clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Election Season

It is election season here ....which is a little like duck season.

I'm wrapped up until after Tuesday, November 5th. I've a horse in the race this year. He's a good guy with a difficult campaign challenge.

Write something while I'm away. I'll be meeting future characters.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


AT left, a Lamy Studio fountain pen.

It has the same nib set as the less expensive Lamy safari line. The hand feel is nicer and it is a metal barrel. Nevertheless, it has all the hallmarks of the (nearly) indestructible Safari by Lamy which you should try first if you think you might want this particular model.

Ink flows smoothly. I'm using Sailor Jentle Ink in black for its colorfast properties. I only use water based inks in my pens. Makes it easy to remove the ink sheen from me.

I gave something to a writing partner a while back and his criticism on return was "you can do better." He's right. I needed to hear that.

It was an early piece for a longer work of fiction and I was trying on a couple of characters and the subject of their attention: the despot Deti O'Tombo. Nevertheless, I didn't even get the basics of the story craft polished well enough. The setting had "white room disease" and the characters have "stock actor" syndrome also known as "sock puppet characterizations."

I needed to hear that. I know I failed to adequately develop the tension in the scene in which the bulk of the story transpires. However, The parts that I did write were horribly under seasoned. Gordon Ramsey wouldn't scream "it's raw" and that's about the only merit the work has in its present form.

Off tot he edit and re-write pile.

What my partner did for me though is put the latest short story I'm working on in another light. Another full re-write taking each scene slowly, carefully. Choices. Writing is about choices and I need to make them carefully. I was not. I was pressing for a shell of a story and not the immersion we need.

Too many words? No. Not the right words. Fifty will do fine over five hundred if they are the right ones.

I recommend the Lamy studio line of pens. Lamy in general is well engineered. They're German. Of course I use German pens. You cannot write well with a #10 Stanley Awl.

I'm off to write. You should do a little as well. Five hundred words and you'll sleep like a baby. A fitful angry baby.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Completely Nuts

At left, pecans.

Elizabeth Spann Craig - linked in the right column as Mystery Writing is Murder - has a delightful blog post about the south, things southern, and writing.

Two of my favorite southern things are pecans, and Savannah. Preferably, pecans in pie in Savannah.

I really can't eat pie any more. I've hit my lifetime limit. Pecans though - they're still a treat.

Elizabeth was writing in her post about regional settings. This struck a real cord with me for I have set the latest WIP in Western Kansas and then populated the draft with characters from the setting without giving adequate attention to the particulars of the setting which might make it immersive and attractive to readers. I have left out the charm.

Every place has charm though not every place is charming.

Example? Manhattan in the 80's before the clean sweep actions following the Koch administration. I know Ed ran under the "law and order" platform but the endemic corruption of the five boroughs lasted too long to clean-up and the City was cesspool for the first half of the decade, for sure. I can't speak of the late 70's but the national reputation wasn't much better.

Now, New York has been the murder capital of America my whole life until Chicago regained its rightful place as the land of death in 2012.  Center of trade, center of murder. It happens.

Anyway, New York being a cesspool had charm. It was called grit in novels. Did you want to live there? Not if you had kids.

Grinnell, Iowa is charming. It's also home to Grinnell College. It has little charm.

There is a means of incorporating enough of the local setting in the novel to allow characters the traction to stand. They stand in contrast or in sympathetic reflection of the setting; but, they need the details to do either.

I've left out the Czech festival and Das Koelling Haus and the Bunker Hill cafe. I've left out the Home in Hays. I've left out all but the I-C Bar and Laundromat in Natoma. I've left out the cobblestones in Russell and the dips in the road instead of curb and guttering with storm sewers.

I've left out post rock.

How could I have done these things? I must have been nuts. I made a pie of a noel and left out the treats. Otherwise, it's just molasses, butter, and sugar in a shell with rum.

I have work to do. I better get writing. First I'm going to the kitchen and raiding the pecans. They're brain food, I tell you.

