For New Year's Eve, I wanted to link to one of my favorite Home Front columns, one about writing folksy holiday letters full of family news.
Looking through the archives, I found not one, but TWO columns, written years apart, that offer a variation on fill-in-the-blank letters. Both are pretty silly, but they still make me laugh. You can read them here and here.
Enjoy! And happy new year!
For New Year's Eve, I wanted to link to one of my favorite Home Front columns, one about writing folksy holiday letters full of family news.
Scientists have announced the discovery of a new spider species -- the bluetooth tarantula. The species, included in this Time magazine 2010 roundup, was found in French Guiana and got its name because its teeth are indeed cobalt blue.
My first thought, of course, was that the tarantula fed by attaching itself to the human ear, turning the victim into a self-important asshole who talks too loudly. Not so, but real teeth are scary, too, I guess.
Here's the worst nightmare for those of us who are afraid of snakes: A few Asian species that fly through the air.
Today's Washington Post has an interesting article about the gliding snakes here. Warning: The article has an accompanying video of one of these "mildly venomous" snakes wriggling its way through thin air. Brr.
Only thing more terrifying? The U.S. Department of Defense is studying the snakes in search of new flying machine designs.
I won't be getting any sleep tonight.
For today's lunch break, Kel and I sat on the rocky point near our house and watched the local flock of pelicans busily feeding on a school of fish. The pelicans swirl around in flight, checking out the water below, then fold their wings and dive headfirst from dizzying heights. The big splashes in the photo are where pelicans just plunged into the sea.
The two dark shapes in the foreground? Surfers. All I could think while I watched was: What else is feeding on that school of fish?
Sometimes, you hear a joke you like so much, you keep it to yourself, saving it for a special occasion. I did just that recently with a joke told to me by my Redding, CA, pal Rick Hobbs. I didn't post it on the Internet or e-mail it to my friends. I saved it for the after-hours poker game at Bouchercon.
And now I share it with you:
Two old boys were out hunting when they stumbled upon an enormous sinkhole in the woods. The hole was so deep that they couldn't see the bottom, so naturally they start looking around for something big to throw in there. Over in the bushes, they spot a rusty auto transmission. The two of them lift it and stagger over to the edge and heave the transmission into the hole.
They're both leaning out, listening for the transmission to hit bottom, when they hear an enormous crashing behind them. They wheel around just as a full-grown goat comes charging out of the bushes. The goat runs right between the two startled hunters, goes off the edge and disappears into the hole.
The hunters are dumbfounded. Before they can sort it out, a farmer in overalls ambles out of the woods and says, "Hey, you boys seen a goat?"
The hunters stammer out that they had by God just seen a goat, and that the goat had run right past them and committed suicide in that there sinkhole. Damnedest thing they'd ever seen.
And the farmer says: "Naw, that can't be my goat. My goat is chained to an old transmission."
That's my Bouchercon joke. Feel free to share it. Or save it for a special occasion.
Back online after a week away for moving and unpacking and getting a new DSL hookup.
Kel and I love our new place in Santa Cruz. Each day, we've taken breaks from unpacking to explore the neighborhood. Some wonderful cafes and the beaches are great, but my favorite part is sunset on the rocky points that jut into Monterey Bay.
Nice view from up on the points. The other day, we spotted a pod of whales and a couple of sea otters, along with the usual gulls and pelicans and surfers.
A word to bank robbers: Always be sure to arrange your getaway in advance. If you go around after the robbery, offering strangers $1,000 for a ride to the next town, it looks suspicious.
Police say a robber in Capitola, CA, did just that. Worse, he got away with it, at least for now.
Full story here.
Editors help you watch out for unintended double entendres, such as the one I spotted yesterday painted (twice!) in giant letters on the windows of a uniform store in Redding, CA. Here's what it said:
OK, all you wanted sex offenders, where's the last place you should take a bath? Come on, think hard. What's that? The restroom at the police department? Hah, good one! No one would be so stupid --
Oh, my. It seems a wanted sex offender in my new hometown of Santa Cruz, CA, did not get the memo about no-bathing-at-the-cop-shop. Police say a visitor to headquarters took his kids into the restroom and found Darrick Burch, 53, fully naked and washing in the sink. The visitor fetched a cop, who found Burch still naked and merrily bathing.
