clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pen Review

Kaweco Lilliput fountain pen.

Get one.

I'd post a picture but my phone ate them. I'm not sure what's going on with it. Might be dying.


The pen is small. It is available at JetPens. I doesn't leak. It fits your hand well when posted.

It can be carried in a trouser pocket. The pocket of your jeans. A purse.

You want to make provision to have some extra ink cartridges handy. You probably carry a purse, a backpack, a notebook case, an ipad case. The ink will go in one of those.

It writes cleanly.

You'll write more using it. I know.

I have the copper. I have a friend who also writes and has several different models now. Loves them.

He's a much more serious writer - meaning pen to page - than I am. I have an engineer's sensibility. He appreciates artisan craft.

I mentioned he has several?

If you're writing with a cramped disposable pen and you are a writer, why aren't you using a solid reliable tool than enhances your self-esteem when you use it?

These small pens are relatively inexpensive, delightful to use, and the sort of treat that make you want to use them.

I love it. I'll take a picture here sometime and put it in the blog. Bloody phone. (no, not an iphone).

Off to write. Work to do.

Yes, I'll use my little Lilliput pen.

It's fun to use, Guliver.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Aim Takes Effort

At left, the FBI target practice from vehicle in the 1930's.

Copyrright free photo from wikicommons.

New project. new story. New conflict.

I love stories with a weaving conflict. One, the another, then another and somehow they're related by more than the presence of the protagonist.

These sorts of conflicts work well within the confines of a crime story.

I have a different sort of crime story on my mind now and the protagonist is a juvenile. She's worldly, tough, and uniquely equipped to deal with the darker subjects of crime fiction. This is no YA tale. This is a crime story with a young protagonist.

I'm working on the weave. I have to dance the reasoning of believably as to why she'd be involved and why she'd be uniquely suited to be involved. I think I've got that part down.

Now, to weave the events together with the antagonist, the contributing conflicts, the cause and effect pendulum.

I once accidentally tapped a dead short from a pair of 220 cables hanging from the shop ceiling attached to jumper cable heads. We had extremely large electric motors in the shop (oilfield equipment)  and this necessitated ready power for the repair and servicing cycle. We had live power dangling from the ceiling in a most OSHA unapproved fashion.

Anyway, I dead shorted these on a piece of motor housing instead of through the armature.  Pop. Threw me a dozen feet back onto the shop floor before the 200 amp breaker blew for the circuit. Yea, if it had gone through me in earnest, would have killed me.

I always wanted a power cell with that sort of juice. I'm going to give one to my protagonist. She's going to pig-stick a fellow when over-matched.

Buffy got nothing on Kate.

I better get to work. Wouldn't want to make her mad.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Up To No Good

Image from wikicommons. Specifications list this as taken by A. Millership in 1914. Inscription German Zeppelin dropped bombs on the local golf club located nearby Hollywood Farm NR King's Heath. I expect the NR meant near.

Great photo.

If indeed correct as a raid in 1914, this is one of the earliest of the war. It would pre-date the official British first raid of late December.

These airship raids continued throught the great War. Later, these raids were joined by aircraft raids of the Gotha bombers.

I suspect crewing these great airships some of which were nearly 700 feet long was a very harrowing affair.

I think the setting would be delicious.

Murder in the skies among the crew. Who is to know if they don't make it back?

I told you I was up to no good.

Friday, March 27, 2015


The pub in the picture is The One-Eyed Rat. Photo by Gordon Hatton as part of the UK Geograph project. He allows us to share the image here from wikicommons for the attribution. Nice. Oh - and look at the flowers in the foreground.

The pub is in Allhallowgate.

I'm thinking tonight of betrayal. I'm thinking of the rat. I'm thinking of the narrative tension derived when we know there is a Judas in the room but the protagonist does not.

I'm thinking of techniques by which I can extract this tension as a plot element among allies.

Rats. Very interesting. Very.

Have a beer.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


At left, a photograph of Gross Iser now in the public domain.

Gross Iser is/was a small village by the Polish boarder largely removed by the Soviets in '45.

The residents - few in number - made their livings in part by fishing and eating local trout.

I'm thinking of these little backwaters tonight as I look at a novel.

