Friday, August 30, 2013

Fooling Around with Covers

New Cover
The upside of self-publishing is that one has complete creative control over the product. If one doesn't hire an editor or a proofreader, or engage a professional artist to design the cover, the product is all one's own. This has its advantages and disadvantages, as my old history teacher, Mrs. Wilcox, used to say. The downside is that one runs the risk of standing revealed in public as a complete horse's ass.

I flatter myself that my copy is pretty clean. Over the years I worked with one of the best copy editors in the business, now gone to the big publishing house in the sky. She taught me much. As for the plotting, well, I do the best I can, and I won't take advice from anybody anyway so it might as well go out the way it is. Hey, I'm an entertaining writer. But, the covers—!

Take MONKEYSTORM. (Please.) I designed what I thought was a killer cover for that book, replete with a picture of a raging monkey, although there were no actual monkeys in it, but only virtual monkeys appearing in a videogame. Harold liked the cover with its fierce monkey face; he said it would grab people's attention; I had to agree. But at a recent conference another writer took a gander at it and asked, "Is it horror?" Well, no, it's mostly supposed to be funny, though it's full of grisly murders and more or less pitched to a YA audience. Who haven't discovered it yet. Truth be told, I haven't sold very many copies to anybody at all.

Old Cover
Maybe the problem is the cover.

I'm taking another shot at that now. Behold the new cover (above). If that doesn't persuade anybody to buy it, my fall-back cover will have two thinly clad teenagers making out in a graveyard. I understand that this sort of thing is a big sales booster. FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY had only a nice silk cravat on the cover, as I recall, but they say the hot stuff was all on the inside.

What do you think of the new cover? Of book covers generally? Please advise.

Kate Gallison

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Right Now, Write Now…and Cook Dinner Too

I got an idea the other day, out of the blue. That’s the way they come. One minute you’re trying to get to your exit across three lanes of speeding traffic because that’s how New Jersey highway engineers thought it should be done, and the next, you know how your heroine will catch the killer.

When I got home, I was inspired. I had to, had to sit down and write. But it was my turn to cook dinner and I hadn't been to the store. I was saved because my husband, David, is a writer, too, and he said, sure go on, go write. And I did. But later, I began to think about what a writer does when she comes home inspired but has hungry kids waiting and no one to cook for them. Put off writing for a couple of hours? Or order a pizza stuffed with something only chemically related to real cheese?

I shared this thought with David while slurping down my second helping of his vegetable soup, made magically with whatever he'd found in the crisper and pantry. I asked whether it would be possible for a writer to cook a homemade meal that kids would eat and be out of the kitchen in, say, thirty minutes and headed for the computer? Here, my darlings, mommy cooked real food for you; now I’m taking a plate upstairs, so put on a movie and don’t bother me.

I said, “Not 30 minutes in TV-cooking-show time, where the prep staff cuts everything up while the host is getting hair and eyeliner. I mean 30 minutes in real-person time.”

He said, “Would this include actually reading the recipe first? And getting your equipment together?”

Right. Cooking-show and cookbook estimates never take that into account either.

I said, “What could you give me?”

He leaned over and wiped some soup off my chin. “Thirty-five, forty at the outside.”

And he did it. Twice.

The two recipes he adapted (and appear at the end of this blog) are hearty one-dish meals, with few utensils and simple instructions, and have ingredients relatively easy to find. Most of the ingredients also have a long shelf life and so could be easily on hand in pantry or freezer for the next inspiration emergency. Even the greens and the thyme can keep well for quite awhile in the refrigerator.

If your kids are ravenous teens, hand them a pint of cherry tomatoes and a loaf of bread, too. Tell them to wash the first and toast the second. Welcome to writer side dishes, kid!

Here's the farfalle. And no, I didn't take this picture. I took a picture of a picture. You learn fast how much work it is to make real food look as good as it tastes in a photo. This is from a Martha Stewart cookbook called Fresh Flavor Fast. Good book. But try saying that title three times fast.

The chorizo shot is also grabbed from its source, the February 2013 Bon Appetit. 

My husband, David F. Nighbert, has begun migrating his backlist to e-books on Kindle and Nook. The mysteries (starred Kirkus reviews) Strikezone, Squeezeplay & Shutout are up now. And two SF novels, Timelapse & Clouds of Magellan, will be available soon. I highly recommend all!

This picture of us was taken by friend photog Mariann Moery as guests were arriving for the launch party for Death in Her Face at Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan last fall. (If you look closely, you can spot Annamaria headed for the bar just beyond the man with the green bag strap on his shoulder to the left.)

We tried to create the recipes below as links to printable versions, but it's beyond the reliable skill of this blog tool (or maybe this blogger). But a simple cut and paste into Word will do the trick for you.  

Sheila York

Farfalle with Arugula and White Beans

Coarse (kosher) salt and freshly ground pepper
Dutch oven (with lid) big enough for at least 5 qts water
12 oz farfalle (bow-tie) pasta (about 6 cups dry)
Chef’s knife & cutting board
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1-Tbsp slices
4 small to medium garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Small skillet
1 pound baby arugula
Small plate to cool walnuts
1 can (15.5 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Wooden cooking spoon
1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted, for garnish
[Keep toasted walnut pieces on hand.
They’re nice additions to simple salads]
Measuring cup with pouring lip

Gather all your ingredients and utensils before starting your food prep.
Start bringing 5 quarts of water to a boil over high heat in large covered Dutch oven. (Pasta is happier if it has plenty of water to swim in.) This is what takes time, so put the pot on your strongest-heat burner and keep it covered till water boils.
While waiting, do your ingredient prep:
Peel and slice garlic; rinse and drain beans in colander; cut butter using the 1 Tbsp markers on the wrapping; chop walnuts into pieces if they didn’t come that way.
Toast walnuts. Heat a small heavy skillet over medium heat for a minute. Add walnut pieces. Shake the skillet occasionally to keep walnuts from burning. After 2-3 minutes, transfer walnuts to a plate to cool.
When water boils, add a generous amount of salt (about 4 Tbsp) and the pasta. Bring water back to a boil (cover the pot to make this happen faster). Cook pasta, pot uncovered, stirring occasionally to make sure pasta doesn’t stick together or to the bottom. Cook according to the timing on the package till it is al dente. (You’ll have about 10 mins here to get out your plates and flatware, and finish any ingredient prep)
When pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of the pasta water and set it aside.
Then drain pasta; leave in colander.
In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat, then add the garlic. Cook, stirring, 1-2 mins. Do not brown the garlic.
Add the arugula, handfuls at a time, and stir/toss just till wilted, a couple of minutes.
Add beans, pasta and remaining 3 Tbsp of butter; season with salt and pepper.
Heat, tossing, till butter is melted and beans and pasta are warmed through, about 1 minute. While doing this, add enough of the pasta water slowly to create a thin sauce. You will not need all the water.
Check seasoning; adjust as necessary.
Serve in shallow bowls and garnish with the walnuts.

