Mistakes, I’ve Made a Few

Architect of Courage accompanied me to the Princeton Public Library’s Local Author Day. I sat with friend and awesome fellow thriller-author Kevin G. Chapman, and the crowd was impressive. The library’s community room included dozens of authors, a number of whom publish children’s book, who decorated their tables with stuffed animals, princess crowns, and the like. One of Kevin’s book covers includes a knife-blade dripping with blood. And his titles include words like Assassin, Dead, and Fatal. We passed on having an appropriately themed display for our table.

Another local author visited with us and spent an excruciatingly long time at our table after telling us he doesn’t buy books. Instead, he re-reads favorites from decades ago. He then had a long—very long—rap about how, unlike Kevin’s Assassin, Dead, and Fatal covers, his bloody knives and corpses, the cover of Architect of Courage doesn’t signal “thriller.” I’d heard that before, but filed it in the category of “can’t do anything about it, so why worry?”

Kevin laughed when the next person to stop at our table said, “Oooh, I love that cover!” But she didn’t realize the book is a thriller. Of course. So, too late to reprint, I did finally take these comments to heart and ordered see-through labels that read “International Crime Thriller” to affix underneath the title of the copies I have, and I created a graphic that does the same. I’ve replaced the book cover photo on my website and used the new one in an ad I’m running this summer. So, that long diatribe we suffered through was actually helpful! Big smile.

Now I’m all set for The Flemington Summer Book Fest May 28, the Burlington County Book Festival June 3, along with pals from the Central NJ Chapter of Sisters in Crime, The Passaic County Book Festival June 10, and, later this summer, the Public Safety Writers Association annual conference! Hope to see you there!

Debut Authors’ Struggles

It turns out that the thrill and satisfaction of a rocket launch is rarely replicated in the launch of books by debut authors.The Bookseller, a London-based magazine about the book industry, reports on a survey of debut authors regarding their publishing experience. These findings may strike a chord with debut authors everywhere. More than half of the survey respondents said the ordeal negatively affected their mental health. Less than a quarter described an overall positive experience.

Most of the 108 respondents (61%) wrote adult fiction, and 19% wrote non-fiction. About half used an independent (that is, small) publisher, while almost half (48%) were published by one of the four majors. It seems to have made no difference which type of publisher an author used, as the negative effects on mental health were between 44 and 47% for the two groups. Statistically, the two percentages were probably about equal, especially given the rather small number of authors in the survey.

Perhaps dissatisfied authors were more likely to respond to a survey like this, but at least they also identified specific problems that publishers might be able to address. Chief among them were lack of support, guidance, and “clear and professional communication from their publisher.” Often authors didn’t know whom they should take a problem to. Googling staff directories is hardly ideal. Said one author, “it felt like a parent/child relationship with a lot of gaslighting and fake conversations”; and another, “infantilizing,” “opaque answers wrapped in praise and flattery.”

Still, there were bright spots. Comments from authors who reported a positive experience judged it a “great collaboration” (suggesting effective communication in that instance) or a good relationship (ditto).

About half of the debut authors organized their own launch events, though in one apparently unusual case, the publisher offered to pay part of the cost. Again, authors expected more support—public speaking training perhaps, and more information about events they were booked to speak at.

In many cases, support simply disappeared after publication of the debut or dwindled with each subsequent book. A few authors reported they were dropped without explanation (another example of poor communication). These longer-term problems may be heightened by significant staff turnover at publishing houses. Authors who have good, responsive agents may be able to get help from them on problems of sustainability and continuity too.

All told, not a pretty picture.

Oldest Female Debut Novelist Tells All

Guest Post by Bobbie Jean Huff

I was twelve when I wrote my first novel. It was four pages long, and in it Martha, the butt of bullying by her eighth grade classmates, graduates top of her class. Not much else happens, but with the novel’s completion I had accomplished a major life goal.

Nearly sixty years later I started another novel. For two years I basically lived in the quiet room of the Ottawa Library, and then another year in the Princeton Library, ignoring cracks from my sons about posthumous publication. That novel was published a year ago.

Writing it, I discovered, was actually the easy part of the publishing process. The next step was finding an agent.

I’d been warned by my editor. She told me that as an older author I might have trouble finding an agent. She knew a Canadian agent who prided himself on never taking on a debut novelist over the age of 45.

