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Sunday, September 19, 2010


I was researching agents' sites the other day and read the opinion of one that said readers in today's world are turning away from thrillers, particularly political ones, and mysteries--which are the directions I'm headed with two of my WIPs and the possible expansion of that haiku story I wrote about previously. Now what? Do I continue or do I put it all aside? The conundrum has halted me in my editorial shoes. I'm not one who ordinarily runs with a single opinion, but when the opinionator is a New York agent, I do have to think twice. I guess my WIPs will sit quietly for a time while I make up my mind, as in do more research into what agents are looking for.

I really, really, really don't like to write angst-laden literary prose. I've worked hard to get beyond my own conflicts and sorrows and have no desire to resurrect them or explore anyone else's. I also avoid movies/stories that might make me cry. My friends assure me not every story is heavy with the emotional trauma and pain of, say, A DOG OF FLANDERS, but I remain an agnostic. Sigh.

Perhaps the Writers' Police Academy conference in Greensboro next weekend will persuade me that the agent didn't quite know the reader audience as well as he thought. Perhaps.

Speaking of angst-laden prose, nine years ago, I did a fifteen-minute writing exercise as part of my journal. Just a rapid-fire, get-it-on-paper thing. The result--excerpted below--was part of the inspiration for a personal essay that was published in CHRISTMAS IS A SEASON 2008. I made sure the published story ended on an up-note and offer it now as evidence that our journals are perfect muses.

"You have to know that Swedes are filled with angst even on their best days. We are a staid but loving people. I remember a childhood filled with family love, not demonstrated with hugs and kisses, but in doing for each other. As it was in the winter of 1943 when two of my uncles were on their last furlough before shipping out. There was no money for gifts. Ours was a family of tenant farmers, working for the Hargrove family, but Mama gathered the family and fed them fresh baked bread and crispy fried chicken and vegetables canned from the summer garden. Mama outdid herself for her beloved brothers. To keep the kids occupied while the women got the table ready, my uncle Steve pulled a toy out of a paper bag. He had cut notches into the edges of a wooden spool that Gramma had emptied of cotton thread. And then, somehow, and very magically, he used a rubber band and a twig to make a kind of clackety toy tractor that skittered across the linoleum. I thought it looked like a jumping spider and screamed every time it moved. My uncles were so handsome in their uniforms; I thought Steve looked like a movie star. He chased me down a wet caliche road, taking care not to slip and mess up his uniform pants in the narrow tire tracks left in melting snow. It was a perfect day—a house full of uncles and aunts … and snow, the first this Texan had ever seen. It was going to be the last perfect day in a long time."

That's all for now. You keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


The picture from Jeff Johnston's collection is called The Apparition.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

haiku story

Back in June, I whined about learning to write a short story, well . . . I have just finished what I have to call a haiku story.

Backstory: On my schedule for late September is the Writers' Police Academy in North Carolina. Lots of Ex's will be there. Ex-cops, Ex-CIA, Ex-FBI, writer Jeffery Deaver as keynote speaker, et al. And these experts will offer sessions in forensics, investigation, and firearms training. Yep, I'll be handling a Glock. Woohoo. Anyway, all of this info is a prelude to the one contest I entered.

Contest Story Requirements: A beginning, middle, and surprise ending--a regular mystery story with all the rules attendant to writing a mystery. The kicker was that the story could be no longer than 200 words, and that included the title. Plus hyphenated words counted as two words. So, in order to get the word count function to accurately report the number, you had to delete the hyphens then put them back in. Two hundred words total. Now THAT's what I call a haiku story and I loved the task! The winner gets the Academy's Golden Donut Award--named in honor of the LEOs I presume. (Not presuming that I would win. Only thinking about the donut, one of my favorite food groups.)

The neat thing is that when I finished my haiku story, I sent it to a poet friend in Georgia and his comment was that he thought I was off to a fast start to my new novel.

He may have missed the rules of the contest, but come to think of it, he just might be right.

You keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


The Jeff Johnston photo is of Jenne's Farm in New England. Looks like a perfect fall day.