Showing posts with label Deborah Elliott-Upton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Deborah Elliott-Upton. Show all posts

17 September 2014

Three Years Later...


Three years ago this web site and blog went live with John Floyd’s column “Plots and Plans”. Readers who have been with SleuthSayers from the beginning know it was spearheaded by former members of Criminal Brief, an influential web log devoted to mystery short fiction. CB, as it was affectionately known, had run its course. In 4½ years, it had covered a broad range of topics and insight in the realm of crime-writing. In the same month that Criminal Brief closed shop, September 2011, Leigh, Rob, John, and Deborah - as well as Janice Law, who had just joined CB seven months earlier - launched SleuthSayers. And what a great three years it has been.

Today we celebrate the third anniversary by bringing back all of the regular weekly columnists from Criminal Brief to provide brief updates of what they've done and where they've been during these three years. Let me say I’m glad to be back among old friends once again. So now I welcome to the stage Deborah, John, Melodie, Janice, Rob, Leigh, and Angela. It also seems fitting - we couldn't have it any other way - that Criminal Brief founder James Lincoln Warren will have the final word.

Thank you. And Happy SleuthSayers Anniversary!
— Steve Steinbock


Deborah Elliott-Upton
Deborah Elliott-Upton.  Criminal Brief arrived at a pivotal time of my life. I had finished teaching a series of writer’s workshops and longed for a new challenge. A weekly blog fit perfectly. I enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow CB writers, some were new acquaintances, amid some I’d known for a while.  This allowed enough familiarity to be comfortable, enough new to make me strive to do my best. I think we learned from each other as much as we shared our knowledge and experiences with the readership.

My favorite columns to write for Criminal Brief during the four years were one on Nick Carter (great time researching that one!) and two that complimented the other: “Good Bad Guys” and “Bad Good Guys.” Of course, I have fond memories of my very first experience with CB with “Take a Seat” – my entrance to the blogging arena.

When James decided Criminal Brief should end, many of us immediately signed on as SleuthSayers. We met some new writers as columnists and also reached many new readers, too. Personally, I was most grateful for those that traveled with us from old to new blogs.

Taking a sabbatical from SleuthSayers, I went back to school, majoring in psychology. After all these years, I am still curious about what makes people tick and why they do or say or act like they do. These differences make life much more interesting. I plan to never stop learning and I can’t stop writing; both are addictions. I am so happy to be among people who feel as I do.

John Floyd
John M. Floyd.  There’s nothing special going on in my world, which is exactly the way I like it. I still teach fiction-writing classes in the Continuing Education department of a local college, I still carry out my wife’s every order (well, almost every order), and I still read or watch all the mystery/suspense books and movies I can get into my hands or my Netflix queue. In the summers I mow our yard once a week whether it needs it or not, and in the winters I spend a lot of time wishing we lived even further south. Since retiring, most of my traveling has been to visit our children or my mother, or to attend the occasional (but not often enough) Bouchercon.

On the writing/publishing front, I have two novels currently out with an agent who (bless his soul) remains excited and encouraging about them both, but--as always--most of my time is spent writing short stories. Over the past year I've been fortunate enough to place stories at AHMM, The Strand, Woman's World, and The Saturday Evening Post, and unfortunate enough to add a lot of entries to my stunningly long list of rejections. At the moment I have new stories upcoming at both AHMM and EQMM, and my fifth book will be released next month. This one is another collection of shorts, appropriately titled Fifty Mysteries.

Melodie Johnson Howe
Melodie Johnson Howe.  I miss blogging and my blogging buds. But I have been busy, busy. My new Diana Poole novel, City of Mirrors, has been received with raves and I have a contract for the second in the series. I’m writing away and pop my head up to go to Bouchercon, and speaking engagements. City of Mirrors has come out in the UK in e-book, so you Brits out there take a look at it.

I’m looking forward to the Bewitched Fanfare later this month. They will be showing ‘Generation Zap’, the episode I starred in. I will be interviewed afterwards. Who knew there was a Bewitched Fanfare?! It’s in L.A. at the Sportsmen’s Lodge. This should be fun. My long ago acting career is alive!

We have a new puppy called Satchmo in honor of Louis Armstrong. The attendant at the vet thought Satchmo was named after an action hero. I told her he was. Which reminds me of a black standard poodle we had called Madame Bovary. And people kept calling her Ovary. But I digress.

We have a great granddaughter, Addison, who just turned one. Beyond adorable. Bones and I will be married for 50 years in March. What’s in a number? Many years of living, adjusting, talking, laughing, arguing, passion, and always love and respect.

I must leave now to get my roots blonded. I find it’s good for the soul and creativity.

Janice Law Trecker
Janice Law.  Since Criminal Brief shut down, I spent a year writing bi-weekly blogs for Sleuthsayers and discovered that I do not have an endless supply of clever ideas and interesting activities. The SS gang has been kind about allowing me an occasional space.

I have published the three volumes of my trilogy featuring Francis Bacon, painter, as the detective, which is not as impressive as it might sound given that I sent The Fires of London to my then agent in 2006 and did not find a publisher until Otto Penzler accepted it for mysteriouspress.com in 2011. Because I had ignored the hint that the publishing world was uninterested in both me and Francis, I already had the second novel, Prisoner of the Riviera, written by this time. The publishing mills grind exceedingly slowly in my case.

I have also published a volume of short stories – don’t ask me how long Blood in the Water looked for a publisher – and thanks to a suggestion by Rob Lopresti, there have been numerous outings for Madame Selina and her assistant, Nip, in AHMM. I think it is about time Nip acquired a legitimate trade or profession and Madame retired to Newport or Saratoga.

Lately, I have been trying to market some novels close to my heart but apparently not to the demands of the market. As a result, I’m spending a lot of time painting, with quite happy results.

Robert Lopresti
Robert Lopresti.  What have I done in the last three years? Gotten much more than three years older, I think. Sold ten stories, more or less. Won two awards.

The future looks exciting. My first collection of short stories will be self-published quite soon. A new novel will be out next year. (Can't tell you about it yet, but I wrote a lot about it in the first year of SleuthSayers.) And, speaking of blogs, I have a new one starting next year. No, I won't be leaving SS, but I hope a lot of you will enjoy it. Read all about it here on January 7. In fact, I hope all you good folks will keep reading what we turn out here. You make it all worthwhile.

Leigh Lundin
Leigh Lundin.  In comparison with my colleagues, I submit very little but work a lot. I know, I know; I actually have to send things in!

The problem with ADD is that too many things interest me. Not long ago, I helped edit math textbooks and wrote a few chapters for one. More recently I’ve been editing novels of new authors who’ve turned their backs on the self-pub short-cuts and want to present at a professional level.

