clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Secret Lives of Pens

At left, a monk at work in a scriptorium. Public domain image hosted on wikicommons .

I use my own pen, mostly. Receipts, credit slips, waitlist sign-ins. I usually have a pen unless it is lost.

That second part: unless it is lost.

What happen to the pen after it is lost?

I imagine a collection of souvenir pens. They look ordinary enough; but, each was acquired from a famous writer in their lifetime without their knowledge.

I can see Updike searching for a Parker ballpoint to sign a rental car agreement and not having his pen any longer. Vonnegut's Bic isn't in his corduroy jacket pocket when he goes to sign an autograph. Dan Brown's crayon is missing when ...

Okay. That last one is just mean. You've got me.

I can see a type off odd little crook whose acquisitions are of attachment - to him - and not for the material value in the things he stole.

Now, he dies. The expansive home is filled with seemingly ordinary items in places of prominence and display. The pens aren't in the kitchen drawer. They're in the library in a frame upon the wall labeled in a neat little hand:

George O.
Bret E.E.
G. G. Mq.

The house is filled with these inconsequential little trophies acquired surreptitiously.

But there are other things, too.  There's a Matisse - say Blue Nude - which is supposed to be in the Baltimore Museum ...but this one is either a copy or another draft or ...what? There's a gun rack in the game room. There's a Mannlicher-Schonauer rifle chambered in the 6.5x54mm cartridge labeled "shooter three's rifle."

So, the dead man is a collector. He never put forth any of the collection for sale, auction, or display. What is the provenance? What would an heir do?

What would they do with a small box of Memorex tape labeled "18 min., R.N. potus."

Memorex in the 1980's was the largest worldwide supplier of magnetic storage medium. Some of you had a Sanyo dash mounted tape player that ate the stuff like candy.

There's something to this little tale. I'm going to have to think about it a bit.

What tale are you thinking of these days?

Witches? Zombies? Devils? Sugar-crazed nephews?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

At The Trade

At left, an Olivetti in the public domain hosted on wikicommons.

Not many left. No, I don't use one.

I've been too light on the trade this fall. I do my best work when I do a lot of it. I suspect many of us are this way.

When we write a great deal, we tend toward the simpler straightforward prose of the story. We're less indulgent. Less clever.

I'm doing a ton of work in the coming weeks. Morning session, evening session. This is what it takes for me.

I've a string of short stories that have been scratching at me and so drafts of them will be scratched out by me. Murders, mostly. I'm working the trades.

One must have material.

So, if you have an old aunt you just cannot stand or maybe a spouse with a onerous pre-nup, think of me. I'm killing 'em off by the bushel.

Just like poison: cheaper by the pound.

Back to work. Try to do a little more. It helps.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Death Squad Bingo

Photo at left in the public domain and hosted on Wikicommons. I'd guess it was taken about 1983. Subject is Thomas Sankara  late of Burkina Faso. Very late.

They dug him up this spring. Released the findings this week. Riddled with Bullets. Shocking.

He was a Marxist revolutionary who came to power in the height of the Cold War and attempted reforms aimed at removing Imperialist influence from the African continent. 

An elevator speech summary would be accurate in asserting Sankara as a pan-African Castro. 

He adopted Renault's Le Car as the state vehicle of Burkina Faso. 

Can't make shit like that up in fiction. No one would believe it.

He's not even a footnote in history now. 

There is however black humor in the passing of even a despot. I have a gallows humor and I'm putting more and more into the WIP as they come along.

My characters have been weak. Confessional time; but, there it is. 

With a little twisted humor though, our characters cross vast spaces of perspective that otherwise separates the white upper middle class female reader from the corpse on the floor of a dining room. 

Ever notice how in your favorite murder books when the body count grows the focus isn't on the outrage or revulsion but on the urge to solve the puzzle both as a reader and by the principals in the story?

Why don't people leave?

Three little girls murdered in Sharp Objects for example. If you lived in Murderville, wouldn't you move?

Well. Not you. You're reading Mayhem.

What about the people in Burkina Faso. Wouldn't they have moved?

Chained to the plow and we've all got to pull.

I've got rows of ink to plow. So do you.

Mind your dogma. It isn't safe in these neighborhoods for ideologues.

Try not to stage a coup. It excites folks way on over in the next county and their dogs bite hard.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


At left, Mars from the Spirit rover around Gusev Crater. Public domain photo JPL hosted on wikicommons. Not one of my vacation snaps.

Read a book then go to the movie?


After thirty-five years (enough snickering - you in the back)  of doing this you'd think I'd learn. I don't.

I'm an old bear and I never learn that movies are for people who don't read the book.

Read the book? Don't go.

Fine movie. Nothing wrong with it.

Unless you read the book.

I'm off to write on one. You should be too.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Blow It Off

AT left, beer cans on a wall used as target practice near Westerly, R.I. in May 1973. Photo courtesy United Sates EPA and thus copyright free. Hosted on wikicommons.

Alexander Hope, photographer.

In my college days, the colloquialism for not completing as task was to "blow it off."  Somehow seems to fit with crime writing, too.

I'm blowing off a writer's gathering this next weekend to go trout fishing. I'm missing Killer Nashville the end of October to go Steelhead fishing, too.

Seems like I'm missing a lot of writer's gatherings for fish. I plead guilty.

I need more work on content now that I'm beginning to find some of the content I'm generating to be interesting enough I personally might read it. Thus, it is getting close to a standard suitable for submission.

