Friday, February 27, 2009

Until Next Week ...

from Jacqueline

My book tour moves on apace, and it has been a busy week. So busy, in fact, that I must once again be on the fly in a short while, and have not been able to compose a proper post - but I'll be back next week with something a bit more interesting to say (I hope).

But one thing before I go - Wednesday was a big Snoopy-dance day for me ....

In fact, it was a full-on flamenco day ....

and might even have looked like one of the last days of disco ...

I found out that my new novel, AMONG THE MAD, has reached the New York Times Bestseller List, in at #9 in the published edition this Sunday, Yaaaaaay!!!!! I am so excited, I hope you will forgive me tooting my own horn. With all those really big important writers on the list, I never thought I stood a chance. Such things are sweet and short, and give cause for celebration.

But there were other terrific things to celebrate this week:

I finally met Our Paulie in the flesh, so to speak, at the wonderful Mystery Bookstore in Westwood - and what a great guy, even walked me to my car. Paulie, you and Jim Born are the most chivalrous blokes I've met in a long time - and friends, we've got 'em here at Naked Authors! Thanks, OP, it was really lovely to meet you.

I managed to use my collected air miles to upgrade to first class on my flight to Chicago this coming Sunday - oh, deep, deep joy.

I've had a really wonderful two weeks of book tour (flying aside), and as always, the welcome from booksellers and readers has been just terrific. Makes up for the jet-lag ten thousand fold. Thank you, all, for being so wonderful- couldn't do any of it without you.

And when I flew into the Bay Area - getting in really late on Wednesday night, due to an airplane that went "technical" (and you know what that does to me. We were on and off 'planes, back and forth, in and out of our seats for a couple of hours) but when I finally arrived in the Bay Area, hubby and the dog were there to meet me ... priceless.

What are you celebrating this week?

Have a wonderful weekend, all.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Before I start my post on webcams I have to respond to Paul's Tuesday post. As long as we're showing photos from years ago how is this one of Paul?

I am impressed. If I had a photo like that I'd post it everywhere. That's Paul on the right about age 25 in 1963. They are celebrating the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Now for webcams! Woohoo!

I like computers. Not only do I write on them I suck in all kinds of information. By nature I’m curious and if I try something new or hear about something odd I have to find out all I can. For instance, I went to the Daytona 500 two weeks ago. Never been to a NASCAR race, knew only a few driver’s names but I was happy to try something new, especially with some buddies down from up north. I didn’t understand much of the tactics of the race but the next day found that I really liked seeing the analysis and hearing the driver’s comments.

I also love webcams on the computer. It started with a desire to see the beach conditions before I drove the few miles to swim. For that I used this site sponsored by Palm Beach County. From the north end of the county to the south I can see the relative wave heights. One interesting thing I learned form this was that realized how rough the waters in the northern section were compared to the south beaches in Boca Raton. Just those twenty five miles make a huge difference. I’ve been told the Bahamas shields the southern county so on normal days the seas are calmer further south.

I found some of these cameras in this article from PC World.

Here are a few other webcams you might find interesting:

Press a button to blast bubbles through a Florida family's wired backyard.

Wakiki Beach Should be obvious why tis is cool.

Earth Cam Has choices of cameras all over the world.

Space Needle A view of Seattle that may not be active but is interesting.

Because this is a blog by writers and to show how far webcams reach into society I included this one of the University of Minnesota, Duluth library lobby.

Have any webcams you track? Try it, you might have a few laughs.

See you next week.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Oscars and the access of information

It's hard to get excited about the Academy Awards from so far away (as China). And this from a person who won't attend Oscar parties because I don't want to miss a minute of the actual broadcast (except the ads). Despite my loving a few of the films, and liking several others, despite my daughters' interest in Miley Cyrus' gown, and my own in Kate Winslet's lack of gown, and also in Cate Blanchett's anything, and on seeing Anne Hathaway as a rising star, I want to watch but I'm not obsessed with it.

I do find it interesting that four of the most nominated films are based on books or short stories. A comic book caused a supporting actor nomination. Stage plays resulted in several other nominations. The written word is good for film, and as authors we can only hope that someone in Hollywood takes note of that. But I'm not holding my breath.

So I will be watching... but not until tonight, Wednesday night, just as this blog posts. Three days late. I'm not sure exactly why this is, but the Philippine television dish system we subscribe to here in China is running the Oscars three days after the event. What were they thinking? By then we will, of course, despite our efforts to avoid newspapers and web sites, know all the winners. So if we watch, it will be for Hugh Jackman and the speeches and the dresses (my daughters), and the music (if there is any; I hear there are changes afoot, which is a good thing).

My co-writer of children's books, Dave Barry, had the chance to work on Steve Martin's writing team for an Academy Awards several years ago. His behind-the-scene stories have filled me with Oscar curiosity ever since: what's going on when we're watching the ads, or cooking popcorn; what kind of pressure is on the host and his staff of writers minute by minute through the night to come up with a joke or comment based on what we just saw; the gift-baskets participants receive (valued in the tens of thousands of dollars); the prima donnas and the backstage shenanigans. Dave has made the Oscars more about my imagining what's going on off camera, instead of watching what's happening on camera. It makes it much more fun.

I wonder if anyone will point out the connection between the number of nominations and the films being based on books, plays, etc. I hope so. Not that that many people read in Hollywood--but there's always hope. But the book business is suffering along with every other business in this recession and it could use a boost, a reminder that the really good stories are down the street in a store -- and it's not the DVD store.

But what gets me is this realization that there's no way we won't know the outcome before we watch the broadcast. We take one newspaper here --The Shanghai Daily. I will purposely avoid reading it on Monday and Tuesday. And yet, I know I'll know the winners. I know that emails, websites, my children coming home from school, the televisions they have on the city buses here... all of it will conspire against any efforts I will make to be blissfully uninformed for 48 hours. And that is kind of... odd.

It is no longer a matter of how much access we have to information, but how much access information has to us.

Readers say that some of my older books are scary, but this -- this is scary: you can't avoid the news, even if you want to. Big Brother isn't watching us as Orwell thought--Big Brother is talking to us. And that's even more terrifying at a time we need to learn to think for ourselves.


Steal This Book!

From Paul

Readers of a certain age will recognize that headline as the title of Abbie Hoffman's 1970 counter-culture book. (I once interviewed Hoffman for The Miami Herald and received some nasty letters, but that's another story).

This has nothing to do with Hoffman's book. It's about our books -- the Naked Scribblers -- and yours, our faithful readers/writers.

