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The Summer of Hell

After consulting my calendar, I realized that it has been almost five months to the day since I packed up all of my worldly possessions, left my closest friends, and moved from the heart of San Francisco to an old farmhouse miles from civilization in upstate New York.

Dave’s guest blog post shortly after my arrival was a lark, of course (I have no idea where the closest Western Union office is), but it was based on truth. For the first several months after my arrival, there was an air of desperation about most of my communiques. I don’t think anything short of being dropped by helicopter in the woods with a backpack of canned goods and a sleeping bag would have properly steeled me for what I was in for.

Looking back on the last five months, the overarching theme has been trying to hang on to my sanity. And then discovering that I never had it to begin with. What kind of lunatic moves into a haunted house in the woods? It’s the beginning of 25 percent of horror films and 10 percent of romantic comedies. I don’t know which is worse.

But I’m here now and determined to make this work, which I suppose means I have to develop the thick country skin of a BB-gun-shooting, land-defending nature enthusiast. I’m not there yet. For now, I just want to learn how to adjust to my creaky house and cohabitate in some manner (not necessarily nonviolent) with my unwelcome housemates.

But enough about my aspirations. After five months of country life, here are my main findings:

I’ll kill anything

One of the first phone calls I made upon my arrival, before any furniture arrived, or home repairs were initiated, was to call in a reputable exterminator. Aside from ample evidence that my home was once overrun by rodents, there was also ample evidence that wasps, spiders, roaches, ants, flies, mosquitoes, gnats, moths, you-name-it were going to be a problem. Week to week as the weather shifted, one creature after the next became my enemy du jour. During the first few weeks of my minimalist stay in my country home, when I was sleeping on a twin mattress in an empty house, a creature was crawling and scratching somewhere in the walls, the attic, on the roof, I don’t know. We still haven’t caught or identified him. He comes back every once in a while to taunt me, to remind me that he’s out there, free.

Every single day, I’m stalking some small bug or insect through my house with a magazine, a fly swatter, or a Dirt Devil (which works really well with weak bugs, but the sturdier ones live through it, so if you use that method, be prepared for them to leap out at you when you empty the filter). While I’m killing said bugs, I suddenly become Samuel L. Jackson in ... any Samuel L. Jackson film. “Motherfucker, don’t run from me. I will take you out one way or another.” Let me be blunt: this isn’t me being cute. I’m in a full-blown bug-induced rage and I want that fucker flattened against a window or ripped apart in a vacuum’s vortex.

My general feeling about these tiny murders is that anything that wanders into my house that is both (a) smaller than my foot, and (b) not purchased by me from a pet shop, needs to go. I’ll kill anything. Sometimes I let a spider slip by just because it will take out a few more flies or gnats before meeting its own end.

Recently I was on the phone with my editor when I saw something new. At first I thought it was a tiny bumble bee, and I started to feel my blood pressure rise.

“It’s a ladybug,” I said, a little disappointed. “Can I kill it?”

“No,” my editor said. “It’s bad luck.”

“Fine, I’ll let it live,” I said, disappointed.

I spared that one, but I hear they come in with a vengeance in fall. I doubt the rest will be so lucky.

Now I’ve got a grasshopper problem. They come into my office. They're loud. They make a clicking noise that can keep you up at night. Since they’re creatures that have been successfully anthropomorphized—and since they’re too big to kill tidily—my first reaction was to try to shoo them outside. The first one didn’t go peacefully or easily and I had to use the Devil on it and I felt kind of yucky inside. But I’m over it. The other day, when another grasshopper invaded my office, I killed it and didn’t feel a thing. Sorry, Jiminy. You were always too square for me anyway.  

Nature is loud

When I first arrived, I was talking to a neighbor about bird feeders and stuff, and at one point she said to me, “Who doesn’t like birds?” I nodded my head politely, realizing that I really, really don’t like birds. Later, when I was talking to my uncle, he mentioned that I should get a bird feeder. “Why would I get a bird feeder?” I snapped. “I’m not a goddamn ornithologist!”

I don’t understand why everybody in the country wants to lure birds to their property so they’ll build disgusting nests all over the place and make a racket at the break of dawn. Birds are worse than lousy neighbors because you can’t knock on their door and ask them politely to be quiet, and then threaten them if that doesn’t work, and finally call the cops. One bird was single-handedly responsible for the longest stretch of sleep deprivation in my life, which lasted from early May to mid-July. It’s gone now, having flown south or died of natural causes. I had nothing to do with it, okay?

