clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Birds Do It, Bees Do It

Even presidents wading to their knees, do it.

Apologies to Cole Porter. I couldn't resist a sitting US President fly fishing.

We'll pass on comments about his style and form. The smile itself is good enough.

I've been off and about for Christmas. For my troubles, a cold courtesy an eighteen month-old grandson. We'll cut him some slack, too.

Glad to be back in the land of murder and mayhem.

Let's see, how does it go? Ah yes. Murder by numbers. Always an easy place to start.

I have a a couple of Stasi-trained thugs loose with a flamethrower in Tampa. "Fire cleanses all."

So, off tot he land of murder and mayhem.

Good luck in your own WIP. The New Year is a fantastic time to grind out some scenes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Rocky Road to Love

George and Ira penned today's title in "They Can't Take That Away From Me" in 1937. I'm partial to the Billie Holiday version.

I was talking with a friend a couple weeks back who confessed that somewhere along the way in their first drafts, they fall out of love with the book and abandon it. They labeled themselves a "serial starting novelist."

I kept my teeth closed because they didn't ask for advice and as writers, we hate unsolicited advice. Put it on a blog instead!

My favorite old salt is: "I want to see my book on the NYT Bestseller list."

The retort: "Write a good book which people buy."

Hardly helpful.

I just wanted to confess that I fall out of love with the WIP in every single draft. I think most writers feel the same.

The difference between published and stuck under a table-leg in the dining room is in the twin keys of completion first and revision second.

I don't get it right in the first draft. I don't get it right in the second. I'm fixing. I'm resolving. I'm striving.

Everyone does this.

Professional writers who master their craft make fewer omissions and require fewer revision cycles than we aspiring authors. They've managed to coordinate conflict, characterization, voice, point-of-view, and premise such that their first drafts are economically rendered.


I have a character who is wandering. His driven desire is not evident from page one of the story and he's being driven forward by events rather than actively driving events forward. That's fine when the character is someone to whom life happens and the reader knows how the daily blows are crushing their wishes and desires.

The reader knows their wishes and desires through word and action.

My reader today does not know "why" or "what" my protagonist wants. I know it. I haven't got it clear enough in the draft.

That's why it is a draft.

Yes, I am displeased when I look at the work objectively. Why continue then?

I have to tell myself the story. It's how I work.

When I know the princess is going to fix roast dragon at the end of the story and the knight is going to stay home scrubbing floors and raising children, then I can do a better job of incorporating her heart's desire of regaining the throne of Bearland.

Until I know she's going to go conquer Bearland and how's she's going to resolve role obstacles with her traditional role minded rescuer, I can't focus on her motivations and desires. It isn't how I think.

Better characters evolve in the second draft for me given I know the plot structure from what I've been able to actually write rather than what I outlined.

We all plan things that we cannot pull off as well as a reader might desire right there on the page. These weaknesses becomes transformed on the fly to some other strength and the plan then conforms to reality in the execution. In. The. Drafts.

Write to complete. Make the mess, identify the problems, fix them in subsequent revisions whether you work full draft or in sectional replacement.

You are not going to love the story with which you begin after you grimy little hands were on it.

You love the story it became after nights of revision, angst, doubt, inspiration, and a whole lot of perspiration.

If you are my friend and read this, please know you are not going to love any first draft.

You might love something about it, but you'll not love the execution until this is about your twelfth effort. AT that point, you're in a different league.

You don't have to love where it is now. You have to want to love what it is going to be and you alone have to trust you can get the work from one state to the other.

Please, try.

There are too few good books in one lifetime. There is always room for another.

The "good" shelf is nearly empty. Let's add one.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Backyard Hockey

At left, pond hockey from Spencer Gillis on wikicommons who graciously donated this image free of copyright. Thanks! Great picture.

I live near one of the iconic North American college towns. It's where I drive into work and play.

However, the little village closest to my home in the country  (just voted to be a city ... size no matter) is quaint and everything one could expect of a holiday town.

The backyard hockey ponds are going up this week. The skating rink in the park at the gazebo is being built. Lights are up. Sleighs are out. Even the hundred-foot spire on St. Joseph's seems a little straighter this holiday season.

