clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, November 16, 2014


The word is from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.

There is a woman - Mrs. Hogwaller - who has left the husband and child. To explain in front of the child, the husband says she has up and R-U-N-N-O-F-T.

Louis, pictured in his barn coat, has R-U-N-N-O-F-T.

We stacked wood today for about four hours while he was on a long cable lead and anchor. He played in the meadow and did foxhound things.

My wife came out, inspected our efforts as I was finishing, and offered to call Louis into the garage as practice for our "beagle home" drill we do a little of to ensure we can get him home if he gets off leash.

Fine, but for an unexpected cat.

Then, the woods.

Then, a scent.

I was gassed from stacking wood. He was not. I managed to get close enough at one point with leash and biscuit for him to sit, take the biscuit, then scoot off at high speed.

He was a quarter mile east of me in the woods and going strong when I lost him. He had no interest in staying close as is his normal drill.

Signs. The authorities. Social media.

He's a foxhound in a little coat. It is snowing. It is dark. The coyotes are out.

I'm resigned to not seeing him again. Beagles are rarely found. Chipped. Collared. Has his coat on. Still, odds are poor.

So, that look in the eye of the photo? It is not domestication.

Whatever you love, breaks your heart.

***** UPDATE *****

At home, on the ottoman as if nothing happened. Snoring, actually.

Probably will have the shits tomorrow from eating dead things in the woods. Ran onto a nice woman's porch about three miles away this evening. Probably thought it was dinnertime and she'd feed him.

Still a heartbreaker. The feet in the bunny pajamas are NOT mine. I'm wearing the boot socks, for the record.

Yes, Louis normally hogs the ottoman for about 17 hours a day.

Now, back to work for me.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I'm So Confused

The grand Bouchercon has begun out on the West Coast.

I'm a little envious as I wanted to go - book in hand. Of course, I'm at home at the desk crafting said book. Actually, three downrange from said book. Hey, this one has a chance.

So, I look at the schedule and events and all the fun authors doing fun author stuff. I walk the foxhound in the snow while thinking about the scene I'm not writing tonight.

I return to look at the events again. I find the following:

"Author Speed Dating Hosted by Smith & Wesson 
Enjoy a continental breakfast along with tableside pitches from as many as 50 authors. Promenade 104 A-B-C"

I don't understand who is spending time with whom. I suspect the readers are being pitched by authors on their newest editions. I think. I really don't know.

I do love breakfast. Being pitched or pitching over breakfast? Not my ... giant pile of waffles. 

I can't figure out one event. I think I'm not quite right for Bouchercon. I'd need a guide. 

I'd also need the will to introduce myself to strangers. 

Better perhaps to stay in the library tonight.

Waffles. Waffles! 

Maybe I'll write through until breakfast.


I lived with a fellow once who described these sorts of mornings as "crispy." At left, a little crisp on my deck for you. First snowfall. 

It sticks in the woods, the grass, my road.

I've never liked the word "crispy." It just isn't one of my favorites.

So, snow. 

What will the tracks left in it reveal?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tiki Culture and The Writer

At left, my latest tiki which I received for my birthday.

Bobby Brady didn't start tiki culture but for me, he might as well have.

After the war, Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific and tiki culture was firmly here to stay for writers. You might know the musical version of the work better: South Pacific.

 I know among the recent literati there is a distinct attitude of dismissal towards Michener and his later works { Centennial, Poland, Hawaii, Alaska, Chesapeake, Space} .

I am not in the camp. I might punch you in the snoot if you dismiss these works around me. Michener is a great storyteller. Always will be.

Also, the Michener Center for Writers at UT- Austin was a pretty kick-ass thing to do.

Anyway, Michener won the Pulitzer for fiction with Tales of the South Pacific which is a distinction no one should sneeze at. They don't give those things away - ask Karen Russell.


Martin Denny and Don the Beachcomber and in the modern day, Pyscho Suzi and her fabulous Motor Lounge (here) all did for tiki culture what the Sex Pistols did for punk and kids that couldn't sing: it gave them an out.

I'm a tiki guy because so much of tiki culture is about not joining. It's about not fitting in.

It isn't a licensed property one can buy at WalMart and embrace. It takes some effort, some dedication, and a willingness not to back away from a Zombie (ingredients: rum rum rum rum, lime juice, and rum). Wild Uncle Phil and I ? Tiki guys.

Writers need to know tiki. They need to embrace tiki. They need to be tiki. Crime writers, especially.
Remember Bobby and idol? Don't disrespect a tiki god. Bodies result.

My new tiki will go in a place of honour in my library this winter and in spring, a couple coats of black with a little silver overspray for the highlights, a sealer, and a fern for the head (wild tiki-god tropical hair .... which we all get after the third Suffering Bastard).

I keep my pens in a tiki mug (Suffering Bastard mug). I open bottles with an ironwood tiki God.

I often write to Martin Denny.

Now, Yma Sumac, that's one I can't quite handle when crafting prose.  She's fun though. She's fun like Tiki.

