Friday, June 30, 2006

Okay, this just in...

... From the CWA Dagger Awards:

"We got to mingle with the great and the good of the crime world - top literary agent Jane Gregory, Natasha Cooper, Simon Kernick, and we even had a bit of a dance with the kilt twirling Stuart MacBride!"

Wonder if Stuart will wear the kilt to Harrogate?

And does ANYONE have a picture?

A Matter of Perspective

I was reading in the bath when my first call from Thrillerfest came in. *Not a report, but an inquiry into the marital status of certain attendees.* (see below)

Which did make me wonder just what was going on at the opening party! But, setting that aside, I had a chance to chat to a few people who previously had only been names on posts and emails.

It was during that exchange that I griped about how hot it’s been here – around 90F.

They laughed at me.

Okay, okay, so it’s much hotter in Arizona. Step outside and evaporate. But for Alberta, it’s pretty damn hot. Every animal in this house is trying to stretch out in front of a fan or find a spot of concrete in the unfinished part of the basement.

We’ve been setting temperature records, people!

It isn’t as hot as it is some places in the world, even some places I’ve been. A woman was telling me the other day she’s going to Costa Rica, the Pacific side. Just thinking about it made my body temperature elevate five degrees. Not to mention the heat we experienced in Bali, but again, another story.

Recently, I saw someone make a remark about an author. Their complaint was that the books were filled with what they called “padding”. They gave examples of the dead-end pursuits of the investigations that didn’t pan out during the course of the book.

I wanted to respond to the person, but I couldn’t find the words to express what I thought. Not without being snippy.

Then Linda L. Richards said, “One reader's padding is another's exquisite detail.”

So diplomatic, so well said. And it sums up how I feel about broad-judgment statements about books.

This is why when I review books, I try to evaluate them based on what they are, rather than what they aren’t. If the book is dark, I don’t get upset about a little blood being spilt. If it’s a cozy, I wouldn’t expect that.

It would be like watching The Lord of the Rings and saying, “Not bad, but they used magic, and that just threw the whole thing off for me. It’s so unrealistic.”

Duh.

Last night, we watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Again, no spoilers.

But what a movie. This movie wasn’t the kind of ‘heavy dark’ that Frailty was. It wasn’t light comic fun either. But a blend of the two. A very entertaining movie that I actually wanted to watch the dvd extras for afterward, because it was so well done.

So, two movies this week. Both very different in tone. But both were great.

I’ve been trying to get a good picture of Buttons and Simon together, and this isn’t it. But if you look at their faces, you can see the similarity of the markings. Simon is practically a clone!



And sorry for the brief post, but I’ve been wiped out. Hopefully, my schedule will level off next week.




* did I say my first call? This might not be entirely true. But you should see the look on my husband's face when men call for me. Thrillerfest: a few hundred bucks. Plane fare: another few hundred bucks. Food: not much money. Alcohol: several hundred dollars. The look on Kevin's face when men phone me? Priceless.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

It Isn’t Murder If You’re Destroying Demons

My husband has a knack for finding movies./shows he thinks I’ll enjoy and tracking them down. Even if it means ordering it in from the US or elsewhere. We have a region-free dvd player, so some of our sets have come over from Hong Kong, Indonesia…

The other night, I took a rare few hours for TV, to watch Frailty. I don’t even remember hearing about this movie, but I really enjoyed it.

Now, I don’t want to give stuff about the movie away, in case anyone out there hasn’t seen it but thinks they might. What I will say is this. Although my crime-writing mind was trying to guess ahead at the potential twists that might be coming up (and therefore did come up with a few of the correct possibilities) the twists were so well executed it was a treat. Ultimately, I didn’t guess the final twist, some of the things that went through my mind I discounted for very logical reasons, but there was more I didn’t know that then turned everything around.

So, all in all, a movie that I not only really enjoyed watching (except for the parts where I closed by eyes or winced) but a movie I would recommend to those who like what I’d call a psychological thriller.

It’s interesting to mention this kind of movie, in light of the discussion surrounding violence in art that my post at Killer Year yesterday generated. There continue to be new comments on the topic, and a lot of the posters have put as much thought into sharing their insights as I did with my initial assessment of the subject.

I can maintain with my head that if someone commits a crime, I’m not responsible, even if they copy something I’d written. However, my heart has a harder time separating myself from the blame.

I don’t think it’s bad. I think that this is what keeps us human – that sense of concern for the impact our actions may or may not have. To question yourself doesn’t make you accountable, but it keeps you from being reckless and irresponsible with your actions.

So it’s not a bad thing.

Switching gears to something of a much different nature, A Quiet Night At Home by K. Robert Einarson proves an interesting follow-up to his story, Predator, on Flashing in the Gutters. I think my husband’s getting addicted to flashing.

Ever wish you were an Oscar Meyer Weiner? JT Ellison muses on the Killer Year blog.


What action hero would you be? Courtesy of Gabriele.

You scored as Neo, the "One". Neo is the computer hacker-turned-Messiah of the Matrix. He leads a small group of human rebels against the technology that controls them. Neo doubts his ability to lead but doesn't want to disappoint his friends. His goal is for a world where all men know the Truth and are free from the bonds of the Matrix.

Neo, the "One"

92%

Batman, the Dark Knight

79%

William Wallace

71%

Lara Croft

63%

Maximus

63%

The Amazing Spider-Man

63%

Captain Jack Sparrow

63%

El Zorro

54%

The Terminator

50%

James Bond, Agent 007

50%

Indiana Jones

50%

Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com


Russel - named for the birthday boy himself. Happy Birthday Russel!



Simon



Stuart and Rebus



Rebus and Stuart


Universal Symbol Of Marriage Approved

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Being a bit obtuse...

I didn't put up the plea for all Americans to call their congressmen in support of crime lab funding this morning. I read my email half-asleep (it is SO hot here I can't sleep!) and I'm not exactly with it in the morning. I was notified of this by the fantastic Jan Burke and she has the details up on her blog. If you're American, take a minute to help make a difference as the senate prepares to vote.

And be sure to thank Jan for the heads up - she does a phenomenal job bringing awareness to the shortcomings of US crime labs on her blog. Check it out!

No sex for Canadians, just nudity

If you read the story I linked to at the end of yesterday's main post, you'll know the Japanese - apparently - aren't getting any.

And according to this article, neither are Canadians. Although my old stomping grounds of Muskoka could be the exception.

JB Thompson has an interview with Jason Pinter up on her blog. Be sure to drop by and check it out!

And where am I, anyway? It's Wednesday, which means it's my turn at Killer Year. Come find me there! But first, kittens.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

This Just In

Special deal for the next 10 Crimespree subscribers - for details, check out Central Crime Zone.

And you know why you should subscribe right now? Okay, totally self-absorbed bsp moment here (but at least it's on my own blog!) to tell you I have a short story and have done an interview, both will be in the next issue, #13. I believe Karin Slaughter will be on the front, so don't miss it!

Defying Genetics (& the final word on the price of my soul)

I have a personal mission to overcome my body’s natural inclination to be a certain size. To prove that we are all more than the sum of our parts, not simply limited by our genetic code, to show that I am in control.

Yes, friends, I’m on a mission to prove that just because I’m naturally inclined to be skinny I too can be overweight.

Okay, okay. You’re all rolling your eyes, right? But what is it about getting to a certain age that makes weight that much harder to lose?

Oh, and that’s what we call a rhetorical question. I do not want a scientific explanation. I just want to complain. What’s that? Rolling your eyes at me again? Hey, at least I’m honest!

This year has officially sucked on the whole ‘treadmill commitment’ thing. Some of you will remember I put my back out a few months ago. Shoveling snow. Yes, that’s right, that’s what it really was, not anything else.

I actually put my back out just over a year ago. I decided to dig out a flower garden. The soil there was nearly dead, and I knew I had to replace it. Not only that, but I dug up a dog skull and a few other bits and pieces and decided it was deep enough. Then I started moving bricks… Well, you get the idea.

This all goes back to something that happened when I was a kid. I was running along the beach and landed on broken liquor bottle. I screamed bloody murder across Lake Muskoka that day, and it was bad. It was 1980, and in Canada that means we were just heading into the tainted blood scandal era. Of course, I had no clue about that at the time, nor did a lot of other people. But we’d walked to the beach, a good 15-20 minute walk for a kid from our house, and it was another 20 minutes driving like mad on the highway to the hospital. We flagged down a ride to our house, fortunately, or I would have had a blood transfusion for sure.

