Thursday, May 28, 2009


In case you missed Janice Lieberman on THE TODAY SHOW talking about her new book, HOW TO SHOP FOR A HUSBAND, you can see it here:

"After years of dating misery, I finally took matters in hand. After all, this was the most important shopping trip of my life, wasn't it? And shopping was certainly a topic I knew a lot about. So I decided to approach dating in a smart, systematic way, as if I were making the purchase of a lifetime. Slowly but surely, and almost before I even realized it, I began to apply the rules I had learned as a consumer reporter - caveat emptor, don't get scammed, learn where to shop, and know how to close a favorable deal - to shopping for a husband."

Now is the time to learn… HOW TO SHOP FOR A HUSBAND
By Janice Lieberman with Bonnie Teller

Janice Lieberman, the "Today Show" Consumer Smarts correspondent, brings her shopping expertise and her personal knowledge of the dating marketplace together to tell you how to shop for the most important "purchase" of your life - your spouse. In HOW TO SHOP FOR A HUSBAND (St. Martin's Press; May 12, 2009; $22.95) Janice uses shopping principles to formulate rules that will help women select a spouse and "close the deal".

And Janice really knows what she's talking about - the tips she shares in HOW TO SHOP FOR A HUSBAND are the same ones she implemented in meeting and eventually marrying her own husband!

This savvy shopper's guide provides a shopping list all women can use in their hunt for the ultimate bargain - highlights potential pitfalls and outlining the ever important Rules of the dating (and marriage) game.

Rules such as:
#5) Let Him Think He's Doing the Shopping
#9) Sorry, but…You May Need to Repackage (Yourself, That Is!)
#10) Know a Guy's History - Is He a Marrier or a Player or, Worst of All, Both?

And personal shopping tips like:
" Get online, now! It's all in the numbers. The internet is a man-shopping mecca, so learn how to master it and you will in-deed be a dating diva.
" Forget the old adage that opposites attract and look for common ground. If you find it, you'll be enjoying your purchase for years to come!
Lieberman opens women's eyes in HOW TO SHOP FOR A HUSBAND to demonstrate how they typically shop for the wrong things in a mate (forget about what his shoes look like, and try to figure out the content of his character) and sabotage their own happiness with a long "must-have" list instead of seeing the value of the men who are right in front of them.

It's time to go shopping!

Janice Lieberman has been the featured Consumer Smarts correspondent on NBC's "Today Show" for ten years and was previously the consumer correspondent on "Good Morning America". Lieberman also anchored "Steals and Deals", which appeared nightly on CNBC. She is also the author of Tricks of the Trade: A Consumer Survival Guide with Jason Raff. Janice is a contributing editor to Reader's Digest for their "Here's the Deal" column. Janice currently lives in New Jersey with her husband - who she shopped very, very, wisely for.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Beth Groundwater’s Report on the Mayhem in the Midlands Conference

After a weather delay at the Denver airport, I’m finally home from a wonderful weekend in Omaha, Nebraska spent hobnobbing with fellow mystery authors, readers, and lovers of all things mysterious. The conference, known for being intimate because of its cap on attendees set at 200, was even more intimate this year due to the economy, but those intrepid souls who came all had a great time, as far as I could tell.

I arrived late morning on Thursday, checked into the room at the Embassy Suites hotel (the conference site) I was to share with mystery short story author Kaye George, and walked into the Old Market area to eat lunch. After a refreshing swim in the hotel pool, I checked my consignment books into the booksellers, Tom & Enid Schantz at Rue Morgue and Kathy Magruder at Lee Booksellers, all lovely people. I highly recommend you patronize both of these independent booksellers.

Kaye found me at the hotel’s afternoon guest reception, where we drank our share of the free alcoholic beverages offered to hotel guests. This daily ritual was a big hit with the mystery convention crowd! Hearty munchies (enough to be considered dinner) and drinks followed at the conference’s cocktail party and 10th anniversary celebration. The speeches were short and sweet and the distinguished guests were welcomed: Guest of Honor Dana Stabenow, Toastmaster Jan Burke, and International Guest of Honor Zoe Sharp.

