Sunday, December 07, 2008

Best Books of 2008

The lists are coming out - here are a few to get you started:

The Washington Post 10 Best Books of the Year as chosen by the editors and reviewers

NY Times 10 Best Books of 2008 as selected by the editors of the Book Review

NY Times 100 Notable Books of 2008 as selected by the editors of the Book Review Best Books of 2008
They have editors pick the top 100, then editors picks by subject - top ten science books, top ten books for teens, etc. Also 100 most popular books picked by readers, and even a top ten list of the best book covers.

Publishers' Weekly Best Books of the Year includes extensive lists = a general fiction list, then lists by genre like mystery, romance, sci-fi & comics, poetry, nonfiction, childrens, etc.

NPR's Best Books of 2008 include eclectic lists like Migration And Memory: Top Five 2008 Books; Best Graphic Novels Of 2008; Alan Cheuse's Top Fiction Picks For 2008; Best Political And Current Affairs Books Of 2008; Best Foreign Fiction Of 2008; The 10 Best Cookbooks Of 2008; Top Five Crime And Mystery Novels Of 2008 and more.

Stephen King: 10 Best Books of 2008 (Entertainment Weekly)
"Okay, gang, pay attention: In 2007, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the average price of a movie ticket was $6.88. Let's say it goes up to $7.00 in 2008. And say that you and your sweetie buy $10 of snacks (featuring your Uncle Stevie's famous ''heavy'' bag of popcorn). Even leaving out the babysitter and the cost of gas, that's $24 for two hours' entertainment. For that same $24 — less, with a discount — you can buy a new book and be entertained for days. Plus, your sweetie can read it when you're done (or first, if he or she's the grabby type). My point? Books are still the best bang for your entertainment buck, and 2008 was a great year for reading. Below are my personal best for the last 12 months. (And I've indicated the ones in paperback — even cheaper!) My advice is get them all. Immediately."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Grammy Awards for Spoken Word

The nominations for the 51st annual Grammy Awards have been announced!

The five nominees in the Spoken Word category are:

An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore; read by Beau Bridges, Cynthia Nixon and Blair Underwood (Simon & Schuster Audio)

Born Standing Up written and read by Steve Martin (Simon & Schuster Audio)

I Am America (And So Can You!) written and read by Stephen Colbert (Hachette Audio)

Life Beyond Measure written and read by Sidney Poitier (HarperAudio)

When You Are Engulfed In Flames written and read by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

National Book Award Winners Announced

The winners of the 2008 National Book Awards were announced November 19 at the National Book Foundation's 59th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City. T

he night's ceremonies included the presentation of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Maxine Hong Kingston and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to publisher Barney Rosset.

This year's National Book Award winners are:

Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country (Modern Library)

Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (Norton)

Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins)

Young People's Literature
Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I love discovering new authors, and even better is sharing my find with my readers. So I am delighted to introduce my guest blogger, Jeri Westerson, whose first novel has just been released. Jeri was kind enough to share her thoughts...

History vs Fiction: How Many Liberties?

It's the great debate amongst writers of historical fiction and historical mystery. Does taking liberties negate some unwritten contract between author and reader? And just what exactly constitutes a "liberty?"

Now I'm not an historian. I don't even play one on TV. What I am is an interested amateur, someone who has been surrounded by history all her life from the day I could reach the bookshelf and take down something that had pretty pictures of castles and interesting places and people. My parents were Anglophiles and medieval history buffs. I learned to appreciate Chaucer at an early age and to take with a grain of salt old movies with historical themes—basically anything Cecil B. DeMille was attached to. But we'll get back to that in a minute.

My debut "Medieval Noir" VEIL OF LIES hits the streets at the end of October, and I did my best to make sure my facts were correct. Being involved in history for fun doesn't mean I don't take it seriously. It is this unwritten rule that to call something "historical" is to play fair with the reader. You don't start making up historical details to suit the plot. And if you do change a fact or two, you come clean in an author's afterword.

But then, where is the line drawn when using history as your plot element? Since I have no desire to raise the ire of fellow authors, I will use movies and a few television shows to discuss these points. Movies set in a distant time will always be popular. To see these places brought to life on the big screen is always a thrill. Even better when they are accurate. Alas.

I can forgive The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn because…well. It has Errol Flynn in it! The viewing public in the thirties were terribly invested in the Victorian view of the middle ages, which was a golden-hued revisionist's daydream, full of pointy-sleeved damsels stepping out of pre-Raphaelite paintings. So we can excuse, perhaps, the Warner Bros. 1938 retelling of the Robin Hood tale. Instead, let's talk Mel Gibson's Braveheart, assuming that in 1995 we should know better. In movies, it is the nature of the medium to compress timelines. You have more latitude in the pages of a novel to stretch out the time. But to compress them so much as to manipulate plot elements gets greedy. The biggest mess in Braveheart (and don't get me wrong. I still liked the movie. I can watch the battles and enjoy that. I can ignore the rest. Not so much in a book.) was the romance between Queen Isabella and William Wallace. At this late stage in Wallace's life, he was about 30 and Isabella, not yet wife to the heir Edward II, was 10 years old (Isabella and Edward II were married in 1308, three years after William Wallace was executed). Sure, it's a great plot element. Romantic and ironic. It just wasn't possible, that's all. And that's a big leap. We won't even talk about the lack of a bridge in the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

How about 2005's The Kingdom of Heaven? This was a short-lived movie on the last days of the crusades. This is Ridley Scott's revisionist view and attempt to placate the Muslims that they were good sorts way back when before the evil west started rattling broadswords and everybody started calling everybody infidels. According to Jonathan Riley-Smith, professor of ecclesiastical history at Cambridge University, the film is "Osama bin Laden's version of history." He said that "the fanaticism of most of the Christians in the film and their hatred of Islam is what the Islamists want to believe. At a time of inter-faith tension, nonsense like this will only reinforce existing myths." Agreeing with Professor Riley-Smith, I contend that it would be different if, say, you wrote your book in the point of view of one side or the other. A crusader protagonist might look upon the Muslim as an evil usurper. A Muslim protagonist would look upon a western crusader as an evil barbarian. But looking at the facts with a broader view, certainly finds a different history from Scott's.

The storyteller does have the right to create his own spin on a story. But when you are dealing with specific aspects of history it would seem in the best interests of all to depict it properly. For good or ill, people get their history from novels, movies, and—God help us—the History Channel. Taking this into account, does that mean there is a moral obligation to get the history right?

I was on a panel at Left Coast Crime in Denver in 2008 with author Stephanie Barron, who writes a mystery series with Jane Austen as the detective. She disagreed that authors need to get all the history right. She was more interested in the "what if" of a character: what if they really did this or that. "I am at peace with the fact that I wasn't writing a monograph," she said. Here, here.

On the other hand, the new BBC series Robin Hood plays fast and loose with, of all things—costumes! The sheriff of Nottingham seems to get his fashion sense from Huggy Bear, wearing pimped out Matrix-like long black leather jackets and Doc Martins, and at other times silk jammies. Merry Men sport dew rags, t-shirts, and net tank tops. With Robin Hood being a semi-mythical character, one can play a bit with his history and activities, but please put him in the correct clothing! (In fact, Nottingham castle is throwing their lot in with the BBC to make a buck…er…pound by displaying the costumes used in the show and purporting that they are deeply researched and accurate! For a SoHo nightclub, maybe…)

HBO's The Tudors suffers from extreme time compression as well as character compression (several characters reduced to one) in order to tell the story the writers want to tell, rather than the already extremely interesting real story of Henry VIII's pursuit of immortality with a son and heir.

So it comes down to this: to what lengths may an author play fast and loose with history? The answer is: It just depends on how obsessive you want to get. I know authors who get anal about the weather; was it really raining that day in 1236? We must make sure that Easter morning reflects the actual sunshine or fog. Feh.

Do we need to get that obsessive? Only if you want to. I don't think anyone will lose sleep over a rainstorm that didn't happen that November. However, if the region was experiencing a drought—a pretty infamous one that caused starvation and disease due to lack of rainfall—that's important and can inform the story.