We've no snow; but, that's fine too. Bicycles outnumber sleds as Christmas gifts.

I've set-up my porchade box in my library. It is normally used for plein air painting where my meager skills can be covered by the haste of wet-on-wet construction. I'll do some still life work through the winter, I think.

I find painting with oils and drawing in charcoal both help me solve the problems with my long-form fiction. There is something about working pigments in visual arts which frees my mind for working out the intricate dance I need in a novel.

I don't know why; but, some of my cleverest twists come while drawing or painting.

Oh, I'm subject to improvisation when composing a draft. However, those problems we have when working out a novel have this nasty way of being compounded by the dreaded "I don't like that" and at about 2/3rds of the way through for me: "I hate this."

First drafts seem so amateurish when we pause to take a breath.  It's important to find a way to let your problem solving address the holes you write yourself into without struggling to compose a solution.

When we force, we end up despising. Isn't that so?

"Light touch with purpose and a hefty dose of the craft."

I received that advice once when standing by an instructor staring at a painting that had "gone wrong."

Brushes don't fly across the room if we grip them lightly. No fork has flown across the kitchen lately. Grip the brush no harder than that.

When writing the drafts, grip the story no harder than when reading immersive passages of your favorite writers.

Lightly, with purpose. Allow yourself to solve problems in the text without seeming to search for the answer.

Another art can help. I don't see color and tend to paint in one or two color schemes. Terrible stuff.

I'm a writer. Not a painter. One helps with the other, though.

Hope your scenes this season glitter with the master strokes of Velazquez, Eakins, and Sargent.

I'm away until after the feast. Merry Christmas all.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


At left, an image of Santa and sleigh from wikicommons which is listed as no longer under copyright.

I went to see the Santaland Diaries last night. Good show. Small intimate theater. Dinner with friends before, and drinks afterwards.

These were members of my "chosen family." I'll explain.

There's the family you have because of blood relation and marriage. It's a kind of random number generator for relationship potential. It has about the same success ratio as random chance, too. There's all sorts of people in your related family with whom you'd have no social contact were they people you encountered in everyday life.

My own wife doesn't talk to either of her sisters, for example. I'm contact with but one of my own daughters.

It isn't something with which I'm proud.

I could relate the allegations of deplorable precipitating history but it wouldn't matter to you. It's a judgement call. In my judgement, I don't want to associate with my relation. Think of it as leaving the train platform and taking a cab after someone falls (is pushed?) onto the tracks, is crushed by the incoming train, and you having no responsibility at the site whatsoever decide to distance yourself from the events as if they were contagious.

For me, that's it. I don't want the worst parts of my family to "stick."

The chosen family are those folks you choose to have in your life as the surrogate for the loving and supportive folks you were otherwise not blessed with by the gods of random biological chance, or marriage. Don't forget those pieces of shit you suddenly inherit by virtue of your spouse.

Too harsh?

My own mother treated my first bride horribly even at the wedding.

Now, mothers ... you should consider this carefully. With whom is your son more likely to spend his life in loving partnership: you who are a horrible esteem-defeating bitch to his new bride or his chosen bride? Think carefully. You get one chance.

So, horror stories of social events aside, we have those inherited by chance and those we inherit by choice and invitation.

I love my chosen family.

I'm going to be away spending the holiday with my step-son and the grandchildren.

It's my own version of Santaland: the fake commercial environment subject of plastic merriment and satirical literature.

I'm playing my part though. I'm wearing the dickey and the elf shoes and smiling with all the authentic joy I can swallow from a bottle.

I'm doing it willingly.

Know why?

I have a dream of a world in which the fucked-up familial bullshit of which so many of us have suffered does not extend to the next generation. I want my grandchildren not to know petty hurt which becomes with time great chasms of emotional ruin. I say this knowing I'm hurting the industry by which legions of psychologists and councilors earn a living. Sorry guys. Nothing personal.

So, in the eternal advice of Mrs. Marie Bloom - a loving and patient kindergarten teacher who endured my antics - let's be nice to each other even though we're all different. We all sit at the same tables together through the whole school day, after all.

I was at the redbird table in kindergarten. Donna Allen was at the bluebird table.

I've been disappointed by that happenstance of geography for forty-five years.

