Thursday, December 27, 2007

Homicidal Holidays

I love talking with mystery/suspense authors because we can talk about the fun things in life, including the best ways to kill someone and get away with it.

So, given the winter holiday season, I thought I'd throw out a few ideas on Homicidal Holiday Hazards.

1. O Tantebaum—not only do they make for excellent firestarters (arson, anyone?) but think of the possibilities of actually obtaining one. Imagine: deserted tree farm, you and your victim far out of sight of anyone else, it's getting dark, and there you are with hatchet and saw in hand….or better yet, cutting down and hauling a live tree is a great time to induce a heart attack and given the holiday rush, it probably would go undetected as the medical examiner would be too busy to do more than a cursory examination.

2. Auld Lang Sang—do you have any idea how easy it is to slip poison into New Year's champagne or eggnog? The possibilities are endless: antifreeze in a sweet drink, an overdose of barbiturates or sedatives in an alcoholic one….

3. Dradle, Dradle—holidays with all that candy and cheating on diets make for a perfect time to induce a diabetic coma in those old folks with fat life insurance policies. Just swap out their "sugar" pills or insulin for a few days, ply them with some gelt or candy canes and pouf! There goes granny, here comes the inheritance!

4. Up on the Rooftop--Hmmm….climbing up rickety ladders, hammer and nails and aluminum gutters and electrical lights, snow and ice all around—anyone else seeing a great set up for "accidental" electrocutions or slip and falls???

5. Over the Hills—all that ice and snow (for those of you in northern climes) not to mention crazy, hectic drivers all rushing hither and yon make for a perfect recipe for disaster. Mix a slashed brake-line with faulty power steering, add a little too much holiday cheer and voila!

And then there's always the cold and hypothermia and all the possibilities the wilderness can offer us. But I'll save that for another blog!

In the meantime, what's your favorite Homicidal Holiday Hazard? C'mon, if you can't talk about it with your fellow suspense authors, who can you talk to?

I'd love to hear them!
PS: I feel honor-bound (the pediatric ER doc in me) to point out that the holidays actually do pose a very real risk, especially to children and pets. Clean up ALL remnants of alcohol after parties before you go to bed (kids tend to get up early and love sipping at all the left over drinks and it only takes a few swallows of alcohol to poison a little one) and please dress everyone warm, even for short trips. Always, always buckle up and have a designated driver! Happy--and safe--holidays to all!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wow! My first review!

...and it's a doozy!!! From Publishers Weekly:
CJ Lyons. Berkley, $7.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-425-22082-5

In Lyons’s spot-on debut, Dr. Lydia Fiore’s first case as attending emergency physician at Pittsburgh’s Angels of Mercy Hospital goes much better than her second: Jonah, the son of the chief of surgery, dies despite her best efforts. Put on immediate suspension pending a review and with no clear answers as to why the young man died, Lydia initiates her own investigation. To Lydia, the autopsy points to murder, and the team that worked on Jonah with her—med student Amanda, resident Gina and nurse Nora—agrees. As bodies begin to pile up in the morgue, fans of reading about medical procedures up close won’t be disappointed. And the gore (and romance with a paramedic) doesn’t slow down the action: Lyons delivers a breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller. (Mar.)

School's Never Out!

My nephew wants to write a book, so no big surprise that he loves peppering me with questions: how do I do this, how do I do that?

I love teaching, so I never mind his questions. Just as I never mind the time and effort that go into preparing and presenting my workshops. And as I work on a new project, I’m often drawn back to my own favorite writing teachers–my personal cure for writer’s block and gaining the motivation to tackle revisions.

Since I never had formal training, my personal instructors come in the form of writing books. But hey, how can you go wrong learning from the likes of Stephen King, David Morrell, Terry Brooks, Ray Bradbury, etc. I’m not sure why they’re all written by men, but they work to motivate me. As do books from Donald Maass, Syd Field, Dwight Swain, and Robert McKee.

Again, more men….and despite the treasure trove of sage wisdom and advice these authors offer, I can’t help but wishing other authors would write how-to books. Authors like Mark Helprin and Alice Hoffman–how do they create their worlds of magical realism so effectively and seemingly effortlessly? Or Joseph Campbell–what wonderful insights to be gained if he’d translated his own work for writers instead of Vogler?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Alexandre Dumas shared his world-building techniques? Or Charlotte Bronte her character building and GMC tricks? How about Charles Dickens, what fantastic tips on productivity, deadlines, plotting, and audience expectations could be learned! Or Shakespeare?

Obviously the list could go on. And obviously, most of these writers aren’t able to write a how-to book at this time (unless you believe in seances <g>). So how can we learn from these masters of the craft?

Here’s what I keep telling my nephew. Writers write. And writers read.

Because as long as there are books on the shelf, school is never out.

So, who are your favorite teachers?


PS: my nephew is only ten, but already studying current masters (JK Rowling) as well as past (JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis)

PPS: my own favorite how-to: Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing followed by a quick read of either his Dandelion Wine or Something Wicked This Way Comes…

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Diggin' the Gold!

I just returned from a trip filled with firsts. My first trip to Denver; my first time doing the “face” thing with booksellers, asking them to remember my book and perhaps schedule me for an event next March when LIFELINES debuts; my first Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold conference; and my first ever keynote speech.

