It’s a school zone stupid!

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Race car drivers know when they see a yellow flag or a flashing green light, it means caution, slow down.

So why can’t regular drivers observe the flashing yellow lights at a school zone and slow down to the posted legal limit?Slow-School-Zone-Sign-K-6539

I went out to run errands this afternoon, just as it was near time for school to dismiss for the day (this was the first day of school in Hillsborough County). Local TV news had run stories for days, warning people to be aware that school was in session again and to be careful when entering school zones. Yep, the yellow lights were flashing so I slowed down. Next thing I know, here come two drivers racing past me on either side oblivious to the fact they were in a school zone.

Unbelievable.

I don’t care if you’re on the phone to your Aunt Tillie, your broker, your BFF, or your significant other. Or your busy answering the latest text on your phone. PAY ATTENTION! It’s the law. You’re supposed to slow down.

I really wish the sheriff would dispatch his deputies to all school zones morning and afternoon, and begin ticketing people. From what I’ve observed around here, they’ll make a bunch of money. Or even get the school resource officers out of the hallowed hallways and let them do some traffic enforcement, and let the schools pocket the money. They could certainly use it.

Okay, end of this rant for this time. Thanks for reading.

Of Waterspouts and Dying

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I was leaving one of our local libraries this afternoon, when I saw a fountain gushing water into the sky, and there it was. This epiphanic thought — this particular blog title.

So what do waterspouts and dying have to do with each other?waterspout

Blast if I know, but I’m a writer, and as my fellow
writers know, inspiration can come from anywhere, and somewhere in the subconscious these two things are linked. Somehow.

Earlier in the week, I read a news story about a soldier who was killed in 1950 in the Korean War. Identity unknown, the soldier was buried in Hawaii. His family back home was told at first he was missing in action, then later, that he had died. But no body returned to them, no closure, until this week. Thanks to DNA testing, his remains were finally identified, and the soldier returned home to his family, many of whom never knew him, except for his 80-year-old sister.

So that stoflag draped casketry has been on my mind all week, my subconscious probably doing the writer thing of “what if?”

Can I make a connection between the two?

Perhaps.

There might well be a mystery there, a body revealed as the waterspout comes ashore and rips a house apart. Or a romance for my alter ego, Haley Jordan, to write. A woman in her eighties remembering the first love of her life.

We’ll see. But for now, I can look at it this way. Out of two disassociated things, I manged to produce this little essay.

Write on, my friends.

Expect the unexpected

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I think I’ve mentioned before that I write without an outline. I’ve tried it in the past and found that I’m very constrained. Besides that, I’m lazy and I’d rather write the story rather IMG_0034than spend the time outlining the story, then doing the work all over again.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t write without some expectation of where a story will go. Generally, I write in a linear fashion from A to Z and do have a notion of where the story will go, or I’ve made some rough notes of the next few scenes.

Such is the case with my current Wolf Mallory novel, Dancing with a Dead Man. This is probably the most complex of the Wolf books I’ve written so far, picking up loose ends from the previous book, Can’t Dance Forever, and weaving them into this story which roughly involving a murder and the lost gold of the Confederacy. And of course, as in the other two books of the series, things are not always as they seem.

Given several stops and starts along the way, I’ve managed to write about half the book by this afternoon, and felt my path to the end was fairly clear. That was until these characters surprised me again and my yellow brick road suddenly turned to a morass of wet sand bogging me down.

So now, Wolf is caught in his own web of deceit and about to be exposed. And again, I have to wait for him to tell me how he’s gonna explain his way out of this one.

And to me, that’s the joy in writing. No matter how much I think I know, or how I expect things will go, there’s always that sharp turn in the road that leaves you in a breath taking moment of joy.

So, unless you’re married to an outline, play with your writing. Let it flow, and watch how the expected may turn into the unexpected.

