Category Archives: Louise Ure

Blurb Etiquette

By Louise Ure

I recently saw a quote from Dennis Lehane who, when asked why he liked working with beginning writers, said “I’m a Roman Catholic. We believe in sending the elevator back down.” I’m more of a Roaming Catholic, but I agree with him. And some of that “sending the elevator back down” comes in the form of providing blurbs.

Tess Gerritsen was absolutely right in her blog post last week when she said that none of us got here without standing on someone else’s shoulders. Each of us has some other writer up there who pushed the button and sent the elevator back to help us up move up more quickly.

But it’s a big ask of an author to take the time to provide a blurb.

There’s only one writer I know who gleefully admits that he scans the first few pages of the manuscript to get the main character’s name and situation, and then writes the most glowing, over-the-top rave review he can come up with.

The rest of us don’t do it that way. We read the whole thing and try to write something fitting, appropriate and positive. It’s not easy. You want to focus on the novel’s most intriguing elements or style, imagine what the target audience for this novel will relate to, and then express that thought in an articulate, colorful way that will please publisher, author and reader alike.

Some publishers still do the work of putting together a list of potential blurbers and sending out the ARC’s. More often these days, the author herself is asked to compile a potential list and contact those authors. And that can be a daunting task.

So how do you do that?

In my continuing desire to debunk those heretofore unexplained mysteries of the publishing world, here’s my list of do’s and don’ts about how to ask for a blurb.


Start with people you’ve actually met, or whose work you’ve actually read. If you already have a relationship with the author through MWA or ITW, or you’ve met at a conference, or you’ve corresponded with him about how much you love his work, it makes the sale easier.

Do tell the author why his comment is important to you.  Flatter us. Am I one of only three authors you’re contacting? Have you read my work and so identified with my style of writing that you felt compelled to ask? Come on. You’re asking for six hours of our time. Suck up a little.

Do give the author enough time to read the book. We all have more busy/less busy times of year based on our own deadlines, so giving me a book that has to be read within thirty days limits your chances of being taken on. It just might be my busiest time of year. Ideally, you should allow 3-5 months. (I got a request from a young woman recently who asked me to read her book and then said she only had ten days to get the quote in. “Just scan it enough to give me a great blurb!” she suggested. Can you count how many things are wrong in that approach?)

Do give the author a way out. Many authors will not blurb a book at all if they don’t like it. I think that’s fine. After all, it’s our name and reputation on the line. And it doesn’t mean your book is bad (although that’s sometimes the case). It just means it wasn’t to our taste. But please recognize how uncomfortable it would be for an author to have to tell you that. In your request, let her know that “if you can’t get to in within this three month window I’ll understand completely.” That leaves her with a gracious way out.

Do contact more authors than you think you’ll need. Some will inevitably not be able to get to the reading. Some will dislike the book and not want to offer a blurb. I’d suggest a list of six or eight authors should fill most publishers/marketing department needs and still give you the opportunity to focus on the few you really want to feature.

Do follow up once if you haven’t heard from the author when 75% of your time is up.  He might have the wrong contact information for you, or the email might have disappeared into the spam folder. Both have happened to me.

Do send a thank you note afterward. A thank you email is fine, and if you don’t have their email address, just go to the contact page on their website. However, if you mailed them a galley or an ARC, you’ll also have the snail mail address and an old-fashioned, handwritten thank you note is always appreciated. (PS: I’ve sometimes received thank you gifts like chocolate or a bottle of wine afterward but it’s truly not necessary. We’re happy to help aspiring authors even without the graft.)


Don’t ask for a blurb until the work is sold to a publisher. This one’s controversial. I’ve seen a disturbing trend recently where new authors and their agents are seeking blurbs earlier and earlier. At first, blurbs were secured when the galleys or ARC’s were available, and they were intended for use on the covers and in promotion when the book came out. But I’ve had more than a dozen requests this year alone from authors who had just retained agents and the agents want the blurbs to help sell to a publisher! I’ve even had debut authors ask for blurbs to include in their query letters to agents. (A better idea: if you know me well enough to ask for a blurb before you get an agent, you’d be better off if I sent that agent a private letter extolling your virtues. Take one step at a time.)

I don’t know if this practice will now move into the mainstream. My hope is that debut authors, as they begin sending out their query letters, will also put together a list of potential commenters and ask, “when this manuscript sells to a publisher, would you be willing to consider offering a blurb?”