Police arrested Burch on an outstanding warrant for failing to register properly as a sex offender.
Full story here.
How many times do we have to say it? If you're going to commit a felony, be sure you have gas in your getaway car.
A trio of idiots in Albuquerque, NM, ran out of gas one block from the motel they'd just robbed, police say. No question it was the right car, since the robbers had parked directly outside the motel office, giving the clerks a clear view of their license plate.
Worse yet, police say the robbery was the second motel that the trio had tried to knock over that night. At the first one, the clerk refused to answer the locked door until the robbers gave up and went away.
The complete story, if you can stomach it, is here.
Assorted goofs in today's local paper reminded me that I haven't done a typo roundup lately. I didn't have to look far.
--On KOAT/Albuquerque's website today, we find this headline: "Woman, 65, Dragged by Purse Through Parking Lot."
Man, that's one angry purse.
--On redding.com today, we learn that City Council candidates want to "reign in spending."
Not unless "Spending" is a kingdom I never heard of before.
--I love the fishing report at the San Jose Mercury-News, and the pains taken not to be repetitive. The result is daily profundity like this: "Striped bass are all over San Pablo Bay."
There goes the neighborhood!
Wow, what a great time at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, in San Francisco. The organizers put on a great conference for 1,400 of our best pals.
The conference was in the Hyatt on the Embarcadero, and our room looked out at the Bay Bridge. Sailboats, the Ferry Building, lots of great restaurants within walking distance, etc.
Kelly and I each moderated panels at the conference, and our author panelists did splendid jobs.
Most fun for me, as always, were the after-hours poker games. The authors who sit around those poker tables may well be the funniest people in the world.
Weeks between posts here, but it's been such a busy month that I'm looking forward to Bouchercon this week as a place to wind down.
Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, is in San Francisco this year, and my wife Kelly and I are moderating panels on Friday. My 4:30 p.m. panel focuses on sex in mysteries. The panelists: Heather Graham, Lauren Henderson, Harley Jane Kozak, Rita Lakin and F. Paul Wilson. It don't get better than that, folks. Y'all come.
Here at home, we're still prepping for our move to Santa Cruz, CA. We found a 1930s bungalow within sight of Sunny Cove Beach. As Kel likes to say, here's our new front yard:
More later. I've got to go pack some stuff.
Tip for aspiring criminals: If you're the inside man on a bank holdup, don't use your own phone to send text-message instructions to the outside man.
Police in Arlington, TX, say a bank teller has been arrested after they found text messages with instructions such as "don't forget yo sunglasses" on his phone. The messages were sent to the accused robber, who was stopped for speeding while he still had the loot in his car.
The topper: Cops say these same two idiots may be responsible for an unsolved robbery at another bank where the teller worked.
Full story here.
We're packing for our upcoming move to Santa Cruz, CA, and I've still got three boxes of my own books that I must sell off. If you haven't sampled my comic Bubba Mabry private eye series yet, now's the time.
I have autographed hardcovers of SHAKY GROUND, DIRTY POOL, WITCHY WOMAN and MONKEY MAN available for $14 each, including postage. I've also got a number of paperbacks of BABY FACE, which was the second in the Bubba series, available for $5 each. Cash, check or PayPal.
To see cover art, descriptions, etc., check out my author website: http://www.stevebrewer.us.com/.
To order books or for more info, e-mail me at email@example.com.
A rental ad on Craigslist said the bathroom comes with a "pedastool sink." They may be using that sink improperly.
On the front page of today's local paper, in oversized, extra-noticeable type, we get this: "all the options should be exlored." I agree. I've exlored some options myself, usually into a handkerchief.
Best, though, was the line from a local "news" website in a column on sex and kissing: "In the throws of a great sexually charged event." Apparently, that's the best way to throw your back out.
On CNN.com recently, an article made a reference to "sexual morays." I knew those eels were up to something.
Over at Facebook, a friend of a friend wrote about a "heroine addict." Apparently, that's someone who's obsessed with Wonder Woman.
In a real estate ad for a rural property, the copy said, "Bring the animal." Let's hope they meant pets, because that's no way to talk about another person's husband.