I'm going to spend the last of next week writing and fishing and will probably do both in solitude. My fishing crew cannot make the trip for various reasons and weekdays in the "up north" part of Michigan this time of year ...dead. Also suitable for crime writing.

I've got a story to finish and one to start.

I'm always more excited about "the next" project than the one at hand when it reaches this stage. I think that might be a strength in this case.

I hope you're excited about "the next" as well. Keeps us all working.

The time to go and pal around is closer to the time of "I've got a deal" than "I'm in the salt mines of anonymity." Maybe next year will be a celebration run. At least I'll have material in the folder should I decide on a skills conference next year.

Write mule, write.

Content defines us.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Still Here

AT left, The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. This image comes from wikicommons and innoxiuss and is an especially nice image in the rain. The photographer innoxiuss allows our use for just the attribution. Awfully nice.

I'm grinding but haven't had much to say for the blog. The allergies are hammering my attention span.

I managed to write-in a nice twist to the WIP last night, however. It feels good, too.

Janet Reed has a great piece on social media here. Solid piece, too.

Content, fellow mules. Content.

Content is fueled by more content.

  1. Write well. 
  2. Write often and regularly. 
  3. Finish;
  4. Polish;
  5. Publish;
  6. Move on.

I'm lingering on that first step: write well.

I'm beginning to like what I am producing, however. It's been about twenty-five years since that's happened. The last three or four have been worth it.

Work to do on the page with ink. Probably not so much to do here.

Monday, September 7, 2015


At left, a field of goldenrod as provided copyright free on wikicommons by Rooster613.

Lovely snap. Thanks!

Allergy season here. My day yesterday was spent recovering from taking my foxhound off-leash to a park where goldenrod rules.

Thus, my efforts of late can all be filed under "vapid."

How do you write through allergy season?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Like a Dog

At left, from 1885 a copyright-free image of a pack of beagles. Thanks to wikicommons.

I'm at the shop. I'm working like a dog on new product creation which is a bit like new novel creation with all the fun parts sucked out through its nether regions by an industrial suck-hose.

I'm working like a dog.

Opportunity. (Say the word "opportunity" to the tune in Mel Brooks' masterpiece High Anxiety).

So, back to the grindstone. The WIP is not doing much of the "P" though I am about to blow out a couple fingers from typing.

I could use a dog biscuit. Or a good howl. Either way ...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Writers I Miss

At left, the periodical reading room at the central New York Public Library. The room is the Wallace periodical room and appears here through wikicommons as posted by the photographer Bestbudbrian.

Great snap. Bestbudbrian certainly takes sharp images! Thanks for the use.

I wrote here last week.

I was in New York for business and had some time and so being just down the street on 3rd I stopped-in and wrote. Lovely.

It made me miss some writing friends. They aren't dead. They've just drifted away because; well, we're writers.

I've had a number of writing partners and small groups - some structured and others not.

I have no problem writing in a library or a coffee shop or a cafe. Fine. I learned long ago to shut out distractions in the day job and can be perfectly productive on a train or airplane or in a bar or even at a party. Focus skills are focus skills. Master them or not.

I write longhand in public and transcribe and edit on my laptop in my own - less expansive - library.

I do miss people I've worked with over the years. Some have gone on to successful avocational writing meaning I can buy their books today. Others are still anonymous writers not achieving complete works for the transition to author.

I have the stories now that I desire to finish and publish. I feel solidly about the work and am willing to sign my name. That's been a problem for a few years. It matters to me as the audience first.

So, shortly the endless submission process. Yet this decision and the completion of various pieces makes me miss my old partners.

I wonder if they are still writing.

I hope so.

I've enough tears for only my own dreams, however. I'll keep wondering for a bit more.

Part of the writers' creed. We keep to ourselves a bit.

Then we keep to ourselves a bit more.

Monday, August 31, 2015


At left, spuds as photographed by Job Sullivan who has released the image into the wild copyright free! Found on wikicommons. Nice mashers.

The writing is flat so we try and spice it up. Here, the cook has added a sprinkle of chives and a pat of butter.

We add words. Seldom helps.

Fewer, not more. Less description, not more. Faster action, not more transition padding.

Next time you think the great smashes has stopped by your page, try cutting. Try cutting hard.

I dropped two scenes last night out of nine and with just a few words here and there covered the whole bit without those two waltzes.

Turns out the whole thing moves better in 5/8 time. The waltz wasn't doing a thing for me. [ 5/8? think 5/4 time and Time Out by Dave Brubeck.]

So, armed with a pen of red and a story that turned flat in the last third, I'm cutting. I'm cutting to the bone.

It is a blog entitled Mayhem, after all.

Try a little yourselves.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Resume Course and Bearing

At left, navigation chart for NY Harbor from the US Coast Guard and as such is copyright-free. Provided here courtesy an image on wikicommons.

Has LORAN indicators on the chart. LORAN is no longer an aid to navigation used in North America. The system was shut down several years ago.

I'm back from NYC and back to working on my tight little group of three who are in the midst of murder (well, so far) wherever they go.

I've one in progress that saw a bit of time on an airplane devoted to the manuscript.

Of course, I had yet another idea of a crime while away from regular writing.

Ideas are great. Finished stories are better.

I'm back at the deck.

You should be too.

Manhattan never sleeps. Why should we?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Opportunity and Voice

At left, poster for Carmen as staged by the WPA and as produced in this flat by a member of the US Government. Copyright free image courtesy wikicommons.


