Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I wish you all the best during this happy time and hope you have the greatest of New Years.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Shopping Crime Beat

A 40-ounce can of beer was reported stolen Dec. 15 from the Lyell Avenue Hess station.

Stocking stufffers always wait till the last minute.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Shopping Crime Beat

Police are investigating the theft Dec. 7 of a lottery ticket display valued at $1,600 from Wilson Farms, 2678 Dewey Ave. Store employees told police the display was taken by a male in his 30s who drove off in a dark colored van.

All it takes is a dollar, a dark-colored van and a dream.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Shopping Crime Beat

At noon Dec. 9, 120 multi-packs of gum valued at a total of $293.60 were reported stolen from Tops, 1455 E. Ridge Road.

Have a Hubba Bubba Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Shopping Crime Beat

At 10:28 p.m. Nov. 28, two semi-automatic guns valued at a total of $700, a $5,000 diamond ring, a video game system and games valued at a total of $540, a $600 watch, a $200 designer purse, $100 knife and $200 digital camera were reported stolen from an address in the 400 block of Seneca Park Avenue.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Shopping Crime Beat

A victim reports that someone entered their home office on Marsh Road and removed a laptop, shotgun and rolled coins between Oct. 31 and Nov. 6.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crime Beat

On Nov. 15, a resident of Cloverland Drive reported that an egg was thrown at their window. Additionally, a plastic bag containing human feces was thrown at their vehicle.

Really? You don't lead with the poop?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Crime Beat

On Nov. 12, a local resident reported that she wired money to Jamaica after she was promised lottery winning of $56 million. She did not receive the winnings.

In the words of Dan Wagner, "How does this still happen?"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Crime Beat

A storage unit at a Pennels Drive residence was damaged on Nov. 30 and missing are swords, knives, an axe, a tent and a skateboard.

Well, I guess we know how he got away...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Crime Beat

Ronald J. Legault, 38, of 1008 LaRue Road, Clifton Springs, was charged Monday, Nov. 17 with unlawful possession of marijuana by state troopers. He was allegedly found with the drug while checking in with his parole officer.

Y'know, if he had gotten away with this, we'd be giving him an award for chutzpah, not stupidity.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Crime Beat

A small jar of coins was reported stolen from a Wegman Road home sometime between Nov. 25 and Dec. 1.

Truly, petty theft.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Crime Beat

At 8:10 a.m. Nov. 21, a person on the 2000 block of North Goodman Street reported that his brown 1998 Ford Escort was stolen from his driveway, where he had left it running to warm it up. Rochester police later found the car on the 100 block of Barberry Terrace, Rochester, but the driver fled the scene.


At 8:49 a.m. Nov. 25, a maroon 1999 Plymouth Voyager van was reported stolen from a parking lot at St. Ann’s, 1500 Portland Ave. City police found the car on Barberry Terrace about 1 a.m. Nov. 26. It had ignition damage and was towed to the city impound lot.

Did anybody check the people living on Barberry Terrace?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Crime Beat

David A. Silva, 32, of 631 Shorecliff Drive, Rochester, was charged Sunday with felony driving while intoxicated, consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle and obstructing governmental administration by Canandaigua city police after he drove his vehicle through a fence at the McDonald’s on Booth Street in Canandaigua. He was arraigned in Canandaigua City Court and taken to Ontario County Jail in lieu of $1,000 cash bail or $2,000 bond. The charge is a felony because Silva was convicted of driving while intoxicated within the last 10 years.

Wrong drive-thru, buddy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crime Beat

At 1:38 p.m. Nov. 17, about $180 worth of cologne was reported stolen from the A.J. Wright store at Culver-Ridge Plaza, 2255 E. Ridge Road. A store security employee reported that when she attempted to detain the suspects, she was intentionally tripped and the individuals fled in a red Chevy Cavalier.

Ah, the Sweet Smell of Success. By tripping a woman. And escaping in a Chevy Cavalier.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Crime Beat

About 10 a.m. Nov. 17, a car break-in was reported on the 2300 block of Norton Street. The victim said about $5 in change was stolen and the center console was damaged.

Laundry night.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Crime Beat

Someone stole a tire off a van while it was parked in the lot of a Chili Avenue, Chili, apartment complex sometime between 1 p.m. Oct. 8 and 7:50 a.m. Oct. 9.

Which costs more, the tire or the jack they used to steal the tire?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Crime Beat

Copper plumbing items, metallic lawn decorations and tools were stolen from a Robertson Road, Riga, address sometime between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4.


Two full gas cans and a lawn chair were reported stolen from a Wegman Road home sometime between Oct. 15 and 16.

I assume this is going to make one bad-ass Homecoming float.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Crime Beat

An unknown suspect stole a railroad rail from the Holt Road railroad crossing on Oct. 29.