Not a typo, exactly, but there was the story about the baby porcupine who was "orphaned and imprinted on humans." Ouch.
e-book formats): My new thriller FIREPOWER.
Sonny's busy gaze roamed the room, finally settled on the coffee table between them.
"Hey, Bob. How come you always wear cowboy boots?"
"I'm no cowboy, if that's what you mean. But I grew up wearing boots."
Bob looked at his feet up on the coffee table. Plain brown boots, scuffed around their tapered toes. Latest in a long line of serviceable shitkickers.
"They some kind of exotic leather?" Sonny asked.
"If you think 'cow' is exotic."
"I thought maybe you were one of those guys who collects different kinds of boots. Got a whole closet full at home. Python and ostrich hide. Shark."
"I'm not a nut for them. I just like boots. They're comfortable."
"But to work in? How do you run in them?"
"I don't run much."
Sonny gave him a prison-yard squint. "You're a bad man. You're too tough to run."
"I just don't like it much. I prefer sitting around. If I wanted to be on my feet all day, I'd be a mailman."
"Sometimes you gotta run," Sonny said. "Things get fucked up. Sometimes running's the best thing."
Bob took the Beretta out of his jacket's deep inside pocket, started screwing on his suppressor, too.
"See these babies?" Sonny turned his feet on the coffee table so Bob could admire his red-and-black Air Jordans. "That's superior footwear right there. Two hundred and sixty bucks."
"Hell, you can get three pair of boots for that."
"Yeah, but I can run faster and jump higher. Things get fucked up? I'll be first one over the fence."
Bob chewed on that a second, then said, "Things get that fucked, I've got to run?"
"Boots won't make a difference. Tie bricks to my feet, it won't matter. I'll be a running motherfucker."
"Maybe the other guy's wearing a nice pair of running shoes. Some cop, in good shape, younger than you. He'll chase your ass down."
"I hope he does it quick. Then I'll pop a cap in him, get it over with."
"He might pop you first."
"Either way, I won't have to run around no more."
6:04 p.m. Friday
Red and gold leaves gusted along the asphalt streets, a stampede of confetti, the only color in a lifeless landscape of lumpy-oatmeal stucco and petrochemical siding and plain gray concrete under a low gray sky.
From behind the wheel of the stolen Oldsmobile, Sonny Tharp said, "What's that, Bob?"
Sonny's chin was slashed crosswise by his trademark scar, his French Quarter souvenir. He was a few years younger than Bob, maybe thirty, still an exercise nut and a fresh-air fiend. His elbow hung out the window, and the chill breeze riffled his black hair.
Bob's brown suede jacket was zipped to his chin, but his ears were freezing. He wanted Sonny to roll up the fucking window, but they'd had that argument before. Better frozen ears than ears full of Sonny.
"Suburbs all look the same," Bob shouted over the Cajun music honking from the radio. "We're officially in Plano, but it could be any neighborhood in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Could be Richardson. Could be Arlington."
Sonny glanced at the passing houses. "Could be Houston."
"Sure. Could be California, this time of year."
"A rare cloudy day in Phoenix."
"Nah. In Phoenix, they'd put cactus everywhere, remind you how the place looked before they bulldozed it."
"Cactus." Sonny grimaced. "Those fucking yuccas."
"Developers rip everything out, then put it back again, re-arranged. The cacti are like hunting trophies. 'Congratulations to us. We tamed these fuckers and took their land.' They might as well put dead Indians out on the lawn."
"That's why they call it 'native' landscaping."
Sonny slowed, checking a green street sign in the fading light. "You're a deep guy, Bob."
"I pay attention." Bob scratched at his week-old whiskers. "I try to think about things. See how they make me feel."
"That's good," Sonny said. "A rich inner life is a healthy thing."
We spend a lot of time on our covered patio, enjoying the outdoors morning and evening, and we've become quite involved with an extended family of California quail.
There's a greenbelt right behind our back wall, so we get lots of birds in the yard, but these quail have become regular fixtures. They nest in our neighbor's yard and they roost at night in the live oak behind our wall. Every morning around dawn, the quail flutter out of the oak onto the concrete wall, which they use as a sidewalk.
