Thursday, October 15, 2009

More On the Poisoned Pen Web Con

Please be our guest... Participate in the world's first virtual mystery and crime convention.  The benefits of a major mystery convention, from the comfort of your home computer!
PP Webcon
Saturday, October 24, 2009
PP Web Con  
PP Web Con
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The world's first major virtual mystery and crime convention  bringing authors and readers together on-line  from all over the world
The convention you can attend from the comfort of your own home.

  • Live interactive events bringing authors and others together in real time
  • Author Panels and Debates in Video, Audio and Text
  • Author Presentations - authors discuss their writing in Video, Audio and Text
  • Coffee Shop - a live chat room where visitors can mingle and chat with each other or with visiting authors
  • Recorded "on-demand" video and audio presentations, and articles.
  • Book Trailers
  • Author Interviews - Barbara Peters' in-depth interviews with over 80 top mystery and crime writers
  • Goodie Bag with book voucher,  free E-books, and privileged interactive access to live events for all registrants

Register Now!
Register now to be part of this revolutionary experience. 100% of all profits go to the public library system.

Our Price: $25.00

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Come To The Poisoned Pen Web Con, October 24

PPWebCon - the world's first interactive virtual mystery convention on October 24th - brings the benefits of no hotel bills, no air fares, and the chance for crime and mystery authors and readers around the world to meet, mingle and chat live online.  Check out the day's activities at (

For a registration fee of just 25 US dollars, attendees will receive:
- Privileged access to live events - 64 authors are participating in more than 50 panels and presentations, on live and recorded video and audio, as well as in text.  See the line-up here: ( )
- The chance to meet and chat to authors in the online Coffee Shop chat room.
- Goody Bag - more than thirty authors have contributed over fifty items to the goody bag! The gifts range from entire novels, through brand new short stories, to fun items like entertaining articles and even recipes!
- Book Voucher - A 20 US dollar book voucher for The Poisoned Pen Bookstore

Larry Karp's contributions include an audio presentation, "Where Do You Get Your Ideas, and Which Comes First, Character or Plot?" and a text presentation, "Rewriting: Gotta Do It, Might As Well Enjoy It."  Larry will also participate in two panels, "The Path to Publication," and "Historical Research: making it real without boring the reader."  And there are two Larry Karp contributions in the Goody Bags: the first chapter to his upcoming mystery, "The Ragtime Fool," and an article, "What Ever Happened to Sarah Purdue," which tells the fate of Thomas Purdue's wife, who was left in a coma at the end of Larry's most recent Music Box Mystery, "The Midnight Special."

Guest of Honor, Dana Stabenow and International Guest of Honor Lee Child will participate in live interviews along with 62 other writers from Hawaii to New Jersey in the USA, and from all across the world including Canada, Iceland, Ireland, the UK, France, South Africa, and Australia.

And right now visitors to the website can be entertained by Barbara Peters' TV show " The Criminal Calendar".  More than 90 one-hour interviews with the world's top crime writers. ( )

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Two October Writing Events Not To Be Missed

     The Poisoned Pen Web Con, the world's first virtual mystery convention, takes place on October 24.  It's not to be missed.  Come visit with your favorite authors (myself included) via panels, presentations, and coffee-shop chats.  Pitch a manuscript to an editor.  Some events will be via video, some by audio, and some, text.  All attendees will receive a goodie bag full of writings by those same favorite authors. 
          When's the last time you could attend a major mystery/crime writing conference for $25, travel and hotel costs included?  For full information, go to

     Warm up for this virtual extravaganza by attending the Field's End presentation, "Refueling the Creative Mind, with creativity coach, Jurgen Wulff.  This takes place on Bainbridge Island, WA, on October 17, just a week before the Poisoned Pen Web Con.  Check out Field's End Fall Event Page,