I hope she's having fun with her chosen family.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Cards

The one at left is an image of a Christmas Eve scene from 1880 on wikicommons.

I'll send some next year.

I'm not very good about Christmas cards. Oh, the household sends some. I myself however am a little weak about the drill.

I don't even have an ugly sweater. I'm going to have to remedy that some time.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Well Seasoned

'Tis the season.

I like fruitcake (you knew that, I suspect) and eggnog. I like fruitcake soaked in Irish Whiskey. I like eggnog soaked in rum.

I like crime fiction soaked in both together or alternately.

Sorry for the departure on aliens yesterday. The day turned odd on me and so there we have it.

I'm back at WIP tonight knowing that as I begin to loath the effort at present, it is because the idea has grown more mature and the last chapters will incorporate items completely absent in the early ones.

Shitty first draft: it is what happens when we tell ourselves the story. The next draft begins to move toward what we might enjoy.

It is a bit like fruitcake. Until the whiskey cure, there isn't a lot to love. Afterwards, the flavors meld and the richness of the tart amber against the prism of candied fruit makes it all work together.

I wanted to say in this entry tonight that I am here in the writing by the light of a single bulb in my library because of a teacher long ago. If Andy hadn't been adamant about "make a mess then clean it up" as the key to the modern construction of prose, I'd be wandering among the headstones wondering where it all went.

He convinced me that thinking like a poet was not a bad thing.

Now, off to fiction and the land of lies.

Hope the rum helps you sleep. Try the fruitcake! We've got lots.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I don't have a picture today because I haven't any pictures of aliens to share.

It's late. I've been at work for a long day. My creative engine turned wonky on me today.

I read a little last night about Douglas Adams largely because I miss the relief I first felt at hearing on  public radio the audio of the BBC television broadcast of  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I knew that if someone could write the things Adams did, I was in the right universe.

Turns out to be a little harder to do the same than I may have thought at the time .

Anyway, there I was today thinking about my WIP while I did what I needed to be doing with all my full concentration (you see the problem here).

Lem's Roadside Picnic came to mind. The story of Adams hatching the premise of Hitchhiker while lying in a field in Switzerland got all crossed up in the Roadside business and there I was thinking like I had an idea.

I've had aliens on the mind lately for no good reason and then with these two crossed up the story draft I have of a guy killed in a park in Canada when he's hit by a bear carcass wouldn't go away.

Now, the point is this: who meets their demise by colliding with a bear carcass thrown at them (roughly 600 mph else the bear comes apart a little. Don't ask how I know) ? Does it make any sense at all?

That's the point. Aliens are not going to make sense.

Sure, there's the "sufficiently like magic" premise of advanced science. I get it. What if there is also the "completely crazy" part of advanced alien science? What if the leftovers from alien visits/encounters are so bizarre we just don't comprehend the meaning at all?

Picture this.

Sir Issac Newton - a pretty swell physicist despite later delusions he was the son of god - finds a bit leftover from an alien picnic. Let's say it is something you and I can imagine. Better yet, it is something Douglas Adams imagined: a knife which toasts bread as it slices it.

Here is Sir Issac with this knife which makes toast. He knows toast. He knows a knife. He's pretty good at optical transmissions and celestial mechanics. Oh, he's pretty good at abstract thought inventing calculus, too.

He uses the knife to cut an apple and it toasts part of the fruit.

He's not a cook. He thinks the thermal alteration of the apple is some sort of accelerated decay effect. It's a toaster knife. It doesn't make dutch apple pie. It makes - er - toasted apple.

Newton believes the mechanism which he does not understand (physics but not nuclear dynamics or thermodynamics) is a type of decay-inducing weapon (it is a knife). Completely wrong! Bizarre!

Now. Put yourself on vacation in the Canadian wilderness and you find something else. Would you know it and would you understand it? Would you be able to explain its meaning to anyone else based on your observations?

I don't think so. I think that's the problem. Lem really made his world in Roadside understandable according to special rules to we readers. Strange? Sure. But, the world had a definitive logic.

I don't think the alien leftovers from an actual encounter on the Earth would be in any way "logical" to us.

