Category Archives: Louise Ure

Oh, to be Lee Child!

By Louise Ure

“When I’m done writing that final scene, I save the work then press Send and never read it again.”

That’s just paraphrasing the conversation I had with Lee Child a couple of weeks ago in New York, but it’s very close to what he said, and it stunned me.

I was in town for an MWA Board Meeting and a signing at Partners & Crime. Lee had ambled over from his apartment to join the fun. As he and I often do, we found ourselves braving the icy January temperatures outside the bookstore in pursuit of nicotine.

I’d told him my third book was done, but that I wasn’t completely happy with it yet.

“Then it’s not done, is it?”

Well, when you look at it that way, Mr. Smartypants, I guess not.

I’m a revisionist, you see. Once I have the entire book down in a concrete form, I go back and change everything. Not just tightening the writing or adding a bit of back story. Everything. The characters’ names, the point of view, the ending. When I revised Forcing Amaryllis, I changed who the villain was. In The Fault Tree’s revision, I changed the crime that had been committed.

The editing I have planned for this third book could turn it from a chrysalis to a butterfly. Or not. But it will definitely be changed.

That’s not the way Lee works. When he sits down to write, he rereads and edits the work from yesterday and then adds new scenes or chapters. And on the last day — when he finishes that final scene – he hits Save and then sends it off to his editor.

WHAT????? No rereading from page one to see if it still makes sense? No agonizing over the final line in the penultimate chapter? No second thoughts about having all those character names starting with the letter M? No angst about whether the protagonist’s motivation is clear in that scene?

I think Lee’s vision is clearer and his aim is truer than mine. He doesn’t outline, but he knows where the book is going and how to take it there. And the fact that he’s written nine more books than I have doesn’t hurt either.

I, on the other hand, muddle.

I wallow.

I vacillate.

And I revise.

Lee knows when a book is done because that’s when he’s written the last line. I know a book is done when I’ve exhausted every possible avenue of change, written and erased an additional forty thousand words, and bored myself silly rereading it.

I would love to end my second-guessing. To have that kind of confidence or skill. To write a book, hit Save and then Send.

Instead I plod along, wiping out entire casts of characters and rebuilding back story to support a plot development I came up with later.

This third book will change in ways I haven’t imagined yet. And the revision will probably take just as long as the original creation of the book did.

Oh, to be Lee Child!

I’m traveling back to San Francisco from Seattle today, so I may not be able to check in on blog comments as often as I’d like. But I’d love to hear your stories. Are you Child-like in your work or do you find Ure-self agonizing over revisions? When do you know your book is done?

And it’s Primary Day in 22 states. Go vote, or I’ll have to take away your whining rights for the next four years.


My New Fan

By Louise Ure

“I saw the information about your appearance in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, and have decided I should become one of your fans,” the note read.

The wording struck me as strange. How does one “decide to become a fan?” And why do so simply by reading the roster of author events at a local bookstore?

That was ten days ago, and I had just finished the signing event for The Fault Tree at one of the nation’s best independent bookstores, Book Passage in Corte Madera, California.  It was a fitting place to launch this second book. That’s where I took my first writing class, “Eight Weeks to Stronger Fiction” taught by Judy Greber (Gillian Roberts), and first imagined that I could write something longer than an email. Where I attended a Mystery Writers Conference and began to believe that I could be published. Where I went on to become a Mystery Conference faculty member and an author launching her first book.

I’d been worried about the launch of the second book. You know how it goes, you can ask your friends to help you move once, but when it comes to loading up that van and toting that furniture a second time, that’s really testing the friendship. I didn’t know if I’d have one person in the audience or none.

I shouldn’t have worried. It was a grand event, one that seemed to merge all the parts of my life into one grinning crowd. Old friends from my advertising days showed up. Newer friends from my writing life. People I’d studied with, gotten drunk with, and slept with. There were even a couple of people I didn’t recognize.

When it was all over, Reese Lakota from Book Passage had a significantly shortened stack of books that she wanted me to sign for the store, some of them pre-orders and some to put out on the shelves. The first one she handed me was a pre-ordered book that came with that note. “I have decided I should become one of your fans.”

In my long and now retirement stage of life,” it went on to read, “the Ures that I’ve encountered have been few and far between.”

