Sunday, December 31, 2006

So Long 2006

Yesterday, my book hit Barnes & Noble for pre-order.

Today it hit 187,160 in the sales ranking.

I would host my own little happy dance but I’m technologically ungifted, so I will send you to Angie’s for one. She’s techno-savvy.

All things considered 2006 hasn’t been bad. There have been ups and downs, as there is for everyone. There’s been a lot of illness this year, a lot of friends touched by loss. Buttons lost her first litter of kittens, all three stillborn. I can still remember the relief that her second litter was healthy. Of course, some days around here, that’s not what’s foremost in my mind as they knock stuff off counters and climb the Christmas tree…

If I’d been better prepared I would have thought hard about the good points, and put some sort of logical order to them. But I wasn’t prepared, and so I’m just going to give you a smattering.

~Having “The Butcher” in Crimespree

~My mentor, Cornelia Read

~Meeting @ B’Con…Anne Frasier, Tribe, Robert Fate, Julia Buckley, John McFetridge, Alex Brett, Denise Mina, Laura Lippman

~Meeting @ Harrogate…Helena, Jayne and the rest of the Billingham Babes (I want a t shirt), Vincent, James, John Rickards, Martin Edwards, Sheila Quigley, Ali Karim…God, I’d best stop this list or I’ll forget someone…

~Al Guthrie and Duane Swierczynski, and The Truth About Dave White, which I’m still working on. Haven’t decided if I should go straight for the blackmail or just put it up, though.

~Ken Bruen

~Stuart arrives in the litter box – Note the striking similarities to her namesake. (It's all in the facial hair.)

~Catching up with Stuart

~My UK trip with Marsha

~Russel falling asleep on the bus and missing his stop

~Hanging with Clan Jordan

~“Fucked Again” was in Demolition

~Interviewing… Jess, Duane, Mark, Simon, Cornelia…

~Getting tipsy at God’s house

~My e-pals Kate, Lynne, Mary, Norby… The people who keep me sane

~All the bloggers who link here, lurk here and email me and comment

~All those who've contributed to Spinetingler and its success this year - Mindy, Angie, Diana, Toni, Andrea, Kate (who bid us farewell but did so much to help us start) and undoubtedly others I've forgotten ***

*** Like Trace. Goodness, how could I forget to mention Trace? I don't think New Book Brain covers that!

Things I’m looking forward to in 2007

~Out of the Gutter

~Interviewing… Al, Ken, Steve, Kevin, Anne, Julia, Tess and half a bazillion other people I’m forgetting, no doubt

~Spring Mouth Full of Bullets, because K. Robert Einarson has an original short story in the issue. And I have a reprint of What Every Guy Wants.

~Writing the next book

~Selling the next book (Hopefully!)

~Hopefully placing another short story I’ve sent out

~Meeting Rick Mofina

~Having a quiet drink with Tim Maleeny at LCC

And if I keep on with lists, no doubt I'll forget someone or something and hurt feelings. All of this to say that it's been a good year, and I'm glad you guys have been a part of it.

Raising a virtual glass to salute you all.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

You Mean You Really Have A Book Coming Out?

Surprisingly enough, I do.

Yesterday, I had the surreal experience of seeing the first review to hit the discussion lists:

SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES by Sandra Ruttan: (01/07) I
don't normally pay much attention to blurbs, but when
you see Ken Bruen and Robert Fate both on the same
cover, you really want to see what's inside. Reporter
Lara Kelly and policeman Tymen Farraday are the
unlikely team attempting to solve the mystery of a
videotape that appears to depict the death of a woman
in this gritty debut. Lara’s newspaper story causes
the police chief to assign Farraday to discredit her
but when potential evidence is stolen and Lara is
attacked, Farraday is forced to put aside his negative
feelings about reporters and work with her to solve
the murder and protect her from the killer. Two more
murders occur as they are seeking the answer. In a
town where one person holds all the power, not even
the police can be trusted. Cozy fans beware, this is
one police procedural with the real stuff.
- Review by Jack Quick

And then on the same list someone had their Current Read listed as Suspicious Circumstances. And I don't remember sending them a copy, but maybe 'new book brain' is like 'pregnancy brain' and you just forget everything.

Anyway, it has begun.

Suspicious Circumstances is now up for pre-order on Barnes & Noble.

Although the date is wrong on there - for some reason it says January 28, but the book is still targeted for release on January 7. It's in the process of winding its way through the Ingram ordering system, on to Amazon and Chapters, etc.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Crime Year in Review

Now, before you begin to wonder if this post will be all depressing, it’s short and there are kitty pictures.

But first, everybody’s doing it, so why should the courts be any different? I bring you the 2006 crime year in review from Edmonton.

And this is what we have to look forward to in 2007: the upcoming trial of a teenage girl charged with murdering her family, amongst other things.

There may be murder and mayhem on the streets, but there’s nothing but love in our house. I bring you snuggle cats.

Buttons and Simon (who Kevin sometimes calls Buttons 2)

Russel and Simon - See the size of those mitts on Russel?

Skittles and Rascal - Skittles is the deranged one in the front.

Rascal and Stuart - as you can see, Uncle Raz is one big cat. And Stewy is the smallest.

Rebus and Russel...As you can see, these two spend a lot of time together.

Here’s something to check out: an interview with Ken Bruen on a site I should add to my links. They cover fantasy, horror, mystery and sci fi and do some great interviews and reviews.

And I just had to link to this because it’s such a newsflash: celebs risk glorifying bad behaviour. You think?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Real Humour and Random Awards

I am not a funny person. I never have been a funny person. Some might read my blog and beg to differ, but if you know me, you know my natural bent is to the serious.

I can be flippant, but that’s also different.

I’ve been struck by an observation in my recent reading. What is funny is truth. It’s the point where you smile a wry smile because, Damn. Isn’t that just the way it is?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what separates the good books from the great ones, and that’s part of it. Great books have those moments of truth that hit you between the eyes and you can’t help but smile because you know exactly what the author is talking about.

I’ll tell you what isn’t funny though. Over 600 spam emails this morning in one of my email accounts. Grrrr.

This is the time of year that a lot of people are doing top ten lists. I did send in my purchase recommendations for the Killer Year blog, sharing my thoughts on a few books I really enjoyed.

But I can’t bring myself to do a proper top 10 list and post it here.

Now, this is a bit different, but related. Every so often people will create the ‘greatest of all time’ lists. Best thrillers, best romances, best comedies, best whatever, of all time. And those lists drive me nuts, because they presume one thing that is almost certainly not true:

They presume that you’ve read every single book that falls into that category.

If you haven’t, then how can you declare anything to be the absolute best?

So, when people pick their favourites of the year it doesn’t rankle me. In fact, I find it interesting to see what books get mentioned, but only by readers I don’t really know.

You see, the problem I have with creating a top 10 list is that there might be the presumption that I’ve read certain books and didn’t find them to measure up, when in reality, I might not have had time to read everything I’ve bought this year.

Which actually is the truth.

And the second side of that is, I just can’t bear to think of excluding friends from the list.

But I am going to give out a few random awards.

Best Humour
Ken Bruen, virtually anything he’s written. There’s the one chapter in The Guards, about the woman upstairs and the flat tire, that completely cracked me up. But the truth is, reading Ken’s books there are so many points where I find that smile spreading across my face, and find myself thinking, Isn’t that the truth? And that’s part of what separates him out as such a great author – those very shrewd insights on life.

I’d mention Al Guthrie’s Hard Man as well, but that doesn’t come out until 2007… Still, parts that were laugh out loud funny…

Best Debuts
Cornelia Read and John McFetridge. Their books came at me in completely opposite ways. Cornelia’s had build-up and anticipation, although that was over for me early, as I got an ARC. John’s book was on shelves before I’d heard of it. Both are fresh new voices in the crime fiction genre and both bring their own brand of humour. I look forward to future offerings from both of them.

The Books That Haunted Me
Sometimes, you read books that stay with you well after you’ve finished the last page. One such book, for me, was Ian Rankin’s The Flood, which I talked about here when I read it, so I won’t bore you all again.

Another was Anne Frasier’s Pale Immortal. I think one of the things this book made me think about was whether or not we’re destined to a fate or free to choose our own path. Sometimes, we do seem to be pushed headlong down a dark tunnel…

I don’t want to comment on any books I have yet to run reviews on, or that won’t come out until 2007. So, I think it’s best to stop there. Really, when I write a review anyone can go read my opinion. In the new year I’ll try to be more diligent about doing a mini review here if I read a book I’m not reviewing for Spinetingler.