Don’t promise how you’ll use it. Sure, the blurb may wind up on the front cover with your title, but don’t promise that. It’s really up to your editor, the marketing department and the cover design artist to make the decision of how best to use the author comment. Later, however, as your final plans are made, it might be thoughtful to write back to your author and tell them how pleased you were to be able to use their quote on your website or in your promotional material … especially if the quote didn’t make it onto the book cover.

Don’t ask for specific language in the blurb. This one should be self-evident. None of the “if you could focus your comments on the emotional depth of my work” etc. Feh.

Don’t ask the author to print out an electronic version of your manuscript unless it’s absolutely necessary. The author may actually offer to receive your manuscript electronically. If at all possible, do not take them up on it. They won’t read the work on screen and you’ve just cost them twenty dollars worth of paper and ink to print it out. Multiple that by the Lee Child-number of inquiries coming in and author blurbs start to look like their own separate cost center.

Don’t send out your manuscript until it’s absolutely perfect.  That draft of the ms before you got around to a final check for typos will not reflect well on you. (My two favorite typos from recent reads were: 1) the woman who said she “was going to have an organism” if he touched her leg one more time, and 2) the man who ordered a “Crap Louis Salad” for lunch.)

See? It’s no different than that ideal query letter you sent to agents:

1. Perfect your work before you send it out

2. Identify the target audience (which authors) you want to contact

3. Tell them why their blurb is the one that’s important to you

4. Don’t feel bad if they turn you down; they weren’t the right person for the job

5. Tell them thank you.

Okay, ‘Rati, how about you? Your chance to crow. What’s the best (or most unusual) blurb you’ve ever received or given? And readers, what’s the blurb that made you pick up that book you’d never heard of before?

PS: Happy Birthday Obama, you Hawaiian-born son of America!

Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends

By Louise Ure

By all rights, I should be telling you today about the fabulous (but grueling) Book Passage Mystery Conference that just concluded Sunday night. It really was grand, with some terrifically talented writers in attendance, and not all of them were on the faculty. This was a group with strong, solid writing skills who came to figure out how to hone their work and how to sell it.

But there will be lots of other folks blogging about the conference this week and filling in the details on their favorite panels and presentations. (Mine would have to include “The Definition of Murder,” by Dylan Schaffer, the defensive attorney representing the BART police officer who killed an unarmed man in Oakland on New Year’s Eve, and the crime fiction primer David Corbett offered based on a murder case presented by FBI Supervisory Special Agent George Fong.)

But the thing – the person — that’s uppermost in my mind is Patty Smiley.


Patty and I met at the very first convention I ever attended, Left Coast Crime in Monterey, back in the Spring of 2004. Patty was my role model. We both came out of the business world before our writing days, we were with the same publishing house and we had the same editor. Only Patty did it one year before I did, so she taught me all the ropes.

Here we are, five years and seven books later (four for her, three for me), and we finally find quality time to catch up again as Patty joined the faculty at the Book Passage event. I picked her up at the airport and it didn’t take even one freeway exit to get into it.

“How are you?” she asked. And she meant it.

We’ve become inured to the casually asked “How’s it going?” from supermarket bag stuffers, telemarketers and the neighbors we pass on the way to the bus. It’s a polite thing to say, but they don’t really want an answer. Heaven help you if you really reply, listing all the aches and pains of your incipient lumbago or detail your worries about your mounting credit card debt. They’d run for the hills, thinking, “Who was that crazy person? I was just saying ‘hello.’”

Not Patty. When she asks how you are, she wants to know. And then she listens.

So I unloaded. Every disappointment, fear, concern, ailment and wound that has been crawling around my feet and up my legs like slithery snakes for the last few months. All of it, gushing out, in a lava-hot tirade of angst.

It’s a forgotten art form, listening. We half commit to hearing a response, all the while waiting for that bon mot – that half split-second — when we can jump in with our own take on the subject. After all, it’s not a conversation unless it’s equal time, right?

Not Patty. The only time she speaks is to ask for more detail. None of that “I know how you feel, I’ve got the same kind of problem with my in-laws. Let’s talk about me.”

And then she does something remarkable. She weighs all the words and offers practical, reasoned, rational, objective suggestions. Nothing heavy-handed. Nothing condemning. Just “here are some things you might think about doing.”

I’ve only had a few people in my life like that. My sister. Judy Greber. I hope they know what a featherbed of support they’ve been.

But today I also have Patty Smiley, and I want to thank her.

Tell me ‘Rati? Who is the wise counselor in your life? Who really listens after they ask, “How are you?”

A Good Dressing Down

By Louise Ure

Okay, the good news is I’m not in jail.

The bad news is that I’ve probably been banned for life from the only grocery store within walking distance.

