« April 2010 | Main | June 2010 »

32 posts from May 2010

May 31, 2010

Tortoise Sex and other birthday, uh, gifts

by Harley

To all the soldiers who’ve gone on to the great barracks in the sky, we will not forget you . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ka3Miv9tMQ&feature=related

Yes, it’s Memorial Day. It’s also . . .

Bob’s birthday.

IMG_0017  Bob, if you’re new to the blog, is my family’s mannequin. Last year, when my twins were turning 7, my daughter wanted a white desk for her bedroom as a birthday gift. My son wanted a mannequin.

It seems like only yesterday that we unpacked Bob from his UPS box and set him up in the dining room, but here it is another Memorial Day, time to trade Bob’s winter tuxedo for swimming trunks and a tank top.

And time to introduce this year's birthday presents, because those 7-year-olds just turned 8.

First, there’s Spike. Spike is a bearded dragon. Spike doesn’t live with me Bearded_dragon_03tfk   because Spike eats live crickets, and I am a vegetarian. (Yes, I grill steaks for my children, but I don’t serve them mooing cows.) Spike lives with my kids’ dad. But I visit.  

 With Spike settled in 12 blocks away, my son’s thoughts turned to Pets For Mommy To Enjoy. One afternoon I found him calling websites. “Hello, is this www.PetsR4U? Do you have a real store I can visit, and is it in California?” Then came daily calls to Nancie-The-Gun-Tart in Arizona, because Nancie once worked at PetSmart. Nancie talked him out of aquatic turtles, carriers of salmonella (thank you, Nancie) and six pet store visits later, we found a pair of Herman Tortoises. Splitting them up was just too Parent Trap, so we bought both. Also, they were on sale.  Their names are Frank and Forest, but I can’t tell them apart, and refer to them collectively as The Hermans. The Hermans are vegans.

No sooner had The Hermans moved into my son’s bedroom than his twin sister realized she had no pets. The 5 new fish we acquired with The Hermans didn’t count. “You can’t cuddle a fish!” she cried. More calls to Nancie, resulting in Sundae, a guinea pig.

“It could be worse,” I told the clerk ringing up guinea pig food at Love’s Pets. “It could’ve been a pet rat. I hate rodents.”

Guinea-pig-0020  “Honey?” the clerk said. “Guinea pigs are rodents.”


 Now, the plan was that Sundae would room with Dixie, my older daughter’s rabbit. Dixie was once smaller than Sundae, but is now the size of a toaster oven. And while Dixie has always been an introvert, the minute we brought in Sundae for the meet & greet, Dixie turned vicious. It was either anti-psychotic drugs or separate hutches. IMG_0224_2  So now my backyard is a double-hutch housing complex for creatures with a high output of . . . let’s just say it. Poop. Which is good fertilizer, and I do have a compost bin, but I haven’t set it up yet.  I find it intimidating. (Any composters out there?)

The Hermans pose a different housing problem. Their gender is still unknown (they’re too small to tell) so they could end up being romantically involved, as the incest taboo isn’t big among tortoises. Should they really be in my son’s bedroom? Nancie? Must he learn about sex from The Hermans? Because check it out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkKYNwYBYrs This guy does everything but play Barry White and light up a cigarette afterward.

Once, life was simple. I lived alone. Now I’m some kind of Wild Kingdom Michelle Duggar, minus the Jim Bob husband and the homeschooling. I mother three human offspring, plus:

Jinn, dog

Fez, dog

Spike, bearded dragon

Dixie, rabbit

Sundae, guinea pig

Frank, Herman tortoise

Forest, Herman tortoise

Mr. Fluffers, beta fish

Sit, bottom feeder

Fish, misc: Molly, Polly, Stripe, Polka Dot, and Photosynthesis.


And, of course, Bob.


Happy Memorial Day!



May 30, 2010


Welcome to the New Lipstick Chronicles!

by Nancy

Surprised you, didn't we?  Today you're getting the first glimpse of our new look and----Tah-dah!--our new writers!

Take a peek at the banner up top.  See those names?  That's right, there's a new game in town. New talent.  New voices. New points of view. Readers, we're gonna rock your world! Seems fitting to me that we're launching on the same weekend as the Sex in the City movie hits theaters.  Why? Because it's all about female bonding, baby.  And we want you, our loyal Lipstick readers, to bond with some of the most fantastic women writers currently publishing.

