Friday, April 24, 2015

I picked a bad month to quit smoking...

Okay, no. I don't smoke. I never have. I don't even drink to excess anymore. Very often. But it's a wonder that I am not currently drinking like a fish and smoking like a chimney.

Remind me never to buy a house when I have a book due. Okay, granted, I always have a book due, but even so I should have arranged this better.

I am like a mad scientist's experiment on the effect of stress on rats. Or the small, pale, anxious-looking mammal of your choice.


But I have to keep taking it and working while I take it, and because this isn't a funny enough story for future retellings, we here in the high desert are also experiencing windstorms so I have had a headache for about two weeks. Crazy-with-stress and headachy. Even the SO has been complaining of headaches for the last week, so it's not just me. Or maybe I am the common denominator. It's been known to happen.

This is the long way of admitting that this a placeholder post. I can't just drop off the face of the map because then the VA starts to get emails asking if I've died. I WISH.

Kidding. I'm a kidder.

A kidder with a headache. Which is the worst kind.

So everything is pretty much fine. The book is coming along, believe it or not. We're looking at somewhere between 60 - 70K (regardless of what Amazon says) and it's a lot of mystery and not so much romance because I basically want to kill someone.

We were supposed to close Monday, but every *&^^%%$$###@!ING time I think we're moving forward the bank comes back with yet another request for paperwork. Lately it's the same paperwork only formatted differently. Which is why I want to kill someone.

Anyway, while I have thought of many topics for posts, I find that I just do not have the energy. I barely have the focus for a normal conversation, yet alone the ability to think philosophically about such things as why people you have never met--and never will meet--think it is appropriate to share such personal, private information with an email address OR ask the person at the end of that email address for personal and private information.


But a lot of us live online now, and we forget that we are still the minority. Most people are not living their lives in cyber space.

It does raise an interesting question though. If you were to unplug today, how much would it affect your life? In what ways would it change your life? Do you think you would be forced to forge better and more meaningful connections with people around you if you couldn't hop onto the intertubes to socialize? Does the internet enhance or distract from your ability to connect with people?

Are we engaging online to the detriment of our real life engagement?

Inquiring minds want to know.

I've read a few articles about "addiction to the internet." What do you think about that? If you were addicted to the internet, would you know?

Friday, April 17, 2015

The problem with reality

I'm not in a particularly, er, fanciful mood right now. Which is a problem for writing fiction. Because so much fiction is simply improbable if not downright impossible. Especially when it comes to crimes stories. Delightful and enjoyable improbabilities, no question.

That said, I will not deny that some very amazing things happen in real life--things that you pretty much would not believe in fiction. I've been doing a lot of research on the FBI and holy guacamole. Things happen in real life that, were they to happen in a movie, you'd be screaming at your TV.

NOT that I have ever screamed at the TV.

Or at least if I did, I never expected an answer

But I guess it's true that real life is stranger than fiction.

Anyway, for the writer of fiction, it's all about balance. Because a lot of what has to happen in any real life investigation is simply boring and does not belong in storytelling. There are some things we must take for granted. For example, people on stakeout must find ways to relieve themselves. Unless something germane to the plot happens during the we-can-safely-assume behaviors, do we need to see this?

There will be some readers who yes, absolutely want and need to see this. But they are not the majority and their storytelling instincts are poor. Especially when they are wanabe writers themselves. ;-)

Because I am in a FILL OUT ALL FORMS CORRECTLY frame of mind, I've written several thrilling scenes that related to, yes, filling out forms, ordering subpenas, procuring warrants...

And this week I went back and ripped them all out again because, say what?! Real life so rarely makes for good fiction.

And it's even trickier when it comes to romance because I am not in a romantic state of mind. But then again, that might be the right approach for this book where the two protags are not in a romantic state of mind either. But life--and love--have a way of happening while you're busy making other plans.

Anyway, another completely unedited snippet from Winter Kill -- and then Special Agent Adam Darling must get back to filling out form 4506-t AGAIN. Oh wait. That's me, not Darling. I think Darling gets to shoot someone in this chapter.

“It was a mistake bringing in the feds,” Zeke said.

Rob grunted. He thought it was a mistake too, but it hadn’t been his call and it was too late now, so what was the point of bitching? He said, “Feebs.”


“The FBI. They call them feebs now.”

“I don’t care if they call them fucking frankfurters.”

Rob grunted.

From the observation deck at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport they watched in silence as Alaska Airlines Flight 477 touched down, skimmed the rain-blackened runway, and taxied slowly toward the terminal.

Rob straightened. “Come on.”

“There’s no hurry.” Zeke continued to gaze out the wet, streaked window.

The overhead speaker announced the flight’s arrival for anyone who wasn’t paying attention and offered information on collecting baggage to the passengers still sitting on the plane.

A few long minutes passed before the mobile stairway was lined up with the plane doors. The cabin door opened. At last the passengers began to disembark.

