23 December 2013

Hanging In, Hanging Out, Hanging On


by Fran Rizer



I'm certain someone taught you all about prepositions long ago, but this cartoon caught my eye, and I decided that would be my topic today.  Rather than make this seem like a lesson, I've written an exercise to see how much you remember from those old school days. Please decide on your answers before going to the bottom to check them.   


QUESTIONS

1.  What's the difference between a preposition and a proposition?

2.  Who recorded "The Preposition Song"?  Why is it called that?

3.  Who is credited with coining the rule that writers shouldn't end sentences with prepositions?




4.  What word should "of" never replace?

5.  What preposition should be used with the word "different"?

6.  Who responded to an editor's demand that a sentence be        reworded because it ended with a preposition with this statement:
"This is the sort of English up with which I cannot put"?

ANSWERS

1. A preposition shows a relationship while a proposition sometimes starts a relationship.
Tanya Tucker

2.  Tanya Tucker recorded "Hanging In."  The hook for the chorus is "Hanging in, hanging out, hanging on."

3. John Dryden, a seventeenth century poet, is credited with the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition.  Throughout history, writers have sometimes broken this rule.  Sometimes the preposition at the end of a sentence is needed while at other times, it is unnecessary and incorrect.
John Dryden

Examples:  Where is the dog? Correct.  Where is the dog at? Incorrect.
That is something I cannot agree with. Correct.
Which team are you on?  Correct.  Note that Which team are you? changes the meaning. 

4.  "Of" should never replace "have." 
Example:  I should have known he would do that.  Correct.
I should of known he would do that. Incorrect. 

5.  Grammatically correct according to text books is the phrase "different from," but that's a frequent error made by many speakers and writers who use "different than."
Winston Churchill

6.  That sentence is attributed to Sir Winston Churchill.

BONUS QUESTION 1
What's wrong with the answer to question two?

BONUS QUESTION 2 (Multiple Choice)
Which is proper?
(A) between you and I
(B) between you and me
(C) between me and you


BONUS QUESTION 1 ANSWER
In the answer to question 2, the "in," "out," and "on" aren't used as prepositions.  They're are all used as adverbs modifying "hanging."

BONUS QUESTION 2 ANSWER
Many people say or write (A) between you and I.  For some reason, they think "I" sounds "more proper."  (A) is incorrect. 

Even more people, who don't care if they're proper or not, use (C) between me and you.  (C) is incorrect because grammatically "you" is named before the speaker.  

The correct answer is (B) between you and me because between is a preposition and the correct usage is to follow a preposition with the objective case of a pronoun, which is "me," while "I is the subjective case.

A personal question from me to you... I hope I haven't insulted anyone with these questions.  I'm sure all of our readers and writers made a perfect score. Now I have a question that I'd really like every one of you to answer through comments.

DO YOU STAND IN LINE OR ON LINE?

In the South, we stand in line to wait for something.  We tell children, "Please get in line," but many non-southerners say, "I had to stand on line to get the tickets."

What do you say and can anyone find a definitive answer whether in line is correct or on line?

Until we meet again, take care of … you!

22 December 2013

When Good Teachers Go Bad


by Leigh Lundin

Last week, I wrote about the attorney who argued his client was too rich for prison, and this week’s article began with a similar theme until it morphed into something else.

Kristin L.S. Beck is an athletics trainer who had sex with at least one minor. Although a juvenile, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not consider an adult engaging in sex with a child 15 years or older a felony. The 30-year-old was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor, and is not required to register as a sexual offender.

Beck’s lawyer argued for no sentence at all, claiming his client was the victim and added she voluntarily forfeited her license as an athletic trainer working with students.

“I'm not sure jail time would achieve anything,” he said.

The judge compromised, giving her six months behind bars, but he chastised her for betraying the public trust.

What we think we know

As I mulled over the article, it seemed to me I’d been reading a lot about women teachers having sex with minors. Curious, I googled.

teachers apple
One of the first sites I turned up listed thirty-some teachers. Naturally, Florida is one of the worst offenders. Only three were male, one out of eleven. I googled again, recognizing such names as too-pretty-for-prison Debra LaFave who prosecutors and judges in two Florida counties let walk. And Mary Kay Letourneau, the teacher who bedded one of her sixth-grade students and, after being given a pass by the judge couldn’t stay away from him, and following re-arrest and time  in the clink, eventually married him. And Pamela Smart who persuaded her 15-year-old paramour to murder her husband.

Wait. I know teachers. For some reason, I’ve dated an inordinate number of educators and many more are friends, including my writing buddies. Every one I know is dedicated, hard-working, and concerned about their students. It has to be every vulnerable teacher’s nightmare to be falsely accused. But, as every teacher knows, there are always a few bad apples.

What’s going on here?

Something else is happening. One writer bemoans that dozens of women teachers are being accused of sexual acts. As it turns out, the writer was wrong: not dozens, but hundreds. Names poured out of my screen. Hardly digging at all, in less than an hour I turned up more than 400 cases:

