Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 52 - John Favreau's Cheff

I finally got a chance to see John Favreau's Chef today.  It was really wonderful.  I will likely buy this on DVD.

I have way too much to say about this movie, and though I've already wasted time trying to write it, I really don't have time to finish anything I want to say.

I'll just say this: This is a wonderfully authentic movie about having an avocation.  A calling.  I said to my friend, going out of the movie, "this is about work."  She understood.  By work I mean life's work.  I don't mean career or job.

There is an authenticity here that you don't often see in food movies.  Most such movies, no matter how much they try to be about the chef, really feel like they are from the point of view of the gourmet.  And the cook is portrayed as some magic being, swathed in the glamor of fabulous food.  Here, though there is plenty of mouthwatering "food porn." we see a story about a chef.  And the authenticity is sometimes very subtle, but the whole movie is embued with it.

It also makes a great metaphor for indie writers. 

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 51 - Very short update

Uh, I bought a new game for my iPad and forgot what time it was....

I did some writing, and I had some great ideas for the story I'm developing to do after In Flight in the Romantic Suspense series.  (I.e. under the Vera Avrila pen name -- if I decide to use a pen name.)  Also did some work on The Man Who Ran Away.

The writing, though, was more exploratory writing on In Flight.  (Darn, I thought I was done with exploratory writing.)

Must behave myself tomorrow.  A whole bunch of small art house films have hit town, and will likely disappear very fast, so I need to get work done so I deserve to go to movies....  (Tomorrow, we will probably see Chef -- which seems appropriate for when I'm working on In Flight, as that's the name of a key character.)

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day 50 - Playing and Blogging

Today turned out to be much cooler than forecast.  (Hooray!)

I ended up mainly on blogging, but the series is shaping up really well, and might end up as a small ebook.

Today's Progress: 3350 words of nonfiction.

Continuing to work on that blog series about about Book Descriptions, Loglines and Pitches.  And it's definitely developing into a series of posts.  It's rather in the vein of some of the movie/story analysis I have done here: I'm looking at the theory, looking at examples, and then digging down deep into specific examples and tearing them apart and analyzing them closely. And then seeing if I can replicate what I learned.

It is, however idiosyncratic, in that I'm using my own reactions to blurbs as a starting point.  However, as I dig into it, I find that after a while of doing this, I'm no longer looking at just my own reactions -- I'm actually nailing down the kinds of details that actually tell the audience something.

Furthermore: Every time I write another section of this, I learn something, and I get closer to figuring out how to write a pitch for certain books. Right now, though, what I'm learning mostly depends on books which can be described and categorized to some extent.  At the moment, I haven't looked at all at books which are weird and hard to define. (That, however, might be coming.)

I'm going to work on this until Monday (not exclusively) and then decide if the series is ready to debut -- if it is, I'll start this Tuesday, and make it a weekly thing. Book Pitch Tuesdays!

Eating, Watching, Reading... and playing

We had a "Game Night" tonight. We played Ticket to Ride - Europe Edition. It's a fun game where the players are railroad barons, competing to build railroads across Europe from city to city.  I think this game started with the American edition, but the European one has some complications to make it even more fun.

We had picked up a bunch of stuff from the deli case at Zingerman's yesterday, so that was dinner, and a fabulous dinner it was.  And because it was cooler, I made brownies tonight, but those are supposed to be kept for when it's too hot to bake. (I suspect this won't happen.)

Because we played games, I didn't have much time for other entertainments. (I did watch another episode of Mannix while baking the brownies. This episode will likely play a part in the "book description" series, because I chose it based on a set of very bad episode descriptions.)  I have not yet chosen my next book.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 49 - Heat and Sandwiches

They promised that this summer would be cooler to make up for last summer.  And I guess it's not AS hot... yet.  But it's already hot to the point of disrupting my routine, because there are parts of the house I can't use.  And my sleep gets disrupted. Boo. Hisssssss.

All the same I got some work done.

Today's Progress: 500 words on In Flight, and some serious editing on sample for a contest.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have decided to enter the Write Club Tournament this year.  It's supposed to be anonymous, so I won't say anything about what I'm working on for it.  Just that it's a snippet from one of my many many works-in-progress.

The contest accepts 500 word samples until May 31.  They will select 32 entries for the main contest, which they'll do as a tournament: in each round, each sample will go head-to-head with another sample.  The winners of each of these bouts will move on to the next round.  At the higher levels, they will ask for different samples, which will mix things up a bit. 

Eating, Watching, Reading

Went down to Zingerman's today.  Had their amazing "A Hot BLT" (a BLT with avocado and roasted mild chilis on it).  Zingerman's is like the most magnificent place for foodies in the universe.  They are reknowned not only for their magnificent foods, but for their service.. and for their graphic design.  Everything they do is with passion and joy. 

Been watching episodes from the second season of Mannix.  Another show from my childhood, created by Levinson and Link (creators of Columbo, Murder She Wrote, Ellery Queen and a number of other great mystery TV shows).  Another show with a cool credits sequence, and great music by Lalo Schifrin.

As for reading, I'm kind of casting about right now.  Finished Murder Must Advertise (definitely recommended, but I think if you haven't read any other Sayers, you shouldn't start with it.  Start with Clouds of Witness, I think.)  Continuing my slow read of those old Lockridge books in the Shapiro series, but that's not on Kindle and so it's slow going.  Also listening to an audiobook by Craig Ferguson, who is just as whacky but smart as a novelist is he is as a late night talk show host.

Mostly I'm browsing through the thousands of samples I've collected, and trying to get into a Louise Penny book. So far I'm not hooked, but not ready to set it aside.  (It feels like it could be a series I like, but it takes a bit to get into it... or I'm starting with the wrong book.)  Just heard about a new "Golden Age" writer: Elizabeth Daly, who sounds promising, but her books are full priced and therefore I can't afford to buy them until I am actually reading them.  So I've just downloaded samples.

I have a feeling, though, that it will be something else that will catch my interest next.  Don't know what.

Tomorrow, writing at the library, and then we're experimenting with a monthly Game Night.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 48 - Almost Blogging

Today I actually devoted some time to blogging.

I know I said I wasn't going to do any blogging, but right now I'm trying to write a book description for In Flight, and I decided that, instead of just soldiering on with what I know about it, and the standard advice for writing pitches and loglines, I would take a hard look at how I react to said pitches.

And I think I've discovered a thing or two, and I'm working hard to puzzle it out.

Blogging is a way of thinking.  So I'm writing a long blog post that I will probably cut up into a couple chunks.  I was going to post the first part today, but I decided to wait until it's done.

As a result, I wrote maybe 1500 words of blogging, and another couple hundred in fiction, mostly on The Man Who Ran Away.

Other than that, I mainly did some editing.

And I had a fine epiphany on how to bring in more information about Angela's real mother.  I thought the grandmother would tell her, but that happens way too late. Same with the retired cop.  Then I realized that Chef was already ahead of me.  He's a chef, a meddler, a former teacher.  Wouldn't he know somebody who knows somebody?

When I finally figured that out, Chef gave me a look, and told me that he has already tracked down a gossipy former student, and has invited her over for cocktails.  I'm welcome to listen in and start writing the scene if I like.

Sigh.  Characters!

In the meantime, I think I might enter the Write Club excerpt contest with the scene I was working on for The Man Who Ran Away

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Day 47 - Ah, It's a Migraine

Yesterday's brain-weariness was apparently the precursor of a migraine.  I don't usually get the pain -- just the groggy blindness -- but today it blossomed into something more.  (Possibly aggravated by eye-strain or allergies.)

