Category Archives: Louise Ure

I Need A Hero

 

By Louise Ure

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote here at Murderati about the attempted murder I had seen from my living room window. Two men practically succeeded in killing two others with long, black metal poles, breaking limbs, smashing faces and leaving blood and teeth all over the sidewalk. “Russian gangs,” the detective told me afterward.

Many of you – more worldly and less naive than I am, perhaps – were concerned about both my safety and mental health after witnessing such a thing.  The good news is that I am taking more precautions when I leave and return to the house, and I haven’t felt any lingering PTSD effects yet at all.

Then I spotted a little write up about the crime in our free neighborhood newspaper:

 

Robbery: False Imprisonment

A man and two of his friends were at the man’s home when two men, one of whom the victim knew as an acquaintance, dropped by for a visit.

After about an hour, one of the two visitors pulled out a handgun and ordered the three victims to the floor.

After tying up the victims with zip-ties, the suspects robbed them and fled.

The victims were able to free themselves and called 9-1-1. While one victim stayed at the house, the other two went looking for the suspects. At X Avenue and Y Street (one block away from where they were robbed), the victims discovered the suspects’ vehicle and waited for them.

When the suspects returned, a fight ensued and the victims were able to retrieve some property, as well as disarming the man with a gun.

When officers arrived at the fight scene, they located the two suspects, one of whom was 28 years of age and the other 36, and took them into custody. Both of the suspects were injured, one critically. They were transported to the hospital for treatment. The victims only had minor injuries.”

 

WTF? If the address, date and hour of the crime had not been the same, I would not have recognized this as the attack I witnessed. Yes, they were all Russian immigrants. But the ones with the metal poles are the ones the police are referring to as “the victims?” And my victims were actually robbers?

And what’s this about “disarming the suspect?” Oh, yeah, he “disarmed” him all right – he practically smashed every bone in the guy’s arms – but I sure didn’t see a gun.

It got me thinking, not only about the unreliability of eye-witnesses, but how a villain can turn into a hero and vice versa, in the blink of an eye.

I think that newspaper write up missed a few things. Like the rage these supposed victims flew into and the mortal harm they were willing to inflict to take revenge for the loss of their property. Like the inhuman look on Victim One’s face (the guy I had been calling “Assailant Number One” in my call to 9-1-1) and his willingness to continue attacking the man pinned in the gutter even after I yelled down that the cops were on their way. And how they ran before the police arrived.

I don’t think there are any good guys in this story, just two sets of bad guys. I’ve read a few books like that – in fact I have a few friends who write them – and while I love them, I always feel like washing my hands or taking a walk afterward.

Like the classic 1980’s Bonnie Tyler song … I need a hero, not just a victim or an everyman/everywoman who can play as nasty as the bad guys.

 

 

 

How about you guys? Do you need a hero in your books?

 

P.S. On a separate and much, much sadder note, I lost my sweet dog, Cisco, to cancer this week. I’m glad that he and Bruce are together again but oh, sweet Jesus, it’s quiet around here.

 

 

 

 

 

Violence Comes Home

 

By Louise Ure

 

I’m no stranger to violence. I’ve found dead bodies. I’ve seen guns and knives drawn. Bar fights. Fatal car crashes. A rape in progress.

But I’d never seen an attempted murder until two weeks ago.

It was 6:30 on a Sunday night. Still broad daylight in my quiet residential neighborhood in San Francisco. My young friend, Maya, and I were sitting in the living room having a glass of wine. I heard two loud bangs of metal on metal – not the kind of thing that sounded like either a car crash or a home repair – and glanced out my third floor window to the street below.

Four white men in their mid-20’s circled a black Dodge 4 X 4 truck parked in front of my house. Two of them held black metal bars three or four feet long and swung them with full force against the knees, shins and arms of the other two.

One young man, disabled by the blows to his legs, got wedged in the gutter between the curb and the back tire of the truck and was unable to move. They struck down with overhand blows to his head – again and again and again — cracking black metal again his skull. His teeth littered the sidewalk. Blood ran down the driveway.

Maya dialed 911 and handed me the phone.

“What do they look like?” the operator said. “How tall? What’s he wearing? Is that assailant Number One or Number Two?”

The picture was unfolding in front of me and yet I know I was unclear in my description. How could I tell their height from three floors up? Based on where their shoulders were next to the truck? “Number One is about six feet. Number Two is a little shorter.”

“What’s Number One wearing?”

“Oh, God, they’re killing him.” I couldn’t take my eyes away from the weapons — the metal poles. I knew exactly what they looked like. I could describe them in my sleep. But apparel? My eyes had skipped right past their clothes. I think Number One had a blue and white striped t-shirt on. But maybe that was Number Two.

“Hey, I see you! I’ve called the cops!” I yelled out the window. The striped t-shirt guy looked up at me in the window then turned back and smashed the metal bar down one more time on the man’s face.

I heard sirens in the distance and apparently so did the bad guys. They took off around the corner on foot. Slowly. Lazily. Just out for a stroll, folks. They took the metal poles with them. How do you disguise those as part of a Sunday afternoon walk in the Richmond?

