Sunday, December 31, 2006

Writing Short Stories

Megan and I occasionally get into a discussion about the differences between writing short stories and novels. She doesn't understand why I wouldn't want to take a character from one place to another--go the distance with them.
But right now I am in the head of a a forty-something guy in an auto-shop in the midwest, worrying about a woman who's getting pounded.
Two weeks ago, I was a neighborhood in 1960s Philly, watching a black man have an affair with a white woman.
Two weeks before that I was a fourteen year old girl who was convinced the man who was having her deliver drugs and take her mother's money was the love of her life.
Before that I was a female-vice president of a corporation who had to insure their new product line would be successful.
Now maybe these people do not have the depth of characters in novels but how can you deny that sitting in a 6 by 9 foot room and going to these places is not pure bliss?

Saturday, December 30, 2006


We just spent two days in Cleveland. I was very impressed. Lots of tall buildings, lots of culture, good restaurants. But where the heck are the people? The guy in the tie store outside our hotel said there was no retail left downtown to draw them in. Sounds awfully familiar (Detroit).
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...rocked. I bought two CDs but I think I missed the point. I bought a Doris Day CD from the forties and a Lena Horne from the same era. The reset I can get other places but these were gems. The Barcelona exhibit was fantastic. Even saw the glass pavilllion at the Toledo Museum.
I highly recommend Cleveland if you live near by. I just hope some people come out for you. Those streets were awfully lonely even in broad daylight.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Post Christmas

Christmas exchanges were more moderate and more certificate-oriented than ever before. I didn't open one item of clothing-the first time ever for that. Three CDs a Charlie Parker, the new Damien Rice, Regina Specter, and Anita O'Day. Two books-the Donald Antrim memoir, Every Eye by Isobel English, movie passes, a manicure, a scarf, money.
The only one to really make out like a bandit was one month old, Kevin, who has more Baby's First Christmas ornaments than you'd think possible.
Movies-we saw Volver and The History Boys, both good.
Watching the old Family DVDs. The pilot of that was a humdinger.

Hope you had a good one too.

Friday, December 22, 2006

RIP Flashing in the Gutter

This was my favorite place to spend some time over the last year. Gone now, thanks to some uncivil people who exercised their right to make mayhem at our expense. RIP, FITG. And thanks to Tribe for being the "host with the most" for the last year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Best of the Year

Best books I read in 2006: *The Song Is You, Dope, The Lonely Doll, Country of Origin, Abide With Me, The Dramatist, *Winter's Bone, Damn Near Dead, Three Bedrooms in Manhattan, Sharp Ojects, A Field of Darkness, Ethan Frome, Arc of Justice.

Best movies: *The Proposition, Cache, Somersault, The Departed, Casino Royale, Little Children, Tristram Shandy, Gabrielle, Half-Nelson, La Moustache, Little Miss Sunshine

What about you?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Muzzle Flash

A new story on Muzzle Flash. Link to the side.

I'm reading Time Bends (Arthur Miller's memoirs)for my book group. I can't complain about the length of this one since I chose it but damn it's long. It's beautifully written but the last time I read it 20 years ago I had more time and still smoked. I think smoking made me a better reader. Also the lack of an Internet and lack of a job. gave me time. I was able to polish off 3-4 books a week. Now it's more like one. On a good week.

After a rewrite, Hardluck Stories took my story Quality Operations for the femme fatale issue.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Stories about older people

Let's face it. It's hard to place them and I love to write them. This week I wrote one for Flashing in the Gutters, and now another one I first wrote two years ago was accepted by Mouth Full of Bullets, a new zine. I have to say the crime fiction world is more amenable to the elderly than the lit journals. At one time, this story had no crime element and it was rejected by about twenty places, many who said they didn't like to publish stories about old people. Especially disliked are stories about mental decline.
Adding the crime element did make it stonger, especially at the end where we can at least hope that these two can go on murdering stray Yankees for many more years.
I have another story about the elderly--she's a docent. Maybe I can have her murder the stray visitor to her house too. Empower the elderly by making murderers out of all of them. Try f****** with Social Security after that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Fair Trade

Check out my new story on Flashing in the Gutters. It's a happy story, I promise.
Don't use the link to the right though. It's defunct till I figure out what changed.

The Wire

Even though I didn't fully understand a lot of the dialogue and even though every time money (even in the form of drug deals) came onto the scene, I tuned out, I loved this season of The Wire. My husband kept complaining about the lack of a larger arc but for me the arc was how we are throwing our children away. And what's bigger than that idea? Also it turned out to be a two-year arc, so there. I will truly miss it for the next year. It digs so much deeper than The Sopranos, for instance although I love that one too.

The best show on TV, hands down.