There's the premise. Now, some characters and a good story of, well, murder. Has to be a murder. They're aliens. Somebody would kill over aliens.

Oh, you're right. I'm talking about Canadians. Ex-Nay on the Murder-ay.

Still, there would be conflict. I'll go with conflict.

See? Bloody odd day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Little Murder

Ebi ducked under the murder tape at the diner’s entrance with a little help from Sgt. Murphy, crossed the tables to the sixty-cup percolator at the end of the counter, and poured a lukewarm. He ignored the M.E. sitting on the last stool.

Ebi tossed the coffee back in a single slug as a shot.

“Good to see you, too,” Sherm said, watching. “Took you long enough.”

Ebi was the sort of detective who knew the day of the week by who was behind the bar over at the Ugly Sweater. Sherm was the kind dentist who moonlighted as the coroner in a bankrupt municipality when no decent pathologist would take the job.

“Phone’s broken.”

“Happens when you don’t pay the bill.”

“Lucky guess,” Ebi said reaching over for the last cigarette out of the pack in front of Sherm. ‘What’ta we got?”

“You,” Sherm said fishing his lighter out of his pocket. “You have a walk-in full of hamburger: freshly ground waitress and cook. Real mess. Buckshot - and a lot of it.”

“Robbery then?” Ebi coughed. He was on the third week of the same cold. He’d have it all winter at this rate. “Why’d you call me?”

“You’re all the homicide we got left,” Sherm stood to move away. “Till’s full - no robbery.”

Ebi growled under his breath half trying to clear his throat and half sounding desperate. “You’d left Murphy alone in here it’d be a robbery.”

“Your part is down the hall in the head. Guy choked to death on a lump of coal - but that’s unofficial. I’m just spit-balling, really.”

Sherm pulled out a new pack of cigarettes and beat them on three different axis before tearing the foil.

“Except for the lump of coal down his throat.”

Ebi swore.

“Best part of my day right here though,” Sherm laughed. “Ready for it?”

Ebi put his hands in his coat pocket.

“Driver’s license says the guy answers to the name of Donner. Picture matches.”

“You’re a real piece of shit. What’s it called? A masochist?” Ebi asked.

“It’s sadist, bright boy,” Sherm laughed. “I’m a dentist. In my nature. Thirteen days left in the year and you get a real case. That’s fifty bucks to me. And you? You get to work for the big man’s office, again.”

Ebi took a flask out of a coat pocket and discovered it dry.

“Which list were you on this year? Remind me,” Sherm said.

“You still sleeping with my ex-wife?”


“Then I owe you an even hundred,” Ebi said starting down the hall.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fan for Life

At left, a lovely Kawasaki electric fan as photographed by Sasihinka and provided to wikicommons under a very generous license.

I was asked today about "fan fiction."

I gave an enthusiastic endorsement.

Nobody started out as Tolstoy or Hemingway. Even Leo and Ernie.

You need to tell stories, master you emotions, have a sense of what you can accomplish on the page and what you cannot. How do we learn these things? We write.

So fan fiction borrows a world and characters largely formed by other writers' efforts. What of it? It isn't like we all don't have a vampire (Thanks Bram) or a zombie (hat tip to George Romero) or a ghoul (Mr. King, Mr. Poe)  hanging about in t he short story (or longer) pile.

Somebody asks me about fan fiction as a way to develop into a writer and my answer is that there are no two paths the same but for the pen, the pad, the keyboard, and the time alone in your own head churning out a mess you will fix later. If that mess is Harry Potter, well. Have some Hogworts for me.

So, after dispensing this sage advice which boiled down to "whatever," I thought about some really horrendous ideas for fan fiction premises. I share some here.

Armageddon - the big budget boom "oilfield in space" Bruce Willis vehicle. Say they don't blow up the asteroid in the nick of time and the astronauts watch two pieces of the rock crash into the planet while they float around in an introspective space junket. Write on. [ For $5 extra, bring Bruce back from the rock. He made it out).

The Beverly Hillbillies - practically writes itself. Jethro and Drysdale are indited in a white collar Madoff-scam and go on a cross-country dash to avoid prosecution. Write among yourselves.