Kelly A•••Christina G••••••••Alexa N••••••
Tabitha A••••Donna Carr G•••••••Amie Lou N••••
Susan Christina A•••••••Kelly Ann G•••••Linda N••
Shelley A••••Jennalin G•••••-C••••Cheryl N•••••
Toni A•••••Lindsay G•••••-Y••••Angela Sue N••
Brianne A•••••Ellen G•••••••Kristine N•••
Tina Marie A••••Jacquelyn Faith G•••••••Rebecca N••••••
Barbara A•••••••Sandra ‘Beth’ G•••••Christine N••••
Ethel A•••••••Rachelle G••••••Amy N••••
Melissa A•••••••Robin G•••••••••Amy N••••••••
Melissa Ann A•••••••Stephanie G••••••••••Carrie O’C•••••
Bethany A•••••••Jennifer M. G•••Kristi Dance O••••
Jamie A••••••••Lisa G••••Christina O•••••
Melissa A•••••Helen G••••••Jody O••••••
Amanda A••••Brandy Lynn G•••••••Brenda O••••••
Kari Jo A•••••••Christel C. G••••••Laura P•••
Sherri Lynn B••••Marla G••••••-H••••••Angela P•••••
Brenda B••••••••••Lisa G•••••••Janet P•••••
Leslie B••••Jamie Nicole H•••Cameo P••••
Erica B••••Summer Michelle H•••••Karen P•••••
Pamela B•••••Emily Suzanne H•••••••April P•••••••••
Melissa B•••Katherine J. H•••••Alison P•••
Nicole Andrea B•••••••Emma Jean H••••Naomi P••••
Bella B••••••Dr. Allison H•••••••Carrie P••••••
Janelle B••••••Georgianne H••••••Kelsey P•••••••
Ashley Jo B••••Stephanie Diane H•••••Candace R. P•••••
Amy B•••Holly H••••••Linda P••••••
Kristin L. S. B•••Cathy H•••••••••Kaci P••••••••
Rebecca B•••••Kristal Renee H••••Nicole P••••••••
Allanah B•••••-W••••Maria Guzman H••••••••Nicola P•••••••
Shannon B•••Shannon H••••••Michelle P••••••
Anna B••••••••••Wendy L. H••••••Julie P••••••••
Sandra L. B••••••Katherine H••••Stephanie R•••••
Janelle Marie B•••Rachel Ann H••••Shebana R•••••
Joy B•••••••••Symantha H••••Beth R••••••
Michelle B••••••Deanna H••••••Makayla Dawn R••••••
Deanna B•••Becci H•••Lauren R••••••
Rebecca B•••••Crissy H••••Danielle R•••
Rebecca B•••••••Adrianne H••••••Deborah R•••••
Sandra B••••••Meredith H•••••Courtney Sue R••••••
Loni B•••••••Abigail H•••••••Jennifer R•••
Valynne B•••••Sarah H•••••Claire R•••••••
Courtney B•••••Rachel L. H•••Kristy C. R•••••
Rebecca Ann B•••••••Diana H•••Karen R••••••
Kristyn B•••••Kanesa H••••••Liza-Anne R••••••
Keri Ann B•••••Stacy H••••••Rebecca R••••••••-S••••••
Cheryl B••••••Cynthia H••••••Trina R•••••
Mariella B••••••Emily Elizabeth H••••••Valerie R••••••
Sherry B•••••Amy Lynn H•••••Pamela R••••• T•••••
Sarah B••••••Christine H••••Marcie L. R•••••••
Alini B••••Janet H•••••Sharon R•••••••••
Christy Anne B••••Ellen H•••Erica R••••••
Rosanna Encinas B••••Heather I•••••Kellie R•••
Laura-Anne B•••••••Amy Bass J••••••Tamara R••••
Rita B•••Hope J•••••Amira S•’D•
Sheree B•••••••Nicole J••••••Maria S•••
Whitney Dow B•••Urszula J••••••••Megan S••••••••
Ashley B••••••Courtney J••••••Kristy S••••••-T•••••••
Rachel B•••••••Amber S. J•••••••Donna Lou S••••••
Stephanie B•••••••Sarah J•••Lynn S•••••••
Kimberly B••••Christine Marie J•••••••Christine S•••••••
Lucinda Rodriguez C•••••••Kasey J•••••Stacy S••••••
Christine C••••Hope J••••Jennifer S••••••
Wendy C•••••Marie J••••••Dawn Marie S•••••••••••••••
Diana C•••••Danielle J••••Wendie A. S•••••••••
Christina C••••••Sarah J••••April S••••••
Gwen C••••••Christine J•••••Heather S••••••
Katheryn L. C••••••Meredith K•••Beth S•••••••
Harriett Louise C•••••Elisa K•••••••Bethany S•••••••
Amy Kathleen C•••••Denise K•••••Leah S••••••
Katie C••••••••Rebecca Lee K•••••Michelle S•••••••
Melissa C••••Jodi A. K••••••Natasha S••••
Beth Ann C••••••Heather K••••••Joan Marie S•••••
Heather C•••••••Tammy K••Pamela S••••
Whitney C•••••Irene K•••Christy Lee S••••
Michelle Rose C••••Mariane K••••••Sheral Lee S••••
Jodi C•••••Kirsten K•••••Melissa S•••
Jennifer C••••Haven K••••••••••Samantha S••••••
Lisa Lynette C••••Jodi K••••••••••Amanda S•••••
Susan C•••••••Anne K••••Mary Jo S••••
Tammy C••••••Melissa Diana K•••Christine S•••••
Stephanie C•••Abby K•••••Ashley S••••••
Angela Christine C•••••Kym K•••••Yvette S••••••
Brittni C••••••Nicole K•••••••Stephanie Ann S••••
Angela Renee C••••Michelle K•••Angela S•••••••
Andrea C••••••Debra Beasley L•F•••JoAnn S•••••••
Amanda Leigh C•••••Adrienne L•••••••Erin Baynard S••••••
Kellie Ann C•••••••Margaret L•••••••Meghan Allison S••••••
Julie Gay C•••••Shanice L••••••Jenifer S••••••
Lauren C•••••••Melissa L•••••••Elizabeth S•••
Megan C••••••Lisa L•••••Sara S•••••
Kimberly C••••Christina L•••••Lakina S•••••
Tara Lynn C••••Heather L•• B••••••••Kristen S•••••••
Elyse C•••••••Autumn L•••••••Beulah Nicole G••••••• S•••••
Kahtanna C•••Mary Kay L•••••••••Abbie Jane S••••••
Kelly Lynn D••••••Vicky Lynn L•••••••Traci T•••
Heather D•••••••••Jill L••••Jennifer T••••••••
Gay D•••••••-S••••••Amy Gail L•••••Michele T•••••
Kathia Maria D••••Angela Simmons L•••••Katherine T••
Margaret •• B••••••••Jennifer Dawn L•••••Tanya T•••••••••
Teri K. D••••Elizabeth Claire L••••••Erin T•••••
Melissa Michelle D•••Nicole L•••Heather T••••••
Melinda D•••••Chantella L•••••Lauren T•••
Diane D•M••••••-S•••••Julia L•••Deborah Lee T•••••
Jennifer D••••••Kimberly L••••Rebekah T•••
Megan D•••••Jennifer M••••••Sarah L. T••••••
Melinda D••••••Jennifer M••••Gay Lyn T•••••
Julie A. D••••Kesha D. M•••••Pamela Joan Rogers T•••••
Erica D•P•••Kristen M••••••Jennifer T••••
Nadia D•••Lisa Robyn M••••••••Erica U•••••••
Cara D•••••Amber M•••••••Michelle V••M••••
Stefanie D••••••••Christy M•••••Rachelle V•••••••
Pamela D••••-M••••Katryna M•••••Sheila V••••••
Dorothy Elizabeth D••••Elisa M•••••••••Jamie W••••
Jennifer D••••••Andrea M•••••••Jaymee W••••••
Stephanie D•••••Tina M••••Danielle W••••
Tara D•••••••Lindsay M••••••Stephanie Jo W••••••
Christine D•••Cindy M••••Allenna W•••
Andrea E••••Melissa Kellie M•B••Donna W••••••••
Susan E•••Christine M•C•••••Amanda W••••••
Amy E••••Carrie M•C•••••••Gina Marie W••••••
Christine E•••••Cristina M•C•••April W•••••
Rhianna E••••Melissa Dawn M•C•••Kelly McKenzy W•••••
Amy Rita E••••••••Michelle M•C••••••Melissa W••••
Celeste E••••••Amy M•E••••••Crystal W••••
Teresa E••••••••Lynnette M•I•••••Dawn W•••••
Jennifer E•••••••Regina M•K••Kathy W••••
Darcie E••••Alexandra Elizabeth M•L•••Shelley W••••
Michelle F•••••Erin M•L•••Jennifer W••••••
Diana Leigh F••••••Amberlee Evonne M•••••Heather W••••••
Rachel L. F••••••Elizabeth M•••••••••Amber Renea W•••••••••
Laura Lynn F••••••Amy N. M•••••Christy A. W•••••
Marcy R. F•••••Kelly K. M•••••Kacy W•••••
Carol F••••••••Julie Ann M••••Tawni W••••••••
Stephanie F•••••••Michelle M•••••Robin W•••••
Ashley F•••••Cris M•••••Emma W•••
Lisa F•••••Emily M•••••Jessica Bailey W•••••••
Ronda F•••Alison M••••••Toni Lynn W••••
Andrea F••Melissa M•••Kimme A. W••••
Chandra F•••••Elizabeth M•••Amy Y••••••••
Natalie F•••••••Antonia M••••-J•••••Shannon Y••••
Lynne F••••••Franca M••••-J•••••Melanie K. Y••••
Kenzi F•••••Allison M••••••••Heather Lynne Z••
Gail E. G••••Karolyn N••••Michelle Z••••••••
Zenna G••••••Sheryl A. N•••••••Maria Z•••••
Some of the above cases have yet to go to trial while charges in others have been dropped. A person is not judged guilty until determined by a court of law.

