Roomies with Beck

Me (far left) Bibbe Hansen, Helle Max Andersen, Channing Hansen at Troy Cafe

Me (far left), Bibbe Hansen, Helle Max Andersen, Channing Hansen at Troy Cafe

I guess some hardcore Beck fans stumbled across some posts I wrote about having him as a roommate and got confused about my mention of a good friend of ours at the house on Francis Street — Jack Wu II. For some reason they assumed it was Jack White.
It wasn’t.
I’m not going to log into their site to correct the assumption, but will clear it up here. Jack Wu II was a fantastic person I wish I was still in touch with. I miss everyone I lived with or met through 2777 Francis Street. It was a magical time in my life.

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Xiana Fairchild to be featured on FBI: Criminal Pursuit

One of the reasons I wrote my first novel, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD, was because of these two little girls in the article below and the monster who preyed upon them. The faces of these two, and other little kidnapped girls, were a large part of my inspiration, along with all the other missing girl cases I covered over the years. Click Here to read more on why I wrote this book.

Kidnapping Survivor Midsi Sanchez Focus of New Cable Show Airing Monday

Posted:   04/12/2013 01:03:37 AM PDT


After learning that her kidnapper Curtis Dean Anderson had been convicted, Midsi Sanchez is all smiles as she leaves Highland Elementary School with Stephanie Kahalekulu, the aunt of slain Xiana Fairchild, in this 2001 file photo. Midsi’s mother and father and the rest of her family rode in another car. (Times-Herald file photo)

“It’s a story of hope, of inspiration, of beating the odds,” said Vallejo Police Lt. Lee Horton about an upcoming episode of FBI: Criminal Pursuit that airs Monday on the Investigation Discovery network.The episode called “Bound for Murder,” recounts the ordeals of Vallejo children Xiana Fairfield, 7, and Midsi Sanchez, 8, who were snatched by the same man here within eight months of each other in 1999-2000.

Xiana didn’t survive her encounter with Curtis Dean Anderson, but Sanchez escaped her abductor and helped law enforcement catch him before he stole another life.

“She got away from a monster and lived to tell about it,” said Horton, who was involved in both girls’ cases.

Eventually convicted of crimes against both girls and sentenced to more than 300 years in prison, the former Vallejo cab driver died in custody in 2007 at age 46.

Set to air at 10 p.m. ET on Monday, the show features interviews with Sanchez, Horton and other law enforcement officials, victims’ family members and others who were there, about a time when many in Vallejo were gripped by fear.

“When two young girls go missing from a small California town, the FBI and local police go on high alert searching for a serial predator before he strikes again,” according to promotional material from program producers. “It will take the courage of one tiny hero to put an end to an evil killer who knows no limits.”

It’s partly because the show’s focus was on her escape and not her time in captivity that Sanchez said she agreed to the interview.

“I get offers to do these shows ever once in a while,” she said Thursday. “I don’t really like to tell all the details of what happened to me, I like to focus on the escape and things that might benefit others, and this was one of those.”

Now the mother of a 3-year-old daughter and working three jobs as well as volunteering with families of missing children, Sanchez said participating in the show was a positive experience.

“I felt good after doing the interview. I felt I got a lot off my chest,” she said.

Xiana’s aunt Stephanie Kahalekulu, on the other hand, said this was the most difficult interview she ever recalls giving.

“It was about a week from the anniversary (of Xiana’s abduction) and they weren’t surface questions,” Kahalekulu said. “They discussed the dog that found her and my going to the coroner to see her remains. It was really draining.”

The difficulty would not prevent Kahalekulu from doing another such show, if it has the potential to help someone, she said.

“It’s good that they show all the hard work law enforcement puts in, and if it sheds light on predators and helps people keep a tighter grip on their children, I’d do it again,” she said.

Saying Vallejo police cooperated with the show’s producers because Sanchez was behind it and it seemed to take a “straightforward, not glamorized” approach, Horton said. “The show tells Midsi’s story, and it shows the FBI and how these investigations develop.”

Cases like Xiana’s and Midsi’s never fade from memory for those involved with them, he said.

