18 May 2012

Silence is Golden

    I read a best-seller, about a year ago, which I know a lot of people liked.  But, unfortunately I just couldn't make myself believe the premise. The back-story about a world-wide cataclysm didn’t cause me any difficulty, nor was I troubled when I found the plot-line to be a sort of inverted Western (in my opinion, at least). My problem was noise.

    In the book, the protagonist is making his way across an inhospitable, and very quiet, countryside. He carries his belongings in a metal shopping cart, which he pushes down the road as he walks. Sadly, humanity has largely been reduced to practicing cannibalism, in this novel, so there really are people out to get him. Well, in this case, I suppose they’re actually out to eat him.

    What did I not find believable about this scenario?

      The shopping cart. 

    I live about a block from a supermarket. And, I can hear those shopping carts quite clearly, when folks push them out to their cars. Sometimes it’s the squeak, squeak of the little wheels. But, more often, it’s that constant metallic rattle of the cart cage (I guess you’d call it that; the metal cage basket you put the groceries into.). I can hear that rattle a block from the store, even over the thrum of traffic on a major street that runs about four houses away from mine — particularly in the evening, when traffic dies down a bit but the store is still open. I just couldn’t make myself believe that anybody pushing a shopping cart through a land of cannibals would make it farther than a mile or two, before being caught and cooked.

    I mean: Assume you’re a hungry cannibal of the near-future, and you hear the rattle of a shopping cart in the distance. The sound harkens back to the supermarkets you used to shop in, and you shake your head in sorrow because they’ve all been raided, their shelves now barren. Along with those memories come increased hunger pangs. And then you realize: “Wait a minute! Shopping carts don’t move on their own. There’s a person pushing that cart!” And, off you go on a hunger-induced cannibalistic manhunt.

 To my way of thinking, the guy with the shopping cart might as well be ringing a dinner bell.

The Problem is Noise 

    Unfortunately, I all too often run across a similar problem in mysteries. I’ll read a terrific book, or watch a great movie, fully engrossed by the protagonists' struggle to find a way out of their predicament. At some point, they’ll try to turn the tables on their adversary, sneaking up on (or ambushing) him/her/them. And then … in the midst of this Sneaky Pete activity, they start talking, or cracking jokes.  Or, they start doing something else that makes a lot of noise. And my suspension of disbelief comes crashing down.

    Thus, in the interests of literary noise suppression — and following in the wake of a recent spate of lists here on SS — I present my own list. It’s short, and not nearly conclusive.  And, some of the items on it may seem obvious, but perhaps some people haven’t thought about some of them.

Things that make noise, when you want to be quiet: 

1. Car Keys         Keys jingle. They can be heard at least twenty or thirty feet away on a dark night. Before sneaking up on the bad guys, keys should be taken out and left behind, or taped together so they can’t jingle. I used to keep my footlocker keys on my dog tags, which hung around my neck on a GI necklace, but I taped everything together whenever I went into the field. Otherwise, I jingle-jangled when I walked.

2. Talking             I’ve patrolled through jungles, forests, swamps and deserts with eleven other guys. We seldom spoke, usually relying on hand & arm signals. When speaking was absolutely necessary, we whispered — usually with one man putting his mouth up against the other’s ear. This sort of whisper can’t be heard beyond a foot or two. A group of people laughing and joking as they walk up on the bad guy’s lair, is not going to achieve surprise. Or anything else they want. Unless the bad guys are deaf.

3. A Canteen         A full canteen or water bottle usually isn’t much problem, as long as it’s tied down so that it doesn’t flop around. A partially-full canteen makes a lot of noise when a person moves, because the water sloshes around and splashes inside it. One of those round canteens that people sling around their necks or shoulders can be really loud — especially when it’s half-full and the person wearing it is moving quickly. That round canteen will beat against the body, and the water inside will bang around; the result is similar to the beating of a drum.

4. Footsteps           Most authors seem well aware of the noise a snapping twig makes. But flat-bottomed shoes “slap” against pavement. Rubber soled shoes squeak on flat surfaces such as wood or concrete, particularly when someone pivots in-place. Sand or gravel will groan when a foot pivots on it. Thus, it’s usually best to lift one foot when turning the body, then lift and reposition the other foot. Practice walking on quiet nights, and you’ll probably find that the best method to keep noise down, is to place the foot tenderly toes-first on the ground, then “roll” the rest of the foot down. A person can actually walk quite quietly over ground with many sticks and dry leaves, if care is taken in this manner. Particularly in the beginning, silence will be increased as walking speed decreases, giving the stealthy person time to tentatively quest with the toes and seek a firm, relatively noise-free footing on each step.

5. Branches             Pulling two branches apart to look through, seems to be a time-honored activity in some mysteries. So, I’m not about to suggest that a character shouldn’t do this. However, I’d like to suggest that this character maintain constant control of those branches, hanging onto them until they’re back in their original starting places, when s/he backs out of the overwatch position. Manhandling those branches back into place will keep them from snapping back with whiplash force, which can create a loud clack-clack sound that can be heard at some distance. Additionally, smaller branches and leaves, on the branch a person tries to move, are often entwined with other branches and leaves. Consequently, my experience at moving branches, is that — all too often — I wind up making a nearby bush dance a noisy Hula. The suggestion? Move branches sparingly. And slowly, while maintaining constant control.

6. Clothing                 Ever been annoyed by the whip-whup sound of your pant legs, as the fabric whines against itself when you walk? That noise can be pretty loud on a quiet night, but a character can address it easily with duct tape. Two wraps of duct tape around each thigh, and around each calf, will usually hold the material tight enough against the body to eliminate this problem. (That’s “two wraps”, because of the Duct Tape Rule: Duct Tape Sticks to ITSELF!! Two wraps ensure it’s sticking to itself, not just to your character's pants.) Anything on the body that dangles needs to be removed or taped down. (Can't wait to see Velma's comment about that one!)  Dangling earrings can go into pockets. A necklace can be taped, the way I used to tape my dog tags. A purse should be hand-carried, with constant control over any straps. Shoe laces should be tied tight, and any excess should be tucked into the tops of shoes or boots.