Kelly shot that photo a few months ago. The quail clan is now up to three generations, and we counted nine juveniles on the fence the other day.
The adults have crests that are shaped like question marks. Looks like they're always wondering about something. They also round up the troops with a call that sounds like "Where are you? Where are you?" Which cracks us up.
Being ground birds, the quail aren't very good flyers. Footballs with stubby wings. Which makes the walking wall all the more attractive to them. After foraging every day, the adult quail round up the young'uns and head back for another night in the live oak.
And I'm on the patio, watching.
More hilarity from Craigslist real estate ads:
--"Just steppes away from the beach!" (That sounds really far.)
--"Bedroom is large enough to hold California King Bad."
You can now start referring to me as King Bad of California. Thank you.
You know what I haven't been doing lately? Back-to-school shopping. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha.
Our youngest started this week at Shasta College, but he didn't need any new school supplies or clothes. He had a pen, and he wore his usual hippie rags. We threw some money at him as he headed out the door, and that was about it. He stays at our house some nights, but that's temporary. He's pretty much on his own.
As most of you know, Kel and I are trying to take advantage of our emptier nest by selling our beautiful home in Redding, CA. (Price reduced to $400,000! For slide show, click here.) As soon as the house sells, we're moving to a place by the beach in Santa Cruz. Why? Here's why:
(I don't know the photographer, but he's got lots of awesome aerials at his website. Check it out.)
But enough gloating. For you poor souls who still have kids in school, check out the Home Front archives for a few laughs, including this column about back-to-school shopping. Enjoy!
Love this: In today's local newspaper, there's a 50th anniversary notice for a Shingletown couple named Flora and Phil Dill. You have to read to nearly the end to get the best part -- their children are named Kash and Kerri.
I guess if your last name is Dill, you come with a sense of humor built right in.
Low, low prices on autographed books by Steve Brewer!
As we continue to shrink our household to fit into a two-bedroom beach cottage, I must empty a closet of the accumulated inventory of my own books. I've got extras of most of my 16 titles in that closet, and I'll sell them for less-than-list prices (including free shipping!). These bargains are available for a limited time (until that closet is empty).
Available paperbacks include "Lonely Street" (basis for the motion picture of the same name) and "Baby Face." Hardcovers include "Dirty Pool," "Shaky Ground," "Witchy Woman" and more. For descriptions of my books, go to http://www.stevebrewer.us.com/.
For prices and available titles in this once-in-a-lifetime closet sale, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We all make typos on Facebook, and I've spotted some doozies lately:
--A business with computer problems asked FB friends to "please bare with us."
--One friend called another an "absolute dillface."
--A barbecue dish was described as "grilled chic on a stick." Tres stylish.
--Most painful of all, this: "I've got broken light fixtures in my hose."
"Fool's Paradise" is the story of five strangers who join together to rob a bank in swanky Coronado, CA. No honor among thieves, especially when they're amateurs!
See all my Kindle offerings here.
From the front page of today's Record-Searchlight here in Redding, CA: "Republicans reek to avoid adding to debt."
I'm pretty sure the newspaper meant "seek," but things have been different at the R-S since Dr. Freud started working on the copy desk.
I recently saw a Craigslist real estate ad that mentioned "double pain windows." Imagine how bad that view must be.
Finally, there was the professional author whose Facebook post the other day referred to "overcoming a handy cap." That's when you put your cap in an inconvenient place? So it's not so handy?
My first novel introduced hapless private eye Bubba Mabry, who's hired by what appears to be the living Elvis. The King's not ready to come out of hiding (yet), but tabloid reporters are hot on his trail.
Today's tip for aspiring criminals: If you think there's even a remote chance that you might rob a bar later in the evening, it's better if you don't wear that T-shirt that has your photo and name printed on the front. Also, don't leave the shirt behind for the police to find.
The cops say Kendell Swader, 22, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., forgot those important rules during a drunken holdup at a saloon called The Spot. He's now under arrest.
Full story here.
In case you missed it over the holiday weekend, we lowered the asking price of our Redding, CA, home to $419,000. What a deal!