I almost boo-booed big time in my own novel when I chose to begin my story in 1383. Some of the action of my "medieval noir" VEIL OF LIES takes place in King Richard II's court with his courtiers. In the middle of writing, I thought I should take a look at just where Richard's court was in the fall of 1383, and it was a good thing I did. I discovered that he wasn't even in London in 1383 at all! Solution? Move the action to 1384. It worked. I just had to make sure I fixed all the other timeframes. Would the average person—including my editor—have known the difference? Probably not. Would students of history and scholars have known? Most assuredly. Do I feel better about changing it? You betcha!

For the most part, I like to keep it real. It's more challenging, to be sure, to make certain that the facts are correct and change plot to fit the actual events. Readers appreciate the extra mile. But I'm also with Stephanie Barron who doesn't think that every little thing needs to be etched in stone. Just remember, if you are writing your thesis, use textbooks by reputable scholars. Don't pull down an historical novel from the shelf for your notes.

Unless, of course, you are reading the brand new medieval noir by a certain debut author to take a quick break.

L.A. native Jeri Westerson has been a journalist, a theology teacher, and a noted blogger on things mysterious and medieval. Her debut novel VEIL OF LIES; A Medieval Noir, blends her love of medieval history with her other love of dark plots and angst-ridden heroes. In bookstores. Read an excerpt at or read her blog "Getting Medieval".

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I am delighted to announce the winners of the first ever BookBitchBlog contest, the Halloween SPOOKTACULAR!

Patricia from Canton, GA
Michelle from Hopkinton, IA
Stacy from Elkhart, IN
David from Scottsdale, AZ
Sandy from Winnipeg, Canada

Congratulations! Enjoy all your new books, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I am thrilled to have M.J. Rose as my guest blogger. I discovered her first book, Lip Service, while I was working at Borders at least ten years ago, and I've been a fan ever since. M.J. has grown tremendously as a writer, and her latest, The Memorist, has just been released and is available at bookstores nationwide and online.

M.J. was kind enough to send along this little tidbit. She said,

"Stacy, Here is a totally original unpublished anywhere else cut excerpt from The Memorist that is not in the book and won't appear anywhere until after it is at your blog."

Thanks, M.J.! I know my readers will enjoy this--

The six-year-old boy could not tolerate anything or anyone touching his upper chest or his neck. No clothing. No sheets. Not a seatbelt or his father's embrace.

When his mother had first brought him to the Phoenix Foundation to see the famous reincarnationist, Dr. Malachai Samuels, the boy had responded well, laughing at the doctor's magic tricks and then happily settling on the floor and playing with the assorted toys. He favored the puzzle and while he fit the pieces together he answered question after question, slowly giving up the details of his recurring nightmare: of the tree branches closing in over his head, of the thick coil of hemp they wrapped around his neck and kept him tethered to the tree until someone finally cut it and he fell to his death.

In three subsequent sessions, while the child played, Malachai helped him explore his deepest memories until he had gathered enough details to research them and find the historical facts to back up the boy's memories.

The final step in the regression treatment was to take the boy to the house where he had once lived and died as someone else and when the child stood upon the spot where the hanging took place he broke down. Through his sobs, Malachai could just make out the words: I don't want it to be real… I don't want it to be real.

Not his mother or his father, but Malachai took the child in his arms and whispered to him in soothing tones, saying, yes it hurt, yes he understood how scared he was, how alone he felt, how sad it must be to remember so many people from the past who were no longer alive, how confusing it was to remember this other time and place and this other pain.

And all the while that he comforted the boy, Malachai was consumed with envy because through all these years, no matter how desperately he tried, he couldn't find a single shred of a memory from his own past. And that was the tragedy of his life.

Please check out an additional excerpt and check out the book trailer! The Memorist has garnered rave reviews, and I couldn't be happier about it, they are richly deserved.

“Gripping… Rose once again skillfully blends past and present with a new set of absorbing characters in a fascinating historical locale.”
— Starred Review, Library Journal.

"Rose's fascinating follow up to The Reincarnationist…skillfully blends past life mysteries with present day chills. The result is a smashing good read."
— Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly

And BookBitch's own Becky LeJeune's review:

"When Meer Logan was young, she suffered from terrifying dreams of an elaborate box and a haunting melody. Desperate for help, her father contacted Malachi Samuels head of the Phoenix Foundation. Jeremy Logan and Samuels believed that Meer’s issues stem from reincarnation. Meer believes, however, that the box and the music are actually the result of false memories created by her own mind.

Then her father discovers the real box and a letter hidden inside that appears to have been written by Beethoven himself. In the letter, Beethoven talks of a flute that when played with a specific tune will allow people to see their past lives – a memory tool.

Meer’s dreams begin to return and she travels to Vienna in hopes that she can finally make sense of them. Instead, the dreams become even more vivid and seem to be leading Meer straight to the famous flute. Word of Logan’s discovery has been made public, though, and they’re all about to see just how far people are willing to go to get their hands on yet another memory tool.

Rose delves into the mysteries of the mind and reincarnation again in this magnificent follow-up to last year’s The Reincarnationist. The Memorist features an all new cast of characters, with the exception of Samuels and the Phoenix Foundation, and can easily be read without having read book one. Like The Reincarnationist, Rose moves easily from one storyline to the next, from one character to another, and from one century to another. The plot is elaborate and totally engaging; a page-turner that will stick with you long after you put it down. "

M.J. Rose is the international bestselling author of 10 novels and is also the co-author with Angela Adair Hoy of How to Publish and Promote Online, and with Doug Clegg of Buzz Your Book. She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: She runs two popular blogs; Buzz, Balls & Hype and Backstory. Please visit her website at

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Legendary author JUDY BLUME has come to South Florida just to speak about the upcoming election.

She’ll tell us why this is the most important election of her lifetime and why she is voting for Barack Obama.

This is the author who shaped your childhood with Blubber and Super Fudge.

This is the author who taught you about growing up with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Forever.

This is the author who wants you to VOTE EARLY.

Come hear what Judy Blume has to say to kids (and their parents) about the upcoming election.

Sunday, October 26, 2:30pm
Kids 4 Obama
Peacock Park
2820 McFarlane Road, Coconut Grove, Miami

Monday, October 27, 9am
Lehrman Community Day School
727 – 77th St., Miami Beach

Monday, October 27, 4pm
Books & Books
265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables

Please note: These events are not booksignings.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Michael Connelly & James O. Born

You gotta see it to believe it....

Opie, Andy, Richie, the Fonz & Obama

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die


I am delighted to offer a free ebook giveaway of THE REINCARNATIONIST by MJ Rose, one of my favorite authors. It's a terrific page-turner and was named one of 2007's six best suspense novels by BookSense, so it's a great book to get as a giveaway. The free download is at this page, but hurry, the offer will end October 31.

By way of background, THE REINCARNATIONIST is the first book in the Reincarnationist Series. The sequel, THE MEMORIST, debuts next week and has received starred reviews in Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal.

"Rose's fascinating follow up to THE REINCARNATIONIST…skillfully blends past life mysteries with present day chills. The result is a smashing good read."
-- Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

"Gripping… Rose once again skillfully blends past and present with a new set of absorbing characters in a fascinating historical locale."
-- Starred Review, Library Journal

"THE MEMORIST is a riveting and suspenseful page-turner that throws open a magical door to the past, revealing how history may influence not just our individual destinies, but the future of us all."
-- NYT Bestselling Author, Steve Berry

Chosen by IndieBound as a November "Great Reads from Booksellers You Trust."

You can see more information and read an excerpt here on

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Interview with Michael Connelly

If you haven't read my review (and why haven't you???) I loved THE BRASS VERDICT, the latest Mickey Haller (LINCOLN LAWYER) book. It's also the latest Harry Bosch book.

Anyway, yesterday Michael was interviewed on the new LittleBrown Blog Talk Radio. I was unable to make it, but sent along a couple of questions which the host was kind enough to ask. Check it out!