Not all birds are bad. I have an intellectual respect for the turkey vulture, for example. Given all the road kill in these parts, we’d be in trouble without them. I had to adjust to road kill quickly. The only thing I can’t quite wrap my head around is the turtle road kill. I always feel like maybe the turtle had just seen enough.

I need to find a really awesome handyman

Sometimes animals die on the road and sometimes they die in a creek in your backyard. If you’re me, when that happens, you call Dave, my one-time co-author, and tell him about it, because not much exciting happens in these parts. When it does you really have to tell someone and also you want to know how the hell you’re going to get a rotting deer out of your creek.

Dave acted like it was no big deal. He told me that the county had to have some kind of dead-animal removal service and I should just call the public health department. I will admit that I was calmed by our chat. I promptly went online and got the number and made the call.

“Carcass removal services, please.”

I was transferred, which seemed like a good sign.

A man answered, and I explained my predicament. He listened sympathetically and didn’t interrupt.

“Unless it’s on the road and a traffic hazard, I’m afraid we can’t help you.”

"I see,” I said.

“Because a dead animal isn’t a health hazard.”

“Uh-huh.”

“It’s nature, you see.”

“Do you know of any businesses that specialize in dead animal removal?”

“No, I’m not familiar with any. You could call a handyman.”

I don’t know any handymen I could ask to don a full rubber suit with goggles to wade into my creek and pull out a decaying deer covered in flies.

“If you were me,” I asked, “what would you do?”

“I would let nature take its course.”

“About how long will it take nature to take its course?” I asked.

“Two weeks, give or take,” he said.

“It’s going to smell a lot, isn’t it?”

“Yes. You’re going to want to stay out of the vicinity.”

Unfortunately the vicinity included my house.

“Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.”

When in Rome, or whatever. I decided to let the circle of life do its thing and braced myself for the odors of decay that would mar the next few weeks.

The next morning, I woke up and looked out my window and the deer was gone. Like-it-had-never-been-there gone. A few turkey vultures lingered like forlorn guests at a spent buffet, but there was nothing left.

Being a city girl, I figured some hunters must have come at night and stolen the deer for its antlers. Later, my neighbor told me it was coyotes. And for the first time in five long months I thought, nature, you don’t suck.

Lisa's Big Move

As you may know, Lisa recently moved to a remote location. I’m not at liberty to disclose her exact whereabouts, but I can confirm that the transition to rural living has been difficult, and categorically deny the witness-protection rumor. I can also pass along what little communication I’ve received from her. Suffice it to say that her bucolic new lifestyle has come with some technological limitations.

On April 22 I received the following fax, written in dirt or blood:

“Day 9. Could you look up what color those berries were in Into the Wild? Green, right?”

Several days later a remarkably hardy carrier pigeon arrived on my windowsill, bearing a more encouraging message:

“The raccoons have named me their queen. Ugh, more responsibilities.”

I'm glad to report that Lisa has apparently since found her way to civilization. Yesterday I received a brief telegram:

“SURVIVING ON SALTINES AND RAINWATER STOP CANT BELIEVE TELEGRAMS STILL EXIST STOP THOUGHT THEY WERE JUST OPPTY FOR CHEAP JOKES STOP”

At this rate, Lisa should be able to establish a telephone connection sometime this fall and dial-up Internet by early 2013. All of which is to say you might not hear much from her for a while. And since she can’t really promote her Spellman books by smoke signal,* let me take this opportunity to recommend the newly released paperback of our book, Heads You Lose, instead.

David Hayward

* Mysteriously, she’s still able to tweet.

Heads You Lose paperback released today!

Heads You Lose, Lisa's national bestselling crime novel with David Hayward, is now available in paperback at your local independent bookstore and everywhere else books are sold. Learn why Publishers Weekly called it "pure comic genius."

Another e-book deal!

The eBook of The Spellman Files just is 99 cents. Get it while you can (deal ends April 6th).

Find it at one of these online stores, or wherever eBooks are sold:

Respect Your Bookstore

With my tour approaching fast, I wanted to address a trend I’ve noticed in recent years. Not too long ago, I showed up for a book signing at one of my favorite stores. The booksellers informed me that a group of women had arrived with copies of my book that they’d bought elsewhere and wanted me to sign. It was clear that they had no intention of making any purchases at the store that was hosting the event. While I can’t say for sure, I think it’s safe to assume that the books were likely purchased at a steep discount from another bookseller (maybe a certain online bookseller).

I absolutely understand that the economy is tight and spending money on a hardcover book is a luxury. And believe me, I appreciate every purchase of my books. But I would like to ask anyone coming to a reading to consider the host of the event. This year’s tour will be taking place almost entirely at independent bookstores. The fact that they’re some of the best-run shops in the country doesn’t change the fact that most of them are just scraping by.