Just one suspect?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Crime Beat

At 9:20 p.m. Nov. 1, an inflatable pumpkin and a plastic pumpkin in a yard on the 200 block of Spencer Road were reported damaged.

Well, Halloween had been over for 21 hours by then...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crime Beat

At 1:50 p.m. Oct. 28, a home break-in was reported on Circle Court. The resident said she returned home and found doors that are usually left unlocked were wide open. She also noticed the door frame and knob were damaged. Three laptops computers and a 50-inch TV in the house were not taken, but the homeowner did find about $36 missing from bedrooms. Damage to the doors is estimated at $25.

That's a very picky burglar.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tony Hillerman, 1925-2008

I was saddened to learn that Tony Hillerman passed away on Sunday due to heart problems. I won't have anything to write about him that is more personal than this tribute by author Deanne Stillman, or as well written as the New York Times obituary by mystery fiction critic and essayist Marilyn Stasio. But if there has never been time for you become familiarized with this great author in the past, I encourage you to make time now, and experience the truly unique voice of an American great.

Everyone has seen a Tony Hillerman book. You may not have associated the name or the face, but the covers are consistently evocative and stand out among the others on the bestseller lists. The one that I seem to always see popping up is Skeleton Man, his second-to-last novel, which was released in 2004. No matter what used book store I'm in, or which overstock bin I'm standing near, there seems to be a copy there. And if not Skeleton Man, than surely The Shape Shifter or Hunting Badger.

I heard one of my friends call him Mr. Southwest yesterday, and I guess that's as good a summation as any. He has been, and always will be, connected with the "Four Corners" region where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet. His mystery novels focused on Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, two Navajo Tribal Policemen, and the cases they were involved in, which often talked about the clashes of differing ideals, whether it was between Native American tribes, the tribes and the white man, the past and the present, or the criminal and the law. His writing style represented the area as well. It was sparse, not particularly populated, but also beautiful in its openness. His sense of place is often mentioned as a strength, and I can't argue with that, but it was always the characters that brought me back.

Never let it be said that I let an opportunity to mention film go by. Hillerman's books have been adapted to film or TV 4 times, probably best remembered on PBS, with the great Adam Beach (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Flags of our Fathers) in the Jim Chee role and Wes Studi (Dances With Wolves, Last of the Mohicans) as Joe Leaphorn. There were three of these films: Skinwalkers (2002), Coyote Waits (2003) and A Thief of Time (2004). The Dark Wind was a 1991 theatrical adaptation starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Jim Chee and directed by documentarian Errol Morris.

Throughout his career, he received the Edgar award for Dance Hall of the Dead, the Spur Award for Skinwalkers, the Nero award for Coyote Waits, the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master award, the Agatha and Anthony awards for Seldom Disappointed, the Malice Domestic Lifetime Achievement award and the Western Writers of America's Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement. Not to mention the Navajo Tribe's Special Friends of the Dinee Award for his contributions to expanding understanding and appreciation for the Navajo culture.

So, look, don't just take my word for it. Go pick up a Tony Hillerman book. It will be well worth your time.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rubbing Off

There's one thing that I can always say about hanging out with other writers: It makes me want to write more. It makes me want to write more and better, and get my stuff out there for people to see.

It' s an odd mix of awe and trepidation, at least for me, to be talking with published writers. I don't know what it is about my personal makeup, whether it's my Catholic upbringing or generally low self-esteem, but I always assume people have better things to do. I've gotten better about it, but at the Madison Bouchercon I was a complete mess, being that over-talking hyper-excited star-struck guy that fawned over mid-list authors that I'm sure would have been flattered if I hadn't seemed crazy. Usually what I was faced with was the look that starts with narrowed eyes and moves to contracted brows and causes people to end their comments with ellipses and question marks.

The over-arching enthusiasm had abated by the time I got to Malice Domestic the next year, but I had gone by myself, without really an agenda, and spent a lot of my time wandering around. My good friend Charles Benoit was there and had a few drinks with me, and I actually got off my butt and did some meeting. But I felt like there were two groups of people at that conference: the great fans of traditional/cozy mysteries, and the authors. And I didn't fit with either one of them. I don't think any lasting friendships came specifically out of that conference, but I did get to meet some great writers.

Then came Baltimore. I was much more confident this time around. I had a general plan. I knew there were certain authors I wanted to catch up with, including friends from previous conferences. I made sure to be out of my room, and seen around the conference. To that end, I volunteered in the Hospitality Suite and was in the bar every night. I made it a point to contact NY Times best-selling author Harlan Coben ahead of time and arrange an interview with him about a December 19 showing of the film TELL NO ONE, based on his novel. Not only was this a goal for me to shoot for, but it helped my general confidence not only in dealing with new people, but also in asserting myself for my own goals. I shook hands with, and smiled at, a lot of people last weekend, and I felt a bit more like I belonged.

