Category Archives: Random

Apple Books, Great American Read, Slate News Quiz


Here’s a roundup of links and goings-on in my corner of the book world.

Apple Books asked major authors what they’re reading. Don Winslow had this to say: “UNSUB by Meg Gardiner is as smart and scary as The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon. This book is unputdownable. An amazing read.”

For which, I am thrilled and grateful.


On Sunday, October 7th, I’ll be at Book People in Austin to discuss this week’s episode of PBS’ The Great American Read, “Villains and Monsters.” Come on down to hear who my favorites are. Then vote for your favorite book.

Slate News Quiz

And finally, I was startled and pleased to find myself in the Slate News Quiz. My name is one of the possible answers in a multiple choice question, and if you take the quiz, you’d better get Question 9 correct.

Roundup: Ouija Boards, Haggis, Books

I find the weird links, so you don’t have to.

First up:

Three American friends hospitalised after becoming ‘possessed’ following Ouija board game in Mexican village

My mom would never let us kids play with a ouija board, and now I know why.

Alexandra Huerta, 22, was playing the game with her brother Sergio, 23, and 18-year-old cousin Fernando Cuevas at a house in the village of San Juan Tlacotenco in south-west Mexico. But minutes into it, she apparently started ‘growling’ and thrashing around in a ‘trance-like’ state.

Meanwhile, Sergio and Fernando also reportedly started showing signs of ‘possession’, including feelings of blindness, deafness and hallucinations.

Paramedics “restrained Alexandra to prevent her from hurting herself, before treating the three with painkillers, anti-stress medication and eye drops, which seemingly worked.”

Good to know that the next time I and my friends get demon-possessed, eye drops will save us. So if you see somebody chasing me down the street with an eye dropper, relax.

Next, we go to Scotland:

Car-sized haggis smashes World Record

A haggis weighing over a tonne has stormed into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Is this thing sentient? Did it kick down the door and deliver a list of its demands?

The monster dish, which came in at 1.01 tonne (2,227lbs), was unveiled at Scotland’s Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh.

Be on the lookout, people.

And finally, if you want to know which books have been keeping me up at night, head over to Writers Read.

I’m also reading Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. It’s a history of America’s nuclear weapons program, and it’s riveting.

More at the link.



Google Street View is an amazing tool for writers. If you want to get a sense of a faraway place you can’t visit, you can use Street View and feel as though you’re walking around the locale — whether that’s Tokyo, San Francisco, Rio, or the Australian outback.

Geoguessr is a game to warm a thriller writer’s — or geography geek’s — heart. It drops you at a random unnamed spot on the globe, and you have to guess where you are. Try it. I dare you to stop playing.


In the comments: I offer hints on how I’ve been playing the game.

Today in Weirdness

Here’s what’s going on out there on Planet Weird:

First: this was clearly a delivery mixup. The Elmo cake should have been sent to the penitentiary, along with the cherry pie containing a file.

“Knife In Walmart Cake: Cayden Bibeau, 2, Finds Weapon In His Elmo-Themed Birthday Cake.”

And I take issue with the headline. A paring knife is only a weapon when you’re fighting over possession of the potato peeler.

Second: Council bans apostrophes from all street signs to avoid “confusion.”

Mid-Devon Council declined to comment further and did not elaborate on who might be confused by the use of correct punctuation.

Grammar is scary.

Finally: The Gloucester Cheese Rolling competition has at last been captured on video.

Again, I take issue with the title of the video. Cheese rolling isn’t the world’s stupidest competition. Bog snorkelling season hasn’t even started.

What, no monkey boots?

Dapper monkey shocks shoppers at IKEA.

An unaccompanied monkey wearing a stylish winter coat and a diaper surprised Sunday shoppers at a Toronto Ikea.

The fashionable rhesus macaque, sporting a miniature shearling jacket, was first spotted in the parking lot, before roaming around and eventually being cornered inside the store.

Police believe that the pet had been in a car before escaping from both a crate and the vehicle to look around Ikea. Canadian police said: ‘It’s a smart monkey.’

Mr. Peebles has a lot to learn when it comes to monkey fashion.

If I wrote science fiction…

I knew it was a bad, bad idea to watch The Thing the other night.

For the first time in more than a decade, a group of tentacled snakes was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

“The eight baby snakes, which sport little feelers on their noses, were born Oct. 21 after four years of unsuccessful breeding attempts, the zoo announced Thursday.”

