Just Getting it Written


I have spent hours analyzing/agonizing about how to kick-start my writing so I can make more progress this year than I did last year (meaning, several thousand words all on the SAME PROJECT instead of a few thousand words re-written, ad nauseam, for bits and pieces of many). The agonizing is over. To wit: my five-step plan for completing my first draft:

  1. Stop analyzing/agonizing.
  2. Limit time on the internet, especially the Amazon book section, and social media; instead use the time to write.
  3. Write new words on paper every day.
  4. No changing, revising, rewriting, or “polishing” previously written old words, which are any words not written today.
  5. Continue writing new words until first draft is finished.

Seriously, that’s it.

This brilliant experiment commences today, and for the next 60 days, my only focus is new words on paper. One hundred words, one thousand words, five words. Doesn’t matter, just so there are new words every day.

I do plan to participate in IWSG on the first Wednesdays and visit other blogs and I may write a post or two along the way, which is technically “time on the internet”. But the focus here is to WRITE.

I’m taking a trip to San Diego next month to visit my daughter and, incidentally, learn about her passion for the University of Jiu Jitsu. I have scoped out some of the local cafés and indie bookstores, places to haunt, drink coffee, and write new words on paper every day.

At the 60-day mark, I head to Chicago to take part in the inaugural Murder and Mayhem Mystery Writer Conference. There will be much talk of writing, murder and mayhem and much drinking of wine. And continuing to write new words on paper.

In the “it’s all about the journey” zone, I have more than enough momentum to carry me through spring!



Posted in Criminal Intent, Making Progress | 2 Comments

Rules? We Don’t Need No Stink’n Rules

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeInsecure Writers’ Support Group

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, where members can talk about doubts and the fears they’ve conquered as well as struggles and triumphs. Alex also poses an optional question, which gives me a no-brainer topic on which to write. Thanks Alex!

The January 4 Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

Easy breezy.

I wish I’d never heard the rule “write what you know.”

To be honest – I do not even know what this rule means. What defines “what I know”? Who decides “what I know”? How broad or narrow is this definition of “knowledge”?

Writing from only one’s personal experience is limiting and possibly not all that interesting. I’ve spent my career as a lawyer, but believe me, none of the stuff John Grisham writes about ever happened to me. I write about killers, although I, myself, have never committed homicide (yet) nor do I maintain a close acquaintance with any murderers (yet).

My current WIP includes a lawyer, a county sheriff, a reporter, a disabled woman, a homeless man, a mob guy, a realtor, and a child molester. Save lawyer and realtor, I have no personal experience being any of these personas.

I personally have known a county sheriff, a reporter, a disabled woman, a homeless man, a mob guy (he promised me a favor, which I have yet to collect on), and a child molester. But what I “know” about them is questionable – especially the child molester (an insurance agent), and the mob guy, about whom I know enough NOT to call in the favor (unless someone hurts my daughter – make no mistake – I will go to prison for her).

My lack of “knowledge” has not stopped me from mining their stories. Of course I do research on professional requirements, locales, as well as life experiences of different socio-economic groups. But in the end, my writing necessarily reflects my interpretation of that information.

Then there’s the whole “diversity” issue. Writers are implored to write with diversity, to include other points of view, experiences, voices outside of their own. But these writers are regularly pilloried because they don’t “get it right” according to another person’s point of view and knowledge. See, i.e. negative Amazon reviews for The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

The worst of it is in television and movie adaptations. Coe hates to watch police and lawyer programs with me because of my constant derision of their unrealistic depictions of those professions and characters (particularly women). I have to bite my tongue to keep from constantly shouting “objection” or remarking on how the evidence from yet another warrantless search will be excluded from trial. Where’s the “write what you know” rule for these ridiculous adaptations. And don’t even get me started on what the script writers did to Jane Rizzoli’s character.

The take away for me? I’ll write whatever I please.

I want to write about well-developed characters doing interesting things in interesting places. I make an effort to research those areas where I don’t or won’t have personal experience. I accept that those characterizations may not speak universal truths about anything. And what I “know” may or may not jive with someone else’s view of reality.

It is, after all, fiction.

* * *

Many thanks to the awesome co-hosts for this month’s blog hop:

Eva @ Lillicasplace
Crystal Collier
Sheena-kay Graham
Chemist Ken
LG Keltner
Heather Gardner

Posted in Idle Threats, Unreliable Witnesses | 18 Comments

I’m Doing It All Wrong

Christmas lights blinking inverted

The Season of Hell is over and I have taken down the festive Christmas Skeleton and turned The Pillow. The door wreaths come off this weekend.

It’s frosty cold outside and all fireplace cozy inside, and I am incredibly energized. I’m writing nearly every day on my WIP, I have an idea for a series of short mysteries, and I am back on track with HTTS. I have just started Lesson 13, which is all about marketing, blogging, tweeting, etc. And guess what?

I’m doing it all wrong!

Let’s just admit up front – I don’t have a freaking clue what Twitter is all about. I am apparently one of four or five people in the universe that doesn’t think the whole world is dying to hear my opinion on every subject under the sun, particularly the vitriolic stuff. But after working through this lesson, I have a better understanding about what I could be doing with Twitter in terms of connecting with readers. The kind of readers who want to read dark, twisted stories, because that’s what I write.

