Saturday, May 31, 2014

"Oh, Kaye!" Chiming in on "What We're Writing"


I always love it when The Reds have "What We're Writing" week.  It's fun to get those little sneak peeks at pages written by favorite writers whose work you love; even more fun when they're also friends.

A very close friend of The Reds wants to let you all know he's been busy writing also.

His book should be popping up live at Amazon any day now.  Actually, it could be popping up any minute, in both print and electronic formats, so keep an eye out for it, please.

Here's a sneak preview of the cover - -




Harley Barley has written a delightful little tale chock full of photos taken around his house, his yard and trips he's taken with his mom and dad.

And he hopes you enjoy it.

He also wants to give one away.  Leave a comment, please, and Harley will draw a name out of the magic pink Willie Nelson baseball cap for one lucky person to win a copy.  You can choose a paperback or a Kindle version.



Happy Reading, Everyone!


What We're Writing: HID FROM OUR EYES

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Still working on HID FROM OUR EYES, which, I'm afraid is going to be my "What We're Writing" update for the next few months. Today is a scene set in 1972, where a young Russ Van Alstyne is being interviewed by the then-chief of police, Jack Liddle. I'm thinking the setting is a little vague; in rewrite, I'll probably add in a few physical details to nail it down to the time and place.

One of the things I like to do is sketch out relationships very lightly. If there's any part of my writing that's show-not-tell, its in the emotions of and the dynamic between  characters. Tell me what you see in the meeting between the chief and Russ's mother (and let me know if I'm tipping my hand too much!)



There was a quick rap, but before Jack could say anything, the door burst open. Harlene looked frazzled. It was only eight-thirty, and she had already chewed the lipstick off her bottom lip. “Chief, Mrs. Van Alstyne is here. She's demanding to see her son.” Her voice dropped, as if Russell couldn't hear her if she whispered. “One of the men at the impound garage is her cousin, and he called her. I didn't know what to do.” 
 
The boy stood. “Sit down, Russell. You're not going anywhere yet.” Jack stood up. “I'll talk with Mrs. Van Alstyne.”

She was waiting for him at the front desk. “Where is he? What has he done? Is he hurt?” Her dark hair was in loose, unruly curls and she was drowning in a fisherman's sweater that must have been her late husband's. Beneath her skirt, her feet were thrust into unlaced boots. 
 
Come into my office, Margy.” He ushered her down the hall, not actually touching her back. “Russell's okay. I'm not sure what he's done, but I don't think he's hurt anybody.”

You don't think--?” She turned back to him. She clutched at his arm, hard, then let go instantly.

Jack closed the door behind them. “A young woman's died. He found her body on the road when he was coming home from Saratoga.”

Margy stared. “You can't imagine Russell had anything to do with that.”

Based on what he's told me so far, no. I don't. We'll have to check out the places he's said he'd been to to firm up his alibi.”

Margy looked up at him. “He was drinking.”

Jack nodded. “He was drinking.”

Margy had the clear, fair skin of the Cossayuharie farm girl she had been, the kind of complexion that showed her every emotion. He watched as her cheeks flushed with a dull red color. “God damn it!”

He blinked. Margy Campbell Van Alstyne never swore.

I'm sorry.” She pressed her hands against her cheeks. “I just – I'm so afraid he'll fall into a bottle. His body's home, but his head is still back in Viet Nam. He has no idea what to do with his life now he's out of the Army. And he certainly doesn't want to listen to me. I'm a middle-aged mother who's lived in the North Country her whole life, and he's spent the last two years shooting people in Southeast Asia. We have nothing in common anymore.”

Really.” Jack leaned against his desk. “Seems to me you know all about fighting a war you can't win.”

Her cupid's-bow mouth curved into a sad smile. “You'd think watching his father drink himself to death would have taught him something, wouldn't you?”

Some things can't be taught. You just have to learn them through experience.” Jack pushed himself away from the desk. “I'm going to release him to your custody. He needs to stay here in Miller's Kill until we've cleared him.”

