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…