Adapted from Fresh Flavor Fast, copyright 2010 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

Chorizo and White Bean Stew

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
[‘divided’ means you won’t use it all at once]
Large Dutch oven
1 lb. chorizo (buy it precooked). You can use other spicy, precooked sausages (Italian, andouille, etc.) 
Wooden cooking spoon
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Tongs to turn sausage & remove thyme
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme. [How much is a ‘sprig’, you ask? The equivalent of three 3-inch leafy pieces works for us]
Chef’s knife & cutting board
2 cans (each 15.5 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
Small plate
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Measuring cup with pouring lip
5 oz baby spinach (about 10 cups).
Measuring spoons
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Smoked paprika (optional)

Gather all your ingredients and utensils before starting your food prep.
Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add precooked sausage and brown, turning occasionally, 5-8 minutes.
While sausage browns, slice onion; chop garlic; rinse/drain beans in colander.
Transfer sausage to a plate. Leave fat from sausage-browning in the pan. Still over medium heat, add remaining 1 Tbsp oil to same Dutch oven (2 Tbsp might be necessary if the sausage did not leave much fat). When oil/fat is heated, add onion slices, garlic and thyme sprig. Cook, stirring occasionally, till onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
Add beans and broth, and cook 8-10 minutes, crushing a few of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon to slightly thicken the sauce. While this is cooking, slice the chorizo and collect plates and flatware.
Season stew with salt and pepper
Add spinach in handfuls and cook till just wilted, about 2 minutes.
Fold chorizo into the stew; Add a bit of water to thin, if desired.
Remove thyme sprig (if you can find it). Divide stew into bowls, sprinkle with the paprika if you choose, and serve

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, February 2013. The original recipe calls for fresh sausage, which would take longer to cook. We’ve been able to find spicy, precooked sausage at our regular grocery store.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fifty Years Ago Today

Just yesterday, a website that I follow tweeted this image that captured how bad things were for blacks in the Depression and how insensitive was the general population.   Margaret Bourke-White took photo in the aftermath of the 1937 Louisville Flood.  It inspired me to write this post.

By now you have certainly been reminded of what happened on 28 August 1963.  Here is my tribute to the brave people who brought our country toward racial equality, not all the way, but out of the depths of racism in which we languished when I was born.  Our country’s history is awash in dreadful details.  I have chosen to make this largely a personal account of things that happened to me and my family.  I begin long before I was born.

In Matewan, West Virginia in 1920, coal miners began a strike.  The mine bosses, in an attempt to break it, sent in outside miners as scabs—Negroes and Italians, thought to be the natural enemies of the white West Virginians.  My grandfather, Andrea Puglisi, who had been mining coal in western Pennsylvania for the previous eight years or so, was among them.  Per force, he took along his family—my grandmother, Concetta Bruno and their four (at the time) children.  Salvatore, my dad, was not yet four years old.  In 1987, John Sayles made a brilliant film called Matewan, which tells the story of what happened once “the wops and the niggers” were brought in.  Here is an illustrative scene which includes the brilliant James Earl Jones. 

Years ago, when my father and I saw the movie together, he wept at another scene, a bit later in the movie, where all the striking and therefore homeless miners—white and black and immigrants—and their families are camping in a clearing in the woods.  In that setting, a white man begins to play music.  Soon all who can, regardless of ethnicity, are picking up instruments and joining in.  My dad remembered that time.  “My father played the concertina,” he said.

By the 1940’s and 50’s, when I was growing up, there were strong pockets of racism in my all-white working class neighborhood in Paterson, New Jersey.   Ethnic and racial slurs were pretty commonly hurled around—some of them against us Italian-American; some hurled by our own against others.   Sam, as everyone including his children called my dad, taught us never to use such terms against anyone.  He was a gentle father, not given to threatening his children.  But then one day, my brother Andy, who must have been about seven or eight, used the N-word at the dinner table.  My father put down his fork.  “Son,” he said to Andy.  His calling my brother that was in itself a warning.  “If I ever hear you use that word again, I will put soap in your mouth, and you will never forget the taste of it.”  Andy and I both learned a lesson from that admonition.

I went to a small, Catholic high school.  In my second year, the one and only colored boy I had ever been in school with joined the class a year below mine.  Sam’s anti-racist lessons had made me more than willing, regardless of the nasty comments by some of the other students, to do the lindy with him at school dances.  One of the boys in my year threatened me with punishment if I continued to dance with him.  My response was, “Don’t be stupid”—a goal extremely difficult for some of the snot-nosed bullies in my town.
The end of the summer following my college graduation brought us the event we commemorate today.   I heard a lot of talk then pro and con about the civil rights movement.  “It’s about time,” was Sam’s remark, seeing the events on our TV.  “I only pray they don’t get hurt for standing up for themselves.”  Some of them got very hurt.  Some of them died.  But they did not give up.

Right around that time, at my job in an insurance company in New York, I met my first husband—a tall, handsome African-American man, ten years my senior.  He was a New Yorker born and bred, educated, charming, and a devout Catholic—something my seventeen years of Catholic education had taught me was essential in a husband.  Our courtship began a few months later while trying to comfort each other over the assassination of President Kennedy.  We became engaged.  My parents did not object, but my mother worried.  “Who will marry your children?” she asked.  I told her they would marry who loved them.  The marriage did not produce life-long love, but it gave me my splendid daughter.

