black widow

Today on Facebook on one of my favorite pages, I Fucking Love Science, I got to read theories about why people, especially women it seems, are afraid of spiders. One theory points to their erratic movement and their “legginess.”  That can’t be right. If that were true, we’d be afraid of supermodels. Of course, I might be just as startled by a supermodel as a spider if I saw one crawling up my wall. Another theory posits that arachnophobia is genetic. “You need not necessarily experience spiders to be fearful of them.” That’s what I call the “Duh” theory. I’ve never experienced a pit viper and I am fearful of them. Kids get it. They are more afraid of spiders than getting kidnapped or the dark. The article left it a mystery as to why some people fear spiders.

Where I grew up, we had to watch out for black widows. Even the little baby black widows that you would sometimes find clustered in the corner of a room near the carpet in a sticky web. And there were a few brown recluses around too. A kid at my high school got bitten by one. Nasty business. Even non-venomous spiders are a literal pain. Those suckers bite too. So the only mystery here is why some people are NOT afraid of spiders. Am I right?

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Thanksgiving Mystery

turkey reading out loud

This year we are having Thanksgiving at a vegan household. So I am posting this Thanksgiving fairy tale from last year. The only mystery here is how they make Turk’y Cutlets taste like turkey. No animals were harmed but the soy protein isolates better scram.

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I Found It! (I Wish.)

Gem 1.20

I have a bit of the treasure hunter in me. I know this because after my boss at a jewelry store told me that another employee had dropped and lost a large diamond behind the front counter years before, I spent every spare moment I could looking for that nugget. I wasn’t going to steal it but I figured that my boss would give me a nice reward. I never found that diamond but I did discover a sensitivity to dust.

I spent one afternoon geocaching with my husband and daughter. That’s a kind of treasure hunt although the rewards that time were simply clues for a later search. I was delighted each time I located the hidden clue before my fellow seekers. Who doesn’t like to win? And who doesn’t love the idea of discovering something amazing?

The best hunting in South Florida occurs when Dave Barry stages the Herald Hunt in Miami. It’s a free family event with a newspaper handout full of problems you must solve in order to arrive at the final solution. The Hunt is set in a pre-determined, walkable geographic area and it’s a riot to watch thousands of people run frantically from location to location to figure out clues. We’ve done the Hunt a few times and it’s always the best time you can have on a beautiful weekend afternoon.  We’ve never won but once we came very, very close. I think.

My newest manuscript-in-progress has a bit of a hidden treasure story angle. It’s not the most important aspect of the story but it’s the part I’m having the most fun writing. Because I’m making it up, I can make the treasure whatever suits my fancy. Of course, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.  Just check out this article on the Huffington Post about some of the world’s lost treasures that may yet be found.  I’m coveting those Faberge eggs.

Whatever your treasure, I hope you find it.

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2015 ahoy!

Benedict Cumberbatch

The Guardian published a very nice list of things to look forward to in 2015.  For example, that particle smasher in Geneva where they discovered the Higgs boson is going to be fired up again after a two year hiatus. Cool right? The possibility of that man-made, Earth-sucking black hole is back on the table for you conspiracy theorists. Also noteworthy, Benedict Cumberbatch is going to play Hamlet on stage in London. Yep, sold out. The article mentions some withheld tickets that will go on sale I don’t know when. (Yep, I’m already in line.)

Another moment worth looking forward to is only one second long. For you Pi lovers, I’m talking about 3/14/15 at 9:26:53. Pi Day is special this year. In mystery news, Mashable reminds us about 13 real-life mysteries that need solving, hopefully in 2015. For example, what is all that stuff underneath Stonehenge?

Of course, I’m primarily interested in the books that are coming out in 2015. Bustle picks their 12 most anticipated books here. Huffington Post weighs in here. If you’re like me, you want to skip right to Thrillers, Mysteries, and Suspense. Whatever you think about Amazon, you can at least see what suspense writers are publishing this year by clicking here. Now, I have to figure out which e-reader I want to replace my beloved original Kindle. I dropped it one too many times on its head and now I have to say goodbye to its convenient tactile keyboard and whispernet service. Any suggestions? I’m all ears.

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Oh, Agatha

agatha-christie-1925

More than 80 years ago this December, a real-life mystery developed around a real-life mystery author, Agatha Christie.  According to Unsolved.com, Ms. Christie’s car was found abandoned an hour from her home on the morning of December 4th, 1926 and she was nowhere to be found. Her disappearance became a huge media sensation. Her husband, Colonel Archibald Christie, who had been having an affair, came under suspicion for murder. Witnesses who saw her before the disappearance described Ms. Christie as upset. Eleven days later, she was found in an upscale spa registered under the last name of her husband’s mistress. Her husband came to fetch her and the two never spoke of the incident again.

Here are some theories suggested at the time: a) she had amnesia, b) she had a sort of psychotic break, or c) she did it as a publicity stunt and enjoyed reading in the newspapers about her cheating husband being trailed everywhere he went.  What do you think? I choose (c) because I think Agatha Christie was exceedingly clever. And come on, she registered with the last name of her husband’s mistress. Doesn’t seem like amnesia or a psychotic break to me. Reads like “up yours, Archibald.”

If you love all things British like I do, you might want to check this out. Amazon.com has a collection of books under “British Christmas Mysteries.”

