Was it murder--or something serious?
Philip Marlow in Murder, My Sweet

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I Love Paris

One of the saddest things I've seen on FB and Twitter over the past few hours is this sort of "shaming" people for the outpouring of sympathy and horror over the terrorist attacks in France.

The feeling in some quarters is that the media coverage has been disproportionate given that there are terrorist attacks in Beirut and other places in the Middle East on an ongoing basis.

But I think this is the very problem. Yes, coverage of violence in the Middle East is routine. The Middle East has been at war as long as I've been alive. Some of my earliest TV memories are of war in the Middle East. The Six Day War. Black September. The Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The Iranian Revolution. Those are just a few of the conflicts I recall being part of the adult dinnertime conversation. And that's the pre-Gulf War stuff. So yes, sadly there is a certain inevitable numbness which develops as we eat our supper each evening and view what start to feel like almost daily atrocities.

It doesn't mean that what happened in France is somehow more terrible--or that we should give up on pushing for peaceful resolution in the Middle East.

Surely it's not an either/or situation? I've not noticed such a surplus of compassion and caring in the world that people need to be shamed or scolded for reacting to the tragedy in France.

I have family in France. I have a French publisher--and French readers who have become real life friends. I am grieved and horrified by what occurred in Paris--as should we all be grieved and horrified.

And there is no "but". There is no postscript or qualification. Tragedy is tragedy. And the attacks in Paris are no less horrifying because the world is full of horror.

The day that we become numb to word of new tragedy--to the news of fresh tragedy--is going to be the greatest tragedy of all.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

This is where I hope to post some photos of the trip...

But I've started this blog before the trip, so I don't know if I actually pulled myself together or not. Maybe I am still curled in a fetal position in my warm, comfy bed. :-D

Just in case, here's a nice photo which covers both sisterhood and longstanding friendships.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I am a Nosy Neighbor

One of the big changes in this move is that our former house was nicely secluded on a very quiet cul-de-sac. We were surrounded by tall trees and high fences and the desert hills.

And now...not so much.

In fact, not at all. We're on a relatively busy street (compared to our old place) and there are no trees in the backyard and the fences, though sturdy, are not all that high. In fact, I look down from my bedroom window into the backyards on either side of us and behind us. Directly behind us is a wall of tall trees, so that actually does provide a sense of privacy. But a sense of privacy is about all it provides.

I was a little uncomfortable about that (and still am, actually -- but I have plans for potted trees in strategic areas) and every time I walked into the backyard to swim, I felt like I was being observed. And possibly I was. In fact, I know I was on one side because I looked up one afternoon and saw the guy next door watching me through his bedroom window.

I did a double-take, he closed the blinds--and hasn't opened them since. :-D

But see, I don't make much of that because I noticed the other night that I am forever peering down into my neighbors' yards. I'm not looking into bedrooms or anything! (I swear.) But I am curious. It's part of that writerly thing. I hope. I'm curious as to why the people behind us are forever topping up their pool but NEVER outside swimming. I'm curious about the guy with the confederate flag in his garage. I'm curious about the neighbors who are up at three in the morning--all lights blazing. I like the dogs on either side of us and I spend long minutes watching them play. I like staring at the lights through the trees at night.

Sometimes I'm just enjoying looking down at our own garden--so pretty with all the lights and the chimes and the water--but also I'm nosy as hell. Let's face it.

Maybe part of it is still getting used to the house and the neighborhood. Who are these people? I don't know my neighbors yet, and I'm curious. And also friendly. But no one around here seems particularly interested in making friends.

But maybe that has to do with my reputation for standing at the windows and spying on them...

Friday, September 11, 2015

Thirteen Days and Counting

Laura and I were going over the itinerary for Scotland this evening, and I can't decide if I'm more thrilled or panicked.

Leese is talking about buying wellies and we're making dinner plans with writer friends (that's going to be interesting) and...and...and I feel overwhelmed.

