clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Inspriation and Lightening

At left, Chagall's Promenade.

This is how I feel when the muse of inspiration grabs my paw.  I'm seldom ready for her but I know her signs by now.

I knew a man who had revolutionary ideas. In fact, he was the "left hook" man behind the Gulf War. He was behind energy-maneuverability theory and the OODA loop. What was complicated to the rest of us became astoundingly clear to John Boyd. He was very much like Richard Feynman in that regard.

He spent a great deal of his life trying to understand the muse of inspiration and how she worked. If he worked it all out, he didn't share it with me.

I had a revelation today. It came as the product of hard work this past week but as I quieted my mind preparing for lunch, the thoughts came. They are far better than I'd originally conceived.

My thanks to the muse.

Jeff Somers has something of his recent revelation and its process here. While I cannot compare myself to his mind, I feel much the same. It's worth a read. Oh, if jeff offers you a drink, do decline. You're not up for it. Even a little. The man is a professional.

I hope your muse smiles on you.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dark Tea Time of the Soul

It doesn't apply but I've always loved the phrase. [ picture courtesy Finetooth ,wikicommons]

Where to have the tea? The mine shaft at left.

This is what I feel when I grope through a draft. I'm feeling for anything that can guide my way.

Over the years, I've gotten much better at going down dark holes.

So, into the unknown and uncertain. We're pretty sure that in the dark a passage will open beneath our feet and present real danger. All the other danger is only imagined.

On to the other side. There has to be one, right?

Keep writing. They're gaining on us.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hippos in Tanks

At left, the iconic novel by the beats: Kerouac and Burroughs.

Ultimately, the book is about a murder.

I oddly like killing off characters. I put them in the book and then boom - they're dead.

Now, in my youth I killed characters of little utility. In fact, their principal role was fodder for the grinder. I killed without passion. I killed without concern. I just killed them as a matter of happenstance.

Lately, I've been killing characters of potential depth. We might want to know more of them. Sometimes, they're the most likable character in the story and I put them down like so many extra puppies (thanks, Homer for The Iliad).

I believe that my evolution in the unfortunate demise of otherwise meaningful and perfectly good characters is out of a respect for their absence. I want the reader to feel the shortness of breath knowing the mortality of someone they might have wanted to know. I want the reader to feel.

Right now. I feel the wet muzzle of a foxhound.  I need to pet the dog and write.

I know you're writing. I hope you're remembering to pet the dog. At least, let him out.

Release the hounds, I say.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013



*** Rant ***

Google is now causing problems with my Picasa album.

I refuse to join the Google+ bullshit. I don't want "circles" or Facebook or some bloody status feed.

My favorite form of of communication is the monograph. If I wanted participative communication, I would not shut myself up alone in my library and write.

Bloody Google heathens.

*** end rant***

At left, longhand. I'm finding the ink on paper lubricates my thoughts and gives me somewhere to write those notes that otherwise are paralyzing my efforts this draft. I think of all the little problems in the first draft and need to record those thoughts to quiet the mind. When composing at the keyboard, those thoughts result in rumination which - as any good ruminant knows - leads to inaction which in turn brings in the demons of self-doubt and therein lies the path to the dark side.

Yoda was right: do, or do not. The keyboard for long form seems to result in a great deal of staring and "do not."

Now, I wrote my first three novels - the early works - in longhand. One, I burnt. One I transcribed and hid under the bed. It's still around here doing duty for a broken leg on a chest somewhere. The third I did a professional job upon and for my sins was punished severely. I'll say that the edit job made me a better writer though it took nearly twenty years to recover from the shock.

Anyway, long form is longhand around here. There it is. I use a rolling script because transcribing from the cursive when I write quickly is painful even for me. Thus, the rolling script.

I find the ink across the page soothing. I like its taste on my fingers. I like the act of putting the evening's work into the binder where my sweat stained and wrinkled pages still damp with ink sit next to the crisp new pages awaiting my machinations.  

Odd to say these days but I do like the longhand. I have several fountain pens from over the years. The pair I use now are gifts from my wife. That too makes the act of writing longhand comforting.

It is important to remove the comfort from our characters. We must place them in tumult and force them forward when they would rather recede into myth. It is import that we writers know comfort as we compose. Oh - perhaps not the soft chair or the gentle stains the harp. Rather, we need the comfort in our own abilities and the sense of immersion we enter into as we lie. After all, in fiction we lie.

I know you're lying now. You should be writing. You tell yourself on the clock "I'm writing."

Stop reading this blog post and write something. Write something that makes you comfortable. I hope I hear gunshots from it. That makes me comfortable.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


At left, a pile of white pillows. A big pile.

Comfort. Our characters seldom get to enjoy the world on their terms - at lest mine do not. They are pushed from their place of comfort and compelled onward. Sometimes they're compelled towards something - others away.