Five movies I have never seen and should--Lawrence of Arabia, A Clockwork Orange, 2001, On the Waterfront, Dr. Strangelove. How about you?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Book Buying

Standing in line at bookstores the last few days, I have been amazed at how few real books people buy. The standard fare today was: a sudoku book, Christmas cards, a calendar, a travel book, a Peter Mayles book, children's books. Apparently only children get real books. I have bought about 5-10 books as presents so far including The Road, an early Woodrell book, the Cigar girl book, the basis for Poe's Marie Roget, an earlier Cormac McCarthy book, Paris Trout by Pete Dexter. I still have several to buy. and this doesn't include the five baby books I bought. What books have your purchased as Christmas gifts? What would you like to receive?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Flash Fiction

I love to write flash fiction, but truly it isn't good for me unless I can develop the short pieces into longer ones. I have some nice shorts from Flashing in the Gutters that I'd love to work on but many sites frown on stories that have appeared in any form. I guess I could get around it by sending the short pieces to referreed journals too and then they would feel more finished. Or would they?
There is something so democratic about sending them to zines that put them up without the fuss. Also here is an opportunity to experiment, to try something new. I am so ambivalent.
This follows an invitation by D.Z. Allen to submit some flash to his new site. I probably will do it 'cause I love flash. What do you think? Do you regard stories published indiscrimately on zines as valuable as ones that go through a selection process? Do you use the flash as a blueprint for future longer stories?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How far do you go?

With a potential editor's suggestions for a short story? I feel my stonger short stories are about voice more than anything. If I stifle the voice by playing out each scene (the show don't tell credo), it becomes more about plot than voice. A potential editor wants me to animate scenes rather than having the protagonist describe them in her somewhat (I hope) distinctive voice. How far do you go to get it into print? Does the writer know best in the end? Do some editors want every story to reflect their taste?

P.S. I am in love with my grandson. Such a different feeling than parenthood. Much less about responsbility than pure unadulaterated love.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Kevin Louis Abbott

Was born yesterday at four o'clock to my son and daughter-in-law. This world is just not good enough for him but we'll try to make it better. Why don't all parents and grandparents work together toward this goal for 2007? What else do we have to leave behind?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lipstick and Bourbon

I had two assignments at the great Lipstick and Bourbon film noir night at the GP library. Take a few pictures and sell a few copies of Die a Little. I failed at both chores. I sat in such proud attention at hearing/seeing my daughter hold a room in the palm of her hand, I didn't take a single picture. And the four autographed books sat under my chair. Thanks to Bryon Quertermous for fulfilling his task to make sure the media aspects went off. Blame it on the continuing stomach flu that dogs me, but really I have no excuse. The attendance was great. Over 125 film noir lovers. A good time was had by all. If anyone would like a signed book, let me know. I have four as I said.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sick, sick, sick

And missed going to the movies with Tribe and Mrs. Tribe, going to lunch with my friend Mary and going to the movies with Anca et all. The one thing I didn't miss was my writer's group where I threw up all over their bathroom. Their dog, Moby, who is not a people person, did the very kind thing of cuddling up beside me all night-intuiting perhaps how wretched I felt.
Megan "The Song is You" Abbott arrives tomorrow to give her noir talk at the Grosse Pointe Woods Public Library. More than 80 people have signed up to come. I only twisted about a third of their arms. If you're near, come on out.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Racism 101

Does it really count as an apology when you hire damage contol PR people to advise you on what moves to make? Does it really count when you say I shouldn't have said that over and over on TV shows. (You shouldn't have even "thought" that is the bigger thing--but do all of us have such thoughts?) No matter how much we claim not to be a racist, is it just under our skin percolating and waiting till a moment like Richards had to bring it out.
If I were being attached by black men, would my cries be racist ones or the same ones I would use if attacked by white men? Even if I didn't yell some racial epithet, would I draw attention to their color with what I said? In other words, instead of saying,
"Get away from me, you pigs" would I insert black in there somewhere.
I hope I never find out on both counts.
Will this ever be healed?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hole in the Wall in Hardluck Stories

Check out my new story through the link to the right. I love the illustrations on this zine. Can't wait to read the other stories.
This story started as a flash fiction piece on Flashing in the Gutters. Thanks to Tribe for giving me this new way to develop ideas for longer pieces. Hope I learn how to include links in the body of the text at some pointe.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Okay we laughed-all four of us and almost everyone in the theater laughed. But more often, we squirmed with discomfort. And when it was done, we mostly felt wrong for having laughed. Is the laugh quotient the only thing that counts in a movie like this? What about the fact that every laugh was at someone's expense and often people who were offering the supposed Eastern European companionship, succor and a platform.
Is the fact that he's spreads the jokes around supposed to make it better? Does being Jewish innoculate him from charges of anti-Semitism? It didn't for us. The scene in the B & B was one of the hardest to watch. Even if he's satirizing East-European attitudes towards Jews, it comes off as nasty.
There was not one witty line in the movie. There was not one salient observation.
The only character that comes off well was the African-American hooker, who is also made fun of because of her weight.
I stopped watching his show because it make me squirm. I should have known the movie would too.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


