Saturday, September 30, 2006

Whatever It Takes

by Brian Mullen

I am an “Aspiring Author.” That is how I see myself nowadays. If someone were to meet me and say, “So what do you do for a living?,” I am more likely to discuss my pending writing career than what I do from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. “That’s just my day job,” I’d say. Aspiring Author is a much harder job anyway.

I am a writer of mixed genres. I have written (or am writing) works of mysteries, comedies, science-fiction, fantasy, action, and thrillers. The nice part about this is that it opens a multitude of possibilities about finding success. The problem is that each of these possibilities is a separate path that could lead me to success. Because I don’t want to neglect any of them, I’ve been pursuing each and every one with full vigor.

As I write this essay, I have a mystery novel and a humorous essay in different writing contests. I have recently submitted another one of my stories to a teenager magazine for consideration. I have sent two inquiries to separate literary agencies to assess their interest in offering representation. Through all this my wife has sat in the background offering advice, lending me her strength and cheering my praises to keep me motivated to find the next path, whatever that may be.

And here’s how I repaid her. On September 8th I took her to Baltimore, Maryland to a comic book convention. To be honest, she really, really wanted to go – not as much to be supportive (which was definitely a part of it), but her primary reason was: she heard there’d be people in costumes. She REALLY wanted to see it. And it paid off because she got to meet people dressed as Wonder Woman and Supergirl – two of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet.

But back to my essay. Just like virtually every young boy, I was a huge comic book fan and I admit that, even now, the world still holds fascination for me. Despite (or perhaps because of) the medium and the colorful format and the bizarre choice of characters – comic books tell fascinating stories. Some seem silly, even to me, but more and more the stories begin to bring us slants on the world we know. Marvel Comics, for instance, is currently telling a story called “Civil War” where, during a disastrous altercation between superheroes and supervillains, a schoolyard, filled with young children, is decimated. In response, the government enacts a law requiring every super-powered hero to register with the government as, essentially, living weapons of mass destruction. Some agree and some do not. The two sides end up facing each other in the titular confrontation provoking thoughtful reflection and debate among both its characters and its target audience.

This move towards dramatic, epic-scale stories has nudged the comic industry to seek outside help. They’ve been approaching novelists. The best example of this I can share is Brad Meltzer, author of six novels including The Book of Fate, The Zero Game, and The Tenth Justice, who was approached by DC Comics to help write a story. His work was a miniseries mystery entitled Identity Crisis and involved a plot to get at superheroes by assassinating their loved ones. It was, in many ways, a whodunit just with super-powered suspects.

Comic books are no longer limited to spandex-clad figures fighting bad guys either. Major motion pictures like Sin City, A Road to Perdition and A History of Violence all originated as comic books or graphic novels before coming to a theater near you. So the medium is open to good ideas and good stories. I wondered if it could be the launching pad of my career. So I went to see. And my wife came to help.

I had printed out 17 excerpts from different novels and stories I’ve written in a wide variety of genres and we headed off to the Baltimore Convention Center. On Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. we went from booth to booth meeting with publishers and artists and writers about how to break into the industry. I met three publishing companies that were looking (one actively) for new writers and handed out several of my excerpts so they could get a feel for my ideas and writing styles. My foot was in a couple doors. I made the commitment that I would contact each of them in about a week to see if they saw potential in my work.

I also made the commitment that I would learn the mechanics of their medium. Comic book publishers ultimately need submissions in their own, modified version of screenplay format. They want written storyboards, not novels. So it’s time for a little independent study, I realized. I needed to master their format and either convert my existing stories or write brand new ones to excel in the new medium.

Upon my return I was thrilled to find several people who have posted their own scripts/submissions on the internet and I studied what they had done. Both DC Comics and Marvel Comics (as well as many writers famous within the industry) also have books designed to teach the process of writing for comics.

Within a week of my return I had converted one of my stories into the appropriate format, made notes for several more ideas and sent it to each of the publishing companies who were kind enough to show interest. And now I sit anxiously on my hands as I force myself to give them respectful amounts of time to read and analyze my submissions. Is there more I should be doing? Is there more I could be learning? Are there other avenues I should be exploring? I’ve got to find out so I can do it.

Whatever it takes.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It Makes Great Copy

by Meryl Neiman

Wednesday night I went to hear Nora Ephron speak. Nora is a journalist, novelist, screenplay writer and director (it's annoying that someone's so talented -- but that's another post). She told great stories, including the inside scoop on how the famous orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally came about, but she focused her talk on the ephiphanies that have shaped her life as a writer.

Her first lesson was an early one, taught by a rather unsympathetic mother. When she or one of her sisters complained about a horrific life experience, her mom's response would be: "makes great copy." Everything was fodder for the pen.

Although I wouldn't recommend this parenting style, I do think the lesson is an uplifting one for writers. We are uniquely positioned to make lemonade out of every lemon thrown our way. We can take any life event and use it in our work. If the plot doesn't serve our purposes, we can also look to the emotion the event inspired.

No other profession can make this claim.

I have to say I felt empowered by this revelation. Life does make great copy. I just found out tonight that a parent at my school has a rare form of eye cancer and will be off to Philadelphia for several weeks for treatment unavailable in Pittsburgh. I don't know details about the cancer, but it's possible that it is an ocular melanoma. This woman's parent died of a melanoma. For that reason, she and her children wear silly looking hats and long sleeves and are never without protection from the sun. If she now faces a rare form of skin cancer, what could be more tragic. But the irony does make great copy.

Aren't we blessed as writers that we can fashion art out of pain?


by Joyce Tremel

Maybe I’ve just had a bad week, but I am so BORED. That’s BORED with ALL CAPS. As in I’d like to punch-hit-kick something BORED. As in if one more officer puts another citation in my bin I’m going to choke the life out of him BORED.

The reports so far this week have consisted of EMS assists, a couple of lost dogs, a lost bird, keys locked in cars, abandoned 911 calls (someone dials 911 by mistake), and car accidents. Oh, and a few mailbox vandalisms just to break things up a little. Whoopee.

You’d at least think someone would have been nice enough to give me something to blog about. I hoped something exciting would have happened in the last two weeks to give me something scintillating and informative to write about. People are just so inconsiderate.