I've even used the barrel of a gun to move them along.

Tonight I realized I was trying to have a character deal with tumult while in his place of comfort. I was trying to manage the story while leaving the protagonist on his own terms.

That. will. not. do.

No one gets the world the way they want it in my stories. Things happen - bad things mostly - that keep comfort and control from the hands of anyone for anymore than a breath.

Keep them moving. Put 'em in the skillet and turn it on high.

I've got a priest. I was trying to have him maintain stability while dealing with an unstable situation. Nay nay.

I now have him arriving at the house of a potential lover to find her husband dead in the bathtub. I started the story this way some time ago and abandoned it as too much the "murder mystery." Nothing wrong with that but my story isn't one.

So, back to the dead man in the tub and this time, the priest is not an innocent bystander in the eyes of the local constabulary or in those of the diocese's vicar general.

I hope your chair is hard and uncomfortable and words are many and hard themselves.

Kill one for me.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Evil of the Adverb

If the adverb wore shoes, she'd wear these.

She's desperately attractive. (Like that, don't you?).

She makes it easy. She removes the obstacles to clean prose in the draft and thus causes you to write checks now that later you'll be forced to cash. She obscures precision with the gloss of lipstick smeared across the edge of the glass.

I am not a Nobel prize winner and thus will not swear off adverbs. However, when I have one cross my brain I'll think of them in these heels.

Nothing in heels like this is going to me any good at all. Trust me. I have a weak moral constitution just like all my characters.

Eagle scouts make good characters only if dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft. I might have an adverb walk across the page now. Then, scotch.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


At left, an empty boat courtesy Horia Varlan. Nice snap.

I'm back in civilization. I've been off the grid and out of the country. I had a blast and a lot of time to think about the current WIP. I've got a game plan to get over the humps that were in my way and a scheme to make the story work.

I often have schemes.

I'm behind on my reading and that will take a while to make-up.

I had a bit of adventure on the trip.

Hours into the bush by float plane, I came upon a boat tied to the shore. It look much as the boat at left, only tied to the shore. There were a few personal items within. Few enough that I knew it wasn't a boat crewed by anyone familiar with how wrong things can go in the bush. The little 15 HP engine had two tanks of fuel both with too little for comfort when combined. No answered the repeated calls.

Now, my mind ran to alternatives. I've already written a couple of stories about death in the bush from the hands of a fellow party member and a story about the slaughter of a fishing party by a fellow with nothing much to do with the time on his hands than kill some fishermen.

I knew one of the outposts on the lake had been closed for the season already. I thought the other empty when we flew over on approach.

Murder kept creeping into my mind. Murder-suicide, actually.

On the next day, we learned that the other abandoned looking outpost held a couple of people doing assessment work for the Ministry and it involved 2 kilometer hikes into the bush along GPS nav lines identifying tress and categorizing their size. The folks doing the work were not really backwoodsmen and traveled light. No harm.

It did get the creative juices of mayhem flowing right off the bat. The rest of the outing saw pages of notes on the unfortunate demise of otherwise healthy people not associated with danger. That's not strictly my bent on things; but, the unfortunate demise figured heavily in my thoughts.

Nothing like a vacation thinking of murder.

I hope your break went as well. I hope the body count is high. I know the word count is high.

Kill 'em if you've got 'em.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Adventure Adventure

I'm flying out on something like that below [ photo Ekko ] :

I'll be back in a while. I need a break from civilization and civilization needs a break from me. There's a little of the Nick Adams stories in my blood and I can't get rid of it.

I'm going to see my friends and tell them stories. You might have seen them.

Watch things for me while I'm gone.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Personal Experience

[ I had a picture of a swimmer and a shark from wikicommons ...but now the image isn't there - so I removed it here]
Another shark - without Kimi ...

At left, Bluto Ahhhhhhhhhhhhgs. Bluto is a great white who loves long swims on nearly deserted beaches, World Cup Rugby (Go All Blacks!), and peppermint seal ice cream. Bluto's turn offs are yellow barrels, chum, and guys who think chainmail is "neat."

Bluto is shown with her friend Kimi Werner who sometimes sponges rides to the market.

I've been away a little having personal experiences with sharks. It's a family thing. Mind the teeth.

So, personal experiences are important because we all need some fact to start from when spinning our lies , er, fiction. Oh, the truth might not ever be present in the fiction but somewhere, there is a germ of back story that came from a personal experience somewhere.

That's important. I find myself living my life and filing away personal experiences and encounters for later reference. Sometimes I have to take personal experience and blow it up a little. Sometime I have to take it and shrink it down.

So, I've been with a shark. It's been fun. I've all my arms and legs to show for the experience, still. I might not of deserved that outcome but I have it.

So, how about you: still collecting? Still filing them away? I bet you are.