A couple of stories are wending their way to editors’ desks and I’ve been working on a couple of novel-length projects. Well, one's a novel and one isn't, but more on that later.

In the meantime, SleuthSayers keeps me occupied, albeit with considerable help from my cohorts, especially Rob. And did I mention I spent the better part of a year in South Africa? And would love to again?

Steve Steinbock
Steve Steinbock.  For a fuller disclosure of what I've been up to since the days of Criminal Brief, take a look at my recent guest post here on Sleuthsayers. The short version: Last year I attended a large number of mystery conventions and events - Bouchercon, Bloody Words, The Edgars, and Malice Domestic - as well as, on a lark, a Dark Shadows gathering in Tarrytown, New York. I continue to write my regular Jury Box colum in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

On the personal side, my youngest child just began his senior year of high school. After he graduates, I plan to relocate to Washington State, just a few hours from Sleuthsayer and former Criminal Briefer Robert Lopresti. I spent most of this past summer in the desert region of Eastern Washington as well as in Seattle. I also took my son on a college exploratory trip to California, where we were able to catch up with old friends James Lincoln Warren, Melodie Johnson Howe, and Murder She Wrote and Columbo creator William Link.

Angela Zeman
Angela Zeman.  Hello! It’s been forever since I’ve checked in on SleuthSayers, thanks, Leigh for the invitation. When browsing your blogs, I detected that nobody here has been idle. (Elementary, heh heh.)

Life is good. I'm still attached to the amazing Barry Zeman, who Leigh thinks would make an ideal Mickey Spillane.

Since appearing in the Mystery Writers of America anthology, The Prosecution Rests, I've continued to write and developed a high-end web site. Most of you know that for several years, disk/back issues have disrupted my writing and my life. But tah-dah, it’s over. Well, I’ve had to stop leaping tall buildings. But I’m content with short hops. So, friends, to all directly concerned with my production (you know who you are) whatever I promised you… it’s going to arrive late. But I’m on it, no worries.

Oh yes, I'm 30,000 words into a thriller with a touch of horror. I'm so excited to be writing again!

James Lincoln Warren
James Lincoln Warren.  By 2006, I had tried at least twice (two-and-a-half times, if you count my short-lived Diction City Police Department attempt) to establish a presence on the internet as an author with his own blog. Can you say crash and burn? Running a personal web log takes a hell of a lot of work and a monstrous amount of discipline—that, or a pathological graphomania, and I’m a slow writer. Frankly, it isn’t possible to keep such a website completely current, and since new posts were generally erratic, it was also hard to keep it fresh. A blog really needs to be updated every day.

Several of my novelist friends had solved the necessary-update-every-day problem by joining rotating blogs, i.e., they shared the same blog, but each author posted on a regular schedule once a week. So I thought, why not a rotating blog for short story writers?

I pitched the idea to Rob Lopresti, who was enthusiastic, and after both of us had worked in putting together a regular list of contributors, Criminal Brief was launched on May 7, 2007. It was a resounding success.

The “Mystery Short Story Web Log Project” lasted for four and a half years. It was a very different website from SleuthSayers in a couple of ways. First, it had an extremely specific goal, to wit, promoting the crime short story, although other peripherally related topics were tolerated. Secondly, I was the editor and ultimate authority regarding what could be posted. (This latter condition caused some friction now and again.)

But toward the end, its content had gotten so broad that it was no longer even remotely sticking to the topic. Since it had pretty much become a non-paying full-time job for me, this made me unhappy. I was working very hard on something I did not really have a passion for.

Was CB still relevant to its primary purpose? The answer was clearly no. But then I realized that CB had actually accomplished its purpose. I wasn’t willing to let what had been so lovingly been crafted turn into just another author blog, not that I have any objection to such blogs, but the reason Rob and I had founded CB in the first place was because we wanted something unique. Regretfully, I decided to shut it down. That pretty much made everybody unhappy.

So I suggested to the others that if they wanted to continue to write posts, that they establish a new blog among themselves with a broader mandate. The indefatigable Leigh Lundin picked up the gauntlet, and three of the seven authors from CB joined him, which I thought was absolutely grand, and the SleuthSayers shortly thereafter began to pronounce their auguries. Look at them now!

SleuthSayers is a much bigger project than CB ever was. From the short story acorn has grown a mighty oak of crime fiction contributors. Here’s Criminal Brief’s swan song. That will tell you what I think we achieved, and explain my pride in the project. One thing at the time I didn’t suspect was what would happen to that acorn, though—I only left it on the ground. The SleuthSayers themselves are the ones who nurtured, pruned, and watered it into what it is now, and they’re the ones who should be justifiably proud of their accomplishments.

24 January 2013

Debut Novelist Alert


Splintered
Since I began this twisting and turning journey in becoming a writer, I have had opportunity to get to know some exceptional authors. Anita Grace Howard is one of them. Her debut novel, Splintered, is available as of January 1st and should be one of the first books you buy this year.

This book is as exceptional as its author in more ways than one. An author's first published book is rarely a hardcover version, but this one is -- it rarely has such compelling cover art, but this one does -- it rarely packs such a punch to deserve to hit the top of the best-seller list, but I'm going out on a limb and predicting: This one will! (In fact, I will go even further and say this will be the new Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter kind of book.

The premise all but forces a reader to want to dive into this book. The protagonist, Alyssa, hears whispers of bugs and flowers. These are the things her mother had experienced and due to them had been placed into a mental facility. Alyssa's family stories relate a perpetuating curse via her ancestor, Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Alyssa's own adventures prove Wonderland is terrifying.

The story of Anita being wooed by her agent who actually flew to our small city to meet the author and sign her as a client is unheard of, but then, so is this book. It started winning praises about as fast as it could be read by those in the publishing world.

Of all the writers I've met, Anita is probably the most sincere nice person out there in the publishing world. She deserves everything she is getting with this book's obvious success. It doesn't hurt that she's beautiful, too.


Now that I've shared this wonderful news author and her legacy about to explode, let me assure you, there are plenty of new, struggling writers out there worthy of our time to discover and enjoy. I often ask book store managers who has a debut novel on the stands and they are always happy to lead me to them. When I worked as a book reviewer, I saw many good books by authors who would probably get "lost" simply because they are sandwiched in between established authors with a known sales marketability  and celebrity books that are bought because their name and/or image is already a brand the public recognizes. I ask that you seek those that didn't get as much push from their publisher due to advertising budgets being slashed for new authors.

As the economy suffers, it's been proven people look for entertainment in which to escape the woes of the world. As I was watching Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl," I kept remembering my grandparents saying, "We went to the movies every week and read, read, read. It was all we could do."

