Monday, April 24, 2006

Lois and Clark

It was quite the thrill to sit in an intimate setting with one of the most popular fiction writers ever, Mary Higgins Clark, and her successful daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. The two mystery storytellers were at the Mysterious Bookstore on Warren St. in Tribeca, NY for the debut of their new respective books, "Two Little Girls in Blue" and "Hitched".

The few fans who managed to show up, with the massive immigration demonstrations only a few blocks away, earned a real treat being able to converse with the authors practically one-on-one.

Mary said how she and Carol never actually read at these so-called "readings"; rather they enjoy sitting and talking with the audiences. A lot of behind-the-scenes material was discussed, but the one area that most people always want to talk about is how they get their plots. In mystery writing, Mary revealed there are only really seven plots that an author can extrapolate from.

Both writers build their stories from real life experiences. Whether going on a cruise, visiting friends, shopping, attending a party or simply watching television, something usually sparks a story idea.

That's one of the reasons why successful authors like Mary and Carol get sued so often. There is always that one reader claiming they stole his/her material or overheard a conversation and used it. "It costs a fortune to fight these false claims," Mary explained. "Most of these can never be substantiated and go away as fast as they surface, but they are nevertheless disturbing."

The more famous authors become, the more they attract people with too much time on their hands, one example being the guy who often writes to Mary and corrects her grammar. He claims she still doesn’t know the difference between "take" and "bring" in the construction of her sentences. "That's why I have a publisher and editor, but sometimes they don't catch it either."

Thursday, April 20, 2006


What is the story with the New York Times? They have no respect for the dead.

I’ve been meaning to complain about this for weeks. They recently redesigned their website, I believe, to make it more user friendly…not. I hate people and companies who make changes for the sake of it. The former NY Times website was just fine.

The new design gives me a headache, and I am suspicious of what they are trying to hide. In the past I could easily find the Obit section, which was prominently displayed above the fold on links to the left of my computer screen -- everything was easy to read. Now the Times only gives homage to World News, United States, New York, Business, Technology, Sports, Science, Health, Education, Opinion. The Obits have been banished to a shady plot under the classified section.

I don’t want to have to scroll so far down every morning to see if I am still alive. If my name is not listed there, I figure I better get dressed and get to work. I am not alone. I talk to so many people who check the Obits first thing everyday before they read anything else. It is like taking your pulse.

Reading the Obits is a great way to start the day. You read about the lives of prominent people and quickly decide if it was all worth it. It sets your tone for the day. If I read about someone who died of cancer after spending his or her entire career in cancer research, I feel like someone spiked the punch and I don’t work so hard. If I read about a young person who died just after he or she wrote a successful Broadway musical, I kick myself for being totally useless and unproductive because I am 20 years older. And if I read about someone who was philanthropic but divorced several spouses, I feel like I don’t have to be so generous just as long as I stay married to my present husband.

I always wanted to be an Obits writer but I think I would cry every time a death was called in. I would be so busy yenta-ing about who, what, why, I would never meet the deadline.

I love reading Obits but I don’t wish death on anyone. It is so final, so mysterious, so scary. No wonder the Times really buried it once and for all.