7. Hair                        One of my daughter’s teachers had long hair in sort of Corn Rows, with beads on the end of each row. It looked very pretty, but when she turned her head, all the beads clacked against each other. That’s not a problem under most circumstances, but when trying to sneak up on the bad guys, a character with hair beads should probably clump his/her beaded hair together, in fist-sized clumps, well apart, then securely fasten each clump with rubber bands. The character may end up looking like a demented porky pine, but at least he can turn his head without waking the dead — or the bad guys.

8. Gum                        Many people enjoy chewing bubble gum, and popping the bubbles. However, it seems to me that bubble popping is often a nervous habit. And, little can be more nerve-wracking than the final moments before confronting an adversary. If the nervous gum chewer forgets … . Well, one POP! and the element of surprise is forever lost. At which point, huffing and puffing lungs -- in the terror of running for one’s life -- may rebel at the idea of trying to breath in bubble gum.

9. Snapping                  Yes, I’ve occasionally snapped my fingers to get the attention of one of the other guys on my patrol. Yes, stealthy people in movies do it all the time. But . . . the bad guys can hear it too. And, unless they’re stupid, they know what it means.

10. PLEASE . . . don’t let your characters push shopping carts when they’re trying to be stealthy.

 I invite you to add to this list in the comments section if you wish. And, as usual, all remarks will be welcomed.       Smart-a** remarks will be warmly welcomed!

See you in two weeks,

17 May 2012

A Word About Crime

by Robert Lopresti

A few years ago I showed you a list of some of my favorite quotes from mystery writers.  Here are some quotes more or less about crime, but not from crime writers.

St. George, patron saint of police officers
"If the bad guys don't get you, baby, then the good guys will." -Buffe Saint-Marie

 "How dare you stand there with every evidence of a criminal nature showing in your attitude and demeanor and conceal from the authorities the reason for your arrest?" -Don Marquis

 "If a man stopped me in the street and demanded of me my watch, I should refuse to give it to him. If he threatened to take it by force, I feel I should, though not a fighting man, do my best to protect it. If, on the other hand, he should assert his intention of trying to obtain it by means of an action in any court of law, I should take it out of my pocket and hand it to him, and think I had got off cheaply." -Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men On The Bummel

"There is no emissary for an evil deed." -David Twersky

"Drug conspiracy cases may be just the answer for budget-conscious (government) agencies." -Gregory D. Lee, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 10/94

"Hate-on-the-highway is an institution occupying a high place in our modern civilization....The godawful glares that drivers exchange as they pass each other, the mutual hatred between motorist and pedestrian, these manifestations seem to constitute the ultimate in righteous wrath." -H. Allen Smith, 1947
"Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught and practiced." -The Connecticut Courant reacting to Thomas Jefferson's election to the presidency

" The law is like rope...useful, necessary, strong, but it can be bent and twisted into all kinds of shapes depending on the occasion." - W.P. Kinsella

"Clowns were humanity's first 'policemen.'" -Joy Thompson

"Sometimes we may rely too much on law and Constitution and statutes." -Robert Ray, special prosecutor

"The heavens may fall, the earth may be consumed, but the right of a congressman to lie and defame remains inviolate." -George Creel, 1920

"(Librarians have) got their radical factions, like the Ruby Ridge or Waco types." -Judith Platt, spokesperson for the Association of American Publishers, 2001

"If any person has sung or composed against another person a song which is slanderous and insulting he shall be clubbed to death." -The Twelve Tables (first laws of Rome, 494 B.C.)

"Monsters work seven days a week and don't take vacations." -Geoffrey Canada

"Did it ever occur to anyone that if you put nice libraries in public schools you wouldn't have to put them in prisons?" -Fran Lebowitz

My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." - Ann Coulter

"The FBI, however well-intentioned, is not in the business of providing emergency road services, and might well have better things to do when listening in than respond with such services..." -Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning an FBI request to eavesdrop via cars' onboard navigational systems.

"This particular American view of 'success' ...as near as I can make it out, is the ability to keep out of jail." -Charles Dudley Warner, 1896

"Let Lawyers, Parsons, and Physicians loose, to rob, impose on, and to kill the World." -Henry Fielding, in Tom Thumb, 1730

"Some days I don't know if I should laugh or call the police." -Cecil Adams

16 May 2012

Going up?

The photo at left is by my brother, Tom LoPresti.  You can see more of his work here.

I was recently a participant at a book signing.  This was a fundraiser for a good cause (a new library branch, if you must know).  There were perhaps two dozen authors, all local, and most genres were represented.

This was the first signing I had done in quite a while and I realized I had learned something since the last one.  Namely, how to give an elevator speech.

If you aren’t familiar with this term, it is one I have heard a lot in the last few years at the university where I work.  The concept is this: you find yourself with a minute  to chat with someone important – in the case of the university, say, a state legislator, or a potential donor or student.  “What do you do for a living?” she asks.  And now you have a precious minute to explain why your school is the best, most important, most deserving place in the world.  And that, dear friends, is your elevator speech.

So now, picture me sitting behind one  of a dozen tables, waiting for potentual customers to stroll up.  On my table was bait in the form of two poster-size blow ups of covers of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine featuring my stories.  Then there were copies of my book and freebie handouts with information about it.

When someone came by I would stand up, smile politely and wait until their eyes focused on the book.  Then I leapt into the speech.  I perfected it as the afternoon went by.  In its final form it sounded like this:

It’s a mystery novel set in Greenwich Village during the Great Folk Music Scare of 1963.

Almost every word of this was carefully worked out  If you didn’t say it was a mystery some people would ask what type of book it was (in spite of the outline of a corpse on the cover…one person was more perceptive.  “What a great cover!” she said.  “You can TELL that’s a mystery!”  Well, she could, at least.)  If you didn't say novel someone would ask if it was non-fiction.  (And an aside here, have you noticed how some people who don't read our genre always refer to "murder mysteries," as if to distinguish them from, perhaps, loitering mysteries?  But I digress.)

