San Diego, the Epiphany, Part 2

Pledging Perdition cover

No, this is not a new project. It is the same story I have been working on. The lighter, cozier Death Takes a Spa Day has taken a side trip through a dark alley. A few weeks ago, my muse informed me that a fraternity played a part in the criminal element of the story.

Who knew? Note to self – my fictional town needs a college.

During my trip to San Diego, while enjoying a beautiful rain storm and watching the street scene below, the whole fraternity/criminal element plot line crystallized for me, thereby becoming a central theme in the story.

Again, who knew? Hence, a new title and visual. Also, a couple of major changes in character relationships, which make a lot more sense to me now.

Meanwhile, in between the three books I savored on the trip, I began, and did not finish, three other books. I won’t trash other authors’ work publicly, so no identifying info is provided, other than those lessons to self about what NOT TO DO:

Book 1 – Protagonist, minding her own business, finds a body, and promptly becomes the prime suspect for ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD REASON. I was irritated by the ridiculous, unbelievable actions of the police officers on the scene. There was ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD REASON to continue reading beyond the end of the first chapter.

Book 2 – “she had only hours to live” repeated three times in the first few pages, plus an info dump in a completely unbelievable “conversation” between two characters. After the third “she had only hours to live” I decided that I, too, only had hours to live, and would not waste any more of them on this book.

Book 3 – “Blah blah blah” said Jane. “Blah blah blah, certain food ingredient,” said Sue. “Blah blah blah” said Jane, while stirring her coffee. “Blah blah blah,” exclaimed Sue. “Blah blah blah” said Jane, furrowing her brow. “Blah blah blah,” insisted Sue. “Blah blah blah, food with certain ingredient,” said Jane. “Blah blah blah,” said Sue. More Jane and Sue “said”ing about a certain food ingredient. I furrowed my brow while swirling my wine and exclaimed, “I GET IT. A CERTAIN FOOD INGREDIENT IS GOING TO KILL SOMEONE!” Undoubtedly, the victim has only a few hours to live and someone with no connection to the victim will be forthwith accused and detained.

Ok, rant mode off. Those few minutes of reading were not without value. I made many, many notes to self, mostly of the “don’t do this” variety. This is apparently easier said (bwahaha) than done.

I hit the jackpot with the next choice on the Kindle. The Bastard Out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison, is absolutely riveting. There are pages of dialogue where characters talk without “said”ing; delicious hints of things to come without bashing you over the obvious head; characters that come alive in their humanity. The story, the prose, the crafting, propels me smack into the setting and the characters’ lives. I eagerly turn the pages as the story unfolds.

And a few million words from now, this is what I strive for in my own writing.

Posted in I Am Not Making This Up, Making Progress, Yes I Need More Books | 2 Comments

San Diego, The Good, Part 1

Star of IndiaStar of India

Where does the time go? I am back from San Diego. The trip was much less trouble than I expected. It turns out that when you accompany someone needing wheelchair assistance at the airport, you get pushed to the front of every line. That made some things a bit easier, including the mile-long TSA line at 4:30 a.m. for the return flight. All things considered, everyone was kind and helpful, including the TSA agents, even when our TSA Pre-Check boarding passes didn’t scan properly.

I walked along the harbor in the morning, taking in the surprisingly non-salty fresh air and enjoying the variety of boats docked in the slips, one of which was the impressive Star of India, seen above. The skies were gray and overcast most days, and it rained twice, causing Coe no end of consternation. My vampire-self loved it! The skinny palm trees always crack me up. I feel like I am on another planet when I am visiting a place where they are native flora. I was so not born with a palm tree under my feet. (Glenn Frey, if you are having a WTF? moment).

I cherished every minute with my amazing daughter. We did a spa day and visited some indie bookstores. Mysterious Galaxy was my favorite – lots of cool writer chachkes tucked among the books – I bought some notebooks, pens, wall art, and a magnetic Poe poetry word kit that doesn’t stick to my (aluminum) stainless steel fridge. Plus, she provided great ideas for much wining and dining.

I took advantage of air travel and down time to immerse myself in some fabulous books. Highly recommended:

Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen (WWII British mystery)

Lawn Order, by Molly MacRae (cozy mystery)

Death Without Company, by Craig Johnson (the second Walt Longmire mystery)

I also scribble notes on my WIP and work out some plot twists. Could life be better? I think not.

Posted in Enjoying the Journey, Yes I Need More Books | Leave a comment

Just Not Happening

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge
I thought I would be able to participate in the blog hop this month, but life has other ideas. I could have posted an answer to the great question Alex posed, “How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?” Because I have a really great answer!

But I am unable to participate tomorrow (or even in the coming week) by visiting other blogs and responding to comments. So, please visit the awesome co-hosts for the February 1 posting:

Misha Gericke
LK Hill
Juneta Key
Joylene Butler

and the wonderful IWSG community here!

Posted in I'm Not Sure What is Going On Here, Public Service Announcement | 2 Comments

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