Go to fullsize image

On Wednesday, you'll hear from the there-are-no-superlatives-superlative enough Margaret Maron, whose most recent book, SAND SHARKS, is part of the Edgar-winning, Anthony-winning Deborah Knott mystery series. (That's Margaret above, in the center, wearing Dior.) This series broke ground that many women mystery writers have planted on since the publication of THE BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER. We're pinching ourselves that Margaret has graciously agreed to join us here at TLC.

Can't believe your luck? Hang on.  Thursday, you'll be reading Nancy Pickard's first post as an official Tart, too.  Nancy's new book, THE SCENT OF RAIN AND LIGHTNING, is the book I'm stealing off to read between picnics this weekend.  If you haven't bought your copy yet, why not?? (And click on her website to see a Barnes & Noble video interview with Nancy. She's their summer pick!)

You think I'm kidding, don't you?  Right hand up to God, I'm not.  It gets even more amazing:

On Friday, mystery fans, we welcome Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs mystery series--a series that reflects Jackie's deep interest in World War I and has earned such awards as the Agatha, Anthony and Alex. Check out THE MAPPING OF LOVE AND DEATH. Jackie's a transplanted Brit, and we can't wait to hear what she has to say about British elections and toe-sucked princesses. And horses!

Go to fullsize image

And that's just the line-up for this week, mystery fans.  In the weeks to come, we will welcome the likes of--yes!--Louise Penny, Cornelia Read and Brunonia Barry . . . and more. Plus all your favorite Book Tarts will stick around. (And we're stuck with Her, Margie, too.  Who's brave enough to fire her?  She knows people!)

Why the change? Why now?  If you haven't heard of the Sisters in Crime monitoring project, you don't get out enough.  Every year, Sisters in Crime keeps track of all the mystery novels reviewed in mainstream media.  And the sad news is that women writers are reviewed significantly less often than men. 2009 was worse than before. So sometimes we girls have to join forces and make things happen for ourselves. Plus, who wouldn't want to have such women as the ones I've told you about for friends?



Please help make our new writers welcome.  In the weeks, months and years to come, we promise more great, insightful, hilarious, poignant and engaging writing from some of the best in the business.  No kidding.

May 29, 2010

Kevin O'Brien Guest Blogs


by Kevin O’Brien  DPP_4355

At the first signing for my new thriller VICIOUS, I met the lovely and talented Nancy Martin.  We were two of about two-score authors participating in The Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, which was hosted by the Edgar Award winning bookstore, Mystery Lovers Bookshop.  I must have signed about fifty books.   Between the volume of books sold and meeting Nancy (along with many terrific authors, librarians and readers), it was a good signing, damn good!

But it hasn’t always been like that. 

Any author can tell you, some book signing sessions are utter hell.  You never know how many people will show up to a signing—and neither do the bookstores.   I had a signing years ago, where they’d set up forty chairs in front of my podium.  Only one of those chairs was occupied—by some poor customer reading a self-help book.   The store clerk told me, “If he’s not here to see you, I’ll ask him to sit somewhere else.”

“Who exactly would he be making room for?”  I asked.

Mr. Self-Help and the store clerk were the only ones who sat through my brief, very brief talk.  In poorly attended signings like this one, the clerk always tries to take the blame.  “You know, Tuesday nights can be awfully slow,” or “We shouldn’t have scheduled you opposite Pancake Dinner Night at the high school,” or even bold face lies like, “Don’t feel bad.  We had Mick Jagger in here last week, and hardly anybody showed up.”

After that particular signing, I started telling stores in advance that I won’t be lecturing or reading from my book.  But I’d be happy to sit at a desk strategically located in the store—with copies of my books.  That way, I could smile at people as they passed, interact—and push my thrillers.   This worked pretty well, especially after I put a dishful of mini-Hershey bars out with the books.   I started that trick around the time I had my first New York Times Bestseller, THE LAST VICTIM.  Just a coincidence?  I think not!  

But even then, I’ve had slow sessions when no one will stop by my table.  The time drags on, the frozen smile on my face begins to hurt, and I start eating up my own chocolates.  But then someone approaches me, and I’m so, so hopeful—until they ask: “Where’s the Cultural Studies Section?”