I'm suggesting we delve into books, sharing the good ones with each other, especially those of new-to-us authors. Right now, it may be all we can do to keep our sanity. Let's escape together into another world. Begin the New Year by reading Splintered and be sure and let me know what you think.


29 November 2012

True Treasures


by Deborah Elliott-Upton

By the time you are reading this, we will know if someone won the whopping 550 million dollar Power Ball lottery. If it is me, you can be sure I am doing the same thing you would be doing: trying to believe it happened while deciding what to spend that much money on.

Think about it. Pretty much after we paid all our bills, bought new vehicles and a mansion, took care of family members we'd like to help, there's still way too much money for any one person to spend.

At least that is what I think. I've not had that much in my bank account to really know.

My husband said I could buy my own library although he already believes I have too many books as it is. (As if that could be possible!)


We had a discussion recently about our sliding into a hoarder lifestyle. After being married for so many years, we have accumulated more than we need. Trying to part with most of it isn't easy. I do identify with those people on "Hoarders" who have true attachments to their "collections." I hope my stash isn't looked on by others with disdain as the ones participating on the television show, but one man's trash is another's treasure.

My husband sat at his computer in our shared office when I popped in and said, "We have got to get a handle on our clutter. We need to get rid of ten things a day in this house if only it's ten pieces of paper."

He spun around in his chair to face me and glancing around the room, said, "We can't live that long."

I sighed dramatically. "I didn't mean my papers!" 

Both of us knew that was a losing prospect. Writers seem to always have papers they feel they must keep.

I'm a hard-copy kind of writer. I think that comes from losing so many files on computers long ago. I realize the chances of losing them now are not as much a problem and to be honest, I know more about how a computer works these days so I'm not as apt to hit the delete button by mistake. I also have found a computer guru who tells me nothing is truly deleted on a computer. He found deleted-by-mistake photos my daughter and her husband took on their honeymoon– photos that couldn't be duplicated. Having the correct software, it seems, makes all the difference.

Which may be one more reason we must be careful if we're writing things on a computer we wish we hadn'tlike perhaps things Casey Anthony had on hers.  Mystery authors take note: crimes are often solved by what an expert can find on a computer that was supposedly "washed" of evidence a criminal thought he'd erased. One more case of dirty laundry telling all when its discovered.

My treasures are my papers...the ones containing my written work, of course, but also the ones of snipets of ideas for future story ideas or characters...the honest-to-God letters someone wrote to me (especially from those who have passed on from this world) and the photos that I can hold in my hand. Those are my true treasures.

My husband once told me he'd won the lottery when he convinced me to marry him. I guess I'll keep him, too.

That doesn't mean I'm not going to buy a lottery ticket though. The idea of that library he promised appeals to me.

15 November 2012

Distractions



Distractions are everywhere. Sometimes, I just want to sit and read, but other things prod me from doing what I want. As an adult, a parent, an employee, I am forced to be responsible.

Reading has to take a back seat and wait its turn, I remind myself.

As an American, I was responsible in making sure I was aware of the politics in the election year (which began immediately following the last presidential election). That took some time away from frivolous "fun" reading.

Debates to watch and discuss with those whose opinion I admire and deciding who I wanted in the White House for the next four years meant I allowed my to-be-read list to vacation a while longer without me. I voted. The country voted and the electioneering ceased (sort of). Bickering will likely continue until the next presidential election, but that seems to be the way of politics. I, however, can move onto the next important things in my life.

With relief, I head back to the book stack on my nightstand. I think while I was busy with life, it multiplied like rabbits. There seemed to be more, and then I remember dear friends who gifted me with their newest "must-read" they wanted to share. I see the book I had gravitated to following a coffee date with another writer at the book store cafe. Another nonfiction to better my life scrunched next to my water pitcher is now garnering my attention. All are inviting, but which to read first?

While I am pondering, I decide to check my e-mail. I'm awaiting news of a sale to a magazine, but when that particular e-mail isn't in the queue, I let my fingers wander down the list in hopes of something that really interests me, but all I see are claims to make my penis larger (good luck with that one!), send me photos of single people in my area (I'm very married!) and web site sales that I may have purchased from once a long time ago (If I haven't been back, I am probably not interested in your merchandise!)

Still, the Internet has dangled its distraction and before I know it I am headfirst in social media.

When my stomach growls, I glance at the clock and am surprised to see it is past lunch. I have spent too much time finding out where my friends ate lunch and seeing photos of said lunch while I obviously missed mine.Very little good has come from my time "checking in with my pals" only to see what restaurants they preferred today.

Already online, I decide to take a short break and get something to satisfy my cravings and refill my coffee cup. The snack is another diversion as I end up cleaning out the vegetable drawer. While I'm in the vacinity, I shove a load of laundry into the washer.

Back at the computer, I promise myself to stop dawdling and get to work. When I find I am on Google yet again, I tell myself I will find something to ignite an idea to help me write the Sleuthsayer column. Instead, I am distracted away from writing ideas to read a short article about how to better invest my time and energies to uncomplicate my life. This seems like something I should research, but in the end, it is simply the same-old, same-old: make a priority list, stick to it, pat yourself on the back. I wish I had the time back while I was procrastinating in disguise. Guilt creeps over me like syrup on a waffle. Nothing to do but shake it off and vow to do better with time management.

I make a decision to give it a try. I sit down and prioritize everything I need to do for the rest of the day.

I have placed reading at the bottom of the list. It is certainly not really at the bottom of my list, but it seems so selfish to not finish up all the "chores" of life before giving into the relaxation to sit and simply read.

Life is supposed to be full of living and yet, I am filling it with loathing chores and relinquishing true enjoyment to the margins of my existence. Why? Because that's what I am supposed to do? Who says?

I leave the computer, put the washer load into the dryer, turn my cellphone off and refill my coffee cup. Returning to the list of Things to do Today, I grab a red pen and deliberately re-number the list from top to bottom giving priorities a massive shake-up.

Tomorrow I will read first and squeeze in the "have-to's" later. There is always time to finish the laundry. NOT reading is wrong. As Queen of my own kingdom, I decree a new law for myself: I will begin each day with reading something fun or entertaining or instructional. I intend to keep the content varied.

I am not completely throwing caution to the winds; there are a few rules to keep the whole thing more honest. The reading must come from my nightstand stack. I can't allow myself to buy new until I read what I have. And, yes, I do have to do the laundry eventually.

I reach for the mystery magazine. I will read just one story and then I will see what other Sleuthsayers have to share.

After that, I am required to do something on the To Do List that originally took precendence. That seems only fair.

I feel in control and better already. What a wonderful way to start each day.

18 October 2012

Thursday's Child


And Thursday's Child has far to go...

As always, I have questions.