I hope you're writing. I'm eating pecans.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Scrambled, Over Easy, or Hard Boiled ?

It is the season. At left, tonight's tea. I had ice pellets last night and a skim of snow on the deck table. I'm declaring the holiday season open.

You can declare whatever you please.

I hate my keyboard. I think it was fine when I did all my typing in my lap. I use the laptop on the desktop now and hate the keyboard in my own special simian way.

I'm going to spring for a new mechanical keyboard. I'll use the browns so the typing is relatively quite. I just hate this beast at this angle. Nice laptop, too. Bad ergonomics in this position.

What do you use?

Tonight I am considering the crime writing of friends. I know a couple folks who write cozy's (the over easy of the crime world). I know a couple of procedural folks (the scrambled). I don't know anyone doing hard boiled. By that, I just haven't met any in person.

I like the all well enough. For myself, crime "happens" and isn't an aim of the stories. It just seems my natural drift is towards stories where things go horribly wrong which means crime.

Surprisingly, I try to be very helpful when I am subject tot he attention of authorities. I rather like cops in person. I don't much like cops - or feds - in principle but when I meet them, I end up feeling a little sorry for them. It isn't a fun job sometimes.

I feel differently about the R.U.C. but then, so do a lot of people.

I'm personally somewhere between modern hard boiled (and , whew - that can be very hard boiled) and literary fiction. I care about the character in transition. The plot is great and I love high concept but as all politics are local (Harry Truman), all story is transformation.

He's a link to some fun hard boiled folks. I've enjoyed a great deal of it even though I've had enough ears on the floor to write much of it myself, right now. Hard Boiled

Do somebody wrong tonight. I killed some guys in text last night who were out to do someone wrong. It went wrong for them. Now, the fellow sent to take care of the mess has another problem: the intended victim isn't dead and he's clearly not the pushover that was expected. Always tense when the intel is very wrong.

Go write. Listen to Tom sing "Frank's Wild Years" and hurt somebody's feelings on the page.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Bullet Solves All Problems, Unless

At left, a lovely snap by Peter Gnanapragasm. From left to right: the .458 Lott, the .375 H&H and the .458 Winchester mag.

I have only the briefest of experience with the Lott. I've shot it a dozen times. I've never owned anything in such a fabulous wildcat cartridge.

The .375 H&H is a bread-and-butter round. It isn't my favorite for heavy work but I've used it. Treated properly, it'll down a T-Rex. It'll also get you killed if you're cavalier about its abilities.

The .458 Win Mag is an infamous round to me. I was too small and inexperienced when I first fell in love and now I can nearly clap my shoulder blades. It doesn't have the most wicked of recoils I've felt, but it is close (.338 custom Mauser claw-action on a Monte Carlo fiberglass stock that weighs barely 6 lb but should weigh 9 for this round. Killer recoil. Truly unpleasant).

These are just pictures. The business end is employing the bullet. Most of the time for your characters, using the bullet is only going to cause more trouble.

The problem with bullets is that they have a nasty tendency to cause less trouble than they should. In today's bigger is better market, I find this increasingly true.

Heavy rounds - pistol rounds - have limits. The inherent mass of a 230 grain ball ammo shell (the type used in .45 by the military) can go right through a fellow at under 10 yards and do little more than make him very angry for the next four steps as he stabs you in the head. The shell's own size makes it a problem. It can also - and frequently does - pick a victim up and throw him a good five feet back. It'll take an arm clean off it it hits a bone. From "clean through" to "hammer time" is a very big disparity for a single bullet.

Time and time again I read of close gunfights with he-man characters (mostly in newer writers) when the victims drop like ... well, like men shot with handguns on television. It is more interesting to the story when the gun doesn't do what the shooter thinks it should.

There is vast difference between being shot at in a gunfight on the street and hunting someone down in a structure. Being in a building with someone that knows what they're playing at and knows to wait quietly to kill you presents a challenge not faced by the vast majority of our troops - thankfully. It is however what our characters frequently see.