   Here are the details for the presentation:
Date: Saturday, October 17
Time: Registration: 8:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
          Presentation from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
(lunch break from 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m.)
Location: Bainbridge Pavilion Cinemas
          403 N. Madison, Bainbridge Island
Cost: $65 early registration (August 1 – 31)
         $85 regular registration (after August 31)
         $60 group fee (5 or more people registering together)
In a presentation by this popular writing coach, writers will be led through a series of connected seminars to explore four innovative, right-brained ways they can prepare their creative minds for the acts of writing and revising. The seminars include
I. Alter Ego Strategies
II. Right Brain Visualization
III. The Q Method of Analyzing Text
IV. The Transformation of the Inner Critic
 Writers will be guided through a few brief interactive exercises during the presentation to illuminate these strategies and will be provided with useful handouts for application afterward.
• The goal of Wolff's presentation is to help creative writers to discover fresh, personally meaningful insights into their own creative lives as a way to unlock and engage their strengths.
• This presentation offers benefits not only to writers of all disciplines and genres but also to other creative people for whom storytelling and narrative are important components of expression.
• Come prepared to explore potential breakthroughs in your own creative process! Participants are not required to have a work in progress in order to attend.

Jurgen Wolff has taught creativity techniques and workshops worldwide for more than 15 years. He was also the publisher and editor of Brainstorm: The Creativity Newsletter for ten years (it now continues as an online publication).
His creative writing books include Your Writing Coach (Nicholas Brealey, 2007) and Do Something Different (Virgin Books, 2005; published in 5 languages).
His own work includes a long list of writing credits in the world of entertainment, including feature films, plays, short films, television movies and miniseries, animated films, journalism, short stories, radio scriptwriting and television series. He divides his time between London and California.
Jurgen's website:
Time to Write (blog):

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wagner's Ring Cycle and Writing Mystery Novels

     I just finished my third viewing of Wagner's Ring Cycle at Seattle Opera. My wife is happy to bask in the glorious music, but I can't help getting involved in the story, and each time I've gone to these performances, I've taken more away.
     At every RHEINGOLD, I've privately urged Wotan to give the cursed ring back to the Rhine Maidens, but this time, it occurred to me that were he to do so, the story would have been very much like the one Tolkien wrote (though Tolkien always swore his books were not based upon Wagner's work, but that's another issue). Chase to the bowels of the earth after the ring, have an adventure recovering it from its evil master, overcome your own greed, return it to its proper owner, all's well that ends well. But Wagner's story and characters are far more complex and interesting. Wotan's failure to do right results in no less than the death of the gods, though his subsequent machinations lead in the end to the redemption of the world. Questions regarding love, honor, power, and destiny hold the viewer long after the operas are over.
     The lesson for a scribbler of crime novels: don't let your characters take the easier choice. Even if they happen to be gods.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Guest Blog by Robin Hathaway

Robin Hathaway, author of the popular Dr.
Andrew Fenimore and Dr. Jo Banks series, has
kindly agreed to appear as a guest on my blog,
and here's her contribution. Robin's writing has
always been music to my ears, and this short piece is no exception.
Check out Robin's web site, , and be sure you haven't
missed any of the adventures of
slightly-stodgy-but-lovable Dr. Andrew Fenimore,
and the swingin' motel medico, Dr. Jo Banks.


As you all know, Larry is a connoisseur of
old music boxes. We have one in our family—a
Mira, made about 100 years ago in
Switzerland. It's a beautiful wooden box, which
plays a collection of metal disks with such tunes
as "My Old Kentucky Home," "Stars and Stripes
Forever," "Lohengrin's Wedding March," etc. Once,
Larry kindly provided us with a history of the
box. Now, I'd like to tell you a true story about it.

One bitter cold February night my daughter,
Anne, aged twelve, woke us saying she smelled
smoke. (The fire alarm had gone off but we hadn't
heard it.) My husband and I shot out of bed.
Well...he shot, I crawled, because I had a broken
leg at the time. While Bob investigated the
smoke, Anne called 911, and I sat at the top of
the stairs, waiting to be helped down. It turned
out the fire was in the furnace.