She did marry who loved her—a brilliant, devoted husband and wonderful father to their four children.  He is everything my mother would have wanted for her grandchild.  And no more than my daughter deserves.

I have lived to see the child of a marriage like mine become President of the United States.  Right now, the radio pundits in New York are talking about candidate Bill Di Blasio’s African-American wife and mixed-race son and what an asset they are to him in his campaign for mayor.  I grin whenever I hear that.

Racism, unfortunately, is NOT dead, but we all owe the progress we have made against it to the people we commemorate today.  Watch and listen.  Remember and be moved.
Annamaria Alfieri

Monday, August 26, 2013

Coming Back to Life

I always liked to talk books with Tom when he worked at Murder Ink® on the Upper West Side, the best mystery bookstore in the City, Tom the most knowledgeable Mystery Man in the City. Then he went and wrote six well-published Thriller/Mysteries in his spare time. He has another six, he explains, ready to go.

Robert Knightly

This is a story with a moral. It’s the story of a writer, well-known and respected, who fell by the wayside for several years before being granted a surprising reprieve. Once upon a time, he was a bookseller at a famous mystery bookstore, and he wrote six novels in six years that were published to general acclaim. He had many fans and admirers, and even Hollywood came calling, making a film of one of his works and optioning two others. Then, at the height of his popularity, this writer did something peculiar: he stopped. He didn’t stop writing, mind you; he merely stopped publishing. Why he did that, and what happened to turn his fortunes around, are the subjects of the tale.

I happen to know a great deal about it, because the writer in question was I. My last published novel, Scavenger, appeared in 2000, and since then many changes have taken place—in my life and in the publishing industry.

First, my life. You’ve heard of the “one-two punch” that sends a boxer to the canvas? Well, I received five punches in a row, and I was staggered. I worked for two years on a really ambitious thriller to follow Scavenger, but I picked the wrong subject, the then-unknown abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. I knew about it beforehand, from an investigative reporter friend who was working on the story in Connecticut long before it became public knowledge. I handed the manuscript to my agent just as the worldwide headlines arrived. Oops! My prophetic thriller was instantly Yesterday’s News, and no one would touch it. Two years down the drain. (First punch.) I lost my mother in 2003 and my sister a year later (second and third punches), and for a while I wasn’t able to write anything. In 2006, Murder Ink®, the bookstore where I worked for many years, closed its doors forever, so I was suddenly unemployed. (Four.) Then I parted ways with my agent of fifteen years. (Down for the count.)

I spent the next three years sitting around my Greenwich Village apartment in a bathrobe. I continued to write novel after novel, a grand total of four, but I didn’t show them to anyone. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself.

Then something wonderful happened. S. J. Rozan, my writer friend who lives near me, yanked me out of my house one day and dragged me, kicking and screaming, to a meeting of her writing group. I’d always sworn to eschew any sort of reading/commenting group situation, so this was the last thing I needed--or so I thought. But once I got there and saw how these people worked, how they helped and encouraged one another, I was hooked. I liked their company, but if I wanted to join them, I’d have to bring samples of my own work-in-progress. So I started writing in earnest again, and soon I was writing a new novel, A Penny For The Hangman. We met every two weeks, and I got involved in their work as well as my own. Next thing you know, I had a completed manuscript, and the group told me that it was time for me to go out and find a new agent.

I was lucky; I found one immediately. She knew my work and liked A Penny For The Hangman, so she took me on and began sending it around. But I’d been away for a long time, and I was unaware of the dramatic changes in our industry. Everyone I ever worked with was gone, and the new, young editors at the reconfigured publishing houses (now known as the “Big Six”) had never heard of me. Fact: A writer in his fifties who hasn’t published in years is actually in a worse position than a new kid starting out with a clean slate. Who knew?

The manuscript made the rounds for two years and racked up an impressive number of rejections from editors who obviously didn’t even look at it. And why should they? It isn’t just the industry that’s different—the really seismic change of the last decade is in the book-buying public. My thriller doesn’t have teenage vampires or shape shifters or ultra-right-wing Special Ops agents, and there isn’t a single “shade of grey” in sight, let alone fifty. What on earth was I thinking?!! I was out of step with the new reality, and I was beginning to despair, bracing myself to slink off to the sidelines once more.

Then, a few weeks ago, my agent informed me that Alibi, a new Random House line of electronic-only books, was interested in acquiring the rights. Somebody actually wanted it! But I soon learned that these “e-book only” imprints have come under a lot of fire, and with good reason. For starters, there’s no book—merely a concatenation of electronic impulses that you download to a reading device. How the hell do you bind that in Moroccan leather or autograph it in bookstores? And while they offered national advertising and the cachet of a major house, they also offered co-op contracts(!) and no advances(!!). I would never agree to those terms, so where did I fit into this?

Did I mention my new agent? And my writer friends? These two life-saving entities came to my rescue. My agent went to work, hammering out a “classic” deal with Random House, and my writer friends encouraged me to take a chance, to step out into the void where no writer has gone before. E-books are uncharted territory, they told me, the new frontier in publishing, and somebody has to be Neil Armstrong! And while you’re at it, they added, start a website (I did) and a blog (ditto) and bring back all your out-of-print titles as ebooks (double ditto). Thanks to them, I’m published again, and it feels like I’m coming back to life. Which is exactly what I’m doing.

The moral of the story: Writers need one another, and we need agents. We’re entering a brave new world of publishing, and—thanks to my agent and my writer friends—I’m in the first launch. I don’t know what I’m about to discover, but the view from here is lovely.

If you’re in my predicament, learn from my experience. Take chances. Get out of the bathrobe, get out of the house. Join a writing group. Find a good agent. And always be willing to help your fellow writers, because they’re always willing to help you.

Tom Savage

Tom Savage is the author of four suspense novels: Precipice, Valentine, The Inheritance, and Scavenger. He also wrote two detective novels under the name T. J. Phillips, Dance of the Mongoose and Woman in the Dark. His short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and anthologies edited by Lawrence Block, Harlan Coben, and Michael Connelly. His bestselling novel, Valentine, was made into a Warner Bros. film. Raised in the Virgin Islands, he lives in New York City, where he worked for many years at Murder Ink, the world’s first mystery bookstore. His new novel, A Penny For The Hangman, will be published by Random House Alibi in 2014.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Keeping Three Career Balls in the Air

How Many Hats Do You Wear?

