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.