07 November 2023

Road Trip!

I insert myself into Hico.

I have a story due to an anthology editor by December 31. For the past several months, I have been writing and researching what I thought was a great story. Unfortunately, the more I wrote, the more the story read like a term paper with dialog; the more I researched, the more I realized the two ideas I was trying to merge mixed as well as oil and water.

This morning, Sunday, November 5, I threw in the towel. I needed a new concept, a new set of characters, a new setting, and a new plot. And that meant:

Road trip!

Several years ago, Temple and I discovered we could generate stories—sometimes just general concepts but more often rough plots with characters and important background details—while I drive and she takes notes. Sometimes the resulting story is primarily mine, sometimes it is primarily hers, but most often it is a healthy mix of both our ideas. When we return home, I enter her handwritten notes into a Word document and write the story.

Backroad driving is better for story generating than driving on interstate highways, and we live in a part of Texas where there are several interesting small towns within a one- to two-hour backroad drive.

(Our previous road trip generated two story ideas—one, our first official collaboration, for an anthology, and another that has no specific market in mind.)

But our road trips are for more than story generation. They allow us to unplug from the world around us, to avoid having household chores demand our attention, to escape the siren song of other distractions, and to stay connected to each other.

For this morning’s trip, we selected Hico, where we lunched at The Chop House in the Midland Hotel, walked around the shopping district, and then stopped for handmade chocolates at Wiseman House.

The result was an enjoyable day spent together, a story that should meet the anthology requirements while utilizing much of the research I’ve already done, and, as a bonus, this SleuthSayers post.

I call that a win.

My story “Spilt Milk” appears in the November/December issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

Later this week, I’m attending Crime Bake. If you see me there, please introduce yourself.


  1. Your piece fascinated me for many reasons, Michael. One is that I am in the process or researching a story that is due next spring. It is still in the fun-not-yet-panicky period. I do most of my plotting not on roads but on trails, namely on my bike. Many miles to pedal before I straighten out the last plot points on this one...

  2. Thank you for this glimpse into your writing approach!

  3. As usual, I love your posts. This is such a perfect description of how I have felt about some of my attempts: "the more I wrote, the more the story read like a term paper with dialog"!

  4. I take long walks, myself. Really enjoyed your story, "Spilt Milk"!


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