- There will be no book “Z is for Zero”; the alphabet ends at Y. Her latest book “Y is for Yesterday” was released earlier this year. Her beloved Alphabet series will remain incomplete, reminding us of the implacable ruthlessness of fate.
- Grafton was by all accounts a generous writer/personality who shared her notes on her website and was accessible to her fans.
- She was a pioneer, in some ways, by creating a female hard-boiled detective that was light years away from from older lady sleuths like Miss Marple or Harriet Vane.
- Her character, Kinsey Millhone, has a number of questionable habits that endeared her to readers, and made her both a loner and highly relatable.
- Millhone eats peanut butter and pickle sandwiches among other bad food choices, which I did too— but only when I was pregnant.
- S is for Santa Barbara, where she lived and which she disguised as the “fictional town of Santa Maria”. I spent the happiest years of my childhood there, so the entire background scenario of the Alphabet series seems both real and familiar to me.
- I think my favorite reason to grieve her passing is that she stubbornly kept her 25 book series grounded in the halcyon days of the 1980’s. The absence of cell phones makes everything more complicated, intimate, and interesting.
- Sue Grafton was only 77, and she was wealthy and had been happily married to the same man for 35 years. This goes to show you that the big C is for Anyone.
- Sue Grafton inspired me to try and write my own series. She once said that Kinsey Millhone was a braver, skinnier version of herself. My detective is a younger, darker version of myself, who is Mexican-American and can therefore speak Spanish better.
- This Californian-noir writer was a hard-nose realist, who once said about the beautiful blue Pacific that hugs my hometown town of Santa Barbara, “ The ocean is so cold and so dirty and there are things down in there that will bite you.”
I'm sort of late tooting my horn about this astonishing honor that I got awarded around the end of December, but better late than ever. Christmas was a busy time and before I knew it, January had slipped by and I was back on a plane bound for California.
Just settling in—after a play week with my family—to the business of being an author again. Finishing the new book while promoting the first one, and helping with the production of the Audible version which should be out soon! The voice artist narrating Said the Fly on ACX is Stephanie Peña, a talented actress who has also served as Voice Announcer and Featured National Anthem Vocalist for the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino, civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation, for 15 years. I'm so excited and proud to have her as the voice of my Mexican American heroine, Epiphany Jerome!
In recents months it seems that several of my Facebook friends have had to "mark themselves safe,'" and last night I had to as well. I felt a little dramatic doing so, but then when I woke up this morning there were messages from California friends and my children telling me how glad they were that I was not undder the wheels of a run amok truck (now pinned officially with the "T" word) and how worried they were.
I messaged back "Are you kidding? I wouldn't be at a Christmas Market!" But in fact, I had plans to go with a friend on the 23rd. This gingerbread lady above is from an Aachen market, not from Berlin, but I swiped her off a site about Christmas markets in general because she looks kind of sinister, like she could be ready to blow herself up under all that white sugar trimming. The world is feeling that way to me today: that nothing is really what it appears to be anymore, and the grown ups have all disappeared, and the cookie monster is coming.
So this maybe the cover of my second book which I'm at work on in Berlin...This is one of the lakes here where the serial murderer drowns one of his victims BUT IN THE MEANTIME my first book: Said the Fly, is FREE ON AMAZON US, UK and DE, IN KINDLE, FOR FIVE DAYS Aug17-22 , as a promotion because I am STiLL looking for MORE REVIEWS!
If you are not a writer you can't possibly know this weird factoid that it doesn't matter how good your book is or how many people read it, it is the number of reviews on Amazon that propel it through algorhythmic space, creating digital buzz which drops dollars into my pocket eventually so that even more people can find it etc. You don't have to be Hemingway to write a review either. It doesn't matter as long as you say I bought it, I read it and you should too. Or something of that nature. Thank you, End of Story.
Most people think of insects as a bother or threat, except maybe butterflies and ladybugs which we see as harmless and pretty. However, the truth is they are integral to our very existence. The famous entomologist E.O. Wilson, who inspired me to study biology and insects, authored The Creation, a 2010 book in which he appeals with passion to his reader that life on earth must be treasured and saved. He claims that without insects (not only bees are threatened) the terrestrial environment would "collapse into chaos." What follows below are the steps he lays out that would proceed in several decades:
Could there be anything more beautiful than a fossil insect? Or is it fossilized insect? In any case, grab a cup of tea and curl up for an hour and learn from the charming and brilliant paleoentomologist Bruce Archibald, from Simon Fraser University in B.C. Canada, how and what these winged creatures, preserved in deep time, tell us about climate change.
Alone on my first trip to India, I was only a short distance --as the crow flies across the jungle, from where my old friend lived with his young Indian wife and their new baby. I stayed with them briefly when I first arrived, then struck out on my own on a bicycle to find a tourist accommodation in the quiet remote fishing village.
The house I rented was newly constructed, and located directly across the road from the beach. It came with a only few pieces of furniture: a double bed, a rickety night table and a carved wooden chair in the bedroom, and a small metal table and folding chair in the big kitchen. The other three spacious rooms were completely bare. I kept the narrow windows open to get a cross breeze because the drone of the ceiling fan disturbed me when I was trying to sleep. The late spring nights were now almost unbearable as we waited for the first monsoon rain.
Next door to me, an old lady was living with her young grandchildren. The children's parents were in Mumbai for work, having left their new house to be rented out to support the little family they had left behind. Both the brother and sister often visited me in the daytime, plying me with questions and requests in their stilted school English. A few weeks past uneventfully and I began to feel at ease, living by my self but comfortably embraced by the sounds of others: the occasional motorbike that came down our dusty road; the crows squabbling in the giant mango tree in my front yard; and the old lady calling out instructions to her grandson from the porch as he burned the daily trash in our shared back garden.