I've recently started a new series of shorts in 3rd present. I like it. The dialogue always works in 3rd present but the narrative seems almost invisible to me at present. I like that. Makes the characters come to the foreground.

Years ago I submitted a story in 3rd present and got a note from the editor back in longhand. Lovely.

Listed four reasons why he didn't like 3rd present and why none of the stories he put forward ever were in that voice. He had a fifth point about my story but I cannot remember it. I do remember the rebuke on 3rd present and specifically how "says" did not fade into the background as well as "said."

I did not have the story stripped clean of descriptive narrative devices and that probably did not help the voice either. Minimalism is minimalism and you cannot suddenly add a gross overture of narrative description as a coda.

SO, voice. I'm have a bit of enjoyment with new characters doing new things. Thanks to Loren Estleman and his Detroit Is Our Beat stories for the inspiration to craft a tight knit trio. [ He doesn't know me except as a guy whose had a couple of his books signed at a book faire].

I've a vocational opportunity that is consuming a lot of my time.

We want opportunity most of all once we master our vocational crafts. I've got one looming and of course the best way to get what you want to to start doing the work without being asked to consider doing that sort of work.

You'll hear from me next week. I'm off to NYC.

It's the big time, ladies and gentlemen. I might have to actually act like a grown-up and change the world this time. I've pissed away all the other generous opportunities to do so.

I think I'll keep this one.

Might not have any others left in the basket. You never know how full it was loaded when you started out.

Doesn't mean I'll put down the pen. In fact, I'll work on the current story from the central branch of the NY Public Library as I wait for a colleague's flight to arrive.

I love NYC. Did I mention that?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Not Just Volcanoes

At left, image from US Department of Energy. The towers on the right belong to Windscale - a nuclear facility which caught fire in 1957.

I love the lairs of evil mad scientists.

Were I a better illustrator, I might have produced a coffee-table book of fanciful abodes with all their twinkling lights and death-rays-in-process.

I was thinking on the way home: volcanoes? Must we always put these hideouts in hollow volcanoes or deep beneath the traffic in New York City?

What about abandoned nuclear facilities? Great place. No one really poking around too hard. If you build your lair beneath a cooling reactor pile, well. You're guaranteed a bit of privacy.

Where do you set your crimes? The living room?


Try solving the case of Professor Malice dead outside his lair's entrance. Who'd want to kill a sweet old crackpot with designs on world domination?

You need the right sort of detectives for these sort of crimes. Luckily, I have them.

Off to the body count. There isn't enough folly in crime.

We need more Thin Men.

Thin Mints aren't bad either. Apologies to you gluten-free readers.

That's a mad crime if every I've heard.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Right Turn on Red

Public domain image at left courtesy US Government. Atlas Missile test fire.

When the aliens ask me to explain humans, I have the answer.

Right turn on red.

We make rules. We make rules after long experience with chaos and eventually decide we have to codify order.

We impose rules. Example: all stop on red.

Then, we cannot stand the order we've created. We have to introduce some of the chaos back into the system.

Amended rule: right turn on red, ostensibly after stopping.

"How it work for you?" They ask.

About like you'd think.

The Atlas was deployed in New Mexico. So was the group that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan (moved there after the mission).

Yep. That New Mexico. Tested the first bomb there, too.

If you were a little green man, it might be on the tourist map you bought down the road in Alpha Centauri.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Public domain image of a salad courtesy Novellina.


It is what food eats.

It is also what becomes dinner for novelists approaching the adverb "portly."

Not my favorite.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Writer's Guilt

Public domain poster from wikicommons originally published by the Office of War Information, USA.

I've got writer's guilt.

I badly handled a scene last night. Instead of a light and insightful little bit, it is a piece of hack drudgery to read.

I am going to move on and finish the story and catch the error with a big note I'll see clearly in re-write in case I'm addled when revision time rolls around.

You see what I did there.

I committed to finishing a story even though I've clearly made a bad mistake in clumsy prose.

Finish. The. Story. Then re-write.

Lesson there. Cheap one too.

We all make mistakes. Some writers just make fewer than others.

Nothing to feel guilty about - unless you don't finish the story.

Trust me. I've a chest of "the great unfinished" just in case I don't have enough for which to feel guilty.

Back to it. That ink can dry on the page or in the pen.

It will dry.

Guilt or not.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Problem or Two

At left, a cat image from wikicommons graciously declared copyright-free and in the public domain by its photographer. Thanks, Webber 2006.

I don't like cats. I'm a dog person.

In true literary fashion, I live with two. My wife says they are red mackerels. They have cute names.

They both prefer me to any other human in the universe.

I did say I don't like cats, right?

Every writer needs a cat or two. I'm cruising along immersed in prose and discover cat on lap, cat on foot.

How does this happen? No idea.

Tonight I had to wash my new tent because during my week of testing it in the meadow, a feral cat sprayed the thing. I cleaned it with the wrong products and had to re-condition it tonight.

Washing a three-man tent is a little like washing a cat: neither of them like it and you don't do as good a job at the end as your thought you were going to do when you started.

I've had a cat get covered in engine grease and so I've a little experience with "wildlife recovery"  cat washing in a de-greasing soap.

Want to see my scars?

At least the tent didn't fight back. It's drying outside my library right now. Looks fine.

SO, recreational product restoration complete, I turn to WIP.

After your obligatory chores, you too should close the iPAD and work on your own prose.

