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30 posts from September 2011

September 30, 2011

CJ Lyons Guest Blogs

Busted By My Playlist

by CJ Lyons    

I live in a rural area and anytime I go for a long drive I often have to rely on my mp3 instead of car radio. Which is fun because I throw my songs on there, hit shuffle, and off we go…at least that's how it's supposed to work.

Twice in the last month I got busted by my playlist.

You see, I like kickass rock n' roll. Doesn't matter if it's old or new as long as it has attitude. Which makes for some rather un-politically correct, not safe for work, non-kid-or old folk-friendly choices.

And since I keep my mp3 on shuffle, I never know what's gonna come out of the speakers next. It could be Led Zeppelin or the Stones or Buck Cherry doing the "dirty" version of Crazy Bitch.

Yeah, crank that over your speakers as you drive into the courthouse parking lot, ready to report for jury duty. Then park between a sheriff's cruiser and a Cadillac that probably belongs to a lawyer or judge.

 Worse? Forget the sunroof is open and sing along at the top of your lungs.

 (If you don't know the song, practically every other word is the F-bomb.)

 Those dirty looks were nothing compared to the tongue-lashing one of my friends gave me as we were driving together and Nickelback's Something in your Mouth came on.

 (yes, THAT is what the song's about…one of Nickelback's favorite themes)

 She's a true blue feminist and felt my choice in music was a betrayal of the cause, setting back women's rights fifty years.

 I had no defense other than, "it's got a good beat."

 "It's misogynistic."

 "Not as bad as their Figured You Out."

 She hit the fast forward button. Saving Abel, The Sex is Good. Scowled at me, hit it again.

 Saved by the Stones, Sympathy for the Devil.

 I relaxed, steered the conversation to a safe place. Of course that's when Puddle of Mud's Control came on.

 Otherwise known as the "smack your ass" song.

 What can I say? I gave up, and sang along. Heck, if you're gonna be busted by your playlist, you might as well have fun doing it.

 So you tell me, when has your choice in pop culture led to you being busted?

 C'mon, you know what I mean--that hidden DVD with the best of Gilligan's Island, the tattered, well-read copy of Mad magazine, the Sonny and Cher album you can't bear to part with…. 

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.  In addition to being an award-winning, New York Times Bestseller, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker. 

CJ has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday).

Her newest project is as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich.  Learn more about her writing on her website, cjlyons.net    

September 29, 2011

A Crunchy Orange Goodbye

By Nancy Pickard

Ready? Set! Throw your Doritos, fellow Arch West admirers! 

You've already heard the news of his death, right?  So you know what an important person he was to all of us!  It was he who created the Dorito, and it is upon his funeral urn that his family plans to toss their chips down into the grave. 

"He'd love it," his daughter says."He'd think it's hilarious." 

"He was a character," says a son.

We understand. We Dorito lovers--the crunchy, salty, tangy lot of us--love him, too. We raise our orange fingers in a fond orange wave of goodbye. And then we lick them.


Mr. West got the idea for his crunchy crack when he ate  some chips at a food stand in Southern California.  I could love Southern California for this, alone.  Also, for Harley.


Frito-Lay wasn't interested, so Arch, that scamp, conducted a little R&D on the sly.  Guess who laughed last?  Dorito sales are now around five BILLION dollars a year. So far I haven't found an estimate as to how many chips that might be. I did find a pair of hilarious young women who dumped all the chips in a 13.5 oz bag onto the floor and found out that when laid  chip cheek by chip jowl, the carpet of chips measured four square feet! Then they neatly put all the chips back in the bag, and left the bag for anybody who might happen by. If you want to read all about their "scientific" experiment, here you go: http://www.cockeyed.com/inside/doritos/doritos.html

Another statistic:  a "serving" is 17 chips.  That's a lot.  Why can't I stop with 17?

You want to know about calories or nuitrition? You have come to the wrong blog.

This whole thing has got me thinking. . .if my family decided to toss stuff into my burial pit, stuff that says "Nancy" in no uncertain terms, would might they throw? I'm thinking it would have to be my iPad and a plate of shrimp risotto from "Story" restaurant in Prairie Village, Ks., because those are my current addictions. And if they also wanted to toss in a bottle of sauvignon blanc, there would be no grumbling from the ground beneath their feet.