Can I just say, Wow!!!

I was nervous about all of the above except visiting Denver. Turns out that was the only thing I should have been worried about—the first night I stayed with a friend at high elevation and got acute mountain sickness. Otherwise known as barf-o-rama in the guest bathroom.

But the next day I was fine. We traveled to bookstores in Denver and Boulder and holy smokes, this place felt like a writers Nirvana!

Not only were there bookstores everywhere (the nearest one to me here at home is 30 minutes away and is a chain store) but they were filled with people—gulp—reading!!! Not to mention the wonderful booksellers, like Lauri Ver Schure at Murder by the Book and Cynthia Nye at High Crimes Mystery Bookstore.

Both of these wonderful ladies ignored their ringing phones and inventory stocking to stop and chat books with us—aw bliss! Not only were they warm and welcoming to this soon-to-be-released author, they seemed genuinely interested in LIFELINES and its cross-genre appeal to their customers.

Being in their stores, talking with people who love books as much as I do felt like coming home!

And that same welcome-home feeling continued once I made it to the conference. The folks at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers not only put on a stellar conference that was well-organized and filled with great workshops and panels, they also exhibit a level of writing talent that is truly amazing.

There I was sitting with people like Jeanne Stein, a newly minted NYT bestseller; Mario Acevedo whose vampire detective stories are as sly and witty as the man himself is in real life; YA author Bonnie Ramthun whose mastery of all things Mac kept me from committing hari-kari via laptop; and the always uplifting and energizing NYT bestseller Joan Johnston who offered her wisdom and expert advice on this wild and whacky publishing business.

Then they call me up to give the Kickoff Keynote Address. Yikes! Here I am, unknown, unpublished (until next March!), about the most unlikely Guest of Honor you could ever meet…..and my job is to inspire and motivate all these wonderfully talented people???

Yet, somehow, I wasn’t nervous or scared. That’s how comfortable and accepted they made me feel. And with folks like Vicki Law, Marne Kirstatter, and my hostess, Margie Lawson, leading the way, how could I feel anything but?

So I spoke from the heart. Asking hard questions, sharing a little of my own life and the answers I’ve discovered, challenging the audience to search for their own answers. My speech was titled after the conference itself: Dreams to Reality and in it I explored why I write and what makes a “real” writer.

I was certain it was all just maudlin-Disneyesque crap, wondered right up to the moment I stepped on stage if I shouldn’t just grab a football and punt it as my “kickoff” instead. But they laughed at all the right spots, cheered at all the right spots, even cried (well, not Mario of course—he has that tough guy vampire detective street cred to keep intact).

Afterwards, the most amazing thing happened. For the next two days of the conference, writers—published and unpublished—kept coming up to me and thanking me!!! Saying that my speech had touched them, inspired them, helped them as writers.

Now it was my turn to blink back tears—I felt so privileged that they would invite me into their lives and share that with me.

I realized that this also reflects my highest aspirations for my writing—to reach out, connect with a reader and through them change the world, one reader at a time. How fitting is it that I plan to return to Denver and launch LIFELINES at Left Coast Crime next March?

Although, it seems desperately far away, because now I’m hooked!! I want to have this feeling again—and again and again!!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lyons' Tales, Summer 2007

Lyons' Tales, Summer 2007

In this issue:
--CJ's News
--Where in the world is CJ?
--Exclusive for subscribers
--Contest Winner
--New Contest: Win an Evening with George Clooney, Patrick Dempsey, and Godiva Chocolate!!

CJ's News:
We now have a title and release date for my first Berkley medical suspense. LIFELINES is due out April 1, 2008!

LIFELINES follows the women of Pittsburgh 's Angels of Mercy Medical Center as they fight to save lives and stop a killer.

I'm currently hard at work on the second in the series, CHANCE TO CUT, and hope to have more news on it, cover art for LIFELINES, and some early reviews in the next issue of Lyons ' Tales.

Where in the world is CJ?
ThrillerFest was a blast—for anyone who hasn't been, definitely mark your calendars for next July!

Next up I've been invited to be the Kickoff Keynote Speaker for the Colorado Gold Conference, September 14-16, 2007.

I've also been invited to give my Chasing the Muse half day workshop for the Heart of Denver's RWA on October 20, 2007.

Upcoming online courses include:
--Kills, Chills, and Thrills: Writing the Thriller Novel, August, Carolina Romance Writers

--Chasing the Muse, September, Outreach International

--Trauma 101, October, LowCountry RWA

Be sure to check out my website for new appearances and workshops!

Exclusive for Lyons ' Tales Subscribers!
As a thank you to all my loyal supporters, I'm continuing to offer content that is exclusively for you and students of my workshops.

This issue I'm giving you access to my Secrets of Pitching article. Next issue, I'll be giving you my interview with Lisa Gardner about her Adventures in Research. If you want to receive either of these articles, sign up for my mailing list by clicking here.

Contest Winner!
The winner of this issue's contest prize, a $25 dollar Barnes and Noble gift card is….L. Messer!

Send me your snail mail address and I'll get your prize out to you, asap!