There's a story in there. It needs to be let out.

It'll scratch at the door and yowl until you do.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Pen of Purpose

 At left, a new pen for me. This is a Bolt from Karas Kustoms - no apostrophe for the possessive. [Web Site Here].

My version is made of brass and weighs just about what a pen of purpose should weigh. Re-write, edits ? Yes, this will do the job.

The bolt has the iconic "bolt action" for a retractable cartridge. It takes a number of  popular refills and a Parker I tried fits it AOK.

 The clip is attached with two small allen-head screws. The whole thing has a "machinist's product" sort of feel which is because it was produced in just that manner. It is a machined pen made here in the USA. Mesa, Arizona,
The bolt is indeed a bolt - as in rifle bolt. It has a Mannlicher-Schonauer sort of appeal.
In paw. The beast is substantial without being tiring. Now, you need to like heavy pens to like this one. It is about the upper limit of what I might use.

Their fountain pen named The Ink is next on my list. It has a machined aluminum body and copper/brass/aluminum insert into the barrel for holding the nib. It might be my daily carry instead of a Lamy 2000 stainless. It is less expensive and the industrial design suits my everyday needs.

My version of The Bolt came from Shinola whose store on Main street Ann Arbor I visited today. A couple notebooks and a new pen found their way into my basket.

Now, some new words better find their way into my new story.

All you story engineers out there: this is a fine pen. The Bolt, by Karas Kustoms.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Same the World Over

Norrkoping bar in Sweden at the airport in Norrkoping. JIP took the picture and allows us to borrow it from wikicommons for just the attribution.

There is something about an airport bar that is unsavory in its over-lighted antiseptic finish. It's the sort of place second-tier crimes might be arranged but for crimes of the first tier, nah. Nothing.

I've been to Norrkoping but have not had the pleasure of its airport. The train from Stockholm is just fine and Stockholm is a great airport for destination travel.

I think of Sweden and indeed this image is what comes to mind: florescent bathed cleanliness devoid of personality. There just isn't enough filth and grunge and neglect in the place for me. I've never sat in a bar an noticed anyone's initials carved into the table ot wall. These tend to me more my sort of bars. Spike's. Old Towne. The Sandbar. Jerry's.

I've put my cast of characters for the opening scene. There is tension a plenty between the actors.

Write what you know.

I know I need a drink. Mike mine a double inky fingers.

Happy Friday Night.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


I'm cleaning up campaign paperwork tonight after attacking the long-neglected grounds here at Bear Hill. I'm doing the clean-up in the company of a new beer - specialty ale - from my friends at Bell's.

Named for Holst's The Planets, these little gems bring something different to the table every time.

Tonight: Neptune.

The taste does have a bit of the mystic in it. Unfortunately, the state paperwork does not.

I'm going to kill an election official in an upcoming story. Cannot wait ...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Primary Season

AT left, an image provided copyright free by our old friends, the Former Soviet Union.


It is election time in the my local communist enclave. I don't live there but a trout fishing buddy does and I'll do anything to help my trout fishing buddies even when they are borderline communists.

Actually, I don't think the next town over is run by communists. It is run by communist sympathizers many with trust funds, so there.

I'm in the last throes of a decidedly unpleasant primary campaign which has come out favorable on the question of my buddy. Yea!

It is so much better in fiction than in politics. Problems? We write ourselves out of it. We just make stuff up ... like a five year plan.

My five year plan has me finishing the story I'm upon which I am grinding by the end of the month. I better get on with it. The NKVD will beat down my door if I am late.

We haven't seen the body yet. That's a bad place to be in a mystery story: corpse-less.

Go look in the rose garden. I left one there last story. I bet it is still around.

Where do you keep yours? A purse?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Not Quite Like the Real Thing

At left, close-up of strawberry by the US Department of Agriculture courtesy wikicommons. Public domain image. Scott Bauer, photographer.

The image at left isn't a strawberry. It has as much resemblance to a real strawberry as the milkshake I just consumed.

Oh, they had some resemblance to  actual strawberries. The have an appearance related to strawberries. Neither is a functional facsimile.

Scott's picture at least refrains from leaving a vaguely "chemical"  taste lingering on one's tongue. Yes, I did drink the whole thing.

We've all read these stories where something seemed to be in the print, the characters, the plot, the conflict. In the end, there wasn't much there of what we expected.

I'm fixing some of those bits in an story I wrote a decade past. It's found its way into my current WIP as it fits, and I learned what didn't work properly way back then.

There's no substitute for some things. A "complete" story is one of those.

Farmer's Market. Saturday morning. Go there.

They won't have strawberries but they'll have something else just as delicious.

You'll know the thing from its image.

You'll know the genuine article by ... taste.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Daderot generously provides the image at left of Rodin's The Thinker from outside the Cleveland Museum of Art - in it's damaged condition. Daderot placed the image in the public domain and it is hosted on wikicommons.

In March of 1970, the statue was damaged by a bomb placed at the feet show at left as having been destroyed. The statue is exhibited in its damaged condition.

I never think of my characters as being in "dodgy" places despite the subject matter of my stories. I always place them as being at home amidst the mayhem of their tumult.

Why is that?

Why is it that I think there is little value in the unexpected consequences of life among the ruins of life.

I suspect the answer lies in a lack of appreciable re-write.

Pick up a story you've written from a decade past and - if you can stand it - you'll see things from a new position in your craft.