“It’s probably with my will to live,” I want to answer.  “I have no idea where that is either.”

But the truth is every bookstore signing is a great opportunity to meet the people who work in the stores—selling my books.   There are times when I’ve met readers who made a special trip to see me.  And I’ve received emails from people who got hooked on my thrillers after meeting me at a signing.

 As my thrillers have become more popular, the signings have become easier—and even fun.   And yes, I’ll do talks and lectures now.  

But even the most popular authors can have slow nights in bookstores.   In 1986, when my first novel, ACTORS, was released, I went to my local bookstore to catch Pat Conroy signing THE PRINCE OF TIDES.  It was dead in there.  The store owner introduced me to Mr. Conroy, and mentioned that I’d just published my first novel.  For the next half-hour, Pat Conroy talked with me about the ups and downs of publishing a first novel.   I was elated.

I bought the PRINCE OF TIDES, of course, and Pat Conroy autographed it, congratulating me on my first book.  Then he took my ACTORS off the store shelf, plopped his money down for the cashier, and had me autograph it to him.  Talk about a class act!

It just goes to show about book signings, even on a dead night, an author can make a great impression.

New York Times Bestselling thriller author, Kevin O’Brien has written eleven novels.  The latest, VICIOUS, is in bookstores now.   Check out his website: www.kevinobrienbooks.com


May 28, 2010

The First One Doesn't Count- Time for New Marriage Rules

The First One Doesn't Count - Time for New Marriage Rules

by Kathy Sweeney

Yesterday's blog reminded me of a topic I've been meaning to blog about - first [aka 'practice'] marriages.  It is astounding how many people were married - usually for a short time - before they got married for real.  No offense to those of you lucky ones who got it right the first time - but statistics show you are in the minority here.  And although murder is a lovely thought, especially for people like us who love mysteries, it can have some unfortunate incarceration consequences in both the short term and eternal one.

Blog Sanctity of Marriage - 1960 - 2006 Since every Joe Bag-o-Donuts thinks he or she has the right to dictate who gets married in this country, let's just open the whole topic up.  I think we need to have some kind of public policy that first marriages don't always count.  Like a mulligan in golf (a do-over).  You get a shot at marriage and if it doesn't stick the first time, you get another swing.

Seriously?  If they can come up with a re-virginizing procedure that's done on an out-patient basis (there is such a thing, in case you didn't know, along with all kinds of other fancy vaginal variations, but in deference to our more squeamish readers, we shall leave that for another day.)

Similarly, if you can get a minor criminal matter expunged from your record (not that I know anything about that, especially for stuff that happens before you are 21 and may have been related to a jagoff local cop who got beat up in by my boyfriend but that is also another story) then why can't you get a marriage dropped?

In fact, the Holy Roman Catholic Church does just that - straight from the Vatican and everything - but it's only recognized by the RCs, who - let's just say it- ought to be minding the sexual activities of the inmates rather than the community - and is not recognized by law.  My first husband got an annulment.  The procedure is vulgar. My ex confessed all the bad stuff he did to me and qualified for one.  Then they asked me to fill out a bunch of forms confirming the details.  I think not.  Then I asked if they were going to counsel he and his new bride about the criminal behavior before she made the same mistake I did.  Ready for this?  Nope. Confidentiality of the confessional and so forth.  It was not the first, but would prove to be the deepest chasm between me and the RC.

Blog BadMarriage You can get a legal annulment but only if the marriage wasn't consummated. Consummated is a legal term that has nothing to do with soup or eating.  Stay with me. It means that, after the marriage, the couple had sexual intercourse (or, as our friend Sheldon calls it: "Coitus").  It has been interpreted to mean Tab A penetration of Slot B - so if you just do the more creative stuff, you may have a shot.  This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Especially for the very young - or the very indoctrinated/intoxicated - why the hell else do you get married other than to have guilt-free sex?  Duh.

Here we go.  I will cut out the legalese - you know - the "Whereas, Man A and Woman B participated in a legal blah blah" and cut right to the heart of the statute - the bases for legal annulment.

1.  The alleged spouse is a cheating lying pig who had sex with someone else before the ink was dry on the marriage certificate.

2.  The alleged spouse commits any act of violence upon the clueless but well-intentioned spouse.

3.  The alleged spouse commits any act of violence upon any child or any animal, unless it is in self-defense (that part only applies to killer dogs).