Marge shoots billy with a .38 S&W when he comes in the door. She gets off three shots. The first misses, the second hits, the third hits. Billy's down. Center of mass on the re-aim and the .38 was stopped by Billy's parts.

Mattie shoots Guy with a .45 ACP when he walks in the door. The full metal jacket slug goes through his gut and exits his back. She gets one shot before the recoil completely ruins her aim. Billy's back out the door falling down because the slug carried him. He ate about 275 of 300 lb. feet of force when the bullet decided he was dense enough to give up most of its momentum. He's never getting up again.

Gracie shoots Jim with a .40 S&W when he walks through the door. The bullet will go clear through Jim and stagger him a step. It's hot and keeps a great deal of its momentum in a regular full metal jacket form. Jim is on his feet - he's hurt but that hurt comes from tissue damage that will be more of a problem in five minutes than it is now. Gracie better be wearing track shoes or decide that a head shot is her best move. She's got about three tenths of a second before it'll be too late to use the gun again.

Now, the above scenarios are just guesses. Anything can happen with a pistol at close range. Get a rib and all the outcomes are vastly different. Get a hip and they're different again.

The point is: it isn't a sure thing. A shoot out with a pistol is not a sure thing at all. It'll be much more interesting if the victim doesn't drop like a third-season episode of "She's a sexy but serious detective and he's a quippy but soft-hearted jaded cop from the beat."

Give the victim a chance. Ask yourself at the murder, "what if?" Maybe, the victim scrawls "Rache" on the wall. Remember that one? ( Sherlock Holmes, "A Study in Scarlet," Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

Maybe the victim grabs a tire-iron and kills the shooter. Now the victim gets in a car and drives off. That's a twist. Find the victim who fled the scene. is it a homicide? Maybe not. Maybe your detective has to go find the evidence in the form of a 2003 Pontiac someone pulled down a lane.

I'm full of ideas.

I better go write.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Character

The image at left is from wikicommons but the author didn't leave a proper name.

It is a crow. Nicest crow I've seen, but the author says it is a crow.

My new character is a crow. He is really the last of the carrion feeders.

It's the end of the career and he's a little past it. He's not the bright boy juggling all the balls in the air in the international world of mystery and intrigue.  Hey, someone has to retrieve James Bond's car when he leaves it on the streets of Geneva then catches a a lift on the bottom of a supersonic drone to Berlin. What happened to the car Q told him not to lose?

So, I like this guy. He's got legs for me. I've seen enough of the world of plots to know most of them start with the wrong premise, are executed by people ill informed of the opposition, and frequently go completely to hell. Somebody picks up the pieces.

So, I'm excited. Jimmy Bird is my character's name. I need to draft a couple short stories to start getting a feel for the fellow on the page.

I will say this: girls don't swoon and fall into bed with him like they do Bond. Jimmy was a good field man: average build, maybe below average looks, weak chin.


I'm off to read through. I have edits to do which involve extensive typing of a draft and I type like a chimp. Yes, I make my living at a keyboard just like everyone else. No, I don't type well.

I took Western Political Thought from Eloise Lynch instead of typing. Go figure.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Your Best Day

The late day parade of pumpkins from our family. Mine is the far left. My daughter's has the hearts for eyes. My picture doesn't do justice to my wife's Martha Stewart inspired bubbling cauldron scene in the middle.

They're lovely at night though the pictures are complete garbage.

It's wet and cool. My house smells of marinara. The fire is on. The foxhound is walked. Great night for a bit of writing. In fact, it is he perfect night in my world for some writing. I'm in the library now. Tea in a bit. The day job isn't intruding.

I love the cool and damp of fall. There's a breeze tonight so leaves and pine cones are falling, the latter making odd sounds in the near woods.

The evening of your best day. For me, these are my best days. Gray, damp, cool, breezy, satisfying. My uncle called them "hunters' days." I liked that. For a guy with an assortment of rubber boots, this is perfect.

