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

My Father, The Taxidermist

Posted on by Todd Posted in Musings | 2 Comments

If you’ve ever wondered who killed Bambi’s mother, I know the answer.

It was my dad.

Even worse, her head now hangs in the breezeway that runs between my parents’ house and their garage. And if you think deer heads and breezeways don’t really go together, then clearly you’ve never met my father.

So, here are a few things you need to know about Raymond Ritter:

• He loves his wife, kids and dogs.

• He was as athletic in high school as I was dorky.

• He is the biggest Penn State football fan in existence.

• When he read my first mystery, DEATH NOTICE, in which a serial killer attempts to embalm his victims, his initial, shocked response was, “Where do you come up with stuff like that?”

• He has an unwavering moral compass.

• He’s probably the most decent, hard-working, sensible man I know, and my sister and I are better people because we were raised by him.

Oh, and he loves to kill things, drag them to a basement lair and then stuff them.

Yes, folks, my dad is a taxidermist. Not a full-time one, mind you. It’s more of a hobby, although I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse. And while he’s decreased his workload in recent years, he was quite active when I was a kid. We had a freezer in a our basement filled with things he intended to stuff, and it was quite fun to show off to friends. The Freezer of Death, I called it.

Now, I am an animal lover. I’m a semi-vegetarian (seafood, yes; meat, no). The only things I kill are spiders, and that’s because they scare me and deserve to die. Yet taxidermy is something I have always known. It’s as common in Pennsylvania as cornfields and Fourth of July parades. But there’s also something that’s, well, really freaking weird about it. (Exhibit A: The Freezer of Death.) I’m certain all those formative years spent around deer pelts, drawers full of glass eyes and rubber tongues have made me the slightly twisted person I am today.

It also helped my writing. When I first started working on DEATH NOTICE, I wanted the killer to leave a chilling calling card with his victims. I decided to make the calling card be pieces of taxidermy. First, it made doing research unnecessary. It’s easy to write about something when the “research” is basically your childhood. Second, it’s kind of cool and creepy. Third, I knew my dad would get a kick out of it. He did, but still didn’t hesitate to tell me about the things I got wrong. (Curse you, glass eyes!)

There’s also another reason, although not as simple as the others. Growing up, I knew I wasn’t the son my dad had hoped for. He wanted a fellow hunter. He got someone too scared of guns and too fond of animals. He wanted an athlete like himself. He got a kid who couldn’t throw a football or hit a baseball. He wanted someone who liked to watch sports. He got a son who skipped Friday night football games to stay home and read Agatha Christie and Stephen King.

While I wasn’t interested in hunting, playing or watching, I knew I could write. So, when it came time to write my first novel, taxidermy had to be a part of it. For the reasons listed above, of course, but also because it was the only way I knew how to combine my father’s interests with my own. And when it was published, we at last had something in common — a book.

We’re still very different people. We disagree on many things. I know he’d be thrilled if I dove into a juicy steak later today. But I think that book went a long way toward helping both of us come to terms with who we are. And if we ever need reminding, a copy now sits on both of our bookshelves, literally binding us together.

Hitchcock or Disney No. 2

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:

If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to wear the proper clothes. 

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

Writing With … S. J. Bolton

Posted on by Todd Posted in Writing With | Comments Off on Writing With … S. J. Bolton

Today, I’m very pleased to welcome S. J. Bolton. She is the author of SACRIFICE, AWAKENING and BLOOD HARVEST. Her latest novel, NOW YOU SEE ME, was released last week by Minotaur Books. Visit her online at

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

I love the idea of taking dark, spooky tales and fashioning them into modern crime novels and I’ve long been fascinated by the stories of Jack the Ripper. NOW YOU SEE ME, my fourth book, is a Ripper story with a very contemporary twist. 
Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

In Victorian London, hundreds of men and horses lived and worked underground when constructing the railroads. Many of the tunnels and chambers they used still exist.  
Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

I sat down one night and tried. Discovering that I could actually do it was the start of a very exciting adventure. 
Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Wining and dining with friends, watching adventure movies with my son, walking in the Chiltern hills with Lupe, my lurcher. 
Q. What are you reading right now?

Stephen King’s UNDER THE DOME. 
Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would you want to have with you?

I always cheat with this one: 
JRR Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS (three books in one)
Phillip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS (another trilogy)
Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE
Elizabeth Von Armin’s THE ENCHANTED APRIL
Stephen King’s THE STAND 
Q. What’s your favorite movie?

The Thomas Crown Affair (remake with Pierce Brosnan) 
Q. What’s your favorite food?

Lobster, crab, prawns, crayfish: hot and fresh with herby butter.
Q. Cats or dogs?

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

I can tap dance.