Horton said he recalls realizing that Midsi’s disappearance on her way home from school so soon after Xiana’s on her way to school, likely meant there was a child predator on the loose in town.

“Those kinds of criminals have ‘types,’ and the descriptions of both girls were so similar,” he said. “We were working very hard on the Xiana case when Midsi went missing and we were angry that this could happen again.”

FBI: Criminal Pursuit “profiles the modern Federal Bureau of Investigation and explores the determination required to solve some of the most mystifying cases of the 21st Century,” the show’s website notes.

“I just hope that everyone that watches this story takes something home with them and if it changes one person’s life, that makes all the difference,” Sanchez said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at Rachelvth.

Here is the original link to the article:

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Writer Interviews: Alan Cupp

Alan Cupp HSMM front cover


Chicago PI Carter Mays is thrust into a perilous masquerade when local rich girl Cindy Bedford hires him. Turns out her fiancé failed to show up on their wedding day, the same day millions of dollars are stolen from her father’s company. While Carter takes the case, Cindy’s father tries to find him his own way. With nasty secrets, hidden finances, and a trail of revenge, it’s soon apparent no one is who they say they are.

Carter searches for the truth, but the situation grows more volatile as panic collides with vulnerability. Broken relationships and blurred loyalties turn deadly, fueled by past offenses and present vendettas in a quest to reveal the truth behind the masks before no one, including Carter, gets out alive.

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?
I’ll be honest, I don’t have a set schedule. I tend to write in spurts.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?
I walk away. Sometimes it’s easier for me to gain some direction if I’m not sitting staring at the monitor that’s waiting for me to type something.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?
There’s so much out there, with books, articles, and discussion boards. I don’t believe there’s one set formula. Whether it’s fiction, songwriting, acting, or even a baseball swing, people have proven to be successful with a variety of approaches.

4. Who do you read for fun?
John Grisham.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.
I first sat down to write a story about eighteen years ago. I’ve always had a creative mind, but up until that point, I never tried to write a book. I was working second shift and by the time I got home, my family was already in bed and I would sit down at the computer and write.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Be patient and don’t take rejection personally. It takes time.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?
Well, first you have to creativity. After that, everything else is a learning process.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?
That’s tough. I like a lot of foods. But I’ll try to narrow it down to a few of my top picks which include pizza, cheesecake, homemade bread, and chocolate. Great, now I’m hungry.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?
Again, it’s hard for me to narrow it down. For my favorite book, I’d say, THE TESTAMENT, by John Grisham. As far as movies, PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES, MISERY, and THE BOOK OF ELI rank up there as favorites.

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

Thank you, Kristi for having me on your blog. I appreciate the opportunity to hang out with you and your readers.

You can buy Alan’s book here and here and other locations and formats that can be found here.

Alan Cupp loves to create and entertain, whether it’s with a captivating mystery novel or a funny promotional video for his church, he’s always anticipating his next creative endeavor. In addition to writing fiction, Alan enjoys acting, music, travel, and playing sports. His life’s motto is, “It’s better to wear out than rust out.” Alan places a high value on time spent with his beautiful wife and their two sons. He lives his life according to his 4F philosophy: Faith, Family, Friends, and Fun.

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Guest Post: Owen Laukkanen


Editor’s Note: 
MINNESOTA PEEPS: Owen Laukkanen will be in town talking about his book, CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE, which is set in the Twin Cities, at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 28th, at Once Upon A Crime Bookstore,604 W 26th St  Minneapolis, MN 55405
(612) 870-378551YaeW+eDzL._SY300_



Kristi and I were emailing a few months back and she mentioned that while writing her (fantastic) first Gabriella Giovanni mystery, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD, she studied the structures of other successful crime novels. She asked if I paid attention to that kind of thing in my writing, and whether I structured the novels in my Stevens and Windermere series according to some kind of overarching framework.

My first response was that no, I don’t—I kind of riff away at a story until the bad guys are caught and the good guys go home to their families. But the more I thought about the question, the more I realized that I do hew to a certain framework, even if by this point it’s largely subconscious.