Palm trees, flowers, views and an inground pool. Four bedrooms, two baths, three-car garage. To see details (and cool slide show), click here.
As reported recently, I've done a lot of high-speed typing lately, and that has resulted in some interesting typos:
--"peeking in the widow"
I was talking about music, but it came out "concrete promoter."
This one for NRA members: "Gunsot."
Grossest: "tick carpet underfoot." Eeww.
This typing was part of the Kindle prep for "Lonely Street," the first Bubba Mabry mystery. The one they made into a movie. Coming soon to Kindle and other e-book formats.
I've been doing a lot of rapid typing the last few weeks, readying more backlist titles for Kindle. It's great how the computer fixes most typos as you go, but you can still end up with interesting new words.
For instance, I don't believe there is a proper term for someone caught urinating in public. So how about "peeing Tom?"
Also, there's apparently a really loud animal called a "baboom."
So far, my humor book Trophy Husband and my bank heist caper Fool's Paradise are available on Kindle. More titles, including the Bubba Mabry series, are coming soon to Kindle and other e-book platforms.
I'll try to catch all the typos.
In anticipation of our big move, I'm spending way too much time looking at rental properties on Craigslist. Because people do their own copy-editing on Craigslist, you sometimes find hilarious mistakes, such as the recent ad that began, "Basque on your sun deck. . . "
Here's today's find. In an ad for a nice apartment were the words "ceramic tile threw out the kitchen."
Ha-ha. We all know that's wrong. They mean "thrown."
Success! The railroad moved the ugly train cars!
You might remember my recent posting about three derelict railroad cars that were parked right in the sightline at a major intersection here in Redding, CA. Motorists stopped at the "T" intersection at Buenaventura Boulevard and Highway 273 got a view of the rusty, graffiiti-covered cars rather than the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Not long after the post appeared, I got an e-mail from Greg Clark, assistant to the city manager. The city wanted to pursue the matter, and wanted to use the photo from my blog (shot by my wife Kelly) in a letter to Union Pacific.
A few days ago, I noticed the railroad had moved the cars about forty yards down the siding, away from the intersection and behind a screen of trees. Hurray!
I heard from Clark today. He said that City Manager Kurt Starman did indeed send a letter to the railroad on June 1, asking them to move the cars. Clark didn't know of any return communication, but the relocated cars speak volumes.
Thanks to city and railroad officials for listening to a cranky blogger.
Today's tip for aspiring armed robbers: When knocking over a Waffle House at 4 a.m., it's really better if you don't shoot your accomplice.
Police in Davie, FL, had one man in custody after a holdup attempt at a local Waffle House. He had been shot once in the "left hip." His partner, who apparently shot him by accident, fled the scene.
I'm thinking that even a hardened criminal would rat out the partner who shot him in the ass. And hardened criminals don't rob Waffle Houses.
Full story here.
While I'm waiting for someone to buy our house, I'm keeping myself busy by learning how to put my backlist on Kindle and (eventually) other e-book platforms.
Up fresh today: "Fool's Paradise," a comic crime caper about five strangers who throw in together to rob a bank in Coronado, CA, and the bad, bad things that happen to them. Available now on Kindle for $7.99.
For more, click here.
I've dipped my trembling toe into the ice-cold waters of e-books for the first time, making my backlist humor book available on Kindle.
"Trophy Husband: A Survival Guide to Working at Home" was published in hardcover by University of New Mexico Press in 2003, and disappeared shortly thereafter. (Kidding. It's still available. There's a whole warehouse full of them somewhere.)
The material in "Trophy Husband" came from my syndicated newspaper column, The Home Front. You can read most of those columns right here on this blog, but I reshaped the material slightly for the book, making it into a self-help guide that's no help whatsoever.
The book got great reviews and my favorite blurb of all time, from Virginia Swift: "If Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry had a love child, it would be Brewer."
Available now at a special introductory price of $2.99. I'd appreciate any feedback from Kindle users out there.
Next up will be my bank-heist caper, "Fool's Paradise." Then I'll start putting the Bubba Mabry books on Kindle as well.
O, brave new world . . .
Today's tip for aspiring criminals: If there are warrants out for your arrest, it's better to keep a low profile.
