Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beauty, Easy to Miss

I walk a lot around my city of Pasadena, California. When you walk the same streets over and over, you see things you missed the first, seventh, or tenth time.  

On one my frequent routes, I pass these two outstanding botanical murals by Mark Venaglia.  They're on the side of a large, newish apartment building that's pretty unremarkable otherwise.  The murals are a fanciful interpretation of a view from beneath Pasadena's Colorado Street Bridge with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background, as if observed through a lens borrowed from Alice in Wonderland.

I applaud the artist for creating these unexpected splashes of beauty and I applaud whomever commissioned these murals.  I might have noticed them if I was speeding past in a car, but wouldn't have been able to appreciate their delicateness.  I certainly couldn't have seen the small message the artist penned in each panel along with his signature.  

You can read more about Mark Venaglia here.

Here's Panel 1:

A message from the artist, his signature and some graffiti:

The second panel:

Another message from the artist and his signature:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How Women Flirt

This is slightly late for Valentine's day.  I'm easily distracted while doing reseach.  In my filing cabinet crammed with clippings that I've been saving for years, I stumbled on a study of the ways women flirt.  Here are some of the results that I've arranged according to my own categories of what I call "flirting intensity."  

Just being friendly or...?
Room-encompassing glance
Hair flip
Head toss

Light flirting
Peck on the lips
Lip lick
Coy smile
Caress (arm)
Knee touch
Accept or ask to dance

Getting warmer
Dancing alone
Caress (leg, torso, face, hair)
Hand hold
Thigh touch 
Foot to foot

Should we get a room?
Frontal body contact
Buttock tap
Breast touch
And finally (this one kills me) Hike skirt

Friday, February 12, 2010

Plot Your Crime Story Like "Jeopardy"

Yes, the TV game show. No, I'm not kidding.

"Jeopardy," the classic answers-and-questions game has a three-act structure that's perfectly suited for crime fiction.

Think about it.

The show opens, revealing three players at podiums. The player on our left is the champion, having won the most money on the prior show. An off-stage announcer introduces them by name, occupation, and home city. The host, Alex Trebek, announces, "Let's start the Jeopardy round!" Then they play until the first commercial break.

What have we learned? We are presented with a set of characters about whom we know little beyond our first impressions. We see the contestants in action right away. We form opinions. That one is aggressive on the ringing-in button. This one is too timid to make it to the end. Will our first impressions be turned on their heads? All the while, we're playing along, trying to outwit the contestants.

If the chapters of your novel are the same length as mine, this will take you through about chapter five.

After the first commercial break, Alex Trebek formally introduces the contestants and chats with each about a humorous or unusual aspect of the contestant's life. Now armed with new information, we continue the game until and the next commercial break.

The drama is in full play. The first act concludes. We're up to chapters ten through fifteen.

We begin Double Jeopardy. The second act. The money riding on each response is doubled. The stakes are higher. The plot thickens. We've developed firm opinions about the players, but they continue to surprise us.

After another commercial, the contestants race to the end of Double Jeopardy, well into the third act. Fates are cast. Maybe there's room for a stunning victory or a contestant might be kicked to the curb.

Then, Final Jeopardy--the thrilling conclusion. The close games are the most exciting, when everything hinges on a final response and how wisely the contestant has wagered. You applaud some contestants for their wisdom, scorn others for their timidity or stupidity. If someone wins largely on luck, we're less inclined to root for that champion going forward. We like our champions to have brains, skill, and pluck--and like them to be a bit flawed. If they are too assured, too perfect, we admire them but are more engaged if we see their human foibles. At the end, everyone applauds.

And we're primed to do it all again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Entering the 21st Century

This is my first post on my own blog. I've guest blogged before but have resisted setting up my own. Now, I've done it. Never let it be said that I'm on the cutting edge of technology.

Today, instead of penning something pithy about the writer's life, here's a photo of the best part of this writer's life. It was taken at the terrific Vroman's book store last year at the launch of THE DEEPEST CUT, the third in my Detective Nan Vining series of suspense novels.

There's really just one word that describes what I was feeling: happy.