And that’s enough out of me. I have a date with Bruen.

What are you reading these days? I’m flying through The Guards and have Rilke on Black on deck. Kevin just finished Bust and A Field of Darkness and is now reading London Boulevard and Shotgun Opera and starting Hard Man. He has a different book at home and at work to read. I can’t fathom that. I like to read one at a time…

Thanks to Bill I discovered I was a literate good citizen, followed closely by obsessive-compulsive bookworm and book snob. Fad reader barely registered... but for some reason the chart wouldn't post here properly.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Evolution of the Classics

We’ve been watching more classic movies. Kevin claims this is to educate me, and perhaps there’s some truth to that. I’m actually surprisingly bad for not watching a lot of movies.

Anyway, I found To Kill A Mockingbird to be interesting. Certainly not noir. I think it’s the kind of thing where you can look at it now and say it started a bit slow, but it definitely built up to something. Of course, I also find myself watching how movies are filmed more and more, and there are loose threads in some of the older movies, things that don’t tie in and don’t really add much. But I still enjoyed this movie.

Now, we also watched Double Indemnity. And I have to say that this was a great pick, definitely in the noir vein. Unless you count the daughter and her boyfriend. I suppose there was still a smidgen of optimism left for them.

Of course, watching them, I find myself wondering about the general foolishness of any man who would hatch a plan to kill someone for a woman he barely knows. Were people really once that stupi- I mean, trusting? That’s one of the things I note. Nowadays, you have to work it, to make the reader/viewer believe this guy would do this. But taking that on faith it was an interesting movie.

I also found The Maltese Falcon interesting. Yes, yes, be quiet. I admit it, I’d never seen that movie before. Now, I must admit to an offhand comment early on, asking if this main actor really made women swoon once upon a time. But at the end I decided he’d done a brilliant job with the role, as I hadn’t a clue which side was up where he was concerned.

And that’s something I’d like to comment on. See, so often you put a piece of work in front of someone and they say, “There’s a contradiction with this character.” And that’s it. But what if it’s the contradictions within the character that are meant to keep you offguard and guessing as to who the real person is? Because a lot of real people play games and put on faces, assuming slightly different versions of their persona, or even whole other personas, when they’re around different people. I mean, haven’t we all seen it? A friend/associate, completely relaxing and just being themselves, and then someone comes up who puts them in “the role” – whether they be famous author or actor or musician – and they have to go into performance mode.

Anyway, that was just a thought I had from watching that, because I really liked that aspect of the movie.

And finally, LA Confidential. I found this movie a bit slow to start, but I don’t mean that as a complaint. I think it’s the kind of thing where you have to lay a foundation for the characters so that the story can move later. And move it does. But while the pressure is on for writers to start off knitting, this is a movie that proves that some stories have to show you casting on the needle first, and the reward later is the greater for it.

I did like what James Ellroy said about the book in the dvd extras – that it had something for the whole family if your name was Manson. True…

But speaking of classics, I’d like to mention that Stephen Blackmoore has contributed a post at In For Questioning. If you read my theorizing about how technology might change the future of book production and selling, then you’ll know what Stephen’s addressing. He looks at things from a different perspective in an insightful piece called The Long Tail of POD. Definitely worth reading and pondering over. I’m going to save more of my comments on it for over there.

And now, we have a classic joke from Uncle Charlie.

Bill Clinton started jogging near his new home in Chappaqua.

But on each run he happened to jog past a hooker standing on the same street corner, day after day.

With some apprehension he would brace himself as he approached her for what was most certainly to follow.

Fifty dollars!" she would cry out from the curb.

"No, Five dollars!" fired back Clinton .

This ritual between Bill and the hooker continued for days.

He'd run by and she'd yell, "Fifty dollars!"

And he'd yell back, "Five dollars!"

One day however, Hillary decided that she wanted to accompany her husband on his jog!

As the jogging couple neared the problematic street corner, Bill realized the "pro" would bark her $50 offer and Hillary would wonder what he'd really been doing on all his past outings.

He realized he should have a darn good explanation for the junior Senator.

As they jogged into the turn that would take them past the corner, Bill became even more apprehensive than usual.

Sure enough, there was the hooker!

Bill tried to avoid the prostitute's eyes as she watched the pair jog past.

Then,from the sidewalk, the hooker yelled... “See what you get for five bucks!?"

And this comes courtesy of Norby

Your Outrageous Name is:

Helen A. Handbasket

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Well Aren’t We Full of Festive Cheer?

It's a human tendency to afford greater weight to tragedy when it happens over the holidays. I was sad to hear of the death of James Brown yesterday.

And the holiday grief was not limited to his family. An absolute tragedy in Calgary as a mother and toddler die – the mother believed to have died from natural causes, the child too young to survive without her… The horrifying deaths of 24 people in a department store fire in The Philippines. An 11-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed in Alaska.

A murdered toddler, the suspect a nine-year-old child.

I could keep going, but I think this is more than enough. The papers are filled with depressing stories… but that isn’t why I’m thinking about them.

Days ago Rob Gregory Browne blogged on near death experiences and speculated on what happens when people die.

Now, Christmas day my mother-in-law and I had an interesting conversation. We got talking about when people die. Of course, my mil’s brother-in-law has cancer and has been undergoing treatment, so that always brings death to mind as well. She was saying she’d rather go in her sleep. I was telling her about my Great Uncle Carl who died from cancer some 27 years ago, or so. Back when cancer treatment wasn’t what it is now. He died a long, slow death.

Conversely, my Great Uncle Ab got up one morning, said, “Elma, I’m going,” sat down in a chair and died. No preamble. No dramatics.

No warning.

I mentioned how some killers think that when they murder someone they can look in the eyes of the victim and, in those last few seconds of the person’s life, see the face of God. I suppose the idea is that the person is already making the journey to the other side, and through their eyes you can see eternity.

I have to say this is something I never thought about when I was writing any murders for any of the manuscripts or short stories. I tend to think more about what would be going through the victims’ minds in those final moments.

I’ve certainly thought about what motivates people to kill, but haven’t done anything in the serial killer vein, really. It’s been about power, about business. Cold, calculated.

But that’s not the same thing. Perhaps I still have a lot to learn about thinking like a killer.

I’ve had my own near-death experience, when I almost drowned at the age of 10. Maybe that’s another reason I don’t like to tread too close to the moment of death in writing.

There are some things it’s uncomfortable to be forced to look at. When I read what Rob said, about his uncle refusing to talk about those few minutes he was ‘gone’ I could understand. The reality is that words almost cheapen it, and unless you have faced that moment when you believe your death is at hand I don’t know if it would make sense to say how you feel about it or what you experience.

But I did give the thought process on that to one character in one of my manuscripts….

Unfortunately for you, you’ll have to wait until it’s published to read it. Unless, of course, you know just how to bribe me to share. Someone has part of the manuscript on its way to them.

Just not that part.

And all these depressing thoughts come despite the fact that I had a pretty good Christmas. Books. An Angel worry box sent to me from overseas, that will grace my desk and be there every moment of my writing day. A new housecoat, which was long overdue. And a lovely sweater, some calendars, the kind of little personalized items I love.

I had a good day. Today I’m braving the malls to take my mother-in-law shopping and out for lunch. I have some gift certificates to spend…

Now what about you guys? How’d you do?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Good Day Shopping?

Okay, first, I found Rilke on Black and I was happy about that, because it isn’t easy to track books from Serpent’s Tail here all the time. That alone qualifies my day as decent.

But I was also at a chain bookstore and had a great conversation with a staff person there. She saw me looking at Ken Bruen books and came over to tell me how wonderful they are and how much she loves Ken Bruen. It was a Bruen lovefest, right there in Indigo.

I did admit to knowing Ken, and I told her I’d be interviewing him for the next Spinetingler and gave her the website address for Spinetingler. Then we ended up talking about Ian Rankin, and she was saying how everyone she’s talked to agrees The Naming of the Dead is his best book.

Then she asked if I’d met Val McDermid, and Reginald Hill, and Minette Walters. Two out of three, yes. This woman was obviously an avid reader, as she had things to say about each author, and she had a number of positive things to say about Minette’s latest, The Devil’s Feather. I’ve heard good things elsewhere, and now it’s being bumped up the tbr list.

As though I needed any additions for the new year.

But I must say, it was very cool to meet someone in a bookstore really passionate about books. So from Janice at Indigo Southcenter to Ken, Ian, Val, Reginald and Minette, you’ve got a fan there talking up your books. I can’t imagine a better Christmas present for an author. Other than a zillion figure book deal, I suppose.

