How The Little Old Lady did it

That’s my big dilemma now. I never start a story before I know how it begins and ends. The middle is what happens when I combine the ingredients, mold them, stretch them, and cut them. The middle can change and ingredients can be subtracted or added at will, but the beginning and the end have to remain the same.

I say Little Old Lady, but I want to explore the plausibility of a contract killer in her late sixties.

Why not? I’ve known men and women in nursing homes who lead lives that no one wrote a book about and I wondered why. The more I think about this woman and how plausible it is that she could be an effective hit person in the modern age, the more I fill in her background and realize that there is quite a bit that would explain her skill set, how she finds work, and how she manages to stay out of prison even when the police seem to close in on her.

So I’m confident that I can write a plausible character but now the how of the matter comes to fruition. It needs to be something that leaves the reader utterly entranced, baffled, and desiring more. If I want to earn that favorable comparison to Agatha Christie, I better not have even one coincidence (Even though she says that one is acceptable, as long as it’s one per book. Yes, dead authors talk to me, what of it?).


And Now Project Numeral Umpteenth

Yes. Yes, I’ll keep ’em coming. You bet I’ll keep ’em coming because they’re all I have to keep me going.

We all know the joke. Most of us are familiar with the long standing gag about the main character in a detective/amateur sleuth series really being the killer all along. We’re so familiar with this, that you can’t have a Miss Marple Writing contest in any writer’s group without about 99% of the entries involving Miss Marple being the killer.

So that got me to thinking, as is so often the origin story of all my problems. What if that sweet, unassuming old lady across the street from you, the one who lives comfortably in retirement, goes to church, tends her garden, and occasionally has you over for tea, was a contract killer?

Thus, I began writing a story that begins on a cold winter’s night, in a pub…

So Many Projects. So, this is what they meant.

It’s not that I didn’t understand what some people were saying about having multiple writing projects going all at once. It’s just that when I started putting stuff out there, I had a timetable mentality of having to get everything done one after the other. Don’t start the next story until you’ve finished the first one and so help me young man, you’d better finish every word and punctuation mark on your plate.

Unfortunately, I ran into a snag on one project. So that means staring at the screen and hoping something happens, or working on something else for a time.

Then I got to thinking about the unanswered questions in Ashrose Tee. Dina pick up I also got to thinking about what the modern equivalent of Rumpelstiltskin might be and how that the answer would make a great sequel to Ashrose Tee, wherein I could also tie up those loose ends.

But having multiple projects going is better than having nothing going at all.

The True Story Behind Rudolph’s Red Nose

This is pure speculation.

What if “Red-nosing” is how Santa’s workers feel whenever an elf or a reindeer starts sucking up to Santa.

Rudolph is the brand new reindeer on the sleigh team and he spends most of his time telling Santa how great he looks, how Mrs. Clause’s cookies are the best, and how the North Pole may be freezing but, “Wow, boss, you sure make it ten degrees warmer when you step into the room.”

So everyone else says,

“Gee, we’ve seen some red nosers around here, but if you were to catch a look at Rudolph’s red nose, you would even say it glows.”

Hermy and Rudolph.jpg
“Eww, seriously, wash your face before sneeze.”

But it works. Because Rudolph gets to lead the sleigh team that night. And all of the other reindeer promise that Rudolph will go down in history is the one with the reddest nose of all.

Why The Reader’s Opinion Matters to Me

In 2007, I was reading tarot cards at the first annual Vermont Horror Film Festival, where director Philippe Spurrell presented his debut silver screen effort, The Descendant (Not to be confused with the George Clooney film of the same title). There was a Q and A afterwards and I was ready with the Q’s.

A thriller that revolved around a little known aspect of Canadian history with regards to slavery, the main plot device in the movie was a mysterious quilt. Having no idea what the movie was about at the beginning, I immediately thought of the quilts that were used to communicate to the men and women trying to escape from slavery. After the movie was over, I asked the director if this symbolism was intended and he told me that it wasn’t. But he appreciated the fact that I was paying such close attention to the story, as evidenced by a follow up question involving a record that was played later in the film.

On a forum someone said, “As long as someone bought my story, I don’t care if they review it, or not.”

Which amazes me, because if that person’t wasn’t satisfied with the story, or didn’t like it enough to write a review or ask thoughtful questions about the story, then it’s very unlikely they will buy further works with that writer’s name on it. They’re even less likely to tell other people to buy that story, or encourage people to read that author’s work.

As a reader, my happiest moments involve authors who replied to e-mails, or Facebook posts, or retweeted my reviews. As a writer, I still punch the air when I read well thought reviews by people who definitely read (not skimmed) my work. Even reviews with an air of critique are fine, as long as I can tell from the quality of the review that they actually read the story. Because maybe the readers saw something that I didn’t think of. Or maybe the reader saw something that I did think of, and it will make me all the happier to know that soon I will make that reader happier with the next installment.

Reviews are important. Any interaction with a reader that doesn’t end with me tied to the bed with my legs broken by a cock-a-doody sledgehammer is a blessed encounter.

To Illustrate My Point…

A competent illustrator who is willing to meet me halfway is all I want for Christmas this year. I’ve been throwing myself into a writing project that will definitely need an illustrator. I’ve seen some great ones on Tumblr that would be perfect for what I have in mind, if they’re only willing to understand that I can’t pay them straight away.

I realize how insulting it can be to act as if someone shouldn’t value their own work, especially since I want people to value my own. I do value the effort an illustrator would put in and bring to my own work and I hope that when I show them mine, they find it worth their time.

It Started with an Octopus

Yesterday, for my birthday, John took me out to the China Buffet in Salem. As it was not a school day, the atmosphere was very pleasant, the food was fresh, and the company was especially nice as we were joined by two friends, Marge and Louis, whom I will name here because their paintings can be found at the Marblehead Art Association in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

At the sushi bar, John encountered a dish that wasn’t readily familiar. I noticed the tiny tentacled arms, however, and realized this was octopus. Read this book to find out why I can no longer eat Octopus. And that brings me to the story I started working on yesterday. (The first draft of the sheep story is finished)

There were two survival shows that I watched almost back to back. One was Dual Survival and the other was another survival show that I can’t remember the name of. In both cases, the survivors went out of their way to hunt and kill an octopus.

No judgments. In a survival situation, you do what you have to and those shows are about teaching people the skills to survive if they, heaven forbid, should find themselves in need of such skills. But it did make me squirm a bit, knowing that even before reading Sy Montgomery’s book, I knew that octopuses were intelligent, problem-solving creatures that could very likely become the next dominant species after humanity wipes itself out.

I also raised this other question after a survival show binge. Where are all the women survivalists? Why haven’t we had a Dual Survival episode with two women experts when we have seen a number of women who are beyond competent at the art of survival? (Feminists, help me out here, I want to see this happen)

So I wanted to write a story about a woman in a survival situation. I read Island of the Blue Dolphins way back in elementary school. I also read The Hunger Games, more recently. In both instances, the main characters grew up with those skill sets. So my character is not a ready made expert at survival but she has some rudimentary knowledge that saves her life. She also won’t be on the island for so long that the experts will grill me too much if it seems like I’ve gotten something wrong. I feel like the little bit of research I have done is adequate enough that it will save me on this.

Where does the octopus come in?

I just want to write a story where someone can’t bring themselves to kill an octopus. The octopus, in turn, will turn out to be a magical being that grants our heroine a few simple wishes that will enable her escape from the island.