Thursday, September 30, 2010

So, You Want Me to Buy Your Book? Are You Kidding?

Rant Alert.

I met up with my critique partner at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. We were on our way to North Carolina for the Writer's Police Academy. She was traveling from San Antonio, and my flight originated in Denver. Since there are no direct flights from either of our cities, DFW was where we could catch a connecting flight. (Either Dallas or Chicago. What???)

Kelly and I have become friends over the years, but still spend most of our time talking about books and writing and everything else related to it. Our friendship is a gift, but the writing discussions are like breathing. And when you only get so much time to breathe, well . . . that's what you do.

We were sitting in the boarding area, talking about our recent reads. I was telling Kelly about Tim Hallinan when I noticed a woman across from us perk up and follow the conversation. Turns out she was an author from a state west of mine, and north. I'd never heard of her, but then there are a lot of us. She had a nice smile and seemed interesting. New friends are always nice.

We exchanged cards (hers was really cool) and we moved on to the next stage of our journey as we boarded the flight. When we landed in North Carolina, the three of us regrouped a bit and talked some more.

That's when she found out that we weren't 'big name' authors. From that point on, she never said a word to either one of us. Not one. Except to quickly inform us we couldn't join her at her table that evening because she was expecting someone else. Not a word of regret. Not a word of kindness.

Fine. Be that way. We made our own table.

Now, here's the deal. I know what it is to have someone attach themselves to me. Not only is it not a growth experience, it's not fun. But I'm here to tell you that neither Kelly nor I look like a leech. We're writers. Heck, we crave solitude from time to time. So I'm not buying that argument.

Was 'pleasant' too much to ask?

I went online and checked out this author. Turns out she's written a LOT of books. Turns out some of them sound interesting. Turns out she could have been on the list of authors I want to check out. Turns out she won't be.

I'm just sayin'.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

From My Writer's Police Academy Notes: On Firefighters

A group of student firefighters raised the flag our first morning on the campus of Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro, North Carolina. We were attending Lee Lofland's (The Graveyard Shift) Writer's Police Academy.

When the students placed their hands over their hearts and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, most of the attendees (who were paying attention) followed suit. It was a nice moment.

Then, one of the students broke rank and walked over to a bell. He rang it five times, pause, five times, pause and five more times.

In the days before cell phones and 9-1-1, call boxes used to be scattered throughout towns and cities across America. The communication device in the old ones was a bell. Each call box was numbered. If someone spotted a fire, and the closest call box was 762, they would ring 7-6-2 so people would know the approximate site of the fire.

5-5-5 is the code for a downed firefighter.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Things We Say Wrong

I'm off playing in Greensboro, North Carolina at the Writer's Police Academy. I'll post a few highlights when I get back to Colorado, but in the meantime, there's nothing better for Word Wizards than to know we're not alone.

Sit back. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Worst Thing I've Ever Written

No excuses. Naked and embarrassed. I'm about to show you something I wrote. Not twenty-five years ago. Not five years ago. I'm about to show you something I wrote THIS MONTH.

A writer/editor/teacher once imparted the advice that it is impossible to write over the top. If you think it's maudlin or overly dramatic, it's probably just perfect. I'm here to tell you (and then show you) that not all advice is good advice. At least not 100% of the time.

Two questions come to mind: What was I thinking? and Why in the world would I admit writing such drivel?

Before I answer those questions, here are the uglies (if you happen to be an agent or a publisher, please stop reading now and move on to that long list of queries you're considering):

"Tonight, the FBI agent fell to his knees in front of the fire. He fought to breathe. Pulled in tortuous, nail-filled air. His lungs could hold no more and he expelled the gaseous oxygen."

If that wasn't bad enough, the following was a mere two short paragraphs later:

"Nick rolled onto his stomach and crawled to the phone, the pain casting around in his back. Fire and ice battled for victory and his body was the battlefield."

What was I thinking? I adore deep POV. Strike that. I adore deep POV that's done well. This was an emotional moment. Emotional moments often call for deep POV. But clearly, this would have been better written almost any other way. Or not written at all. Maybe I was tired. Or desperate. Or distracted. Whatever I was, I was not on top of my game.

Why in the world would I admit writing such drivel? To make two points. The first one is that it is possible to grind out over-the-top garbage even after having written for years. And the second one is . . . (this is important) . . . I now have something to fix.

Several people have said, "You can't fix a blank page." I don't know who said it first, but they got it right.

The words are awful. But the idea is there. I have something to work with. Something to move forward with. I've already changed those words, and will probably change them again before I'm done.

It's a process.

What's the worst thing you've ever written? Dare to share?

CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I had the privilege of going on a ride-along last Friday night through the Citizen's Police Academy I'm attending on Tuesday nights. If you write in any sub-genre of mystery, I encourage you to contact your local police or sheriff's department and ask about any classes they offer civilians.

I'd requested District 1 for the action it promised. It covers the northwest part of town which tends to have the highest number of calls for the . . . um . . . most interesting crimes. Turns out my guy's sector was the southern part of District 1. I'm thinking it's not quite as interesting.