The reasoning behind this: first novels typically don’t sell—or so I was told. If a novelist is to succeed, it’s usually the second or third book that pushes them over that hill.

In view of all this, I thought it best to hide my age. My Twitter profile pictured an older lady, her white hair done in a braid. My name was beneath it. My Facebook profile showed that same lady holding a newborn who was clearly a grandchild—or worse.

I needed to get younger, and fast, so I called my niece and suggested lunch. A few days later, if you checked my profile pictures, you would have seen a young woman with her blond hair piled on top of her head with a purple claw clip.

And so, the younger me proceeded to search for an agent. This took time: multiple query letters, various extracts from my novel (fifty pages to this one, the first chapter to another, the full manuscript to another). Persuading an agent to even take a look at your finished manuscript is nearly impossible for a debut author, whatever her age. You might as well send it to www.themoon.com

But an agent did respond. The upside of the pandemic: she suggested a phone call instead of a meeting, and courtesy of contemporary hearing aid technology, phone calls to my phone go directly to my ears (providing I remember to charge the hearing aids each night).

People say I have a young voice. When the agent said, “Tell me about yourself,” I told her that I moved down from Canada to New Jersey a few years before, to be near my four sons. And that when I was in Ottawa, I had written and published essays and poems and short stories. Also, I said, I played church organ. Then I quickly changed the subject to the writing I was currently doing.

Here’s some of what I left out: My sons are all over forty, I have five grandchildren, and some of my organ playing has been for the funerals of close friends.

I signed with her. There then followed a month-long nerve-wracking process: submission of the novel to publishers, the offer, the negotiation of a contract, the unbelievably lengthy period of time that passed before signing, and then, yikes; a request from the publisher for a photograph!

No photo, no publication? I panicked. Then I recalled an author photo I had seen years before—was it Margaret Atwood’s? That picture featured a lone hand holding a pen. I contemplated doing that, but then decided no, I was tired of all this. I’d send the damn photo, but before that I’d do The Big Reveal. I called my agent and said, timidly, “There’s something you need to know.” And then I told her, fully expecting that as soon as those two awful words—seventy-four—were out of my mouth, she would gracefully bring the conversation to a close and I’d never hear from her or the publisher again.

That night I called my third son. “Of course they knew your age,” he said. “They only had to type your name into Google.” I tried it and discovered he was right. Google even knew my birth date. But superstitiously I waited until publication day to replace the photos of my niece with pictures of the old lady with the white braid.

British novelist Martin Amis was once quoted as saying, “Octogenarian novelists on the whole [are] no bloody good. You can see [them] disintegrating before your eyes as they move past 70.” (It should be said that Amis’ most recent novel, Inside Story, was published in 2020 when he was 72.)

Then there was Simone de Beauvoir: “A novel is the least suitable form of literature for the elderly writer, because they risk simply repeating things and are past imagining new possibilities.”

When The Ones We Keep was published last year, it occurred to me that at 76 I might be the oldest traditionally published female debut novelist. I’ve spent some time searching “oldest debut female novelists” and the same names keep popping up: Laura Ingalls Wilder, 65 when she published the first book of her Little House series, Mary Wesley, 70 when she published Jumping the Queue, and Harriet Doerr, 74 when Stones for Ibarra came out. Then there is Delia Owens, whom everyone thinks is the oldest female first novelist. But Delia was only 69 when she published When the Crawdads Sing. Compared to me, Delia was just a puppy.

Now, once again, I am searching for an agent and a publisher. By the time The Ones We Keep was published, I had another novel ready to go. My agent loved it and submitted it to my publisher. Early indications were good, and I was told that the editorial staff were over the moon about it. But the sigh of relief I heaved was premature. To everyone’s shock, Sales and Marketing gave it the thumbs-down.

I was crushed.

That rejected novel has now been paused. My agent told me that, based on its rejection, another publisher would only wonder why my own publisher didn’t want it. Instead, I have a third “slim” novel (aka novella) ready to go. My job now is to find a publisher who will like it enough to take the risk of publishing an “older” author. If I succeed in finding that publisher, all well and good (and I will continue the sequel I’ve already started to The Ones We Keep).  But if I don’t? I will never know whether it’s because I am, as de Beauvoir put it, “past imagining new possibilities,” or just, according to Amis, “no bloody good.”

