The Tao of Doo


In his kind and generous review of my first mystery, DEATH NOTICE, author James Reasoner said the plot was vaguely reminiscent of something found in Scooby-Doo, only played seriously. He meant it as a compliment and I took it Read more

BAD MOON Rises


Another October, another release date. Since BAD MOON is my second book, you would think I'd be used to it. But nope, I'm not. BAD MOON's publication date feels as surreal as DEATH NOTICE's did last year. For readers, the Read more

Writing With ... Louise Penny


I am thrilled beyond words to welcome one of my favorite writers, Louise Penny, whose Armand Gamache mysteries have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide.  Her last book, BURY YOUR DEAD, won the Ellis for best mystery in Canada, and Read more

Is Browsing Dead?


I'll be the first to admit that I was a nerdy teenager. Not pocket protector nerdy, but no sports star, either. I was bookish, I guess you could say. I read A LOT back then, and nothing pleased me Read more

Why We Left Earth


Outer space has always been a mystery. Even before mankind fully grasped its vastness, they wanted to go there. Early astronomers, fascinated by the stars, invented ways to get a closer view. Think Copernicus, Galileo, Cassini. Writers not content Read more

Writing With

Writing With … Hilary Davidson

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Today I welcome Hilary Davidson, one of the nicest and most talented authors out there. Hilary’s debut, THE DAMAGE DONE, won the 2011 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. It also won a Crimespree Award and was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis and Macavity awards. Her second novel, THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, was released today. Visit her online at www.hilarydavidson.com.

Q. Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

My new book is THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, a mystery set in Peru. It’s a sequel to THE DAMAGE DONE, and I wanted to follow the main character, Lily Moore, after her life fell apart in the first book. The new novel begins three months later, and Lily is still grieving and shell-shocked. There’s no one in the world she trusts except her best friend, Jesse, who’s convinced her to travel to Peru with him. When the THE NEXT ONE TO FALL begins, they’ve just arrived at Machu Picchu, where they overhear a couple fighting and then discover a woman dying at the bottom of a staircase. When the police write off the death as an accident, Lily hunts down the woman’s boyfriend, who turns out to have a trail of dead and missing women behind him.

Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

I went to Peru for three weeks in the fall of 2007. The main reason for the trip was research for travel stories, but I knew that I wanted to set a novel there. I loved exploring the Inca sites, and I got obsessed with how they built them — Peru is one big earthquake zone, so colonial and modern structures are frequently damaged or destroyed, yet the Inca ones are not. Fascinating fact: the Incas were incredibly advanced when it came to engineering, architecture, agriculture and astronomy. But at the same time, they didn’t have a writing system and they never discovered the wheel.

Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

If I weren’t writing I’d worry about being locked away for having multiple personality disorder. There are voices in my head and they want to be heard.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

In a way, I’m always writing, because even if I’m not in front of my computer, I’m probably working out details of a story in the back of my brain, or else collecting material to use later. I love just walking around exploring neighborhoods — I do that at home in New York, in my hometown of Toronto, and pretty much everywhere else I find myself. I travel a lot for work and for pleasure.

Q. What are you reading right now?

CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin. Really enjoying it.

Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would
you want to have with you?

That’s such a tough question, and my answer would probably chance depending on the day you ask me. Right now I’ll say the complete works of Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe; a collection of all of Truman Capote’s short stories and novellas (BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S has to be in there); a collection of Romantic Poetry (Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, etc); finally, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, because I’ve read everything else by Dostoyevsky and I’m embarrassed I haven’t read that book yet.

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

Casablanca.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

Cherries. I will eat them morning, noon, and night if given the chance. That said, I despise anything cherry-flavored. Cheese and chocolate are close runners-up.

Q. Cats or dogs?

I love both. Sadly, my husband is also allergic to both.

Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.

I’m addicted to my mini-trampoline. I will jump on it for hours, given the chance. I don’t do it for exercise — it’s purely fun.