As it was, it was touch and go. I still remember the lovely doctor, Dr. Daniels, who walked in, looked at me, sighed and said, “IF you don’t stop screaming, I’m going to cut your foot off.” I thought then it was a threat. I suppose he might have been pointing out that when a man with a sharp instrument is performing delicate surgery and someone screams in his ears, anything can happen, but that didn’t register in my brain then.

All I could do was grip the bed rail as hard as possible and clamp my mouth shut and cry. (This all happened just before my 9th birthday, btw.)



My scar curves up the outside of my right foot, about an inch. It goes across my foot on the bottom, about 2/3 of the way across. I even had disintegrating stitches used inside on the muscle to help in mend.

And after what seemed like a very long time, I had to relearn how to walk.



Of course, I didn’t know anything about blood flow to injuries back then. But my body was pumping all its natural goodness to my right leg, because of the injury.

So, guess what folks? My right leg is a bit longer than my left leg. Just enough that occasionally, I trip over my own two feet and look like a complete idiot. Other people need something to get in the way to trip them up, but no no, not me. I can fall flat on my face without any assistance! I’m special that way.

Are you starting to figure out where this is going? Yep, the inevitable repercussion of having one leg longer than the other and not knowing for a few years. My spine compensated too, bless it. I have minor scoliosis.

Kevin always says I’m defective and he’s working on the warranty. Damn, if I were him, I’d want my money back. We haven’t even talked about the time I was hit by a car and the scar on my head as a result.

So, now that I’m in my 30s, I find my body is protesting a bit more. My knees are grumbling about a strike. My butt is insistent that it prefers a double cushion because it’s taken enough falls.

I got thinking about this yesterday. Because when we sprain our ankle, for example, it is often weakened for life. But if you break a bone and it mends, it’s usually stronger.

There was something that happened that prompted yesterday’s post. I’m not going to talk specifics on it.

I already knew what I was going to do before I put the post up. It was a process of getting to that point over the weekend, but I had someone who talked some real sense to me, who put my head on straight, who showed how wonderful and compassionate they are. And someone else reminded me, again, of why I think he’s a great guy and... Well, let’s just say I’m lucky. I’ve got great friends. Wise friends.

Still, I tried to check my “I don’t give a fuck” attitude at the door when I wrote that post. Because it is always possible that, in your own natural desire to defend yourself, you overlook legitimate points about your behaviour. I’m not perfect, and I figured that if anyone who knows me from here had something to say on it, I should be open to hearing them. I can be self-righteous with the best of them, but I was trying to keep an open mind.

At the same time, I felt like it wasn’t bad for everyone to consider. It may have happened to you already, it may never happen, or it might be just around the bend. Even Stuart recently blogged about getting a critical letter from someone inferring he was too full of himself. (Puhleeeeeze. I mean, if you’ve ever met Stuart, full of himself? That’s pretty damn funny.)

Yep, as Amra pointed out, I care too much. But if you know why you’re blogging, what you’re doing here, then you’ll be okay. What matters is that you can look in the mirror and know that you’re good with yourself.

Everything after that is just gravy. And I’m really lucky, because I’ve got friends who give me so much encouragement and support. You’re all beautiful.

Except Brett. Brett’s post gives a glimpse to life inside Killer Year Clubhouse that you won’t want to miss, but I’m not sure I was prepared to flash everyone week 2…It is my crisis day, right? Or is Toni after that again with her breast problems?

Giving Birth To A Blog!

And this one’s special! Because it’s mostly Canadian! Welcome Vicki Delaney, Alex Brett, Rick Blechta, Michael Blair and Charles Benoit to the blogsphere with Type M For Murder! You’ll see Vicki’s name in the special Canadian issue of Spinetingler, out in July, and Rick Blechta is the president of Crime Writers of Canada. Go over, meet the gang, say hi!

And talk about a news flash…

Monday, June 26, 2006

How blogging can ruin your life (Personality For Sale, part 2)

Tidal waves swept through cyberspace this weekend, with the assertion that Laura Lippman had implied author Martha Laurence is dead.

Before you read on, let me warn you. This post is going to get back to what I was thinking about when I asked if people should change who they are to succeed in their career. It isn't one of my chipper days on the blogs.

This is an excerpt from the interview Elaine Flinn did with Laura Lippman on Murderati on the weekend:

EE: Which writer would you love to have all to yourself in a cozy corner of the bar at the next Bcon? We'll keep this from David. Sorta kinda honest...
LL: Martha Lawrence. I miss her. Or James Crumley, but you need a stick to beat off all his fan boys.
EE: I wish I'd had a chance to meet Martha Lawrence.

There was nothing wrong with what Laura said. She did not say Martha had died. However, in the context of the statements, it is also understandable that someone might think that. In fact, people did think that, and questions popped up, in the comments thread and elsewhere.

I’m not mentioning this with the intention of embarrassing either Elaine or Laura, both well-respected authors, Elaine a regular on the popular Murderati blog. I’m mentioning this because it demonstrates one thing: even written words can be misinterpreted.

Before I became a full-time writer, before I worked in education, I studied communication theory. I’m convinced that the main reason people have trouble with any medium is not understanding it, it’s power, and it’s intrinsic “message” – the medium is the message (McLuhan) - but that’s a tangent I shall not indulge myself in for the moment.

When I studied communication theory, I had the privilege of reading and writing a paper based on Neil Postman’s fantastic book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. In it, he discusses a case example, where a scholar was rebuked for attempting to cite an oral reference. He was told by professors to replace it with a documented, written reference.

Pg 12 “The candidate argued further that there were more than three hundred references to published works in this thesis and that it was extremely unlikely that any of them would be checked for accuracy by the examiners, by which he meant to raise the question, Why do you assume the accuracy of a print-referenced citation but not a speech-referenced one?”

“The answer he received took the following line: You are mistaken in believing in the form in which an idea is conveyed is irrelevant to its truth. In the academic world, the published word is invested with greater prestige and authenticity than the spoken word. What people say is assumed to be more causally uttered than what they write.”


Any of us will say things we’ll later regret. We’ll shoot off our mouth, especially when tempers flare, or when we’ve been drinking, or if we feel comfortable with someone. If you’ve never regretted something you’ve said, you must come here just to laugh at me, right? Glad to be of service…

How does this tie in with my post about changing who you are to succeed in your career? Well, I was thinking specifically of the public careers – author, musician, actor.

Apparently my internet presence has been overestimated. Now, let me back the train up and explain a few things. Okay, one. I participate on a few forums. I’ve been on Val McDermid’s 2004, 2005, now it’s 2006… I’ve been on DorothyL the same amount of time, give or take, although I don’t consider it a forum. It’s a listserve. I am on another author forum. I was asked to help get it started, and I was happy to do that. It was easy. In order for people to think a forum is a happening place, there needs to be discussion. Especially when a forum is new, people don’t care so much if there’s a small number of people posting – they know more will come. So, I employed the basic strategy – generate a number of different posts, a fair bit of discussion. Get the ball rolling. Give people something to talk about. And it was very easy to back off because when the forum went “live” people jumped in and I didn’t need to generate discussion.

But what if people think I’m just participating on forums and commenting on blogs to promote myself?

It is a vicarious benefit of having a blog, yes, that people will hear about you who might not otherwise have. But that was never why I started blogging. I tend to say I started for the hell of it, but in truth, I thought it would be good discipline to focus my thoughts on one cohesive topic and write about it on a regular basis. If I’d really thought about marketing, I would have had that I was with Spinetingler on here from the beginning, I never would have called my blog Sandrablabber, and I would have touted myself as an editor, for sure. People would have listened to me more.

But I was just, foolishly, me being me.

I first started reading blogs about a year ago, as research for an interview with Stuart MacBride. I’ve been commenting on his blog ever since. My own philosophy is, I was so excited to get comments here when I started blogging, I always want to acknowledge people. I interact. If I’m going to be away from my computer, I mention it. I try to answer everyone, for at least the first few hours following a post. And I do try – sooner or later – to track down the people who comment here and check out their blog. Because I want to get to know them. I’m interested in you guys.

I couldn’t possibly comment everywhere I visit each day. Simply, not enough time. Furthermore, some days I look at the referrals and see someone’s come off of First Offenders, or another blog, and I think, “Crap! I haven’t been there yet today!”

My friends, you stop by and read and I love you for it. I love those who comment. I completely understand those who don’t. I love all the people who’ve invested time, made this a regular stop on their cyberjourney, and made this a cool place to talk. I’m not dropping by your blogs to raise my profile. I think it’s considerate, first of all. Otherwise, it’s like being the person who gets phoned, but never bothers to call. Eventually, that friend stops calling you, right? Because it’s a one-way street.

