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9 posts from May 2005

May 31, 2005

Move Yeh *&#@ Cahhh

When you read the word "Driving," what phrase do you think of next?

a) me up a wall Car_in_tree

b) my car

c) me nuts

Well, if you're from New England, the answer might very well be "on the sidewalk." The GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test, in results released last week, found that of 5,000 experienced drivers around the country, Rhode Island's scored an average of 77 percent in a test of basic road rules. Next to fail was Massachusetts (wicked cool!) and New Jersey ('cause baby we were born to run.)

(Only those goody two shoes in Oregon and Washington scored at the top of the list. Sure. It's all that coffee!)

Basic rules the flunkers failed to know included the silly notion that pedestrians had the right of way and that one apparently does not speed up at a yellow light, especially when a pedestrian is crossing. Hello? But if we don't speed up those idiots in the streets won't move their butts. Come on!

All of this reminds me of my mother, a Watertown, Mass. native, in tears as she negotiated Storrow Drive in Boston, her grip firmly at two and ten, while the three of us children sat rigid in the back seat of our brown Rambler under the strict instruction, "Not to say a word or else!" Being six I could not for the life of me understand the odd hand gestures these Bostonians used while driving. Were they testing the wind with their middle fingers or what?

Later my tough Puerto Rican sister in law - who later came out as a lesbian, left my brother and moved to J.P. to live in a purple house with her Danish "separatist" lover - taught me the nuances of the three "S's" to Boston driving. Shifting. Swearing and Sliding in and out of lanes. I found that if you closed your eyes it really helped.

I live in Vermont now, where we are cursed by the opposite problem: Subaru drivers with kayak racks and "Buy locally, think Globally" bumper stickers as they clock 35 m.p.h. on the way to the co-op, that is when they are not stopping for migrating wood newts.

Of course, each of us harbors the personal belief that we - and we alone - are the best drivers on the planet. Think you're so smart, take the GMAC test yourself (and read about your own state) at the following link:

Let us know how you did.  And, by the way, for you drivers in Massachusetts, driving is not okay on sidewalks. You'd run into too many parked cars, silly.


Sarah_1 Sarah

May 30, 2005

Aerobic Housework

As the L.A. Lipstick Chronicles representative, I feel it’s my duty to keep up the Physical Appearance end of the conversation. Nancy began this thread last Wednesday with her reference to the treadmill she uses while watching TV but I’m going to take it one step further and discuss something I’ve never mentioned in print (probably because I made it up): Aerobic Housework.

Aerobic Housework is the perfect of union of one’s Inner Jane Fonda (the Jane Fonda Workout Jane) (or Kathy Smith or Bob Smith or Jack LaLanne) and Hazel. If you don’t know who Hazel is, ask your mother.  I didn’t use to have an Inner Hazel, but it’s one thing to be a slob when you’re in your twenties and a
bachelorette or possessed of a roommate or two, and quite another to be a homeowner with five other humans and two canines on the premises. You let that operation get out of hand, and you find yourself on Oprah. I’m serious—there’s now a psychiatric disorder for people whose houses are too dirty, and as we know from that poor woman whose teenage son killed himself last year, there can even be criminal liability for bad housekeeping. So anyway, as I’m the only one of the seven creatures I call family with any standards of cleanliness, not to mention a dead grandmother who whispers in my ear that I can’t get
any writing done with a sinkful of dishes, Aerobic Housework is the way to go.

Here’s what you need for Aerobic Housework: a house or apartment with stairs, (with loud, happy music playing on every floor), and a heart monitor. The latter can be bought at any sporting goods store, and I’m telling you, once you start using a heart monitor, you’ll never go back to those lame pedometers again. The former I can’t help you with, but if you live in a ranch-type house, I suggest moving. To begin, attach the heart monitor, determine your aerobic range (for me, it’s 120 beats per minute) and then run up and down your stairs—or jump rope, if you’re a ranch house dweller—for as long as it takes to reach and exceed that magic number. In my case, I run up and down my upper set of stairs three times to get my heart rate up to 130 or so. And then the fun begins.