Sometimes that position represents greater skill at the composition or the grammar or the sparse yet adequate description. Sometimes it is merely in the author's point-of-view.

I'm still curious why I never have a thug with a gun interrupt my story because I certainly place characters in places where it would be a believable outcome.

Maybe I've become comfortable in "dodgy" places and so my stories are comfortable as well.

Walk softly and carry a spare pen.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sharpening the Mind

Fellow at left in photograph by Peter Scherer is sharpening his scythe. Photo in public domain obtained from wikicommons.

When I am busy with two other things and take a minute to look at my working notes in my little pocket notebook, I usually come up with some new feature for the story at hand. This feature usually is far better than what I can conceive when staring at my actual manuscript.

I don't know why.

I do know it has made the investment in a good pocket notebook pay off five times over.

I recently moved a murder setting to Stockholm because it worked. Then when in a minute between meetings today, I remembered the Stockholm Curry Club and made my inspector from Stockholm's finest a charter member.

Now, it doesn't do much for the plot but it does a lot for the character.

Swedes eating curry. Nice twist.

I'm done with trimming the jungle which was my yard. I did not use the scythe tonight.

I used a powerful John Deere.

Some tastes demand haste. Some demand a more contemplative approach.

I could use a little haste tonight. I've ideas to capture.

So do you.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Land of Ink and Coffee

At left, coffee black as ink as photographed by Jon-Isac Lindberg. Jon-Isac has waived all rights to the image making it public domain but we like to attribute our photographs here on Mayhem, even when the artist is so generous as to allow any use.

It's more a half cup of coffee, isn't it?


The summer season of trials and visits has past. I went almost nowhere but the procession here through the house was substantial.

I could manage a kind of writing schedule (not daily, alas) and so made some progress. Now though, the disturbance has past and just the balance of summer remains.

There is little as productive as a break once in a while.

I've a new stream of stories, new characters, a nice clean desk (cleaning is a consequence of visitors especially when the library becomes headquarters for "camp cub"), and a joy for returning to the discipline of ink, transcription, revision, re-writing and ....submission.

So, off to do some writing. At the shop all day doing what I do which had fallen behind as well.

I hope your characters enjoyed the break as much as mine. A few more murders have popped-up in the interim. Imaging that? Shocking,

Of for trouble. You too.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Writer in Summer

At left, the pennant for the family camp. All the cubs got to take one of these home.

No, I'm not a crafter. Thus, there is a distinct Moonrise Kingdom sort of effect in these pennants.

So, back on an even keel. June rapidly became consumed with Camp Cub set-up. I made a flag, pennants, made a campsite in the north meadow, fire pit, the works. Still managed two serious and productive sessions while the cubs were up and about.

The scorecard:

One bee sting.
A billion fireflies.
A whole bag of Stay-Puff Jumbo.
Most of the ice cream in the state.
One whole smoked piglet (my fishing buddy did the roasting ...we just consumed it).

My library became a bunk house. So did a lot of the rest of my house.

We had a little rain but nothing serious. Sleeping under the stars? Success. Venus and Jupiter? Another success.

All the while I'm developing a secondary character in a priest as a foil for my Sheriff protagonist. Since I kill a Methodist minister in this story, seem helpful to have the not-particularly religious foil.

So, off to the land of prose and imagination. after a little nap.

Oh, my flag.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ah, Summer

It is summer.Pastimes and lemonade.

Here's some of the best summer writing I've read. Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach are credited with the script. 
"Basically, there's three grabbers, three taggers, five twig runners, and a player at Whackbat. Center tagger lights a pine cone and chucks it over the basket and the whack-batter tries to hit the cedar stick off the cross rock. Then the twig runners dash back and forth until the pine cone burns out and the umpire calls hotbox. Finally, you count up however many score-downs it adds up to and divide that by nine."

Friday, June 19, 2015


I planned to go to Nashville this year for Killer Nashville.

I'm not going. I'm going to eat the registration and just go about my business.

 The solution is to solve problems instead of discussing problems.

Writing drives solutions.  Polished words for submission are the only yardstick of merit. The rest? Posturing.

Write, finish, submit.

Am I up at 4 AM to write? Well, how hard can I be trying? A conference doesn't change that lack of effort. Success comes possibly by the door of effort. Possibly.

 It doesn't come from any other door at all.

I've life experiences for for all the literature I can craft. Publishing - and I mean traditional publishing only - means crafting with sufficient style, poise, and evident skill so that someone else will trade dollars for words.

I've no words to trade.

First, write well. Second, write to finish.

The rest is immaterial before I have solid product.

My guiding logic - when it matters - is "victory or death."

To that end, I share my favorite word.


There is work to do and clearly I need to be doing it.

Stories do not write themselves.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Not the Best of Places

At left, the Copenhagen University library from Esther Westerveld as posted on wikicommons. Esther allows us its use for the attribution. Nice of her.

I wrote with a friend at the local library tonight. It's a kind of test.

You take an aspiring author, surround him by books of every subject imaginable, and tell him to sit and write the story he alone knows thus far.

I love writing in the library but the library is perhaps the most distracting possible environment to find myself.

Yes, I wrote. No, I'd rather wander the stacks.

So would you.

Back to it, penmonkey. That grind is how one becomes part of the library instead of merely a patron.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Paddy O' Wagon

At left, public domain image of a paddy wagon from Portland. Approx 1912. Image from wikicommons.

Wow. What a beast.

My coppers never have such lush rides. My current WIP puts the sheriff in a P.O.S. International Scout that hates to start, Why a Scout?