One night I woke up abruptly from a dreamless sleep alerted by instinctive fear. I groped in the dark for the light switch near my bed. As soon as the fluorescent light washed the room, I sensed motion directly above my head.
I looked up and saw a monstrous spider the size of a salad plate.
Jumping out of bed and through the open doorway, I stumbled into the still dark living room. The spider ran along the molding between the ceiling and the walls. It clearly was disturbed by the sudden light and was seeking cover. As it scrambled around the perimeter of the room, I could only glimpses it on the wall when it passed by, directly opposite the threshold from where I cowered. The long pauses, when it was out of view as it frantically moved around its track, were almost as terrifying as when I could actually see it. Something about the speed with which it managed to move was sickeningly unreal. I felt as if I were hallucinating.
This was many years ago, before mobile phones were commonplace in India. I had no clock or wristwatch. How many hours would I have to wait until the light of dawn when I could reasonably go next door to ask my neighbors for help? What if it was only midnight and I had six more hours to wait? I could either spend it lying on the concrete floor of one of the empty rooms, dreading that the creature might find its way in my direction, or I could move the metal folding chair in the kitchen outside to the front porch, and sit there through the black moonless night. I chose the latter option and happily found that I had left my cigarettes and lighter in the kitchen.
I carried the chair outside and closed the heavy front door behind me. I sat down and lit up, heart pounding and hand trembling.
Normally, I don't mind spiders, not like other people do. I don't kill them when I find them in my house. But I had never even imagined a spider could get this large; this horror was five times that of tarantulas I’d seen before. I found myself wondering what this species preyed upon to have evolved to such a massive size.
What I would find out later was that my overnight guest was Poecilotheria regalis, or as it is commonly called the Indian Ornamental Tree spider, a nocturnal hunter, known to sometimes prey on small mammals as well as insects. Their bite is reported to be extremely painful and may or may not be fatal for humans. Maybe because of the parched dry conditions he had wandered far afield from his arboreal habitat and through my open window, looking for something tasty. Threatened by the sudden artificial light he could not find his retreat.
I calmed down and tried not to chain smoke. I entertained myself by recalling and reciting poems I had memorized as a child.
Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands
A mighty man is he with large and sinewy hands...
Eventually, I discerned a figure moving toward me from the road. He came through the small gate into my yard, and I greeted him in awe like a messenger sent from the gods. He spoke much better English than my neighbors. He explained to me that he had been sleepless and had run out of matches, had gone for a walk hoping to find a fellow smoker, and at a distance had spotted the tiny orange glow of my own cigarette. He was about twenty years old, friendly but respectful, and curious as to why I was so happy to see him. I explained my dilemma.
We went together back into the house to look for a broom. He took the folding chair into the bedroom, momentarily recoiled at the sight of the spider and then assured me it was deadly and must be killed. He added knowledgeably that even contact with the urine of this spider would burn one’s skin like acid and that they were known to be aggressive. No question of kindly urging him out the window and back to his own world, as I had timidly suggested.
He batted and swatted several times and emerged with the creature, its long striped legs tangled in the old broom straws. It was, on closer inspection, indeed hideous, though a bit smaller than it had appeared with its legs extended in movement. I grabbed my camera and photographed him before my hero disposed of it unceremoniously on the front porch. I thanked him profusely, and gave him my lighter as a parting gift.
After shutting all the windows in the house, I lay exhausted on the bed, unwilling to shut off the sad fluorescent light again, yearning for a whiskey, or a boyfriend, or anything in between. I slept fitfully until sunrise, waking to the familiar sounds of fishermen passing my house on their way down to the shore.
I made my tea in the kitchen, reliving the night's events in my head. Then I carried my cup out to the front porch, half wondering whether I had dreamed it all.
If I had risen twenty minutes later, I would have missed the denouement. Looking like a big black snake, an army of ants was bearing the vanquished hunter, slowly but inexorably down my stone steps to their nest, hidden somewhere in the jungle forest.
So, if you haven't been living under a rock for the last few years, you know that bees all over the world are dropping like flies...no pun intended. A lot of research is being done on what is behind what is known as Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD. Sounds like a new disease made up by Big Pharma to sell drugs on American TV, doesn't it? But no it is so much more...it is another real catastrophic event coming to a theater near you, THANKS to the petrochemical industry and GMO.
A really informative and readable book to help you get caught up on all the background of this natural mystery and how it was solved, or at least detected, is: A WORLD WITHOUT BEES published by Guardian Books.
Now that we know what's wrong it's only a matter of common sense and political will, two commodities which seem to be in short supply these days.
Here is one small thing you can do. Friends of the Earth have a campaign going to solicit Michelle Obama and her White House garden for help in nationalizing awareness and action on this environmental threat.Click here to sign a petition to her. http://action.foe.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=14043
Germany has already joined with France and Italy to ban some pesticides that scientists have determined harm the memories of bees, one factor involved in a synergy of forces contributing to CCD. Yet, the US government lags way behind in standing up to the agricultural chemical industry.
Einstein famously said,"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left."
LA artist John Knuth is using flies (our favorite species) to assist him paint gorgeous luminous abstracts. Move on over Rothko! Here's the link to see him step by step as he produces these wonders with his army of tiny slaves:http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/mocatv-john-knuth-fly-paintings.html