Writing With … Grant Jerkins

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Today I welcome Grant Jerkins, author of A VERY SIMPLE CRIME. I first learned about Grant when our debuts were paired together on Amazon.com. He sent me an e-mail introducing himself and now we’re Facebook buds. Such is the way of modern publishing. His latest book is AT THE END OF THE ROAD and it’s getting fantastic buzz. You can learn more about Grant  and his books at www.grantjerkins.com.

Q. Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

AT THE END OF THE ROAD is based on a real incident from my childhood. In the summer of 1976, when I was ten, I was riding my bicycle in the middle of the dirt road in front of my house when a car came speeding around a curve in the road. To avoid hitting me, the woman behind the wheel had to swerve. Her car flipped and rolled, ending up on its side. The woman crawled out, bloody and battered. She asked me to help her, but I ran away. I was scared. I was just ten years old. So I ran away and never told a soul. The next day I went back and the car was gone. No sign of the accident remained. The woman and her car had just disappeared. AT THE END OF THE ROAD is my imagining of what might have happened to that woman.

Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

Because the story takes place in 1976, I did do a good bit of research, not wanting to rely on my memory alone. Drano plays a crucial role in the story, and I would say 95% of that research time was spent on learning as much about Drano as I possibly could. It was essential I know what color the liquid was and what type of container it came in. In 1976, Liquid Drano (the crystal formulation was more prominent) was a blue liquid that came in a red, white, and blue metal bottle with a plastic cap.

Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

Really? Everybody I know who can sound out a sentence wants to write them, too. Seriously, every reader I’ve ever met is certain they can write a book. They’re just biding their time. I was the same way.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I enjoy amateur medical research. Nothing heavy duty. You know Hemingway prided himself on his medical knowledge.

Q. What are you reading right now?

I’m reading DISSECTION OF THE DOG AND CAT by Michael Shively. It’s for a special project.

Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would you want to have with you?

I would want books that I probably wouldn’t normally read for pleasure. I mean, how many times can you read THE SHINING? With that in mind, I would bring the Bible, the Koran, works of Shakespeare — but I wonder if I would regret that strategy? I wonder if I would find myself reading Leviticus by firelight and wishing I had some Stephen King on hand? Leviticus is pretty dry. It’s quite the dilemma you’ve presented here. Maybe I would bring five blank journals and write my own books. Is that cheating? Or what if I was Burgess Meredith and I broke my glasses and I couldn’t read anything at all? That would be the ultimate twist. I really like this question, Todd.

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

Honestly, anything with Burgess Meredith.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

Pineapple and mayonnaise sandwiches.

Q. Cats or dogs?

I’ve constructed a 100% medically accurate petipede. CatDogCatDog.

Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.

I think the petipede would surprise most people. It’s really alarming the first time you see it. I mean really alarming. I was just thinking, I wonder if I could bring Burgess Meredith and the petipede to that deserted island? And a can of Drano in case I want to continue my research. Do you want to know the secret to constructing a 100% medically accurate petipede? It’s Drano, Todd. Drano. It smooths the edges.

Writing With … Rochelle Staab

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I’m thrilled to welcome Rochelle Staab to the blog to help her celebrate the release of her debut mystery, WHO DO, VOODOO? I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Rochelle at three writers conference now, resulting in much gabbing on the sidewalks and in the hotel lobbies of San Francisco, New York and St. Louis. Rochelle is an award-winning former radio and music industry executive. WHO DO, VOODOO?, the first novel in her Mind for Murder mystery series, features Los Angeles psychologist Liz Cooper and religious philosophy professor Nick Garfield. You can visit Rochelle’s website at: www.rochellestaab.com