Bogmail written Patrick McGinley taught me that murder, deception, mistrust, prejudice, and the rural environs can be a wonderful combination for a story.

It was my fist piece of rural noir, as it were.

Now, as I set on a new project I'm thinking of this book. There is more thinking to do and so I'll let the backwaters run slowly for a bit longer as I tackle a topic a bit more developed in my mind.

Murder in the rural village still haunts me. There's nothing quite like the fracture of confidence which comes from the unnatural demise of a neighbor.

Watch him with that shovel, Sasha.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


At left, photo of skier dragging a sled from US Fish and Wildlife. No copyright.

I'm deep in a new project, slept badly, and am dragging.

I'll save the witty comments for tomorrow.

I spent all my energy on the page tonight doing outline work. Lots of it.

I'm done like dinner. Fork me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mad, Crazy Love

At left, Drs. Tolman and Einstein at CalTech. Copyright free photo as the original copyright has expired and was not renewed.

Dr. Einstein you know from General relativity. Dr. Tolman is the father of relativistic mass - a closely related concept. Both men were ultimately mathematical physicists and both brilliant in that they could explain the complex in very simple terms.

I have a copy of Dr. Tolman's 1938 text Statistical Mechanics.

But, enough of the history lesson. I'm writing today about a favorite topic because I'm otherwise completely insecure. I've just finished a work and am sending it out on submission and so ...

You can find the insecure fabulosity  here.

We're here today because of mad, crazy love. I love mad scientists.

I love the evil and the benign. I love their crazy way of looking at the world. I love the fact that social interaction and all that comes with it seems beyond their comprehension.

Facebook? Would drive even the most sane mad scientist right over the edge. [ It does me. I'm among the 4 billion people on Earth without a Facebook account for a reason].

Twitter? Well. This might be a novel way to deliver a ransom note to the U.N.

@UnitedNations: Hand Over Australia or I unleash the Wombat of Doom. You have 24 hrs. #amcrazy #amlaughingmaniacally.

Might work. Maybe.

What I love most about mad scientists is the juxtaposition of their unique - and perhaps singular - worldview with those of everyday people.

Now, imagine your parents were mad scientists. I'm close to Ann Arbor so that isn't a huge stretch for me.

I think I've seen this family downtown.

Mom with discrete Geiger counter in a Longchamp purse.  Dad using an infrared monocular to take daytime sightings of the planet Venus for some hastily improvised orbital mechanics. Sissy with her Hello Kitty backpack. Alison lagging behind pretending she's not actually with this group and hoping no one from her class is downtown at the same time. She's intent on her phone tweeting "lame lame lame lame lame #familyouting #inhell #savemenow"

Of course, her spell check (iCorrupt) causes her to actually tweet #savemeow and 92,000 cat lovers are suddenly confused believing an actual cat has mastered the art of tweeting from the humane society.


The molecularizer seems a useless piece of failed experiment. Dr. Barnardo  tries to get it to work for hours one Saturday morning before declaring to Igor that "it's junk."

Of course, all over the world no one can make toast.  Bread inserted into a toaster merely stales at an accelerated rate. No toast.

The Queen addresses an anxious nation.

Throw in a mad scientist and this stuff writes itself.

Throw in an insecure mad scientist and there's a good chance California joins Atlantis in the annals of history.

I'm off to engage in some experimentation of my own.

I call it writing.

My family calls it that period of time when Dad wanders the house talking to himself and sloshing coffee - with a pen behind his ear.

Important distinction that pen bit.

Monday, March 23, 2015


At left, the image attribution of Arthur fellig known as Weegee. He photographed graphic street and crime scenes in and around the Manhattan area during the 30's and 40's.

Announced this week in New York Times, the NYPD evidence photo trove is to be digitized and released sometime this summer. It will be available online.

I have a book of Weegee's photographs on my desk beside 1984 and my always handy Pelican Shakespeare.


Yes. I find scenes of crime and the people around crime simply remarkable inspiration for the emotional journey these people are undertaking.