The Great Folk Music Scare is supposed to grab attention.  Some people were amused.  Some baffled.  Some repeated it back to me as a question.  To the latter I nodded earnestly and said “That stuff almost caught on!”  This is stolen from Martin Mull, except he didn’t use the word stuff.

And finally the use of the date got a surprising number of people pondering where (or if) they were in 1963.  Several asked if I had been part of the scene.  No, I said, I was only eight years old, but I interviewed several people who were.

The short-term goal, of course, is to keep people chatting, thinking about your book, and not moving on to the next deserving author.  If they stand there long enough they might think of a friend who likes mysteries, or folk music, or might even decide to get it for themselves.

Which, oddly enough, happened several times that day.  Which was several times more than I expected.  And that left my spirits elevated.  So to speak.

And in addition

Here are the answers to my quiz from two weeks ago.  I'm sure you have been waiting with braided Beth, or however that goes...

1.A type of mustard, or a priest.
G.K. Chesterton's Father BROWN
2. A wetland or an English professor
Edmund Crispin's Gustave FEN
3. A school of Buddhism or a Roman cop.
Michael Dibdin's Aurelio ZEN.
4. A child's transportation device, or a Detroit private eye.
Loren D. Estleman's Amos WALKER
5. A type of hole, or a Seattle private eye. 
 Earl Emerson's Thomas BLACK
6. A financial instrument, or a spy.
Ian Fleming's James BOND
7. A boatman, or a Seattle private eye.
G.M. Ford's Leo WATERMAN.
8. A builder in stone, or an attorney.
Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry MASON
9. An adverb or a British police inspector
Alan Hunter's George GENTLY
10. A shirt size or a clergyman.
Harry Kemelman's Rabbi David SMALL
11. Cheerful, or a British spy.
John LeCarre's George SMILEY
12. An expert with an ancient weapon, or a private detective.
Ross MacDonald's Lew ARCHER   
13. A state capital, or a British police inspector.
Joyce Porter's DOVER
14. A playing card, or an amateur detective
Ellery Queen's Ellery QUEEN
15. A part of the face, or a New York City private eye.
S.J. Rozan's Lydia CHIN.
16. A greeting card, or a gambling consultant.
James Swain's Tomy VALENTINE.
17. A circular water movement or an Akron private eye.
Dick Stodghill's Jack EDDY.
18. Something bestowed, or a British Inspector.
Josephine Tey's Alan GRANT.

15 May 2012

O' Danny Boy

In my last blog I mentioned that my brother, Danny, and his wife, attended the Edgars banquet with Robin and I.  It has occurred to me since, that Danny deserves better than a mention.  In fact, if there were a category for "Best Supporter For An Edgar Nominee"; I would submit his name and begin to throw plates and glasses if he didn't win.
It's hard to really know me without knowing my big brother.  Firstly, he is big...very big; unlike yours truly.  He is six-two and weighs in at around two-twenty.  I, on the other hand, leave a smaller carbon footprint at an athletic five-eight; one fifty-seven.  He would, and has, described me as scrawny.  So, as you might imagine from this description, I grew up in his shadow...literally and figuratively.  Figuratively because he also cast a long shadow over our neighborhood and beyond.  In his teens he had already gained a reputation as a fearless fighter and doer of daring deeds.  He was also good-looking in a (young) Elvis sort of way.  This look went over particularly well with the girls of that era, as the 'King' was just ascending in popularity during this long-ago time.

I shared a bed with this person for several years of my life and received a number of bruises for the honor.  Even though, at that time, Danny was quite slender, he was long-limbed and slept with a kind of abandon that was, and is (thanks to him), totally foreign to me.  I would lay curled into a tight ball as close to the edge of the bed as I could manage without actually falling out.  Often this was not enough and I would receive a blow to one of my skinny biceps for disturbing the young lion at his rest.  These blows were called 'frogging'.  I don't know why.  I do know that they hurt.  After administering this rough justice, he would splay himself comfortably across his eighty percent of the bed and fall instantly back to sleep, while I sniveled as quietly as possible, and prayed for deliverance.

Danny's youthful exploits were the stuff of legend: He was kidnapped once from the sidewalk in front of Arnold Jr. High School by a carload of older teenage boys and carried away to a remote and unfinished neighborhood.  There he found himself pushed into a ring formed by excited youth who had come to watch his performance against their champion.  Danny was fourteen at the time and the young Achilles he faced a seventeen year old from Jordan High.  It was revealed later that this moment of reckoning had been arranged due to Danny's unwelcome attendance upon the girlfriend of his opponent.

When Danny staggered into the house afterwards, he was covered with blood.  I was laying on the couch reading a comic book (a Classics Illustrated, no doubt) when the front door opened.  I was literally struck speechless.  In his typical fashion, Danny brought an index finger up to his busted lips to indicate that I should remain silent (as a rule, he preferred me this way).  In this case, however, it was to keep from alerting mom before he could clean up.  Of course, she stepped out of the bathroom at just this instance, went white as a sheet and screamed.  Danny shrugged; slid past her into the bathroom, and said something about washing up.  You would have thought he just needed a little freshening before dinner.  Though he most certainly did not prevail in this encounter, it vaulted his reputation--by all accounts he had acquitted himself with courage and honor.  The fact that he was hitting on some older guy's girlfriend only added to his mystique.

In high school, he was arrested for drag-racing in our family car, a '55 Olds.  When the police brought him home, the old man was smoldering.  I was fearful of what dad might do.  Danny, nonplussed, sauntered to the opposite wall, and 'assumed the position'.  The 'position' was the typical frisk position seen in all police movies of the era--feet splayed with hands against the wall to support the leaning figure.  I thought the old man's head would explode at this display of fearless disdain.  He snatched the belt from his waist with such force and alacrity, that I thought his trousers might come off with it like a proto-Chippendale dancer.

That night, as I lay quietly weeping for the damage done my brother, he kept his back to me and was silent.  After what seemed a long time, he rolled over and propped himself on one elbow to take a look at me.  I could see by the streetlamp that shone through our window that there were tears standing in his eyes.  I think I said something like, "I'm sorry, Danny..."  I don't know why, as I had done nothing to bring about his punishment.  He studied me for a few moments more; then casually and with less force than usual, frogged me and said, "Shut up."   Then he rolled over and went to sleep.