County Commissioner owns an International dealership.

My sheriff might not have the best of rides; but, he's not stupid.

Neither are the folks in Loren Estleman's Jitterbug which I've very much enjoyed. You might like it too.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer Camp

I'm away from the blog as I work tonight on items for summer camp. At left, from wikicommons the entrance to a camp in Maine. Copyright free image.

I'm making pennants for the cubs for the summer camp we host here on bear hill. We have the family up, camp in the meadow, and have fun. It's the first year for the meadow. Last year was the front yard and only one cub camped out.

I'll post pictures when I'm done. It'll look a little like Moonrise Kingdom here when I'm done. 

Also, I have a 30+ foot tall rustic flagpole to errect this week from which we'll fly the "Bear Camp" flag yet to be constructed.

Should be a blast.

I've a meadow. I'm going to use it.

I also have a pen. I should be using that but I'm doing crafts.

I know. I hate crafts, too.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fresh Air

A left, Army Ambulance volunteers in training, 1918. Copyright expired. Image from wikicommons.

I like tents. I like camping. I like the out-of-doors.

I don't know if I'd write well while camping. Never tried. I've taken notebooks but when I stop moving, I sleep.

I might have to put of a tent in the north meadow this weekend and haul Lou the foxhound for protection against ... Well. Louis mostly protects against uneaten cookies.

I like the feeling of deep breaths while camping. The second or third day returns sleep I seldom have at any other time.

I cannot be alone in this fondness for bugs, dirty, rain (inevitably) and slightly over cooked food.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sneaky That Way

Tim Vickers allows the image at left to be used - copyright free from wikicommons. Nice job, I think. Eastern Diamondback.

I like characters whose twists sneak up on you.

I consider myself a friend of Joel Cairo and in that crowd a friend of the friends of Eddie Coyle.

Eddie had no friends when all the bills were paid. Neither did Mr. Cairo.

I like the twists and turns not so much in plot but in character. Took me a while to see that.

I'm trying a little of that business myself.

If you've ever seen a snake by surprise, you know what I mean. It looks like a stick or leaf litter or nothing at all, really.

Then, it is a snake.

Of course, the snake has all sorts of bad or evil connotations and in my characters, these are just sides of them we didn't expect. We're set-up all along walking down the path and bam, we're a little surprised at how competent or insightful or just plain tough they are in the end.

I've a heroine in the current WIP in that mold. The protagonist looks after her and regards her as a little sister but she's tougher than all the murderers in town put together.

There's a lot of murderers in town all of a sudden. All it takes is one and everybody wants to join the club.

I like the camouflaged character. I like it most when you think back and all the pieces fit together but not in the way you thought at the time.

Watch where you step.

Some of that twisting and turning might be something that bites in the end.

Ask Eddie.

[ Eddie Coyle appears without permission of Mr. George Higgins, author. The Friends of Eddie Coyle ].

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Take It With You

At left, Finnish children on parade. These are probably refugees of a sort from the war. The photo doesn't clarify beyond saying they are Finnish children.

Copyright free image from wikicommons due to age.

I like this photo for the suitcases.

I lived out of a suitcase like this when I was a little older. I had a "two suit-er" and almost everything I owned fit inside it. Almost.

If I knew I'd be dragging bags after me for the next forty years I might have blown my head off right then. As it is, I've got it pretty good - except that I'm still "Packy the mule" when traveling with Frau Bear. Comes with the role.

I take my fiction with me. A lifetime of being "somewhere else" has taught me how to shut out the outside world. I've talked to writers who need the solitude or the inspiration of the lonely beach or the cry of the loon. I've not however talked to many writers with a number of books in print with this disclosure, however.

I attended one of those high schools without walls. Yes, back in the 1970's there was a move to "break down the walls" and create an immersive flexible environment for learning. These are largely noisy unproductive structures - until you learned to deal with the distractions.

Who knew that I'd be so well prepared for cube farms that I'd find door-less offices and open bullpens comforting?

I think it is all bullshit, by the way. The first thing we give you once you make field-grade in the corporate ranks is a nice think oak door with which you can shut out the rest of the world and get down to that independent knowledge-work of which you do so much.

Yes, I see the satire dripping a bit, as well. I didn't shake my brush well enough on that line.

Anyway, I am one of those knowledge workers and I do shut an oak door and work independently. I also sit in a coffee shop and scratch away. Location means little to me. Focus means everything.

With that, I've had great success carrying a small pocket notebook devoted to the current WIP in my trouser pocket. Last year, I bought a little leather cover for these - typically - Moleskin notebooks. It really helps their endurance.

Anyway, I find carrying my fiction around in my head helps me focus on those things that are lost when I'm wallowing through prose. The chance to be a portable writer gives me the opportunity to have things strike me, record them, and move on where in prior years this inspiration and clarity would have been lost.

When you have a volume, a WIP, a short story, you do carry it around with you.

I'd suggest packing a little bag for it next time and carrying that in your pocket, too.

Your story is a refugee until you finish it and grant it an identity. Help its journey with a little luggage.

You might call it the baggage of your writing. Clever turn, that.

Not clever enough for the remark, though.

Back to it. Work to do.

I should write that down.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ink Stains

At left, a letterpress operation in Brisbane, 1921. Copyright-free image on wikicommons. Some of the aprons are ink stained.

I'm nostalgic for letterpress printing. It probably comes with the territory as I'm a longhand composer of prose.