This may actually seem like putting the cart before the horse, since I haven't finished the book yet, let alone sent it out, but it's actually helped my motivation, as I have not only gotten back to work on the novel, but have also started a short story with the same character. Things are looking up creatively, and so I go forward.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Post-Game, and Onward

A list of things that I learned/had reinforced at Bouchercon 2008:

- Noir is about disillusionment.
- Charles Ardai hugs everybody.
- Marcus Sakey and Sean Chercover are about the two G-D nicest guys you'd ever want to meet.
- In a mystery, everyone is lying.
- Trey Barker is fun to hang out with.
- Charles Benoit can bring any room to life.
- A protagonist becomes who he must become to do what he needs to do by the end of the book.
- Judy Clemens is the definition of Grace Under Pressure.
- If Megan Abbott wasn't already cool enough, she's a Doctor to boot.
- Setting is a character.
- Eddie Muller makes good films.
- Lawrence Block is a god.
- Setting is both geographic and emotional.
- Laura Lippman is an incredible speaker.
- Mark Billingham is funny as hell.
- Attack your writing with arrogance and ignorance.
- Harlan Coben is a great interview.
- Jim Huang has great ideas.
- The style of writing can be influenced by the setting.
- Making new friends is one of the best parts of any Bouchercon, so I need to say "Hi" to: Kat Richardson, Sheila Connolly, Stefanie Pintoff, Meredith Cole, Sandra Parshall, Lori G. Armstrong, Jodi Compton, Beth Wasson,
- Christa Faust is so cool.
- Whether the protagonist is amateur or professional, they become amateur so that they can learn about the subject matter along with the reader.
- A PI is often discovering himself, and hiding from his own past.
- Charlaine Harris is the basis for TRUE BLOOD. Well, her books are.
- Harry Husicker is a fan of Magnum, PI.
- Sisters are sisters, but Guppies are awesome.
- Brett Battles is a temporary Rays fan.
- Robert Gregory Browne didn't have to come back, but he did.
- I need a smaller camera.
- Austin Camacho works for the Defense Department.
- Dan Wagner is a good friend.
- Keeping in touch with old friends is a good idea.
- Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards prepared me well.
- There's more to do than you can actually get done.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bouchercon Pictures

My digital camera is of the archaic variety and very difficult to carry around without a jacket pocket to put it in, so these pics are all from Sunday Afternoon:

Max Allan Collins and Ted Fitzgerald in the Book Room.

Judy Clemens after the Anthony Awards Brunch.

Austin Camacho, also post-Anthonys.

Eddie Muller and Christa Faust hanging in the lobby.

Sean Chercover being cool. And me...not.

Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne, still on the clock.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bouchercon Pre-Game, Part 7

8:30am - There are only two panels early in the morning. One is called "Sunday hangover." The other introduces us to new authors. We'll see how that works out.

10am - Laura Lippman is being interviewed as the American Guest of Honor.

11:30am - The Anthony Awards brunch. The nominations can be found here. I have certain people I'll be rooting for. You may be able to find their names in previous posts.

After the brunch, but before I catch the plane back, THD and I will be hanging out with former Selznick grad Criss Kovac and hubby Peter. Looking forward to catching up.

Although they haven't been listed on panels, I am also hoping to catch up with some other authors while I'm in Baltimore: Trey Barker, Krista Davis, Sandra Parshall, Judy Clemens. Huh. I thought there would've been more. But it looks like everyone is represented now, so wish me luck and I'll tell you how it was when I get back.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bouchercon Pre-Game, Part 6

1:30pm - Lawrence Block is being interviewed by Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime. Is there anything else going on at that time? There shouldn't be.

3pm - The very funny Troy Cook will be on a panel about how crime fiction reveals the darkness of human emotions. Should be interesting.

4:30pm - Ugh. Four panels I'd like to see: 1) Keeping it plausible when everyday folk solve crime. 2) Christa Faust on boundaries. heh heh. 3) Writing in more than one genre. 4) Harlan Coben and Laura Lippman. Nuff Said.

Night-time. Ah, finally some time to relax. Yeah, right. Restaurants, bars, conversation and friends. One last night.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bouchercon Pre-Game, Part 5

8:30am - I have to be up for Charles Benoit's panel on travelling the globe. Have to.

10am - There is a panel about how the authors picked the times they write in, yet another of the Killer Year participants, Brett Battles, is on a panel about making the bad guys likable.

11:30am - A panel on classic crime authors intrigues me. Christa Faust is going to be representing Richard Prather and Max Allan Collins will be representing Mickey Spillane. Yet, there's also a panel on why someone would want to be a PI. Hmmmm...

Lunchtime - Will I be sick of crab at this point? I don't even know if it's in season. Does it have seasons?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bouchercon Pre-Game, Part 4

1:30pm - Easy. Best new author nominees, with Marcus Sakey and Sean Chercover.