In spite of this I did have a good session working on the book description for In Flight.  I worked on several different lengths, but was unable to push my brain to get them to quite the point where I want to show anyone. 

I also, in a moment of lucidity, wrote half of a blog post on something I learned while doing this, about writing loglines.  But alas I only wrote half before my brain dived back under again.

Also alas, while I had a great epiphany about what attracts me to to a book (and it isn't what people think is necessary) I am at a loss to apply that to my own book just now.  All I can say is that one or two details -- just a title sometimes -- with no context is usually enough to flag my interest.

The problem with a long book description isn't that it's long, but rather that I might not find those key details when I skim it.

Anyway, I may finish that blog post tomorrow, and if so, I'll post it.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Day 46 - Brain is Tired

Brain is tired.  Must sleep.  (I don't think I slept well last night.)

Today's Progress: 1521 words, on In Flight and a little on The Man Who Ran Away.

The progress is moving in smaller pieces as more and more of the story get pinned down. Also, I'm rewriting scenes now that I've moved past the exploratory stage and the story is more set in place.

Tomorrow we're going to get dim sum for brunch, but I don't see any movies we want to see, so maybe I'll get a decent session in tomorrow too.

But first... sleep.

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Day 45 - A 2K Day (and a small rant about Castle)

If I were diligent I'd keep going and have a 3k day. I'm close enough, and as of this writing, it's early enough.

All the same, I satisfied; I wrote some really key scenes and my brain is tired.   So instead of trying to write 800 more words tonight, I will, instead, reward myself by reading the first chapter of The Tangled Cord

Today's Progress: 2272 words on In Flight.

Key scenes include: the first impact between Reef and Angela -- too early for there to be any romantic overtones, and Angela is in no mood to notice if there was, yet I think I managed to set it up.  Also the scene where Angela and June meet up to plot their escape, which is so tricky.  I need to let the audience read between the lines on a few things Angela will miss, while keeping everybody in the dark on other things.

Eating, Watching, Reading

I've been baking up a storm while the nights are cool.  By tomorrow night it is supposed to be too hot for me to even sleep.  So I made bread and tuna casserole by request, and also my "calico" cookies (peanut butter, pecans, oatmeal, chocolate chip).

Watched this season's last episode of Castle, finally, and I am utterly pissed.  Seriously, it was a good episode, but the nasty ending (which I saw coming as soon as he called her from the road) was gratuitous and stupid.  They imply he's dead, which he obviously isn't.  Which means it's unnecessary, and all it promises is more grueling, tiresome episodes of personal angst.  I hate those.  I stopped watching the show last time they did that. 

If they had ended the season with the previous episode, where Beckett finally closed off the annoying subplot about her mother's killer -- that was satisfying. I would be looking forward to next season. But now, I'm not sure I will watch it at all. I will certainly skip the next few episodes.

I am having much more fun reading right now -- books where the personal angst is contained and dealt with within the episode.

And, okay, I'm re-watching most of the episodes of Agents of SHIELD, where the personal angst is a steady background thing -- it's a soap opera.  Unlike Castle, the background mystery is intellectually intriguing.  With Castle, I just want Beckett to solve the case and am rooting for Castle to come up with some clever way to help her reach that conclusion.  With Agents, I'm actually involved in that puzzle myself. I'm at least as involved in it as the characters are.  After every show, I'm discussing the background stuff with my friends, trying to figure it out.

Furthermore, the characters of Agents of SHIELD live in a universe where everything is in upheaval.  There are freaking super villains and monsters and deep government conspiracies everywhere. There IS no normal life... and that's the whole point.  I watch Castle to for the banter and the light romance and to see how they solve their day to day problems and cases.  The occasional threat to that is fine, but I don't watch it to see the world torn apart.

Enough ranting.   

Off to do a little reading.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Day 44 - Meh

Not much done today.   Some kerfuffle and shopping and cooking.

I did work a little on the next story in the game story group. But mostly I started knitting in all the pieces of prose I've been writing over the past few days.  I wrote maybe 400+ words or so.

So now I'm falling asleep.  And tomorrow the weather starts heating up.  Bleh.  By Sunday it will be too hot to think.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Day 43 - Books and Toys and Writing

Another short update:

Today's Progress: 2098 words on In Flight.

I'm building the ending now.  I've got a lot to continue to work on in the earlier sections, but I have momentum on the end of second act climax and the end.

I had a good writing session at Taco Bell today, and I had hopes of having another 3k day, but that didn't happen.  (Ended up baking bread and doing a few other things, and then was too tired do more than 600 words or so).

When I got home from Taco Bell, though, I had two lovely gifts waiting for me. Well, one real gift, and one self-actualized gift.

The first was a spiffy Agent Coulson Bobble Head.  I am a big fan of Agent Coulson and Agents of SHIELD.  The self-referential, recursive, meta thing here is that Coulsom is a collector of cool kitsch, so it seems only appropriate that one would collect a Coulson Bobblehead.

It's a magical toy.

The other package had a hard-to-find Detective Nathan Shapiro book in it!  This was one I had read at the library and never expected to find again, but there were a few at Amazon that weren't priced way out of my range.

So I bought a damaged but readable copy....

And I found that it was complete with dust jacket!  And though the dust jacket had a big tear in it, it was a very neat tear, and otherwise in very good shape.

And the cover is a particularly nice mid-century design.  Very abstract, and yet still almost representational.  The book is about a guy who jumps into a taxi and finds he's sharing it with the body of a woman.  Thus, the cover, which looks mostly abstract at frist, resolves into an image of... a woman's body in a taxi cab.

(You can't see what it says in the red numbers beside the body but that's a sign giving the cab's rates: 25 cents for the first 1/5 mile, and 5 cents for ever 1/5 mile thereafter.)

If I remember right, this novel features an Englishman who arrives in Manhattan only to find himself on the run accused of murder.

Which brings up an interesting point: this is yet another 'standalone' suspense novel.  That is, even though Shapiro ties them all together, the protagonist in each of these books is an ordinary person in jeopardy, and the bulk of the story is made up of that person's story.

Also, of the four, two are women-in-jeopardy, and two are dude-in-jeopardy stories, which keeps them firmly in the "mystery" section rather than the "romance" section that a lot of similar novels were in at the time.

Anyway, I need to go to bed.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Day 42 - An Excerpt

Today was filled with other things.  We went to see Godzilla (which I thought was a good adaptation -- overwrought, and takes itself too seriously -- as a Godzilla movie should), and then tried a new Burmese restaurant.  It's a dive and a hole-in-the-wall, and it was GOOD.  Oh, my god, it was good.  We will be eating there regularly, I can tell.

In the meantime, I'm going to give you an excerpt from yesterday's writing binge on In Flight (and a new concept for the cover typography - though I'll probably do hand lettered for the final version).

In this chase scene, Angela -- who is on the lam and needs to remain incognito -- has been spotted by someone she needs to avoid.  She has run along the seashore to a crowded beach-side seafood shack, where she has acquired a souvenir sun-hat and t-shirt. (June is her step-mother and mentor.)

from In Flight

Angela ducked into the ladies' room and locked herself in a stall. She removed tags from the newly bought clothes, and pulled the red shirt over her pale blue blouse.  She dumped out the contents of her purse into the paper bag which had held the t-shirt and turned the purse inside out.