New Contest!
All Lyons ' Tales subscribers will be entered in my new contest:

Win an Evening with George Clooney, Patrick Dempsey, and Godiva Chocolate!!

You'll have a chance to win DVD's of Season One of ER and Grey's Anatomy as well as a box of Godiva Chocolate!

Look for the winner in the next issue of Lyons ' Tales!

Note: this contest will be open to continental addresses only

That's it for now! Anyone in Denver or taking my online workshops between now and the Fall issue of Lyons ' Tales, be sure to give a shout out and tell your friends.

And as always, thanks for reading!
No One is Immune to Danger...
LIFELINES, Berkley April, 2008

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Truth, Fiction and the News...

The headline reads: New Drug Deletes Bad Memories

Wow! Sounds like this must be cutting edge science, right?

Only two problems: the drug isn't new and it doesn't "delete" memories.

In fact, this drug has been around for a long time and for years has been used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy to treat Post-Traumatic Stress, panic attacks and other anxiety-spectrum disorders.

And no, it doesn't delete or erase bad memories. Rather, it blocks the physiologic effects (racing heart, palpitations, sense of panic, etc) produced by the stress hormones when people re-live those memories.

Why does the media feel like it has to lie to us in order to get our attention long enough to tell us the truth?

Although, I must admit, these folks (Dinner guest finds host's wife and son in freezer) might have wished it was the truth!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Girls gone wild....

What is going on here?

Police in Oklahoma arrested a 12 year old and her 10 year old sister.

Why? What normal childhood hi-jinks did these two girls get involved in?

They kidnapped a neighbor's infant baby. Yes, these two budding criminal masterminds snuck into the neighbor's house at night, took the baby and left a note demanding a ransom of $200,000.00

They were caught when their mother found them hiding the baby boy. If it wasn't for the fact that babies are hard to hide when you're too young to drive them anywhere, these girls would have followed through with their plans.

And then there's the 11 year old who led police on a high speed chase topping 100mpg. Where was she headed in such a hurry? To pick her sister up at a concert.

Oh yeah, she was also intoxicated when the police stopped her.

Finally, how about the 4 year old who called 911 almost 300 times last month? What was her emergency?

She wanted the police to bring her food from McDonald's--guess her mom was trying to get her to eat healthy.

So.....the big questions: Where were the parents? And where did things go wrong with these kids?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Heroes Next Door

Happy Fourth of July!

Today we celebrate the birth of our nation. Yes, there will be fireworks and hotdogs and picnics. But without our heroes, it would all be meaningless.

Heroes come in many sizes. There are the larger than life ones: presidents and astronauts and religious figures.

Then there are the men and women who live next door. The often unsung heroes.

The wife preparing her family before she leaves for war. The father who carries a beeper and leaves the fireworks to go care for a sick child in the ICU. The ones working today wearing the uniforms of police, fire, rescue, EMS, nurses, etc…

We Americans pride ourselves on our humble roots that gave birth to a great nation. A nation built by heroes.

Who are your heroes?

While you’re standing at the grill today, take a look around–they might be standing right beside you.

Don’t be shy, shake their hand, and let them know that today’s celebration is for them!

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 29, 2007

Psychic Disconnect?

I don't have alot of time for TV. So it peeves me when I've been following a show only to have it yanked around on the schedule or suddenly vanishing.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, NBC's highly acclaimed but little viewed offering from Aaron Sorkin was one of the few shows I watched religiously--or tried to. It was gone, supposedly cancelled, then back, then gone again only to show up on another night for its final episodes before it really was cancelled.

I loved this show--not just the witty dialogue that drives any of Sorkin's work, but the characters. It was funny, it was charming, it was serious, it was clever, it was controversial, it was why didn't people "get" it?

I think because there was a disconnect in the marketing of the show. First it was billed as a comedy about the "behind the scenes of Saturday Night Live". But there was another comedy debuting at the same time, 30 Rock (notice the similar titles), that truly WAS a comedy about behind the scenes of SNL.

And Studio 60 was so much more than a comedy. Then it was billed as a "romantic drama"--what was that? NBC's answer to Grey's Anatomy? And Studio 60 isn't a romance.

The final nail in the coffin was when the show was condemned for taking current events and using them. Not in the comedy sketches, not to poke fun of (like the real SNL) but as part of a story line affecting the characters.

Hello? A TV show that can't use real life events and see how its characters would respond? Guess that would make it either a comedy or a soap opera, right?

Studio 60 was a well written, highly entertained show that was poorly defined and marketed. It was cross genre, refused to its dying breath to be pigeonholed.

And now it's dead.....why do I care? Because my books are, you got it, cross-genre. Poorly defined and unpigeonholeable.

They'll be shelved in general fiction--that large mass of books that encompass everything from Homer's Odyssey to speculative meta-fiction. They're a blend of women's fiction/medical suspense/and thrillers with romantic elements.

They're different from anything else out there. Which makes me wonder if I should be worried.

People are always asking for different, but when you give it to them, like with Studio 60, they turn away and don't want it, instead choosing the same old, same old.

Hmmm....think maybe Aaron Sorkin would take my call if I asked him for advice? What do people really want from their entertainment?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blind as a...