This is a sizable sampling, not a comprehensive list, but I'm making a point. Columnists casually speak of 'dozens', but there appear to be hundreds, perhaps thousands plus many unreported.

I could be wrong, but I don’t for a moment believe predation by female teachers (and aides, coaches, PTA members, etc.) outnumbers male’s by eleven to one. Slate writer William Saletan attempts to extrapolate from general rape statistics. Contrary to an US Department of Education survey that says in 2004 that 43% of complaints were against women, he claims assaults by male teachers outnumber female by 25-to-1 and echoes popular opinion that female aggressors are “less vile.” He intimates that male ‘victims’ are almost grown up and can better tolerate harassment.

He appears to miss the point that many Americans don’t regard sex with a female teacher a crime. Thanks to reluctance of victims and their families, fewer female teachers are accused, fewer yet are charged, fewer are prosecuted, and still fewer are given jail or prison sentences and required to register as sexual offenders. It’s a bit like that tree falling in the forest: If the teacher is let off, is it a crime?

As a 2007 NPR segment pointed out, fewer women teachers face criminal penalties. The day after Debra LaFave was allowed to walk, a male teacher was given twenty years for the equivalent crime. Elsewhere, a former Miss Texas contestant had her case dismissed without trial. The grand jury found the relationship ‘endearing and flirtatious.’

What’s a crime in one state may not be a crime in another. If the age of consent is 15 or 16, then a felony may not have been committed. Worsening the problem, laws that acknowledge women can be capable of sexual assault have been slow to catch up. One teacher said an internet search she conducted suggested she wasn’t engaging in a crime. Often, boys and even their families refuse to cooperate with authorities. The British National Association of Women Teachers has said that teachers who have sex with pupils over the age of consent should not be placed on sex offender registers.

The Association went on to say statutory rape laws were out of date. They weren’t alone. In the comments following some of the articles I researched, many readers suggested the age of consent should be lowered to 14. Fourteen! This age was the one that cropped up most often in the case searches (varying from ages 9 to 17).

Former US Secretary of Education and former Houston School Superintendent Roderick Paige taught us thousands of ways to manipulate school statistics. We don’t know how many teachers are simply dismissed rather than prosecuted, which makes a shambles of statistics maintained by Departments of Education. We don’t know how often a woman is allowed to plead to a misdemeanor or non-sex crime, whereas her male counterpart may be charged with statutory rape, sexual assault, or creative charges like false imprisonment.

The adage ‘Women get months, men get years’ isn’t quite accurate, but New Jersey courts convict a majority of men but less than half of women, and they sentence men to terms 50% longer than that of women. Nancy Grace says, “Why is it when a man rapes a little girl, he goes to jail, but when a woman rapes a boy, she had a breakdown?

While I’m surprised by the mounting evidence, I am willing to adjust my stereotype. I once consulted for Sinai Hospital outside Baltimore where they gathered reams of statistics. According to one curious number, domestic battery by women outnumbered assaults by men. (While more wives assaulted husbands, men tended to inflict more harm because of the sheer physical strength.)

I mentioned this to a psychiatrist friend in New York and later to another in Virginia. Both confirmed that finding. The Virginia doctor said she believed the reason was that women didn’t feel constraints, whereas sensible males have been taught to never hit a woman. The reverse isn’t taught.

With that little bit of knowledge, I could understand more or less equal numbers, but without hard statistics it’s difficult to judge. As mentioned the other day in the comments of a SleuthSayers article, our society doesn’t trust men. At the same time, we take greater steps to protect our daughters than our sons. Because women teachers are trusted, is it possible some see an opportunity? Or, more kindly, does emotion and sensation slip under their guard?

This phenomenon isn't a fluke and we can’t blame incidents on ‘trashy women’. These are women with bachelors degrees, sometimes masters and doctorates, as in the case of Dr. Allison Hargrave, seducer of a troubled 13-year-old girl. These women are articulate, smart, poised community figures. Many have won awards. They held such promise.

And now?

Like many men, it’s much easier for me to sympathize with women, but can’t we find a better way to deal with this situation?