It's been my pleasure to read a manuscript by Bryon Quertermous, an interview by Tribe and a story by Steve Allen this week. All three were very fine. So many great writers out there. I notice this in my writing groups too. There must be more people writing now than ever before. Although perhaps less reading. Standing in line at Borders last night, the average person was not buying books.
The last small journal, that no one's ever heard of, I sent a story to wrote back they get several hundred submissions a week. A week! And publish only 6-8 a a year. Amazing.
Saw Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrell and we were disappointed. The part cried out for an actor with more style, more going on beyond the mask--perhaps Bill Murray in his younger days. I did think Maggie G. and Hoffman were great. Dustin would have been perfect in the part 25 years ago. It did have a bit of the graduate feel to it.
Read Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne. What an odd but engaging book.
What are you reading? I have the Richard Powers book that won the National Book Award sitting on the TBR pile and the The Keep by Jennifer Egan and the bio about James Tiptree. Has anyone read these?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Prime Suspect

This had to be the greatest P.S. ever. Helen Mirren can do no wrong in the part. Who cares if the "crime" part of it works? She is giving us a character to remember for eternity. She is at the same time: tragic, strong, vulnerable, difficult, caring, interesting, intelligent, wrong-headed, and endlessly real. She has sacrificed everything for her career, if any of what she sacrificed was ever in her grasp. Hard to imagine Jane in any other setting.
Has their ever been a better year for an actress than Elizabeth I, The Queen, and the final Prime Suspect?

The Old Ice Down the Back Stunt

If anyone is out there, please check out my story on Demolition. See side bar for link. Thanks.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ellroy on Court TV

Beginning tonight, Court TV will have a series of well-known writers (Connelly, Scottoline) tell a story that interests them on Court TV. Ellroy goes first with his mother's death, of course. I wonder if much of it is from the doc. from several years ago.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Reviews and not much else

We saw The Queen yesterday and I have to say that Helen Mirren is the best actress working today. Michael Sheen was brilliant as Tony Blair as well. The movie itself was interesting, more like a documentary than a real movie though. It shook off some of the Masterpiece Theater dust, but not all of it. So far only Kate Winslett in Little Children gave nearly as good of a performance.
Finished Sharp Objects and I have to say I would have pitched it save for my need to see the whole thing play out. It had to have been the most unpleasant book I've ever read written by a woman and fictional. Usually the protagonist's normalcy rescues the reader, but not here.
Does unrelenting horror make a good book? In this case, a bit of a rest now and then would have helped.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sharp Objects

I'm reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and it looks to be excellent, but the reader has just found out (early on but spoiler alert) that the protagonist was a cutter as a child. I find it some- what difficult to read about this. Maybe it's because I did it once. In ninth grade, I carved my boyfriend's initials in my leg. By the time the scabs went away, he had too. Never did it again, wasn't tempted even. But it's there somewhere.
Is there something you can't bear to read about in novels? What fills you with terror that might not frighten other readers?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Medical Tests

There's a phrase to send people like me into a frenzy. And every year when I have my annual physical and the accompanying tests, I stay away from my house until I decide any bad test results would have come in. This means lots of movies, dinners out, shopping. If I'm home alone, I turn off the phones.
This dilemma sent us to Marie Antoinette yesterday. It was tedious at spots, but compared to listening for the phone, it was heaven. Kirsten Dunst was terrific. The sweets were enough to make me swoon.
I figure if I don't hear anything by Monday, I'm out of the woods. And Sunday is a piece of cake. So two more days of it. Ann Arbor tomorrow. Can I shop for give hours? We'll see.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Weapon of Choice

The trouble with writing crime short stories is that although I can come up with endless characters and situations I have trouble coming up with weapons and a good description of the crime--forensics stuff. Usually I can write around it, but in a story I'm working on now, I need to choose a weapon for someone to use in a lab. At first, I thought of a dart gun. Makes sense they would have tranquuilizer guns around with lab animals. But it seems to make the whole scene humorous. So now I'm using a knife. Does any ordinary Joe know knife skills well enough to kill? A gun enters the scene later, so I can't use that. I guess I need to buy some books on weaponry and forensics. Or stick to off-scene murders. Or go back to tragic stories of Alzheimers's patients and lost loves.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Megan Abbott's Film Noir Night in Detroit

Or in Grosse Pointe really. Wish I could figure out how to attach the snazzy flyer I made, but nooooo.
Megan will give a talk on film noir with special reference to Double Indemnity, Gun Crazy and Murder My Sweet at the Grosse Pointe Woods branch of the GP Library on November 28th at 7:30 following three weeks of showing these films. Please come if you live in the area and didn't hear this talk at the Birmingham Library last year.
I had thought we could just let this event flow over us but at the library last night, the very nice woman who arranged this said, "Oh, I hope we get a nice crowd." So now I feel obliged to twist arms. That's what I get for showing up at the library four nights in a row. Gotta stop putting books on reserve, but I did get some good ones.
Come. Please.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Nightly News

Every night my husband fills me in on the network coverage of the day's events and how right wing it has gotten. I can't bear to watch any of it. When did working class people decide gay marriage was more important than social security, pensions and health care?