So. . . which is your favorite orange chip?  And what would your friends and family want to toss on you, lovingly, of course, if you were as dearly departed as Arch West?

2 lb. hamburger
1 c. onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can Rotel tomatoes, mashed
1 c. evaporated milk
1 med. pkg. cheese Doritos, crushed
2 c. Cheddar cheese
Brown and season hamburger, onions, drain. Mix all ingredients, slightly grease casserole. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Put back in oven 2 minutes to melt cheese.

September 28, 2011

The Ladies' and Gentlemen's


Today’s text is from humorist H. Allen Smith’s Life in a Putty Knife Factory, ©1943.  In describing where he liked to take out-of-town friends, he didn't talk about the Empire State Building or the Metropolitan Museum or the Statue of Liberty.

Rcmh-1 “I want them to see the gents’ room at the Radio City Music Hall.  Here is one of the most noble prospects in the Western Hemisphere.  It is, beyond doubt, the biggest and most magnificent can on earth—a veritable Taj Mahal of toilets.  Looking at it for the first time, a man’s credulity is put to test.  It is almost too purty to use.”

Sooner or later (and it’s usually sooner), you will find yourself away from home and in desperate need of the “facilities.”  If you’re a man in the woods, the nearest tree will do . . . or a dark alley in town.  Yes, there’s a device that accords a women similar privileges, but you’ll have to Google the topic because that’s not what this post is about. They say “any port in a storm” but it would take a hurricane to induce me to step inside a portable one.  Instead, let’s talk about the most elegant public restroom you’ve ever used.










I've used the facilities in the White House and in our own Governor’s Mansion.  Both feature classic architecture and tasteful wallpaper.  Both have monogrammed paper towels. (And yes, I snitched one from each.) 

For sheer opulence, though, nothing quite matches the public restrooms in 4- and 5-star hotels. As long as you don’t look like a homeless drunk, no one will lift an eyebrow if you approach an employee and ask where the nearest one is. Usually, they are clean and usually they are adequate, but some are minimal while others fall in Smith’s Taj Mahal category.

Images Images-1








I have never visited the Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, but if I’m ever in the vicinity, it’s on my list because of this recent comment by Michelle Gervais, Associate Editor of Fine Gardening:

8-9-2011-Longwood1-MG_lg-1 “I visited Longwood Gardens down in Pennsylvania late last week, and one of the things I was most excited to see was, believe it or not, their new public bathrooms. When I was there late last summer they were just completing them, and even then, during a sneak peak when I had to duck under scaffolding wearing a hard hat, they were spectacular. They're even better now! This underground corridor is attached to one of the rear corners of the conservatory, and it's a huge living wall under a glass roof, with individual bathrooms evenly spaced along each side. Inside each bathroom is a domed ceiling topped with a small, round skylight that pokes out of the grass above. It's truly a spectacular destination.”

  Nominee-2010-10        Did you know that there’s a contest for America’s best restrooms?   http://www.bestrestroom.com/us/

Here's last year's winner, The Fountain on Locust, a vintage ice cream parlor in St. Louis, MO.  

According to the contest rules:   “Nominees must meet two criteria: The restrooms must be clean, and they must be memorable.”

Do you have a nominee? 

September 27, 2011

A Different Kind of Reading

By Sarah

I've never quite figured out how Salem, Massachusetts, became a magnet for witches. Yes, yes, I know about the Salem Witch Trials, the cautionary period in American history that we have been doomed to repeat in our xenophobic paranoia of others.   Salem cem And there's no gainsaying that Salem does have a witchy feel, especially in autumn when dying leaves fall to brick sidewalks outside the delightfully old clapboard houses and the briny fog rolls in from the harbor, shrouding the town in mist.

It's hard not to get in the mood even, as in the case last weekend, when the atmosphere was almost tropical thanks to a strange warm weather pattern. 

Still, the way I see it, witches would want to avoid Salem at all costs. Not only were their predecessors ill treated here, but there's the whole question of what caused the persecution to begin with: a bad winter, short food supply, last grasp of Puritan hold, fermented rye? All of these are possibilities. But witchcraft? Nah. I don't believe it.

