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Viewing Blog: So many books, so little time, Most Recent at Top
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Author of the young-adult thriller Shock Point, as well as five other mysteries and thrillers.
Statistics for So many books, so little time

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 37
1. I feel like a proud parent

When I first left my day job and was scrambling a bit for money, I taught an 8-week mystery-writing class at my local bookstore, Annie Blooms Books.  I've also taught one-off classes here and there for a long time, more as a way to give back than to make money.

Sometimes i don't even make any money. For example, on July 18th I'm teaching a class on plotting as a fundraiser for Write Around Portland.  It costs $35 and all the money goes to the organization.

This year, I've also taught that class for Left Coast Crime and for Oregon Literary Arts.  A few years ago, I taught a class on how to start a series.

Well, one of the guys who was in that class, Curtis C. Chen, came up to me after my signing at Powells, and told me he had just made a two-book deal and had been going over the old notes from my series class to help him approach his series.



And then today, I saw that another one of my old students, Lisa Alber, had also made a deal:



And last year, Cindy Brown, a woman from one of my original classes who went on to be my friend, made a three-book deal.  The first book, MacDeath, is laugh-out-loud funny (a rare thing) and I'm in the middle of reading an advance copy of her second, The Sound of Murder, which is even funnier.

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2. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Nearly identical covers of girls gazing with hands clasped



I usually feature dueling covers with similar but not identical images. Not so here. The Revenant came out from Knopf. Sweet Madness comes out in September from Merit Press, where Jacquelyn Mitchard is the editor. (Aside: she once took a picture of me with Sherman Alexie at a book festival.)

Those houses/imprints are so high profile that I wish this nearly identical image wasn't being used for both books. (Thanks to deenaml for the tip!) 

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3. It the book birthday for Blood Will Tell!

Today is the book birthday for Blood Will Tell, the second in my Point Last Seen series inspired by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Searcn and Rescue team. Nine months ago, over 100 people signed up for the lastest round of clases. They underwent hundreds of training, and during that time the unit provided over 30,000 hours of volunteer work. It’s a tough course - just 53 finished and 33 completed all 87 requirements for graduation.

Two things make MSCOSAR different. One is the group is teen led and made up primarily of teens. The second is that about 30 percent of what the group does is search for crime scene evidence.

This book features the same three friend as were in Blood Will Tell. Alexis, whose mother is mentally ill. Ruby, who understand things far more than she understand people. And Nick, who desperately wants to prove that he is as strong and brave as he longs to be.

Real-life roots
Blood Will Tell was inspired by two true stories. Back in 1987 in Colorado, a bicyclist checked out what he thought was a mannequin in a field and discovered it was really the body of 37-year-old woman. She had been stabbed in the back and died from blood loss.

But before the bicyclist realized it was really a body, a 15-year-old saw also saw it while walking to school. Thinking it was a mannequin left as a prank, he did not report it to the police. After his father told police that his son usually walked through that lot, the police pulled the teen, whose nickname was ”Toothpick,” out of class.

He was questioned for hous alone, but always said he was innocent. Still, they zeroed in on him because he had never reported the body to the police. There was no physical evidence. They did find hundreds of violent drawings, a couple of knives, and a newspaper clipping about the murder.

Eventually, he was tried for the murder and convicted. It was covered on a lot of “real-life” TV shows, with titles like Drawn to Murder and Murder Illustrated.  In the end, DNA evidence proved his evidence and he won millions from the state of Colorado.

Can DNA lie?
The other case was in San Fransisco. A millionaire was tied up and robbed. He ended up suffocating on the packing tape used to keep him from crying out. A forensics team found DNA on his fingernails that belonged to an unknown person. The sample was put into a DNA database and turned up a “hit” — a local man with a long criminal record.

Arrested and charged with murder, that men spent more than five months in jail with a possible death sentence hanging over his head.

Then his defense realized he had been hospitalized the night of the murder. But how did an innocent man’s DNA end up on a murder victim?

I won't give away the answer, but I will say that for 15 years, German police searched for a serial killer they called the “Phantom of Heilbronn” — an unknown female linked by traces of DNA to six murders across Germany and Austria. Police had found her DNA on items ranging from a cookie to a heroin syringe to a stolen car. She had been involved in over 40 crimes, rangning from murder to a car-dealership robbery and a school break-in,

In 2009, the police found their “suspect”: a worker at a factory that produced the cotton swabs police used in their investigations. She had been accidentally contaminating them with her own DNA.

Those two cases really make me wonder about our reliance on the infallibility of DNA evidence. After all DNA can’t tell your when it’s been left or under what circumstances. It may  not lie, but it may not tell the whole truth either.

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4. It only took me months to get this! A stripe on my belt in jiujitsu

I am the wrong sex (F) and age (56) for Brazilian Jiujitsu, but I still freaking love it! I'm getting to train a bit extra for a month at Alive MMA (normal school is Westside Academy of Kung Fu) and today I got a stripe on my belt.

Me! A stripe!