3pm - There are three panels that I'm interested in: One has Lee Child, one has Louise Penny, and one is about applying real-life experience to your fiction. I'll play it by ear.

4:30pm - Again, more opportunities than you can shake a stick at: Harlan Coben talking about ending your book, Christa Faust talking about books with a lasting impact, and a panel on the similarity between sub-genres.

Night-time - We have reservations at J. Paul's, and hopefully old high school friend Peter Panepento will be able to join us. Beyond that, I assume there are bars and parties going on that night...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bouchercon Pre-Game, Part 3

Friday, October 10
8:30am - We'll all just assume I can get up this early. Laura Lippman is on a panel again this day, but I'll likely be at the "Six Days on the Road" panel with Jacqueline Winspear.

10am - This time slot is the biggest travesty of the conference, making me choose between Marcus Sakey and Max Allan Collins talking about movies and Sean Chercover and Duane Swierczynski talking about TV. Why can't they temporarily clone me?

11:30am - Another tough call. There is a panel on "Making Your Characters Believable," which might be helpful, but "Noir for the New Century" with Megan Abbott and Eddie Muller sounds fascinating.

12:30pm - There is a Bouchercon business lunch meeting, where a vote will be taken on the 2010 Bouchercon applications: San Francisco and Tempe, and a confirmation of the bid for 2011: St. Louis. Otherwise, I'll be at the market again.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bouchercon Pre-Game, Part 2

Tursday, October 9
1:30pm - An online writing group I belong to, the Guppies, read Julie Hyzy's book State of the Onion for analysis. She'll be at a panel at this time. About food. Huh?

3:00pm - I'm tempted to be at the panel which features Thomas Cook and the Anthony-nominated native Baltimorean Laura Lippman, but I may end up at the "Law enforcement in novels, fact vs. fiction" panel. Again, no authors I've read, but I've got cops in my novel.

4:30pm - This is a tough one. Barabara Peters and Robert Rosenwald of Poisoned Pen Press are getting interviewed for their Lifetime Achievement. Robert Gregory Browne is on a panel about criminal masterminds. And there is a panel about "What I Wish I Knew Starting Out." For someone starting out, it might not be a bad panel.

7pm - We'll probably have grabbed some dinner by now, but the Opening Ceremonies start at 7, and most everyone will be there. We'll have some drinks, present some awards, and mingle.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bouchercon Pre-Game, Part 1

Well, it's a new month, so I thought I'd get a new post up. What's that, you say? I haven't been around in FOUR months? Well, that's ridiculous. I'll just look back at my last post and...

Wow. It has been some time, hasn't it? And I didn't exactly leave on a positive note. Well, fear not. I am happy, healthy, writing and looking forward to my second Bouchercon experience ever. It is going to be jam-packed with goodness, and I thought I'd give you some idea of what I'll be doing when, if you want to follow along.

Wednesday, October 8
We are arriving in the afternoon and going to the hotel to settle in. There is really nothing scheduled for that night, so we may go out to a restaurant (I believe The Hungry Detective has made reservations) and then hang at the bar and see who shows up. (You listenin' Trey?)

Thursday, October 9
8:30 am - Early, right? Well, we won't be the only ones up early, because there are 5 author panels starting at this time, including one with Sean Chercover. I have to leave this one early, but that's okay, because Sean is going to be ALL OVER this conference.

9am - I'm giving of myself by volunteering at the Sisters-in-Crime table in the Hospitality Suite.

10am - I saw Austin Camacho at the Malice Domestic conference in 2007. I'll see him again here as he talks about "Challenging the Reader."

11:30am - Lee Child has a panel at this time, but I think I'll be at "Getting Cops Right in Fiction." I haven't read any of the authors, but I like the subject matter.

12:30pm - I was supposed to attend the Sisters-in-Crime lunch, but I didn't send my check in on time. I might walk down to the market and see what they've got. I hear they have a Chocolate Festival going on.

Tune in tomorrow to see what I'll be doing the rest of Thursday, and beyond.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Loren D. Estleman is Writing My Books!

Those who know me a little better know that I wrote a novel about a film archivist working (where else) at the George Eastman House that gets involved in a murder investigation. It has been through a couple of revisions, but few have seen it because I haven't been completely satisfied with it.

Now I find out (from a non-mystery reading colleague, no less) that the legendary Loren D. Estleman has just released a novel called Frames, about a film archivist from UCLA that inadvertently gets involved in a murder investigation. This is the first novel in an anticipated series, but according to the webpage, the character has actually been around for a decade in short story form.

After I lifted my jaw off the floor, I surprised myself. If you had given this situation to me as a hypothetical, I imagine I would have told you that I would be furious, frustrated at having put all this work into something that someone better has put to page. But I wasn't. I was shocked to find that I was actually relieved. And excited.