My thinking is, if a friend has their latest book cover pix posted on their blog should I email and say, “Great cover”? Why not just post a comment – that’s what they’re there for. I don’t mean to criticize people who email, but sometimes, I end up answering questions twice, once in email and once on my blog. I don’t mind myself, but I don’t tend to do that, unless I have something really heavy to say.

The thing is, my internet activities primarily are about me as a person. Should I stick my nose in the air and snub those who’ve supported me by not commenting on their blogs or forums anymore? This isn’t an easy question for me. I feel very much like I haven’t wanted to lose myself on this journey. I’ve wanted to be the person I always have been.

Now, I’ve been on Val’s forum for a few years, DorothyL as well, and I’d bet money next to nobody knew it. Because they didn’t know my name, I was Joe Blow Nobody. Now, sometimes people notice. It’s that way for me. I used to get DL messages from people and I had no clue who they were. Then, I discovered they were an author, their books, magazine, whatever. And when their name ends up in my inbox, I don’t think, Goddamn fucking bitch is out there overpromoting herself again. I think, “Oh, (insert name here) has commented.” And depending on who it is, I might drop everything to go read their thoughts because (sue me) I’m interested in what they have to say.

I actually feel really uncomfortable with people who never speak up. Are they just a face? Who are they? Or are they someone who holds their banner in the air, decides which way the wind is blowing and goes with it until the weather changes? I don’t know those people. I’m not talking about people who don’t comment here, I’m talking about people who never express an opinion on anything, never share a personal insight, story, whatever.

If we went by averages, I don’t post as much at Val’s as I used to. I go through phases with DorothyL, where I post regularly, and then long periods of silence.

But I have always, always, always wanted my friends to know I love and support them.

I remember Ian Rankin making reference once to the difference with authors – they were people. They weren’t “celebrities” like musicians, so people could relate to them.

I’ll be brutally honest with you. I fear that if I stop commenting and interacting the same way I have for the past few years, it means I’m developing an artificial public persona, the mask I’ll wear to show my “acceptable” side.

This is something really important for all of you to think about. I never feel when Stuart or Cornelia don’t comment that they’re snubbing me. I know they’re brutally busy. And when they comment, I never feel they’re here to promote themselves – I LOVE IT! They’re welcome any time. They’re my friends - I love them. It’s that simple. And damn, if you haven’t bought their books yet, what’s wrong with you????

For myself, if I don’t take a minute to answer someone who addresses me on a forum or to post a comment when nobody else has answered a question, I feel rude. I have an obsessive-compulsive problem, and feel obligated to answer every email too. I have three main email addresses and I cleared one on the weekend – 1802 messages in 9 days. Dear GOD, someone shoot me now…

So, I have a problem. Because I want to keep it real - I mean, I’m a soon-to-be-published author, not some fucking rock star! I never want to be unapproachable. I love the fact that writers and bloggers email me, that friends email me, that people feel they can talk to me. Does it sound boastful to say that I’m shocked, and flattered, that 663 people read my post last week on Killer Year? Wow. I remember being so surprised back when I got 30 hits a day on my blog.

I’ve given you my perspective about my internet activities. I can honestly state for myself that what I primarily care about when commenting is supporting the blogger, especially my regulars here, and keeping in touch with friends.

While I’ve looked at blogs and forums more as casual conversation, when you post something, it’s out there forever. It’s almost impossible to retract what you right, when you can smooth over what you say with, “What I meant was…” and clear it up. Gone. Unless someone has a tape recorder they can’t prove you said it. Over time, people will forget about it.

But it isn’t the same with comments on blogs or forums.

Sometimes, staying silent isn’t the same as selling out. It’s about showing common sense. Patrick Shawn Bagley commented on my Saturday post, "Did you ever fear that by speaking your mind and taking a stand for what you believed in that you’d kill your career?"Sort of. I know you'll find this hard to believe, but I have on occasion kept opinions to myself...if I thought expressing them would have repercussions in the workplace. I'm not talking about a fear of being fired, but merely trying to avoid unneccesary tension in a small office. In the interests of keeping the peace I sometimes keep my mouth shut.Then, to alleviate my frustration, I go home and post dumbass comments on other folks' blogs.

Aw Patrick, we’re kindred spirits. I vent through my keyboard all the time.

And we aren’t alone. My husband did a web search on a coworker and discovered she had a blog. And discovered she’d been writing about how much she, ahem, disliked evilkev. There were references to phone conversations he’d had from work, to “his wife”, talking about his stupid coworkers…

Kevin and I thought it was funny. Not everybody would. The story I started off with, with Elaine and Laura, demonstrates that even a sincere comment can be misconstrued, even in the context of an interview.

Sometimes, you have to think about how things sound, and how things look because, ladies and gentlemen, perception is often more powerful than truth.

I’m not going to stand here and tell you to change who you are. Fundamentally, in your core, I don’t think you should. No matter what you do, there will always be people who have the wrong idea about you. I recently went through this with a phone call, about someone spreading around a hateful email about me. I’ve never met the person who dislikes me, there are no allegations involved against me that I can answer to. They just hate me and call me names.

What can I do about it? Sweet fuck all.

Lisa Hunter put a reference to a quote in the comments of my Saturday post. H.D. Thoreau said to beware of all endeavors that required new clothes.

Consider this now, my friends. If you suddenly stop posting when you sign the book deal, some will think you’re a snobby jerk who needs to be taken down a peg or two.

If you don’t, some might think you’re working every angle to sell yourself.

If you jump up and down and gush on your blog about selling a story, some might genuinely be happy for you, because they know you’re enthusiastic.

And others might think you’re completely self-absorbed.

In the blog world, words are forever. even if someone decides to remove an entire thread along with comments, it can still show up if googled. i'm not saying that was done, i'm pointing out how words remain on the internet even though they are no longer on your blog. when you blog, think etched in stone. think possibly backed up in a file on somebody's external drive. you never know who's watching and reading. This quote comes from Anne Frasier’s blog. In the wake of many things said in anger or with heated emotions over the ITW controversy, Anne’s advice is good advice, something nobody should hastily dismiss.

In the discussion on my Saturday post, I talked about someone in my extended family that I try to avoid discussions with. It isn’t about selling out but, as I put it there (the comment has the context) “There’s no point shouting at a deaf man.”

There are definitely times when speaking out isn’t going to make a difference to the situation, and all it may end up doing is hurting you. I don’t necessarily consider staying silent then to be selling out, but that’s something for each individual to work out for themselves.

We can disagree on stuff, but if you’re my friend, I’ll still love you. Friendship isn’t about 100% agreement, and it sure as hell isn’t about one-way streets. There’s give and take, ups and downs, but end of the day it’s people who like each other and want to share in each other’s lives. I support my friends.

I did have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to something someone said to me the other day, and I deleted some comments I made. Something I normally never ever do. I spent most of the weekend unable to eat or sleep and have been trying to work this out ever since in my own head.

Because it seems that, no matter the truth about my intentions, not everyone thinks my motives are sincere.

And what I hope is that you’ll tell me what you think. Should people pull back when they sign a book deal? Should people stay the same? Not just people with book deals, but in general. How much is too much? Do you feel I’m using you by dropping by your blog and commenting? If you do, feel free to email – I want to know.

Anne’s advice is really good advice. It’s something for us all to think about.

In fact, if I’d been a smarter marketing type, I would have thought about this blog long and hard before I started. Everything would have been strategic. I’m afraid I’m just not that savvy. But if your blog is about promoting yourself, then this is something you’ll want to think about.

JA Konrath has said there’s not such thing as bad publicity, but I’m not sure I agree. And, like it or not, your web presence can be construed as a form of publicity. So, even if you mean well, well, not considering all of this might amount to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Not a good idea.

And thanks for bearing with me through these long, rambling thoughts. And you really should read Jason Pinter's post at Killer Year today if this speaks to you, because it's like he covered the thoughts and feelings in the other half of my brain.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Personality for Sale

There are a lot of things in life that you can’t change. You can’t make everyone like you. You can’t make everyone understand you.

You can’t even make some people give you the benefit of the doubt.

You can dye your hair but it will grow back grey. Put on make-up to hide the blemishes, but eventually, it comes off. And if you’re like me, you can’t be bothered 90% of the time anyway.

Like so many others, I spent a lot of my younger years trying to find my place in the world. My friends know how hard that was for me because of some of the things I was dealing with, particularly as a teenager.

Hindsight tells me that I didn’t let a lot of those wounds heal, and I’m still vulnerable when people hit my weak spots. No matter how much I repeat the mantra - “Be yourself. Others can like it or leave it, but at least you haven’t sold out” - it still cuts to the core when someone says they don’t like you, even if it isn’t someone you’ve ever met. I guess most of us naturally want to be liked, and the people out there who want to be misunderstood or hated are still in the minority.