Saw The Prestige and Flags of Our Fathers. Both were okay but certainly predictable. Best thing in either was Christian Bale. I have a problem with movies about magicians. If I doubt the magic on the stage in front of me, how can I not doubt it on the screen?

At dinner, we watched the final scene from The Shining. What are your favorite Jack Nicholson movies? I loved The Departed but thought he was the weak link in it. When did he become a caricature of himself?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Something Cheerful to Read, Please

I am sorely in need of a cheeful novel--one where nobody dies and nothing horrible happens. Can anybody help me out?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The World According to Sorkin

Is it just me or is Sorkin's new show a real bust? It was one thing for the West Wingers to strut around full of themselves and the state of the world. But late night comedy writers? I haven't been able to finish an episode yet. It's not Iraq or the economy they're talking about so why the grim faces. What a huge disappointment. Actually the only tv palatable to me is The Office, The Wire, and Ugly Betty at times. Oh and maybe 30 Rock. I only saw one episode but Fey and Baldwin were good together. And I just cut back by netflix to one a month. Big mistake. If anyone is out there, what are you watching?

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Hell of a Town

Three days in New York. Two museums, a bunch of galleries in Chelsea, one play in Spanish Harlem, one dance performance in the Village, one movie-- 49 UP, three dinners-one Spanish, one Korean, one Cuban. Lots of walking. And free digs which made it affordable. What's not to love?

Still I come home to the same set of problems. My mother's fragile and demanding and all-consuming health problems, do I continue to rewrite the novel or write the stories I love?

I mean on the plane ride home the guy next to me gives me a great story to write about how he (a pig, by the way, who told me he only liked sports where the potential for physical violence is high) is prosecuting his mother's caregiver and her boyfriend, both here illegally, for stealing her jewerly and heirlooms. I'm sure he paid her next to nothing. Or at least in my story that would happen. In my story.....

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


There is this hideous misunderstanding going on re: Murdaland and its intentions on the Internet. I met Mike Langnas at Bouchercon and believe me, he was a lovely fellow, full of goodwill, civility and hope for his venture, even though the folks in Madison had inadvertently snubbed him.
Somehow his desire to produce a magazine with goals and an audience different from current crime mags is now seen as reactionary, pompous, supercilious and in bad form. Is there no room for other POVs or MOs in this business? Help. Can't we all live together.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bill Clinton

Last year I attended a conference on the Clinton Presidency at Hofstra University. My husband is a presidential scholar and he was presenting a paper comparing Clinton's youth to Nixon's.
Couldn't help but be impressed by two things about Bill as he gave his presidential address 1) his enormous intellectual capacity and memory for detail 2) how he blames people for every misstep he took. He steered clear of calling Monica a temptress but not much else.
Today I hear him speaking in Iowa (NPR) and he is still guilty of the same strengths and weaknesses. Now Hillary gets to share in the blame game too. With that said, I'd take Bill over George any day of the week. No one can convince me the world wouldn't be a better place with Bill at the helm.

The Tokyo String Quartet was magnificient, even if my son and husband kept running for the radio to see if the Tigers and U of M had won.

Got the ARC for "The Song is You." Can't wait to read it for the fourth time. Go Megan.

Go Tigers!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Leaving

A new story appears in Flashing in the Gutters today. The challenge was writing stories based or influenced by a specific country song. I still like writing short shorts better than anything. The strengths of poetry and short stories combined.

Three good movies in the last ten days: The Departed-Leo and Mark were outstanding. Jack didn't ruin it but I could have taken about half as much of him. As good as Infernal Affairs, the original, for me. Half Nelson-three great performances in a so-so movies, The Last King of Scotland. Forrest Whitaker was astounding but the Scottish doctor's motives were enigmatic till the end.

Reading Tomato Red (Woodrell) when I stay awake long enough. Tonight we see The Tokyo String Quarter which seemed like a good idea when the Tiger playoffs were just a dream.