I have carried in my wallet little pictures from periodicals. G. Gordon Liddy was in there before he became a talk show pundit. I had a picture of a Cadillac Eldorado driving over the chest of a striking worker outside the Frontier in Las Vegas for a good decade or so. I had a picture of a Titan block D2 for a bit. I've had a snapshot of some fellows doing body reclamation work from Rwanda. I've also had a section of a map embossed with the targeting coordinates for Moscow as well as a photograph of  the entrance to section 33 at Lubyanka.

I need strong emotion. I deal with strong subjects. I like strong photographs.

Growing up with the on-screen execution of a prisoner by the Chief of the National Police in Saigon sticks in my mind. Eddie Adams took that picture for NBC.

I'm off to dispose of some characters now.

I can't wait for summer. Gonna be a grand old time.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Broad Strokes

Image at left from wikicommons provided by Gvstellingwerf. Nicely done.

I prefer stories where the details are largely omitted. I prefer the constructs to be rendered with broad strokes.

I've done some critiques lately and fully understand the author's need to convey the intimate details of setting and style.

Rain. The streetlamp. Two fellows in trench-coats seemingly waiting for a taxi which never comes.

I love these scenes. What I enjoy less is the detail of the street lamp's Ionic column design or the depth of water in the gutter.

I enjoy providing my own images.

If you must tell me things, please make them things I cannot otherwise easily discern. A milieu that I must understand?  Tell me - or better yet show me.

If you spoon feed me details, I'll get full quickly.

I won't be hungry for your story any longer.

Hunger. There might be Cheetos in the kitchen.

I'm off to forage - er - I mean write.


You can imagine the orange-stained fingers for yourself.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cold Shoulder

Ice in Minnesota from Lake Superior. Taken by the EPA photographer Jeff Gunderson as part of official duties so, no copyright. Nice photo, Jeff!

I went to lake Michigan today - not Superior. The ice is breaking-up but extends out as far as you can see. The breeze? Pretty much like wind off a giant frozen lake. Yep, just what you'd expect.

It is a fantastic image in my head. I'm not quite sure what to do with it.

Would I leave a body on the ice? Would I have a victim chased onto the breaking ice to then meet a demise in the water?

I'm just not sure what to do with it. I can see the fractured slabs being dynamically unstable. The weight of a person could send them flipping.

I've got to think about it.

My thoughts are somewhat frozen.

Maybe spring will help.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pony Rides

At left, a photo of a pony ride operation from 1909 as photographed by Frank H. Nowell and posted on wikicommons with the information that no known copyright claim is in effect. Thanks to the University of Washington Libraries digital collection for the image.

Pony ride.

A bit like authors. Queue up. Have a spin. Tel your little friends "It was just OK. He only knows one trick."

Remember the Paul Simon album: One Trick Pony ? Great song.

I think authors need to write whatever they conceive. I don't feel tied to genre conventions. Popularly, there has been some discussion lately of "literary" novels set within the mystery genre - as if this were some lark of excuse where the guise of the mystery trope is wrapping the deeper and more substantive emotional revelations of the characters in a contrived little world.


Good writing is good writing. Good storytelling is good storytelling.

When both these things co-exist, then we have literature.

It's the same pony ride, people. You pays your money, you take your turn. Call it a spotted elephant ride for all I care.

Pony still goes around the track and all your friends still watch waiting their turn.

Give him the spurs. See what happens.

There's a saying where I come from: green and green makes red.

If you don't know what that means, never get on a young horse. Better that way.

Better for everyone.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Campaign Shouting

... like a southern democrat.

Lyrics courtesy Chuck Berry.

Picture courtesy Harry Truman in a copyright free image while on the trail for a senate seat in Missouri, 1934.

There are few things as difficult as living with a writer. We're all over the emotional map according to things that normal humans do not see. Mostly, we're all over the map as the result of things no normal human could know.

Disappointed in a piece of dialogue last night? Drag it around all day.

Upset that you haven't time to work on new story Z because of ...dinner? More sulking.

We're hardly the model citizens of industry and cheer. Most of the time we're lazy and self-absorbed.

I propose a reading holiday.

Poetry has "The Slam."  Fiction should have "The Shout."

We should hold it in a noisy bar. In this way if we are telling stories sufficiently interesting to quiet the crowd, we've got the feedback we need.

There is Noir at the Bar. It's close. I don't know if they shout.

Shouting is important.