Many, many, years later, Danny was one of the first to read one of  my fledgling stories.  He was not a big reader, but made a concession on my account.  He liked it.  "Real good," he gushed.  "Got anything else?"  This was high praise from Caesar!  Of course, it occurred to me that he was just being nice, but then I remembered who I was dealing with--Danny didn't 'do' nice unless he meant it.  So I sent him other stories.  At some point I became aware that he had actually subscribed to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine on my behalf.

The demise of our father, "Wild Bill" to some; "Sweet William" to others, brought us closer together.  The death of this force of nature knocked us both to our knees.  I remember Danny weeping at dad's graveside as if he would never stop; his beautiful daughters and wife clustered around and holding him.  Something inside him cracked that day, I think, and an affectionate nature that had long lay hidden poured forth.  From that time to this he has never ceased to be there for me (and me for him, I like to think). 

In our maturing years, we established the custom of vacationing together after our children had gone away to college, and it was on one of these jaunts that a certain truth began to be revealed.  Danny had recently read a novel that I had written (it has never been published) that featured a character named Bruce.  Danny admired this character immensely, and observed quietly that his middle name was Bruce.  In fact, he went on, warming to his subject, this thoroughly likable, good-looking, and courageous character shared many, many traits with himself.  He gave me his old half-smile over his Jack Daniels when he said this.  I assured him that it was precisely those qualities that ruled him out as a model for the character, and added that he was both self-delusional and pathologically egotistical.  He just continued to smirk at me.

Since that day, he has grown increasingly convinced that any of my male characters that demonstrate a degree of bravery or bravado, good judgement or wisdom, kindness or forbearance, have somehow descended from him to me, and thence onto paper.  I've given up trying to convince him otherwise.  I tried suggesting that, perhaps, he might be more easily recognizable in a few of my villains, but he just gives me that damn smile of his until I shut up.  Did I mention that he is aggravatingly perceptive?

Danny and Wanda journeyed all the way from Georgia, and at great expense I might add, not only for the Edgars banquet this year, but also for the Dell Magazine cocktail party when I received the Readers Award in 2007.  I could not dissuade him either time, he would have none of it--he was coming on behalf of his little brother. 

The bruises he inflicted on me in my tender youth have long since faded, but my love and admiration for this amazing man continues unabated to this day, and will never waver.  As for my literary creations, well, maybe he has exercised some small influence on them; infused a few subtle shadings, perhaps.  The truth is, though we have begun to grow old together, I am still his little brother, and he straddles my world, both the real and imagined, like a mighty colossus and whatever I do is done within the shade of his comforting presence.                         



14 May 2012

Worst of the First

Regular SS readers are aware that first lines fascinate me.  Today I'm sharing something that may be old news to you, but is new to me.

It's too late!! I am so sorry that the deadline shown at the top of the website for this year's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction
Contest is April 15, 2012, but I want to make you aware of this writers' competition so you can be preparing for next year's event.

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, sponsored by San Jose State University challenges writers to produce the worst possible first sentence for a novel. They've been doing this since 1983. The contest is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (pictured at left) who penned this famous first line in the novel Paul Clifford in 1830:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled againsgt the darkness."

Have you ever noticed that sitting atop his doghouse, beginning his novel on that old typewriter, Snoopy never gives Bulwer-Lytton credit for those first seven words?

The 2011 winner was Sue Fondrie, Oshkosh, WI, with this entry:

Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.


Molly Ringle, Seattle, WA, won in 2010 with this interesting comparison:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.


Going back to the first years of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, Steven Garman, Pensecola, Florida, won with this bit of ridiculousness in 1984:

The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarous tribe now stacking wood at her nubile feet, when the strong, clear voice of the poetic and heroic Handsomas roared, "Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you'll feel my steel through your last meal.


In 1993, William W. "Buddy" Ocheltree, Port Townsend, WA, demonstrated his knowledge of ordinal numbers in this prize winner:

She wasn't really my type, a hard-looking but untalented reporter from the local cat box liner, but the first second that the third-rate representative of the fourth estate cracked open a new fifth of old Scotch, my sixth sense said seventh heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so, nervous as a tenth grader drowning in eleventh-hour cramming for a physics exam, I swept her into my longing arms, and, humming "The Twelfth of Never," I got lucky on Friday the Thirteenth.


My last example, and favorite of these, was the 2004 winner, Dave Zobel, Manhattan Beach, California:

She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight--summarily like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tale--though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridicuolous euphemism--not unlike "sand vein," which is, after all, an intestine, not a vein--and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand--and that brought her back to Ramon.

There are winners in a multitude of categories, but the ones I've quoted are grand prize recipients.
For more of the worst of the first as well as the rules, origin, prizes and an entertaining webpage which advertises itself as, "Where WWW means 'Wretched Writers Welcome,'" go to


BTW, if you've read this to the bottom, you'll learn what I learned at the end of the home page regarding the 2012 deadline.
Directly quoted:

"The official deadline is April 15 (a date that Americans associate with painful submissions and making up bad stories.)  THE ACTUAL DEADLINE IS JUNE 30."

How about you? Got any horrible opening lines lurking in your brain?
Until we meet again, take care of . . .YOU!    

13 May 2012

Crime and PUNishment

ghost writer
ghost writer
by Leigh Lundin

SleuthSayers and Criminal Briefers are known for their love of word play. Last Tuesday Dale Andrews brought us The Devil's Dictionary and two weeks before that an article on paraprosdokia, bracketing humor by Rob Lopresti, Neil Schofield, and others.

At Criminal Brief's Corporate Headquarters, puns surfaced early and often. Today's contribution comes to us from South Africa, thanks to friends Michael Forsyth and his wife Cherri. You'll find new jeux de mots and a few old favorites. The visual puns are copyrighted by their creators, including the very clever thievery at the end from Worth1000.com.