There's a company out there depriving you of royalties. I'm not talking about Amazon's "used book" sales. They hurt, but Amazon sells tons of new books that are accounted for when royalties are calculated. And, as we said last week, the Amazon Kindle is going to save reading. (The Kindle 2 shipped yesterday to folks with $359 to spend. Prediction: Newspapers and magazines may soon give the Kindle away free in return for paid subscriptions. That can only help sell electronic books for all of us. The world is changing, my friends).

But back to my point. I'm talking about The Paradies Shops at airports. (I know; it looks like they tried to spell "Paradise" and failed. Or maybe they tried to spell "parodies." Either way, it's a clunky name, like "Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.").

Paradies sells books at airports, and the company does a good job. I'm grateful for that. Lately, I've been on some concourses where you can only buy $3 water and really bad nachos and melted-tire-tread-masquerading-as-cheese. And...I'll all for making books affordable. I think hardcover books should be less than $20.

But...Paradies has a "Read & Return" program that goes like this.

Take a mythical traveler. Call him Jim Born. At the airport in Ft. Lauderdale, Jim wanders into the Paradies Shop, looking for something to read. He hits the magazine rack, checks out "Guns & Ammo" and "Soldier of Fortune." Nah, he wants something a little less taxing. Over in hardcover books, he finds "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" by Jenna Jameson. It's $32.50 -- hey, it's got lots of pictures -- and he forks over two sweaty twenties.

Jim gets on the plane, reads a bit, and looks at all the pictures. A few hours later, he lands at LaGuardia, goes to the Paradies Shop there, returns the book and gets 50% back. With the $16.25, he hits the airport bar, but that's another story. (You have six months to return the book for a 50% return). Paradies then re-sells the book, and the process goes on and on. Needless to say, the authors get not a shekel from the re-sales.

The solution, of course, is to "steal this book." If you purloin the product, the retailer is not able to return it to the publisher, and the author will still receive royalties. (Please do not attempt this strategy at the airport in Tehran).

Okay, okay, don't do this. You should never steal anything except recreational drugs. But think of that $3 bottle of water Jim bought in Fort Lauderdale. When he gets to LaGuardia, they don't give him back $1.50 if he gives back...oh, never mind.

I'm interested in your comments about royalty ripoffs in the sale of used books.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Want less, Waste less

By Patricia Smiley

My television is a Sony Trinitron, carbon dated 1984. It still works even though it’s so bulky there is a perception that I have a Hummer parked in my office. I don’t have a DVD player. I probably wouldn’t know how to hook it up and besides, it seems like a waste of money for something I would rarely use. I like to watch movies in a theater.

My hair dryer is prehistoric. I’ve dropped it a few times and eventually became concerned that the duct tape holding it together might be flammable. So I bought a new dryer but kept the old one…you know…in case I need a spare for houseguests.

I returned hangers to the dry cleaners long before it was fashionable, and I once asked the manager of my local supermarket if I could recycle my egg cartons. He told me no, all the time staring at me as if he was mentally measuring me for a straight jacket.

It’s not that I’m cheap—well, maybe a little—it’s just that I was raised by parents who survived the Great Depression and World War II and who imbued me with a “Want Less, Waste Less” philosophy of life.

When I was a child, everybody conserved resources in my neighborhood. Women collected bacon grease in old Crisco cans. My mother reused aluminum foil and my father saved the rubber bands that molded our daily newspaper into a log-like roll. Jelly jars became drinking glasses, and flour sacks morphed into dishtowels and pillowcases. Add a little embroidery and voila! Everybody's a household fashionista.

On Saturday, I sat down with my mother to discuss her experiences during the Great Depression. She told me her family didn’t suffer any hardships. In fact, she has fond memories of that time. I reminded her that she was already poor, so she may not have felt the same loss that others did.

“I guess,” she said, “but nobody complained back then. Not like now, people whining about every little thing.”

At the time of the stock market crash, my mother was a child living with her family on a leased 80-acre farm where her parents raised chickens, turkeys, cows, and pigs. They sold everything but the eggs, which my grandmother traded for needed items, including ten dozen per month for my mother’s piano lessons. Twice a week, the man who owned Tweeds Rolling Grocery van came by the house and swapped food for eggs.

A friend of the family, who sold bakery goods door-to-door, scheduled my grandmother’s house as his last stop, because she cooked dinner for him in exchange for sweet rolls.

My grandparent’s bank did not go belly-up, but it wouldn’t have impacted them much if it had, because they didn’t keep a lot of money in the account. I asked my mother what else she remembered from that time.

“Dad had a grinder,” she said. “He ground grain for all the neighbors who couldn’t afford one of their own.”

“How much did he charge?” I said.

She shot me an incredulous stare. “Nothing. They were our neighbors.”

As we seem to be slipping into another Great Depression, I asked myself if I would be willing to grind wheat for my neighbor, especially the one who has never once invited me to one of his swimming pool parties. Okay, so maybe I would, but only if he agreed to keep his yappy little dog from barking all night.

Just in case we don’t pull out of this economic slump in the near future, does anybody have a grain grinder they want to barter? I’d be willing to trade it for a used hair dryer and a couple of empty egg cartons. Will a vintage TV sweeten the deal?

Happy Monday.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Miscellaneous, Jumbled-up Thoughts From The Road ... And The Air

from Jacqueline 

I was out and about signing books in Houston on Tuesday, and while I was at the lovely Blue Willow Bookshop, I was asked how old I was when I became interested in books. I was in the process of buying three beautiful composition books at the time – I like to make notes for each book I write in a different composition book. My response was that I had my first library card at age three, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. Then we started talking about having good notebooks to write in, and I revealed that when I was a kid one of my favorite games was to play “offices.”

Now, this was interesting, as neither of my parents worked in an office, in fact, I didn’t know anyone who worked in an office, though I’d seen the school secretary and the doctor’s receptionist. But I loved the idea of having a desk with books, paper and pens everywhere. As we talked, a raft of memories came cruising in on the tide of conversation. I can remember pressing my poor kid brother into being my “assistant” until he couldn’t stand it a minute longer and mutinied, whereupon I’d get uppity and pull rank (I’m the oldest!), and he’d thump me, so I’d whack him back, and before you knew it my mother had us both by the scruff of the neck, sending us out into the garden with instructions not to come back in until we’d sorted ourselves out. And we’d end up climbing trees or building a camp, which was all my brother wanted to do anyway. Pretty good tactic, on my mother’s part.

The one thing I’m not good at, on the book tour, is flying. I’ve gone on and on about it here before, so I won’t get stuck on the issue again. But imagine my chagrin on the first flight of the our, when the two “dudes” in the seat behind me began talking about the fact they thought they would die in a ‘plane crash. “Dude, I’ll be going down like, whoosh ...” And I thought, “Dude, you’ll be going out of that exit door like whoosh even before we’ve taken off, if you don’t put a sock in it.” They needed someone like my mother to get them both by the scruff of the neck.