It's especially important if you live with a writer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Natural Born Killer

AT left, bloodstains. From wikicommons courtesy V. H. Hammer who has made the image available under the creative commons license.

Lovely snap. The definition at the edge of the drag marks should tell you something - also the depth of the marks on ice-hard snow.

So, dinner out.

Into town to one of our favorite locals spots. Nice meal. Then back through our village for ice cream - which is Pure Michigan (state advertising campaign). Michigan is standing outside shivering in your heaviest sweater waiting to order ice cream at a walk-up Dairy Queen.

Yep. Spring. Mind the flurries.

Snow is out of the meadow and Louis the foxhound is enjoying himself. Deer are trying to eat the colored bulb covers on Christmas lights still in my tree. Have to take those down now that the snow drifts are gone.

Daffodils are poking up about an inch this evening. Blooms in two weeks.

Then, there's the tough part.

I live in the country. I have meadows on rolling hills and all the wildlife you could imagine. Deer, turkey, possum, 'coons, hawks, falcons, geese, wet ducks and wood ducks, ground hogs and this year an especially destructive gopher/mole. Not sure which, yet.

Oh, Millie the skunk lives in the brush pile on the fenceline. Stay away from there.

Tonight, the buzzard have returned. I don't know about Hinkley, Ohio; but, they're definitely here.

Usually, they dry their feathers in the morning on my roof and give the place a Stephen King sort of air. I don't mind a bit, usually.

However, this evening, one of them brought his work home. Looks like it rolled off the roof-line onto my deck where it was then mostly consumed and the resident buzzard flew away. I bet the cats loved that!

Blood. Some stray parts. Feathers from whatever it was and some stray buzzard feathers for good measure. I got to hear about it. hey,

"What are you writing now, anyway?"
"Short story."
"What about?"
"It's called The Swimming Lesson."
"Nice." She pauses. "It isn't about swimming, is it?"
"No. Kid learns to kill by drowning his buddies in a farm pond. Convinces them to drown themselves, actually. It's a re-write."
"Don't you have any happy stories?"
"Kid gets away with it."

Looks like I'll be scrubbing the deck on Saturday. Looks a little like I butchered something against its will out there right now.


I better write that down.

Surely you have something to write down, too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It Gets Better

Lovely snap by Gorczycb on wikicommons. Great mood and image.

Two weeks ago I felt about like this picture.

Spring now comes to my part of the world - and I say that knowing it isn't spring. March is still a winter month. Never trust march. She's a bitch.

The problem is how we endure the winter.

I don't plan. I don't made provisions. I just muddle my way through it.

Leaves me a bit like the picture in mood. Surprise.

Happenstance does about the same for my writing. If I don't leave enough time to do the finer work of polishing the story, my process leaves me rushed, disappointed, and about like in the picture, too.

Better to lay in a larder of time to make the deadline and be content with the work.

Off to raid the time pantry.

You have work to do, too.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Red Ink

At left from Wikicommons: an image of the actress Lucy Cotton from the cover of the November 1920 issue of Film Truth printed only using red ink.

Well. That's the sort of trouble we expect here on Mayhem. She's got it in spades.

Girls in red ink. Mind your wallet, boys. [ Indeed, Miss Cotton went on to a series of marriages after the death of her first husband and the $27 million he left her.]

I'm deep in edits. Thus, red ink.

You'd think I'd spell better than I do, or type better, or something. Of course, there's little secret as to my mechanical competency with print. If only longhand transferred better to the blog. Maybe I should take a picture of the same.

Hmmm. Idea.

Ordered pens, inks tonight.

I'll see if I cannot put them to a scandalous use sufficient to do Miss Cotton proudly. She did star in a play entitled Polygamy. For 1920, that's pretty wild.

I like the red ink image.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Trout Club

At left, a painting of Joseph Highmore showing A Club of Gentlemen. The image is in the public domain.

My trout club met today and looked roughly the same but for the wigs, decorous room, and hound.

You can't get a drink in this town where they let dogs in the bar. Wigs, yes. Hounds, no. What's up with that?

Yesterday, I completely took the day off for the purpose of trout and entertainment.

Today, I'm doing some clean-up work and met with trout club.

It's going to be a grand season.

Now, back to writing. Enough diversion.