Are We Having Pun Yet?
  • I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down.
  • I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
  • He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
  • I changed my iPod's name to Titanic. It's syncing now.
  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
  • How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.
  • This girl said she recognised me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.
  • They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a type-O.
  • PMS jokes aren't funny. Period.
  • Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.
  • We are going on a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there's no pop quiz.
  • row versus wade
    not-so-dry humor
  • Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?
  • When you get a bladder infection urine trouble.
  • Broken pencils are pointless.
  • I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
  • What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
  • England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  • I used to be a banker, but I lost interest.
  • I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.
  • I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.
  • Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
  • Velcro, what a rip off!
  • A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy.
  • Venison for dinner again? Oh deer!
  • What is the purpose of reindeer? It makes the grass grow, sweetie.
  • The earthquake in Washington obviously was the government's fault.
  • Be kind to your dentist. He has fillings, too.
  • When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.
  • I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.
  • Marriage is the mourning after the knot before.
  • Corduroy pillows are making headlines.
  • Is a book on voyeurism a peeping tome?
  • sturgeon general: smoking is dangerous to your health
    hooked on smoking
  • Sea captains don't like crew cuts.
  • A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.
  • A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumour.
  • Without geometry, life is pointless.
  • When you dream in colour, it's a pigment of your imagination.
  • Reading while sunbathing makes you well-red.
  • A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.
  • Dijon vu - the same mustard as before.
  • What's the definition of a will? (Come on, it's a dead giveaway!)
  • A backwards poet writes inverse.
  • In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism, your count votes.
  • With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
  • Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.
  • Doctors tell us there are over seven million people who are overweight. These, of course, are only round figures.
  • There were two ships. One had red paint, one had blue paint. They collided. At last report, the survivors were marooned.
  • The other day I sent my girlfriend a huge pile of snow. I rang her up and asked, "Did you get my drift?"
  • Where do you find giant snails? On the ends of giant's fingers.
  • Why is Saudi Arabia free of mental illness? There are nomad people there.
  • robber with lute
    a robber's toon
  • When I was in the supermarket I saw a man and a woman wrapped in a barcode. I asked "Are you two an item?"
  • When she told me I was average, she was just being mean.
  • A duck walks into a bar and orders a beer. "Four bucks," says the bartender. "Put it on my bill," says the duck (sadder Budweiser).
  • A dog with his leg wrapped in bandages hobbles into a saloon. He sidles up to the bar and announces "I'm lookin' fer the man who shot my paw."
  • A termite walks into a bar and says "Is the bar tender here?"
  • Four fonts walk into a bar. The barman says "Hey get out! We don't want your type in here!"
Renderings of the picture puns are the copyright or intellectual property of their respective owners.

12 May 2012

Dream On

by John M. Floyd

I'll be out of town most of today, at a booksigning about a hundred miles south of our home.  But let me clarify that.  If you're picturing a fancy setting with banners and media coverage and screaming fans lined up out the door and around the corner, I'm afraid that ain't the case.  This is a regular, no-frills Saturday event at a chain bookstore, where my signing table will probably be about the size of a bicycle wheel and nobody will know who I am and some of the customers might be looking more for greeting cards and Hunger Games T-shirts than for reading material.  The only familiar faces I'll probably see are those of the general manager and a couple of his employees.

Sailing the salesman ship

Actually, the GM and his staff might be the only people I see, period.  One never knows.  (Erma Bombeck said she once had a booksigning where, in the course of the day, only two people stopped at her signing table: one guy asked for directions to the restroom and the other asked her how much she wanted for the table.)  But so far this year I've been pretty lucky, in terms of crowds and sales and foot-traffic.  The events are always fun, the folks who work at the stores are consistently friendly and accommodating to visiting authors, and I get to meet some really interesting people, many of whom, thank God, buy a book or two.  I and my publisher will be forever grateful to these store managers and their regional bosses for allowing me to come as often as I do.

Occasionally I even meet a "fan," although I try not to let that go to my head.  Anytime I start to feel the least bit cocky, fanwise or famewise, something always happens that reminds me of my insignificance. True story: a guy rushed up to me at a signing awhile back, said he was so excited to finally meet me, and added, "I've read every one of your books, Mr. Grisham."  I almost hated to reveal my true identity, and when I did he wasn't too pleased about it either.  He slunk away looking as if I had just foreclosed on his home and shot his dog.  The sad truth is, the only things JG and I have in common is our home state and our first name.  My books aren't even novels; they're collections of short mystery stories.

The view from the cheap seats 

Even though I am but a tadpole in the ocean, I can't help feeling incredibly fortunate.  I'm not a famous writer and never will be (I'm not even sure I want to be), but I thank my lucky stars that I'm in a position to do every day what I love to do and that I've been able to achieve some small level of success at it.  How many people can make that claim?  And now and then--not often, of course, but now and then--someone e-mails me or phones me or sees me at a signing or a conference or our local Wendy's and tells me he or she enjoys my stories. That's a heartwarming thing for any writer to hear.

Besides, I just love the writing process.  It's therapy, it's fun, and--let's face it--it's a pleasant distraction from that real world where unpleasant things so often happen.  Unpleasant things happen in my stories too, but that's okay--those are things that I make up, and I can deal with them in ways that I also make up.  Spinning tales is not only puzzle solving (which I love as well), it's the ultimate power trip.  In my little fictional world, I'm the emperor.  I can make these people do anything I want them to do, anytime I want them to do it.  Where else does that happen?

I heard or read someplace that it is the height of arrogance to assume that anyone would ever actually want to read the things that we dream up and put on paper.  Whoever said that was probably right.  But the fact is, when someone does tell me he likes what I've created--whether it's an editor or a reader--that kind of validation makes me feel anything but arrogant.  It makes me feel grateful, relieved, and humbled.  And, at the risk of repeating myself, unbelievably lucky to be doing something that's this much fun.