I think I write well in this weather.

I'd be interested: what are your best days? What does the evening of your best day look like?  Does it resemble the long languid shots of landscape with only tiny figures as in On The Beach? Is it more of Dostoevsky's piece White Nights? Is it Frost and "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening" or maybe the mountain retreat in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls? I'd be tempted by "The Big Two-Hearted River," personally.

What does the evening of your best writing day resemble - that night when you can write new material? Does it matter to you? Does it matter at all to any of us?

I'm going to find out. I'm going to write now. You should too.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

One Point of View to Another

Image at left from Mohan K.

I've a story I've written in one point of view. This morning over coffee, I realized it would be more effective if told from a difference point of view and that the point of view should center on a character who is not my original protagonist.

 Now, I'v done the drill of writing the same story from four points of view: 1st past, Omniscient, 3rd past, 3rd past limited.

The story I need to re-write I should tell from 3rd past intimate. The character I choose is a stand-in for the reader. He's innocent of the skills and background necessary to master the conflict in which he's caught up. He has to rely on two other characters to navigate the challenges. He's more than along for the ride; but, he's not able to lead the effort.

In the immersion of the story  I want to tell, the character we most identify with as readers is the one whose point of view the story should be centered upon. Sure, we'll idolize the efficiency and craft of the other two: but we should. We're not those characters and their skills do amaze us.

We'll feel as readers as the third character feels. I will try writing from his intimate point of view. I read the Russians early. I love omniscient. It's out of favor a bit. Nobody is perfect.

I hope your point of view is centering on the page tonight. Shut the television off. Write something. Or, read something you've been meaning to for too bloody long.

It provides a new perspective on events.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lovely Evening, Really

AT left, what it looks like around here right now. I do drafts by longhand for the rough and first, then transcribe to Scriviner and editing begins. Re-writes in the second and others are almost always at the keyboard even when I chop large sections.

I prefer to compose longhand right now for what I begin. I've written on the keyboard, I've written longhand. I prefer longhand because it allows me a more considered view of the whole during composition. It don't think it has to be that way; but, it works that way for me.

I'm using the Sailor Jentle Ink on the recommendation of a friend. I like it. I've used Cross cartridge ink for years and Parker ink in an adapter. However, this Sailor Jentle Ink is nicer on the page than either of those. There is no feathering on the plain 20 lb. cotton bond I use for composition.

It is gray here and drizzle has set in for the past day. My heater has become dodgy (geothermal and I've got a solenoid operated valve that is being stubborn).  The public areas can all be heated nicely with the wood stove so no real worries. The bedrooms on the private floor are constant all year around so - meh. It can wait until Monday if there is a wool sweater handy. My library is cool but I can always go to a loft which catches lots of heat (which is why I don't use it for regular writing).

I'm writing this evening with a cup of hot tea in front of me and a desire to finish this draft carefully. I want the right words in the right pace. I'm getting my feel back. I haven't pushed to finish works consistently for a good decade. This feels good again.

I need to think about conferences next year. Anyone attended Sewanee? I could use advice.

I hope your evening of writing goes as swimmingly as I hope my own will.  I hope you are remembering to read, too. But then, of course you are.

Friday, October 18, 2013


At left, Lazarus Is Dead by Richard Beard: another of the World Noir books I acquired a couple weeks back.

The production quality of this publisher is quite nice. I like the feel of the books.

Beard is the director of the National Academy of Writing in London, so I look forward to reading the text. He's a dead blog from this summer if you search for him.

I like the title. Lazarus was the fellow raised from the dead by Christ (if you can't remember your Sunday school, I understand.)

Lazarus is also the movement made by some brain dead folks as they expire. If you shoot them in the head, they fall down. Sometimes, after lying motionless for three or four minutes, they'll raise their arms and fold them on their chests.