I felt a pressure rise from my shoulders. I guess I always felt that a film archivist mystery was the book that I needed to write. No one else would write this book that I wanted to read. And I think that by trying to do that within some self-imposed restraints, the project became difficult for me and the quality suffered. Now I feel that if I never get that book published, at least someone else has done it. Estleman has, I hope, created the book that I want to read.

Not that he has created the book I want to write. But I will definitely read it and compare his idea of what a film archivist mystery should be to my own. It's possible that they're completely different. Although I'm sure his writing is much better.

In the meantime, though, I feel freed. I've been working on a secret project for a little while now. It's a big break from what I was writing before, but it's something I've been having fun with. If the other book gets re-examined a little later, that will be fine. But it doesn't have to be my first book anymore. I can do whatever I want.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Star Spotting

Many readers of this blog will know that I work at the George Eastman House as a film archivist. It's a job that I love and a job that I've been working now longer than any I have in the past. And although non-profit institutions don't offer the greatest pay, they do offer unquantifiable benefits every once in a while.

This afternoon, Bill Pullman came by the department. He is in town for the High Falls Film Festival, a celebration of women behind the camera. Pullman is in town to present his new film with Felicity Huffman, PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND.

Turns out he's from Hornell, NY and graduated from SUNY Oneonta. I met him, shook his hand. He's an incredibly gracious guy and seemed to take an interest in what I was doing today. It's gratifying in and of itself to be involved in preserving some of cinema's history, but it's also nice to be able to meet some of the people involved in creating what we preserve. Then to have them be great, down-to-earth people that appreciate what we do as well...

Well, it's one of those things that helps keep you going.

Friday, April 25, 2008

For All Gents My Age...

There is an in-depth podcast interview with Deborah Gibson on the Stuck in the '80s podcast at The link to the podcast is on the right-hand side of the page. Or access it through your iTunes.

I won't admit to dancing with a vinyl album cover while Debbie sang "In Your Eyes" to me through the speakers, but those high school years were a big time for media-based crushes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Lasting Effect of Noir

Following on Rochester's 2007 "The Big Read" project with Dashiell Hammett's THE MALTESE FALCON, Chicago is featuring THE LONG GOODBYE, by self-proclaimed Hammett disciple Raymond Chandler in its year-long "One Book, One Chicago" program. THE OUTFIT, a blog of Chicago crime writers, has had themed posts all month, but the one that pertained to me and my life most came yesterday, written by Jim Doherty, about the legacy of Philip Marlowe, including his appearances in film noir. I encourage you to read it if you're a fan of either crime fiction or film noir.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bah! I got tagged!

I don't subscribe to chain letters too much (or memes, in the virtual world), but this one seems to be going around mostly to mystery writers, and I've been tagged by a friend, so I'd hate to let him down...

I first saw this at The Rap Sheet, posted by J. Kingston Pierce, who tagged Dan Wagner over at The Hungry Detective, who tagged me. It's a simple little exercise called "Page 123." What you do is this:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Go to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence. (A virtually useless step as the action comes next...)
4. Post the next 3 sentences
5. Tag 5 people and acknowledge who tagged you.

I am currently reading Trunk Music, by Michael Connelly. Page 123 falls in Chapter 2. I haven't actually read that far yet, so this will be as surprising to me as it is to you:

"It was Rhonda."
"Rhonda, whatever, never-the-fuck mind. She said you said he was dead."

Ooh, pretty cool. Three short sentences with conflict, vulgarity and a little staccato dialogue. I'm a late-comer to Connelly, but I'm enjoying him. Reading him chronologically, of course. God, I'm so anal.

I am going to tag local mystery author and recent Book of the Year nominee Charles Benoit at Type M for Murder, local mystery author with upcoming book LL Bartlett at Writers Plot, far-away mystery author (is Indiana far?) Trey Barker, and good friends Beavis and Spanky. (Don't ask. You'll only get answers. And that is something you do not want.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

FYI Baseball Fans

If you're looking for this year's edition of World Series Survivor, it has its own home now, at There's also a link over on the right-hand side.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Support Systems

On p. 94 of ON WRITING, Stephen King concludes his CV section with this:

"...put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around."

Ha! is my first reaction. Easy for him to say. He who could wipe his snot in Courier 12-point and make millions.

He's right, though. As much as we authors (especially beginning ones) get wrapped up in living the author's life, whether it be the work itself or learning the ins and outs of the business or learning how to promote, or going to conferences and networking on-line, we all got into this field for one reason. All of our lives have been enriched through reading. And at some point, we all wanted to become a part of that enrichment for other people. Everything else is just details, different paths on the way to the ultimate goal.

The trick, I'm finding, is to not let the one supplant the other. Reading and writing do not exist outside of life, but life does exist outside of reading and writing. And there are people more important to you than the ones that live inside your head. And you are more important to them, as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bad News

In a bit of actual news from me, I recently got a letter from Malice Domestic saying I did not recieve one of the William F. Deeck Grants this year. Although it's news, it's not an actual surprise. I re-read my rewrite and realized that it all had to go.

