Here’s an opportunity to hear a panel of top-notch mystery writers discuss their books.
Month: October 2014
“Use the right word . . . “: Mark Twain’s Mother
Mark Twain cared about words: Pa’s boot with a couple of his toes leaking out of the front end; the sow lying in the middle of the street looking as happy as if she was on salary; and Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on.
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word,” he wrote, “is really a large matter – ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.“
And, “Use the right word, not its second cousin.”
In his autobiography, he tells the story of a time his mother used the right words to teach him a lesson that lasted a lifetime.
There was, however, one small incident of my boyhood days which touched this matter, and it must have meant a good deal to me or it would not have stayed in my memory, clear and sharp, vivid and shadowless, all these slow-drifting years. We had a little slave boy whom we had hired from some one, there in Hannibal. He was from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and had been brought away from his family and his friends, half way across the American continent, and sold. He was a cheery spirit, innocent and gentle, and the noisiest creature that ever was, perhaps. All day long he was singing, whistling, yelling, whooping, laughing – it was maddening, devastating, unendurable. At last, one day, I lost all my temper, and went raging to my mother, and said Sandy had been singing for an hour without a single break, and I couldn’t stand it, and wouldn’t she please shut him up. The tears came into her eyes, and her lip trembled, and she said something like this—
“Poor thing, when he sings, it shows that he is not remembering, and that comforts me; but when he is still, I am afraid he is thinking, and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again; if he can sing, I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older, you would understand me; then that friendless child’s noise would make you glad.”
It was a simple speech, and made up of small words, but it went home, and Sandy’s noise was not a trouble to me any more. She never used large words, but she had a natural gift for making small ones do effective work. She lived to reach the neighborhood of ninety years, and was capable with her tongue to the last – especially when a meanness or an injustice roused her spirit.
From “Mark Twain on Slavery, How Religion Is Used to Justify Injustice, and What His Mother Taught Him About Compassion”
Images of the Texas Book Festival
The Knickers Business
Over 6,000 pounds sterling for a pair of panties? It’s obvious they didn’t come from Wal-mart. Read Kate Shrewsday’s account of where they did come from.
(When I was a child, I considered “panties” an inferior word, and saying it would have caused me to keel over out of embarrassment. But I’ve gotten over that.)
It is only this week that, at an auction house in Kent, England, a pair of knickers went for £6,200.
Knickers: that’s panties, pants, underwear. We also call them drawers, and once upon a time they were pantaloons and even bloomers.
But the reason, girls, that you are walking around in M&S cotton briefs today – or shorts, or camis, or strings or whatever – is because of the owner of the pants which have just sold for such a stupendous sum somewhere outside Folkestone.
It is interesting to note that the aforementioned, extremely valuable knickers had a waist of some 52 inches.
Despite the perfectly developed bra-and-pants model developed in the Classical World (or strophium-and-subligaculum model, if you prefer) women in Mediaeval and Tudor Britain did without pants. Which, I know, seems unconscionably draughty to us today. But it was just another garment to purchase, and garments…
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Get a Clue! Mystery Authors Crombie, Hallinan, & Koenig @ Texas Book Festival
Mystery authors Deborah Crombie, Timothy Hallinan, and Minerva Koenig will appear on the panel Get a Clue at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday, October 25, at 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., in Capitol Extension Room E2.014.
Deborah Crombie is the New York Times best-selling author of the Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Sergeant Gemma James novels. A SHARE IN DEATH, her first novel, received Agatha and Macavity nominations for Best First Novel of 1993. She has won two Macavity awards for Best Novel and her books have been nominated for a number of other awards. Her fifth novel, DREAMING OF THE BONES, was named a New York Times Notable Book for 1997, was short-listed by Mystery Writers of America for the 1997 Edgar Award for Best Novel, won the Macavity award for Best Novel, and was voted by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association as one of the hundred best mysteries of the century. The most recent book in the Kincaid / James series, TO DWELL IN DARKNESS, was published by William Morrow in September 2014.