4.  The alleged spouse thinks any of the following are 'hot' and/or 'would love to hit that' (note I included both genders - anyone can be a pig whore):

        a. Bombshell "Love that Hitler" McGee

        b. Elliott "No shit I have to pay for it"  Spitzer

        c. Lindsay "What are these words underwear and court date?" Lohan

        d.  Larry "'No - it's just a wide stance" Craig

5.  The alleged spouse is otherwise simply a "Stone Jagoff" - a legal determination which can be established via sworn affidavits provide by observers who can provide eye witness testimony.

What say you, TLC?  Have a first marriage you'd like to erase?  Have more suggestions for paragraph #4?  Or perhaps another basic criteria for our proposed statute?  Tell us!

May 27, 2010

Is My Face Red?

Is My Face Red?

by Nancy Go to fullsize image

Years ago, when I was still tipping spoonfuls (spoonsful?) of Benadryl down the throats of my toddlers when they got the sniffles, I "borrowed" a spoon from my in-laws' Thanksgiving table for the long trip home after dinner.  OKay, to be honest, I don't remember taking the spoon at all, but I must have dropped it into the diaper bag and rushed out the door. 

For so many reasons was I rushing.

Anyway, when we finally arrived at our home, the message light was blinking furiously on our answering machine.  Turns out, the crummy--er, the spoon I had accidentally removed from their house was heirloom silver.  (Tarnished, I might add, and definitely silver plate, but I have no bitterness about this event, do I?) I dug into the diaper bag, and sure enough, there it was.

To this day, as frequently as possible, my husband's family gleefully reminds me of the incident in which I stole silver from them.

Embarrassing? Yes.

But not as embarrassing as the situation in which Fergie, that's Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, found herself this week when she was caught on videotape offering to sell access to her ex-husband, who's the special poobah of British trade, a man in a position to help somebody get a good deal.  The crude, gimme gesture she makes with her hand while requesting a sum that's nearly three quarters of a million dollars to put foreign "merchants" in touch with her ex, is especially damning body language.  Her hand gesture suggests--to me, at least--that she's accustomed to asking for big bucks to give up her in-laws. Here's Tina Brown's take on the situation.

In-law embarrassment stories abound, of course.  (Feel free to share yours!) The first time my husband--a sweet country boy at the time---was taken out to dinner (he was asked to wear a tie--"Just for dinner?" he asked incredulously) by my parents, he chose squab as his entree. He proceeded to use his dinner knife to try cutting a slice from the tiny bird---except he slipped and sent an entire serving of rice pilaf into my mother's lap. He's still humiliated.  (My mother has forgotten.  At least, she graciously says she's forgotten.  My mother-in-law, on the other hand, squawks about that damn spoon every time I--oh, never mind.) But he wasn't plotting to sell them out, take advantage, abuse their trust.

Or steal their silver.

Imagine the scene next time Sarah's in the Queen's presence.

Go to fullsize image

Except I kinda doubt she'll ever get within fifty feet of Liz as long as she lives.

To me, this story isn't just about screwing your in-laws.  I think it's a story about a woman who's trying to keep up her living standard after her divorce.  I bet you know at lease one woman who is struggling to stay afloat, pay the rent, buy a decent pair of shoes and perhaps educate children on whatever meagre income can be scratched out after the big D.  Most of the divorced women we know, however, are making do on a salary earned at whatever job they have landed after devoting themselves to husband and family. 

There must be thousands of stories about women who put their husbands through medical school, then raised the kids and were left for a younger model, right?  And what kind of training does child care and car pooling make for a second career?  It's not exactly the path to the CEO's suite at the top of the  blue chip corporation.

I'm sympathetic to Sarah Ferguson.  Sure, she's an idiot and has no judgment (what must her children think??) and has developed expensive tastes. She can't exactly get a job flipping burgers. She's trying to get along on a divorce settlement that's supposedly $22,000 a year. Not easy, even if the rent's paid on the palace.

The fiction writer in me sees all kinds of possibilities in this story.  And I'm sympathetic to everyone.  Except maybe the tabloid people, who aren't exactly heroes, are they? Even though they brought a potentially treasonous act to light.  What a tangled web, right?

Jeez, Sarah. Get a job. That's the first step, honey.