Crime writers are rarely monolithic beings. Creatures who wear only one hat. Many are fascinating creatures who seem to function with several brains, are proficient on diverse levels and create in several cerebral spheres.

The nature of crime itself is so multi-faceted it evades simple scrutiny. So the chroniclers of its universe have to be more daring than chameleons!

Today's guest, Lois Winston, usually dons a minimum of Three Hats - writer, agent, designer. A longtime friend of CWC, (see her posts Jan. 31, 2012 and Aug. 26, 2012) she has graciously stopped by to share her triple-persona with us.

After you read her article, tell us how many hats YOU usually wear, when, how, where—and share your mental/creative chapeaux with us!

Thelma Jacqueline Straw

I juggle three full-time careers. I’m a published author, a literary agent, and a designer in the consumer crafts industry. Most people think I’m either nuts or rolling in money. The first is probably true, although for other reasons; the second couldn’t be further from the truth. I juggle three full-time jobs because I couldn’t live on what I make on one, let alone two of those careers. Heck, truth be told, it’s a good thing my husband has a steady job because there’s no way I could support both of us on what I earn.

That wasn’t always the case. My design career came first, and at one point I was the sole breadwinner for much of a three year period. During that time, we had one son in college and another in private high school. We ate a lot of mac and cheese during those years, but all the bills were paid each month, thanks to a booming consumer crafts industry and a demand for my designs.

Those days are long gone. People still craft, but the industry is much smaller now. Many of the companies I once worked for have gone out of business or been bought up by their competitors. The complex needlework projects I design have fallen out of favor, replaced mostly by instant gratification crafts that consumer can finish in an evening. Designers don’t make money on those types of projects, at least not the kind of money I command designing needlework. I now make in a year what I once made in a good month.

Around the time the crafts industry began shrinking, I began writing. Naïve innocent that I was at the time, I thought it quite realistic to expect to earn around thirty thousand dollars a year from my books. I sold my first book in 2005. To date I’ve published five traditional novels, five indie novels, a novella, two novelettes, an anthology of short stories, one non-fiction book, and been part of a non-fiction collection of essays. Altogether I haven’t earned thirty thousand dollars from my writing.

Some of that is due to bad luck. My first publisher went bankrupt, owing me and many other authors thousands of dollars in royalties. I only began indie publishing a little over a year ago, and I don’t write the super-sexy or erotic books that seem to rake in the most e-dollars. I also entered indie publishing at a time when it’s becoming very hard to stand out in an extremely crowded field.

But I mentioned three careers, didn’t I? Shortly after my first book sold, the agency that represents me invited me to become an associate. This was due in part to the fact that over the years while I waited for my own publishing break, I had helped several friends get published by rewriting their proposals for them. With my two other careers not producing much in the way of income, I jumped at the chance. After all, who needs sleep?

I began by reading queries and slush, eventually working my way up to having my own clients. I’ve sold books to both large New York publishing houses and medium-sized independent presses. However, with an ever-shrinking industry and writers turning more and more to publishing their own works, agents are no longer earning what they used to, either.

Sometimes I think I’m the Typhoid Mary of business. Each time I enter a new profession, it begins to suffer. And it’s not just the crafts industry and publishing. I began my working life as a layout artist for John Wanamaker. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Wanamaker’s, headquartered in Philadelphia, was the first department store in the world. However, department stores are a dying breed, soon to become extinct, thanks to big box stores like Walmart and buying clubs like Costco. Anyone remember Gimbel’s? Altman’s? Bonwit Teller? Bamberger’s? Hess? They’re all gone, either bankrupt or gobbled up by their competitors. Just like the crafts industry. Just like the publishing industry.

So that’s why I spend my days attempting to keep three career balls in the air. I’m not nuts, and I’m not rolling in Benjamins, although I’d love to know the feeling. I even buy lottery tickets occasionally. (I’ve never won more than seven dollars!) I’m simply trying to keep ahead of the bill collectors, much like Anastasia Pollack, the reluctant amateur sleuth star of my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series and the companion ebook-only Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries. Mosaic Mayhem, the latest Mini-Mystery recently released, and this time I’ve sent Anastasia off on an adventure in Barcelona:

So much for a romantic getaway...When cash-strapped mom and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack is offered an all-expense paid three-day trip to Barcelona, her only worries are whether her passport is still valid and arranging care for her semi-invalid mother-in-law during her absence. However, within hours of landing in Europe, she finds herself staring down the barrel of a gun and needing to convince a Spanish crime syndicate they’ve kidnapped the wrong woman. Why do people on both sides of the Atlantic keep trying to kill this pear-shaped, middle-aged single mom, and magazine crafts editor?

Lois Winston
follow her on Twitter: @anasleuth

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer, Moving Right Along

This particular lazy morning toward the end of summer finds me sitting in front of the computer screen trying to think of what to write about. Nothing comes to mind. All I can think of is what I have vowed not to write about:

  • That we are away from home (though it really doesn't matter. By the time this is published we'll be back, to the great joy of our Dobermans, Killer and Fritz)
  • How I came to part company with my latest agent (I refuse to become one of those tiresome people who whine publicly about their writing careers)
  • My birthday (no, it's not my birthday, nor anywhere near it, but if I let on when it actually is, the identity thieves will come and get me)
  • Sex
  • Politics
  • Global warming
  • My new hat (t's a felt fedora, very cool, but people are sick of hearing about my hats, and also my shoes)
  • Death.

Nope, nothing to write about at all. I'll just wish you a happy Friday, and hope you're having a fine summer, as I am, all things considered. And maybe I'll put up a picture of my neighbor's cat.

Kate Gallison

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Britglish vs. Amerglish

Writing, as I am now, about British East Africa in the early 20th Century, I have a new challenge—making my characters sound British and still have the dialog comprehensible to modern readers on the both sides of the pond.   The task is complicated by the fact that the scenes take place a hundred years ago.

