clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's for You

Classic line of a million flicks: "It's for you."

At left, the candlestick phone that none of us had in the hall. However, we all know the model, heft, and utility from a million visuals pounded into our heads.

Those little words so pregnant with meaning: It's for you. Now, cellphones/smartphones and their inherent screening and linked voicemail, make the associative pressure of the answered phone evaporate. Don't recognize the number? Don't answer.

It was the cops? Well, I didn't talk to them, then. That moment of tension passes.

Of course, the cops don't call. They're at two doors at once if you're in my business. Basic stuff executed with efficiency. Patrol around back, detectives at front. No chances.

But the telephone. Now email. Now again text. The foreshadowing of interest - unwanted interest - that is so powerful an image of tension in a certain style of crime is still needed. We know the protagonist is in trouble. We know he's made a bad decision and then another. We know that he'll be a "person of interest."

Do the cops just show up? Does the phone ring? Does he get a text from Joey at the bar that two plainclothes were asking after him? Does he see the prowler park the next street over by looking between the houses across the alley from the kitchen window?

Cat and mouse. The game has real meaning for tension. It allows our character to demonstrate competence or flight or fear. He might confess to someone with something we readers didn't know. He might just load a shotgun.

We can handle it a number of ways but gone is the old standby of the candlestick in the hallway and someone growling into the receiver "yea?"

Unless we do period pieces.

I'm waiting for a call. That's how they tell you to report to the big league, isn't it?

I hope your call comes tonight. Until then, we ought to write something. I'm going to.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cold, Weather and Otherwise

Sorry. Neglectful blogger here.

It has been very cold here. I have a cold to match. I have been just wiped out.

Real post tomorrow.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Drinking Heavy Water

At left, little Nikita.

It is "Kennedy Day" and while I am partial to Jello and the boys, I'll give pause for the "almost was."

The saving grace in a system which harshly punishes failure is that it immobilizes free action and without compulsion, nothing is done. As much as any other factor, this gave the Soviets pause from launching a nuclear exchange that would have degraded to a near-conventional war . They would have gained all of Europe, the middle east, and North Africa.

Of course, being master of the cinder has some small consequence. The extensive studies by the Soviets during the 1950's on the scientific ramifications of contaminated coal being used for firing power plants had something to do with hesitation. Unfortunately, our targeting patterns did not generally favor the targeting of fossil fuel resources. No one told the Sovs that fact.

The early cold war is characterized by mis-interpretation and the over-estimation of resources and processes.

Exporting world-wide communism? Not so easy. Also, not so desirable without massive economic support from an already strained motherland.

Turns out, the places where revolution does best are also those sorts of places without the infrastructure to see everyone eats well, children go to school and emerge better than their parents, disease and strife are minor issues, sanitation and public health are effectively deployed.

I really am past the point where the politics of the matter are foremost. I'm concerned with the difference between what one wants to do and what can be done. I am a mechanic to the machine of state.

It would be good to consider your characters in light of Kennedy and Khrushchev. One speaks and the other hears something else. Incited to action, he replies against the first who in turn hears something entirely different and interprets the posturing attitude in a light completely different from that intended..

We see this when the animal opens its mouth and slowly wags its tail. Is it a gesture of play? Of contentment? A greeting? A threat?

Those sci-fi folks have all the fun.

"Look - it's a cuddly scaled kitten! Must be like their version of a cat around here."

Then, the screaming. Story title? "Lefty."

Think of the cold war first for your communication problems. It's easier to understand than your mother's hostility and a reader's first guess is always wrong. There's something in that for us.

I'm off to write. You should do so as well.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Not the Reindeer You Were Looking For

So, the line is borrowed from Star Wars. It got you here.

At left, a beast of burden. Why yes, I realize you do feel just like this from time to time.

Here we are with our stories and their scenes and the intricacies of plot - all those things we can look at in someone else's work and say "almost" and look at in our own work and say "WTF?"

It is as if these unitary building blocks are completely foreign in our own hands but so elementary when in someone else's.

Yes, we've covered in these pages the need for the critical faculty of evaluating one's choices - questioning - without evaluating one's talent: doubting. Hemingway call such a device a "bullshit detector" and mine is constantly going off these days. That's good.

However, the bloody thing sounds like a fire alarm after a piece of toast got stuck and that is annoying. I''d guess I wouldn't hear subtle voices and I think maybe you wouldn't either.

Ah, there we have it. There we have tonight's point. We need someone in our circle who can tell us when we've gone astray. We need the someone who says "you can do better."  Some of us also need someone who says "you've been an ass" but that's an entirely different problem. My friend donkey also finds the term pejorative.

So, composition: how? [ Someone asked. Why me? chalk it up to poor judgement on their part].

We all have scenes we like when we start thinking of a story. These are often key confrontations and clever bits to which we are emotionally attached as the story evolves. I say keep all of those bits and use them in the first rough draft which is little more than the urge to stitch our favorite bits (sometimes merely what passes for favorite: familiar)  into a linear story.

Here's the bit: the linear story won't have legs. It needs suspense and narrative tension and heightened conflict - meaning conflict not predicted by the reader. I needs a sense of place and a defined characterization that makes the protagonist reachable in a few short words.