May 26, 2010

How to Bury a Body in a Basement

How to Bury a Body in a Basement   Scan0001_0001         

By Elaine Viets

I try to give readers accurate information in my mysteries. When I needed to know if it was possible to have sex in a casket for "Dying to Call You," I went to a casket showroom. I found out the average casket is wider than the backseat of a Buick and has a comfy mattress.

That, folks, is where my research stopped.

I work the same low-paying jobs as Helen Hawthorne for my Dead-End Job novels.

For the ninth book in that series – "Half-Price Homicide" – I had to bury a body. Fast. In St. Louis’ clay soil.

Architect Fred Powers was the only person I knew who could dig up this information. Don and I first met Fred in the 1980s, when he was our neighbor in south St. Louis.

That was before Fred became Principal in Charge at Powers Bowersox Associates (powersbowersox.com). The award-winning firm specializes in architecture, planning and interior design.

I needed a plan. I e-mailed Fred that a character needed to bury a body. "I'm thinking the foundation of a home addition (sunporch or garage) or an addition to the local church," I wrote. "She won't have time to do a lot of digging. Would it be possible to bury a body in the clay soil – or is there a rock or chat layer, which would be even better?"

Fred photo Fred didn’t delete my looney e-mail. Instead, he wrote,"Crematin is much faster than digging graves! Perhaps you can find a do-it-yourself cremation kit advertised on the shopping channel."

That burning issue aside, Fred turned serious. "Yes, I suppose you could bury someone in clay. Clay soil is frequently unstable soil with high amounts of clay particles and prone to heaving. Digging clay can take time and is messy compared to top soil. It sometimes seems like you are digging in rock."

Fred even considered the landscaping for a body burial: "If she wants to plant perennials or shrubs requiring good root support over the body she should mix in top soil when she covers him. If she were in a hurry, this careful attention to detail may be a problem."

She was. The guy needed a dirt nap ASAP.

Fred said the St. Louis area was "famous" for its "clay, plastic soils . . . Digging in clay one may or may not encounter rock. From our experience there may be less risk in digging around a house than a church."

My character didn’t have time to find a house. She had a body in her van. But there was a nearby church addition.

Churches could be an unholy mess. Here are some difficulties Fred’s firm overcame at local churches: "We discovered rock where the geotechnical report said there was none . . . old foundations and buried tanks . . . a buried tank and old concrete steps . . . oodles of unstable soil.

"I don't know why churches seem to be surrounded by unusual sub-soil conditions," Fred said. "Maybe it’s because they tend to undergo more changes through additions and other alterations compared to houses, or God does not like us messing with the soil around his houses.

This probably was not the answer you were seeking."

Wrong, Fred. You had the answer to a mystery writer’s prayer. The dead evildoer was ready to be carted away when I discovered another problem. I turned to Fred in my hour of architectural need.

"Before the concrete foundation is poured, is there a layer of rock, chat or something else that’s put down?" I asked.

Thank goodness, this was a modern murder. The codes have been changed to favor those burying bodies in a hurry – and to make foundations stronger.

Fred said, "The concrete floor slab located between the foundation walls is poured over compacted soil, crushed stone and vapor barrier. Depending on thickness of slab and loading, the concrete slab may include wire mesh to incerase slab loading resistance."  

Good. A church basement with crushed stone was waiting for the concrete slab – and the body. Fred advised me not to bury the body too near drains, pipes and conduits.

The dead body has been safely stashed, thanks to Fred. My character can truthfully say the bad guy was buried in the church.

I believe my burial scene is accurate. If you follow the directions for body disposal and get caught, remember – any mistakes are mine, not Fred’s.


May 25, 2010

Martinis or Bust!

By Sarah

It was my typical speech at the Otis Library Annual Fundraiser in Norwich, CT., except the audience, who'd paid $125 to attend, was a bit more literary than the average crowd. These were the generous salt o'the earth types without whom libraries and state parks and bike paths would fail to exist. Many of them had multiple homes, from Manhattan to Vermont, though they wore their wealth graciously. Extremely polite.

In other words, tough crowd.

Martini  Until I happened to mention that I had just turned in a manuscript entitled The Ladies Society for the Conservation of Martinis. And when I say "just turned in," I mean "turned in third draft." 

