always end up being fun. Kind of like flash fiction. Here's the new one for my current project, plus all the old ones.







Saturday, November 25, 2006

the final stretch

i'm thankful for not getting food poisoning.

i hope everybody else can say that too.

we ended up going to a vietnamese restaurant, then a long walk because it was around 55 degrees here, then home for pumpkin pie which i actually didn't bake myself.

yesterday it was back to work.

i found out my new editor prefers to receive the manuscript by email, so that's given me several more days to tinker.

the above photo was taken a few days ago.

this was the stage where i tag everything that might need attention. the cards contain reminders of things that need to be inserted. i use the scissors to cut scenes and move them to other chapters where i staple them to the adjoining text.

i hope to send it off wednesday or thursday. then comes the period of waiting and high anxiety since not a soul has seen a word of it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

people doin' stuff

a new issue of DEMOLITION is online.

i haven't read all of it yet, but i really enjoyed Russel McLean's and Patricia Abbott's stories.


stephen blackmoore is doing something wonderfully screwy over at L.A. Noir. He's asking for short stories that take their inspiration from mugshots.

email stephen your mugshot story, 500 words or less, and he'll post it on L.A. Noir throughout the remainder of November.

L.A. Noir

Every mugshot tells a story.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

CD release party, good food, surprise band

just got back from a cd release party for the stunnng and signal to trust. this was their fourth lunch show at first avenue's seventh street entry. and yes kids, the rumors were true.

Shellac put in a surprise appearance.

it's daylight outside, but we're standing in a dark, windowless building. black walls, black ceiling, a few blue stage lights, and they start playing this:


steve albini confessed to not having picked up his guitar since September, but that didn't keep the show from being amazing. And the food! the bands prepared a feast that covered bars and tables. a few things: vegetarian chili, BBQ tofu, jerked pork, homemade ice cream, cute, yummy cakes.

but enough about the fantastic food.

buy this album. that's what i'm here to say.

i honestly think it's the best music to come out of the twin cities in several years. the CD is close to perfection on many levels beginning with the unbelievable skill of every single band member all the way through to the recording, mixing, and mastering. the music is unique and impossible to define, with some layers of inspiration drawn from comic books. the end result is a deeply compelling view through a new and amazing window.




read more about the band: SIGNAL TO TRUST

rather than comparing cds to other cds, i thought it would be interesting to compare them to books and movies that evoke similar emotions in the viewer or reader. i haven't yet come up with a good comparison for GOLDEN ARMOUR. here are the first things that immediately streamed into my consciousness:

bladerunner and 2001. both too dark.

as far as a book...

radio planet. i read this book when i was about nine. Then i read it about 20 more times over a period of a couple of years.
again not a good comparison choice, but it was the first thing that popped into my head.

maybe the comparison to radio planet was because i recalled the feeling of finding something completely new and exciting that introduced me to another world. something that evoked an unnamed, undefined emotion i'd never before experienced. i had to read the book again and again in order to revisit that strange, new emotion. hmmm. i guess radio planet is the perfect comparison.

Friday, November 17, 2006

creating memories

i keep saying i'm not cooking anything this thursday, but they don't believe me.

this isn't a new thing. the holiday protest happens quite a bit, and nobody ever believes me. my favorite time was when we drove around looking for a place to eat, couldn't find anything open, and ended up at Bobby and Steve's Auto World in Minneapolis.

was that easter? i think i was easter. We left with boiled eggs, giant pickles, and pop. a memory to cherish.

edit: okay, i realize this makes me look really bad, so i have to tell the rest of the story.
at the time of the bobby and steve family event i didn't live in the twin cities. i flew in to see my kids. they picked me up at the airport and we drove around looking for a place to eat. could not find one freakin' place. so the siblings start arguing about who should have been on top of the restaurant thing, and maybe someone should have actually thought about PREPARING a meal. the argument continues as the car flies up and down a deserted EAT STREET. we were the only people alive in all of minneapolis. if you really want to check out a place, do it on a holiday because it's apocalyptic.

but lucky for us bobby and steve's is open all day, every day.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

helen mccloy/mwa mystery writing scholarship

What Is It?
The Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship for Mystery Writing seeks to nurture talent in mystery writing -- in fiction, nonfiction, playwriting, and screenwriting.

Who May Apply?
The scholarship is open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents only. Membership in Mystery Writers of America is not required to apply.

How May the Scholarship Be Used?
The scholarship may be used to offset tuition and fees for U.S. writing workshops, writing seminars, or university/college-level writing programs.

What Is the Scholarship Amount?
MWA will present two scholarships for up to $500 each in summer/fall 2007.

Submission Details
To be considered for the scholarship, applicants must submit the following:
Scholarship application form
Copy of official description of writing workshop, seminar or class printed by the institution/sponsor of program
FIVE COPIES of a mystery writing sample (e.g., 3 chapters from a novel with a synopsis, 3 short stories, 3 pieces of short nonfiction work, 1 screenplay, or 1 play script)
Two letters of recommendation (usually from teachers who can speak to the applicant's writing ability)
Short (300 to 500 word) essay on the applicant's interest in mystery writing
The scholarship committee may also require a syllabus or other documentation from the writing program to be attended.