You can't actually require him to stay unless he's been charged and is out on bail.” Now she sounded more like the tart apple he was used to.

You left out 'peacenik' and 'jailhouse lawyer' from your self-description,” he said.

She smiled a genuine smile.

That's why I'm telling you. I trust you more'n a bail bondsman, anyway.” He opened the door for her.

This girl.” Margy paused. “Her death is an accident. Right?”

Jack gave himself a moment to stand close, his arm holding the door in a simulation of an embrace. “No,” he said. “I don't think it was an accident. I think someone killed her. And I'm worried – I'm afraid – that whoever he is, he won't stop with her.”

And for those of you who were following along two weeks ago with my all-graduation-all-the-time blogging, here's a snap from the Big Day!

L to R: Youngest, The Boy, The Smithie, her Girlfriend, me and Ross, overlooking the Smith College Quad.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hallie: Writing what creeps me out...

HALLIE EPHRON: I'm on the final stretch, addressing in final comments from my editor, printing the whole thing out and making my own final pass through Night Night, Sleep Tight.  While I'm focusing on finishing, in another part of my brain a new story is opening up, and already I can't wait to get back to it.

Working title: Hush Baby My Dolly. It's inspired by my friend Mary Alice's experience cleaning out her mother's house and having to deal with decades of possessions her mother had been unable to part with. When Mary Alice got down on her hands and knees, drew back the bed skirts, and looked
under her mother's four-poster bed, she found paste boxes full of doll parts. Legs, arms, bodies, and most unnerving of all, eyes.

She told me about how her mother made her own dolls. She made their clothing, made their wigs. She told me her kids were afraid to sleep in the bedrooms with all those dolls watching them. Her mother called them "sissies." And she told me about her mother's eccentric friend who
looked like porcelain doll -- pink hair, pale skin -- who'd call her mother up and say, “Honey, would you like to come over and play dolls?” They’d have lunch and paint and sew. Mary Alice's mother would bring over her golden retriever and friend would brush the dog's hair, saving it to make hair for her dolls.

Now dolls have always creeped me out -- I was always sure mine were up and about and making mischief the minute I was out of sight. I turned them to face the wall so they couldn't watch me while I slept. So my friend's story resonated.


In my novel, the woman with doll parts under the bed will not be a doll collector. She has all those doll parts because... I haven't figured that out yet but I'm dying to find out. Her niece will come to prepare the house for sale and get freaked out by the caches of doll parts. She'll soon discover that the doll wigs are made of human hair, and their outfits made from fabric cut from children's clothing.


I've written about ten pages, most of which I'm fairly sure will wind up in the circular file. And I took a trip to Jenny Baby's Doll Hospital. The owner, "Jenny," gave me a crash course in doll repair. (I took these pictures there.)


She showed me what boxes and boxes of doll parts would look like. And she had her own share of  stories to tell.  She told me about a couple who brought a doll to repair. The woman carried the doll into the house, cradled in her arms like it was a real baby. It had a real baby’s pacifier.

When Jenny asked the woman, “Is that your favorite doll?” the woman said "This is my baby," and the man added, "My favorite baby is out in the car.”
 

Am I the only one who's still recycling my childhood fears or have you gotten past them?


Thursday, May 29, 2014

What I'm Writing @LucyBurdette





Castle in Matsue



LUCY BURDETTE: I'm at the early, early stage of a new book. So early, that every word feels tentative. But mostly, I've been on vacation, so I haven't been writing anything. I had good intentions for making progress on that book, but the trip was too busy and all-consuming. We were so fortunate to take a tour of Japan, a place I've wanted to visit forever.


Torii for Itsukushima Shinto shrine


Each day, as I reviewed my photos, I wondered how I could ever summarize the things I'd seen and experienced to show how amazing the country is. Other folks on the trip were keeping detailed journals, which made me feel guilty, though not guilty enough to do anything about it. Then I began to scribble down a few notes, and the notes evolved into--Haiku, of course! (Thanks to the tutelage last year of our pal SJ Rozan.)