Why does one teacher receive a 25- or 30-year sentence while branded a pedophile and another's given no sentence at all? I’ve suggested before in a different context, we need to balance sentencing. First, we must decide whether an act constitutes a crime and at what level: Misdemeanor? Felony? Or simply bad judgment? And once that's determined, we need to be fair, sensible, and consistent.

The too-pretty-for-prison defense has to vanish as do overly harsh sentences. Educator-of-the-Year Ethel Anderson wasn’t pretty and she wasn’t white. She received 38 years for her relationship with a 12-year-old. Hundreds of others received a virtual slap on the wrist if they were reprimanded at all.

Society clearly has both a problem and a vested interest. We entrust our children to our teachers, people we want to care about and train our children. How do we solve this problem?

21 December 2013

Annual Report


by John M. Floyd

Like all writers, I keep records of my submissions, acceptances, rejections, withdrawals, publication dates, and so forth. I can't say this kind of recordkeeping is fun--I'm an engineer, not an accountant--but it's a necessary evil if you write and send off as many short stories as I do. Well, I take that back: recording acceptances is fun. Rejections, not so much. My first impulse when I receive rejection letters is always to delete them from my email or, if they're real letters, toss them into the old cylindrical file, which I often do. (Class, can you spell denial?) But I also record them. The only thing worse than receiving a rejection would be to accidentally re-send the same story to someplace that's already rejected it once.

Keeping up appearances

Anyhow, I took a look last week at my so-called ledger, and--all things considered--I suppose I've been fortunate in 2013, writingwise. I still had a lot of rejections, but so far this year (not counting a collection of thirty of my short stories, released in May) I've had one story in AHMM, one in The Strand Magazine, one in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, ten in Woman's World, two in The Saturday Evening Post, and half a dozen in other magazines and anthologies. It probably won't surprise you that most of these were mysteries. I had, alas, no appearances in Ellery Queen, although I tried.

One thing I'm extremely proud of is that so many of my SleuthSayers colleagues and our frequent commenters have appeared in the big mystery markets this past year. I won't try to name all those folks here for fear of leaving someone out, but believe me, our group was well represented. I like to read stories in those publications anyway--I was addicted to AHMM even when I was in college--and it's especially enjoyable when those stories bear the bylines of my friends and associates. I only wish I could write as well as some of them do.

Submission statements

We've talked a lot at this blog about writing and marketing, and the practice of setting a "quota" comes up now and then. Many writers seem to find it helpful to assign themselves a minimum page count or word count for each day, week, etc. (I don't), and I was surprised at how many fellow authors took part in NaNoWriMo last month (I didn't). I also found myself wondering if a lot of writers set quotas regarding their submissions.

Here's what I mean: Do you tell yourself to keep a certain number of stories or novel queries out at any one time? Do you try to submit a certain number of stories to a particular publication in the course of a year? If you do, are those kinds of self-imposed quotas beneficial to you? If you don't, do you think they could be? I do know that if you hope to publish regularly in some of the larger short-story markets, it's almost a necessity to have multiple submissions in the "under-consideration" pipeline at any given point in time--especially for those publications that take a long time to respond.

I don't submit as many stories as I once did, but I decided long ago to try to always keep at least one story out to each of (what I consider to be) the four most popular mystery markets--AH, EQ, Strand, and WW. If/when a story gets rejected, I just send another one. In fact I send out another story to the place that rejected me and I send the rejected story out to a different market. With regard to response times, you're probably already aware that AHMM and The Strand usually take longer to get back to you than EQ and Woman's World.

Back to the future

As for next year, I have mysteries upcoming in AH, WW, Sherlock Holmes, Mysterical-E, and a suspense anthology called Trust & Treachery. And I'm keeping fingers crossed for positive responses to the rest of the unpublished stories that I currently have circulating. (I had enough negative responses this year to last me a while.)

So that's where I am at the moment. I hope you and your writing career have had a productive and enjoyable twelve months. In terms of writing/publishing, I guess I'd have to say 2013 is turning out to be better than some years and worse than others.

Isn't that true of life itself?

20 December 2013

Getting Cozy


by R.T. Lawton


Winter is just starting, and baby, it's cold outside. Now is a good time to cozy up to a crackling fireplace with a hot toddy in hand and a well-written book. Which leads me to a confession. I don't normally read cosy mysteries, they just aren't my first choice of reading material. However, when I like the way an author talks, I tend to buy their book, and if I like that one, then I go back for more.

Enter Kathleen Taylor. We met at a writers conference where she made a very interesting presentation. I bought a book and went back for four more. We talked. She personalized the books. Turned out we knew people in common through her day job and mine. She had worked in the Redfield Mental Hospital and I knew one of her fellow workers from when he and I were in the same motorcycle gang.

I'm going to say she wrote cosies, but in this day of cross genres and blurring of the lines, I will defer to Wikipedia for a definition of cozy. Feel free to argue otherwise. Here's my paraphrasing.

Cosies

Cosy (also spelled cozy) mysteries are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. The detectives are nearly always amateurs and frequently women, who are free to eavesdrop, gather clues, and use their native intelligence and intuitive "feel" for the social dynamics of the community to solve the crime.

The murderers are typically neither psychopaths nor serial killers, and once unmasked, are usually taken into custody without violence. They are generally members of the community where the murder occurs, able to hide in plain sight, and their motives– greed, jealousy, revenge– are often rooted in events years, or even generations, old.

The supporting characters are often very broadly drawn and used in comic relief. The accumulation of such characters in long-running cosy mystery series frequently creates a stock company of eccentrics, among whom the detective stands out as the most (perhaps only) truly sane person.

On to the Series and Characters

The community is Delphi, South Dakota, one of those places well off the Interstate, yet the long distance bus lines still stop here to deliver and take on travelers. If you have ever paused in one of these small towns long enough to buy gas or grab a so-called home-cooked meal at the local cafe, then you will instantly recognize the community of Delphi.

Tony Bauer is our waitress in the town's only cafe. She is a 40-something year old widow, insecure, somewhat exceeding the surgeon general's weight guidelines and is having an affair with the local feed and seed owner whom she had a crush on in high school. Her not so easy life keeps getting complicated when friends and relatives continue to involve her in community activities.

In her first book, Funeral Food, (originally titled The Missionary Position, but the editors thought that title too racy), Tory's name and address has appeared as one of the Unchurched on a list of the Plains States Unsaved. When Winston, a young Mormon missionary, shows up at the cafe looking for potential converts, Del, a fellow waitress who is Tory's cousin-in-law, makes passes at him even though her current boyfriend is a local deputy sheriff with a hot temper. Several days later, Tory discovers Winston's corpse in the cafe's mop closet, which dumps her into a crockpot of lethal, long-simmering small town secrets. If Tory's not careful, she could end up in the missionary's position: flat-out, stone-cold dead.