There is something tactile about the act of pressing test.I feel that when i read the words, as well.

I know continuous print and computer typesetting reduces cost. I'd still like to have a book under my name with enough merit to have a few copied pressed.

Yea, I know. Write well and it can happen.

I'm writing well now. We'll see what the future brings.

Mind your fingers. You need them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

According to Plan

At left, the automobile transport Cougar Ace aground in July, 2006. The photo is by Steve Hillebrand of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a part of his professional duties. The image can be found on wikicommons.

You have to live with the characters you write. For novelists, that means living with them for quite a while. You have to love them despite the flaws you give them.

Sometimes, you'll add something flippant in the writing which seems inconsequential. Later, it seems monumental.

If your character snaps at a question, it matters. If he is sullen, it matters. If the character lies to the reader, it matters.

Whatever they do matters.

You have to decide if you can live with them or not.

It's taken a bit to get this group to where I can spend my evenings in their company.

I hope your little imaginary friends are behaving themselves, too. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone how much their fake little lives matter to you.

It can be our secret.

Ours, and the one million people who will by your book.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Not Dead Yet

I was just suffering from Spring.

Tombstone at left the result of my own photography.  No, not photoshopped.

I had a little writing set-back then decided the protagonist of my WIP was incorrectly voiced (fixing that). Also, the day job.

So, back from trout camp rejuvenated, ready, and writing.

I'm not dead. I was however a little less than alive as a suffering writer.

It's all grist. The wheels are turning.

More of what we feel into our protagonists, ladies and gentlemen. Emotional journey - remember? Emotional.

Readers must be made to feel. Thanks to Steve Almond for that. Never met him - but I've heard him say it.

I'm off. Writing to do.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


The sign translates into "beware, mowing."

Dickelbers provides us with this image from wikicommons. Dickelbers has appeared on these pages before  for just the attribution under the creative commons license. Either we have the same taste or its a strange coincidence.

I'm mowing and tending to the grounds. I'm walking the foxhound.

In the morning, I move from the extremely-rough pre-draft to ... a full text first draft of the work in progress.

Hang on, social services. - (Moonrise Kingdom)

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Spruce tree at left as photographed by Rosendahl and released into the wild copyright-free on wikicommons. Thanks!

In my part of the world, these tress are undergoing rapid spring pollination.  Pollen drifts off in clouds covering everything.

Thus, the sneeze.

I'd write more but - I have to go get another tissue.

Won't last long.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


At left, a picture of a weed by Jakub Kolar who generously allows its use here from its home in the wikicommons.

I worked on weeds tonight. Yes, I spot-spray.

I've been groundskeeper of bear hill this week. I will be for a couple more weeks and the blog will be spotty.

I'm writing in the mornings.

The weed at left is a metaphor for all those embellished descriptions which it takes years to learn to remove from our writing when composing.

There's nothing wrong with the words except they occur out of place. In the sweet prose of an adolescent poem they're wonderful. In crime fiction, they're death itself.

Broadleaf herbicide until cured, my dears.

Crime needs little chrome. It is the human aspect we need - not the authorial intrusion.

Now is the season to grow. How's your WIP doing? Getting enough sun?

The fertilizer can be a tad heavy around here.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Monitor Bracelet

At left, the device of title. Photograph from wikicommons and Ctruongngoc. Nice snap. Thanks!

My foxhound dashed off tonight. He's back. Went about 200 yards and decided to play with a little neighbor boy (age 4) who promptly named him "Fuzzy" and was disappointed he couldn't keep him.

Worse part, I completely opened the door and let the hound out without a leash. Completely pre-occupied and so, he's free. My fault.

Back now.

Ordered the doggie equivalent of a monitor bracelet. It's called Tagg. Will be here in June. I'll let you know how it works.

Houdini hound.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Right Words

At left, from the Catacombs of Paris - a photograph of words "unearthed" by Jerome Bon and used here from wikicommons in accordance with the terms of use: attribution.

Thanks Jerome.

We're writers. We know the value of the right words. Hemingway famously wrote but 350 words a day in normal production declaring the effort sufficient - for the 350 right words.

No one is quite sure how many it took him to find those 350.

I write today of encouragement.

Nobody has more ability to influence aspiring writers than ...other writers. The right word, at the right time, to the right audience.

It works for our own prose.

It also works for the prose we've not yet read from hands who have yet to conquer their own insecurities and self-doubt.

That is where it lays, you know. The whole writing business lays in self-doubt.

You have to own up to improving your own words for the most critical audience in the world: you.

There's no short-cut. There's no substitute.

Before you can sell you own work, you damn sure should be convinced of its own merit.

When you don't yet know how to recognize merit in your own words, encouragement is critical.

Later, your aptitude and perception and ability and appraisal sense will mesh and you'll know "it's all shit" from "oh my Dog! What was I thinking? What a pile of wrong choices."

Early though, you don't know the difference in your own work.

You have to keep writing for that to come through. You have to read the works of other unpublished writers to recognize your own faults. You have to kill your own ego and understand that "good" is a brutal leveling field criteria that separates "sold and published" from "novelty horseshit."

When you are going through it; when you think you've made the commitment to the effort it takes ( and when you make that "commitment," you really have no idea what you are undertaking. If you did, you'd just go improve your tennis game and blow the whole writing business right off), you fumble a bit and a little time later think it was all some form of delusion.

It is then you need a little encouragement.

If you are a writer, you understand that point I make.

