I’ve never understood authors who rail against Amazon and yet still sell their books there. But then again, I don’t much understand hypocrites.
Category Archives: writing life
So there I was, sitting at my computer, toiling away on my seemingly endless work in progress, chewing my fingernails and glancing furtively at the clock, when *poof* this old, ratty-looking dude appears in the chair across from me. Now, when I say ratty, I mean some truly matted, snarly hair that was way past dreds, a year’s worth of beard on a gnarly, wind and sunburned face, and the clothes—uh, well let’s just say his clothes would have made a nice little mid-winter bonfire. A more odoriferous fellow I’ve not yet had the fortune to meet.
He smiled a languorous smile, the spaces between his Jack O’ Lantern teeth big enough to drive a flatbed through, and pulled out what was once euphemistically referred to as a Marley. He drew it beneath his nose, snuffling the scent with a satisfied smile, and wasted no time in lighting the fatty with a wooden match pulled from the well-worn folds of his attire. And he did indeed inhale.
“Who the fuck are you?” I asked, my annoyance obvious at this most unwelcome intrusion. You see, I was on a roll. Writing like my life depended on it, savoring the cadence and ebb and flow of a day in the zone.
Well, actually, that’s a lie. I was struggling mightily putting words to page, on the verge of throwing my keyboard across the room.
“Whoa. Am I detecting a little attitude?” he asked, as a dense, aromatic cloud of what I assumed to be cannabis sativa bellowed forth.
“You didn’t answer me, pops. Now who the hell are you?” My cheeks flushed hot, reminding me I hadn’t slept well the night before, which always leaves me cranky.
He picked what appeared to be vegetation from between his teeth and grinned, leaning back in his chair. “I’m Father Time.”
“Father Time. You know, out with the old, in with the new?”
“Yeah, I know who Father Time is. But isn’t he a tired old man with a scythe who’s ready to kick?” I looked him up and down. “I mean, you’re no picnic, but looks to me like you’ve got some mileage left.”
He grinned again and offered me a hit. I declined, preferring to be fully in control of my faculties when experiencing a psychotic break—which this most unfortunately appeared to be.
“If I may be so bold,” he continued. “You strike me as a writerly sort, am I right?”
I rolled my eyes and answered, “What, did the computer, thesaurus, and Chicago Manual of Style give me away? Or perhaps it was the quotes on the wall by Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Parker?”
A throaty chuckle escaped him and he shifted, crossing one leg over the other, his huarache-clad feet expelling little dust clouds as he moved.
“Yeah. That would be it. Along with the sarcasm. Tell me,” he said as he took another hit off the joint and stubbed it out on the sole of his shoe, “Are you happy?”
The words stopped me cold.“Wha—what do you mean? Of course I’m happy. Happy as a goddamned lark, buddy, so back the fuck off, okay?” I rose from my chair and started to pace. “Where do you get off, asking me if I’m happy?”
Time just shrugged, cocked his head, and looked at me sideways. “Look, no offense, but all you ever seem to do is sit at your computer, day in and day out, writing about murder and mayhem and shoving your characters into all sorts of crappy situations. You spend your time researching the lower aspects of humanity and then you write a story around them. Yeah, for the most part, there’s a happy ending and the bad guys get theirs, but when do you take a break? When do you live your life?”
“My life? I—uh—I don’t…” I sat back in my chair as the realization hit. He had a point. Was I living well? I ran through the past year, remembering the elation when I’d published books, sharing time with new friends and old, the book signings, the travel, the sales. Yeah, that all seemed fun, great, even. But then I reminded myself of all the bad things that happened throughout the year, not necessarily for me or my family and friends, but the world in general. The acidic political posturing, Paris and San Bernardino, Syria and the refugees, mass shootings, murders, global warming, canned hunting, human and animal trafficking, etc., etc., etc. But mainly I realized how my attitude started slowly shifting toward fear. And protection.
Time gave me a wistful smile. “Sneaks up on you, doesn’t it?”
Tears sprang to my eyes. “Like little cat feet,” I murmured.
“The trick is, you’ve got to put your attention somewhere positive.”
“But,” I protested, “I can’t just ignore the news. I write crime novels.”
“Sure. But you don’t have to spend all of your time there.”
“There’s so much to process. I can’t absorb it all.”
“So don’t. Spend time doing things you like to do—things with a positive return. And let go of outcomes. You can’t control what’s going to happen. Yeah, you can mitigate some of the stuff just by being aware of your surroundings, but what if you let go and let life happen? Use your imagination for your books, not your fears.”
“Oh.” Yet another salient point. “Is it really that easy?” I asked, hope pinned to my chest.
The wise old dude nodded. “Yep,” he replied. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s not gonna be all unicorns and kittens, believe me. Your readers wouldn’t like that, anyway. All I’m saying is, accentuate the positive—like when you’re done writing for the day. It’s all about balance. Capiche?”