So, I finally made it to my eye doctor for my checkup today. New doctor since I moved last year. And he did that eye drop thing--you know, the dilation where bright lights hurt and everything goes fuzzy for a while?

As I'm leaving, he says I'm fine to drive but not to read until the afternoon.

"Sure," I say, thinking about the bifocals--excuse me, "progressive" lenses--that I've been forced to get. Yep, I'm getting old.

So I'm driving home, squinting despite the clouds and sunglasses, and it hits me--what's he mean NO reading??? Is he nuts? I spend maybe 12-14 hours a day reading, either for fun or research or while writing, answering emails, checking out blogs, news online, more writing, etc, etc......

NO reading???

I got home and thought, to heck with this, and immediately sprang to my computer intending to catch up on emails and then plow into the new scene I dreamed up.

Big mistake. Not only couldn't read a darn thing, I got a splitting headache from trying.

Maybe it was the glare from the monitor....tried a book. Whoa, no way!!

It was only 11am what the heck was I gonna do for the rest of the day until I could read again? Clean the house--yeah, right, in your dreams.

So I did the next best thing and had my own private film fest. Popcorn and all. Watched What Women Want with Mel Gibson and some actress, then saw Braveheart with Mel Gibson and some actress....anyone seeing a trend here?

Lethal Weapon was up next when I realized I could read the writing on the case, so thought I'd best get back to work.

So, what would you do if you couldn't read for a day?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mirror, Mirror

I spent last week in Toronto, filming. Yes, I said filming. No, it's not that exciting, it was a DVD on healthy eating for children.

Still, when I saw myself on film, it was weird. I mean—that's not really how I look, is it? Do I really bob my head like that? And my voice, it's not really all breathy like a school girl's?

Is it?

Made me think. There's the way I see me. The way others see me. And then there's reality.

And who's to say which is the real me?

This was an ah-hah moment for the new book I'm writing. What if you're a health care professional who has devoted your career to helping others survive trauma and illness?

What if everyone sees you as a nice, good-hearted person, but you know different? You know the reason behind your career choice, your dedication, is because of a secret buried in your past, a secret that you seek redemption for, making the life you live everyday a lie….

And what if this secret was exposed?

Hmmm….gave me a whole new take on both my main character and the badguy. I realized they're basically the same: living a lie, hiding a secret.

The fact that they share the same secret should really liven things up as well!

What do you think? Do we all live secret lives, hide our real selves?

Or is what you see in the mirror what you get?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Power of a Word

Ever notice how many novels, TV shows and movies have one word titles? I love that, the way they find a single word that conveys the power and emotional essence of their work.

Some random examples:


Well, you get the point. One word can have more power and impact than a dozen.

Now I'm pleased to announce that my first title from Berkley will also join this illustrious group. After months of discussion and considering over 70 titles, my new medical suspense will be titled….drum roll, please….


I love it! An intern in my editor's office came up with it and I will be forever in debt to him.

It says it all, doesn't it? That this will be a book where no one is immune to danger, everything is at risk, and the only things that can save the characters are the bonds they forge with each other…their LIFELINES.

So, what do you think? About my new title or about other titles that just say it all to you as a reader?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Farenheit 451???

Love curling up with a good book? Tired of re-runs and brainless internet surfing?

Want to help your favorite authors? Want to find new ones to entertain you?

Then please support your local bookseller. Otherwise...
By DAVID TWIDDY, Associated Press Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tom Wayne has amassed thousands of books in a warehouse during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero's Books. But when he wanted to thin out the collection, he found he couldn't even give away books to libraries or thrift shops; they said they were full.

So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books in protest of what he sees as society's diminishing support for the printed word.

"This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today," Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.

Wayne said he has seen fewer customers in recent years as people more often get their information from television or the Internet. He pointed to a 2002 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, that found that less than half of adult respondents reported reading for pleasure, down from almost 57 percent in 1982.

Mike Bechtel paid $10 for a stack of books, including an antique collection of children's literature, which he said he'd save for his 4-year-old son.

"I think, given the fact it is a protest of people not reading books, it's the best way to do it," Bechtel said. "(Wayne has) made the point that not reading a book is as good as burning it."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Like Fathers, Like Sons

NBC San Diego has a story about a video that the FBI uses to demonstrate how gang violence is perpetuated.

In it, a toddler in diapers and his dad spend a day together. First, dad shows junior how to execute a drive-by shooting: the baby pretending the drive the car while dad "shoots" from the back seat.

Then they spend some quality time bagging drugs together. Dad uses this opportunity to continue to bond with his son by teaching him swear words and giving him alcohol to drink.

Finally, dad and junior practice quick draw skills as dad pulls a toy gun from the baby's diaper and shows him how to hold it and threaten someone with it.

Ahhh...the joys of fatherhood.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What were they thinking?

Okay, I'll bet you're expecting this to be about the Grey's Anatomy finale.

Nope, this is real life. From Reuters:

BERLIN (Reuters) - A 36-year-old German mother-of-five drove her son to a jewelry store he wanted to rob because she was afraid he may come to some harm, Bild newspaper reported Wednesday.

While her 17-year-old son and his two accomplices stabbed and robbed a jeweler in the eastern city of Dresden, the mother waited outside in the car.