Rohuon-ji Temple


So here you have it--a quick trip through Japan in photos and Haiku...

Chieko-San
Many of the places we visited were off the beaten track. As our ship docked or sailed away, locals in costumes with bands and banners would come to celebrate our arrival or departure with dancing and gifts and singing. "That is your waving committee," our Japanese tour guide, Chieko-san would explain while laughing loudly. 









 

WELCOME

Dragons swerve and clack
Ladies in pink kimonos
Waving committee






Everywhere we went there were gorgeous shrines, mostly Buddhist and Shinto. There doesn't seem to be much conflict between the religions--in fact people seem to turn to more than one, as needed. But the hopefulness and yearnings for guidance are heartfelt...

 



















YEARNINGS

Shrines welcome guests who
Stack stones, tie papers, rub snouts
Wishes left behind

Sea Urchins in the market


 













It turns out that I am not such a fan of Japanese food. I tried to be a good and adventurous foodie--I really did! But after a while, I had to groan when another bento box appeared at our lunch table.












LUNCH

Spiny sea creatures
Armor bristles: Stay away!
Soon to be sushi
















MORE LUNCH (by John Brady)


Bento box is served
tastes colors textures so odd
Sad so much untouched




Atomic Bomb Dome




One of the most moving stops on the trip was a visit to Hiroshima. It was absolutely pouring, which seemed appropriate for the day. The city has been completely rebuilt, as if the tragedy hadn't happened. But the memorial and the museum aroused the kind of sad and horrified feelings I had when at the Holocaust museum or the 9/11 site.

Hiroshima


Sheets of silver rain
Devastation's grim mem'ry
Smart enough to learn?





 

If you'd like to read about my lesson on making sushi or see lots of cool food pictures from the Kyoto market, visit my post at Mystery lovers kitchen. And thanks for indulging my modern day slide show! Meanwhile, I'm back to chapter one--no excuses...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What we're writing (or not)--Rhys

My news is that I'm NOT writing!
I sent off my new Molly Murphy book a couple of weeks ago, before I went to Europe. I'm now in the early gathering information stages of my next Lady Georgie book. So this trip is part business, part pleasure.

My first days in London were all business. One of them was spent at Kensington Palace, where a lot of my new book will take place. It was frustrating as several of the rooms I wanted to see were in the private part of the palace. I know, I should have written to Will and Kate for permission! I especially wanted to see the old clock tower as I had heard it was haunted and wanted to see for myself.

I asked one of the security guys there if he had ever seen a ghost. He named several ghosts who were reputed to haunt the palace but he hadn't seen one. But he told me he had seen a ghost in his own home. He lives in a very old house and one night he was watching TV alone. He got up to turn the TV off, turned around and a woman was standing right behind him. She was dressed entirely in black and she smelled of damp earth. She said to him "Once I was blind. Now I can see."

He said he got out of there and ran up the stairs. His father was staying with him and he asked his father to go down and turn the TV off. His father got halfway down the stairs, then came up again and said, "I'm not going down there until morning."

You get such great stories when you chat with ordinary people and some of these wind up in books. I think this stage of a book for me is just being open and receptive and getting a feel where the story might go. I want Kensington Palace. I want a ghost and a royal scandal. Delicious, huh? So I'll let ideas simmer as I travel around Europe and hopefully I'll have a story by the time I have to start writing.

Right now I'm in Poland and appeared at the Warsaw Book Fair. It was huge--in the football stadium and my books were displayed as huge blow ups above the booth. And my signing was followed by three interviews in the press room. It was strange doing interviews with a translator. I was like a yoyo, looking from one side to the other. Loads of people gathered to take my photograph as I signed. I felt like a celebrity! I gather Poland has more bookstores per capita than any country. The fair was certainly packed, and they had to pay an entrance fee.

Tomorrow on to Rome. Now what could Lady Georgie get up to in Rome, I wonder????