Is it me or is this Tiger team dream a gift from another dimension? Who are they?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Stone Diaries

My book club chose The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields to read for October. I read it when it first came out 15 years ago and had a different set of reactions this time. One of the most interesting things to me was the list made for the protagonist near the end of the book of things she never did. Included are items such as oil painting, nude bathing, reading science fiction, oral sex, driving a car. It is a very sad list because so many of the items were ordinary and accessible and the last item was she never heard anyone say they loved her!
My "didn't do" list would include smoking pot, diving, learning a magic trick, skating backward, living along. The woman in my group talked most about the last one. Most of us had never lived alone--going right from our parent's house or a college dorm to living with a husband. We were all born in the 1940s and early 1950s.
What would your list include if you're old enough to make one?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I no longer seem capable of finishing a TV show, a book or even a DVD movie. Apparently I have to spend money and go to somebody else's house (AMC) to finish something. I have tried a bunch of the new shows on TV this year and rarely stay until the end. Something about the nature of a continuing narrative puts me off. Although this format produces more compelling stories, it's offputting to someone who wants to watch on occassion. With books, it's a different thing. Why am I reading this when I could be reading that? Okay, I get the idea, now what?
Half Nelson, a movie I saw at the theater, has three of the best performances I've seen in a long time. Gosling is amazing. Yet I think if I were watching it at home, I might have given up on it due to its repetitious scenes of drugtaking.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Die a Little: A movie

Congrats to Megan for selling the option on "Die A Little" to Jessica Biel. Wonder whether she sees herself as Lora or Alice. Depends what image she wants to cultivate.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

First Person

Funny how sometimes you know something is wrong with a story,but can't put your finger on it. Then suddenly it occurs to you. It should be written in the first person. Or it should be written in the third. Sometimes you need to put the audience right in the thick of things. Other times, usually when the story is moody, a bit of distance enhances it. But sometimes you don't know immediately. Or at least I don't. A story I'm writing now just felt flat. Not enough style to carry a plot-heavy narrative. But when I changed it to first person, I got the intimacy I needed. At last! First person often makes a nasty protagonist palatable. Or at least I hope so.

Monday, October 02, 2006


I blew Bouchercon. Just too shy to introduce myself to more than a few people. I did manage Sarah Weinman who hugged me graciously. I did get my daugher and Tribe to introduce me to a few people. But that's about it.
I think I am too old to be a newbie crime writer at conferences. I'll just have to settle for being it on paper.
Loved Murderland's Mike Langnas and handed out magnets for a while and met a lovely writer named Robert Janes. The magnets were supposed to be in the goodie bags and were not. Murdaland is awesome. I can't believe I got a story in it. Woodrell's is just terrific.
My husband ditched the conference after two panels and went to the Historical Society and did research. He knows how to make good use of his time.
To have a good time, 1) you have to drink late into the night 2) be awestruck, which I got over after last year 3) be aggressive in meeting people and hanging on to them. Not my list of strengths.

One bad thing about Madison. Where are the movie theaters? I went to one where electrical wiring was hanging out of the ceiling and the seats were more springs than padding. You can always count on movies when you're feeling awkward.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Off to Bouchercon if I actually get there. NW just cancelled our flight home and had to shuffle fast to get another one on Sunday. Why doesn NW never do anything nice? It's always something to inconvenience you? They cancelled the flight because the crew had worked too many hours. Didn't they know that before now? Hope this is all worth it given my stomach flu, my mother's health problems, and now this. Argh. At least I get to see my daughter and maybe a few good panels.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ThugLit is out

Steve Allen reminded me on his blog of all the people who read your story over time. The Imprint won a second place award at the North American Auto Show seven years ago. At that time my writing class read it and especially Chris Leland, the instructor and a wonderful writer. Then my first second writing group read it: Jane, Dennis and Bill. A few years later my third writing group read it: Anca, Anthony, Claire, Carol, Robin, Patrick, John, Jane, Suzanne and perhaps a few I'm missing. Then my fourth group read it two years ago: Dorene, David and Ksenia. Along the way my husband and daugher have read it. As well as my son, a prosecutor.
It is now the central story in my novel in stories although it ends very differently.
Thanks to these people who don't even know I'm thanking them here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

War Tapes

We saw War Tapes yesterday and it was moving, provoking and completely devastating all at once.
Three guys in the NH National Guard were given videocams to tape their time in Iraq. Now these guys were all, to some degree, invested in the US military or in Bush or in the U.S. They landed in Iraq with very little training and immediately are guarding supply trucks from Haliburton and being exposed to every form of unpredictable violence. They return broken men although still harboring some admiration for Bush or the military or America. It was hard to watch but not nearly as hard as to be there. None of the three will lead normal lives after this. Even the most sane, the most articulate, was destroyed by his time there. The few minutes of cheering that greeted their return to NH was not a just reward for one minute in Iraq. Their experience will be articulated by their physical and mental problems, which the government will try not to acknowledge.
God forgive us for ruining another generation of Americans.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Internet

An interesting article in Atlantic Monthly by James Fallows on positive changes the Internet has brought about--mainly access to immediate information. He ponders if this will somehow affect our memories since we no longer will have to remember things, but concludes the Internet acts as an eyeglass, freeing us for more creative endeavors. Rote memorizing, such as on Jeopardy, is really not that valuable in moving things along.