Regardless, I no longer try to hide my age, which is now 77. After all, anyone looking at my book jacket can figure that one out.

Bobbie Jean Huff’s essay, originally published in Bloom, has created a stir in the Author’s Guild community, whose members have set up a pair of meetings to discuss it further. Good job, Bobbie!

The Long Creative Life

Hong Kong (now U.S.) author Xu Xi has published essays, appeared in and published anthologies, and novels, including The Unwalled City: A Novel of Hong Kong. In sum, fifteen books. In an interview, she shared some thoughts about the creative life that would encourage authors, both aspiring and experienced. “Being a writer is also an issue if you’re not published” (or, perhaps, not published where you want to be). And it’s hard to break into U.S. literary journals, short story publishing, “never mind selling novels.”

Xu found that living in New York City, enough people were trying to be an artist of some kind—musician, painter, actor, novelist—that made life easier. They understood her. They understood her day job was just a way to put groceries on the table. This is a heartfelt validation of the importance of “community.” Some of us find it in groups of other writers. Some find it in groups outside the writing community.

Still, Xu had to reach a point where the daily demands on her were not primarily about relationships, family, and work, in order to be free to write beyond herself. She quotes Confucius’s description of the various decades of life, which culminate at the point that you can “follow [your] heart’s desire without overstepping the line.” Alas, the Master said that point comes when you reach an advanced age, which maybe is why we hear about authors (like me!) whose first book is published after age 50. Not that that’s a piece of cake, either.

Xu, who is past 50 herself, says she thinks of writing “as fate, destiny, the thing you were born to do but didn’t know how to go about or weren’t quite ready for when you were younger.” Interestingly, in her day jobs she was considered a quick study, but she finds the process of writing, “incredibly slow.” Nevertheless, she finds pleasure in learning how to improve, which is long-term and yields incremental improvements. It’s fulfilling in a deep, “things are right with the world” sense, which more quickly mastered accomplishments often lack. How many times are authors pitched on “this book,” “this course,” or “this software” that will lead them down an immediate and short path to success?

International artists who write in English, Xu believes, are one way for readers to better understand both the universal aspects of life while appreciating differences in human experience and building empathy with people whose perspectives are different. This comes to the fore in her writer’s guide and anthology, The Art and Craft of Asian Stories.

At some point Xu realized she “could waste an enormous amount of creative time and energy on all kinds of ‘okay’ things, and, as well, produce work that might actually prove more readily publishable.” That choice would mean other work would suffer—work that require a deeper examination of our interior selves to reach for the fundamental, rather than the superficial. Such works don’t demand that you stretch your writing muscles. Xu is willing to do this and thereby is, she believes, writing to the future of the English language.

Xu Xi is the Jenks Chair in Contemporary Letters at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

You’re Leaving? Story Endings

The First Line Monday facebook page is a painless education on what works and what doesn’t as the first line/lines in a novel. And, how much people’s opinions about working/not working vary! All writers are advised that the openings of their books, if that not one single line, are critical in finding agents, publishers, and readers. What about the ending? That’s important too in a different way. It’s the author’s last chance to make a point or an impression. Or not.

I’ve written about endings before—endings and ambiguity, book endings that disappoint. Here I’m going to do what the facebook page does and just provide the last lines as a standalone. The big difference is, of course, that by the time you get to the last line, you’ve (most likely) read the rest of the book. So you interpret the words much differently than you would a first line. You have context. Still, some lines work better than others in planting a lasting seed.

Here are a few:

“The automonk carried the empty wicker basket up the beach. Eiko followed.” (Ray Nayler’s wonderful The Mountain Under the Sea). This line conveys a since of “ok, life goes on here,” in its quotidian way, which is a very hopeful place to end. Read the whole book and find out why!

“That’s where we are. Well past the Christiansburg exit. Past Richmond, and still pointed east. Headed for the one big thing I know is not going to swallow me alive.” (Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead, Dickens’s David Copperfield adapted to today’s also-not-very-kind-to-children-in-difficult-circumstances world—a fantastic book). The reader knows the “one big thing” is the ocean (and so much more of life) and that Damon believes it “won’t swallow me alive” because he’s protected against drowning, but also because, in other aspects of life, he’s developed the skills and relationships to save himself. A perfect summation of the entire book.

“And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.” (Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Goldfinch). Opinions about this book vary, and this last sentence is a good example of why I think the whole final quasi-philosophical section is just Too Much.