G8 (or G7, today) - The leaders of the economic club of "haves" get together without their spouses or reporters at various locations around the world. What we hear about as "economic talks" are alternately: world anti-alien efforts; hot tubs, taco bar, and marathon poker games with bets like "The Ukrane" ; or the world's most elite book club (but they still do the stuff book club participants do ... namely, not read the book). Write, write, write.

Vogon Cultural Appreciation Society - In the world of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe (Douglas Adams), write about the Chicago PR firm (pre-explosion) hired to promote Ishtak Nuembumanzer's folio of spring poems. No pressure. The fate of the Earth hangs in the balance of the sales number the team can produce. Yes, for $5 you can use publisher math (like anyone knows how THAT works, anyway).

Dilbert's Guide to the Galaxy - the characters of Scott Adams in the world of Douglas Adams. Cheap, I know. It was lying on the floor and I just picked it right up. I'm like that. Write anyway.

Harry Potter, suburban wizard. The great flaw in my mind of the whole Potteresque world is that the magic folk just blend in most of the time. Maybe that isn't a flaw. Remember Salem? Didn't go well for the witches. Cool tour now, though. So, give Harry a job in middle management, a mortgage, and a son who thinks pops is just "weird."  Or, make him a junior high history teacher. That ought to be fun. Put the school in , oh, Texas. West Texas.

Sunday Night Mysteries. Put the crew of your favorite detective shows together in Chicago. Columbo, Castle, Magnum P.I.,  the blonde from "The Closer," Sherlock - the annoying one (okay, pick any of the recent ones) and they form an agency. Give them government sanction if you want. They solve cold cases. Ice 'em down.

You see how the game is played. Character, setting, premise: write.

 How hard can it be? Really?

Hey Buddy - How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Clean and Tidy

I cleaned the library today. Filing, discarding, cleaning, re-stacking: all of it.

I've been working in a sty and I think it carried over to my energy and effort.

I've been feeling punky - thus the absence of entries here - but have managed to keep going otherwise. This blog tends to be the last thing I do in the evening before reading for pure pleasure. When I'm pressed, something gives.

I've written a little for fun today as I bumbled about the house. There's a little invitation over on Scribophile for a piece on Christmas and of course, how can I resist Noir?

It is so easy to cast the North Pole as Detroit at the depth of bankruptcy. I believe Detroit is on the way back (helps that property is cheap) with a new renaissance.

I might well share the bit tomorrow if I get it proofed and do another draft on the opening couple of paragraphs to move the hook a bit forward in the tale.

I need additional bookshelves quite badly. Is there ever a writer who cannot confess to the same? Am I alone in the wholesale piles which just collect?

Yes, I have a Nook and a Kindle. Yes, I still by books in hardback, trade, paperback, new and - gasp - used. I buy non-fiction used that are usually out of print. Good volumes on the Soviets are not the current vogue but they interest me.

I have on my desk now: The Complete Pelican Shakespeare, Notes from the Underground, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont.

I feel more alive when writing than at any other time of the day. I thought I was crazy; but, if I am, it is the same brand bought by Anne and tens of thousands of other writers.

I'm hoping the clean desk, clean library will help make the writing a little cleaner, too.

I hope your writing area is clear, neat, tidy, and efficient - just like your writing.

My birthday present from my lovely wife included two wonderful crow bookends. Pictures below.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bloody Cold

I've been fighting a cold all week. Writing? yes. Little else besides work, writing on the current WIP and sleep.

AT left, I'll share a picture from my desk at the shop.

Yesterday was Christmas Party day.

Pie. Given enough whipped cream, does pie even matter?

Trudging along.

More this weekend. Have some pie. It's good for you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dim Bulb

At left, a lovely copyright free image generously donated to wikicommons.

We often look for the big idea - the bright light.

Novels are a marathon, not a sprint.

A good idea for the premise helps. One is all you need. Lots of lessor ideas come along as supporting cast members when you compose the text.

They don't seem like much at the time and mostly we notice them as little bits of bling in composition - the little things that we think are more clever than our usual bits. (Maybe we end a chapter without showing the body to have the next chapter begin with a detective interviewing our protagonist, for example. We never mention the killing act.).

Put enough together and you get a whole basket of  holiday lights and display contest winners.