You have an obligation to help someone who is struggling.

You have that obligation until the last breath you take because somewhere in your writing career, somebody did it for you and you had know idea that's what they were doing.

You're older now. You are wiser.

You're obligated.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Working it Out

I'm working out the mechanical details of a story.

In the meantime, I'm going to have another one of these.

At left, a cafe au lait that Tim Boyd from Brooklyn shares with us through wikicommons. The perfect color, too.

I'm writing a cheerful happy fellow whose wife has left him and whose existence in a small county is endangered by the occurrence of a murder with few clues.

That's right. I said a happy fellow.

Who knew? I'm trying something new and a protagonist who is happiest in the throes of mayhem and murder? Well, Fits - doesn't it?

Whistle while you work. The coffee's too hot still, anyway.

Friday, May 1, 2015


Hard week and something had to give. The blog was it.

I spent my time with the ink. I did the day job. I fixed my tractor. Most of the time, my tractor is used to trim the lawn.

At left - not my tractor. This is from wikicommons: a Minneapolis Moline "U" as photographed by Danziel Raines.

I steered my first motorized vehicle sitting on a rug on top of the transmission box of one of these model "U".

My Grandfather sat in the seat and we plowed. There isn't much to plowing once someone shows you. It's about interval and staying in the grove with the wheel. On-land plows? Entirely different beast in modern agriculture. I ran one of those from an 8630 during high school. Milked cows, too.

I hated the farming bit. I'm a stockman.

Where I come from, children grow up fast. I had my own jeep  - a CJ2A - which I drove back and forth from town to the ranch when I was thirteen. Ran into a barbed wire fence with it once. Stretched the wire and stalled the engine. Hard to tighten the wire and splice a broken strand. Nothing broken, nothing hurt.

I'm enjoying my WIP. I'm enjoying the spring.

You never know how many you have left. I've had several.

I'm not sure I need anymore; but, I'll take all they're handing out.

There are stories to tell. Most of mine are filled with dead people.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Flat Out

Photo from Famartin on Wikicommons. Free use for the attribution which is a bargain in itself. Lovely focus here. Nice job! Route 93, Elko County, Nevada.

Makes me homesick - except for those mountains. I had this scene without the mountains.

I made great progress in the past 48 hours. I'm telling myself the story in all those sloppy ways it takes. I have scenes and lots of side notes about what I think is going on in each.

First, survive the road trip that is the rough draft. Survive.

Take water along in the car. If it breaks down, you might not be near anything you want to drink.

Trust me.

Plastic milk jugs say lives. You'll drink hot water when you're thirsty enough. No harm done.

Now, back on the road.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Early in the Morning

At left, a rooster from wikicommons as photographed by Gary Crossey. Nice bird. Looks loud.

Allergy season is open. The sagging will and general lethargy hits until about 11:30 PM where a good two hours is spent being uncomfortable until passing out.

Nevertheless, it renders my preferred time to write useless. I'm an evening scribe.

I discovered last year that I am much more productive in the mornings during this time of year.

So, cock-a-doodle-do.

I am not wild about rousing, but I am wild about getting on with this project. If that means getting out of bed then I'm up and around.

Coffee please. Additional coffee.

Might help my more sprite-ly characters this time around, though. Lively as in imbued with life.

I've had enough brooding introspective killers. I want murderers with smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts.

I'm going to put a badge on a couple of them.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Time, Time, Time

At left, copyright free image of HMS Ajax commissioned in 1913. She was broken up in 1926.

I am caught occasionally in the effects of the passage of time. I think it moves so quickly.

Then, perspective.

When I think from 2000 until today 2015, The change is somehow less than I would have expected.

Where are cars of tomorrow we were promise when I was a child? Infiniti used this theme as the basis of an advertising program not long after 2000, also.

My phone can do more today than in 2000 though I personally don't use it for that purpose. (Bit of a telephone Luddite. Fully function top-end smartphone which, because of my work, frequently is not on my person and when it is does not have enabled data, wifi, Bluetooth or GPS.) It is a phone in my hands.

I do not consume video over the net. I don't consume video. I'm not on facebook and the twitter account is useless.


Though I think to the time of the setting for my current WIP - the late 1970s - and how quickly things changed. !977 to 1992 - and equivalent period from 2000 to 2015.  For a consumer, the big change was the advent of CD's. Now from 2000 to 2015 ... mp3's ?

I'm trying to catch the flavor of a quirky set of characters. I'm trying to decide how much they hang onto the past. I'm trying to decide how much their immediate world changes them.

I think my answer is that my characters stay much the same but the implements of their lives change.

My family - I lived with an Aunt and Uncle - were on a party line in the late 1970s. I have to decide how to handle this sort of fact. "Private lines" (we had those, too ) were luxuries which involved dedicated twisted pair all the way to your door. You paid Ma Bell a lot of money for that service in my world.

I've some temporal evaluations to do - but maybe for the next draft. I've got the core story to cover this draft.

I'm thinking, though.

So are you.

Don't let me catch you listening to the receiver on the party line when it isn't your ring.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Trout Opener

Photo at left provided copyright free from the US Fish and Wildlife Service on wikicommons. Thanks.

Trout opener today.

I decided to choke a victim rather than have her killed with a hammer.


It takes place off-page and yes, my protagonist in this story does indeed dispatch the killer. At least, he dispatches one of them.

Ah, more than one thing to manage at a time! Never a dull moment.

Hope your fish are big.