Perhaps even more than the names labeling us from birth to beyond death inscribed on a tombstone, many believe our destinies arise from numbers, stars and on the dates we were born. Do they or is this more of mythology handed down from one generation to another so we believe it simply because it has been repeated enough?

Born on a Thursday on a hot summer's day, do I have far to go? If I'd entered this world on a crisp autumn Monday morning instead, would I be more fair of face? Would my personality be of a calm nature like the gentle breeze of an October's dawn?

Tuesday's child is full of grace.
Wednesday's child is full of woe.

I don't know which day Edgar Allan Poe was born, but I dare say his life sounds more like he should have been born on a Wednesday. Was he born on a cold winter's date? Some of his work reminds me of that time of year when wicked, cold winds send shivers down my spine much like his "Tell-Tell Heart".

Famous for the romantic novels that twist our feelings like an old-fashioned wringer washing machine, was Nicholas Sparks born on a Friday and loving and giving as the interviews I've read about him suggest?

Saturday's child must work for a living.


Surely one of the hardest-working writers seems to have been Rod Serling, hammering out episodes of "The Twilight Zone" week after week. Was he born on a Saturday by chance?

But the child born on the Sabbath Day is fair and wise and good and gay.
Going strictly by the dictionary of that era the poem was written (attributed by Anonymous, the most prolific writer of all time), I know this would be a happy person. Which writer would that be? Obviously, one who has a great track record with his publisher and no rejection slips ever.
Does it matter when a writer births his characters?
Fall seems to be when I most begin a novel and spring short stories. I am not sure if it's because I am comfy inside in autumn and don't want to venture outside so want to invest more time with plot lines and characterizations or simply that's how it's worked out so far.
Do I choose shorter works in warmer weather when I can type THE END sooner and head for outdoor adventures?

As humans are we who we are because of simple choices we can't control like when we were born, where and beneath a certain sky formation?

Are creative types more likely to share some of these circumstances?

It seems unlikely. Each day someone like Entertainment Weekly shares information on entertainer's birthdays. I don't remember any day that went without a celebrity having that particular birth date.

For that matter, do more architects share the same day they were born? Or lawyers or musicians?
I don't know. As I said, I have questions.

20 September 2012

Playing Detective


Though it's not politically correct, I have a strong affection for the hard-boiled novel detective of yesteryear.
Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade and Mike Hammer keep me turning pages, wondering what it'd be like to be their Girl Friday (or any other day of the week.)

Women wanted them and men wanted to be like them.

Ian Fleming's James Bond character may have been the last of their kind. It seems most of our heroes in fiction today are showing their softer side. And for me, it just doesn't ring as true a hero.

Before you jump to conclusions, I am not some hater of the Feminist Movement. I believe in equal rights and that women detectives can be just as smart as the male detectives. I read and write about several women investigators, police officers and amateur sleuths. I just am not appreciative when women aren't allowed to be women and men men whether it be in real life or between the covers of a book or magazine.

I guess I like characters to be as real as possible just like my friends. I want them to react without thinking what people will think about them if they do. I want them to go with their gut instinct, go with their street smarts and figure out who the bad guy is and where to find him because they have brains to do so instead of someone feeding them information or a computer telling them what to do.

There is something about the 1930-1940's era. The clothes were appealing. Women wore billowing skirts that showed off their waists and legs. Men in hats (NOT baseball caps) just looks commanding. A man in a fedora is not overlooked, especially when he is in a trench coat. (Yes, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca gets my vote for a real man's man. He isn't really handsome, but a woman knows he is going to take care of her.)

And while we're at it, let's discuss Ingrid Bergman in her own hat and trench coat in that movie. She didn't need Rick to save her either. They were equals and neither of them were namby-pamby. Emotional when they heard Sam play it again? Definitely, but that's part of the magic, isn't it. They touch our hearts because they are so darn real.

In the hard boiled stories, the men were sexist. They were also sexy as hell. My opinion is it took a strong woman to get them, keep them and make them happy.

There were two types of women populating these stories:

1. long-legged, voluptuous beauties who came on stage as a damsel in distress, but who could turn the tables on the detective in a New York Minute and become their adversaries

and

2. the long-legged, voluptuous beauties who had a heart of gold, could type as well as dress their wounds. They were usually the girlfriend/secretary who waited endlessly for their "guy" to figure out she was the one for him.

In the real world, everyone probably looked like the people living on Walton's Mountain, but that's what fiction does for the reader in transferring him away from the regular and straight into the glamorous life of a detective. (Real life detectives probably read mysteries for the same reason.)

Okay, so I said I want the characters to be real, but not so real that they don't offer me an escape from the day-to-day routine. If I am reading about a cop, I visualize a Bradley Cooper, not so much a Seth Rogen. 

I also believe women can be just as dastardly as men when it comes to crime. I actually welcome female sleuths as long as they are as smart, savvy and as sexy as I wish I were. Bring it on, Wonder Woman (who never had to stomp on a man just to prove her worth – although she certainly could have.)

I like Katniss from Hunger Games who had skills, bravery and the foresight to pay attention and learn from her mentor. I like Indiana Jones when he isn't standing in a classroom where he seemed less sure of himself. Give him a whip and let him loose.

I like to read and I am in search of a great old-time detective story that will take me away from the kid gloves approach of too many authors trying to make everybody happy.

Is that too much to ask?

09 August 2012

Daydream Believers


Yes, I am a daydream believer. (And I dare anyone born in the latter part of the last century not to mentally humming right about now. (Missing your smile and sweet voice, Davy Jones!) But, it's about more than a song's lyrics and melody. Daydreams lead to interesting ideas.

Daydreamers may incite teachers to insist their students stop and pay attention to their instruction, but for most of us, daydreaming transports us to other places and times and relieves many  boring moments in our lives.
For a writer, daydreams inspire many stories yet to written.

While night dreams may also lead to plot ideas or characters, for me those sometimes head into darker places. I have written those stories, too, but I appreciate where daydreams take flight. The initial trip to Daydream Land may be innocent enough, but often leads me to an intricate plotline that turns sinister.

Daydreaming has led me to ask What if? Why? and How?

They've led me to wonderful dark thoughts that transpired into Noir storylines. Admittedly, I have an affinity for hardboiled detectives, so those day trips to my imagination brought fun to write short stories where I get to plack (my mother's made-up word when she was a kid that was an abbreviation for "play like") as a hardened private eye chasing down a bad guy that was really bad.