I know you are writing. I have to go do a little of that now myself. Fins ups!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bad Girls

At left, ferry pilots. These are as close to female fallen angels as I could find.

I have an antagonist whose gender I've assumed to be male from the very beginning. I don't know why.

It's a villain. The motivations are villainous. Why it had to be male in my mind was just a factor of convenience. However, making the fallen angel icon a female ...well.

I don't know if the devil does wear Prada, but I know she shops at Barney's. Pays full price, too. Business is good right now when you're business is being bad.

I'm off to kill a couple more. Bad girls, though. Yea - just the ticket.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


At left, Katharine Hepburn. (removed - couldn't find fair use determination on undated photo. Sorry readers. ) Just the sort to induce a bout of cheating. Looking just like that.

I nearly started cheating today. I have my WIP and I was unduly attracted to a side project for a couple of reasons: short works can be damn sexy little bundles and I am a little afraid of another novel.

Oh, there's good reason to stick with the short form. However, cheating because something else is NOT the long form fiction is a damn poor reason to stray.

I'll put the sexy notes about a murder in a folder and put it in my drawer of stories I think have potential to finish and polish. However, I'm not going to turn to those items until the draft long form is done.

I was tempted today. Almost caved.

I need to get back on the novel horse. However, Katherine here makes me forget all about the range.

I hope you're not cheating. If you are, I hope you'll put it in writing. I've read Butler's Lives of the Saints and one of those is enough.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Insecure Wednesday ...Yeaaaa!

Today is the monthly Insecure Writer's Support Group posting ... and boy are my arms tired.

Be sure and check out all the insecure writers here.

I've been pretty insecure lately myself - as the seven of you reading this blog know. I'm launching the Big Work and its been a hard thing to do again.

I wasn't sure I wanted to work on another long form work. I was happy with my short stories. I had a blast just working in the short form for the last year.

Yet, when the idea takes hold, there is nothing for it.

I've been murdering these past few weeks. It's good for my story. I'm beginning to see mayhem everywhere. I'm getting back in the groove.

To that end:

Today, a story of two men on a fishing vacation in Canada who simply disappeared from their fly-in camp hit the local papers. I couldn't resist filling in the details. A boat was found on shore out of gas and full of the pair's gear. What happened?

There's the official report: one fell in the water, the other fell in helping the first, they lost the boat, they drowned. As the guide hired by the RCMP says "the wilderness ate 'em."  No bodies but no other evidence.

I have a different take being intimately familiar with the Lund boats, the circumstances of life in a remote fly-in camp, the people one meets in the far north.

Let's say they ran out of gas. They put the boat ashore. They tried to hoof it back to the cabin - and in the Canadian outback that's not hike along the shoreline at your local reservoir. Let's say they set off with shirtsleeves, a pair of beers, and the thought they'd be at the cabin in a couple hours. The shoreline gets rough. They scramble. They decide to "cut across" a point. They're in the woods and make a slight turn. A half-hour later, they make another.

I've been 300 meters into the forest, disorientated, and concerned. Everything looks like everything else. There's no tracking my path back to where I was (you'll have to trust me on this ... there's no backtracking for a normal Joe from the suburbs). I had a compass. Let's say our pair doesn't.

Stay with the boat. The outfitter says stay with the boat. It's big and silver. We'll see it. You - you're little and brown. In the woods, we'll never see you. Stay with the boat.

They didn't. Wilderness ate them.

Oh, it's not the first mistake. Maybe not the second. The third mistake is the one that kills you. Sounds soft compared to life in an agent's slush pile, doesn't it?

My favorite idea about what happened is that the pair were playing poker at the main lodge. They took some guys for money. They took a pilot for a couple grand. The pilot wasn't supposed to be playing with the guests ... but he's a degenerate gambler. He's not driving 747's to London for a reason, folks. So - he's into the pair for a couple grand.

He's on the hook. He's got five days to pay - when the pair are airlifted back tot he main lodge on departure day. If he doesn't pay, the pair tell the outfitter and its his job. First rule: don't cost me any guests.

The pilot doesn't have many chances left at a paying ticket and this is a pretty good deal. He thinks.

On a fly-in lake, the bush pilot is God. No one knows where he is when the plane lifts off. No one is quite sure where he's going. They know where he's supposed to go ...but does he go there? Does he go there straight away?

Let's have him set down on Dead Buddy Lake. The pair are on the water and he drops in on them. It's their ride so they come over. Unscheduled drop-in mid-morning in the far end of the lake?  Of course they motor to the plane.

He's got his bear gun - a 454 Casull (completely illegal handgun. Hand-cannon is more like it. A favorite of pilots in the brush for bear-stopping ability.) He draws down on the pair. Get out of the boat - he tells them. Into the water. He's not kidding.

They get in the water.

