In Honor of National Library Week: Keith Richards, Rock-n-Roll Librarian

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, kelseytracy

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, kelseytracy

When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.
— Keith Richards

Did you know that Keith Richards, known for a wild life of debauchery, is also a bookworm? In fact, he has such extensive libraries in his Sussex and Connecticut homes, he once considered "professional training" so he could better manage his vast collection of books. Yes, dear reader, rock-n-roll legend Keith Richards thought about becoming a librarian.

Keith Was Painstakingly Arranging Copies of Rare Books...

About the history of early American rock and the Second World War. He was using the standard Dewey Decimal classification system (fortified perhaps by a glass of vino or a little ganja -- although he no longer does "the hard stuff" Keith is quoted as saying he's still fond of wine and weed). Overwhelmed with his massive book classification project, he seriously considered becoming a librarian.

Ah, can you imagine being shushed by Keith Richards? 

Several years ago, Keith admitted he probably owes 50 years of fines...

The Saga of Keith and the Overdue Library Books

Keith Richards Owes '50 Years' of Library Fines (Huffington Post)

Library offers to waive Keith Richards' £3000 fine if he drops in for visit (Mirror)

Keith Richards pardoned by library for books overdue for more than 50 years (examiner.com) 

Rock on.  Read on.

Real-World Nick and Nora's: Husband-and-Wife Private Detectives

Nick, Nora and Asta

Nick, Nora and Asta

As most of you probably know, my husband and I ran a private detective agency in Denver, Colorado, for a decade. Today, Digital Book Today is posting one of my articles "Current-Day Nick and Nora's: Married Private Eye Teams" where I talk about how my husband and I meshed our very different work styles, chat about other married private eye teams we've gotten to know over the years, Hollywood casting directors calling about reality private-eye shows and more.

I'll post an excerpt below, with a link to the full article at the end.  Kick back, sip a virtual martini a la Nick or Nora and read on...

Current-Day Nick and Nora’s: Married Private-Eye Teams

March 11, 2014

By Anthony Wessel

Our guest blogger is Colleen Collins author of several books including The Ungrateful Dead: Prequel to The Zen Man and The Zen Man.

Married Private-Eye Teams

What is it like being a married private-eye team? In the ten years experience my husband and I owned a private detective agency, we found it to be, for the most part, fun. We had our tense moments, but we enjoy each other’s company and love to make each other laugh, so when we look back on our P.I. days together, we have many fond memories.

A local magazine took this photo for a cover story about us and our private detective agency.

A local magazine took this photo for a cover story about us and our private detective agency.

These days, my husband is focused on his law practice, and I on my writing (but I still take a P.I. case from time to time), and although we enjoy our current careers, we sometimes miss those days when we’d be trying to nail a process service, rolling on surveillance or digging through trash.  Ah, the romance of it all.

Our Strengths and Weaknesses as a P.I. Team

Over ten years, we grew to understand each other’s work styles.  He’s a big-picture person, I see the details.  Those strengths can work fantastically together — and those personalities can also drive each other more than a little crazy.

Here’s one example of how our different traits meshed well.  Whenever we had a surveillance, I knew I could count on my husband calmly tackling any major issue, from losing a subject in traffic to a flat tire.  And I knew he counted on my organization and planning — for example, before we headed out to surveil someone, I’d have prepared information about the subject for us to review, from photographs of the subject/s to their possible hangouts to detailed physical descriptions, jewelry, traits, etc.

As to how our different working styles could grate on each other…well, it’s like putting together a person who sees the forest with a person who sees the trees and asking them what’s the best way through that landscape.  They’re going to have very different opinions!

Other Articles

We talk about being a P.I. team at our sister site, Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, in a recent blog “He Said, She Said: Pros and Cons of Being Married to Your PI Partner” — click here to read it.

A local magazine ran a story about us two years ago — in fact, they made us the cover story. It was a kick hanging out with the reporter, although when she didn’t get some of our sixties and seventies references, we realized we’re, well, growing older. To read “For These Married Detectives, Truth is More Fun Than Fiction” (the reporter picked that title, and she’s right…it is more fun), click here.

Other Married P.I. Teams

To read the full article, click here.

In Honor of World Book Day: Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable...

Humphrey Bogart reading.jpg

Bogie and Books

Did you know Humphrey Bogart loved to read? I just read the other day that although he had been a poor student in school, he had a lifelong love of reading, and could quote Plato, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Shakespeare.

Humphrey Bogart and John Huston

Humphrey Bogart and John Huston

Some of his best friends were screenwriters, such as Nunnally Johnson and John Huston. I've always admired Huston for his directing, even his acting, but did you know he also wrote over 20 screenplays, including the adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon? To the right is a photo of Huston at the typewriter with his good pal Bogie.

By the way, here's a wonderful write-up about John Huston and his writing and directing of the The Maltese Falcon (via Word&Film): John Huston and the Making of the Maltese Falcon.

Vintage Photos of Hollywood Stars Reading

I don't know what other Hollywood stars of yesteryear loved reading the way Bogie did, but there's a lot of old photos of them doing so...enjoy...

Bette Davis

Bette Davis

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo

Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow


Clark Gable

Clark Gable


Crime Scene Investigations: Diagrams and Articles for Writers and Researchers

crime scene tape.jpg

While working on my current romantic-suspense novel proposal, I went trolling on the Internet to find some examples of arson investigations (the story involves a federal arson investigator), when I stumbled across a site called SmartDraw, a software product that helps people capture their thoughts/information as pictures. It contains numerous examples of mind maps, report templates and flow charts for different kinds of crime scenes -- handy for writers needing to understand the different types of investigations and their processes.  