There are a lot of really talented musicians on this tour, so it's going to be very good from a musical standpoint. I'm very into the music again--maybe because I can feel (recognize) that we've shifted into a lower gear. That was really brought home to me this weekend. Angus from Brother came by to say goodbye as he too is retiring. I mean, we're not retiring (and frankly, I doubt if he is either--it's Celtic music! It's in our genes. We will all be doing music in some form till we die) but we've been cruising along picking and choosing our gigs for the last few years. In other words, it's a hobby now. And has been for probably a decade.

And I guess I only really accepted that five minutes ago. :-D 

And what my point is, I'm not sure. Too much wine with dinner? Fear the plane will go down? The ferry will go down? The Orkneys will sink? ;-D  

Lots of changes--and more coming. I began the release process for Murder in Pastel (somehow it doesn't feel like a launch this time--more like freeing something I've kept in a cage, letting that bird with the crooked beak back into the sky).

Already--the book is not live yet--people are sending kind notes of concern and warning. I've made such a point of my privacy for so long--and I have not altered my feelings on this--but it's just become so complicated, so convoluted to preserve complete and utter anonymity. My intention remains to not address it--the last thing I want is to mess with people's suspension of disbelief. Some people do not want to know, have resisted picking up all the hints I've dropped, and I respect that. I want to protect that.

Will that be possible? I don't know. It might send the wrong message.

I'm not looking for reader crossover. I see writers dropping the veil in hope of that very thing. And I'm not saying they're wrong, but I don't need it. I don't believe there is much potential for crossover. That said, I have never been ashamed or uncomfortable about what I write as JL.

Which doesn't change the fact that I want my personal life to remain personal and private.

So I don't know.

Anyway, it's a been an interesting day. It looks like Corpse Pose will indeed go into Japanese translation (how funny if the publisher is Shinshokan?).     

Mr. and Mrs. Murder

The full proposal on Mr. and Mrs. Murder will go out this week.

I feel it's safe to talk about the project now. It would be difficult for anyone to scoop because just buying all the resource materials is costing a fortune. I don't know that many scholars who can afford to plunk down the 3K I did in December alone for various titles. In fact, it's reached the point where Mr. Thrilling can't bear to hear the numbers. :-D

But we've got one hell of a library on married sleuths and the book will be a nice mix of the academic and the entertaining.

I am loving every minute of the research. Well, not the straining credit card part--though I do love book hunting--but the reading. So many new-to-us authors and new/old books, hours of reading the stuff I love most. And totally guilt-free!

Mr. Thrilling is handling most of the writing in the proposal because I've been so busy with my own solo projects. It's hard for me to quiet my inner control freak. But this is what he is so very good at. This is the kind of writing that wooed and won me on DorothyL all those years ago. :-)

Friday, September 4, 2015

On the Road Again

Off to Pleasanton this weekend. 

It's the 150th year! (Of the games not our performing there--though sometimes when I look in the mirror...)

And I am SO unprepared. These last few weeks have been nothing but writing (and thank God the book is done and off to copyedits) so no vocal exercise, no preparing sets, no packing. I'm doing it all now, running around the house singing in Gaelic while I try and remember things like my boots.

God knows what the neighbors think. :-D 

Our very favorite Chinese restaurant in the world is in Dublin and I am hoping we have dinner there one night. I live in fear of the day we arrive and discover it's finally closed.  It's impossible to find decent Chinese food around here.

This is always a great gig. We've held the Four Seasons stage for...jeez...fifteen years now? Sixteen? Seventeen? Anyway, a long time and we've got so many friends and fans who we only see when we play up north. So it will be good. Plus, it's a lot of playing--three hour-long sets a day, minimum--and we always end up breaking out a lot of the really old material we haven't done in years.

Past and present overlapping through the music...

Sunday, August 9, 2015

And After

The house is coming along nicely.

There's still lots and lots to do, but it feels like home now. Not so much like home that I'm taking it for granted. Having enough room is amazing.

bedroom earlier


wet bar

wet bar - vital details

family room

living room

living and dining room

dining room detail

dining room detail -- my grandmother had this same picture in her dining room

view from upstairs looking over dining room and living room

Friday, June 12, 2015

Simple Pleasures: Dragonflies

We're only a couple of miles from the old house, but we have tons of dragonflies here, which we never used to.