I'm paying attention to news out of Santa Cruz, CA, these days, and came across this little police blotter item: Two parolees were arrested after police discovered open booze containers, drug paraphernalia and marijuana in their truck.
How did police know to stop the truck? It was driving on city streets with no brake lights or headlights. At 2 a.m.
Full story here.
It might look as if I've let this blog go dormant, but that's only temporary. It's been a crazy time around here, and some things are bound to get neglected.
We're still down-sizing our household for our anticipated move to an empty nest in Santa Cruz, CA. We've gotten rid of tons of stuff, and still have one shipment of furniture/furnishings going to a consignment store after someone buys our house.
The house has been on the market three weeks now. No buyer yet, but lots of lookers. Fingers crossed.
Amongst all this household tumult, I finished my latest work-in-progress, a crime novel called 'The Big Wink,' and sent it off to my agent. Now I'm learning about Kindle, etc., so I can make my backlist available for e-readers.
I'm still posting my "Rules for Successful Living" at least once a day on Facebook, so if we're not friends there yet, get on board.
As we downsize our household for the big move to a place by the beach, we're trying to reduce our large inventory of books written by some guy named Steve Brewer.
My wife Kelly has set up a "store" at Amazon.com where you can order my books (including some that are hard to find), inscribed any way you like. Better we ship these books to happy readers than pay to move them to Santa Cruz.
To check out our "store," click here.
Autographed books make wonderful gifts. ;-)
As many of you know by now, we've put our home in Redding, CA, on the market. The real estate folks put together a neat slide show, and you can see it here if you're interested.
Our younger son graduates from high school on June 4, and our nest will be empty. Kel and I are planning to move to Santa Cruz, CA, and live by the beach. We both work at home these days and can live anywhere, so we decided to do the coastal thing, at least for a year or two.
Our house, with its palm trees and swimming pool and mountain views, has been the California Dream for the past seven years, a great place to raise the boys. But now it's time for a different dream. Just the two of us. A smaller place. A down-sized lifestyle. And no guest room.
Tip for aspiring criminals: If you're driving drunk and the police chase you, the last place you want to lead them is to your illegal marijuana grow house.
Easy to forget such a simple lesson when is one is full of booze. Just ask Charles Byrd, 23, of Gwinnett County, GA, who allegedly broke many traffic laws (including driving in the dark without headlights) while trying to evade police. He surrendered after briefly hiding inside a house where officers found 69 marijuana plants.
Also in the house: Byrd's alleged growing partner, who must be one unhappy camper.
Full story here.
"Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side," an all-original short story anthology from the Mystery Writers of America, debuted this week.
The anthology includes my story "Limbo," one of 10 picked by a committee in a blind submissions process.
The collection was edited by my pal Charlaine Harris of "True Blood" fame. Charlaine also contributes a new story to the 20-story anthology.
Amazon.com is running a sale on this brand-new hardcover. Here's the link.
Tip for aspiring prosecutors: Before filing charges against a man in a jewel heist, it's a good idea to check out his alibi, especially if he says he was in prison at the time of the crime.
They keep good records of such things in prisons.
Charges against Tyrone Payne have been dropped after prosecutors in Massachusetts confirmed that he was in prison in Ohio at the time of the Oct. 18 theft.
Full story here.
That sound you hear is the Republican National Committee shooting itself in both feet.
On the (round) heels of the scandal surrounding a visit by GOP officials to a bondage club, now comes word that an RNC mailing mistakenly lists a phone number that leads to a sex-talk line.
Full story here.
A new study has found that bacon and other fatty foods can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
The study, done on rats, found that they'd eat junk food to the point of extreme obesity. They even kept eating when they were receiving electric shocks.
Researchers say fatty foods turn on "pleasure centers" in the brain, just like drugs, and overstimulation leads to compulsive consumption.
Wait. What were we talking about?
Full story here.
So, I was watching the Kate Beckinsale thriller "Whiteout" while sweating away on the Dreadmill, and I found myself reaching for the fast-forward button, which is never a good sign.
Why? Because filmmakers think the audience is stupid. They drag out every minor revelation so the slow students in the back of the class will have time to slap their foreheads and say, "Oh, something's hidden inside those corpses! Duh!"