“There’s nothing as exciting as a fresh new start when the page is blank and the future is all for the making!” (Janice Hallett’s clever The Appeal). The last words are from Izzy, the clueless instigator of a lot of bad stuff, and the exclamation point represents her perfectly.

“He is far from England now, far from these islands, from the waters salt and fresh. He has vanished; he is the slippery stones underfoot, he is the last faint ripple in the wake of himself. He feels for an opening, blinded, looking for a door: tracking the light along the wall.” (Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & the Light, third in her trilogy about Tudor England’s Thomas Cromwell). I frankly don’t know how she wrote this; I would have been weeping all over my typewriter, but to have to write the moment of Cromwell’s death after so many intimate pages, I think this, with its poetic tone, really works.

“Kate found her seat. Never looked back.” (Cara Black’s Three Hours in Paris). This ending certainly fits, because through the whole of this WWII thriller, Kate doesn’t seem to think about consequences.

Do you have some favorite endings? Ones you thought really worked well?

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Hear That Thunder? Writing Tips

As author Benjamin Percy relates in Thrill Me, his book of essays on the writing craft, his childhood books were portals for escape. “Suck me into the tornado, beam me through an intergalactic transporter, drag me down the rabbit hole,” he says. Although he’s studied the tenets of literary fiction, he strongly believes the “What happens next?” engine more typical of genre fiction is what propels readers through most novels. Thrill them.

This is one of those books, like Donald Maass’s The Emotional Craft of Fiction, that you can benefit from rereading at different stages of a writing project. Insights glossed over earlier will suddenly make sense as your new work evolves. Here are just a few of Percy’s thoughts that particularly resonated with me this time around.

While a story will have a big goal—solve the puzzle, catch the killer, marry the prince, win the battle—it also needs lower-order goals, at the scene or chapter level, to keep the plot moving. (I’d add here that, sometimes, the protagonist’s goal is subconscious. Maybe Mary believes her goal is to gain the prestige of the job promotion and new title, but what she’s really yearning for is recognition in her father’s eyes.) Working toward a lower-order goal—baking a cake, fixing a carburetor, shopping for a dress, staying out of the path of a hurricane—maintains a story’s momentum and can steer you through what otherwise might be a too-long scene of dialog, the dread BOGSAT: Bunch of Guys Sitting Around Talking. Deadly. Frowned upon.

Another well-used (because it’s effective) device to keep the readers focused on what happens next is the “ticking clock.” It needn’t be as literal as a real clock counting down the seconds until the bomb goes off, but it will be some kind of critical deadline (apt word, that). In James Wolff’s new spy novel, The Man in the Corduroy Suit, the protagonist has two weeks to find out whether a former MI5 employee was actually a spy. To keep the investigation secret, he can’t make any obvious moves, so it’s slow work. He’s just getting started when the deadline is changed to one week. The metaphorical ticking clock can be an important impending visit, a wedding that shouldn’t come off, the start of the school year, the fate of a kidnapped child—anything with outsized importance in the mind of the protagonist.

It’s a long and rocky fictional path to relieving the tension caused by the ticking clock, and at times it may seem like a toss-up whether the protagonist will actually succeed. Once one obstacle along the path is resolved or one question is answered, the writer must keep ʼem coming. As Percy says, “a good story is a turnstile of mysteries.” It may seem the protagonist can never—or rarely—catch a break along that rocky path. And there’s that thunder rumbling in the distance, that clock ticking.

My next novel is set in Rome and has two principal narrators. Genie Clarke is an American travel writer who has inadvertently made herself the target of a group of gangsters, and Leo Angelini is a Polizia di Stato detective trying to protect her. One ticking clock is the ultimatum the head of the gangsters has given his men: “Get her.” Could there be a romance between Genie and Leo? This possibility has its own ticking clock: Genie’s imminent return to the States. Let’s hope this book gets published so you can find out what happens next!

Try Thrill Me for yourself and see what insights you can pull out for your WIP.

(The Amazon links to books above are affiliate links. I receive a small compensation for the recommendation if you click through on them and make a purchase. The product cost is the same to you whether you use an affiliate link or not.)

Writers as Fisherfolk

It’s stretching a metaphor to call writers fisherfolk, but in for a penny . . . If you can stick with me here, I’d say we cast our nets through research. What I like best about the research I do for my short stories and novels is that it gives me ideas, it lets me connect my story to reality, and readers respond because the story seems so “real” to them. Even if a bit of background work gives me only a single word, it will be the mot juste. Our net-casting—our research—happens at several levels—trolling for ideas, diving into the facts, and weighing the catch.

Trolling for Ideas – When readers ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” and a writer says “everywhere,” they mean that every news story, magazine article, museum exhibit, and anecdote goes into that great filing cabinet wastebasket in the brain and comes out, maybe, someday, in some form or another. Very likely, it won’t be identical, it may not even be recognizable, but it will be “inspired by.”

An example: In my novel, Architect of Courage, the protagonist learns a heinous crime was not the fault of the person he blames, and a police detective wisely advises him to let it go. “This will be hard to wrap your mind around. It changes things,” the detective says, adding, “Time and again I see people who can’t give up their theories about who’s to blame for a crime. They hang on for dear life.” This idea came from reading an FBI agent’s blog about the British family of a young woman murdered in Perugia, Italy, a crime for which American Amanda Knox was wrongfully convicted. Despite numerous and lengthy legal proceedings and much evidence exonerating Knox, the dead woman’s parents steadfastly believed in her guilt. The psychology of this case, if not the factual situation, bore directly on my thriller.

Diving into the Facts – Writing page after page and chapter after chapter requires a different, much more focused type of research. Maps, reference books, photo research, the Internet—all keep the writer out of blooper territory. Are there one-way streets in Brussels? Which way do they run? How long does it take to get from the Hotel Sofitel to the American Embassy by cab? What does the hotel neighborhood look like? My architect protagonist is mostly in Manhattan, but he travels to Brussels and Tarifa, Spain, too. I was amused and flattered when a friend contacted me asking for Brussels travel tips. I’ve never been there. The setting just seemed so real to him. (Success!) The facts I uncovered, in turn, led to new ideas and situations that fostered the story’s development.

Weighing the Catch– So, the author has written “The End.” Is it? Probably not. Now that the story is down on paper and the dilemmas of the plot and characters are solved, what more is there to do? It’s time for the big picture. Beta readers help (think “audience research”). In Architect of Courage, I also needed a more specific review of the way police work. Yes, I watch tv, but on the off-chance its depictions of policing aren’t 100% accurate, I sought help. I spent an afternoon with a former NYPD detective and terrorism expert going over every paragraph and every line of dialog that involved law enforcement. “Would a detective say something like this?,” “Is this how it’s done?,” “Does this make sense to you?” Blooper-patrol again, though my questions weren’t just about what do cops do, I was hoping for—and received—insights into how they think.

Your Further Research:
I like Benjamin Sobieck’s The Writer’s Guide to Weapons. It provides “just enough” information.

Need a foreign word? Try the Word Reference website—lots of idioms associated with a word, and online forums with native speakers where you can ask questions. Especially helpful with slang. Many languages.

If you’ve read Architect of Courage and wonder where something or other came from, feel free to ask! And if you haven’t read it, you can order it here. (affiliate link)

No Dull Sentences!

Award-winning novelist William Gay, who died just over a decade ago, was heralded as a new voice in Southern fiction from the time his first novel, The Long Home, was published in 1999. When I read a reviewer’s comment that Gay was “incapable of writing a dull sentence,” he sounded like someone to find out more about.

In an interview published in 2013, he talked about being considered an heir to Faulkner, O’Connor, and Wolfe, and said that his favorite Faulkner novel is As I Lay Dying, because in it Faulkner writes about ordinary people. That’s a hallmark of Gay’s own writing, and draws on a long career that included house-painting and hanging drywall to support his family by day, writing out stories by night. Understandably, given that schedule, his first book wasn’t published until he was in his late fifties. But he had been on that path since seventh grade, when a teacher noticed his incessant reading and gave Gay a copy of Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel, as long as he’d talk to him about it afterwards. It became one of his favorite books.

Younger people would ask him whether they should write what they want to write, even though it might be a hard road to get it published, or should they turn to genre writing (which is no picnic to get published, either, I’d add). His advice was always that they should write what they wanted to write. I think that’s what lets you, as a writer, put your heart into it and gives you the fortitude to stay with it over time through revisions, more revisions, critiques, and seeking publication.

Many book marketing folks say authors should have their ideal reader, or audience, in mind. Gay disagrees. He believes that, if you do, “the work is going to be more bland, with the rough corners knocked off.” It makes a story more generic and he said he’s always tried to avoid being generic. Much of Gay’s work is dark and violent, coming-of-age stories set in the 1940s and 50s, in which a young person must confront evil. (Stephen King, who knows something about evil, said Gay’s darkest, most Southern Gothic book, Twilight,was his “best read” in 2008.NOT the vampires.)

Gay went on a publish several more well regarded novels and a short-story collection with the juicy title, I Hate to See the Evening Sun Go Down (2002). His story, “The Paperhanger” was anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories 2001.

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AI: Wild Hopes, Desperate Fears, and Plot Ideas

Generative artificial intelligence taking over what we thought were uniquely human activities offers of-the-minute plot lines for mystery and crime writers. We’re accustomed to robot reporters covering high school sports and company earnings reports, but ChatGPT and its kin producing the Great American Novel-To-Be? What about AI creating art, video, and audio that mimics specific human voices? Whole new realms of possible crimes open up. A recent Washington Post article calls this an era of “wild hopes and desperate fears.” If the genie isn’t already out of the bottle, it’s certainly punched through the top.

“The capacity for a technology to be used both for good and ill is not unique to generative AI,” the Post article says. Other types of AI tools have downsides too. One that immediately raised skeptical questions is the idea of deploying AI in policing. A recent Guardian article by Jo Callaghan starts by describing the questions such a move would raise. While it makes sense to continue the long-standing practice of sending a robot to check out suspicious packages, San Francisco’s board of supervisors has planned to arm robots with lethal explosives, before pushback caused them to take a step back, maybe only temporarily.

Public confidence in the police has declined sharply in recent years, not just in the United States, but in England and Wales too, Callaghan reports. Meanwhile, it’s a job that “requires hundreds of judgments to be made each day, often under conditions of extreme pressure and uncertainty.” These decisions are informed by a lot of factors unrelated to the situation confronting the officer: past experience, recent trauma, temperament, attitudes and prejudices absorbed from the rest of society. Could AI, presumably relieved of all those extraneous factors, do better? Operate more fairly and efficiently? Maybe, maybe not.

“Narrow AI,” Callaghan explained, can perform specific tasks, like identifying the bomb in that abandoned backpack; “general purpose AI” makes more complicated judgments and decisions, even the kinds public safety personnel must make. The deep learning that enables general purpose AI results from feeding the system huge amounts of data. For example, having been fed millions of photographs of human faces, facial recognition AI can pick out suspects. We see this and other examples of AI creeping into novels and TV cop shows, where, for example, GPS data are used not only to develop “heat maps” of where crimes are likely, but also to predict specific suspects’ likely location or where to look for a missing person. You can see why some authors prefer to set their stories before 1970. The technology is a lot to keep up with.

Callaghan concludes, “Instead of debating what AI will or will not be able to do in the future, we should be asking what we want from our criminal and justice system, and how AI could help us to achieve it.” These are questions crime writers wrestle with too.

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Zoom Cat-astrophes!

The wisdom of a piece of advice in Stephen King’s very useful (and actionable) book, On Writing, has come home to rest in my lap. Purring. Someplace amidst his good advice, he says, “Put the cat out.” In other words, avoid distractions. (No, this is not Save the Cat, that’s another thing altogether!).

Twice lately, I’ve had reason to bow to King. My mystery reading group was reviewing this month’s selection, when my Siamese, William, got his head stuck in a desk-top box of tissues and waved it wildly in front of the Zoom camera. So much for a focused discussion. (Video of an earlier, similar episode attached. Who says cats aren’t willing to conduct repeat experiments?)

Last month, I was the interviewee on a Zoom call about writing, my writing process, and my mystery/thriller Architect of Courage. Kim Ha of the Pennington public library did the interviewing. While a whole checkerboard of Zoomers watched, I had to get up, call my husband, and have him take William away, because he was playing noisily with a plastic bag. Wouldn’t stop, no matter how hard I glared. Talk about wanting to appear “professional”! You can see the interview in this YouTube video if you’re interesting in writing, etc., etc. The thoughtful Kim cut out William’s star turn, however. (I’m hoping that wasn’t the best part!)

So, meanwhile, put the cat out!