CURSES, FOILED AGAIN!

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeInsecure Writer’s Group

Another first Wednesday, another official Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. I joined this Blog Hop in July of 2016, and every month, I’ve depended upon Captain Ninja to pose a pithy question to which I could post an equally pithy response.

Now, for the first time ever, he’s posed a question to which I have no repsonse. To wit:

Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Curses on you, Alex!

As I’ve never participated in NaNo, today I am reduced to actually posting my own thoughts about the doubts and the fears I’ve conquered. Or God forbid, discuss my struggles and triumphs.

Just. Kill.Me.Now.

But wait! Coincidentally, this is my favorite season of the year. Yesterday, Halloween. Today, All Saints Day. Tomorrow, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), all from which the dark soul of my muse draws inspiration. And the dark soul of my muse actually finished a 5200ish word crime story, in time to submit to the Anthology contest.

Doubts? That I’m a complete moron for thinking the story is remotely interesting.

Fears? That it won’t be chosen, second only to the fear that it will be chosen (because then? The jig is up. Everyone will know I can’t string three sentences together coherently).

I struggled to meet the deadline.

I triumphed when I hit “send.”

And now, I celebrate this triumph with a lovely Italian red blend wine, enjoyed in front of a toasty-warm fireplace.

Many thanks to our awesome co-hosts. They are sure to have some coherent musing on the NaNo:

Tonja Drecker
Diane Burton
MJ Fifield
Rebecca Douglass

Posted in I'm Just Making This Up, IWSG, Just Kill Me Now, Making Progress | 13 Comments

We Call It Research*

My partner in crime and fellow mystery writer Anna Adams and I sneaked away for an autumn “research trip” in downtown Chicago. We love kicking along fall foliage, which was still damp from the previous day’s storm, seeking inspiration for mystery and mayhem in the city. We also love not being at our day jobs. [*and if we ever make any money writing, we’re going to expense these trips]

Sadly, one of our favorite haunts, Selected Works, closed earlier this year. This iconic bookstore was tucked away in the Fine Arts Building (an amazing architectural wonder in its own right), its bookcases and floor space crammed full, and the scent of old books wafted through the air as soon as you stepped in. Used books and sheet music were the wares, but the main attraction was Hodge the Cat.  Everyone understood that the primary purpose of the visit was to pay homage to Hodge. Purchases of books to ensure a continuing supply of cat kibble were, of course, highly encouraged. There’s even a book about Hodge!

hodge

Selected Works afforded space for a community of book aficionados, writerly types, and of course, cat lovers to congregate. We were sorry to hear of their closing. Keith, Hodge, and the books will be missed.

Our new adventures cette année included exploring the new American Writers Museum. This is a mental candy store for everyone who loves books. The permanent exhibits are highlighted here.

The high tech, interactive exhibits (which even we could operate) impart an abundance of knowledge about the significant work of American Writers, some famous, some less so. The Nation of Writers orientation video and Word Waterfall alone are worth the price of admission. And should one be inspired, the exhibit of vintage typewriters in pristine condition invite visitors to compose their own prose or poetry. The typewriters are primed each day with fresh paper and a writing prompt, provided by the staff.

Without doubt, the most charming exhibits are in the Children’s Room. (Trigger Warning – Dr. Seuss is prominently displayed – the curators apparently missed the memo that Dr. Seuss is sooooo tired and cliched). The most mesmerizing aspect of the room is not pictured on the website, so I’ve included it here. One entire wall features a hand painted mural depicting a huge tree with squirrels reading their favorite children’s books.

Reading Tree
The book covers are highly detailed and immediately recognizable and there is so much individual personality in each squirrel. (Mama squirrel is reading The Cat in the Hat to baby squirrel in the middle of the tree, but it was too high for me to get a clear photo.)

Squirrel 1 Squirrel 2Squirrel 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recalling the magical worlds these books created in childhood, both our own, and those of our children, we were transported back in time. An enjoyable book never loses its power to swallow up a reader. Having stuffed our minds at the mental table of bounty, we finished the day with a fabulous meal at Le Colonial and Champagne at Pops.

Life may not be perfect, but it certainly can be good.

Posted in Criminal Intent, Enjoying the Journey, Partners in Crime | 4 Comments

Could We All Just Get A Grip Already?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeInsecure Writer’s Support Group

Originally, I intended to lampoon the Dr. Seuss kerfuffle, in support of one of the greatest children’s writers of all time. But the desire to pen witty or clever repartee evaporated with the lunacy of Las Vegas. This succinctly sums up my thoughts:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

So much for old, tired clichés.

On to the business of the First Wednesday IWSG Blog Hop. Captain Ninja Alex has posed the following pithy question for our consideration:

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Yes and yes.

On the intentional front, my protagonist is a lawyer and a runner (what? me too!). She also has some difficult family relationships (don’t we all). Some of her thoughts and reactions mirror my own. But sometimes she says and does things I wish I had said or done. A Freudian attempt to rewrite history, perhaps? I give the MC traits that don’t require an extraordinary amount of research, and still allow her to develop an individual persona.

Personal information is more likely to make its way ineffectively into other characters unintentionally, particularly when I attempt to comprehend motivation. For example, my antagonist is a serial killer. I will end the suspense to the burning question many people have asked and confess:  No, I was not the inspiration for Serial Mom (but seriously, Beverly was right: NO white shoes after Labor Day!). I don’t understand the mental state of a person who repeatedly kills. I have trouble divorcing myself from the pesky moral conscience that keeps most of us from engaging in and enjoying this behavior.