Of course, our good day shopping had to be karmicly balanced by Kevin getting sick. This makes night #2 of the holidays, neither one we’ve slept through. I sure as hell hope Santa keeps it quiet when he gets here tonight.

Happy holidays everyone.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Kicking Off The Holidays…

Well, it’s Saturday morning, my Christmas shopping isn’t done, and we’re behind schedule.

There’s an up side and a down side to this. The down side? Kevin got called out last night. And when he did get home there was another call, for a different department. Needless to say it took a while to get back to sleep.

But here’s the up side. Know how I know the new wip is starting to take off? When I woke up I had something to write for it. That’s when I know the characters are really getting into my head and that it’s becoming clear where I want things to go. I didn’t write much, but it felt good to get up at 1:30 in the morning and type out some paragraphs.

In the midst of all the festive chatter I never stopped to think about taking security precautions with Santa. It would seem he’s packing more than toys these days.

Now, we must get ready to go do our shopping, so I’ll leave you with these. I have no idea if it’s any good or not, but here’s one of the Christmas stories I did last year. I think it made sense to me then, as I posted it, but I don’t remember what it’s about now.

And I’m not going to read it.

If you need some real holiday festive gems, try the 12 Days of Christmas collection over at Stuart’s. I really want to re-read them over the holidays, while people aren’t blogging.

Okay, shopping. I hate shopping.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Especially For Graham and Tribe

Paging Graham Powell, paging Graham Powell…

I think Daniel did a fantastic job summing up the history and value of Crimespot but I wanted to add my two cents. Graham does one hell of a job, and this holiday season I’d raise a virtual glass of eggnog to the man, except I hate the stuff. Bellinis it is. Yum yum yum, peach schnapps and rum.

And on a day to thank one person for all they’ve done to support the crime fiction community, it’s a day to thank another wonderful person: Tribe. This is a thank you that’s long overdue, and unfortunately it is a jolt of hindsight kicking me in the ass here.

Because Tribe has shut down his marvelous site, Flashing in the Gutters.

Now, I missed all the drama. I’ve had my head pulled down so far that I’ve been a bit oblivious lately. But I am deeply disappointed that Tribe was put through such aggravation and that someone, through a flame war, ultimately killed that whole site.

Rather shocking, given what I posted about earlier this week.

There was a part of me that often thought it would be nice to have a comments mechanism with Spinetingler for feedback, but when I read about what happened to Flashing in the Gutters I find myself thinking perhaps it’s for the best.

I raise a glass to you as well Tribe. One of the best people I’ve met online, talented writer, heart of gold. It saddens me to see what you were put through.

The funny thing about this is that it coincides with Anne Frasier’s musings about the lifespan of a blog. It sounds like Anne is thinking about calling it a day, and this coincides with something I’ve been thinking about as well. What I like about blogging is that it connects me to people and gives me a chance to interact with them. It also gives me a chance to sound off when something irks me.

And it gives me a very important opportunity to promote Spinetingler.

But I was thinking about pulling the plug on the blog.

To be honest, I miss the Mystery Circus. Although it was short-lived I liked the idea of a virtual spiked water cooler where writers hung out and talked about all manner of stuff.

On occasion, I’ve been tempted to think of starting my own forum, with the same idea in mind. Not really concerning myself if five people post on it or fifty, just having a chance to chat about stuff in a group format online.

Then I think of what happened to Tribe’s most excellent site… And I just don’t know if it would be worth the potential headache.

I plan to keep the blog for now, but I will be scaling back a bit in the new year. Surprisingly enough I’ll be around next week, as far as I know, but come January I’ll be battening down the hatches and working hard on the new ms, as well as doing some traveling. I won’t be here five days a week for the whole month.

Meanwhile, I’ve tried to be optimistic about the future of book production and selling in a post over at In For Questioning. You might find it interesting.

Still on track with hopping to and fro, check out Anne Frasier’s comments on Bill Cameron’s debut novel, Lost Dog. If my say-so isn’t enough to prompt you to run right out and buy it, I think her comments will do the trick.

And finally, what would the holidays be without a poem from Uncle Charlie?

He laid her on the table,
So white clean and bare,
His forehead wet with beads of sweat,
He rubbed her here and there.

He touched her neck,
Then felt her breast,
Then drooling, felt her thigh.
The slit was wet and all was set,
He gave a joyous cry.

The hole was wide........
He looked inside,
All was dark and murky,
He rubbed his hands,
And stretched his arms.........
And then he stuffed the turkey.

May I be one of the first to wish your dirty little mind happy holidays.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

YouSleuth, At Your Service

They say the Mounties always get their man. Thanks to YouTube Hamilton police nabbed theirs. This isn’t the first time that YouTube has been credited with contributing to an arrest – apparently some street racers were arrested in Manitoba after they posted clips of their antics online.

Now, on the face of it I think this is a good thing. The cops have a job to do, which is to catch criminals. A man was murdered. Some have jumped up to criticize the decision to post video on YouTube, but the way I see it the cops were innovative and used every possible avenue of investigation at their disposal.

Nothing wrong with that. Especially when it’s legal and gets quick results.

But there was one thing I did take note of. No witnesses came forward to identify the people responsible What this has me wondering is if the use of video might also lead to charging people with obstruction of justice when they witness a crime and fail to give a statement to the police.

It was really a random side thought, that has nothing to do with YouTube – after all, video cameras for security purposes have been around for a long time. I think that, after the past few days of discussing personal freedoms, it has me wondering if people should have the right to walk away when they see a crime.

Thoughts on that one?

And if that’s too heavy for you, check this out. The talented John McFetridge is flashing at Muzzle Flash with Plugged. If my say-so isn’t enough to send you over there, the piece starts with the line: Summer had seen bigger dildos.

If John’s debut, Dirty Sweet isn’t on your Christmas list, you have four shopping days left for someone to go get it for you. You won’t regret it. Although I haven’t posted my official top 10 list of the year, this is one of the books that’s on it.

Witty Criminals

1. GEORGE APPEL (electrocuted in 1928)
As he was being strapped into the electric chair, Appel quipped, “Well, folks, you'll soon see a baked Appel.”
2. JESSE WALTER BISHOP (gassed in 1979)
The last man to die in Nevada's gas chamber, Bishop's final words were, “I've always wanted to try everything once . . . Let's go!”
3. GUY CLARK (hanged in 1832)
On the way to the gallows, the sheriff told Clark to speed up the pace. Clark replied, “Nothing will happen until I get there.”
4. JAMES DONALD FRENCH (electrocuted in 1966)
Turning to a newsman on his way to the electric chair, French helpfully suggested, “I have a terrific headline for you in the morning. ‘French Fries’.”
5. ROBERT ALTON HARRIS (gassed in 1992)
The last person to die in the gas chamber at San Quentin, Harris issued a final statement through the prison warden that stated, “You can be a king or a street-sweeper, but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper.” The quote was inspired by a line from the film Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.
6. WILLIAM PALMER (hanged in 1856)
As he stepped onto the gallows, Palmer looked at the trapdoor and exclaimed, “Are you sure it's safe?”
7. SIR WALTER RALEIGH (beheaded in 1618)
Feeling the edge of the axe soon to be used on him, Raleigh said, ''’Tis a sharp remedy, but a sure one for all ills.”
8. JAMES W. RODGERS (shot in 1960)
Asked if he had a last request, Rodgers stated, “Why, yes – a bulletproof vest.”
9. FREDERICK CHARLES WOOD (electrocuted in 1963)
Sitting down in the electric chair, Wood said, “Gentlemen, you are about to see the effects of electricity upon wood.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Thing With Freedom And Abuse…

This ties back in with yesterday, in part, and goes beyond it.

Angie put up an excellent post called The Rudeness of Strangers and I wanted to point you in her direction today.

Now, as I understand it, Miss Snark has the Crapometer going these days. As though it isn’t enough to brave public humiliation by putting your work down in front of someone who will happily dig their stilettos in and twist hard and then let Killer Yap use the remnants for ‘business’, I hear that some snotty readers are adding insult to injury by trashing the submissions in the comment threads.

I have not read any of this myself.

The reality is, some people use the internet to bully and harass others. I’ve seen it on forums. I’ve seen it on blogs. I’m always tempted to fuck with these people a bit, but really, it’s pointless. They’re self-appointed assholes. And, unfortunately, they’re something the world has no shortage of.