If your budget won’t allow, I totally understand. Many people at readings have checked the book out of the library, have come just for the talk, or simply want a chance to shake hands with the screenwriting genius behind Plan B. But when you bring in a book bought from the competition, it may not sit well with the store that has gone to the trouble and expense of hosting the reading and signing. If you can’t purchase my book, perhaps there’s another novel you’ve had your eye on. Or even a book of poetry, if that’s your thing. I don’t judge (heh).

In any case, please don’t cart in a stack of books bought elsewhere. The hope of the bookseller is that the signing will pay for itself. If it doesn’t, they have less incentive to host authors, especially new ones. More importantly, it hurts their bottom line. I think it’s worth pointing out that the bookstore where the awkward situation happened has since gone out of business.

That said, I’ll sign anything: casts, food items, relatives, imaginary pets, maybe even a legal document, if you catch me in the right mood. So if you have to buy the book elsewhere and you need me to sign it, maybe you can chase me down in the parking lot. I always have a pen on me.

Much delayed blog post . . .

Hello. It's been more than a month since my last post, which means I'm either A) really lazy, B) really busy, C) extremely forgetful or D) all of the above. (The correct answer: D.)

Recently I had to write something about book clubs for my publisher and I had the genius idea to recycle it here until I could come up with something more substantive. But, first, please allow me to offer a few excuses for my blog neglect. In fact, one of these days I should do a whole post on excuses, because I really like them.

Excuse #1: I've been living out of a suitcase for a month on a speedy house-hunt. Excuse #2: I'm trying to finish a book by a March 1st deadline. Excuse #3: Did I mention I'm writing a whole book? Excuse #4: I think I need reading glasses and it's slowing me down.

Back to book clubs. If you've perused my site, you might notice that, schedule permitting, I'm happy to phone into book clubs and answer whatever questions you might have (details here)—or just to eavesdrop on some trash talk. But I should confess that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of a book club.

If I were, I would probably be that person who never read the book and showed up just for the food and drink. If you're like me, might I recommend the book How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard. That will give you some smart ways to navigate the book club experience.

Until you have a chance to read that book, I've assembled some handy phrases to get the unprepared member of a book club through her next meeting:

"I wasn't feeling the ending."
"What's-her-name kind of annoyed me."
"It was a masterpiece, I thought."
"Pass the chips."
"The dip is amazing."
"I agree with what Suzie1 said."
"[insert name of book] will stay with me a long time. "
"Word."
"The first rule of book club is that there is no book club."

Remember, there's nothing worse than a book club meeting without drinks. Here's my recipe for Magic Punch:

1 part vodka
1 part soda water
1 part limeade
1 package Lifesavers (red/green are excellent for the holidays)

 

Footnote:

1. Make sure someone named Suzie is in book club.

2012 Book Reading / Signing Events

Lisa will be touring this Spring to support her newest Spellman book, Trail of the Spellmans (Document #5). She'll be on both coasts, and places in the middle of the US too. Check out the Appearances page for details. And check back regularly for additional events.

Hello and Happy Holidays

Welcome to my new website. I've been swamped with a deadline and other nonsense, but I wanted to set a precedent for regular blogs posts. So, against my better judgment, I asked my previous co-author, David Hayward to write the opening blog. It would seem that Dave is still bitter about our previous collaboration and maybe the fact that I managed to finish a whole book in the interim (and hard at work on my next) while he's still toiling away on The Mellman Files.

I hope to maintain consistency with this new blog and may at times invite guest bloggers to do so. But, rest assured, this is the last passive-aggressive nonsense we'll see from Dave.

Yours truly,
Lisa Lutz

Lisa's busy disciplining her staff of servants, so she paid me to write the first blog post on this site, which I guess is supposed to promote her side project The Spilton Files, a series of comedic mystery novels about a family of private investigators. I hear the books are all set in Hawaii. Real original, Lisa. Hello, Magnum P.I.?

If you're the kind of person who likes to spend time on book websites, and you apparently are, I have one question for you: Why this one? Why not a site about a book whose authors cared enough to post their own content, rather than farm it out to other writers? The Heads You Lose website is one such example, chosen at random. It also features lively debate and even a disturbing morning-TV video. Also, the book itself actually has a mystery in it, which I'm told is a real plus for some mystery fans.

Unfortunately, the paperback of Heads You Lose won't be out until April 2012. To kill time before then, I guess you could do worse than to check out the Spingmans and their zany exploits. Aloha means hilarity!

David Hayward

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