Monday, April 28, 2008

Malice - After the FAct

One day after one of my favorite mystery conventions and I'm still grinning like a loon. The Malice Domestic mystery conference is always a great time. I see a lot of old friends on panels and in the hospitality room. It’s great to see who wins an Agatha Award. It fun to attend a high tea, renew acquaintances with folks who share my publisher or my agent, and meet fans from as far away as Canada. It’s fun to see who is most creative in the hat contest (that’s Elizabeth Zelvin in her charming chapeau. It’s actually a chap-Poe with a bobble head of Edgar Allen lashed to the back.)

The biggest surprise was learning that some of my favorite authors - Dan Stashower, Lindsey Davis, and Peter Lovesey - are also flat out hilarious if you let them near a microphone! It’s also quite a kick to have an editor from a major publisher tell you that she is following your career and wants to know what you’re working on. That kind of thing can make an already great event truly memorable.

Would you buy the "my genes made me do it" defense?

Last Sunday, a Washington Post article looked at the ways in which DNA is being used in the legal system for purposes other than identification – a key theme in my legal thriller, JANEOLOGY.

In the Washington Post article, writer Rick Weiss says,

Studies have shown that up to 62 percent of antisocial and criminal behavior is "heritable," a rough measure of a genetic contribution. And in a few cases, courts have allowed arguments seemingly akin to "My genes made me do it."

Weiss goes on to discuss one of the biggest debates surrounding this kind of evidence, writing,
[I]n a rare case in which a court did accept evidence of a defendant's inborn "propensity to commit murder," that court, in Idaho, considered it an aggravating factor, not a mitigating one, and used it to help justify the death sentence.

Such decisions are worrisome, said Markus Heilig, a research psychiatrist and neurochemist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "To argue that behavior can be predicted, you are arguing this guy does not have free will," Heilig said. "So how can you hold someone accountable?"

Not everyone goes that far.

"Just because you can explain a behavior's cause doesn't mean it is excusable," said Nita Farahany, an expert in behavioral genetics and the law at Vanderbilt University.

Read the full article here.

An interesting look at this article is also discussed by criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield on his blog Simple Justice.

In response to the Washington Post article, Greenfield writes:

"Now that DNA is going to be collected from arrestees, not just the convicted, a whole new world of potentially innocent people will be brought into the DNA pool. No, not just the arrestees, but their families and children who are not yet a twinkle in their eye. Are you seeing the scope of this situation?"

What I find interesting and compelling is this: If I were on a jury listening to present character witnesses testify about a defendants' credibility – would I be prepared to give equal weight to the character witnesses of the person's past vis a vis his/her gene pool?

The whole structure of JANEOLOGY puts you in the jury seat. Without giving away the story's verdict, I can tell you that by the story's end, you will have this decision to make.

What did Jane do and why?
Find out at

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Past Principles

“I have never yet heard of a murderer who was not afraid of a ghost.” - John Philpot Curran

JP Curran was an Irish lawyer from the mid-1700s who lived wildly and stood passionately by his principals of integrity. One of his more famous cases was defending a horse-whipped priest against an evil landlord who was physically abusing his mistress and the priest tried to stop it. Curran won the case for the priest and the evil landlord challenged Curran to a duel. The landlord shoot and missed and Curran declined to fire.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Agent and Why I Need Her

Susan Gleason is a real-life, honest-to-goodness New York City literary agent. What that means to you probably depends on where you are in your writing career. When I tell some authors they say, “Wow,” like I just told them I won the lottery. Others sneer like I just reminded them of every bad experience they’ve ever had as a writer.

And if I tell you that I e-mailed Susan in early February and she called to reply this week, you might ask why I would put up with such treatment.

The fact is that agents are part of the yin and yang of the publishing world. For example, there are two kinds of publishers: the small press and the majors. You can submit your manuscript to small press publishers and they may read it and even publish it. Advances, support and distribution will all be small or nonexistent. The majors pay substantial advances, have powerful distribution arms and can offer substantial backing if your book warrants it. However, they won’t look at your manuscript unless they get it from a reputable agent.

Hustlers and crooks aside, agents also come in two varieties. Some will invest the bulk of their time into finding a home for your manuscript. They can do that because you are the biggest name author they represent. But they haven’t brought any publisher a big money maker, so publishers don’t hold them in very high regard.

