When someone offered me a penny for my thoughts, I laughed, but i didn't say what I was really thinking at the moment because his comment made me realize writers expect – or maybe it's just hope – to get paid a lot more than a penny for our thoughts.
In my original writing group, our members consisted mostly of beginners. We arranged to meet once a week on Tuesday evenings to read and discuss or current work. The feedback grew better with each meeting and I value the imput of those other writers struggling to find what works and doesn't in the publishing world. I don't remember whose idea it was to give ourselves a name, but somehow we decided on Tuesday Knight Writers.
Whether we considered ourselves a knightly realm of writers or simply thought we were being cute for making a play on the word "night" since we met in the evenings or both. I do know that as Texans, we almost always have to repeat our occupation to strangers that aren't from this area of the world. Often accents are misunderstood.
"Do you mean like a horse rider?" a lady asked me when we sat next to each other on a plane to Phoenix.
I remember smiling and being entranced as she knitted something delicate in a deliciously soft baby blue yarn. It wasn't her artistry I considered when I replied, "No, I mean like a mystery writer."
"Oh," she sat and started another row.
I waited a few seconds and asked the question dancing in my mind like sudden water sprinklers turning on as you walk across a lawn. My words tumbled out quickly, almost tripping over each other in my excitement of finding the answer since she'd first withdrawn her work-in-progress. I took a breath and blurted, "How'd you get those needles onto the plane?"
She stopped knitting and looked at me a bit puzzled.
"Couldn't those sharp ended knitting needles be considered a weapon?"
She shrugged. "I suppose so. Nobody said anything when they checked my carry on."
Her answer fed my mind with ideas, spilling over each other like the twisted loops she was making with the yarn, stirring up a plot for a short story I was already creating in my mind.
What sort of items are considered weapons in our modern times? A quick look at what is now vetoed from carry-on luggage provides a clue to some that are unusual to most of us.
One of the best weapons in a mystery – in my opinion– was the one used in "Lamb to the Slaughter", originally a short story by Roald Dahl. The story later appeared as the basis of an Alfred Hitchcock television episode.
I read that Dahl enjoyed horror and black comedy and it influenced his fiction writing. His writing certainly has influenced mine. Dahl thought outside the box when it came to weapons. I bet someone paid him a lot more than a penny for some of those thoughts.
23 February 2012
04 November 2011
by Dixon Hill
I had originally intended to write about something else, this week. However, my attention was caught by a New York Times article. And, I'd like to take a moment to share some information with you.
Not long before 11 September 2001, I spotted a brief note on a network evening news broadcast about a national security exercise known as Dark Winter. Dark Winter was essentially a Bio-Terror Attack Drill, and the news story covering it lasted barely fifteen to thirty seconds. I don't recall ever having seen any other coverage of it -- until now.
Though the story was small in terms of broadcast time, its implications were enormous -- particularly given the fact that every terrorism expert I'd seen or read lately (back in the summer/early fall of 2001) had commented that it was not a question of if there would be a mass-casualty terrorist attack on US soil in the relatively near future; it was a question of when there would be one.
I find it interesting that many media and political figures seem to indicate there was no prior indication that something like 9/11 could take place. To me, in the months leading up to 9/11, the indications were everywhere and ominous (though not specific). And, I wasn't an intel analyst at the time; I was just a civilian who'd been out of the army for a few years but still enjoyed being a bit of a news junkie. Nor do I think there was some sort of conspiracy or cover-up concerning 9/11.
Now please don't think I'm claiming that I knew what was going to happen on 9/11.
Nor did I have any inkling that September 11th, 2001 would be a day unlike any other. My sense of shock and surprise, when it actually took place, were probably about as strong as yours.
As I remarked to a friend, later that day: "Here I am: the big bad ex-Green Beret, and the first time I see thousands of people killed at once, I'm watching it on television -- with my six-year-old daughter in my lap!" (For a change, I'm wasn't joking around.)
What I did know, was that a mass-casualty terrorist strike was something we should all be expecting. But what amazed me after it happened (and still does to this day) is how many people kept asking how "something like this" could happen.
Frankly, it made me a little angry at the time. Not at the folks who asked that question, but rather at the media, because they didn't do a better job of broadcasting the warnings that were being put out. The truth is: I knew to be concerned because I had a tendency to look for stories concerning military or terrorist operations. But, you really had to look for them -- for the most part -- or you wouldn't see them. I suspect that most media gatekeepers (newspaper editors, for instance) really didn't believe foreign terrorists would strike on US soil, so they either "spiked" that type of story, or ran very abbreviated versions -- such as the short segment I had seen about the Dark Winter exercise on the evening news.
Unfortunately, ten years later, it looks as if many of them still feel that way. At any rate, in my opinion, their behavior indicates they feel there won't be a repeat of 9/11 -- or something even worse. But, I still have a tendency to watch for stories like these; it's just my nature. So, if you click on the link below (It may be in red, instead of blue but should still work.), you'll be taken to a New York Times story that is very good (IMHO) and has information you might find worth knowing.
The story is quite in-depth, and covers events that transpired over a number of years. In fact, the writer covers Dark Winter, the exercise I mentioned near the opening of this article. But, he also unearths real concerns about US preparedness for Bio-Terrorist actions, and explains that sophisticated biological weaponry is no longer beyond the reach of terrorist organizations.
I'm not trying to frighten anyone, or to railroad anyone into some political agenda. Frankly, getting the federal government to do its best to protect us from Bio-Terror is something I'd rather not see politicized -- though, according to the NYT article, it may have been.
I believe, however, that we might all benefit if the information contained in the story were known by a large percentage of the populous. So far, however, I haven't run across anyone who's seen it. And, that is why I put it here.
If anyone objects, let me know. And -- Just so you don't worry: I don't intend to do this often (if ever again).
And now, to quote the great Rod Serling (He was a terrific writer, in case you don't know!): "Submitted for your approval..."
NY Times BioTerror Story