A native of Dallas, Crombie has lived in both Scotland and England, and visits England, where are novels are set, several times a year.
Critical acclaim for Deborah Crombie’s novels
Crombie has laid claim to the literary territory of moody psychological suspense owned by P. D. James and Barbara Vine. – Washington Post
Deborah Crombie is an American mystery novelist who writes so vividly about England, she might have been born within the sound of Bow Bells. (She) gets better with each book…lyrical, biting and evocative.– Cleveland Plain Dealer
Timothy Hallinan has written eighteen critically acclaimed novels. He’s been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Lefty, among others, and is currently a Shamus nominee for his book LITTLE ELVISES. He writes two series, one set in Bangkok, where he lives half-time, and the other in Los Angeles, where he lives the rest of the time. The Bangkok books feature an American travel writer named Poke Rafferty, who has married a Thai woman and adopted a Thai daughter, a street child, right off the sidewalk. The books are as much about family as they are about crime. The seventh Rafferty novel, FOR THE DEAD, comes out November 4, and William Kent Krueger described it as . . .”not only a fast-paced, compelling tale, but also, on every level, a fine literary read.” His Junior Bender series, about a San Fernando Valley burglar, who works as a private eye for crooks, has just been bought by Iddie Izzard as an NBC television series. The fourth and most recent to be published is HERBIE’S GAME. [Thanks to Timothy Hallinan for writing this copy, which appears here unaltered.]
Critical acclaim for Timothy Hallinan’s novels
“Bender’s quick wit and smart mouth make him a book companion on this oddball adventure.” ~ New York Times Book Review
“A modern-day successor to Raymond Chandler.” ~ Los Angeles Daily News
Minerva Koenig is the author of NINE DAYS, published by Minotaur in September of this year. The main character, Julia Kalas, is described as “short, round, and pushing forty, but … a damned good criminal. For seventeen years she renovated historic California buildings as a laundry front for her husband’s illegal arms business. Then the Aryan Brotherhood made her a widow, and witness protection shipped her off to the tiny town of Azula, Texas. Also known as the Middle of Nowhere.” With a local law enforcement officer as watchdog.
Julia has no intention of lying low, but she also doesn’t intend to raise her profile so high that half of Texas—good guys, bad guys, and who-knows-what-kind-of-guys—are either chasing, or being chased, by her. One thing is sure–Julia won’t be pushed around by any of them.
Scott Montgomery, crime fiction coordinator at BookPeople Book Store, says, “NINE DAYS introduces us to a fresh-hardboiled voice. Koenig embraces the genre, yet doesn’t completely play by its rules. I can’t wait to see what other conventions she breaks.”
Joy Tipping of the Dallas Morning news hails Julia Kalas as a successor to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone, saying, “Let us praise the literary gods, then, that a worthy successor has arrived with Austin author Minerva Koenig and her debut novel, the funny, scary and devilishly twisty NINE DAYS.”
A long-time resident of Texas, Minerva is a licensed architect who runs a one-woman practice in Austin. Among her other interests are sewing, playing chess, and fighting the patriarchy.
Critical acclaim for Minerva Koenig’s novels
“Small-town Texas is vividly brought to life in this atmospheric and entertaining debut that also introduces a memorable and unusual protagonist.” ~ Library Journal
Information about Deborah Crombie and Minerva Koenig was drawn from their websites.
Get a Clue ~ Saturday, October 25, 2014 ~ 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. ~ Capitol Extension Room E2.014
I will be moderator of the panel.
Paradise in Texas: 2014 Texas Book Festival
One of the High Points of my life: Sitting in the first row of the Chamber of the Texas House of Representatives, with author Elmer Kelton at the speaker’s table right in front of me, and Liz Carpenter right behind me, and listening to Mr. Kelton talk about his writing career and respond to a question from the audience about why he couldn’t write good female characters.
Mr. Kelton said he’d heard that criticism, and he guessed it had merit, although he thought he’d done a pretty good job with Eve in The Good Old Boys, because she was really the moral compass of the book. He was sorry he hadn’t done better writing women, but at the age of seventy-plus, he didn’t know what he could do about it.*
It just doesn’t get any better than that.