The firemen arrived within minutes and
ordered us all out of the house. It was about 10
degrees and sleeting. One of the firemen carried
me out and planted me on our icy front stoop
where, despite the weather, the neighbors were
gathering. He went back in to attend to the fire.
As it turned out, the fire was electrical and was
put out easily with a bag of baking soda.
Everyone trooped back inside, except me, who had
to be carried (I could get used to this!).

While we were thanking the firemen, the chief spied the
music box in the corner of the living room.

"What's that?" he asked. We told him and he
immediately demanded that we play it.

So, there we were, at three o'clock in the
morning, in our night clothes (and in my case, a
6 lb cast) listening with four firemen to "Oh,
Susannah." One fireman began tapping his
foot—another sang along to the music. Pretty soon
we were all jigging and singing to those old
tunes. We must have played a dozen of them. (I
don't know how many houses burned down in the
meantime!) When the party finally broke up the
chief fireman warned us not to turn on the oil heater until it was repaired.

After they left, silence fell on the house,
and suddenly we became acutely conscious of the
cold. We decided we had better all sleep in the
same bed to keep warm. We were just dozing off
under a mountain of blankets and comforters when
Anne sat up in bed, and said, "Isn't there a law against this?"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Good Day In Madison

One of the nice things about writing mysteries is that you meet people who become friends, not just readers, other writers, or shop owners. Last evening, I stopped by Madison's great mystery indie Booked For Murder, where Sara hosted me royally, and Jacque gave me a bunch of great leads for researching historicals. Then, after my talk, Howard and Bobbye Johnson (my strong supporters for 10 years) and I went across the street to Real Food, and enjoyed a fine dinner and lively conversation.   Now, on to Union, Illinois for the annual Antique Music Machine
Swap Meet. For a few days, writing concerns take a back seat.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Seattle Folklife Festival, 2009

     No writing yesterday, the day before, or the day before that. The Seattle Folklife Festival has been taking precedence during my Memorial Day Weekends for 38 years now. Three full days
and evenings of widely-defined folk music, dance, literature, and food, which leaves me feeling as if I've had a three-week vacation.
     Seattle is unique in many ways. I don't know of any other big American city where 100,000 or more people can cram into an open space, with no violence, threats, or expressions of hostility. (Yes, I know that last year there was a shooting, but one crazy person in 38 years is not indicative). Men danced on the green with men, women with women, men with women, and vice versa. Guys with six inches of spiked hair and six pounds of metal in their faces danced with grannies in sun hats.  And the sun stayed out all day, for all three days.  In Seattle.  Really.
     Popular Seattle-area comic Kermet Apio showed the breadth of his talent, playing a fabulous set of Hawaiian slack-key guitar, and singing beautifully, as his daughter, wife, and sister (who
choreographed one of the pieces) danced to the music. Talk about genetic influences.
     Here you see Underground Swing, a great group which plays hip gypsy jazz and swing. After their set, I got to hear Howlin' Houndog and the Infamous Losers, with their Freaky-Ass Country Blues-Tonk. Really. You get the idea.
     Back to the book today. Only 362 days till the 2010 Festival.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In The Dark, A Review

     From time to time, I'd like to give a heads-up on a book I've just read and thought well of. So here's a short review of IN THE DARK, by Brian Freeman.