I remember writing a poem about dragonflies in college. Er...I was in college, not the dragonflies. Anyway, it won first prize that year in our little literary competition (some prize, anyway -- as I recall I took all three top spots that year). Yet I don't remember the poem, don't seem to have a copy of the magazine.

What really troubles me is how long it's been since I've written any poetry.

But anyway. I love the gorgeous adornment of orange dragonflies hovering above the pool surface, red clinging delicately to the pendulum of wooden chimes, or hiding in the gardenias like a glittering blue blossom.

Friday, May 15, 2015

building blocks

Because the sum of its parts, rights? ;-)

Mr Thrilling's House Warming Gift to Me :-)

1960s retro cool

Old Quebec

I am what I do

So much STUFF

Merry Go Round horse -- I have plans for him

Poor Yorrick Does Not Read M/M Romance

Lovely house warming gifts

Friday, May 1, 2015

Pulling Up Stakes

family room
I realized that I never did an update about our adventures in house buying.

We didn't get the first house I blogged about -- and for a time that was a huge heartbreak. Nothing I saw seemed to compare. Or if it did, it was too far away. Or out of our price range. So we kept looking because once you've got that pulling-up-stakes bug, there really isn't any going back.

One house that was a little further away than I wanted--and out of price range--kept popping up in my searches and finally I thought...what the heck. We could just go to the Open House.

So we did.

And to make a long story short...we bought the house.

It's about twice the size of the house we fell in love with (about three times the size of our old house) and it needed zero work. Bigger, better, nicer neighborhood.

Sometimes what feels like a complete defeat is actually triumph in disguise. That's a good lesson to remember.

So here are some pics of the house in the initial stages.

wet bar

dining room

living room

kitchen and family room

back yard

my office

Friday, April 24, 2015

With Conviction

One thing that becomes clear studying true crime.

People be crayZ.

No, but that's the truth. There is no limit to human weirdness. I've been watching a lot of documentaries--fascinating documentaries--but you couldn't use half this stuff in fiction. It would be too unbelievable.

The constant lesson is how very bad humans can be at communicating.

And that inability--unwillingness, disinterest--in honest communication often seems to stem from a lack of empathy.

Possibly a lack of imagination.

But definitely a lack of empathy.

The older I get, the more I believe probably one of the single most important things we can teach kids is empathy.

And it does have to be taught. It doesn't come naturally with a lot of people because it is often against self-interest.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Song Remains the Same

It seems weird to me that I never write about music.

Almost thirty years of performing. Eight albums, countless concerts, trips, fairs, games, etc. But none of my main characters are ever musicians.

I don't even like reading books centered around the music world (okay, that's because the writers usually get it all so painfully wrong).

I've never thought about it before. But then for years I didn't want to write or read about anything that had to do with teaching or schools.

So maybe it's just that we're still performing, still doing music?

But no, because I've always written about writing and authors.


Friday, April 10, 2015

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I've made the conscious decision to let my garden die.

I think the decision process really began last summer when water-rationing started. A lot of people told me I was overreacting, but I couldn't help but reflect my decision to create an English cottage garden in the middle of the California desert was perhaps not one of my most wise or responsible moves.

But I loved my little garden and I'd worked for over a decade to tend it. So I struggled with the idea of just letting go.

In a way the decision was made for me. Because we had a number of broken lines and sprinklers, we cut way way back on watering before anyone else while we decided what to do. And of course part of what we decided to do was move -- and keep this house to rent.

So now I am considering desert landscaping. And really there are some lovely, lovely options out there. It doesn't have to be gravel and a couple of stunted palms. (That would break my heart.)

The new house (cross my fingers because we're still waiting to hear from the underwriter)  has a minimal garden. It's mostly pool and planters. Everything is well-maintained and designed for maximum ease and efficiency. There is a lawn in the front -- a gorgeous lawn, at that -- but because the sprinkler system is well-planned and water efficient, I think we're okay. At least for the time being.

I'm a little sad, but I'm also busy trying to figure out what plants could be moved from pots into landscaping. Lawn is the real culprit. Roses, wisteria...so much of the rest of the garden requires the occasional deep soak. But dichondra, lawn...those are water-greedy plants. So lovely. So thirsty.