Friday, March 13, 2015

What We have, What We Want

At left, a wonderful picture of a meadow by Conny on wikicommons. Thanks for allowing us to use the image, Conny. Lovely.

The meadow at left is what I want. The meadow I have is melting, but still has quite a lot of snow upon it. Maybe next week.

I was struck today by how things work, and how we want them to work.

Also, what we have and what we want.

There is the draft we write. There is the draft we want.

The differences in these two things is some multiple of the hours in the chair it took to create that first draft.

I do better these days because I've learned not to make the mistakes in my early draft that I know I'll have to fix in later drafts.

I still make mistakes in the narrative flow, the prose, the emotional portrayals, the simple execution of grammar, revelations, motivations, and consequences. It still takes time to revise, correct, and lastly to edit.

We've all got work to do.

Some more than others.

It doesn't get done sitting around wishing for spring. It gets done by putting ass in chair and working diligently.

Your individual mileage may vary.  Flowers will blossom.

Will you beat them to full bloom?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Big Ones Into Little Ones

At left, Mr. Hemingway's typewriter from his Key West studio.

Acroterion allows us to use their photograph through the creative commons license on wikicommons and for that, I am quite grateful. Thanks! Lovely framing. Nice focus, too.

The title today deals with turning big rocks into little ones by way of pounding them with a sledge hammer: the cliche punishment of depression-era criminals.

I'm a pounder. I beat the living shit out of my keyboard. Horrible.

I've joked here that I am a drunken chimp in my typing skills. Turns out, chimps are also amazingly strong.

Now, I'm not amazingly strong but I type like I'm the Hulk. Pound. Pound. Pound.

The more I'm into the flow, the harder I type. I've broken two laptops. Yes, that hard.

Ernie used a mechanical. Looks like an Underwood to me but I'd be glad to hear from someone who knows. I'm not the Sherlock of typewriters. Before my time to some degree.

I've had a Remington portable, a Royal (govt second hand $20), an IBM Selectric II, and another Royal - a safari model 1963 -  whose loss pains me to this day. Lovely machine.

Stolen from a hotel room in Rome I was slow getting back to one weekend ...

Anyway, I pound the keys.

I use a mechanical keyboard plugged into the usb port of various laptops. I'm getting good mileage out of this das keyboard model. I'm growing to like it.

I'd suggest anyone pounding out novels look into these mechanical keyboards, too.

Really helps the accuracy of the typing.

The writing - well. I'm not sure it does anything at all for the writing.

I have to go do something about the writing now, myself.

So do you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Not a Pipe

At left, a slightly fuzzy image from wikicommons made public domain and free of all copyright by Fritz.


One of Margritte's famous painting states "this is a not a pipe."  The painting is entitled The Treachery of Images.

My version with borrowed image is above.

You know that point when you craft an important work and think "garbage, this is all garbage."

We all have that.

Work through it.

"This is not a story."

That is a powerful statement in itself. Now charge ahead. You have an even more powerful statement around the corner: completion.

Off to work, penmonkey (penmonkey is a term I suspect owned wholly by Wendig and if it is, I'll bribe him for release under fair use with a bottle of rum. It's good rum).

Off to work. Nothing will be completed if you're reading this drivel, checking Twitter, or using Google to see if you are yet famous.

I know.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Loaded Subject

Image of Huey Long from Time magazine for which they failed to renew the copyright. Public domain, now.


Huey Long.

You know about Huey?

"Share the Wealth" - a wealth redistribution system based on an asset tax. Of course, more than 60% of the population of the state lived below the poverty line and most had to walk a whole week just to get to it.

He created a proscription list of enemies in the public employ, fired them, and demanded that those allies he hired contribute a portion of their cash earnings to his re-election fund.

That was just the warm-up.

Here he is on the cover of Time.

Now, picking on political corruption in Louisiana is the social science equivalent of laughing at a disabled kid on the playground. It wasn't like he asked for extra personal challenge and picking on him is just mean.

However, taking a little bit of what we know about Louisiana politics and spreading it around?  It helps make a story interesting.

Corruption is interesting.

As she said: I like the bad boys.

Who gives a shit about an Eagle Scout who wins the county spelling bee.

Now, rig the contest. Ahhh.... we've got something.