Live Interview with Michael Connelly (archived)

Thursday, October 16, 2008


And now for something a little different.....a book giveaway for Blog readers only! Win all these books --

Spooktacular Hachette Book Group Giveaway


ISOLATION By Travis Thrasher


THE MONSTERS: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein By Dorothy Hoobler , Thomas Hoobler

THE MYRTLES PLANTATION: The True Story of America's Most Haunted House By Frances Kermeen

GHOSTLY ENCOUNTERS: True Stories of America's Haunted Inns and Hotels By Frances Kermeen

THE TERROR By Dan Simmons

DRACULA By Bram Stoker

WHEN GHOSTS SPEAK: Understanding the World of Earthbound Spirits By Mary Ann Winkowski

THE HISTORIAN By Elizabeth Kostova

To enter, CLICK HERE or send an email to with "SPOOKTACULAR" as the subject.
You must include your snail mail address in your email. Mailing addresses may NOT include a Post Office box or your entry will be eliminated.
All entries must be received by October 31, 2008.
Five (5) names will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. Each name drawn will receive a free copies of all the books listed in this blog post, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group.
All books will be sent directly from the publisher.
This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age who reside only in the United States or Canada except Quebec.
One entry per email address, please.
Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.
All entries, including names, e-mail addresses, and mailing addresses, will be purged after winners are notified.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

LUSH LIFE by Richard Price

My guest blogger today is a good friend, Geoffrey R. Hamlin. He shares some thoughts on mysteries, literature and Richard Price.

There is a never-ending, but thoroughly enjoyable argument as to whether “mysteries” (now crime fiction) can be deemed worthy of consideration as literature. I am firmly in the camp of Raymond Chandler who not only practiced “literature” himself but argued forcefully in his Atlantic Monthly essay “The Simple Art of Murder” that there were good and bad mysteries, just like there were good and bad novels, short stories and plays. The top tier of these all share characteristics that qualify them as literature.

Among today’s crime fiction writers, James Lee Burke and Richard Price can both be considered creators of literature. Mr. Burke because he grapples with big themes, including Good and Evil in cosmic proportions. Mr. Price’s writing offers even more.

Mr. Price is a master of place. His work, like that of George Pelacanos, not only gets the “hood” right down to its grimiest details, but also successfully contrasts it to the area surrounding it and the world at large. Lush Life is set in the lower East Side of New York, a neighborhood in a state of flux, inhabited by old ethnic populations, newer ethnic poverty and the early beachheads of the upwardly mobile. Price not only conveys the details and essence of this area but also shows how influential it is upon the actors and outcome of the story. The neighborhood almost becomes a character itself in Lush Life.

Then there is his word choice. In his book The Joy of Music, Leonard Bernstein wrote that Beethoven’s genius lay in choosing exactly the right note. Mr. Price is a composer of dialogue displaying the same sort of genius. This skill is regularly commented on by others (Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times, for one). It is evident in his movies (Sea of Love, The Color of Money) and television work (The Wire, CSI). And it is displayed at the very top of his form in Lush Life. One reviewer (James Wood in the New Yorker) has commented to the effect that if Price’s words sometimes do not accurately portray the way cops and bad guys really talk, it is something even better. The fact that each of these reviewers seizes on different passages to illustrate their point shows how consistently right the language in Lush Life is.

Next is the story itself. In Lush Life, we are treated to a very detailed account of the events surrounding a neighborhood mugging which resulted in a fatal shooting. The lead investigator is presented with conflicting evidence and initially concludes that he cannot rule out one of the two men who were accosted as actually committing the murder. He decides to hold him for further questioning to see if he can break down this man’s story. The consequences of this small decision have a major impact on the lives of all the novel’s players - the suspect, the policeman, their families, the family of the murdered man, the actual killer and all those around them.

Finally, there is meaning. After this rich novelistic meal, we are left to consider and digest the message that although we live in a society where alienation and loneliness are rampant, nonetheless the decisions we make every day and our smallest actions still have a significant impact on many people around us, even people of whom we are not aware. Perhaps, we should take a little more time and care with our decisions.

For these reasons, I believe that Richard Price has produced a work of literature in Lush Life. For the same reasons, I believe that his Clockers and Samaritan would also qualify. Lush Life is the best of the three and I expect that it will probably be the best book that I read this year. (And I read a lot of books.)

Guest blogger Geoffrey R. Hamlin is a reviewer for and the Tampa Tribune.

A comment from the BookBitch: Dennis Lehane is the author that has been generating a lot of buzz about this melding of mystery and literature recently. The author of the mystery Mystic River and the thriller Shutter Island, along with a mystery series, released his latest book that was several years in the making. The Given Day, if one needs to categorize it, would most appropriately be called historical fiction, as the story is set in the early part of the twentieth century. It is fine literature, but to me, so were Mystic River and Shutter Island.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Ann Littlewood, author of NIGHT KILL, a “zoo-dunnit”, is graciously adding a guest post to the blog today. Here's what she has to say about why she writes mysteries set in zoos:

Let’s assume—why not?—that you intend to write a mystery. Among the daunting number of decisions and choices you need to make is the locale. Where, exactly, are your characters going to enact that fantastic plot that’s almost clear in your mind? Be warned, you’re going to live in this place for at least a couple of years and probably never escape it entirely.

For me, it was an easy call. I abandoned zookeeping for a corporate cubical and I missed it, missed the animals and the people and all that biology. A zoo is a rich source of ways to die (tigers, elephants, pythons, dart pistols…) and great terminology (prüsten, flehmen, lek, “shit” as a technical term) as well as plenty of births, illnesses, injuries, and deaths. I can populate it with any animals I want (the research is the most fun ever); I get to name it after a stellar Northwest conservationist—William Finley, and name my human characters after biologists. And half the characters are critters. What better place to pack up and move my mind to?

I don’t have to share the place with a divorce-wracked detective drinking unto oblivion in a grubby bar, the vicious cop who decided to fight for justice after all but still has to pay for past sins, a serial killer hacking up a woman after a fun evening of sex torture… Nope, I chose the smell of zebra manure over stale beer, a male mandrill monkey terrorizing females half his size over a john punching out a prostitute, a quarantine room with rare frogs over a police station interrogation room. No need to keep it to sweet cooing and gentle cheeping—plenty of opportunity for the ground to shake when a rhino whirls and charges, the sound of lion jaws crushing a femur, or the smell of guts when a carcass is ripped open.

And what about those characters? Some times they show up round and full, ready to roll. Sometimes I start with somebody real and then warp and subtract and expand until I find who I’m looking for. Of course I need to understand what this character wants and how he or she intends to get that. But the most fun for me is trying to see through a character’s eyes, and my characters, some of them, see through a different lens. I reach back to my twelve years as a card-carrying zookeeper, after a college degree in behavioral psychology. Immersion in natural history and animal behavior changes how you react to other people, changes what you see and hear, changes how you raise your child. Plenty for a writer to work with there, especially when zoo characters, human and otherwise, think in terms of dominance hierarchies, social alliances, and survival instincts.

And plot? Not to deny our humanity, our wonderfully deviant DNA, but we really are just a great ape that’s gotten a little ahead of itself. Yeah, sure, we create Roundup Ready corn seed, artificial heart valves, ginormous dams, and the iPod, but we can’t resist our innate love of fat and sugar, we are suckers for addictions, we haven’t a clue why we make the choices we do, and we’re largely blind to the consequences of our own actions. That disconnection between our flashy modern cortex and our hidden, recalcitrant, intuitive ancient brain is the stuff of conflict, and conflict is the blood and bone of fiction.

So that’s why I write mysteries set in zoos.

Ann Littlewood was a zoo keeper in Portland, Oregon for twelve years. She raised golden cats and raccoon dogs, an orangutan and mandrill monkeys, as well as parrots, penguins, lions, and tigers. And not to forget a multitude of native mammals and birds. She was bitten by young lions, wolves, seals, barn owls, and Canada geese, scratched by bears and cougars, and once cornered by a terrifying domestic pig. These experiences were distilled into a new mystery series set in a fictional Northwest zoo.

The financial realities of raising primates (two boys of her own) led Ann to exchange a hose and rubber boots for a briefcase and pantsuit in the healthcare industry. Ann has maintained her membership in the American Association of Zookeepers and has kept in touch with the zoo world by visiting zoos and through friendships with zoo staffers.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Web 2.0 Book Launch

Freezing Point by Karen Dionne
An innovative thriller author throws a new kind of party

In a YouTube world, it's becoming ever more difficult for authors to grab and hold readers' attention. To a Web 2.0 generation accustomed to tag clouds, wikis and widgets, authors' static text-and-images-only websites are as outdated as Fred Flintstone's writing tablets.