The disparity between the two languages became apparent to me shortly after I left school, when an English friend pointed out the verbosity of English (as opposed to American) speech.  “In New York,” he said, “a stranger needing to break a large bill will walk up to you and say, ‘Hey, have you got change of a ten?’ But a Londoner will approach and say, ‘I beg your pardon and please forgive me for interrupting you, but I wonder if you would mind helping me.  I find that I am in need of smaller money than I am in possession of.  Would you mind at all, if you can, giving me change for this ten pound note.”  That friend was the first person I ever heard utter the chestnut: the United States and Great Britain, two countries separated by a common language.

He gave me a Xerox of a chapter of Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad, which I still have.  It begins like this:
“There was as Englishman in our compartment, and he complimented me on --on what? But you would never guess. He complimented me on my English. He said Americans in general did not speak the English language as correctly as I did. I said I was obliged to him for his compliment, since I knew he meant it for one, but that I was not fairly entitled to it, for I did not speak English at all--I only spoke American.

Twain goes on to make great fun of how the English pronounce the language through their noses (cow vs. käow, etc.)  But then he takes up usage and finishes the chapter, of course, with a punch line:
“When you are exhausted, you say you are 'knocked up.' We don't. When you say you will do a thing 'directly,' you mean 'immediately'; in the American language--generally speaking--the word signifies 'after a little.' When you say 'clever,' you mean 'capable'; with us the word used to mean 'accommodating,' but I don't know what it means now. Your word 'stout' means 'fleshy'; our word 'stout' usually means 'strong.' Your words 'gentleman' and 'lady' have a very restricted meaning; with us they include the barmaid, butcher, burglar, harlot, and horse-thief. You say, 'I haven't got any stockings on,' 'I haven't got any memory,' 'I haven't got any money in my purse; we usually say, 'I haven't any stockings on,' 'I haven't any memory!' 'I haven't any money in my purse.' You say 'out of window'; we always put in a the. If one asks 'How old is that man?' the Briton answers, 'He will be about forty'; in the American language we should say, 'He is about forty.' However, I won't tire you, sir; but if I wanted to, I could pile up differences here until I not only convinced you that English and American are separate languages, but that when I speak my native tongue in its utmost purity an Englishman can't understand me at all."
"I don't wish to flatter you, but it is about all I can do to understand you now."
That was a very pretty compliment, and it put us on the pleasantest terms directly--I use the word in the English sense.”

If you want, you can read the whole chapter here:

To serve my prissy desire to get history right in my novels, I found the most wonderful website.  It gives the meanings of idiomatic expressions in Britglish and even tells when they came into use.  A boon for an American writer who wants to make sure her British-isms are not anachronistic.  If you have a mind to browse it, here it is:

For myself, my editor asked about some of the phrases I used in Strange Gods.  Here is what I answered in an email last week:
“Regards Britglish vs. Amerglish:
                In this latest version, I have three instances where the characters, in dialog, use the word “whilst” as is still commonly used by the educated Brits.
                You questioned three expressions that are British-isms.  We can Amercanize them if they are too distracting.  I tried to make these people sound British to American ears and would like to maintain that, but not if it is disturbing.
                Page 100: Cranford says “Rum business.”  Modern Americans would say “Crazy business,” but that would not sound right to me coming out of that snob’s mouth.
                Page 155: Cranford again:  he says “that will be an end on it,” which is how Brits say “that will be the end of it.”
                Page 206: Nurse Freemantle says, “Vera is from home.” An American would say “Vera is not home.”

My editor said we should leave them the way I had them.  I am really glad of that.  If, once the book is out, I get any flack about this from readers, I have my response ready.  I will just shout, “Popycock!”

Monday, August 19, 2013

Radio Waves in my Head

When I was six years old and in the First Grade at St. Anthony of Padua school in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, I got exposed to Daytime Radio and, in bits and pieces, it’s been in my head ever since. I’d come home for lunch and my grandmother would feed me soup and a sandwich and milk at the kitchen table and we would listen to her programs. (It wasn’t until Sixth Grade that I would be given money to buy a Hero and a soda at Bruno’s Grocery Store, to be eaten by us boys on the stoops of the houses along Leonard Street, the school block.)

Nan and I listened to: “And now, Our Gal Sunday, the story of an orphan girl named Sunday from the little mining town of Silver Creek, Colorado, who in young womanhood married England’s richest, most handsome lord, Lord Henry Brinthrope—the story that asks the question, can this girl from a mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?” All of this I remember, and the name Black Swan Hall where Sunday and Lord Henry were beset by ex-lovers, fortune-hunters, shady lords and ladies, even kidnappers, for fifteen minutes every weekday at 12:15 p.m.

Then, the Romance of Helen Trent. I recall, almost word for word, the signature opening: “Time now for the Romance of Helen Trent…the real-life drama of Helen Trent, who—when life mocks her, breaks her hopes, dashes her against the rocks of despair—fights back bravely, successfully, to prove what so many women long to prove in their own lives…that because a woman is 35, and more, romance in life need not be over…” I checked my recollections against “On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio”, by mystery author John Dunning (Oxford University Press, 1998). Independently, I remembered the name Gil Whitney, Helen’s perennial suitor. That she was a sought-after dress designer in Hollywood, changed her men like a whore changes her panties, yet was a straight-shooter and didn’t smoke—this I didn’t know at age 7. Helen Trent was also 15-minutes-long and as the music faded, I was out the door and covering the four blocks back to school before the bell rang summoning us to line up in the street to march back in by class.

After school, I ran home to do my homework before hitting the street—“go out and play” were the magic words, accompanied by “Don’t go off the block and be home for supper. (In Fall and Winter, that meant darkness, about 5 p.m.; in Spring as it stayed light longer, you’d push it.) We played in the streets in that time: stickball, punchball, kick-the-can, ringolevio; my block, Oakland Street was a narrow, cobble-stoned City street, lightly traveled by cars. When it got dark, my Aunt, leaning out the window of our fourth-floor tenement, would shout “Bobby”—loudly enough for me to hear her over the street din, in that summonsing voice that set me in instant motion.