I’ve always been a people-watcher at airports – and a listener. While waiting at the gate for my flight from Houston to Denver, the elderly lady sitting alongside me was telling a woman she’d just met a little about herself – in a fairly loud voice. Everyone at the gate learned that although she was a Baptist, she belonged to a Presbyterian prayer group, but her greatest joy came from the fact that she was a clogger. “I’m a clogger,” she said. “Clog every Sat’dy mornin’, reg’lar.” Ah, bless her cotton socks.

You see a lot of advertising at airports, most of which is ho-hum. No I don’t need a United Visa card, and I’ve already got my Bose headphones ... and so it goes on. But every now and again I see an ad and think, “That’s clever.” So, if you’re at an airport, check out the new Earthjustice ads. You’ll see a breathtaking view from an airplane window, then the words (and I’m paraphrasing here as I can’t remember the actual words used), “If you want to see what we’re fighting to save everyday, ask for a window seat.” Clever, that.

I’ve always been a window seat traveler, not least because I love to look out at the land below (though not during take-off or landing). I have no idea where I am as I write this post, but below me America is spread out like a veritable table-cloth – fields and forests as far as the eye can see; lakes, ponds and pools; rivers with meanders, tributaries and ox-bow lakes. I can see never-ending dead-straight highways, long and winding roads, trails leading to farms, and paths to houses. I can see communities clustered, and in the distance a grand conurbation. I am looking at a map of America that is alive and teeming.

There’s a lot to protect down there – not just the geography of America, but jobs, families, the lady who clog-dances on Saturday mornings, the children who climb trees in their back-yards, and the kids who dare each other with their talk. It brings it home that “love thy neighbor” isn’t just something you might hear at your Baptist or Presbyterian church, but a sentiment that underlines a respect for the many ways of life that are worth all the protecting we can muster.

Funny what you see, hear and think about, on the road – and up in the air.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


James O. Born

I think I’ve blogged on this before but I love a good title. Often the book or movie doesn’t live up to the title but I love them just the same. I’ve struggled with several of my own titles and looked with envy on titles others thought of and I missed.

An older Kirk Douglas movie got me thinking about titles. A few weeks ago I watched Cast a Giant Shadow. I’m a sucker for any story about the birth of modern Israel and overcoming incredible odds to establish a homeland. But the title says it all. The lead character, or the fighting citizens of Israel, both must cast a shadow more than what they thought they were to succeed.

My favorite movie right now is Kingdom Of Heaven. I’ve watched it over and over the last few months but the title kept me away for several years. I can’t even pinpoint why.

I liked the book title Redemption Street. I liked the book too, written by my friend Reed Coleman. But the title captures you. For the record my second novel’s title was also a product of Mr. Coleman. After Putnam said the original title, Chaos Theory, might be confused with another book, I called Reed who immediately came up with Shock Wave for the price of an acknowledgement in the book.

Here's Reed and me in my pool just as each of our books came out back in 2004

I had another title I liked a couple of years ago until I ran it by my friend and chief tormentor over at First Offenders, Jeff Shelby. The title was Written in Blood and he immediately said he didn’t like any reference to writing actually on a book. Good advice.

Next month our own Paul Levine has a new book out titled simply Illegal. I think it’s a great title set on a great cover and the one word could have many meanings related to the story. Paul and I have discussed the book and I know what the title refers to, making it that much better as far as I’m concerned.

And Jackie has some great titles. Unfortunately I have referred to An Incomplete Revenge as an Inconvenient Truth more than once. But this week's release of Among The Mad is a captivating title for a book, or a blog now that I think of it.

This is not a plug for my next book, but I’ll mention that my agent sold it with the title of The Second Species. I was never thrilled with the title. Then months after TOR had it and was working with it, I thought of the phrase The Human Disguise. I could tell the instant I ran it past them that they liked it. A lot. I worked that into the next book’s title, The Double Human. The funny part was coming up with a different author name so as not to confuse any crime fiction fans. Finally I realized I wasn’t smart enough to use any unusual name. I’d never answer to it at conferences or during interviews so I settled on my actual first and middle names, James O’Neal. Now I’m happy with what I settled on.

Now I'll ask a favor. Let me know what you think of the cover and the website for James O'Neal. Shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment. I'd appreciate feedback. This is a new adventure.

What about you? Any titles that really turn you on? Movies or books.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Time & Place, Abe & Edgar

From Paul...

No one writing fiction today evokes setting better than our Jacqueline. "Among the Mad" is a magic carpet that will transport you to London in 1931. What authors do you like for effortlessly describing time and place?

R.I.P. RALPH: Ralph Kaplowitz, one of the original New York Knicks (1946), has died at age 89. Basketball was different then. Kaplowitz, a 6-2 guard, led the league in scoring, averaging 7 points a game, though he weighed less than one of Shaquille O'Neal's thighs. His teammates, Schectman, Hertzberg, Weber, and Gottlieb sound more like a C.P.A. firm than a starting five.

NOT AN OPTICAL ILLUSION: Not Photo-shopped either. A Stealth Bomber zoomed low (and almost silently) over the Rose Bowl on January 1. I know. I was there, as you can see in Section 17, Row 35, seat 1. I'm a Penn State alum, so the flyover was the high point of the game for me.

IT'S NOT JUST O.J. SIMPSON: What the running of the bulls is to Pamplona, what greed is to Wall Street, car chases are to L.A. On an average day, 16 people run from the police in Los Angeles County.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A BOOK REVIEWER: Reviewers at Publishers Weekly were paid $45 a review until June 2008 when the magazine reduced the fee to $25.

Both Abraham Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe recently celebrated their 200th birthdays. (Did they really celebrate?) There have been thousands (yes, thousands) of books written about Lincoln, and several about Poe. "On a Raven's Wing" (Harper Collins) is a new anthology edited by Stuart Kaminsky and published by the Mystery Writers of America. There are stories by Mary Higgins Clark and 19 others, including your humble scribbler. My piece, Development Hell," imagines Poe pitching "The Pit and the Pendulum" to a Hollywood studio exec. Here's the opening:

Marvin Beazle slipped off his tinted shades, tugged at his ponytail and studied the emaciated writer sitting across from him. Skin the texture of paraffin. Stained trousers, moth-eaten frock coat, and a silk cravat dangling like an tattered curtain.

“Love the Johnny Depp look,” Beazle said. “But why the long face, Eddie?”