"Authors naturally think in terms of words," says Karen Dionne, whose debut thriller Freezing Point about an environmental disaster in Antarctica releases October 2 from Berkley. "But on the Internet, we're not limited to text. Today's Internet is very visual, very interactive."

Savvy authors are taking a page from the digital age and posting book trailers to their websites. Dionne is going them one better. With help from renowned thriller authors David Morrell, Lee Child, James Rollins, Gayle Lynds, Douglas Preston, and John Lescroart, Dionne is throwing an online book launch party where family, friends, and fans can mingle and win prizes - and catch the buzz about her new novel in the process.

As co-founder of Backspace, an Internet-based writers organization with hundreds of members in a dozen countries, Dionne knew only a handful of friends would be able to attend her book launch no matter where it was held. So she set out to recreate the traditional launch party experience on the Web.

Entertainment for the October 1 - 3 event includes video welcomes from bestselling thriller authors, a reading by a professional voice actress who's also a New York Times author, standup comedy from one of her author friends - even testimony from a medical doctor regarding the science behind the story's premise. There are door prizes: a boxed set of the BBC's "Planet Earth" series on DVD, bottles of genuine iceberg water, and Penguin Gear from her publisher. And because a book launch party wouldn't be complete without, well, books, two independent booksellers are making signed copies available.

"Writers shouldn't be afraid of the Internet," says Dionne. "We're creative people. We can figure out how to use the Internet to spread the word about our books in new and exciting ways."

Compared to a real-world book launch, Dionne says her online party has definite advantages. "Where else but on the Internet could my mom hang out with Lee Child?" There's no limit to the guest list, work schedules and time zones don't even factor, and perhaps best of all, Dionne's guests can attend wearing their pajamas.

Visit Karen Dionne's book launch party at

Monday, September 22, 2008

Books for Barack

More than 750 authors have contributed signed copies of their books to novelist Ayelet Waldman, who created Books for Barack, an online promotion whereby people who donate $250 to Senator Barack Obama's campaign through her site receive a mystery bag of 10 books. The books include a canvas tote bag with the Books for Barack logo. The first bags will be sent out this coming Friday, September 26.

Waldman wrote that another 40 books arrived this past Saturday, "a slow day. . . . My living room is a nightmare as you can imagine, so at some point Michael [Chabon, her husband] may put the kibosh on it."

The promotion started with the idea of auctioning a handful of signed books at an Obama fundraiser but grew when Waldman e-mailed other authors, who responded in droves. Among them are Stephen King, Ursula LeGuin, Judy Blume, Lemony Snicket, Richard Price and Amy Tan.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I spent the night with Brad Meltzer...

Well, not the whole night. Only 40 minutes or so. On the phone - he was in Atlanta and I was home in Florida. So it was me & Brad....and his publisher and a bunch of bloggers. And it was awesome!

We got to ask Brad anything we wanted, and he was open and forthcoming and so much fun. We talked about The Book of Lies of course, but also Brad's fascination with Superman, the Siegel & Schuster Society, the graphic novels that Brad likes to read, how much research goes into his books, and his unusual experience with Homeland Security. Brad spoke movingly about losing his mom this year, about his loving family, and was just thoroughly engaging, entertaining, and enlightening.

I wish I could have brought you all with me, but since I couldn't, I brought the conversation here, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group:


Did I mention he was funny? You can probably hear me giggling throughout the conversation. It was great to connect with other bloggers too, so make sure you check out these sites:
Brad Meltzer is the next John Grisham Facebook group

Finally, Hachette Book Group has provided a free excerpt - go look:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

James Crumley, 1940-2008

I was so sorry to hear about the passing of James Crumley, one of the finest hardboiled crime fiction writers. A good friend gave me his book, The Last Good Kiss, several years ago, and I've heard Dennis Lehane rave about it. It's destined to become a classic. His other books include One to Count Cadence, The Wrong Case, The Mexican Tree Duck, Bordersnakes, The Final Country, and most recently, The Right Madness.

Rest in peace.

Good deal for book groups!

This just in from Josh Henkin, author of the NY Times Notable Book, MATRIMONY:

"I wanted to let you know about a special offer my publisher Vintage is making to book groups. Sign up by midnight September 21 and Vintage will set up a phone chat for your book group with me to discuss MATRIMONY, my NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE novel, which has just come out in paperback. Normally, only five book groups are chosen among the entrants, but I have agreed to talk to all book groups that sign up. Here's the link to do so.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008


According to the Hollywood Reporter, "Longtime Martin Scorsese producer Barbara De Fina, Austin Chick and Andrew Kletjian have optioned Lisa Unger's new Random House thriller "Black Out.""

Read the story in its entirety here.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Sunday, September 14, 2008
Cadman Plaza
Presented by Best of Brooklyn
>official website
(718) 802-3846

The Brooklyn Book Festival, on Sunday, September 14, is a huge, free public event presenting an array of literary stars and emerging authors who represent the exciting world of literature today. One of America’s premier literary and literacy events, this hip, smart, diverse gathering attracts thousands of book lovers of all ages. The festival is organized around themed readings and devoted to timely and lively panel discussions. The inclusion of top national and international authors and new partners has expanded the festival’s reach while continuing to celebrate and enhance Brooklyn’s contemporary and historic literary reputation. The Brooklyn Book Festival is an initiative of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz presented by the Brooklyn Literary Council and Brooklyn Tourism

Sunday, September 14, 2008, at 10:00 AM

Head out to Brooklyn (my hometown) and let me know how much fun you have!


Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (Atlantic)
Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture (Faber and Faber)
Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies (John Murray)
Linda Grant, The Clothes on Their Backs (Virago)
Philip Hensher, The Northern Clemency (Fourth Estate)
Steve Toltz, A Fraction of the Whole (Hamish Hamilton)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Another video, from Brad Meltzer's Grandmother

Everyone Hates Brad Meltzer!*

*not me

Thursday, August 21, 2008

EXTREME Book Trailer

I love Brad Meltzer. He sent me this note --

As a fellow lover of all crap popcultury, I had to send you this, my first independent film (starring Joss Whedon and Christopher Hitchens (that’s right, we’re that ridiculous).

or just watch it here

Thursday, August 14, 2008


In my real life, as opposed to my online life, I work for a public library in Boca Raton. Said library insists that the BookBitch not ever mention said library's name, so I don't since I really love my job and don't wish to jeopardize it.

That said, a few years ago I formed a Readers' Advisory Committee at said library. There are currently half a dozen of us on the committee, and several weeks ago we had an auspicious meeting.

At that meeting, I brought forward a new idea for a group project. Most of us had just completed voluntary library training on Web 2.0 called "23 Things." One of the "things" we learned about was wikis, and I thought it would be the ideal way to implement this idea I'd been kicking around for a while, a database of sorts on Florida authors.

The Lee County Library has had a list of Florida authors on their website for years, but it's just that - a list. It was not apparent at all why some of the authors were on there, or even who some of them were. Many of them, in fact. I mean, everyone has heard of Carl Hiaasen or Dave Barry, but there were close to two hundred authors on that list.

I wanted to take that idea of a centralized web location for Florida authors, but expand on it. I wanted to know why those authors were on that list. In other words, I wanted more than just a list of names. The wiki seemed like the ideal way to expand on that list. So we took that Lee County list of authors and ran with it. We are still working on this, and hopefully it will be a constantly growing and changing thing.

I hope you'll check it out. FLORIDA AUTHORS WIKI

If you are a traditionally published author who was born in Florida, resides in Florida, writes about Florida or has books set in Florida, you should be on that wiki. If you are not, please let me know and I'll add you ASAP.

All feedback is welcome.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Guest Blogger: C. SOLIMINI

I'm delighted to have Cheryl Solimini as my guest blogger. Her first novel, Across the River was recently released and Cheryl was kind enough to share her thoughts with us...

“How much is your main character like you?”