I wasn’t going to post today, originally. I have commented more than usual this week, even places I don’t usually comment, because of the ITW thing. Not only that, but with the launch of Killer Year this week has been insane.

(And thanks to all of you, we had over 2000 blog hits there this week, by the way. In just five days, that’s staggering.)

Today, on the Killer Year blog there is a group post. It’s an “If You Were A…” Question, posed to Killer Year members, to be answered on behalf of themselves and their characters. And believe me, if you're looking for lighthearted fun, stop reading and head over there!

I had a tough time with the question. As much as I’m inspired by music, the specific question we were asked was hard for me to answer (and you’ll have to go there to see it).

Once I put in my answers, though, I realized that other than the one person I know “in the flesh” – someone I obviously see in a more balanced perspective because I actually know him – the two other guys I picked are known to be outspoken, either in person or in song, even a bit stubborn, opinionated.

Sound like anyone you know?

If I could sit down with either of them and ask only one question, this would be it:

Did you ever fear that by speaking your mind and taking a stand for what you believed in that you’d kill your career?

And I’ll ask you, friends. Do you think someone should try to fundamentally change who they are to succeed? I’m not talking about slapping on a bit of make-up when you go out in public, I’m talking about maybe not speaking out on things like the ITW thing because you don’t want people who disagree to dislike you. That kind of thing.

Of the music

From Morning Bound Train by Jimmy Rankin

Could it be I'm only restless

The wild inside will not be tamed

Could it be I'm only love sick

What's ailing me cannot be named

Still I wait without a sound

On this train that's morning bound

I can't sleep at night

Climbing the walls to the beat of the rain

I go through dark to see daylight

On this morning bound train

From Call It Democracy by Bruce Cockburn
Padded with power here they come

International loan sharks backed by the guns

Of market hungry military profiteers

Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared

With the blood of the poor
Who rob life of its quality

Who render rage a necessity

By turning countries into labour camps

Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom

And, because it is a day for thinking, about who I am, today is a day I’ll be listening to Pacing the Cage

Sunset is an angel weeping

Holding out a bloody sword

No matter how I squint I cannot

Make out what it's pointing toward

Sometimes you feel like you live too long 

Days drip slowly on the page

You catch yourself

Pacing the cage
I've proven who I am so many times

The magnetic strip's worn thin

And each time I was someone else

And every one was taken in

Powers chatter in high places

Stir up eddies in the dust of rage

Set me to pacing the cage

Sometimes the best map will not guide you 

You can't see what's round the bend

Sometimes the road leads through dark places 

Sometimes the darkness is your friend

Today these eyes scan bleached-out land 

For the coming of the outbound stage

Pacing the cage

Thursday, June 22, 2006

ITW & Allegations of Sexism: Gayle Lynds responds

My thanks to Jim Rollins, ITW Chair, who forwarded this to me and gave me permission to post it.

My name is Gayle Lynds, and I'm co-founder and co-president of ITW, with David Morrell.  I've been following with interest the queries that have arisen about the nominees for the first ITW Thriller awards.  As an individual --- not representing ITW, its board, or its officers --- perhaps I can shed some light on the subject.
 
I was as surprised as anyone by the results of the ITW Thriller nominations.  But then, ITW deliberately built a firewall around the award judges, so none of us knew the outcome in advance.  At the same time, no panel of judges knew the results of any other panel's deliberations. 
 
Let me tell you a little about the firewall:  Any author or person speaking on behalf of an author who tried to influence any of ITW's judges would have had that author's books disqualified for two years.  This was so that the judges could work in private and in secret.  All board members as well as the chair of the Awards Committee ---  James Rollins --- were ineligible to be considered for the awards.  Again, this was to protect the judges and to avoid any accusations of favoritism toward ITW's leaders.  This information is available in ITW's bylaws.

 
In short, ITW's board worked very hard to make certain the awards were as fair and as impartial as possible, and so did the judges, as you will see.
 
Since this was ITW's first year, the judges faced the monumental task of creating systems that would be the foundation for all future awards.  Because of the boxes of books that arrived on their doorsteps to be read, several had to delay their own deadlines and make sacrifices within their families in order to fulfill their very serious responsibility to judge well.  This sort of selflessness is to be lauded.
 
I personally am proud of every book and film script that was nominated.  All are excellent works from the thriller field.
 
Now about the accusations I've read recently about sexism in the awards....
 
If you go to Thriller Writers.ORG  you'll see a list of all submitted books.  Only 29% were written by women.  For the Thriller Best Novel, only 17%. 
 
At the bottom of that page, you'll see a note to authors:  "If your book is not on the list, please contact your publisher to remind them to submit your book as quickly as possible." 
 
So what happened? 
 
The chair and judging panels showed their concern that they be able to consider every thriller published in 2005 in several ways.  The chair and several chief judges contacted all publishers --- both publicists and editors in each house --- to alert them that ITW was in the process of judging its first awards and to ask them to submit all thrillers. 
 
I stress that not just one person was contacted in each house, but several, to ensure that the house understood that ITW really wanted each and every book in all of the subcategories of thrillers, from adventure to medical, romantic to espionage, legal to historical, and every other permutation.  No one should be left out of the race.
 
Still, books were not always submitted.  The judges worked closely with the chair, alerting him when they saw new books coming out.  At the same time, he was on the watch, too.  He went back time and again to publishers. 
 
When it became apparent that few novels by female authors were being submitted, he redoubled his efforts, often contacting a house four times on behalf of novels that were clearly thrillers written by women. 
 
At the same time notices were sent to ITW members reminding them to check the website to make certain their 2005 novels had been submitted.
 
In the end, the responsibility for having books submitted rests on the shoulders of the publishers.  That's their job.  At the same time, authors had the option of submitting copies of their books themselves. 
 
As an author (not as a woman who has spent her life battling sexism), I could complain that no women were nominated.  At the same time, I could also complain that no people of color were.  I'm not sure whether any Muslims or religions other than Christian or Jewish were nominated, but I think they weren't either.  There also might be a preponderance of nominees from one section of the United States, which could be taken as a prejudice favoring that area.
 
As long as awards are given in whatever field, there are always going to be those who say, "I wish it were otherwise.  And because it isn't, it's prejudice."
 
The only time there's really an institutional problem, at least in my mind, is when there is a history of one group of people being disenfranchised. 
 
Since this is ITW's first year, the organization can have no track record of institutional prejudice.  ITW has worked diligently to avoid prejudice.  The judges by their actions have indicated they have also been diligent in trying to create a level playing field. 
 
My hat is off to ITW's judges, who worked very hard and read many fine books.  All are excellent authors in their own rights, too.  They did a sincere and worthy job, and they deserve not only our respect but our appreciation.
 
By the way, the awards chair for next year is a woman.  She is not a person of color.  Her religious background is unknown to me.  I'm not even certain where she lives.  She is a fine author and a wonderful human.  Her name will be announced at ThrillerFest. 
 
Anyone who would like to attend ThrillerFest --- it's going to be a blast --- should visit the website for more information.  You can learn there at the Awards Banquet who the winners for the Thrillers are.  ThrillerFest begins next week.  As I said, all of the nominees are excellent.  I congratulate them on creating superb works.
 
Gayle Lynds
www.GayleLynds.com

If a man speaks in the forest and there’s no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?*

Warning. This post may contain sudden shifts, depending on which way my mood swings go and how long it takes me to write it.

It all started (for me) at Sarah Weinman’s blog. The news that elsewhere in the blogsphere, the ITW – which gives out it’s first awards to thriller writers next week – was being accused of sexism.

The reason? In their first year, only men have been nominated in each of the award categories.

The timing was interesting, because of a recent discussion on Val McDermid’s forum about whether men or women are better crime writers. Now, I reference this for two reasons: Val is – in my opinion – one of the best out there, male or female, and she also references that men traditionally will not read books by women.

I didn’t want to blog on this topic. I’ve done the “do men do it better” discussion before, and admitted that, when it comes to my bookshelves, it looks like they do.

To be honest, I think women are harder on other women. It’s a father-and-son, mother-and-daughter thing – we sometimes have an easier time just letting the other gender “be” but we expect things from those who’ve got the same biological equipment as ourselves. Don’t ask me why that is, but I see that in relationships all the time.

The reason I didn’t want to blog on this was because, initially, I didn’t want to discuss this at all. I wanted to stay out of it. Call me a wuss, but can anyone win this argument?

No.