But the folks at the Texas Book Festival Organization keep trying.
The 2014 Texas Book Festival takes place this weekend, October 24 and 25, at the Texas Capitol in Austin.
More than 275 authors will appear at the Capitol and at other venues around town to speak about, read, discuss, and sign their books. For an alphabetical list of authors, or to search by genre or keyword, click here.
Nationally renowned authors coming to this year’s Festival include Martin Amis, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Norman Lear, Lidia Bastianich, Ziggy Marley, James Ellroy, Katherine Applegate, Nicholas D. Kristof, John Dean, Valerie Plame Wilson, and Héctor Tobar.
Headlining authors also include Charles Blow, Emily St. John Mandel, Michael Ruhlman, Douglas Brinkley, Richard Linklater, Francisco Goldman, Meg Wolitzer, Jacqueline Woodson, and Sarah Bird.
The physically fit can bike with authors on Sunday morning from 8:00 to 9:00, when H. W. Brands, Stephen Harrigan, Lawrence Wright, and Rob Spillman will lead a tour of downtown Austin.
This event is not an author reading; it is an hour-long mini-tour that allow [sic] a group of readers to engage with authors in real-life conversations on a more personal level.
(Here, I must digress: The summer I was fourteen, my friend and I biked from Fentress to Staples and back, wearing bathing suits [why bathing suits I can’t remember, unless we thought all-encompassing sunburn would add to the fun] and chattering all the way. The idea, X years later, that I could engage in a real-life conversation with anyone while riding a bike anywhere–well, it is to laugh.)
There will also be a Literary Mayhem (a literary pub crawl), food everywhere you look, music, activities for children and families, and a raft of other book-centered activities all over the Capitol grounds, and, if it’s anything like last year’s festival, stretching down Congress Avenue.
And there will be exhibitors from the American Society of Civil Engineers to Zonk Books and plenty in between. Translation: BOOKS FOR SALE!
And, saving the best for last–
Saturday afternoon, mystery novelists Deborah Crombie, Timothy Hallinan, and Minerva Koenig will discuss the craft of mystery writing before an audience in the Capitol Extension.
More on that tomorrow. . .
*Mr. Kelton did, indeed, do a beautiful job with Eve. She was perfect. If you’ve not read The Good Old Boys, do yourself a favor and read it. Then see the movie. Not the other way around.
Procrastination and the Perfect Writer’s Guide
Does reading about writing distract from putting pen to paper? Maybe. Maybe not. Laura Oles explains.
There’s something alluring about reference books for writers. You know the ones, lining the shelves at your favorite local bookstore. They beckon, encouraging us to come closer, to flip through their pages to discover their secrets. They promise to teach us everything we need to know about creating compelling characters, powerful plots and revealing dialogue. They offer to give us a glimpse into the writing life as experienced by those who have earned some modicum of success. These guides are filled with information, tips, anecdotes and motivation. They are filled with promise.
They get me every time.
I’ve always been a bit of a research geek. When I want to learn something new, I tend to go all in, diving into the topic quickly and deeply. Some would claim this fascination serves as a distraction, a way to procrastinate from the hard work of putting words to paper. I’ve read…
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I received the letter pictured below when I worked at Norma Krueger Elementary School’s Scharf Library. Crystal Walpole wrote asking what my favorite book was. She dropped the letter into her classroom’s mailbox. Krueger’s Wee Deliver postal service stamped and delivered it to the library.
At the time, Crystal’s address was 683 Cocker Spaniel Drive in Sporting Dog, Texas. The library’s was 123 Yorkshire Terrier Avenue in Terrierville, Texas.
Crystal’s favorite books were Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Rats on the Roof by James Marshall. Those were my favorite books, too.
And Crystal Walpole is one of my favorite writers.
The towns of Terrierville and Sporting Dog existed for a brief but happy time as part of Marion Independent School District in Marion, Texas.
