Monday, April 17, 2006

Malicious Fun This Weekend

Around this time every year, some 700 perfectly lovely people gather in Crystal City, Virginia to contemplate murder most familiar. They will celebrate all the usual methods that you’ll see on Law & Order, plus exotic and just plain weird ways to kill another human being. This weekend I’ll be there, taking notes.

I have no current need for homicidal techniques, but I have in the past and will at some not-too-distant time in the future. After all, there is one manuscript that I will get back to rewriting later this year, plus another in first draft. That second one has a particularly smarmy character who desperately wants killing…but that could be said of many elected officials, couldn’t it?

This will be the 18th annual Malice Domestic conference, and you’ll find the big names and soon-to-be names there, plus editors, agents, and hundreds of fans of the traditional mystery. The attendees will vote, and a lucky and talented few will take home the coveted black teapot “Agatha” award for their writing.

So if you’re in Northern Virginia this weekend and overhear earnest conversations about the advantages of strychnine over arsenic, or whether a .22 would fit in an evening bag, look for a blood-red name tag. If it reads “Malice Domestic XVIII”, you will have fallen in with a highly creative group of plotters.
Now, how about a nice cup of tea…with a little something extra?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thank You, Mr. Butts

Word lovers everywhere should lift a toast to Alfred M. Butts. Born this day in 1899, he invented the game that guarantees to spark our brains’ synapses. According to the official Scrabble site, Mr. Butts was an out-of-work architect when he turned his talents to designing a word game. In 2002, NPR featured Scrabble in its Present at the Creation series that follows the game from its birth in the depths of the Depression. It took several years and a vacationing Macy’s executive to catapult Scrabble to the top of the word-game heap, but once there it has held the top of that mountain as one of the most popular games in history.