Sex and Salmonella sends Tory to a neighboring town to check out a carnival to make sure it doesn't have any problems which will reflect back on her cousin Junior Deibert. Junior, the strait-laced wife of Delphi's Lutheran minister, made arrangements for the carnival to come to Delphi, but then began hearing rumors. Unfortunately, Junior has eaten an ill-prepared chicken and come down with food poisoning, so she talks Tory into going in her place. When the carnival does show up in Delphi as scheduled, it's Tory who discovers the body in the Evil Hall of Mirrors side show.

In the next three books, actually four because I recently found there's a sixth novel in the series, the deceased keep showing up at inopportune times, but always in an interesting way which ties back to the small town and its past.

Samples of the Writing

With all due respect, Robert Fulghum got it wrong--kindergarten is not where life's most important lessons are learned. Sharing and napping and neatness are all well and good, but the sexless elementary school environment does nothing to prepare you for the hormonal whammy that awaits. With the possible exception of how to handle an IRS audit, everything you really need to know about the world of grown-ups, you learned in high school.
   *          *          *          *          *          * Lying is something I try to avoid, but snooping is another matter entirely. Delphi citizens pride themselves on knowing as much about each other as we possibly can, and that knowledge is not always honorably obtained.
   *          *          *          *           *          * I have a fair amount of practice in the willing suspension of disbelief. I was a book-a-day reader from the time I figured out that it was the black marks on the printed page, and not the spaces in between, that mattered. I often believe six impossible things before breakfast. And when Nick was still alive, I worked on believing even more impossible things after supper, especially when he'd amble in six or seven hours late with a cockamamie story about a flat tire.

Finally

Kathleen's most recent novel, The Nut Hut, is not part of the Tory Bauer series. From the sample pages I read, it looks like the story's background came from her days working inside the mental hospital. Guess I'll be forking out some cash soon to read the rest of the book.

Merry Christmas to all, and stay warm and cozy.

19 December 2013

The Bubble Reputation


by Eve Fisher

I've been re-reading Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies" because I want to, because I love her writing style, and because I'm really looking forward to the third volume.  But it's made me think about reputation and how it changes over time.

There was a time when Teddy Roosevelt was that madman only one heartbeat away from the presidency - now he's Theodore Rex.  In his own time, Harry Truman was considered an average numbskull - if not downright impeachable, especially for his opposition to General Macarthur and Big Mac's idea of bombing China - but after Watergate, Merle Miller's transcripts of Harry's "Plain Speaking" became a best-seller, and his salty speech and down home ways proved his integrity in a corrupt world.  Every American reader of "Life" Magazine from the 1920s through the early 40s knew that General Chiang Kai-Shek was democracy's one great hope in China; but after WWII, with China gone Communist, his brutal takeover in Taiwan, and his constant demands for money (and nukes), he became widely known as "General Cash-My-Check."
File:Chiang Kai Shek and wife with Lieutenant General Stilwell.jpg
Chiang Kai-Shek, his wife, Mei-ling Soong, and General Stillwell, who called CKS "Peanut" -
and not affectionately.
File:Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01.jpg
Thomas Cromwell
File:Hans Holbein, the Younger - Sir Thomas More - Google Art Project.jpg
Thomas More
And there have been the various cases of rehabilitating the infamous.  Richard III - was he the evil, murderous, usurping crookback of Thomas More's little black pamphlet (although there's no proof that the sainted More wrote it) or the misunderstood, suffering, good king of Josephine Tey's "The Daughter of Time"? For that matter, was the martyred saint Thomas More the gentle, mild-mannered public servant of unshakeable integrity and equally unshakeable convictions of Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons", or was he the hard-core persecutor of Protestants, advocating deceit, torture, execution and extermination for all "heretics" that both Foxe's "Book of Martyrs" and Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" present?  And that, of course, leads to Thomas Cromwell, generally presented - until Mantel's work - as a villain:  unscrupulous, ambitious, jealous, greedy, predatory and ruthless.  Or was this the perfect way to make him the perfect foil for St. Thomas More?

Much of reputation depends on timing.  Histories aren't written in a vacuum, nor are plays, novels, movies, television shows.  There are reasons behind what is written.  Sometimes we know what they are; sometimes we don't.  Sometimes we're too close to know, and it will take later people to figure it out.

For example, there's an ancient historian named Plutarch, who wrote biographies and histories back around 100 CE:  "The Lives of the Noble Romans and the Noble Greeks", and "On Sparta."  They are major sources for historians about the ancient world - especially Sparta, which wasn't known for writing down much of anything.  There are only two problems with Plutarch's work:  his biographies were written to show the influence of character on lives and destinies - and he didn't believe people could change.  And "On Sparta" reeks of nostalgia for a society in which everyone was equal, honest, brave, above sordid things like money and greed and luxury.   And the question is, why did Plutarch - writing 500 years after Sparta was dead and gone - write so admiringly of a society that was totally dedicated to war AND based on one of the most horrifyingly brutal slave-owning regimes in a world that has known some pretty bad ones? Good question.  Well, one answer might be that he was writing during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, which saw the greatest military expansion of the Roman Empire:

File:Roman Empire Trajan 117AD.png
The Roman Empire under Trajan - most of the known world of the day
An ideal time to promote military societies, wouldn't you say?  And slavery (Rome was 50% slaves under Trajan; at its height, Sparta was 90% slaves).  But, since all that military conquest was flooding Rome with goods and citizens were wallowing in excess luxury, let's go back to the good old days, when men were men and fought simply for the honor of it, and the greater good of their polis.