Ditto with blogging. I’m going to experiment with content for people who like to read dark, twisted stories. Which, it turns out, are not necessarily my family and friends.

To Wit: I recently shared one of my dark, twisted stories with a friend. Said friend made some favorable comments about the piece, which I completely misinterpreted. I thanked her for her positive remarks and said, “I’m glad you enjoyed the story.” To which she replied, “I didn’t say I enjoyed it. I said it was well written.”

So. Yet another lesson for me in the “know your audience” arena. Note to self – even my free stories need readers who like dark, twisted stories.

I shall ponder a darker, twistier direction as 2017 skates into our pond. Who knows–maybe someone will be murdered with those skates. Perhaps someone who doesn’t like my dark, twisted stories.

I am NOT bitter.

Posted in Criminal Intent, HTTS, Idle Threats, Making Progress | 4 Comments

The Dark Soul of Solstice

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” – Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell is my soul sister. I love winter time. I love the smell of the crisp air, the feel of sharp breeze on my cheeks. I love to bundle up in a toasty warm coat and boots and tramp around in fresh-fallen snow. I don’t lament the shorter days (although the days are getting longer) nor the gray skies. I love darkness. I am incredibly energized when the weather is cool or cold. Except for dealing with the black ice that plagues our area from time to time, I am happiest in the cocoon of Midwestern winter. I’m sure an analyst could provide some scintillating psychological perspective about this, but it will not deter my fantasy of being an Ice Queen.

On this, the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice is a source of spectacular superstitions and folklore, historically providing excuses for partying, debauchery, and human sacrifice in attempts to please various gods, depending upon the particular age and society. Particularly interesting is the connection of Stonehenge to the Winter Solstice

Reading the historical accounts of reactions to (then unknown) scientific events stirs my imagination. Introspection into why and how societies developed and incorporated those beliefs into their culture is a fertile ground to be tilled for my own stories.

I am inspired to spend some time exploring the impact of the Winter Solstice on one or two of my characters. Is someone driven mad by the dark, short days? Is there a Druid in the mix? A murder in the name of Saturn?

The ideas that rise from these scenarios are delightful to consider, while I honor the celebratory spirit of the season with a glass of the appropriately named 2011 Renegade by Ken Forrester.

Posted in Holiday Festivities, Wine - the First Miracle | Leave a comment

Small Talk and Holiday Decorating Tips

chair-festively-decoratedThe Pillow – the only holiday decoration needed!

We are now well into the Festive Holiday Season, which rolls out around Halloween (my favorite holiday), breaks into a trot just before Thanksgiving, builds up to a full-tilt boogie between Black Friday and Christmas, and then dies a slow, lingering death just after New Year’s Day. The Season is replete with events requiring one to engage in Small Talk.

Small Talk and I are not friends. We are not even cordial acquaintances.

Sadly, for other party goers, I can’t avoid all Small Talk festivities of the Season – certain obligations must be met. But I mangle instead of mingle. It’s definitely me, not you.

I can’t help cringing when I’m asked the same slate of rote questions from people I don’t know very well, the answer to which the asker could not possibly care less about. But social convention requires them to participate in this charade. And the whole time, my inner child/muse is screaming for more wine to dull the numbing brain crush of meaningless conversation.

To wit, this sparkling repartee:

Is your Christmas shopping done? Yes
Have you got your Christmas baking done? HyVee does my baking
Is your daughter coming home for Christmas? No
Are you going anywhere for Christmas? No
Doing anything special for Christmas? No
Do you have your Christmas decorating done yet? YES!

I never ask anybody these questions. Why? Because whether someone’s shopping is “done” is not my business. And I am less interested than you might imagine that a 50,000 piece Christmas village, complete with an operating model train running through it, took 27 hours to set up. I don’t know what to do with this information after I get it. My feeble effort to process this results in clever responses along the lines of “oh, wow, that’s interesting.”

I am thinking of having cards made up, appropriately decorated with holiday kitsch, of course, and just handing them out:

Is your Christmas shopping done?
No, do you have any leftover funds to help out?

Have you got your Christmas baking done?
I am not Martha Stewart.

Is your daughter coming home for Christmas?
My daughter is a psyche nurse. She is caring for people who need her more than her crazy mother does. [that last part is questionable]

Are you going anywhere for Christmas?
Why do you want to know? Are you with the Government?

Doing anything special for Christmas?
Yes, I’m getting the last of the bodies buried before the hard freeze.

Do you have your Christmas decorating done yet?
YES! I turned The Pillow over right after Thanksgiving!

These cards will spare poor, unsuspecting Small Talkers from my unique social skills, and allow me to refill my wine glass and seek out a person who will perhaps share the title of an interesting book they’ve read recently, or discuss the merits of the screen version of The Man in the High Tower versus the actual book. And then, I will plot my escape.

 . . . and a partridge in a pear tree.


Posted in Holiday Festivities, Just Kill Me Now, Public Service Announcement | 2 Comments