Some of my personal recent daydreams include:

  • What if I'd been in a bank where a robbery was about to take place?
  • What if I were in that movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado?
  • What if I were on a campus that had a sudden lockdown?
  • What if I were stuck in an elevator? Which person would I want to be in there with and how long would be to long?
  • If I had just one author to read the rest of my life, which would I choose?
  • What is worth most: good looks, money or brains? (Thinking Marilyn Monroe, Bill Gates or Einstein)
  • If I had to live in cartoon land, what characters would I most enjoy sharing my time?
  • If I had my choice of mentors, which would be best suited for me?
  • If I could meet with a fictional character for coffee, who would be most interesting?
  • What super power would I most like to posess?

Do you live part time in fantasy land, too? Maybe we'll meet up in a daydream or two! What fun that would be!


12 July 2012

The Power of a Strong Vocabulary


I keep hearing there is a dumbing down of America. I don't want to believe it, but I'm reminded that:
  • Educators have stopped teaching cursive writing in elementary schools.
  • We are relying more and more on spell check rather than knowing how to spell.
  • More and more we are using a text-derived shorthand language, which is neither correctly spelled or as a gauge of a good vocabulary.   
Editors have said the average language level for our novels and short stories should be written for an eighth-grade reading audience.

Just as I am buying into the "dumbing down of America," I find a spark of hope. The last couple of years, I've spent considerable time with young people on a regular basis. From my new grand daughter and our time with children's programming on television to the college students I've been fortunate to interact with, I can vouch that the reading audience is out there and selectively reading on a better grade level than what we have been told to expect.


Cuddled with my grand daughter, we found on Sesame Street, Eva Longoria presented the word of the day: exquisite.



That afternoon, Word Girl concentrated her energies on the word pensive. These are early school educational programs. It looks like the writers for those programs expect the next generation to have extensive vocabularies. Good for them to recognize the need for quality education for our little ones.


Those books that reach a popularity with the masses that have introduced new words for our dictionaries --like muggles from the Harry Potter series -- and quark  from Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce and the word, robotics, from Isaac Asimov, have done a great service to readers. They made reading FUN.

Something about knowing the new "in" words found in a story we love and then sharing them with our friends is a wonderful way writers can ensure readers continue being readers all their lives. I think those authors finding ways to encourage their young reader's to embrace a larger vocabulary with choices like tesserae and apothecary from The Hunger Games, is doing anything but dumbing down American readers.

So what about the adult mystery audience? I don't enjoy novels that force me to head for the dictionary every page, but I do like learning a new term or phrase. It's my opinion if we can keep learning, we grow old slower than those who have given up on additional knowledge.

The idea of being the writer of great mysteries means delivering all the clues in just the right measures to allow the reader to almost guess the outcome.

As a writer, I've read between the lines too much not to usually guess who-done-it and why. That's why when I discover writing that surprises me with its delicate hiding of clues where I should have noticed them like the envelope hidden in plain sight in Poe's The Purloined Letter, that I am in awe and more than eager to read more from the author.

I don't want to be treated like someone without a brain who needs someone to lay the clues all out like a clear blueprint which a child could understand.

As a reader, I want to be entertained and elevated by the language. As a mystery reader, I want to be mindful of the careful plotting and clues being planted and tenderly cared for so as not to be disturbed before they are ready to emerge like tiny buds on a rosebush. Pretty enough to keep my interest and just thorny enough to be dangerous is exactly how I like mysteries.

I adore films and television, but not so much those that are expecting not to know when to laugh so I'm provided with a prompting laugh track. I don't want to know in the first scene who committed the crime. I don't want the detective in a series to deduce the criminal's motives in the initial setup.

That's probably why I was astounded to find how wonderfully written the television series "Revenge" turned out to be this first season. 

Good writing is being done everyday all over America. Isn't it nice we still have an audience for such clever authors? 

American readers are smarter than they are given credit for being. Thanks for being one of them!

28 June 2012

Justice Left to the Fates?



It is easy to question whether justice has or is being done. It seems (from a public standpoint anyway) people get away with murder, while others are being imprisoned for lesser charges.
Personally, I believe most law enforcement, judges and juries are doing the best they can. That being said, the media reports the extremes and sometimes, I am left scratching my head as to the fairness of it all.

One of the talk shows recently discussed Dr. Conrad Murray's four-year jail term after a jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.

Dr. Murray's girlfriend who testified in the trial said he was reading voraciously and transporting himself to other locales through that reading instead of spending his time in a dreary prison. She also said he was quite popular with the inmates.

Anyone see something wrong with this picture?

Would I enjoy spending more time reading? Of course, I would. Think about it: no responsibilities beyond probably keeping his cell area neat and personal grooming. I'm not sure if he has any sort of manual labor to do within the prison system, but the girlfriend did not mention that in the segment.

I'm not going to commit a crime in order to allow myself more time to read or study, but it all seems unfair.


To many, Fate seems to be the ruler we dare not tempt. I'm not one of those. I am a slight risk taker. I've mentioned before, if I were on Jeopardy! (and much to my husband's chagrin) I would most likely place a large wager on my answer to Alex Trebek's Final Jeopardy question.

That doesn't mean I would tempt the Fates by committing a robbery or plotting a murder, except on paper. I am perfectly willing to do that as often as possible. My schedule is a bit more harried than Dr. Murray's, but I'm thinking, this is probably an excellent time for him to pen his own bit of fiction.
His name recognition alone would probably make it a best-seller, which also isn't fair, but it happens.

Are we the Captains of our Fate or are we ruled by the Fates? Interesting question that keep philosophers in business.

"What would you do if you absolutely wouldn't get caught?" I was asked by a fellow writer.

"That depends on my conscience, I suppose," I answered.

The thought of the cloak of invisibility conceived by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series comes to mind. What would any of us do if we were concealed from everyone else? Is the answer to that a matter of our personal ethics, a rendering to a higher power or a code of justice in our society?

If you wouldn't get caught.

Would you:

* pull off a Big Heist robbery that wasn't picked up on security cameras?

* Care to be a fly on the wall (so to speak) to hear what others discuss when you aren't there?

*Paint some grafitti on a wall to show off your secret talent?

*Take a risk you wouldn't ordinarily attempt?  


For me, just being invisible to the world while someone reads one of my stories is enticing. And if I'm being honest, to see the facial expressions when an editor is deciding on my current publishing fate.

Is life unfair? Sometimes. Are we in charge of our own free will or do the Fates allow us what they believe we should have in life?

They are questions which we may never truly have the answers to until we face the final mystery of our own death and what comes next.

Until then, I may just tempt the Fates a little and carve out some personal time every day to read just one short story. I don't think that is too risky, but I know I will benefit from the experience.

That personal victory of filling our time with more reading is like taking Fate is in our own hands. If only for a few minutes a day.

That sounds fair to me.