The tentacled snakes also develop at an astonishingly fast rate, which staff at the zoo in Washington, D.C., witnessed firsthand.

“Within a few hours of being born, the snakes were already acting like adults,” Matt Evans, a keeper at the Smithsonian’s Reptile Discovery Center, said in a statement. “Instincts took over and they were hunting.”

As Evans made this statement, the snakes shot out their ten-foot-long tentacles and hauled him screaming into a swamp.

At least, I can’t see it ending any other way.

Scientists breed snakes with tentacles.

Today in weird: heroin, shotguns, and diamonds

Because the world is bizarre.

Do Not Bring Heroin to Jury Duty: “A Williamsburg high school teacher serving on the jury of a murder trial was arrested yesterday at a Manhattan court house for hiding eighteen baggies of heroin in a cigarette box.” Yeah — the instructions always tell jurors how to dress for court and whether they can accept hearsay testimony. This really needs to be added to the list.

Disaster shelter offers full kitchen, flat-screen TV:
“Corrugated pipe ‘Doomsday’ bunker priced at $59,900.” (Via Gregg Hurwitz, who notes that any bunker equipped with a flat-screen “means the designer’s imagination about what Doomsday entails is limited.”)

And finally, for those doomsday preppers who want to put a ring on it after they blast the zombies attacking their corrugated honeymoon suite: “A jewelry store in North Liberty, Iowa, is offering a most unusual deal—a free shotgun to customers who purchase an engagement ring.” Buy an engagement ring, get a free gun.

And people ask me where I get my ideas.

Won’t get fooled again.

In my new novel, one of the issues is privacy – how to keep out of the public eye. It’s about disappearing, going off the grid, and getting away without being tracked.

This video is a reminder of all the ways we do the opposite. And all the ways we can get fooled… again and again and again. Don’t be gullible.

Monday mania: Congressmen, cats, and more

First, this may be the most unusual book trailer for a novel I’ve ever seen. The narrator guarantees, “You’ll experience the horrors of the Tribulation, and the torture and grief of each character.” The trailer doesn’t identify any characters or describe the story in Armageddon. That’s what makes it unusual. But it assures us we’ll be terrified by “the overwhelming fear, torment, death and unimaginable destruction that will take place on Earth” after the Rapture. To judge by the novel’s cover, Jesus is riding to war, and it’s not going to be a dressage competition. The horse in the illustration certainly looks frightened.

Second: FBI probes Congressional skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee.

During a fact-finding congressional trip to the Holy Land last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took off his clothes and jumped into the sea, joining a number of members, their families and GOP staff during a night out in Israel.

“Many of the lawmakers who ventured into the ocean said they did so because of the religious significance of the waters.”

I’ve been to Tiberius, where the dip took place. These days it’s a bustling holiday resort. It has windsurfing, kayaking, beach volleyball, an annual 10K run… but Congressional Commando Open Water Swimming is a new sport. Fit, it seems, for the X-Games.

(Also, “ocean?” The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake.)

Finally, something ridiculous for a Monday. Game of Thrones opening sung by a cat.

(And if you want to get that out of your head, here’s the official version.)

Today in Crazytown: porta potties, piranhas, goat men

This is the world that we live in.

First, a Porta-potty bomber is on the loose in Issaquah, Washington. The police are reporting “Honey Buckets damaged by pipe bombs.”

I just can’t believe porta-potties are actually called “honey buckets.”

Second: Missing Wake Forest Baptist Monkey Found. My question: How did they determine the monkey isn’t a Methodist?

Third, let’s hope nobody decides to trim their nails with this. Man uses piranha as scissors.

Fourth, Bigfoot now has competition: “Goat man” spotted in mountains of northern Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man spotted dressed in a goat suit among a herd of wild goats in the mountains of northern Utah has wildlife officials worried he could be in danger as hunting season approaches.

Utah officials think the man may be an “extreme wildlife enthusiast.” They fear “the goat man might be accidentally shot or could be attacked by a real goat.”

The man appeared to be acting like a goat while wearing the crudely made costume, which had fake horns and a cloth mask with cut-out eye holes, Creighton said.

“I thought, ‘What is this guy doing?’ ” Creighton said. “He was actually on his hands and knees. He was climbing over rocks and bushes and pretty rough terrain on a steep hillside.”

