clues at the scene

clues at the scene

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?