So, just when you long for honest politicians as devoted public servants walking the straight and narrow, be grateful for the pile of horse droppings we've got.

There are two things in this world that'll do you wrong every time: an unloaded revolver and a smiling politician.

Don't keep either hanging about.

Unless you are writing crime, that is.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Cure for Fever

At left, fever patients from 1919 and the Spanish Flu.

Walter Reed hospital as photographed at the height of the epidemic. This is a copyright free image.

You remember that part of school when the sun would shine in the window you'd be looking through and be snapped back to the classroom when the teacher announced it was time to pass the papers in to her?

Remember looking down in horror at the two-and-a-half sentences you'd written on Teddy Roosevelt?


I've got that fever.

I called my doctor and she recommended standing in cold water and waving a stick at trout.

I asked her if that still worked when the rivers were covered in ice.

She suggested scotch.

They just don't give those medical degrees away, folks. You got to earn them.

Finished all the composition work on a "silver" draft this weekend. Now, some minor edits, some line edits, a little language choice alteration.

Almost there. Almost to having a "final" in paw.

If I don't die of fever.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Riffle, Run, Pool

AT left, a photograph by Trish Steel of Latchmore Brook as part of the geograph UK project. Trish was nice enough to allow us to use this image for the mere attribution.

Photos this nice should always be attributed to the photographer, anyway. Wonderful snap. Looks like a good day for a walk in the woods when she took this one, too!

You can find the image on wikicommons.

The classic trout stream can be broken into three water types for the convenience of discussing technique and tactics. Rivers offer the same water type but usually with only greater flows and depths.

I'm partial to these small waters.

In Michigan, many of our streams - brooks - harbor nice populations of our state fish: the brook trout. These are spooky but yet aggressive little beasts and it isn't uncommon to find a fourteen or sixteen inch version of this fish in water just like this. You'll probably find only one of that size, but it is possible. They're a well adapted animal and can grow nicely in an environment where they can feed continuously.

For every large brookie, you'll catch one hundred four-to-eight inchers. They'll all fight just as hard and each one is a little gem of fantastic design.

Fly fishing is a sport of disappointment. The outcome of any given cast or presentation is unlikely to be a fish. If "fish vacuuming" is the desire, a worm fisherman on the bank does far better at meat-hunting.

We use the fly because it is sporting. It is a difficult sport to master but a very easy sport to perform at the entry level. You can learn all you need for a lifetime in a good afternoon and still not have perfected your tactics and casting the day we put you in the ground.

Strange pursuit.

You know where I'm going.

It isn't the comma, the semicolon, the introductory subordinate clause or the gerund which matter.

It is the cumulative outcome of a million individual decisions which determine our accomplishments as writers.

To use "sprinted" or "ran."

To relate a date as "disappointing" in narrative summary or show the deflating anticipation of love  through the dialogue at a dinner.

To allow a minor character to slip away in the text never to be seen again or have that character return carrying important facts for the reader's context in which our story revolves.

We make a cast. We anticipate. We use the some of our skills on each potential reader.

Sometimes, sometimes, we have the desired outcome.

Still we write.

Still I fish.

At least the places I fish are joys themselves. I especially like my local Mill Creek which is close to the A&W and the Dairy Queen. Nice to have a trout stream with such amenities.

The walk-up river bar on the North Branch of the Au Sable at Lovells - the Riverside Tavern - is pretty great, too. Lunch and a beer in your waders. Try the burger. The perch is good, too.

Now, back to the vague smell of ink.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Forbidden Reading

A skeleton door guarding access to books in Skokloster Castle as photographed by Jens Mohr and generously made available to the public domain subject to attribution in cooperation with Wikipedia. This image is on wikicommons.

The castle is in Sweden.

Lovely image.

When I am writing well, there are items I cannot read without their language undue influencing my work.

Catch 22. 1984. The Sun Also Rises. Anything by Churchill.Notes from the Underground, all Tolstoy.

These are among my cherished readings. Because of where I might have been when I read them or the state of my life when I turned to them for comfort, they've become old friends with too much power over my thoughts and prose.

The Nick Adams Stories are safe for me. I cannot however read The Sun without finding Hemingway all over my words. I should say, a poor imitation of Hemingway all over my words.

