Cabbages and Kings

A diary by the authors of the Louis Kincaid series

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Location: Fort Lauderdale/Elk Rapids, Florida and Michigan, United States

We are the New York Times bestselling authors of the Louis Kincaid series and other stand alone thrillers. We have taught writing at major conferences for ten years.

Monday, June 26, 2006

You like me! You really like me!

Do awards really matter? I'm not talking Pulitzer, Booker or Nobel here. Something more modest, like the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Macavity, Dagger. Ha! Not so modest if you're a writing member of our genre -- crime fiction.

I bring this topic up (which others have done often before this humble blogger) for two reasons. I was reading Tess Gerritsen's blog today and she talked about how thrilled she was to get a Macavity nod for "Vanished." Wrote Tess: "I’m astonished, especially after all the whispers from critics that my Edgar nomination was a complete fluke. I’ll refrain from uttering that famous old Sally Field line."

Shoot, I find Tess's enthusiasm refreshing. I remember once I was at the Edgar banquet (just an observer) and was seated next to one of the Best First nominees. During the salad, I noticed his ribbon designating his status and congratulated him on the honor. He muttered: "Oh, I thought I had written a literary novel."

Geez, I'd hate to see this guy REALLY excited about something. Felt a bit sorry for his wife, if you know what I mean. But Phlegmatic Phil didn't win and we were all spared what I am sure would have been a gripping acceptance speech.

Oh...wait. The SECOND reason for writing this. Well, I just found out we are nominated for a Shamus this year for our book "A Killing Rain." This is our fourth straight Shamus nomination. Am I blase about this? Gimme a break. I am thrilled to hell and flattered beyond belief. Why? Because the Shamus, like the Edgar is a confirmaton by your peers that what you are doing is...well, cool.

So a thank you to the judges because I know what a tough job it is. Not just to READ 40-50 books but to pick only one from what is a top-notch list this year.


Kelly and I are off to the home state tomorrow for a whirlwind two-week book signing and research tour in Michigan. So if any of you out there are ANYWHERE near where we will be, please come out and say hey. If you say the magic words "Cabbages and Kings" we will take you to the nearest wateringhole and buy you a cold one. Have a safe and happy holiday weekend. Here is where we will be:

June 29: Chicago. Centuries & Sleuths 7419 W. Madison, Forest Park IL. 7 p.m.
June 30: Saugatuck-Douglas Library. MI 7 p.m.
July 2: The Bookman, Grand Haven MI 715 Washington Street.
July 5: Leland, MI Leelanau Books. 109 N. Main St. 1-3 p.m.
July 5: Traverse City, MI Horizon Books. 243 E. Front St. 7-9 p.m.
July 6: Petoskey, MI McLean & Eakin Books. 307 E. Lake St. 1-3 p.m.
July 6: Gaylord, MI Saturn Books, 133 West Main (517) 732-8899 6-8 p.m.
July 8: Cadillac MI Horizon Books, 115 South Mitchell Street, Cadillac, MI
July 9: Midland MI Barnes & Noble, Midland Mall 6800 Eastman Ave. 1-3 p.m.
July 11: Lansing MI Schuler's Books. 1982 Grand River, Okemos. 7:30 p.m.
July 12: Livonia, MI Books Connection. 19043 Middlebelt Rd. 7 p.m.
July 13: Ann Arbor, MI Aunt Agatha's Books. 213 S. Fourth Ave. 7 p.m.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Crossing the finish line

First, an apology. Those of you who are kind enough to stop by and read my ramblings deserve better than this -- my sloth and sin of not checking in these past two weeks. But I got in the weeds really bad this week while finishing The Book.

But the friggin thing is gone, off to New York on a FedEx wing and a prayer. And I haven't been this relieved since my divorce became final. (First husband. Second one took.)

This book was a bitch. The WORST. You'd think about seven books, it would get easier, but we all know it never does. We are launching a new series, with a new lead character and are trying to impress a new editor and publisher. My sister Kelly says I was a raving lunatic with this one, like howling at the moon hard-to-live-with. My husband? Don't ask. The man deserves a medal.

How neurotic am I? I ended up in the hospital with chest pains. But my ticker is fine, my doc put me on Xanax for a week and I went back to yoga. I mean, get over yourself, right?

Do you guys get this bent? And I have another question for you. I am asking this to find out that I am not crazy, not the only one who does this sort of thing.

What do you do RIGHT AFTER you finish your book? What do you do to pat yourself on the back? A massage? A new pair of Choo shoes? A good night's sleep? Sex with the perfect stranger? Do you have a celebratory ritual?

My sister and I have a ritual, which grew organically over seven books, much as our collaboration did. See, she always comes down to my place in Florida in March, the month that has coincided with the final push of the first draft. She stays a month and we grind it out in 10-hour, seven-day-weekly writing marathons with two computers, like Ferrante and Teicher. Or maybe those guys in Deliverance.

And then...

We get to the last page of the last chapter. And we do the same thing every year.

I type: THE
She types: END

We have a big hug. Then we get drunk.

This year, we missed our deadline because the book was going badly. She had to leave before we finished. So the ritual was disrupted. She was in Memphis, I in Fort Lauderdale. We were tempting the fates.

But when I sent her the final chapter over AOL, she emailed back and said she liked it. So I emailed it back with THE at the end. She emailed it back adding END.

Then I went down to Publix and bought a really expensive bottle of Pinot Noir and toasted to the rituals of sisterhood and authorhood.

My little secret: I love rituals. My dirty little secret: I love writing but I REALLY love having written.

Save the Indy 500
Every week, I will be spotlighting an independent bookstore. Today, I'd like you to meet Augie Aleksy, the owner of Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park, Illinois. It's one of my fave places to visit because Augie makes every author feel like royalty and his customers are the best. Take it Augie...

Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore
7419 W. Madison Street
Forest Park, IL

Opened November 1990, moved to present location 2000

How'd you get in the business?
An opportunity came along to open the bookstore of my choice, doing what everybody says they "want to do someday." I also had the support of my wife. But first, I developed a business plan and conducted surveys of my chosen store specialties: history, mystery and biography. I wanted to find out what types of books people had purchased in the last quarter of 1989. The survey results justified my choices.
Favorite thing about being a bookseller?
Meeting interesting people, both customers and authors. Also, my son who was only 6 when we opened, had the change to meet with authors like Steve Allen, Peter Ustinov and Sara Paretsky. My former jobs in the financial industry never gave me or my family such a benefit.
What's unique about Centuries & Sleuths?
It's the only store specializing in mystery, history and biography, and the variety and longevity of our discussion groups. Plus we've put on some unique special events: a mock Trial of Richard III with real lawyers arguing before a federal court judge; a mock impeachment hearing of FDR for his prior knowledge of Pearl Harbor. We've also done Beans 'n' the Pot, a presentation of food from history and mysteries and a dozen Meeting of the Minds events similar to the Steve Allen PBS program of the 1970s.
What's your best advice to writers?
Write good books and be considerate of booksellers and customers.
What's your advice for the publishing industry?
Reduce the minimums to get better than a 40% discount.
Free freight
Continue good return policies
Consider the small independent bookstore when you tour big authors.
Keep up the good sales staff who sincerely try to help the little guy/girl make their store a success.
Three books in your store you wish more folks knew about?
Books by P.J. Parrish (honest, we didn't tell him to say this)
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (demonstrates link between history and mystery)
The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain. (his personal favorite)
The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox by Jennifer Lee Carrell
What's on your night stand right now?
Will Thomas's third Cyrus Barker mystery The Limehouse Text
Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
If you were an adult film star, what would your name be?
Adrian Youngblood