No, I'm not making it up and it will give you nightmares for twenty years after you've seen it. You shoot somebody and then they start moving their arms, it's pretty scary.  It's super scary when they do it after lying on the ground a while. It has to be a small wound - it can't be a "blow their head off and then they bleed out" wound.

Now, we're crime writers here so we can talk about such things. It is enough reason to go up in calibre if you are doing violence. A .223 is not the round of choice to produce a wound sufficient to prevent this little trick of the dead.

Maybe you can use that in your writing. It'd scare Sam Spade.

I'm off to write. That'd scare Sam a little too.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Long Time Until Spring

At left, a picture by Mr. Miscellanious (sic) from wikicommons. Something that doesn't exist anymore: Tiger Stadium. Armpit of a ballpark, anyway.

I'm feeling a little like the weather in the picture though in truth there is no snow. I just feel like I'm in that almost winter where you see no one, go nowhere. You just get by hoping for a spring day.

I'm a little lonely. I'd like to have fun but I'm tapped for friends right now without getting on a plane. I also don't want to have fun because to do so means I'd slack off on the writing.

Yep, I hate it. Hate It. It's Sunday night before an English paper is due every bloody night. I'm calloused to the pain - just like you - but it sure isn't fun. Making stories from lies? That's fun. Writing them? Not so much.

Spring is coming. All that success and pride at accomplishment and acclaim and whatever else we delude ourselves into believing the writing might produce. For me, it might produce a relief from these damn stories I feel compelled to tell.

I feel compelled to write my lies for others in the same vein as a saint feels compelled to tend the poor or die for God's glory. I sure as hell don't understand it but there it is. There is some sort of compulsion and I cannot for the life of me understand it. I know it doesn't go away. I know ignoring it doesn't make me happier.

It's a lot like the late winter craziness. You shrug on the parka and head out the door without even looking at the weather because it just doesn't matter. It's March and you don't believe the warmth of the sun will ever return.

Why do we go crazy over this?  Have we been crazy all along? Have we been this crazy? This lonely?

There's nothing for it but to write something. For me tonight, I'm going to re-write something. I have the whole story in front of me and I'm going to write it again, slowly, all the way through. I've got a few notes of things I want to say I didn't get in the first draft. I've got some hope that I'll stumble on things to say better than those I've thought of already.

I'm going to re-write something. You should, too.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy Books

At left, one of the Christmas books for an 8 year old boy in the family.

It is probably not a book for everyone's 8 year old; but, we kill people for a living in our family. We're a bit Titus Andronicus.

The story involves the eventual hypnotism of a character by a marmot.  I'm a fan of The Fantastic Mr. Fox and so this detective story seemed right up the alley. I love the bunny eyes, too. Look at them.

The book is written by Mrs. Bunny but the credits list Polly Horvath as the translator. Illustrations by Sophie Blackall.

I purchased this book from a wonderful display at Reader's World in Holland, Michigan. When I loaded my take ($175) along side my wife's selections ($100+) I was somewhat surprised to find one of the staff annoyed to have to wade through the large pile of books to ring me out.

Don't anger a crime writer. If you're lucky, they kill you off quickly in the text.

Life isn't The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Vegetables aren't the only things to get eaten in our stories.

I'm off to write something scary. Mostly scary because of how bad the prose comes out. Editing: it's not just a hobby.

Write something yourself. Even if it is a little scary, write it down. Not writing is much more frightening. If you don't tell me your stories, they'll be lost as crow calls in the wind.

Pen. Paper. Write. Do it now.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In The Room

At left, by Jack Hynes, the proverbial 800 pounder. His name is Jock and he lives at the Bristol zoo.

Tonight, he's in my library as I write.

It's great weather here. A squall line is going to blow through tonight. It's cool and I'm in heavy wool. I haven't yet activated the supplemental heater I have under the desk but I haven't put on wool slippers, either. Louis (foxhound) and I are  alone and it is a great night to write.

Jock is taking up a bit of space, though.