So, there is a great deal of non-fiction reading going on when I am writing.

This winter, I've read nine volumes on trout alone. Nine.

I can tell you all about the history of fly fishing for trout. I can cite famous fly tiers, their contributions, theories of trout behavior, tactics and technique for waters and conditions.

I suspect I'll still be a poor fisherman. I'll be much more attentive to practicing stealth in my approach to the river, though. I learned that much.

I also find myself reading poetry from huge books used in college survey classes. Sometimes I read only Thomas Hardy.

So, forbidden books.

What are yours and do you even have any?  Am I alone in that I absorb the shadow of someone else's voicing in fiction?

I'd like to know.

I'd like to know what you do about it if it does happen to you.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Moon from NASA at left, That's the Tycho crater in the bottom slightly left section.

Why is it that when we're nearly finished with one project, we start thinking of three others?

My moon is stunningly bright tonight. There is ice all over the snow cover from some odd weather. Nine inches or so of snow through the woods, covered in ice, and reflecting the moon.

If there is ever a night for wolves, this is it.

So, why is it we think of other projects most strongly when nearly complete with the one we're on? Am I the only one with this horrendous distraction syndrome?

Makes me think I'm crazy.

Must be the moon.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Treacherous Footing

At left, a photograph of an especially treacherous road from wikicommons taken by Jake Williams for the Geograph project.

I believe everyone in the Eastern half of the US is intimate with these illustrated conditions today. If so, watch your step.

I'm in a re-write (again) and it too is treacherous. One wrong word or awkward bit of dialogue and BAM, down it goes.

The practical advice in these conditions is to "walk like a penguin."


I worked for a company once whose grounds crew was shit. Their solution: a slogan. Don't fix the ice problem. No - encourage the employees to be careful.

Brilliant. No wonder they turned a $60B firm into a $12B firm in five years.

Nevertheless, I'd try the very same thing - walking like a penguin - but it won't help the story.

There's an idea. A children's book about murder on the ice floe by penguins. Plenty of eye-witnesses but then, what good are they?

Maybe I ought to stick to an audience accustomed to mature themes.

I wouldn't want to slip and fall on my narrative ass.

Mind you step. Watch out for Random Penguins., They're sneaky.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Last of the Great Letter Writers

At left, a wonderful snap from Sue Hayton as part of the UK Geograph project. She generously allows us to use it here from wikicommons. Lovely gesture. Wonderful snap.

Unfortunately, it's a post box and not a Tardis. Almost. You put a message in and it can come out anywhere.

I had dinner tonight with a writing friend. I've turned him onto some fountain pens and he bought three new ones the other day. Lovely models, too. Just what a writer needs.

I'm thinking of a contemporary character who writers letters.

When was the last time you penned one?

I've used them to woo sweethearts, infuriate attorneys, and tell off Senators.

Not so much anymore. Makes me a little insecure.

It is insecure Wednesday. You can find the whole crew here.

My favorite means of communication is the monologue (see below) and a letter is a wonderful example.

I really should write to the Queen sometime before it is too late. She'll not see such a vulgar thing as a note from me.


When the end comes, we love our enemies more than our friends. Our enemies defined us.

We're the lessor for their passing.

A bit like letters in that way. We're the lessor for their passing, too.

At least, I am.

Off to the greater lands of fiction. In ink. On paper.

You should write.

I will.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Monologue

At left, a copyright free image donated to the U.S. Library of Congress by U.S. News and World report.

My favorite form of communication is the monologue.

I love that twitter is cast a "social media" when in fact it too is a monologue for 99% of the folks using it.

I like a blog for much the same reason.

We're no so much concerned what others say. We're concerned with what we say.

The broadcast is the thing.

Horrible, I know.

How could one-way communication be something to desire? Doesn't that brand me some form of horrid narcissist?


A writer.

Monday, March 2, 2015

It's Spring!

Really - it is spring! My local Dairy Queen and the local A&W drive-in both opened today.

Yes, the ice rink is still up in the park and Mill Creek is frozen over.

Picture at left from Deansfa on wikicommons. Lovely snap and thanks for the use!

I get the medium chocolate shake with burger and rings; but, horses for courses.