Although the township residents are probably pleased that it’s so quiet, I can tell the guys here are restless. I’m sure that when they trained to be cops, they weren’t planning on taking calls from little old ladies with missing cats. They signed up to solve crime and catch the bad guys. And maybe, if they were lucky, to actually take their guns out of their holsters.

Right now, the most thrilling thing they have to look forward to is Shaler’s Homecoming on Saturday. (Homecoming is a BIG DEAL—ALL CAPS in Shaler. The parade rivals the Tournament of Roses). You’d think the Shaler Police were the Secret Service planning a presidential visit, the way they have the Homecoming detail set up. If terrorists decide to attack Shaler on Saturday, the guys are ready for them. Heaven forbid anything interfere with the big football game.

All this is why I write about crime. Real life cannot compare with all the sinister plots and schemes lurking in the corners of my mind.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

They Actually Pay Me for This

By Annette Dashofy

Teaching yoga doesn’t really pay a lot. If you want to make money at it, you need to present workshops. The first workshop I ever taught was on arm balances. What's an arm balance you ask? Click here to see one. Yes, I can do that. I can even do this.

I worked for months leading up to it, practicing and planning and changing the plan. Then on the day of the workshop, I had to demonstrate each balance. Again and again.

Way too much like work.

Next month, I’m teaching workshop on Restorative Yoga. Ahhh. Now we’re talking. In Restorative Yoga I basically prop everyone up on bolsters and blankets, cover their eyes and leave them there for twenty minutes or so to release into the supports and let all the tension drain out of them. I don’t even call it a “work” shop. I call it an Afternoon of Restorative Yoga.

Of course, to earn my money, I must be prepared. I must practice. Day after day after day. I must try out each pose and find the absolute best position and the best props to support my students in that position. This means lots of time spent in each pose. Tsk, tsk. Don’t you feel sorry for me?

I do love Restorative Yoga. Like everyone else, I’d gotten too busy with life to take care of myself lately. Then weekend before last, Judith Lasater came to town. I’ve studied with Judith several times before and we’ve become friends, so a workshop with her is a treat on so many levels. But not the least of it is the Restorative poses. She literally wrote the book on the topic. This year as in past years, at one point, she looked at me asked, “May I set you up in this pose?” What am I going to say? No? Are you nuts? Heck, yes, puleeeese set me up. I put myself in the master’s hands and surrender.

That is what I want to pass on to my students next month when I present my Autumn Afternoon of Restorative Yoga. I want them to feel pampered. I want them to feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

I want them to walk up and down the hall a few times before they get in their cars when it’s over. There’s this thing I call Yoga-Mush-Brain. Feels great, but it’s not good for driving skills.

So for the next few weeks, I’ll be perfecting my presentation of Restorative Yoga. Practice makes perfect.

I love my job.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tax Write Offs

by Judith Evans Thomas

I am taking a break from sorting through my 2005 tax material in preparation for a meeting with our accountant who is frothing at the mouth because we STILL haven't filed for '05.
It's not that odd, however because we do it every year. As I learned from Dr. Tory's post last week, I'm a professional procrastinator. I'm never the first to arrive at a luncheon appointment, or for that matter any appointment. I leave packing for a trip till the very last minute and then jam whatever I've laid out (always too much) into the bag and dash to the airport, where I'm usually too late for curbside checkin. Only because I have a priority status do I even make it through the security line and onto the plane. I guess I like the adrenalin rush.
But I digress from the topic which is what can a writer deduct without triggering an IRS audit. If I am anywhere near average, my writeoffs will always exceed my income...I'm waiting for the day that they don't.
There are the obvious...home office, phone, paper, stamps (all those SASEs), Kinko services (endless reproductions of those first fifty pages, and if you are lucky, entire manuscripts). The not so obvious but still good are capital expenses like a computer, printer, and camera.
I'm thinking, however, of creating a new category of expenses called MAD "Mental Aid Decuctions."
Under this category I would include:
* Chocolate Chip Cookies
* Massages
* Airfare to Bora Bora
* Jewelry... especially the real kind
* Starbucks
* Gasoline for trips to Starbucks.
* All Chocolate Moose products
* All Godiva products
* Manolo Blahnick shoes
* Jimmy Choo shoes
* Anything Chanel
* Plastic surgery
* Spa trips.. especially to Miraval
* Babysitters or Nanny's
* Fine Wine
* A wine cellar to house the fine wine
* Apple-tinis
* My own personal chef.

I'm going to try this out on my accountant tomorrow and let you know how it goes. What would be your MAD items? Let's start a movement!!!! I want MAD

Post here or on my blog at

Monday, September 25, 2006

After devoting my debut blog to corpse disposal, I thought I should get with the theme here and write about some of the many jobs that have enriched my life, if not my pocketbook.

Job One through Job None.
by Pat Hart

Age 8/Entrepreneur/Curbside location: Purveyor of fine kool-aids and penny candies to local populace.

Age 16/Button tabulator for yarn and fabric store/Family-owned--my family: Inventory taker of a wide variety of sewing notions, especially skilled at counting ceramic sweater buttons featuring “Ducks with bonnets,” “Kittens with yarn,” and “Kittens without yarn.”

Age 20/Front line sales/Burger Chef (Burger King’s less royal brother): Bravely greeted my college classmates dressed in a polyester blue outfit and chef toque/hair net.

Age 20/Reserve book room desk attendant/University library: Preventor of learning, denier of knowledge, and general impediment to progression of the species as I studied and students, desperate to get the assigned reading materials, begged me to get off my caboose and at least LOOK for the reserved books.

Age 21/Pineapple Princess/Dole pineapple plant/Hawaii/Nightshift: Removed the little hard bits from the pineapples after they’d been shoved through a can-sized tube. Gained valuable knowledge about the acidity of pineapple juice, the tenderness of human skin, and the protective properties of Vaseline.

Age 21/Officious Manager/Carpet installation company/Hawaii:
As the lone mainlander in the organization, I was solely responsible for getting the installers to quit laying around on the carpets smoking, and get in their trucks and on their way to the job before the customers started calling.

Age 22/Collector/Vacuum cleaner debt/Arizona: Tracked a ‘unit’ to Mexico where I was told “to come ahead and get it, they didn’t need it no more on account of the floor, it was a dirt.”

Age 22/Teaching Assistant/English/Arizona: Tried to convince a roomful of 18-year-olds that I knew anything at all. Somewhat successful with the ESL students.