I haven't submitted anything for publication this year. I've got nine reasonably solid stories that need an edit and re-write. I'm nearly done with a draft of a novel. I've got twenty pages of notes on the "high concept blockbuster" piece to follow. I've got a character in transition for a third piece that I need to record some notes about before he drifts away. I have Bill and Veronica to teach to dance like a couple.

I've got work. I just don't have shit to show for it. Nor is any of the work in a position to do more about the gorilla dilemma at the moment. It all needs more work.

Now, I generally like gorillas. I like guerrillas, too. Chimps - not wild about. I just don't want this particular genetic cousin to get too comfy.

I'm content. Then, there is the "whole other bit" I have to learn something about. The "other than content" part of being Author, inc.

My first thought: get some things published in short form. Get work out there. Do it. Try and find 10 readers in the next 12 months. Big push, isn't it? I don't know ten people right now to read my bullshit if I asked.

So, improve the product - pretty much job one. Funny. That was the same job twelve months ago.

I'm at least broken to the yoke. One can dream; but, effort is required for the results.

If Jock stays around here, he better learn to edit quickly because everyone in this library earns their keep. Louis is snoring now. Maybe everyone doesn't earn their keep. I'll settle for Jock staying off my back.

Off to content land. You should go, too. There are stories to write, people. Stories! Tell some lies. Make someone smile.

Go. Write. You've seen 800 pound gorillas before. Mine is nothing special. Yours isn't either.


Monday, October 14, 2013

About the Dog

At left, the dog I found. Now home safe.

A friend wired and asked that I post a dog picture and here it is. Happy dog. Her name is Zoe.

I also got an email about Bill and Veronica and if the content blurb was a fad or if I was going to work them up as characters or ....what?

So, Bill and Veronica are part of a story I am writing for a contest this month. I have a story core around them and am feeling my way through their development. They'll appear in these pages in vignettes, though actual stories will not appear because they might actual materialize into a collect. Who knows. I don't like 1500 word bits on blogs and I assume you don't either.

I made friends suffer in that fashion a decade or so ago. I won't do it again.

So, yes Bill and Veronica will appear in these pages. I'll try and find funny perspectives for them that are not "quippy." I like them though they are entirely too happy.

I need to go write. So do you. Read some of the folks linked at the side. I need to update my links as I have found a few more real gems. I've also found a friend with a now seemly dead blog. Always sad.

Oh, and Nigel: thanks so much for the tip on Scribophile. It's a helpful community. There is some dog bad writing on the site but that's just because the bits make me recognize my OWN problems. Thanks, Nigel. There are some gems here too. Solid voices, nice folks.

Write something, everyone.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Worst Movie

Gravity, the movie. (Apologies to Mel Brooks).

Horrible. Despite the technical flaws in the portrayal of NASA EVAs and the horrendous portrayal of the physics of orbital mechanics, the dialogue - or rather monologues - represent some of the worst writing known to man.

I could go on and on describing this train wreck of a script but I don't have to. I will include a quote.

"Mommy found her red shoe."

If you see the movie and experience this ham-handed soliloquy containing the quote, you too will know the pain.

I've been robbed. Please, don't go. You too will be robbed. Worse, you'll be promoting the success message that this style of schlock script can produce profits thus encourage more of the same.

Over all rating: 4 of 10 corpses floating in space. [ Actual body count and not a reflection on the film's entertainment value, which is a 2]

It's time I want back at the end of my life. Or not. I'd probably get the time back only if agreeing to another showing, in which case I'd choose death.

Found a Dog, Found an Owner

Found a dog yesterday. Just appeared in my front yard. Nice dog.

Signs. Internet.

Dog is now at home.

Success. Great story. Best of the month.

Hope your dog stories go as well.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cool and New

It is late and I've had a very active day. I wanted to share a lovely find from last weekend anyway.

At left: The Midnight Promise from Zane Lovitt. It's on my "right after dinner" reading list where I sit and read on some physical book for 30 minutes before going about my other evening duties. I have this collection of actual physical books I want to get through - crazy? Sure. I'm just that sort of Luddite. I see a book in a store and I simply must buy it instead of taking a picture, going home, and buying an electronic version.