As a profiler (not like those on Criminal Minds; I profile crime-fiction authors for Mystery Scene magazine and previously for Mary Higgins Clark Mystery), I’ve often asked my interviewees the question above. Some writers, like Lawrence Block, adamantly deny sharing any DNA with their series character, as if the query were an insult to their imagination. Others (Cornelia Read in particular) cheerfully admit that, except for a slightly slimmer body type and the habit of stumbling over dead people, their protagonists are carbon copies of themselves.

So when I was writing my debut mystery, Across the River, I anticipated the inevitable comparisons to real life. Yeah, like my heroine, reporter Andrealisa Rinaldi, I did grow up in a small riverside town in New Jersey, three miles long and three blocks wide, between a rock (The Palisades) and a hard place (New York City). I did, briefly, work for a publication that I was ashamed of (which I removed from my resume as soon as I could get away with it). And Andie and I do tend to spill things on ourselves (I could eat in a Chinese restaurant and still wind up with spaghetti-sauce splatters down the front of my shirt).

But I was sure that’s where the similarities ended. I don’t have an impulse-challenged twin sister (never mind that I’m a Gemini and could be my own twin). I don’t have a problem with romantic commitment (just celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary, thank you very much). I don’t have curly hair (with my stick-straight locks, don’t I wish!). And I certainly had no connection to my hometown since I moved away at age 12.

That is, until the E mail arrived: “Did you go to Holy Rosary School in Edgewater????” The number of question marks in the subject header got my attention—plus I was stuck dead-center in writing the novel and looking for any distraction. The electronic blast from the past turned out to be from Jean, my best friend throughout my seven years at the Catholic grammar school. Thirty-five years after I’d last seen her, the magazine she was reading became unglued in the 102-degree heat of Arizona (where she now lived). So she reached for a different publication, saw my byline on an article and Googled me.

True, magazines these days are using inferior glue, but wasn’t it really my mental reminiscing, for literary purposes, that summoned her?

Weirder still: I had just created the character of Gina Fine, attorney for the suspected killer, based on how I thought my old schoolyard buddy had turned out. No, Jean hadn’t gone to law school. That would have been too Psychic Network. Instead, she had been a legal secretary, for a while dated only cops and attorneys, and never missed an episode of Law & Order.

Since then, I’ve visited Jean at both her new and her childhood home, and we E-mail each other regularly. Soon after, I also heard from two other classmates. Though neither was the model of the police detective in Across the River, both are now cops in my hometown, became sources and make cameo appearances (under aliases) in the finished book.

When Across the River was published in June by Deadly Ink Press, my old friends put out the word. After I put the eighth-grade graduation picture on my Web Site,, messages from classmates from Las Vegas to New Hampshire arrived in my E mailbox.

I can’t even begin to describe the unexpected joy of these renewed connections. And I seem to have returned the favor: When my cop pals saw their names on my Acknowledgements page, Captain Joe E-mailed: “Wow. Me and Smitty, the two guys who would probably tie for last in the “Who last read a book?” contest, are actually in a book ourselves!” Soon I will be seeing my Boys in Blue (along with another former classmate who will be flying out from the Southwest) for the first time in 40 years, at my hometown book-signing on August 14. (Luckily, tiny Edgewater made room for a Barnes & Noble recently.)

How much is my main character like me? It's the other way around. I’m becoming much more like her. As Andie Rinaldi does, I’m discovering what it feels like to be embraced by community, a family, that I’d thought I’d left far behind. Yes, you can go home again.

Weirder still: I just got a new haircut. And damn if my hair isn’t curly.

C. (Cheryl) Solimini has written and edited articles for national publications from Family Circle to Woman’s Day. She is also the author of five nonfiction books, including a Baby Boomer humor book. Her interviews of mystery writers, from Michael Connelly to P.D. James, have appeared in Mystery Scene and Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine. After growing up in a New Jersey river town three miles long and three blocks wide, Cheryl now lives on eight acres in Pennsylvania, with her husband and other wildlife. Visit her Web site at

Friday, July 25, 2008

Guest Blogger: JULIE KRAMER

I'm delighted to introduce Julie Kramer, author of the newly released thriller STALKING SUSAN, as my guest blogger. With a title like that, this question was sure to come up...

NO, my protagonist is NOT named Susan

It's a mistake many readers make. My thriller's title is STALKING SUSAN. And readers understandably assume Susan is my heroine. But she's not. Susan is dead. Repeatedly.

My protagonist is Riley Spartz and she's a television investigative reporter who discovers a serial killer is targeting women named Susan and killing one on the same day each year.

It never occurred to me to also name her Susan. Folks ask why not? In retrospect, it seems an obvious plot move. People say, that's why you didn't do it, huh? Cause it was too obvious, right? Well, it wasn't obvious to me.

A more experienced author might have done so, but STALKING SUSAN is my debut book and I'm still learning the craft of fiction. When I started thinking about writing a novel, I invented my lead character first. I work as a television news producer and I wanted a heroine from my world. Just like forensic anthropologists have Tempe Brennen, medical examiners have Kay Scarpella, and prosecutors have Alex Cooper, I wanted TV journalists to have Riley Spartz. I felt a little guilty making her a reporter, instead of a producer like me, because I know how hard we work behind the scenes. But I also wanted to write a commercial novel, and concluded now was not the time to give producers their glory - no matter how deserved.

To create Riley Spartz, I picked Riley because I liked the name (I wanted to name both my sons Riley, but my husband said, no) and Spartz because it's my mother's maiden name. And then, to create my cast of characters, I took traits of everyone I've ever worked with, for, or against in the desperate world of television news. Once my heroine was alive in my head, I needed an adventure for her. I was inspired by two still unsolved cold cases I covered a decade ago that involved victims named Susan. Free of the constraints of journalism, I was free to ask, what if?

So for me, first came character, then plot. If my thought process had gone the other way, and I had locked into the serial-killer-targeting-Susans scenario first, Riley might very well have been named Susan.

Would that have made a more compelling story?

Well, I'm not trying to make excuses, but as a practical matter, I already had five characters named Susan (something I wouldn't recommend other writers try) and that set up made for some complex storytelling. Over and over my beta readers told me the Susans confused them. So I used nicknames, charts and description to make my victims more distinct. One more Susan might have pushed me down the same author abyss that claimed Poe.

My agent never suggested it. Neither did my editor.

So what do you think? Should my protagonist have been named Susan?

Julie Kramer is a freelance television producer for NBC News, before that she spent much of her career as a national award-winning investigative producer for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. She grew up on a corn and cattle farm along the Minnesota-Iowa State Line where her favorite days were spent waiting for the bookmobile to bring her another Phyllis A. Whitney novel. Doubleday released her debut thriller, STALKING SUSAN, July 15.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The World is Flat Audiobook Giveaway

With the No. 1 bestseller The World Is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman helped millions of readers see and understand globalization in a new way. Now you can have it for free.

On July 25th, you can start receiving free audio downloads of the audiobook edition of The World Is Flat as well as an exclusive preview audio excerpt of Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

Click here for details

This is a great deal on a terrific book!

Read THE MARK by Jason Pinter for free!

From Jason Pinter's blog:

New to the Henry Parker series and want to see what all the fuss is about?

Bored at work and tired of watching demonic squirrels on YouTube?

Saving up for that extra gallon of gas?

From July 22nd through August 5th, you can read the entire, uncut text of THE MARK online--for free! Visit Jason's blog for all the details.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Guest Blogger: KELLI STANLEY

I am delighted to present my guest blogger, Kelli Stanley. Kelli's first book, Nox Dormienda, just came out. Even though she spent the last week at ThrillerFest, Kelli still found the time to share a few thoughts...

You’ll Never Write Alone

Remember the lyrics?

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone

You’ll Never Walk Alone is Rodgers and Hammerstein at their finest (from Carousel). And today, July 18th, my debut book’s official release, I’m here at my gracious and wonderful hostess’ blog to tell you how true the words are … particularly in the writing community.

In the past year and a half – since January 17, 2007, the date of my publishing news – I’ve discovered that you never write alone.

I’ve always recognized the fact that we take the people we meet, the things we experience, the places we imagine, and distill them into a story, a character. In that sense, we don’t write alone.

And then there are the people who enable us to create … the parents who encourage us, the teachers who praise us, the spouses and children that patiently wait while we’re shut up in a room with a “do not disturb” sign. And there, too, we’re not really alone with the keyboard. Their love and support are with us, keeping us going.