     This story is one hell of a train ride. Thirty years before, on a Fourth of July night in Duluth, young Jonathan Stride first made love to his future wife, Cindy. On the same night, and nearby, Cindy's sister Laura was murdered. The case never was solved.   Now, Stride is a police detective, still in Duluth. Cindy died of cancer several years ago, and Stride lives with policewoman Serena Dial. He's happy in his new life, but can't get the unsolved murder out of his mind.
     Enter Tish Verdure, Laura Starr's best friend in high school. She's returned to Duluth, intending to write a book about the troubling case. The more Tish snoops around, the more clear it becomes that  she's threatening someone. A brain-damaged teen-aged girl drowns. Is there a connection?
     The plot is fast-paced and intelligent, and suspense is unrelenting. Nothing seems contrived. Characters are very well drawn, with flaws for the good guys and sympathetic points for the baddies. Dialogue is realistic, never cliched. Though there's abundant difficult material, including brutal use of a baseball bat, extreme child abuse, incest, voyeurism, and death of a very sympathetic character, the author manages to make none of it gratuitous or sensationalistic. Most of the actual tough stuff occurs off-stage. And the bittersweet ending is right on.  The nature of many of the characters is underscored by the striking (sometimes bleak) surroundings and harsh weather of northern Minnesota and North Dakota. This story wouldn't work in a temperate setting.
     Of the many arresting lines in the book, here's my favorite: Stride is talking to his former high-school geometry teacher about the two cases he's investigating: Laura's murder and the drowning of the teen-aged girl. He says he remembers the parallel postulate from geometry class: If two lines cross a third and form less than two right angles, then eventually the two lines will meet if extended far enough. "It's something I find in most of my investigations," Stride says. "Sooner or later, the lines always intersect."
     I have one question (not a spoiler). When a body is found out-of-doors, after a drenching rainstorm, the police discover semen at the site, but not right next to the body. Can someone enlighten me on how the cops might have been able to notice/discover this?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Big 70 Bash

Here's the writer, aided as always by wife Myra, about to cut the Fabulous Special-Order Chocolate Cake at his Big 70 Birthday Bash last Saturday evening. Thirty-some friends helped celebrate the  event, which featured a program of ragtime piano by Seattle legend Dan  Grinstead, and telling of snarky stories about the G. O. H. by his children and a few long-term friends. Emcee was son-in-law Peter Greyy, a standout Seattle-area standup comic.
Larry made the point that although Three-score and Ten is both the Biblical statute of limitations and the classic retirement age, he has no intention of heeding either injunction and intends to keep cranking out the mystery novels as long as mind and body hold out, and as long as son Casey continues his ready availability as Tech Support.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You Just Can't Please Everybody

At an informal library event involving several authors, I got to
talking with a lively older woman. She asked what I wrote, and after
I'd told her, she asked, "Do you take the name of the Lord in vain in
your books?"
"Well," I said, "Some of my characters do use strong language,
including taking the name of the Lord in vain, but never just for
effect. I try to tune in to the way different people talk, and
anything they say needs to be appropriate for them and for the
situation in the story. They don't use four-letter words just for
effect. Same for violence and sex. They've all got to be integral
to the needs of the story."
The woman's smile got even brighter. "Oh, you can use all the
four-letter words you want in your books," she said. "And put in all
the gore and kinky sex you'd like. But I can't read books that take
the name of the Lord in vain."
Lesson learned. You write what's in you, the way it comes. Try to
tailor your books to please everyone, you'll be publishing blank pages.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Outlining Plots and Characters in Mystery Novels

The last few days, there's been a lively discussion on the DorothyL Digest ( about whether authors should outline a novel before writing Word One, or fly by the seat of their authorial pants. The responses confirmed a long-held opinion: no two writers approach their stories in precisely the same manner. Here's what I wrote:

For my first couple of mysteries, I tried to outline the plots and describe the characters in advance. But then, practically as soon as I started to write the story, the characters ignored all my a priori efforts. If anything, what I'd put down beforehand held me back.  So for the next four books, I became a pantster, started with a character or two, and a general idea of where they were going. Still rough sledding - first drafts took forever, and rewrites were extensive.
For my current book, I decided to try a middle approach. I took my initial characters and my general sense of direction, and wrote just a few lines about what they were going to do first, and next, and after that. Finally, after about five or six scenes, I hit a wall, and that's when I started writing the first draft. The characters fleshed out the skeleton very nicely, and as I approached the roadblock, I found I could look ahead from there. So again, I wrote short descriptions of scenes as far as I could see. I'd call it a Carrot and Donkey Approach. Four sequences, and I finished the first draft in about one-third my usual time, and then rewrites went at least twice as fast as usual, with many less drafts. The pudding that's THE RAGTIME FOOL should be in for the editor's proof in about a month.  
I guess we just keep learning. That's one of the great things about writing. You never know it all - at least I don't.
One more thing: to keep track of events and people as they develop, when I finish each chapter, I write a short summary of what happened, so as I go along in the first draft and with rewrites, I have a linear record of who did what to whom, and when. I'd be lost without that.