File:Richard III earliest surviving portrait.jpg
Earliest known
portrait of Richard III
File:King Henry VII.jpg
Henry VII
Going back to that early pamphlet on Richard III - rumored to be Thomas More's - it was written specifically to blacken Richard III irredeemably, and to make everyone absolutely ecstatic that Henry VII and the Tudors had come in.  It was a political document, and needed, because Henry Tudor had no legitimate claim to the throne.  He was the grandson of a Welsh bowman, Owen Tudor, who (perhaps) married the French widow of Henry V, Catherine of Valois.  No royal blood there, at least, not English royal blood.  His mother, Margaret Beaufort was the descendant of the House of Beaufort, who were all the descendants of John of Gaunt (son of Edward III) by his mistress Katherine Swynford (the steamy details were the scandal of Europe for 25 years, until he - amazingly - finally married her).  In other words, he had damned little English blood in him, and most of it was illegitimate.  There were still legitimate Plantagenets and Yorks around who had much better claims to the throne.  So when Henry VII finally won the throne of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field, he immediately married his 3rd cousin, Elizabeth of York, got her pregnant as quickly as possible, and declared himself king as of the day BEFORE the battle, making everyone who fought him traitors, and eminently executable.  And he had his court historians - Polydore Vergil, Thomas More, and John Rous - write histories of England that made Richard III, killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, to be the most evil, implacable king who ever lived. Maybe he was.  But then again, maybe he wasn't.

Yeah, like this is serious history
And so back we go to the Tudor era, which keeps getting rewritten. For many years, Elizabeth I was all the rage - or Mary Queen of Scots (who I consider one of the stupidest women in history).  And most of the popular stuff - HBO's "The Tudors", and many novels - are all centered around Henry VIII and his enormous appetite for women, which gives everyone a chance to show what they can do with codpieces, tight bodices and hoisted skirts.  But the serious stuff today is all on the men of Henry VIII's reign - parsing and reparsing Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey.  I am not sure why.  Is it that Cromwell was a blacksmith's son made prime minister, the American Dream writ large on an English stage, minus the execution at the end?  Is it that we all want to be Thomas More, integrity and sagacity combined?  Or that we're tired of saints, and want to hear about the common man?  Or we're sick of religious zealots, and want to hear how to stop them?

NOTE: My next blog is New Year's Day, and I will be doing a review of our own Janice Law's new novel, "The Prisoner of the Riviera".  I started it last night and I can tell you this much: - it's really, really good…

18 December 2013

Five Red Herrings, part six


by Rob Lopresti

1. Get Shorty.  This is probably a good time to remind any of you who read or write  short mystery fiction to consider joining the Short Mystery Fiction Society.  No cost and you will get daily emails on subjects related to guess-what.  More importantly, if you sign up by December 31 you are eligible to vote for the Derringer Award.  And if you wish you can get propose two stories which will then be considered by the Derringer judges in selecting nominees.

2. Not just a good idea. I don't think I have mentioned Garrow's Law on this blog.  It is a terrific TV show from Britain and apparently you can watch it for free on YouTube. William Garrow was a genuine barrister in the eighteenth century and the shows are based on his cases (and sometimes even on the actual court transcripts).  Garrow was one of those wild-eye radicals, pushing for concepts like "innocent until proven guilty. I get annoyed when the shows spend more time on Garrow's personal life, but they are all worth watching.




3.  Not while you are eating.  Gwen Pearson is a forensic entomologist, which means she studies insects to solve crimes.  If you aren't squeamish you can read about her job in a fascinating post called When crime scene evidence crawls away.



4.  Let your little light shine.   Lantern is an utterly cool free site and I have already used it to research a short story.  It consists of almost a million pages from books and magazines about the entertainment industry (ads included!).  It is co-produced by the Media History Digital Library and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Communication Arts.


So, what's in here?

• Many mentions of Mark Twain. The earliest I found is from 1903 in which he solemnly agrees to give his skull to science. If he is still using it when the note comes due, he assures the reporter, he will pay rent.

• 2700 references to Sherlock Holmes, starting with William Gillette on stage.

• In 1931, we are informed that "ELLERY QUEEN, whose detective-mystery novels are all the vogue, is the pen-name of one of the industry's ad men…"

• And here is a photo of Bebe Daniels showing off the clothes she wore in her starring role in THE MALTESE FALCON. (1931)

5. Arkansas Unraveller.   And if you didn't read it last month, here is a handy legal tip: When you are on the phone to a hit man, do not accidentally butt-dial your potential victim.



Jolly, safe Christmas and New Year's to all!

17 December 2013

Pastiche or Parody?


by Terence Faherty

First, a little shameless self-promotion.  The new issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, the February number, starts with one story of mine and ends with another, which I consider a career highlight, right up there with being published in Queen for the first time in 1999.  In between those bookend stories, the February issue contains six other tales, including a great one by SleuthSayers alumnus David Dean, "Murder Town."  My contributions are two Sherlock Holmes parodies:  "The Red-Headed League" and "A Case of Identity."  These stories are follow-ups to "A Scandal in Bohemia," which Queen ran last year.  It was my first Holmes parody.

Or do I mean pastiche?  That's the question that occupies me today:  Am I writing parody or pastiche?  Ellery Queen straddles the fence, referring to my stories as parodies here and pastiches there.  Could they be both?  Could parody be a form of pastiche?  That seems reasonable to me, but not to Wikipedia, the all knowing.  It defines pastiche as a "work of visual art, literature, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists.  Unlike parody, pastiche celebrates, rather than mocks, the work it imitates." 


Mr. Wodehouse and cigar
That last bit seems a little harsh to me.  Surely every parody isn't a mocking one.  Some, at least, could be thought of as affectionate.  The Holmes parodies written by P.G. Wodehouse, the great English humorist, fall into that category, I think.  Wodehouse loved the detective fiction of his day, but he was aware of its shortcomings, especially the stories of the "Great Detective" school, which includes the Holmes tales.  I quoted one of Wodehouse's insights on the dedication page of my first short story collection, The Confessions of Owen Keane:  "A detective is only human.  The less of a detective, the more human he is." 

Back to my own Holmes pastiches/parodies.  I refer to this series of stories in my journal and my filing system as The Notebooks of Dr. John H. Watson.  The conceit is simple enough.  Recently unearthed notebooks have been found to contain first drafts of Watson's immortal Sherlock Holmes stories.  (Yes, I know Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually wrote the stories, but Doyle gave the credit to Watson, so I do too.)  And while a given first draft bears a certain resemblance to the famous story of the same name (which I'll refer to as "the Strand version"), each is really quite different.  Holmes is more of a blue-collar, working detective with blue-collar tastes (principally a taste for beer) in Watson's first drafts, and the cases he undertakes are a little more "down-market" as well.  And the solutions are always different.