I start with laundry. There are six places in my house that laundry gets delivered to, and an endless number of place from which my laundry gets collected, so laundry collection and delivery can take a good twenty minutes of aerobic time. The key is, are you willing to jog in place as you fold? If you are, then you are an Aerobic Housework acolyte in the making. Because you can’t slow down. You have to jog everywhere, and hop up and down like a maniac when you’re in one place, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that you can do a lot of stuff while hopping up and down. Polish the dining room table with lemon oil. Clean the kitchen counters. Windex the windows and mirrors. Sweep the floor. Dust. Iron. Yes, iron.

The Level Two activities tend to slow down the heartbeat, so these have to be done piecemeal, interrupted with running up and down the stairs in order to get yourself back into the aerobic zone. These include emptying the dishwasher, scrubbing floors, loading the washing machine, changing lightbulbs, putting DVDs back into their cases, and making beds. You’re not going to finish any of these activities in one session, but that’s okay, because Aerobic Housework is a gestalt thing, a Big Picture operation, running upstairs to throw the fitted sheet onto the bed, then running downstairs to scrub six square feet of floor (I don’t use a Swiffer; I’m old school) and then running back upstairs to stuff two pillows into
pillowcases (while jogging in place) and then back downstairs to scrub out a toilet and do three more feet of floor. You get the idea. Ninety minutes of this and your entire house is sparkling and you’ve burned several hundred calories (this is vital if you eat as much chocolate as I do.)

Will people think you’re mad? Yes. Will your dogs bark at you? Yes. Will you amaze your houseguests, embarrass your children in front of their friends, and frighten the FedEx guy? Yes. Do you care? Not if you need to squeeze in that workout and clean the house for your mother-in-law’s visit (getting the house
“rid up,” as my Pittsburgh-born husband would say). My husband, in fact, wants me to do an Aerobic Housework video so we can make a fortune and retire, but I’m far too lazy to produce anything more than a clean house, and the occasional novel, so here it is, free of charge to you.

Oh: wear running shoes. This is a high impact activity that can wear out your feet. Also, be careful on those steps. I’ve only twisted my ankle once in the twelve years since I invented Aerobic Housework, but God forbid you’re laid up and have to resort to the Merry Maids. And need I remind you not to run
with scissors? Happy housework!


May 29, 2005

Report from the Road

Mayhemtiny_1 Two weeks ago, I was in North Carolina doing some gigs in the Raleigh/Durham area, and this past weekend I spent four days in Omaha at the Mayhem in the Midlands convention, schmoozing with other authors and fans of mystery.  Maybe I'm weird (okay, that's a given), but doing these kind of promotional trips is more like a vacation for me.  I get to spend time with friends, yak about books, and release my inner ham.  My first fun assignment was to interview Donna Andrews, author of the Meg Langslow books (OWLS WELL THAT ENDS WELL) and the Turing Hopper series (DELETE ALL SUSPECTS due out this fall).  Donna's a good friend of mine, which made it fun to ask her questions that (I hoped) she hadn't been asked a million times before.  Sean Doolittle (BURN) moderated a panel I was on regarding small press authors who'd moved on up to NY publishing houses.  Victor Gischler (SUICIDE SQUEEZE) and Evan McNamara (SUPERIOR POSITION) filled out the other slots, and we had a really good crowd, all curious about how such a change affected our promotional efforts, distribution and readership.  But the highlight of it all was probably "Saturday Morning Semi-Live," where Dina Willner led a bunch of authors (Dana Cameron, Letha Albright, Donna, and Dan Hale) through an improv session plotting a book, down to characters, murder vics, motives, and location, while I got to play the "editor" and criticize at will--well, I played two editors, one named Susie, a perky, enthusiastic newbie, who was quickly fired and replaced by the crabby, cocktail sipping Gertrude, more akin to Joan Crawford without the shoulder pads.  If you see any photos of that hour pop up on the Web, rest assured, I'm being blackmailed. 