"Oooh, martinis!" exclaimed the doctor at my table when I returned from the podium. "I love martinis and I know how to make the perfect kind." (No mention of the speech. Just the martinis.)

"Do you?" inquired the man sitting to my right, a remarried widower of a woman who used to be an editor at Harper & Row when it was Harper & Row. "So do I."

"So do I," I volunteered because while I never really liked martinis, the very subject matter of this book has required that I do. And I do. Now. Sort of.

What I've learned is that martinis are the subject of passionate debate that can bring vodka and gin drinkers to blows. Inwardly, I fretted. These men (not my target audience) would be devastated to learn that in my book I digressed horribly, one might say violently, from the strict gin+whiff of vermouth recipe. I have included all sorts of impostors: Rosewater Cosmopolitans, Ginger Pear, Chocolate Raspberry, even martinis made with tequila or rye whisky.

See, the idea of this book is that four middle aged women who used to get together to drink martinis when they were stressed younger working mothers, reunite after a tragedy claims one of them. They end up hitting the road, rejuvenating their friendship and solving their various problems as they carry out their dead friend's last wish, drinking martinis all the way.

It's sad, yes. But funny, too, and very human. Mostly, martinis are excellent metaphors for friendship because, as individuals, we bring our own intense personalities. Yet, somehow in the right mix we meld Martini bond   to become fantastic. Hence, the Ladies Society for the Conservation of Martinis.

Easy book to write? With four women, four unique voices, not by a long shot. Challenging? Yes. Fun? You bet.

For example, next week my girlfriends, the same women who gathered round when Lying to Be Perfect made its debut, are volunteering their precious time to taste my concoctions. Heaven forfend that I should publish a martini that's less than appetizing.

So here's your chance. Do you have a killer martini recipe? And, if so, would you mind sharing it. I am really loosey goosey on the martini definition. As long as it's sophisticated and can fit in a martini glass, I'm game.

In the meantime, here is the Classic Martini recipe (debate included).

Chill a martini glass. Swirl half an ounce of vermouth in the glass. Dump every last drop and chill again. Add FRESH ice to a glass pitcher. Add gin. (Chilled vs. Not chilled is the debate.) Recommended brands include Hendricks and/or Plymouth. Stir. (Shake only if it's vodka.) Strain into chilled vermouth-swished martini glasses. Olives, onions or lemon twist. Your choice.

And remember James Thurber's sage advice:

Cosmos  "One martini is just right. Two is too many and three is not enough."

Okay, so, about those martini recipes.....


May 24, 2010

What's in YOUR, um, PURSE?

"Boy, you’re going to carry that weight, Carry that weight a long time..."

462135672     **Paul McCartney


HANK: I was looking for my little black notebook, the one I use to collect all the fabulous words and observations that are certainly going to make my next book into a blockbuster, and I couldn't find it. I couldn't find it because it was lost in the black hole of my purse, buried among two black pouches (for bandaids, earrings, advil, library cards, unused gift cards, stamps, a safety pin and a lipstick in case I lose my other lipstick), a black makeup bag, a black checkbook, a black calendar, a couple of black glasses cases, a reporters notebook, two pens, three pencils, a really good pen zipped into the pocket, and well, you get the picture. So I was going to ask you all, and I still will, about what you carry. And why.

And then, as so often happens, the world provided something else along those lines . I saw a story on what the teenaged debs at the Boston coming-out cotillion carried in their tiny dressy handbags.

And wow. Here's what they told the reporter:

Deb #1: a cell phone, a fake ID, lip gloss, an extra set of false eyelashes and a bit of cash.

 Deb #2: cash, a fake ID, a real ID, a cell phone, lip gloss, a diamond bracelet and a pearl necklace

Deb #3: a pack of Parliaments, a pink lighter, a cell phone, cash.

 Deb#4: a camera, phone, hotel, fake ID, and Adderall

Deb #5: wouldn't say.

I mean, an *extra* set of false eyelashes?  Adderall? What, just in case..in case what? (Remember when we were told to carry a dime? Sometimes, back then, I put the dime in my penny loafers, but that’s another blog.)