 

John D. and me

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Talk to a Florida mystery writer, and eventually, you’ll hear the name John D. MacDonald mentJDMioned, as in paying homage to one of the genre’s greatest writers. Over the past few months, the Sarasota Herald Tribune has published a periodic featured titled “John D. and Me” in which Florida authors reminisce about the great man or his influence on their own works.

By Googling the title, you can find many of the pieces by Stephen King, Randy Wayne White, and Jeffery Deaver among others online.

You’ve probably heard of John D. MacDonald, and if not him, certainly Travis McGee. MacDonald, who lived in Sarasota for a majority of life, started his career after World War II writing for the various pulp markets and making a name for himself. In 1964, in The Deep Blue Goodbye

“The Deep Blue Goodbye,” MacDonald introduced to Travis McGee, a salvage consultant living aboard his houseboat, the Busted Flush at Slip F-18 in Bahai Mar. According to the JDM website, McGee “undertakes to recover for its rightful owner moBusted Flushney or property of which the owner has  been wrongfully deprived and has no other hope of recovering, taking half its value as his fee.” Twenty more books, each with a color in the title followed.

I honestly can’t tell you which of the McGee books I discovered way back in high school, but I was hooked. MacDonald was a masterful story-teller, sparse with his words, but giving you just enough to feel, hear, well experience, McGee’s world.  And all of those McGee books have influenced me as well, in the creation of Wolf Mallory, spinning a tale that’s believable, and even in the titles with the use of the word dancing or a variation of it.

So if you want some good beach reading this summer, I’d highly recommend MacDonald, or one of the many other Florida authors he has influenced.

 

 

 

 

It’s only make believe

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I read a blog the other day in which the author posed the question, research or make it all up?

The blogger land-of-make-believe-signwas posing this question in terms of paranormal stories and the realities from scientific research. But it got me to thinking that the question was just as applicable to the mystery/thriller field as well.

I can’t speak for other authors (and I’d love to hear your thoughts), but it seems to me that the details matter, no matter what we see on TV or the big screen. I know I’ve often been brought up short when I see an author writing about something that is flat-out wrong.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have some leeway in the worlds we create.

Wolf Mallory’s world is entirely made up, but it is based upon locales or places I’ve seen in Southwest Florida. But within that world, I can play fast and loose with some details. The other day, I had a reader ask me if SEOPs, the secretive agency Wolf belongs to is real. Nope, it isn’t.

But maybe it is? Who knows what’s contained within the black budget. (Go ahead, Google that, I’ll wait on you.)

Despite that, I’ll warrant you there are enough readers out there familiar with the equipment, devices and investigative techniques, that I need to make them as realistic as possible to create the illusion of reality. I fear if I don’t, I’ll lose readers, which I can ill afford to do.

Anyone have thoughts you want to share?

 

Where did the voices go?

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13077023_10154016169271291_935252051370129697_nI saw that definition of writer’s block this morning from The Writer’s Circle on Facebook, and it struck me. Of course, just last week, I mentioned how I and other writers hear these voices in our heads, so when they go silent, well, I guess you could call that writer’s block.

For someone like me, when they stop talking to me, I’m in trouble. I don’t write with a massive outline or roadmap to my novels in front of me. I’m what you call a pantster. I have a general concept of the story and who my characters are, and I start writing, letting them tell their story.

But, boy oh boy, when they stop talking….

Case in point. I’m working on the next Wolf Mallory novel, Dancing with a Dead Man. Being first person, it’s told through Wolf’s viewpoint, so we know only what he knows. A week or so ago, his investigation seemed at a dead end,  with no leads and no idea how to proceed. That’s when his buddy Trasker screamed in my head, “Talk to me, talk to me. I know what he needs to do.”

Okay, scene with Wolf meeting Trasker, and sure enough the eggs are frying, the coffee’s brewing and Wolf can move forward while I enjoy breakfast.

Oh, sorry, I got sidetracked.

So, do I have a point here?