Q. Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

A. WHO DO, VOODOO? is a murder mystery with a voodoo twist, combining my love for mystery with a long-standing awe of mysticism. Throw in some charlatans inspired by the abundance of psychic shops in L.A. and my plot took shape. Liz is a no-nonsense clinical psychologist who views the supernatural as an emotional crutch, nothing more than search for outside explanations for personal inner conflicts. But when her best friend Robin finds a menacing tarot card on her front door — the same card drawn in a reading for Robin’s husband the day before his death two years earlier — Liz sets out to locate the cruel harasser. In the search for the card’s origin, Liz enlists the aid of professor Nick Garfield, her brother’s college roommate and expert in religious philosophy and the occult. Nick introduces Liz to the voodoo subculture in Los Angeles. When their search leads to a dead body and Robin becomes the prime murder suspect, Liz has to cast aside her doubts to trap a scheming killer while dodging a voodoo curse. Belief systems are polarizing and I present several viewpoints on the supernatural: Liz the skeptic, Nick the intellectual observer, and a cast of characters with mild to serious investments in the occult. Who is right and what is real is up to the reader to decide.

Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

A. Researching voodoo and the supernatural made for a lot of interesting outings, from voodoo tours to psychic readings. I took four months of tarot classes to fine-tune my card reading skills. But one of the most interesting theories I learned from studying voodoo, witchcraft, and the occult is the ubiquitous fact that whatever you do comes back to you. The boomerang effect threads through every alternative belief system I researched.

Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

A. Natural curiosity and a desire to create. Dialog ran through my mind since I was a child, composition was easy for me in school. After many fun decades in the music industry marketing the talents of recording artists, I found I had a desire to make my own creative imprint. I knew nothing about novel structure or the publishing business so I enrolled in the UCLA Writers’ Program — one of my better decisions.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A. Sleep. I adore my bed. I also like crowds and get great pleasure in attending conferences, movies, sporting events, and parties. I love visiting friends. I was the kid who didn’t want to go home from school and I still thrive from taking classes. And once a week I bring my lunch to Santa Monica beach to take in the beauty and power of the Pacific Ocean.

Q. What are you reading right now?

A. Barbara Michaels’ AMMIE, COME HOME. I was in the mood for a good, creepy, supernatural story and Michaels (aka Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Mertz) delivers.

Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would you want to have with you?

A. I assume you don’t mean ESCAPING DESERTED ISLANDS FOR DUMMIES or the one-volume Columbia Encyclopedia. If you allow me sets, I could narrow my choices down to the complete works of P.G. Wodehouse, William Shakespeare, Aristotle, W.H. Auden, and Oscar Wilde. I can’t single out one from each. It’s too hard.

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

A. Without hesitation, Bull Durham. The 1988 flick combines my three required elements for a good movie—good setting, good clothes, at least one good kiss—with minor league baseball (I LOVE baseball) and a strong dose of hoodoo. Great banter. Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) delivers my absolutely favorite movie kissing quote: “I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.” Oh, yes. I made Liz’s ex-husband in WHO DO, VOODOO? a baseball player because of Bull Durham.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

A. Turkey dinners in autumn and winter; watermelon in spring and summer.

Q. Cats or dogs?

A. Cats. I love animals, adore dogs, but cats taught me volumes about living and loving. Cats are mystical. Like babies, they can see the what-whats over your shoulder. Cats come when they’re called. But always at their leisure. Cats are intuitive. They sense when your mind disappears into a book or into your computer, and then they sit on top of the offending item to bring you back. Cats do what they want, when they want.

Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.

A. Just between us, okay? On Sunday and Monday from September through January, I am a NFL statistical dweeb. I enjoy numbers and record weekly statistics for all 32 teams, watch the Red Zone Channel (all games) on Sunday, and I prefer not go out on Sunday or Monday nights. Although I’ve never been to the Super Bowl, I did attend the Ice Bowl, one of the greatest NFL games in history. The wind chill factor was 48 degrees BELOW zero but silly me was on a date so I dressed for cuteness not for warmth. I still remember my numb toes and the scent of whiskey drifting above Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

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