The nomination lists were decided by a jury. Each category has the names of judges posted on the website, and there are female judges in every category.

The thing is, this is the first year these awards are being given out. The First Year. To accuse the ITW of sexism is rash. Unless you were a fly on the judging room wall and know they willfully excluded women, why would you automatically jump on that pony and trot off?

Maybe – just maybe – the judges really voted for who they thought was best. And, shock of horrors, the men came out on top five times over.

Now, I don’t have the stats and documentation in front of me, but via the comments at Sarah’s blog, I understand there have been times in the past when all women have been nominated for other awards.

Is it naïve of me to say May the best PERSON win?

I ask you women honestly. Do you want a woman’s name to be on the nomination ballot just because the writer has a pair of ovaries? Or do you want to see a ballot that honestly represents what the judges deem to be the best books, in each category, regardless of race, religion, skin colour?

Two years from now, if we’re around the bend from the third ITW Awards, and for the third year running it’s all men, there might be some merit to the accusation.

But there also might be some merit to the idea that men just do it better, and that women need to quit whining about it and get to work to prove they’re as capable as the men!

Seriously, is anything really gained by whining?

I’m in a bit of a bad mood on the whole thing, for other reasons. It’s about how women present themselves. I’m not saying I’m perfect – hell no! But here, the Supreme Court has just ruled in a case that the woman is entitled to support because she can’t work to support herself because of the emotional trauma of having her husband cheat on her.

It’s being hailed as a benchmark ruling, a victory for women…

Fuck me, people! Isn’t the percentage of women who haven’t dealt with a cheating spouse since the dawn of time substantially lower than those who have? I mean, Kevin and I have had our ups and downs, sure, but he’s never cheated on me.

Which makes me a bit of an oddity, judging by a lot of people I know.

Look, I’m not saying there aren’t times it’s warranted. But to make blanket statements about this kind of stuff is scary. And I find it a bit troubling that someone would want to play the emotion card to discount the simple reality that everyone has to deal with shit in their lives and, end of the day, we all have to overcome it.

What next? Girls who don’t have to go to school because they’re traumatized over menstruating? Hell, maybe I should get a complete free pass on all personal responsibility and the government should take care of me because my mother’s bipolar and clearly, growing up with that was stressful. I mean, I am a case file with Children’s Aid, which means I was monitored by the government… Maybe they failed me. Hot damn, my ticket to cashing in.

Not.

It’s an aside, yes, but on the marriage and cheating front, do these judges stop to ask what the woman might have done to contribute to her husband’s infidelity? I’m serious. Sure, some men are just dogs and will hump anything that walks by. There are some women who’re that way too, believe it or not.

But I have a lot of guy friends, and I’ve heard the complaints. She put out until we got married. Then she cut me off. That’s a common one. And I have to say that women who use sex for manipulative purposes deserve what they get back on it. For fuck’s sake people, everyone has needs! Marriage isn’t supposed to be society’s answer to emasculation! And don’t even start that I’m exaggerating on this one. I know one woman, who is a complete bitch, who pulls this shit routinely. Cut him off until he proposed. Then again, until he bought the house. Then again, until he agreed to have kids (which from before marriage he’d never wanted).

Am I the only person who wants to grab a woman like that and slap some sense into her? I’d feel the same way if it was a guy. Relationships are about give and take, and it’s about maturity, people. Not a lack of horizontal action until you get what you want.

Talk about selfish, and childish. Grow up!

So, I needed to have a little bit of a rant on this topic. I’m not saying that the results of the ITW Award nominations aren’t interesting. I’m not even saying they aren’t enough to make me raise an eyebrow.

But before I shove some rash judgment down the face of the world that says this is a WPO^ club, I need to see some facts. My instincts are to trust the judges honestly voted for the best books, and that in each category (different judges in each category, btw) the top five books just happened to be written by men.

Would we see the same arguments being made if the top five books had been written by women? I strongly doubt it.

Truthfully, when I saw Sarah’s summary on it, I didn’t feel the need to go read the post that had stirred things up. I’m not even necessarily encouraging you to do that, for a few reasons. One is that, in my opinion, the post is heavy on speculation and short on substantiated facts. The other is that the post’s author has not participated at all in the discussion in the comments section. Now, this is just a personal quirk of mine: If someone posts something highly controversial and then doesn’t interact with the people who raise points, either agreeing or disagreeing, it bugs me. Walk into a room, drop a bomb, and get out before it goes off. I don’t mean that as a personal comment on the author of the post, it’s a general feeling I have about some blogs, which is why I always try to find time to get back to my own posts and respond to comments, at least the day I put the post up. **And there could be a million reasons why the author didn’t participate – dentist’s appointments or whatever – although I did check again this morning.

However, if you’d like to read it, you will find the post HERE. And I’m not trying to sway you on it one way or the other – I believe in people checking out the facts for themselves. But I ended up reading the post when a friend of mine emailed about it, and I have articulated more of my thoughts over there. Feel free – as always – to come back at me on them here.

I don’t expect we’ll all agree on this. But I think that we have to be careful about jumping to conclusions.

And I feel bad that the ITW has had to deal with these accusations year 1. But would we really have preferred the judges stop short, look at the list and say, “Shit! All men! Okay, we have to go back and insert two women here and three women here… Okay, yep, now it’s an even split.”

I think not. Believe me – if I read stories for Spinetingler, I never say “Have to vote for this one because it’s by a guy and I’ve already got five women’s stories picked.”

No fucking way. I don’t even think about the gender. I cut a bit of editing slack if the author is ESL, and that’s it.

Oh, and it’s JT Ellison’s turn over at Killer Year. JT is a fantastic writer, as evidenced here.

Even if she is a woman.

(Ducks and runs…)

And a couple of my friends are nominated for these awards, so I'm particularly choked about the fact that these accusations might be seen as undermining their achievement, like they only got on the list because they're men.

They didn't. They got there because they're fantastic writers and deserve it.


• quote: Jerry Dennis
• ^ With Penis Only

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Selling with Sex Tapes

Wow. First there's my post over at the Killer Year blog, then we have Cornelia Read's insights on humping and illegal substances and now, Jason Pinter reveals his marketing plan for Killer Year.

My husband's going to be so proud when he reads all of this...

Getting Cozy With The Killer Year Crew

Yes, my turn to post today on the new Killer Year blog. I swear, I was going to be all serious and respectable - I even typed up a fantastic post filled with great useful information...

Only to toss it out after a chat about shaking things up on the blog and having variety over there.

So, none of you guys will be surprised, but I really hope that you go over and make a comment.

Not the only one talking humping
Since it's Wednesday, that means that Cornelia's posting at Naked Authors, and you won't want to miss this one!

Oh, and guess what? Today we start accepting submissions to the Cozy Noir contest for Spinetingler!
If you haven't already, download the issue, read up on the contest and get going! Submissions are already landing in my inbox!

Things You Don't See Every Day


Wonder how many points that is?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Every Village Gave Up Their Idiot...

...so they could all be together and run our town council.

Splendid.

And they're multiplying and taking over every business I deal with, it seems.

Last week, we had a few days with no water. Which was not splendid. In fact, it was quite annoying. We also had no communication about what was going on.

I found out Saturday morning, because Kevin was in fire training, and he heard it on the radio. Yes, it had finally made the news. We're not very important here, being just technically, a village of 800-and-some-odd residents. So, Friday, we had no water. Until around 6 pm, when it came on for two hours, and then it went off again.

More of the same on Saturday.

What really annoyed me was finding out later what had happened. There's a drain* here that often overflows. Because, the village being cheap doesn't do some things properly but does a shitty job and then they have to redo it, or spend a bundle cleaning up messes, later. There might be a few of you who remember my rant about them moving the sidewalk in front of our house, which used to be a good five or six feet back from the very wide street. But they ripped it up, narrowed the street and, on top of that, moved the sidewalk right down beside the road, with a slope between sidewalk and road. So, months ago when I put my back out, it was from trying to shovel off the snow that had been dumped there by plows. Because the town bylaw requires you to clear your walks. In our case, all 230 feet of walk, and now that they moved the sidewalk, 235 feet of walk.

Plus whatever the snowplow dumps after I shovel it the first time.

So, there's a drain in town that overflows. What exactly does that mean? Well, sometimes, the fire department gets called out to pump it when it's rained too much, so that the water doesn't start to mix with the sewer system. Except last week, when it was pouring, they decided not to do that. Now, part of me says, Good, they shouldn't call the fire department. Why, you ask? Because my husband is on it, they don't get paid, it isn't a fire fighter's responsibility to clean up town messes and I'm not particularly happy when my sleep is interrupted at 1 am so he can go do a town job, for free.