I tried to memorize everything. The truck’s license plate (although why that would be important is beyond me, the truck was still sitting there, the victim stuck beneath the tire when the police arrived and it turns out it was the victim’s truck anyway), Number Two’s hairstyle (blond, below the ears and shaggy), the high Slavic cheekbones on assailant Number One, the limping path the second victim had taken to the south as he wrapped a sweatshirt around his head to staunch or hide the bleeding and disappear before the cops arrived.

We may write about crime and murder, but as much as we try to imbue our work with verisimilitude, I have never read any crime fiction that could completely replicate the ferocity and time-freezing horror of actually watching a murder occur. Yes, time stands still. But so does rational thinking and response. Breathing is impossible. Skills we thought we could count on vanish. The civilized world as we know it disappears.

“Russian gangs,” the female officer told me three hours later as they finished the investigation and took down the crime scene tape. “And the victims aren’t talking.”

Mine is a multicultural neighborhood, with lots of Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian immigrants pretty much cheek-by-jowl with fairly upscale Caucasian residents. There’s a huge Russian Orthodox church just a couple of blocks away, but I hadn’t realized the power and presence of the Russian mafia and gangs within the community.

It stunned me two days later to realize that I’d had my cell phone right there in my lap and never once thought to take a photo of any of this as the attack continued or the assailants ran away. Maybe it’s a generational thing; maybe a younger witness would automatically have grabbed the camera to record the moment for YouTube or Channel 7 News posterity. Or maybe it’s part of the frozen-moment of horror, when I couldn’t seem to take action with either my words or my limbs.

A detective called Friday night asking for clarification and more details than I’d given in my shaky-hands statement. Both victims are still alive, although the one pinned beneath the wheel may not make it. They’ve got the two attackers. There may have been a gun involved as well.

“Will you testify at the trial?” he asked. You bet. Although I wish I’d had the quick-wittedness and sure-handiness I would have given one of my protagonists and grabbed the cell phone camera rather than rely on my memory. I wish I had the courage and physical prowess I would have given her: she would have come up with a way to thwart the bad guys… to stop the beating…to track them to their lair…to break up the Russian gang.

I may write about murder all day, but it’s different when it shows up on your own doorstep. In broad daylight. On a quiet Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.

How about you guys? Has violence ever come home for you?

 

 



The Dash

 

By Louise Ure

                    

 

Bruce A. Goronsky, a much admired television commercial producer, died Monday, March 29, in San Francisco of cancer. He was 61.  A native of Seattle, where he worked his way through the University of Washington playing drums in a blues band, Bruce moved to San Francisco in the 1970’s to pursue his career in advertising and broadcast production. A Clio and Emmy award winner and founder of Fleet Street Pictures, Bruce also worked at Foote, Cone & Belding Advertising in San Francisco and Ogilvy & Mather/Los Angeles.

 

My husband, Bruce, died two weeks ago yesterday. I wonder if every Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. will be as difficult. I’ve only had two of them now, but the world goes slow and quiet, my breath catches and I try to reorder my mind, once again, to face a Monday alone.

God help me, when I think of him, I can still only picture him that last night in the hospital. The medical staff was exquisitely compassionate. They gave us a private room with a lot of space. I got to sleep next to him and hold him the last eighteen hours.

He was unconscious by then, but I’m convinced that he could still hear me, that he was still nominally aware of what was happening, and that he recognized the race was over. He was simply taking a cool down lap.

Friends and family swooped in but then hesitated – shuffling in their indecision – fearful of intruding. They should not have. Death was the intruder. Cancer was the unwelcome guest at the table.

I have focused on tasks since he died and there are many to be done.

Here’s what I have learned:

For the same reason that doctors do not operate on their relatives, writers should not have to write their spouses’ obituaries. Our skill is unnecessary here, the knife cutting too close to vital organs along the way.

 

 

 

With a laugh that would enter a room before he did, Bruce had a love of senior Golden Retrievers and Maker’s Mark, and took particular joy in vintage car racing with his Shelby Mustang. He often said his only goal was “to be half the man my dog thinks I am.”

 

The financial documents – from the deed to the house to the paperwork to get the credit cards and bank accounts solely in my name – come to me for signature with the line under my name already filled in as “Louise Ure/Survivor.” I do not want to sign a line titled that way. I want “Wife” or “Lover” or even—in recognition of our quarter of a century together—“Widow.” I have not “survived” this.

I picked up his ashes yesterday afternoon, buckled them into the passenger seat, and talked to him all the way home. I’m lucky that he was always a man of few words.

There are many who miss him as much as I do, and last Thursday they showed me that when they put together a celebration of his life. There were more than 150 people there, some from his racing world, many from film production and some of you writerly sorts who never met him but who came to wrap your arms around me. His brother and 88-year old father were there even though they were so infirm that they had to fly in with a nurse in attendance. I thank you all. The event ended with all of us trying to recreate Bruce’s laugh. Magical.