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What We're Writing--Hank (and her new friends)




HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Jane and Jake? I know and love. Well, I don’t know all about them--they always surprise me, and I hope that continues. But one thing that always fascinates me, when faced with blank pages that I know have to somehow turn into pages of words, is whose story am I telling?

Yes, it’s Jake’s journey, and Jane’s journey, but in every book they have to encounter and connect with a world of mostly-new people. In my books you know you’re going to get Jakes partner Paul DeLuca, and ME Kat Richardson, and the gruff but effective Supe, Mona from downstairs, little Eli and his mom Neena who live upstairs, Jake’s imperious mother, and Jane’s cat Coda.

But to make a story, I have to find the new people. The new point of view characters who will make each book unique and compelling.  My books have five points of view—Jane’s and Jake’s—and three more. Three new people we have to care about, and wonder about, and try to decide whether they are good guys or bad guys. And wonder if they will make it through the book, right?

Their stories twist and turn together, and that’s the dramatic irony, right? Because each character only knows what they know—but you, the reader, knows all of it.  And that’s what creates suspense, and misperceptions, and mistakes, and danger.

I’ll divulge this:  as I begin each novel, I have NO idea.  What happens to them? Who’s good or bad? Their motives. It always emerges as a big surprise. (Um, so far.)

In TRUTH BE TOLD, (which comes out this fall and for which I JUST received arcs, so keep reading) I introduce three new main characters.

Here’s how you’ll meet one of them:

                 Chapter 4
Lizzie McDivitt typed out her name, letter by letter, on her new computer. Trying it out. Elizabeth McDivitt.  Elizabeth Halloran McDivitt. Elizabeth H. McDivitt. The admin types needed the wording of the nameplate on her new office door, and she had to choose. First impression, all that.
Would her bank customers be more comfortable with her as the crisp and competent Liz? Or the elegant and experienced Elizabeth? Maybe this was the time to become Beth, the friendly-but-competent Beth. The motherly Bess?
Possibly. Possibly. 
Lizzie stared at the computer screen, the cursor blinking at her. Decide.
Lizzie, well, that was a definite no. Lizzie was fine for her parents, and even for Aaron, but not here at the bank. ‘Lizzie’ sounded like the new kid, eager to please. Semi-true, of course, but not the image she needed. She needed…compassionate. Understanding. Her clients would be the needy ones, the out-of-work ones, the down-and outers who’d once had the assets to get a mortgage from A&A—but now had to scramble for refinancing and loan modifications.
She clicked her plastic ballpoint.
The bank had so much money. Her new customers had so little. 
Click. Click.
What would be the bad thing, she wondered, about making it a little more fair?
Click. Click.
Aaron was still out for lunch, she guessed. She thought of him, his curls, and that smile, and what he’d actually said to her that first day back by the old vault. Their “tryst” last night, that ended—way too late--with her finally saying “no” and cabbing it home. She shook her head, remembering her girlfriends’ advice. You have to stop being so picky or you’ll be alone forever. True, Aaron was more than cute. True, he had a good job. So, okay, maybe. Even though he wasn’t exactly
“Miss McDivitt? You ready for your one-thirty? Mr. and Mrs. Iantosca are here.” 
“Thanks, Stephanie,” she said into the intercom. She punched up the Iantosca’s mortgage loan documents, a series of spreadsheets, tiny-fonted agreements and the decisive flurry of letters stored on the bank’s in-house software. The green numbers that were entered several years ago had gone red last summer, then bold red in the fall, then starting around the holidays, black-bordered bold red. By now, mid-May, Christian and Colleen Iantosca were underwater and in trouble.
So they thought.
She took off her black-rimmed glasses, considered, put them on again.  Slicked her hair back, tucking a stray wisp into place. She checked her reflection on the computer monitor. Lipstick, fine. Portrait of a happy magna cum laude MBA.  Good job, her own apartment, a potential boyfriend—she clasped her hands under her chin, thanking the universe and embracing her karma.  Math geek no more. Future so bright, she ought to wear shades. 
Liz, she decided.  Compassionate, but knowledgeable. Approachable. And, starting today, starting now, Liz McDivitt was in control.