In two weeks, I'll be heading to Houston to speak on promotion at the Hardboiled Heroes and Cozy Cats conference, sponsored by the Southwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and I'll sign at Murder by the Book with fellow author Eric Stone.  As a Memorial High School grad from Houston, it'll be nice to return to Texas and see old pals (and new).  Though I look forward to settling back down at the computer and writing the next Deb Dropout book (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEB), I sure have a good time on the road.  Hope to see some of y'all along the way.

In the meantime, I've got a suitcase to unpack and a few loads of laundry to do.  I might even vacuum.  I know, I know.  Pretty glamorous stuff. 

Cheers, Susan


P.S.  Thanks to those of you who wrote and told me epidurals were around as early as 1966.  I believe you, and I probably owe you lunch for allowing me to take that "mistake" off my worry list.

P.P.S.  I'm surprised no one pointed out that I'd misspelled William Petersen's last name.  It was a test...yeah, like a pop quiz!  (Okay, I just made that up but it sounds good.)

May 28, 2005

Ladies, get out your rusted clippers....

...because there are some men who need a prunin'.

And I ain't talking hair cut.

Word has come to me thru the Bubbles grapevine that a woman I know and respect has just been dumped by her husband of 17 years. We're talking D-I-V-O-R-C-E. (Sing along with me.) But wait, I'm just getting started.

This so-called husband is a doctor. A doctor she put through __tn_bubblesinsalon_1medical school. Ahem.

AND he's been cheating on her with another woman.

AND she was diagnosed just a few years ago with MS.

See what I mean about the pruning shears?

This reminds me of Bubbles's ex Dan the Man whom she put through law school only to have him dump her for a wealthy cheeseball heiress once his career got going. (You can read all about it at - look for BUBBLES UNBOUND in the links at the bottom).

This also makes me think of another friend whose husband had a mental breakdown and went into the hospital. Although he'd been difficult to live with for some time, she stuck by him, only to learn that he'd been having an affair on the psych ward with another women.


NOT SO FUN FACT: It takes 100 calories a day that are not metabolized to turn into 10 pounds a year. That's a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise or a chocolate chip cookie or that half of my son's sandwich I ate. Sigh.

On that note, have a happy Memorial Day weekend. And pray with me that Vermont State Police keep their visits to the hillbillies who live next door down to three, max.

Sarah Cheers,

Sarah Betrothed

May 27, 2005


So the Powerball is worth $215 million last I checked. 


"Nancy," you ask, "what does the Powerball lottery have to do with writing sexy mystery novels?"

Most writers cringe when we get asked the dreaded, "Where do you get your ideas" question, but for me the answer all comes back to    Powerball. 

See, I was looking for a way to stop writing romance novels (how much sex can one girl have on paper before your life becomes a subject of discussion among your friends, your family and--no doubt worst of all--your children?) and I was casting around for a unique idea for a mystery series because I truly love reading mysteries and felt I could move into a more dignified career if I started killing people instead of--well, you know.  I knew I wanted to write about three sisters with the name Blackbird.  But after that, I was stuck for good ideas.

Since the lottery had just become legal in Pennsylvania, the entire state was engulfed in jackpot fever.  Everyone I knew--including my mother--was fantasizing about what they'd do with a gigantic windfall of money.  It occurred to me that people really enjoy day-dreaming about being super rich.  I mean mega-rich.  (Let me quote my mother here:  "A million isn't what it used to be.")