The Embassy Suites offered a breakfast to hotel guests the next morning that included made-to-order omelets and pancakes. Conference goers raved about the complimentary breakfasts almost as much as the complimentary cocktail receptions. The conference swung into full gear at 9 am with three tracks of panels, and I was on stage right off that bat as a member of the humor panel: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Crime”. Pat Dennis, stand-up comedian and publisher of the humorous anthology of bathroom mysteries titled Who Died in Here, among others, soon had the audience in stitches, while the rest of us authors limped along trying to keep up. At the end of the panel, Margaret Grace, author of the miniature mysteries series, presented me with a commissioned outdoor scene including a sleeping bag, campfire, books (including my own), flashlight, woodland animals and trees, and a gift basket complete with wine, glasses, and a gun. I was thrilled with it!

Next, I sat in on the panel, “Putting the Ms. in Mysteries, Tough Female Protagonists,” consisting of Kate Flora, Ann Parker, and Dana Stabenow, three tough broads themselves. Kate said her character Thea has made her learn how to shoot a gun, defend herself, go through a police citizen’s academy, and more. Dana said that growing up in Alaska automatically makes a woman tough, and that her mother was one of the first female deck hands on a fish tender. This was followed by a fascinating presentation by scientific illustrator and forensic artist Sue Senden, who described how skull shape and texture can be used to determine the sex, rough age, and race of the victim and how facial reconstructive sculpture is done using tissue depth markers.

In the afternoon, I attended the “What Difference Does Age Make? Senior vs Younger Sleuths” panel, where Radine Trees Nehring elicited laughs by remarking, after Claire Langley-Hawthorne said she found writing love scenes difficult, that “I love all the parts, and especially the research.” At the end, I presented panelist Margaret Grace with her payment for my miniature scene, signed copies of both of my books, A Real Basket Case and To Hell in a Handbasket. Then I and a standing room only crowd had the pleasure of watching Zoe Sharp and Dana Stabenow pretend to beat each other up in a Self-Defense Demonstration. Zoe gave us the handy tip that when organizing a bar fight, you should have a designated sniper—someone who stands back while the others pile on, then administers pokes and punches to those on the other side while they’re occupied.

That evening was the Sisters in Crime light supper reception, followed by a live auction of items donated by authors and others to benefit the Omaha Public Library’s children’s books collection. Talented and humorous auctioneer Donna Andrews got everyone to loosen their pocketbook strings as well as their funny bones. Afterward, David Housewright organized a pub crawl for a group that included me, Kaye George, Kate Flora, Michael Mallory, Kent Kruger, and others into the Old Market area.

The Guinness Ale that went down so smoothly Friday night made it hard to look bright-eyed and bushy tailed Saturday morning, but I soldiered on and moderated a panel at 9 am on “The Art of Brevity: Writing Short Stories.” We learned that Kaye George has a “short mind” and that Pat Dennis finishes diets, jobs, men, and short stories all within a three-month time period. When the talk turned to rejections, an audience member shared his worst: “I’m returning these pages. Someone seems to have written all over them.”

Next, I sat in on the “What Would Your Characters Do” panel with Carl Brookins, Donna Andrews and David Walker. Donna said she usually tries to start with a short-term situation that generates a lot of stress and characters enter into a gentile pastime with an extreme passion. David suggested “competitive Buddhism” to audience guffaws. Then came lunch at a Persian restaurant with my fellow panelists on the “Shake Well and See What Happens: The Writer’s Life” panel. We decided the title had to refer to martinis, and brought suitable props, including martini glasses, olives, and cocktail shaker. Gary Bush started the discussion with a demonstration of the proper way to make a dry martini.

After chatting with the booksellers and others in the book room, I snuck in late to a late afternoon writing game session led by Ann Parker and Margaret Grace, with much-appreciated chocolate prizes for opening and closing lines that best mimicked the style of varoious mystery authors. After fortifying ourselves with free drinks from the hotel bar, a well-lubricated group stumbled to the downtown library for a murder mystery dinner. The setting was a twenty-year class reunion that also commemorated the mysterious death of Jean Harlow, and audience members were recruited to play the parts of movie stars from the 1940s. Kate Flora portrayed an alluring Veronica Lake, but David Housewright won a standing ovation for his amazing and gut-splittingly funny portrayal of Peter Lorre.