When I was a kid, I used to walk home from school reading a book (with brief interruptions when I ran into things). The only reason my high school GPA was less than 4.0 was because of Cs in PE. In my senior year, we played round-robin tennis and I was beaten by EVERYONE, including the mainstreamed developmentally delayed girl and the girl with juvenile arthritis so bad she couldn't even use one hand.

You have no idea how proud I am of this stripe!

(Photos of everything but stripe courtesy Rich Kolbell.)

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5. Throwing knives (and hatchets!) and getting black eyes



My kung fu school is offering a knife-throwing class. It is very satisfying when you stick one. The throwing knives are heavy-about a pound each.

I got asked to stay after Brazilian jiu-jitsu class today to demonstrate my technique for the blackbelt but did not get a stripe on my belt.  I'm close though, I can feel it.  My partner was 22 years younger than me and weighed 250 pounds. (He also hasn't been doing it very long, so it's not as bad as it sounds.)  I got kneed in the forehead Wednesday (by a different partner) and kept waiting for the bruise to show up.  It finally did, mostly in a small black eye around my tear duct.

I am feeling very bad ass these days!

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6. Dueling covers: What happened after We All Looked Up - The Night We Said Yes

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7. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Wow - even more dueling covers of I want to hold your hand



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8. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of empty shoes on shadowed water

This is about as clsoe as you can come. Oddly, since the shoes are so different I wonder if they are different stock photos.

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9. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Even more covers of dueling I want to hold your hand



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10. I'm flabbergasted

I was on ebay tonight - I buy almost all my clothes there - and out of curiosity typed my name in the search box.  Lots of books and audio tapes and a few ARCs (kind of makes me wince, but whatever).  And then this:

Why? Who would want a photo of me with my first book? Why can't I still look that young?  What happened to that shirt? I loved that shirt.  And it's being sold by Historic Images. Does 2000 really count as history?

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11. Can you help me out by subscribing to my newsletter?

A year ago, I created a newsletter email list.
And never did anything with it.
Now I'm back in the game, but my email list is so old it has cobwebs.
Can you help me get a more up-to-date email list? I don't plan on being all spammy with it, and I'd never share it.
If you click on this recent example of my newsletter, there's a button on the upper left hand corner that says "Subscribe."  All it means is that's I'll send you fun news and occasionally some exclusive content.
Thanks!

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12. The show must go on

I recently had school visits in Central Oregon. Two memorable things about that visit: the librarian got deathly sick the morning of the visit, and despite our best efforts, I picked up what she had and took it with me to Wisconsin a few days later.

But the second, much better thing, was that while I was there I met up again with old 7th grade history teacher, Mr. Perkins. I loved him as a teacher, and meeting him again, some 40+ years later, I remembered why. He still asks thoughtful, intereting questions and he listens attentively to your answers. It was nice to hang out with someone who was more my parents' peer.  Fewer and fewer of my friends have living parents.

I got home, hoped I had escaped getting sick, and then the day before I flew to Wisconsin, I started coughing. I remembered the librarian doing the same thing, but hoped it was allergies.

After taking three flights to Appleton, Wisconsin - and for the longest flight, my seatmate was 6 foot 3, which meant he physically did not fit in the seat - I landed and quickly realized I was in trouble.

I ended up walking to a nearby Target and getting every OTC cold remedy known to man. The next day, my ride bought me chicken soup  By that time, I was trying to refrain from even making small talk, because my voice was going. In between speaking engagements - 9 school visits and/or writing worshops and one book festival visit - I did everything I could to keep myself going. Lozenges, throat spray, Throat Coat tea, honey and water, sitting by the hot tub at the hotel, using saline nasal rinse, and drinking at least one bottle of water an hour (Appleton has sweet tasting water, so it mostly came from the tap).






The Throat Coat tea helped the most, but it was no match for how bad I was feeling. By my second to the last visit, I started thinking I might pass out. For my last talk, the kind librarian sent kids on a scavenger hunt to see if any teachers used stools with backs. They came back with two. Somehow I made it. I just didn't want to disappoint the kids.

I actually think I did a pretty good job.

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13. Haven't I seen you someplace before? More dueling covers of girls in red coats leaving

I saw Invisible City on the list of Edgar noms and thought "That looks familiar..."  Am in the middle of "Say You're Sorry" and wonder what the author thought of the cover.  The girl who runs through the snow in the book is barefoot and not wearing a red coat.  Unless there's another scene later, this depiction takes quite a few liberties.
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14. What it was like to win the Oregon Book Award

I’ve been up for the Oregon Book Award three times. The first was in 2004, for an adult novel called Learning to Fly. I didn’t win, but I was sitting next to Heather Frederick, who won the Leslie Bradshaw Young Adult award for the The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, and I got to hear the little gasp you make when you win.

In 2011, Girl, Stolen was up for the Leslie Bradshaw, but I had a lot more on my mind that night. I had been asked to speak about another finalist for the same award: my friend Lisa Wolfson, who had written a wonderful book called Flash Burnout under the pseudonym L.K. Madigan. Six weeks earlier, she had died after a brutal and short fight with pancreatic cancer. I sat in the green room and hoped I could do Lisa justice. I spoke about her, and then took my place in the audience. In one pocket, I had an acceptance speech for me, and in other one for her, because her husband had asked that I accept the award on her behalf if she won.