Friday morning saw twenty below temperatures. Today's high crested twenty above and that felt balmy. There's a line at the Dairy Queen. It's a walk-up. Yes, people in parkas are waiting on their ice cream.

I don't think any of the parkas are zipped, though.

I wore my "light" parka today. I only wear the heavy expedition gear when it is actually cold outside. I also drive a rear-wheel-drive sports car all winter. I put snow tires on it. German engineering plus one hundred sixty pounds of softener salt in the trunk. Drives like there's a hundred sixty pounds in the trunk, too.

So, the worm has turned.

Cristina James wrote this week about working in her garden. My garden is under two feet of ice.

We had an exchange over how the cold has influenced crime in my area. If you were going to do any domestic killing this winter, you had to dig the rose garden last fall. The frost is too deep here to do any effective body disposal at the moment.

Yes, we do open graves and conduct funerals. Backhoes are wonderful pieces of equipment; but, it isn't equipment found next to the power mower.

I love winter crime. I love the spring and the bodies coming to light. The river thaws and the fishermen go out to find the winter kill. The snow pile melts and the bodies come out.

It's a great time for the mind of crime.

From the great "Country Death Song" by the Violent Femmes:
I started making plans to kill my own kind.
Or, for you Tom Waits fans, from "Murder in the Red Barn"
There's always some killin' you got to do around the farm.

That's it. There's a lot more to Tom than just an emotional weather report or Frank's Wild Years.

I'm thinking hard these days on Nick and Nora and think Mr. Hammett was onto something with this pair. Hardly surprising given his lovely works.

I keep thinking of Nick and Nora with the other shoe.

I think of Nora in the lead and the pair as amusing criminals instead of detectives. I'd definitely reverse the roles. Glamour? Sure. Nora would have all the connections as Nick does in the movies. She'd be the one in the native land of criminals. Nick would be the younger of the pair rising to the occasion when required but clearly following - mostly - Nora's lead.

I know it is horrible to disclose that I'm thinking of such a ham-fisted theft from the great Hammett.
His characters are great!

I'm of two minds about it in the end and I'm sure I'd do enough twisting and turning to make the stories my own. I'm not suggesting a vaguely disguised theft of story and plot.

I just think Hammett really had something in the chemistry of the pair and I've admired that sort of thing for years.

I like the idea of Nora being the lead. There is just something about a girl with a .380 wearing chiffon in the study standing over a corpse newly made.

I think I can do better on the pair's dialogue, as well. I enjoy the understood subject and letting the reader in on the unsaid that the characters dance about without declaring. Not everyone's cup of tea.

So, spring. I've new ideas. I've work to do but I have new ideas.

I also had a small burger, onion rings, and a chocolate shake for dinner.

Now I have a foxhound who won't leave me alone.

Maybe we'll go for a walk and see what is under the ice.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Direction and Course

At left, a hiking compass in a photo from Romary on wikicommons. Nicely done, too. Thanks for the use, Romary.

There is the direction the story wants to go in and then there's the course we set for it ourselves.

In re-write, I balance these two things trying to bring the arrangement into concordance.

I love stories that have depth. I love the multi-layer character at work and we see the intent and the action and the consequence and , yes - the regret.

I enjoy the effect of watching a character depart from a course due to their will or the influence of others, and the struggle to evaluate their original intent and its likelihood of attainment.

I like characters lead astray. I like characters lead astray even when they know that going off plan is a questionable act.

I like corruption. I like corruption of the soul, the psyche, the mind, the spirit. I like characters who want to do good but do bad.

I also like characters habituated to the bad who occasionally do good. I like it when they're tricked into doing good.

Han Solo is a rogue who has a soft heart. Meh.

I prefer a darker character.

Jake Geddes in Chinatown?

Anyway, I'm working out the concert of course and direction in a story. I'm resolving dichotomies in my writing so that they're less glaring and more acceptable to an innocent eye.

I'm sanding the pages of the story. The pieces are recognizable and I'm dry fitting the whole thing together.

I hope you navigational obstacles are easily overcome.

You can say you use GPS.

There's no signal in a crime story. There's no outside help available. Only the moral compass in the pocket can help.

Crime renders the characters confined to their own dead zone of existence.

Dead zone, heh heh.