That would be right. There’s Mary Ure, the actress who co-starred in Where Eagles Dare. But she’s some kind of second cousin, so I guess that’s still my family.

There’s Midge Ure, the rock-and-roller and Live Aid organizer from Scotland. I can’t stand his music but I like his name.

And then there’s my family in Arizona. Desert dwellers. Happy with their prairie dog behavior of poking their heads up from their sandy burrows every now and again to see what’s going on, but not ever venturing far from home. There’s no reason to. As one cousin puts it: “If you wait long enough, everything comes to Tucson.”

“My name is also Ure,” the note concluded. “Robert Ure.”

Imagine that. Just forty miles north of me, is quite possibly a member of the family I’ve never met before. At a minimum, just forty miles north of me is a generous, open-minded mystery reader with a sense of humor.

I signed the book, “From one Ure to another.”

We’ve since begun an email relationship, and he’s also asked me to sign a copy of my first book for him. It makes me wonder if I could increase my reader base by changing my name to Smith or Park.

I’m heading down to Arizona this week for signings in Tucson and Phoenix and I’m really looking forward to it. Another blend of all parts of my life: family, high school buddies, writer and librarian friends, and readers. (Phoenix phriends, please note that the signing is at 1:00 p.m. Saturday the 26th at Poisoned Pen. The bookstore mistakenly put the wrong time on their website.)

I got a note from a former high school teacher of mine, Kay Ijams, saying that she’d be at Clues Unlimited in Tucson for the signing on the 25th. I told her that we might have to reintroduce ourselves after forty years with no contact. “I’ll be the old woman in the back of the room with pride in her eyes,” she wrote. She’s right. I’d recognize her anywhere.

I wonder at what point in an author’s career the readers and fans who come to events outnumber the friends and family that do so. Even now, at every signing or conference panel or library presentation, there is at least one person in the audience I don’t recognize. Maybe they’re new fans. Maybe they’re high school teachers from forty years ago.

Maybe they’re all named Ure.

Okay, Rati’, what’s the weirdest connection you’ve made to a fan or an old acquaintance on tour? And readers, have you ever “decided to become a fan?” Why’d you do it?


The Illusionists

By Louise Ure

You’ve heard of the work of Julian Beever, right? He’s the chalk artist who has been creating optical illusion drawings on sidewalks in Europe, the U.S., Australia and Brazil for the last decade.


Although his drawing surface is simply flat pavement, he uses a technique called anamorphosis to create the illusion of three dimensions when viewed from the correct angle.


From flat, gray pavers Beever builds a world of chasms and pools, globes and spheres. Entire city blocks that exist just inches under your feet.




But when viewed from any other angle, the drawing makes no sense at all.


That’s the same globe, stretched out over forty feet in order to create the 3D effect.

Anamorphosis — creating a three dimensional world from a flat, blank surface — is a pretty good description of writing, too. But it’s even more relevant to the mystery writer, because this trompe l’oeil can only be achieved when viewing it from the proper angle.

And that’s what solving mysteries is all about.

If the characters in our books stood at the right angle … if they had the right perspective … enough information … there would be no mystery at all. All the pieces would fit.

But one character might be standing at the side. He might only know his tiny bit of the story.

Another character might be in the middle of it all, adding scratchy chalk marks that look inconsequential until viewed from the right angle.

The protagonist may stare at the pavement until the colors swirl and blur before his eyes, but he won’t be able to see the whole picture until he arrives at just that perfect spot and sees how all the pieces fit together.


It’s all about illusion and perspective. The point of view we choose. Whether or not to get inside a character’s head. Red herrings. Lies. Suspects. Subtly dropped clues. Unreliable narrators. Misdirection. Plot twists.

And whether it’s a thriller, a horror story, a bit of noir or a traditional mystery, when we do it right, the reader thinks it’s magic. So do I.

Here’s to the magic.

P.S. The Fault Tree goes on sale today. I’ll be on the road,  laughing, scratching and telling lies. Hope to see you there!



Holiday Lagniappe

By Louise Ure



What are you doing here? It’s Christmas Day, for crying out loud! Go take a walk on the beach. Go play in the snow. Go sit by the fire.

But before you go, let me first pass on a few Holiday odds & ends.