Age 24/Medical Courier: Picked-up blood samples and other mystery items in Petri dishes and delivered to a laboratory, usually on dark and stormy nights.

Age 25/Advertising/Account Supervisor: With Larry Tate from Bewitched as my patron saint, I put on my big girl shoes and pretended to be a grown-up, and mostly succeed for about 20 years. Ultimately, I noticed there are no women over 40 in my business. Just as I begin to suspect the soylent green Chai lattes…

Present day/Writer of fiction -mostly marketing materials for my clients, but stories too.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A World of Gray Zombies

by Gina Sestak

A few weeks ago I promised to blog about my many jobs. Let's start with the most glamorous -- movie extra.

OK, OK. All you former movie extras out there can get up off the floor and stop laughing. Being an extra doesn't usually pay enough to qualify as a "job," unless you can live on pennies a day. And it surely isn't glamorous. But you can learn a lot on a movie set.

I've been an extra in a lot of movies, including little known gems like Blood Sucking Pharoahs of Pittsburgh. [That's me in the restaurant, with my back to the camera.] My favorite, though, was a stint as a zombie in the original Dawn of the Dead.

Dawn of the Dead was filmed at Monroeville Mall, a large suburban in-door shopping center, in the wee hours of Sunday mornings. We extras would show up around midnight on Saturday night and gather in a large room to be made up. Some received horrific wounds -- bloody gashes, axes through the head, etc. Alas, I was not amongst them. My make-up, like that of most of the other zombie extras, consisted entirely of painting my skin gray and smearing red around my eyes. Then we waited. Those of you who've been in movies already know that most of what you do is wait. You are filmed for a few seconds, then the crew spends the next hour or so moving cameras and rearranging lights, then you are filmed for a few more seconds, etc. Mostly, you hang around and eat the food graciously provided by the film-makers.

Spending hours in a room full of gray and bloody people has an interesting effect on the mind. You begin to see yourself as one of them. The zombies become "us." Whenever non-zombies {aka "live people") come in, you find their vibrant skin tones jarring. They've become "them," another species. Alien.

I was one of the few zombie extras who survived encounters with the motorcycle gang and found the secret room where the heroes and heroine had been hiding. We zombies broke through a wall, shuffled down a hallway, invaded the secret room, and climbed a ladder to the roof, just in time to see the two surviving live folks fly away in a helicopter. The wall, the hallway, and the roof were all in Monroeville Mall. The secret room was about 15 miles away, in a warehouse in downtown Pittsburgh. The ladder didn't really go to the roof. This is movie magic. Parts of the action were filmed out of sequence, in different locations, then the parts were put together in such a way as to fool the audience into thinking that everything occurred at the same place within a few minutes' time.

What does any of this have to do with writing mysteries? you may ask. Plenty.

Writing mysteries, or any other type of fiction, requires the author to create an "us-versus-them" scenario. When done right, the reader identifies with the protagonist (like I identified with the zombies) and sees the antagonist(s) as the "other" (like the live people). The reader becomes emotionally involved in the action which, like the invasion of the secret room, does not have to be constructed sequentially. You can write one part of the final confrontation, put it aside, write a few earlier chapters, then come back and add to the confrontation dialogue. It doesn't have to be written in order -- you just have to put it together so it reads as if it were. And that is writing magic.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Murder on My Mind

by Rebecca Drake

The gas line is being replaced on my block, a process that seems to involve lots of huge vehicles, even more men and the solid roar of jackhammers and backhoes for several hour stretches each day. I put on headphones and try to pretend I don’t hear them. They knock on the door and politely ask that I move the car.


In one respite from the noise, I hear the unmistakable sound of water dripping. A leak has sprung in the tile roof and water is pouring through a crawlspace and down into my daughter’s bedroom.

A bucket is hastily put in place. A roofer is called. They come a week later, joining the line of company trucks outside, and mount their ladders outside my office window, climbing across my flat office roof to reach the section of tiled roof that needs to be repaired. Back and forth they go, back and forth, thump, thump, thump. My head throbs along to the beat.

In the stillness of the night, always near midnight and often at 3 and 4 a.m. too, the man across the street who suffers from insomnia, walks in and out of his house, letting his heavy screen door slam behind him. A jarring, sit-up-in-bed and say “what-the-f” kind of noise.

Every night.

Several times a night.

I’m an advocate of gun control. I’ve participated in peace marches. I could at one point have been certified as a latter-day tree-hugging hippie. Now I could just be certified. I want to kill someone.

Should I pick the construction worker blithely tossing his empty coke bottles on my stretch of sidewalk? I could stuff him in one of the holes they’ve left and fill it up with gravel from the enormous pile sitting at the end of my road. They’ll never miss him.

Maybe the chatty roofer, who wants to explain exactly when I should call to get my gutters cleaned, instructions so complicated--call the main office and ask to be put on a schedule--that he needs to explain the process to me at least five times.

Smile, nod, agree that, yes, that’s the thing to do all right. Can’t let those leaves pile up because you’re bound to have more trouble down the road. Got to call now to get on that schedule. If you wait you won’t get on the schedule and then you’ll be waiting. Forever.

It’ll take less time than that for them to find him if I reach out my office window and give that ladder he’s standing on a little push. Whee-e-e. A short flight backwards through the air and he won’t be bothering me about the fall clean-up or any clean-up anymore.

Or maybe I’ll help the neighbor across the street with his little problem with insomnia. I’ll tiptoe over one night and wait for him. Just as he’s making his second trip outside, I’ll sandbag him and then I’ll bang his thick skull so hard in that screen door that he’ll be sleeping with the angels.

I’m thinking of posting a sign on my lawn: Beware of the Crime Writer!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why I Don't Work For CNN

by Kristine Coblitz

When I registered for college, I was under the delusion that I could make a living as a writer, so I enrolled as an English major. Not long after my freshman year, I realized that literature courses weren’t going to pay my rapidly growing student loan, so I switched my major to Journalism and Communications. I could write and get paid a modest salary. A perfect fit!

I became a news junkie, and my articles tackled real issues, but I hated interviewing. My professor forced me to talk to complete strangers on the streets of Pittsburgh. Talk about humiliation. Perhaps that’s why I edit a technical journal and live vicariously through my fictional characters who work as journalists. It’s a lot safer behind the scenes.