Here’s another:

MAYBE he looks like this??
Five more minutes. He’d give them five more minutes.
Aaron Gianelli waited on the front steps of the triple-decker, peeled the last of the waxed paper from his tuna melt wrap, took a final bite. A mayo-soaked glop narrowly missed his new cordovan loafer, landed on the concrete beside him. Too damn hot for a tuna melt, Aaron decided, too late, but this “meeting” was his only chance for lunch. He crumpled the paper, aimed, and hit the already-brimming dumpster over by the driveway.
His first score of the day.
If the others didn’t show up pretty damn soon, it’d be his only score.  That, he could not afford. He wondered how his partner was doing, at his meeting. They’d talk later. Compare notes. Not that there were notes.
  Standing, Aaron brushed the dust from his ass. Squinted out at Pomander Street. No cars. Nothing. They’d agreed to meet here 1:30. He checked his annoyingly silent cell phone. If they were going to be late, they should have called. If they were jerking him around, they’d be sorry.  But no biggie. He’d find other customers.
He’d parked his car down the street, left his suit jacket inside, thank god. It was brutal out here. He’d be a sweat machine when he got back to the office, but the AC would take care of that before anyone noticed. And Lizzie would believe whatever he told her.  He smiled. He loved Lizzie.
He patted his pockets, still smiling, feeling for the ring of keys. He’d go in without the clients, check it out.  House was empty, that was certain. The bank had made sure of that.
Aaron was still smiling. He loved the bank. 

And here’s new character number three.
    
                                                    Chapter 5
Sure, Christian Bale, why not? Ramona, what do you think?

“Good afternoon, gentlemen.” Peter Hardesty closed the interrogation room door behind him, plonked his leather briefcase on the metal table, held out a hand. He’d already heard the cops were calling this guy ‘The Confessor.’
Confessor or not, Gordon Thorley was innocent till proven guilty. And, like so many others Peter had represented, profoundly in need of counsel. In this place? Alone with a detective?  A legal minefield.
“Gordon Thorley?”
“Who’re you?” Thorley twisted in his folding chair, scooted it as far from Peter as the cinderblock wall would let him, metal scraping against concrete.  Thorley’s sallow skin stretched over sharp cheekbones, weary eyes too big. Peter could almost hear the guy’s brain shift gears. Surprise. Then fear. Then calculation. Thorley flickered a hard look at Peter, jerking a yellowed thumb in his direction. Spoke to the detective. “He a cop, too?”  
“Holy sh—how’d you get in here, Hardesty? Who called you? Mr. Thorley here hasn’t asked for a lawyer.”
Peter recognized the plainclothes detective in the weary brown suit and ugly tie--Detective Branford Sherrey. “Bing” Sherry. Veteran cop, beloved of the district attorney’s office, and remarkable asshole. Now he looked like he’d been socked in his shirt-straining gut. Sucks when the system works, Peter thought. When you have to provide legal advice to a nutcase who’s trying get himself a life sentence.  Justice. What a concept.

Liz, Aaron and Peter. Faithful  readers will know at least one of my point of view characters sometimes doesn’t quite survive the entire book. How do I decide who lives and who dies? How do I decide who is good and who is bad? I will tell you, that’s the magic.

Because—if I’m lucky--they tell me.

And JUNGLE RED BREAKING NEWS—The Agatha-winning THE WRONG GIRL is now an Anthony nominee! And huge hurrahs to Red Julia, whose THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS is also an Anthony nom! YAY!

And oh, yes, that ARC of  TRUTH BE TOLD!  Let’s see…just guess which of the three characters is still alive at the end of the book, and tell me in the comments. I’ll pick a winner at random!  (And I won't say if you’re right—but it’ll be fun to see later!

(And you’ll still buy the book, right? (Now available for pre-order!) No pressure, it’s just my career…..)