One of June's rules was that you should always carry reversible purse.  A purse was a dead giveaway for a woman.  Angela's plain khaki purse was now yellow, with little orange fishes on it.

She returned the contents to the purse, let down her hair, which she'd had clipped up.  She took up the hat and left the stall.  Three teenaged girls came squealing in.  Angela paused and fussed at her hair in the mirror, but the didn't seem interested in her.  Two of them had way too much makeup on.

Angela paused.  June would take it one step further, and she wouldn't be too shy to do it.  Angela took a deep breath.

"Any of you have bright red lipstick?" she said.

The girls looked at each other.  One of them made a face like she knew better than to share lipstick with a stranger, but Angela pulled out a twenty dollar bill, and waved it.  The other two girls went digging in their purses. Neither had bright red, but Angela decided that the orange might match her purse and look less like a disguise.

"That's not your color," said one of the girls.

"I know," sighed Angela.  "I want to look like kind of clueless."

"You do," she was assured.

The girls took their twenty dollars and Angela put on her hat and a small pair of sun glasses (big ones, according to June, looked like a disguise)  and went back out into the crowd.

In other news, I finished Murder and Blueberry Pie, and have discovered that The Tangled Cord (the book whose cover I posted yesterday) is indeed another, unknown Nathan Shapiro novel.  He seems to be quite prominent.  But I intend to finish Murder Must Advertise before I start that one.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day 41 - Yeah, Baby!

Whoo hoo! A really good writing day....

Today's Progress: this afternoon 1912 words. This evening 1264 for a total of 3176 words on In Flight today!

Part of the afternoon's momentum came from the classic suspense I've been reading, I think.  Getting a sense for the voice. Not so much the language as the reader experience.  (You couldn't get the same reader experience from the old fashioned style, I think.  Especially with the Lockridge affinity for m-dashes and extra commas.  I know I am prone to use m-dashes liberally, but if you think I use too many, you have no idea how far an m-dash can be taken.  It can--apparently--replace all other punctuation!--except commas--and even, sometimes, them.)

In some ways, I think I am regaining something I lost when I went over to screenwriting.  I think I used to write fiction faster before then.  This would be good -- if I start writing faster -- because it looks like this will be a full-length novel.

In the meantime, I have left the story in an easy place to pick up some momentum.

Eating, Reading, Watching

Made bread.  My bread is not rising like it should.  It rose enough, over too long of a time.  It could be the yeast (which this jar was working just fine until last week), but I'm beginning to think I might have accidentally filled my bread flour jar with all-purpose flour.  This Will Not Do.  So that flour is going into the freezer until I've tested the theory with a new sack of certified, make-no-mistakes bread flour.

Otherwise, eating leftovers Chinese-American food from the place around the corner, and also blueberries.

I haven't watched anything in a while (though we plan to see Godzilla tomorrow -- Tuesday).  Still working on reaing Murder Must Advertise and Murder and Blueberry Pie.  The first one is a Sayers, and I'm reading on my Kindle -- which means I'm mostly reading just before bed, so it goes slowly.  (And it's long.)

The other is a Lockridge; the second Nathan Shapiro novel and my favorite of all of their books.  In the first three Shapiro books (which were written when Frances Lockridge was still alive), Shapiro was a background character. I've mentioned him before; kind of a cross between Columbo and Eeyore.  The books read like stand-alone protagonist-in-jeopardy suspense novels, but Shapiro is schlepping around in the background, until he comes sadly to the rescue, apologizing all the way.

The series changed tone and became more of a police procedural when Richard Lockridge was writing them alone.  Still good mysteries, but not as good, imho.

Because Shapiro made such a small appearance in the first book, I'm wondering if yet another standalone suspense book, The Tangled Cord (which says it features Sharpio's boss and his "curious group ensemble") might have a cameo.  So I'll be reading that after Blueberry Pie.  (Since I own it, I have the feeling there is no Shapiro -- but I might have read it first and thereby missed him.)

Here's the cover.  It's another of those Lippincott "Main Line Mystery" book club books.  I realized today that it does not have the "why read mystery?" essay on the back.  However, another in my small collection (few of which still have their dust covers) has a different essay promoting the genre.

There were, apparently, several such essays.  I may post one of them later.

As for the design -- this one I still think is ugly.  But it does evoke a sense of mystery and danger. 

Right now, because these books are out of print and I suspect unlikely to ever go back into print, I am scanning some of them and converting them to ebooks for study. 

I'll tell you more about that later on.  In the meantime....

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Day 40 - Excitedly Treading Water

I was going to write a regular blog post today, musing on reading and its part in writing.  But I got blocked on my writing until it was too late to think about it.

So instead of writing about reading, I just read.

In regards to the project block I've got right now, it's mostly a traffic jam block.  Too many ideas jockeying for attention.  And all of those ideas spawn ideas for existing scenes. (OH! If I do THAT, then I can foreshadow it here and set up that other thing there!)  And then it gets too complicated for my brain to handle and it goes blank.

This is not really a serious problem.  It's partly popcorn kittens and partly burn out.  I have too many ideas for too long and my brain gets tired.

Two solutions, both of which I applied:

1.) When your brain is tired, read.  (Or watch, or listen.)  Let somebody else figure out the intricacies.

2.) When you've got too many things vying for you attention, just start listing them and then grab one at random.

In my case, I just went through the manuscript and found an empty chapter.  It was a chapter I kinda wanted to avoid, but the break throughs I had over the past couple of days gave me a handle on it.  Plus, when your problem is too many ideas, the whiny "but how do I start this scene?" voice goes away.  So I'd been whining and whining last fall about that sequence, but now, I look at it and the first sentence just popped into my head.

"June had a firecracker personality."

And even though my brain is tired and individual words are not coming easily, I knew as soon as I wrote that, what that sentence was setting up: June, who has always sparkled, ain't sparkling in this next scene.  That's the dynamic. That's what the scene is about.

In the meantime...

Murder and Blueberry Pie
I thought I'd show you the cover of one of the books I'm reading, Murder and Blueberry Pie, by Frances and Richard Lockridge.   I used to think this cover was terribly ugly -- that the whole mid-century design thing was ugly -- but now I'm doing a lot of art like it. 

(Same with historical periods in general: I used o think the 1910s and 20s were boring compared to what happened before and after.  Now they fascinate me.)

But you know, what's really interesting about this cover, and many others, is that they really whet my appetite for a book.  I think it's because so many of the great books I found in used bookstores and at sales when I was young came from this era -- even if the book itself was written earlier.  That particular edition was most likely printed in the 50s and 60s.

This is the cover and spine. I like the wrap around -- using a vertical change of color to divide the spine from the front.  The design then extends about a quarter inch into the back.  This is not because they're afraid the printing will be off.  (If it were a bleed, or just buffer space, it would extend into the cover as well as the back.) All of these Lippincott mysteries had that little wrap around to the back.

And even more interesting, they didn't have a description of the book on the back.  That was on the inside fold.  On the back, they had a long wordy essay about why you should read mysteries.  I haven't read it in a long time, but if I remember right, it's by Rex Stout, and it quotes famous, important people who got through their important war work by relaxing with a good thriller every night.  This was on every single mystery in this Lippincott line.

Can you imagine today the howling that would ensue if some indie writer had an essay about why you should read their genre on every book?  A LONG essay?

And yet I remember reading this as a kid and feeling very justified in my reading material.