I'm stringing together little lights. If I'm lucky, I'll find a few strings of C9's to wrap up in this work as well.

Everybody loves a well-trimmed tree. I hope the cat stays out of yours. Neither cat will stay out of mine this year.

At least the dog has no interest in the thing. Artificial. Hate artificial; but, beagles are stubborn about a few things. Trees are one of them.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Last Summer's Leaf

The leaves at left are a year or so old, found on the pathway of the Vancouver waterfront. They lay strewn about as so many corpses.

Fire, eggnog, spiced rum, murder.

I'm having a grand holiday season.

I even put up lights.

I hope you too are having fun.

Holidays are the time that brings together family. As a murder writer, there is nothing like the holidays to provide inspiration.

Most victims knew their murderer.

Don't let the season pass you by. Kill a character  at a party. There's always that room in the house that is closed off. Put 'em in there.

'Tis the season.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Under Steam

Locomotive picture courtesy 0484 from Wikicommons. Lovely picture.

This is the Union Pacific "Big Boy" which operated until 1959 pulling heavy freight over a particularly steep piece of mountain track. It is enormously powerful and rather fast (sustained operational design at 80 mph).

Back in the swing and in at the office. Minor crisis is the name of the day gig and they oblige by returning to their normal operation as well.

I will spend the evening by the fire with a pot of tea (later, eggnog with rum) and pen in hand.

It's good to be in late fall.

Feels right. Feels like it is time to pull the load.

Hope your tracks are clear today. Shove the coal. Make the steam. Time is right for pushing on.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rumors of Demise

Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.

I'm alive and well. I've been traveling for the Thanksgiving Holiday and generally ignoring the electronic world.

I answered a total of three texts or emails all through the break.

I did take a call from the office. Otherwise, you got voice mail and a note that you will be ignored: truth in advertising.

I'm an e-hermit but the whole separation from the 24-hour news cycle of panic and indignation did me well. At left, a picture of my toes in the sand of an outgoing tide. Pasty toes. (Michigan weather makes an Irishman cringe.)

I'm working happily on a draft that I am enjoying for the first time in a very long time.

I get excited about projects just like you. I get all misty-eyed at the wonderment of prose I will deposit on the finest linen paper which might be worshiped for centuries.

Hemingway rolls over a little in my fantasy.

Then, the composition, the outline, the reality of the shitty first draft (and if your first drafts aren't shitty, you're lying to someone. Check the mirror). The culmination is the depression over "not what I intended."

Everyone gets it. Published authors push through, anyway. Effort and consistency are a fine match for talent and inspiration.

Updike speaks of his process in an article here. The operative quote {paraphrased} ? For every published novel there is another unpublished or aborted work in his collection.

This is Updike. The guy worked as a staff writer for The New Yorker right out of college and , yes - it was a literary seal of approval even then.

It's been thirty years since I felt buoyed by a work-in-progress. Maybe I'm dying?

It's a taken a bit of devotion and dedication to get enough words out on a regular basis to again embrace the process of composing the novel.  When you are young, it is easier to be moved by the emotion of your writing action. When you are older, it is hard not to see those emotional events as maudlin indulgence.

Writing is emotional for me. The act itself is emotional. I would suggest that it if doesn't effect you on an emotional level, the odds of you having the perseverance to stick with it are low.

You didn't start writing for medals and sales. You started to write because you could say things which otherwise you felt you could not express.

There are a lot of dead pens which go into the effort. Most of what they write has nothing to do with the novel you end up with ...

SO, deep breath, shitty draft, finish it: FINISH IT! It's wanking if not finished. Then, revise something else, maybe draft the next, come back to this one with a fresh eye and fix it.

I don't know everyone's process but that works for me. I've got four in the bin worth the time for another look. I've got about nine (read: "about" means unfinished hideous draft) total that are source for other things. I've file boxes full of short story drafts that may or may not get the attention they deserve in the next six months.

It is process. It is daily progress. It is the sun in winter and the summer rain. Nothing is how you want it. It is how it is.

Back from the beach with ink on my hands, murder in my heart, and key lime pie on my breath.

Is there any better?

I missed this blog just a little. To whom can I tell these things, otherwise?