Then there are agents who HAVE brought money makers to the publishers they work with. They have proven they can pick a winner, so when they talk, publishers are more apt to listen. What that means, of course, is that these agents spend a substantial amount of their time on bigger fish and only take on newcomers if they really believe in their work. Having proven themselves to publishers, they won’t represent anyone who’s going to embarrass them. For this reason, I know that Susan believes in me and my writing.

I met Susan through one of her clients, Warren Murphy. She got another client, David Hagberg, to blurb one of my manuscripts. She’s representing Barb D’Amato and has asked her to blurb another of my manuscripts.

When Susan called, it was to tell me that one of my manuscripts is with Kensington right now. And that she’s had another to Thomas Dunn, Bantam and Warner Books. It was to share feedback she got from an editor at St. Martin’s Press who was kind enough to recommend changes that could make that book more commercial. To tell me that at Book Expo America she’ll be discussing a couple of my properties with a film rep. And that she’ll meet with me during Thrillerfest in July so we can present a manuscript or two to some industry names in person.

So this is why you need an agent. Not just because they can help with contracts or because they know which editor might want your work (yes, Susan has these attributes too.) But most importantly because, while writing is an art and a craft, publishing is a business and if you want to win big you need someone in your corner who is also inside the business.

Who is Jane and what did she do?

Jane Nelson, the central figure in Janeology, is the feature subject on this week’s Share Your Heroine interview series. In this brief but telling interview, you’ll learn more about Jane’s secrets and motivations.

Also this week, Janeology is among this weeks’ list of “New Reads” by the Campaign for the American Reader Network. Other great new works highlighted on this site include The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block and Enlightenment by Maureen Freely. Be sure and look over all the blogs associated with the CFTAR network, including the Page 69 Test, where Janeology will soon be put to the challenge.

And on April 23, I hope you’ll visit the blog at ( to read my guest blog “When a man loves a woman…who murders.”

See you on the bookshelves!

Read an excerpt.

Buy Janeology on Amazon

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Malice: A forethought

I’ll spend next weekend in the company of a lot of dangerous ladies, and I wanted to give fair warning, just in case you might want to be one of them.

Friday through Sunday we’ll gather in Arlington, VA for the Malice Domestic Mystery Convention. Since 1989, Malice Domestic has been an annual mystery fan’s convention focused on the traditional mystery--think in terms of books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie. However they are a warm and welcoming group and even those of us who write private eye stories are made welcome. Besides, Arlington is the next town over so Malice is like my hometown mystery con

This year’s guests of honor include Lindsey Davis and Charlaine Harris. To prove there’s no gender bias here, Dan Stashower will serve as Toastmaster, and this year Peter Lovesey will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement award. And because writers love to be surrounded by fans, they expect more than 175 authors to attend as well.

All the panels, interviews and great meals will take place at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel. Even if you don’t live nearby you might want to check this one out. And look for me. I’ll be chatting with my favorite authors too, but never too busy to greet a fan.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

20/20 reveals...Royal rip-off vacations

This is Part 3 of 3 scams that 20/20 investigated...

You know what I think is completely criminal? Businesses that tout the wonders of a product or service, all the while blatantly lying about said product or service's true agenda, or the benefits, or the research done. 20/20 aired a show that revealed some of the scams that people are getting sucked into. They investigated a Royal holiday club that promises luxurious vacations and the best of accommodations.

Holiday Investment Plans - Heaven or Hell?

I saved this one for last. Mainly because my husband and I almost became a member of the Holiday to Hell club...or at least, that's what I'm calling it. When 20/20 investigated the Royal Holiday Vacation Club, I couldn't help but cringe. Good grief, they were talking about exactly what happened and then almost happened to us when we traveled to Mexico at the end of February.

If going to Mexico, there is something vital you need to know. There are salespeople lined up in the Mexico airports and they're just waiting to scam you out of thousands of dollars.

If you stop, this is what will happen...

A very nice young man or woman, dressed professionally and wearing a name tag, will ask you if you need help or want information on your detination. They'll proceed to show you maps, tell you the best places to go to, offer you some discounts if you book with them, and then offer you a free ride to your hotel--in a luxury car, not the hotel bus that stops everywhere else. Eventually, he'll tell you that you're staying at a great hotel and that he'd like to show you the hotel he's promoting, just so you have something to compare to and something to consider. If you ask if these are time shares, he'll say no. Well, technically, I guess you could say he thinks he's not lying. He wants to sell you a vacation club plan. He won't tell you that in the airport.