I populate my antagonist with unique personal information (meaning, not mine), gathered through industry research, such as Into the Minds of Madmen and craft books like The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits and Thesaurus series. I also have a well-worn copy of The Sociopath Next Door on my bookshelf (which, IMHO, should be required reading from about the third grade on) to get psyche details correct.

That said, I suspect, and perhaps hope, that all my characters possess a bit of my humanity, however dark, in their souls. The God complex – yet another task for Freud. Or a glass of Pinot Noir. One of those.

Many thanks to our awesome co-hosts:

Olga Godim
Chemist Ken
Jennifer Hawes
Tamara Narayan

and the rest of our krew is here!

Posted in I'm Not Sure What is Going On Here, IWSG, Killer Reads, The Road to Hell . . . | 24 Comments

That I Write in Any Genre is a Surprise

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeInsecure Writer’s Support Group

AUTUMN IS COMING!

Ok, this is not the motto of one of the Great Houses of Westeros. But as I am one season closer to £500 a year and a room of my own, it is worth a trumpet or two (spring! it’s happening in the spring!).

September. The season of color, crunch, and crisp. Cooler mornings for runs, bright afternoons warming leaves on the cusp of transitioning from green to the fall palette. And the IWSG First Wednesday posting.

The September Question posed by our Ninja Captain: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in??

Yes.

I write mostly mystery/horror, with a bit of bizarre poetry thrown in. A few years back, memoirs of the humorous, snarky-ish type seemed to be all the rage. “Hey!” I thought. “I can be as much of a smart-ass as anyone, without all the eff words.” [side bar – while I may occasionally talk like a sailor, (or use what my colleagues and I call “technical legal terms”) I don’t want to read a bunch of profanity, unless the character IS a sailor]

While not really “my” genre, I dinked around a bit, outlining what I hoped could be humorous, snarky anecdotes. I even made a cover with catchy working title. To wit:

It Seemed Reasonable cover5

And boy, was I surprised.

“Humor is almost always anger with its make-up on.” ― Stephen King, Bag of Bones

Memoirs involve memories, true stories from the past [unless you’re James Frey]. But as the ink flowed, my memories were not humorous. My truth was scary, not snarky. These anecdotes were angry and no amount of lipstick and mascara would make them funny.

But this isn’t what surprised me. The surprise was how quickly one can be sucked into the vortex of a desolate abyss when tarrying too long at the portal to the past. It is, perhaps, best not to windowshop at Hell’s Emporium.

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” ― Stephen King

The master of horror knows whereof he speaks. This project has been shelved until such time as . . . Hell freezes over. For now, I’ll just stick with making up the horrors and leave the memoirs to those who like surprises.

**

Please visit our awesome co-hosts for this posting of the IWSG:

and everyone else is here!

Posted in I Am Not Making This Up, IWSG, The Road to Hell . . . | 20 Comments

Running Made Me Part Zombie

zombie-uphill moonlight1

Me on that last damn hill
 

Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m., it was 180*, 500% humidity. For reasons unknown, other than the possibility that the Zombie part of me has eviscerated my brains, I was signed up to run a 10K.

IN AUGUST. IN THE MIDWEST.

For those of you not on the metric system, that is 6.2 miles.

Oh, it’s all good, I told myself as I fidgeted at the starting line. I’m here for the experience, yes, the very JOY of running. I’m not here to worry about setting any records.

That last part is true enough, because the “setting any time records” ship sailed when I smashed the tibial plateau of my left leg to smithereens in January of 2011. [Freak training accident, of which the boring details are omitted so as to not bore you. Plus, it was NOT my fault.]

The doctor put my Humpty Dumpty leg back together. Complete with cadaver bone and metal rods, my brand new mini-Frankenstein tibial plateau enabled me to become mobile again. Fast forward to a year ago, thanks to/complete blame belongs to, the inspiration of my writing pal Alyssa in Texas, I abandoned my slothful ways and resumed running again.

For. My. Health.

But because I just cannot leave well enough alone (I blame the apparent brain loss that occurred when the leg surgery was done) I thought it would be a brilliant idea to do a local road race. I trained for this run, with 6-7 milers on the weekend, with hills. Yes, the very JOY of running.

The air was already thick and suffocating as some 600 of us lined up. As the runners surged ahead at the GO, I immediately remembered why I get up at 5:30 a.m. to run, even on the weekends. By 7:35 a.m., having traveled the grand distance of about ten feet, I was already soaked. After what seemed to be 2 hours, reaching the 1 1/2-mile mark, I realized that the next 4 miles consisted of looooong, wicked hills, snaking through a graveyard on a blistering blacktop surface. The irony of the location was not lost on me.

I summoned my Zombie skills from the depths of wherever they lurk in the daylight, as I forced myself to battle with my brain when it finally figured out what was going on and screamed at my feet to stop moving. The lungs got in on the WTF action, but backed off each time I stopped for water. My arms complained about pumping my body forward, especially up the hills. I repeatedly reminded all body parts that the car was in the parking lot back where we started, whereupon the brain loudly wondered whose stupid plan that was. I fought the cacophony of whininess for the entire run.

Long story short (considerably shorter than the 1:21:55 time I posted) I managed to drag all of my mutinous parts across the finish line and lived to tell about it.

Or died to tell about it. I’m still not sure which.

Posted in I'm Not Sure What is Going On Here, Just Kill Me Now | 4 Comments