[ I see you do it. I know what you are up to. Don't think I didn't notice!]

So, the press is World Noir. I bought several of their offerings. The book at left introduces the gumshoe John Dorn in a hardboiled offering of short stories! I know : a collection of short stories! I was excited for Zane Lovitt of Melbourne, Australia and had to buy it.

I've others from this press I'll write about here in the future. I was just excited to find a nice consistent set of short stories as an author's first book. They have to be - er - killer to be set forward as the initial offering. The press offers crime from around

Well done, Zane. I'll start this collection tomorrow night. I encourage everyone to look at the World Noir offerings here in North America. Here's a link.

If you're not writing, go buy something to read. These volumes are great place to start.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

For the Love of Alice


Alice Munro wins Nobel in literature.

About time.

Congrats and rejoicing. Most importantly: thank you, Alice.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Murder, for me? How nice!

I was at the bookstore Reader's World in Holland, MI his past weekend. I like the store and find it well curated.

Among the several finds there was this volume: The Invention of Murder. How could I pass it up?

I have several treasures to show you over the next few days and while I am sure Judith Flanders is an excellent writer, the fiction volumes I acquired hold much more interest.

Nevertheless, I do plan on reading from it on Sunday afternoons so that I can at least discuss the history of some crime fiction with a bit more authority than I am allowed at present. Those are my feet in the picture. I was taking a snap with the book too near the edge of a teak table.

 I killed a character off last night: a toymaker. He was modeled quite closely on a very dear friend and I'm not precisely how I feel about the unprovoked killing of such a character. He didn't do anything wrong and deserving.

He was a convenient mechanism to increase the turmoil for my protagonist. Thus, a murder. Bad to hang around one of my protagonists. Bad when he's being pursued by the murder bug. Bad when I need a good shot of additional conflict and higher stakes.

Anyway, I have of course killed of many characters based on firends. Often though, I've put them in harm's way as active participants. I felt a little funny about the out of had killing for a plot device last night. I'm not normally a senseless killer. I don't normally have crime without a slender thread of attribution.

We don't learn why this fellow got it. It isn't germane to the story "why." We the reader can come up with a half dozen possible reasons but that isn't the book and its never answered in my text.

Someday, I'll write a darling short of a poker game between some of my notable victims. it doesn't matter now; but, one day it will be a funny bit.

I'm off to do some brick and mortar story-building tonight. I've a pocket full of notes from lunch.

I'm laying bricks and building story walls. I know you're writing. I wonder if you've killed someone off today.

Does your spouse know? Best to not suggest a new rose garden in any case.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bad Monkey? Hilarious.

I'm reading this. I should probably be consuming Adam Johnson's excellent The Orphan Master's Son; but, I am not.

I'm reading Carl Hiaasen's funny detective story. The protagonist has a poor attitude that permeates his miserable position but doesn't keep him from poking around in crime. It's crime fiction, right? He's got to poke around in crime.

I'm enjoying the read. You should too.

It's a little over the top in places (the object of attention in the early novel is "flipping the bird")  but if you put on your Joseph Heller hat and imaging you're in a version of Catch-22 set in the Keys you'll do just fine.

I'm off to write a little and then to read. You know what I'll be writing. Now you know what I'll be reading.

I'll try not to laugh too loudly as you try and sleep.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Take a Light

All the demons came out and walked around Friday night. They're all fellows I know; but, I don't like them anyway.

Sometimes the manuscript scares me. There's nothing for it but to make it all work. Make it wonderful.

Nevertheless, it can be an unsettling thing to be scared by the unfinished manuscript.

It's enough to make on take a flashlight to bed.

Of course, I cannot bring myself to turn it on and look around the room. I'm afraid of what it will show.

Better to just grind on. This one - the unfinished manuscript - it is one I can do something about.