Rob’s stomach growled and he glanced at his watch. It was already twelve thirty and in this weather it would take about an hour to drive from Medford to the resort of Nearby. He sighed inwardly. It had been a long morning and it was going to be a long afternoon. Of that, he had zero doubt.

Zeke said suddenly, “Fucking Barbie and Ken!”

A woman carrying a briefcase exited the plane. The rainy breeze tousled her long, pale hair. She threw a comment over her shoulder to a man in an olive rain coat. The man replied and the woman laughed.

Rob smiled grimly because that time Zeke nailed it. Tall and blond and elegant in their His and Hers trench coats, these two looked more like they were auditioning for a hot new TV series than real law enforcement. But law enforcement they were. Real live FBI Special Agents come all the way from sunny Los Angeles to offer their wisdom and expertise.

Yep, it was pretty damned annoying.

“Come on,” he said again, and this time he meant it. Zeke heaved a heavy sigh but followed him downstairs to the Arrival Gate where Barbie and Ken were impatiently scanning the waiting crowd for their welcome committee.

The bystanders parted before Rob and Zeke. There was nothing like a sheriff’s badge to clear a path.
“Special Agents Gould and Darling?” Rob asked. Not that he had any doubt.

The man--Rob’s height, green eyes, short, wavy fair hair--said crisply, “I’m Darling. This is Agent Gould.”

“Deputies,” Gould said. She had a very pretty smile. No question who played Good Cop on that team.
“Special Agent What’dyousay?” Zeke asked.

Darling directed a look that should have left Zeke encased in ice, and Rob preserved his poker face with effort. 

“I’m Haskell. This is Deputy Lang,” Rob said. “How was your trip?”

“Long,” Darling said. “Shall we hit the road?”

“I could see getting that mixed up,” Zeke interrupted with his usual godawful timing.

Darling looked almost human as his green gaze met Rob’s. Gould’s pale brows drew together. “I’m sorry?”

Zeke opened his big mouth again. “I could see how someone might think you were the d--”

Rob spoke over him. “We’re parked in the lot across from the terminal.” He gave Zeke a helpful, hard nudge in the direction of the exit. Zeke winced and glared at him. “You have any luggage?” Rob asked the feds.

Gould held up her briefcase. Darling didn’t seem to hear the question, heading straight for the doors leading out to the rainy gray October day.

They piled into the Rural Patrol SUV, the FBI agents in the backseat and Zeke riding shotgun. Rob started the engine.

“How long a drive is it to the resort?” Darling asked.

“Not quite an hour. Maybe a little longer in the rain.”

“With you driving, definitely a little longer,” Zeke said.

Rob ignored him, pulling out of the parking lot and turning east.

“You really think our DB might be one of the Roadside Ripper’s vics?” Zeke asked, looking back at their passengers.

“That’s what we’re here to find out,” Gould said.

“What’s the body count now?” Zeke asked.

“We believe we have twenty-one confirmed kills.” Gould’s voice was pleasant. She might have been discussing the weather.

“I almost applied to the FBI,” Zeke said. “I didn’t want to have to wear a fucking tie all the time.”

Rob managed to swallow his snort. He glanced in the rearview mirror as he merged onto OR-62 West and briefly met Darling’s eyes. Darling’s mouth quirked in a sardonic not-quite-smile.

“Excuse my French,” Zeke added for Gould’s benefit.

Pas du tout,” Gould returned.

Zeke gave her his biggest, widest grin. She smiled back, But he was wasting his time there. Gould was so far out of his league she might have been from another planet.

 Again Rob’s gaze rose to the rearview and again he met Darling’s ironic regard. Darling did not blink, did not look away. 

Wasn’t green supposed to be the most rare eye color? Rob could believe it in Darling’s case. He’d never seen eyes quite that shade. Maybe Darling wore contacts.

Either way…that was one very direct, very intense regard. In other circumstances, it might mean a couple of things. Even in these circumstances that look might mean a couple of things. Unlikely, but still…

Zeke asked, “How many of those twenty-one vics were in Oregon?”

“Seven,” Gould replied.

“But that doesn’t mean they were killed here.”


“They might just have been unloaded here. He’s using the I-5 as his dumping ground, right?”

Darling was now directing his laser stare at the back of Zeke’s head. Rob would not have been surprised to see Zeke’s hair burst into flame, but then that was always a danger given how much hairspray Zeke used. Way more hairspray than straight guys generally went in for, in Rob’s opinion.

“That’s the current theory,” Gould said.

“How many members on your taskforce?” Zeke asked. “The whole West Coast is involved, right?”

“It’s one of the largest ever formed,” Gould answered. “Even we’re not sure of the exact number of team members.” 

Obviously not true, but more polite than what her partner was clearly tempted to tell Zeke.

“You guys okay?” Rob asked. “You hungry?”

“Yeah, I’m hungry,” Zeke said.

“We had a two-hour layover in Seattle,” Darling said. “We’ve eaten. And we’re on a tight schedule.”

Gould glanced at her partner. What she said was, “Gosh, it’s green here. We could use some of this rain in California.”