Examples of Crime Scene Charts

Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 12.15.29 PM.png

Below are some examples from SmartDraw of crime scene charts and diagrams. 

You can also download a diagram for free, then use that image as a brainstorming tool for such things as a character's motivation or story crime scene. For researchers and investigators, these images provide a basic starting point for customization.

Order of Crime Scene Investigation Example

Crime Scene Investigation Models of Motive Example

Establishing the Role of First Responders - Preserve the Fire Scene

Mind Map of Threats of Evidence at a Fire Scene

Crime Scene - Drug Possession in Automobile Example

Examples of Crime Scene Reports

Below are some report examples from SmartDraw.

Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 12.24.20 PM.png

Crime Scene Investigation Report

Autopsy Report for Crime Scene Investigation Example

Gunshot Forensic Pathology Report for Crime Scene Investigation Example

Autopsy Report for Crime Scene Investigation Example

Other Crime Scene Resources

The Crime Zone: Software to create crime scene diagrams. You can use the product free ten times with no restrictions.  

Crime Scene Diagrams/Presentation: A PowerPoint presentation via TeachWeb.com.

Crime Scene Sketch Activity: This document was a homework assignment for teams creating crime sketches. Information includes types of sketches, scaling, equipment, labeling and more.

How to Write a Crime Scene Forensics Report: eHow article on the basics of writing a crime scene report.

forensic-classroom.com: Crime scene forms, classroom activities and forensic/evidence publications.

Tropes: To Use or Not to Use in Storytelling?

I used to think a trope was a bad thing, assigning it the taint of a cliche. Well, a trope can become a cliche if overused and bludgeoned senseless, but I wasn't bothering to think beyond that.

Took me a while to realize...

Tropes Are Not Bad

The key for genre writers is to balance well-known tropes with innovation

The key for genre writers is to balance well-known tropes with innovation

I have a writer friend who says that one reason she started hitting the New York Times best seller lists was she began applying tropes in her stories. I'm reading one of her books now, and I see exactly what she's talking about. The story is based on a "rescue romance" trope where Person A rescues Person B, causing Person B to fall in love with Person A. Think the knight in shining armor who saves the damsel in distress who the knight later weds. Except this writer did a fun, entertaining twist on this trope -- it's the woman in short-shorts who saves the guy in distress, and readers couldn't buy this book fast enough.

Tropes are not only a good thing, some believe their outright omission can negatively affect readers. In the article "Genre Tropes and the Transmissibility of Story," the authors state "When familiar tropes are missing or unfamiliar tropes present, this can lead readers to reject a story outright."

The Power of Tropes

Here's a quote from TV Tropes on "Tropes as Tools":

Stories such as The Christmas Carol, where a human is visited by the past in the form of a ghost, use the happily ever before trope.

Stories such as The Christmas Carol, where a human is visited by the past in the form of a ghost, use the happily ever before trope.

Tropes are just tools. Writers understand tropes and use them to control audience expectations either by using them straight or by subverting them, to convey things to the audience quickly without saying them.

Human beings are natural pattern seekers and story tellers. We use stories to convey truths, examine ideas, speculate on the future and discuss consequences. To do this, we must have a basis for our discussion, a new language to show us what we are looking at today. So our storytellers use tropes to let us know what things about reality we should put aside and what parts of fiction we should take up...it's impossible to write something completely and utterly without tropes, anyway, so strop trying.

When Good Tropes Go Bad

On the other hand, using tropes doesn't mean go nuts with them. A trope can help a story, but it shouldn't be the story. Like my writer friend, she didn't pluck a tried-and-true trope off the shelf and make it her story; no, she took a tried-and-true trope and gave it an entertaining spin. 

Also, a trope isn't a "fix" for a story. If the writing's skillful, the characters complex and the plot is well-paced and interesting, a story can be thin on the trope side. Conversely, if a story is in bad shape, imposing a trope on it doesn't magically heal the story and make it better.

Time for me to get back to writing my new book proposal. In it, I've started with the popular trope opposite attract, which is basically a story where two very different people learn about the world through each others' eyes. This trope has worked for many stories, from Neil Simon's The Odd Couple to just about every buddy-cop story around. 

Tropes. Don't leave a story without 'em.

February 12: Win a Copy of SLEEPLESS IN LAS VEGAS

As part of the RMS (Romance, Mystery, Suspense) Writers Valentine's Week Giveaways, I'm giving away 3 copies of Sleepless in Las Vegas - To enter to win a copy, go to the RMS Writers Facebook page and LIKE my post.  You'll also be automatically entered to win the grand prize $15 Amazon gift card on February 14.

Go to RMS Writers Facebook Page to enter the book giveaway!

Check out the other book giveaways RMS Writers are giving away below:

RMS logo.jpg

The Daily Giveaways

February 8, 2014
Susan Meier
DARING TO TRUST THE BOSS

February 9, 2014
Karen Rose Smith
STAGED TO DEATH, a Caprice De Luca home staging mystery, Book 1

February 10, 2014
Myrna Mackenzie 
THE RANCHER'S UNEXPECTED FAMILY

February 11, 2014
Margaret Watson
LOVE ME: THE DONOVAN FAMILY

February 12, 2014
Colleen Collins
SLEEPLESS IN LAS VEGAS

February 13, 2014
Holly Jacobs
STEAMED: A MAID IN L.A. MYSTERY (Book 1)