FOR THE RECORD: These turkeys will not be allowed to pardon themselves.

I hope you have planned a great, safe weekend everyone.

Read any good books lately?

I don’t think I’m alone in this—I can’t get to sleep without reading at least a few chapters of a book. Preferably a longer session. Neither can I board a plane or train without a book or a host of them on an e-reader.

In one of those unexpected moments of enlightenment recently, I realized—huh?—none of my characters is a reader. At least not the way I am.

At the time, I had 4 series and a pile of short stories, but a stack of books was nowhere to be found in any of them. In fact, I couldn’t recall seeing, that is writing about, a single book.

Now and then, Gloria Lamerino, my first protagonist would pick up a copy of the magazine Physics Today or a Scientific American, but for the most part she was busy thinking, waiting for that AHA moment when she solved the case.

I have to excuse the women for not settling down with a good book: they were very busy solving murders. In almost every one of my books, the murder is solved in a week, maybe two at the most. Compare that rate with the years it takes for the real cops to solve a real murder.

No wonder my characters don’t have time to read.

But in my 5th series, the Alaska Diner Mysteries by Elizabeth Logan, I finally produced a reader. It’s not a spoiler to let you know that my latest protagonist, Charlie Cooke, has been lured into reading mysteries by her mother, an avid fan of cozies. Go figure.

Forgive the segue, but the second book of the series will be out on Tuesday, November 24, in time for a leisurely Thanksgiving read. If you’d like to tune into my blog tour, click here.

As much as I love reading, I’d prefer that we all be traveling or cooking for 20 that day, but a hopefully good book will have to do. Then next year, we’ll all be traveling and/or cooking on Thanksgiving again, saving the book for falling asleep.

I wish you all a safe Thanksgiving weekend.

Remember these?

November 12, 1904: the invention and patent for the first vacuum tube.

Isn’t it lovely?

The brainchild of British electrical engineer John Fleming, the vacuum tube marks the beginning of modern electronics.

Because I know you want more: try this link for a fuller history and fascinating early images.

We voted!

Part of my political button collection

Sadly, I didn’t have the occasion to wear my buttons this year. Usually, they’d be part of my costume, lining the lapels and front of a white jacket at an election night party.

You’ll notice that (unlike me) the collection is nonpartisan. We have Democrats like Hillary and Mondale/Ferraro, GOP John Anderson, Reform Party Ross Perot, and nonpartisan Clint Eastwood.

Also, partly buried near the center is a button for “Taylor,” the oldest of the set. I never took the time to look him up (I was fairly sure it was a him). Until this year and this blog. I found Zachary Taylor who was the 12th president (1849) between Polk and Fillmore (which for San Franciscans sounds a lot a city block).

Old as I am, I was not around to vote in that election, and I have no idea where I picked up the button, except that a flea market seems a likely source.

FYI, I’ve packed the buttons away, with a hope that I might wear them next election.

October Recap

Thanks to all who showed up in support of MWA NorCal Mystery Week events.
I owe a huge apology to anyone I missed or gave a non-working Zoom link to — it happened, and I have no excuse other than residual Luddite-ness.

First: if you will identify yourself, you will receive a prize!

Second: here’s a screenshot of my panel on Tuesday evening, 10/27, on writing characters, with Claire Johnson, Eileen Rendahl, Ann Parker, David Corbett. I chose a Zoom background of a wedding. (I’m middle left.)
But whose wedding?
Name the bride and groom (or one of the guests!) for another prize!

(If you need a better image, let me know, but really that woman in orange?)

Next time we meet, we’ll have been through a critical moment in our country. VOTE NOW if you don’t already have your sticker.

SEE YOU on the other side.

Reading dark

Icelandic sunset

Pardon me if I lapse into Gothic, but I just came across my notes from a class in Gothic Literature.

If you haven’t visited my bookshelves, you might be surprised that I like dark, noir, heavy reading, like the Nordic authors—all those unpronounceable names like Indridason and Lagercrantz, or it turns out, like Gothic Literature. (Then why have you written almost 30 cozy, light novels? you might ask. That’s for another blog.)

These selections in italics are from The Italian, by Matthew Lewis (1775-1818).

• I loved seeing words used as different parts of speech from what we’re used to: . . . a gentle slope that margined the water.

• And what about a word with a different meaning: From this moment I make you independent and promise . . . to give you a thousand sequins.

In the past I’ve had a sequin or two on a jacket. But these thousand sequins are Venetian gold coins.

• One of my favorites: Young man! You are an enthusiast, and I pardon you.

The explanatory note: Enthusiasm was a dismissive 18th century term for the belief in private revelation or personal communion with the divine.

I hope you are an enthusiast in the 21st century meaning, for my next (cozy) novel “Fishing for Trouble,” which will be released on November 24!

Better Than Fiction

Sometimes stories land in your lap.