So why did I fall under its spell and have my Tarot cards read?

I blame the Salem Literary Festival co-hosted by our own fabulous Salem resident Brunonia Barry. Brunonia is one of those writers who gives back to the community, cheerfully and lovingly. She supports the local bookstores and brings in new writers, including Erin Morgenstern a Salem native whose book, The Night Circus, is rocking the shelves. Plus, she's really nice and warm and generous and just...yummy.

Brunonia wasn't the only Tart there. Joshilyn Jackson cracked up a room with the story of how she found her agent. Hank Ryan, beautiful and poised as always, winged - just winged! - a job as moderating the Lipstick Chronicles panel and just when things were getting dull, Cornelia Read would stir it up with a few comments about her love of Prozac.

We're an odd buch, we Tarts. Like crazy aunts who carpool to Thanksgiving, cackling all the way.

But I have to admit to feeling a little intimidated. There was a lot of talent there last weekend - Julia Glass, Jenna Blum, Joss, etc. A girl can get to feel, well, lost. So, after the panel was done on Sunday, Tarot
I took Joss and Brunonia's advice and went to see a Tarot reader because, hey, I was in Salem and where else are you going to find witches willing to work before noon on a Sunday.

The witch I saw - if you can call him that - was hardly what I'd expected. Richard arrived riding a motorcycle, helmet under his arm, gray ponytail dangling down his back, tude galore.  I booked him for a half hour, but he ended up giving me 45 minutes.

Now, I'll admit right off that I am the least psychic person on the planet. I can't move a Ouija thingamajig or a dowsing rod no matter how hard I concentrate. Richard begs to differ. It's not that I'm not psychic, apparently, it's that my energy is all blocked up mostly - if you believe his reading - by my family.

Let's just say that hit home. Then again, what 48-year-old woman asking about her career would NOT be surprised to find that her great creative energy is trapped by laundry, dinner, tuition bills or, to put it in Richard's parlance, "psychic vampires." I knew exactly what he meant as soon as he said the phrase. Psychic vampires are people who suck your time and creative energy until you're left dry. I protect my family from them so, hey, yay for me!

But now it's the time in my life to tell them to wash their own socks and make their own sandwiches. My energy is unblocked and it needs to come out.

Oddly enough, this reminded me of another article I just read in The Atlantic about the power of menopause by the hysterical Sandra Tsing Loh. Message? Women losing their estrogen are really just coming out of the fog of fertility Atlantic and losing the urge to polish silver and fix three-course turkey dinners. We can say to our loved ones, it's been great doing business with you, but now you're on your own. We can now lie around on Sundays reading the paper instead of getting the family ready for the work week ahead. No clean underwear? Not my problem. I'm writing a masterpiece.

So, there you go. Two messages from two sources: The Atlantic and Richard from Artemisia Botanicals.

I think I have my permission to, as Richard says, turn inward. About time!



September 26, 2011

12 questions, 36 answers, and no sex

by the 3H's

1. When do you know it's really truly fall, regardless of what the calendar says?

Wool-dress-21 HANK:  There's a thing that happens when you touch a wool dress in the summer--it's unthinkable to put it on. But then, one day, the air is different...and that wool dress seems--just right. Also, flip flops feel inappropriate. Sigh. The dahlias are in their last burst of colors...And you think about sweaters.

HEATHER: I wind up out of town with my usual sandals and knits and realize I'm freezing. What? Summer’s over? Ah, hell! Or, someone says, hey, hurricane season is over. Do you think the hurricanes know that?

HARLEY: When we can all stand to go upstairs at night without air conditioning. Hallelujah!

 2. Any fall rituals?

HANK: We have a couch in our sun room--we change the slipcovers from white duck to taupe suede. It's so funny--instant fall. Big bins of chrysanthemums on the porch. And it's our wedding anniversary! We'll get out the photo album, and look at the pictures, and have champagne.

HARLEY: I can’t believe I’m admitting this here, but I change the dinner plates. From delicate red and white polka dots to heavy brown and red square plates. I sound awfully Martha Stewart, don’t I?