Social insecurity

If writers are really as confident as most readers think we are, why is praise of almost any kind so good to hear?  Well, it's because we're not as confident as most readers think we are.  Almost all the writers I know, whether successful or aspiring, struggle with self-doubt.  Most of them tell me that when they finish writing a story or a novel, they wonder quite seriously whether they'll ever be able to come up with another one--or at least another one that anybody would want to read.  We've all heard the adage about only being as good as your latest effort.  Because of that, we writers like to be--and need to be--patted on the head regularly and reassured that all is well.

I once heard bestselling mystery author Steve Hamilton (a great guy as well as a great writer) describe the way he felt when, early in his career, he took the stage to receive a prestigious award--the Edgar, I think it was, for his novel A Cold Day in Paradise.  He said he walked up in front of the huge crowd, looked out at the vast sea of faces, and thought: What are all you people doing in my dream?

I like that.  I can relate to that.  Fiction writers not only create dreams, they sometimes walk around inside them as well.

But I do know I'm not John Grisham.

BY THE WAY . . . tomorrow is Mother's Day.  Don't forget to set your mothers back one hour.

10 May 2012

The Circuit Administrator's Tale

Here's another story from the old days when I was a circuit administrator:

     I was driving home from work, from the courthouse, going down Main Street, and I saw an old battered car sitting in a church’s parking lot to the right of me.  It was angled funny, and as I got nearer, it started to move.  My sixth sense clicked in, and somehow I knew he wasn’t going to stop coming out, even though I had the right of way, being on the main drag.  So I stopped just before the corner of this parking lot, and he came out, gunning the engine, burning rubber:  and coming right AT me.  Head on, without stopping, a fixed look on his face.  And there I was stuck, while this maniac played chicken with me with no place for me to even get out of his way.  At the very last minute he swerved, missing me and my front bumper by about an inch, and got on his side of the road.  But he was still so close he drove over the base of the lamppost in the center of the street, and nicked another one, and I watched his hub cap or wheel rim fly off.   
     And then he was gone.  Now I'd memorized his license plate - I had nothing else to do and nowhere to go while he was gunning his car at me, other than try to keep breathing and not pee my pants - so I went straight home and called the police.  I knew every cop in town - and in about 14 counties at the time - so it didn't take long for one to come by.  I told him what had happened, gave him the license plate number, and they found him in about fifteen minutes. There are perks to being a circuit administrator in a small town in a rural state...   :)
     When they found him, he admitted the whole thing.  He’d just had a huge fight with his wife and before he left home he’d busted out all the windows in his house and maybe some other stuff.  Then he was still so angry he decided to use his car as a weapon against the first woman he saw:  me.   His license was revoked, so he wasn't even supposed to be driving in the first place, but that was irrelevant to his thinking.
     That happened on Friday afternoon.  Monday morning, I told the Judge about what had happened. Later, the State's Attorney came to run over the court calendar, and the Judge brought up the incident.  
     The Judge asked "What did you charge him with?"
     "Reckless driving and reckless driving with a revoked license."  Two misdemeanors, very standard.
     "What about aggravated assault?"  
     The SA shrugged.  "Nah."
     "I think you should charge him with aggravated assault."
     "Mm hmm."
     "I said," (That got the SA's attention)  "I think you should charge him with aggravated assault.  Or attempted murder."
     "You're kidding."
     "No, I'm not.  He tried to kill her.  I want him charged with aggravated assault at least."
     So the SA charged the guy with aggravated assault, which is a Class 1 Felony.  The guy - who finally  figured out that he'd aimed his car at the wrong woman ("Man, you tried to kill the judge's CA!") - packed his bags and left town in the middle of the night, and was never heard of again.  
     As you can imagine, it felt good to have the judge stand up for me and protect me and all that.  Until I found out from the sheriff's department that the guy had been driving them nuts for a while. They knew he was dealing drugs, but they couldn't ever quite catch him.  Having him leave town was just as good as having him arrested.  And he'd never dare come back, because that charge would be waiting for him for - well, for a meth guy, which he was, basically forever.  
     So, was the judge standing up for me, or being diabolically clever on getting rid of a standing nuisance?  Or both?  Another day in the life...

09 May 2012

Presidential (S)elections

I haven't been having a cold like Leigh, or trouble with my leg like Rob, but what I've been having is like a combination of the worst aspects of both. I've been having a presidential election. I say 'I', but I really mean 'they', because although I'm in France, I'm not altogether of it, if you catch my drift. I can vote in local and regional elections being a European, but for any Rosbif who tries to muscle in on the choosing of the Head Grenouille, the shrift he gets is decidedly on the short side.
It's been a bad-tempered campaign, often peevish and at times verging on the distinctly shirty.
So to get away from this parliament of crows and the not unfrenzied activity which has surrounded it, I decided to catch up with my reading. Our town library now boasts a vast(ish) English language section with a high proportion of crime/mystery novels. From Block, Connelly, Coben and Cornwell  all the way to Westlake. Wodehouse is also there to ease the fractious mind.

My selection this last month has largely consisted of books I should have read long ago, but have inexplicably failed to. So it's been Catch-Up time. But you can't ever really catch-up, can you? And my reading has been interfered with by the thought that people will say incredulously "You haven't read that? But everybody's read that. Years ago!"

Well, okay. We can't all be perfect and I don't get out much. But three of this month's books have made for a fine distraction from the worritsome Gallic punch-up. What I like in a book is  (of course) a good story well told, but I also love to learn about something new to me. And these three have all taught me something new, told me about something of which I was completely ignorant. Coincidentally, all three concern America, but I don't mind that.

The first is The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. This is a very good book indeed. I've now stopped classing D. Lehane as a great crime writer and started thinking of him as a great writer full stop. And what fascinated me was the back-drop of Boston in 1919. I had never heard of the Boston police strike and most of all, I had never heard of the Boston Molasses Disaster. If anyone had spoken to me about it before I came across the book, I would have assumed they were talking about a Monty Python sketch. But the horrid reality was anything but funny. And the fact that it has Babe Ruth as a sort of Greek Chorus turning up throughout the narrative is a clever added bonus.