AND SPEAKING OF SHORT STORIES: If you know of a better short story in 2008 than Laura Lippman's "Scratch a Woman" (contained in "Hardly Knew Her"), please tell me so I can read it.


Monday, February 16, 2009

The Copy Editor in Us All

by Patricia Smiley

I assume that all of you have at one time or another been reading a book and stumbled across an error that the author or copy editor should have caught. So what do you do? (a) Grumble to yourself and continue reading, (b) throw the book against the wall, or (c) notify the author of the error?

A few years ago, I read a book that had been widely praised by the mystery community and although it possessed a fair measure of charm, it contained spelling errors and typos that exceeded my comfort level. In addition, the book was set in Southern California and since I live in Los Angeles, it was disconcerting to discover that the author had confused two cities with similar names, placing one in the wrong geographical location. A friend who read the book was also distracted by the errors. In fact, he compiled a list that he planned to send to the author. Since I was somewhat acquainted with this writer, I realized how angry and hurt this person would have been, so I convinced him not to send his error list.

Most authors sweat over the details, but as hard as we try, errors sometimes slip through the net. I am grateful when fans notify me of my boo-boos. Shortly after my latest book COOL CACHE came out, Terri e-mailed me to say: “… I must make you aware of a spelling error on Page 123 of "Cool Cache", just in case you're planning to make this into a paperback book. I am referring to the way you have it as "carpel tunnel syndrome", when it should be "carpal tunnel syndrome." Sheesh! Thanks for telling me, Terri, since “carpel” means “One of the structural units of a pistil, representing a modified ovule-bearing leaf.”

Bob also e-mailed: “I really enjoyed the book. As a flight instructor who taught in Pipers for seven years, the mental picture of Tucker getting into the Warrior first, followed by the pilot, made me laugh....there is only one door, and it is on the passenger side.” Hmmm, perhaps a sexier scene than the one I attempted to write…

On Friday, I received the page proofs for the paperback version due out this June. Thanks to Bob and Terri I was able to fix everything…that is; unless you have a list of errors you were afraid to tell me about. In that case, you have until February 19th to e-mail me.

Any interesting stories about errors in books?

Happy Monday...


Congrats to our very own Jacqueline Winspear for the glowing review her new book received in the February 23rd edition (page 49) of People Magazine. AMONG THE MAD got full-page treatment and four stars, the maximum given to any book. This week, a prized Wall Street Journal review will appear.

MAD is the latest in the Maisie Dobbs books, the New York Times bestselling series set in England between the wars. In this outing, Maisie matches wits with a potential mass murderer.

"That Maisie's traumas help her understand the criminal mind is just one of the unexpected depths of this engrossing mystery." --Ellen Shapiro, People Magazine

Here’s the link to her signing schedule.

Your success is a joy to us all, Our J.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Learning From Baby Oliver

from Jacqueline

I’ve often drawn parallels between my two passions, and I’ve written about them before on this blog. Yes, there’s a lot to learn about writing from riding, and vice versa. It’s just that sometimes I’m not too good at getting the lesson in a timely fashion – perhaps that’s life. But let’s start with a quote from Monica Dickens (great-granddaughter of Charles):

“Riding is a complicated joy. You learn something each time. It is never quite the same and you never know it all.”

You could easily swap “riding” for “writing.”

Which brings me to my teacher. Oliver.

Before I go on, you will remember Sara, my lovely mare who was in such dire straits about three years ago – I thought I would lose her due to a terrible sinus infection that put her into the equine hospital for over two months (thank you, insurance company!!!). Well, I still have Sara, but last February she managed to injure her leg quite badly. What again? Yes, you get animals and people like that, it’s one thing after another. This time it looked as if Sara would be out of commission for a good eight months.

Anyway, I had been thinking of acquiring a new horse, and envisaged buying a mature, well-trained dressage horse with solid experience in showing, a horse that knew what it was all about and would do it all. I wanted a horse I could learn from. That’s no doubt why I came home with Oliver, a four year-old Friesian who had only been under saddle for, oh, about six months, max. He’d been born and raised in Germany from excellent bloodlines, and had received a top designation as a colt. His experiences had all been good ones, and heck, he was just gorgeous. I fell in love and that was that, he came home with me.

The first thing I found out about him was that he is a messy eater and he makes a lot of noise. Imagine one of those guys in a Carl’s Junior ad, but 1400 lbs, head in a bowl of mush – “Don’t bother me, I’m eating.”

Then the work started and it’s been quite a learning curve. I’ve learned that with a young horse it’s crucial to make a big deal out of any small improvement – such things rarely come in big doses, we get better incrementally. I’ve also learned that most of the time he’s trying really hard to do the right thing, and it’s important to make much out of doing the right thing.

Because I work for myself, from home, I know I have a habit of pushing to get it all done, and now, immediately. As writers we have deadlines, contracts to meet, book tours to work our way through, emails, etc., etc., etc – and I know I am not alone in trying to push the envelope and do more today than I did yesterday, and I will sit at my desk until I meet or surpass my word-count goal for the day. Heck I will sit here, paralyzed bum and all, until those words are written.

But I am learning that you can’t always push it. Here’s what happened last July.

Ollie and I were working with my trainer and were getting near the end of the lesson. Young horses – even strong breeds like Friesians – have to learn to be balanced, have to build strength to carry a rider, and they can tire easily, especially if they are jet black and it’s summer. So we were having a bit of trouble getting something right. We tried several times. I was tired, he was tired, and I wasn’t going to stop until I had that move right. I was so tired, I didn’t do something that can be quite important with young horses, which is re-check the integrity of the girth a couple of times in a training session. The net result was that, eventually, the saddle went one way, and I went the other. Ollie, fortunately, stopped without treading on me with his big horse feet.

And me? I realized why the comic books show stars around the heads of characters who have been knocked out, because I couldn’t see out of my right eye and my head was popping like fireworks (and I was wearing a helmet). My trainer ran up and asked me what month it was, and I said, “Probably November.” Then she asked me the year and I said, “2006.” The next thing I knew, I was in her car and she was telling me that if I wanted to throw up, just try to do it out the window.

As an aside, I found out something really interesting in the emergency room though – that if it’s a Sunday and the radiologist isn’t there to read the brain scan, they send it out into the ether via the internet and a radiologist somewhere in the world will read the scans and give a diagnosis. A guy in Melbourne said I could go home. My own doctor said that if I was a footballer she’d be sidelining me for a couple of months. I will add that the Baby Friesian (as he is affectionately known) has managed to ditch me twice since then, but I promise it will not happen again.