Here’s what happened. God’s Own Truth. Well, as close to that as I’m ever likely to go; I do have a horse in this race.

It started last week. It was about twelve noon. I hadn’t showered yet (hell, sometimes I don’t get around to that until four o’clock or so), the teensy ever-so-healthy yogurt I’d had for breakfast wasn’t do its job, and there was not a scrap of food in the house.

What’s a girl to do? I hotfooted it down to the corner grocery store in my scrubs.

Have I mentioned the hospital scrubs before? No? They are my usual sit-at-the-computer wear. No sweat pants and bunny slippers for me. I learned long ago that the dog’s diarrhea or the impatient Fed Ex guy pounding on the door would not wait for me to put on anything remotely presentable to the outside world, so I opted for scrubs.

None of those cheesy pastel shades, either. If you’re a woman walking the dog at high noon in a pair of pink scrubs, the neighbors either think you’ve got one of those jobs emptying bedpans or they ask if you’ve got an extra day in your schedule to be nanny to their little ones.

No, I only wear black scrubs. No matter the time of day, black scrubs either say “I’m on my way back from a Tae Kwan Do class,” or “I’m a cardiac surgeon so don’t bother me with anything trivial like the fact that my dog’s pee is killing your lawn.” I’ve even been tempted to get the stethoscope out of my father’s old medical bag and drape it around my neck to achieve the desired approbation.

So I’m in the “10 items or less” line at the grocery store with my ever-so-healthy lunch — (OK, It was hot dogs and buns and these giant pickle spears) – and the young girl behind the register scans the items – bink, bink, bink – looks up at me and says:

“Eating for two are we?”

As anyone who has ever read the consumption/nutrition label on a canned soft drink knows, of course I’m eating for two! Those idiots at the nutritional guideline place think even a can of Coke has two servings.

But could she … does she mean … not possible. I wicked my hand down across my belly to flatten the blousy black cloth.

“Why on earth would you say that?” I purred in the most syrupy, Southern accent I could muster with my teeth clenched. What I wanted to say was, “May your lips be eaten by that cherry-popsicle lipstick you’re wearing and may your teeth all fall out.”

“No reason,” she says looking down. “Just the pickles.”

The pickles? Does any man who comes in here buying pickles get this same kind of presumptive inquisition about whether or not his significant other is pregnant? Does it matter if they’re sweet pickles versus dill?

I harrumphed and left the premises before I could tell her exactly what I thought of her medical diagnostic skills. And her intelligence. And her lack of courtesy. And her greasy hair. And her cudlike gum-chewing visage. And that fact that I’ve already lost twenty pounds this year, thank you very much.

The hot dogs quelled my tantrum and I’d practically forgotten the episode … until yesterday.

Once again I needed a few key ingredients for dinner. Like the meat. And the potatoes. And the vegetables. But I’d had appointments earlier in the day at the hairdresser and the vet’s so this time I was already sparkly clean and wearing real, outside clothes. Dark-washed, straight-leg jeans that Stacy and Clinton would have approved of. A real, ironed blouse that already had all the darts and seaming in place to hug the body. High-heeled lime green sandals. I had it going on.

Once again, only the “10 items or less” station is open (does this store have any customers who buy more than ten items?), and once again, my nemesis is there. Her eyes say that she remembers our last encounter. She nods at me and starts to pull the items one by one across the scanner.

Fine with me. I don’t need a new friend, especially one who knows I go for 100% proof mayonnaise and canned corned beef hash. I take my small bag and receipt and turn to the door.

That’s when I saw it. There, the penultimate inky line on the receipt.

“5% Senior Discount = $1.16”

I froze, the muscles in my jaw clenched. Imagine a female Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino mode.

“Make up your mind,” I said, turning back to her. “Am I young and pregnant? Or am I old and fat? Take your time. There’s a lot riding on your answer.”

Who knew that grocery stores’ security systems came with such high-pitched alarms? Once she released the button she scurried two stations down to put some distance between us. I was escorted out by the manager and a skinny little Asian security guy in a jacket that was two sizes too big for him.

I kept the $1.16 in savings.

So tell me, Rati, what are your Rudest Encounters of the Third Kind (either on your part or on theirs)? And don’t tell me I’m wound a little tight this week. I already know that part.



P.S. Come join us for this San Francisco treat!




140 Characters

By Louise Ure

                      “140 characters is a novel when you’re being shot at.”

                                                   -Twitter post from Iran, June 20, 2009

Ten days ago, our Toni wrote a Murderati post about Twitter, MySpace and Facebook and the relevance of these social networking sites to writers. My response then was that I was a Luddite in social networking, but that if Twitter and the other options gave voice to otherwise unheard populations like the demonstrators in Iran, it was a good thing.

And then came the even-shorter-than-140-character tweet seen above and I now have a whole new appreciation of the format, one from the point of view of a novelist.

I have always believed that short stories are harder to write than novels. That songs are harder to write than short stories. That haiku is harder than songs.

We even have cell phone novels now, called keitai shousetsu in Japanese, both written and read electronically in 70-word bites. And what about those six-word memes that are rolling around (“For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”)

The distillation of ideas and a paucity of words make one choose carefully. But it makes the work no less meaningful. It can be a quick slash of pain rather than a long drawn out disease. A moment of euphoria instead of a lifetime of gentle happiness.

The poster of that Iranian Twitter message is right: whole worlds can be described in a hundred and forty characters. Hearts broken. Stories told. Lives remembered. It’s not just flash fiction; it’s Big Bang fiction.

And it’s not the same thing as those 25-word elevator pitches we’ve all been encouraged to develop. It’s not a summary: it can have the salty emotional punch of an entire ocean reduced to a single tear.

I saw something in a chat room once that detailed the sad saga of a 54-year old woman seeking the child she’d lost on the streets of Chicago twenty years ago. In Tweet-speak it would look like this:

         “I lost my daughter in Chicago in ‘88 and have not seen her since.

          Her name is LuAnna Jackson. Born 11/26/73.

          Finding her again would be the high point of my fast fading life.”

Or the email message I got from a girlfriend five years ago:

                  “They set my arm and gave me an icepack in the ER.

                   He promised he’d never do it again.

                   That was the last time he ever lied to me.”


Or this good news from a friend whose dreams of adoption came true:

                   “Her name is Elaine. She was born yesterday,

                     weighing 7 pounds 11 ounces.

                    We leave for Beijing in the morning.”


Or even the opening lines from my latest book, Liars Anonymous.

                    “I got away with murder once but it doesn’t look like

                     that’s going to happen again. Damn.

                     This time I didn’t do it. Well, not all of it anyway.”


Who knew I was an unrealized Tweeter?

So help me out here, ‘Rati. Create some Big Bang Fiction for me. Break my heart. Make me laugh out loud. Go on. I know you can do it.

Write me a 140 character novel.

My Choice


By Louise Ure

1977. It was the coldest January in New York City for the last fifty years, averaging only twenty-two degrees for the entire month. Snowfalls were frequent and imposing. I had moved from the desert six months before and now searched out routes through Grand Central Station and two hotel lobbies to get from my fifth floor walk-up to the ad agency using only three blocks above ground. I dreamed of fur coats.

I was settling in to my new adventure. The grocer on the corner knew my face if not my name and saved me a bunch of white daisies every Friday. I’d found a good pizza place that delivered. I’d begun asking ad agency girlfriends for the name of a good dentist or doctor in the city.

Putting down roots, I thought. At least the kind of shallow, superficial roots that a single woman, a newcomer, a kid with her first job on the lowest rung of the ad agency ladder could claim in a big city.

Dr. M, the gynecologist my friend Nan recommended was brusque in a friendly “I’ve got a train to catch to the Hamptons” way.

“Congratulations,” he said. “Looks like you’re due early June.”

Four months pregnant? Not possible.

The only guy I’d slept with in the last four months was a co-worker at the ad agency named Steve Something after a particularly drunken office party, and he’d pulled out in time, hadn’t he?

A “splash pregnancy,” Dr. M called it, making it sound like a ride at a theme park.

How could I have been so oblivious to this new life inside me? It’s not so hard to do, I promise you. Years of binge dieting, strenuous sports and a dabbling with drugs had left me with a menstrual period that was less than predictable and there were no other symptoms that I would normally have associated with pregnancy.

Growing up in Tucson in the ‘70’s, everybody had a plan for what to do if your birth control failed. I’d heard about a curandera on the south side of town who combined her midwifery skills with witchcraft. I had the addresses of two clinics across the border in Nogales if it came to that. I knew myself well enough even then to know that – married or unmarried – I did not want children.

I hadn’t needed those abortionists’ numbers when I lived in Arizona, and by the time I got back from my years in France, Roe v. Wade had become the law of the land.

And that meant that right now – January 1977 — I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life with a man I hardly knew. I didn’t have to forsake my life’s dream of a career in order to carry a child to term as a single woman without any resources in the city. And I didn’t have to die in a pool of blood with a straightened clothes hanger inside me.

Others might have made a different decision, something that fit more neatly into their religious or moral worldview. But those same people would likely have considered my fornication or use of contraceptives a sin or a crime as well. I made the decision that was right for me.

Surgery was scheduled for eight a.m. When I woke afterwards, there was a deep dull ache inside me, but it had nothing to do with my heart. There were no recriminations. No second thoughts.

I chose to walk home from the hospital, shuffling through ankle-high snow on the sidewalk toward my apartment, five blocks away. Every breath in that sub-zero air felt like a new beginning.

An idling car at the curb honked when I walked past. It was another woman I’d seen upstairs. She lived upstate, she said, and her boyfriend had come to get her after the procedure. She invited me into the car.

I had a momentary pang of jealousy that her boyfriend was there for her, but promptly dismissed it. I had not even told Steve However-You-Spell-His-Last-Name about his impending fatherhood. His vote didn’t count in this. It was my body.

My new friend’s surgery hadn’t gone as easily as mine; she was pale and panting when her boyfriend swung the car to a parking space in front of my building.

“Come in,” I said. “We’ll rest.”

Upstairs, her boyfriend boiled water for tea while she and I spooned and slept in my small bed. She cried herself to sleep and there was a deep-red pool of blood on the sheets where she lay. I don’t know which direction they took when they left – upstate or back to the hospital – but I hope she’s stopped crying by now.

I did, years later, reconnect with Steve The Splasher and told him about our missed history together. He thanked me. Said he would have made the same decision, but would have hated to ask it of me at the time.

As a teenager, I did not join the fight for the right to decide what happens to my body. Others did it for me and I am grateful for that.

Then, last week, Dr. George Tiller was killed in the lobby of his Wichita, Kansas church for performing legal medical procedures for women in his clinic, and I fear that all that effort thirty-some years ago may have been for naught.

Many others have died before him, or been bombed, or maimed, or threatened. And this intimidation and violence is working. Legal abortions are NOT available today in 87% of the counties in the U.S. because of fear of retribution from extremists in the anti-abortion effort.

This is not the way America should work.

I do not mean this as a diatribe against those in the anti-choice movement who are willing to engage in rational and reasonable debate about the issue. We agree on many things, I imagine. We both want to decrease the number of abortions performed, and we want to support those women who choose to raise a child or offer it for adoption. And I wouldn’t mind seeing birth control costs covered by insurance, as well. They pay for Viagra? They can damn well pay for contraceptives.

This is, however, a plea for all of us to put a stop to the bullies who want to persuade with violence.

I was pretty sure we had ceded that “home of the brave” designation with all the fear mongering speech of the last several years. But if violence against those who are legally supporting reproductive rights goes unprosecuted and unpunished, we will also have lost “the land of the free.”

Try to change the law, if that’s what you want to do. But do not presume that a loaded gun replaces a vote.

And this time, I’m joining the fight.


House Slut

By Louise Ure

The feeling has been building for months, and I finally have to admit the truth. I have become a house slut.

I know what you’re probably thinking. That’s just Louise cocooning. Not showering until noon and working all morning in her hospital scrubs and bunny slippers. Well, that’s right too, but that’s not the kind of house slut I mean.

I mean that I spend hours a day coveting other people’s houses and doing everything I can to get me one of those.

It started innocently enough. I saw an ad for a charitable organization’s lottery, where ticket purchases would enter you into a drawing for a two million dollar home in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. Wooden pillars in the living room rescued from a demolished bank downtown. An infinity pool. A library, for God’s sake! And a good cause to boot, I said to myself, writing a check.

But then the obsession grew.

Every day I’d check out the website and scroll slowly through the room photos one more time. Would my couch fit in front of that window? I’d clearly need a new dining room table. I checked out barbecue grills for the back deck and mentally paced off the space I’d need for the credenza.

The fascination lasted for months. I worried about whether the turn into the driveway was wide enough for me to get the racecar in, and whether we could get good Chinese delivery in that neighborhood.

The letdown was huge when I did not win. I had fantasies of toilet papering the house of the snooty bitch from Walnut Creek whose name was drawn.

Bloodied but unbowed, I reentered the fray.

I started checking out available real estate on line and requesting “new listings” from a half dozen real estate websites. Ashland and Portland, Oregon. Napa Valley. Palm Springs. My inbox swelled with “mini-estates” and “must sees!”

Patty Smiley once wrote about researching houses online as a way to come up with settings for her Southern California characters. Maybe I could use that as an excuse. I added Sedona and Tucson, Arizona to the bookmarked sites and new listing updates.

Soon I was spending two hours a day taking virtual tours and clicking on Google Street View to see what it would feel like to pull into that driveway. I crossmatched the zip codes to education and income level to get a feel for the neighborhood. I checked the political donations from nearby addresses to see if the neighbors had ever contributed to George Bush.

Television shows became a more passive but equally time consuming effort and HGTV was my nemesis. Property Virgins. My First House. House Hunters. House Hunters International. What You Get For the Money. Bought & Sold.

And of course, the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway, the mother of all house lotteries. No check writing required this time, but you have to enter once a day for the best chance. So now there’s an extra fifteen minutes a day to enter … under my maiden name, my married name, my husband’s name, my dog’s name.

Do I really want to live in St. Lucie, Florida at all? It doesn’t matter. I covet this house. I am a house slut.

Unwilling to put all my hopes into that international jackpot of The Dream Home, I searched out smaller, more accessible home lotteries. Oakland, California. Mesa, Arizona. Charlotte, North Carolina. And I drooled. Nine thousand square feet of empty space in the Oakland Hills made my San Francisco house look like a chicken coop. My feet itched for the cool touch of Saltillo tiles surrounding the pool at the Mesa house. I was smitten.

But it hasn’t ended there. I scan the real estate section of any city I visit. I check out the offerings in real estate agents’ windows when I walk past. I use the dog as an excuse to tarry in front of a neighbor’s opened curtains, imagining their home with my furnishings. I even downloaded the Zillow app for my iPhone to discover the property taxes, square footage and comparable neighborhood sales of any house I point my phone toward.

I am obsessed, and clearly a house slut.

Help me, ‘Rati brethren. At least help me limit my search.

It’s clear that I have moving on my mind. But where to?

Here’s what I’m looking for:

• A city/town with 50,000-75,000 population
• No snow
• Primarily one-level architecture
• A political mindset in the blue shades
• Au courant enough to at least have arugula in the grocery stores
• Proximity to water would be great, but not required

Where shall I focus my next house slut efforts?

A Hole In The Air

By Louise Ure

I’m almost at the end of the book tour for Liars Anonymous, and so far there have been nothing but high points. Gracious booksellers. Old friends with beaming faces. New friends who read a review and thought they’d like to hear more. It makes me feel like Queen for A Day.

It’s been long driving days and early plane departures. Days when a can of V-8 juice is called a meal and three hours is called a night’s sleep. There’s nothing luxurious about travel anymore.

I’ve loved this trip. A chance to visit towns I used to live in and see high school friends who disappeared from my life forty years ago. At the signing in Seattle, we had the twenty-year reunion of what was then a far-flung branch office of Foote, Cone & Belding Advertising. I was the only one without big hair back then. Not so much today. In Phoenix I connected with the daughter of the family that used to live across the street from us in the 50’s. She’s on Social Security now, of course. I didn’t recognize her.

But it was Tucson that scared me.

My 93-year old mother in Tucson died eight weeks ago. Except for the funeral, this was my first trip back without her there. And the lack of her left a hole in the air.

It was a twitch in my finger as I reached to call and tell her when I was coming in. It was a moment’s hesitation as I packed the concho belt she gave me. It was a shudder as I made a mental note to tell her about the email I got from that lady across the street.

Until just a couple of weeks ago, I’d only had to talk about her in letters, blogs and emails. I still hadn’t said it out loud. One Saturday in April, when a well-meaning friend I hadn’t seen for a couple of months asked how my mom was doing after the fall that broke her hip, I sputtered “She’s dead.” As if that answered the question. I need to learn how to say it out loud, and say it in a way that wouldn’t terrorize the gentle questioner.

What ithe hell would I do when I drove down that street and faced the emptiness of her house for the first time? Would the driveway feel different? Would the light be flat without her? And what about the signing at Clues Unlimited? Would I still imagine a small, shadowed form in that highbacked armchair they set aside for her each year? Would I be able to say anything at all to the assembled friends and family?

Will they even be there without her – the hub that held our wheel together.

In hindsight, now that I’ve been there and come back, I shouldn’t have worried. The worst had already happened — she’s gone. Nothing that happened on this trip would be worse than that.

The crowd at Clues Unlimited was huge, even though the bookstore had relocated only eight days earlier and lots of folks hadn’t gotten the word about the new address. But there were three of us Tucson authors signing — Mike Hayes, Elizabeth Gunn and me — so that swelled the ranks. And because the venue had changed, so had my expectations about remembering mom in that high-backed chair. (It would have helped if my books had arrived before the event, but Chris promised to mail out a signed copy to anyone who purchased that night. I hope that makes it up to the dozens of friends and fans who drove over a hundred miles to get there.)

And yes, the air does feel different without her, but it’s different in a way that still lets you enjoy a deep breath. Taste the warm wind … and exhale.

I told my sister that I would go back out to the cemetery to make sure they hadn’t put the stone marker in place yet. I know that seems strange, but my mom and her 94-year old sister were to be buried together, and the 94-year is still going strong and didn’t want to visit the grave and see her own name already there awaiting a final date.

 It was Mother’s Day Weekend, don’t you know, and there were lots of other cemetary visitors stopping at tombstones etched with words like “Loving Daughter of …” and “Beloved Mother of …” The grass was browner than the day we buried her, and there’s a shallow indentation there now to show she’s settling in to her new home. I, too, was hoping there was no marker in place yet. Without a name above that swale, it would have been easier for me.

Alas, Holy Hope cemetery is run by cretins, so the marker is there with both my mother’s name and my aunt’s, lacking only that final date for my aunt to contemplate her demise. A pox on them.

I had wanted to see my mother open the cover of Liars Anonymous and read the first page. That’s all the farther she ever got with the first two books, too, her Alzheimers stopping her after a hundred words or so and resetting the timer. It always made me want to get the openings just right, knowing that she’d read each one a thousand times, and a thousand times lift her head and read it out loud with new found pride and amazement.

There’s a hole in the air now, and I’ll never hear her read, “I got away with murder once but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen again. Damn. This time I didn’t do it. Well, not all of it anyway.”

She’d have liked that opening.

PS: I’m on the road today, but will be checking in from my iPhone. Expect lots of typos in my replies to your comments.

Make My Day

By Louise Ure


Oh, yeah. She made my day. Marilyn Stasio reviewed my books in last Sunday’s New York Times!

Books, I said. Plural.

She not only said nice things about Liars Anonymous, she also summarized and blessed Forcing Amaryllis and The Fault Tree as well.

Picture Louise preening and scuffling her shoes in humility here. I’ve never been reviewed in the New York Times before. And this time it’s a trifecta. All three books.

Here’s what Ms. Stasio wrote:

“It takes a strong woman to admit she did wrong — and then go after the man who put her in that awkward position. Louise Ure took up the theme in her first novel, “Forcing Amaryllis,” in which a trial consultant with a heightened sense of responsibility for her younger sister resolves to kill the man who raped the girl. The guilt that the auto-mechanic heroine of her second novel, “The Fault Tree,” feels for failing to go to the aid of an old woman under attack by home invaders compels her to go after the killers herself — even though she’s blind. The sense of guilt is even more pronounced in “Liars Anonymous,” which makes sense because Ure’s narrator, Jessie Dancing, killed a man and got away with it. But even though she beat the rap, she bears the scars, and when the sounds of a murder in progress come through at the emergency call center where she works, Jessie finds a way to make restitution. Unrestrained by the housekeeping duties of a mystery series, Ure uses the freedom to push her themes to their limits. All three of her tough-minded novels take place in Tucson, which seems to produce plenty of strong women with blood in their eye.”

So, not only does she say nice things, but she also gives me a unifying theme for all three (it’s news to me, but hey, who am I to quibble with the likes of La Stasio?).

And then she goes on to give me the perfect response when someone asks why I write stand alones.

“Unrestrained by the housekeeping duties of a mystery series …” (Sing it, sister!) “Ure uses the freedom to push her themes to their limits” (Amen to that! Here’s to freedom and pushing and … yeah, what she said!).

And all this time I thought it was because no one had ever asked me for a repeat performance by one of my heroines.

In truth, I love writing stand alones. Creating that whole new world out of thin air, and not carrying the baggage from any previous books along for the ride.

My series-writing brethren – although they start each book with a relatively stable voice and cast of characters already on board – are challenged to make each book distinct and fresh and new.

Stand alone writers don’t have that problem. But we do face another, perhaps more daunting, task. How to bring readers along from one book to another when there’s no familiar face there at all.

I think the answer lies in voice. They’ve met Calla Gentry, with her guilt and regret about not helping her sister in time. They’ve met Cadence Moran, a woman stronger and more determined than I’ll ever be. And now I want to introduce them to Jessie Dancing – liar, killer and friend.

Hopefully they’ll come to understand each of these women, not through the repetition of a series, but because they’re friends of mine.


P.S. I’m on a plane to New York today, ‘Rati, so I’ll be out of touch for a few hours, but will check in again late in the day.

P.P.S. And did I mention how cool it was to meet and spend time with our ‘Rati pal Tom Barclay and his wife at the Mystery Bookstore party last Friday in L.A.? Thank you, Tom. That was a treat!


A late night offering from Louise


Here’s a bonus, my ‘Rati friends. The brand new video trailer for Liars Anonymous, hot off the presses. Take a look. And if you like what you see, send it along to a few friends. It will help me get the word out!



The Liars Are Coming

By Louise Ure



I only get to do this once a year, so you have to bear with me. I’m going full-frontal, tongue-wagging, no-holds-barred, blatant self-promotion today.

My third novel, Liars Anonymous, hits the bookstores today.

And this time it’s being ushered in with a grand slam of starred reviews from all four of the big trade reviewers!

* Booklist (2/1/09)
“A powerful, masterfully constructed, action-packed novel with fiercely moral underpinnings and strong protagonist, this cements Ure’s position alongside such psychological thriller masters as Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters.”

* Kirkus Reviews (1/15/09)
“Ure (The Fault Tree, 2008, etc.) provides a meaty, twisty puzzle. But the real prize here is Jessie, a tough, conflicted heroine you won’t soon forget.”

* Publishers Weekly (2/2/09)
“Taut…. As Ure slowly peels back the layers of scar tissue to reveal [protagonist] Jessie’s past crimes, the investigation … takes on even more depth as readers come to realize just how damaged the feisty heroine truly is.”

* Library Journal (February 2009)
“Shamus Award–winning Ure’s third mystery (after Forcing Amaryllis and The Fault Tree) is perhaps her finest effort to date.”

Read the first chapter here, if those honey-sweet words above have piqued your interest.

And if that’s not enough crowing, how about the online reviewers, like “Mrs. Peacock” over at Crime Critics who just had me jiggling and giggling all day long.

“This is a book that feels real. It is dark, gritty and beautifully written. Jessie may not be a woman we can all relate to, but she is a woman many of us probably fantasize about being. She is morally-driven, determined to do right even if the cost is her life – or someone else’s. The heart of this book is the remarkable depth Ure captures in her characters … Here we find a protagonist believably hardened by her experiences. She is tough, street smart and competent. Her need to understand the crimes she finds herself tied up in, and a stubborn steak a mile long, leave readers understanding her actions even as they are wishing for a different path for her…

Ure writes us a tale not only strong in character development and story–but also in prose. The writing is beautiful but not distracting. I probably missed much of it as the story compelled me forward, but every now and again I would set the book down and just sigh. My husband would say, “What is it?” I’d read him the line. He would sigh. “I know,” I would say and pick the book up to read on…

The landscape, both physical and emotional, are described here in such sensory-driven detail that readers will find themselves reaching for a cool glass of water and a Glock nine millimeter…

In the end, LIARS ANONYMOUS is a hard-hitting, unapologetic look at the female survivor–in her glory and in her suffering.”

(I don’t know who you are, Mrs. Peacock, but I think I love you. Want a bottle of Cristal? Want the first puppy from the litter?)



In other good news, I took all your ‘Rati advice to heart this last two weeks, and have actually opened up the Work-in-Progress document on my desktop. ( My God, it’s written in third person. What was I thinking? I’ve never been able to write in third person!) I can’t say I’m over my Been Down So Long This Looks Like Up To Me doldrums, but as Obama says, “I see glimmers of hope.”

I’ll be signing at bookstores and reader gatherings beginning April 18 and would love to see you at one of the following events.

Saturday, April 18, 10:45 a.m.
The Bay Area Bluestocking Festival of Authors/Literary Women
320 Civic Dr.
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Call 925-626-5200 for tickets

Saturday, April 18, 2:00 p.m.
With Cara Black
1110 Alameda de las Pulgas
Belmont, CA 94002

Sunday, April 19, 4:00 p.m.
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA 94925

Tuesday, April 21, 7:30 p.m.
2251 Chestnut St.
San Francisco, CA 94123

Friday, April 24, 12 noon
2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

Friday April 24, 5:00 p.m.
1036C Broxton Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Saturday, April 25
Signing at the Mysterious Galaxy (Booth #614) at 10:00 a.m.
Signing at the L.A. Mystery Bookstore (Booth #411) at 11:00 a.m.
Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, April 30
The Grand Hyatt Hotel
New York, NY

Wednesday, May 6, noon
117 Cherry Street
Seattle WA 98104

Friday, May 8, 7:00 p.m.
123 S. Eastbourne
Tucson, AZ 85716

Saturday, May 9, 2:00 p.m.
With Laurie King
4014 N. Goldwater #101
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Saturday, June 13, 10:00 a.m.
Pyramid Alehouse
901 Gilman Street
Berkeley, CA 94710

July 16-19
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA 94925

October 15-18
Indianapolis, IN



I hope to see you somewhere along the road.