HEATHER: The zoo. There's that little jingle, "all the animals in the zoo are jumping up and down for you!" No, no, not really. Not until the temperature slacks off. Fall arrives--and you can go to the zoo. It's a huge misconception that we don't have seasons. We have hot, hotter, not so hot, and wow, actually almost mild and pleasant! Fall is not so hot, and animals get frisky. 

3. What will you be happy to say goodbye to about summer?

HANK:  Um, I like summer. And it went by too quickly.

HEATHER: Me, too, Hank. I love traveling in summer--it's so easy, carry-on and a computer bag. Fall means more luggage and waiting at MIA to get it back. Oh, wait--I'll be glad to say goodbye to hurricane season, tho it straddles a bit into fall.

HARLEY: Wet beach towels.

4. What will you be sad to say goodbye to? (Heather, dollars to donuts your answer is going to be "Chynna" . . . )

HANK: It's less about the season, and more about how the time is just--GOING BY. So fast! They just discovered that neutrinos can go faster than the speed of light. Well, I think the days go faster than the speed of light.

HARLEY: I’m kind of missing those polka dot dinner plates. 93409

HEATHER: Chynna. 

5. When do you bring out the winter clothes (and where do they live all summer)?

ZA432CasualCanineSnowSuit HANK: Gradually! And they live on the third floor, in a room that I snagged for a big closet. (Don't tell.)

HARLEY: They live in the “guy” closet. This is one of the happy side effects of divorce: closet space.

HEATHER: What are winter clothes?

6. Favorite season?

HARLEY: This one! Fall! Woo-hoo!

HANK: Ah. I have reasons for liking them all. Is that too sappy? Fall is good!

HEATHER: I love them all. Summer has always meant family travel. Spring is Easter and a family and friend get-together known as East-over because close family friends are Jewish. Christmas--more family. And fall gives us Halloween, a favorite holiday, and no matter how old I get, I'll dress up and I love to take out the kids, big or little! And St. Patrick's Day is in spring, which is a big day when we all celebrate in honor of my mom. I love them all.

7. Are you itching to put up your Halloween decorations or are you thinking "what Halloween decorations?"

Septemberatlowes HEATHER: Most people believe that we have our Halloween decorations up all year. Our tastes are a little on the weird side. My sister told me once, "Who ever thought you'd grow up to have the Addams family house?" We are eclectic.

HANK: Too soon, too soon...!

HARLEY: I’m looking at my watch, thinking, “isn’t it time yet?”

8. What is your favorite scent of fall?

HANK: Cinnamon. Burning leaves! Remember when everyone used to burn WHT514 leaves?

HEATHER: Mount Trashmore doesn't smell quite as badly!

HARLEY: Here's my least favorite: brush fires. The curse of California and the smell is one you never forget. You wake up in the morning and say, “Oh, shit” and then you turn on the local news to see how close it is and how much to worry.

9. Are you starting your Christmas shopping, already finished Christmas shopping, or reading this sentence and thinking, "are you people nuts?"

HANK: Are you people.... :-) But I must say, I have thought about it. With much terror.

HEATHER: No. I don't Christmas shop early. I've tried it, and then Christmas rolls around, and I can't find the things that I've bought.

HARLEY: Same here. I forget all the hiding places. Hopeless. 

10. Do you care about the World Series?

RedSox HEATHER: Sure. That's baseball, right?

HARLEY: Yes, I think it is baseball.

HANK: Yes! Yes I do. I do. Go Sox. Sigh. They are absolutely tanking, and my poor husband is distraught. But Boston is really fun when the Sox win--there's a great spirit and sense of community.  Although that hasn't happened recently..sheesh.

11. Do you really change the batteries in your smoke alarm when the time changes?

HEATHER: Um, okay!

HANK: This year we will, yes, good idea.

HARLEY: I can never find the smoke alarm until the batteries die and it starts beeping. 

12. Would you even consider wearing white shoes between now and next Memorial Day?

HARLEY: What, are we savages? Barbarians? Ugly shoes

HANK: You know what? No. That's so sad.

HEATHER: I think I have white sandals.

We regret that we neglected to consider the IOCHFTS crowd. Please feel free to include sex in your comments.