That's right. All of it.

I'm rewriting the book. That's right. All of it. I realized that I was trying to make The Book too many things, trying to shoehorn a lot of things into the narrative that just didn't fit, or made it awkward. The result is something that had some good writing, but an inconsistent tone and sketchy detection.

The new version is much lighter in tone and more focused on the characters than the plot. So far, it's going well. I won't know for a while how well, but it makes me feel good, and there's something in that.

The upshot of not getting the grant means that I will be attending only one conference this year, and that's the big one. Bouchercon in Baltimore. And let me tell you, I am really looking forward to it. I'll see friends I haven't seen since the Madison B-Con and I will be much more comfortable and hopefully do some great networking.

Until then, it's up to me to work away and get something good written for people to read.

Friday, March 14, 2008

On Success

Between pages 60 and 80 of Stephen King's ON WRITING he relays three stories of his early success: Selling his short story "Sometimes They Come Back" for $500; the hardcover rights to CARRIE for $2500; and the paperback rights to CARRIE for $400,000.

I get choked up every time I read or listen to these stories. It's not because of the money, although those are certainly chokable amounts. Hell, they could choke a deep-throated mastodon.

Instead, it's because of what has come before. King gives us the portrait of a little boy with a dangerously inventive older brother and a long history of illness, a boy who grew up reading comic books and watching "poepictures," who got into trouble, got drunk, fell in love and had kids. And all the while, he was writing. Writing a lot. He wrote what he enjoyed and picked up advice along the way. He got better and he got published. It seemed that the Kings were always just making ends meet. Y'know, just like us.

It's a little ridiculous to say, but sometimes you forget. We use big names like Stephen King as icons, to compare yourself and other authors to, both critically and financially. But he had a beginning, just like everyone else. He has a family, just like everyone else. And he writes, just like you and I. What's the difference? According to King himself (and I'm paraphrasing here, I can't find it in the book right now) it is "a lot of hard work, perseverance, and a little bit of talent."

Mr. King, may a follow (very remotely) in your footsteps.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


On p. 65 of ON WRITING, Stephen King says:

"And whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or a husband), I smile and think, There's someone who knows."

Make no mistake. When I publish my first novel, it will definitely be dedicated to my wife. I won't spoil it here, but I know she knows what it will say before I put inkjet to paper. That's just who she is. She knows me before I know myself.

But that's not all she is. She's supporting, loving, funny, beautiful, caring, mischievous, self-effacing and, most importantly, patient. I could go on and on with specific examples, but I know she'd rather I use those words on the book.

Suffice it to say, without her I wouldn't even be this close to being published.

Monday, March 10, 2008

On Children and Self-Discovery

On p. 56 of ON WRITING, Stephen King says:

"We had two kids by the time we'd been married three years."

Wow. Yikes. I've had two kids for about three months now, and I can't imagine having done this in our first three years of marriage, let alone at the age that King and his wife did it. It just wasn't right for us. If there's something that we've done together that I'm most proud about, it might actually be the family planning that we've done, and are now done with. We had over seven years together, five of them married, to enjoy each other before the kids came along, and we've had them nearly four years apart. So far, it seems to be working out pretty well for the family, if not for our upkeep of the house and my writing. They sure do take up a lot of time, them kids.

This is one of the things that I love about King's ON WRITING. Fully one-third of the book is taken up by a curriculum vitae, a "making-of-a-writer" sort of memoir. It serves to help us better understand the author, which lays a groundwork for us to understand why he writes what he does, how he does it, and why. I don't want to go into too much detail about it. I really do want you to pick up the book. I think you'll like it.

This "CV" portion of the book, I think, is what makes King's book on writing unique. It recognizes that each person's makeup and process are unique. It successfully lays out the individual techniques and background of one person and allows you to make the choice if this is right for you. I'm not going to say he doesn't preach, because there's certainly some of that in there. But it's much more palatable coming from someone you just spent 90 pages getting to know.

I'm very much into self-knowledge. And I think that's part of what my writing is about, finding out things about myself through the content of the work, but also finding out things about myself through the process. It's not a revelation. The information comes in a bit at a time. But I'm still working at it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Movies

On p. 33 of ON WRITING, Stephen King says:

"What I cared about most between 1958 and 1966 was movies."

While I can't relate to the timeframe, it can't be overstated how much of an impact film has had upon who I have become. Heck, I work at a film archive after having gone to a school that specialized in film preservation. But it's more than that.

One of my earliest clear and persistent memories is that of going to see STAR WARS. It was at a drive-in, in Greece, NY if memory serves me right, and it was the front half of a double-feature with ORCA: THE KILLER WHALE. This would have put it in July or August of 1977. We weren't allowed to stay and watch the second film because I was 6 and the film started out with them cutting open a whale. I couldn't go to sleep after STAR WARS had blown my mind, so we went home instead.