I was out today with dear Ollie and I was putting into practice my new mantra – whatever we do, be happy with the best we can do today. Oliver will be five in June. He could easily live until he’s thirty (which means we’ll probably pop our clogs at the same time). We have many, many more years for us to get better at what we do, and I promise we will have a lot of fun along the way, even when we’re working hard.

And as for my writing, OK, so today I met my goal, and I had a great time. I enjoyed writing every sentence, and I knew exactly where I would go back and work the words – a bit like a potter kneading the clay once it’s on the wheel. Yesterday I only wrote a couple of paragraphs. They weren’t great paragraphs, but they moved the story along and for the most part, I liked them, they brought me to where I needed to be. They could use more work, and they’ll get it, but they were good enough for today. I’ll give myself a treat.

Back in October, Oliver and I went along to our first show. He was a bit of a dingbat at first, I had to run him around to get the over-abundance of excitement out before we went into the arena to do our thing. He made the onlookers laugh with his high-pitched whinnying as we walked past the judges – young horses like to shout out loud to see who’s out there. Made me laugh too, which took away the nerves. And because he came in with ribbons – first place in one class and second in another – he earned extra treats (which he would have had anyway, because he tried hard and we enjoyed ourselves). Here’s the boy on the day – and yes, I am looking a bit serious in this shot, I know. But here’s what the judge said in her notes: Horse and rider show great potential. I stuck that on the wall, for the days I forget that we’re all just trying our best, whatever the outcome.

So, that’s it from me today. Have a lovely weekend. On Monday I begin a book tour to mark publication of AMONG THE MAD (my tour schedule is listed at - If you can come along to one of the events, I’d love to see you and everyone you have ever known in your entire life,). In the meantime, here’s the quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland that inspired the title:

'But I don’t want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.

'Oh, you can’t help that,' said the Cat. 'We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.'

'How do you know I’m mad?' said Alice.
You must be,” said the Cat. 'or you wouldn’t have come here.'”

Bit like visiting us here at!

PS: And I should add that the diva-mare, Sara, is back in action and as opinionated as ever. She’s not a bit jealous of Ollie, mainly because she thinks he’s a young whippersnapper who’s got a long way to go.

PPS: I had second thoughts about that Kindle, Paul - and canceled it. Suspected that within a year the prices will drop and there might even be more to choose from on the market. That, and I have a hungry horse to feed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Late Great Seventies Police Movies

James O. Born

Wandering around he internet the other day I found a post on my friend Wallace Stroby’s site that was both nostalgic and made my critical police side come out. Wally, a connoisseur of noir and crime movies from the seventies, posts this clip from the movie The Seven Ups. The scene is simple. Roy Scheider chases a pair of cop killers through the streets of New York. Wally points out the geographical errors in the chase. He also covers the cinematic issues.

Now watch the movie. C’mon, it’ll take about ten minutes.

or, if this works here:

I watched this as a teenager at the old Rocking Chair Theater that is now a car dealership in West Palm Beach. I got sucked into the movie even if I didn’t understand the issues and emotions tied to events that unfold.

Now almost thirty-five years later (Ouch, that hurts to write) I look at this chase scene in an entirely different light. I’ve been in a few car chases in my career. Not many. But the ones I have experienced made a lasting impression.

Let me also add that I occasionally make a living advising writers and others about what’s real and what’s not in police work. I answer gun questions, jurisdiction questions even legal questions. I don’t mind helping out, especially if I can put food on the table with advice. But it’s made it almost impossible to watch a TV police show or movie.

The Seven-ups is typical of the time period. But focusing on the chase, first of all there is absolutely a legal reason to chase in the movie. A fellow police officer has been killed. The standard here in Florida is a violent crime. Generally an agency won’t authorize a high-speed pursuit for non-violent crimes. The liability just isn’t worth it.

The chase itself captures the intensity and concentration needed as well as the fear on the cop’s part of hitting pedestrians, especially kids. Think of what Roy Scheider, as a cop, is thinking. His friend is dead. The killers are about to escape. He must safe guard the public. Holy cow, you could overload on just those things, then add in personal danger and it makes you want to pee in your pants. Maybe that was just my issue. I think I might have just shared to much.

The other thing I liked is that these aren’t race cars. Just ordinary street cars for the time; a Ventura Hatchback and a Pontiac Bonneville. No one looks like Brad Pitt and there are no stunts in the cars that are wildly improbable.

Now the logical criticism. When he starts the chase you assume he has no radio and it’s a one on one chase because Roy never calls for help. Then, when a patrol car jumps in he has a radio and tells them “he’s on the job”. Why wait? The call of an officer shot goes out through a whole city, sometimes a state, and everyone jumps in. An assault on a police officer is an assault on order and society. It cannot be tolerated in any society and the bond among cops, like soldiers, is strong. The call for help is answered like nothing you could imagine.

The next logical problem I have is with the bad guys. At one point the passenger, I believe played by Richard Lynch (And I swear to God that’s from memory not Google) sets a trap and fires a double barrel shot gun at Roy. Then, minutes later, when they are bumping cars right next to each other he doesn’t bother to make the much easier shot. He’s not compelled by policy to never shoot at a moving vehicle like most police are.

Just thought I’d take you through an often-overlooked part of police work. Chases are relatively rare anymore and I’m glad of it. But I don’t mind seeing a good one in the movies.

Got any police scenes that have stuck with you?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Black Cats in China (Shanghai diary)

Explosions erupt outside my window. No, not terrorists: it's Chinese New Year. Here's the catch--it has been Chinese New Year for the past THREE WEEKS, and the fireworks have basically never stopped. We were awakened this morning at 6:30AM with a massive Black Cat moment -- several thousand firecrackers detonating literally right outside our window. The theory is -- and it's only a theory -- that the fireworks alert the gods and keep their attention; I can't speak for the gods, but it works for the foreigners living here in Shanghai.

One hundred and eight million people rode the trains here last week. Everyone heads home for the New Year--Shanghai has been near empty, an eerie and unusual (and fun in many ways) experience. Everyone returns. For the past few days it's apparent the city is waking back up. But tonight is the biggie: Lantern Festival. Tonight, residents here will walk out into the street and on sidewalks bearing lanterns, to light the way for the New Year. We're looking forward to walking out there among the Chinese and feeling this greeting. Six days remain in the three week holiday, and then it's business as usual--whatever usual is here.

The very nature of the place is unusual. It's probably the best single word to sum up our first seven months here. We absolutely love it here; my wife and I could stay five years or more; our youngest daughter may have something to say about that, as in, we're likely moving back this summer! But so far, so good.