Watch your idols. They can get cranky, like writers.

Monday, November 10, 2014


At left, Robert Frost with his birthday cake at age 85, Waldorf-Astoria, NYC.

There comes an age when your birthday cake looks increasingly like a monument. Better to let it slip by a bit.

I flew to Dallas to take delivery of a special automobile  for my birthday one year. That was a good year. The automobile? Not quite so good.

The car had a great engine, and horrible secondary systems like the fuel pump, oil pump, suspension members. Well, some things have to be babied. I didn't keep the car long.

In Soldat, Siegfried Knappe  describes his pre-war Mercedes coupe and having the mechanics his armored unit make new springs for it so he could drive from the eastern front back to command and general staff school during WWII. That's a pretty tough roadster. Not my brand, though.

I drove with the convertible top down today. May be the last time this year. It's deep fall here and I'm writing about the cool fall of Florida where I've set several murders.

I remember one Christmas walking to the neighbors' house barefoot. I did step on holly leaves in our yard and got stickers in my foot. Life is different in  the south.

Have a happy armistice day.

Read a little Wilfred Owen today.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Watch Your Head

This week starts firearms deer season in my part of the world. At left is the Stormy Kromer I wear when out with Louis in the meadow. Never hurts to be a little safe even at the expense of some Elmer Fudd comparisons.

The head is a marvelous item for crime writers. There's the melon that we shoot, the grapefruit we bruise, the hangover we house all from this one delightful body part. If humans didn't have such a component, we'd have to invent it.

I'm grinding onward.

There's nothing like running down the path of a novel to make you think about short stories that didn't work. I've a pile of those and I'd bet all of you do as well.

We learn from shorts that don't work.

I don't know what we learn from shorts that work except how to eat a little better from cashing the check.

I seem to reach some clarity on project A when working on project B. I feel as if there is some form of the unconscious mind that must be free in order to arrive at the inspiration for creation - or more commonly these days - repair.

What I do know is that this sort of clarity comes increasingly from actually doing the mechanics of writing. Plotting, outlining, revising - all great tasks. However, it is the production of prose centered around character action and dialogue which seems to trigger the thinking on what might not have worked elsewhere, why, and how it might be corrected.

Sounds odd, doesn't it? It sounds odd that actually writing makes us better writers.

Okay, so it doesn't sound so odd.

I bet that a lot of us struggling through our various stories could benefit from a few tens of thousands of words more versus the puzzling that comes in the revision cycle.

I could be wrong. I've got a couple banker's boxes of "not quite right" here under my feet.

Take investment advice from someone who doesn't have a day job anymore.

Take writing advice from someone with those little award statues and a boat that says "first novel title."

I'm off to get there. Maybe not tonight, but soon enough. For now, fun with a draft. Remember: fun.

I like fun on adventures even if someone might be shooting in my general direction.

Wear the hat.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Writer's Day

I had a writer's day today which is to say that the items I accomplished of importance are almost unnoticeable in comparison to the menial material tasks I completed.

At left, William Faulkner signature. It, at least, is in the public domain.

I worked on a new novel today making good progress. I ate a good breakfast in a new cafe in my little town. I bought new mantles for a lantern. I obtained the requisite brand of dog food for Louis. I drank coffee and furthered a story solving the "put off until tomorrow" sort of problems we writers too seldom put off until tomorrow.

I'm on a draft. I'm telling myself the story. I'm having fun doing so.

If you are not having fun with your first draft, you're writing for the wrong beast. I recently read a post by John Scalzi which outlines a novel he was writing under deadline last fall where he had to scrap the draft and write a new one at 2500 words a day. He's pleased it is doing well.

I'm surprised it is doing well.

I'm not a professional writer. I wanted to be back in my youth; but, I found better ways to make money and so I did. I've done just fine. Everyone could spend more; but, I've earned all I need.

Scalzi is a professional writer. he makes his living - schools his kids, feeds the family - by pen work. That's a burden most of us don't have.

Enjoy the lack of burden. Write with some abandon and see what happens. The best thing a writer can do is write. The best motivation - shot of a shotgun - is fun. Have some fun. There are enough parts that are not fun (line editing. Ick.) that at least in draft mode, let something happen.

So, having a blast despite sleet and hints of snow.

The foxhound is softly snowing. The wood isn't completely stacked. My laundry isn't done. I haven't attacked mouse issue that I heard last night at three (mouse in walls ..despite mouse removal agent 1 & 2 alert and armed).

There are things to do. The story however is coming along just fine.

Is there ever a better outcome for an investment of time?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Great Tools for Writers, Vol 2

Above and left, pictures of a lovely notebook cover. The hideous photography is my own. I'm not a visual media fellow.

I carry little moleskin cahier notebooks to combat the problem of "little scraps of paper." I also carry one because taking three minutes to write down an idea is worth about three hours of trying to remember just what was the "perfect" little addition to a piece I thought of earlier.

I never know where I'm going to need to jot a few notes about the WIP. Sometimes it is at a bar waiting for a buddy for lunch. Maybe it is waiting for the dentist. It happens.