After dinner, The Fat Man awaited. Each Monday night at 8:30, I’d be sitting cross-legged in front of our big RCA console in the parlor when a harp starts playing and a woman intones: “There he goes into that drugstore…he’s stepping on the scale.” (We hear a penny tumbling into the scale) “Weight?...237 pounds.” (A clicking sound of the fortune popping out of the scale), then: “Fortune?---Danger! Who is it?” she asks. “The Fat Mannnnnnn!” PI Brad Runyan answers. I don’t remember a single adventure of the Fat Man although I sat with him for 30 minutes on countless Mondays from 1946 to 1951.

My keenest memories, though, are of Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons (Thursdays at 8). Mike Clancy, his operative, eventually says in a vaudevillian turn: “Saints preserve us, Mr. Keen, do ya mean…?” “Yes, Mike,” Keen replies, explaining how he solved the crime. A charming, old stuffed shirt, Mr. Keen was Philo Vance for the lower classes. And Boston Blackie (Friday nights at 10), “enemy to those who make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friend.” Those lines are forever inscribed in my brain. Although I listened loyally to Bulldog Drummond, the Green Hornet, Johnny Dollar, I Was a Communist for the FBI, Mr. District Attorney, Renfrew of the Royal Mounted, I remember the names only, with a touch of nostalgia. “Hi Yo, Silver, Away!” … “Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”…Spooky organ music, the unholy laugh, then: “Who knows…what evil…lllllurks…in the hearts of men?...The Shadow knows!” Goes without saying, they will always be with me.

From ages six to ten, I was captive to the Magic Box. Then a spinster lady, Josie, who lived with her brother George next door, got an Admiral TV, the first in our building. She invited me in for Milton Berle’s Texaco Comedy Hour and Ronald Regan’s General Electric Theatre, and Radio Days were behind me.

Well, maybe not. Years after I’d stopped listening, I become a NYC policeman. Then, a criminal defense lawyer like John J. Malone, Attorney at Law (Murder and Mr. Malone, Saturday nights at 8). My first business card as a criminal lawyer read: Robert J. Knightly, Attorney at Law.

Robert Knightly

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Torrid Weekend with Charlie Manson

Ok, so this title was just a cheap bid for attention. It’s a little warm here and I’m reading Jeff Guinn’s new biography of Charles Manson. I was going to call this “Summer Reading,” but that’s so ordinary and somehow suggests that I read a different type of book in the summer than I do in the other seasons. That’s not true. I got a bad sunburn in my childhood and have ever after avoided lying out in the sun. I have no need for beach books.

There is a book that is utterly unsuited for the summer: Wuthering Heights. One summer I decided I would read all the Bronte novels. I began reading Wuthering Heights on a bright July day. The sun was shining, bird were chirping, the Mister Frostee truck was twittering (in the old fashioned sense of the word). All was right with the world.

“Lighten up, kids!” I wanted to shout at Cathy and Heathcliffe. “Why so glum?”

I don’t want to spoil Wuthering Heights for anyone who hasn’t read it but sweetness and light were not Ms. Bronte’s intent.

So here are a few books I enjoyed this summer:

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kreuger. Frank Drum, the narrator of this novel, looks back at his 13th summer (1962) He is the son of a minister and a woman who doesn’t want to be a minister’s wife. The book is a perfect blend of bildungsroman, domestic disquiet and murder.

The Lairds of Cromarty by Jean Pierre Ohl. A tale of Scotland told by a French writer. Mary Guthrie is a graduate student of literature. Ebenezer Krook is a priest who is defrocked because of certain activities with Ms. Guthrie. Their stories are told in alternating chapters. The book is filled with wonderful observations on academe. Here is Mary Guthrie on the restricted nature of the study of literature: “All of these academics had a vision of literature that was no broader than than that of a mule with blinkers pulling the plow in some Grampian glen would have of the general geography of the United Kingdom. To find equivalents in other disciplines one would have to imagine an accountant who refused to add any numbers other than 4 and 8 and a garage mechanic who would only work on green cars.”

This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral Plus Plenty of Valet Parking In America’s Gilded Capital. by Matt Leibovich. This is a fun book if you’re a political junkie. It’s also one of those “Do I laugh or do I cry?” books The most telling comment about the town’s political residents? “There are no Republicans or Democrats, only millionaires.”

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison. I can’t speak to all the comparisons that have been made to Gone Girl. I haven’t read it. This novel was riveting. Jodi and Todd have a very comfortable life but Jodi is too complacent and Todd is too restless. Harrison carefully creates her characters and their world and just as artfully destroys it. Some fun!

Every summer I read some Anthony Trollope (try The Way We Live Now for a story that will feel very contemporary) and some P. G. Wodehouse (“Uncle Fred Flits By” is a delightful short story and The Code of the Woosters is a hilarious novel). In general I find people love Wodehouse or hate him. If you find you like him you’re in for a treat. He’s written over 90 books.

And as long as I’m on the topic of prolific writers I must mention Barbara Mertz/Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters who died in early August. I am a huge fan of the Amelia Peabody mysteries. I am glad that—according to her website—she was enjoying her old age: “At 85, Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels) is enjoying her cats, her garden, lots of chocolate, and not nearly enough gin.”

Stephanie Patterson

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hot in This Town

Bob Knightly's tale of the time he and Tom Adcock were flown first-class to Hollywood and given a big rush ("You're hot in this town," said the agent), only to be kicked to the curb at the end of the week, reminded me of the time I got a little flutter from Larry Gordon, the Hollywood producer.

It was sometime in the late eighties. I still had an office in the Great Princeton Software House, and a real desk, where I wrote brilliant user documentation and listened to grand opera on a Walkman. I was the Morse of Great Princeton Software, without the Glenfiddich. Later the CEO tore down all the office walls and herded us into cubicles, where we were forbidden our Walkmen and stripped of all dignity. But at the time of this story, things were still good.

Very good, in fact. The Jersey Monkey was scheduled to be released in a matter of weeks. Maybe this time I would hit it big and make enough money to leave the software house and stay home with my adorable little boy.

The phone rang; it was Barrie, my agent. "Katie!" she said. "Hollywood called." I can't express to you the intensity of lust and greed that Barrie was able to pack into the word Hollywood. It was stunning.

"Indeed!" I said.

"Larry Gordon wants to see The Jersey Monkey. He's looking for a book to turn into Die Hard III. I sent him a copy."