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Stephen King is Always Right

Hey Man by fire

It’s been a while since I last read Stephen King’s book, ON WRITING, but I have read it twice. The thing that has always stuck with me the most is his advice about writing every day and hitting your target, no matter how small you set it. Right now, I’ve set my target for 1,000 words a day. No excuses. For me, that’s a reasonable target. Your target might be 500 words or 5,000 words. We don’t have to compare. Having a bigger target doesn’t mean anything except that perhaps you have maid services, a nanny, and a husband who travels Monday through Friday. But I digress.

I also enjoy King’s advice about putting characters into a situation and helping them out of it. He’s not big on plotting and neither am I. So perhaps I like his advice because it suits the way I already write. I always have a “big idea” about my book. It is important for me to understand the basic theme of my story and to work out some basic components: characters and their stories, the main conflict, sub-conflicts, and setting. After that, I like to dive in and see where it takes me. You can probably guess that I don’t use an outline. I usually create a bit of an outline when I’m nearly done so that I can evaluate the text for inconsistencies and then write my synopsis.

I’m working on the second book in my new series of murder mysteries. I managed to stay on task over the weekend and for me, that’s huge. How glad am I to land on Monday morning with more than 2,000 words added to my manuscript? Have you seen Snoopy dance on Schroeder’s little piano? That about sums it up. Sorry for the Peanuts reference, we watched Charlie Brown Christmas last night. Speaking of Charlie Brown Christmas, I am so totally right there with Lucy as the Christmas Queen. But again I digress.

I titled this post about Stephen King always being right. That’s probably not true for everyone but for me, he is a hero. I promise, even if you don’t love his books as much as I do, you’ll enjoy ON WRITING. And Stephen, if you are reading this post, I’d just like to thank you for your First Editions of limited releases. I’ve sold two and bought the most beautiful piece of jewelry with the proceeds. Cheers!

Stephen King

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Quit Waiting Write Now

lion with computer 2

It’s been just over a month since the Atlanta Writer’s Conference where I got to float around for my 15 seconds of fame after winning three separate awards for my manuscript and pitch. That manuscript (a murder mystery called OVERBALANCED) has since been placed in the hands of five different professionals (4 agents and 1 editor). If I told you that I haven’t been watching my email feed, I’d be lying. Sure, I’ve been sending out more queries in spite of the holiday season when I’m guessing things slow way down in the publishing world. I’ve also written a short story that I submitted to a contest and I sent a query about a short essay to the Boston Globe. But I’m dying to hear from the folks who currently hold my fate on their computer screens (it’s all digital submissions these days).

What I really need to do is work on the next manuscript. It’s called OVERCOMPENSATED. (See what I’m doing there?) I can tell you that it is at times monumentally difficult to write a sequel when you haven’t yet secured the first book’s spot in immortality (on Kindle, at least). I’m writing the second book so it can stand alone if that ends up being necessary. It’s not like the HUNGER GAMES trilogy where book three makes no sense absent the first two books. And I confess that when I dive in, I’m super excited about the next novel. It’s got at least two storylines and a bit of history as well so it’s rich and satisfying, at least in my head. I’m still working on the writing part, thus the title of this post. I hope to have the new manuscript done by May.

Write now. It’s my new mantra and it will take me away from eyeballing my email feed. I actually Googled a question about how long you might expect to wait to hear from an agent who has requested your manuscript. It’s certainly months, at the least, and in once case, an agent blogged about having a year’s worth of manuscripts in her pile. Yikes! If I don’t hear anything for a year, I promise you that you will hear the sound of my head exploding, wherever it is that you live.

So the mystery portion of this post is about the waiting involved when trying to get an agent. It takes ages and yet, it might be today that I get an email. Who the heck knows? I can tell you that at the panel discussion at the Atlanta Writer’s Conference, every single agent warned about the lengthy review process so I’m not at all surprised. Just eager. Eager to land an agent and then start the waiting process all over again as she submits my manuscript to various editors. I can do this!

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Rudolph Crimes

Negligence

Negligence.

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Rudolph Crimes

Rudolph crimes 1

Assault.

As an artist and former attorney, I can’t resist a little visual/legal humor.

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I think I can, I think I can…

trophy dream

A few days ago I wrote a short short story (under 1,500 words) because a) I am very bad at writing short stories and need the practice and b) Writer’s Digest is having a short short story contest and I am a sucker for contests. I don’t normally write outlandish scenarios but for some reason when I force myself to write a short story, it emerges from some ridiculous premise. I can’t bring myself to tell you about the latest one just yet, but the last time I wrote a short story, it was about plague survivors being bred for the purpose of harvesting their organs. Ok, I’ll pause here for you to wonder, WTF?

I typically write mystery novels and although I love to add weird characters, the world they live in is recognizable. I am working on my next novel while a handful of agents and editors consider the novel I finished a couple of months ago. I am considering, however, forcing myself to write short stories once a month at the very least. Apparently, I am a lot freer in my creative brain when I force myself to contain the story to a set number of words. I imagine that the practice will only help my novel writing. Too bad for me that Ben H. Winters has already written a trilogy with the very best premise imaginable (a very large asteroid is going to hit the Earth and a dedicated policeman struggles to carry out his work). After a few more short stories, I might have come up with that one. (A girl can dream.)

In the meantime, I may troll the internet for other reputable writing contests. Apparently, I am very motivated by visions of grandeur. You can’t win if you don’t enter and you can’t lose until, of course, they tell you that you lost. While you wait, it’s like carrying around an unscratched lottery ticket. (I might win! I might win! I might win!) If you’re a writer, I highly recommend that you give this a try too. It’s a great exercise and it gives you something to dream about as you go to sleep at night. Good luck!

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Mysterious Things Happen Here