I'm teaching creative writing, in English, at Fudan University, which is the Chinese equivalent of Harvard. These kids are bright! But they've never expressed themselves creatively -- or even verbally. They've kept all these thoughts and emotions pent up, and this gonzo American comes along and says: write a piece about yourself... and oh, my. I've been incredibly lucky to glimpse the inner Chinese. The family centric, all for one but (often) me first, attitude of these brilliant students. I think I'm learning more than they are, which I suppose is bound to happen in a situation like this. We start second semester next week: all new students. I can't wait.

I finished two books this week, and hopefully a third by the end of this coming week (co-written with Dave Barry). I've taken on more work than I should, I suppose--four full length books a year, and usually one shorter one--and at times I feel my head is going to explode. Since this blog is about literature, I wanted to share what happened.

A publisher, unnamed, sent me one of my manuscripts that had been in copyedit. As it turned out, for whatever reason, the copyeditor actually line edited the manuscript, meaning that every sentence had word changes, or structural changes. Every sentence. My heart about stopped when I opened the document (sent electronically because they are cutting back on paper expense). Because of scheduling, and publisher stuff, they wouldn't send me an unlocked document that would allow me to just delete unwanted changes. I had to RETYPE anything I wanted returned to its original form. Twenty-six hours later, in three days, I've now finished the job. And I'm ready to take a baseball bat to a certain copyeditor's knees! These are the trials of authors. When you get a book and read it you don't see the "man behind the curtain." Which is right, and a good thing. But if you did, you might need a air sickness bag, the way I did this weekend.

But Valentines Day is approaching, and I put aside the vomit bag for a better idea: I'll send the copyeditor a string of Black Cats. Fuse already lit.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Books, Movies & Embryos

From Lefty Levine:


The swells gather in Palm Beach for a fundraiser.
(Left to right) Renata Moulavi, The Donald, and Joanne Gabay. Not pictured: Jim Born.


Osama bin Laden? Bernie Madoff. No, it's the extraordinarily fertile Nadya Suleman. In an exclusive, Naked Scribblers have obtained a snapshot of the little darlings, right after their bath.

Ms. Suleman told NBC she does not receive welfare. I suppose it depends on your definition, but she currently collects $490 a month in food stamps, and three of her first half-dozen children get federal S.S.I. disability payments. It's estimated that hospital costs will be from $1.5 to $3 million before the new litter can be discharged. Somewhere in Southern California is a doctor who should be stripped of his license...or made to pay the costs of raising the kids. And somewhere there is a mental hospital for the mother.


In two weeks, Amazon launches the Kindle 2.0, its portable reader for books, newspapers, magazines, and Jim Born's supermarket lists. Ten bucks to download a book. Amazon reports that it sold 500,000 Kindles in 2008, way more than expected. (I own a Sony Reader; the Kindle is better). It's the wave of the future, folks, and it will rescue reading...especially with young people. Prediction: when the price, currently $359, gets down to the $100 range, Amazon will be selling millions each year.

More good news. According to the National Endowment for the arts, the number of people reading fiction is up for the first time in 25 years. So why are publishers going broke? What do you think, I'm an expert on business? I bought Lehman Brothers stock last summer.


Oscar Time. I've seen the five movies nominated for best picture and quite a few more. One question: why the heck is "Gran Torino" not nominated? And why doesn't Clint Eastwood have a best actor nomination? Is Hollywood too politically correct to reward a film that features (at least initially) a bigoted protagonist? It's a beautiful, bittersweet movie. The word "bittersweet," by the way, is used three times as a touchstone, thematic device.

Make my Day,

Monday, February 09, 2009

Finding Common Ground

Patty here...

My elected representatives in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. are embroiled in partisan politics and do not seem to notice that Rome is burning. Unemployment in the U.S. is at a 16-year high. In January alone, 598,000 people lost their jobs. Every day brings new bank closures. California's governor has recently furlowed thousands of state workers due to lack of money to pay them.

As a citizen, I expect a lawmaker to vote his conscience and do what is best for the people he represents, regardless of his party affiliation. That is why I was shocked and appalled that not one Republican member of the House of Representatives voted for the initial stimulus package. Not one. Don't get me wrong. Eight hundred billion dollars is a lot of moolah, so I'm all for a healthy debate about where and how to spend it. But in these times of economic crisis, I'd like to see less grandstanding and mean-spirited sniping and more effort toward finding common ground.

I have a conservative Republican friend with whom I do not agree on all issues, but he is a reasonable guy who is always--well, generally--willing to listen to my point of view because we share a mutual respect. Frankly, I think we could have hammered out the stimulus plan in an afternoon over a couple of martinis. He recently sent me an e-mail, introducing me to Charley Reese, a former syndicated columnist for the
Orlando Sentinel Star who is known for his outspoken manner and conservative views. Reese wrote in the September 8, 1993 issue of the Conservative Chronicle:

"But regardless of whose fault it is, most politicians today are not human beings. You want to pry open their mouths and shout into the darkness, 'Hello! Is there a human being in there?' Buried under all that lust for office, all that fear of offending a contributor? I know there must be."

Here is the article from the Orlando Sentinel Star newspaper my friend sent. I don't know when it was published but from the historical references, it appears to have been a decade or more ago. Reese makes an interesting point. Do you agree or disagree with him?



Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don't write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don't set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don't control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of the 235 million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I excluded all but the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.

No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislation's responsibility to determine how he votes.

He goes on to say:

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon (read IRAQ), it's because they want them in Lebanon.

There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.

Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation" or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses - provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.

Happy Monday...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Dawn's Early Light

from Jacqueline

On the heels of Jim’s post, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the “hope” message of late – guess we all have, not least because President Obama has come to office on the tide of our collective hope that he can bring us all together and make America stand for something in the world again. Which with a wide turn brings me to one of my big projects this year. Yes, me, the immigrant.

I think my brother and I both ended up here in America due to early conditioning at home. It wasn’t just the fact that my dad loved cowboy movies, or my mother’s stories of those lovely US airmen who bought her chocolates on her seventeenth birthday at a time when there were no chocolates to be had in London – it was pretty much one big bomb site at the time (I’ve told that story here before). There was a certain respect for America, a sense that without America, where would we be? America was the place where everyone wanted to know your name, where the cars were that big – and you should see the size of their refrigerators! They might be a bit parochial, and they don’t get our jokes (or we theirs), but those Yanks had pulled us all back from the brink more than once. Go west, kids – it’s a place where hard workers are appreciated. You can be anybody you want to be, in America.