Here's a fast-forward moment: U.S. Marshal Kate going from room to dark room at the Anarctica research station, flashlight and gun at the ready while searching for the killer, when it's clear the electricity still works, and there's no reason not to just flip on the lights.
Stupidest moment of all: Two cops attached to a rope to keep them from blowing away in a whiteout storm. At least one has a gun. They see the bad guy hurrying toward the research station and Kate says, "He's going to lock us out!" So they scurry faster along the rope. I am a full-grown adult, yet I found myself muttering at the screen, "Shoot him, you idiot. Just shoot him."
Now I'm going to go work on my novel, and take out all the parts that might resemble the above crap.
Kel and I had a great time over the weekend at Left Coast Crime, a convention for mystery fans. This year's event was in downtown Los Angeles, and the weather was great.
We spent lots of time with our pal Bill Fitzhugh, who did a great job as toastmaster. I can only hope I do as well when I'm toastmaster at next year's Left Coast in Santa Fe.
Congrats to all the volunteers who worked so hard to put on the convention.
Today's tip for aspiring criminals: Stealing lottery tickets is a big gamble, but it's a sure bet that you shouldn't redeem your winning ticket at the same store you robbed.
Someone should've told Alen Nguyen, 20, of Winter Haven, FL, who was arrested after he redeemed a $50 winner at the convenience store where he'd allegedly stolen $70 worth of tickets the day before. An alert clerk asked to see ID, wrote down the info and passed it along to police.
Full story here.
I'm excited to be included in the next Mystery Writers of America anthology, "Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side," edited by my pal Charlaine Harris.
Charlaine is a great success these days, of course. The HBO series "True Blood" was spun off her books, and she's huge among the vampire set. Thanks to her marquee appeal, the anthology already has better Amazon numbers than any book I've ever written, and it doesn't come out until April.
Featured in the anthology are stories by such big names as William Kent Krueger, Barbara D'Amato, Margaret Maron, Carolyn Hart, Max Allan Collins and the inimitable Parnell Hall.
My story, "Limbo," was among 10 picked by a committee through a blind submission process that included more than 200 stories.
Today's tip for aspiring criminals: When pulling off a brazen jewelry robbery, it's better if you're not accompanied by a 4-year-old child.
A couple in Philadelphia forgot that lesson recently. They grabbed a tray of jewelry and fled the store, dragging the boy behind them. When the store owner caught up to them, the man slashed his neck with a knife and fled. The boy was left behind.
Needless to say, the child was a "clue." The alleged robbers are under arrest.
Full story here.
No matter where you live, always read the police blotter items in your local newspaper or website. Otherwise, you miss gems like these (from today's Redding paper):
"Residents on Nathan Drive in Anderson reported that three people were going door to door selling cleaning supplies and being extremely pushy."
"A man who reportedly looked like Forrest Gump was riding his bicycle on Highway 299 in Johnson Park. The man was shaking his head and waving his arms around."
Pedal, Forrest, pedal!
Does art imitate life or the other way around? One of the age-old questions, but it keeps popping up.
Take, for example, last week's coup in the uranium-rich African country of Niger. Apparently led by an army colonel, soldiers shot up the presidential palace and ousted the president.
In my thriller CUTTHROAT, the hero, Solomon Gage, tries to thwart an international business scheme that includes an army colonel in Niger overthrowing the government by shooting up the presidential palace and ousting the president.
The book came out in late 2007.
Anyone could predict a coup in Niger, and the odds would be pretty good the forecast would prove true eventually. The nation has a history of such coups. Still, the headlines gave me a strange sense of deja vu.
We've been talking about the importance of catchy opening lines, but I omitted the one from my personal favorite of all my books, BULLETS:
"Some people are ridiculously easy to kill."
Next thing I've got coming out in bookstores is a short story in the new Mystery Writers of America anthology, "Crimes by Moonlight," edited by Charlaine Harris. Each mystery in the anthology, which hits stores in April, has a supernatural element. My story is called "Limbo," and the opening line is: "I snapped awake on a cold autopsy table."
Some other writers and I have been discussing which opening lines make us most proud. Here's a few more from my books:
From MONKEY MAN: "Nothing interrupts a nice chat like the arrival of a gorilla."