"I knew he wanted to rob the shop and I was very worried about him," top-selling Bild quoted the mother as saying.

A court sentenced the woman to three years and ten months in prison, a spokeswoman for the court said.

The scariest thing? The women has four other children! Gee, wonder what those kids have learned from their adult role models?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Time Warp!

According to the New York Times, NBC has announced part of its fall lineup. Returning series include Friday Night Lights--yeah!!!

True confession, I'm a football junkie. Grew up going to church with Joe Paterno and my Nittany Lions on Saturday and the Steelers on Sunday. When we trained our puppy to stay out of the dining room, the command we taught her was "Off Sides!" My nephew's first words were "Touch Down!"

So combine the inside life of a high school football team, no bars held when it comes to the realities most kids face these days (sex, drugs, booze, steroids), the small town that lives and breathes football and hunky coach Kyle Chandler and I'm sold!

Kudos to NBC!

Except, the Times went on to dish out this redux nugget:

The drama that is certain to get the most instant recognition is “Bionic Woman,” a 21st-century remake of the 1970s series. This one stars Michelle Ryan as an accident victim remade with bionic parts who is embroiled in a secret government project, which also includes a previous bionic prototype, played by Katee Sackhoff. The series was once thought to be in trouble, but the pilot is now getting some of the strongest favorable reviews inside NBC.

Are they for real? The Bionic Woman is the best they got???? And it's getting "the strongest, favorable reviews"????

Jeezit, NBC, just drop me a line next time you're shopping for a new series with kick ass heroines! I've got several manuscripts I'd love to show you--and all of my characters are real women, not silicon!

What do you think? Did NBC just set back the women's movement by twenty years or what?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What would you do?

According to the Associated Press, 2.5 million Americans are NOT watching TV this spring:

NEW YORK (AP) - Maybe they're outside in the garden. They could be playing softball. Or perhaps they're just plain bored. In TV's worst spring in recent memory, a startling number of Americans drifted away from television the past two months: More than 2.5 million fewer people were watching ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox than at the same time last year, statistics show.

As a writer, I'm hoping they're all reading!

As a pediatrician, I'm hoping they're all out there playing with their kids and being a family of do-ers instead of a family of couch-potatoes!

What would you do instead of watching TV?

Me, I have a stack of to-be-read books calling my name like a siren's song and a new idea for a novel (very dark and twisted!) that wants to come out and play!

Monday, May 7, 2007

News or Entertainment?

I write fiction. Yes, a lot of it is loosely based on real life medical cases, as well as real life heroes, tragedies, crimes and their effects on real people.

But when I write, I stay very aware that my main purpose is to entertain my reader. I hope that I also enlighten and educate, but the main reason for anyone to spend money for my books will be for enjoyment.

Matt over on CrimeRant has a great blog today about how the news media has crossed the line between news and entertainment. Here's a snippet:

Just two weeks ago, Cho Seung-Hui’s mass killing rampage was 24/7 coverage. And now it’s Paris Hilton’s turn. The word fleeting comes to mind. And that is the sad part of this: all these people affected by crime and their stories the media uses to fill airspace one day, just disappear the next. I guess it’s the nature of a rapidly turning world of crime. The networks decide what is a major crime story and we either watch or shut the TV off.

I think he has a good point. When I want news, I want the facts, not glorified "reality" TV. I could care less about the celebrity talking heads, the trumped up pitch-fever hype, or gossip. I certainly don't want cameras shoved into the faces of grieving victims and relatives for the sake of "the public's right to know."

I want facts revealing in a cool and level-headed way all aspects of a story, including those that I might not have thought of myself. Because of this, I supported NBC's decision to edit Cho Seung-Hui's video down to two minutes but to show it so that the rest of us could have some insight into his psyche.

What do you think? Do you want Hollywood Hype to take the place of reporting? Has the news media crossed the line into entertainment?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Happy Bobbie Faye Day!

May Day = Bobbie Fay Day!!

I'd like to give a shout out to fellow debut novelist, Toni McGee Causey, whose novel, BOBBIE FAYE'S VERY (very, very, very) BAD DAY was released today!!

I was privileged to be able to read an early version of BOBBIE FAYE but now that I have the real thing in my hands, I cannot wait to read it again.

This time I'll be better prepared—no drinking (since it tends to snort out my nose when I collapse in hysterical bouts of laughter), no eating (ditto), go to the rest room first (it's either that or take the book in there with me because I will not be able to put it down), turn off the phone and computer, and put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door.

Seriously folks, it's that good of a read—even better, it's that funny of a read! And I don't know about you but these days I can use all the humor I can get.

If you enjoy a funny, smart, kick-ass heroine with two to-die for hunky guys, a race against the clock, explosions, wild-life, wild rides, murder and mayhem with a touch of Cajun spice thrown in, then run don't walk to your nearest store and buy this book.

For more about Bobbie Faye and the equally hysterical life of her creator, Toni Causey, check out her at

PS: don't just trust my judgment! Both Publisher's Weekly and the Library Journal gave BOBBIE FAYE a Starred review!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Penis Fish

Okay the official title of last night's GA episode was Desire. I think Penis Fish would have been more catchy, but since all the GA eps are named after songs, that might be why the producers didn't call it that.