"That's wonderful!"

"I just wanted you to know. Hollywood."

Now in those days Hollywood was awash in Japanese money. Writers were making fortunes. Why not me? Bruce Willis seemed a bit far-fetched as Nick Magaracz, but what the hey. Anything was possible. I went out on my lunch hour and bought a huge pair of prescription sunglasses. Hollywood.

In a few days Barrie called back and said she had heard from Larry Gordon that The Jersey Monkey wasn't quite right for what he had in mind. Unlike Bob and Tom, I never even got first-class plane tickets to Los Angeles. It was okay, though. I wasn't terribly crushed. I suspected that The Jersey Monkey wasn't really a very good book, and I understood that Hollywood people were—how shall I put this?—not always sincere in the effulgence of their praise or reliable in the fulfillment of their promises. As for Barrie, I believe she made more than one million-dollar deal with the Hollywood folks, most notably for the script to "Indecent Proposal." So she wasn't terribly crushed either.

And I have my sunglasses. Those babies have gone in and out of style three times since Hollywood cast my book aside. I can still see through them (in spite of a few scratches), and I gotta say, they are still hot.

Kate Gallison

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's Here! The Book Trailer for Blood Tango

On June 26th, I posted about the making of this book trailer.  Well, it has launched, and I love it.  
The choreography for the premier dancers is a metaphor for the relationship between Juan Peron and Evita as it is portrayed in the story.  The curly-haired dancer in the flower print dress is my daughter Kerry Ann King, who produced the video.  I am proud of the film and of her!

Annamaria Alfieri

Monday, August 12, 2013

Open Pores

I introduced myself to Tom at the 1992 MWA Edgar Awards Dinner. I’d read Dark Maze and believed it the best crime novel of the year, so I brought it to the dinner for Tom’s autograph. It got the Edgar and I made a friend. Ten years later, Tom was in L.A. waiting to be discovered when he persuaded his buddy, the late David Mills, to buy our pilot script, ‘The System,’ for Aaron Spelling-TV Productions. That got us two free weekends in Hollywood working with Mills in his trailer on the set of his then ill-starred ‘King Pins,’ a gory Mexican cartel melodrama, as we revised and blackboarded our script. Spelling flew us from NYC to the Coast First Class. On arrival, the agent Tom had arranged as our representation said words to us I’ll never forget. “You’re hot in this town,” she said.

In the end, NBC passed on filming our opus, and flew us back home—Coach. We’d cooled.

Robert Knightly

Thus begins a fog-bound Thursday in the life of Yours Truly, mystery writer of yore:

I awake, scratch myself, consider the merits of shaving (or not), drink up the newspapers and a pot of coffee, wonder where I might find a spot of cash, decide who among the people in my head are quick or dead, and wonder about a cryptic e-mail.

A decade ago, my place in the demimonde of crime literature, as I prefer to call the noble genre, still flickered, if weakly. Two decades ago, I established myself in that world on the wonderful April evening of ’92, when I collected an Edgar Allan Poe Award. Now in the year 2013, you have likely never heard of me. My last crime novel, Grief Street, was released in 1997. Its forerunners—Sea of Green, Dark Maze, Thrown-Away Child, Drown All the Dogs, and Devil’s Heaven—have been promoted to Glory, to employ the Salvation Army eulogy. There are two ways of looking at this: negatively, or positively. Which is to say, Nothing recedes like success—or, To everything there is a season.

My comrades in the writing dodge—scriveners like me, whose claims to fame are now mainly down the drain—frequently blame publishers for their plight. (To be sure, publishers deserve a measure of ill repute. As a species, they are unlovely, possessing all the imagination, romance, and élan of—pigeons. Yet they are not so beautiful against the sky.) But just as often, and to their great credit, my comrades recognize a time to move on.

A few of us, having moved on and aged with some degree of grace, harbor the hope of one more of life’s rewards before we croak—perhaps one more book that we may set upon the brag shelf. Such is how it is with me.

Presently, I compose essays for a daily online journal of literature, music, and politics—the Berlin-based CulturMag. My usual dateline is “New York, near America,” and my stuff usually involves the absurd behavior of a fading empire. I am a foreign correspondent in my own country. Besides this, I slowly labor toward completion of Lovers & Corpses, which I think of as a novel with murder. The book involves a minimum of shaving, what my German colleagues call Gesäß aus Eisen (buttocks of iron), and a number of choices regarding who shall live to tell a tale and who shall die trying—and more importantly, why.

The tale concerns a burned-out cop who evolved as a burned-out journalist. Since I came within inches of becoming a cop as a young man, I am able to imagine myself as the former character. And having spent several decades in American corporate media, I know whereof I speak as regards the latter.

Should Lovers and Corpses sound rather downbeat, I hasten to add my happiness on discovering that I retain the Writer’s Soul: still, I have need of fiction’s ingredients—a cast of characters, a ripping plot, an alter ego—to sort through the chapters of my own true life.

Good cops, good journalists, and good writers walk around with their pores open. That way, everything gets under the skin. Most people don’t like feeling itchy all the time; as mentioned, though, I scratch a lot. In true life, things much stranger than fiction will occur. This very drab Thursday morning, for instance, I opened an e-mail message under the subject line, “GET BACK TO ME ASAP.” It reads, word for mangled word—(and I swear, I am not making this up):

…Someone you call a friend wants you dead by any means and the person have spent a lot of money on this. The person also came to us and told me that he want you dead and he provided us with your name, picture, and other necessary informations we needed about you. So I sent my boys to track you down and they have carried out the necessary investigation needed for the operation on you, and they have done that but I told them not to kill you that I will like to contact you and see if your life is important to you or not since their findings show that you are innocent…

If Lovers & Corpses ever sees the light of a publication day, and should you be willing to plunk down twenty-five dollars or so for your very own copy, you will recognize the foregoing as an excerpt from a larger fulmination of menace.

And know that beyond the obvious grift, the e-mailer’s lie could be a truth somewhere in time.