So I came up with the idea of writing about three sisters--heiresses--who come from a very old, respected Philadelphia family and could take my reader on a tour of that Old Money, blueblood world as they solve mysteries.  But my agent--equal parts wise and witty, and who will tell you she comes from a long line of Irish maids--felt the rich girl story wouldn't sell, so I noodled it around a little longer and decided the sisters were rich...but their parents ran off with their trust funds and the daughters are forced into the real world to get jobs for the first time in their lives. So that's where the Blackbird Sisters got started. The Powerball.


The first book in the series is HOW TO MURDER A MILLIONAIRE. 

See?  (I'm so pleased I've learned how to put pictures into the blog!)

So, the deep question I will pose this morning is this:  What would you do with a gazillion dollars?  Buy cars? A house on Anguilla? Deliver vaccine to Botswana? Save a ballet company from extinction?  Roll around naked in the biggest pile of romance novels you can amass? C'mon, tell me.

And in case this is too low-brow for you, here's what I'm reading this week: 

The Guilty Pleasure book is THE RIGHT ADDRESS by a couple of women who grew up on the Upper East Side.  Big fun, social satire delivered in a terrifically witty writerly voice, which is My Thing.

And the most fascinating thing I'm reading this week is the May 2 issue (yeah, okay, so I'm behind) of The New Yorker, which is the science issue. There's a story by John Seabrook about architect Richard Meier being commissioned to build a new building in Rome.  The article delves into the history of Rome, le Corbusier, Mussolini (no kidding, he had a lot to do with what you see in Rome today) and the tomb of Augustus, not to mention the hot political issue of excavating to Year Zero in a city that still has to function in such situations as 3 million pilgrims descending for a beloved pope's funeral. (You didn't know I was this much of a nerd, did you?)

My fave New Yorker writer has to be Anthony Lane.  Do you read his stuff? I have great respect for wordsmiths who also have ideas. With great shame, I quote him here as he paraphrases Yoda to sum up his review of the new Star Wars movie:

"Break me a fucking give." 

Buy a couple of Poerball tickets.  Indulge your fantasy.


ps.  My mystery SOME LIKE IT LETHAL is a finalist in the Kiss of Death Daphne du Maurier contest!  I can't find out what the other books are.  Anybody know?

May 26, 2005

Getting It Right (Or Else)

Seems like every time I do an event, people ask about the TV show, CSI, and whether or not I watch it.  I admit that I catch it now and then, because I do like William Peterson (okay, I've had a thing for him since Manhunter--so sue me) and it's escapist fun besides.  But I tend to remind them that it's far from reality, as any law enforcement officer will eagerly tell you.  In fact, every time I call my forensics experts with a question, they preface their answers by reminding me, "This isn't CSI.  You know that's not real."

Yeah, I think most of us realize that no true forensics investigator would examine a crime scene with all the lights off, using only the beam of a tiny Mag-lite to illuminate the evidence.  Oy.  (Do they not have ceiling lights in Vegas?  Or have the flashing neon signs knocked out the power grids to the rest of the city?)

I do think people give movies and TV shows far more leeway to get things wrong.  Maybe words on paper seem more authoritative--heck, we learn most of what we know from textbooks, and we're taught to believe what's printed there--so more weight is given to what's written than to dialogue spoken on the big or small screen.

Despite trying my best to get things right in my mysteries, inevitably there's a mistake somewhere (that my editor, the copyeditor and I have missed) that'll prompt a reader to email and tell me where I erred.  Although, once the book is out, it's too late to fix anything, so it's just one more thing I add to my worry list, as I don't forget the snafus once I hear them.

Tinygoodgirl THE GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER, the second Debutante Dropout book, came out in late January, and, by February, I'd heard from someone who brought to my attention that I had Andy mention (actually, think) about a crocheted throw that had been knitted for her.  "Wrong," I was told.  "You don't knit a crocheted throw.  You crochet it."  Okay, got me there.  A different reader noted that Cissy puts Andy on a guilt-trip by remarking that she gave birth to her without benefit of an epidural, when epidurals weren't in use at the time Andy was born.  (Really?  No epidurals in 1975? Ouch!)  Regardless, Cissy will still use that spiel to torment Andy for the rest of their lives.