We saw Live Flesh last night at the DFT. I bet Ruth Rendell's novel was not nearly as overwrought as the Almodovar version but maybe not as much fun. What a palette he uses and its operatic by its conclusion.

Got a nice email from the editor of Murdaland saying it may not be out in time for Bouchercon but maybe we could say hi. I'm still feeling a bit sick being amongst Woodrell, Bausch, Gaitskill, Bruen and others but hey, better than not being there.

Friday, September 22, 2006


There was an article in the NYT this morning about the fall-off in reading that has been going on for many years now. More books are published but fewer read than ever before. Aside from the distractions of technology, I have a few other ideas about why my reading has fallen off.
I used to read a lot more when I smoked 18 years ago. There was nothing more relaxing than sitting down with a book and a pack of cigs. The cigarette made me docile. Now I seldom read for more than ten or fifteen minutes without interruption. Right now I have twenty books reserved at the local library. I will probably only finish 2-3 of them and not because they're not good books. That doesn't take into account the pile I have bought. Taking the bus to work means I get a little more reading done but sometimes my own stories take over and I realize I haven't read at all. Reading the Clair Messaud book right now and still working on the Prose book.
I had another idea about why my reading has fallen off but I forgot it. See how distractable I am.
Oh, yeah, I remember. I read a lot more stories on the web and from my writing group. So there fleeting memory.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Just got a story (The Imprint) accepted at Thuglit. They give out a tee shirt for payment. I will wear that baby with pride. I love their stories and their website and didn't think I wrote tough enough stories to get one accepted. The story is sort of the pivotal chapter in my novel. I have now published three stories from that wasted effort so I guess it is not a wasted effort. Let me at that tee shirt.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

This is a good meditation on how to read and how to write. I especially liked her observation that beginning writers are too often advised to show rather than tell, which leads to long scenes enacting dull action that could have been conveyed more economically by just telling. Not everything needs to be played out. She also speaks lovingly of language. The sentence. The word. Her examples are thrilling.
This is what I love about writing, finding the perfect way of telling, the perfect word, the perfect phrase. In short stories, you have the luxury of doing this. Not as much as in poetry but there's time. And that's why I hate writing novels. You simply can't agonize over every word.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stratford, ON, CA

Every year the town of Stratford in Ontario, CA puts on a six-month festival of plays. Usually there are about 4-5 Shakespeare plays and maybe 7-8 others. Choosing what to see is a source of friction, albeit good-natured friction. And since we go with friends, others are involved. There is also the question of where to stay and where to eat. Lots of opportunities for trouble. Thankfully it usually is avoided by everyone's good sense. This year we saw Henry IV Part One and South Pacific. Now I like many of Will's plays (all right a few) but the histories just make me fall asleep.
He is such a snit too. Making fun of the lower classes whenever he could. Why should we be interested in Prince Hal and not his servant? Ask Will.
To my mind, South Pacific was the meatier play. Its theme of racism was certainly more relevant. Tell my husband that. And the music was sublime.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Novel Thing

Right now I am supposed to be working on a novel for an agent who expressed interest in the project as a novel in stories but didn't think it worked that way. But I am not doing it. I don't know if it is just I am resistant to changing it. Or that I don't know how to change it. Or, that as I look back on it, I don't believe it quite works and so don't want to spend more time on it.
I never wanted to do it to begin with. I don't feel I need to write a novel. I love short stories. I am happy I have had a couple dozen published. That's enough for me.
Or am I just a coward?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Book groups

I have belonged to a book group for about five years. We have seldom read a book without any literary merit. I can only think of one book actually. We read more fiction than non, but not exclusively. We have read poetry (1) and plays (2). We have read polemics (What Happened to Kansas) and memoirs (Personal History and Made in Detroit).
Mostly good or great books., right? Yet every month I find myself resistant to whatever the choice is. This month is impossible. Lonesome Dove. 847 pages of which I read not one word. My favorite book was Bel Canto (Patchett). The other ones I really liked, I had read before. Many I had read before actually.
About 25% have been classics like Pride and Prejudice, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Madame Bovary, East of Eden.
I stay in the group because I like the women. They are Democrats and thoughtful, caring people. That seems like a pretty good reason.
They read Megan Abbott's book "Die a Little" and came to her reading.
What more can I ask?

Monday, September 11, 2006

9-11 RIP

I have nothing profound to say about this date; I wish it had never happened; I wish we didn't respond to it through the agency of George Bush. I can't imagine a worse response. We went from victims to victimizers within months. We are now the most feared nation in the world.