Push off the boat - he says. Get off the boat or I blow your brains out now. One way - you've got a chance. Against the pistol you've none at all. I don't even have to be that accurate. I hit you in the arm I take it right off and you bleed out in about six minutes if you stay afloat.

Push off from the boat. They do.

He turned the friction up on the tiller arm. He twists the grip slowly and the boat wanders off in a lazy circle. Catch it - he says, and I'll pay you.  

He gets back in the plane. They swim for it as the big prop turns over. The younger of the pair actually gets to the float as the foam is kicked up from the fat aluminum pod pushing though the water. He can't hang on. There's no good handhold. His body pulls hard on his grip and he sags off. His nails break against the rivets.

The plane makes a quick lift and flys out low over the trees. The older of the pair is having trouble treading water. He's struggling at three minutes.

The younger looks for the boat - now 400 meters away motoring twice as fast at idle as he could ever swim. The bank is twice that far. The water is fifty-eight degrees. He's out of shape. The old guy goes under just a little and sputters. He's wearing his boots laced tightly.

The wilderness swallows them. The boat bumps the shore. Four hours later the tank runs dry and it's silent on Dead Buddy Lake for a long four days more. When the plane comes back, no one is at the cabin to greet it.

So ... I se dead people. I see them everywhere. I'm putting them in the long form.

I know you're writing. I hope you remember to stay with the boat. I'm certain you know not to take your bush pilot for more than just beer stakes at poker.

Never poke a bear. Never cross a bush pilot. You're not quite sure what either one will do if pushed.

Alaska Chick's interview with Terry Overly (and Terry isn't the type to kill you in the bush. I know the difference.) Interview here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

To The Bone

At left, a fillet knife for large Canadian fish. Wicked, no?

The purpose of this instrument is to remove meat from bone. This particular beast is an especially nice example because it folds and because the handle is covered in rubber material which prevents it from turning in your paw as you use it. Most knives won't slip out of your hands so much as twist when they are wet and oily from several fish. This example is a razor-sharp rock-steady extension of your hand.

I mention this tonight because I am preoccupied with separating the bones of a story - the skeleton of conflict holding it up - from the meat. I consider the meat to be the characterization, transformation, setting and emotional depth of the players on my page.

Eventually, the bones and meat will be almost inseparable in draft X somewhere down the road. For now, telling the story and having characters embroiled within the intrigue is a bit more distinct than is good for me.

I mention these things because I've not read of this sort of craft dichotomy in the myriad of "how I write"  volumes available. I've done it this way for years now perhaps because my first story ideas are "it would be cool if ..." and later I fill the stories with people and motivations sometimes in contrast to the initial concept.

No Country for Old Men proceeds for me in this fashion. I can almost see the assembly process. We have the drug shoot-out scene and a normal Joe finding a satchel of cash beside a dead Mexican. We have the cool killer who uses an unusual weapon chasing the money. We have the long term sheriff who is from a couple generations before now caught up in the new of border drugs and violence. We have  a nemesis for the killer in another killer who shares a background with the normal Joe protagonist.

Then, we turn to the characters and mold them a bit into the story. We color them with the setting, the tumult of their options, their choices. We cast them against the story. They're pinned to the bones.

We cannot help but try and eat it whole.

Be careful tonight. Try not to get anything lodged in your throat. You wouldn't want anyone to try and remove it with the fillet knife above...

I know you're writing. Mind the sharp edges.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Smooth Sailing Hazard

You've all seen pictures of sailboats unintentionally beached. Imagine one here.

I don't know why, but when things go well I feel that someone ought to hoist the equivalent of hurricane blow flags because I'm going to tank it.

I cannot manage to do well when it is calm and perfect and quiet and I have enough time and ...

I do better when I'm tired and have other things I should do and ...

I'm a self-handicapper. I'm good in crisis. I'm absolute shit in when status quo is the order.

To quote Stimpy: MUST PUSH RED BUTTON!

So, I did figure some things out today. That's progress. However, the piles and piles of words that should have resulted, not so much.

Hope you are keeping your fingers off the buttons of self-sacrifice. I know you're writing.

Keep a weather eye out, just in case.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


It's a skeleton of wood that allows us to cross from the beginning to the end.

I've been working on a much too detailed outline. Stupid bear trick.

Now, I'm working on a mush more simple outline. It's working better.

The goal of the working outline is to get you to the other side of the story with dry feet. Don't over engineer the solution. It's an outline, not the draft.

Know the difference.

I know you're writing. I'm trying to ride the little bike with my feet nailed to the pedals. Don't poke the bear.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Feeling It

Boston Library reading room from Andreas Gursky.

We lock ourselves in empty rooms in order to communicate. Sick bastards are we.

I'm writing. It feels like this. You know what I mean.

There's nothing for it but to gut it out.

I hope your writing occurs in the warm company of 20 sycophants. It's bloody lonely here.