If you decide you’re going to be active online you do have to make decisions about how to handle yourself and protect yourself. I recently took the unprecedented move of emailing someone I don’t know off a forum, warning them to be careful about sharing personal information. In this particular case, they’d openly admitted it was their first time on a forum, and the poster who responded to them, asking some personal questions, is a known troublemaker who was recently booted off of another forum for inappropriate behaviour. I don't think my email was appreciated. It'll make me more reluctant to warn the next flakey female that hits cyberspace - after all, you can't be everyone's keeper, right?

Now, lord knows I’ve gotten into my share of online scraps. It was less than a year ago that I bickered with a few gentlemen over at Sarah Weinman’s, over the issue of the Edgar nominations. And I didn’t kick Steve or Kevin at Harrogate. In fact, I’m theoretically interviewing both of them next year for Spinetingler. My secret plan is to get them to admit they were wrong. (Joking! Although I’d like to add that Steve’s latest post made me snort coke out my nose. Worth the uploading time - the most festive thing I’ve seen so far this holiday season.)

Okay, but setting aside legitimate disagreements that come up from time to time, just going around being an obnoxious jerk? Really, do people have nothing better to do?

I don’t need to add to this. I think Angie said it well, and this is one of those (rare) times I’m exercising some self control and staying far far away.

Bottom line is, I decided that I didn’t need to invite this level of frustration into my life. Which is why I’m also steering clear of unmoderated forums. Free speech is nice but being harassed and abused online isn’t. Trolls like the ones plaguing Miss Snark’s place and some forums shouldn’t use their ‘freedom’ as license to abuse others.

See, the thing freedom is that it’s all good and fine, as long as nobody uses it as a way to abuse others. And this is where I could get a bit naughty and say that even though these people are harassing others from the comfort of their own home it’s still wrong!

That’s part of where the discussion yesterday ended up. One of the things evil kev didn’t add in his comment was something I’d hoped he’d talk about – the problems the fire department faces in Chestermere, which is a community in our district. Chestermere is an affluent area, surrounding a lake, lots of new homes going up, close proximity to the city (much closer than we are). And they have a serious problem with grow-ops. One of the things they do in these to protect from theft is take out part of the floor and put a bed of spikes down. There have been fires (grow-ops are definitely a fire hazard) and firefighters enter and – bam – down on the spikes.

It’s a nice idea to say anything is okay in the privacy of someone’s home but that isn’t something I can completely get behind. Every time Kevin goes out on a call I know there’s a possibility he won’t come back, or won’t come back in one piece, all because of a decision someone else makes – legal or illegal. These are slippery slopes. We say it’s okay to shoot up in the privacy of your own home, but who protects the fire fighters when they enter to save that family, and maybe get stabbed with a needle?

You can’t look at any one part of a situation in isolation and say that, because in theory it’s good, it should be this way.

Now, I’m treading into touchy waters, because there were some strong opinions expressed yesterday. My darlin’ brother Bill and evil kev disagreed on some things. Fortunately, they handled it like grown ups and didn’t resort to kicking and screaming and temper tantrums, at least, not on the blog.

But there is one thing that Bill’s latest comment made me think about. The fact that doctors here have refused to treat patients who won’t quit smoking. It’s a contentious issue, one that prompted much debate and you know what?

There are no easy answers.

So add that into the mix. Someone wants to smoke. We say it’s their right.

Should doctors be allowed to refuse to treat them? Isn’t that their right? Particularly in Canada, where we have a public health care system ‘free for all’ should doctors be allowed to prioritize people who actually don’t engage in destructive habits?

But then, where do you draw that line? Obesity? Should someone waiting for cancer treatment get bumped down if they smoke? Should someone waiting for an organ transplant be placed lower if they drink?

I don’t have the answers.

Getting back to free speech, I believe in it, in principle. But in reality you have to face the fact that there are stupid, abusive and sometimes dangerous people out there you have to protect against.

You’ll notice I’ve put the word verification for comments back up. I’m not happy about it. But the reality is, I’ve been getting so much spam lately on the blog that I couldn’t take it anymore. It was turning up on the backblog, mostly older posts. But it seemed to work like a magnet, and once a bit of spam went up one place and wasn’t removed they kept at it. I had to go on some threads and delete 8+ spam posts that had come up within a short span of time. One night I got something like 15 spam posts over a half hour. By the time I'd cleaned them all up it was a considerable amount of time gone.

All that stuff ends up in my inbox, and that gets old fast.

I’m not that desperate for emails. I recently went off one listserv because I wanted to thin out my email.

So you could say that while I tried to have a free, unregulated blog, the abuse of some has made it necessary for me to protect my inbox and my time and that means all of you must now use the fucking verification.

I hate verification. They have to make it so long and unreadable. But sometimes life sucks. And I really don’t have time, now that I’m working on the book featuring Micky Rickards (From the short storyFucked Again which doesn't seem to be up on Demolition anymore. Shame. If you haven't read it and want to, you can always email me. That email, I don't mind.)

So, peace, liberty, freedom everywhere else, but it’s back to semi regulated comments on my blog.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

No Easy Answers

Yesterday, James braved a topic I had considered blogging on, legalizing prostitution.

The main reason I didn’t blog on it is because I honestly don’t know what I think about that as a solution. We’ve had some innovative needle exchange programs here, bordering on legalizing drugs, actually did legalize some, and what can I tell you?

It hasn’t stopped the crime at all. It hasn’t meant all people have been helped either.

Now, James said in the comments, “But if we can stop thinking of these people as criminals, and start seeing them as victims, then perhaps we might try to help them a little more. But if we can stop thinking of these people as criminals, and start seeing them as victims, then perhaps we might try to help them a little more.”

I’m not referring to it to argue with him. I refer to the comment because it's what made me think, about why I don’t think this way. I don’t see all drug addicts and prostitutes as victims. In my own mind I’ve never classified them that way unilaterally. Nor do I think I should.

It all goes back to some of my experiences years ago. And something about personal responsibility. This is one of the things I don’t want to talk about at great length, but I knew a lot of people who became users, a lot of girls who weren’t too far removed from street workers and, well, when I was assaulted as a teenager and finally forced to switch schools for my own safety, it was a group of girls more on the streets than not that did that.

The problem is, knowing them means I know a fair number of things. I saw them make victims of a lot of people. Thinking of them as victims? They were as much a victim as any of us were. I’ve never pretended here I had a particularly happy home life. Some of those girls had it better, some of those girls had it worse. End of the day we all made choices about how we were going to live our lives. I retreated into books and church. They started carrying, whoring and using.

Maybe it’s completely unfair of me to see it that way. I don’t know. But I know other people who’ve faced worse things in life than all those girls put together who didn’t resort to becoming a drug addict. Victims, yes. And college graduates who are responsible taxpayers, raising families.

After four seasons of The Wire I’m not so sure I would be so quick to legalize drugs anymore. At least, if something like free zones were established they would have to be run differently. And here comes the problem: the police. Could I honestly blame any one of those officers assigned to watch that behaviour day in and day out for feeling sick? No.

The one thing you take with you watching The Wire is there are no easy answers. Not to the problems in our schools, in society, on the streets.

With the revelation that one of the arrested is a former special constable there will be new issues to be looked at, no doubt. Issues that eclipse the crimes and the victims in many respects.

It’s my opinion that people still look on prostitutes as trash and that they’re considered disposable. I’m not saying I agree with that. I don’t. So I’m not prepared to call them all victims right off the top – really, it’s a chicken-egg debate. Whatever put you on the street, sooner or later you’re a victim. But often you’re also a victimizer.

I don’t have a problem with the idea of legalizing prostitution. I do have concerns with the idea of legalizing drugs. Should we give drug addicts the fix they need in rehab as we wean them off? For sure. Absolutely. But make it all legal?

I lived in Vancouver for years and would move back in a heartbeat, but not to the building I used to live in. One of the things I hated most about it was the serious migraines I got from second-hand marijuana. Legalize it and make all the criminal activity that goes with it go away, problem solved, right? Nope. Some problems solved, some new ones take their place. I mean, do I want to walk down the street and see people shooting up? Take the kids to the park and Mr. Jones is snorting coke over on the park bench and the kids all wave and smile?

We all mean pseudo-legalize, don’t we? Minute that it become a normal acceptable activity we see out our front door we’re going to think again, right? That’s the whole reason it isn’t legalized, I’d venture to say. It's the 'not in my back yard' mentality.

And no matter what any of us think about this from the perspective of intellectual debate, there’s one critical thing we’re forgetting.

