Picture of a puppy studying. I know. Awesome.

Picture of a puppy studying. I know. Awesome.
I was thinking about something as I completed my two-mile run to nowhere on the treadmill this morning:

I build stories.

I’m very proud of the stories I build. But one thing is absolutely certain: though they are ultimately my own, they were not built alone.

They started with my parents, who kickstarted my imagination by reading books to me and encouraging me to be creative.

They were enhanced by the wonderful teachers I had while attending public school.

They were funded by the grants, student loans, work study programs and scholarships I received so that I could go to college.

They are assisted by my husband, my first and last editor.

They are improved by the brainstorming and critique sessions with my fellow partners in crime.

They are published by my fellow writers who come together in amazing ways to promote each other’s work, fund charitable projects, and to celebrate a mutual love of reading and writing.

There is no question I’ve benefitted greatly from the larger community of which I’ve been a part, both public and private. For that, I’m thankful.

I build stories, but I do not build them alone. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am honored to announce I will be contributing a story to a charity anthology called FEEDING KATE. It benefits someone whose very dear to me and many others in the crime fiction community, Sabrina Ogden. She suffers from lupus and needs a jaw surgery that her insurance company won’t pay for (those bastards). Laura Benedict, Laura Curtis, Clare Toohey, and Neliza Drew organized an Indiegogo campaign to fund it, and for just $5 you can get an e-copy of the anthology. An $18 contribution will get you the print version, and higher donations will get you a signed copy. All the details are here.

Even though I call this a “charity anthology,” it really doesn’t feel like charity. You know why? Because your contribution will get you a kick ass crime fiction anthology featuring stories from some of the best crime fiction authors writing today:

I know, huh? It’s great to be included in such an awesome list of writers–I am humbled.

If you’re unable to contribute, you can still help by posting about this anthology on your blog, interviewing one of the authors, tweeting about it, posting it on Facebook, etc. We all appreciate any promotional help you can give for this cause.

A few minutes ago I read this post about Meghan McCain’s boobs and it got me thinking. Warning–this post is kind of tangental to the post about Meghan and not directly relevant to the original.

About a year ago I made a decision to stop posting about politics online. With the exception of very few issues I try to keep quiet about political matters, and increasingly, religious matters. I’m a lot happier because of it.

The problem, as I see it, is that places like Facebook and Twitter don’t foster meaningful dialogue about politics. This is especially true of Twitter–140 characters isn’t enough to delve into any issue, even if you post a link. Sure, there are conversations that happen there–I’ve had them myself–but it is easy to take things out of context because it’s impossible to follow every thread of every conversation. At some point someone is going to assume you’re a jerk based on a snippet of conversation that might not have much bearing on how you actually feel about a subject. How could it when the original conversation originated 24 hours ago, took place between ten people (some of which you don’t follow), and began with a link to a relevant blog post or news story, now long buried in a barrage of tweets?

To me, this fosters anger and misunderstanding, and it’s ultimately not productive. Unless, of course, your aim is to provoke, and then you become just another asshole on the Internet.

Facebook isn’t much better. It’s mostly just a place to further the culture of ugly sound bites and noise we are increasingly comfortable with. Unless I’m willing to truly engage, and this means making sure I know exactly what the hell I’m talking about on any social/political issue I post about it, I’m better off keeping my mouth shut.

Otherwise, I’m just another asshole on the Internet.

There are times when I feel like my choice to be silent is a copout, the result of my cowardice and dislike of confrontation. But this doesn’t happen very often, and over time, it happens less and less. I’m not a journalist–I don’t have time to research even my most heart felt opinions to the degree I feel comfortable shooting off my mouth about them. This might change. I’m a passionate person whose equally passionate about my views. But for now, I need to spend my time on the things that benefit myself and my family the most. It ain’t politics, folks.

This isn’t meant to be a judgement of my friends and colleagues who do post about political and other somewhat controversial matters. What one does with one’s Internet space is up to them and I’m free to follow or friend accordingly. Some people just have stronger stomachs than I do, or are adequately informed and worthy of my attention. Many are not. What’s that they say? Don’t be that gal.

Don’t be just another asshole on the Internet.

I’m curious to hear what you think about this subject. Hit me with some comments, people.

Updated 1/19/11

Last week we got the news that the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood is closing on January 31. I am always sorry when I hear about an independent local business, especially a bookstore, closing, but this one hit me hard. It felt almost like a death, one that will take me a while to recover from.

I haven't said much about it since I heard the news, mostly because my life has been crazy for the past two weeks–so busy I haven't opened my laptop in over a week. But now that things have settled I have a chance to sit down and sort out my feelings. Except that's easier said than done.

Talking with Kelli Stanley & Eric Beetner

Besides the initial shock and obvious sadness, I am left with a lingering anger and a tinge of resentment. But at what? Certainly not the Mystery Bookstore. They did everything they possibly could to boost sales and promote books. The community? Well, maybe a little. The Mystery Bookstore has a newsletter subscriber list of about 5000. If each of those subscribers ordered just one to three books from the store each year rather than taking the newsletter book recommendations and buying elsewhere, the Mystery Bookstore could probably stay in business.

The point isn't to flog those who make different purchasing decisions than I do. It's simply to say that when you value something, you sometimes have to make an effort to support it and nurture it.

As a book lover, I approach my book buying thusly: Any title I can get from the the Mystery Bookstore is purchased there. Titles that aren't available (those not in the mystery/thriller/suspense genres) I buy from Amazon or iBooks, usually as an eBook. I am an enthusiastic eBook reader, and I will continue to be. But I also continue to love paper books, and I always will–is it wrong for me to want (and expect) both?

The answer, unfortunately, seems to be yes. And this is, perhaps, what I am most angry and resentful about. The girl who always wants her cake and eat it too has at last been thwarted.

Of course, the sense of loss I feel is so much more than that. I know it is increasingly difficult for independent booksellers to compete, at least price-wise, with the Amazons of the world. But it is impossible for Amazon and the like to compete or, even come close to, what stores like the Mystery Bookstore offer: community, personalized service, book recommendations, a place to meet many different authors (not just the big names) in person… the list goes on. I can hardly believe that after January 31, I will no longer have the pleasure of sitting in that shop, listening to a new or favorite author read from their latest release.

More than once, I've had conversations with Bobby, Linda, and Pamela that resulted in me enthusiastically buying whatever book they were passionately recommending. It wasn't some website saying "If you like this, then you will like this." They are people who love books, who know I love books, and know what I like to read because they've taken the time to get to know me. And every recommendation was spot on.

Me & Linda Brown, assistant manager at the Mystery Bookstore

Lisa Lutz, Angela S. Choi, and Gregg Hurwitz can thank Linda for the new fan they have in me. Daniel Woodrell and Rebecca Cantrell can thank Bobby. I got to know Kelli Stanley, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Rebecca Cantrell, Sophie Littlefield, and Eric Beetner at the shop, creating friendships that continue online and in person when we can. Most of the time, that personal contact is at the Mystery Bookstore. I got to be a fangirl when I met Lawrence Block and James Ellroy at the store. I was introduced to George Pellecanos, who is now one of my favorite writers.

And I dreamed of having my own book launch there.

For all of these reasons and more, the closing of the Mystery Bookstore is a big loss for me and for the crime fiction community, and one that I won't soon recover from. In the meantime, I hope to see you at their farewell party at 6pm on January 31.

If you're lucky enough to still have a beloved bookstore or other business in your community, please take a moment to consider the value, beyond prices or convenience, it brings to you and treat it accordingly.