First of all, take a look at the terrific Christmas present I got this year from my friends at Mind Over Eye in Los Angeles.

Didn’t they do a fine job?

Thanksgiving is the traditional time of year for gratefulness, but for
me, this week is one of reflection and thanks giving. Of remembering and looking ahead.
A time to say thank you to the readers and booksellers and librarians who give us a try, to the friends who make videos and come to signings, to the publishers and agents who support and encourage our work.

I always start off the new year with such a rosy glow. A promise to outweigh the naughty with nice. To be a better writer, a better
wife and daughter and sister, a better human being. I have such high hopes for 2008. For myself, for our country and for our planet. Come on, politicians, don’t let me down again.


If you have a moment, stop over at Moments In Crime today, too. That’s the new St. Martin’s Minotaur blog where I was posting last week. (I’m blogged out after all that. That’s why today’s post is so short.) Linda L. Richards got holiday duty over there, and it will be cold and lonely unless we join her for a cuppa. Her book, Death Was the Other Woman, promises that whatever drink she serves will rich and dark.

And mark your calendars for January 5. That’s the day that Elaine Flinn has rounded up her posse of questioners over at Evil E to interview me. When she brings the likes of Zoe Sharp, Ken Bruen, David Montgomery, Allison Brennan, Nick Stone, Paul Guyot and Ali Karim together, you know it’s going to be good.


Now, go enjoy Christmas Day. Want to tell us what you’ll remember this Christmas for? Was there one special moment or gift or event or thought?

Any New Year’s resolutions you’re willing to share?


The Detective Within

By Louise Ure


I don’t call them amateur sleuth novels. That seems to diminish them somehow. As if a story about a person caught up in a web of evil has to be feather light unless that person is a policeman or a private eye.

I like to think of them as ordinary hero novels.

When I launched People Magazine in Australia (called Who Weekly down there, as there was already a magazine called People that prominently featured stories about three-breasted women and unexplained lights in the sky), we focused on two kinds of stories.

  • Extraordinary (read celebrity) people doing ordinary things
  • Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

That pretty much sums up crime fiction, too. The extraordinary people, in our case, are the detectives and forensic scientists. The lawyers and the cops. And if the series are well done, we get to know the ordinary side of these heroes. What they drink. What music they listen to. Who they care about. What they lost that they most grieve for. In other words, the things that make them human … the things that make them real.

The amateur sleuth is Everyman and in our books he’s taxed beyond his experience and endurance and asked to accomplish extraordinary things. The housewife who solves her brother-in-law’s murder. The journalist who stumbles into violence and saves himself and the kidnapping victim. The innocent bystander who is pulled into the middle of a nightmare.

I enjoy reading both kinds of crime novels, but I can especially understand the appeal of the amateur sleuth.

You see, I think there’s a little detective in all of us.

Have you ever checked the birth and death records at an old church to track down an ancestor?  Followed a car away from the scene of an accident and jotted down the license number for the cops? Memorized the face of the guy in front of you at Home Depot who bought the shovel, the rope, and the bag of quick mix concrete?

Have you ever wondered how you’d fare if put in the same “out of the blue” situation many of our fictional ordinary heroes find themselves in?

I found myself playing detective just last week. My husband had asked me to contact the guy who’d given us his golden retriever, Angus, five years ago when he had to move to Hawaii. We wanted to tell him that we’d given his dog a good life, but that he’d finally died at the age of fourteen.

This former owner had a common name, Steve Foster, so a Google search wasn’t of much help and I wasn’t about to pay any of those websites that offer to track someone down for only $49.95. I wanted the information fast, and I wanted it free.

First, I found a site  that lists someone’s previous addresses. Hmmm … a half dozen Fosters used to live in Oakland and now live in Hawaii. But none of them Steve.

Wait a minute, he said he was going to move in with his daughter. Nope, no female Fosters on that list used to live in Oakland.

But what if she’d married since she moved out? You can also do the same lookup by maiden name. And here’s a site that lists the age and the names of the relatives of that person you’ve found by their maiden name.

Nope, nobody by that name at that address anymore. What are you gonna’ do? I guess you have to ask the neighbors. So I used Google maps  to find the house on either side.