14 June 2012

Summertime and the Living is Killing Me



It isn't even officially summer yet and I'm dying from the heat. Not literally, but it seems likely I could succumb any moment. The heat index has soared into the 90's already where I live and people are getting cranky. It isn't pretty.


It's a fact that more crimes are connected to heat than any other weather -- while suicides occur more with rainy seasons. Personally, I like a rainy night (and day), so I don't understand that part, but my address doesn't get that much rain.


Crime rates interest me. Is there a reason for spikes and times of lower criminal activities due to a high thermostat rating? According to many experts, crime rates are higher in the Southern states where the temps rise higher and higher like notes in Mariah Carey song that don't seem possible.


Human behavior is studied, incarcerated prisoners are interviewed and police officers are questioned for their take on the dilemma in search for answers. If only we could encase the Earth beneath a huge glass globe like Superman's Metropolis and regulate the weather. I think it would be a great discovery if someone could figure out how to do this. Imagine the possibilities. No more worrying about global warming.


In the meantime, we can only spend so much time near a pool, lake or ocean to cool down. Too much sun is another problem with situating ourselves at some sort of water park for the duration of the too-hot-to-breathe weather. If you've ever had a bad sunburn, you understand the grouchiness that accompanies that scenario, too. Are there no answers?


I think I may have this one solved.


I am suggesting the public take a mandatory break during the heat of the day. If it were a national proclamation, it'd be like a daily mini-vacation without having to pay anything extra for gasoline although snacks might corrupt the budget a little. If doing this cut down on crime, think of the money law enforcement could save. In that case, the government could afford to pay us (or provide a nice tax break or something) to stop and rest while it's scorching outside. I'm sure some would use the time to take a siesta, do another load of laundry or write one more chapter on that Great American Novel. But for those who wouldn't be interested in any of that, how about just sitting down and spending some time reading.


That suggestion comes with an interesting caveat: I'd want everyone to choose a (gasp!) mystery which probably includes a crime.

31 May 2012

Trifling Through "Trifles"


The play, "Trifles", is a one act play written by Susan Glaspell based on a true story of the murder of John Hossack. Glaspell was working as a reporter for the Des Moines Daily News and covered the case. The wife was accused as the killer and convicted, with the verdict later overturned on appeal. A year following the play, Glaspell used the play's storyline to compose her short story, "A Jury of Her Peers."

Reading this mystery play inspired me to be more observant and look to the little things to make a better assessment of what is really going on in my life and those around me. It is the little things we normally dismiss as irrelevant that accurately tell the true story often hidden beneath the obvious like an extravagant gift beneath wispy and inexpensive tissue papers. It is the little things that happen in our lives that gathered together comprise who we become. How and more importantly why a person chooses to do the things they do are subliminally addressed in this play where it is indeed the little things, the trifles, that count.

The historical setting of "Trifles" engages the reader in a look back at a not-so-distant time when women were supposed to be like children: seen and not heard. A woman's worth was less than a man's in more than wage earnings in these early twentieth century days. She was important as a bearer of children, keeper of the home and to pleasure a man. Other than that, she probably gained some recognition among other women by her homemade jams, quilting expertise and attendance at church, but rarely for her intelligence of reasoning skills. Though smart women surely were in abundance, they were stifled by men who were more physically strong and in charge. By the setting of this story, women had not had opportunity to exercise the right to vote much less be a voice heard in a community unless it dealt with child rearing or recipe collections.

Thinking like Sherlock Holmes in an investigation, it was the women who emerged as the true detectives due to the fact they unearthed the truth of the crime and its motive by seeing what the men could not: the little clues left behind to follow like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs.

The women also acted as the self-appointed jury by deciding to allow her to get away with the murder, especially since the crime seemed justified to another woman, the men weren't wise enough to pick up on the not-so-hidden clues and a jury of the women's peers would surely not be her own, but a panel of twelve angry men who would more likely view a woman killing her husband as guilty without consideration of the circumstances leading to the crime.

Taking a cue from the men, the women left them to make their own evaluations as the men studied the crime scene in their Barney Fife manner undertaking the homicide analysis enough to formulate what had happened in the household leading to the husband's death. In their arrogance, the men didn't consult with the women on what a woman may have thought or done in such circumstances. Instead, believing themselves smarter than the fairer sex, the men brought the women along only to gather some clothing items for the widow in her jail cell awaiting their investigation report.

Irony runs rampant through the play as the men repeatedly give little relevance to the women and their mentions of the little things they notice in the household. The men overlook the importance of no outside communication via the party line telephone not hooked up to this home because the husband was too cheap to invest in the service even though his wife had once been a very social type whose isolation had robbed her of more than a cheerful song to sing. The dead bird who would sing no more was reminiscent of the new widow who had also been trapped, caged and no longer allowed to sing by a stingy and jealous husband. The men could not see beyond the empty birdcage with a broken door. The half-cleaned table should have been something to note in an otherwise clean household, but the men overlooked its importance.

History shows the strides women have made in being taken seriously for their choices whether they decide to become homemakers, astronauts, detectives or merely portraying ones on television. The true worth of any of us is by how we choose to define ourselves and not what others say we are or should be.

We've come a long way baby, and a lot of that was accomplished by not overlooking the little things in life. Sometimes the little things really are a matter of life or death.

03 May 2012

Tough Broads


 

In creating characters for my stories, I lean toward tough women. I like the idea of spending time with an Ava Gardner, Barbara Stanwyck or Jennifer Lopez type. Tough on the outside, but have a softer side just beneath the surface. They have to be smart, sassy and have a sense of humor that isn't bawdy or giggly, but ready to take a tense moment down a notch if need be. I don't often write about these type of characters when they have reached their maximum strength, but somewhere on the path to that growth. I don't believe whiny, wimpy people -- female or male -- are often heroic and I want the best for my characters and especially for my readers. When I saw the above quote from Joss Whedon, I knew I was in good company.


There has always been something about tough broads in literature that keeps my interest. Keep Pollyanna and send me Scarlett O'Hara. Nancy Drew was one teenage girl who didn't wait for a boy to save her even though the mothers of that time period would have probably advised her to feign a bit of damsel in distress in order to catch her boyfriend's attention. Bring on the Zena, Warrior Princess!

Don't misunderstand. I like a "John Wayne-take charge-kind of guy" for my hero. I just don't think he has to "help the little lady" when she is perfectly capable of doing so herself most of the time. And women with brains are sexier than anything.

I recently read a novel that is selling like hotcakes during a pancake race where the main character is female and supposedly the hero of the story. When she gets into a predicament where I couldn't imagine how she could manage to escape, I was correct. She couldn't. The cavalry arrived in the form of her new and mysterious love interest who "saved" her. I was disappointed and I wondered how many other mystery readers would be also. We'll see if her sequel sells as well as this first book did.

