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


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

Is Browsing Dead?

Posted on by Todd Posted in Featured, Musings | 2 Comments

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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 more than going to the local bookstore (By local, I mean a twenty-minute drive) and walking among its shelves.

The store was called Friar Tuck. I believe it was part of a chain that went belly-up years ago. It wasn’t large and the staff wasn’t what you’d call knowledgeable. But it was heaven for this book-deprived kid.

With limited funds in my pocket, I could usually buy only one or two books at a time. But that was the best part. The exquisite torture of making a decision. I’d weigh my options carefully, picking one book before putting it down in favor of another, only to go back and grab the original one. I’d read the jacket copy over and over. I’d scan the first chapter or two. If it was a hardcover, I’d hold it in my hands and enjoy the weight of it. (Weight was important back then. If I was going to shell out for a hardcover, I needed to really feel its heft when reading it.)

I’d spend hours doing that. Probably to the annoyance of those part-time employees. But I found many good books that way. THE SECRET HISTORY. THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. I discovered THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER in that cramped bookstore. And a tawdry little British book called DAMAGE that my classmates passed around like it was a joint.

In other words, I browsed.

Now, not so much. When I go to a bookstore, its usually because I know what I want and make a beeline right toward it. Same thing on the rare occasions I order from Amazon. And it’s definitely the case when buying something on my Kindle.

Browsing, it seems, is dead.

Think about it. It used to be you could go to a store, scan the shelves and find something that struck your fancy. In the age of Amazon, your fancy is pretty much struck for you. Yes, Amazon makes suggestions and bundles books together, but you can only see what they show you or what books you actually know about. How can you find something new and unknown if there’s no longer a way to stumble upon it?

It’s even worse with the Kindle. Don’t get me wrong. I love mine. But it’s easier to make a chocolate souffle than to find an unheralded book on the Kindle. That’s why Kindle users all seem to be buying the same handful of books. It’s all they know about and all they see. Thus, it’s all they purchase. There’s no “Surprise Me!” option that brings up an unknown author. Instead, it’s link after link to the same book club favorites and vampire sagas.

Now, before you start to punch holes in my argument, I’m fully aware that you can go into your local Barnes & Noble and browse for as long as you want. That is if you can find the books behind all the DVDs, board games, blank notebooks and tea paraphernalia that seem to dominate such stores now. And once you do, your options are usually limited to whatever bestsellers are deemed worthy enough to sit on their display tables. To find something new and unknown, you’ll have to dig for it. And few people have the time or energy to dig anymore.

This is where indie booksellers come in handy. Sure, they push THE HELP and whatever Swedish mystery is popular these days, but that’s because they have to. Their bottom lines depend on it. But they also value new voices and are eager to share them with their customers. Chances are, if you go into an independent bookstore and ask for something you’ve never heard before, they’ll have a suggestion for you.

So, let’s all make a resolution right now. Let’s vow that the next time we’re in a bookstore, we’ll spend at least ten minutes browsing. We’ll pick up a book we’ve never heard of before, written by an author whose name is unfamiliar. If we like the looks of it, we’ll buy it. We will, for one small moment, once again be a nation of browsers.

Hitchcock or Disney No. 4

Posted on by Todd Posted in Hitchcock or Disney, Just For Fun | 2 Comments

It’s time for another round of Hitchcock or Disney. I post a quote from a movie and you have to guess who made it, Alfred Hitchcock or Walt Disney. (Bonus points if you guess the name of the movie.)

Here is today’s quote:

Shooting a man in the middle of his cadenza? That ain’t good form, you know. 

Think you know which man it came from? Post your guess in the comments section.

Writing With … Emily Winslow

Posted on by Todd Posted in Writing With | Comments Off on Writing With … Emily Winslow

Today, I welcome Emily Winslow, an American living in Cambridge, England. Her first novel, THE WHOLE WORLD, came out from Delacorte Press/Random House in
2010. Its sequel, THE START OF EVERYTHING, will be released in 2013.
THE WHOLE WORLD was a Parade magazine “top summer pick” and The Richmond Times-Dispatch said, “Winslow’s novel is so self-assured, so well-constructed and so chilling that the reader is left in awe by the young author’s accomplished debut…’The Whole World’ shines as a potent look at the self-absorption and angst of youth and the regrets and doubts of middle age.” Emily’s website is and her blog can be found at

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

THE WHOLE WORLD is set in Cambridge, England, and I started writing it when I first moved here. Cambridge is so different from anyplace else I’ve ever lived that I felt driven to try to describe it. The university is 800 years old, and intertwined with the city. I found myself having to make sense of it in order to make a home here.

The story begins with an American narrator who is new to the city, like I was, but switches to more local narrators later, five in all. Two American students fall for the same charming “golden boy” graduate student, who then disappears…

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

The University works according to “the college system,” which sorts every student into both a department (for their subject) and a college. Your college (and there are more than 30 of them!) is where you live and eat and, to an extent, socialize, but it’s more than
that. The department gives you your lectures and exams, which you share with ALL the students in that subject from ALL the colleges. But, WITHIN your college is where you get your one-on-one and small group instruction, in “supervisions.”

Most of the colleges are architecturally exquisite, and are part of the city, not apart on a campus. I have no connection with the University except through family and friends, but I interact with it physically almost daily.

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

I trained to be an actor, a job which is dependent on being cast by others, and then on being directed by others. I love that as a writer I can work whenever I want!

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

Watch TV. I love crime dramas.

Q. What are you reading right now?

Amanda Kyle Williams’ upcoming THE STRANGER YOU SEEK. One of the perks of being a writer is getting to read other writers’ advance copies!

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

Blank books and a pen.

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

So many:
Little Miss Sunshine
Shutter Island
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Fugitive, Jaws, Jurassic Park, The Others, Life is Beautiful

Q. What’s your favorite food?

Spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread.

Q. Cats or dogs?


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

I have one son with an American accent, and another with a British accent. Yes, we all live together.