If you’ve ever studied screenwriting (especially Robert McKee), you’ve heard of three-act structure. Me, I learned it from Syd Field. He’s the guy who writes those screenwriting workbooks that promise to lay out a step-by-step template that’ll have you writing blockbusters in no time. The template? Your basic three-act structure.

Basically, the idea is that just about every commercially successful movie in Hollywood can be broken down into three acts, and that for a typical 120 minute movie, you can sit back with a stopwatch and pretty much predict when certain things are going to happen.

In the first few minutes, for instance, our heroes will experience their inciting incident. This is the moment or action that thrusts them into the story. At about the thirty-minute mark, we’ll see our first plot point, which ends the first act and will take the story and twist it in an entirely new direction.

For instance, my debut thriller, THE PROFESSIONALS, features four recent college graduates who can’t find jobs and so turn to kidnapping rich businessmen to survive. The novel opens with my kidnappers pulling a score in Chicago. We read about the kidnapping and the aftermath, and we’re in the criminals’ heads and off to the races. The first act introduces us to the kidnappers, sets up their motivations and the obstacles in their path. But by the time the novel’s about a quarter finished, things will change drastically.

And they do change. A kidnapping goes wrong. Suddenly, my protagonists’ big dreams are facing a hell of a lot more obstacles. Suddenly, my kidnapping college grads are in a race for their survival. The moment where the kidnapping goes wrong is the first plot point, and the ensuing struggle for survival forms the second act of the novel.

The second act, according to McKee and Field, should take up roughly half the story, from the quarter mark to the three-quarter mark, or from thirty minutes into the two-hour flick to ninety minutes in.

In the middle is a midpoint, which tends to throw the protagonist(s) for another loop, but not in so profound a way as the first plot point did. Think that scene in Heat where De Niro and Pacino have a cup of coffee together. It’s a hell of a good scene. It’s the centerpiece of the movie. When it ends, though, De Niro walks away still convinced he’s going to pull one last score before he leaves town, and Pacino walks away convinced he’s going to stop De Niro.

Goose dying midway through Top Gun is another one. The first plot point brought Maverick and Goose to the Top Gun Academy. The second plot point, which begins the third act, will send Maverick back onto an aircraft carrier alone, facing the biggest challenges of his flying career and, really, his life.

If we’re looking at Heat, the second act ends with the bank robbery going south. Now De Niro and his gang are either dead or on the run, and Pacino’s closing in behind them.

As I thought about it, I realized I could pick out a midpoint in The Professionals pretty easily. Ditto a second plot point, though I’m not going to fill you in here for fear of spoiling the whole novel. In any case, the second plot point appears roughly three-quarters through the book, and sets up the climactic third act and the fight to the finish.

In the third act, your protagonists’ odds have never been longer. The fight has never been tougher. The climb has never been steeper. All of that. This is the dogfight at the end of Top Gun, the race to the final confrontation between De Niro and Pacino in Heat. It’s, hell, whatever happens in the last thirty minutes of Twilight.

And in The Professionals, that third act sees my kidnapper protagonists facing the kinds of problems they’d set out explicitly to avoid. Their lives are at stake, their friendships, and it’s anybody’s guess who lives and who dies.

So yeah, I guess I do follow a structure for my work. I don’t write explicitly to a three-act structure, but as I look at the plot of CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE, the second book in my Stevens and Windermere series (out now from Putnam!), I can see the same three acts unfolding. An accountant, Carter Tomlin, loses his job (inciting incident). Desperate for money, he decides to rob a bank, then another. Ultimately, he decides he needs a gun, and it’s in the course of obtaining this gun that the first plot point emerges. From there, Tomlin’s set loose on the Twin Cities, and as the story moves along past the midpoint and the second plot point, the stakes keep getting higher, building to that inevitable, explosive climax.

I’m not sure why I write like this. Maybe I’ve watched too many movies, or maybe I internalized that Syd Field’s teachings way more than I should have. Either way, the three-act structure has served me pretty well, and you might consider giving it a try as you tell your own stories. No need to be fanatical about it (we’re not screenwriters here), but it can’t hurt to keep the basic fundamentals in mind. I mean, those Hollywood flicks aren’t blockbusters for nothing, right?