In today's world, equality still doesn't exist in terms of equal pay. Men are still deemed better in combat than their female counterparts. Female roles in movies and television are still less in number than the male opportunities.

That doesn't mean incredibly smart and talented women aren't moving on up the corporate ladder and making their voices heard. They aren't regulated to the kitchen or tea parties in the afternoon unless that is their choice.

Men also have evolved to a new playing field. Men are choosing to become nurses, stay-at-home-dads and airline attendants; choices a few generations ago would have been taboo.

We're changing and I think today's readership enjoys real life women and men as characters in their fiction reading.

I read Johnny Depp will be starring as Nick Charles from Dashiell Hammett's "The Thin Man" series and as yet an uncast Nora. I look forward to seeing who will play that character with a certain bit of sass, brains and sex appeal. What a tough broad she'll be. Can't wait.

19 April 2012

Reality in Mysteries


I have a gut feeling that more crimes have been solved based on a hunch than not. The intuitive feeling that nags at a detective or even an amateur sleuth has probably laid out many a trail to find the criminal responsible for a crime and certainly spurred the hunt.

Isn't this one of the reasons we choose to read mysteries? To read along ravenously and put together the clues the author doles out to us like breadcrumbs to starving ducks along a pond, we beg for more in order to follow them and deduce the true villain before the author makes his Big Reveal. Nothing induces a page turner like clues sprinkled along the way to whet our appetite.

Reading a good mystery is like winding our way through a maze. With a starting point and the supposition we will find our way through to the end quickly, we struggle past the red herrings leading to a blocked wall, barring our path. We retreat a few steps and as the GPS is always saying, we "recalculate," probably with more fervor than before. The journey is almost always the true joy and not the destination. I find myself dreading to find only a few more pages left of a really great read. I want to keep the momentum going of the exhilaration I feel as I get closer and closer to being sure of who the culprit is in the mystery. I admit: I am quite the greedy reader.

In real life, the offender is either someone everyone thought would turn out to be prison material or so unsuspecting the neighbors can't believe the stories they hear on the six o'clock news about the nice man down the block.

In mystery stories, this isn't always the case and makes the bad guy more fun to hunt down. Finding who the antagonist is and why he does the things he does is part of the mystery that most excites me as a reader. It's also safer being an armchair detective than one out on the streets actually dealing with people capable of committing such crimes as to be facing arrest, a trial and possible jail time.

I was one who never missed an episode of either "The Shield" or "Homicide" when they were on prime time television. I know some police officers who told me those portrayals were "on the money" as to how it was "on the streets." I know probably just as many who objected that it was completely unreliable. I remember one deputy who said, "In the first episode of 'The Shield' when that one cop killed another point blank, we dismissed the whole series as unbelievable." Another told me, "I can see how that could easily happen."

There is probably a bit of truth in both opinions. Both "The Shield" and "Homicide" showed a dirtier side of law enforcement than most Americans expected to show up on their television screens, but it is probably closer to the truth than not. If we've learned anything from reality TV programs, it's that people aren't always as nice as they were in Mayberry and their language isn't either.

Why would we expect someone being handcuffed and hauled into the back seat of a patrol car to be "nice" anyway? Even on "Cops," where the officers seem to never raise their voices, lose their tempers or let loose a swear word or two, it seems a bit forced. Maybe it's easier to watch your language when you know you're wearing a microphone and television cameras are nearby.

Many people objected to the blue language choices and the darkness of those involved both in law enforcement and on the other side of the law in "The Shield" and "Homicide." I don't condone bad language, but it seems appropriate in some instances in fiction, and certainly in true crime stories.

If every bad guy in a novel talked like a bad guy, the reader would easily guess he's the villain by the end of the first chapter. No need to keep reading that book. The good writer lets part of the maze surrounding the bad guy shield him from our view at least for a while. When we can't see or hear his true self, the character hides in plain sight and makes it more of a delicious undertaking to discover him later.

I have a hunch we will be finding another character hiding in that maze of mystery ready to confuse us with his designs of disguise. In mystery, that's reality.

05 April 2012

Tell Me Why


I am always curious about the why of things thathappen especially in the criminal world. Whether it is fictional or straight from the headlines, I want to know why someone commits a crime -- especially one that takes another's life, or in some cases even their own.

Online blogs and social media tags are often ignored though the warnings are clear in retrospect. Nicole Simpson told others that one day her husband would kill her and because he was O. J. Simpson, he would get away with it.

A few people leave diaries or prepared-for-the-worst-case-scenario suicide notes behind. They are desperate please left as a clear-marked trail if only someone would look for the clues.

To a trial defense lawyer, these admissions are another hurdle to jump in attempt to snare a release for their client charged with murder. We would think such admissions would be a clear path to a conviction, but that isn't always what happens either.

Tabloids can rake in a ton of sales with headlines and articles that may be true, may be half-truths and may be completely fabricated. A national broadcast channel was caught editing the 911 call made by Zimmerman, distorting what he actually said. What is the truth? Maybe we'll find out the why on this case, but maybe we won't ever find the complete truth.

We may never know the truth about Casey Anthony. Her daughter will still be dead.

Determining why human beings sometimes don't act quite humanely is a puzzle.

Criminal activity isn't anything new. Cain murdered his brother, Abel for a reason as old as time itself: jealousy. In fact, the Bible is more than peppered with crimes, it is well-seasoned with how man isn't always just. Many of those reasons are still filling our prisons today. Why can't we all just get along?

When we ask why a crime takes place, we are interested also in finding the guilty party and having him pay for what he's done. We may not be involved in law enforcement nor the judicial system, but we may all take a turn at the jury box. Sharing space with eleven of our peers, we represent the public at large and want to know more than the who and how. We want to know the why of the criminal activity.

Read a good mystery -- one that ties up the story all nice and pretty by the book's end. Know that the bad guys are locked away. Know they paid for their crimes. Know they are just pretend characters. The real world is sometimes scary.

Sometimes we may not want to really know all the why's. Curiosity killed the cat, you know.

22 March 2012

Lawyers and Writers, Oh My!


Whether they are prosecutors, defense attorneys, ambulance chasers, or out and out shysters, lawyers have become a major part of the mystery genre. Comedians have made careers from joking about lawyers, but mystery writers with a background as lawyers have been the ones laughing all the way to the bank and to the New York Times bestseller lists.

One of the first American lawyer as sleuth characters was Mr. Ephraim Tutt, created by Arthur Train in 1919. Mr. Tutt, a "wily old lawyer who supported the common man and always had a trick up his sleeve to right the law's injustices", appeared in several volumes of short stories from 1920-1945.