September 25, 2011

The Encounter

Elaine Viets General Hospital doctor

I won’t deny it. I can’t. There’s a record. Dozens of people knew about it.

I saw him June 13. Soon he learned the inner workings of my heart. He quickly plumbed the depths of my wallet.

But I never expected this:

I got a bill from this cardiologist and it says: "Encounter 589569 for Elaine With Drake, Patrick MD."

I’m not using his name because I still owe him $21.87. Soap fans will know Dr. Drake’s name from "General Hospital."

And speaking of soap operas, Doctor, did you have to call it an "encounter"? What ever happened to plain old "office visit"? Or "exam"? And when you number it like that, it seems so impersonal. Just another episode.

Heart After I opened the bill and finished laughing – which is good for heart, by the way – I wondered how I would explain this encounter to my husband.

I didn’t have to. He got a bill from a GI doc for another "encounter."

If that GI specialist had been honest, he would have billed Don for a "total reaming," not a simple encounter.

These medical encounters are an alarming trend. They’re pretentious. They’re ridiculous. And if anyone ever sues Dr. Drake for sexual harassment, it plays right into the hands of the prosecution.

I can see a lawyer waving that tell-tale bill in court and thundering: "Do you deny, Dr. Drake, that you had an encounter with Ms. Viets? That you made her lie down? That you examined her chest?"

Dr. Drake: "I did, but there was nothing improper about our meeting."

Lawyer: "Then why did you call it an encounter?"

Dr. Drake: "That’s the new term. I have a modern practice and I wanted to be up-to-date."

Lawyer: "Let me go back to plain old-fashioned English, Dr. Drake, the kind we’re used to speaking. Webster says an encounter is a ‘particular kind of meeting or experience with another person, a romantic encounter.’ Is that what you had with my client?"

Dr. Drake: "No. Of course not. It was completely proper."

Lawyer: "Even though you saw my client in bed?"

Hospital gown Dr. Drake: "That was for a test. And she was wearing a hospital gown. Angelina Jolie wouldn’t make any hearts beat faster in those gowns."

Lawyer: "This is not the time for levity, Doctor. I’m trying to define this encounter. Was it this definition: ‘To meet as an enemy or an adversary.’ Is my client an enemy?"

Dr. Drake: "On June 13, no, she wasn’t."

Lawyer: "Then why did you do it, Dr. Drake?"

Dr. Drake: "I wanted to get away from the old-school image of doctors with black bags back when medicine was more . . ."

Lawyer: "Affordable?"

Dr. Drake: "Less advanced."

Lawyer: "Ah, hah! You admit you made advances to my client."

Let me reassure yout that the real cardiologist was a model of good behavior, and there’s nothing wrong with me – nothing that cardiologist can fix, anyway. And I don’t believe that the language should never change. Only dead languages, like Latin, stay the same.

But this change was enough to send me off to the local restaurant – which advertised "hand-built cocktails."

Hand-built? As in made by little elves?Elf

Usually I don’t see little green men until at least two or three drinks. They come right before the pink elephants.

Pink elephant

September 24, 2011

The Idea Completion Consultant

Judith Greber (aka Gillian Roberts)

Judy Portrait 024

[From Margaret:   Please welcome my good friend Judith. Under her real name she's written four well-received mainstream novels. Using her Gillian Roberts' name, she's the author of the Anthony Award-winning Amanda Pepper series, two mysteries about Marin County detectives, a short-story collection and the how-to: You Can Write a Mystery. Either Judy or Gillian is currently finishing a novel set against the Inquisition in 17th century Mexico.]



This past year, I had the pleasure of spending a month in the sort of sleepy Mexican town we call “unspoiled” as we flock down there to spoil it.  So far, this fishing village is fairly intact with just enough appreciation for tourism to provide non-sleepy-Mexican-town comforts. Nonetheless, it’s the kind of place that makes people ask: “But what do you do there?”

            Well…nothing. I’ve discovered a great talent for doing nothing.  It’s quite enough to begin the day with an hour or two walk in the surf, observing what the tide brought in, talking with the fishermen getting ready to go out, talking with other beach-walkers, talking with each other.