“We’ve never had a homicide in Nearby,” Zeke said with an edge to his tone. “I know it’s same old same old to you, but to us it’s a big deal.”

“We don’t know we’ve got a homicide now,” Rob said, with a warning look.

It was wasted, of course.

“Right,” Zeke said. “Maybe it was suicide. Maybe John Doe buried himself beneath that rock pile.”

Sunday afternoon, campers had discovered human remains buried in a shallow grave covered with rocks on a decommissioned logging road off of Route 140. Not exactly the Roadside Ripper’s stomping grounds, but for some reason Frankie--Sheriff Francesca McLellan--had decided to call in the feds just to be sure. Which just went to prove what a high profile case the Roadside Ripper was. High profile enough that even in their little corner of the woods, they’d heard about it.

But the chances that this unlucky John Doe was one of the Ripper’s? That seemed pretty farfetched to Rob.

 All the same, twenty-four hours later, FBI Barbie and Ken had shown up on their doorstep.

Friday, April 10, 2015

If it's Friday This Must Be...

I recently saw again the film If it's Tuesday This Must be Belgium.

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
Music and lyrics by Donovan P. Leitch (sung by J. P. Rags)

 If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium
 If it's Wednesday, this must be Rome
 If it's Thursday, this must be Montreux
 I feel I never wanna go home

 If this is London, why ain't it raining?
 The sun is shining on Saint Paul's Dome
 If this is real then I must be dreaming
 Can't wait to tell the folks back home
 Can't wait to tell the folks back home

 If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium
 If it's Wednesday, this must be Rome
 If it's Thursday, this must be Montreux
 I feel I never wanna go home

To my surprise, it had a completely different ending than the one I remembered. Personally I think my ending was better, but now that I am an adult and I know the "real" ending I probably won't be able to forget how the movie closed.

I also didn't realize Donovan wrote the theme song. I still love Donovan. My babysitter used to go to Donovan concerts and talk about Donovan. ;-) So I have a great, great fondness for Donovan.

Anyway, it's another Friday and I really don't have a lot to say. We are still in Underwriting Hell with the house, so no news there. I have a bunch of people asking stuff of me, and I have no energy to respond--let alone decide whether or not to accept, decline, tackle yet another project, do another interview...

I really had no idea how stressful this House Thing was going to be. And it's right in the middle of two of my biggest projects this year -- Winter Kill which is immediately followed by Jefferson Blythe, Esquire.

 The writing is the only thing I have energy for. It's always like this at a certain point in any given project, but I think I'm more aware of it right now because there are so many other crucial things I am cutting out. I can see very clearly right now how absolutely obsessive I am about work and writing. It produces good books but it's not an attractive personality trait.

But then I am not a "personality." I am a writer. I don't get paid enough to be a "personality."

One of the interesting things in writing is how the characters change through the course of the story. I had a rough idea of who Rob Haskell and Adam Darling were before I ever began Winter Kill.

Clever and ambitious, Special Agent Adam Darling (yeah, he's heard all the jokes before) was on the fast track to promotion and success until his mishandling of a high profile operation left one person dead and Adam "On the Beach."

Deputy Sheriff Robert Haskell may seem laid-back, but he's a tough and efficient cop -- and he's none too thrilled to see feebs on his turf -- even when one of the agents is smart, handsome, and probably gay.

This is what I knew going in. And let me say now that I groan when writers talk about their "muse taking over" and side characters "clamoring to tell their own story." I know given the pressure to be out here being social we all spill a lot of inanities, but... But it is true that the storytelling process is an organic one. Characters and plot do change through the process of writing the story. Dialog evolves and as it evolves new angles appear and pretty soon the characters are off and running. And not always in anticipated directions.

Honestly, that's part of the fun of writing.

Two things I didn't initially anticipate was that Rob might be so laid back he failed to follow through on an investigation, and that lapse might have repercussions. Also, he turns out to be a lot more charming and a lot more of a player than I imagined. But it fits and it works, and those are always the exciting discoveries of storytelling. Those are the ah ha! moments.

And Adam...I initially thought Adam would be a lot more to blame for his own problems. But as the story evolves I see that while Adam was ambitious and he's paid a price in his personal life, professionally he is more a victim of circumstance. To me, that's actually more interesting. And it gives Adam a needed vulnerability.

There was another surprise there too--one that links back to the All's Fair series and one that links ahead to a series out on proposal that I haven't really talked about. I love these little surprises and it seems like readers do too, so I won't ruin them by talking too much about them now.

Anyway, that's where I am this fine April morning. And where are you?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Vernal Equinox

The scent of hyacinths, like a pale mist, lies
   between me and my book;
And the South Wind, washing through the room,
Makes the candles quiver.
My nerves sting at a spatter of rain on the shutter,
And I am uneasy with the thrusting of green shoots        
Outside, in the night.

Why are you not here to overpower me with your
   tense and urgent love?

Amy Lowell, 1874 - 1925