Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Thanksgiving with friends in California & in Italy



Okay, I had so much fun with the poetry post below, I wrote this poem as I was on my way out the door at work eagerly anticipating my two-week vacation. My day job is as a defense contractor, a sort of extension of my 22+ years in the US Army. Maybe this isn't the most cheerful of poems. But what is a poem supposed to do? I think it is supposed to make you feel something through the beauty of language.

I'm back at my desk, but it's Friday at last
And I'll only check in on Monday once more
Then it's home for vacation, it goes by so fast
Only several more hours and I'm out the door

I won't even think of the work left behind
National Defense won't be my top worry
As I fly down the freeway in a holiday mind
Forgetting the weapons and stuff as I hurry

I love it that once every year I can savor
The feeling of calm while avoiding the news
I'm tasting the peace in its infinite flavor
Forgetting that somewhere another war brews

I look forward to shopping and wrapping and gifts
To trees, decorations and holiday meetings
To this fleeting season, the voices it lifts
In pleasant and well-meaning holiday greetings

I love every second, and love every minute
Of feeling so happy, alive and connected
To all living creatures, the world and all in it
The bounty is more than I ever expected.

But I would give up my job, go hungry and cold
Give up my house and all that is deeded
Give up my car, my clothes and my gold
If finally my work would never be needed

For I know that too soon peace will fade into dust
A shining memory of immeasurable worth
And I will return to my work, as I must
Without the present of Peace on Earth

Kate Thornton


I'll be checking in during the next two weeks – Have a good Holiday Season. I know we all hope for a wonderful new year,


My Dear Husband rolling around the house on his walker. The dogs were puzzled by it.

Ice on my car in the morning! Real ice! And the temperature was down to around 30 degrees F. That's so unusually cold that it was a wonder and an awesome thing.

The grevelia bush out by the driveway burst into hundreds of tiny pink flowers.

Our mid-century modern Holiday Tree

Friday, December 15, 2006


And now, a note from our sponsor...

(Well, not really a sponsor - but here's a note you will enjoy)

Hey Kate - Thank you for metioning beneficial local organizations like Sisters in Crime and MWA. The upcoming 2007 No Crimes Unpublished, set for June 10th, is going to be packed full of great info for both beginners and pro's.

Your readers can stay tuned to the conference site hosted at:www.sistersincrimela.com
All the best to you!
Diana James,
VPSisters In Crime/LA

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


(I don't know. Do you?)

Poetry (or "peotry", as I see it all the time on message boards!) sometimes looks like "other" or "all of the above" choice in multiple choice endeavors.

I can't give you much of a crash course here, but I do want to recommend that if you write, and even if your specialty is hard-boiled murder or battle-focused science fiction, you need to read some poetry to understand the rhythm and beauty of the language.

But I can give you links to some of the best poetry I have found. What are your favorites? If you don't have a favorite, maybe you aren't enjoying enough poetry.

What He Thought by Heather McHugh

Musee des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden

I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great by Stephen Spender

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare

Now go find some good poetry on your own – and let me know your favorites. I like the Modern and Post-Modern poets. I like economy of words, impact and unforgettable turns of phrases. What do you like?


Well, if re-reading my favorite poems isn't a Beautiful Thing, I don't know what is!

I saw a remarkable sight at the bird sanctuary a couple of days ago – I still can't quite believe it. Hundreds of black and white egrets or cranes rose up into a sort of giant spiral above me and wound through the sky for about ten minutes before flying away. I could see them so clearly, their long beaks, feet and legs tucked up into their underbellies, the black tips of their wings, feathers articulated.

The sight of my Dear Husband as they wheeled him to his room after his surgery yesterday – he was pale and wan, his silver hair shining on the pillow, but he was breathing and the surgery was a success. He gets to come home this weekend. Now *that's* a beautiful thing!