            And of course we brought all the electronic vestiges of the ‘spoiled’ world: music, DVD’s, computers, p-books and e-books, watercolors and cameras. There were friends and family to visit us, the leisurely old-world food shopping: first, to the vegetable and fruit man, then the chicken or fish market. Dining out was either the incredible taco stand set up on the sidewalk on a folding table each night or more traditional restaurants. And always sun, sand and sea.  Also margaritas, of course.

            And, yes, an unfinished manuscript to which the only word added was, ‘manaña.’

            As I said, nothing.

            One thing that had not (yet) reached town was shopping as entertainment.  One overpriced artsy-crafty shop and one lovely clothing store for 20 year olds who wore size 2, and that was that.  Which is why, en route to the butcher, baker and such, I consistently ignored a storefront I passed on my way. One glance at the fading sign sufficed.  Surfing lessons. Souvenirs. Gifts. The town didn’t have interesting shops but it had lots like this, so I walked on by.


            Besides, even if I had been ready to leap on a boogie board, or buy a t-shirt, the store was always closed.

For some reason (perhaps I really did need another cheesy souvenir key-ring?) right before we were leaving, I finally read the sign carefully, and would have given anything for the door to be unlocked and the store opened. It wasn’t the ‘coffee and snacks’ or second-hand clothing exchange that got me. It was the final entry.


            An idea finishing consultant! Who would not be enchanted by the idea? I could think of a million times I would love to dial: 1-800-finish-the-damn-idea.

            “I have this idea,” I’d say. "Actually, half an idea--a premise, and I have no idea where it’s going.  Say…what if when a plane lands, there are three less people on it than boarded?"

"I have this novel I’m writing and I’m not at all sure how it should end."

"I have this great start to a short story but…"

“Finish it for me. Please.” .

I’ve been told that everybody has a 60-page start of a novel moldering in a desk drawer.  An idea finishing consultant (I.F.C. hereafter) could inspire and dictate the remaining 300 pages. Desk drawers across America would be clean again.

This is the new industry—the job that needs creation to end unemployment.  Building a better mousetrap is nothing compared to knowing how to finish our ideas.

You don’t have to be a struggling writer to need an I.F.C.  Too often, I find myself a stranger in a strange room. I know I bustled into the place but… why?  I had an idea, obviously, but now I have no idea. I.F.C. to the rescue again!

The whole world could use a qualified I.F.C. How many ideas are stillborn? Paintings and symphonies unfinished? Crafts, sweaters, home improvements begun enthusiastically and then…can’t remember why we thought that was a good thing to do.  A top I.F.C. could even unstall Congress.

However, the consultant was never in. I assume she had a ginormous list of clients, and she was always out of her office, finishing up ideas.

She might have finished mine. I’ll never know. I had to complete my manuscript the old-fashioned way, myself.

When we return this year, I’ll have an answer to questions about what there is to do there: visit the Idea Finishing Consultant. That alone would be worth the trip.

Am I alone in being in love with the idea of such a service?

September 23, 2011

Stove Atrocities

by Barbara O'Neal

Photo by Ax|d-Works I have an old stove—a dull cream model with ancient electric rings and a black front.  It’s serviceable, but little more than that.  I hate it when the sun comes streaming through my kitchen window and illuminates the splatters of grease across the control panel and the aged dust stuck to the inner hood.  I’m sure I must have wiped it all down when I cleaned the kitchen last night, but it looks like something out of a hoarder’s episode.   Dust from the wings of cat-murdered miller-moths mixed with flutters of dog fur mixed with kosher salt mixed with that creeping cooking sludge I can never quite identify.   Thanks to the terror of a grease fire in a long ago, much older stove, I’m pretty methodical about lifting the cooktop to mop up any spills, but unless I bought a new pan for each burner every week, they always look battle scarred, too.  

And I cook there.

9520399_1b0acd77d0_z The oven can be even worse.  The window is never less than slightly amber-speckled, scarred by casseroles baked in 1992.  I try to be careful, putting pies on cookie sheets and the like, but something always ends up spilling over, burning to a black concrete cinder at the bottom of the oven, staying there, growing harder and blacker until the next time I pull out the heavy-duty cleaners.  You know, the kind that require elbow length industrial rubber gloves and a face mask and if any of it touches your skin, it starts to sting immediately. Maybe it’s understandable that I don’t get around to this more than every seven or eight years. 