 

He is lovingly remembered by his father and brother, Ade and Paul Goronsky of Seattle, Washington, by his wife of 25 years, Louise Ure, by the children of his heart, Brian and Maya Washington of San Francisco, and by many friends and colleagues.

 

One of Bruce’s old advertising colleagues RSVP’d for the event but did not show up. I would have been surprised if he had; there are arrest warrants out for him in two countries and he was reported to have died in the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, but it looks like even that was a scam. In any case, he sent a note with a video called The Dash. It has stuck with me these last two weeks as a raft to cling to in these high seas.

 

“It’s not the date of birth or the date of death on the tombstone that matters; it’s how you live the dash in between.” That dash represents all he was, all he gave, and all the people he loved and who loved him. That’s what counts.

 

 

 

Bruce had a good dash.

 

Thank you, my Murderati family, for the flowers and plants, the emails and phone calls and charitable contributions, the arms around me at the memorial. You have my heart.

 

Down Time

 

By Louise Ure

 

We’ve all experienced it … in airport lounges, in waiting rooms, alone at a tiny bistro table waiting for your guest. It’s down time. That short forced period, often without internet access, when we are left alone with our thoughts.

These days my down time is often to be had at a hospital bedside or in one of those straight back metal chairs at the foot of a chemotherapy infusion chair. Conversation is not required. Just presence. Just being there so that when the eyes open they land on something loving and supportive.

And some of those times I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts. I need to be distracted.

Many of you know about my love of crossword puzzles. I can do them in ink. In three foreign languages. Quickly. They are my go-to down time staple. Not much to carry; I’ve even got all the New York Times crossword puzzles on my iPhone, although I miss the look of blue ink on newsprint when they’re completed. My favorite new clue? “What’s three less than once? (Four letters)” Check the bottom of the blog for the answer if you don’t know it.

Reading, of course, is a natural for down time, but I almost don’t want it to be a good book. I want something putdownable. Forgettable. Something I won’t remember as being associated with that day in the oncologist’s office.

During another trying time in my life I once read straight through every single one of the Diane Mott Davidson books, cutesy names, recipes and all. I loved them for the distracting froth that they were but have no desire to revisit those books or days.

I watch others for ideas on how to use this time, their haggard faces make them look like experts. The Russian lady skims rosary beads through her fingers like she’s shelling peas. The Asian man with a shock of white hair like a coxcomb is sleeping.

My friend Brian does Sudoku, which I’ve never warmed to. Why on earth would a number puzzle be so much more difficult for me than crosswords when each square is just a symbol after all? Why is it impenetrable for me to figure out the order of the numbers 1 through 10 while I can easily do it for a 10-letter word like “gesundheit?”

Some folks watch TV if it’s available. The offices and airport gates I frequent rarely have a program or channel that I’m interested in. Others find distraction in music, the ear buds leaking a tinny rhythm when you sit next to them. I don’t see many knitters anymore, but maybe that’s just California.

I dare say many of you writer-types like to work on a draft or jot notes about character and dialogue. I call that work, not down time.

I also don’t count idle cell phone conversations as acceptable uses of down time. Those are the natterings of people afraid to be alone, to be quiet, to be serene. They are a pestilence to the rest of us.

As you can tell, my friends, this is a week of waiting. Waiting for the curtain to rise. Waiting for the other shoe to fall. Waiting for news. For decisions. For an answer.

While we wait, tell me how you spend that forced down time. And if it’s reading, what kind of book? A comfort read? A “can’t put it down”?

 

* “What is three less than once?” Ocho. Read the word “once” as Spanish.

 

A Glimpse Into Crazy

 

 

By Louise Ure

 

About ten days ago I got an appreciative email from a reader that I want to share with you. Not that I want this man’s words enshrined anywhere (on the contrary), but to remind us all that there are some true crazies out there. I’ve removed his email address and signature line, just in case you’re so deeply offended (as was I) that you’re tempted to reply to him.

 

His message, complete with vitriol, bigotry, violence, illogic and original misspellings is as follows:

 

From: Crazy M-Fer

Date: February 20, 2010 9:38:52 AM PST

To: Louise Ure

Subject: THANK YOU for Liars Anonymous!!

 

Dear Mrs. Ure:

I want to THANK YOU so much from the bottom of my heart for your recent book Liars Anonymous that I just finished reading.

THANK YOU for redeeming Caucasian Christian Men, as you did in this book.

I was very worried when I first began reading, that your character was a bull dagger for her she was a woman who thinks she can act like a man and do the things men do, like kick ass, and protect women and children. This is NOT the job of a woman and your books proves how stupid, gullible, and easily led astray women are.

And you confirmed what men have been saying all along, only it means so much more because you are a woman – you are a real woman, yes? Not one of those girly men who’s transformed himself? For if so, then it doesn’t count.

We reaffirmed what men have been saying all along: women LIE! And women ESPECIALLY lie about being sexually molested as children, and especially to their best friends.

And their motivation is always their sick attempt to destroy men and to make the real women who love those men look stupid and hateful to their children when they believe their man over those spiteful, lying girls.