My second selection is The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld. I am always a little wary about detective novels written about actual historical figures, but this is an exception. I didn't know about Sigmund Freud's visit to New York in 1909, and his fractious relationship with Carl Jung, so here again I learned something new. The (fictional) murder plot which takes place during the visit and with which Freud becomes involved is well constructed but again, it was the back-drop that entertained me the most. The New York of 1909, with its towering nineteen-floor (gasp) skyscrapers, the Manhatten Bridge as yet unbuilt, the social New York of the Four Hundred Families - all beautifully drawn.

Third and not least, I read this.

And it frightened the bejasus out of me.

After 'No Country For Old Men', I had to amend my List Of People To Be Really, Really Scared Of, to include Anton Chigurh, but nothing prepared me for this. Why on earth hadn't I read this before? It is one of the strangest, most terrible, most terrifying things I have ever read. I kept having to stop during one of McCarthy's long hair-raising paragraphs, to take a few deep breaths and tell myself it was only a book. But it isn't only a book. One review (the NYT, I think) called it a journey 'through a hell without purpose'. And that it is and then some. There is no salvation in this book, no redemption for anyone. The end is as terrible as the beginning. It is dark, bloody and pitiless.

And what I didn't know about was John Joel Glanton , his band of scalphunters and their horrid, bloody work in 1849. And worst of all, I didn't know about Glanton's appalling second-in-command, the dreadful Judge Holden. And now I know, I'm not sure I wasn't better off not.

What mesmerises is McCarthy's English which is like no English language anyone one has written or  read before. It isn't simply the repetitive use of 'and', nor the lack of quotes around the dialogue. It is the way he drifts into near-Biblical  or quasi-mediaeval mode, his use of the archaic word, the outmoded phrase when he is describing the indescriptible which raised the hair on my neck. I am going to have to read it again to make sure I had it right the first time. But not just yet. I have to read some P.G.Wodehouse to settle my nerves.

France has elected a new President.

And I have elected Judge Holden to head my List of People To Be Really Really Scared Of, which now reads:
1. Judge Holden
2. Anton Chigurh
3. Roy Batty
4 Keyser Sose

They just keep on coming.

08 May 2012

The Devil's Dictionary

Ambrose Gwinett Bierce
    In 1913 noted columnist and short story author Ambrose Gwinett Bierce, then 71 years old, rode his horse across the Rio Grande River into the Mexican town of Ciudad Juarez and from there into oblivion.  Bierce’s intention was to observe first-hand the Mexican revolution, which at the time was well underway.  Bierce managed to track down the Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa in Ciudad Juarez and then reportedly tagged along with Villa’s ragtag army of revolutionaries at least as far as the Mexican city of Chihuahua.  While there is some argument among historians, apparently the last communication from Bierce was a letter written to a close friend, Blanche Partintron, on December 26, 1913.  Only notes concerning the letter, safeguarded by Bierce’s secretary, survive, but according to those notes the letter closed with the following: 

    “As to me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination."  

    Thereafter Ambrose Bierce disappeared without a trace. 

Pancho Villa

   There are many theories concerning what eventually happened to Bierce.  In The Old Gringo, by Carlos Fuentes, the author speculates that Bierce was eventually shot in the back while serving with Pancho Villa’s band of desperados.  The1998 film version of Fuentes’ book, featuring Gregory Peck (in one of his last roles) as Bierce, opts for the same ending.  Local legends in the Mexican Sierras hold that Bierce, who had reportedly become somewhat critical of Pancho Villa toward the end, was executed on Villa’s orders before a firing squad.

    Bierce was always a dark fellow who marched to a different drummer.  The essayist Clifton Fadiman has argued that "Bierce was never a great writer. He has painful faults of vulgarity and cheapness of imagination.”  However, Fadiman also notes that Bierce’s “style, for one thing, will preserve him; and the purity of his misanthropy, too, will help to keep him alive."  Fadiman’s criticism of Bierce may be unfounded – Bierce wrote many columns and short stories, and his stand-out short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, to single out one, has likely been the basis of more television and radio dramas – most recently an episode of Lost – than almost any other short story.  But Fadiman is unarguably correct in his observation that Bierce’s work, and his dark streak, have kept him alive.

    While there is uncertainty as to how Ambrose Bierce met his end, what is certain is that at least one great, albeit brooding, work that he left behind vigorously survives:  The Devil’s Dictionary.   Since 1911 The Devil’s Dictionary, originally titled The Cynic’s Word Book, has never been out of print.  Thanks to the expiring nature of copyrights and the wonders of Project Gutenberg it is also currently available on line and for free.

    The Devil’s Dictionary, for those unfamiliar with the work, is comprised of tongue-in-cheek definitions for common English words.  The definitions were written by Bierce during the period from 1881 through 1906, and were originally offered up in his newspaper columns.  They derive from the commonly understood meaning of each of the defined words, but then tilt that meaning on its axis in a manner that reveals a darker underlying truth.  The definitions, therefore, are not unlike paraprosdokia, the subject of a previous article, but they differ in that they are uniformly (not just occasionally) dark, and are unsparingly cynical. 

