Thursday, December 28, 2006

Does your salmon smell funny this year?

University of Washington scientists have some shocking news: Levels of cinnamon and vanilla spiked in Puget Sound during the holiday season. Researchers measured the levels of spices in sewage being pumped into the sound to determine whether these dangerous chemicals are making their way into the pristine waters of Washington state. Their conclusion? The levels of cinnamon, artificial vanilla and natural vanilla rose between Nov. 14 and Dec. 9, spiking just after Thanksgiving. Now the researchers are worried that fish can smell the difference.

I'm not making this up.

People pay thousands of dollars each year for candles scented with cinnamon and vanilla, but researchers are worried because the levels of those same spices are going up in Puget Sound. Let's see, what are the greatest threats to water quality? Oil spills, artificial hormones from human medications, garbage dumped from ships, agricultural runoff, or spiced cider?

Someone paid for this study, folks.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

President Ford dies

Former President Gerald Ford died yesterday at his home in Rancho Mirage, California. He was 93.

He was the first unelected vice president, having been appointed after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, and he was the first unelected president, taking office upon the resignation of President Richard Nixon. He was also the first president I can remember with true clarity.

I remember Johnson to some extent, and I have vivid memories of some things during the Nixon administration, but I was ten years old when Ford took office and I became a political junkie. I collected the cartoons of Louisville Courier-Journal cartoonist Hugh Haynie -- a harsh critic of Ford's economic policies -- and I have to say that those cartoons probably did more to form my opinion of Ford than anything else. That opinion can be summed up with two Haynie cartoons. One shows Ford in a Boy Scout uniform; the other depicts Mickey Mouse covered in buttons with the acronym "WIN," for Whip Inflation Now, Ford's economic plan.

While he will probably never be remembered as a good president, Ford will always be remembered as a good man. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas present

FedEx just delivered the page proofs for PRECIOUS BLOOD. Now I have less than two weeks to read them, make any correction necessary and send it back to the publisher.

It seemed early to me until I started counting weeks. The books are supposed to be ready to ship by mid-March, which means there are only 12 weeks left to get it printed, bound, packaged and shipped. When they get my proofs back, there will be only 10 weeks. Time is winding down quickly.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jeepers creepers, Harry's got a brand-new name

J.K. Rowling has gone to great lengths to keep young readers on her web site, with a puzzle required to find the title of her newest (and last) Harry Potter book. No doubt my son will go crazy with it until he finds the title -- unless he looks here. The title is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

O.J.: The continuing saga

The O.J. Simpson case is the murder trial that just won't die. Now the family of victim Ron Goldman has filed another suit against Simpson, saying Simpson is trying to cheat him out of money for damages from the previous suit.

Goldman says Simpson's deal with Regan Books for his nonconfession was structured to hide a $1 million advance and prevent Goldman from collecting. The full story is in The New York Times this morning.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How many are hidden?

A Fayette County, Kentucky, grand jury yesterday indicted Robert F. Smallwood in the murders of three women over a seven-year period. Similar to the Ipswich killings in England, the three victims had histories of drug/alcohol/prostitution arrests. All apparently were strangled.

Police weren't able to connect the killings until DNA science advanced enough that they could match DNA found on all three victims. They also connected the same DNA to the 1993 rape of an 83-year-old retired school teacher. When police finally found a suspect, he was already in prison for violating probation on a drug charge. Investigators haven't said how they connected the case to Smallwood, but police said early on that there was no match of the DNA in the national DNA database.

Serial killers have always been seen as rare. But this case raises a question for me: If this killer, whether of not he is really Smallwood, went undetected for at least seven years, how many others are out there, hidden in society?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Trump to Miss USA: You're (not) fired!

I know, you're wondering why this blog has an entry about Miss USA. Tara Conners is from Kentucky, and therefore it's of interest to me. Otherwise, I wouldn't have even watched the news conference.

The summary is this: Miss USA Tara Conners was facing allegations to underage drinking, drug use and "sexual escapades." Everyone seemed to expect The Donald, owner of the pageant, to call her into his office and issue his now famous buzz words: "You're fired!"

Surprise, surprise, Trump called her into his office and gave her a second chance. Now there's all this talk about alcoholism, rehab, being "caught up in the whirlwind," etc. CNN newspeople are poo-pooing her "bright lights, big city defense," and brushing off her statement that she is not an alcoholic and saying she is "would be pushing the envelope."

Here's a newsflash: She just turned 21. She's essentially a college student. Alcoholism? Give the girl a break.

She just moved from Russell Springs, Kentucky -- population 2,399, with prohibition in full force -- to New York City. She's gone from being an unknown small-town girl to a glamorous job and an apartment in Trump Tower. She's not out of control; she's human.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tasteless O.J. book not the cause of firing

Judith Regan apparently was not fired from Harper Collins for the tasteless O.J. Simpson nonconfession. Harper Collins is owned by News Corp., the same company that owns Fox News, so it's not surprising that the company did not fire Regan for the horrible idea paying O.J. Simpson to write a book about how he would have killed his ex-wife if he had really been the person to do it.

According to The New York Times, Regan, who is famous for her loud mouth, made supposed anti-Semitic comments to one of News Corp.'s lawyers. The newspaper said the comments were made during an argument between Regan and the lawyer, who happens to be Jewish. The lawyer called News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, who ordered Regan fired.

Apparently there are some kinds of publicity that even Murdoch is afraid of.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


My Christmas shopping, that is. The short story collection I've been working on is still hanging over my head like a hammer.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

OJ's editor fired

The New York Times is reporting that Judith Regan, the editor who attempted to bring us the ill-considered O.J. Simpson non-confession, has been fired.

Harper Collins, the parent company of Regan Books, announced Friday that it had fired Regan. The firing was effective immediately. Regan is a former tabloid reporter who apparently never left that lifestyle behind.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas tradition

No writing today. I took the kids to the Kentucky Opry's annual Christmas show at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg. It's kind of become a tradition with us. The kids always enjoy the Junior Pros because they are so close to their age.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More short story work

Still no let up in the weather here, or at least very little. The temperature got almost up to 30 degrees. I've done some more work on my short story collection today. In a few minutes, I'll be going out for the first time today to get my pregnant wife some ice cream.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Colder than a well digger's tail

Not a lot of book-related stuff going here today. The weather took a turn for the worse yesterday, so I'm staying indoors and working on some short stories. It's only 10 degrees outside and there's a skiff of snow on the ground.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Editing well underway

I'm in the middle of the editing process for Precious Blood. It's an interesting experience involving a blizzard of yellow sticky notes with questions to be answered and changes to be approved/disapproved. Writing this book has been a real education in the publishing industry.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Precious Blood in the editing process

My publisher's lawyer and copy editor have finished with my manuscript. The next step is for me to make changes recommended by the copy editor, since the lawyer made no recommendation for changes. Everything is still on schedule for Precious Blood to be out in April. You can pre-order it by clicking the link to Precious Blood here or at the right of the page.