And, yes, they did get that right—there is an Amazonian Penis Fish. Really. We learned about it in med school, don't ask me why, I think the male textbook writers are just morbidly fascinated with the idea of a fish that swims up their urine stream, crawls inside and starts to eat them from the inside out.

You know how guys are about peeing in the woods, something they always hold over us womenfolk's heads as proof of their natural superiority. Guess maybe they'll think twice about doing that anywhere near the Amazon now.

For me, other than the penis fish laughs, this episode was a bit rocky. Mainly because the good parts were all muffled by that damn wedding cake. I kept turning the volume up, but no, Burke's sweet dialogue about his love for Cristina—buried by cake. George and Izzy, trying hard to be "just friends" and failing—buried by cake.

Also, I was disappointed to see Alex and Addi finally do it. I loved the sexual tension between them and she was the last attending (other than the Chief) to actually not sacrifice every ounce of integrity she had and sleep with an intern she is supervising.

I know, I know, GA exists in a world with no sexual harassment laws, no Resident Review Committee, no Medical Board with ethical standards of practice, etc, etc. And of course all the attendings look so damn young that a regular viewer forgets the fact that they are all old enough to be the fathers and mothers of the interns they are sleeping with—a big yuck factor for me to over come.

Yes, all the interns at Seattle Grace have mommy and daddy complexes. And yes, all the attendings act like children. Whiny and pouty, even when they get what they want. Like Derrick confessing to Mer that she's just wearing him out, his needing to breathe for her…and then he lets her walk away!! This is his idea of communicating?

I've had better conversations with toddlers in the midst of throwing a tantrum.

Anyway, I totally understand why the writers need a show like last nights, they have to move all the characters from Point A to Point B before the season ends. Okay, okay.

But could we please have some real character development and a little less cake?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Truth is a slippery thing...

When I first heard this morning that Kenneth Hinson was acquitted of kidnapping, rape and attempted murder charges, I was shocked.

This was the so-called South Carolina "dungeon" rapist—he allegedly kidnapped two teenaged girls who were sleeping together in one bed, took them one at a time to a secret "bunker", really a big hole in the ground covered by a concrete slab, tied them up and raped them over the course of several days.

He left them to die (according to prosecutors) but the girls escaped, trekked through the woods and managed to contact 911.

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Two traumatized victims, wrists still swollen from being tied up, Hinson with a record of raping a 12 year old girl in the past, drugs, guns, a secret dungeon….the stuff of movies and a slam dunk conviction, one would think.

Apparently, according to the foreman of the jury who acquitted Hinson, it wasn't quite that simple.

Here are a few of the discrepancies the jury found in the evidence presented as reported by The State:

~ Sleeping through a kidnapping. The girls testified they both were asleep in a small bed when Hinson entered their trailer and grabbed one of them, threatening to kill her if she made a noise. The other girl said she did not wake up until Hinson returned for her.

~ Not noticing the bunker. The girls testified they had not seen the chamber before Hinson raised the table hiding the entrance hole. Hinson said the girls knew of it, but his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s teenage son did not; the jurors thought everyone would have known about the bunker.

~ Drugs. One of the girls testified she bought “drugs” last summer from someone a defense witness said sold crack. “We all know people who smoke crack will do just about anything to smoke crack again,” Williams said.

~ Socks. A pair worn by one of the girls was dirty but had no wear marks, pine-needle fragments or tears some jurors expected to see from running about a mile through the woods after escaping the bunker.

~ Feet. The other girl said she ran barefoot. “But the pictures showed no scratches, no abrasions,” Lewis said.

~ Duct tape. The girls said one bit through the other’s tape binding her wrists. “We went over all of the duct tape and couldn’t find any chew marks,” Lewis said. And Hinson's fingerprints were not on the tape.

~ An odd comment. A logbook kept by the 911 dispatcher shows one of the girls noted in her 911 call that Hinson was on a sexual offender registry, which Williams said was an “odd” comment for someone who had just been raped.

But the bottom line was that the jury felt they couldn't believe any of the stories presented in court: neither the victims' or the defendant's.

“Every one of these little things adds up to reasonable doubt,” the jury foreman said. “We couldn’t believe him. We couldn’t believe them.
“We wanted to convict, but the evidence was just not there.”
Sigh…one of the lessons learned from my years in the ER is that everyone lies.

It's worrisome to think that these two girls could be lying, even more frightening to imagine the consequences if they were telling the truth and Hinson was mistakenly set free.

He is now in federal custody facing weapons charges and may still face life in prison if convicted. But I can't help but wonder what about those two girls?

What do you think? Would you have ruled differently if you had been on the jury?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I'm not Elaine Viets, but...

I'm not Elaine Viets, but…

I'd like you all to consider buying her book. No this isn't some viral campaign or pyramid scheme.

It's about giving back to a generous author. For those of you who haven't heard, the tremendously talented and vivacious Elaine suffered a stroke earlier this month. She's recovering, but won't be able to tour for her upcoming release, MURDER WITH RESERVATIONS.

I've met Elaine several times. She's an elegant, witty, and generous person—in fact the last time I saw her, at Sleuthfest, she appointed herself my chauffeur and drove me to several places, all the while offering invaluable advice for this newcomer to the publishing world.

That's one of the best things about the writing community. Generosity abounds here, whether it's helping someone with advice, an endorsement, or in Elaine's case, helping her sell her books when she can't do it herself.

Even if you don't buy Elaine's book, consider mentioning it to friends. You can learn more about it at her website:

And please keep Elaine and her family in your thoughts. There aren't enough good people in this world that we can afford to lose Elaine.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

CJ's Thursday Thought: On Grief

In light of the events here and elsewhere this week, this seemed appropriate:

Grief is the price we pay for love.
~Queen Elizabeth II

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Six Degrees

I just learned that I actually knew one of the VT victims. Not just him, but his family.

It's been awhile, and I knew them professionally, but of course my first reaction was pure emotion. My heart goes out to them all—putting faces and voices to the tragedy makes it all the more painful.

My first response was, I should send them something. Then I turned on the TV and saw the morning shows all featuring tributes to the fallen. Interviews with their friends, family, loved ones, acquaintances, neighbors…

And I shuddered. See, I've been caught up in a high profile case once, years ago. I know what it's like to be forced to mourn in public, to share your grief with total strangers.

With our culture's obsession of right here, right now, instant communication I think we've forgotten that some things aren't just meant to be private, they need to be private.

Yes, one could argue that grief is lightened by sharing. But that is only if the person in mourning chooses to share. Isn't forced to standing blinking in the spotlight, recounting memories of their loved ones.

Worse, having their way of mourning judged alongside others. As if grief knew rules, had an expiration date, or carefully choreographed steps that we all follow leading us to a defined end where we grieve no more.

Sorry, Dr. Kubler-Ross, but it just ain't so. Yes, we all share similar emotions, but how we act on those feelings is an individual process that can't be forced into a checklist: Denial—done, Anger—got it, Bargaining….

We all like to feel part of the story—connected to events that are the center of a media storm. We all like to feel lucky, whew, missed that one. We all like to dissect and play Monday morning quarterback.

Let's just make sure that our desire to see more of this story, to hear all the little details, isn't overshadowing the needs of the people who will be living it for the rest of their lives.

A little prayer, kindness and understanding wouldn't hurt either.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

VT: From the First Responders

From EMS Responder:

BLACKSBURG, Va.-- As an advanced EMT with Virginia Tech Rescue Squad, Matthew Lewis knows to expect the unexpected.

And, that's just what he encountered Monday morning when he walked into the Ambler Johnston dorm room on the VT campus.

"We were called for someone who had fallen out of their loft," Lewis said. "Instead, we found two patients with gunshot wounds. We started treatment and called for a second unit."

Both patients, a male and a female, were transported to Montgomery Regional Hospital. Lewis would not say whether or not they were in cardiac arrest.

VT Chief of Police Wendell Flinchum said witnesses told officers they believed the dorm shooting was domestic related. A "person of interest" was located off-campus, and was being interviewed when the second shooting occurred.

At 9:45 a.m., callers to 9-1-1 reported shots being fired in Norris Hall. Officers arrived to find the doors chained from the inside. They forced the doors, and as they reached the second-floor the shooting stopped.

They found the gunman dead inside a classroom where other slain and wounded people were located, Flinchum said.

"It's the worst I've seen in my life," the chief said, describing the bloody crime scene.

When Virginia Tech Rescue received the call for Norris Hall, it was for "multiple patients with traumatic injuries."

Realizing they would need assistance, they immediately requested mutual aid from nearby companies. "We had practiced for MCI (mass casualty incidents). We were ready," said Matt Green, an EMT. "The training paid off today."

Lt. Matt Johnson established command, and requested Montgomery County respond with its trailer of extra medical supplies such as backboards, straps and collars.

Since the scene was not secure, the ambulances staged away from the scene. Personnel were assigned triage, treatment and transportation duties.

They also had to warn other students about the incident. "People would say they had a class in Norris," said Lt. Sarah Walker, of Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad. "They hadn't heard what was going on. There was no panic. Some just didn't get it when we told them to go home."

Police officers carried some injured patients to the ambulances, while others walked to the treatment areas.

Some of the victims had been shot multiple times. Medevac helicopters were grounded by high winds. The most serious patients were taken to the trauma center in Roanoke.

Walker praised the cooperation of the EMS companies involved. Communications worked well also.

Exactly a year ago, the crews participated in a MCI drill. "Little did we know," Walker said.

A Blacksburg EMT was injured when the ambulance door slammed shut on his fingers. "It was awful. I couldn't get that door open. He finally managed to get them free. Despite his pain, he drove the ambulance to the hospital."

D.J. Robinson eventually sought treatment, and suffered no fractures.

Green also said things went smoothly because his squad trains with others. "Everyone knows what's expected. We believe you can't train too much."

Lewis said the crews approached the incident as they would any other, working feverishly to save their patients.

Tragedy in Blacksburg

My heart and prayers go out to all involved in the tragic events at Virginia Tech yesterday.

Many will be discussing the shooter, campus security, and the official response to this incident for days to come. But one thing that I've not heard covered in the news is the fantastic response of the EMS and medical community.

I have driven through that area of Virginia many times as a college and then a medical student returning home to Pennsylvania. It's beautiful country, but, much like my home town, its rural location can often make it vulnerable to the weather. And, if you're a surgeon or ER doc working in a hospital in an area like Roanoke, you pay particular attention to the weather.

Weather can turn what usually would be a short helicopter ride to transport a critically injured patient to a trauma center into a prolonged ambulance ride, or in the case of an unstable patient, trap them in your community hospital where you try your best with limited resources to give them the best care possible.

This is what the hospitals surrounding Blacksburg were facing yesterday. Gusting winds, snow flurries, and a late season storm had downed the helicopters. All they had were ground transportation.

I can only imagine the frustration the EMS guys must have felt. Trapped, waiting in their ambulances until the scene was secured.

You need to understand that the first question EMT students must ask in any training scenario—and the only question guaranteed to fail someone if they forget to ask it—is: Is the scene safe?

Medics want to go in, they're trained to run into danger while everyone else is escaping to safety. But, they also realize that adding themselves to the list of victims does no one any good—least of all the people they're there to save.

And so, in a situation like yesterday, they're forced to wait until the scene is secured by the tactical operators: police, ATF, SWAT—all those men with guns and bullet proof vests.

Yet, despite all these limitations, the men and women of the EMS squads, the physicians and nurses in the hospitals suddenly deluged with casualties, they all performed admirably and with little accolade as the media and public's attention is concentrated elsewhere.

I'd like to acknowledge them for a job well done in the face of what is an over-whelming tragedy for this community. Thank you and God Bless you all!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?
Okay, so I needed to change a character's name--thank goodness for search and replace! It was Ben but I already had a Jerry, and since the book isn't about ice cream....
Anyway, so I decided on Mark. The character is a doctor, head of Pittsburgh's Angels of Mercy's ER.
Then I got to thinking, there are a lot of Mark's out there in fictional medical land, aren't there?
There's McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy, aka: Dr. Mark Sloan...

I'm guessing the GA writers were paying homage to the original Dr. Mark Sloan from Diagnosis Murder:
And there's Dr. Mark Greene from ER:

And, of course, the grand-daddy of all TV docs, Marcus Welby, MD
Okay, given that pedigree, guess I'm gonna keep my guy a Mark as well!! How could I go wrong?

Letter to Shonda Rhimes

Letter to Shonda Rhimes

Dear Shonda,

I love, love, love Grey's Anatomy—did I mention I love it? But…let's get real here, you guys need an ER doc.

I mean, there's Meredith, dead—DEAD!—from cold water immersion and the only person who comes up with the right treatment is your OB-Gyn/pediatric surgeon/neonatologist/perinatal maternal-child-health specialist??? And then everyone ignores her?

I love that you focus on how people save people, not medicine. Believe me, I agree, in fact, that's the theme behind all of my own medical suspense novels.

But as a pediatric ER doc, I have to protest. Yes, the cast needs trimmed. No, Addison really can not be all those things (and I think one show mentioned she also has a PhD in nutrition or the like?)—she'd be 100 years old before she finished her training!

If you want a generalist, get an ER doc on board. We're just as smart as the surgeons, have lots of cutting wit (from hanging out with cops and firefighters and paramedics all day), excellent multi-tasking skills—able to go from comforting a pregnant lady to suturing a screaming toddler to saving a stroke patient to being command doc in a major trauma without blinking an eye!

I know you want to stay in the OR with your beloved surgeons (and I love them all, as well!) but please, you're starting to strain credibility here. You need a jack of all trades, and the best bang for your buck will be an ER doc—or at least an Emergency Medicine resident doing their surgical rotations.

And, of course, if you ever want to chat about it, need a writer, heck, need a gopher! feel free to call me—anytime!!

Best wishes,
CJ Lyons, pediatric ER doc, medical suspense writer, and Grey's Anatomy fan

Who is CJ?

Who is CJ?

CJ Lyons has lived most of her life on the edge. Trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine, she has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers, on the Navajo reservation, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight and Stat Medevac.

These skills have proved useful during CJ's adventures both in the US and abroad. She participated in an archeological expedition in the Outback of Australia sponsored by the Kuku Djugan tribe and was one of few people allowed access to explore the Hell's Gate Wilderness Preserve in Kenya on foot during an environmental impact survey of the Lake Navisha region. She has also traveled extensively in the US, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the Caribbean. She holds an orange belt in Kempo and enjoys hiking, white water rafting, and outdoor photography when she is not writing or practicing medicine.

CJ has been a story-teller all her life, always creating stories about people discovering the courage to make a difference. This drove her into writing thrillers with strong relationships and led her to coin the term: Thrillers with Heart.

A member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and Kiss of Death, CJ's work has appeared in CrimeSpree Magazine, Romantic Times Book Review, WebMystery Magazine and SpineTingler.

She has presented workshops to the MWA, RWA, Romantic Times and ITW among others and was the conference chairperson for the highly successful inaugural ThrillerFest. A finalist for RWA' prestigious Golden Heart and winner of the Golden Gateway award, CJ has received numerous accolades for her writing. #1 New York Times Bestseller Sandra Brown called CJ's work "a perfect blend of romance and suspense".

Watch for her debut medical suspense novel coming from Berkley in 2008! Contact her at: