clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Hillsides Hold Broken Souls

At left, St. Pierre in the Aosta valley, the Aosta autonomous state of north-west Italy. Photo by Tenam2 and hosted on wikicommons. Thanks for the use.

My own photos of the region are long gone. St. Pierre and La Thuile hold special for me. I broke my soul there, once.

What is it to know for the first time that what actions you are going to take are going to ruin your closest sense of happiness? What is it to know that you are discarding that thing you thought you wanted most?

The tumult is that into which we desire to send our characters on our pages.

We like the image of transformation and revelation in our literature though it doesn't have to have the Disney ending. In real life, we make choices that take the smile from our soul when we have to. Our characters should do the same.

What is it for our detective to know the endgame, drive ahead, and know that the consequences will forever change things in their own little world?

I'm working the rural noir and of course the challenge here is that my protagonist has to live in this little community. Things the protagonist does or does not do alters the balance of happiness in the place where he sleeps. How much of that change can you impart on a place and still consider it your home?

How much change before you have to leave?

If nothing changes, we have no story. If things change, one of our stories revolves around the effects of those changes on the resolve of our protagonist.

How much change can you stand? How much until you break your soul, your love for something, someone?

I left parts scattered on the hillside here. I tried eating the souls of others for a while to make up the difference. Never worked.

You move on.

Does your character move on or do they live amoungst the shards of broken dreams they keep in their pocket?

The discipline of the ink demands we know these answers. Maybe it is why we still write.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Dangers of Love

Its here. We've been holding off in my part of the world with a lengthy autumn.

Friday night we drove my convertible roadster to dinner for probably the last time. Yesterday and today, snow. Ice pellets are hitting my windows here in the dark right now.

I'm by the stove surrounded by contented pets. I'm writing. It's how I'll spend the winter evenings when I'm not in the library or tying trout flies.

At left, my entirely too bear-like paws on the keyboard.

I've a story which I'v been chasing for a bit. I didn't know until this morning that I'd been chasing the wrong conflict.

Years ago, Ms. June Sutley taught a crew of belligerent and unruly baboons about point of view, conflict, the three act structure of storytelling, and the Chekhov rules of screenwriting.

What I didn't learn then but know too well now was that in writing the story, the conflict which emerges isn't always that which the writer intended when he scrawled those opening sentences. Thus, it happened to me this morning. I had intended for one conflict to be the dominant driver yet it is entirely a different conflict which makes the story work.

If I'd forced the next draft the way I'd intended when I first jotted my notes on the story, I'd have lost what makes the story work.

I've got a couple bodies. I've got danger and intrigue. I've got an uncertain resolution.

I've also got a protagonist unlucky in love and and entirely too willing to walk into the dragon's den to find it.

Isn't that the way of it? Don't we like characters who knowingly act against the very advice they'd offer another character in a heartbeat? Of course we do -- when there's good cause.

My protagonist is a sucker for a dangerous woman. That last part -- a dangerous woman -- is always a pretty good cause.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Holiday Gifts for Writers

At left, one of the best gifts for a writer: an alarm to place across the room on the dresser forcing the penmonkey to rise and write.

Public domain image hosted on wikicommons.

Nobody asks me about "what I should I get Rick the writer in my life for Christmas/Chanukah/ Kwanza/Festivus/Art Gidding's Favortie Day ?"

I thought I'd take it upon myself to share some unsought advice.

The clock/radio. Not just a clock. Not just a radio. The vintage flip face is a lovely feature. I had one of these for twenty years though of a slightly older model. The one pictured is from 1975. Out of bed and at the ink.

"But they have an iPhone and it has alarms ..." Ah, yes.

The iPhone does not however have vintage appeal nor does it force penmonkey out of bed to write. This gift with an inspirational note (say something like:  "I love your prose. This gift will help you to find time in the morning to craft more of it.") will do the job.

Some of us write best in the night. I'm one of those.  I edit and re-write best in the early morning. Yea, I know. Nothing about the ink game is easy or especially fun -- except the "having written" part.

George Gastin's great picture of a ewe at left. I couldn't find a public domain picture of a cardigan I liked but you've all seen sweaters.

This is the source of the sweater. Just add a great deal of labor and baaaa: a sweater.

Writers tend to work in laundry rooms, converted closets, the garage, the unheated attic overhead, and unfinished storage areas in the basement. There's a lot of cold and damp in this sport. (There's a lot of hollering out "can you put those in the dryer when they're done?" too).

A sweater is nice.

A cup of coffee. The image at left is from on wikicommons. Lovely snap.

A plain mug is best for writers. "Distraction free."

The plate is a nice companion piece because we are prone to incidental spillage. I'd make some sort of Mae West joke here but the children wouldn't get it.

A bag of beans is also a lovely gift. I don't know what it is about coffee and writing; but, there's something about coffee and writing.

I'm drinking a cup (decaf) now.

Poulpy took this photo at left. Especially nice photograph of an ink bottle. I'm told in the caption the ink is green.

All writers have pens. They have lots of pens. They're pretty particular about those pens, too.

Ink however is more of a cultured acquisition. A nice ink is always a lovely, thoughtful gift. Most of us have at least one decent fountain pen hiding about the library. Some have -- er -- more than one.

J. Hebin makes some lovely ink. Make sure you pick an ink that has good contrast on the page. Even editing where the text is already in printed form and our marks are just annotation demands a good contrast because inevitably we'll be working on the manuscript notes in dim light sometime soon and cursing the light grey ink. Green is nice. Red is trite.

Avoid red. Please.

Oh - water soluble ink, only. No one likes to have to clean a pen with Xylene because the ink dried.

Consumables. Preferably, consumables with class.

Madeleines as photographed by Evan Shelhamer and hosted on wikicommons. Blackberry madeleines, precisely.

Now, Proust was a pedantic bastard but he had the whole madeleines business down pat.

Cookies are a fair substitute.

Writing is a soul-trying activity and demands proper sustenance.  A tasty baked good from your own hand? Best gift of all.

So, while we can be complete bastards to live with, writers are remarkably easy individuals when it comes to the gift giving season.

One last caution:

Not a cat. God, no, please ... not a cat.

Public domain image at left.

If you want a demon to torment your writer through unwelcome jumping, demands for attention, the odd yowling, and the ever popular "something breaking from the other room" then please -- a cat is fine.

I've had one on and off my lap three times while writing this entry. The foxhound is asleep on his pillow just to my left but the cat? All over me.

No live animal gifts.

Maybe no dead ones, either. (public domain image of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" of Baker Street, London.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Make a Mess, Clean it Up

At left, public image of Hemingway writing away at safari camp in Kenya.

I'm cleaning-up some almost-ready-for-submission stuff. There is a bunch of that lying around and the tedious mechanism of "writing" rather than "telling the story" is all that is left.


So, drafts upon drafts. I've got a couple of commitments to shove out the door in order to return to the non-fiction. Nothing like wanting to do "project A" to make "project B" loom as suddenly quite important!

So, taking a piece, taking it apart, and putting it together again sweating every word choice, line of dialogue, omitted or included scene.

You tell the story on the page -- you make the mess. You write the story -- you clean it up.

It works that way for a lot of us. It's worked that way for decades and decades for a lot of other writers, too.

Not a bad gig if one can get it.

Hope your ink dries fast and doesn't smudge.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Your Politics? Not My Concern

At left, Che and Fidel. Public domain image hosted on wikicommons.

Revolutions - all revolutions - eventually fail. Not my concern. I know how it turns in the end. I'm a school trained bear and can ride the little bike while juggling balls in the center ring of the revolution circus.

It's a political season but I'm only interested in the politics of doing wrong. Under any regime, there is enough going wrong to interest me.

I hope there is enough to interest my readers.

Fly the flag. March in the parade. Shout your position.

I don't hear your words. Your readers might. That might have a consequence.

In chaos, there is profit. There are also some lovely plotlines and twisted motivations.

Politics makes for dark deeds: all the better for our craft.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Telling the Truth

At let, a Bertucci field watch that's proven to be a solid performer this year. Keeps me from wearing my heavy hardware in the field now that it has passed to the league of "classic."

It's high time to tell the truth: so, a non-fiction project.

There are a lot of ways to break into the fiction game and its taken me a good part of the last decade to get comfortable with the type of writing I now do.

 In my youth, I had some success with a different style of commercial writing than I favor now. The fact that previous writing is a bit beyond vogue has only a little to do with my motivation.

Anyway, I'm quite happy with some of my rural noir but I've a double murder story right now that is a bear. I'm having some difficulty driving it along as I'd like, so I'm taking a break.


I've done a bunch of non-fiction for various projects over the years. Some public domain, some private. I've a knack for organizing complex information into digestible bits. That's probably because I can only manage the information in digestible bits.

I'm writing about trout.

I'll talk a little in the next posts as I grind through this project. The whole business is a little like having answers in the back of the book for a fiction project. get stuck, flip to the back for the answer. Simple.

I've the outline and production schedule set pretty firmly for when it needs to go to editing. I do have to master some preliminary illustrations and get them to the professional illustrators pretty quick. They'll be time writing and time at the boards doing line drawings.

It is nice to have something a little more in my bailiwick than the daughter of a priest, a dead husband, and a Methodist minister strangled in a meadow. Ok, so there's the kid at the low-water bridge. Three murders.

See my problems? Can't even keep the body count straight.

There are things I know really well, and things I just know.

Sort of like the time.

Bertucci. Built like tanks.