Monday, May 26, 2014

What We're Writing — Susan Elia MacNeal



SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: It was the best of weeks. 

It was the worst of weeks.

The best, because I'm proud to say that there are finally finished books completed (just in time for BEA this week) of THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT!

The worst (and, yes, this is relative, I do realize) is that I caught a horrible flu and Mattie also had a tough week with pollen/asthma — so when I talk about "What We're Writing" it's not going to be so much about writing. Not a lot of writing happened this week, I confess.

There was a lot of coughing, sneezing, and blowing of nose. There was a lot of soup and tea. There was a lot of napping. 

But not a lot of writing.

And it's OK. Life happens sometime. First, I was able to do some reading. The novel I'm reading for fun right now is Jane Thyne's BLACK ROSES. It was the perfect read — set in Berlin 1933, it follows the exploits of a young English actress who ends up working in Joseph Goebbels's propaganda films. She becomes Magda Goebbel's confidante and uses her insider status to help the British.


Loved. It. And there's a sequel!

And there was also time for "work reading" — which is still enjoyable, if needing a bit more concentration. This week I read, for research purposes for MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE: Lynne Olson's TROUBLESOME YOUNG MEN,




Richard Toye's CHURCHILL'S EMPIRE, and 











Catharine Arnold's THE SEXUAL HISTORY OF LONDON. (Ha! I bet I have your attention now!)

And there were also videos: HISTORY'S VERDICT, especially the Chuchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and Rommel episodes:

















And then also, HBO's TRUE DETECTIVE. I loved it. I hated it. I hated that I loved it. And I'll probably be writing a post about it at some point about the way it portrays its female characters and its utter and complete failure of the Bechdel Test.

And that, lovely readers, is the news from here. Now that my Jungle Reds Week is over and the flu is abating, I'll be getting back to writing — and also gearing up for BEA (Book Expo America) this week. If you're there, I'd love to see you! I'll be signing copies of THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT at the Mystery Writers of America booth on Thursday, from 1:45 to 2:15.

Have a good week!


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Michael Sears: "No Such Thing as a Bad Nap"



SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I had the privilege of meeting Shamus Award-winner Michael Sears when we were both nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 2012. Because it's a small world, we spoke on a panel Hank Phillipi Ryan (aka Miss Scarlett) moderated. Michael was just so calm, collected, and gracious I was always thrilled to meet up with him at other events — Bouchercon, Sleuthfest, really anywhere.


And so I'm thrilled to introduce Michael now, speaking on a topic that's also near and dear to my own heart — napping.




An Ode to the Lowly Nap


When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
When the words cease to flow and plagiarism proffers a false salvation,
When you’ve researched the derivation of the word ‘gimbal’ just to avoid placing another
desultory phrase upon the page,
When your head has bobbed for the third time in as many minutes —
Take to heart the words of my Great Aunt Nancylyn:
“There’s no such thing as a bad nap.”



MICHAEL SEARS: Winston Churchill was a famous napper.  He refused, however, to simply flop down on the divan with a clean handkerchief unfolded over his face, and his cigar near at hand in a convenient ashtray.  The man knew how to take naps.  He stripped down and got underneath the covers and slept.  Napping was serious business.  He won wars, planned the reconstruction of Europe, wrote the history of the English-speaking people, and imbibed vast amounts of non-medicinal spirits, all with the help of daily naps.

I grew up in a home where napping was allowed rather than encouraged.  My father napped before dinner most nights -- a habit he no doubt developed working shifts -- but never on a weekend.  He was always much too busy on weekends, either fixing broken pieces of house or car, cursing and grumbling throughout, or playing on his sailboat, which broke more often than anything else and yet he never cursed while repairing it.  Judging by his startle response upon being called to dinner, his naps must have been not entirely stress-free.  He napped out of necessity, not to recharge, but to prevent terminal shutdown.  (He did once fall asleep at the wheel and run off the road while coming home from working a night shift at the lab – he was a nuclear engineer – and this experience may have marked his napping dreams from then on.)  