I prefer to take notes on full-sized unlined paper which I then put in the three hole punch and place in the binder of the WIP where those notes seem most germane. Most often, they go in where the prior night's bit stopped and before tonight's bit starts.

The "full size paper" notes is a bit of a barrier. You don't have paper when you want it. Thus, the cahier.

The problem? The cahiers self-destruct in your pocket. They cannot stand much abuse and thirty days is about all one will last for me.

The Renaissance Art folks (web site here) make wonderfully thin leather notebook covers. My pictures don't do them justice. Also, they're very reasonably priced. 

With a cover, the pocket travel produces no wear or bending. The leather is soft enough to conform to a trouser pocket throughout the day. Also, it feels good. 

Holding the little leather covered cardstock notebook makes you feel better than the coffee sodden notebook alone.

So, a pen (always) and the little leather notebook. Suit jacket, sport coat, shirt and slacks, jeans and wool on weekends: works for all of it.

I desperately want a nice small brass fountain pen (like this one) which fits in trouser and jean pockets. You know the problem with a nice pen? It slips out and you lose it. 

I write longhand with great pens that seldom leave my desk at home. My working pen is most often a uniball because they write well and the loss isn't a worry. A fine fountain pen - even a "sport" pen - is a pile of bucks, even to Buck Rogers.

Yes, I've used disposable fountain pens. Uniballs do far less in the laundry and I do my own laundry (thus I wash a few pens).

The little leather case is good for you. It's a great a survival tool. After taping cahiers back together, I'm looking forward to a little more protection for my traveling kit of words.

I'd love to hear about writing kit that's worked for you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wire and Canvas

At left, a lovely photo of the Sopwith Camel from the US archives - copyright free.

I'm in a rough draft (Not a NaNoWriMo but just a coincidental long form starting here in November).  It's a fragile little beast.

Oh, I like it fine. That's why I'm writing it. I'm having fun with the characters and events and playing fast and loose ...all of which will be sorted out in the next full draft.

Nevertheless, I'm telling myself the story and trying to survive the event. It struck me this evening as the foxhound/beagle snored how much this process is like taking flight in an old biplane. Snoopy the beagle was the mnemonic there.

If you look at the photo, this beast met only the minimum structural standards for flight. There is no redundancy in any of the parts. Should anything fail, the whole craft was lost much to the operator's disappointment.

The rough draft first-telling of the novel is the same. You're searching for handholds amoung the myriad of character actions in the attempt to bring the premise to life.

Some idea set you off: chickens are deadly when they explode. Now, you have an exploding chicken murder on page one, a reluctant detective, some contradictory evidence, a couple red herrings (called ex-wife and girlfriend's current husband), and then you are adrift. What to do? You blow up another chicken.

Bodies are good for stories.

Anyway, the point is that a first telling is a mission into the blue. You have an idea, a sketch, a premise, maybe even a solid character. You don't have a good idea of what is going to work. Your story is at risk.

I like outlines in the revision of the rough into draft number one. It lets me discard the pieces I didn't like and start the formal drafting process from a place of security. I'd like to say I can trust my outline for the very earliest germ of the story. I can't. I need to make a mess, then clean it up.

That's a fine theory of writing Andy J. taught me (he got it from someone else): make a mess, clean it up.

I wish I could remember the attribution. Have to run. I've lit the fuse on yet another chicken.

Mind your Sopwith. Check your six. The story is gaining on you. [ great name, eh? Sopwith.].

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


It's the 5th of November. We all remembered to bring our treasonous plots to class today, right?

I favor the guy at left. Oh, I'm a capitalist swine. A good communist is a dead communist. I'm willing to help them get that way.

I have to admire this guy, though. He rode the big wave. Lenin. What a guy at parties. He looks like a fellow who would dance under a lampshade for a hat.

Vodka. Does a body good.

It's a good day for revolution. Give yourself a little revolution. Do something different. Go wild.

Me? I'm writing about dead Russians who thought they were cached and out of the game. So, how'd they end up dead? My protagonist - being Russian - wants to know.  He could be next.

No rest for the wicked.

Ah, the 5th of November.

Got a match?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Judy Blume and Stephen King, Together!

Comedy and Tragedy at left.

I went to a play at the Ringwald in Ferndale last Saturday. The work was written by Lisa Melinn and Dyan Bailey. Are You There God? It's Me, Carrie.

Hilarious production partly from the writing, partly from the acting, and in large part because of how well Judy and Stephen's works fit as co-inspiration.

I think both authors have produced some frightening work. They're a natural match.

I love satire. I loved Art Buchwald and Mike Royko. We are the less without them.

I have a revised outline based on a draft of a lovely work I want to publish as satire and humor, though I'm not good enough yet. Joseph Heller I'm not - at least not today.

So, on with a new work just like all of you. There are the books we want to write and the books we're able to write. Sometimes these are the same. Often, they are not.

Doesn't stop us from dreaming. Or laughing.

Go see a play. It'll be good for you.