Friday, September 18, 2009

A Gift from the Tooth Fairy

By Deborah Sharp

I thought I'd seen all kinds of reviews. But this one really sets my teeth on edge!

Not really. I am completely charmed by the take that Lois Hirt, registered dental hygienist, had on my first book. I just tossed in a tooth phrase above to curry favor with a woman who writes a column for her fellow hygienists called ''Dental Tidbits to Nibble On.''

Lois mines modern fiction for mentions of teeth (she'll extend to gums, tongues, and lips, too). And then she writes about them. She extracted 33 mentions from my own Mama Does Time , everything from the ''toothy grin'' of a taxidermed alligator head, to a lowlife who ''picked his teeth with a pinky nail.''

I had no idea so many oral issues were implanted in my plot. Clearly, I have a thing about teeth. Maybe I should have been a dental hygienist instead of a mystery writer.

I met Lois, who practices in Beverly Hills, Calif., at the Malice Domestic mystery fan conference in the spring. We exchanged cards and she gave me a sample column: In Earthquake Games, Lois reports, the main character deals with a teething baby; the author of Chocolat inlays several mentions in her Five Quarters of the Orange, including ''smiles like piano keyboards.'' Carol Higgins Clark, in Fleeced, likens a character whose horrible life choices would be immediately evident to ''going to a dentist with bad teeth.''

Lois is strictly old-school. Her hard-copy columns are printed and mailed; she doesn't have a website or blog. But she should. Because Lois has a message behind her method (notice: I didn't say madness) of picking through plot: ''I am always happy when someone mentions a dentist or hygienist or something dental because I hope it will inspire someone to call one’s dental office to set up an appointment,'' she wrote me in an email.

And I completely agree. So, here are a few more dental tidbits from the 33 Lois pulled from the jaws of my first Mace Bauer Mystery:

"I think Martinez was still picking pieces of my own head out of his incisors.'' (pg. 47, Mace's love interest isn't showing her love).
''He flashed a real smile this time. I returned it, hoping chocolate wasn't coating my teeth.'' (pg. 224, a warm moment with a hot fudge sundae at the Dairy Queen.)
"I whirled around and saw acres of teeth in a mile of jaws.'' (pg. 308, Mace encounters an alligator up close).

How about you? Any toothsome passages to quote?
PS: Remember Lois Hirt's motto: If you see someone without a smile ... send them to your favorite hygienist.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

That's hilarious! She really should have a blog.

I can't think of any toothy mentions in my books. But then, I haven't really thought about it.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Kerry said...

You left out the one-toothed man, gnawing on a corncob. Oops. That's in a book to come (perhaps).
Funny the things people spot in books.

Lisa Bork said...

I counted seven tooth-related mentions in FOR BETTER, FOR MURDER. Good for Lois. We should revisit this topic in February, National Children's Dental Health Month.

Alan Orloff said...

I met Lois at Malice also (Hi Lois!) and she has to be one of the most devoted mystery fans I've ever met.

And she was very funny, too(th)!

Keith Raffel said...

From Smasher: "Who knows what the photographer had said to her, but she had her head tossed back and was laughing, mouth open, teeth white. Pure joy." I guess Rowena visited her dentist regularly. Or used whitening strips.

Deborah Sharp said...

Hi, friends and fellow authors. Thanks for all the tooth-related comments. Lois Hirt, RDH, who has company coming tonight and couldn't get past Google's security clearances to comment, asked me to post her response (below) ... Lois, honey ... you rock!
Hi, I loved being the subject of a blog. This has made my year!! It was great. Also loved all the comments. I am always looking for dental and you would be surprised how many authors don't realize the dental in their books. Keep those books coming.

Enjoy, Lois Foster Hirt
... and, as I used to tell my writing patients, BREAK A PENCIL (like actors break a leg) Look for how you can get in touch with me-
PS- My column is up on our LA dental hygienist web site
go to Hygienists in Print- am just about ready to do a Fall column to add to it-
To get in touch with me email me at


jbstanley said...

Lois is a wonderful lady! I put a team of barbecuing dental hygienists in Stiffs and Swine just for her! Thanks for the great post!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I've met Lois here in LA. She's wonderful and I agree that she should definitely have her own blog.