Of  course, that leads to the bottom drawer.  I used to keep lids in there, but no more. It doesn’t matter how many times I wipe it out—there are always more crumbs littering the drawer like the remains of a picnic.

Now, I am not some monster slob of a housekeeper.  I don’t like keeping house, but I like things to be relatively tidy (not counting that one kitchen counter—everybody should have one kitchen counter where things go until you can figure out where they really go), and I was assiduously trained in restaurants to keep food things clean.  And still that stove, always, always seems to look like that.  There is some little part of my 70’s raised woman-self that berates me, insisting that if I were any kind of woman at all, I’d have a sparkling cooktop.  And a much, much cleaner fridge.

Luckily, the sane creative woman living inside of me says, “Oh, who cares what it looks like?  You from (www.debabrata.info) debabrata have books to write! Get cracking.”

Still, I want someone to invent a tiny stove-cleaning robot, armed with suds and polishers and brooms, that I can set on the stove every evening so I will awaken to a shiny, ad-worthy stove every single morning. 

Is there some task that defeats you?  What would you invent if you could?  


September 22, 2011

Me and John D.

Elaine Viets                    Deep Blue Good by


Some 70 years before Travis McGee’s houseboat, the Busted Flush, dropped anchor at the Bahia Mar Marina, Florida already had a rich legacy of fictional detectives.

It still does. I’m proud to be part of it.

My mysteries are in a museum exhibition, along with John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard and a slew of other Florida mystery writers.

It’s called "Sun, Sand & Suspense: Mystery and Crime Fiction in Florida 1895-2011" and it’s at the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book in Fort Lauderdale. The exhibition features 116 years of Florida crime fiction.

The first Florida mystery was probably "On the Suwanee River," by Opie Read. This 1895 novel has a surprisingly modern plot involving Florida real estate and a young woman falsely accused of a crime. Sunshine State mystery writers have been working variations on that plot ever since.

"Place is as important as character in Florida mysteries," Lillian Perricone said, "and Florida is quite a character." Ms. Perricone, Bienes Museum cataloger and reference librarian, curated the exhibition. She’s not afraid to show off some of Florida’s colorful crime fiction.

The titles range from literary to lurid, including "What a Body!" by Alan Green, a Dell paperback with a lightly-clad lady on the cover.

"Murder shouldn’t be fun," the jacket says, "but Sandra was luscious enough to eat, and Hugo’s ideas about what to do with her were rather different."

Nothing subtle about that mystery.

    What a body

Murder was prettily portrayed in pulp fiction. "Blood on Biscayne Bay" has a cover with the head of blond bombshell wearing full makeup and a Betty Grable hairdo. Not a hair is out of place. The mystery has a handy crime map on the back cover.

Blood on Biscayne Bay 

You’ll see John D. MacDonald’s mysteries, including his first Travis McGee novel, "The Deep Blue Good-by," and the poker hand that won McGee the Busted Flush.

Charles Willeford’s leisure-suited cop, Hoke Mosely, is there. Willeford had a knack for catchy titles, including "Kiss Your Ass Good-Bye" and "New Hope for the Dead."

Kiss your ass goodbye 
A boatload of books by your favorite modern Florida authors include Edna Buchanan’s reporter-detective Britt Montero; Lupe Solano, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera’s Cuban-American private eye, and Randy Wayne White’s marine biologist, Doc Ford. Our own Nancy Pickard has found a home in the Florida mystery world with her "Truth" series. If you haven’t read it, give yourself a treat.

Nancy Pickard
My Dead-End Job mysteries are there, too. So is a hand-edited manuscript of my first novel in the series, "Shop Till You Drop."

Nowadays, most publishing houses use computerized editing programs. A manuscript marked by real pencils has become a museum piece.


"Sun, Sand & Suspense" runs through Nov. 18 at the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book in the Broward County Main Library, Fort Lauderdale.