Sunday morning came too soon, with an interesting and wide-ranging interview of Dana Stabenow by Toastmaster Jan Burke, a fitting end to a wonderful conference. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole gathering, renewed connections with old friends, made lots of new friends, and was so thrilled to find out that two people were fighting over my character name in the silent auction that I offered to name characters after both of them if they each made a donation. I’ll definitely return to Mayhem in the Midlands in the future! And I’ll upload photos soon to my blog, If you comment there or here on my report, the photos, or your own Mayhem experiences, you’ll will be entered into a drawing for an autographed set of both books in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series: A Real Basket Case and To Hell in a Handbasket. Good luck!

Many thanks to Beth Groundwater for this very special report.

Beth Groundwater’s first mystery novel, A REAL BASKET CASE, was published in March, 2007 and was nominated for a Best First Novel Agatha Award. The second in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET, was released May 15th. It is set in Breckenridge, CO and opens with a death on the ski slope. As Kirkus Review said, "Groundwater's second leaves the bunny slope behind, offering some genuine black-diamond thrills." Between writing spurts, Beth defends her garden from marauding mule deer and wild rabbits and tries to avoid getting black-and-blue on the black and blue ski slopes of Colorado.
Please visit her website at

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Q & A with JOHN HART

I was thrilled when my editor at Library Journal asked me to do a short Q&A with Edgar-award winning author, John Hart, as his latest book, THE LAST CHILD, hits the stands. An abbreviated version of this interview appeared in the March 15, 2009 edition of Library Journal. Here is the interview in full.

In 2007, North Carolina lawyer-turned-novelist John Hart burst upon the literary thriller scene with his acclaimed debut, The King of Lies, which garnered several award nominations, including the Edgar and Anthony Awards. His second book, Down River, won the 2008 Edgar, and now his forthcoming third novel, The Last Child (LJ 3/1/09), is being billed as his best work to date.

BookBitch: The Last Child joins a rich Southern tradition of fine literature and will undoubtedly draw comparisons with Harper Lee's masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Your hero is a very smart, rather unusual 13-year-old boy with a powerful story. Why did you choose to use his voice to tell this story, and what were some of the challenges that created?

John Hart: The idea for Johnny Merrimon came from the opening scene of Down River, my last novel. In that scene, the protagonist, Adam Chase, returns home after a long, self-imposed exile. He stops at the river that defines the county’s northern border. While there, he meets a young boy who is there to fish. Writing the scene, I fell in love with the idea of this kid. He was about ten, happy on his old bike and in his blown-out shoes, wearing a fishing knife in a cracked leather scabbard. I never named the boy, but he had what, in my mind, was this perfect childhood. A home and security, the simple pleasures of his small world. In fact, I describe him as, “a dusty boy in a soft yellow world,” and that’s exactly how I saw him. He never reappears in the book, but I thought of this kid as I wrote the rest of Down River, and I found myself asking two questions: 1) what could happen to take such a wonderful life away from a boy like that, and 2) how would he react to the brutality of his changed circumstances. The Last Child takes place in a different county, so I can’t say that it is exactly the same boy, but that’s where the idea of Johnny Merrimon originated: I just loved the idea of this kid.

Writing any kind of thriller with a child as its protagonist presents a huge challenge. Specifically, it was tough building sufficient danger and action around one so young while still making the novel work as a thriller. There were other challenges, too: finding a convincing voice for a traumatized thirteen year old kid; believable dialogue between boys that age; the relationship between parent and child when their world has fallen apart; the way that Johnny was forced to perceive the world; thinking of ways that a powerless kid might seek some kind of control, then making that quest even remotely credible… In the end, however, I could not be happier with how it turned out.