Earlier this year, however, I put my toes back into the pool by writing about literacy and education for a local magazine targeted to parents and children. It’s reporting, of course, but the most controversial topic I’ve written about is how academic tryouts affect a child’s self esteem. No sweat, right?


I’ve been branded as a member of “the press.” While writing an article on senior citizens and volunteering, I had a woman hang up on me after I asked to use her name. People have refused to answer my calls. People have lied to me.

The most memorable experience happened when I interviewed a group of local kids about teachers. The adult in charge was extremely hesitant about letting a blood-sucking reporter near the children. After finally gaining her trust and a successful meeting with the kids, the leader e-mailed me with a link to her blog because she was interested in chatting about writing. Her blog was well written and reflected themes of religion and charity work. Without thinking, I sent her a link to my blog in return.

I never heard from her again. Only later did I realize that the entry on my blog that particular day was about the “Serial Killer Quiz,” which matches aspects of your personality with famous serial killers. The entry would make total sense to anyone who knew about my other life as a crime writer. Others, including this woman, probably saw it a lot differently.

You can bet that I now have separate business cards--one for my crime writing and one for my journalism career, the latter of which does not include links to my website or blog.

Live and learn.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Order and OCD

By Tory Butterworth

My office is as clean as it's ever likely to be.

I'm waiting for my official job offer from Human Resources, and taking time to do the sorts of things I never really do when I'm working five days a week. Cleaning out my home office, I ran across an old Christmas letter, written when I adopted my two cats. Thora is my Himalayan. Her name translates as, "Thor's struggle," the struggle between chaos and order.

For this one moment in my life, order has triumphed.

At the beginning of the summer, however, it was a different story. Despite my own frequent advice to clients and friends, "Don't leave your current job until you get another one," I left community mental health with a couple of job leads but no definite offers. In my heart of hearts, I was hoping to take the summer off, to get things in order.

I've done most of the things I set out for myself. My website is up. I re-organized my finances. Any day now, I'll get a formal job offer.

As summer officially draws to its close, I do appreciate being able to see the top of my desk. What I appreciate more, however, was having the chance to be at "loose ends," for a while, to stay with my job hunting process until something emerged. If I hadn't let myself live in the chaos of being unemployed this summer, I wouldn't have had time to explore some of the job options I did. I wouldn't have allowed myself to sit with them until one, in particular, felt right.

I think chaos gets a bad rap. Most people talk like order is good and chaos is bad. But that's not how it feels. Too much order can be stifling. Too much order and we stay in the same place, don't move out and explore. When we work and struggle and change, chaos is inevitable.

Most of you have heard of the psychiatric diagnosis, "Obsessive-compulsive disorder," or OCD, portrayed in Judith Rapoport's book, The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Washing. You could say it's a disease of too much order. People with OCD can't live with the normal chaos of everyday life. It makes them too anxious.

Sometimes I think I'm a bit OCD. But I guess not. My house is too clean now, even for me.

Thank heaven for Thora, she'll put that right in nobody's business!

The Paths Taken

by Judith Evans Thomas

Creative projects have taken me in directions I never would have imagined. At my fortieth birthday party in Los Angeles, friends and I came up with the idea for a travel guide to all the factory outlets and great stores in France, Italy and London. Much to our surprise, Bantam Books loved the idea and Born To Shop France, Italy and London came to life. Thirty books and thirteen countries later I dragged my over stamped passport home to rest.
After a few years of playing full time Mom to my ageing parents and teenage children I got antsy. That's when I was introduced to Betsy Benson at Pittsburgh Magazine. She had just taken on the title of Publisher and was looking for ideas on how to improve the content. Never one who minces words, I told her the magazine needed pizzaz and celebrity panache. Pittsburgh was, after all the home and training ground for the likes of August Wilson, Kathleen and Rob Marshall, Gene Kelly, Sharon Stone and a host more. Check out for a complete list.
Much to my surprise, Betsy asked me to write a column interviewing celebrities with a Pittsburgh connection. I had never written for a magazine before but hey... writers write.
That was two years ago and the column has morphed into my own wacky, sometimes irreverent view on life and how we live it.
What I find most fascinating about my jobs is that I've never asked for them. I've never gone out and said gee, I want to write.... As a matter of fact, when I've done that it's flopped. I spent a few (okay many) years writing a thriller. It and all it's revisions are in my closet where I could be hanging lovely fall clothing. Of course it's brilliant but no one else agrees.
Shopping the thriller at the Pennwriter's Convention I met Evan Fogelman, an agent who I didn't pitch, didn't intend to pitch, but liked so much I thought when I was ready, he'd be the one to represent me.
Over the course of the weekend we talked, we brainstormed, and came up with a project. Once again, It's not something I ever expected.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Isabella and Why Pesto Suddenly Seems Like a Bad Idea

by Brenda Roger

Like many creative people, I have multiple jobs. Today, I’m being inspired by my job as a Museum Teacher at the Frick Art and Historical Center.

The art museum on site is currently exhibiting Pre-Raphaelite paintings from the Delaware Art Museum. One of the most striking and astonishingly detailed paintings on view is Isabella and the Pot of Basil by William Holman Hunt. It is very easy to admire its beauty without seeing why it is both romantic and disgusting. A rather striking woman with dark hair and Mediterranean features embraces a large pot with her head tipped over the leafy green plant contained within. The pot is on top of an elaborate piece of embroidery bearing the name “Lorenzo”. Isabella stands on a marble floor in a lavishly decorated room.

The detail is meticulous. William Holman Hunt, like many of his fellow Pre-Raphaelites, was obsessive about detail and authenticity. He went so far as to design the basil pot, have it cast and then decorate it using traditional majolica glazing techniques. Such juicy tidbits were the fruits of my routine research of a new exhibition. This time, that research also revealed a plot fit for a mystery novel.

The story of Isabella is your basic girl meets boy, girl’s brothers murder boy, boy tells girl in a dream where he is buried, girl digs up boy’s corpse and hacks off his head as a memento, type of story. You know, we’ve all read them. What???

The painting illustrates a poem by John Keats. Keats in turn, based his poem on a much older story that is Italian in origin. Keats very cleverly tells us that after her murdered boyfriend, Lorenzo, comes to her in a dream and tells her where he is buried, Isabella takes her nurse into the woods to look for him. The two women dig up poor Lorenzo, and much to the nurse’s surprise, Isabella pulls out a knife and hacks off his rotting head. She smuggles the molding, oozing souvenir into the house in a carpetbag and plants it in a pot of basil. She then drops out of life completely in order to cry over the basil and water it with her tears. She has the best looking pot of basil in Italy. A romantic would say it’s the tears, a scientist would say it’s the …uh…. fertilizer.

Her brothers can’t figure out why she has been doing this for months. They sneak the pot away one day and remove the basil plants only to discover dear Lorenzo looking up at them. Inasmuch as a moldy, decomposed head can look at anyone.

Imagine this plot set in the current time in this country. Sadly, people do such strange things with corpses that it may be less shocking written about in a current setting than it is when depicted with exacting detail in a nineteenth century painting. Still, I intend to file it away for future adaptation.

I thought that this exhibit would have me talking about red heads, Shakespeare and Fairy Tales. Instead, I am recounting the plight of Isabella to school children, and predictably, the bloodthirsty little buggers love it.

Well, at least it gets them excited about art. Sigh.

They're After Me

by Brian Mullen

I know they’re after me. They told me so. Which is really nice of them, now that I think about it. I should probably send them a fruit basket or something just to say ‘Thanks.’ But I digress.

They’re after me. They know where I live and, at any given moment, they know where I am. That's because they live inside my brain. They are the Sanity Police and I routinely top their Most Wanted list.

I should probably explain. My name is Brian Mullen and, the way I see it, I have three jobs. Taken separately, these three jobs are fairly benign in the grand scheme of things. But when you put them all out!

First, there’s my day job – the one that pays the bills and affords me the luxury of eating things other than Ramen Noodle Soup three times a day. I am an "Environmental Consultant." I help businesses and industries find a way to continue to do business while protecting the qualities of the air, water and land we all share. This is a job that heavily involves a computer. Virtually every day I am accessing federal, state and local regulations, completing electronic permits, creating descriptive drawings and layouts, writing reports and summaries, etc. I am in front of a computer virtually all of my eight hour day. It can be mind-numbing.

Then I tackle job number two which I’ll dub “The Writer.” If you want to be a writer, the maxim says, you have to act like a writer. And writers write. So, after eight near-solid hours in front of my work computer, I come home and try to convince myself to spend at least one or two more in front of my home computer cranking out just a few more pages of that latest story on which I’m working. By this time my fingers are getting tired, my eyes are starting to hurt, and my brain’s screen saver kicks on a little more often than it should.

After that, it’s time for job number three which I’ll dub “Aspiring Author.” “Fat load of good having a novel sitting on your hard drive does you,” I tell myself. “Someone needs to see it. Are there any contests you can enter? Are there any new publishers or agents to add to your lists? How about any local events you can attend where you might meet someone who can help you along with your goal?” Well, where can I find the answers to these questions? That’s right, on the Internet. Which means I should probably spend some time checking. . . on my computer. Just one more hour I tell myself. Just one more hour.

That’s usually when the metaphorical door in my mind gets knocked off its hinges and in swarm the Sanity Police.

“Step away from the computer, sir,” they shout to me. “You are in violation of Sanity Ordinance 346274385(b)(IIV)(x) Subparagraph 14C. We’re taking you downstairs to the family room where you will sit with your wife on the couch and watch television. Don’t make me use the pepper spray, sir.”

The problem is. . . I hate television. When there were just a few dozen channels, space was limited and the programming at least got a certain level of scrutiny before they were approved. Now there’re a few hundred channels each with 24 hours of air time to fill so they’re more likely to air crap and take a chance. This means watching television just heightens my anxiety. “This stinks,” I say. “Why, I could write something better than this.” Then an idea hits me – and I think about going back to the computer.


“I warned you, sir,” shout the police.

It’s very perilous being an Aspiring Author.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Writing My Way to Enlightenment by Cathy Anderson Moffat

Have you found your day job reflected in your fiction? That work that brings in the paycheck--has it changed what you write about?

I'm the New Age massage therapist of the group, and I confess my perceptions of the world have transformed since the long ago days when I bustled down hospital corridors as an R.N.

I'd begun writing in my late nursing days, and I belonged to a writer's group from Community College. I wrote a story called "Going Home" about an elderly woman resuscitated and left to deteriorate on a respirator. The idea of the piece revolved around letting the old people pass on gracefully. Medicine got carried away trying to "save" a soul ready to go home.

When I read the piece to my group, one girl started crying. Her grandmother had just been through such an ordeal. The girl's emotional wounds hadn't healed yet.

Maybe I should have written about something else.

But since I became a massage therapist, my world tilted and a new, inner world emerged. Suddenly, I've become aware of angels, fairies, reincarnated witches, and crystal ball gazing--that's just for starters. My writing reflects these new subjects. I work in my clients' auras, am conscious of energy fields and energy work, do yoga to keep from keeling over, meditate, and know that the universe is a pretty exciting place.

No more sad stories. I promise. The best is yet to come.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Who Killed Jon-Benet?

by Meryl Neiman

Okay. I admit it. I'm a little obsessed with the Jon-Benet case. Not obsessed as in I have my own web site or I've read the actual autopsy reports. But obsessed as in, if someone told me I could find out who killed Jon-Benet or whether there's life in outer space, I'd have to go with who killed Jon-Benet.

When they dragged that crazy guy back from Singapore, my curiosity rekindled. On the one hand, certain clues point to one of her family members. Who else would know the exact sum of her father's bonus? Why would a "kidnapper" not bring paper on which to write a note with him to the scene? How would a stranger know to take Jon-Benet to that isolated basement room? But, on the other hand, the child's body was brutalized in a way that seems inconsistent with a parent gone out of control and there was unidentified DNA under her fingernails.

This is a story without an ending.

I think her case fascinates me, and lots of others, for several reasons in addition to the complicated crime scene. First, the little girl's heartbreaking beauty. Second, the strange world of child pageants. Third, the parents' decision to lawyer up right away.

But, most of all, I'm fascinated by evil. I find people endlessly interesting. And, of all people, I find those that are most on the fringe of societal norms the most fascinating. As a law student, I loved criminal law, that unique combination of legal principle and human drama. Unfortunately, there wasn't a career path in criminal law that suited me. I didn't want to be a prosecutor, committed to a political system that often offers an attorney little discretion. Neither did I want to be a defense attorney, working to free defendants who might go on to commit other horrific offenses.