They announce the winners by reading the first paragraph of the winning book. I was so wrought up that when they started reading the first paragraph of Emily Whitman’s Wildwing, I actually thought for a few seconds that it could be either my or Lisa’s book.

This year, the Body in the Woods made the sort list. When I thought about the four finalists for the award, I was sure that any of them had a better chance than I did. My book seemed too commercial. An hour before we left, I typed up a few words, printed them out and taped them on a 3X5 card. To be honest, I worried far more about the dress I was wearing. It had been designed by a friend on a fit model that took me a pair of Spanx and a pair of Spanx pantyhose to approximate. The days where I wear makeup, Spanx, and heels are very few.

We sat in the audience next to a dapper older man. I asked him what he was there for and he said, “I’m getting the lifetime achievement award. In other words, I’m old.” I told him it was better than getting an in memoriam award. I asked his name, and realized I was sitting next to the legendary writer and writing coach Tom Spanbauer, who has fostered so many other writers through his critique group and workshops.

The Leslie Bradshaw Award was one of the first announced. And when I heard the word “Alexis” – my main character – I jumped to my feet right away, instead of waiting decorously for the passage to be read to the end. Afterward, I was offered champagne in the green room and congratulated in whispers next to a sign warning that voices carried.

It was a magical night, made even more so when Tom, from the stage, asked his partner to marry him.

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15. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of running silhouettes

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16. Haven't I seen you before? Dueling covers that show what happens after you grow up

This is by a young Portland author:



And this is a new book about choosing to be single:

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17. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of girls in the grass

Saw this one at a school visit today:


I've posted about these before:

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18. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of I want to hold your hand


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19. Haven't I seen you before? Yet another dueling cover of a girl with a suitcase


Check out some more suitcase toting girls here.

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20. Risks and rewards

2015 is my year for risks.  I have risked speaking up.  I have risked grappling in a tournament with people who were 20-40 years younger than me.  And last week I took an Urban Escape and Evasion class in Los Angeles.  It was amazing/scary/fun.

The first day, we learned how to get out of duct tape, zip ties, rope, and even handcuffs.




If you're duct-taped, hold your arms close together, then bring your hands high over head and and hit your elbows hard across your own ribs.  I learned the hard way that if your arms are too far apart, this doesn't work. This trick also works for zip ties, although it can hurt your wrists (which is why the instructor made "Wonder Woman" bracelets out of duct tape first).  If that fails, try rubbing your bound hands on a sharp edge like a door..  Above, author Hannah Jayne demonstrates the correct technique for breaking duct tape, as well as how you can use paracord (a lot of preppers replace their shoelaces with paracord, or wear it as a bracelet) to saw through paracord by bicycling madly in the air.  Later, we practiced shimming or picking our handcuffs using bobby pins or broken off barrettes with pillow cases over our heads.



Here's what happens if you get handcuffs/duct tape/zip ties etc. wrong:



We also learned how to pick locks and steal cars, although we didn't practice that last one.



We learned how to figure out if you are being followed and how to weaponize anything.  We learned that most people think they are in a survival situation if they miss lunch.

The last day, we were kidnapped, hooded, stun gunned (I still have marks!), and then your captors go for a “smoke break” and you have to use everything you just learned to make your way to a certain point, collecting information and photos along the way.

We learned that if you are full of adrenaline, you dont feel as much.  At the start of the exercise, we got caught in a parking lot surrounded by 10 or 11 foot high chain link fences.  And we were being chased by a real-life security guard.  Hannah started climbing the fence, which meant I had to, too.  At the top, the chain links had been cut off, forming a pointy barrier.  I have some crazy bruises, one for each point, on one leg.

But we made it. We had been to GoodWill the night before and cached some outfits. (It is very hard to cache anything in Los Angeles and then go back and find it the next day. You always have eyes on you, and cacheing arouses curiosity).  First I was a nurse (I even looked like a nurse even though it was just a plain pink Tshirt layered over a white Tshirt, and Hannah was a goth girl.  Then Hannah was pregnant with some of her previous clothes, and I was her churchy-looking mom.  Finally, we were both tourists.



Even though we were hunted by 10 people who had our picture, and we had to stay with proscribed boundaries, we were not caught!

I'm so glad I took this risk.  I turn 56 in two weeks and I'm pretty pround of myself.

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21. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of picture frames

I think the picutre frame idea is particularly attractive if you are writing about events that shape a family.

I am paricularly interested in Inside the O'Briens because 10 years ago I wrote a book about Huntington's that unfortunately didn't sell. The fact that it wasn't a mystery might have had something to do with that. In writing that book, I came to know a lot of families with Huntington's. It's a terrible disease that strikes you down in your prime. There's no cure, and each of your children has a 50-50 chance of inheriting it.

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22. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Yet another dueling cover of creepy woods



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23. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Yet another dueling cover with a suitcase


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24. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers with suitcases won't stop


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25. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of clasped hands

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