When I write one of these, I first reread the Strand version looking for a "back door," an alternative way into the story for purposes of reimagining its basic events.  Sometimes the back door is an alternative solution, as it was for the two parodies Queen published this year.  Sometimes it's a famous "problem" with the story, something about it that's bugged generations of Sherlockian scholars.  An example might be the fabulous coronet that a distinguished personage (the Prince of Wales?) pawns in "The Beryl Coronet," a piece of public property that he has no right to pawn.  Resolving that problem can suggest an entirely new take on the tale.  Sometimes the back door is simply an ambivalent title, as in the case of "A Scandal in Bohemia."  Since "Bohemia" can refer to both a geographical region (as it does in the Strand version) and a lifestyle, simply switching the meaning can suggest an entirely different course of events.

The fun for me is trying to make these read as though they might actually be first drafts by including items that Watson can adapt for his final versions, like the plumber's smoke rocket that creates havoc in my "Scandal in Bohemia" and clearly inspires the smoke rocket device that works so well in Watson's "Scandal."  I also enjoy putting in allusions that I hope  Sherlockians will spot and enjoy.  My source for these is often Leslie S. Klinger's wonderful The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes.  In his notes for the "The Red-headed League," for example, he tells us that Holmes and Watson's trip on the underground in that story is the only one mentioned in the entire canon.  I explain that in passing (claustrophobia).

Speaking of allusions, I also use a few turns of phrase familiar to lovers of the works of the aforementioned Mr. Wodehouse, like Holmes "getting outside of three pints of bitter (beer) in record time."   These stories are meant to be funny, so I strive for a Wodehousian tone throughout.  I don't think P.G. would mind, and I like to think Sir Arthur wouldn't either.  Because my parodies, defined in Faherty's Collegiate Dictionary as a time-honored subset of pastiche, are nothing if not affectionate.   

16 December 2013

I, A, B, II, A, (1) (2) (a),(b) B


by Fran Rizer


If you've heard this before, and some of you have, now's the time to go for another cup of coffee. Please come back with it because before this ends I'm going to tell you how and why I used an outline for the first time when writing a book.

Last year, my grandson's language arts teacher told the class, "All writers plan their works with graphic organizers or outlines."

Aeden's hand shot up and he responded, "Not all of them."

"Yes, real writers do."

"But my G-Mama doesn't."

To shorten this story, the class wound up Googling me to satisfy the teacher that Aeden's grandmother really does write professionally.  
Grandson is now
a teenager.

Aeden insisted that I don't use organizers and outlines, but the teacher still made the students all use the graphic organizer sheet she'd printed.

My classroom days are over, and I agree some of the forms used in classes no doubt help develop better student writers.  Some of them address plot; some, characterization; some, setting; some, literary devices; some, other topics ad nauseam.  



Frequently the forms are cute and most kids like cute much better than the old outline form with its capital letters, lower case letters, Roman and Arabic numerals that was used when I was in elementary school. 

In my personal opinion, a lot of what's being used is too restrictive, even for students. Aeden's accelerated LA instructor this year sometimes uses forms requiring the writers to use a metaphor in the first paragraph, onomatopoeia in the second, direct quotations in the third, and on and on and on.

So where am I headed with all this?  I haven't used an outline or, heaven forbid, a mimeographed graphic organizer sheet since I was a kid... until this year!


I started the first Callie book with a nursery rhyme, stuck a casket in it, and produced a title.  (A Tisket, a Tasket, A FANCY STOLEN CASKET)  I then thought of an ending. I wanted to have the protagonist wind up locked in a casket, and I actually wrote the climatic chapter first.  After that, it was easy to start from the beginning and write until I reached the ending.

That pattern worked for the next four books, but the sixth required me to actually have a plan, an outline of sorts.

This time, the idea wasn't a nursery rhyme, but a song--"The Twelve Days of Christmas."  The full title naturally was On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me A CASKET UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE.  I wanted to relate it to the song, so I Googled and printed out the traditional words. That led to wanting to sing it, so my sons and grandson began making up lines that fit the melody but were related to mystery or crime or the South.  I decided to use them as chapter headings.  We came up with twelve presents to use. Here they are:

Everyone knows the pattern.  It begins with the first verse:
On the first day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me,
A corpse under the Christmas tree.
The second verse is:
On the second day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me,
Two broken hearts,
And a corpse under the Christmas tree
Each additional verse adds a new present and then repeats all the previous gifts.  At the end, it goes like this:
 On the twelfth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me
Twelve eggs a’nogging
 Eleven axes grinding,
        Ten turkeys trotting,
        Nine guns a’smoking,
        Eight collards cooking,
        Seven doggies howling,
        Six tongues a’wagging,
        Five stolen rings,
        Four falling flakes,
        Three red wreaths,
        Two broken hearts,
        And a corpse under the Christmas tree                                                     
I had an outline--not with all those letters and numbers, but a plan. I decided each chapter should be twenty to twenty-five pages to make twelve chapters add up to novel length. Later I added recipes for my friends who laugh at recipes and knitting patterns in cozies and also because my agent likes for the Callie books to run between 80,000 and 85,000 words.

Next task:  Develop an overall plot using chapters appropriate to their titles.  I confess it took some thought, but I managed it and made one-line notes for each chapter. Then I wrote A Corpse Under the Christmas Tree.  I can now say I've written a book essentially from an outline.

Currently I'm not working on a Callie, and I've reverted back to my favorite kind of writing.  I call it "falling into the page."  Stephen King describes it this way:



Until we meet again, take care of ...you!

15 December 2013

Irony


by Leigh Lundin

I recently read that students of today confuse the word ‘irony’ with ‘coincidence’:
“Angie’s parents like won the lottery last month and again this month. Like seriously, that’s so ironic.”
Following, you’ll find a defense attorney’s argument that’s all about irony. And sarcasm. But first, the story, which is too unrealistic for fiction.

Imagine a 16-year-old boy with fabulously wealthy if inattentive parents. Let’s call him Ethan. Barriers for ordinary people aren’t obstacles for the privileged, his family, the 1%ers.† For example, he began driving at age 13. And drinking.

Like any teen, Ethan’s all about fun. Last year, he wakes up in the bed of Daddy’s pickup with a naked unconscious 14-year-old girl. But Ethan’s wealthy and that little problem goes away.

Little Ethan and seven of his closest friends try to buy booze but they're carded and already partially inebriated. In a burst of alcohol-fueled genius, they shoplift two cases of beer from WalMart. After slamming 48, Ethan and friends hop in Ethan’s Ford F350 pickup, which isn’t legal for him to drive without an adult. Because such rules and 40mph zones aren’t meant for the likes of them, he drives 70.