How to Explain Amazon’s Kindle to Charles Dickens
An exercise in creativity . . .
via A Jug Of Wine, A Loaf Of Bread, And Virtual Thou • bookishthingsblog: How to Explain Amazon’s….bookishthingsblog:
As a student at Cardiff School of Art and Design, illustrator Rachel Walsh was asked to create a project that would explain something modern/internet-based to somebody who lived and died before 1900. Walsh’s innovative idea was to take a large book and create 40 miniature books from its pages in order to explain the kindle to Dickens. The covers are recreations from real books and include Dickens’ own novels, his favourite childhood books, and some of the artist’s own.
Morning Pages: Don’t Speak. Don’t Judge. Don’t Fall Asleep.
The first day of last summer’s Writer’s League of Texas retreat, author-instructor Karleen Koen told students that every morning before class, we must do Morning Pages: Wake up, don’t speak, take pen and paper–not computer–and, while still drowsy, write “three pages of anything.” Don’t judge. Keep the pen moving. In her course notebook, Karleen listed the following:
Stream of consciousness, complain, whine, just move your hand across the page writing whatever crosses your mind until you get to the end of page three.
Karleen stressed that she didn’t invent Morning Pages. The technique, minus the name, came from the book Becoming a Writer by teacher Dorothea Brande, published in 1934 and reissued in 1981. Author John Gardner, in his foreword to the reprinted edition, states it was “astonishing” that the book had ever gone out of print.
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
Ms Brande advises…
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My Writing Writing Writing Day: Yeah, Right
At 8:00 a.m., I discovered Ernest experiencing grave digestive problems reminiscent of previous problems caused by eating string. No matter how careful we are, he’s always able to find string.
The craziest thing is that it’s almost the same post I wrote two or three years ago, about the day I was
determined to write write write but instead spent the day lying on the floor in William’s bedroom, trying to coax an ailing Ernest out from under the bed and to the doctor.
- Change in the Davis-Waller house doesn’t seem likely, at least while Ernest and I live here. Might as well accept that and go on.
- I should never never never publicize my intention of writing writing writing.
- Writing writing writing equals change. See first moral, above.
If paragraphs in this post are incorrectly spaced, please pretend they’re not. Today’s format is like Ernest–not under my control. It’s just one more miracle of modern technology.
Addiction, Facebook, Doctors, Pigs, and Zombies
I confess: I’m hooked.
The computer is a Kathy magnet. It wasn’t so bad until 2008, when I replaced a forty-hour work week with a laptop and my husband installed wi-fi. The Internet brings so many fine blogs and other attractions into my living room, where I sit with my feet up and examine them all; email can take up an entire day, if I leave it open while working.
Doubters would say that what I do isn’t working. I disagree. Negotiating the web is fatiguing. Commenting draws a lot of energy. I don’t want to write something that will be misunderstood; I don’t want to leave typos or incorrect punctuation; I don’t want to sound stupid.
Example: The previous sentence initially read, I want to sound stupid. It’s easy to mess up online.
Political posts on Facebook leave me just wo-ahn out. There’s the writing, of course, which is draining, but there’s also the emotion. Righteous indignation requires energy. Restraint requires more. After exercising restraint for several months, I stopped logging on. But there are friends and acquaintances–no, they’re not all friends–I want, and need, to keep up with. I like knowing how my great-niece’s first year of school is going. I like knowing that in the doctor’s waiting room when she was four, she suddenly came out with, “DOOOOOOOOOMED. We’re all DOOOOOOOOOMED.” Her fourteen-year-old brother wasn’t impressed, but I was. Her pronouncements remind me we’re not all doooooooomed.
Anyway, I logged onto FB today, discovered a post about a remark a sexist pig made on a pseudo news program, and was moved to share the post and a rousing Jeremiad of my own.
I didn’t address my remark to the sexist pig, nor did I call him one. I saved the phrase for this post. I merely suggested that his comments reinforce the ignorance and the bigotry of listeners who agree with him. Plus a couple of other salient thoughts.