We all know women make up childhood sexual abuse, and if not to bring trouble to grown men, then because their bull dagger therapists lead to to ‘remember’ false memories because we know these women hate men and want to destroy us.

And I am further thrilled that it is a dirty jew that was the evil force behind real murders and another jew was eliminated (which should have happened to ALL of them years ago); and the other evil force was that rich woman. Women are ALWAYS the manipulators and real dogs and you have proved it with your story.

I hope you leave your character in jail where she belongs and make her serve even longer that most women in this country serve for murdering anyone. Thank you for contributing so emmensely to the exoneration of men and proof that women make up abuse to try to punish us.

You are such a credit to women and making sure their role is kept as God meant it to be. I look forward to your next book! MEN RULE!

 

 

Where to begin?

First of all, I think you’re a hateful, deluded, dangerous person and I can’t believe you actually read books – any books – let alone mine. Did it bother you when my protagonist kneed the guy who was trying to rape her and smashed his elbow with a crowbar? I’m surprised you had the nuts to keep reading.

Let me take this point by point:

 

1.“THANK YOU for redeeming Caucasian Christian Men”

Uh, no. I think Caucasian Christian Men are just as likely to be evil as anyone else and maybe even more so, as they often hide their own insecurities and obsessions behind their religion.

 

2. “I was very worried when I first began reading, that your character was a bull dagger for her she was a woman who thinks she can act like a man and do the things men do, like kick ass, and protect women and children.”

You’re dating yourself here, pal. I haven’t heard the term “bulldagger” (derogatory appellation for an aggressively masculine lesbian , more often one who is muscular or burly , who assumes the male role in lovemaking) for decades. Imagine the horror of a woman saying “I’m going to touch you here.” My God, we can think and feel for ourselves!

And I’m sorry you f-ing chauvinist, but I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself and anybody else I care for including other women and children. Women today are not waiting around for some man to save us.

 

3. “ … their sick attempt to destroy men and to make the real women who love those men look stupid and hateful to their children when they believe their man over those spiteful, lying girls.”

Ooh, sounds like somebody’s got some history here. Do the cops still have you on a sexual predator list? Did your kids disown you when they heard? Sounds like you’ve still got the little wife cowed, though. But I’ll bet you don’t let her friends come by any more.

 

4. “And I am further thrilled that it is a dirty jew that was the evil force behind real murders and another jew was eliminated (which should have happened to ALL of them years ago)”

Okay, there you go, right past the Tin Foil Hat stop sign and into the high speed zone of dangerous, deadly bigotry. Zip it, you pinhead. I don’t have the time or energy for your particular combination of stupid and hateful.

By the way, there’s not one character in that book described as Jewish.

 

5. “. Women are ALWAYS the manipulators and real dogs and you have proved it with your story.”

Don’t you get it? Stories PROVE nothing. They’re stories. Fiction. I could just as easily write a novel about an ignorant white man who abuses little kids and then hides behind his religion to get away with it. Would that story be any more true? (In your case, maybe so.)

Back here in the reality-based world where I live, abuse happens to men, women and children all the time. And it’s assholes like you that try to excuse it away or pretend it never happened.

 

OK, ‘Rati Readers. I’m back, now that I’ve vented just about as much as he did.

I never did write back to him directly and hope to hell he doesn’t read this blog, but as hateful and misinformed as his email is, my real question is: does it matter? Does it matter that I didn’t intend to write any of those coded messages that he picked up?  Does it matter that he’s misconstrued the basic nature of my characters and their battle with guilt, blame and responsibility?  Once our work leaves our hands, can we still claim ownership of how it should be received?

The audience is free to interpret a poem, or a ballet or a piece of music. Does is matter that their  comprehension is not what the poet, the choreographer or the musician intended?

Fire away, my ‘Rati friends. Either with your response to this Crazy M-Fer or at the notion of ownership of creative ideas once they’re loosed on the world.

 

PS: Tiny update on the situation at home. Bruce has fallen in love with those old-timey popsicles that have a joke printed on the stick. “What kind of clothes do frogs wear? Jump suits.” I’ll soon be a hit at all the kids’ parties.

 

Coming Clean

 

By Louise Ure

 

Several days ago, two of our ‘Rati readers, PK and Berenmind, commented that, when we’re faced with a paucity of topics for blog posts, they’d be just as happy reading about the daily life of the ‘Rati authors. What we’re doing. What we’re thinking. How we’re faring.

That was a joy to know. That somewhere out in that shimmery internet there are friends who I’ve only met here at Murderati. People who come to visit even though we don’t always write about murder or mysteries or the marketing thereof. People who might just want to know how we are.

It’s time I come clean and tell you how I’ve been.

Horrid.

Just after Thanksgiving weekend, my husband, Bruce, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. It has already metastasized to his bones, his adrenal gland and to an area surrounding his heart. It is incurable. It is inoperable. And the chemo doesn’t seem to be working.

He had a small cough and went in to see our doctor the Monday after the holiday weekend. She said his lungs sounded fine, but recommended a chest x-ray just to be sure. Our lives changed as of that day.