That's bullshit. They know they have a problem with this drain, so they should fix it.

Last week, it rained and rained, and they didn't call the fire department. A couple guys working for the village gave it a good, old college try. Things went wrong, obviously. And they turned off the water because they were afraid the supply had been contaminated.

But then they turned it back on, didn't tell us anything, and - duh! - being dinner time, we used the water. We stocked up everything.

By Saturday afternoon we were on a "boil water" advisory. Now, it's been raining again, and guess what? Kevin called to tell me that we're still on a boil water advisory, and that the water might go off again.

I just stocked up the pots on the stove. The pressure in the pipes is already off the norm. In other words, I can hear the air coming. So, I know they've turned the water off.

I am not in a good mood.

Ever since the Walkerton tragedy people are extra cautious. But you'd think that, instead of paying out the back end and spending piles of money on overtime for town employees who have to deal with this - and some of them were out pumping all night Friday night - that they'd invest in fixing the problem.

Is that too much to ask?

And don't tell me that they likely can't afford it. The village came into a bit of a windfall with energy money because of a company drilling out here. I don't want to talk about it, because we're still in a legal "situation" with the energey company, because they've been thieving the natural gas out from under our property. We're an oddity - we own our mineral rights - so this is another headache we've been trying to deal with.

Hence my remark about the idiots multiplying and working for every business we have to deal with, because the bank lost our legal documents over the buy-out of the mineral rights.

Only 9 months after they got them.

So, we have to redo them.

And then I come to my office, turn on the internet and it's down. Okay, so it's back up now, which is a good thing, because I was thinking seriously about going back to bed, getting up tomorrow, and hoping for a better start!

And those cute kittens? They think my legs are climbing posts.


I'm going to try to find my happy place.

Once I clear out the 40 emails that are in my inbox.

I hope you're all having a better day. C'mon, tell me your village idiot horror story - some business you've dealt with that makes my annoyance with the town council look petty and ridiculous. Is it mean to ask you to make me feel better by telling me you have it worse?

Sounds mean, doesn't it?

Don't forget to check out the Killer Year blog! Brett Battles is posting today.

* I'm probably using the wrong word, but I can't remember the technical term for it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Why You Should Be Very Afraid

Why is it that we can hear about a TV show months before it airs, even note the night and time so we don’t miss it, and yet it’s so hard to hear about new authors?

Musicians can build up the buzz toward a debut album. All it takes is a smash single that catches on with radio, and there’ll be a lot of people looking forward to that CD release. TV shows get commercials, get newspaper mentions, there are whole websites devoted to keeping people informed about what’s going on on the small screen.

Writers have a harder time gaining that audience.

I suppose it goes back to what I learned in communication theory – the medium is the message. Books are normally, by nature, something you experience in isolation. The shared experience usually comes after the reading is done, when you talk about the book with someone else who’s read it.

And yet, word of mouth is very important to generating sales.

This is part of the reason I started participating on author forums – to hear news. It was a way to learn about what was going on in the industry. I started hearing about new (to me) authors I got interested in, events I wanted to attend, names of people I should know. When you don’t live in New York or London, or even remotely close, you can’t network physically. We don’t get that many authors doing readings in my area.

I have trained myself to go looking. As a result, one of my pet peeves is new authors I start hearing about without web sites. I have learned to rely on news via the internet to gauge what books I want to order because, for me, most of my books are coming through the mail these days. The local stores aren’t that local – about 45-50 km away to the closest chain bookstore – and much of what they carry are the well established names. Ruth Rendell? Sure. But Al Guthrie, David Terrenoire, Karen Olson aren’t on the shelves.

This has made me think about my internet presence and how important it is. Which is funny, because I started the blog before I knew I’d have a book out this year. I had my domain for my website registered. I even had a website up, although I changed it once I signed.

Some people don’t think it’s important – some don’t even have websites. Now, I’ve lived in the mountains. I know what it is to have a weather system sneak up on you. Even in Ontario, where I grew up, with all the trees and hills and rock cuts, you can’t see that far across the horizon when you’re on the ground. It wasn’t that hard to understand how people could get caught out on the water or out in the woods.

Now, I live on the prairies, and I know what it is to see the storm clouds moving across the sky. On a clear day, I can see the Rocky Mountains, almost 170 km away. We can even see storm systems move across neighbouring communities that never touch our own.

Today, we’ve officially unleashed a new storm on the internet horizon.
Jason Pinter, JT Ellison, Brett Battles, and I have started Killer Year.

Killer Year is about spreading the word and letting people know who the debut crime fiction authors of 2007 are. We can help each other by sharing our experiences, and we can also help raise the profile of new crime writers. We can help crime fiction enthusiasts discover the new authors to be excited about, the ones that are here to stay, with years of books in them. The new authors with talent, potential and drive.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out the launch of the Killer Year Blog. Jason has written the first post. Brett will post tomorrow, I’m on Wednesday and JT will post on Thursday. On Fridays, other members will take turns, and we’ll have some fun stuff planned for the weekends.
So take a moment, check out the Killer Year website, check out the Killer Year blog. To your right, there’s a list of the Killer Year members who’ve signed on so far. Some don’t have websites or blogs yet, but they’re working on them.

I have to say, just reading through some of the bio bits and book descriptions, I’m genuinely excited about the books we’ll be seeing in 2007 and I’m thrilled to be part of this group.

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. Got any suggestions for the Killer Year crew? Fire away. I don’t know if something like this has ever been done before, but I’m pretty excited about it.

One thing I wonder: I know the internet has changed the way I buy books. It's changed the way I choose my entertainment across the board. How much has it changed things for you? Or am I just weird?

Oh, and I've been working on updating the links here, and on my website. I already know I haven't got everyone on my website yet. I'm working on it. But if I've missed you here, let me know, please!

Oh, and Ivan, we won’t discuss what it’s like to be fucked again and again and again. But Fucked Again Redux has been suggested for the next chapter in Micky’s life.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Little Bit of This 'n That

The Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Shortlist has been announced. This is a reader's choice for the best, you can vote online, and you don't have to be going to Harrogate to do so. So don't be shy, have your say!

The shortlist is:

Strange Blood by Lindsay Ashford

The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards

The Torment of Others by Val McDermid

One Last Breath by Stephen Booth

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin

Go here to cast your vote.

I know you all think this is a no-brainer for me, but it isn't. There are some fantastic books on the list, The Torment of Others is one of my favourite Val books...

Still pissed off about the twisted stuff we call news after today's follow up - Titled "Just a happy two-year-old" followed by the intro, "Whenever his mother took Mark to the Richmond Hill home of Mike and Alla Adler, the toddler would run to the backyard and dip his feet in the pool."

That's how it came into my inbox. I go to see what "news" is actually there. See the side mention? It appears the nanny died trying to save the boy.

But the rest of the article is about the neighbourhood, what Mom did when she went to visit her friend, blah blah blah.

I remember, again, why I left journalism.

Courtesy of my friend Bill, one I'd heard before but if you haven't, you'll enjoy it!

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington
chemistry mid-term.

The answer by one student was so "profound" that the professor shared it with
colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure
of enjoying it as well :

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs
heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools
when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to
know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are
leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it
will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are
entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world
today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their
religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions
and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that
all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the
number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of
change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the
temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to
expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter
Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell
breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell,
then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that,
"It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you," and take into account
the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and
thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The
corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it
is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct......leaving only
Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last
night, Teresa kept shouting "Oh my God."

THIS STUDENT RECEIVED THE ONLY "A

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Words We Choose To Use

A lot of news headlines come into my inbox. Today, I scrolled across one that really bothered me.

"Boy, 2, nanny drown in pool"

Now, the subject, the title, that wasn't what bothered me, although the subject is certainly a sad one. Under each story is 1-2 lines, the first lines of the news article. The lead for this article? "Residents of an affluent Richmond Hill neighbourhood were shaken yesterday after a 2-year-old boy and his nanny downed in a backyard swimming pool."

All I could think was affluent. Why was it necessary to use the word affluent? Did it somehow make the tragedy more poignant, more of a mystery, more important, more scandalous?

Now, that lead was the entire first paragraph. Paragraph #2? York Region police say the boy, his mother and their nanny were visiting the home of a friend on Crescentview Rd. yesterday. The boy's mother and the friend, who several neighbours described as pregnant, were in the front yard when the drowning occurred.

More trivial details. Crescentview Rd. is not important. The fact that the boy's mother's friend was "described as pregnant" by "several neighbours" is so fucking irrelevant, I have to wonder what the hell passes for a real, proper, hard news story anymore.