There was no blood on my ride-along. One DK (drunk) domestic and a few other routine and rather boring calls. A young kid is hopefully getting a wake-up call by being cited for assault and battery, a man in the ER asked what made the cop check for warrants on him and was told it was because he was mouthy, a woman is receiving creepy but legally non-threatening messages from an ex but needs to wait until Monday to request a Restraining Order, another cop asked for help because the domestic violence suspect she had handcuffed in the back of her cruiser was saying he'd slip the cuffs, so we followed them to the jail. I'd never seen such a swivel head on a live person before. He kept spinning around to see if we were following.

What struck me as totally weird is that no one, not one person, questioned why I was standing with the cops while their screwed up evenings (and lives) were playing out in front of me, a total stranger, without a uniform, who said nothing. Just stood there and watched.

The value, as a writer, was in the details: how the shift begins; what equipment is checked; what (if any) radio code is used; where cops tend to stop when they need a bathroom break (my guy will only use restrooms at police or fire stations); their approach to suspects and civilians. Those kinds of things are invaluable.

Two years ago, I "tagged" along with detectives. I wrote a few posts about that experience beginning with this one, if you're interested.

CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan in hardcover.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Writing Software

We've discussed this before, here. It's a topic that comes and goes, but never quite disappears. I don't think it ever will.

Frankly, when I first heard about writing software, I was appalled. It sounded like the supreme cheat. Talk about formulaic . . . blah, blah, blah. Convinced it would trample my creative side, I formed a cross with my fingers and backed away whenever the subject came up.

Then a writer I respect started talking about something called Scrivener and how much she loved it. Say what? I decided the fact that Scrivener was only available for Mac was a clear sign I was to stay away. Protect my honor. Save my soul.


Many think I crossed over to the dark side when I became a Mac user. And guess what? I became a Mac user so I could get Scrivener. One of the best decisions I've made for my writing career.

A good writing program, like Scrivener, doesn't quell creativity. In fact, it gives you more freedom to make changes easily, store research, have notes accessible, see visually what's happening and has options for just about anything you can imagine.

There's another program I have that is available for both PC and Mac users. It's Snowflake Pro and one that I think will be invaluable in the initial aspects of developing my next project. Even though I had it in time for this current one, I experienced a total brain-freeze and didn't utilize it when I think it would have been the most useful. Sheesh.

Do you use writing software? If so, which one and what do you like most about it?

CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When Failure Isn't

I sat an unrealistic goal for myself over the weekend. Shoot, I set an impossible goal for myself over the the weekend.

In other words, I set myself up to fail.

But did I?

I decided I would add 8000 words to my WIP (work-in-process) by Monday night. Under normal conditions, that would have been a stretch, but we had plans both Saturday and Sunday, and Monday there were a couple of domestic duties scheduled (clean underwear is a good thing).

I didn't come close to achieving my goal. But what I have now that I didn't have on Friday is a clear "what's next" for my scenes. That has always been a stumbling block for me. Which thread do I pull now?

So although I didn't make the 8000 (and we all know I didn't expect to make the 8000 from the get-go), I was propelled and compelled to figure out a plan.

A friend gave me a plaque that says, "Shoot for the moon . . . even if you miss you'll land among the stars."

So today, I'm off to play in the glitter of star dust—with just a trace of moon dust to keep me motivated.

Are you feeling glittery, or just dusty? What do you do to shake it up or shake it off?

CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan in hardcover. An absolutely amazing series beginning with A Nail Through the Heart which I read on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


(OT: Celebrated 30 fabulous years with the LoML on Monday. We hosted 50 friends and family who gave up their holiday to spend it with us. We are blessed.)

Gems come in all shapes and sizes and colors and levels of clarity. I adore the ones given to me by my husband, but I'm also thrilled by the little ones I mine that come in print form.

Recently, I found a couple of things that are right up my antagonist's alley. One is a term I first saw in Timothy Hallinan's A Nail Through the Heart, and the second is from one of those Word of the Day things you can subscribe to.

The first time I ever heard the term "hungry ghost" was in Tim's wonderful novel. His series is set in Bangkok, and as I've mentioned once or twice *wink*, amazingly well written. I can't remember now what "hungry ghost" was in reference to, but I had the idea it might apply to my bad guy. I made a point of Googling (what a wonderful research tool!) the term after finishing his book, and found the following:

Hungry ghosts are found mostly in Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. We've all seen pictures of them. Huge, empty stomachs and tiny, pinhole mouths. Hungry ghosts have uber-thin necks so it's impossible for them to swallow even if they get anything in their mouths. They are tormented by unfulfilled cravings, having uncovered a terrible emptiness within themselves.

Those pieces of information work for my antag. What doesn't work as well is, according to Buddhist belief, hungry ghosts are people who have been reborn as these entities due to their greed, envy and jealousy. They are associated with addiction, obsession and compulsion. These elements don't fit quite as well because my guy's motivation is an absolute vacuum of emotion. His craving is to feel something—anything.

But I'm using it. Thank you Mr. Hallinan.

And my word?

Degage. Pronounced dey-gah-ZHEY. It has two definitions, and the second one fits my antag perfectly:

1. Unconstrained; easy, as in manner or style.
2. Without emotional involvement; detached.

Thank you, for your perfect timing.

Oh, and thank you, Love of My Life, for the stunning pearl necklace.

So tell me if you're willing . . . what kinds of gems have you mined?

CR: The Dark Tide by Andrew Gross.

It's all better with friends.