This is what will happen if you agree to receive all the discounted tours and promos he'll offer. He'll tell you that he'll arrange to pick you up at your hotel, take you to the one he's working for and while having the best buffet breakfast or lunch, you'll be shown around the hotel for about 90 minutes.

This is what 20/20 discovered and what my husband and I heard after we got to our hotel on day one. If you're suckered in, you'll spend the better part of a DAY at this "90 minute presentation". You will be handed from one consultant to the next as they try to convince you that the club is worth it. They'll promise you all sorts of things, like they'll even invest your $30,000 payment into some offshore account in a foreign country and you'll get it all back in 30 years. They will hound you, make you feel guilty, do anything they can to break you. On most occasions, travelers leave feeling exhausted and $11,000 or more poorer. 20/20 also uncovered that what you see is not what you necessarily get. One couple was shown a luxurious suite and were promised that their accomodations would be just as good or better. They went on a trip and were given a standard room.

Marc and I got caught at the airport, but after hearing about this scam at the hotel, we never showed up at the end of the driveway the next morning for our wonderful free breakfast and lovely tour of a new hotel. We hung our heads in embarrassment and learned a valuable lesson.

Bottom line? When in Mexico, get off the plane and run like hell through the airport, do NOT stop for anyone, do NOT get suckered in by someone appearing to want to "help" you, do NOT talk to anyone, do NOT pass go, do now you should get the picture. You have no idea how hard this is for me to do the same. I love talking to people. But I also love keeping my money and having a relaxing vacation in a heavenly place, not a free ticket to Holiday Hell.

20/20 link:

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Canadian suspense author

Monday, April 14, 2008

20/20 reveals...detoxifying foot pad scam

This is Part 2 of 3 scams that 20/20 investigated...

You know what I think is completely criminal? Businesses that tout the wonders of a product or service, all the while blatantly lying about said product or service's true agenda, or the benefits, or the research done. 20/20 aired a show that revealed some of the scams that people are getting sucked into. They investigated special foot pads that supposedly drew out poisons and toxins while you slept.

Detoxifying Foot Pads:

Okay, so the premise is apply two large bandage-like pads to your feet every night and while you sleep they'll drain your body of poisons, parasites, toxins and more. Ew! In the morning when you remove them, you'll see ugly black stains on the pads and the pads, your feet and hands will stink. Hmmm, that sounds like something I want to experience every morning before I eat breakfast and have coffee.

20/20 investigated and tested the miraculous Kinoki pads and similar ones from Avon. It seems that heat and sweat from your feet will activate whatever's inside the pads and turn them black. They dripped water on it and a stain appeared. Hmmm...makes you wonder what's in those pads. Well, they had a lab test the used pads and found no traces of toxins, except on a few, very faint traces of lead were found, but the consensus is that the lead was not eliminated from anyone's body. Hmmm...makes me wonder if there is lead INSIDE the pads. Now that would be healthy!

Bottom line? I'll find other safer ways to eliminate toxins from my body, like drinking more water. And I'll keep my feet and hands smelling spring fresh, thank you.

20/20 link:

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Canadian suspense author

Saturday, April 12, 2008

20/20 reveals...shocking "lunchtime lipo" scam

This is Part 1 of 3 scams that 20/20 investigated...

You know what I think is completely criminal? Businesses that tout the wonders of a product or service, all the while blatantly lying about said product or service's true agenda, or the benefits, or the research done. Last night 20/20 aired a show that revealed some of the scams that people are getting sucked into. They investigated a non-surgical lipo treatment that supposedly melts the fat away.

Lunchtime Lipo:

This is a new procedure that is attracting men and women who are desperate to shed unwanted fat. Lipodissolve promises to dissolve fat and leave no scars as it's not a surgical procedure but a series of injections. People are paying $1500 on up for these treatments. In the segment of 20/20, hidden cameras caught the consultant at one spa blatantly lying, saying that the drugs used were FDA approved.

The end result? 20/20 interviewed a group of women who had undergone the procedure and their stories were horrifying. Some had been left with deformities, others had been left with gaping sores or discolored skin. The first thing I though of when I saw one woman's leg was 'flesh-eating disease'. Is that what their injecting to "dissolve" fat?