So I became a litigator. I defended class action securities cases, toxic tort cases, and employment discrimination cases. I litigated on behalf of large corporate clients as they sought to hold their historic insurance companies responsible for environmental remediation costs. The work was intellectually challenging, if not emotionally engaging. But when I reduced my schedule to part-time to raise my young children, things changed. I couldn't manage complex litigation cases on a part-time schedule. The resulting piece meal work became boring.

So here I am, a recovering lawyer. Agented, but as yet unpublished. Striving to carve out a career in criminal law. Not as a prosecutor. Or as a defense attorney. But as a writer. In this profession, I can indulge my fascination with evil. I can explore the darker side of human nature and the justice system without commiting myself to an unbending stance. My stories have endings. I know who committed the murders in my books and I know why.

I only wish I knew who killed Jon-Benet. If any of you out there know who did, please let me know.

Crimes and Misconceptions

By Joyce Tremel

Most people probably think a mystery writer working for a police department is a perfect combination. Where else could a writer get an endless supply of plot ideas, exciting crimes, hot guys in uniform, and access to all kinds of procedural and legal information?

On second thought, leave out the hot guys in uniform. You won’t find any here.

The suburbs are not exactly hotbeds of criminal activity, and Shaler Township is no exception. We went twenty years without a homicide. Most of the reports I type are for things like lost dogs, traffic complaints and motor vehicle accidents. We have a lot of domestics, neighbor disputes and drug related crimes, like retail thefts. Not exactly riveting material for a mystery novel.

On the upside, though, I get a first hand look at how a police department functions. Sure, it’s on a smaller scale than the city, but Pennsylvania law is the same in both. I have experts on hand that I can ask crime-related questions. I only have to holler or dial a three digit extension. I have access to crime scene photos. I got to help process a burglary scene (it was my brother-in-law’s house), and I was taught how to fingerprint people.

On the downside, I’m usually the one who has to pat down (frisk) any female prisoners. Ick. I wear gloves. Police work is definitely not as exciting as it's portrayed on television. Crimes are not solved in an hour. And I get really bored entering traffic citations into the computer. But overall, the good things outweigh the bad.

I realize how lucky I am to have all the resources I need right here in my day job to enhance my crime writing and make it more realistic. I’d like to share some of that info. If anyone has questions on procedure, cops, crimes, etc., feel free to ask. I can’t guarantee that I’ll know the answer, but I certainly know who to ask!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Mystery of Yoga

by Annette Dashofy

I’m a yoga instructor who writes mysteries, striving to become a mystery writer who teaches yoga. My students fret that when I become rich and famous, I will abandon them. Fat chance. First, they don’t realize that mystery writers rarely become rich and famous. As in almost never. Second, I love my day job (actually my night job since I teach in the evening) and have no intention of quitting.

But my two chosen occupations do make for a life of contradictions. All day I write about the backside world of a second rate Thoroughbred racetrack where all sorts of seedy characters cause problems for my protagonist. And when things get really bad for her, I throw something else at her to make it worse. More tension, I need more tension on each page. Who can I kill off now?

Then I change into my yoga clothes and head to the Yoga Center with its white walls and white carpet, the faint scent of incense wafting on the air currents created by the white ceiling fans. A CD plays in the background sending the soft droning tones of a harmonium into the tranquil space decorated with lovely paintings of Hindu deities and tiles bearing the Sanskrit figure Om. Black and white photographs of past gurus in our yoga lineage gaze down at me while I encourage my stressed-out students to breathe, to seek out the tension they hold in their bodies and to let it go, feel it peel away like the layers of an onion, release it into the earth.

At the end of class, providing I’ve done my job, my students leave the center wearing smiles of bliss.

How do I reconcile these two diametrically opposite lifestyles? I don’t. I gave up years ago. When people ask, I tell them I’m a complex person. Those who know me, laugh.

The fact is I have developed a deep friendship with tension. I’ve learned how to build it, to twist it to suit my needs and I’ve learned how to turn it off, to send it packing when I no longer have a use for it. This is an interesting skill in today’s world. Everywhere we turn, stress lurks. As a society, high blood pressure (also known as HyperTENSION) and heart disease have become as common as…well…the common cold. Almost. And how many of the illnesses that attack us are triggered in some way by stress?

So I’ll keep my connections to the yoga world and my yoga students, some of whom, by the way, are mystery fans! We all need to find some way to let go of the day. I will go to class tonight and teach Downward Facing Dog and Triangle and finish with the relaxation of savasana. Then I’ll come home and torture my protagonist again.

Incidentally, I have read that my favorite of the gurus in the photographs at the Yoga Center, Swami Rudrananda, was a huge fan of Agatha Christie. Maybe these two lifestyles aren’t so diametrically opposite after all.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Looking for Inspiration in All the Wrong Places (or Maybe Not)

by Mike Crawmer

Summer was coming to an end, the perfect time for my partner and me to leave town for an eight-day driving tour of Maine and New Hampshire. (Look in future posts for stories from my day job, where I edit the clumsy creations of writers for whom English is a Gumby toy to be twisted to fit their own inscrutable needs.)

Ah, Maine! As predicted, the rocky coastline and lighthouses were postcard perfect…its towns, quaint and charming…its rivers and mountains pulled from a painting…its people, friendly and easygoing. Taking advantage of a stay in Bar Harbor, I looked for inspiration at the site of the former home of our chapter’s namesake. The house was destroyed in a 1947 fire that ravaged Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. But Mary Roberts Rinehart was a formidable woman--maybe, just maybe, I could pick up some vibes from the grand dame while taking in the vista from where her house once stood. Alas, the view of Bar Harbor and the islands beyond was just too beautiful to conjure up thoughts of nefarious deeds and heinous crimes. Stories of Nature’s beauty and wonder, yes, but murder and mayhem, no. Obviously, I’d have to look elsewhere for inspiration.

It wasn’t going to be in our next stop, the Androscoggin River area, where the litany of “quaint,” “charming,” “beautiful,” and “enchanting” continued unabated. The rare dark thought faded quickly, overwhelmed by the warm glow emanating from the historic towns, babbling streams, covered bridges and dreamy white birch forests. We were trapped in a postcard vacation. There was no escape until our flight back to Pittsburgh.

