Monthly Archives: July 2008

Happy Birthday to The Duffer



The Duffer is three years old today.  He is partying like a rock star with his life partner, Sebastian the shih-tzu. 

The Duffer’s mommy (moi) is going to Paris tomorrow and won’t be blogging until next week.  Ciao.   I mean, au revoir.

Lingo, Acronyms, and Slang…Oh My!

Most of my time in Portland was spent with my old pals, most of whom either work or previously worked at the D.A.’s Office with me.  As they exchanged stories (always either exciting, hilarious, or both) about their cases, I found myself translating for the husband.  “Did you tack on a K2?”  That’s kidnapping in the second degree.  “Lamborn’s in an Agg.”  Trial for aggravated murder.   “He’s the MDT deputy.”  Multidisciplinary Team.  It’s for child abuse cases.


A few years away from the D.A.’s Office, I still knew the lingo, but had enough distance to recognize the need for translation.  The experience reminded me of some of the reviews of my first book, Judgment Calls, many of which praised the “attention to detail,” “insider’s view,” and “lingo of the trade,” while others decried the “legalese,” “jargon,” and an “alphabet soup of acronyms.”  Since then, I have tried to use law enforcement-y words like a spice — just enough to give the book the flavor of authenticity, but not so much to overwhelm.  
But the trip to Portland reminded me that the flavor of authenticity is not the real thing.  In reality, cops, prosecutors, and defense lawyers speak another language, one that, if transcribed, would require translation on every single page.  (Let’s save the separate discussion of 4 letter words for another day … in another lifetime.)  So what is a writer to do?  Should a book strive to be readable or realistic?  Have I sold out by cutting down on the lingo, or have I grown enough as a writer to portray that world authentically despite cutting through the slang?  As readers, do you enjoy the insider jargon or does it take you away from the story?  I like to think I’ve struck the right balance in recent books, but, still, I wonder…

Why My Cookbooks are Dusty

One of my sisters and I have started writing down what we eat and then emailing it to each other. (Does it work? you ask. Good idea in theory, but I’m a writer so I don’t mind having to type a lot of words.) Anyway, a couple weeks ago, in response to my never ending log of restaurant food, carry out, and Lean Cuisines, my sister wrote back, “Don’t you ever cook?”

So today, my first full day home from vacation, I vowed to cook. I pulled this recipe for Quail and Artichokes from my Mario Batali cookbook. I even walked across the street to the Union Square Green Market in search of the best ingredients. After a loop through the entire market, I left with nothing but artichokes. Then it was on to Whole Foods where only in NYC do shoppers have to master the delicate dance of shopping carts on escalators. Alas, after a long wait at the butcher counter, I was told there were no quail, just hens. I don’t know the difference, so I bought the hens. I’m now staring at two bags of groceries on my counter and a whole mess of work. Total cost: $67 to feed me and the husband.

Just looked at the menu for Mario’s Babbo, one of the best restaurants in the city, just a five minute walk from my apartment, and one of our faves. Cost of the quail entree? $27.

This is why I watch Top Chef instead of actually cooking.

Back in NYC

We took a Jet Blue redeye from Portland to JFK, 11:59 PM PST to 8 am EST (i.e., hours everyone who’s not a mindblow should be sleeping).  Highlight and lowlight: creepy guy we noticed at the check-in, who released boozy snores during the entire flight in the row across from us, was stopped upon landing for a request for ID).  

TIP: When stopped on a flight and asked for ID, don’t let your first response be, “But that’s not why you’re here.”  We all had to wait until airline security persuaded dude and his friend to “deplane without incident.”
Vacation apparently made my IQ drop 25 points because we cabbed it to midtown for dinner with friends only to be told the reservation was for Thursday.  We stayed anyway, at Jean-Georges’ Vong , even though we’ll “have to” go back in two days.  Very tasty.  Tomorrow reality comes back.  Humidity.  Bills.  Dog walking.  Me at the computer.

1 More Day in P-town


It has been a busy four days in Portland with 2 rounds of golf, tax-free shopping at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, a BBQ with all my old friends from the DA’s Office, and a hike around Mount St. Helen’s (see my friend’s version of a joke, thanks to Photoshop).

As coincidence (or karma or Carl Jung) would have it, this review of Dad’s Swan Peak appeared prominently in today’s Oregonian.  

Literary Inside Jokes

At Off the Page, Oline Cogdill blogs on literary cross-references, such as Lee Child’s reference to Samantha Kincaid in Bad Luck and Trouble. (Yes, when Reacher meets a Portland prosecutor called Samantha in a cop bar and spends two nights with her… that’s my girl.)

I love spotting these allusions to other books. They are hat tips from one writer to another, and a secret reward for frequent readers who are paying attention.

Wheels Down in B.C. – Part Deux



We are back in the Vancouver airport again, this time waiting for our flight to Portland.  Three and a half days in Canada brought two rounds of golf (highlight: I holed a 50 yard approach shot!), a day trip into Vancouver (including a stop to the aquarium, where the BFF otters hold hands), a bike ride around Victoria, and whale watching in Haro Strait.  

Numbnut here forgot the cord that connects the iphone to the macbook air, so no pics yet, but I’ll update later.
UPDATE:  I’m attaching pictures of me at some golf course in Victoria and the rooster who roamed the porch at the farm where we had a sandwich before I left for the airport.

Wheels Down in B.C.

We’ve landed in Vancouver and are waiting for the jump flight to Victoria.  Air Canada rocks.  The employees were all really, really nice, like… Canadian nice.  And they have movies and TV on demand built in to the seats.  

I watched 21.  It was pretty good but I wanted it to be more sophisticated.  As a fan of Jim Swain’s books, I found myself saying, “But, wait, security would catch them through x y and z…”  The film did make me want to learn more about the real-life MIT Blackjack Team on which the film was based.   Has anyone read Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House?  Would I like it?

Just when I was getting the hang of things

Tomorrow the spouse and I head to Victoria, BC, with a brief stop in Vancouver, and then to Portland to kick it old school with the pre-NYC buddies. Should I gather any stories to share, I’ll pop in, but if you don’t hear from me, know that I’m relaxing (and writing) and will come back with a vengeance.