As kids do, I latched onto this piece of entertainment (it wasn't hard to do, with the merchandising being everywhere) and it started to infect my everyday life. My dad had a company car that had a bench seat in the front (God, remember those?) that I could lean over to see the dashboard. I pointed to a button with a tiny light on it, excited to find out this new car had a rear deflector, only to be disappointed to be told it was a rear defroster.

But this was typical of how I functioned. I would relate things happening in real life to what I saw in the movies, and later on TV. And even though I held a love for STAR WARS through April of 2002, I moved on to what I learned that I truly enjoyed, the more mystery- and adventure-based entertainment, such as STAR TREK, THE WILD WILD WEST, MAGNUM PI.

I first started to see these things with a critical eye in 1984, when I saw IRRECONILABLE DIFFERENCES, with Drew Barrymore. I loved ET, and she was good in it, and this film looked like a fun comedy for the whole family. Well, it wasn't. It was about a little girl suing her parents for a divorce because she feels like she's been neglected. Hi-frickin-larious. I never watched a trailer or TV spot for a film with complete trust from that point on.

It only grew from there. I got into more serious cinema, and more serious critique. I started following awards and Top 10 lists. I gobbled up AMC and my PBS station looking for older films.

When I started writing, it was usually for or about film. Two from the early 80s come to mind, when I was writing the sequel to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, called RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK II, where Indy and Marian discover not the Ark of the Covenant, but Noah's Ark. Then there was a one-act play that took place on Dagobah after the events of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. This we performed with myself, my sister, and two kids that were visiting from our old neighborhood, neither of whom could remember their lines. I remember actually getting into a fist fight with the older boy.

When I got to college, I doubled in Journalism and Film History, looking toward film criticism, but it wasn't until I discovered The L. Jeffrey Seznick School of Film Presrvation and the George Eastman House that I knew I had found my niche.

Even now, when I'm writing, I take a lot of inspiration from film. My current project is heavily indebted to film, and I can see projects in the future that touch on it as well.

I don't get to go to the theater as much as I used to. The home theater is nice, but certainly not the same. The little ones prevent me from going out too much, but I've started to take the older one to the movies. He looks forward to it now. And so do I.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Knowing What We Do

In his Second Forward, on p. xvii, Stephen King writes:

"Fiction writers, present comapny included, don't understand very much about what they do -- not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad."

This is a statement that contains more truth than fact. There is definitely a sense that, since most writing is done in a vacuum, the author isn't going to know what does and doesn't work until the book is read, at least by himself, if not his first readers.

But writers know what works, at least the good ones do. They know what word to choose to achieve an effect. They know how to structure a book, or pace a scene. They know how to bring their ideas to life through words.

And they know what doesn't work. That's what rewriting is for. An author can read his own work, before it even gets to a reader, and identify things that are working and things that aren't. He can't find all of them, but he can find some.

But in that moment of creation, it's true, you don't know. You sit there in front of the screen and try. You bring yourself, your vocabulary, your sensibilities to the page, but in that moment of creation, you don't know whether it will work or not. It takes time, distance, a lot of patience. I guess the goal is to create more that works than doesn't.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New Beginnings

Yikes! Has it really been almost a month since I've been here?

Wait, why am I surprised? Based on my past history, it's really not that unusual.

Well, I hope I can be excused. Just this one time. I've been home taking care of my newest little one. Amazingly, it involves virtually no physical activity, but requires almost all of my concentration. It's an excuse, to be sure, but it has, unfortunately, been used to excuse myself from several things, including blogging. And writing.

But I'm working my way back into it now that I've found a rhythm, and often sleep when the baby sleeps. (When I go back to work in two weeks, it will all fall apart again.) And quite a while ago, I had an idea of a long-lasting approach to my blog.

I had been listening to my Book-on-CD version of ON WRITING by Stephen King (yes, again). And I found myself talking back to it, saying things akin to "Man, I could never do that" or "I see what you mean" or "I don't know..." and I realized that, for the first time, I was listening to it as a writer, and not a fan. It was a thrilling realization that I was having my own little professional conversation. And then the idea hit me. I may never get to meet Stephen King (who I greatly admire), and if I do I don't think I'll be allowed to go over the book point-by-point, bringing up certain issues and asking clarifying questions. But what I can do is bring them up on my blog, try to work through them myself, and see if anyone has anything they'd like to bring to the conversation.

So, I'll be starting that tomorrow. I'm going to go write the first post right now. I'm using the MMPB version, if you want to follow along. In the meantime, this is what I'll be seeing for the rest of the day:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Not Forgotten

Most of the people reading this blog are going to know that I work at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, but I'd like to bring something to your attention that I think is very important.

