Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mystery is the Catalyst for Imagination

"Stories are nothing but mystery boxes." 
J.J. Abrams

J..J. Abrams, the brains behind Lost, Alias, and the new Star Trek 1 & 2 (and Alcatraz you can read about how I feel about that here), could be the consummate master of both the TV show premise and serial suspense. He gave a great TED talk years ago called "The Mystery Box"(video above). Serious Abrams fans will have already seen it, but I think it's worth another visit.

Abrams talks about how he loves boxes... loves to take them apart and loves to make them. He says that   mystery is actually an unopened box and it becomes uninteresting as soon as you open it.

"In whatever it is that I do, I find myself drawn to infinite possibility, that sense of potential.”  
J.J. Abrams

He brings out a box he bought decades ago marked, "Tannen's Magic Mystery Box." He's never opened the box because "It represents infinite possibility. It's represents hope. It represents potential." Once you open the box, it's just not as much fun. 

He also shows a clip from Jaws where there is no action and almost no dialogue. He said people wanted to repeat the success of Jaws so they ripped off the shark, but when you look at this scene you realize they ripped off the wrong thing. 

"There may be times when mystery is more important than knowledge." 
J.J. Abrams

It may indeed be true that sometimes mystery is more important than knowledge, but only in fiction. I love the concept of the mystery box. But at some point, I like to open the box even if you just find another little mystery box inside. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Living Reading List

I never get entirely through my to read list. Once I finish a book, three more present themselves, screaming, "Read me next! No, don't read that one, read me instead!" and the pile grows. I've finally determined that it must be a living list - organically growing as I move through the days. This is the top five list as it stands now. There are many more books than listed below, but for blog purposes this list will stay a manageable five. Maybe that will help me manage more in real life...

  • THE SWAN THIEVES, Elizabeth Kostova -  Written by Elizabeth Kostova who who brought us the HISTORIAN, this story is about intrigue in the art world. I freely admit this book has been in my pile since 2010. It's big and long which means traveling with it is impractical, and it's a little heavy for before bedtime reading as well. I refused to be cowed by it's size and weight any longer. 
  • THE BROKEN TEAGLASS, Emily Arsenault - I chose this book because it has a dictionary page on the front cover because what could be better on the cover of a mystery novel? 
  • CALIFORNIA, INTIMATE GUIDE, Aubrey Drury - Published in 1935, I'm looking forward to reading about my home state from the point of view of another time. I picked this beautiful book up at a library sale, and am looking forward to reading individual chapters as pockets in-between other books. 
  • MISTAKEN IDENTITY, Lisa Scottoline - Somehow I missed this one as I read through Scottoline's other books. It's like someone brings you a present you weren't expecting. 
  • GODS OF GOTHAM, Lindsay Faye - This is a historical mystery set in New York City in 1845 and has only been out since mid-May.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day - Murder To Mil-Spec

A Big Thank You to everyone who is or has served in the U.S. military.

This short story anthology features stories about the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. Proceeds to go Home for Our Troops. What a wonderful way to support our troops.

You can learn more about the anthology, including how to get your copy here.

Thank you to Terrie Farley Moran over at Women of Mystery who brought this to my attention and donated a story for the anthology.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Six Impossible Things

"Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

- Alice in Wonderland via Lewis Carroll

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Are You Ready for the Zombie Apocalypse?

Preparing for a potential zombie apocalypse is becoming a national past time. The CDC has even issued preparedness materials - called, "Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic" and you can see those here, although these same materials could be used to prepare for a flu pandemic.

And now zombie apocalypse prep is now being used in conjunction with geography lessons which you can learn more about in this post from Laura K. Curtis.  You can see an outline of a plan below.

If you want to learn more about preparing for the zombie apocalypse you can see the complete guide here over at Criminal Element.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can You Tell a Story in Just Six Words?