It needs time and polish and re-write and sometimes aging in a cellar and a re-blend with some other story. It is unlikely to emerge and stand on its own in the first 100 you write. Sorry.

You don't have to write 100 to get one published. You do however have to do everything in the first published story that it might take you 100 to develop a full set of tools to do on demand.

I had a magician explain a simple card trick to a blonde at a bar once. The card trick involved managing the tactile presence of the card with the palm of his hand, a little friction, and a sense of timing. The blonde said "That's easy." The fellow replied, "It just looks easy."

He was a slight of hand fellow who did "close" magic: Three Card Monte with cards coming in and out of the game unnoticed by you type of stuff. Fun stuff. He was also a cannon and could lift your wallet like Fagin.

Keep your passport close. Huge stink when it goes missing and you are in Shitcanistan.

So, write a story?  Write the drafts of ten. It'll be easier to get a good draft out of the sum of all ten than any single story with which you begin.

Now - Content. I liked this drill. Take an opening - Moby Dick - in my case. Cut it in your prose but convey the what you believe the author conveyed.

Melville's opening:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.


Unlogged Hours
My mother called me Denis for a few years while I was in school but eventually came to use what everyone else called me: Jack. There is irony in a name that’s slang for cash when your worldly possessions leave ample room in a rusty Subaru wagon stalled south of Safford on Arizona 191.
“She’ll run forever,” the man said. He should have bought a dictionary with the proceeds. California, I guess: forever doesn't last so long.
It happened from time to time. I’d be alongside a road in too long a twilight alone but for the smell of a girl who wouldn’t have stayed; waiting for the stars and wishing for a decent scotch. When it happened, when I’m waiting for the next “it” and I’ve had a bellyful of life, I crawl back in the cockpit.
I crawl into a cockpit on a jungle strip and take off into the night hoping the fuel had too much water in it, or that the Federales didn’t think the bribe was enough, or that I plain was out of luck. I called it my Colombian stoicism. No one gets the joke; but, my business associates haven’t read Plutarch or his stories of Cato. There’s comfort in their lack of knowledge: their lack of existential blight.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Fine Vixen

At left, a twin-boomed Sea Vixen of the Royal Navy.

The aircraft shared the twin boom design with the Vampire of the same maker: de Havilland.

I'm still working on the Christmas story though I had a great day today talking about writing with a friend. He's got some great experiences that will make wonderful stories. Now, to get them onto paper.

I have a little content from a writer's group I'm in. We re-wrote the first few chapters of various classics. I am especially happy with how a story structured on the opening of  Moby Dick turned out. I'll post it tomorrow.

Time to sleep and dream of sheep.

Head for deep water. Sounding.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Opening Day

It is deer opener here. At left, whitetail. Pretty fair 8-point. Saw twelve pointers on the buck pole tonight. Pretty good harvest for opening day.

Working on Christmas list. Much to do. I've bought some delightful books for the children. Tuesday by David Wiesner figures for several. The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg is on the list, too.

I'm not quite sure about the adults.

I'm still working on my North Pole Noir. I added a bar called The Fruitcake. It's a tiki bar, of course. [ Jimmy Buffet reference here...."Fruitcakes"].

Having fun with the story. Hope you are having fun as well. If not - shoot someone.Nothing like a body on the rug to liven up a party.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ho Ho Ho !

Reindeer? We don't need no stinkin' reindeer!

At left is a ducted-fan propelled sleigh from the hands of Henri Coanda in 1911 owned by a Russian Grand Duke. Note the complete absence of shielding for the occupants.

Hard to get a girl in it for a date regardless of how fun it looks.

So, back from the gulag. The season ran up on me and the whole election cycle snowballed into "civic wonderland." I'm only an amateur at this. Professionals do better at managing their time. They also don't hold down some other day gig while they're politicking. No - I wasn't the candidate. Rest easy. No Putsch this year.

Onto the writing. I missed the Insecure Writers this month (second in a row). I probably will be thrown out. It's a long sad list of organizations who have this distinction. Maybe there's a pattern?

Anyway - holiday writing.


This season before things get crazy, some writer friends at I are going to write our Christmas (or Holiday) stories. Literary, crime, suspense, commercial, and historical are all represented genres. The goal is a short story of around 3000 words with a distinct holiday element - namely that the story wouldn't work without the holiday association - in the style of our normal writing.

Yes, everyone is busy. Few of my writer friends participate in NaNoWriMo. Sure, we can pound out the text of a draft in a furious pace; but, we're not to the point where we can do quality work on demand. We're working on it.

Anyway, short stories to exchange with one another. It's a fun bit of diversion from the recent doldrums and the real need to get the twisty-plot and suspense things going in my own writing. Too bloody linear and too little of that of interest. Short stories whet the knife. It sounds fun enough to hold interest for a couple weeks to write, revise, and polish.

I'm proposing a watering hole as the "gift" exchange. Everyone can use a little cheer during the holidays.

So, why not play along. Holiday story exchange. It's what writers have for gifts, anyway. Stop giving away Bic pens this year. Write a holiday story with me.

I have to go work on the draft of mine. I can't be late with the story.

I've got to choke a reindeer on a lump of coal. No fair - I said it first.