Can’t make it to Florida? See the exhibition at www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgMmJ5gJAOY

Don’t miss the amazing covers at digilab.browardlibrary.org/sunsand/ 





September 21, 2011

We Had a Blast

We Had a Blast

By Nancy Martin    DSC01462

My husband fusses that he never wins anything.  I think he reached that conclusion after entering the Publisher’s Clearinghouse three times---without winning so much as a wink from Ed McMahon.  A month ago, though, he attended a charity auction. (I declined to go.  To be honest? As soon as he announces there’s a charity event he wants to attend, I start to worry about what the hell I’m going to wear.  I am not a size 4.  I don’t fit into “cocktail attire” anymore, and the thought of putting on heels just gives me a headache.) Anyway, Jeff went stag, and while he was enjoying his Manhattan with the other men whose wives refused—er, declined to attend, the lady in charge drew his raffle number!  He was a giddily astonished winner of the grand prize. (He works like a fiend for this particular organization, so I’d say the karma was on his side.)  Anyway, the prize?

A free weekend at a very spiffy resort within driving distance of our home.  So we went.

A free, very plush room for two nights (oooh, the bathtub!) and free meals plus a free “activity.”  The resort is famous for its golf courses, so I guess they assumed we’d golf.  Lemme tell you, friends, I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a hot marshmallow stick than chase a tiny ball around in the sunshine.  So when my husband gave me the list of other activities from which we could choose, I think he figured I’d pick something relaxing at the spa.

But my eye traveled down the menu of activities and hit this tasty item:

Shooting academy.

My husband was astonished that I wanted to shoot skeet.

“You’re in favor of gun control!”

For me, gun control is needed for automatic weapons.  Sporting firearms are something else entirely—especially the kind that are used in controlled circumstances like gun ranges, and I’m even in favor of hunting animals. (There are too many white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania, not to mention hungry families who live in rural areas.)

Plus? Has Jeff not noticed what I’ve been writing for the last ten years? Of course I wanted to try a shotgun!

So we went to the gun club. It was a lovely September afternoon, and we were assigned an instructor who was very informative and safety-minded and downright sweet.  First, he gave us safety goggles and ear protection and showed me how to carry an unloaded weapon. Then he drove us in a golf cart to a stand and showed us how to shoot at incoming and outgoing “birds”—clay pigeons that are really disks of clay that break apart when hit with even a single BB—which is what’s loaded into the shell that you fire from a shotgun.


My husband, who hasn’t hunted in fifteen years and who gave away his rifle and shotgun before we moved here in the city, hadn’t lost his skills.  He was given a 12 gauge automatic “over and under” (as opposed to the horizontally mounted “double-barreled shotgun” you see in the movies)  and he looks pretty great, right? And he managed to hit a respectable number of birds right off the bat.

My eyesight isn’t great, so I figured I’d have some trouble. I was given a 28 gauge shotgun—much lighter than my husband’s gun and with a shorter barrel. (It had some very pretty engraving on the stock, too, but apparently that’s not what you’re supposed to say about a gun.)  I put the gun to my shoulder and said, “Pull!”—the signal to launch the clay pigeon. Now, I must admit I wasn’t a total rookie.  I’d shot at clay pigeons back when I was a teenager and my parents used to hang out with a group of outdoorsy friends. They spent weekends on a farm, shooting, grilling steaks, watching the kids chase kittens—that kind of thing.  But that was a long time ago. Lonnng time.

Well, dear reader, darned if I didn’t hit the first six birds—bangbangbangbangbangbang—most of them obliterated.  DSC01467   Our instructor thought I’d been teasing him about my bad eyes.  But my accuracy was only good on the range.  When we rode the golf cart out to the stations in the woods, I was no Annie Oakley.  I even tried wearing an eyepatch, but I just couldn’t discern the play pigeon from the trees and terrain.  I hit a few, but it wasn’t until we tried the “rabbit range”—where the clay disks are launched sideways, hit the ground and skitter along like a frightened bunny—that I got my mojo back.  Bye, bye bunnies.

Needless to say, we had a blast. A couple of wonderful dinners, swimming at the spa, strolling around the art museum, an evening cuddled up at the firepit (s’mores!) and some quality time with the love of my life---a pretty great prize.

Do you win things?