What's the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?
One is a slimy, bottom dwelling scum sucker. The other is a fish..

Erle Stanley Gardner practiced law for two decades before creating the most recognized name of a lawyer in literature, Perry Mason. Mason debuted in 1933 in The Case of the Velvet Claws. More than eighty novels, a series of movies in the 1930's, a radio show and the acclaimed television series, "Perry Mason" starring Raymond Burr which ran from September 1957-May 1966 followed. As the dapper lawyer whose skilled examination of cross address, Mason deduced the real culprit when the police could not and practically compelled the guilty party to confess on the witness stand. Burr became the quintessential Perry Mason and reprised the rolein a series of made-for-TV movies in the 1980's.

If you are stranded on a desert island with Adolph Hitler, Atilla the Hun and a lawyer, and you have a gun with only two bullets, what do you do?
Shoot the lawyer twice.

Scott Turow was a former assistant United States attorney before he became a successful writer. His first legal thriller published in 1987 was Presumed Innocent featuring Rozat "Rusty" Sabich accused of murdering his colleague, prosecutor Carolyn Polhemus.


D. R. Meredith worked as a legal secretary for her lawyer husband. Her first mystery concerned a body discovered beneath a large barbecue pit during a city celebration in The Sheriff and the Panhandle Murders published in 1984. Meredith writes the John Lloyd Branson mystery series from her home in the Texas panhandle, beginning with Murder by Impulse, published in 1988.

How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?
How many can you afford?


Linda Fairstein is a former prosecutor specializing in crimes against women and children and served as head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office from 1976-2002. Her mystery series feature Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper.

Richard North Patterson was a trial lawyer who won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his first legal thriller, The Lasko Tangent, with his character, U. S. Attorney, Christopher Paget.

What's the difference between a dead dog in the road and a dead lawyer in the road?
There are skid marks in front of the dog.


William Manchee is a Dallas attorney who writes a series about a Dallas attorney, Stan Turner.

William Bernhardt is a Tulsa former attorney who writes the Ben Kincaid legal thrillers.

Southerner John Grisham is a handsome former lawyer who writes tales about (sometimes) Southern lawyers who invariably are portrayed by handsome actors with or without Southern accents. (But the stories are always accented by backgrounds of knowing the laws and how people break them and try to get away with it.)

Whether you are interested in reading about a lawyer who is out to right the injustices of the world or simply one trying to do the best job he can for his client to one who will take any case he can get just to pay the bills, the mystery world has something out there just for you. And often, one of those lawyer-types are the ones writing them. Thank God for lawyers. Without them, comedians would have to find someone else to make fun of and the readers everywhere wouldn't have half as much fun in the bookstores finding a great thriller to curl up with on the couch.

*** Many thanks to comedian Jason Love for authorized use of his great cartoons. Find him at jasonlove.com and doing a terrific standup comedy routine when he isn't writing his own brand of lawyers jokes and cartoons.

08 March 2012

What If?


A writer spends a lot of time considering the What If's for stories. I sometimes wonder about the What If's of my own life, too.
What if I'd been born in another time and place?

Right smack in the middle of a technological explosion, todays's writers are considerably blessed to have computers with the formatting, spell check and grammatical help so readily available at the touch of a keyboard. Imagine what minds like Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler or Rod Serling could have done if they'd had such conveniences and didn't have to pound out their stories on a manual typewriter? I'm thinking of all the writers who dipped a quill into an inkwell with awe. Today's writers are quite fortunate to have technology on their side.

Thinking about the faster access to research questions is amazing, too. Even turnaround time between most publishers is quicker via e-mail than traditional snail mail submissions. Speedy acceptances keep a writer's soul happy. You notice I didn't mention that rejections also reach us sooner, too. But because we've spent less time waiting for an answer, the pain of a refusal isn't even as dreadful as in the old days where a writer haunted our mailbox and practically attacked our mail carriers for news about a submission.

Ask almost any college-age or younger person how to do something (especially on a computer) and following the inevitable eye roll, will be the answer, "Just Google it!"

While it's easy to find out to do almost anything via the Google search engine, sometimes I miss the one-on-one when another person shares information instead of leading me to directions on a computer screen to dicipher.

However, I admit I appreciate the fact that Google never balks at telling me what it knows. That and being available 24/7 not only is terrific, but soothes my ego by not reminding me I am lame for not already knowing the answer myself. I'm often writing into the wee hours of the morning (or night depending on your half-empty or half-full theory). Most of my friends do not wish to be disturbed when I have a question at that time of the day about whether a law in effect in my state would be the same in another or how a weapon would work under certain situations. Google loves to answer day or night without qualms and is never too tired and rarely uncertain about the information.

I'm sure somewhere in time, some people groused about the telegraph wires messing up the landscape as much as people do about everyone having to have a cell phone (or tablet or computer) at their side, practically attached to their hip. Fearful they will miss "something important" if they aren't plugged in, these people are becoming more and more the majority.

Yes, the telegraph lines did take away some majesty from the scenery, but look what they brought to society; communication capabilities changed the world.

Yes, I get annoyed when people are texting from the bathroom stall, plop their cell on the table while we're lunching and keep more an eye on the device than they do our conversation. (You know who you are! LOL)

But, I do understand the awful sinking pit in the stomach feeling when I realize I forgot my cell and realize I am on my own if something goes wrong with my vehicle or need to get in touch with someone immediately (Have you noticed how few public phones are available these days?)

Technology is like a frenemy. We can't escape them and desperately need to keep a close eye on them.

What if I didn't find inspiration as a writer? Or acceptance for my work? What if no one wanted to read my stories?

Without any chance of publishing, I'd still write. Without any other person beside myself reading my work, I'd still write. It gives me joy to do so ... and because I don't know how to stop. If I were to never find any new inspiration, I'd resort to strictly writing the facts. Nonfiction is also good for the soul.

What if instead of writing about crimes, I lived a life of crime? First, that's impossible for several reasons: 1. I'm too chicken to attempt many of the things I write about. I couldn't personally live with the immoral choices of breaking the law. I have toomuch respect for law enforcement to ever want to be sitting in the back of a patrol car. And 2. I wouldn't do well in jail because I am sure I could not handle those uniforms (the same kind every day???) and especially the shoes they make you wear is enough to make a girl cry.

What if I'd gone into law enforcement or became a lawyer or a judge? Hmm, I'm not certain I'd want to chase a perp down a dark alley or have to represent the bad guys in court (and the prosecutors don't get paid enough to work that hard.) I'd probably enjoy being a judge, but they expect you to work your way up to that, so I guess that's out.

No, it's best I stay where I am and stick to writing. The only What If's I need to employ are the ones that concern my characters. I think that's the best answer for me and I didn't even have to Google it.