These last ten weeks have been a horror of hospital stays, white blood cell counts, plummeting weight loss, radiation, PICC lines, chemotherapy and nausea. I’m learning a new language of pain and loss. And it was hard to hide that in my blog posts and comments.

No more.

I promise not to make Murderati a bi-monthly update on this personal hell, but it’s nice to know that friends can be open with each other if need be.

My real life neighbors, friends and family have been extraordinarily kind. They bring soups and sweets and lists of clinical trials that we may not have considered yet. Other friends have been supportive by email and by phone.

Even the insurance company has exceeded my expectations with their courtesy and competence.

Bruce’s attitude is great. He is a man of dogged determinism and his optimism is unflagging.

We say “I love you” more often these days.

I’m not writing at all. Not even a diary. I know some people say it was helpful to them to do so, but for the moment it seems too much like rubbing sandpaper across a suppurating wound. My only jottings are to note the date for a visiting nurse or to monitor a change in oxygen levels.

I’ll try to keep up my end here at Murderati, but please understand if some weeks my posts are short, or sad, or maybe filled with dark humor. Whatever it takes to get through the day.

 

 

Much love to you all,

 

Louise

 

Shades of Vienna Past

 

 

By Louise Ure

 

 

Today’s guest is J. Sydney (Syd) Jones, whose second novel in a historical mystery series set in Vienna 1900, Requiem in Vienna, launches today. 

Each book features one of the cultural luminaries of the day. The first in the series, The Empty Mirror, has the painter Gustav Klimt accused of murder and this second book finds the composer Gustav Mahler the target of an assassin.

“A rich, beautifully written historical mystery … first class,” said the starred Booklist review.

“Confident prose and mastery of historical detail, woven into a convincing narrative, make this sophisticated entertainment of a very high caliber,” wrote the Kirkus reviewer in another starred review.

Publishers Weekly said: “Jones’s fine second Viennese mystery … smoothly blends a compelling period whodunit with bountiful cultural and social details.”

   

 

Let’s get to know Syd a little better:

 

LU: It’s clear from your work that you know Vienna well. Tell us a little bit about your years there.

JSJ: I went to Vienna initially as a student. It was my first experience of a big city and I fell in love with the place. This was during the Cold War–the Russians had just crushed the Prague Spring movement–and the city was most definitely Central European with the ambience of a much earlier time. Faded elegance best describes Vienna during that time. It has since gotten a facelift and joined Western Europe in a million small and irritating ways, but at the time, for a young man who loved history, Vienna was a living museum. I stayed on for almost two decades after my student year, working and living in other parts of Europe as well: Paris, Florence, Molyvos, Donegal. But I always kept coming back to Vienna for that feeling of home.

LU: How did you happen to choose fin de siecle Vienna as the time period? What is its special appeal? And have you ever been tempted to write about modern day Vienna?

Vienna became not only a second home to me, but also a major theme for my writing. When I was first there, fin de siecle, or Vienna 1900, was not the cottage industry it has since become. You could still pick up a Klimt sketch for a reasonable price or bid on Werkstätte pieces at the Dorotheum with a chance of actually winning. Maybe it was a wonderful course I took on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus at university in Vienna, maybe it was the as yet undiscovered territory of the intellectual/cultural ferment of the period–whatever, I became hooked on turn-of-the-century (20th) Vienna. I researched it for years in preparation for my first big nonfiction work, but soon discovered that no one was interested. But for Hitler there has been perennial interest. Linking the story of the (largely Jewish) cultural renaissance in Vienna 1900 with the flip-side tale of Hitler’s down and out years in the city, I found quite a lot of interest; thus publication of my Hitler in Vienna.

I have also used Vienna for a more recent historical backdrop in a stand-alone thriller, Time of the Wolf, set during World War II, and wrote three unpublished novels in a series featuring an American foreign correspondent set in contemporary Vienna. But it seems my efforts at an earlier Vienna are the ones that have proven more successful.

 

LU: Your work is peopled by real historical figures like Gustav Mahler, Gustav Klimt, Hans Gross and Alma Schlindler. What are the special challenges you face when including real people in a work of fiction?

Using historical characters in fiction obviously poses some challenges. With fabricated characters, the writer is in total control of backstory, personality, and physical characteristics. However, when using actual figures in a fictional setting, you do not want to do a disservice to the historical record. I read widely about my characters–biographies, journals, diaries and letters if available, newspaper accounts. But at some point you just have let your writerly instincts take over and get inside the character. Klimt, for example, as I portray him in The Empty Mirror, is a bit of a crude barbarian, but loveable all the same and a true genius. I took my lead from bits and pieces of historical writing about him, especially about his weight-lifting and brawling and his love of pastries. Other characters give you more insight to start with. Alma Schindler (later Mahler) kept a diary for the years I was interested in that provided me a window into her psyche as well as the social happenings of the day. There are also dangers in this approach. Using Klimt as a suspect in a series of brutal murders earned me a headline in one of Vienna’s tabloids as a “Scandal Author.”