A lot of these girls who end up on the streets don’t want to be found. They’re running. A number are underage. Some are criminals before they get there. They don’t want to work someplace that they have to have a social insurance number and be registered as an employee at. That’s the whole idea – they want to disappear.

No matter how well intentioned, how do you legislate around that?

To me, the root of addressing the problem comes a lot sooner. It’s identifying what puts some of these kids on the street and stopping that from happening. There needs to be more intervention in our schools and through social services when people are being abused.

But even then, no easy answers. Maybe I'm too harsh in my opinions. I don't know. It's definitely something I'll wonder about today.

Okay, heavy serious topic that I have no conclusions on. Time to suggest a bit of holiday reading, filled with warm and good cheer. Bryon’s flashing and it’s a genius idea. The story, not the flashing.

Monday, December 18, 2006

How Much Has Changed (& Spinetingler News)

When you’re living life one moment at a time, it can seem like not much happens. You don’t notice a few extra lines around the eyes that creep in over time, a few more grey hairs at the temples, a bit more bulk around the waist…

Until you don’t see someone for a while, and then are reunited. Last week, I felt like I came fact to face with myself for the first time in a while, only I’m not talking about physically.

Not only was I interviewed for the Oshkosh Northwestern recently, but I was also interviewed for the latest Spinetingler. And what struck me was how much had changed, particularly since I did the Spinetingler interview, because it was done in early October.

I have avoided everywhere talking about the future for Lara and Farraday (the protagonists for Suspicious Circumstances) because I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen. The truth…the truth I haven’t been telling people… is that there is a sequel written.

But I don’t know if it will ever be published.

This is what it all boils down to. My current publisher gets one more book. Because they had a different book first, before SC, that was the book I was to give them. It obviously isn’t Past Transgressions, the sequel I wrote to SC.

Not knowing if PT would get published, I took the baseline of the story and wrote a version without Lara and Farraday. Obviously, it’s a different book. It’s an example of how the same starting point for a story can produce two entirely different works.

But only one will see the light of day.

It might seem a weird thing to invest this energy in a manuscript, knowing that one of them will never become a book, but to me it’s a great learning exercise. So many people think their work is wasted if it won’t be published. I’ll admit to feeling discouraged at times (before I got the deal for SC), but it’s never a waste.

The way I see it, first you walk, then you run. It takes time to hone your craft. It takes discipline. Most people have a first manuscript languishing in a drawer somewhere that will never be published. I don’t. Suspicious Circumstances was the first manuscript I completed. The thought of having a version of Past Transgressions that won’t be published doesn’t bug me.

Although that said, having two versions in draft form, I’m not prepared to spend any more time on either until I know what’s going to happen. It was meant to be a continuation of Lara and Farraday’s story. If that doesn’t happen, it essentially becomes a book that could launch a new series. Isn’t that weird, to have two diverse possibilities sitting in front of you, not knowing which way things will go?

I guess the new answer when asked what’s next is I haven’t got a fucking clue. So, for those who wrote after reading SC and said it was killing them to know that book 2 wasn’t going to be Lara and Farraday, I hate to tell you this… but it might be. But if it isn’t, there will almost certainly never be another Lara and Farraday book published. At least, not in English.

How’s that for suspense?

Now, because of the way I usually work, I write out a manuscript, set it aside to mentally clear my head, then go back through it and that’s when another layer to the story emerges. Weirdly, last week that happened with one of the versions of PT – the Lara/Farraday version. I could completely see where I needed to change one thing, at the end of the third chapter, and how that was going to have the snowball effect throughout the rest of the work to make it that much better.

But I’m not touching it.

I’m one of those really fussy creatures. Once I start on something I like to bring it to completion. I’m obsessive. I’ll work seven days a week, dawn to the wee hours, when I’m on a project. I don’t like being part way through a revision and then putting it aside for any reason.

So, since I don’t know what’s going to happen at the moment, I have decided to let both lie and move on and write the next new book. In a weird way, it’s exciting to write something that isn’t contracted, that I have no obligations to offer to anyone. Right now it’s all blank pages and endless possibilities. Plus, I’ll be traveling in the new year, visiting friends. (Nope, no bookstore events.) So this is the perfect time to start something, bring it to first draft, then go away and come back fresh and do an edit on it. That’s my focus for 2007 – new work. I have two new manuscripts I plan to have written by June.

Of course, there could always be developments that shift the plan, but I’ve got a new philosophy. Plan for what you know, deal with the unexpected later.

There were other things that surprised me looking back. Was it really barely more than two months ago that I said I hardly knew Ken Bruen but adored him? Well, I still adore him, and all that much more for having just finished American Skin. I must thank Jon Jordan for giving me a copy of that book. I will be reviewing it for the next Spinetingler, but I think if I had to pin it down in a word I’d say genius. Absofuckinglutely mindblowing is more like it. I’m half way through Vixen now.
Spinetingler News
If you go to the site where you can get the free downloads, you’ll notice the new issue has an option to buy the paperback version. We’re going to aim to have the print version available when we go live next time, but it’s a lot of extra work. Not to mention that it’s amazing how many people still don’t read the f***ing submission guidelines, which causes formatting nightmares galore.

Although we liked the magazine style format we went with last issue, it was more economical to do the paperback version. We wanted to keep the cost as low as possible, and this will be the ballpark for all future issues. We’ll have to start capping space to fit a length – ugh.

From Uncle Charlie

Water – It has been scientifically proven that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 2 lbs of poop each year.

However, we don’t run that risk when drinking wine, rum, whiskey, vodka, beer or other liquors because alcohol has to go through a distillation process of boiling, filtering and fermenting.



Free yourself of poop, drink booze! It’s better to drink booze and feel like shit than drink water and be full of shit. (Al, are you paying attention?)

There’s no need to thank me for relaying this valuable information.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Left Brain, Right Brain

There has been a discussion about planning versus plotting books, and the wondrous Alexandra Sokoloff said something interesting. She said that, in an informal survey she’d done while touring, the more left brained an author, the more likely they were to be a ‘pantser’ and the more right brained, the more likely they were a planner.

So, what am I?

You Are 70% Left Brained, 30% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

This explains why I couldn’t plot books to save my life, and why I absolutely must plot short stories.

In part, anyway.

Bonnie’s post is hilarious. For me, I have to scroll all the way down to read it, but that could just be a safari thing.

I’m off to brave the malls today. As Kevin knows, I’m no fan of shopping. But there are bills to pay, presents to buy. I’ve decided the older kids are getting gift certificates. It’s what they want, anyway.

And Dashiell…I have no idea what to get Dash for Christmas. What would an 18-month-old want? Money won’t quite cut it in his case.

Suggestions welcome. I have a feeling his gift will have to keep until next weekend, because I still don’t have a list from my sister.

What are you guys doing this weekend?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Climax Now

There must be some cosmic event, aligning all the planets or the fourth moon is rising in over Jupiter when the sign of Sagittarius is rising or something, because in one of those peculiar quirks of fate random chance has collided with something else that’s been on my mind a bit.

I know it’s a great shock to all of you that I’m not fond of writing sex scenes. I’m not even fond of reading them. And on one of the discussion groups I read there’s been a discussion about that this week.

[Oh, and on a complete aside, my apologies to Russel for wearing you out yesterday. Hope you finally managed some sleep. ;)]

Last night, Kevin picks a show for us to listen to the commentary on while we eat dinner. And it actually isn’t important what show it was, as you’ll see in a moment, but apparently in Season 2 of The Wire they don’t list the commentators on the case. In pops Season 2, episode 6. Which would be one of my favourite episodes, in spite of the fact that it’s the episode D’Angelo dies in. But the courtroom scene is priceless. Anyway…

The commentary isn’t provided by the writers, the director of the episode or the show’s creator. Nope. It’s actors. Dominic West, who plays the self-destructive, whoring, drinking Jimmy McNulty (okay, he was during season 2!) and Michael K. Williams, who plays “homothug” Omar, who robs from drug dealers and is handy with a shotgun. And the actor called Omar a “homothug” on the commentary, because Omar is gay but as Michael said there’s nothing gay about Omar so it’s homothug.

Now, this is like getting the inside scoop on all the gossip on a show. For one thing, McNulty is never on top in any of his sex scenes because Dominic doesn’t want to show off his white butt cheeks. Thanks for sharing, Dominic.