We three older sons were in terror of being assigned the task of “getting your father up for dinner” and devised tricks, trades, and evasions to pass the chore along.  At the first querulous whisper of “Dad?” he would sit up violently and call out, “What?  What?  What?” while staring about wild-eyed like Macbeth watching Banquo at the feast.  Delivering the next single word line of our part of the script – “Dinner” – was always an anticlimax, as though we should have responded to his intensity with something worthy of it, like “The police are here!” or “The reactor blew up!” or, if not quite that dramatic, then at least the most oft-heard phrase of my childhood, “We’ve run aground.”

Wall Street, where I worked for twenty years, does not encourage napping.  Neither does my wife. I married a non-napper. So my next forays to Naplandia were stolen, feral weekend interludes with all the risks of an illicit affair (and is there any other kind?) complete with the shame of discovery.  A typical nap might be: the family arrives back at the house after cavorting in the ocean all day.  My lovely wife takes the two boys, sandy and sunburnt – better known as Jesse and Sean – and hauls them off for a quick shower and into fresh shorts and T-shirts.  I volunteer to hang the beach towels on the line and sweep the sand out of the backseat, two chores that I will, eventually, perform admirably, if not expediently.  

First, I put the seatback all the way flat, leave the driver’s side door open to capture a bit of late afternoon breeze, and close my eyes.  I am “resting.”  The sounds that are emanating from my throat and sinuses are vocal exercises that I learned as a young actor.  I am not sleeping.  As my favorite author, Patrick O’Brian, pointed out, no man born admits to having been asleep.

But in the years since I left the twenty-four/seven rule of the markets – calls from Tokyo or London broke into my sleep cycle three or four nights a week for fifteen years – I have finally learned to take a nap.

A friend recently posted to me an article which made great claims of increased productivity by nappers, but when I went online to find it, I saw that these claims are not new.  

The New York Times seems to report on the wonders of napping on a seven-year cycle, each time with the immediacy of recent discovery and announced with the kind of eye-grabbing lede usually reserved for the fall of the ruling party in England, or the discovery of a tenth planet.  I imagine that these headline writers are direct descendants of that journalist, four thousand years ago, who put pen to papyrus and informed the world, “NILE FLOODS BANK!”

Hank Phillippi Ryan, one of the illustrious authors here at Jungle Red, and a woman I now claim as a friend, gives a talk on productivity for writers, arguing that the opportunity to do what we do is so dear that the very idea of “writers block” must not be allowed.  I heard her deliver this speech earlier this year, and I took her words to heart.  I have completed three Jason Stafford novels, and am working on number four, and if the stars are very kind to me, I will continue to do this for years to come.  It is a blessing to be where I am – never a chore. 

But napping is not a retreat from this dedication, rather it is an enabler, an enhancer.  I will be productive when I am fully empowered.  And I will nap when I am not.  Churchill argued that napping for even just an hour so breaks up the day as to increase one day’s productivity to the level of two days, or at least one-and-a-half.  Winston was not a mathematician.  Yet, who would disagree?

Susan Elia MacNeal, a great fan of Winston Churchill herself, invited me to speak to the world through Jungle Red, though she may not have expected me to go on so long, or to address such a topic.  I thank her for the opportunity and dearly hope that I am invited back some day when I am better rested.



SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Michael, you're very welcome! Please come back soon.

Reds and readers, do you nap?

Or are you, like Michael's wife, a non-napper? 

Do you think, like Winston Churchill, naps help with creativity and productivity?

Please tell us in the comments.



Michael Sears is the Edgar-nominated, and Shamus-winning author of BLACK FRIDAYS, which introduced to the world the characters of Jason Stafford, Wall Street investigator, and his autistic son, Kid.  

His latest book is MORTAL BONDS, which explores the fallout from a massive Ponzi scheme, missing funds, and the people who will kill to recover them. 

Once he rises from his nap, Michael will finish the last round of copy edits for book #3 in the series, LONG WAY DOWN.