 

 
LU: Tell us about your protagonist, the lawyer Karl Werthen. Why is he the perfect foil for the other lead character, Hans Gross, and this series?

Werthen and Gross have a long history and it is Gross (one of those actual historical figures in my series) who first prods Werthen back into the world of criminal law and investigation. Gross, as I portray him, is a blustery old coot in many ways, but also in possession of a keen mind–he is known as the father or criminology, after all, and an inspiration, some say, for the character of Sherlock Holmes. Gross is fusty, persnickety, and a great egoist, largely unaware of his self-centered ways. Werthen, younger than Gross, is sensitive and caring, a man with artistic sensibilities and even some ambition to be a writer. Where Gross is all action and drive, Werthen is more reflective and in possession of a sense of humor–something missing in Gross’s resume. They play off of each other quite well, and over the course of the books Werthen increasingly comes out of the shadow of his mentor. Theirs is not a Holmes-Watson association, but rather a collaboration of equals. It is just that Gross only rarely recognizes this.

Their pairing also allows me to bring out important themes in the series, including anti-Semitism (Gross is the unconscious racist whereas Werthen is an assimilated Jew), and feminism. Werthen’s wife, Berthe, and her group of friends (including the early feminist writer, Rosa Mayreder) are integral characters in the ongoing adventures.

LU: You’ve written both fiction and non-fiction. Is there a difference in how you face your writing day for those two different kinds of writing?

Half of my published work is nonfiction. When starting out as a writer, I was very practical, figuring that I could publish nonfiction more easily than fiction, and then establish a name and cross over to my first love, fiction. Practical isn’t always smart, and publishing works in mysterious ways. Anyway, while concentrating on novels now, I have continued to work in nonfiction and in freelance journalism to pay the bills. The biggest difference between the two is that with nonfiction there is not that niggling little bit of dread in the stomach when I sit down to work each morning: I know where the day’s work is going. Fiction demands more. I pretty closely map out my novels scene by scene, but there still needs to be that spark, that bit of invention and surprise in each scene. You hope you get it every day; sometimes you don’t.

LU: Tell us about the birth of this new series. You’ve been writing for over twenty years, and yet this new series set in turn of the century Vienna represents a whole new direction for you. Did it require a new agent and new publisher? How did you go about getting it published?

The Viennese Mystery series is the first time I’ve allowed myself to use, in a fictional format, the material I’ve researched for so many years. I guess I was always too conscious of historians looking over my shoulder before. Once I set on Gross and the fictional Werthen, however, the writing became hugely fun for me and I forgot about the constrictions of nonfiction. My enjoyment–if you believe the reviewers–comes across in the books to create an entertaining blend of fact and fiction. And what was also surprising about the series was the relative ease I had in getting it published. I did need to change agents for this new direction, and had positive responses from a number of really good people. I teamed with Alexandra Machinist at the Linda Chester Literary Agency. She loved the book and the series concept and made the sale with the first submission. It seems my earlier works on Vienna helped, making me something of a Vienna expert, but it was also the high concept and Alexandra’s enthusiasm and savvy that did the trick.

 

LU: What famous Viennese characters or situations are you working on for the next book?

Book three is finished and features, among others, ten-year-old Ludwig Wittgenstein, long before his fame as a philosopher. The modernist architect Otto Wagner and the mayor of Vienna at the time, Karl Lueger (role model in demagoguery for young Hitler) also figure in this tale of machinations to sell off the sacred Vienna Woods to developers. Book four in the series is in the works now and focuses on literary Vienna–Arthur Schnitzler (the playwright whom Freud called his doppelgänger), Felix Salten (of Bambi fame), ur-bohemian Peter Altenberg, and a host of other literati of Vienna 1901. Another major character is the famous prostitute and madam, Josephine Mutzenbacher, whose memoirs are a sort of Viennese Fanny Hill. Like I say, this series is great fun to research and write.

 

LU: Thank you, Syd. It’s a pleasure to get to know you. Check back in on our comments section today and meet the rest of the ‘Rati crew.

 

PS: Not only is it Syd’s launch day for Requiem in Vienna, but it’s also the day that the trade paper edition of my Liars Anonymous hits the shelf. Go out and buy somebody’s book today! And since Amazon appears to have backed down in their power grab over e-book pricing (although I don’t see that their ordering buttons are lit yet) feel free to order from them or go to BarnesandNoble.com or to your independent bookseller!



 

Take The Words Right Out Of My Mouth

 

By Louise Ure

 

The trade paperback edition of LIARS ANONYMOUS comes out in just two weeks, and with a brand new cover.

   

 

 

Isn’t that gorgeous? Equally eerie as the hard cover design but perhaps more ominous. As it should be.

In preparing for that launch, I was going back through some of the final paperwork on the novel and the plans and decisions made when it first came out. And what I found set me laughing so hard that it made up for a week’s worth of worry, stumbles and rain clouds.

I found a list of comments on the manuscript made by some unnamed copy editor at St. Martins.