These days, I get incessantly teased about what’s in my purse. (No, I don't have a Birkin bag. But this is a nice photo.) Because really, the answer is : everything.  Because, I guess, I have this fear that I might need something, and if I could just plan ahead for the disaster, I might have it.  This rarely happens, but as a result, I’m always lugging around a huge purse AND a huge briefcase thing.  (And now my elbows always hurt. When I told my doctor, she glanced at my pack mule equipment, and raised her eyebrows. Ever thought about not carrying all that with you? She asked. Nope.)

Anyway. My personal  day of purse vindication came when my producer, my photographer and I got a flat tire in the news car on the Mass Turnpike. We rattled over to the side of the road, and called the Pike people for roadside assistance.  It was a summer afternoon, about 5, and SO HOT, like ninety degrees.

Anyone want water? I asked, pulling a bottle out of my tote bag. I have straws, too. And then I realized I had more provisions. Grapes? I offered up the plastic bag from an outside pouch. Celery sticks? Salt?

And anyone want a WetOne? I had plenty.

I was so happy. No one was making fun of me and my packratness anymore. And then my producer Mary had a situation. She HAD to go to the bathroom, and of course there weren’t any. Except up the hill and over the rise by the side of the road. And she had on three inch heels.

Ah. “Flats?” I offered, digging into the  tote bag. Luckily we wear the same size. So Mare hopped out of the van, and up the hill and out of sight.

So we waited: not hungry, not thirsty, and not in dire need of facilities.

The tire-fixing guy soon arrived, and we were saved. I didn't have a jack in my bag of tricks, but that would have been over the top.

I have tried to wean myself from this. I  bought a lovely small handbag, very chic, and decided I would only carry what would fit inside. And it worked perfectly. As long as I  put the little purse in my big totebag.

What's in your purse? Why? And do you really need it all?

May 23, 2010

Confessions of a Pizza Dude

Confessions of the Pizza Dude Wikipizza

By Alan P.

NOTE: Alan P. is a faithful backblogger. When he’s not reading TLC and waiting on the princesses, he visits some of St. Louis’s swankiest homes. Everyone wants to see the Pizza Dude. Nobody ever asks what he sees. Here’s the view from the other side of the box.  

I have worked for "Game Piece Pizza", a multi-national pizza delivery company, since the summer of 1984. The last 15 of those years have been in St. Louis County in Des Peres, Kirkwood and Town & Country. Yes, St. Louis County has a city called Town & County.

In St. Louis you can buy a nice four-bedroom house in a neighborhood with good schools for between $300,000 and $400,000. At least once a shift I stand on a porch of a million-dollar-plus house. The most expensive house I have delivered to? More than $7,000,000. It sold less than a year ago. Yes, it is a really nice house.

Want faster service? Answer these questions

Who wants pizza? What do they want on their pizza? Who has the money? Before you call, figure out if you can pay for the pizza and how. Have the person with the money answer the door.

What is the address where you are? You would be surprised how many people order pizza from a house that is not their own, and not just babysitters. Let the person who lives there order.

Coupons and specials

I do not set the prices. The store manager doesn’t either. We cannot change the prices.

The last time I counted we had more than 40 different coupons. I have no idea what coupons are in your hand. Please tell me. If you don't have a coupon, I’ll give you the price the computer gives me. If you ask what specials we have, I will tell you the same special you just heard ten seconds ago on the store recording.

Carryout or delivery


When you want a pizza for carryout that means you come to the store and pick it up. Your pizza will be ready in about 15 minutes. Delivery means we will bring it to you. We will be there in about 30 minutes. Please do not take those 30 minutes to run to the supermarket, take a shower, or rent a video. I hate being at your house when you are not.

Where are you?

When I ask for your address, I mean the house number and the street, not the subdivision or the apartment complex. I do not know where Burkert Estates is. I do know where Dry Ridge Road is. Please do not give me an intersection unless you are standing in the middle of it.

I know where your house is, probably better than you do

When I worked at the Game Piece Pizza in University City, the police would bring trainees to the store to play "name that street." The training officer would name a street and the trainee would try to find it on the store's map. A driver would show the trainee were it was.

Then we would give the police trainee a street. Yes, we occasionally stumped the trainer, too.

I have given directions to ambulances (the driver was out of his normal area), letter carriers, FedEx and UPS, lots of cab drivers and drivers from competing companies.

Rude dudes and pizza pranks

Every once in awhile, someone is rude on the phone. The little voice in the back of my head wants to say, "You do realize I will be putting my hands in your food in the next 30 seconds. Are you sure you want to call me a *#&?" The big voice in the front of my head stops it.