A lot of us mystery writers use violence and death as tools in our story, a means to say what we want to say. It's also used by people in films and TV for the same purpose. It's a very dramatic tool, and something that can easily be taken for granted. But the people of Rochester, NY have been less and less able to see it merely as a story element in recent years. Rochester has the highest number of murders per capita in the state. That's right, higher than New York City, where the folks of CSI, Law and Order and NYPD Blue, as well as the characters of hundreds of crime fiction titles a year ply their trade.

Rochester had 49 murders in 2006, an average of 23.2 murders per 100,000 residents, which is more than triple NYC's rate of 7.3 murders per 100,00, which itself was slightly higher than the national average of 7 per 100,000. Rochester's number of murders jumped to 58 in 2007.

Now, there is an exhibit at GEH called Not Forgotten: Portraits of Life and Death in Rochester, which commemorates, in pictures and testimonials, Rochester's victims of murder in 2007. Democrat and Chronicle staff photographer Will Yurman took it upon himself to spend the entire year documenting the aftermath of Rochester's violent crimes. He went to funerals and candlelight vigils capturing new images of the legacy left behind. He collected snapshots of the victims, attempting to recreate a brief biography in image of the victims. He also talked to friends and family members, recording audio which has been put into a multi-media presentation that is on display at GEH. The results are striking. After all, who will speak for the 10-month old child murdered by her mother and boyfriend? And how do you distill 65 years of life into 2 1/2 minutes?

It was a very affecting experience for me, and I hope that anyone in range will get a chance to see it before the exhibition ends on March 2. If you can't make it here, you can check out the online version at the Democrat and Chronicle website. The webpage for the exhibition and related events can be found here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Supporting Local Authors

I did some internet shopping recently.

In order to complete my Aaron Sorkin collection I ordered the movie MALICE from Amazon a week and a half ago. At the same time, I ordered PB (read: Pat) Ryan's last book in her Gilded Age historical mystery series. It's a really good series, you should check it out.

I also went to and ordered up the new edition of LL (read: Lorraine) Bartlett's MURDER ON THE MIND. This is a really good book in a series that is just starting. DEAD IN RED, book #2, comes out later this year. The book itself is only $6, plus shipping, but I got some sort of deal (maybe as a first-time customer?) that netted me $4 free, which brought the entire order under $4! This may be a limited time offer or something, so you should jump on it now. The new cover looks great and I'm glad I have both editions. Now I'll have to get this one signed, too.

Not so local, but someone I've come to admire, is Lawrence Block. He is running a special on his site to get both the print and audio versions of TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT for only $20. I jumped on that.

I also hit the Gates Public Library Used Book Sale by accident. Bad idea. Lots of Ian Fleming and Lawrence Block, Stephen King and even THE SECOND SALADIN by Stephen Hunter. This haul will probably last me for years. But if I can make it to Bouchercon before I buy more, I'll be happy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ed Hoch

I've never met Ed Hoch. I haven't even read that much of his work. But I've been aware of him.

In this business of publishing, that's saying something. I knew he lived in Rochester, and wrote of Rochester, or at least his version of it. And I knew that he was widely respected.

I guess I always assumed that I would meet him one day, however briefly. I would feel like I had nothing to say to him, a giant, but would have some connection in this small community of Rochester writers, and the even smaller community of Rochester crime writers.

Ed Hoch died on Thursday, so I won't get to meet him. But so many people that did meet him have had so many nice things to say about him. Check out these links provided at Confessions and The Rap Sheet.

This man had a career in writing. I could do worse than to try to follow in the trail that he blazed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hello Faithful Readers

And to all those just passing through.

Sorry to have been away so long, but my wife just gave birth to our second (and final) child. It's another boy. The wife is feeling a little outnumbered. Not to mention overwhelmed. I took a couple of weeks off of work and my turn for primary care comes up when the Wife goes back to work next month. I'll take 4 out of 5 weeks off then stay with the little bugger till he's ready to go to Baby School.

In the meantime, I haven't gotten much done on the writing front. I think I fantasized that with all those days off I'd have time to do something. But that wasn't the case. Not only did we have a new baby, but we did it around the holidays, my mom came up to visit for 4 days and we had another kid trying to reclaim his place in the familial structure.

Anywho, I'm getting back on track. It helps to have inspirational books to read. I got both Elmore Leonard's and Walter Mosley's writing books for Christmas, and I'm listening to ON WRITING again. It's good stuff. Another way to motivate yourself is to read the second book from a writer you met last year. You exchanged first books and now she's done with her second. Get on your horse, Gus.

It's these inspirational missives that may give me direction here on the blog. There are things that they say that I don't agree with, and things that I'd like to explore further, for myself, if nobody else. I hope you'll see what I mean when I find my hard copy of ON WRITING and start going through it again.

Till then, have fun. And remember that pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 15!