Thomas Adcock

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Help! Torn Between Two Men

July 1, 2012, Earl Staggs enchanted us with his tale of teaching kindergartners about being a writer. From Fort Worth he is again adding to our pleasure, as readers and fellow writers, with his ongoing series of two men, different, honorable, intriguing, likable—Adam Kingston and Tall Chambers. After Earl and I discussed what might be a thought-provoking topic for his visit to Crime Writer's Chronicle today, I reread both novels, MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION, to make sure I had in the front of my mind the two personas that ground his crime novels. This year I've watched several readers storm the barricades, crying to this author, "More, please!"—and am delighted Earl is going to comply—with more of Adam Kingston and Tall Chambers in the near future! I read a lot of NYT bestsellers and find that most of these books lack the touch Earl Staggs has . I do not finish many of the bestsellers—but I have read his books twice! Do you hear a message here?

As a fellow southerner, today I am "mighty pleased" to welcome Earl and Adam and Tall back to our increasingly popular blog—Crime Writer's Chronicle!

Thelma Jacqueline Straw

The title of this post would be great for a Romance novel, don’t you think? Since I write Mystery, not Romance, I suppose I’d better explain who the two men are and why I’m caught in a conundrum. Or is it a quandary? A quagmire, perhaps. Whatever it is, I have an important decision to make and you may be able to help.

Adam Kingston is the first of the two men crying out for my attention. Adam’s a quiet, unassuming kind of guy who doesn’t look for or start trouble. Unfortunately, trouble comes to him. You see, Adam was once an FBI Special Agent.

After a near-fatal auto accident, a strange thing happened. During his recovery, Adam discovered the accident had jarred loose some latent psychic abilities. Doctors and Professors with lots of initials after their names told him it’s not unusual for a traumatic incident to do that. He began to get flashes. Not hot flashes. His flashes were quick mental images of things that happened in the past. For example, if he touches an object related to a crime or visits a crime scene, he may get images containing clues to what happened. Sometimes the images are so vague, confusing and enigmatic he has no idea what they mean. Those experts with all those initials also told him that’s not unusual for psychic images. It’s not an exact science, they explained.

Instead of returning to the FBI, Adam became a private investigator. Now he works mostly on cases for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies and they keep him fairly busy. His gift is often helpful in solving cases, but it always comes down to good old fashioned police work.

Adam first entered my life in a short story called “The Missing Sniper.” We hit it off right away and when the story was published, a lot of readers liked him, too. The response was so encouraging, I decided to give Adam his own novel. The result was MEMORY OF A MURDER. Many more readers became fans of Adam and have asked me when there will be a sequel.

That’s part of the problem plaguing me.

The other part of my vexing situation is Tall Chambers. Tall spent twenty years in the Army, mostly in the Middle East as a Special Services officer. After the Army, he joined a secretive agency which made good use of his skills and experience. The agency tracks down terrorists and puts them out of business before innocent people are killed. If the terrorists want to meet Allah and collect their virgins, the agency puts them in the express lane.

Tall Chambers began taking shape in my mind shortly after the horror of 9-11. He was an embryonic fixture in my imagination for several years. At first, his story was about taking out terrorists. Eventually, that became only the backdrop and Tall’s personal life became the focus. While Tall was taking care of business, someone close to him was murdered. He put everything else aside and devoted his skills and experience to finding the killer and setting things right. Writing Tall’s story was a great opportunity to explore people who do what he does and how it affects their everyday lives.

A few months ago, Tall’s story was published as a novel called JUSTIFIED ACTION. Reaction from readers and reviewers has been fantastic. That, of course, raises the question of a sequel. Will there be one? Of course. Tall and his crew have a lot of stories to tell, so there is no reason why there can’t be a series.

Adam Kingston is also a perfect candidate for a series.

The two men are quite different, but both are exciting, challenging, and fun to write. While Adam is more of a laid-back kind of guy, Tall’s responsibilities require him to go where the action is and meet it head on. Adam is more the cerebral type. He looks before he leaps. Tall leaps and shouts “Look out!” on the way down.

And therein lies my conundrum. Or my quandary. Or quagmire, or whatever you want to call it.

Which sequel should I write first? I can’t do them at the same time. I don’t write that way. I have to concentrate solely on one project until it’s finished.

Should I spend the next few months on a sequel for Adam because he came into my life first? Or, since Tall is new and fresher, should I concentrate my time and efforts on getting him out there again in a new story?

If you’ve ever had to choose between two men in one way or another, maybe you have some advice or suggestions to offer.

Earl Staggs

Earl Staggs earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, is a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Lovely Summer Continues

Heading into the middle of August, I'm pleased to report that the weather in Lambertville could not be nicer. Not, that is, from my point of view. I like it cool, dry, and partly cloudy. I'm sitting at the dining room table right now with all the fans off, a gentle natural breeze wafting through from the front of the house to the back. The temperature in here is 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Harold has gone to work, all our summer house guests have been and gone, and while I miss them, it's nice to have the house to myself.

Now you may say, all right, then, why aren't you working on BUCKER DUDLEY? At least two readers have expressed the desire to read Episode Four, which you promised to put up for them on Kindle for 99 cents a shot. I guess I'll get to that in a little while. Right now Polly is in a half-burnt store in Toronto (called, at the time, York) in her moose-hide Indian Maiden outfit, trying to sell the storekeeper three rabbits she snared in the woods, while avoiding the eye of her archenemy, Cousin Arthur Garnett. The next scene I have to write involves a frantic chase through the streets of the town. I have to think up the 1812 equivalent of a phone booth so that she can change into the sailor boy outfit of Bucker Dudley and escape her evil cousin's clutches. But I'm feeling too languid right now to do this.

Instead I'm thinking about the coming fall, and what I might feel like wearing when the weather gets even cooler and drier. (And also how we're going to survive the next hurricane and ten-day power outage, and whether we need an automatic gas generator, but that isn't fun to think about.)

What's really fun to think about is clothing. Flying in the face of common sense, I just sent away for some plaid wool stuff to make a suit with. The plaid has a six-inch repeat, so that if I ever finish the thing and wear it out of the house I'm going to look like a Scottish Sherman tank grinding down the street. I don't care. Autumn is for plaid. Plaid is for autumn. Hey, I already have a pair of boots to go with the suit.

Okay, back to work now.

Kate Gallison