As it happened, we were in the midst of all the inspiration a mystery writer would need (for at least the next book). A couple days after returning home, news reports out of Maine told of an inexplicable murder spree. The victims: the owner of a Sunday River area B&B, the owner’s daughter, a friend of the daughter, a male guest at the inn--and three dogs! The suspect: A young cook at a Bethel B&B, who, according to police, dismembered some of his victims, leaving the women at the inn and dumping the male victim in a nearby state park.

OMIGOD! I squealed as I read about the crime. We ate at the Bethel B&B where the suspect worked. Did he make my pizza? My partner’s sandwich? We drove past the B&B where the women’s bodies lay. And we picnicked and hiked in the park were the male victim was dumped. Just how close were we to that poor man’s scattered remains?

This suspect is now in custody, and I hope the people of the area do not for long carry the scars of this horrific, grisly, unexpected crime.

But, deep inside, I couldn’t help thinking: Inspiration at last!

Corpus Delecti by Pat Hart

British serial killer John George Haigh, The Acid Bath Murderer, misunderstood the Latin legal phrase “corpus delecti” to mean that he could not be charged with murder unless the police found a body. So, with this misnomer tucked in his breast pocket, and the knowledge that all his victims had been dissolved in the 40-gallon vat of sulphuric acid in his basement, he foolishly boasted to police about his exploits. But, since the actual meaning of “Corpus delicti” is "the body of the crime," and the coppers found a human gallstone and a set of false teeth, Haigh was indeed charged and ultimately hanged on 8/10/49.

After committing a murder, once the murderous venom has seeped away and the hatred, lust, vengeance, or greed that fueled your deadly action has been quelled; you are left with the practical undertaking of not getting caught.

Hopefully, you’ve already prearranged an airtight alibi.
"I was in labor!" Is a good one, but a little tricky to arrange, especially for those last minute crimes of passion.

However, assuming the alibi holds, your next big problem is the unavoidable, and undeniable by-product of homicide: a corpse. Generally, the corpse, a cumbersome mass of guilt, is about the same size and shape as yourself. It is also completely inert and unable, even if it wanted to, to assist or participate in its disposal.

One option is to let the body be found by the cops. But first you have to scour it from head to toe, hopefully, removing any microscopic smoking guns, and then act your ass off at every turn of events.
“Oh my, he’s DEAD! Boo hoo, boo hoo. How awful and he was so afraid of heights--d’OH! Are you sure you didn’t mention he fell off a cliff? I’m psychic! I swear! I see a one armed man…”
Somewhere Sarah Bernhardt weeps.

Option two is to dispose of the body, which is an every changing challenge. It gets stiff, it gets floppy, it starts to smell and attract bugs. And the whole time it’s sloughing off hair, fibers, and other offal that some nerdy science girl is going to find with her halogen flashlight, pick up with a pair of tweezers, put in a tiny manila envelope, make a gigantic poster of it and present it at your trial, inspiring everyone, even your own attorney, to draw their finger across their necks and say: CRRRCK.

Obviously, the best thing to do is to convince your victim to climb into the giant hefty bag you’ve arranged on a dolly before you kill him. But barring that, what’s a homicidal maniac to do?

Once you decide to dispose of the body yourself you really only have two routes from which to choose. Keep the body close, in your control, or get the body as far away from you as fricking possible and try not to leave a trail of bloody breadcrumbs leading back to you.

Jeffery Dahmer apparently opted for the close at hand approach then lived hand to mouth as he--well, enough already. But the main problem with keeping the body close is that it is a lifelong commitment. At some point you’re going to have to sell the house with the dirt floor basement, or someone's going to wonder what’s the deal with that creepy old trunk you’ve been hauling around for years, and, once you’re over forty, you’re likely to forget why you never put a pool in until the backhoe guy knocks on the door holding a femur.

Or you can choose to dump the body in a place that no one would ever find it, but then you lose control of discovery. Undoubtedly, the week after you ditch the body in that secluded little glen you found, the Webelos will hold their annual Flora and Fauna Frolic and 85 seven-year olds and their moms will be overrunning the area like ants on a dropped ice cream cone.

It’s a dilemma. Any bright ideas out there? Any sure fire ways to get clean away?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

You Can't Make a Living as a Writer

"You can't make a living as a writer," says Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany in this month's National Geographic, explaining why he continues to practice dentistry when his book The Yacoubian Building has topped Arab best seller lists for the last two years.

The sad fact is that, like members of other creative professions, most writers have to make a living through something other than their art. The up side is that our day jobs provide fodder for our imaginations, as well as the grounding in reality that any good book needs to be believable.

I've learned something from every job I've held, and I have held a lot of them. I started working as a store clerk when I was 16 years old, then went on to a broad spectrum of positions -- everything from waitress to movie extra, dissertation editor to door-to-door seller of encyclopedias, inventory taker to cotton-candy maker. Along the way, I co-authored two non-fiction books and wrote case summaries for a legal periodical. For the past thirty years I've practiced law in a variety of settings -- as a solo practitioner, in a small firm, for a legal services program, as a temp, and, most recently, in a corporate law department. I've represented clients in thousands of hearings before trial courts and administrative agencies and written gazillions of legal documents.

In the months ahead, I will be blogging periodically about these jobs. Meanwhile, keep reading every day to keep up with the fascinating professions practiced by my fellow bloggers.

- Gina

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Excitement's Killing Me

by Rebecca Drake

Answer: “Ooh, how exciting!”
Question: What comment invariably follows the reluctant admission that I’m a full-time writer?

So, here’s a little snapshot into the exciting life of one full-time writer:

You forcibly remove all distractions (i.e. small and large people otherwise known as family members) from the house. Lock doors and pray that no one comes back to retrieve something. Retire to desk and plant bum in chair.

Stare at the computer screen and try to remember that this is what you love to do.

Ten minutes pass so slowly that you’re convinced something is wrong with the clock. You’d better check. Fifteen minutes and one call to the computer store later you discover that this is, in fact, the correct time.

Stare at the screen some more. Think about your protagonist and how you want them to sound brilliant and witty and full of life. You write two sentences of dialogue. It’s flat, dull prose and you picture a reader throwing the book down in disgust because the heroine is an idiot. You wonder why you ever thought you could write. You delete the sentences and then you have second thoughts and retrieve them. Next to them you write in caps, FIX THIS! and corral it with brackets.