“Oh, Sharon moved out a couple of months ago,” the nice lady said, not even complaining that I was calling at seven in the morning. “Here’s her new number.”

After an hour’s work, I had a phone number for someone who used to be named Sharon Foster, who used to live in Oakland, who was the daughter of Steve Foster, and who’d moved away from Welo Street in Kapolei only three months ago. And when I called and asked for Steve Foster, she put down the phone and yelled, “Dad, it’s for you!”

I’d cracked the case. And it felt as good as reading any fine story about an ordinary hero facing insurmountable odds. I didn’t even have to fight any bad guys along the way.

So tell me, ‘Rati, have you ever played detective? Figured out who busted the window/cashed that blank check/stole the Christmas ornaments off the lawn? Have you tracked down any missing persons or found a birth mother?

Have you ever wanted to?


PS: OK, I’m calling in all favors here. St. Martin’s has asked me to blog on their new website Moments in Crime next week, everyday from Sunday the 16th to Friday the 21st. I don’t want them to think I don’t have any friends. Please, please drop by Moments in Crime next week and leave a message. It’ll be awfully cold over there without my ‘Rati friends.

And just to sweeten the pot, I’ll make you two promises: 1) I’m launching something there that has never been seen before anywhere (not even here at Murderati), and, 2) I’ll give an ARC of The Fault Tree or a copy of Forcing Amaryllis to anybody who leaves comments on the St. Martin’s blog for me for at least four days out of the six. How does that sound? New news and a freebie. Can’t beat it with a stick.


Hula Girls

By Louise Ure


It would have been my brother’s 62nd birthday last month, but he didn’t make it that far. Sad to say, he’s been gone longer now than he was here. He died – a virgin – at twenty-nine. And I did everything in my power to change that.

Billy was the eldest of us, a jiggly, awkward child who could set your teeth on edge with his constant spoon-on-salt-shaker tapping and small petulances. A boy with no physical prowess, he became a quiet, shy man with a rich internal life and a love of music.

He was never the leader of a pack, but he had friends. A gang of dreamers whose walk and stories had no swagger to them.

He could play any instrument set before him. Guitar. Piano. Trumpet. Sitar. Flute. Saxophone. And like a dog with keen hearing, he recognized fine sounds long before the rest of us, introducing me to then unheard of Laura Nyro and Willie Nelson. The transcendent Joni Mitchell. A baby-faced Bob Dylan.

His house – one of four adobe bungalows in a creosote-studded patch of desert – was never clean, but always orderly. Dust covered record albums were alphabetized. Shirts were arranged by color and sub-categorized by sleeve length. Mourning doves and cicadas wrote their own desert symphony outside his bedroom window.

The cancer arrived when he was nineteen, a bit of bad news, but not insurmountable. Then a new word was added to our vocabulary: metastasis. A tumor near the spine. Important glands affected. A lung gone. A new addition to his brain. His young body was a sharp-crested map of scars in a terrain that should have been meadows and soft rolling hills.

He said he didn’t want to die in a hospital. We said okay.

My mother did the brunt of the work, tending him during the day, sleeping on a cot at the foot of his bed at night. My sister and I came home from graduate school on the weekends to spell her.

We made up stories to coerce his morphine-addled mind into accepting food. Beef broth was a wizard’s magic elixir. A steamed green bean became a warrior’s sword. We wrapped bean sprouts around grapes and waggled them in front of him. “It’s a hula girl.” He let them dance into his mouth.

Cousin Fred came by late at night with his guitar and played his saddest song, the one about a young bride’s haunted bed.

    Don’t go away again, stay by my side
    Don’t go away again tonight
    This bed is where I’ll be, holding you tight
    If you will stay

That’s the night Billy told me he didn’t want to die a virgin.

I could understand it. To know that moment of total giving. And total taking. That unsurpassable pas de deux in celebration of life.

I promised  him he wouldn’t.

I found a hooker on Congress Street near the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. She had a round face and flat features, but she was soft spoken and seemed kind, willing to accept my money and take on the job. I drove her back to my brother’s house and waited outside in the car.

She could have lied to me but she didn’t. “He couldn’t get it up,” she said, sliding back into the passenger seat twenty minutes later. I paid her anyway.

My friend Gretchen tried the next night with no better luck, although Billy smiled – at peace – when she fitted herself alongside him in the bed, cradling him against her soft, loose breasts.

Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” leaked from the next room.

I would have made love to him myself if I’d thought it would do any good.

He died two days later, my promise to him unfulfilled.

I twisted early Catechism teachings to ease the pain. “If he died a virgin then he was in a state of grace. Just like a child. He’s sure to go to heaven right away.”

I couldn’t admit then how wrong I was. There is no holier state of being than to love and be loved in return.

Later that year, the university created an award in his memory, to be given annually to the student who best exemplifies the traits of “courage and modesty, altruism and honesty: the hallmarks of its namesake.” 

He may not have lain in the sun-kissed arms of a Hula Girl, but I think Billy did pretty well in the being-loved-in-return department after all.


Up On The Roof

By Louise Ure

Six years ago, I found a young man with a strong back and a weak mind. A man willing to create a landscaped roofdeck for me, hauling all the supplies three stories up a spiral staircase, for only $20 an hour.

Ten-foot planks of redwood.

Four trough-like redwood planters.

Over a hundred terra cotta pots, many as tall as your hip.

Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of potting soil and gravel and bark chips.

At least two hundred plants, including five trees more than eight feet tall.

I called in an architect and a roofer to meet with this sweet, witless boy to confirm the safest placement of the largest items. I’ll bet he never bids a job like that again.

My only caveat to this well-muscled landscaper was that I wanted nothing that the California Highway Department couldn’t grow in the medians. I know my shortcomings. I grew up in Arizona, where vegetation didn’t have to be green to prove it was alive.


He planted Mexican Feather Grass and Sea Lavender.

Clematis. Bougainvillea. Cordyline and Passion Flower.


Star Jasmine, Rhododendron and Sage.

Cotoneaster and Marguerites. Yucca and agave and aloe.


The result was stunning. Windbreaks to the east and west. A hundred and eighty degree view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. A seventy-five by twenty-five patch of paradise.

I love my time up there, in both fair weather and fog.



But now, six years later, the garden has gone wild. The bear grass is big enough to hide a bear. Adult. Male. The jasmine has metastasized and is threatening to eat the neighbor’s house. The yucca has grown to more than twelve feet and has become its own recognizable landmark on the San Francisco skyline.

I made the mistake of creating the garden I wanted, not the garden it would grow up to be. Something must be done.


For the last month I’ve dedicated forty-five minutes a day to getting the deck in shape. Pruning, trimming, cleaning, feeding.

But only one pot per day.

Like the painting schedule on the Golden Gate Bridge, when I finish the last pot, it will be time to start all over again.

And I’ve discovered that it’s a lot like the way I revise my work.

Certainly there’s the cleaning: getting rid of the typos and crappy grammar and lame analogies. There’s also pruning and trimming: tightening the sentence structure, losing irrelevant characters, and rewriting scenes to move the action forward. There’s feeding, too: it’s only the third or fourth draft before the words begin to sing and I can see on the page the author voice I heard only in my head.

There’s also rearranging. Upstairs, I’m reconfiguring the watering system and placing pots in new, more advantageous positions. I come downstairs and do the same thing with whole chapters.

And replanting: I’ll bring in two dozen new plants by the time I’m done, and I’ll bet I can say the same about new scenes and plot elements in my work.


I’m on one single schedule now. By the time the last pot is done, the next book will also be pruned, trimmed, cleaned and watered. And it will be time to start again.

With each book, I forget how many thousands and thousands of decisions I made to create the whole story. A character’s mannerism. The color of a car. The description of a breeze. An unexpected plot twist. Why do I continue to think that I have to create the garden-that-will-be all at once? When will I realize that the garden continues to grow, and not demand instant perfection?

I tamed the feather grass today. Tomorrow the yucca. And Chapter Fifteen.


Fellow writers, how do your gardens grow? Is your first draft just a sketch of where to put the plants? Or do you, like me, hope for perfection from that first seed?

And here’s a happy unveiling: the final cover for the new book, The Fault Tree, coming January 8, 2008, from St. Martin’s Press. Didn’t they do a fine job?



Lake Street Halloween

By Louise Ure


The longer the war goes on, the more baby George Washingtons I see and the fewer Power Rangers. More infant Ben Franklins. More tiny Paul Reveres. I think that’s a good thing, searching our own history for superheroes.

Halloween has always been a big deal here on Lake Street. In a landscape of calf-aching hills, the street is flat. In a neighborhood shrouded by fog, it’s well lit. In a city where one-car garages rent for $1000 a month, these people own whole houses.

Now, don’t go thinking I’m landed gentry. I bought my place long before housing prices in San Francisco got as high as the cost of a good size island in the rest of the world.

We had over a thousand trick-or-treaters last year. They bus ‘em in.


Some, like the young Russian couples in the neighborhood, are still new to the custom. “Our first Halloween!” the parents say, voices still thick with the muddied sound of Leningrad. The parents do most of the trick-or-treating; the kids sit bug-eyed in their strollers, victims of fatigue, sugar and the weight of Washington’s powdered wig.

Others know the drill all too well. The parents laze in their idling Lexus at the curb and release the children at each lit doorway, all of them too lazy to even walk from door to door. These are the little girls in the hooker costumes. The boys with all too real machetes stained with food coloring.

We learned long ago to set up a candy station on the front porch. No way I’m going up and down two flights of stairs four hundred times a night.

It’s become a neighborhood affair now, with a dozen houses on our short block hosting garage parties and handing out wine or hot cider to the adults. The children march three abreast down the sidewalk, as far as the eye can see.


We light lavender and sage smudge sticks to drive away demons, then offer sweets to draw them in.


David, from next door, is in charge of jack o’lanterns, and purposely seeks out the most misshapen gourds he can find. He wears a Freddy mask that looks like his face has melted. Kids approach him with caution.


Around the corner, the pickings are better than our Cost Co mini candy bars. Robin Williams lives a couple of blocks away and used to come to the door and do a short skit when kids rang the bell. Now his bodyguards answer the door and hand out the treats. His signature gift is a glowstick necklace, and watching the kids leave his house is like seeing a swarm of fireflies come into sight.

One year he got PC on us, and handed out toothbrushes as treats. You could hear the banshee wails from a block away. I thought they’d string him up with his own dental floss.


Sharon Stone used to live down the street, too. She gave away Godiva chocolates. The one Halloween she couldn’t be home, she left a wheelbarrow of them in front of the gate. They didn’t last long.

I’m never au courant with the costumes. Years ago, when a young Harry Potter wanted me to guess his disguise, I asked if he was an MBA. Every super hero I greet meets me with a disdainful, “No! I’m a Something-You’ve-Never-Heard-Of Man’!”

The six-foot phallus was last year’s biggest surprise. The bloody dentist, with pliers in his hand and a pile of red-stained teeth on a tray, was the scariest. Thank God there are still plenty of Bumble Bees and Fairy Princesses.

I understand this year there’s going to be a run on Ricky Bobby costumes from Talladega Nights. Oh my.


Tell me fellow revelers, how do you spend your Halloweens? Do you have a favorite costume in your past, or a favorite treat?  I know you have a favorite trick someplace back there.

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

By Louise Ure


OK, it’s been around for a while, but I just heard about it. I guess that makes me not just an old fart, but an out of touch old fart.


The grand old board game Monopoly has been reissued in a “Here and Now” version, with a VISA credit card replacing the cash. No longer will you be able to gloat as your opponent’s stack of pubic pink $500s shrinks to a dwindling stack of sky blue $10s.  Now players can just swipe their credit cards through the electronic reader that records the earnings and payments and transfers money between them. Where’s the fun in that?



But that’s not the worst of the changes. The venerable old tokens (including my favorites: the top hat, the thimble, and the iron) have been junked in favor of a laptop computer, a New Balance sneaker, a Motorola Razr cellphone, a mug of Starbucks’ coffee, and a bag of McDonald’s fries. Yes, you read that right. A goddamned bag of French fries with a Mickey D logo on it. Just for reminders, you know. In case you get hungry lifting that credit card all the time.


If you pass go in this new version, you don’t collect $200. They call it a “salary” now and it’s $2 million. Who does this Monopoly man think he is? Sumner Redstone?

The Jail corner still has a little L-shaped space on it called “Just Visiting,” but now I suspect it’s for celebrities with less than twenty-four hour sentences. Or maybe for Dominick Dunne to use while he’s penning his Phil Spector stories.