There's also a few paragraphs devoted to a consoling neighbour encouraging the grieving mother to believe in miracles before the child was pronounced dead.

No mention of the nanny's name, whether she was Canadian or a foreigner, nada. Okay, the police wouldn't release the name, but absolutely nothing? It's like she doesn't matter at all.

Now, I'm in a particularly grumpy mood this morning. Day 2, no water. Hardly any sleep last night. And I stink, because I can't shower. And I might just have to suck it up and go to the city and buy some bottled water so we have a supply for the dogs and cats.

But looking at this story just irritated the hell out of me. What *should* be important here is the tragic news of a nanny and a boy drowning in a swimming pool. What even should be important as filler, if the reporters lacked facts and were told to squeeze a certain word count out of it, is stats on pool deaths, drownings, whether or not this is the first pool drowning of the season, safety tips for how to prevent such backyard tragedies...

Not who's pregnant, not the fact that they drove off in a gold-coloured SUV, not the fact that this is an affluent neighbourhood.

Yet the article is short on facts, long on pulling the emotional heart strings. This wasn't how I was taught to write a hard news story, and it passes off more as a feature on a tragedy and the neighbourhood it occurred in than an article that's actually reporting facts.

I don't know how the incident occurred. Police arrived at noon yesterday, and no statement about the incident or the process of the investigation was available for reporters as of last night? I find that exceptionally hard to believe.

Like I said, I'm grumpy.

But I'm also annoyed that it seems so hard to find news these days that isn't conjecture and is actually reporting facts.

I'm stomping off to find my happy place.

Maybe funnies from Forrest will help.

Only Humans Stutter
Little Johnny is sitting in biology class, when his teacher states the fact that only humans stutter, and no other animal in the world does.
Johnny raises his hand and says. "You're wrong, Miss Finch!"
"Really, would you mind telling us why that is Johnny?"replies the teacher.
"Well, Miss Finch, the other day I was playing with my cat on the porch. The neighbors' Rottweiler came around the corner, and my cat went 'fffff! fffff! fffff!', and before he could say 'Fuck!', the dog ate him!"

Two Brothers
Once upon a time there were two brothers.
One brother was very mischievous, always getting into trouble.
The other brother, however, was very good. He was always kind to animals, helped elderly neighbors, and led an exemplary life.
As time went on, the brothers stayed in touch but were never close.
The evil brother became a heavy drinker and a womanizer.
The other brother was a devoted husband and father and supported many charities.
One day the evil brother died.
Then, after a few years, the good brother passed away.
He went to heaven and was rewarded with a happy afterlife.
One day he went to God and asked, "Where is my brother?
He died before me, but I have not seen him here in heaven."
God replied, "As you know, your brother led an evil life, so he is not spending eternity here in heaven. He has been sent elsewhere."
"I'm sorry to hear that", the good brother replied. "But I do miss him and wish I could see him again."
"You can see him if you wish", God said. "I will give you the power to gaze into hell."
So the power was granted and the good brother gazed into hell. Before long he saw his brother sitting on a bench. In one arm he held a keg of beer, and in the other he cradled a gorgeous young blonde.
The good brother turned to God and said, "I can't believe what I'm seeing. I have found my brother, and he has a keg of beer in one arm and a beautiful woman in the other. Surely, hell cannot be that bad."
God explained. "Things are not always as they seem. The keg has a hole in it.
The blonde doesn't."

New British Invention
A British company is developing computer chips that store music in women's breast implants.
This is a major breakthrough.
Women are always complaining about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Personal Growth Is Good, Unless We're Talking Waist Size

I should have known the trouble would start with Simon. No, no, not that Simon. His namesake, Simon.



And the trouble has nothing to do with who the kitty is named for. It boils down to one simple thing: of all of our kittens, Simon is the one that’s most like her mother.



When we first got Buttons and Rascal, we kept them in our living room. This was at the old place, before we moved here. We barricaded the door, with barely an opening at the top. I mean, a six-week-old kitten. How’s a six-week-old kitten barely much bigger than my hand going to jump five feet?

Rascal never could. He wasn’t that agile, even as a little kitten.


Buttons, on the other hand, would not be stopped. I remember telling Kevin there was a kitten outside our bedroom door. He told me I was ridiculous, there was no way one of them had gotten out.

Until he opened the door and saw Buttons there.

We tried not to let them sleep with us at night. For one thing, they were still so small, Kevin was worried that my nightly flips would find me landing on a kitten. He thought it was bad enough he had to suffer.

We tried cat repellent, two sided tape, you name it. Nothing would stop Buttons from clawing at our bedroom door until we relented and let her in.

Right now, I’m watching Rebus attack Buttons’ tail. Stuart’s asleep in a basket. Simon and Russel are nursing, and Buttons looks pretty choked at Rebus’ antics.

They’ve officially taken over my office.

Yes, Simon could no longer be contained. She escaped from the living room, she escaped from the area I had them enclosed in my office (a walk-in closet).

It’s gone from “isn’t she cute” to “isn’t she a pain in the butt” all in one afternoon.

It is fun to watch them explore, but now I have the added worry. There are so many places they can hide in my office. Last night, we couldn’t find Stuart. She was on the bottom of the bookshelf, on top of a stack of books, sleeping.

Then there was Rebus, somewhat appropriately exploring higher terrain.


Watching the kittens grow reminds me of how we can go through growth spurts in our own life. Not just physically. One day, you reach the barrier and you stop because you know you can’t get over it. You want to see the world on the other side, but it’s beyond you.

Until one day, when it isn’t. When you know if you try hard enough, you can get over the blockade.

This is a year that’s been about overcoming obstacles for me, both good and bad. I don’t have any grand words of wisdom or magic mantras that will help you with whatever you’re facing, other than this:

Don’t give up.

I’ve had a lot of dreams in my life, and no matter how bad things got, how hopeless they seemed, they were still there. Now, I’m seeing some of those dreams become a reality.

I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for two things. 1 – people who believed in me. 2 – people who told me not to quit.

I’m fortunate that I had people who set a good example for me – hence the names of the kittens, despite the fact that Stuart, Russel and Simon are all girls. And I’m fortunate to have had people give me a lot of support.

I’m also, fortunately, learning that I don’t have to be superwoman. Personal growth is also about learning to say no. Murderati’s JT Ellison has an inspiring post up today, about how an author’s life can start to get out of control, and the need to manage your time. If you, like me, have trouble saying no, you’ll want to read JT’s post.

And on that note, I’ll ask what the most important thing you’ve learned this year is, if you want to share. And if not, there are places to go, things to see, and a joke below. Kevin has firefighter training this weekend, so I’ll be here. With big news that you can find out about from Jason Pinter’s Thursday blog post. Otherwise, more news on Monday!

Blog Hopping & News

Murderati’s Simon Wood has put up a fantastic post, filled with excellent advice about how to avoid getting duped on the road to publication.

Remember the interview I did with Trench a few weeks ago? You might be interested in the discovery of a website with information about how to blow up a school in Ontario. Scary stuff. Kids these days.

And the joke is courtesy of JT Ellison

A distinguished young woman on a flight from Switzerland asked the priest sitting beside her, "Father, may I ask a favor?"

"Of course. What may I do for you?"

"Well, I bought an expensive electronic hair dryer that is well over the Customs limits and I'm afraid they'll confiscate it. Is there anyway you could carry it through Customs for me? Under your robes perhaps?"

"I would love to help you, dear, but I must warn you: I will not lie."

"With your honest face, Father, no one will question you."

When they got to Customs, she let the priest go ahead of her.
The official asked, "Father, do you have anything to declare?"

"From the top of my head down to my waist, I have nothing to declare."

The official thought this answer strange, so asked, "And what do you have to declare from your waist to the floor?"

"I have a marvelous little instrument designed to be used on a woman, but which is, to date, unused."

Roaring with laughter, the official said, "Go ahead, Father.”

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The World Is On Her Ass

By nature, I'm a nighthawk. Always have been, since I was a kid. On school field trips, parents would grrr at me because I wasn't asleep - just lying in bed awake.

And seeing the world at 10 am on a Saturday morning? Never.

As a teenager, that changed because I worked. I had no choice. But, in my core being, I was still a nighthawk. Never much of a morning person.

I learned to cope with mornings when I had jobs that required me to get up early. In fact, I learned to love mornings. There was something about the pre-dawn quiet that was invigorating.

Yes, I learned to love the mornings. I reprogrammed myself. And part of it was the need to survive in marriage, because I didn't kick Kevin to the curb when I found out he liked to get up, voluntarily, at 5 am so he could work early.