Submission Address
Submit all materials to:
Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship Committee
PO Box 16319
Saint Paul MN 55116-0319

Application Deadline
All applications must be postmarked by February 28, 2007. No late applications or emailed applications will be accepted.

Contact the Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship Committee at the address above or e-mail

scholarship info

Monday, November 13, 2006

feed your head

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~~~kicking antidepressants~~~

The hardest thing to walk away from was a sleep as deep as death and the incredibly vivid and cool dreams sleep brought. I was living my emotional life while I slept, and my sleeping life while awake. There was a nice thick wall between me and everybody I encountered. But don't try to disrupt that wall because the drug also gave me a new hair-trigger temper.

I moved through the days in a fog, got my work done, but had very little memory of the day once the night rolled around. Because a better world existed in my sleep. But the dreams started to diminish after several months, and I had to increase my dosage to bring them back. I remember a point where I didn't think I was dreaming at all. That's when the weird shit started. I would be doing something really normal, some tedious chore, and I'd suddenly have what can only be called a waking dream. One recurring waking dream involved an ax, a person, and a lot of chopping. When that popped into my head for the third time I decided to quit the drugs. But you have to cut back gradually. And deep sleep in the first thing to go.

Now, eight years later, I still miss that sleep and those dreams and that world.

In my particular case antidepressants really screwed up my sleep/dream cycles.

Very simply and unscientifically put, antidepressants artificially replace serotonin so your own body gradually quits making it. Once you've weaned yourself, it can take your body up to a year, sometimes more, to produce serotonin at the pre-drug level.

I want to add that I'm in no way doing a Tom Cruise. I like drugs, and antidepressants are a little like legal acid.

I'll probably take antidepressants again at some point in my life, but I think people need to know the facts before taking them without a damn good reason. Life sucks quite a bit of the time. That's just the way it is.

An interesting article:

paxil is forever

and of course we know about the fish and can all guess what the tadpole on the right has been snorting.

fish story

White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"
Remember what the dormouse said:
"Feed your head
Feed your head
Feed your head"

Sunday, November 12, 2006

maximum horrors

for quite a while i've wondered where i belong.

i'm not a mystery writer.
i'm kind of suspense.
when international thriller writers came along i was...thrilled. i thought i'd found my home.
but i actually think thriller is something that isn't so much a genre as it is a way to better define a book within a particular genre. political thrillers, mystery thrillers, science fiction thrillers, paranormal thrillers, literary thrillers. yes, they do exist!

where am i going with this?

for quite a while i've wondered if i don't fit a little more solidly in the horror genre.

and to validate that pondering, i get this fantasic review from


I'm sorry. I realize it's hard for other readers and writers to really care about someone else's reviews, but I still had to share this.

" It all adds up to one helluva HORROR NOVEL, easily the best work I've read in 2006. Frasier is a master storyteller, really painting new Tuonela with rain swept streets and foggy twilights. Her character development of Stroud, the loveable Graham, and the heroic Rachel are building blocks upon which a great mystery can be founded. The vampire myth isn't completely overdone, just something that settles in your mind as you watch it unfold. Old Tuonela is something of which nightmares are built, with Frasier really doing wonders by creating a ghost town that was once home to a madman. The crime scenes are vividly described, really showcasing Frasier's endless knowledge of procedure and investigation. While she does those scenes so well, she also manages to make these characters truly special. As we see Stroud struggle with his disease, she also shows us the heartbreaking side of Graham's broken home. By injecting hope, a bit of romance, and the need to save these characters, she resorts to breathtaking storytelling that is both moving and jolting.

The Last Line - This is just simply a masterpiece. I can't wait for the sequel so I can walk Tuonela's streets again."

read entire review here:

Pale Immortal review

my big problem with horror? i can't say the word. it comes out WHORRRRR. any help in overcoming this obstacle will be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

is this thursday?

sorry i haven't been around much.

i'm busy working on the sequel to pale immortal which needs to be completed in a little over two weeks.

pant, pant.

structurally it's kind of odd. maybe very odd, but i hope not confusing. i'm too close to the story to tell. 4 main characters. 4 main viewpoints, with many scenes taking place at the same time. then one first-person viewpoint, which might give it a certain ADD choppiness.

i've been exhausted ever since pale immortal came out. i think some of the exhaustion comes from promoting a new book while trying to write another. but i think the biggest energy suck was caused by my expectations. i usually have zero expectations when a book comes out. i think that's how i survive. of course i want it to do well, but i normally accept that it's out of my hands. i've passed the baton. with Pale Immortal i went heavy on the self-promotion -- thus mentally taking on the burden of the book's marketing success or failure. it wore me out and i haven't recovered.

once the current project is done i should have a few weeks off before the revision. ooh, that's a nice carrot.

Monday, November 06, 2006

blow by blow

How to become an instant hit: take a stave of solid pine, hand it to a friend and ask him to splinter it across your stomach. Or your arm, or even your head. It helps to know just how to brace yourself for the blow. It helps to know how to pack a punch as well as ride one.
Kung fu monks show off their technique
By Guardian Unlimited © Copyright Guardian Newspapers 2006

I probably shouldn't post this.