If there's one constant, it's this: published authors write regularly and frequently. But there don't seem to be any hard-and-fast rules on just how best to go about it. It's trial and error, with more than the occasional tribulation.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rich Egan's Missouri Ragtime

When I go to bookshops to talk about THE RAGTIME KID and THE KING OF RAGTIME, people ask me whether they can buy CDs so they can actually hear the music I've been referring to. Usually, I give them the names of a recording or two of classical ragtime, music by Scott Joplin, Joe Lamb, and James Scott. Great music, but there's more to ragtime, and it's readily available.
Scott Joplin's goal was to transform the rough-and-ready folk ragtime music of the 1890s and earlier into a classical form, to be played strictly as written, preferably in a concert hall, rather than in a bar or a brothel. But the prototype also developed along other lines, the most prominent of which is usually called Missouri, or midwestern, ragtime, a more boisterous music, but with a prominent days-gone-by feeling.
Richard Egan of St. Louis is a pianist-composer-historian whose playing taps heavily into the nostalgic mode. Rich has two CDs available: FROM THE LAND OF RAGTIME (Piano Joys#PJ006) and LOWLAND FOREST (Piano Joys#PJ023). Listen to them, and you'll come away with a comprehensive feel for ragtime music today.
Just about everyone has heard Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," and "The Entertainer," but on the Lowlands Forest disc, Rich plays four lesser-known Joplin pieces, "The Sycamore," "Eugenia," "The Rosebud March," and "Pleasant Moments," and one by James Scott, "Sunburst Rag." You'll also hear midwestern/southern/country rags from a hundred years ago, such as Charles Hunter's "Tickled to Death," and modern pieces in that mode by Tom Shea (a wonderful player-composer who died far too young in 1982), David Thomas Roberts, and Rich himself. There are a few pieces by Brun Campbell, The Ragtime Kid; if you don't want your feet to tap when Rich plays Brun's tunes,  you'll have to tie them down. Then there are the outright barnburners, like "Old Dan Tucker/Bingo" and "You've Been A Good Old Wagon But You've Done Broke Down," which will take root in your brain and not give you respite for days - not that you'd want it to. And  if you think nostalgia ain't what it used to be, take a listen to Rich's rendition of "Slippery Elm Rag."
Rich Egan's playing is the antithesis of the old pizza parlor style: gussy it up and bang it out. This guy is sensitive to every emotional component of ragtime, and is in every sense an interpreter of the music. Give him a listen. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