One weekend morning, pre-pandemic, I showed up to teach a writing class that was to be held on the property of a county park. The class was scheduled for ten o’clock. I showed up about 15 minutes early and found a couple of students waiting outside a tall chain link fence held closed with a serious padlock, and a No Trespassing sign.

No problem; we were early. We chatted on; more students came. We hardly noticed that a half hour had passed. No one had showed up to let us in. A couple of delivery people came by in trucks and left when they realized there was no entry. We made a few calls with our cells—first to my contact at the school, who suggested I call the park police, who suggested I call the city police, and so on.

The boring part of the story is that eventually someone came to let us in.

The interesting part happened while we were waiting.

A young woman pulled up in a low red sports car. She got out and addressed us.

“I have to get in there,” she said. “I was at a wedding in the park last night and left my purse.”

We shrugged and explained that there was nothing we could do until someone came with a key to the padlock, and we hoped someone was on the way.

She grunted. The next thing we knew, she was scaling the fence. She plopped down on the other side and walked into the park. About ten minutes later, she approached the fence again, from the inside, and climbed out.

In her hands were a purse, a pair of shoes, and a bra.

She gave us a wink, got in her car and drove off.

My writing students and I got a lot of mileage of the incident, creating many colorful back stories.

One thing that impressed me was the young woman’s willingness to disregard the No Trespassing sign and its warning of a heavy fine.

I thought about how I am such a rule-keeper (well, most of the time). For me, the physical difficulty of scaling a fence pales in comparison to the mental and psychological difficulty of breaking the law.

Maybe that’s why I write fiction—to break laws vicariously!

Would you have climbed that fence?

Plan Ahead: an evening of readings

Coming to you virtually

Join us for an evening of short readings from:

Laurie King moderating: Cara Black, Robin Burcell, Rae James, Saul Lelchuk, Camille Minichino, Jason Ridler, Faye Snowden, and Jacqueline Winspear.

If you’d like to attend, let me know and I’ll send you the invitation/link as soon as it becomes available. Email me at camille (at) minichino (dot) com. I’m not sure how many “seats” (places along the rail?) we’ll be allowed, so the sooner the better!

You may have attended Noir at the Bar in the past, at a real bar. This time you’ll have to supply your own bubbly and tiny pretzels. So sorry about that, but at least we’ll “see” each other and hopefully enjoy some good stories.

Coming Soon: Halloween

Post Card issued 1911. From The New York Public Library Collection.

Finally the checkout clerk won’t look at me funny when I unload large bags of candy.

I can’t say enough about a month that starts out National Dollhouse Month, and ends with Halloween.

Throw in all that fun-size candy, those glittery costumes, and the anniversary of Sputnick (October 4, 1957), and you have 31 party-filled days every year. Well, except for October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles read a script derived from “The War of the Worlds” and scared millions in the radio audience more than any ghosts, evil witches, or giant spiders’ webs could have.

 In October, all the white skirts and shoes are safely put away and the orange comes out: pumpkin scones, pumpkin lattes, and pumpkin ice cream. No wonder I love this season.

I always wanted to live on a street that treated Halloween with respect, taking orange and black decorations seriously. It didn’t happen, so I created one of my own in my fifth miniature mystery, “Monster in Miniature.”

FYI, “Monster in Miniature” will be re-released soon, maybe even in time for this Halloween. Watch this spot!

It’s not a coincidence that National Dollhouse Month is the same month as Halloween. Dollhouses and Halloween go together just as Mysteries and Halloween are a natural combination. Every miniaturist has built at least one haunted house.

This year will be different, of course. It’s hard to trick-or-treat on zoom, as wonderful as that software is. We’ll have to get more creative. There’s no reason we can’t have a costume party — and it will be easier than ever: waist up only!

All ideas welcome!

I wish there were Halloween carols to sing. But failing that, I’ve programmed my smart phone with a new ring tone: He did the mash. He did the monster mash.

It will have to do.

What noise?

Yes, another NYC story, but a short one.

I’d been there with a friend for several days.

At one point as we waited to cross a busy street, she cupped her ears. It turned out she’d been bothered all week by the noise.  

“What noise?” I asked.

She meant the soothing sounds of taxis; cars honking; buses; industrial motors, generators, and fans; crowds of people; alarms; jackhammers. All music to my ears. As opposed to the quiet suburbs where silence is broken only by the occasional ear-splitting lawn sprinkler.

What’s noise and what’s soothing background?

It goes back to childhood, I believe. My bedroom window growing up was about 3 feet from a bar/pizza parlor. I fell asleep to the sounds of the jukebox. Later, I had a nearly 2-hour commute to college in Boston. For 4 years, I did my calculus homework on the famous MTA, often with one arm slung around a pole, always with chatter all around me.

For me, noise provides stimulus to write and a reassuring background to sleep. If it’s too quiet, I can’t relax, neither to write nor to rest. Where is everyone? I wonder. Maybe I should get up and look around.

How many decibels does it take for you to feel comfortable?