Gone are Park Place and Reading Railroad. Now we have Disney World  and the Mall of America. I was glad to see that the Golden Gate Bridge has its own square and you have to pay a cool $2 million if you land on it. But so does Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain, for the same price. WTF? Hey, I’m an Arizona girl, but I guarantee you that it’s gonna cost you more to hang out in San Francisco than in Phoenix.

The two most realistically priced new squares on the “Here and Now” Monopoly Board? “Cell Phone Service $1,500,000” and “Interest on Credit Card Debt $750,000.”

Hell, after landing a couple of times on Income Tax ($2,000.000) and White House ($3,200,000. I think the Monopoly guy is a Republican, so it’s probably not a tax — maybe just a contribution to a PAC) I’d be ready to blow my brains out.


Now, if there were just a little metal token with the NRA logo on it.

And then, to add salty insult to this gaping wound of an injury, my friend Tom sent me a list of things that AOL says will be gone in ten years.


•    Record stores


  • Camera film


•    Crop dusters


•    Gay bars



•    Newspapers


•    Pay phones


•    Piggy banks


•    Telemarketing


•    Coin-operated arcades


•    Used bookstores

I can understand the rationale for a couple of these. Record stores, camera film, and coin-operated arcades have been eclipsed by new technologies. A number of the others – piggy banks, pay phones and the old Monopoly prices – have taken the hit for the declining value of our money. E.Y. Harburg’s song would have to be written now as “Brother, can you spare a hundred?”

I’d add coin-operated parking meters and local TV news organizations to that list. We’ve gotten to the point in San Francisco where you can reserve a parking space on the street in advance, and pay for it with a credit card. And “local news” is as much an oxymoron as “jumbo shrimp.”

But I take umbrage with some of their other predictions. Telemarketers dying off? Nah, they’re like cockroaches. They may mutate, but they’ll be around forever.  There are significant rebellions afoot against them, like Do Not Call lists and the TeleCrapper 2000, but telemarketers are smarter than that. They’ll find a way around all the new rules and attitudes.

And newspapers? They’ll change with the increasing importance of the internet as a news source, but they’ll stick around. So will gay bars. And unless AOL has some new news about genetically altered plants, I think crop dusters are here for a while, too.

The one that really pisses me off on AOL’s list is Used Bookstores. I understand that their distribution methods have changed. The internet has given them a whole new audience for their goods. But to disappear entirely as brick and mortar stores? God, I hope not. There’s no aphrodisiac quite as strong as the mingled scent of dust and old books. And there’s no better way to spend an afternoon than trolling those musty aisles.

You know what ought to be on that list?


•    Color-coded security alerts


•    The Electoral College


•    Reality TV

What about you all? Classic Monopoly or Here and Now? Any additions to the AOL list? Any deletions?

And goodbye old friend:


June 5, 1994 – October 15, 2007


Funny Business

By Louise Ure

New comics added at the bottom of the column!

It’s one of those days.

Time to step back from the seriousness of writing and realize that this is a very funny business we’re in.


Let’s start at the beginning.


And then the reality sets in.


But what to write?



It seemed so easy at the time.




We finally begin … (This one is particularly near and dear to my heart.)


It’s not as easy as we were led to believe …


We look for help everywhere …



To no avail.



And write, and write, and rewrite.



Finally … finally … the work is done. And an editor loves it.



At a signing, someone not related to you stops by the table …


Then you sit down and do it all over again.


Got any good jokes or comic strips to share? Feel free to describe them, or send me a JPEG or the link, or fax them to me at 415-831-9650. I’ll scan them into the computer and add them to the blog as the day goes on.

And my own special poll: which of these comics best describes your writing (or reading) life?

Just sit back, relax and take a deep breath. Remember, it isn’t like you’re putting on pantyhose and commuting to work everyday.

Here’s a beaut, just in from JD Rhoades.


And here’s another helpful spouse, in reply to Pari’s comment:


This one’s in honor of Simon Wood’s Anthony Award for Best Short Story:


Here are a couple of oldies but goodies, offered by "Anon":


Check out these new four new ones, sent by Cynthia D’Alba. And in the last one … his $25,000 advance? Pfffttttt.