When the manuscript is finished, and you turn toward friends for critique … when your agent reads and re-reads it, making suggestions, helping to shape the direction … when an editor receives it and fights for its place among a stack of books eager for publication, and then lovingly cuts and trims and pommels it into something you’re both proud of … and when the copy editor finds a continuity error, or something you forgot to fully research … throughout this process, the struggle for creativity and entertainment and salability in a very tough market … you’re never alone.

And then the publisher steps in, and you receive support from an overworked publicist who loves the book, and wants it to succeed as much as you do. And the marketing department makes suggestions, and the advanced reading copies go out, ready for review … a symphony has joined you, making the music of your book a possibility, helping to shape everything about it … does the cover work? Is it exciting? What about reviewers? What about the all-important pre-release buzz? Questions you can’t answer alone.

And along the way, the most important ingredient – besides your family – is friendship. The wonderful, generous people you meet in the industry. Fellow writers who agree to read the book, and like it enough to give you blurbs. They want you to succeed, as they have. You’re not alone.

Reviewer and critics who make time to read it, even if they don’t like it as much as you do. There are more books out there than reviewers, so whether they like it or not, they’ve done you a favor. And you’re not alone.

Readers who bid on an advanced reading copy, fans who ask you to sign programs at conferences because you don’t have a book to sell … all of them are helping you write your next book, because they’re giving you confidence for this one.
You’re not alone.

And when you’re down, and you’re walking (and writing) through the storm … as we all do … your friends are beside you. Because they’ve done it before, and they know what it’s like. And they’ll tell you, again and again: you’ll get through this. Keep writing. You’re not alone.

Then the big day approaches, and you’re faced with publicity and getting the word out … and still, you’re not by yourself. Through the generosity of people like Stacy Alesi, who helps spread the word about so many writers, especially debuts, you get a chance to let people know about your book.

The fact is, no one gets published alone. And no one writes alone. And today, on the official release of NOX DORMIENDA, I want to thank the family and friends and industry colleagues who have made this date possible.

To celebrate, I ask you to think of someone who has helped you; someone who reached out when you thought you were by yourself. A parent, a friend, a teacher, a stranger. Think about them. Post a comment about them here. Thank them, if you can.

Because no matter what we do … we don’t do it alone.

Kelli Stanley lives in San Francisco and earned a Master’s Degree in Classics. When she’s not writing or wandering in the fog, she can usually be found at bookstores, speakeasies and classic movie theaters.

Kelli’s debut mystery-thriller, Nox Dormienda, is the first of a new series and a new genre of mystery fiction: Roman Noir. A Writer’s Digest Notable Debut (August, 2008), Nox Dormienda has been described by Ken Bruen as “Ellis Peters re-written by Elmore Leonard.” Kelli serves as the ITW News Editor for The Big Thrill website, and is currently working on a novel set in 1940 San Francisco. Visit her at

Thursday, July 17, 2008

James O. Born

There was a nice writeup in the Palm Beach Post today about one of my favorite authors, James O. Born.

James O. Born a study in persistence and success
By Scott Eyman
Palm Beach Post Books Editor
Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jim Born likes action.

In the morning, he'll go to the gym, or maybe just jog for a couple of miles, and think about what he's going to write that night. Sometimes it's dialogue, sometimes it's plot.

He comes back home, showers, and then it's off to work as a special agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. During the day, if he gets a chance, he might make a couple of notes about what he planned in the morning.

"It beats daydreaming about Beyonce," he says.

At night, when he gets to his Lake Worth home, he's a man on a mission. He bangs out his usual ration of 1,000 words, give or take. On the weekends, he edits what he wrote during the week. On Monday, it begins all over again.

As he puts it, "I like being exhausted at night."

Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Strand Critics Award for Best Mystery Novel

Laura Lippman and Marcus Sakey win the Strand Magazine’s Critics Award

New York, NY, July 14, 2008 -- The winners of the 2007 Strand Magazine Critics Award are Laura Lippman for best novel (What the Dead Know) and Marcus Sakey for best first mystery novel (The Blade Itself). The winners were announced at an invitation only cocktail party in Manhattan, by bestselling author Jonathan Santlofer.

Both of the winners and several of the nominees were in attendance at the Midtown Executive Club. Lippman and Sakey were gracious winners thanking the panel of book reviewers, congratulating their fellow nominees and acknowledging they were up against stiff competition.

- Down River by John Hart (Thomas Dunne Books/Minotaur)

- The Shotgun Rule by Charlie Huston (Ballantine Books)

- The Strangler by William Landay (Delacorte Press)

- The Watchman by Robert Crais (Simon and Schuster)

- What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)

Best First Novel

- The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey (St. Martin's Minotaur)

- In the Woods by Tana French (Viking)

- The Mark by Jason Pinter (Mira Books)

- Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell (William Morrow)

- When One Man Dies by Dave White (Crown Publishing)

Lippman a former journalist for The Baltimore Sun, is no stranger to winning many of the top crime fiction prizes, she has won the Edgar, The Anthony, The Shamus, and The Barry Awards. Her latest novel Another Thing to Fall was released this March by William Morrow.

In just two years, Marcus Sakey has blazed a trail as a new and talented mystery author with his two well written crime novels The Blade Itself and At The City’s Edge. A former St. Martin’s author, he has recently signed a deal with Dutton who will publish his next book Good People in August.

"This was such a great group of nominees, it must have been difficult to choose the winner," said Frank Simon, Associate Publisher of The Strand. "Laura and Marcus were worthy winners, in the past few years Laura has produced a fantastic body of work and Marcus is a new talent who I have no doubt in the future will be nominated for the best mystery novel award."

Nest year, the panel of judges will led by Otto Penzler and will feature critics from The Washington Post, the LA Times, The Associated Press, NPR, Time Magazine, Publishers Weekly and The New York Sun. For more information, please contact Christine Jones at 248 569 3702 or

Friday, July 11, 2008

Author Interview: JULES ASNER

Jules Asner, former model and television reporter on the E! Entertainment Channel, sat down and answered a few questions for me. Her new book, WHACKED, was recently released and has Hollywood buzzing for sure. Read on to see why...

BookBitch: After modeling, then working on television, what made you decide to do something as solitary as writing a book? Did you enjoy the process?

Jules Asner: I always wrote for work...first as a producer at Hard Copy, Extra and at Reuters. I always hoped I would write a novel one day, but I was always too busy with work and traveling all over the place. I guess I was one of those people who 'thought I had it all in my head' and could just sit down and have it pour out of me but It was a tough process. I knew the beginning of the story, but I never knew the best way for it all to come together. When I finally figured that out, finishing was a blast.

BB: How long were you working on this book? What's your typical writing day like?

Asner: I would say I worked on the book for a couple of years...not consistently, and I sold the book to Harvey Weinstein three years ago. He was in the process of making the transition out of Miramax and he wanted to wait and release the book as part of the his new imprint, Weinstein Co. that took some time. I started off writing in coffee shops and hotels (I was traveling a lot with Steven at the time because he was shooting Ocean's 12) When I'm home in New York I work out of a writing space on 14th street called Paragraph, that's great.

BB: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are some of your favorite books, and why? How about favorite films?

Asner: I love reading all sorts of books...I love Jackie Collins (I think I've read everything she's ever written) and she's always been so great to me.

I also love Bruce Wagner, AM Homes and Walter Kirn. One of my favorite books I've read was given to me by my friend Walter Donohue, who's an editor at Faber in the UK. 'The Black Englishman' by Carolyn Slaughter. She decided to research the life of her grandmother, who traveled to India in search of love and ended up in an insane asylum. It has one of my favorite dedications, "For my Grandmother, no more sad endings"

BB: In these days of belt tightening, especially in the publishing industry, are you touring at all? If so, what's that experience been like?

Asner: We decided not to do a book tour...which I was fine with. I think a lot of authors really want to 'get up there' and have an audience to read to, but not me. I did a signing at the Book Expo in May and then did readings and signings in New York and Los Angeles.

BB: WHACKED is not your typical chick-lit read by any stretch of the imagination, yet it certainly starts out that way - until you redefined the "surprise ending!" Was it always your intention to veer off onto such a dark and twisted road?