From FOOL'S PARADISE: "John Ray Mooney was dressed all wrong for a bank robber."
And I still like this one, though it seems a little overwritten now. From 2001's CRAZY LOVE: "Jealousy sits inside us all, a poisonous little package of possession, wrapped up in our insecurities and bound by need and fear."
What are some of your favorite openers?
Over on Facebook, I used the first line of one of my novels for one of my tongue-in-cheek "Rules for Successful Living." The line is from my 1999 Bubba Mabry novel "Dirty Pool":
"Friends come and go, but enemies are forever."
Of all my published work, that's my favorite opening line. Great first lines are important to hook readers. What are some of your favorites?
Today's tip for aspiring criminals: No matter how much you believe that you've made a clean getaway, you shouldn't call the police for help with your flat tire.
Two men in North Carolina forgot that simple lesson, police say. Four hours after a convenience store holdup, and long after police circulated the store's security video, an officer answered a 3 a.m. flat-tire call at a local Hardee's and recognized the culprits.
Full story here.
Every class has its slow kids.
I walked out our back door, and a flock of twenty mourning doves burst into the air in a whoosh of wings and tittering, and flew away.
But two doves stayed right where they were, looking around the yard, as if to say, "Where did everybody go?"
They've got a word for such unwary creatures in the Animal Kingdom: Lunch.
Today's tip for aspiring criminals: Put some gas in your getaway vehicle before the armed robbery. That's before. Previous to. Step 1, gas. Step 2, robbery. Got it?
Somebody needs to tell Justin P. Roberts of Craig, CO. Police allege that Roberts held up a restaurant in Wamsutter, WY. He was found a few hours later, 60 miles from the scene of the crime, with a pellet gun, $231 in cash and an empty gas tank.
Full story here.
I'm giving the keynote speech at the Resolutions for Writers Seminar in Anderson, CA, today, and as part of that I'm telling some of the rules for writing that I've learned over the past 35 years.
Yes, I'm once again riding the coattails of Elmore Leonard, whose "rules" you can see at www.elmoreleonard.com. Mine are in addition to his, though there is some overlap, of course. Mostly, it's easier to put the rules here on my blog than it is to screw around with handouts at the conference.
Nothing really new here, but some good reminders:
--Write in scenes, and omit the stuff in between them.
--All drama (and comedy and romance) is conflict.
--Show, don't tell.
--Within scenes and within the overall story timeline: Come in late and get out early.
--Readers love dialogue. Use it lots, but keep it tight.
--Use the five senses and the "five W's and H" in your descriptive writing. Focus on the Telling Detail.
--Don't use two adjectives when one will do.
--Beware the adverb.
--Learn proper punctuation and use it. You're not Cormac McCarthy.
--Don't make the reader figure it out. Make it clear.
--Spend at least as much time on rewrites and polishing as on the first draft.
--Learn your craft and work hard.
If you'd like to hear the speech that goes with that (or any of my other talks), I'm available at reasonable rates for seminars, mystery conferences and bar mitzvahs.
Feel free to add your own rules for writing in the comments.
Police in Hamilton, OH, are on the lookout for one frustrated robber.
Authorities say a man went into a Subway and tried to wrest the cash register off the counter, but a clerk pushed him and the robber ran away. Thirty minutes later, the same man entered a Family Dollar Store, showed a clerk the outline of a gun in his pocket and demanded money. However, when the robber couldn't get the cash register open, he gave up and fled.
Family Dollar? Really? That's the place you hit on your big holdup? Might be time for Remedial Robbery 101.
Full story here.
Police in Dayton, OH, are on the lookout for a woman who responded inappropriately when told a gas station had no public bathroom.
The woman dropped her pants and urinated on the floor near the cash register, police said. Then she hitched up her britches, went out to a waiting van and departed.
My favorite part of this story (which you can read here) is where an employee says "he would recognize the woman if he saw her again."
Firefighters responding to a trailer fire in St. George, UT, got a big surprise: 19 pet pythons, some up to 18 feet long.
Eleven of the snakes survived the fire, which began with a heat lamp in one of the snake cages.
Full story here.