“So this really isn’t a psychotic break? You’re actually Father Time?”
Time pulled out the fatty and slipped it between his lips. “Girl, what you been smokin’?”
GREAT News! Shelf Unbound has named The BODY MARKET as a “Notable 100” indie read for 2015! Leine’s in pretty fabulous company, so if you’re looking for an indie book vetted by an award-winning e-magazine, head on over to Shelf Unbound. The BODY MARKET’s listed on page 95.
From their website: “Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine features the best of small press and self-published books. Each issue reaches 125,000 avid readers in more than 70 countries. A 2015 Maggie Award WINNER for Best Digital-Only Magazine, Shelf Unbound is known for its in-depth interviews with authors ranging from unsung talents to Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as to what Publisher’s Weekly described as its rich design.”
Have a fantastic rest of your week–I know I will 🙂
The brainchild of former LEO Lee Lofland, the Writers’ Police Academy brings together crime writers and experts in the field of law enforcement, CSI, emergency services, etc., in order to help writers “write it right.” Now in its 7th year (and having outgrown its original home in North Carolina), the conference was held at the brand-new Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center. It’s three jam-packed days of information sessions, hands-on experiences, and a whole lotta fun. (pictured below: Lee Lofland)
The state-of-the-art facilities had an airliner on site, as well as a derailed tanker and a faux city with several buildings including a bank, a motel, and an apartment building. LEO training was ongoing at the time of the conference and attendees were welcome to watch traffic stops and various other law enforcement scenarios.
One of the most informative classes I took had to do with blood spatter and DNA with Jeff Miller (pictured below). Talk about fascinating. Did you know that fingerprints can actually transfer through latex gloves? Not so with nitrile (the blue gloves). Or that the reason DNA results take so long (other than a backlog) is that they have to go through a quality assurance/peer review process that takes an average of 15 days before a report can be issued? (Although if you have a suspect, a match can be determined within a day.) I also learned that DNA can still be detected through seven layers of paint, and that 90 minute results will be available to law enforcement once the FDA approves a machine/process called RapidHit DNA.
More interesting factoids: a) hermaphrodites can have two different sets of DNA (think of the fictional possibilities!); b) even though identical twins have identical DNA, there is a copy number variant that can help determine which twin committed the crime; and, my personal favorite, c) if a person kisses a suspect for 30 seconds or more, the suspect’s DNA can transfer to the other person–your PI/sleuth character will need to get a swab from them quickly, though. Also, Luminol is on its way out as a blood visualizing agent, and is being replaced by a product called Blue Star. If a criminal tries to clean the crime scene, both Luminol and Blue Star sparkle in the dark when introduced to cleansers.
There was a boatload of interesting lectures by world-class presenters (pictured below: Dr. Katherine Ramsland giving us an Overview of Forensic Psychology) Katherine has a way with words–especially when she’s describing– shall we say– unusual sexual proclivities in serial killers;
The CSI Effect: Real vs Reel (with Mike Black). A great class that blasted through several of the inaccuracies inherent in television programs regarding crime scene investigation. And no, CSI: Miami/New York/etc. should NOT be used for research purposes. But you already knew that, right?
Not surprisingly, some of my favorite sessions were of the hands on variety, like MILO: Shoot/Don’t Shoot Interactive Training. In this class, you’re given a laser pistol similar to a 9mm and told to stand in front of a screen while they run video scenarios involving suspects behaving badly. It’s up to you to determine whether you should shoot or not. I have a new appreciation for how scary it must be for an officer to face down someone who has (or most likely has) a weapon (sorry, no pics of this one–suffice it to say I didn’t have a problem shooting bad guys coming toward me on the screen…);
Then there was the shooting range (rifles with scopes! Need I say more?);
Bangs and Booms 101 (and all things incendiary with John Gilstrap — pictured below). You can certainly tell by the way he teaches that he LOVES his job 🙂 ) In this class we learned about shaped charges (e.g. RPGs), grenades, dynamite, and C4, and a host of other cool stuff;
Fighting Words: Martial Arts for Writers (with Howard Lewis). The mindset of a person who practices martial arts is very different from one who does not. Howard is extremely entertaining–if you get the chance, go to anything he teaches. And don’t forget to ask him about Bruce Lee…
Karin Slaughter was the Guest of Honor at the banquet (I forgot my camera that evening, so no pics), and she was hugely entertaining. If the whole crime novel writing gig doesn’t work out for her, she definitely has a shot at a career as a stand up comedian 🙂
In the end, I came away with a much better understanding of the challenges faced by law enforcement and emergency personnel, and gleaned all sorts of little details that I will certainly use in future books. If you write about crime or law enforcement, you’ll LOVE this conference. I wish I could have cloned myself so I could go to every one of the classes. Sigh.
I guess I’ll just have to go again next year.