John Daniel's New NonMystery

        Many mystery writers work in other forms as well, including nonfiction.  I've had three nonfiction books published: "The View From The Vue," recollections of life as a med student and intern at New York's Bellevue Hospital more than 40 years ago; "The Enchanted Ear, or Lured Into The Music Box Cosmos;" and the long-out of print "Genetic Engineering: Threat or Promise?"
        John Daniel is one of my favorite mystery writers; his sly, slightly-out of kilter sense of humor and ingenious, hectic plots made books such as "The Poet's Funeral" and "Vanity Fire" impossible to put down.  Now, John has produced something very different, but no less readable.
        The Ballad of Toby and Lark is subtitled A Cat Fantasy.  It's a short book, 53 pages, written in free verse, and accompanied by charming, engaging drawings by the author.  The story is that of Toby, a sixteen-year-old boy, in love with Lark, a gardener twice his age.  Unfortunately, because of their age difference, Lark's affection for Toby doesn't go beyond the maternal, and the object of the boy's affection decides to cohabit with Toby's handsome but nasty Uncle Pewter, a hunter.  Toby finds his way to Mistress Mangle, a kindly herbalist-witch who keeps a house full of cats.  The witch turns Toby into a handsome tomcat; as such, he returns to Lark's house, and she welcomes him as a pet.  Uncle Pewter, though, is less than enchanted, and tosses Toby-cat out on his ear, whereupon he trudges back to Mistress Mangle's.  The witch brings in Vixen, an attractive young woman-cat (and once a human woman), to concoct a scheme to take revenge on Toby's uncle, which is all the more satisfying because of how appropriate it is, considering Pewter's occupation.  But then, Toby has to made a choice: assume cat form permanently or go back to being a human.
        One could read this story as a little fairy tale for grownups, but that would be a mistake.  At first read, the tale reminded me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but where that book could offer only a fatuous pseudo-profundity beneath its surface, The Ballad of Toby and Lark plumbs interesting depths, some of them dark, even troubling.  Basic attitudes and preconceptions are called into question. 
        Moral and existential ambiguities are prominent in all of Daniel's fiction, and the author is very good at presenting dilemmas, while leaving interpretation and judgement to the reader.  The Ballad of Toby and Lark challenged me to consider the nature of love and sexuality, both in and of themselves, and in relation to each other.  I found myself thinking hard about interactions between people and non-human animals, and weighing the pros and cons of dangerous, devious actions with malice aforethought, committed against distasteful people. 
        Then, there are the characters themselves.  For example, Lark is not a lawyer or an accountant who enjoys gardening as a hobby; as portrayed, she's not even a farmer.  There is "...cheese from her goats, and from the bees, sweet honey, and sweet garden peas..." but we never see her producing these.  What, really, does she cultivate in that garden?
        There is no sense of geographic specificity about the setting, though various details project an image of antiquity, casting a feel of timelessness and universality upon the story.
        For a small investment of money and time, The Ballad of Toby and Lark yields high dividends in terms of enjoyment and stimulation of the imagination.  I recommend it highly, and part of that recommendation is that you read it slowly, and more than once.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Field's End Writers Conference, April 18

The Field's End Writers Conference is one of the premier events
in the Pacific Northwest. Tamara Sellman, Conference Director,
writes, "We're proud to announce that this year's conference is an
especially great value; we're offering additional workshops and
events while keeping registration at our 2008 rates ($150, or $130
per person for groups of five or more). We've also included more
offerings for poets and children's book writers."
You can read complete information about this excellent conference at

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I Thought I was Going To Hawaii

The sun was out and bright Tuesday afternoon. Since then, it has
looked like Seattle - gray, dark, with rain. At least it's in the 70s,
and the rain hasn't interfered with our trips, though last night, on the
way back from the volcano, it came down in sheets. After we'd got by,
some roads flooded out.
Wednesday, we went to Hilo, enjoyed the farmers market, and
Thursday, went to beautiful South Point, the southernmost point of the
US, saw people spearing fish, and whales leaping out of the water.
Yesterday, we went to Kileauea - really something to walk along the edge
of a steaming caldera, while steam rises from vents in the fields around
you. Today, we're in Kona, seeing how the other half vacations.
Now, if only the sun would come out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

On the Beach

Rainy and 48 in Seattle this morning. 6 hours on a plane was no
walk in the park, but it's nice here on Hawaii, windy and cloudy, but in
the 70s. The airport at Kona is mostly outdoors, a real mindblower.
That object at the lower right of the picture is my shoe up on my beach


Monday, March 2, 2009

A Little Reflected Glory

        I just got word that Mirron Willis' reading of The King of Ragtime for Blackstone Audiobooks received AudioFile Magazine's Earphones Award, and I'm happy to bask in the reflection of Mr. Willis' glory.  The review said, in part, "Mirron Willis gives a virtuoso performance in Larry Karp's second immersion in the syncopated rhythms of ragtime...Willis never strikes a false note in Karp's well-researched period mystery. He fashions living human beings of all colors, textures, and dispositions with only his smooth, sultry voice.
     Here's a link to the entire review.
     Thanks, AudioFile.  Thanks, Mr. Willis.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

