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


Posted on by Todd Posted in Just For Fun, Wonderful Web | Comments Off on Pluto!

Mother’s Day is on Sunday, so I thought I’d share a fun video showing that motherly love comes in all shapes, sizes … and species.

Writing With … Brad Parks

Posted on by Todd Posted in Writing With | 1 Comment

Brad Parks and I worked at the same newspaper for more than a year, yet we never actually met until years later, when we both became published authors. His debut, FACES OF THE GONE, became the first book in history to win both the Nero and Shamus Awards. His second book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, released in February from Minotaur Books, has been hailed as “as good if not better (than) his acclaimed debut” by Library Journal. A former reporter with The Washington Post and The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, he is now a full-time novelist living in Virginia. You can visit his website at

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

Todd, we’re both journalists by training and nature. And, as journalists, we must tell the unvarnished truth. So, for real? What inspired this? Quite simple: I had written one novel featuring Carter Ross, a sometimes-dashing investigative reporter for a Newark-based newspaper (sound familiar?), and when Minotaur Books bought it, they offered me a two-book contract. Hence, Carter needed another adventure. EYES OF THE INNOCENT is the second of those books. Mind you, by this point, Carter has taken hold of me and is more or less calling the shots — I’ve written installments Nos. 3 and 4 as well, and I’m not sure I could stop writing him if I wanted to. But at least where No. 2 is concerned, it the inspiration was mostly contractual.

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

My research regimen went something like this: Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. See, I was also a reporter for a large New Jersey newspaper. So my research pretty much involved living. The bulk of the part of my life that later became relevant to this book was a four- or five-month stretch in 2008 when I did a series of stories on the subprime mortgage scandal. That was where I learned about the house-flipping, greed, fraud and corruption that had been absolutely rampant during the real estate boom — and about the pain caused when the bubble popped. So while I’m not sure this is an “interesting fact,” one lesson I certainly learned: If you ever again see real estate increasing by 25 or 30 percent a year, run like hell.

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

I got into writing for the money and the sex. This is true, actually. I was 14 years old and saw an ad in my hometown newspaper saying, “Sportswriters needed.” The job paid 50 cents a column inch, which meant I could make slightly more per week writing sports than I could babysitting. So that’s the money. The sex? My assignment was to cover the Ridgefield High School girls basketball team, and I figured this would be my in — after all, if I was the guy who could get their names’ in the paper, they’d have to talk to me, right? And from there I could work my charm and … uhh … yeah, didn’t quite work out that way. But it got me writing, helped me fall in love with storytelling and launched me into a line of work that I continue to enjoy immensely.

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

Read. Golf. Swim. Run. Garden. Sing. Act. Play tennis. Play softball. Play basketball. Play … Well, you get the idea. I’ve got a variety of interests and hobbies. Mind you, I don’t get much time to do any of them. I’ve got two small children. Much of my non-work time involves being yelled at by toddlers.

Q. What are you reading right now?

James Lovelock’s THE VANISHING FACE OF GAIA. No, I’m not trying to sound like an intellectual. It’s just research for my next novel. On the side, I’m also reading some of Robert J. Randisi’s work, because I’ve been given the honor of interviewing him at the next Bouchercon and I figure if I read five of his books it will at least mean I’ve read one percent of his (very impressive) canon.

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

I would want four extra-large, waterproof coffee table books and the JUMBO DUCT TAPE BOOK (that comes with the free samples). That way I could lash the coffee table books together, make myself a boat and get the hell off the island. Or at least get myself to an island with the library on it. I mean, really, who wants to be stuck with five books forever?

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

Hoo boy. Now you’re going to know one of my deep, dark secrets: When it comes to music and movies, I’m really a 16-year-old girl. So. Ahem. Love, Actually. Just a great flick. If I watch it when I’m sick, it makes me cry.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

When it comes to chow, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Wait, that’s two foods. Okay, just the meat. Filet mignon, if you’ve got it. Cooked rare. Super rare. Purple-in-the-middle-stick-a-fork-in-it-and-it-moos rare. Yum.