Admittedly, if I had seen the hyped up advertising, I would have been tempted to look into it. I've always struggled with weight issues and for a couple of years was able to maintain a size 6 figure. A couple of years ago my daughter and I were diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder. We were advised to walk and swim. That's it. No more weights, no more glider machine, no skiing or skating for Jess, nothing that puts any impact on our joints. My weight is suffering for it.

After watching 20/20, I think I'll "weight" until something has been out on the market for a while, thoroughly tested and approved etc, before I think about doing anything drastic. It's just not worth risking my life and I certainly wouldn't want flesh-eating disease-like symptoms and a deformed stomach.

Bottom line? I'll keep my money and my fat, thank you.

20/20 link:

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Canadian suspense author

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Remember the show 'Candid Camera'? Well here's a sweet little anecdote combining the 'not too bright' crook perspective as well as reversing the situation.

While setting up for a "Candid Camera" segment in a bank one day, Allan Funt (the show's host) was astonished to find himself in the middle of an actual robbery. As Funt looked on dumbfounded, the staff - naturally assuming that the robbery was a practice run of a practical joke - began clapping. So astonished was the robber that he actually dropped his gun and raced out of the bank!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Is There Such A Thing as Too Much Accuracy?

One of the highlights of the Virginia Festival of the Book is the Crime Wave luncheon. They put one author at each table which insures each of us our 15 minutes of fame.

This year’s luncheon keynote speaker was David R. Ignatius, an associate editor and columnist for the Washington Post who also writes top notch spy thrillers. His latest, Body of Lies was released today in paperback. As a journalist David has written a number of articles on the real-life intelligence world and has made the kind of insider friends that help a writer recreate the spy world with chilling authenticity.

Which raised the question.

Like most of you, I combine research and creativity to write authentic crime fiction that hopefully moves beyond the common criminal but stops short of comic book villainy. When I appear in public I often get asked if I’m concerned that real life crooks will read my novels and learn how to escape justice or pick up a new way to steal or kill. I’m sure you get that question too.

My standard response is to tell my readers not to worry. By definition, almost all real life criminals are not too bright. If they were they’d make a good living honestly. In other words, real crooks are too stupid to pull off the kind of plans you’ll see in my murder mysteries or my caper novels.

But what about David’s work? David writes really authentic stuff about foreign policy, our intelligence community and its relationship to the spies of other nations. And we can assume that most people in that business are NOT stupid. I know that an awful lot of valuable intelligence is gathered from open sources. Anyone who has looked into his bio and credentials could reasonably assume that David Ignatius knows what he’s talking about when he writes about these things. Is it possible that spies and saboteurs in other nations are picking up valuable tradecraft tips from David’s books? If so, our nation may be paying too high a price for a great read.

Of course…. He COULD just be an invaluable tool for disinformation…. Hehehehe….

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What are some of the best writer's resources?

If you're an aspiring or published author looking for some great resources, I highly recommend the following books. Some will be genre specific as this comprises a large part of my own library.

General writing resources:
  • Writer's Market (the holy grail for writers)
  • The Canadian Writer's Market (ditto for Canadian writers)
  • The Canadian Writer's Guide
  • The Writer's Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
  • The Writer's Guide to Character Traits (excellent for building your characters)
  • Characters and Viewpoint (great for improving POV) - published by Writer's Digest
  • Writing Dialogue - published by Writer's Digest
  • Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
  • How to Write a Children's Book and Get Published
  • Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel
  • Forensics for Dummies (no dead bodies included)
Book marketing books:
  • What Writers Need to Know About Publishing (by Jerry D. Simmons, a great friend of mine)
  • The Book Publisher's Handbook (Eric Kampmann)
  • How to Sell What You Write
  • Beyond the Bookstore (Brian Jud)
  • Plug Your Book (Steve Weber, another friend)
  • 1001 Ways to Market Your Books (John Kremer, another author friend)
  • Web Site WOW (Jeniffer Thompson)
Like any craft or skill, you have to learn it first, then take the time to hone and perfect it. These books will only help you become that much better and even more attractive to an agent or publisher.
I invite my fellow writers to add to this list and share their favorite writer's resources.
All the best in your writing endeavors. :)

bestselling author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention