Monthly Archives: January 2010

I’m going to hell for this…

I made the bad guys in “Crashers” Northern Irish terrorists. I’m Irish, which I figured would lower the chances I’d get sued. Anyway, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Today, it’s like making the bad guys come from Epcot Center.

Then came this headline in The Oregonian this weekend: “Power-sharing agreement in N.I. falling apart.”

And I’m like: Ka-Ching!

Hey. It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good.

The Rumpelstiltskin gig

Naming things is important. Most novelists learn this early on. Corporations? Not so much.

I was in a meeting with my College Advancement group at Portland Community College yesterday when someone asked about Apple’s new tablet computer. “What’s it called?” someone asked.

I groaned. “The I-Pad. Clearly, no women were in the room when the marketing team came up with the name.”

It took a two-count before everyone in the room got my meaning. And groaned.

This isn’t the first time that a major American corporation named a product with a gynecological tag. Thirty-plus years ago, the Ford Motor Co. figured out that women had a) independence (gasp!) and b) disposable income and c) sometimes bought cars, which had been a male-dominated activity since the guy who ran Ford was Mr. Ford. The company decided to design a car for “them feminists.” The called it…

…wait for it….

…the Probe.

I often wonder if anyone in Ford’s marketing department pitched the name “The Stirrups.”

British mystery writer Simon Brett (love…him…) wrote a series of terrific mysteries featuring actor and alcoholic Charles Paris. Remember those? They were great. I heard Brett speak at a Bouchercon, when he admitted that he created an ex-wife for the beloved if self-destructive hero. He named her “Francis.” Perfectly good name. It wasn’t until he was doing a speaking gig that he said the name out loud for the first time, “Francis Paris,” that he realized his error.

Try it. Say the name out loud. Francis Paris.

See the problem?

This stuff isn’t child’s play, folks. You gotta get it right.

Thriller writer named ‘Slaughter’…. hilarious!

Wow! I just found out that Karin Slaughter will be at the Public Library Association event, March 26 at the Portland Convention Center! I’ll be there, too. We haven’t met, but Ms. Slaughter is the author of the best-selling series of thrillers based in Atlanta, Ga. This is huge!

Librarians rule!

That sound you just heard was the universe tap dancing.

Back when I was first published as a novelist (it was a few years ago… the No. 1 box office draw that year was Clara Bow) Northwest public libraries were incredibly good to me. I got offer after offer to do speaking gigs, even though I was so low on the totem pole that there were no publicity dollars from my publisher, Bantam.

I refused to take money from libraries back then because, you know, Measures 5 and 50 had stripped cities of any serious funding. I told one library that I would speak for chocolate chip cookies. Word spread, and soon platters of chocolate chip cookies appeared at every speaking engagement. I loved that.

Local libraries even bought my third book, which was printed in England. The pound sterling vs. the dollar made that book very expensive to buy in the States but the librarians around here did it anyway.

Libraries have been very, very good to me.

Now comes news that I’m doing a panel on March 26 when the Public Library Association comes to the Portland Convention Center! This, despite the fact that “Crashers” won’t be out until June. Again: Librarians doing me a solid favor. Love them.

As soon as I know who my fellow panelists are, I’ll fill you in. In the meantime, I get to gather with librarians from throughout the United States. This is very, very cool news. They know from literature. I know the coolest happy hours in Portland. There’s no way this ends well.


The name game

Every novelist I know makes up a name list to check for the sound-alikes.

You know what I mean. If you’re reading a book with a “Bob,” a “Rob” and a “Robert,” you quickly get them confused. You don’t want a “Leo,” Theo” and “Bruno” in your story or you get your audience confused. Need a new character halfway through Act II? You browse through your name list and think, “Hmm… nobody yet with a last name that starts with an H. I can call this one ‘Horowitz’.”

In “The Spellman Files,” mystery writer Lisa Lutz introduces us to a family of six: mom and dad, two sisters, a brother and an uncle.

The sister is Rae. The uncle is Ray.

She breaks the rule.

But see, that’s what really good writers can do. She inverts a classic rule for a funny play on words. We, her readers, never once confuse the teenage Rae with the middle aged, alcoholic, Gamblers Anonymous Ray.

Please open your hymnals to “Danny’s All-Star Joint,” in which Rickie Lee Jones tells us, “You can’t break the rules if you don’t know how to play the game.”

Lutz knows how to play the game.

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