The Drive Home

It's cloudy and pale, not the usual sunny

and I'm taking a break from the work on my table

I've listened with interest to all of your funny

and sweet conversation at least as I'm able

Today I'm not working, well not on my writing

And I've finished the work that I do here for money

I'll drive home today and hope for a sighting

of egrets and owls, of skunks or a bunny

I live in the suburbs where one of the features

is an abundance of feathered and furry

two-legged, four-legged, winged great creatures

at the edge of my sightlines, if I don't hurry

I see them in trees at the side of the roads

in glades and in meadows, in forests, in glens

rabbits and squirrels and lizards and toads

And maybe a deer or some sheep in their pens

And I'll feel the sharp breeze as it loosens the berry

And I feel the sharp rain as it spatters my face

And I'll see all the creatures the suburbs can carry

And I know as I see them the meaning of grace.

Kate Thornton 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dominic Dunne lunching



I had a book signing this past Saturday at Book 'Em in South Pasadena. LAndmarked for Murder fellow author Gay Degani brought cookies and some of her students (she teaches writing) which brings me to today's thought: Writing Courses, Classes and Workshops (not to mention Critique Groups)

I think courses, classes, books, workshops, conferences, tapes, videos and lectures on writing are all good things and can't hurt you. One book I recommend is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg – it's a little light on nuts and bolts, but has helped me immeasurably in writing short stories.

Conferences – especially small genre-related ones like No Crime Unpublished – will get you into the company of writers and help you learn the basics of getting your work out to your reading public.

Genre groups – like Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America – will give you camaraderie, meetings, dinners, readings, interesting guests, endless ideas and lots of bonding. I find my membership in the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime to be invaluable.

Classes – your local college may offer evening classes in Creative Writing, English Literature or even Writing the Novel. Check into it – you might learn something!

Okay – Crit Groups. I have mixed feelings on this one. A good critique group can be a great help to a writer. You *do* need another set or ten of different eyes to read your stuff. Mom's opinion is nice, but another writer can give you the truth. On the other hand, some critique groups are social cliques offering a serious writer no more than carping and coffee. A poor critique group can actually stall a writer or at worst, make the writer consider violent methods off the page.

Choose a critique group carefully – there are many good ones online (Absolute Write has a good one in Share Your Work.) And if you are a novelist, Miss Snark's Crapometer is a good way to get a free professional critique. Evil Editor and the Evil Minions will critique your query letters, too.


The aluminum tree with a color wheel turning it bright colors.

The bright Holiday ties the engineers at work are sporting this week. One has a giant Santa on it, another one is covered with holly leaves and looks like it's moving.

The jingle bell sound on the big dog next door – they put some jingle bells on him and he can't sneak up on the cats now! Good boy, Lobo!

Roger Sutton's BowTie

Thursday, December 07, 2006



Well, it's getting near mid-December and I have a deadline looming for flash stories for Jim Stitzel's 100 Voices in the Night anthology. My 5 stories must be ready to go by next month. I would be screaming terrified if I did not already have four of them written, and three of the four please me. I just need to write at least one more (two, I'll write two just to be safe, just so I know at least one of the two will look good even after the initial 'beautiful baby' time) by January.

Which brings me to deadlines. Do you write better with or without one? I think I write better without one, but I certainly write more with one. Although my deadlines are often self-imposed, anthologies are merciless, and editors will drop you if you don't meet the deadline with a suitable product. Ouch!

I write mostly fiction – for non-fiction, deadlines are usually even more important.

Here's my take on deadlines: always honor your commitments. Give yourself plenty of time and try to do as much as you can before the time gets short. I know this is easy to say, but whether it's your writing, your day job, your family or any other promise, know your limitations before you commit. Then honor your promise like a pro.


Water on Mars! Holy cow, folks! I remember working on the Viking Project back when I was at CalTech and the first pictures came through of the Red Planet. Now there's news of researchers in San Diego (planetary geologists Michael Malin and Kenneth Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems Inc) who have painstakingly viewed photos of particular areas on Mars taken several years apart and determined the changes observed may mean water.
Here's the link Mind boggling! Time to start writing about the Red (and possibly Blue) Planet…

MARS - photo from a Viking Lander


Gingerbread latte at Starbucks – kinda rich for me and only available this time of year. I had my second – and probably last for this year – one this morning. Very spicy-good and tasting of the Winter Solstice (which comes this year on December 22).