Q. Cats or dogs?

I’ve got to go with cats, if only because Carter Ross has a cat — named, appropriately enough, Deadline. And if I judge based on reader mail alone, Deadline is everyone’s favorite character over Carter by a about a 5:1 ratio.

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

I’m fairly obnoxious, ceaselessly outgoing and an egregious self-promoter, so by this point I’m not sure I could really surprise anyone. (I just don’t think anyone would be that shocked to learn I do community theater). Okay, let’s make it a boastful, seemingly outrageous claim that you, Todd Ritter, could actually verify if you choose: I once hit three home runs on my first three swings in a Star-Ledger softball game. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to start playing Bruce’s Glory Days.

Defending Judy Mays

Posted on by Todd Posted in Musings | 2 Comments

I had never heard of Judy Mays until Wednesday. That’s when, out of the blue, her name was all over Twitter. Every other tweet was about Mays, author of erotic romance novels featuring supernatural elements. It seems Judy Mays is really Judy Buranich, a high school English teacher. A few parents disovered this fact and rasied a ruckus that someone who wrote about sex on the side was teaching their children.

This, sadly, did not surprise me.

What shocked me, however, was when I clicked on a news story about the kerfuffle and saw it was taking place in my former back yard. Snyder County, Pennsylvania, to be exact. Just two counties away from where I grew up.

It was disheartening, to say the least. I wanted to believe that people in my home state were more open-minded than this. That they understood the concept of freedom of speech. That they realized someone who wrote fiction didn’t necessarily want their made-up stories to be real.

I was wrong. Here are some quotes from concerned parents and students:

“I was shocked. If you are a teacher you shouldn’t be doing that.” — Shanette Apple, former student

“I was sort of shocked. Sitting in her class I had no idea. She is a good teacher, but I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes.” — Drew Hollenbach, former student

“She is teaching children that are under the age of 18, and definitely the books that she is writing are adult books.” — Deanna Stepp, concerned parent

These quotes say a lot. They tell me that no one in Judy Buranich’s classroom knew about her side gig. She kept it separate, which of course is how it should be. It’s also clear that she’s good at her job. (Hence the “She is a good teacher” quote.)

But the quotes also make it clear these people think that because Judy Mays write about sex with werewolves, for example, it means she wants to have sex with a werewolf in real life. Maybe an underage werewolf. Maybe even (gasp!) a werewolf in her classroom!

Perhaps they’re right. Maybe Ms. Buranich/Mays does wants to be sexually ravaged by a 17-year-old half-man/half-beast in the silvery light of a full moon. Or maybe she’s just making things up for the fun of it. Writing is fun, after all. And those of us who are authors rarely want to do the things we write about. My book, DEATH NOTICE, features a serial killer who tries to embalm his victims. This does not mean I want to kill anyone or embalm anything. It simply means I made it up. (Oh, and werewoles don’t really exist.)

But Deanna Stepp, that concerned parent, goes even further, saying: “I think she needs to make a decision as to what she wants to do. Either be a school teacher or author.”

Well, Ms. Stepp, it’s not that easy. Many authors, myself included, need our jobs. We enjoy getting steady paychecks, to pay for things like food and shelter. We enjoy having health insurance, in case things go wrong. I know many writers who would love to be able to support themselves with their writing alone, but it’s just not in the cards. We must work and we must write.

(But since you’re so concerned about how we make a living, Ms. Stepp, I encourage you to buy several thousand copies of my book. Here’s the link:  Thanks for your support!)

As for Judy, I hope she can continue to do both. Officials at her school aren’t commenting, but I pray they understand that writing and teaching have been and can continue to be separate. She isn’t hurting anyone. She isn’t reading her books aloud in class. She’s simply trying to be an English teacher during work hours and tell stories in her free time.

I applaud her. And I support her. Every writer should.