The Kerrytown Bookfest was fun because I got to see three men and a woman I'm fond of: Tribe, Mrs. Tribe, Mitch Bartoy, and Bryon Quertermous. The actual panel was a bit predictable although to be fair, the crowd seemed to want answers to all those old questions. Crime writers are very entertaining and I am looking forward to Mark Billingham at Bouchercon already. Are the English born witty and urbane or do they learn it in school?

Thanks to Stephen Allan and Stephen Blackmoore, I think my rewrite of Monkey Justice is finally taking shape.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


The DFT in Detroit is having an Almodovar festival this fall and we saw Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown again. Very lively movie that holds up well, especially the lead actress and the pacing. Also saw Hollywoodland, about which I have little good to say. The acting was not good especially Adrian Brody who seemed to be acting in a spoof at times. Even Diane Lane seemed awkward playing a femme fatale. It looked good but even that didn't really produce the ambiance it should have had. I think a biopic might even have worked better. We should have felt Reeves' struggle to be a legitimate actor more fully. Why did we need to know so much about Brody's home life?

Went to my first University of Michigan football game . We were there for three plays when they postponed the game due to weather. We were on the second row and it took more than a half hour to climb to the top. I think that will also be my last game in The Big House.

Shocking to go into the original Borders in Ann Arbor and find only one copy of Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone and no copies of his other books. We must live in a real microcosm. To me he is a huge writer, but obviously the public is still reading Evanovich, Patterson etc. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

You tube

Does it make any sense that I love you tube? It's like a great treasure hunt, never knowing what you'll find there. Little clips from a million years ago. Some new video someone who loves The Office or Lost has made. How generous are these people who take the time to share the things they love with the rest of us. Just watched videos from Company with Elaine Stritch. How cool is that? Just don't tell anyone I do this. Please.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Katie Couric

I watched the first night of Katie and thought she was taking a moderate stance. The story on the debacle in Afghanistan seemed fair-minded. Thomas Friedman was his new more moderate self. Night Two was just to the right of FOX. The story on the agency tracking terrorists made it sound like there was one in every Bush and only this administration stood between us and anihilation. The interview with the President was even worse. Maybe she was trying to balance last night's broadcase, but it seems like she is going to use soft stories where she can take a caring stance to allow her to be a right winger on foreign and similar issues. Too soon to tell and it may be CBS more than Katie but it's worrisome. Esp when she said 20,000 people emailed her a signing off phrase.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Great Lines

Cornelia Read's got a ton of them in A Field of Darkess. I don't know if the crime part will pan out, but boy, this lady can write. She could be a contender for writing an updated version of His Girl Friday. She could be the queen of chick lit if there was any value in that.
I've even gotten past my disdain for books about the rich--well, almost. I had a specific line in mind when I started this, but lack of sleeps makes finding it difficult. Maybe later-or maybe not. Why should you get it for free?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Approaching The Fifth Anniversary

It occurred to me flying back home yesterday, we’ve got to get over the idea that Sept. 11th was an earth-stopping tragedy or we will never move forward but instead continue to wreak havoc in at home and abroad. Almost every nation in the world has suffered such things. Even Katrina wreaked more havoc for Americans in the long run. Unless we can put this behind us, we will continue down the path of destruction.Yes, it was a terrible, horrible thing but must we let it set our agenda forever.We are not exceptional except in our sense of entitlement.

It also occurred to me that these airlines are getting away with murder. Charging $2 for a bag of crap they used to give away. I'm 5'2" and can barely get my knees in front of me. What do the six footers do?

The Kerrytown Book Festival is this Sunday. I hope to go. Want to hear Mitch Bartoy and other notables. I pray the Free Press reviews Mitch this time out. Speaking of which, where has their book reviewer gone? They are using canned reviews of late.

Oh, the Detroit Tigers. Must they always break our hearts.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

La Moustache

Terrific movie although very enigmatic. I think it was about a man who loses his identity and invents a way to reclaim it. Maybe not. I live French movies. They are always both ordinary anbd extra-ordinary.

The Phila. Art Museum was terrific. Two photography exhibits-one on summer vacations, the other on photos which appeared in a famous gallery over the years. Forget the gallery owner's name, but lots of great stuff by Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans , etc. Photos tell stories. I guess that's what I like about them. This gallery has so many wonderful period rooms and lots of Impressionism. Wait till the Barnes Foundation joins in.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Sometimes I tell myself that Detroit and Philly are similar in their state of deterioration. And though Philly has some awfully sad sections, there really is no comparison in the downtowns. You can walk for a long time here and still find vibrant shops, restaurants and housing. There's no place like that in Detroit. No where. No decent shops at all in the city. People who live in Detroit must leave the city to shop. Or to walk.
Went to the Brandywine Valley today. Quite lovely. Amazing they haven't ruined it with modern housing tracts. The Wyeth Museum was interesting although there is something too staid in their painting. No surprises, No risks. No vivid colors or themes. Lovely like the flower that looks the same each spring.


