The Rats are NOT Winning the Rat Race

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Insecure Writer’s Group

 

And now, the end is near,
and so we face the final Wednesday
My friends, the past is clear
I’ll state my case, life’s just a frenzy . . . *

pedestrians frenzy2

I am always so surprised at how quickly the first Wednesday rolls around. And a bit dismayed at how little I have accomplished writing-wise since the last one. Which segues nicely into this month’s IWSG’s question:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently? Two words.

SLOW DOWN

Life moves with such reckless speed. The pressure to do more in less time is simply relentless. I was raised in the era where women learned to “multi-task” in order to accomplish the expected daily output of obligation. “Multi-task” is just a fancy word for doing too many things at one time, and none of them very well. Now we’re all on our devices, checking email, texting, web surfing, doing business, getting directions, buying stuff, going going going and all the while completely oblivious to our surroundings.

I had a smack-my-head moment a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday morning when my dog was scheduled for a bath and nails. In multi-task mode, I wondered how many things I could get “done” on that side of town while she was pampered and petted. I can’t remember the last time I got a massage and manicure . . . oh wait, it was last March.

With a long-lost rebel’s heart, I thought ‘screw it’ to all the obligations and took myself to Panera, bought a latte, and pulled out my writer’s notebook. For two glorious hours, I wrote about whatever came into my view or into my head. A total stream of consciousness of life unfolding in front of me. Groceries and dry cleaning be damned.

But, I have not reviewed those musings or written in my book since. Two hours of doing nothing is very difficult to come by. My writing is squeezed into my lunch hours [multi-tasking, eating without much thought or enjoyment while trying to disengage from the law and into my story – guess how that’s working out . . .] And with the Hell-iday season upon us, legions are now in the HOV lane, hurtling towards exhaustion. [sidebar: is there a law requiring that the five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas have to be a rushed hot mess?]

But it’s all good. Soon, this rat is leaving the rat race for full-time writing. And when I do, I’m not just moving to the slow lane, I’m getting off the damn super highway and taking some back roads to places I’ve never been. I’ll count my writing time in hours and days instead of minutes. Until then, when I take the dog for her grooming appointments, I’m heading for Panera, notebook in hand.

The best wrap-up on the subject of the rat race is a brilliant video by Steve Cutts, a London-based artist specializing in animation, illustration, painting and sculpture. It’s 4 minutes 16 seconds and it worth every second. I give you:

HAPPINESS

 

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

Julie Flanders
Shannon Lawrence
Fundy Blue
Heather Gardner

*[apologies to Frank Sinatra]

Posted in It's the Law, IWSG, The Road to Hell . . . | 23 Comments

THE TIME HAS COME, THE WALRUS SAID

I’m taking a break from general kvetching to appreciate the peace and beauty of the day. I have so very much to be thankful for in my life. I’m even holding off on my annual Holiday Snark post.

I’m especially thankful that I have come out of a “chuck it all” funk and am pulling three months’ worth of work together on my WIP (thank you, Madeline). My project feels all bright and ooooh shiny new again!

 

walrus and carpenter

 

Coe and I are spending a wonderful day with my sister in crime, Anna Adams, and her family. There will be much food, wine, laughter, and love. And while there, no doubt the time will come:

“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

This poem is especially appropriate to those of you enjoying oyster stuffing. Lewis Carroll always has something pithy to say on most of life’s important subjects. (I don’t think Carroll has been deemed an irrelevant, tired cliché by the self-appointed Social Relevance police – yet).

I wish many, many blessings to all my family, friends, and cyberspace friends.

Posted in Holiday Festivities, Making Progress, Partners in Crime | 2 Comments

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 | 15 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