You can find Owen Laukkanen’s latest book, CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE here, and in your local bookstore.

In addition, his debut novel, THE PROFESSIONALS can be found here and in your local bookstore.



Owen Laukkanen’s 2012 debut, THE PROFESSIONALS earned rave reviews from critics and readers alike. The story of four recent university graduates who turn to kidnapping in a failing job market, The Professionals was hailed as, “a brutally beautiful piece of work” by New York Timesbestseller John Sandford, “a high-octane adrenaline and gunpowder-fueled rocket ride” by bestseller C.J. Box, and, “a first-class thriller by a terrific new voice” by John Lescroart.Mystery Scene Magazine called it one of the year’s best debuts, while Kirkus Reviews named it one of the top 100 novels of the year.

Now, Laukkanen is back with CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE, which reunites FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere and Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens in another explosive blockbuster. Kirkus Reviews raves, “Fans of crime thrillers shouldn’t miss this or anything else with Laukkanen’s name on the cover. The writing is so crisp, the pages almost turn themselves,” while Booklist writes, “Laukkanen has clearly avoided the sophomore slump.”

A graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing program, Laukkanen spent three years in the world of professional poker reporting before turning to fiction. He currently lives in Vancouver, where he’s hard at work on the third and fourth installments in the Stevens and Windermere series.


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Writer Interviews: Joyce Yarrow

Joyce Yarrownew


Today I am featuring an interview with Joyce Yarrow.

Here is what the publisher says about the book:
CODE OF THIEVES should appeal to fans of Sue Grafton. It features a quirky female P.I., a poet in her spare time, who goes on a personal quest to clear her Russian-born stepfather of murder and to find out who is sending him threatening notes in Russian nesting dolls (matryoshkas). The Seattle Post Intelligencer has called Ms. Yarrow a new “Mickey Spillane.”

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

My routine varies, depending on how much research a book requires and how much time my subconscious needs to absorb new ideas and settings. Once I feel grounded, I write every day for at least 3 hours. I end each session by starting a new scene with a strong lead-in paragraph that sets me up for the next day’s work.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

I don’t believe in writer’s block. However, if I feel burned out, I go to a noisy coffee house and let the white noise energize and drive me inwards.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

My favorite book on the writer’s craft is The Writer’s Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century’s Preeminent Writers, edited by George Plimpton. I find it fascinating how all these authors have such radically different writerly ways.
I also recommend Lajos Egri’s, The Art of Dramatic Writing and The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long.

4. Who do you read for fun?

Since my WIP is set in India, for the past two years I have had tremendous fun reading the classic Indian epics, as well as books and essays by modern Indian authors—Arundhati Roy, Aravind Adiga, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, and my good friends Saborna Roychowdhury, Arindam Roy, Santosh Bakaya and Bhaswati Ghosh.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

I grew up in the SE Bronx, in a violent neighborhood terrorized by gangs. The library was my refuge and in my teens, writing poetry and stories came to serve me in the same way. To portray the other, one must stand above the fray have a certain compassion and distance.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Don’t settle for being an aspiring writer! Everything you need is already inside you. Give way to your passion for expressing ideas and deep feelings in words and don’t look back. Conquer your fear of new beginnings. Also beware of pragmatists.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

Visualization. If you have a clear picture in your own mind you can draw one with words that will entrance your reader.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

Ethiopian/French food and the occasional G & T.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

No, since I am fickle and this changes over time. At this moment, the film Brother Sun Sister Moon directed by Franco Zeffirelli comes to mind. Beloved books include, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, anything by Ruth Rendell or George Simenon, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, and most recently An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anaradha Roy.

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

Hmmmm. I believe the question of why we write informs our decisions about how we go about it. Our storytelling may be driven by a desire to explore what it means to be human, to uncover hidden motivations in dark recesses of the psyche or reveal transcendent nobility in light-filled rooms. Each time I begin a new sentence there is someone in the world doing the same. I belong to a continuum of seekers and it makes me both humble and proud.


You can find Joyce’s book here:


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