Write something. Even just 100 words. Please, write something tonight. I could use the moral support.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Craft and Joy

At left: spiced pumpkin donuts (before the decadence of cinnamon sugar).

There is a joy in accomplishing something transcendent in a craft. We've all been in a museum and have noticed the bits of furniture which are in every way transcendent pieces.

Sure, not every sideboard is a stunning piece; but, we've seen the ones that are.

The donuts here are transcendent. If you're an eight-year-old grandcub, they're pretty much heaven. They're pretty close to that if you're a somewhat older bear, too.

Writing is a craft. It can rise to the level of art on those occasions when we perform some transcendent act allowing the reader to internalize precisely those emotions we desire to portray through our characters.

Now, you know the difference between the craft of writing and the art of writing. You have to decide what emotions you will portray which you can portray and which can be internalized by the reader.

Here's a hint: all of them.

You want to sell. You want recognition. You want accomplishment. You want to rid your soul of that burning need to tell the tale - your tale - that no one has seen before.  You then know you want to write transcendent emotion on the page.

Think of this: if it isn't evoking the emotional transference you intend, why is it on the page? Sure, sometimes emotions need set-up. They need guides. They need signposts so we can find our way. Ever scene cannot be composed of extended dynamic range.

They can however convey something in the language of emotion.

Try it. Write something. Write something which invokes emotion. Use that as the map and see: do you like that writing better than your otherwise best-boy craft?

Write something. I'm away from electronic fire for a bit this weekend. I'm writing. See you next week.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The First One Is Free

Fine. So if the drug is good enough, not even the first one is free. No drug could be that good, you say?

There. That's some writer horse right there. Look at that and tell me you can resist.

I'm slow to learn about this site. I was lured there by Janet Reid.

It's really just the product of a little harmless brain manipulation.

Thank you Nick Park and Aardman. You've made my world a better place.

Ate my post

Something ate this post.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Monthly Radical

My first piece of adult writing - published - came in a feature I composed for an underground High School newspaper: The Monthly Radical. It lasted precisely one issue, lampooned school administration in a manner both coarse and libelous, and drew attention to the heavy handed attempts by the administration to influence items outside of the school yard.

Basically, the administration was run by toads. I say this having shot trap over the practice football field at lunch hour with an assistant principal.

I was both a good student and a bad influence which - by the time it was fully appreciated just how bad my influence was - I got shut of the place.

The piece I wrote was hardly the mark of fine journalism, though it was funny in an absurdest perspective. It was funny.

Now, the first funny thing I wrote seriously was a paper on Beowulf. I didn't want to write it and had a world that had just completely fallen apart. I snapped it out on a Greyhound Bus coming back from Russell, Kansas.

It was irreverent and lively and was read before both sections of the class I was taking as an example of how to put a spin on something as dry as "B."

My next real attempt at humor which succeeded occurred in college on a piece I composed - one draft only - by inserting a roll of toilet paper into a typewriter (A very nice Olivetti which belonged to the girlfriend of a buddy he eventually married and who still thinks I'm a complete shitbag). It was my Kerouac tribute. At least I was drinking heavily in those days. That helped.

I've written some bits as a corporate iconoclast. However, none have been all that well received. [ The piece thanking my leadership team for replacing the auto-flush toilets with units managed by manual handles did however pay tribute to the Romans - inventors of plumbing - and got round reviews at the monthly profitability meeting].

I was almost fired from there by the end. I don't do well in captivity. The company is however self-destructing in slow motion so there is that. Not. My. Fault.

My point here is that my youth was corrupted by Hunter Thompson and Joseph Heller and Art Buckwald and Erma Bombeck. Yes, they're all a little hackneyed at times. They have all made me laugh until I pee'd a little.

I'm thinking about going to Erma's conference  next year. I'd like to be able to make people laugh once and a while. I'm not sure my present absurdest efforts are up to the task and I may have lost my way.

Maybe it's time to be a little crazy.

Write, crazy writers. Write.