I guess it’s be open. Let all those characters have a voice in the mental play in our minds. Who knows, by listening to them, you may be surprised at the results.

 

Conversations with a Moose

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As children, most of us likely had at one time or another an imaginary friend that we played witHerbieh or even talked to. Eventually, we matured and grew out of this behavior.

Writers, however, are a different breed. We don’t have imaginary friends, per se, but we do hear the voices in our heads from the characters we’re bringing to life on the printed or digital page.

I’m no different, hearing the voices from Wolf’s world. But, I also hear the voice of the companion on my desk, Herbie the Moose. Yes, Herbie talks to me every day, and he can be very critical if I ignore him. (And by the way, he just reminded me in no uncertain terms, he is running for President under the slogan, peace, love and greens for all.)

I’ve been reminded from time to time that Herbie isn’t real. He’s just a wooden moose occupying space on my desk. Yes, that’s true (and don’t say that aloud so he’ll hear it and suffer hurt feelings) but having a little moose to talk to in my head is way better than say,,, oh, that’s politics, I’m not going there.

Usually, most of our conversations occur during the morning, when Herbie is mulling over what he wants to say on my Facebook page that day (just search for me, or Herbie says and you’ll likely see his latest musings). Sometimes, Herbie tells me he has a particular comment about the day or what’s going on in the world, or he wants to be humorous, or he’ll wax philosophic. Whatever, the little guy has to say, it’s always interesting.

So, am I childish or a bit off that I conduct conversations in my head with Herbie? Maybe. But there are worse ways to entertain myself. And hopefully, this will satisfy Herbie’s demand that I actually write about him.

Herbie says, or how the world turns according to this little moose

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As writers, many of us have seen either through messages or Facebook postings advice on how authors should use social media to their advantage, that being promoting our brand and hopefully sell more books. Call it rules of the road so to speak.

I know. I could probably do well to follow some of these strategies myself. But I’m lazy, and being the house-husband around here, I have those things to keep up with besides writing. And if you’re anything like me, I’m really reluctant when it comes to posting buy-my-books links.

So, meet Herbie, my self-appointed social media guru. Most Mondays through Fridays, “Herbie says:” will make an appearance on my Facebook page, typically with comments about the weather, or what I might be doing, or anything elsHerbiee that captures his interest. And of course, there’s the occasional comment about his campaign to become president. Peace, love and greens for all is his campaign slogan.

Herbie is just a little wooden moose my wife picked up at Lowes a couple of years ago. He sits at the front of my desk keeping me company. About a year ago, I thought, what if Herbie could speak. And “Herbie says:” came about.

I don’t know if Herbie has helped my book sales at all, but I do know Herbie has a following. And when it comes to branding, and creating followers, well, Herbie’s my strategy.

What’s yours?

 

 

If This Is Tuesday, It Must Be…

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Yeah, I know, it’s Tuesday, but it seemed a catchy enough title.

What? You expected more?

Well, go Google history and I’m sure the great god of search engines will give you all sorts of answers as to what Tuesday is. Go ahead, do it. I’ll still be here rambling away.

Yes, I should be writing. I mean I’ve got Wolf in search of a murderer with no clues leading to the killer. And Haley has Gingerbread Dreams to finish. And out there in cyberworld are a bunch of fans screaming, WHY AREN’T YOU WRITING THE DAMN BOOKS!

All right, I hear you. I’ll get to one of them in a minute. Meanwhile, I have this huge bare patch in my front yard where the old oak tree stump that fell over last August used to be. A couple of weeks ago, fathebare spotr-in-law and a friend removed the eyesore. So here’s what I’m looking at out my front window. Looks pretty barren doesn’t it.

Anyone what to offer suggestions about what to do there? And I don’t want to hear Christmas inflatables.

All right, while y’all mull over options for me, I’m going back to Dancing with a Dead Man or Gingerbread Dreams and see what kind of trouble my characters are getting into. Ciao!