Remember, Caller ID has already told me who you are, where you live, and what you ordered last time. Yes, junior, I will call mommy and daddy during the day tomorrow to talk about your potty mouth. Caller ID has taken all of the fun out of prank phone calls.

Free pizza

I wear my uniform shirt when I shop. More often than you would think, I am greeted with either "Where is my pizza?" or "Where is my free pizza?" when I shop in uniform. Sorry. I don't see you saying "no charge" for my purchases.

Here’s a tip Pizza tip

I get less than minimum wage plus tips plus a per address fee. The per address fee has little to do with the delivery charge added to your order. The delivery charge just went up to $1.99 per delivery. What I get fluctuates based on gas prices. This week, with gas at $2.70 or so, I get 75 cents a house.

Sometimes people ask how much should they tip. In my part of St. Louis County, less than $2 per address makes you either cheap or a surgeon. The average is between $3 and $3.50 per address. For orders of over six pizzas, a dollar per pizza would be welcome. We know the good tippers and the no tippers. Mr. G is a very good tipper. Mr. G normally tips at least 50 percent of his ticket price.

Being known as a good tipper will improve service. If there are two pizzas in my car and Mr. G's is one of them, you can bet the other pizza waits while I go to Mr. G's house first.

May 22, 2010



By Simon Wood  

My wife, Julie, said to me a little while ago, "I’ve been with you too long."    Picture220


, I thought, we’re finished. I can go girlfriend shopping at the weekend. I wonder if Eva Mendes is single.

But seeing as Julie was talking and I really should take notice of her from time to time, I decided to hear her out and said, "What do you mean, dear heart?"

"I keep seeing the dark side of things," she said.

"Tell me more, Haley Joel Osment."

"Wednesday, I’m looking out the office window while talking to Susan. There’s a man and a woman. The man is holding the woman’s arm. They’re smiling, but he’s gripping her bicep a little too tightly for it to be friendly. Across the parking lot are two guys. The man with the woman waves at the two men. Everyone walks to the middle of the parking lot. The man with the woman maintains his grip on the woman’s arm all the way across the parking lot. Guess what I think?"

"I don’t know. Maybe that you should be listening to your boss and not looking out the window?"

"No, I think kidnap exchange. That’s your fault. Years ago, I would have seen friends meeting to chat. Now I see a felony in progress. Because of you, I can’t see the world in normal terms. You’ve ruined me."

What could I say to this? It’s a hefty accusation. So I just smiled and said, "Love you."

Actually, I know what poor, confused, Julie means. Telling stories of crime means I tend to look at the world in criminal terms. Now I don’t mean I go looking for evil doers doing evil on street corners, but I do look for oddities in the world around me. If something catches my eye, I’ll concoct a story to suit what I’ve just seen.

If I spot someone leafing through a trashcan, I don’t think homeless guy, I think money drop. When I notice a guy sitting alone in a dull sedan, I don’t think guy waiting on his wife, I think FBI surveillance on Colombian drug cartel operating out of a Happy Donuts.

If I sneak a peek at a flatbed truck chock full of giant seedpods, I don’t think a horticultural expo must be in town, I think an alien invasion is on and I shouldn’t go to sleep.

Terminated_low So how did I repay my lovely Julie for her imaginative thoughts about the goings on in her office parking lot? I used them in a book. In my latest thriller, "Terminated," the opening scene takes place in a private company’s parking lot, not too dissimilar from Julie's. Things don’t go down the way Julie witnessed, but there are similarities.

The theme of the book deals with workplace violence originating from a grudge that escalates and escalates. The scene now features the protagonist being assaulted in the parking lot. Julie shared the chapter with several of her coworkers with gratifying results. Let’s just say people have developed a healthy fear of the trash enclosure located in the staff parking lot. If nothing else, I’ve made people review their approach to safety.

It’s nice to see that I can convert people to my way of viewing the world. It makes for a far more imaginative place, even if people are a little scared to leave the comfort of their own homes.

Yours infectiously,

Simon Wood


Anthony-Award winning Simon Wood is an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. He and his American wife, Julie, have a longhaired dachshund and five cats. He's had over 150 stories and articles published. His latest thriller, "Terminated," is out in mass paperback this June. Go to