Archive for February, 2017

Irritating Reads

What good is a rant if you can’t reuse it?

Here’s my latest, on The LadyKillers blog a couple of weeks ago.

One of my biggest pet peeves in crime fiction is HEAD-HOPPING. You know what I mean – the practice of switching point of view within a scene.

I spend a good deal of time discussing POV with my writing students, and invariably one will point out a best-selling author who does this willy nilly (at random, every which way, here and there, all over the place, in no apparent order).

After I ungrit my teeth, I try to explain. And I try to find good articles on the topic. Here are a couple of favorites.

Head-hopping is common and acceptable in the romance genre:

As Billy Bob and Sally Jo danced, he felt he was in heaven and she couldn’t wait for the last chord.

But in a romance, it’s the relationship that’s the main character, the romance matters more than either Billy Bob or Sally Jo.

Head-hopping in a mystery, however, is detrimental to the story. The best-selling author (I’ll call her P. L.) who invaded my class most recently at least plays “fair,” in that she gets into the head of every principal character except one—the killer’s, of course. So, after four or five head-hopping chapters, you can identify the killer.  He’s the one whose thoughts you’re not privy to. Booo.

Another best-selling author (I’ll call him S. J.) cheats! You get into the head of every character, including the killer, but while you’re in the killer’s head, he “acts” as innocent as all the others, wondering what the killer’s motive was, how the killer managed to escape, and so on.

Both the cheating and the non-cheating versions are IRRITATING. (Yes, I’m shouting.)

Now—your turn!

Does head-hopping bother you? What does?


A clue to the cryptoquote

In keeping with my proclamation of February as mathematics and puzzle month, here’s a cryptoquote for your solving pleasure.

As usual, there’s a prize for the first 3 correct answers emailed to



The Best Team Wins–Again?

It has been said that I can turn anything into a reason to celebrate. Even Super Bowl. Even though I know only the first thing about football: you have to make touchdowns and they’re 6 points at a crack, kind of like a super home run.

Every year we invite “Mary and John Smith” to watch with my husband (The Cable Guy), shifting recliners around to accommodate the three, each with his or her own TV tray. They bring snacks; we provide dinner. While they watch the game, I hide in my office.

And every year, I join the group for the last minutes of the game, so I’ll know when to take the roast out of the oven. During those last minutes, they try to teach me what a conversion is and how a tie is broken in overtime.

This year was special, apparently—the first overtime (that’s extra innings) and a big comeback by the Patriots. Mary, John, and the Cable Guy had been rooting for Atlanta. I wondered why.

“How come you’re rooting for Atlanta?” I asked. “Do you know someone from there?”

John answered first. “Because the Patriots always win.”

The others agreed:

“This would be the fifth year in a row for the Pats.” Mary held up her hand, 5 fingers splayed, as if to show how that would be a travesty of the sport.

“Someone else needs to win for a change,” John added.

And so on.

Now, for years I’ve been hearing about how sports are so fair and apolitical. There are rules, and there’s performance. That’s all it’s about. You know, “may the best team win.”

So what’s wrong with one team winning 5 in a row? Or 20 in a row, if they’re the best? No one claims they’re cheating, not following the rules, so why shouldn’t the best be rewarded?

The same argument—they’ve won too often—was used in the past with respect to the New York Yankees. Too many pennants. They always win.

My opinion? (You knew it was coming): it’s another way to devalue excellence, experience, performance. Another example of the “Good job” syndrome, where there are no real standards, and someone gets an award simply for showing up, or because his feelings might be hurt, or because it’s his turn.

When did it become boring to reward excellence?

I’ll resist making the application to politics.

Oops, I guess I couldn’t resist.

Brainteaser Day

Here’s a second chance to win a copy of one of the Professor Sophie Knowles mysteries. You may remember that Sophie, who teaches math at a small New England college, loves to solve puzzles and to create them.

Try this one:

A woman is stuck on an island. The island is surrounded by man-eating sharks and a single bridge is the only option to return to the mainland. Halfway across the bridge there’s a guard. The guard won’t let anyone from the mainland to the island, or anyone from the island to the mainland. If the guard catches someone, he sends him or her back. All day and night the guard sleeps for 30 seconds and then is awake for 5 minutes. It takes 1 minute to cross the bridge.

The woman thinks of a way to get across. How does she cross the bridge without getting caught?

The first three to email me with the/a correct answer will get a copy of a Sophie book.