The vagaries of marketing and fashion are... well, interesting.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Day 39 - Starting a New Surge

I didn't write that much today, but that's partly because I was busy pulling together the rest of In Flight.  The ending has finally gelled in place.

I mentioned yesterday something about how I needed to shake up the middle -- well today I sat down to figure out where I was going with that, and discovered that I didn't need to change anything.  I just needed to intensify some things.  Well I did need to move one major emotional lynch pin.

Just a point of writing craft and theory: Often you don't want to pile up your emotional lynch pins, dramatic moments and turns of plot. The solution to many a problem is to spread them out and give them each their due.  However....

Sometimes spreading out important turns and events actually creates a stalling point.  I have a sequence that shakes my heroine up pretty badly, and I had planned to get her through that, and then smack her with a big awful moment -- which would serve as the catalyst into the ending.  The main problem is that this hard emotional moment then feels like it needs more... attention. There needs to be an adjustment period.  Give the emotion it's due, even if that recovery moment really slows things down.  I mean, it comes off either feeling glossed over or gratuitous. Hard to find the balance.

Until I realized, wait, I need to hit the heroine while she's down in the previous sequence.  She's supposed to be lower than she's ever been before.  Wouldn't it be emotionally right to put her down and flatten her just once?  Let it be her total low point.  She then has one recovery, and she comes out of that already catalyzed at the right point in time.  (Which is also good because the others can be caught flat-footed by her dive into the climax.)

Today's Progress: 1236 words on In Flight.

Mostly writing the heroines literal plunge into the climax of the story.  Also a nice moment between hero and heroine.

Eating, Watching, Reading.

Uh, crackers and peanut butter, and also nachos. Continuing to read Murder Must Advertize and Murder and Blueberry Pie.  Watching?  Oh, I did watch something today: the most recent Simon's Cat (which is about a month old).

If you haven't seen Simon's Cat (the saga of a long-suffering cartoonist and his cat) you've got to see it. This episode is about what it's like in my household all the time.  (Although as often as not, it's the frail, elderly, deaf lady who is committing this act of performance art around here.):

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Day 38 - Quck Update

Mostly screwed around and read.  But I also started thinking about a trope I re-discovered in reading some old books.  It gave me some ideas of where to flesh out In Flight.  Which led me to do a little writing after all -- and maybe shake up the events in the middle of the book.

Today's Progress: 846 words on In Flight.

Off the cuff, last minute words, no less.  I have decided that Reef needs to be more of a bulldog.  And more of a problem for Angela.  So I let him catch up with her sooner.  And he's trying to shake her up by telling her about Chef's incident.  He does shake her up, but for very different reasons than he thinks.

Eating, Reading, Watching:

Not watching much of anything right now.  Finished reading The Withdrawing Room by Charlotte MacLeod.  Also finished listening to the audio book of Think Fast Mr. Peters by Stuart Kaminsky.  Still working on Murder Must Advertise and Murder and Blueberry Pie.

Made some homemade Mandarin Pancakes yesterday, to have with leftover Mu Shu Pork.  Made the rest of the dough into a Green Onion Pancake.  Just had stuff from the freezer tonight.  Oh, and a midnight snack of chocolate milk and peanut butter crackers --which caused me to channel Karla.  I can imagine George or Uncle Rosie calling her in the middle of the night with an important question, and not being able to get the benefit of her wisdom because her tongue is glued to the roof of her mouth with peanut butter.

Green Onion Pancake. Yummy!

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Day 37 - Reset Day

Today I had to get up early for an eye doctor appointment.  It appears I do not yet have glaucoma (hooray!) but they have to run some other tests to be sure. (I have high pressure in my eyes, so they have to keep looking. And it's very good that after a year and a half they aren't seeing signs of damage.)  And for the first time in my life, I am actually covered to get some glasses.

Also, strange but true, it turns out I am not left-eye dominant, even though when I cover my left eye, my right eye goes blank for a second. (It recovers almost instantly, and then takes over. Very odd. I am reminded of one of those army comedies, where the lazy stupid commander has to poked by the sergeant when the time comes to command....) Optometrist and I wondered if this might be related to the fact that I am also semi-ambidextrous.

In the meantime on the writing front: I decided that I needed a "reset" after the rather chaotic week.  So I've been reading more than normal. I am actually reading four books at once.

One of the books I'm reading is an old favorite that is not in print, and not available as an ebook, and I have given up hope that it ever will be: Murder and Blueberry Pie by Frances and Richard Lockridge.

And I'm not actually reading it, I'm more studying it as I scan it and turn it into an ebook for my future private use.  It's interesting to study because several other books I'm reading have variations on some of the same tropes.  And correcting OCR forces you into a very slow, deliberate pace that allows you to notice things.

One of those tropes is impersonations and identity mix ups -- so I decided to hammer out some thoughts for a variation on the Story Game, maybe come up with a Wheel of Mistaken Identities.

And the process I came up with a whole new story that I really like. And I mean a really detailed murder plot made up of the sort of things I usually put off until last, and then get hung up on. ("But WHY did Mrs. MacDoogal steal the kumquats?!?")

So that's my Day's Progress:

Right now it's called Death of a Plain Girl, and it will probably be one of the "Game Story" set.  But it's possible it could be back story for a Man Who book too, if I feel like it.  (Although I do like my protagonist -- she could be a suspect rather than a suspense heroine.)

Back to reading, scanning and listening. I hope to start messing with new words tomorrow.  We'll see if Murphy cooperates.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Day 36 - This Is Just Not a Good Week

One of the reasons I swear off reporting progress sometimes is because as soon as you are on a roll and tell people about it.... life goes to hell in a handbasket.  This is why Thai mothers tell each other about how ugly and stupid their babies are.   You know, to keep Murphy's Law and jealous spirits at bay.

I don't want to go into it, but it involves an eye-strain headache, and inhaling bleach fumes and family kerfuffle and, oh, I don't remember because I had a headache.  Also, because it's so cold (after being way too hot to sleep for days) it's really hard to air the bleach fumes out of the basement.

Tomorrow will be partly eaten up by appointments (not related to the bleach).

You know that roll I was on? I think can catch a glimpse of it off in the distance, bouncing along at a high rate of speed. 

I did make bread. (If all the windows are open, might as well take advantage of opportunity to bake...)

I did draw pictures.

And I studied some books which I haven't read in a long time to see how they handled pacing.  It makes me think that the ideas I had, just as deadly kerfuffle broke out, were on the right track. If only I can remember them long enough to get back to writing....

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Taking Crime Personally

I live in a relatively big town -- maybe 1/3 to 1/2 million in the overall metro area -- but overall it kinda feels like a small town, or maybe a collection of small towns.  Years ago, my sister the big city newspaper editor and former crime reporter, came to visit and was shocked that  a "drive-by" shooting of a neon sign not only made the news, but was the lead story for days.

And even though the economic down turn has been particularly hard on Michigan (and has been for decades) and crime has risen...

It still feels kinda personal when there is an active shooter situation on your side of town.

Late this morning, about the time I was getting up after an awful night's sleep, this guy walks into the pharmacy just a few blocks down -- a place I buy Sudafed -- and shoots one of the pharmacists.

Fifteen minutes later we get the report that there's been another shooting just up the street, across the street from where my dad used to live.

Schools are locked down. Thunderstorms and tornadoes are flying around overhead.  Rumors are flying even faster.