But even better, these two fine, upstanding gentlemen give their assessment on all the breast shots in the show, from seasons 1 and 2. I think Callie Thorne should be a bit disappointed at only ranking #2, but that’s another aside. You see, this is why I listen to commentaries. When was the last time a group of guys ever did an assessment on quality breasts when I was around? When was the first time? And surprisingly, even Kevin was mum on the subject as we were listening to this insightful commentary. He was like Prez going to the titty bar, refusing to look because he was there with women.

But if I’m going to write from the POV of male characters, don’t you think it helps me to understand how guys rank boobs? And yet for some reason I can’t convince Kevin to share his opinions. He really is unhelpful when it comes to insight into the male mind.

Now, the one problem I have is that I’ll have to watch the episode where the #1 boobs are shown and see if I can figure out why they rank higher. Because the guys only provided partial assessment. Just, “Wow” and not much in terms of specifics. Size? Colour? I’m still left wondering exactly why one pair scored ahead of another. How do you rank good knockers, guys?

Now, curiously enough, this connects to a recent interview I did and subsequent remarks made to me by individuals that have convinced me that the next time I’m in Scotland I need to study the backsides of men more. Which raises a whole different set of questions. What makes for a good butt? Amount of cushion, firmness, general shape?

I don’t write much sex, but I’m beginning to see the potential up side in changing that. Think of all the research.

So, who’s going to fess up? What do you find most attractive about a person? And don’t you dare say, “Their mind.”

Bill, I expect you, at least, to answer this!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the title of the post, Dominic said in one of the sex scenes he did the director told him, “Climax now” and he had a little tirade about needing some warning, couldn’t just deliver on demand…

Isn’t that just like a man?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

In My House, My Rules

I’ve had plenty of experience working with kids, so I’m familiar with run-on sentences, poor spelling, bad grammar, an absence of punctuation. And from kids that’s okay. They’re learning.

I have also received emails from people that start:

heya yous think U wud…

You better be 15 fucking years old if you want to use that lingo and expect me to wade through line upon line without punctuation to guide me or even breaking paragraphs as I try to figure out what you’re saying.

The thing is, I’ve had a few emails like this over the past year, from authors. Not crime fiction authors, I’m pleased to say, but when I see stuff like this I go mental. I will read it from teenagers. I will actually read it from anyone... except people who claim to be professional writers. Then it isn't that they don't know any better. It's just that they're being lazy.

I’m not really a ‘rules’ girl. Not sure if everyone’s gotten that. In case you’re new here or have been sleepwalking for the past few months, I think it’s necessary to point that out. I don’t cling rigidly to rules just for the sake of rules.

But when it comes to some things - spelling, grammar, punctuation – I believe the author has the responsibility to try to be correct. Oh, I know typos happen. They happen to me too. And some rules are unclear, or there are different UK and US rules, which always confuses me because we seem to operate with half of each system here.

Nevertheless, it is my job. if I were to post one massive runon sentence and just expect you guys to follow along figure out what Im saying with not using any punctuation or worreein about how any werds are spelt id expect Us guys to skip rite on 2 the next blog and not likely come back and probly not by my book either.

My house, my rules.

Now, when it comes to the writing rules, POV shifts and such, I’m more flexible. Good authors can break rules, because they know when and how to do it. Good authors do it in such a way that you don’t even notice.

That said, I’m aware everyone has their thing they can’t stand. I’m aware I can’t please everyone. I’m also aware that I’m still learning.

Do you guys have any pet peeves that will keep you from ever reading an author again?

Now, in the randomness that is cyberspace, I bring you:
Christmas presents from Cornelia, in case you haven’t already seen them. I really want The Ex. And the Ninja Ducks.

Hawt android? Bill, what’s the verdict?

File this under another dumb reason to have a beard.

I think I’m glad that when Kevin and I were in Japan we had twin beds. Honestly, though, I think I could take them.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Are You Sick Of Me Yet?

Another interview with me has hit cyberspace, and will run in The Oshkosh Northwestern this weekened. My thanks to Bethany Warner for asking me the hardest question to date.

So, instead of saying anything about me, I'll tell you that DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash site is up and taking submissions. Here are the details for sending in your work:

Here's the details, as sent out by DZ Allen a few days ago:

This site is dedicated to noir and pulp fiction. We want to read about bad people doing bad things to other bad people. We want your black and white worlds filled with thugs and crooked cops who are most at home in dingy bars. Where gratuitous sex, violence, and smoking are still encouraged. Where all the women are gorgeous and the only thing longer than their legs are the lies they tell.

We want it fast and quick, with no questions asked. Stories must be 700 words or less. No reprints please - get off your dusty duff and put the bottle away long enough to write something original for the site. All copyrights stay with the author. Email your story to with Submission in the comment line. Cut and paste your submission in the body of the email - no attachments. Keep the stories intelligent and well written. I'll post almost anything and reserve the right to hold back a story if I feel it doesn't meet the spirit of the site. Use your brains and give me something smart. Include a short bio or where you can be contacted. I will not post anonymous submissions. Comments will be open but flaming posts will not be tolerated. If you don't have something constructive or supportive to say keep your filthy trap shut.

So bring on your hit men and women, your thugs, your private dicks, your hookers with hearts of gold, your gullible young studs easily swayed to perform evil deeds by a sultry smile and a glimpse of cleavage. We've got the perfect place for them to misbehave.

I don't know DZ, but I like him already.

Oh, and have you heard? The latest Spinetingler is up and available for download. Almost 4000 downloads so far, and Anne Frasier has a cool assessment on some of the stories in this issue. This is a big part of why we do this - exposure for those writers. Now I'm running off to Angie's to do the Snoopy Dance.

Then it's time to work. Yeah, I do do that occasionally.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I would like to remind everyone that I am not personally responsible for the things Mark Billingham said about Al, Duane, Ian, Stuart or Halle Berry.

Or anyone else!

Although I will admit to having a good laugh, or two.

Where To Go From Here

As you already know, the new issue of Spinetingler is up. And I do want to extend my thanks to all of those who help spread the word. This is great exposure for the talented writers sending stories our way, plus the interviews are great fun.

Yesterday, I spent the day in the city, strategizing for Wordapalooza so today I’ll be catching up on emails and such here. But there was something that came my way yesterday that I had to talk to Kevin about last night.

It was interesting, but it was new terrain. I was intrigued, yet unsure if I should move in that direction. Am I the only person who finds themselves debating temptations to try something new, uncertain about the ramifications?

I’m the type of person who, once having started on something, doesn’t like to drop it and shift gears. In this respect I’m extremely anal. I don’t typically work on more than one writing project at a time, especially if it’s a book.

This week I have to decide what I’m doing next. And believe me, once I make that decision, there will be no turning back until some time in the spring. I’m ready to go on any of four new books. Completely new characters and settings, so all require research. Except the Micky Rickards book. I know that setting.

So, taking on a new challenge can sometimes be invigorating, but how do I know if it will interfere with the other things I’m going to be doing? How do you guys make decisions about things like this?

Staying in the ‘where to go from here’ vein, Patti asked about my thoughts on the final episode to season 4 of The Wire.

I’ve watched it twice now, and this is the most open-ended season yet. You can see that the stage has been set for season 5. We already know who the target is. And we know how things are proceeding.

I have to say that in season 1, there was the death of Wallace. In season 2, D’Angelo. And in season 4 they have taken away another one of my favourite characters.

I have to say that the intro to the episode shocked the hell out of me.

We recently bought season 3 on DVD and have been listening to the commentary. When you can listen to George Pelecanos and David Simon talk about the structure of episodes and how it all works, you get notepaper and a pen and sit down to learn from the masters. This show is genius, and when you listen to the commentaries you begin to understand why. One of the things I’ll never forget from the first season was talking about the scene where D’Angelo and Wee Bey get out of the truck and Wee Bey reminds Dee of the rules. They’re standing in front of a restaurant, Bey under the word beef and Dee under the word chicken. This show is that carefully orchestrated, down to the details. I learn tons listening to the commentaries, and it makes me think about details and specifics in my writing.

Right, well, exhaustion and a long list that isn’t getting any shorter are prompting me to bid adieu for the moment. We really do appreciate all of you spreading the word on the new issues of Spinetingler. I must say I’ve already received some funny emails from people who had their names mentioned in various places… Didn’t exactly warn them. What would be the fun in that?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sweet Victory: Spinetingler is Up

The new issue of Spinetingler proved to be a stubborn issue, but at last the Winter Issue is up, filled with all sorts of scrumptious goodies, just in time for your holiday indulging. There are stories by the likes of Bill Cameron, Stephen Allan, and Angie Johnson Schmit. But that’s not all! There are also stories by Vincent H Keen - he of the annoying name that, if I were him, I would just shorten to VINCE KEEN, because that sounds tough and crime writery – and JD Rhoades. And there are others, but they aren’t bloggers, which is the only reason I’m not doing a full-fledged list. You’ll find all the goodies at the site.