But the truth isn’t always so cut and dried, is it? As soon as you see a bit more of the world, you realize that there’s good and bad everywhere and in everyone, that there’s as much to like in one place as there is in another, and as much to get under your skin too. Yet there was always something magical about America – the myth of America, if you like. Those wide open spaces were as big as the heart of the people, as wide as the eyes of boys who died on the beaches of Normandy, thousands of miles from home, and all for us. There was a certain innocence, a naiveté in America – this adolescent of a country, raring to go. During its darkest hours, it wasn’t as diminished as tired old Europe.

Yet even in the almost twenty years since I came to live in America, it seems to have grown up an awful lot, not always for the better, and I don’t mean since 9-11. Cynicism, selfishness and blind nationalism became bedfellows, and somewhere an insidious greed led to a hunger that could never be adequately fed as we gorged ourselves silly on whatever was our fancy, the cost and out-of-control debt be damned. And the rest of the world – no angels there, mind – saw America tumble from its pedestal.

About three years ago, my brother took the leap and became an American citizen. Actually, he really wanted to vote (gee – I wonder why?). Inspired, I downloaded the forms (lots and lots of paper) and the “Guide to Naturalization” (even more paper), and sat down to apply – I think I even wrote about it here on Some questions seemed downright silly, but there you go – I am sure those same silly questions appear on similar forms in other countries. However, it was when asked if I would bear arms for the USA that I faltered. Quite apart from the fact that no one in their right mind would put a gun in my hand, I just couldn’t do it. I believe the “right to bear arms” has been stretched far beyond the range of possibilities envisioned by the Founding Fathers, and I am fiercely for gun control, and more of it. And, I realized, there was more to my faltering than that. I just couldn’t see myself swearing allegiance in the shadow of a man who I thought was bringing the America I had loved – the America my parents had put on that pedestal – to its knees.

I met Our Jim at the Virginia Festival Of The Book last year, and talked it over with him – I figured a man who carries a gun as part of his job, and who is highly trained to use that weapon, would have an opinion and could offer advice. He agreed – if you can’t swear to bear arms, you shouldn’t do it (even though I could have been like so many others – you know, just check the box and get on with it). It was clear I had to stick to my guns and be content with my “Permanent Resident” status.

But time marches on. On election night, I felt that old America stirring. Not a perfect America, not a spotless America, but that America with a big heart, an America with hope and optimism, where you feel you could be anybody you wanted to be (even if circumstances suggest that you can’t). A gifted US Airways pilot executed a perfect landing on water while the year was still young – oh yes, the old American magic was back, and we all wanted to keep it that way. And I knew that if, by a dictate of this new President - and all that he stands for - someone was silly enough to want short-sighted old me to bear arms for America, I probably would say, “OK, just show me how to use the thing.” And I would trust that they were asking for good reason. On Inauguration Day, watching Barack Obama being sworn into office and the colors and creeds of America gathering in great numbers to witness the event, it was with a heart full to bursting that I knew I could stand up, place my hand on my heart and say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America ...”

Those endless pages full of questions that have been languishing on my desk? Bring ‘em on!

(... and I guess I’ll have to finally get to grips with the finer points of American sports. Could prove to be a bit of a sticky wicket for me).


Hope is Alive

Well, it’s been a while. A lot has happened since we last chatted. It’s a new year. We have a new President. I have a new wife. Oh, wait a minute, I’m a year ahead of myself.

For now the word of the day is hope. Hope is a commodity that can be sold wholesale. It can be exported and it can be easily manufactured. It costs nothing and hurts no one. The pessimists among you might think, “Oh, that’s just Jim spouting off about positive thinking.” It is a fact that Americans prefer to be in the presence of positive people. I’ve seen the stats but I’m too lazy to actually find a poll to embed into this post. It’s not like this is a Pulitzer Prize piece on public corruption. It’s just my opinion.

I, like most people, prefer to be hopeful. If the President pushes that as part of his agenda I’m with him. As I said, it costs me nothing and keeps me looking ahead instead of looking around today at all the uncertainty. Having worked for the Government for most of my life it’s hard for me to fathom losing a job. It took something as monumental as this economic meltdown for me to actually have good friends that were laid off their well-paying jobs. It’s hard to be hopeful when you might lose your house. But on the other hand, it doesn’t hurt either.

I’m hopeful on a number of issues. The economy can’t get much worse. I hope. Israel will know peace and security and violence will subside in the Middle East. This is a tricky one. It will happen, but the two factors that scare the crap out of me are: What will happen to bring about peace? And will any of my children be alive to see it? I’m hoping that the U.S. will retain its security. At least I have a little insight into this issue and think it will. People have already let the 2001 attacks fade from their minds. Life is essentially normal for most people. I just hope it stays that way.

There are smaller issues, mostly involving sports, for which I hold out hope: Florida State football will rise like Lazarus; The Dolphins will reclaim past glory; the University of Florida will be embroiled in a pedophile scandal. That’s wrong and I’m not saying I pray for it, I’d just get a chuckle out of it. Please don’t hate me. These are just a few simple things that would not affect most U.S. residents but would make me feel a little better.

Hope; We can use it and it don’t cost a thing. Be hopeful and smack anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.

Hope to see you next week.

Jim Born

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Life in 3-D

I have been to mountaintop and I have seen the future: it's called 3-D. Not the 3-D those of with graying hair will remember--the blurred images, the funny colors, the occasional "wow" moment. Not even the 3-D of a year or two ago. Digital 3-D motion picture.

I'm here in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year with my family (we're living in Shanghai, China this year; I'm teaching at Fudan University) and even though we'd seen the Disney animated film, Bolt, on a regular screen, it was showing here in digital 3-D and we decided to go, just to see what enhancements might come from the 3-D version. The only other digital 3-D I'd seen (and my being a father of young girls is showing here) was Hannah Montana's Tour film. The 3-D was good in that--Hannah walked out the runway and it came right out into the theater. But I think because we'd seen the performance live, maybe because it was a performance film, I wasn't wowed by the 3-D. It was interesting, but not a wow.

And then came Bolt. Wow! For most of the film a "shelf" stuck out into audience (3-D) giving the picture a "stage" feeling. EVERYTHING had depth--the animated characters, the action, even the background--and here was where I noticed the difference. When the background of these 3-D films is kept in 3-D the whole experience changes. The depth of the image makes it feel as if you are looking through a GIANT window and watching stuff happen. It is revolutionary. It is like nothing I'd expected. (and I'm a regular movie goer--I love film!) What I saw won me over in a heartbeat. I understand the push to digital in all the theaters. Here's the thing: you'll never get this at home. Not on this scale (assuming you could see 3-D at home, which I don't know?) I imagine feature films will all adopt 3-D soon because you will have to go to the theater to get the full experience of the film. The DVD won't do it. Nothing will do it. It's as if a whole new industry has opened up. The experience is that fresh, that full, and that REAL.