BookBitch: I've read that you gave up working as an attorney when it came down to defending a child molester shortly after the birth of your own child. Here it is several years later and The Last Child centers around a missing child and all that implies. Has this been a difficult process for you? And did that experience contribute to this book?

John Hart: The story you mention is, in fact, true. I’d always aspired to write, and that moment seemed like the perfect occasion to make a choice: carry on with a career I’d never loved or take a real stab at a different life. So, I quit. Honestly, I was so ready to take the time to write, that I might have found some other excuse; but that case seemed like a perfect signal for change.

As for any influence that case may have had on The Last Child, I’m sure it was a factor, but only a small one. A more significant influence came from the news we all see every day, the unbelievable proliferation of crimes against children. I tried to keep the reality of those crimes “off the page” in this book; but I took great satisfaction in writing the scene where one of the young victims manages to shoot her abductor in the face. That was poetry.

BookBitch: Your previous books, the multi-award nominated The King of Lies and the Edgar-award winning Down River were both set in Rowan County, North Carolina, which one can find on a map. The Last Child is set in a similar yet fictitious place, Raven County, NC. Why did you feel it necessary to fictionalize the location this time out?

John Hart: There are dangers inherent in setting novels in real places, especially when it’s your hometown. A few people got upset because they thought they were in the books (they weren’t). Others got upset because they weren’t in the books. In the end, I needed geography that was simply lacking in Rowan County. I also found a sense of sweet freedom when I made the change. Perhaps, I was more concerned about how the people of Rowan felt about my portrayal of that place than I ought to have been. Perhaps, I was censoring myself because of that. Whatever the case, those who wish to see elements of Rowan County in the new book will be able to do so. Rowan County, Raven County … the similarity was purposeful.

BookBitch: Your writing has been compared with some of the greats of the genre, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and James Lee Burke, yet I've read that you haven't read any of them. Your undergraduate degree is in French Literature, is that where your reading interests lie? What are some of your favorite books, and some of your most influential?

John Hart: Entertainment Weekly said that my prose “…was like Raymond Chandler’s, angular and hard.” I thought that sounded great, but I had no idea what they meant. So, yes, it’s true that I am woefully under-read in the genre. I have since read one James Lee Burke novel, and find myself flattered by the comparison. As for the French literature in my background, I think my writing has been impacted by the entirety of the French existentialist movement. Most of my protagonists face some crisis of self-definition where they address their place in the world. How they got there and why? Where to next? It’s fun to wrap that kind of self-discovery in the robes of a thriller.

As for my favorites … Man, there are so many. To Kill a Mockingbird, of course. The Great Gatsby. The Prince of Tides. The Cider House Rules. Gates of Fire. Most things by Michael Chabon. In the genre, I’m a fan of Grisham and Turow, also of Michael Connelly, Dennis LeHane, Lee Child, Jeff Deaver, John Sandford, Charlie Huston and many others.

As for the “influential” question, I would have to say John Grisham had the largest impact - not so much on how I write, but he was the one that made me think I wanted this job.

BookBitch: You seem to use great care in your choice of words, and your writing is often lyrical, something not always found in thrillers or mysteries, yet you are still able to propel your stories forward and keep the pages turning. Do you work from an outline? Do you work at home? What is your writing process like?

John Hart: Authors who outline are probably the smart ones. I grope and hope. That being said, I think that my way is the most fun. Every day is an adventure, an exercise in joy and fear. I do treat this as a job, though. I work from an office downtown and try to set daily page goals. The downside of the grope and hope school of novel writing, however, is that steady production schedules don’t really exist. I deal with a fair number of blind alleys and false starts.

I break my writing day into two parts. In the morning, I let myself run unchecked. This is what “drives the bus” for me – the part of my brain that lets the story form. Then, in the afternoon, I tighten whatever page count I manage to write in the morning. This is the analytical part of the process. At the end of the day, I hope to have a thousand decent words, but that’s a loose target. The process is quasi-mystical in that I am never quite sure how ideas form and combine into a novel that works. Where the book ends up is more or less a surprise. That’s the real beauty of grope and hope.

Copyright © 2009 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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