But if that isn’t enough to entice you already, try this on for size. I interview not one, not two, but three fantastic authors. And I recommend that you read them all, because names are mentioned and other authors interject on one of the interviews. In fact, I recommend starting with Jess Lourey, then Duane Swierczywonderboy and then Mark Billingham. When you read them, it will all make sense.

Still here? What the hell is wrong with you? Alright then. As though you needed any more enticement, Russel has made an appearance in this issue.

Go forth and spread the word. Seriously, it’s another massive issue. The print version will be available for purchase next week.

Meanwhile, we will collapse from sheer exhaustion.

You know what the cool thing is, though? Next year some of the authors I’ll be interviewing include David Terrenoire, Anthony Bidulka, Rick Mofina, Allan Guthrie, Robert Fate, Anne Frasier, Tess Gerritsen, Julia Buckley and Ken Bruen.

Right. I’m off to cuddle up with one of Barnes and Noble’s best crime fiction picks of the year, Ken Bruen’s American Skin. A read which is definitely on my top ten list for the year, which is more important than silly ol’ Barnes and Noble’s list.

I do dearly hope we managed to get all the bugs out of this issue…

Not Ready Yet

We had thought the new Spinetingler would be up today, but unfortunately we've had some technical problems with the pdf upload. We were up until almost midnight and before 5 am Kevin was at it again, but unfortunately we couldn't get it resolved.

So please, hold spreading the word until tomorrow. We'll be tackling the problem tonight.

I did want to mention that Al Guthrie has joined the blog world and he's also flashing at Tribe's with Fucking Liars.

And David Thayer is trying to whet your appetite for new books in January.

Today is a Monday. Here's hoping tomorrow won't be a repeat.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Holiday Get To Know You

Of the holidays

I took the tag from Trace for two reasons. One, I thought it was something festive (and it required minimal brain power on my part to do it) and two, Trace’s new book, Finding Chloe is available Monday! What a year for Trace – two books out there through Liquid Silver and she continues to work her heart out on behalf of Spinetingler. The woman is amazing.

So, the Holiday Get-To-Know-You Meme.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot chocolate, with cinnamon. Ummm.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
If Santa=Sandra, then they go in gift bags because I can’t wrap presents. If you’ve seen the commercial where the woman picks up the beautifully wrapped box and it falls out the bottom, well….

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Neither currently. But usually coloured.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
What, and kiss someone around here? Yuck.

5. When do you put up your decorations?
November. Usually right after Halloween.

6 What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
I just love turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. And then my brother-in-law, Martin, makes the best turkey stew. Oh, and biscuits. With the wheat thing I’m not supposed to eat stuff like that too much, but biscuits. Umm. It’s the simple things you miss when you have food issues.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
Just the way the tree looked.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
My sister told me, when she showed me where the Christmas presents were hidden. I was getting Star Wars action figures.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
See #17

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love snow. Especially nice, fat snowflakes drifting down slowly.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes, I used to do that for work. It’s been a few years, though.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift for Christmas?
Last year Kevin got me a bear that dances to Jingle Bells. Not only do I love it, but Dash loves it too. Dashiell is a musical kid.

14 . What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
The sappy commercials. They make me cry. Even the Canadian Tire commercials get me all sentimental.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Pumpkin pie.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Christmas Eve with my sister’s family. The kids are a lot of fun. It sucks to have Christmas without kids.

17. What tops your tree?
Nothing. Just lights and lace ornaments and simple things.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
I love giving someone something that makes them happy. But I have no objections to receiving nice surprises too.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Merry Bloody Xmas by the Rovers. Followed by Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M.

20. Do you like Candy Canes?
Love them.

My cousin Bridget sent me a Christmas card. Thought I'd share it.

Uh, obviously, she isn't the one in the picture.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Shopping Tips

If you’ve been waiting for Sex Toys 101, here it is. A list of some of the items you can buy your partner for Christmas, meant to generate more heat than an electric frying pan.

You know what’s funny? I had to argue with Kevin to get him to buy me kitchen stuff when we were first married.* All his life, growing up watching his mom get impersonal presents like pots made him determined that the presents would always be fun. I have a hell of a teddy bear collection, but I actually wanted a new frying pan.

See, a guy tries to be thoughtful and he still can’t win!

What else can you get for the ones you love this year? Well, if the personalized Patrick Swayze calendar doesn’t work for you, how about the personalized playboy calendar?

But here is my real moment of happiness. A list of the top 10 gifts for 2006. They have the usual – digital cameras, cell phones, iPods and MP3 players – but they also have the only thing on my list.


I know, I know, we’ve established that I certainly don’t need any. But it seems to me like the world is a better place when I buy a book.

I guess the big question of the day is, if you celebrate, have you done your shopping? I haven’t…

Spinetingler News Hopefully the new issue will be up Monday at the latest. It would have been yesterday, if not for a fire department issue. Now that it’s the weekend, well, I’m aiming for Monday. In case you hadn’t figured it out, I have holiday shopping to do.

I thought I’d post this for John McFetridge. Surprisingly, it didn’t come from Uncle Charlie. Seems appropriate to today’s post, though. Highly educational. And perhaps uncomfortable for male readers.

Brazilian bikini wax


I was picking lint from my collar when my editor called with a dangerous mission: to get a Brazilian bikini wax and report back to you, the reader.

Apparently, men are ripping hair from the shyest parts of their body, and no one knows why. They needed someone on the inside.

I arrived at the day spa without a reconnaissance. Lauren the hostess guided me through the cutting and curling and dyeing to a waiting room.

Scratch that. Any room so fancy should technically be called a foyer.
The chandelier tinkled to the sounds of Beethoven, and cinnamon candles warmed the room. I sat on a couch with entirely too many pillows and tried not to touch anything. Lauren hurried away to do hostess things.

Odd place for a man condemned to wax.

Men are not cut out for hair removal. A man can eat nails, drive a
Harley, become a Navy Seal, and still snivel before a pair of tweezers (or as I like to call them, Devil's Chopsticks). It is baffling that women endure this pain -- repeatedly -- for any cause, including their own salvation.

Lauren circled back for me and soon I lay in the waxing chamber, where everything was fresh and folded and blindingly white. Was I in for surgery or hair removal? As instructed, I removed my clothes and assumed the position. It was like lying on a chiropractor's table, only face up with legs spread in gynecologic uncertainty and, on second thought, nothing like the chiropractor at all.

A cheery voice interrupted my willies: "You muss be the lucky man."

And in she walked, a stout Argentine woman whom you liked instantly even if she was about to rain terror on your netherparts. Her name was Blanca, but she answered to anything that sounded like cries for mercy. Blanca was an older woman, better for the wear, and had an accent straight out of Evita.

Her voice soothed like a lullaby, but you sensed that she could beat you silly if she had to.

For some reason, it only now occurred to me that Blanca would see me naked.

I felt like we should get to know each other, have a drink or something, but she went right to work like a mother changing a diaper. She had seen every size, shape, and color, and mine did not bear mention. So it goes.

Blanca showed me the instruments of destruction: liquid wax, cloth strips, and a box of Kleenex (for my eyes). Her arms were brawny as if from subduing previous customers. I asked Blanca what made a wax Brazilian. Despite my hopes, it had nothing to do with live samba dancers.

“The Brazilian es when everything goes, even where the sun no shine.
The French, however, es when you leave a leetle strip..." She demonstrated.

I asked her if we could start with a colder, more conservative country, say, Poland.

Blanca laughed as she dipped her rag in hot -- extremely hot -- wax. She laid the strip on my skin and, coaxing me in tender tones, rrrripped the hair from Mr. Giggles.

It is hard to describe the pain that attended. Normally we are present to a range of sights and sounds, grounded for the most part in reality. The moment Blanca took back her strip of cloth, my awareness of Other came to a searing standstill, and nothing existed outside the sting between my legs.

Somewhere in the distance a dog barked.

I yelped in some new language and had a mini-seizure.

“Es okay, beautiful, see." Blanca showed me a strip of fur thatbelonged somewhere else.

So it went, strip after strip, my torso arched backward like one demented

Slinky. Blanca assured me that "es almost over," then rrrripped again. I looked to her the way one does a flight attendant in turbulence: her smile was all I had.