Ethan Crouch © WFAA
Ethan Couch, perpetrator © WFAA

Boyles
Boyles, victims

victims
Jennings, Mitchel, victims
And loses control. The truck goes airborne, flips upside down. Ploughs into people, places, and things. Gives one of his friends permanent brain damage. Injures nine bystanders. Kills four more.

Police come. Ethan’s blood showed Valium and an alcohol content of 0.24%, three times the legal limit– except for a 16-year-old, there’s no such thing as a legal limit above zero.

But that’s a concern for ordinary people. Ethan’s not about to put up with their crap. He says “I’m outta here.” But investigators do their best Columbo and detain young Ethan.

Normally, Daddy would pull out his wallet, problem solved. But the prosecutor is one of the rabble who disdains special privileges and socialism for the wealthy. He assembles charges that could total twenty years if the judge throws the book at the lad.

And this is a tough, hang-em, Texas judge, Jean Boyd. Just last year she gave a 14-year-old kid ten years for felling and killing a man with a sucker punch. Not saying she didn't do the right thing, but that kid was poor and black, and she understands privilege and wealth.

From the prosecution’s standpoint, they probably think they have a slam dunk:
√   drunk on stolen booze
√   Valium on board
√   not licensed to drive
√   70mph in 40mph zone
√   a dozen or more injured
√   1 with permanent brain damage
√   4 people dead
√   mouthy to police
But they don’t count on the defense’s ‘affluenza’ argument and the judge going all soft at the knees over privilege and wealth.

Affluenza? What’s that? Defense psychologist Gary Miller blames the teen's behavior on the parents, claiming they give him whatever he wants including “freedoms no young person should have.” The doctor continues, “The teen never learned to say that he's sorry. … If you hurt someone, you sent him money.”

This is where irony comes in, also where the case makes headlines. According to the defense attorney, our callow fellow is the product of ‘affluenza,’ where “his family felt their wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.” Because of this terrible upbringing, our overly indulged lad is never punished for anything, so Ethan’s attorney argues he shouldn’t be punished now.

What?

Swayed by the heart-wrenching story of the awfulness of affluenza, Judge Jean Boyd, completely unaware of the irony of her actions, grants the defense’s motion that punishment for someone never punished would be too awful for a humane society to wreak upon our wealthy youth of today.

For a tad under a half-million dollars, poor rich little Ethan will have to spend time at a fabulous, er, tough oceanside rehab resort with swimming pools, a water slide, ‘delicate’ expensive furnishings, and gourmet dining, where one can partake of “chef-prepared meals, equine therapy, martial-arts training, yoga and nature hikes,” where one can “reflect, feel engaged and have social contact,” and where the very rich can get “the unconditional love they require.”

Their executive chef from the Laguna Professional Culinary Arts also acts as private chef to the monetarily afflicted. “Part of her talent is to construct creative menus.” Really now, Julie, those French truffles are yesterday's?

When all’s said and done, I don’t want Ethan’s life ruined. But like anyone else, he should experience consequences, which the judge seems to have missed. That’s irony.



To be clear, as an ardent entrepreneur, I’m hardly anti-wealth, but I find entitlement troubling. I simply oppose socialism for the wealthy.

14 December 2013

Coming Clean About A Semi-Private Pleasure



by Elizabeth Zelvin

Among my fellow SleuthSayers with their expertise about technology and weaponry, law enforcement and spying, I'd like to think I contribute my mite of unique individuality. So I'm going to take the conversation as far from explosives and cybersecurity and all that stuff my blog brothers in particular write about and make a confession. In our house, the stuffed animals talk to us. I could claim writer’s license—if our characters can talk to us, why shouldn’t the plush wolves and teddy bears? But my husband’s not a writer, and they talk to him too.

They tend to reveal their dark side to my husband. If you tell So no jokes about the wolves something (or someone) is venison, they’ll eat it in a heartbeat. In fact, my hubby, who can get pretty grumpy in the morning, especially before his second cup of coffee, that he channels his inner bear so effectively that our younger granddaughter is about 90 percent convinced that Grandpa is a bear. (She believes in the tooth fairy too.) With me, the animals are soothing. The bears especially understand my need for validation. They think I’m smarter than the average bear. They never think my first draft sucks. And they know the perfect cure for writer’s block: Put a salmon in it.

We know it's kind of weird. We used to try not to have these infantile, if not actually dysfunctional, relationships with the little guys. And gals—there’s Noelle the book bear, who’s quite the intellectual, and Elfie, who wears a red dress except at Xmas, when she puts her elf outfit on. But I digress. Like any other addicts, we couldn’t just say no to the animals’ demands for our attention and desire for conversation. So we said the hell with it and stopped trying to refrain. We decided that the way we channel these cuddly companions is a lot like the way fictional characters say and do what they want to, rather than what the author has planned. And there's nothing weird about that, is there?

They’re good company, our bears and wolves and moose (who hail from Minnesota and Sweden as well as the usual zoo gift shops). Their conversation is a little limited: the wolves are always talking about venison, the bears about salmon and honey and berries. The moose go wild over green carpet or anything that resembles moss. But they’re fun, and they’re extremely plausible. I, for one, believe every word they say.

So here’s how the animals got me in trouble. It happened at Bouchercon in 2009, right after my second novel, Death Will Help You Leave Him, came out. Our rule is that my husband reads my fiction when, and only when, it's published, preferably as soon as it's released. When I left for Indianapolis, I left my husband at home in New York with strict instructions to read the book. Two nights later, my cell phone rang in my hotel room at the Hyatt. It was my hubby, and he was laughing so hard that it took me a while to understand what was cracking him up. He’d just read the passage where Bruce is talking about how he hasn’t accumulated a lot of possessions. “I’m not a moose,” Bruce says. “I don’t need moss.”


I finally made out what my husband was saying between roars of laughter.

“Moose don’t eat moss!” he said.

“They don’t?” I said. “What do you mean? The moose are always talking about eating moss.”

“It was a joke!” he said. “I can’t believe you believed me!”

What did he mean? It had nothing to do with him. I’d believed the moose. Who would know better what a moose eats?

“What do they eat?”

“Aquatic plants.”

“So where did the moose moss come from?”

“I got it from Dr. Seuss!” he said.

Since I was at Bouchercon, I got to tell this story to a lot of writers. One of them suggested the perfect comeback if any reader points out I’ve committed an error of fact regarding what moose eat. It hasn't happened yet, but it still could.

“It’s an hommage to Dr. Seuss,” I’ll say.