Now, I adore copy editors of all shapes and sizes. In FORCING AMARYLLIS one copy editor discovered as we were going to press that I had set a pivotal courtroom scene on a Sunday. In THE FAULT TREE, one eagle-eyed editor noticed that I had moved a character’s cowlick from the front of his head (page 39) to the back of his head (page 225).

These are mistakes up with which readers should not put. I am forever grateful for the tireless efforts, intelligence and thinking that got those errors corrected.

But there’s another kind of copy editor, too. The kind who lives in a bubble of small thinking and even less curiosity … the kind of copy editor who would write this:

From Page 38: I walked farther north, toward a massive cottonwood tree that listed toward the arroyo like a dowsing rod. It stood fifty or sixty feet high, proof that this dry wash had once run full and that there remained enough water under the sand to sustain life. The tree had branched into three separate trunks down near its base, giving it a wide and low canopy of leaves like a sombrero.

(Note to author: Are trees in the southwest even big enough to climb?)

Response to copy editor: Yes, you imbecile. Please reread that part of the sentence where the tree is described as being right on the back of a once water-filled arroyo. And trust the word of someone who grew up there.

 

From Page 50: I spiked my hair with American Greaser, the only beauty product I use, and put on my favorite “keep your distance” t-shirt: “Some days it’s just not worth chewing through the restraints.” The tattooed jacks around my biceps were clearly visible.

(Note to author: Is it possible to say something this long on a t-shirt?)

Response to copy editor: Yes, you cretin. Especially the size I wear.

 

From Page 52: “¿Como está Felicia?” the woman beside me asked of the bartender.

(Note to author: “I don’t speak or write Spanish but this looks wrong to me.”)

Response to copy editor: Oh, really? Then maybe you should ask someone who speaks and writes Spanish.

 

From Page 72: I parked around the corner with a clear view of the back door through a tiny slice of space between a tree and a three-bay body shop. Felicia probably wouldn’t recognize my truck from here and, parked behind the tree the way I was, she wouldn’t be able to see my face either. I’d been there a half hour when the garage closed.

(Note to author: Three-bay body shop? Is this a brand name? I don’t drive so I don’t know.)

Response to copy editor: No, it’s not a brand name. And by the way, I don’t eat tofu but I still know what it is.

 

From Page 100: Beverly was just as petite as I remembered from our high school days — soft, rounded curves and pouter pigeon breasts — but her face had become that of a disappointed adult, with a built-in scowl and the onset of gray where she parted her hair.

(Note to author: “What kind of breasts do pigeons have?”)

Response to copy editor: Oh, my. Where to begin?

 

From Page 107: He put my keys and purse down on the concrete slab porch and stepped over to an ice chest near the sliding glass door. He pulled out two bottles of beer, opened them with a hinge on the side of the Igloo and held one out to me.

(Note to author: Are you calling the ice chest an igloo as a joke or is it a brand name of something?)

Response to copy editor: See above-referenced note about tofu. And the one that asks “where to begin?”

 

From Page 160: I heard the throaty roar of a big V8 outside, bragging on its horsepower and torque. I pulled the curtain to the side.

The black low rider came around again and this time the song blasting from the windows was about the hazards of smuggling. The four bandanaed bobbleheads in the car nodded and swayed to the beat. The guy in the front passenger seat stared at the house, then finger-shot me the way he had at the intersection on Friday.

(Note to author: I cannot verify the meaning of “bobbleheads.”)

Response to copy editor: Well, there you go. I guess there are some mysteries in life that just aren’t meant to be solved.

 

From Page 198: The setting sun turned the sky to persimmon then to bruise.

(Note to author: Is bruise a color?)

Response to copy editor: In my world, yes. And a noun. And a verb. And a threat.

 

From Page 216: “I’m telling you, man. I only just heard about it. I was in Nogales when you and the chica came in. I heard you asking about Carlos. That’s why I called.” The kid was flop sweat-nervous, but I didn’t know if he was afraid of Guillermo’s temper or the Braceros’ retribution.

(Note to author: Flop-sweat? What is this?)

Response to copy editor: It’s that unique combination of chills, stinky sweat and light-headedness that overcomes you when you see your career as a copy editor disappearing before your eyes.

 

From Page 319: Cambria Styles hadn’t changed much in the three years since I’d seen her. Dishwater blond hair, poker-straight almost to her waist. Sallow skin like she was an underwater creature. I reintroduced myself.

(Note to author: What color is dishwater?)

Response to copy editor: Oh, to be so young and innocent.

 

Of course, I didn’t really write all those nasty replies. But I did use my favorite four-letter word. Often.

STET.

 

What about you, ‘Rati? Any copy editing horror stories to share?

 

Put On Your Dancing Shoes

 

 

By Louise Ure

 

Okay, I know I risk the loss of attention of some of our male ‘Rati here, but I’m talking about shoes today.

Little girls love them because they’re a physical manifestation of our princess fantasies. Adult women love them because they’re a physical manifestation of all the rest of our fantasies. Big girls love them because they’re the only clothing (aside from gloves) that we can buy in a normal size. Slim girls love them because they make us feel like the ballet dancer on the top of the musical jewelry box.