To the producer's credit Bolt did not exploit the 3-D tricks. Hannah Montana avoided this as well. The temptation has to be great to throw things into the faces of the audience, and it is a shocker when it happens (Hannah Montana's guitar pick comes to mind), but both films kept this to one or two instances--they didn't over use it. Bravo.

The movie experience is, however, completely different and radical. Within minutes you are addicted. In Bolt there is an instance where the characters watch a flat screen image, and so the audience does too. For those few seconds the 3-D is rightfully gone--and you moan it's loss. It's an instant reminder of how powerful a technology this is. Powerful enough to get the masses off their couches and out to the theaters. My guess is film is about to make that leap that it did with Gone With The Wind (color) and from silent to talky. A sea change is ahead. And it's coming to theaters near you soon.

Postscript: since writing this over the weekend, the Super Bowl came along, and with some promotion about decent 3-D coming to television. It's a new technology that uses a special amber light to create the depth, so the regular transmission doesn't look different (typically, 3-D has a double image that without the glasses looks awful). While I'm interested to see the technology, it concerned me how quickly TV has jumped onto the bandwagon (bandwidth). If TV gets decent 3-D, then Blu-Ray will have it not long after, and there goes most of the leg-up I thought might keep theaters (and film) in business. Maybe size does matter. We shall see--and in 3-D, no less.


Paul's Potpourri for a New Year

From Paul...

We have a young, dynamic President, and hope is in the air. So, I'm no longer the spittle-spewing, mud-slinging, junkyard dog of last year. No more vicious attacks on Karl Rove, Ann Coulter, and what's-his-name, the ex-President. From now on, you're more likely to catch Michael Phelps smoking weed than Lefty Levine talking trash.

So, let's look at some things literary, and some things musical.

TRIVIA QUIZ: Who was the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler Fulbright at Oxford University? Our very own Ridley Pearson, who spent a year in England researching, writing, and drinking warm beer. (Not necessarily in that order).

KILLER COLD: Ridley is one helluva thriller writer. "Killer View" is downright chilling, and not just because it's set in Idaho in the winter.

AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A WRITER? In addition to all his novels, essays, poetry, short
stories, articles and critiques published elsewhere...the late John Updike published 862 pieces in The New Yorker. Yes, you read that right: 862! But, I wonder, how many Twitters?

"GODS DO NOT ANSWER LETTERS." If you recognize that line, you've read the greatest example of "sports writing" in history. [Disagree with that assessment, let me know.] If you don't recognize the line, get thee to Updike's "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu", his classic 1960 New Yorker piece on Ted Williams' last game. Clue: Updike does not sit in the press box; he does not hang out around the batting cage; he does not interview any players. He sits in the stands and writes prose so majestic, I weep with equal measures joy and envy.

A FLUTE BEFORE TYPING: We also lost John Mortimer last month.
Best known for his "Rumpole at the Bailey" series, Mortimer began each morning with a glass of champagne, then sat down to knock out 1000 words and a few belches.

MUSIC FOR A RECESSION: With the economy in the toilet, you might prefer to listen to upbeat tunes. Not me. I like music to reflect the times. Here's one my favorites for cooking a can of beans over an open fire: James McMurtry's
"We Can't Make It Here." McMurtry is the son of Pulitzer Prize winning author Larry McMurtry ("Lonesome Dove"), but you knew that.

I'm also partial to Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues:"

But wait, there's the all-time bittersweet song that will linger in your mind long after the plant closes and the sheriff nails the foreclosure notice to your front door. It's "Our Town," from songwriter-singer Iris Dement, whose Arkansas twang can break your heart.

In the coming weeks, I'll tell you about a couple songs that helped inspire my new novel, "Illegal."

Meanwhile, it's breakfast time, which means: "Where's the Cristal?"


Monday, February 02, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the blogosphere…

The Nakeds are baaaaack!!!!!!

Patty here…

In honor of Groundhog Day, we Naked Authors emerged from our writerly burrow and decided to blog again.

Since we were last together:
  • The economy took a nose dive.
  • We elected a new president.
  • I read/reread some great books, including Water for Elephants, The Mermaid’s Chair, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, California Fire and Life, The Dawn Patrol, and The Winter of Frankie Machine (Lately I've been on a serious Don Winslow jag.)
  • I thought a lot about literature and life and once again realize the best thing about my writing career is the people I’ve met and the friends I've made.
  • I hung out at out at the library with a few of those friends.

    Naomi Hirahara, Paul Levine, me, Bobby McCue, manager of The Mystery Bookstore, and Harley Jane Kozak

  • James O. Born did a hero-y rescue thingie that I hope he’ll tell you about. He made us Nakeds proud. He also has a new book due out May 26, 2009 from Tor titled The Human Disguise. Let me be the first to tell you that James-O has a secret life as a science fiction writer who goes by the nom de plume James O'Neal. He claims he is both a dedicated crime writer of German decent and a drunken Irish science fiction writer. Can’t decide which personality I like better. I've ordered a copy of the book, hoping it will provide insight into Dissociative Identity Disorders.

  • Paul Levine has a new pastime—chef—and in his pursuit of Emerildom, he told me he has learned to do amazing things with olive oil but—eh-hem—we won’t go there. Paul’s new book is Illegal, set for release in hardcover on March 24, 2009. This book marks the beginning of a new series and it’s going to blow your socks off (in a good way).

  • Cornelia Read is working on her next masterpiece, so while she dwells in deadline hell, she will post on Saturdays. We've all resided in that dark cave, so let's cheer her on. GO CORNELIA!!!!

  • In October, Jacqueline Winspear and I were on the faculty of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in British Columbia, which made the experience serious fun. Her next book is Among the Mad, set for release on February 17, 2009. Already I know, it is going to be another NYT bestseller.

  • The latest news on the Naked Authors front is New York Times bestselling author Ridley Pearson has joined our merry band of Nakeds, causing us all to do a spontaneous Snoopy dance. Ridley is a friend of Paulie’s but he made us promise not to hold that against him. He will post on Wednesdays.

Ridley hardly needs an introduction but here are just a few reasons why we love him.

He writes great books.

He looks good in a 'stache.

The guy can rock and roll.

At 19, on tour with his band.

Ridley and “The Rock Bottom Remainders”
with fellow band members Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Scott Turow, Greg Isles, and Roy Blount, Jr.

Ridley performing on the Late Late Show

His next book is Killer Summer, due out 6/30/09.

Welcome Ridley!!!

Welcome everybody!!! It’s great to be back.