Sometimes I tell myself that Detroit and Philly are similar in their state of deterioration. And though Philly has some awfully sad sections, there really is no comparison in the downtowns. You can walk for a long time here and still find vibrant shops, restaurants and housing. There's no place like that in Detroit. No where. No decent shops at all in the city. People who live in Detroit must leave the city to shop. Or to walk.
Went to the Brandywine Valley today. Quite lovely. Amazing they haven't ruined it with modern housing tracts. The Wyeth Museum was interesting although there is something too staid in their painting. No surprises, No risks. No vivid colors or themes. Lovely like the flower that looks the same each spring.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Philadelphia Here I Come

I spent 18 years in Philadelphia and now I know no one here-or at least not well enough to drop by. I am tempted to go see Duane at the City Paper although he has no idea who I am...I've only been here an hour but I already had a cheesesteak at the Reading Terminal and I am on the hunt for Tasty Cakes for my parents--all right for me, too.

Reading Cornelia Read's Fields of Darkness and I am mighty impressed. She has the kind of "voice" that makes you willing to follow her anywhere.

Still can't get Grey Gardens out of my head. I watched the interviews on the DVD, which were haunting. Did Little Edie ever find any happiness. The most haunting thing was in an later interview where she said the best thing about the doc. was her dancing. Truly, she couldn't dance at all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Grey Gardens

We watched Grey Gardens on DVD last night. It was a doc. made in 1976, documenting the life of the Beales, mother and daughter who lived in the Hamptons and were related to Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onasis. It was The Glass Menagerie all over. Tennesses got it exactly right. My husband felt it was almost wrong to watch it, they were too pathetic. And they probably had no idea how crazy and sad they looked in their ruined house, with their menagerie of animals, endlessly going back over their lives and what might have been. Is it wrong to be a voyeur? That said, it was riveting, scary and heart-breaking. How many movies offer that? But they were being used, no doubt about it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm Linked

Now that I've asked Tribe to link me to his blog, I hope I can live up to it.
I'm trying to think of something meaningful to say, trying....trying...
Here's a question. Why didn't the Boulder prosecutors get a DNA sample in Thailand and prevent themselves from looking dumber than ever? I know they claim it was to prevent him from engaging in more pediphilia, but come on.
Reading Pelecanos' The Night Gardener. He does something I rarely do--well, besides writing fantastic novels instead of mediocre stories--he describes his characters physically in great depth. I rarely write physical descriptions, but maybe I should. Perhaps in a 5000 word story, you don't need to.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Demolished but not agented

Another agent said no. Likes the writing but it doesn't speak to her. I guess I've got to send it out again. Demolition took a story. "The Old Ice Down the Back Stunt.' Three stories in zines and one print in the fall. I'm working hard but the novel thing eludes me. I hate sustained writing on one project. Five thousand words and I want to be out of there. Nobody interests me past that. Am I the oldest short attention span person in the country?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Illusionist

Finally a movie to like. The Illusionist. And a romance to boot. When was the last time you saw a romance without laughs. I can't remember. Acting was superior from the three male leads. The female lead was weak but fetching. Beautifully put together.

Redid two short stories and I like the endings better than the originals. Where to send them is more problematic. I still find myself thinking of print journals as superior, even though I have never met a soul save two agents who read my stories in print.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


We watched Brick, which was semi-successful in creating teenage noir. Its main problem was there can't be such a thing unless new devices substitute for rather than replicate the ones in adult noir. The conventions of adult noir seem feigned when used by children. Still it had some good acting and good moments.

Reading Three Junes, which was highly recommended to me. Still the best book of late is Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell. It submitted a story today to Identity Theory. Also sent a copy of the novel to the Iowa Writers Contest. Haha.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lonseome Dove my eye.

I'm supposed to be reading Lonesome Dove for my book group. Why am I so resistant to reading assigned books? Because in this case it's 847 pages about cowboys. I read the first page and threw it on the floor. I start about ten times the number of books I finish. Is this normal?

I finish almost every movie though. Almost.

Story "Hole in the Wall" accepted in Hardluck Stories' Psycho noir issue. That means three in the fall: Murdaland (The Scarecrow), The Spinetinger (Roundabout) and now this. Perhaps one in Detroit Noir too (The Snakecharmer). Perhaps.

Monday, August 21, 2006

John Mark Karr

Is it just me or are too many people getting their kicks from whaling on this guy? Chances are he's some nut but much of the criticism is about his looks. Have you ever seen anyone being hauled away in cuffs who didn't look off.
Since when is it acceptable to make fun of the mentally ill.
here we go again.