In BLUE BLOOD, the debut of the series, I have an exit ramp coming off the North Dallas Tollway that apparently didn't exist, at least not at the time of the book's publication in February of 2004.  Though I was informed they were working on such an exit.  In my mind, that means I was one step ahead of the highway department.

I feel a lot better about making errors (ones I hope the majority of folks don't even notice) after speaking at Holmes Under the Arch II this past weekend, a Sherlockian symposium.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was infamous for having boo-boos in his stories, something the Sherlockians willingly admit.  In Seamus Sweeney's January blog entry for, he has this to say:  "Doyle wrote the stories with scant regard for the creation of a mythos and chronological missteps, inconsistencies in character and even in appearances and similar slips abound."

As I told the Sherlockians, if an icon like Conan Doyle can have screw-ups in his work, what's the big deal if a small fry like me makes an occasional slip-up?  I always thought that was "literary license," right?

Now get out there and have a wonderful holiday weekend.  Just don't mess up the burgers, or someone will surely point it out.

Tinysuephoto Cheers, Susan

P.S.  Check out this link to the Boston Herald article on chick lit mysteries that quotes Harley and me:

May 25, 2005


I'm supposed to be finishing my book today.  So...let's procrastinate just a little.

Nancyheadshot Things that bug me while I'm on the treadmill every morning:  The screaming behind the weatherman on all those morning "news" shows.  Honestly, now, doesn't any screaming in New York, post-9-11, seem inappropriate?  Maybe I have a heightened sense of what's tacky?

And how come there's so little actual news anymore?  I figure I'm walking on the treadmill, I should be improving my mind or trying to figure out the difference between the Sunnis and the Shiites. At least Katie and Matt come out & admit they're just going to give me the headlines, not any actual substance.  And once those headlines are overwith, all those programs start talking about celebrities.  It's like our whole culture has become celebrity watching.  What?  We're all crouching at our computers all day and have so little interaction with real people that we start to think of the people we see on TV and in movies are our only friends?  Our natural urge to dissect the lives of our nearest and dearest has been reduced to watching Entertainment Tonight to find out how poor Jen is feeling these days.  (Okay, amusing t-shirt watch:  "I'll have your baby, Brad!") 

And, really, if Tom Cruise was your brother/son/father/uncle and you saw him jumping around on Oprah's couch, would you either:

a.  Give him the verbal slap upside the head or

b. Gather friends and family for an intervention?

And don't get me started on Paris Hilton.  But I live on the east coast.  (Well, kinda.) And I don't think we're as accepting of mindless celebrities who are famous for nothing but being famous.  What's the mid-western opinion on this subject?  Why are Americans fascinated by this self-absorbed girl?

I'm mad at the Today Show. And I can only watch the Buffy re-runs so many times before I start worrying that I might start attending conventions in costume or something. I've started watching Don Imus instead.  Can you tell?  I'm a curmudgeon today.

Okay, okay, I'll finish the book.  Here's the cover of my latest, by the way: Cross_cover


May 24, 2005

Welcome to our world!

Welcome to The Lipstick Chronicles where four friends who write books plan to vent, rant, fume, fuss and maybe reach some insightful conclusions about about our writing lives as we Reveal All about our families, our agents (are they the same??) our work and getting along in the world.

Many thanks to Jane, our web mistress, for setting up the blog in the first place.  (Any blunders we make from now on are solely ours!) and to Sarah for making things look pretty.

We hope to conduct a conversation here.  We want to build friendships.  So join in when you have something to say.  Don't hold back.  We want to hear from you.


May 19, 2005

Welcome to The Lipstick Chronicles Blog

This is the first post to The Lipstick Chronicles.  Just testing to see how this will look on the blog.

Good Luck to All!