"Beautiful, es almost over," she said, and I, in my fever, believed her. We were almost done for 30 minutes.

Tears welled up, but I sucked them back in with my eyeballs. Women wax all the time, right? I thought about my wife. Maybe she would take me for ice cream afterward.

With every pass, the wax got hotter. I asked Blanca if the heat would max out at some non-scalding temperature.

"Hot wax es better," she said. "It grabs the hair from underneath."

Her perfectionism was killing me.

"Es almost over."

Blanca told me to close my eyes and relax, but every time I got to my happy place, she ripped it out of me. It's a little-known fact that the man who coined "mind over matter" died of a Brazilian bikini wax. I've endured tattoos, carpentry stabbings, and a bee sting that made my lips look like Meg Ryan's, and none of it could have prepared me.

Finally, mercifully, we reached the end -- the real end. Blanca had clear-cut Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, leaving no shrub unfelled.

She wiped her hands and said brightly, "See, I told you eet was almost over."

I looked down at my new friend, a turkey made hairless, waddle and all.

Blanca told me to let it air out for a while, be naked if possible. Good thing I work at home; that could have been awkward for everyone.

"Thank you for trust me," she said. "Will you do eet again?"

“Perhaps if I encounter some issues with my memory down the line." I tipped Blanca not for the wax but for the psychotherapy.


It has been a week, and I'm still not myself. I've acquired a facial tic and other hints of post-traumatic stress disorder. The draft in my basement won't go away. I feel less manly, Samson without his pubic hair. I've stopped showering at the gym, and it may be years before I can eat Brazilian nuts.

My hair is returning slowly, in patches, like Earth after nuclear winter.

Blanca said that if I wax often enough, the hair will stop growing altogether, but then what will we do for fun? My compulsion to scratch is severe -- greater, in fact, than my need to be accepted by other people in the restaurant.

As nice as it was to clean Richard and the twins, I have decided that my private parts will remain private. Some say that waxing improves sex, but I don't think I'm good enough at it to tell the difference. I did find this, however: shavers and waxers don't mix. My wife is a shaver, and I, bless my editor, am a waxer. Now when we make love, it feels like grating glass down there, which, of course, is not enough to keep me away.

Blanca sees musclemen, swimmers, and guys who like to roam the beach showing off their circumcision, but still it is mostly women. They are the only ones tough enough to return. Blanca would like to have more male clients, but something tells me I didn't help her cause.

Still, I will always recall fondly this woman who knows me better than do most of my ex-girlfriends. Even now, as I scratch and scratch, her accent echoes in my mind: "Es almost over, es almost over...

* Not that he would have bought me sex toys. Prude, remember?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I’m warning you guys now...

Brace yourselves.

So, a teenager facing 27 criminal charges couldn’t be held in jail. Kid steals a car and smacks into a vehicle at high speed, killing a mother of three.

The teenager was described throughout the report as a "troubled boy," had tried to evade police and was high on drugs at the time.

He’s been sentenced to 4 ½ years in custody for the death.

27 charges? And he isn’t even so young that they aren’t naming names. The victim’s family is pushing for answers. They think they’re being heard, but the skeptic in me says that things are a long way from being better where young offenders are concerned.

Why? Have you heard about this “incident”where two kids threw a rock from an overpass and killed a bus driver?

I saw the headline yesterday. No jail time.

And what gets me about that is, it isn’t the first time this has happened. There have been several incidents where drivers have been lucky to survive having a rock strike their windshield while driving on a highway.

Meanwhile, Graffiti discovered in the playground of an elementary school was so sexually explicit, students weren't allowed outside for recess or lunch yesterday, say officials.
And police said it's becoming a disturbing trend they're seeing more frequently at schools across the city.
Goody goody gumdrops – this story comes from Calgary.

So, across my fair nation we have druggie criminal teens stealing cars and killing people, getting slapped on the wrist for it, other kids not being held responsible for throwing rocks off overpasses and killing someone….

Is anyone going to jail anymore?

Why yes. Yes, someone is. The kid that played with his Christmas present.

Let me give Mom here this much credit. She at least realizes that kids need to face consequences. But this story infuriates me, for a number of reasons.

We’ve got kids who are actually criminals who need to be locked up for serious crimes who are being let run free, but we expect our police to waste time, energy and money incarcerating a kid who wouldn’t listen to his mother?

And then we come to the infamous, “The mother said her son was diagnosed in the last year with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but his medicine does not seem to help” lines.

Would it be wrong of me to show up at her house and smack her? Seriously, I did one of my special education reports on ADHD. The fucking drugs are only one component in a six-part strategy for affecting behaviour. You don’t just pump the kids full of drugs and expect them to be better! That’s why I lean a bit on the no-drug side – not because the drugs are never effective. Sometimes they’re very effective. But the way they’re being used is just to sedate kids who aren’t being taught coping skills or strategies for handling themselves when they aren’t medicated. And that’s a problem.

The drugs are all too often being used as a band-aid, and that’s not what they should be used for. Okay, in fairness to Mom here, yes it sounds like the kid has some other problems. But if you’re going to have your child arrested maybe you should do it when he assaults a human being, not opens a Christmas gift early, ya think?

Beyond that, the fact that the solution here is to call the police… What happened to counseling? Talking to the doctor who prescribes his medication? Reading a book about your son’s condition and maybe trying to make some lifestyle changes that will help?

Did you know that in some countries doctors aren’t allowed to prescribe ridilin until they can prove dietary intervention has failed?

Now, it’s funny, because this is the topic I had planned for yesterday, but blogger wasn’t working. Otherwise it would have followed by post about the kids I worked with five years ago.

Remember the violent one? We discovered through careful monitoring that there were foods contributing to his behavioural issues. Every day for months I wrote in his journal what he ate, what his mood was like, positive and negative behaviours, and we started to see the connections.

Part of the reason that the room split also worked for him was that he needed to be able to focus without distraction. He could cope in a room with 9 other children. He couldn’t concentrate with 26 others.

About 9 years ago now, I worked in a different place. One child, in the center of a custodial conflict, was ADHD. He had the foulest mouth I’ve ever heard, and that takes some doing. Fuck was his favourite word. He was 7. And before you dismiss it to any gangster stuff, he was Caucasian and attended Catholic School, played hockey and had no street exposure.

One parent didn’t want him medicated. Another did. So what that parent did was provide his teacher with chocolate and meds and the teacher put the meds in the chocolate and gave him some every morning. He didn’t even know he was being drugged.

Now, he did stop swearing so much. And he really was a hyper kid. Reminded me a bit of a monkey, always running around, swinging off of whatever, could not sit still for two seconds, absolutely no respect for authority either.

That changed. He became lethargic, listless and didn’t have the same energy for sports (the only thing that saved this kid and the staff, because we could channel that energy).

But you can only medicate kids on ridilin for a fixed number of hours. Then they come off of it. And if you haven’t been using the ‘down’ time to teach them about behaviour, to provide an environment that helps them learn and focus so that they can begin to implement coping strategies, you haven’t done anything but make a teacher’s life a bit easier for a few hours.

You certainly haven’t helped the kid learn. And since he doesn’t know he’s being medicated and Mom isn’t there to see it during the day, how do you assess if the dosage is correct? Who’s monitoring the side effects to see if maybe that should be changed? It’s certainly not a teacher’s responsibility, and I hate to say it, but all too many of them are just happy not to deal with the outbursts. Some really don’t care as long as the kid shuts up.

I’m only pointing it out to say that when I see these parents all of a sudden snap and go medieval and blame the drugs for not working I want to scream. I guess I’ve worked with too many of them, who want the quick fix. And they think that being ‘tolerant’ and overlooking all their child’s misbehaviour is love. It isn’t – it’s bullshit. You overlook your seven-year-old son calling you a fucking bitch? You overlook him bullying other children? You overlook him hitting other kids with a hockey stick? You overlook him running away from his instructors and refusing to listen to them? You overlook him doing his schoolwork?

And then one day you’ve had enough and you do what, exactly? It isn’t like you’ve ever disciplined him.

And I’m not even opposed to ridilin, btw. Oh, sure, it would be nice if we didn’t rely so much on medication. But the goal here is supposed to be addressing the child’s issues in an effective manner that allows them to cope with their condition.

Because it’s one they have to live with for life. And at some point, they have to be able to handle life without the drugs.

You haven’t done anything to help your kid if you haven’t helped them face that. It isn’t love to not teach your child how to be responsible and independent.

It’s negligence.

Sometimes, I really miss kids and think about going back to work.

And then I think about the parents.