Then I copied my remarks and pasted them into a Word document for future publication somewhere, perhaps here. They were scathing, simply scathing, but reasoned and polite, and they deserve a wider audience.
Another example: I’m getting all het up here just recalling the incident. Molecules of emotion surge through my body. I am giving the sexist pig power over me. That isn’t good.
Yesterday I heard a segment of a call-in program on NPR about the downside of computer technology on the culture. I’ve seen one of the effects on medicine already. When my former doctor’s practice installed computers in examining rooms, he stopped looking at me and started looking at the screen. So, to a lesser degree, did a specialist I consulted. They were excellent clinicians, and the latter possibly saved my life by doing surgery that only she and I thought I needed.*
But there’s information to be drawn from faces as well as from words, on both sides of a conversation. Eyes transmit confidence and sympathy and a number of other messages. With the Party of the First Part looking at the side of the Party of the Second Part’s Head (or, as once happened, the back of his white coat), and the Party of the Second Part looking at a screen and typing away, I wonder whether the two Parties make sufficient connection.
The internist I see now has no computer in the examining room. He taps here and there on a Palm Pilot (or something; it has a light on it for closer examination of funny-shaped moles, plus, it appears, an entire pharmacopoeia; I hope it’s not an iPhone). But he sits near me and looks me in the eye, and I reciprocate, and we get along very well.
He also asks at every visit how the writing is going, thus allowing me to infer he remembers something about me that isn’t in the file. It probably is in the file, maybe scrawled inside the cover of the folder, but as long as I haven’t seen it, it isn’t.
One day I’ll walk in and find myself looking at a 17-inch flat screen. It’s inevitable, and, all things considered, it’s a good thing. But when the time comes, I shall tell the doctor how to conduct himself while interviewing patients, just in case he doesn’t know. I’m old enough to be his mother and I taught high school English, so I’m not only entitled, I’m an expert.
But enough of doctors.
I’ve been thinking for months–years?–about the power I give technology over my life: I don’t move as much as I used to, or get out of the house as I should. I don’t read as much as I did–I read much less, in fact, and this is the first time I’ve been able to make that claim.
I don’t write with a pen and paper as often as I used to. I’ve always enjoyed putting words onto paper with a good pen, not an expensive one, but a pen that fits my hand.
And although he hasn’t said anything, my POSSLQ** might be as tired of seeing me staring at a screen as I am of seeing the doctor do the same.
So. I’ve decided to pull the plug nightly by 7:00 p.m., and to work backward towards 5:00 p.m.
To do so, I’ll have to write everything I want to write during the day. For a nocturnal animal whose brain
starts functioning about 9:00 p.m., the change won’t be easy. But it’s the right thing to do.
In my new spare time, I will read books and write in my journal with the pen of my choice. POSSLQ will follow his tradition of reading every word in the newspaper and in several magazines. We might converse.
I will go to bed at a decent hour and wake at a decent hour, in time to get a table and an electrical outlet at the BookPeople coffee shop, and there I will write–write meaning to write stories and novels for at least one hour every day. I will do it because I promised author and editor Ramona DeFelice Long that I will.
Giving away your power isn’t a bad thing as long as you know the person who receives it has good motives.
Note that I write I will, a construction implying determination, resolution, perseverance.
If I absolutely can’t help myself, I’ll toss off a blog post now and then. But only outside that sacred hour.
It hasn’t escaped me that the BookPeople part involves using a laptop and wi-fi. I can’t write what I need to write without the laptop.
But as I would not be a Luddite, so neither would I be a Zombie. And I’ve had it on good authority that computer addiction leads right down the primrose path to Zombie-ism.
*The subsequent biopsy agreed with us. Thank you, Dr. Carla Ortique, who now practices in Houston. I wish you were here.
**1) Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. 2) An affectation. We’re married. 3) See in its entirety “My POSSLQ” by Charles Osgood. A darned good poem. Here’s the first paragraph:
“Come live with me and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands and crystal brooks
With silken lines, and silver hooks.
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
If you would be my POSSLQ.” . . .