Asner: As I mentioned a couple of questions back, I never really knew where it was going to go. When I finally figured it out I was like 'Of course!' knowing it was the right way to end it...and while unconventional, I think Dani does get her happy ending. I was watching a lot of 'The Sopranos' when I was on the second half of the book and I thought it was interesting that we all loved Tony Soprano on the show, even knowing who he was and the terrible things he did.

BB: Did you tell your husband [director Steven Soderbergh] that you were planning on using him in the book, or did you surprise him? Did he enjoy becoming a character?

Asner: Many parts of the book are based on a real life break up I had with a cheating ex....the story of him telling me about the actress working with two big named directors is a real conversation we had and I wanted to change the names because then anyone could just imdb her and figure out who it was.

I just slotted in Steven's name because the real director is someone who's very well regarded. Steven said to me that I should just leave the real guy, but I didn't want to...I find it funny that so many people have mentioned in interviews that I 'wrote about my real husband''s literally one or two sentences.

BB: Was the idea of making this book into a movie in the back of your head as you were writing? Are there any plans for a film in the works? You do have some connections in that industry...

Asner: I didn't really think about the book being made into a movie while I was writing. Some people have brought it up now that it's out and being read, but I don't know. I guess I always thought of it as a TV series more than a movie...I could see that being fun to watch.

BB: Speaking of connections, are you finding that friends are now offering you all sorts of story ideas? Telling you their crazy TV/film industry work-related stories?

Asner: Sadly, I'm one of those people that crazy stuff happens to. Sometimes people tell me crazy stories about working in Hollywood, but I haven't used any of them so far. I hear a lot of really terrible dating stories that are just so depressing.

BB: Was this a one shot deal or are you planning (or currently working) on another book? Is a sequel a possibility?

Asner: I've been working for the last year on my second novel. It's about a murder in Hollywood...and so far this process has been easier for me than 'Whacked.' People have been asking in the last month if I'm going to do a follow up novel to see what happens to Dani...It had never crossed my mind, but we'll see.

BB: Besides a great story, what do you want people to take away after reading your book about the real Hollywood landscape?

Asner: I think what I would most like people to take away from the book is an understanding of the main character, Dani. She's flawed and does bad things, but I hope the reader understands how she got to the place and is still rooting for her. I know I do.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Chinese review doesn't translate well

Review of Philippine Fever machine translated from Chinese

Found this at It seems to be a review written in Chinese and machine translated into English. Cook is rendered as Grill, Roast, and boil.

Author: Bruce R. Grill (Bruce R. Cook)
Publisher: Assets Crime Twist (Capital Crime Press)

Bruce R. Roast’s debut fresh, Philippine Fever, is an engrossing with pleasurable prompt see, though occasionally alittle gory. Conundrum novels are usually corpse-driven, and this one and only is no elimination along furthermore its sleuth of suspects.

Pool in Manila in the Philippines, where the writer versed worked furthermore where he searched the material given that the essay, the anecdote centers on an American bask in Texas, Harvey Tucker, who is found out deadened in a dumpster at the back of a gender union. Apparently, he skilled been brutally beaten and taser prongs suffered been smitten to his testicles. Not an enjoyable sight!

Consequently, Sam Haine derive pleasure the Los Angeles portion of Homeland Protection (Agency of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms in addition to Explosives) is ascribed to the case to hit upon why along with who slaughter Tucker. Haine is not over the moon around on the move to Manila, but, given that he states, “it was enhanced to troth demanding in the part, in place of be fixed in the rear of an analyst’s desk.”

Read the rest here.

Thanks to Robert Fate and Jack Quick for finding & sharing this gem of a review!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Just in time for easy, breezy summer reading this July 4th weekend, here is a feature that aired on today's Huffington Post. It is comprised of interviews with some of the best political thriller writers out there, about their newest novels which are out in bookstores this summer! With Phillip Margolin, Steve Martini, James Rollins, Brad Thor, Dale Brown, and Ralph Reed . . . .political junkies who need a fix now that the primaries are over have a pre-made shopping list just for them.

I especially loved Phillip Margolin's interview, in particular this rather honest yet painful Q&A:

"Q: President Clinton, during his presidency, told the press he was reading Mark Rozell's non-fiction Executive Privilege. Do you think President Bush should read your book Executive Privilege? Why?

A: It would be great if President Bush read any book. Quite frankly, as a citizen, I would prefer that he read books on the Middle East and Global Warming, subjects he appears to know very little about."

Huffington Post

Monday, June 30, 2008


I met Michelle at ThrillerFest when her first book, THE TUNNELS, was coming out. She's a sweetheart and I'm delighted that she was kind enough to not only provide ten copies of her latest, BONEYARD, for me to giveaway at during the month of July, but that she volunteered to share some thoughts with my readers. Enjoy!

The New Beta Wars: Amazon Kindle vs. Sony Reader
By Michelle Gagnon

It’s a shame I’m not single anymore. Every time I use my Sony Reader, I get approached by numerous people (especially men) who want to hear all about it. On airplanes, in the gym, at the movies, I seriously have been shanghaied by an average of three people a day since purchasing it a few months ago. The main questions I always get asked: How does it work (very well), how do I like it (I love it), is it hard to use (yes and no, more on that later)…

The irony in all this is that I am the furthest thing from an early adopter. I didn’t get a cell phone until the late 90’s, and only upgrade computers when they expire after a long and storied life. Over the past decade I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. I come by it honestly: my mother is one of those people who thinks the lunar landing was filmed on a sound stage.
Yet here I am, at the forefront of new technology. Mind-boggling. Since there seem to be daily posts about e-readers on the lists I lurk on, I thought I’d sum up my experience here…

Let me start by saying that I never had any intention of using the darn thing. I bought it for my husband to use during a month-long motorcycle tour of Europe (am I the best wife ever or what?) I figured, what better way for him to not only have a dozen books on hand, but to carry travel guides for each country he was visiting, all in a device that tucked neatly into a saddle bag. Right?

Wrong. Turns out there were only a handful of European travel books available on the Sony site, most specific to cities. Worse yet, we had a hell of a time downloading the software to use the damn thing. And Sony customer service, in a word, sucks: there’s no live chat, no phone number to call, just an email that will reply to you within a day or so. But despite the very specific questions that you ask, the powers that be at Sony will only send you the same set of instructions from page one of their manual over and over again (until you start threatening their children, after which they stop responding at all). It literally took us four months of fits and starts to register the damn thing, get the store software on my computer, and transfer a single book to the Reader. Nightmarish. And mind you, my husband is much better at these things, and he was stymied as well. We were on the verge of making the Reader an extraordinarily expensive paperweight, or venting our frustration on it with a baseball bat (à la the fax machine scene in “Office Space”). And then one day, I had an epiphany. I clicked a tiny box in the upper left hand window and voilà: we were in business, no thanks to customer service.

So after finally figuring out the basics, I quickly became hooked. I didn’t expect to—I’m one of those people who wax eloquent over the feel of a book in my hands, the whisper of pages turning, blah blah blah…

But with a few months of intensive travel facing me as I braced for my next book tour, I decided to download some books. I was only going to use it for travel, I was still in control. I swear, I could stop any time I wanted. After taking it on a vacation to Mexico, I was hooked. I read a book a day, and never had to deliberate over the weight in my suitcase, or whether or not I should shed paperbacks en route like some strange molting creature. What I discovered is that this format suited my reading habits perfectly. I read voraciously during every snatched moment of free time (waiting in the Doctor’s office, in line at the bank) and my Reader fit into every purse, whether I was engrossed in a novella or a 700 page tome. Who knows, with this nifty device I might actually have finished War and Peace. Maybe.

All that being said, there are some downsides. I have to hook the reader up to my computer via a usb cable to transfer books (oh, the horror—it’s so 2004), and not every title is available. In that respect, the Kindle rules: wireless downloads of over a hundred-thousand titles, plus access to dailies like the New York Times, WSJ, and New York Post and magazines such as TIME, Atlantic Monthly, and Forbes (mind you, there’s still a dearth of the standard travel guides, which is bizarre to me. What could be a more perfect selling point for this tool, than marketing it to travelers?) Plus, the Amazon is slightly less compact and weighs more, largely thanks to the keyboard included for aforementioned wireless transfers.