I mean, he sets his own hours and chooses to do this. Insane, or what?

Somehow, I actually made mornings really work for me. I used to get up between 4 and 5 every day. Last year, a typical morning saw me exercising, gardening, emails handled, showered, dressed, breakfast done and down to work on my writing by 9 am.

Of course, then Kevin messed with my schedule a bit more and I'm having the worst time, trying to drag myself out of bed.

Part of it is the fire department. Tuesday night's a classic example. Kevin was at fire practice. I finally went to bed when he wasn't home around 10 pm. He came home around 11:30, because they'd been doing a controlled burn.

It was after 1 am when the light show started. Wow, had I forgotten just how vicious prairie thunderstorms can be. KABOOM, over and over again, the light and sound so close together, I knew it was just a matter of time...

Before the power went out. Which is when Kevin's radio went off with the tones for the fire department.

And he was jumping out of bed to get dressed and go.

He got home around 3. Neither of us was particularly happy to hear the alarm clock go off at 5. And I had edits to do, so I couldn't go back to bed.

I need some cure for my sleeping woes. Kevin doesn't like it when I sleep on the couch, but man, at least I get to sleep!

And I need to actually spend some time dealing with the yard, except it's been raining a lot lately. Last year, I dug out a flower bed and tried planting. A few things actually survived. This year, the rhubarb is already growing like a weed, and the weeds are overtaking the flowerbed, but a few things returned, so I was impressed.

Still, the yard is one big mess. And what I've got pictured below isn't even the whole yard.

And it's mid June. And I'm going back to bed.

Maybe the world will be back on her feet tomorrow.

I've had something added to my website, but it works with quicktime. If you have quicktime, you shouldn't need to do anything, it'll just run, but if anyone checks it out and has problems, I'd appreciate the heads up. Thanks.

Oh, and for an absolutely hilarious take on the use of language in books, catch up on Cornelia Read's post this week, if you haven't already. Cornelia Rocks!






Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Thud You Just Heard Was My Editor Dropping Dead

Yes, that's right guys! The rewrite is done, to this stage anyway. Back in the hands of my trusty editor.

And, because I forgot to do this earlier today with the usual post, aspiring authors should go to Jason Pinter's blog and read his June 13 post about literary agents. Some great info in that post.

Right, that's me, off to celebrate! Until the next round of edits, anyway.

Editing with a Machete (you asked about the book edits, Angie? here's the answer...)

Listening to an album that transports you through space and time to another place, the nostalgia of youth… Talking to an old friend and feeling as though years haven’t passed at all, you’ve just picked right up where you left off. The smell in the air that reminds you so keenly of a day twenty-some-odd years ago when you had your first kiss…

The way your heart catches in your throat when you learn that after 40 years, Mr. Dressup is going off the air forever. My childhood with the tickle trunk, Casey and Finnegan is gone.

Yes, nostalgic, that’s me. It all started with the Canadian issue of Spinetingler. Martha Reed sent me the draft of the article she’s writing.

An American? Writing in the Canadian Issue? Yes. Martha’s writing about the inspiration of Muskoka, where she has spent her vacations since childhood.

I grew up in Gravenhurst, the Gateway to Muskoka. It’s been over 11 years since I’ve been back, but Martha’s article, on why she likes to write in Canada’s cottage playground, had me choking on a pretty big lump in my throat.

Did you know I grew up with an endless backyard, that flowed into a forest, complete with rock cuts, and eventually led to the gravel pit, but you could take trails in three directions, one of which eventually led past the woods at Camp Shalom. Go look at that link and tell me you don’t want to be there, right now? In The Muskoka Lake District…

And I grew up not a fifteen minute walk from the shores of Lake Muskoka, every day in the summer on the beach, watching RMS Segwun - the oldest operating steamship in North America – go by on her runs.

This is one of those things you can’t separate out in your mind. Parts of your childhood might not be stuff you want to think about, but interwoven with the not-so-great is the wonderful. I can close my eyes and I am sitting on the rocks at the cliffs, staring down into the water…

Martha’s article has been part of the wave of nostalgia. I got some new CDs this weekend. I bet you all know what I mean when I say that it’s so incredible to get a new CD by an artist you’ve enjoyed in the past – no, haven’t heard a single song on this CD either, just a faith purchase – and I’m there. The music speaks to me. I feel like I’ve caught up with old friends.

And, then, there were the edits on Suspicious Circumstances.

It isn’t even quite two years to the day that I quit my job and started writing SC. Kevin told me that if I didn’t try, I’d never know if I could make it as an author. So, financially tapped, with a new house to pay the mortgage on, we decided what we could live without and I quit the day job.

And wrote.

I told someone recently I kept writing those characters at first because I was afraid if I stopped I’d lose them. Silly me.

It’s been a long time since I’ve stepped into Lara Kelly and Tymen Farraday’s world. But it feels like catching up with old friends.

It’s no different than how I feel about Muskoka. Close my eyes and I am there, living this story with them.

There have been a lot of things to groan over. Beginner’s mistakes, silly things I did with this manuscript that make me laugh now. Oh, I wish nobody had read it before I’d had a chance to go over it again, but truthfully, I’m thankful for the feedback I got because it’s helped me in this process. And if you have the pre-edit version, put it down now, step away…

People have asked how it’s going, and I have to say well. I did the first rewrite. My good friend JT Ellison read over the new revised draft and has provided some comments on it. Now, I’m in the final stages, going back over it again, to address the things I knew might be problems, and what she pointed out – thankfully, a short list.

Then, the manuscript will go back to my editor. Hopefully, after she looks at it, she won’t have a stroke.

Because it’s sitting, um, considerably shorter than the version she saw. About 16,000 words shorter. I’m afraid to say too much, in case she reads this…

But it’s better. More punch, less dithering. More action, less thinking.

Whole characters are gone. A few relationship developments that may – or may not – make some people happy.

Right now, the most important thing to me is that I feel very positive about the book. I’m happier with everything.

And I’m starting to get some ideas about the next book in the series, which is cool. Because book 3 in the Canadian series has been screaming in my ears so loudly that it’s pissing me off, because I won’t have time to write it for a few months, at least.

Jack and Carly will have to wait. Lara and Farraday are demanding that I pay some attention to them, and it feels pretty good to know that the sizzle is still there. I always wanted to develop this into a series, and for a while, I wondered if that would happen.

Later today when I send the revisions, I hope my editor feels like she’s been handed a diamond instead of getting a cubic zirconia back.

So, am I alone in the nostalgia of returning to a project, to characters, with a bit of fear and trepidation, only to find out it’s like catching up with old friends? Or am I just weird?

Now, on a not-so-nice tangent, I received this message 5 times on the same blog post:

Hi, i was looking over your blog and didn't quite find what I was looking for. I'm looking for different ways to earn money... I did find this though... a place where you can make some nice extra cash secret shopping. Just go to the site below and put in your zip to see what's available in your area. I made over $900 last month having fun! make extra money

With a link to paidsurveysonline.com.

If you have 5 free minutes email them at support@surveyshelpdesk.com and tell them they’re vultures. Tell them they’re the lowest form of life and will never have an ounce of business credibility as long as they spam people. Create a hotmail account just for this occasion. I felt better for at least 30 seconds.

Maybe if they get reams of hate mail, they really will grab a fucking clue and leave us alone. I’m tempted to turn on the verification, because I really really hate the spam. But I also hate verification because half the time, I can’t read the friggin’ letters and have to retry.

I hate spammers. Rotting in hell is too good for them.

Forrest sent some funnies

Blondes and Brunettes
Two bowling teams, one of all Blondes and one of all Brunettes, charter a double-decker bus for a weekend gambling trip to Louisiana.
The Brunette team rode on the bottom of the bus, and the Blonde team rode on the top level.
The Brunette team down below really whooped it up, having a great time, when one of them realized she hadn't heard anything from the Blondes upstairs.
She decided to go up and investigate.
When the Brunette reached the top, she found all the Blondes in fear, staring straight ahead at the road, clutching the seats in front of them with white knuckles.
The brunette asked, "What the heck's going on up here? We're having a great time downstairs!"
One of the Blondes looked up at her, swallowed hard and whispered... YEAH, BUT YOU'VE GOT A DRIVER!

A Pearl Necklace
A young woman was taking an afternoon nap on her birthday.
After she woke up, she told her husband, "I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for my birthday. What do you think it means?"
"You'll know tonight." he said.
That evening, the man came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Delighted, she opened it--only to find a book entitled:
"The meaning of dreams."

Married
A man is incomplete until he is married.....


....Then he is finished.