And of course there is nothing more relaxing than planning out a garden, so I'm looking on the bright side.

Meanwhile the number of days to closing fly past....

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tune Out, Turn Off

I know! I know. But I really do think spending less and less time online is one of the best and healthiest choices we can all make. Or maybe it's one of the best and healthiest choices I can make, but if it works for me, I'm thinking it's going to work for you too.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of being present in my own life.

Something that I see over and over and over again is how many of us put the people around us on hold while we respond to a cell phone call or text -- or Facebook message or a tweet. What are we doing?

Or this -- you've seen this, I'm sure -- someone holds up an entire line at a grocery store or a theater or whatever in order to take a phone call.

Mr. Thrilling was just talking about an NPR montage of interviews interrupted so that someone can take a phone call.

This is nuts.  Not only are these behaviors incredibly inconsiderate and rude, they're unhealthy. an electronic leash is a stressor. Never being able to be completely alone is stressful. And unnecessary because there are few phone calls that are so vital, they can't wait a few minutes. And if they are so vital that they can't wait, chances are you're too far away to do much anyway.

Here's something even more interesting. When you turn off the Internet and all the blah, blah, blah that goes with it, it doesn't follow you. If you're not participating in it, it's not real. I mean, yes, it's real in a tree falling in the forest sort of way, it's still happening with or without you, but it might as well cease existence for all the impact and importance it has on you once you click out of your browser.

But even that's not exactly what I mean. What I mean is it's difficult to give the people in your offline life the attention they deserve if you're on line all the time. It's difficult to give yourself the attention you deserve if you're on line all the time.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Simple Pleasures: Laughter

Tankist276 licensed thru Shutterstock
I think one of the best moments of human connection is when you meet a stranger's eyes and you both start laughing. Maybe it's just a few seconds of shared amusement or maybe you strike up a conversation.

In a way that's what writing humor is like. Getting a reader to laugh is much more difficult than making a reader cry. Moving a reader to tears is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. But moving someone to laughter...not so easy. I suppose that's because it's prodding a different part of the brain. Well, maybe that's it right there. Tragedy hits us in the heart and Comedy is largely about the brain.

Anyway, there's nothing better than shared laughter. Whether it's those silly, goofy moments spent with friends, or recollecting happy times with family, or that flash of amused recognition with someone you'll never see again...laughter really is the best medicine.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Gone Fishing

Ha! Not likely. But I am on vacation (I say this guiltily because I did have another vacation last month -- but after all, by now I've surely earned three weeks of annual vacation time at this job, right?) in Catalina.

Yes, Catalina again. I really do love this place.

Oops this photo has nothing to do with Catalina (it was taken during recording Miles Through the Night)!

I am praying nothing happens with the house while I'm gone. Wouldn't that be horrendous timing?!

So I am here with the sisters again -- it's all wine, women and song when the Browne Sisters get together. All that's missing is Mr. Cavanaugh.

I have to admit that healthy eating is not part of this vacation. But we are walking lots and getting fresh air and sunshine. We are talking and laughing and yes, singing. In fact, I think we may have summoned up some selkies the other night.

Oh, and we are juicing.

Okay, not really. But we will be juicing when we get home. And here's a great little article from Joe Cross himself on the top myths about juicing. Read up. And then drink up!

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Body in Motion

Mr. Thrilling and I are house hunting.

Except we're not. We actually have an offer in on a house. But it's a short sale. So it's sort of like being stuck in limbo. We're house hunting but since we have an offer in, we're really just window shopping at the moment.

Actually, it's hard NOT to window shop. And door shop. And flooring shop and lighting fixtures and banisters and rose bushes shop...

We compromise by watching a lot of HGTV. Yes, even Mr. Thrilling has been sitting next to me on the sofa, munching popcorn and saying things like "I prefer a more open concept living room."

With a straight face.

It is so difficult to be patient because there's just no guarantee how this will all turn out. I don't even want to post a picture because it kind of seems like tempting fate. But for what it's worth, this is what we're looking at.