Thanks to Twitter and other internet resources (such as Broadcastify, which allows you to listen to police scanners anywhere in the country) we were able to keep tabs on the situation much better than we could have if it were a big story with CNN broadcasting wall to wall.

Because, after all, it's a small town really, with two or three degrees of separation at most. Odds are you know somebody who knows somebody who is directly involved.  You likely bought something and passed the time of day with the first victim, if not the second as well.  You actually know the house -- yeah that house -- where the guy lives and took shelter in the basement until the cops talked him out.

(And yeah, they did talk him out.  It's the midwest.  Our special tactics teams don't like to call themselves SWAT: "We don't swat 'em, we rescue 'em!")

In the end, it wasn't much as active shooter incidents go.  It probably would have made the paper in a big city, not more than a line or two, anyway.  Through out most of it, we didn't feel personally in danger.  But things we knew and cared about were.

And no, I didn't get any writing done today.  Almost did after the guy surrendered, but then more information started trickling in, and you get notes from out of towners who want to know if everybody is okay, etc.

I did get some interesting thinking in, though.

Yeah, I'm a mystery writer.  We did a lot of speculating on what had happened, as fragmentary information trickled in at first.  And that part of the brain just naturally starts plotting.  What would drive a person to do that?  What if this rumor is true? What if this or that thing goes wrong?  How would you deal with it if he did show up in our back yard?

But you know, I think there is a lesson in here for cozy mystery writers.

Sometimes we like to think of our mysteries as all in good fun. And "safe."  We think of the cozy mystery as a place where evil is just a bogeyman, a paper tiger to be defeated and everything made nice again.  If you want reality, after all, you can read a hard-boiled novel or a police procedural.

But I think cozy mysteries have something more they can do.  They don't have to be just a bit of fluffy entertainment, and that's certainly not how Agatha Christie wrote them.

The cozy mystery can be exactly what happened today.  It's about reality from only a few degrees of separation.  You're not so close as to be traumatized, but not so far that you can possibly be impersonal about it.

Crime should touch you.

We can depict how life goes on. We can be funny. We can warp reality to feel safe.  We can make our characters heroic, and yes, make villains less complicated.  Because, after all, reality is more like we want it to be than we will ever believe.  People do their jobs.  They care about each other.  Cops really do want to keep the community safe and bring a crisis to a peaceable solution.

But I think it behooves us to remember that our stories aren't really about solving a puzzle. That's just the form.  Our stories are about surviving.  They aren't just about justice. They are also about the injustices that make justice necessary.

If anything, a mystery -- even a cozy mystery, or a comic crime story -- is more about the crime than the solution.  It's about injustice and tragedy (and yes, sometimes even the tragedy of what drove the killer to it) because those things are why we need a solution.  That's what drives our heroes to act.

And just.... remember that the characters, whether it's the victims or the killers or the witnesses or the sleuths, are people.  Take it personally.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Day 33 - Ideas and A Recipe

A relaxing Mother's Day, even if allergies, long days and excessive heat are causing serious sleep deprivation.

Today's Progress: 344 new words on In Flight, LOTS of editing, and some nonfiction outlining.

I intended to flesh out some of the opening scenes of The Man Who Ran Away, but I wanted to note down some ideas I had for nonfiction.  I had an idea about my deep-seated urge to blog:

For now, when I get that blogging urge, I need to channel it into book form.  Later, I can excerpt blog posts from it if I like, but I realize I have a really hard time adapting posts into book form.  I've tried many times, but the amount of work involved in turning a bunch of small, spontaneous, informal projects into even a medium sized formal one is more than I want to handle.  Much easier to write them in book form in the first place.  Then it is a small project to adapt an excerpt into a blog post. (Or even chop up the whole thing and make it a blog series.)

One of the projects is going to be a Dialog Workbook.  It will be a very different approach from what you usually see -- instead of giving people a bunch of rules and guidelines toward better writing (which will apply to some people and not to others) it will be a series of exercises a young writer can use to study the kind of writing they want to produce, so they can see how it works for them.

If that goes well, I might do the same with other aspects of writing.

I also did some drawing yesterday and today, but nothing I want to show you yet. I came up with some illustration ideas that excite me, though. If I do them you'll hear about them a little later. (Also see them.)

Finished up the day by digging more into In Flight.

Eating, Watching, Reading

Made Chicken Wings for my mother, and also bought some of Ben and Jerry's new "core" ice creams. Karamel Sutra has Chocolate Super Fudge Chunk and Caramel ice cream with a caramel core.  I also made popovers to serve the ice cream with.

Here is my Chicken Wing recipe.  It is incredibly tasty, and a great alternative to fried hot wings.

Camille's Hot Wings

Basting marinade: I use approximately equal amounts fresh squeezed lemon juice, dry sherry and Sriracha hot sauce.  The juice of one lemon will get you enough sauce for 8-12 wings.

This ratio makes it pretty darned hot, and you could use as little as half the amount of hot sauce and still have a very nice glow. And the flavor is really great and really strong even if you use no hot sauce.  Also, I strain the lemon juice so I can use a squeeze bottle to baste with at first, but it's fine to use the pulp.  I also keep about a half cup of sherry in reserve to pour into the pan to keep the sauces from burning later on.

I line a large baking pan with tinfoil for easy clean up (again, you don't ahve to do this), then place the chicken wing pieces in it.  The pan should be big enough so that the wings are just barely touching.  They will shrink a little as they cook, but you don't want to crowd the pan. Place them skin side up.

Spoon or squirt about half the marinade over the surface of the wings. 

Stick it in a 360 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then pull the wings out and baste on the rest of the marinade.  Pour a little sherry into the pan if the juices are drying out.  After this, use a bulb baster to baste the wings with the pan juices every 10-15 minutes.  Pour in a little more sherry if the juices start to dry out.  (Don't drown, them.  You want about an 1/8 of an inch of juices most of the time. You should have to tilt the pan to use the bulb baster.)

It will take 40 minutes to an hour to cook them. They get really succulent if you don't cook them too fast, and you keep the moisture in the pan.  However, you'll want some browned/crispy skin, so I usually turn the heat up toward the end to about 375 or even higher.  This marinade should also work fine on the grill, but the wings will be drier.

NOTE: even if you don't particularly like bleu cheese dressing, you might want to try it with this:  The sour-sweet-rich flavor of the wings goes really well with the bitter-sour of the dressing.  It's like a flavor explosion if you have them together.  I usually also serve this with rice and celery, carrot and sweet pepper sticks.

Watched Columbo while doing all this: "The Most Crucial Game" episode from Season 2, with Robert Culp. Culp is defiinitely my favorite Columbo killer. I may talk about that alter.

In the menatime, it is too hot tonight to sleep.  Maybe I'll get more writiing done.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day 32 - A Look Back at the First Month

It has been just over a month since I started this new ... focus?

I'm not sure what to call it.  It's not a dare or a challenge because it doesn't really have goals.  "Focus" seems the best word.  Okay, yeah, the "175 Day Focus Project."  I like the word project.

So, the main thing I did was change the blog: I'm posting only updates on writing progress, and other than the occasional post like this, no thinking ahead.  If I feel the need to write a serious, thoughtful blog post, I save it for later.  This has had several interesting effects...

I expected to lose readers, but a look at my stats tells me that I haven't. I may have lost some and gained new ones to replace them. Or I might have fewer followers who visit more often.  But overall, I've had slightly more activity than I was getting before I started this.

Book sales are the worst they've ever been, but I think that's mainly due to the usual reasons. (Slumpy time of year, and I haven't put out any new books in a while, and those I put out most recently were not in the same genre as my regular book, etc.)  But it could also be partly because I tend to get most of my sales from piquing people's interest on the blog. I guess we can test that hypothesis when I go back to regular blogging in the fall.

I have written about 25,000 new words since the start of this.  I've also done quite a bit of related work -- editing, developing ideas, etc.  I also probably wrote more than I reported because sometimes I forget to count. And I don't count words I add in while editing.

I have also come up with 2 more story games, finished the rough draft of two short stories, have a bunch more in the queue.  And I have at least one interesting story in that queue for each genre I want to follow up on. (That is, I only have one contemporary children's horse story out there in the wilderness, so I need another to go with it.  Need more Mick and Casey stories, etc.)

I've made great strides on In Flight, the first of the story game romantic suspense stories (which was supposed to be a novella but now looks like a short novel), and reasonable progress on The Man Who Ran Away.  I was hoping to finish both of these during the effort.  But it's not looking so hot for that goal.

Still, I do think my habits are accelerating, even if it doesn't look like it because I'm doing a lot of editing.  I am focusing better and longer.  I hardly ever go hang out on writer boards now, and I hardly ever check my stats.  I spend a little more time on Twitter, but Twitter is much less time consuming.

My biggest vices are games on my iPad.  Especially Spiderette. Oh, and this Risk knock-off game called Lux USA. (I stumbled across it during an election year, though I don't think it's meant to be political. You war for control of the U.S. with four other armies.  I figure Blue is Democrat, Red is Republican, Gold is Wall Street, Black is the Tea Party, and Green is obviously the Green Party.  Because it's a freebie, they don't give you a choice -- the player is Blue. So I play it while listening to public affairs television on MSNBC.  Whenever I hear Rachel Maddow's voice, I have this uncontrollable urge to take over the world now.  It must be a conspiracy.)

One thing I haven't been doing is drawing.  This is bad because it is my best source of income.  Also, it's the thing that I would be doing if I wasn't playing games.  So art is what I'm doing tonight, and possibly tomorrow.

I am also reading more again.  This is partly because of Amazon's special pricing on so many audio books.  I can afford them, at last.  This would encourage me to draw more, except for the whole Spiderette addiction thing.

The cat keeps me doing my morning exercise routine.  He lets me eat my Cheerios, but once I'm done with that, he yells and threatens mass destruction until I hit the basement for 20 minutes of walking and running and jumping with him.  I have lost two or three pounds since we have added the Blues Brothers and the Tijuana Brass to the song cycle, although this may be more due to the fact that writing is going well. (I eat less when I'm writing.)

Here's to the next month being better than this one.

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Day 31 - Knitting The Story

A good day.  A little busy, but I got good work done.  The students at the college where I used to work had their Portfolio Day, so we went and admired their work.  Some very nice portfolios there.  They were particularly good this year -- I saw a lot fewer students who were unprepared.  I think the revamping of that last class has helped.

Today's Progress: 821 words on In Flight, and more knitting the first act together.

The first four chapters are almost there.  A few gaps and redundancies yet, but it's looking less like frankenstein's monster.  I'll need another pass later to remove the redundancies.  (For instance, my protagonist seems to explain the same thing to herself four or five times, but I realize that only the last time matters -- then it can be a part of the actual story movement.  I had to pull the whole first act together, though, before I could see that's where the information belonged -- where it had the most emotional impact.)

I am actually in the midst of that part, and wondering if that's the real place to introduce the hero in more detail, but my brain is tired. I'm going to take one more whack at it tonight, but I decided to post this first so I can just go to bed when I get to the end of my rope.

Oh, and I also developed two variations on a possibly fun flash story. Well, it's a stereotypical woman in jeopardy story, which might make a decent novella if handled well on the detail end.  But I realized a twist that could make it a very fun flash story.  Not sure when I'm going to write it, though.

Eating, Reading, Watching

In celebration of Portfolio Day we had Crispy Shrimp and Sesame Cold Noodles with Hot and Sour Soup.  And tonight I watched Castle.  I did pick out the killer and the second most guilty red herring as soon as they were introduced, but purely on psychology, so the discovery process and solution was still plenty satisfying.

Castle is a well-written show.  (And that's a part of what I meant above about how a stereotypical story could do well if handled well in details.  It doesn't matter if you know the killer the instant you see him if the drama/comedy is well handled.)  And if you want to know about the basics of handling set up, development and payoff of episode subplots, you could do worse than using that show as a text book.  They usually have two intertwining B-stories that make good use of the ensemble.

Tonight I'll read some Dorothy Sayers and go to bed, though. (Although I am tempted to skip over to the second Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn story, The Withdrawing Room.  It doesn't have an audiobook version, unfortunately.)

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Day 30 - I'm Back Already

Boy, going to bed early and getting up late really does help.   The cold is gone.

After exercise and kerfuffle handling, I got a good planning session in, then a good session at the library, then more planning and drawing.

Today's Progress: 1237 words on In Flight, and I pulled a lot more of the existing prose together.

I really feel like today, the story shaped up.   When a story is in my head, it's kind of a Schrondinger's Cat -- it exists in many different states at once. This is true even if I outline it. There is still a lot of give an take in the story's ultimate shape.  And even exploratory writing doesn't really nail down the specific form of the story -- it just gives me sketches of possibilities.

Then there comes this point when enough parts are nailed down, and I put them together.... and it suddenly is a story. It suddenly has a form of its own, and I'm not exploring any more, I'm filling in and refining.  Today In Flight hit that point.

So the word count I mention above only reflects a small part of the work I did today. I put in a good session pulling together Act 1 -- which led to writing out of specific scenes I needed to write/rewrite.  Then I sat down and wrote them.  Then this evening I started pinning down more of the next act.

I think this story will wind up about 50k, which is longer than I planned, but still a nice short novel.

Eating, Reading, Watching

After my writing session at the library, I rewarded myself with spring rolls from the Asian market.  Three of them and some rice. It was enough to keep me for the evening.

I had finished listening to The Family Vault last night. Tonight I started Agatha Christie's 4:50 From Paddington while I did some drawing, however, I'm not that into it just now. I think I might skip over to something else first.  Maybe another Stuart Kaminsky.  I don't have any more Lieberman books in audio, but I have some Rostinkovs and Toby Peters.  I think, because I'm writing romantic suspense, I need some pathos. (Alternatively, I could jump to P. G. Wodehouse, which would might give me more of a mental break from the story.)

Christie, I think is not enough like what  I'm writing, nor is it enough UNlike what I'm writing.  Also, I'm getting some of the same tone from Sayers right now.

In the meantime, it's still 80 degrees in the house, so I don't know about my sleeping. And I'm going to the student portfolio show tomorrow night.

But I think I'll just go after continuing to knit things together on the story and see where I get.

Oh, and Games....

I also made up another short writing game, or at least I started to.  I think it needs one more element.

I have a great reference book called The Horseman's Encyclopedia by Margaret Cabell Self.  There are, these days, better references for horse people, especially in the area of horse health, but it's a fabulous reference for fiction writers, especially if you want to know some more dated information. 

Anyway, I thought, hmmmm, if I want to write more horse stories, this is a good place to find subjects.  So the first portion of the game will be to roll a page number from the book at random, and pick a subject from what I find on that page.  This in itself could be enough, but I feel as though I need one more element to put together with the subject.

But for now...

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Day 29 - Even Shorter Update

It wasn't a migraine, or allergies.  It's a cold. I think I've been cooking it for about four days.

So aside from dealing with some kerfuffle earlier in the day, I mostly took it easy.

I'm surprisingly creative when I have a cold, but not very disciplined.  (Rest, feel revived, get up to start something ambitious, fade quickly, go back to rest.)

So I mostly scribbled notes on the things my creativity handed me, and either read or listened to audiobooks.

I may skip updating tomorrow if the cold continues.  Otherwise I'll be posting things like: "Still got a cold.  Made brownies." or "Still got a cold, came up with a new series idea I'm jazzed about but I can't tell you about because I've forgotten it already."  The point of letting my blog go boring is not to bore you, but to encourage myself to put my energy into writing.  If I have no energy and minimal writing, I see no reason to be boring too.

See you in the funny papers.

Day 28 - Really Short Update

I probably wrote about 500 words.  (On In Flight. Chef deals with hospital food -- "the hash browns were surprisingly adequate" --  and also does some snooping.)

Voted, dealt with other kerfuffle, ate fish and chips while watching Agents of SHIELD, drew while listening to The Family Vault audiobook.

May be cooking a migraine (or just allergies), have to get up early, going to bed as soon as I have discharged my duty of delivering cat treats.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day 27 - Studying Technique

Twenty-seven.  A mathematically magical number -- Three to the third power.  Not a bad day for progress, but I could have done better.  Did a little teeny tiny bit of drawing, too.

Today's Progress: 1183 words on In Flight.

Dealt with a tricky emotional scene in which Angela gets some very bad news.  Of course, I now realize that half the emotional turning points in it should probably happen earlier, in order to simplify her reaction.  It shouldn't be hard to change, but I don't quite feel up to it yet.  It's exploratory writing right now.

I also did a few odds and ends.  This thing may end up being a full novel after all.  (Also, I'm having doubts about the exciting suspense climax.  I think I have to consider not only what should happen but also what people might expect.  I'm pretty sure somebody has to go sailing over the edge, but I'm beginning to think maybe it's the protagonist.  But I also have to work out a double-twist.  Hmmmmm.)

Eating, Watching, Reading (and drawing)

Made "Agents of SHIELD" cookies, and ate leftover Chinese food while listening to the audiobook of The Family Vault.  I didn't watch much of anything.  As I listen, I am enjoying myself, and I am reminded of what I do really like about Charlotte MacLeod... and also what I don't (which is screechy bullying characters the heroine has to tolerate).  In her early work, though, she tended toward less of that, and more of what I am looking for.

I'm re-reading (re-listening?) to this for my own pleasure, of course, but also to get a sense of how those pleasurable moments work -- how MacLeod handles the pacing, etc.  I'm mentally noting, in particular, the bits where I sink into the prose: how much action, how much description, the kinds of details.

This is something you can do with any age and any genre of fiction.  Someone in the comments the other day seemed concerned that I was looking to older titles for my "voice research" (as I think of it).  Yes, it is true that if you are writing to market -- especially if you are seeking traditional publication, or the same audience as traditional publishers -- you really do need to know what's out there.  But that's not what I'm looking for.

I am looking for the effect that techniques have on the reader.  While different genres go for different effects more than others, you will find the techniques and effects anywhere.  Why is the number thirty-seven funnier than the number three?  How can stillness be dynamic and active?  Notice how slowing down and giving more details increases the apparent pace sometimes, while leaving out detail can make things seem slow.  If you're a filmmaker, you have to watch the masters no matter what the genre or age of the work.  You have to see how a dolly zoom is unsettling in different ways in the hands of different directors.

(I was going to give you examples, but YouTube is down right now.  I'll probably turn it into a full blown blog post for the fall.)

What I'm watching for with Charlotte MacLeod is how she balances the traditional mystery, humor and woman in jeopardy aspects of the story.  In particular how she handles the sense of menace -- what kind and how much and where is it applied?  That's one of the things I like about The Family Vault -- it is really darn near pitch-perfect  in terms of handling menace.  I don't think MacLeod ever did it as well before or after.

I think I need to add this to the "story breakdown" list -- movies and books I want to do a full beat-by-beat breakdown on, to show how the parts work. 

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Day 26 - Character Discussions

Today was Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You). Also, Kent State Day (for those of you younger than I am, you may want to look that up if you don't know what I'm talking about).  By the time you read this, though, the calendar will have moved on to Cinco De Mayo. (Which is not actually "Taco Day," so while you're looking up Kent State, you might also look up Cinco De Mayo.  History -- it's a magical place.)

The Fourth was with me today, as I had a nice brunch and a good writing session, etc.

Today's Progress: 1233 words on In Flight

And interesting scene I didn't expect: Chef and Reef go over the facts of the case.  Here's the thing, though: they are going over information the audience already knows.  Which sounds like a bad thing, but it really is a staple of mystery, suspense and adventure, when you have a detective tracking down someone on the run.  Sometimes it's investigation scenes.  Tommy Lee Jones and his team going over evidence on the trail of Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. Or Harvey Keitel interrogating Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise.  Or it could be like a Greek chorus, highlighting and commenting on what is happening, such as in Burn After Reading, where we have these dry funny scenes where a CIA underling reports to his boss what is going on with the other characters.

Those kinds of scenes have overlapping purposes. They're informational -- not only do they give the audience a second shot at information they might have missed, but they get a different perspective on it.  They're also an opportunity for more character development, as we see the motivations of the detecting characters as well as things they notice or have researched about the main character's motives and nature.  Finally, it can create a sense of tension and suspense as the pursuers either get closer or get sent off the trail.  (And if the pursuer is benign, it can even be a sense of comfort and hope for the audience.)

I might well do a little more tonight, but I'm trying to shift my sleep schedule back closer to normal.  (I normally sleep 2-10 am, but I've been pushing it later and later lately.)  Blogging tends to keep me up later than I want, so I'm doing this earlier than I meant to.

Eating, Watching, Reading:

Had dim sum for brunch, but since there were no interesting movies opened this weekend, I went and got some pop and wrote all afternoon.  But then I crashed and took a nap.

Tonight, I watched Union Station (Paramount, 1950) with William Holden and Barry Sullivan and William Bettger as the badguy.  It had a very clichéed script about a kidnapping and the police strategies to catch the bad guys, but the performances pulled it out of b-movie territory.  William Holden can read a dry, sardonic line like nobody else.  It also made great use of the Chicago settings.  I watched it on Amazon Instant Video, but it's also available on DVD I believe.

As for reading, I've moved over to listening to the audiobook for The Family Vault.  Amazon/Audible had a deal for those who have purchased the ebook to get the Whispersync audio for cheap.  I don't actually use the Wispersync aspect.  I didn't like the narrator at first, but she's growing on me, and now I'm enjoying her interpretation.  I'll go back to Murder Must Advertise for my reading time.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Day 25 - Shopping Day

Today was shopping day.  Managed a decent writing session, along with ordinary kerfuffle.

Today's Progress: 573 words on The Man Who Ran Away, and pulling together pieces on In Flight.

The segment from Man Who 2 really pleased me, because it finally settled opening points of view, and provided me with a great segue from the opening to the introduction of Karla.  She's wearing bunny-ears.  Also some nice set ups for that moment.

And I have more or less pulled together the first 5 chapters of In Flight. There are gaps and redundancies. (I may actually remove more than I put in.) I have moved the Flashback That Explains All to Chapter 4.  It is something of a set piece, and could be moved even later -- for instance, it could be the bridge into the next act -- however, it works best if I make a certain revelation at the very end of the chapter before it.

I may request readers who are willing to read rough prose and answer only one question: is the opening confusing for a lack of information, or is it weighted down with too much?  But first I have to get it whole and balanced as much as I can without feedback.

Eating, Watching, Reading:

Made some homemade bean burritos.  Also, somehow, found myself watching the White House Correspondents Dinner. Not just the funny parts, but the student awards and all.  ????  I don't have a TV, so how did this happen?  I think it began with an innocent click on a tweet.  "Don't have a TV? Watch the WHCD live online here..."

It was fun watching the video of Joe Biden and Julia Louis-Dreyfus sneaking around the White House while everyone was gone, eating ice cream and getting tattoos.  And the humor was likely much funnier for those of us who are on the left side of the aisle than those on the right.  Not sure if it was worth a two hour chunk of writing time.  (Or actually, drawing time.)

Began rereading The Family Vault last night.  Haven't got to the entrance of Max Bittersohn yet.

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Day 24 - Rolling Rolling Rolling

A good day of writing. Managed a nice long bout of screwing around too. But now it's late and I need to give the cats their treats and head for bed, so this is going to be short....

Today's Progress: 2064 words on In Flight

I had to cut some too.  I skipped ahead of some of the difficult parts and tomorrow or Sunday I might just end up knitting together what I've got. (This mostly fills in some blank areas from what I think is Chapter 3.)

I realize that a part of my problem is that romantic suspense is a naturally emotional and angsty genre.  That isn't my natural style.  And I've been reading all this hard-boiled noir stuff -- all terse and no emotions admitted (only shown obliquely).

I need to read some Daphne DuMaurier or something.  (When will the DuMaurier estate get on the stick and release ebooks of her stuff?  Oh wait, it looks like they did finally release some, but they're awfully expensive.)  Maybe some Mary Stewart. (When will her estate get on the stick and release something other than the Merlin trilogy on ebook?)

Actually what I should read is Murder and Blueberry Pie.  That was one of my favorite early Woman-in-Jeopardy mysteries. It's a Lt. Shapiro story by Frances and Richard Lockridge.  It is not available on ebook, but I do have a rare paper copy of it.  Stylewise, it may give me more bad habits than good, though.  Another in the same not-quite-gothic vein: The Family Vault by Charlotte MacLeod.  It was the first of her Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn series, which became kind of silly and cozy, but that first one had a lot of the kind of emotional angst I'm going for.  And I think I might have already picked up the ebook.

Or heck, read some Baroness Orczy. She definitely did some gothic stuff some of her Pimpernel books.

Eating, Watching, Reading:

I mostly wrote and plotted and dealt with kerfuffle and played solitaire today.  We went out to get Syrian food.  I had the chicken combo (chicken shwarma, kabob and roasted chicken) which is pretty close to the most garlicky thing on the planet. But it had a really good sear on it, and the roasted veggies and the lentil soup was so nice too.

I may put the rest of Murder Must Advertise on hold until I reread something more gothic....

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Day 23 - Starting To Draw A Little

I have simply not been in the mood to draw lately. I don't know why.  I suppose the drawing muse retreats into the subconscious sometimes too.  Or maybe it's because I have avoided losing time browsing for references on the internet.

If that's so, it explains why I suddenly feel like drawing again.  I spent way too much time this evening on my Tumblr feed, which is full of pulp fiction covers and artists.  I also discovered a model on DeviantArt who publishes reference pose photos for artists -- and not only licenses them pretty freely, she sells thumb drives packed full of references.  (I will post the url to her site sometime in future. Don't have it handy now.)

Today's Progress: about 600 more words on In Flight.

It should have been more. That was just my afternoon session, but this evening was eaten by art.  Worse, eaten by art research rather than actual drawings.  All the same, I think the 600 words are goo progress because I hammered at some things that have been tough.

I figured out how, in particular, to prise apart all the people and things that have to be introduced so I can introduce them one at time -- and take my time with each.

I also had a huge epiphany for the Starling and Marquette stories, especially George's furniture problem.  I realize it will still be an issue in the third book -- and that is the solution to the whole problem of how George and Karla meet the victim in that.  The victim is selling the contents of her house.

Eating, Watching, Reading: Shrimp Roll-Ups and Peter Gunn.

"Shrimp Roll-Ups" is not a particularly good name for the dish.  We used to have a Korean Sushi place that made this really great fusion roll: Spicy Shrimp Tempura.  It was a roll of spicy shrimp, cucumber and cream cheese sushi, very lightly battered in tempura batter and fried. Then after it was sliced, each piece had a dot of a different Korean hot sauce added to it.  It was these most amazing roll ever -- and nobody seems to be able to make anything that comes close, even with very similar ingredients.

So I started experimenting, and even though I never came up with anything that was like that, I came up with my own, weird combination.

It's a Vietnamese rice paper sheet, moistened and then I place a small square of nori (sushi seaweed) on it.  Then a little rice, a strip of cream cheese, shrimp with Sriracha sauce, shredded cucumber or carrot, and then the thing that makes it all work: you know those canned fried onions you put on the top of a green bean casarole?  I toast those in the oven so they will be hot and crispy, and put them on top of the cream cheese, and roll the whole thing up into something like a Vietnamese summer roll (goi cuon) or a Thai "fresh eggroll."

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Day 22 - Why I Haven't Listed A Goal

Last week Elizabeth had a great point on Mystery Writing is Murder; Sometimes it's better to keep your focus on today.  On right now.

That's a very zen sort of idea, but it is so true.

And that is actually why I have not gone back to ROW80 or even set up this current project as another novel dare.  The problem is that I really need to focus on TODAY every day.  Not a larger goal or progress toward it.  Not what I did or did not do yesterday.  Not what I must get done for tomorrow.

That is part of why I haven't stated any kind of goal.

But... I do have goals.

I want to get The Man Who Stepped Up done by this fall, and also work on my 26 Story Challenge, and finish the three short Game Story novellas, and all sorts of other stories....  I was going to list them out but really, I don't want to depress myself by thinking about what I haven't done.  Nor do I want to distract myself by thinking about fall.  Or next month even.

The real goal is today's goal, which is:  To make the best and most of today.

I don't always succeed at this, and it's not something that works for everyone, or even worked for me at every stage of my life.  But I find that every day I do it, I get more done in the day than when I'm thinking about tomorrow.

It can be a great thing for anyone, no matter what your style is.  Every once in a while, stop and consider this:  What could I accomplish today if I really set my mind to it?

Today's Progress: About 600 words on In Flight.  I think I have my hook for making the introduction to the kitchen more active.  However, I changed what a minor character did to get fired, and that changes the tone of a few other things.  Now debating: should I ameliorate just how bad of an employee she is?  At first I thought I should, but now I'm thinking that it might be good to make the heroine more self-conscious when she has to let her co-workers down later. 

Eating, Watching, Reading:

Asparagus stir-fry, with minced ginger and garlic, and just enough oyster sauce to enrich the flavor, but not enough to be the main flavor of the dish.  Also some crispy spicy chicken from the freezer.

Watched last week's episode of Castle. (Hulu has a delay in the free episode watching.)  Still reading Murder Must Advertise.

See you in the funny papers.