Pedicures! The DH and I had pedicures last night! It was heaven – I love the massage part the most.

Candy cane cake recipes – I have seen two this year, and am determined to try to make one. I'll post a good recipe if I find one I like

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vicarage, Boring-on-End



Well, I gave away one of my children.

Okay, she's a sixty-six year old spinster from my favorite village, Boring-on-End, but I gave Evil Editor permission to use her and have all the Minions write about her as they will. Relinquishing her as a character to the open-swipes of others is a bitter-sweet experience. Who'd a thunk anyone would want her? I am surprised and delighted that she went over so well with the Minions.

They are compiling a profile of her now – one, I'm afraid, that won't be exactly what I pictured, but she is no longer mine anyway, so I must be joyful at this turn of events.

However, as she has left my nest to travel the World Wide Web on her own, I think it's a good time to document how she came to be in the first place.

My friend and editor, Michael Mallory, is well-known for many writing endeavors, but his novel, "The Second Mrs. Watson" – about Dr. Watson's second wife, Amelia Pettigrew Watson – has always been a favorite of mine. My Amelia Pettipants was a pastiche of his Amelia Pettigrew, almost an alter ego to his pretty and very bright sleuth. I have used her in Continuations and Guess the Plots over at Evil Editor's blog and in a few short stories which I have wisely kept from publication.

She a plucky, persnickety, doughty and dear old girl, and I give her freely to the Minions as a sort of Holiday Gift. Enjoy her well, and treat her with respect and humor, as I have done.

Now I can't wait to see what they write!

Happy Holidays!


The Cerritos CA Public Library must count as several – it's the most beautiful library I have ever seen.

An avenue of deciduous trees at dusk yesterday – it had turned red and gold overnight, and the leaves fell on my car like brilliantly colored soft snow. This must be what the Changing of the Seasons is like back east.

The featherbed. It is warm and embracing and I don't want to leave it in the morning.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Okay, many of you in the writing world know there are about a million blogs with writing rants or info or opinion. I am an avid reader of many of them: Miss Snark, Evil Editor, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Murderati, the list goes on.

But today we talk about Evil Editor and his new book, NOVEL DEVIATIONS. The Evil One runs a blog which can only be described as a public service to the writing community. Not only will he review, tighten, trim and re-work your query letter for you – for FREE – but he will also critique the first few paragraphs of your novel, again for free.

Well, there is one teeny price to be paid: Evil Editor's Evil Minions (of which I am one and you too can be one) will be invited to ridicule and critique your baby as well. We do this in three ways:

1. Guess the Plot. Your title is held up to the minions who guess a suitable or completely unsuitable, funny and/or outrageous plot to go with your title. They do this in about 25 words and your *actual* plot is one of six hilarious guesses. But you *do* get the critique on your query letter (called a "Face Lift" on the blog)

2. Continuations. Your first few paragraphs are published and a minion writes a "continuation" of your opening. These are often the funniest things I read during the course of a day.

3. The Minions comment on everything – your plot, style, title, characters, setting, personal habits and taste in music. Frequently these comments are very useful – EE does not permit anything rude or mean.

Now to the book – EE got this great idea to put the Continuations in a book along with the first few paragraphs which inspired them. The result is NOVEL DEVIATIONS. This book needs to be on your Christmas list folks, and not just because I am in it, although it's true, I am in it. Give yourself a real laugh this season. The novelists who submitted their work deserve medals for enduring the Minions' mincing.

And hey – you writers out there – visit the blog and comment and become a Minion! Write your own Guess the Plot or Continuation!


The rambunctious CoCo puppy fast asleep under the covers like a little person, snoring next to a real person, also snoring.

A plant I thought was dead bearing hundreds of tiny green leaflets – it lives!

The moon – full and globular – hanging in the rosy northeastern sky yesterday afternoon.