And neither device comes with a backlight, so reading it in even a slightly darkened room can be tricky. Apparently you can use a booklight under those circumstances, but I’ve never owned one so I can’t say either way. Also, every once in awhile I’ve forgotten to bookmark my spot (electronically, of course), which can be problematic. The Reader automatically opens to the page you ended on, but God help you if your husband decides to start reading one of the three books he’s downloaded, so when you manage to seize the Reader back from him it’s necessary to click through a hundred pages to find where you left off, which can instill instant carpal tunnel syndrome and is generally bad for marriages. (I know, it was initially a gift for him. But possession is nine-tenths of the law, right?)

In other words, we’ll be buying another one soon. Probably the Kindle this time around, because I suspect that with Amazon’s access to titles and download features, my little Reader will go the way of eight track cassettes and BETA video players. Which in truth makes me sad, I’ve become very attached to it. I’m even considering giving it a name, maybe Ishmael…any suggestions?

On a related note: I’m giving away a Kindle this summer, along with other fabulous prizes. To sign up , go to and register for my newsletter (which goes out extremely sporadically, maybe six or seven times a year).

Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, bartender, dog walker, model, personal trainer, and Russian supper club performer. Her debut thriller THE TUNNELS involves a series of ritualized murders in the abandoned tunnel system beneath a university. Published in the United States and Australia, it was an IMBA bestseller. Her next book, BONEYARD, depicts a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers. In her spare time she wrestles her Sony Reader back from her husband.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


It was my privilege to be able to ask esteemed author Barbara Parker a few questions as her latest book, THE DARK OF DAY, hits the bookshelves. Barbara is a wonderful writer and a very strong supporter of up-and-coming writers as well. Here's what she had to say...

BookBitch: One of the first times I ever saw you was at a MWA [Mystery Writers of America] meeting. As I was walking through the lobby, I saw you sitting with a young woman, and you spent quite a bit of time with her. I later learned that she was an aspiring writer, and that you were encouraging and kind. Over the years I've heard from several writers that you give a great deal of your time to the writing community, helping new writers. What sort of questions are you asked most often?

Barbara Parker: So you saw me sitting in the lobby with an aspiring writer, huh? Were we near the bar? I've found that some people want to reach for a drink after hearing what I have to tell them. It's true I'm encouraging, but generally I say what I think. This is what works, and what doesn't, and this is how you can fix it. I give practical advice. Unfortunately, most new writers only want the "encouraging" part. They don't like to rewrite.

What questions do they ask? They don't. I wish they would, but usually I get the deer-in-the-headlights stare. Or I get an argument: But... But it's all explained later, in chapter three . . . . Or, Such-and-Such Author did it this way, why can't I?

BB: Tell me about your new book!

Parker: Did you ever glance at a supermarket tabloid and wonder why on earth those decadent people deserve so much press? I did, and it led to a novel. THE DARK OF DAY begins with a wild party on Miami Beach. A young model vanishes. The police think she was murdered. Add a suspect with a mysterious past and a lawyer who doubts he's telling her the truth.

Attorney C. J. Dunn is a terrific character. She's struggling to stay sober, she takes in strays, she's loyal to her friends, and she's tempted by the celebrity life herself. When reporters and paparazzi descend on the case, C.J. is caught in the media spotlight, a problem for a woman with secrets.

BB: A writers' time seems to be divided between the actual writing & editing process, and then promoting. How do you organize your time? What's a typical writing day like, and what's a typical book tour day like?

Parker: The writers I know agree that there's not enough time in the day. Just when you get rolling on a new book, you need to promote the one that's just coming out. I think we organize our time by triage, dividing our tasks among what can't be avoided, what is safe to ignore, and what we'll get to later.

For me, a typical day writing depends on how far along the book is. In the early stages, I stare into space a lot. I talk to my sources, and I take long walks with a notebook in my pocket, in case something worth writing occurs to me. Closer to deadline, I'm at my desk every day of the week for as long as I can stay awake. My fridge is full of frozen food, and sometimes I even have to board my dog, Max. But he forgives me.

What is a day like on book tour? What book tour? It's a sad fact that most publishers are cutting way back on touring, having realized that a presence on the internet gets as many or more readers for a fraction of the cost. There was a time when they gave me media escorts and a room at the Peabody Hotel or the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta. That day is over, folks. As a working writer, you'll be expected to work on your website.

BB: What sort of books do you read for pleasure? Who are some of your favorite authors? What are some of your favorite books and why?

Parker: A couple of years ago I served as a judge on MWA's Best First Novel committee. Great fun! New writers are so daring and creative. They haven't fallen into a pattern, and they aren't too worried about what people will think. I try to read a few debut authors, along with my friends' books and established authors whose most recent book has earned good reviews. Sorry, but I'd rather not list my faves because I'd surely leave somebody out, and the truth is, I just don't have time to read as much as I'd like. Books are expensive, so I rely on word of mouth and reviews. I rarely buy a book online. I want to hold it in my hands and read a few chapters, hoping I will love it. Books are expensive!

BB: Writers often say that it is a very lonely profession. I know you were a practicing attorney before you started writing full time. Do you ever miss the camaraderie of an office environment?

Parker: The letter carrier just delivered my dues statement from The Florida Bar, and like every year, I will open it and sigh and think back to those days when . . . . But then I remember the anxiety of preparing an argument you might lose, the clients who resent paying even if you win, and the mix of naked greed and aggression that fuels the legal profession. I've gone to inactive status and probably will never practice again. True, writing is lonely, but I'm in control. Sort of.

BB: I understand your daughter is an attorney. Has she, or your son for that matter, been bitten by the writing bug? Would you encourage your children in that direction?

Parker: My daughter, Andrea, works in a tax firm in Washington, D.C., specializing in employee benefits. She's an excellent writer, if you like to read legal journals. My son, James, works in the graphic design department of Showtime Networks in New York. He too writes very well. I hope neither of them gives up a steady salary. I want to be taken care of in my old age.

BB: Your books are set in south Florida. I've heard Carl Hiaasen say that he doesn't have to make up the zaniness in his books, he gets most of it from the local news. Do you also find Miami to be a hotbed of ideas?

Parker: Back in the 1980s, in the post-Miami Vice era, the public developed an appetite for Florida fiction, thanks to Carl Hiaasen, Randy Wayne White, Edna Buchanan, and many others. Twenty years on, Florida has become just another state, and Miami has lost much of its craziness. Oh, it still glitters, but a writer based in this area must do what every other writer does -- create unforgettable characters and a story that makes the reader wish it wouldn't end.

BB: You write a wonderful mystery series featuring lawyers Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana, and you have also written stand alone thrillers. Do you miss your series characters while writing stand alones? Which are easier for you to write?

Parker: My new book, THE DARK OF DAY, follows another stand-alone, THE PERFECT FAKE. I'm happy with both of these novels, but many of my readers keep saying they miss Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana. (Of course it's the steamy Anthony they really miss.) I sent the duo on vacation because after eight books in the series, I needed a break.

As for whether it's easier to write the series or a stand-alone, I'd have to say it depends on the book. How much research is involved? How complex are the characters and their relationships? Is the subject one that really interests me and pulls me along? When I care about the story, and can get emotionally involved, my fingers fly over the keyboard. Otherwise, it's a chore. The search for meaning takes up a lot of my time, both in the initial planning and as I work through the book. It helps to ask, What is the point of this scene? What am I getting at? Why should the reader care?

BB: Barbara, you are a breast cancer survivor and an inspiration to a lot of women. What advice do you have for others struggling with this disease?

Parker: I have always felt that a book must mean something to the writer before it means anything to the reader. I suppose that this has taken on particular urgency for me, as a result of my experience with cancer. The icy wind of mortality can tip you off balance, but it can also bring an awareness that life is so very brief, that none of it should be spent worrying about the small stuff. Easier said than done, I know.

My advice? Hang out more with your friends and family. Be patient because really, everyone's in the same boat. You might not be religious in the traditional sense, but it wouldn't hurt to start contemplating the larger truths in life. Here's one: Don't save all the fun for later.

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