I'll probably regret it.

I want to preface this post by saying it has absolutely nothing to do with my current situation. My publishing house did a fantastic job getting my latest book in stores, so this is not about them and it's not about me. Last week's big stink about a certain author got me stirred up. I'm not even going to link to it, but people were in an uproar because in a response to a point blank interview question this writer admitted she hasn't always gotten the publisher backing and support she would have liked to have had in her career. Gasp! How dare she?

Before this incident I've taken note of a lot of condemnation toward "outspoken" authors. Personally I experienced an attempted assault on my ass by someone who will remain unnamed because of things I said about the biz, and I've gotten into some arguments with people who say writers aren't supposed to talk about the unfortunate stuff that's happened to them in their careers. That it's equivalent to bad-mouthing your employer. I disagree. People are reducing publishing to a romanticized cozy office business rather than what it is -- a tightly structured corporation with the logical goal of staying in business and making a profit.

You create a product; they buy the product.

Now I'm not talking about someone personalizing a situation and taking out his or her frustration on a blog. Bad idea. Very bad idea. I'm in no way endorsing talking shit, so please don't think that's what this is about. But I do find it hard to understand why people are against writers commenting on stages of their careers and trying to let unpublished writers see that it's not all rosy in here and that different kinds of rejections can occur after a book has been purchased.

Here's how I see it:

1) Your publishing house is not your employer. Writers are self-employed.

2) Your publishing house is not your partner.

If you're lucky you'll have a good working relationship with your editor, but you aren't partners. You could idealistically say you are partners on a project, but there's a certain danger in that kind of thinking because you're creating a false footing. It's a little like saying you and your doctor are partners. It's warm and fuzzy ad-speak. You can like the person. You can enjoy that person's company, but you aren't partners. I've had the same agent for 15 years, but it would be presumptuous of me to say he and I are partners.

Here's something that's way oversimplified, but let's say you just spent three years inventing and created a cool gel pen. You sell the design to a pen factory. You have your money and they can do whatever they want with your pen. So maybe they only do one run and they put it in a few stores around the country, but nobody knows it exists and that's pretty much the end of your pen. You may have had a fantastic relationship with the person who bought your pen, and she will feel sick about what happened, but she was just the buyer in a long process of decisions. And now you're contracted to send this company your next gel pen. I think most people would feel compelled to gripe at least a little. Maybe not even gripe, but share important information. It's all about being prepared for the blow.

Friday, November 03, 2006

sick of blogger

it's screwy all the time, but for the past two weeks it's been almost impossible to use. blogging is time consuming anyway, but when over 50% of that time is spent on things that won't post and comments that vanish -- i'm almost ready to step back and say wake me up when blogger is working again. if that ever happens. blogging in general has dropped off in the past month or two, and i suspect a lot of people are just sick of the frustration.

here's something i tried to post in the comments of angie's blog. it's kind of a cheer for all the nano participants.

when i write in huge chunks i tend to go into a zone i can't reach in short bursts. it really is some kind of zen where good things are born. some awful things too, but the good make the bad worthwhile because you can always pitch the crap.

try to let your creative mind take over, fall into the story, and just enjoy the ride. you can edit and polish like hell later.

quit messin' with my head

back in june my dehumidifier was dying so i put it in the alley next to the trash can hoping it would be picked up. trash collection and recyling wasn't for several days, but the next morning the dehumidifier was gone.

Today I step into the alley and what do i see? the damn dehumidifier right where i left it FIVE FREAKIN' MONTHS AGO.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

you move me

last year i had this big idea that i'd gather suggestions of places to live, bloggers would vote, and i would move there. I called it
You Move Me. people voted and the choice was Savannah, but a delay pushed my current project back several months and i found myself unable to move in the summer of 2006.
it HAS to happen summer 2007, and i'm leaning toward Savannah.

here's the deal. the cost of living is fairly high in the twin cities, and i'm tired of working to make a mortgage payment. every word i write is with my mortgage in mind. i need to turn that around so that i can have more creative freedom and personal freedom. writing is like farming. bad weather is a given, and in case of crop failure a writer should be able to support herself for a year. i sometimes take out loans to get from advance to advance. not good farming.

i've gone through the location suggestions, removing ones that were too expensive or didn't appeal to me, but the list is back up. If you have any suggestions for a specific town, please leave a comment here or there.

i added my hometown of burlington, iowa, to the list because it's a cheap place to live and has a lot of what i'm looking for other than warm weather.





don't forget: I HATE TO DRIVE

You Move Me

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

random beauty

today marks the start of NaNoWriMo. Good luck to everyone participating! years ago i came to the conclusion that a story could be a lot more cohesive if written in one big chunk, or at least thrown down in a short amount of time with very little coming up for air. i had to quit writing like that because i could no longer physically do it. who would think sitting all day could be so crippling, but it's hard on a body.

i've been having a little too much fun with this thing:
typo generator

i decided to try it with book titles. the random generator came up with some pretty cool covers, some titles more obvious than others.