"For sale: baby shoes. Never used." This is a six word story commonly attributed to Ernest Hemingway. Six words is not a lot, but Hemingway does manage to tell a story or start to anyway. Continuing this tradition, crime fiction author S.J. Rozan invites writers to submit six word crime stories every week over here on Journalscape. Putting the stories together doesn't take very long and is great fun. Let me know if you decide to give it a try.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Books in the Halls, Books on the Walls

Books are beautiful and they make delicious wallpaper...

From Deborah Bowness - Genuine Fake Books

York Archives from York Coverings

Tracy Kendall available at Anthropolgie

Another Tracy Kendall paper

Library Books Wallpaper Border - you can find it here

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Six Enemies of Greatness

There's a great (short) article over at Forbes on the Six Enemies of Greatness (here).

My favorite quote from it is, "Nothing destroys a good idea faster than a mandatory consensus," followed closely by, "If you are doing what you're doing for years and it's not so great, you are in a rut."

Getting out of ruts is hard work and there is no easy solution, but sometimes I like to try the Creative Whack pack idea of the day here. If the card I pick annoys me, I just pick another one. After all, it's my rut, I can do as I like.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Closer: Last Rites

We only have six more episodes left of The Closer, and according to TNT Twitter pics, the final episode will be called "Last Rites."

This is what Kyra has to say in the TNT summer program trailer about the final episode:

“Her biggest growth spurt will happen in the final episode. The journey is right. The ending is right,” says Kyra Sedgewick. 

I hope so Kyra. Brenda deserves nothing less. 

The Closer returns July 9th, and I will be recapping the episodes every Monday over at Criminal Element.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Do We Need An American Sherlock?

The role of Sherlock Holmes has been played by several different actors throughout the years and currently we have Robert Downey, Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch and now Johnny Lee Miller all playing Sherlock with slightly different takes.

I'm not sure we need another Sherlock right now, but we have one nevertheless on a new show called Elementary where Sherlock is American and Watson is played by Lucy Liu.

The first trailer is below for your viewing pleasure (via

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dear J.J. Abrams: You Owe Me Some Answers

One of my regular TV shows got cancelled.  It’s happened to all of us at one time or another, but it is particularly frustrating when a show gets cancelled without preparation -- leaving character arcs and plot points dangling in the ether.

I guess I should be relived that my other favorite shows, Castle, Sherlock, Once Upon a Time, Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones have all been renewed (although Sherlock series 3 won’t even start filming until 2013 and there is no scheduled US air date yet which is extremely vexing.) But I still want to know what happened. I deserve to know what happened and so do the other 4.5 million viewers who watched the finale with me.

Many of my friends won’t watch a show until its second or third season because of the mid-story cancellation threat, and it makes it harder and harder for new and especially creative shows to succeed.  I lost the US version of Life on Mars after only one season, but ABC let them wrap it up, so at least I know what happened even it was accelerated.

Yes, there problems with the show that I am talking about -- Alcatraz-- sloppy detective work and storyline issues, but I still liked it.

J.J. clearly didn’t want Alcatraz cancelled – he was a producer, but he still owes me.  So I’ll ask the questions, and J.J., you just go ahead and write the answers down in the comment section below.

1) Why were inmates from Alcatraz circa 1963 coming back to modern day San Francisco? How did they stay so young? Who sent them?

2) Was Tommy Madsen a good guy? Did he really have no feelings for his granddaughter?

3) Was Rebecca’s partner corrupt? Why did Tommy kill him?

It’s just a few questions and I did watch Alias through all five seasons, even after the Rambaldi storyline went crazy. Besides, you have the answers, right J.J.? 

PS - If you are not J.J. Abrams and you want to check if your favorite shows have been renewed you can do so here.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sesame Street Meets The Closer

Excellent parody of The Closer from the gang at Sesame Street.  The bright pink Brenda puppet is helping everyone in the department close their cases - their pen cases, brief cases, suit cases, etc.  The details are excellent down to the Sgt. Gabriel puppet's putting his hands on his hips - and the Provenza puppet being Dodger blue (echoes of the episode where Flynn & Provenza decided to leave an unexpected dead body in Provenza's garage because they had Dodger skybox seats).  Very fun.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Book Magic

"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic."
 - Carl Sagan via Brain Pickings