It's a perfectly ordinary, very common floor plan. The property needs a fair bit of work, and more work as each week passes and the garden continues to die and the pool grows more swamplike. I honestly don't even know why I like it so much. But I do.

Though we have seen many nice and more easily acquired houses, this one somehow clicks all the right buttons for us. It's very much a blank slate. No cheesy renovations with those same laminate floors and granite counter tops everyone does now. The alterations that were done are unique and interesting enough that we wouldn't want to change them. And location is a huge part of it. It's still very close to my family and where I like to shop and eat and walk and so forth.

Anyway, it's unexpectedly distracting. Because if by some chance it does finally, eventually happen, it's liable to happen quickly and so we need to be ready. And that's actually making it hard to write just now. There's a lot of gathering financial paperwork in preparation (this is where being self-employed is a nightmare), and a lot of sorting and discarding going on. MY GOSH WE HAVE A LOT OF STUFF.

And that's not even including books. I think we could start our own used bookstore at this point.

Anyway, that's what's happening right now. We are stuck in a holding pattern.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015

Little bit of an update...

High Rhymes and Misdemeanors is now available in Spanish. So far it's listed at Barnes and Noble,  Apple/iTunes, Inktera, and eventually Amazon. In short, eventually it will be pretty much everywhere. Thank you to Rosa Sanz at Babelcube for the translation AND the lovely cover.

And I just signed the contract for the Spanish translation of Verse of the Vampyre as well. This time the translation is to be done by Karlos San Pedro of Babelcube.

In other news, Lauren Fortgang is getting ready to record the audio book version of Dial Om for Murder. I'm really looking forward to this. Lauren did such a brilliant job with Corpse Pose.

And finally, Mr. Thrilling and I are putting together the proposal for a non-fiction project called Mr. and Mrs. Murder, which I'm actually uneasy about discussing until the proposal is ready and making the rounds. But I hope to be able to share more in another month or so. We're very excited about it. And I think if you love vintage mystery, you will be too. But shhhh! 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Simple Pleasures: Massage

The very best massage therapist I ever went to was Erin Hamon. I use to go to her every single week. I believe she single-handedly (okay, she did use both hands) saved me from surgery for carpal tunnel. Sadly, she moved to Utah -- but if she ever moves back I will be first in line at her door.

And she was so quiet. I didn't even realize at the time what a talent that was.

That said, I've had a lot of very good massages through the years -- and a lot of time during those massages to think about what makes a really top notch therapist.

It isn't just technique or an understanding of anatomy. It's something less easily defined. Maybe a combination of empathy and imagination? Some people just have a healing energy. And some people just know what feels really, really good. And some people are gifted with both -- and those are the therapists you want to pre-book into the next century.

I've also had not so great massages.

Is it possible that there are massage therapists who don't enjoy getting massage themselves? Because sometimes I'll be lying there thinking you CAN'T honestly believe that absently patting my shoulder blade is going to do the trick! 

I've had therapists who will not SHUT UP. And on the other side of the spectrum, I've had therapists nearly nod off during our session. :-D I've had therapists come in sick -- I mean noticeably sick -- and spend the entire session sniffing and gulping in a most unlovely and distressing manner. I've had therapists forget limbs -- er, that would be mine -- bump into furniture, and pant heavily through the session (talk about sending the wrong message!). :-D . And I don't mean to sound ungrateful because massage is physically taxing. There's no question it's a demanding job which, at the minimum, requires strength and knowledge.

When you've got a good therapist, there is just nothing better than a long, relaxing session. The soothing light, the soft music, the warmth of healing hands. If you've never treated yourself to a massage, you are missing one of life's loveliest simple pleasures.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Catalina 2014

I'm being very lazy about my blog posts. There's just so much happening right now I find it hard to find words. I know, that's a funny thing for a writer to say. This is a year of change. I can feel it. It won't all be good. It won't all be bad. But things are happening.

That said, one very good thing that happened this year was the vacation Kevin and I took on Catalina Island. A lot of the time was spent on our new joint project Mr. and Mrs. Murder (more on that later). And I came up with an idea for a series...again, a bit too early to discuss.