        That's probably the Number One question writers get asked.  The answer is, "Everywhere, all the time." 
        Last night I went to a concert at Kenyon Hall in West Seattle, where the terrific Cornucopia Concert Band played selections in honor of Black History Month.  There were rags, blues, popular melodies, show tunes. 
        One of the most prominent names from the list of musicians represented in the concert was James Reese Europe.  A century ago, he was composer, bandleader, arranger, promoter, labor organizer, one of the most important New York musical personalities of the time.  He was a key figure in getting the dance craze of the 'twenties going, composing tunes for headline dancers Irene and Vernon Castle.  He took ragtime and early jazz to France, thereby setting the stage for that country to be a post-war hotbed of jazz and related music.
         Unfortunately, Europe died far too young.  In May, 1919, an argument with his drummer led to the drummer's stabbing the conductor to death.  What might have been behind this murder?  Was it simply a case of an unstable percussionist being pushed just a little too far by his boss?  Or was there more?  There's a relatively-new book out, A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe.  My daughter and son-in-law gave me a copy for Christmas, and it's now near the top of my TBR pile.  I think I'll move it up to Number One.  There might be a story there.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What's All The Fuss About Octuplets?

Doesn't seem like such a big deal. My wife, Myra, has had octuplets
since this past Christmas. Of course, they're hedgehogs, but
still. Our daughter and son-in-law found them in the Loch Ness Gift
Shop. Here they are, sitting on a row of my mystery novels during our recent
Puget Sound Sisters in Crime Holiday Gathering. That's Sister Morrie
Robkin in the chair behind them.
All together, counting plush hedgehogs, glass and ceramic hedgehogs,
concrete, metal, and pine-cone hedgehogs, Myra has well over a
thousand of the little guys. So what's all the commotion about a
mere fourteen sibs?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Now I'm A Performer

One of the interesting things about research and promotion is that
you keep finding yourself in novel situations. Musically challenged
as I am, I never dreamed I'd be up on a stage as part of a music
show. True, I've presented research seminars at the Scott Joplin and
West Coast Ragtime Festivals, a step in the general direction, but
no, not really a performance.
But as of last weekend, I'm officially a performer. Here's a
picture of me with Donald Sosin, a terrific ragtime pianist who also
does a spectacular job of providing musical accompaniment for silent
films. Donald came all the way from Connecticut to do this
show. We're at Kenyon Hall in West Seattle, providing an evening of
Ragtime in Music and Words. Don played the music, I spoke the words
- the history of and stories about ragtime pioneers such as Scott
Joplin, John Stark, Irving Berlin, and Brun Campbell (The Ragtime Kid).
Putting on a performance feels very different from presenting a
seminar or a bookstore event. It's actually fun, a real kick. Who'd
ever have believed it? Not I. But now, I'm looking forward to doing
more shows. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Busy Week on the Web

        Like the shoemaker with his barefoot children, I've done a good deal of posting on other sites this past week.
        Want to learn a useful technique to help develop realistic settings for your historical novels?  Read "Larry Karp Maps It Out," at
        Want to read my nomination for Worst Mystery Ever Written?  Go to
        Then, if you'd like, check out my interview by William Kenower of Author Magazine.  Click the link in "Links to Interviews with Larry."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yuk Yuk. We've Got A Million Of Them

After he'd read my latest book, Bob Resta came up with this suggestion:

        Hey, here's an idea for your next series: Jew escapes Russian Gulag, sneaks into America, builds a business dealing in Oriental rugs.  He develops a special weaving pattern/technique that deviates from the usual rug patterns, and copyrights it as Syncopated Weaving.  You can call the book The King of Rugtime.

        Hmm.  Most people know that the punched cards used by Joseph Marie Jacquard for his mechanical looms foreshadowed modern computer technology (  But those cards also served as the operational basis for many forms of automatic music, including the player piano.  And Scott Joplin recorded several of his rags on piano rolls.  What if Joplin had met the King of Rugtime, and been inspired to write the Cutting a Rug Rag?   
        Thanks, Bob.  I think I'll go back to work now.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Little Automatic Music

Happy New Year.

For me, any happy year would have to include a good deal of music.  Antique music boxes, collecting them, restoring them, has been a hobby of mine for many years.  Martin Edwards, a fellow Poisoned Pen author who's seen my collection, asked me to write a short piece on these 
fascinating self-playing instruments for his blog.  You can read it at