There, you’ve accomplished something. Surely it’s time for a break. But you promised yourself that you weren’t going to do that, you’re going to *&@3$ well stay in this chair and write.

Only you’ve just noticed that a plant’s withering in a corner of your office. You can practically hear it gasping for breath. You’d better water it right now.

Okay, focus. Stare at the page. You realize you have only five hours left until you’ll have to unlock the door and let the small, noisy and demanding persons back inside. You set to work with a vengeance.

Deeply absorbed in killing off a character you’ve loosely based on the most obnoxious boss you’ve ever had, you’re interrupted by the buzzing of the phone. It will be one of three callers: The school, a relative, or a friend. None of these calls will be urgent, but they don’t hesitate to interrupt you because everyone knows that writing is far too exciting to qualify as a real job.

You will gnash your teeth about this, thus wasting five precious minutes, before taking out your anger on that character. In the end it will help—it will take seven pages for that character to die and you’re so impressed by this scene that you’ll wonder why the Pulitzer people aren’t beating a path to your door.

Once every few weeks you treat yourself to a trip to the local coffee shop where you always see the same group of “artists” in residence on the comfiest chairs discussing the magnum opus that each of them have in process. They’re still there when you leave an hour later. You understand why they’re there and not, say, at home actually working. It’s just too exciting.

Stress Can Be Murder

by Kristine Coblitz

We’ve all experienced it…the sweaty palms, the accelerated heartbeat, the fierce headache, the knot in the stomach. They are all symptoms of job-related stress, and if taken to extreme, it can be a killer more deadly than any mystery novel villain.

I say this from experience.

I spent over seven years working as the managing editor of a technical trade journal. Upset stomach? Yep. Irritability? Yep. Panic attacks? Yeah, I had them, too. When I scored 14 out of 16 on an online stress quiz, my suspicions were confirmed. I was suffering from burn-out and needed a change. Big time. Putting my health first, I packed the few personal belongings out of my office and bolted. I'm now working from home as a freelance technical writer and editor.

According to a 2000 survey on stress in the workplace, 14% of the respondents admitted to having the urge to strike a co-worker. Scary stuff, huh? And here we writers thought motives for murder were limited to love, revenge, and greed. Not anymore. It seems we may have to add job-related stress to the list now.

As part of my recovery, I’ve studied and researched the causes, symptoms, and effects of stress, as well as the remedies for dealing with it. The Internet is loaded with articles and practical advice, but I’d like to share the “Top 5” tips that worked for me and invite you all to add to the list.

(1) Be realistic about limitations. Once I got my priorities in line, I was able to focus.
(2) Set boundaries. Know when to say “no” and don’t back down. This is important!
(3) Get enough sleep. Do you suffer from insomnia like I do? There are many excellent CDs out there to help you drift to dreamland.
(4) Eat right and exercise. Okay, I’ll be honest. Exercise hasn’t exactly made it to the top of my priority list yet, but I'm trying.
(5) Pamper yourself. Make the effort to do something special for yourself every day. A hot bath and chocolate treats do the trick for me. Oh yeah, and so does watching this.

Now it’s your turn. How do you cope with stress?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


By Tory Butterworth

So, Nancy has set the stage for this blog: mystery writers and day jobs, right?

I've just switched day jobs. Three years ago, while working on starting my private practice as a counselor, I realized it was time to bite the bullet and get licensed. For this I needed 1000 "practice" hours doing therapy under a licensed therapist's supervision. So I got a job as a therapist in a community mental health center.

That job could best be described as laboring "in the trenches." Very, very ill patients. Massive poverty. I was confronted with one horror story after another of people struggling just to get by.

I learned a lot in my three years there. I became adept at psychological triage: sorting groups of patients into those who needed to be hospitalized and those who could wait for three weeks for a therapist. I learned to identify the criminal personalities, which we sent off to the forensic unit. I decided, once I was licensed, to leave the life of poverty so well modeled by my patients there.

Now I have a job lined up in research. I'll be helping families talk to their loved ones about end-of-life decisions and collecting data on the results. It's a big relief to be back in research after doing my time in treatment. I was afraid, as a former (research) boss commented, "I'm not as interested in (that) project, not enough angst!" I've had enough angst, thank you very much.

In yoga class last week the teacher said, "If this (posture) doesn't give you enough yoga drama, if you still want to go home and kick the dog or have a fight with your husband, you can . . . (instructions on how to make the posture more excruciating)." Then it hit me: it's all about managing the drama in your life.

So, this is where I go from the, "writer talking about her day job," to the, "counselor talking about writing." We all need drama in our life. Some of us get it through an addiction or adopting ten high-needs kids, but others of us get it through fiction. I'm all for stepping back and looking at drama as a dispassionate observer (as you do in research) rather than having to act it out at home. I'd rather feel the angst vicariously through the characters in a novel than go through the angst myself.

I once spent a week at a luxury hotel in Hawaii, the sort of place where I couldn't imagine anyone being unhappy. (My God, there were penguins standing around in the lobby!) I was impressed by how much drama guests could create over meals not perfectly done or rooms not perfectly clean. Now I know what to tell them. "Go read a novel!" Or, if you want real drama, try to write one.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Meet the Working Stiffs

by Nancy Martin

When a fiesty band of mystery writers decided to create a blog together, our first challenge was coming up with something that hasn't been done by a zillion other bloggers.

We think we've done it.

Working Stiffs is about our day jobs. Sure, we write mysteries, but we also have other work to do, and some of us have really interesting jobs. In the weeks to come, we'll be writing about the psychology of murder, the mysteries of the legal mind, and some careers we think you'll find even more intriguing. We have a massage therapist in our midst, a creative mind from the world of advertising, and a handbag designer. Not to mention some technical writers, a connection to the police department, a yoga instructor and a psycho-therapist to make sure we all get along. Some of us are full-time writers, too. And---oh, yeah, we have our very own lifestyle guru to make things even more interesting.

You won't be bored.

We're located in Pittsburgh, which means we've got an attitude you won't find in other cities. Here in The Burgh, we like pierogies and hard work and football. (Have I mentioned the Super Bowl yet?) And we like the occasional juicy murder, too.

Check back. You'll see what I mean.