Creighton said the man occasionally pulled up his mask, apparently trying to navigate the rocky terrain.

Well, he may dress like a goat, but he’s not a fool.

Finally, where’s that piranha when you need it? “Rafting gone wild” results in river brawl, 12 arrests.

The least they could have done was get the Baptist monkey to help with the full immersions.

Ransom River reviews: USA Today

It’s very cool that USA Today has picked my novel as one of “four new mystery/thrillers perfect for a hot summer day.” And it’s an honor to be included with Karin Slaughter, Lisa Unger, and Rebecca Cantrell.

USA Today reviews Ransom River:

If you can’t resist crime novels in which the innocent are perceived as guilty, look no further than this tightly wound tale that starts with gunmen raiding a courtroom in an attempted hostage taking.

Rory Mackenzie is one of the jurors and is soon looked upon as a conspirator with the gunmen. But why do the police think that? Rory, determined to ferret out the identities of the gunmen, falls into a pit of familial dysfunction that makes most other families pale in comparison.

A deadly crime committed in Rory’s childhood plays a prominent role, as do family greed and secrets and the cold-blooded depths to which people will sink for money. A chilly tale for a hot day at the beach.

And Bookloons calls the book a “fast-paced, suspenseful thriller that will keep readers glued to its pages.

Rory is a fearless, feisty heroine, determined to do what is right, while juggling her feelings for Seth and her worries about her family. If you’re looking for a summer read to lose yourself in as the pages fly by, Ransom River is the one.

Which is mighty nice, and a perfect way to make my weekend.

Take the stairs, not the escalator. No, really.

UPDATE: As always, I should have checked Snopes before posting. The photo’s a mockup. It was taken after a flood at Toronto’s Union Station, where there may have been hockey players floating in the water, but no sharks. Thanks to Chris Rice for reminding me never to trust what I see on the Internet. And now I am even more likely than ever to use this idea in a thriller.

Yes, I know I am in an undisclosed location and supposedly devoting every waking minute to ninja zen writer assault training, but I could not ignore this story:

Shark Tank Collapses at the Scientific Center in Kuwait.

And yes: I’d put a scene like this in one of my novels, but people would think it’s preposterous. But oh, my, is it tempting.

Thanks for the Stalker Award

Woo hoo — I have been voted this year’s Favorite Author on Social Media in Pop Culture Nerd’s Stalker Awards. Which is really a hoot, and makes me smile. Thank you, crime fiction fans who voted for me. I really appreciate it.

And Pop Culture Nerd tells me there is no awards ceremony, so there’s no danger of my dream coming true — that a little Stalker Award statuette would leap out of the bushes at me when I least expect it. And that’s all right with me.

This week in stupidity

More proof that faking your death, and spelling America, are harder than you think. Plus: Jersey Shore.

First — How Elvis CD trapped man who faked his own death for £850,000.

A father of four who faked his own death to claim more than £850,000 in insurance was caught when a friend attempted to use his HMV staff discount card to buy an Elvis CD, a court heard.

Hugo Jose Sanchez, 57, who worked as a web designer for the music retailer, orchestrated an elaborate plot involving his wife Sophie to embezzle a fortune and start a new life in Central America.

After taking out life insurance policies and building up large credit card debts, his wife contacted his employers telling them he had suffered a fatal heart attack while on holiday in his native Ecuador.

“The plan unravelled when a friend used Sanchez’s staff discount card to buy an Elvis CD, triggering an inquiry involving HMV, insurers and the police.”

When his wife presented his death certificate as proof of his demise, investigators discovered that it bore Sanchez’s fingerprints.

Pseudocide: Don’t try it at home.

Second — more evidence, as if any was needed, that proofreading is essential: Romney campaign spells ‘America’ wrong in new iPhone app.

After the “Amercia” gaffe was discovered, Twitter users took great glee in imagining what “Amercia” stood for and what policies Romney had planned for the nation, such as “Amercia-n exceptionalism.”

“Whew, I hear Mitt’s updating that misspelled Amercia on his app. He’s just going with Untied States now,” read one tweet.

Amercia, Amercia, God mend thine every flaw…

And finally — I am all for terrible creature features. But this movie has everything backward. It features the stars of Jersey Shore hunting maneating sharks, when it should be the other way around.