I love them all. Flat shoes. Fancy shoes. Killer heels. Animal prints. Straps.

I used to date a guy named Tom who bought me shoes for no reason at all. I’d come home from work and there would be a little pyramid of shoeboxes on the bed. Straw wedges. Red canvas sneakers. Strappy sandals with a chunk of turquoise in them. Black ballet slippers. It was heaven.

It takes a special man to know the shape and pressure points of his woman’s foot. A special man to get the right size every time. I’d be with Tom today if it wasn’t for his equally nasty habit of leaving lipstick love letters in baby talk on the bathroom mirror.

I’ve grown older and wiser since my Tom-the-Shoe-Man days and now eschew heels of either the footwear or male variety.  And I’ve cut back from the 100+ pairs of shoes in the closet to a measly fifty.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the passion.

So the day after Christmas, with my shoe jones in high gear, I sneaked off to see my dealer. Zappos.com, that is. From the Spanish word “zapatos” (shoes). They have 1000 brands on hand. Ninety thousand styles. Three and a half million pairs of shoes ready to go.

I gave the secret password and entered into the wonderful world of shoes. Fleece-lined. Waterproof. Thigh-high. Italian leather. Purple.

Did I say purple? For some reason, my shoe jones was screaming for purple and I found just the thing. Puppy-soft leather. A hot-orange sole for flamboyance. An elegantly understated logo across the heel.

Zappos never disappoints. Twenty-four hours later they were in my hands. Er … on my feet.

Except that they were tight. And the flamboyant orange made me look like I ought to be duck hunting. And that understated logo was braying like a tea partier with a megaphone.

They were going back.

When you print out the (free) return-shipping label at the Zappos website, they have this deceptively humble little comment box that says: “What could Zappos have done to prevent this return?” As if it were their fault.

It reminds me of that weight loss ad that on late night TV that starts with: “Unsightly belly fat? It’s not your fault.” Of course not. That bean burrito just jumped right out in front of me at the intersection. And I didn’t even realize I was being rude to that jelly donut until it started crying.

What could you have done differently, Zappos? I’ll tell you.

 

“Next time please remind me that there’s a whole world of purple out there and the color on these shoes is not going to match any of the lavender, lilac, deep purple or mauve in my closet.

And you could whisper that I haven’t been a size 8 in a closed-toed shoe since I was in third grade.

You could tell me that I bought the same pair of shoes from you in gray last year and they’ll go just fine with all the purple stuff.

You could cough gently into my computer and say that $188 for a pair of faux-leather purple shoes I don’t need is not a bargain. You could even have a little asterisk at the bottom of the page with the credit card info that teases, ‘Are you sure? You’ve got a big credit card bill coming in at the end of the month.’

Like a nurse in a methadone clinic, you could have offered a free pair of those little slip-on satin Chinese slippers instead, with the warning that ‘as a writer, you spend most of your time at the computer and you shouldn’t be wearing screaming purple and orange outdoor shoes.’

You could have cut me off. Told me my addiction was getting out of control. Your pages could have taken longer to download. You could have saved me from myself. But you didn’t.”

 

I hit Send, then printed out the return label and hot-footed it down to the post office before I lost my nerve.

Unfortunately, the Post Office was in cahoots with my dealer and instead of sending the shoes back to Zappos, they returned the box to me. Like a recent quitter who finds a fresh pack of smokes in her purse, the jones kicked back in.

I would prevail. But now I needed a new return label, so I got on the phone to talk to my dealer directly.

“Zappos, the happiest place on the internet! This is Loren,” he cooed. Oh my, yes. I’ll bet he had blue eyes. I wondered if he left messages in baby talk on the mirrors.

I explained my dilemma.

“Let me look up that order,” he said.

There was an uncomfortable silence as he read my suggestions for what Zappos might have done differently.

“Oh, you’re THAT Louise.”

 

 P.S. The winner of our “‘Rati Holiday Contest” is commenter Sylvia! Ms. Sylvia, if you’ll send me your snail mail address, you’ll have 14 Murderati books winging their way to you!

 

 

 

 

 



Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

We’re going to be on a minimal posting schedule through the New Year. Not a complete hiatus, but semi-regular postings, since many of us are traveling and trying to get a real break from the Interwebs. We’ll be back at full force January 2.

We truly appreciate that you take the time to stop by, to participate, to be a part of this fabulous community all year long. We value your input so much that we thought we’d throw the field open to you.

If you comment over the next week, you’ll be entered into our Festivus Contest!

And what, pray tell, may the glorious prize be for commenting? Why, a package of signed Murderati books, of course!

14 books from 14 authors.

Now that’s a deal.

Here’s what we want to know:

(answer as many as you wish, but only one answer is necessary to be included in the contest.)

 What are you doing for the holidays?

What are you reading?

What topics would you like us to cover in the New Year?

What questions do you have for any or all of us?


 We wish you and your families the very best of holiday joy!

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