    But enough of introductions.  Let’s dive in and examine some prime examples, still relevant after over one hundred years:
  • ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.
  • ACCORDION, n. An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.  (A little close to home, but I will address that in a subsequent column!)
  • APOLOGIZE, v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offence.
  • ARDOR, n. The quality that distinguishes love without knowledge.
  • BAIT, n. A preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The best kind is beauty.
  • BAROMETER, n. An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.
  • BEFRIEND, v.t. To make an ingrate.
  • BIGOT, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.
  • BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
  • BOUNDARY, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other.
  • CANNON, n. An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.
  • CHILDHOOD, n. The period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth -- two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.
  • CLAIRVOYANT, n. A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron, namely, that he is a blockhead.
  • COMFORT, n. A state of mind produced by contemplation of a neighbor's uneasiness.
  • CONGRATULATION, n. The civility of envy.
  • CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
  • CRITIC, n. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.
  • CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.
  • DEFENCELESS, adj. Unable to attack.
  • DESTINY, n. A tyrant's authority for crime and fool's excuse for failure.
  • DIPLOMACY, n. The patriotic art of lying for one's country.
  • DISCUSSION, n. A method of confirming others in their errors.
  • EGOTIST, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
  • FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
  • FIDELITY, n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.
  • GENEROUS, adj. Originally this word meant noble by birth and was rightly applied to a great multitude of persons. It now means noble by nature and is taking a bit of a rest.
  • HASH, x. There is no definition for this word -- nobody knows what hash is.
  • HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.
  • HOMICIDE, n. The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homocide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another -- the classification is for advantage of the lawyers.
  • IGNORAMUS, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about.
  • INCUMBENT, n. A person of the liveliest interest to the outcumbents.
  • INFANCY, n. The period of our lives when, according to Wordsworth, "Heaven lies about us." The world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.
  • INJURY, n. An offense next in degree of enormity to a slight.
  • JUSTICE, n. A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.
  • KILT, n. A costume sometimes worn by Scotchmen in America and Americans in Scotland.
  • LAWFUL, adj. Compatible with the will of a judge having jurisdiction.
  • LAWYER, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.
  • LOQUACITY, n. A disorder which renders the sufferer unable to curb his tongue when you wish to talk.
  • MAGNIFICENT, adj. Having a grandeur or splendor superior to that to which the spectator is accustomed, as the ears of an ass, to a rabbit, or the glory of a glowworm, to a maggot.
  • MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
  • MONKEY, n. An arboreal animal which makes itself at home in genealogical trees.
  • NIHILIST, n. A Russian who denies the existence of anything but Tolstoy. The leader of the school is Tolstoy.
  • NON-COMBATANT, n. A dead Quaker.
  • OATH, n. In law, a solemn appeal to the Deity, made binding upon the conscience by a penalty for perjury.
  • OUTDO, v.t. To make an enemy.
  • PATIENCE, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
  • PEACE, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.
  • PIETY, n. Reverence for the Supreme Being, based upon His supposed resemblance to man.
  • PLEASE, v. To lay the foundation for a superstructure of imposition.
  • POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.
  • PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
  • PREROGATIVE, n. A sovereign's right to do wrong
  • REALLY, adv. Apparently.
  • RESIDENT, adj. Unable to leave.
  • RESOLUTE, adj. Obstinate in a course that we approve.
  • REVERENCE, n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man.
  • RUM, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers.
  • SAINT, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
  • SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one's self and to nobody else.
  • TWICE, adv. Once too often.
  • ULTIMATUM, n. In diplomacy, a last demand before resorting to concessions.
  • UN-AMERICAN, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.
  • VOTE, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
    Some months back the Washington Post ran a contest in its weekly Style Invitational to come up with additional definitions in the manner of Bierce.  Herewith, the top four entries and winners:
  •  HERO, n.  Someone who, in a crisis, exceeds our lowest expectation.  (Melissa Balmain, Rochester New York)
  •  MUSIC, n. Songs you listened to in college (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)
  • GRAMMAR, n.  The rules of language as spoken by the generation immediately preceding one's own. (Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, New York)
  • SUPERCOMMITTEE, n. A committee designed by a committee (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase Maryland)
See you in two weeks!

07 May 2012


by Jan Grape

Jan Grape
I had really wanted to see the Super moon as the media called it and touted it to be something special to see. But it was solid cloud cover at my house and there was no moon to be seen. But I comforted myself that I'd just look at it on TV or on computer or on my phone. Gosh we've come such a long way, Baby. If we don't have a chance to see or hear something we can just look it up on our computers or you can record it on your TV. You never have to miss anything and yet sometimes I wish I had missed something.

Take the current political campaign. We waded through debate after debate, ad after ad until our stomach turned and Mr. Romney is now FINALLY the Republican candidate. Yippee. Now we've got six more months of debate after debate, ad after ad until our stomach turns listening to the same old, same old stuff from both sides of the political aisles. And guess what, you can watch it all on TV or your phone or you can TiVo the whole affair and watch at your leisure.

Time was when you could only know about something that happened from your newspaper or radio. And things came to you at a Pony Express pace. There's something rather calming about that idea.

And gosh, NO. I'm not going to open a political debate but my own personal feelings are strong right now. There are a lot of cock-eyed things going on in this country against women. My own beloved state of Texas is a prime example. There are some in our country who want to roll back the clock and put a foot down on women's throats and trounce all over women's rights. I strongly oppose that idea and will continue to fight against that. We ALL were created EQUAL.

I think I did already announce here once about a new anthology that I recently co-edited. But I'm not above shameless promotion. It's titled MURDER HERE, MURDER THERE and follows the first anthology by the members of the American Crime Writers League, (ACWL) MURDER PAST, MURDER PRESENT. There are nineteen count 'em stories by our multi-talented, multi-award winning members. The setting are as diverse as you would imagine. From east coast to west coast and multi places in between and if that's not enough to excite you there's a couple stories with exotic locales and times. I have a story "The Confession," featuring my female private eye characters, Jenny Gordon and C.J. Gunn, who I hadn't written about in several years. It was fun to visit with them again. The book is from Twilight Times and will be released the end of May, so look for it at your favorite Indy Bookstore.

It's already been summertime hot in Central Texas, so much so that I long for travels to cooler climes in an RV. However, if what I've seen lately on TV, even the cooler locations in the US have have heat waves and places you expect to be cool aren't necessarily so. Guess I'll just have to wait and long for December which is now only six months away.

I have two reunions to attend this year if I can manage the time and money to travel. The first if my 55th (gasp) high school reunion on June 1st. Since it's in the state of TX, I'm going to try to manage to get to that one. The second is the Grape Family reunion which will be in NJ, actually right outside of NYC on starting on July 1st. The family is so scattered we only hold reunions every three years and we have them at different part of the country where some nice family member lives. That person or persons plan the food, sight-seeing, partying, and hosting for around 50 people for around a week. It's fun and most enjoyable unless you are hosting and then it can be a lot of work. I have to admit I've hosted it three times. It really is fun to see everyone and to meet the new who have joined by marriage or to have been born into the family. It's a wild and crazy bunch of GRAPEs I have to admit.

Guess that pretty much covers my random thoughts for the day. Are any or all of you still writing?