Short and Sweet

If you’ve ever wandered over to my Facebook page, you may have noticed that I post page numbers to mark the progress of whatever book I happen to be writing. Presently, I am working on Dairyland Murders Book 7, Pastor in the Pasture (copyright 2017). Currently, I am on page 21.

My goal length of any story is usually around 300 -  5 X 8 inch pages, somewhere between 90 and 100 thousand words. I rarely get there, and I admit that I am frustrated by that fact. But then I am reminded of my first and favorite mystery author, the grande dame of who-done-its, none other than Agatha Christie.

None of her works were long, drawn out journeys. Dame Christie was quite economical with the amount of literary real estate she used to lay out her elaborate webs of murder and intrigue. Yet, nothing is lost in the way of prose, of description, of detail, and her writing methods are still as valid and engrossing now as they were almost a century ago.

So, perhaps when I hear another, “I read your last book in a day and a half,” I will take that as a compliment, rather than lament in my lack of words. It helps when the following comment is, “I couldn’t put it down.”

Cops are people too

Sometimes it’s easy for us to get lost in the rhetoric these days and forget our humanity. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing so much. It allows me to expose the being behind the label and remind my readers that heroes and villains can come from every walk of life. This is especially important for members of our communities whose labels bring on such passionate and and extreme connotations. In this case, I am referring to law enforcement.

On several occasions, I have written of Evan’s “cop face.”  Adjectives that have accompanied this description have been along the lines of “wooden” and “stoic.” It’s a mask that I think exists for two reasons. It hides Evan’s humanity from the criminals with whom he must contend. It also acts as a shield to protect his humanity from the misery for which he gets paid to encounter every day. In theory he is supposed to absorb all of the depravity, lunacy, and violence and still react as an impartial enforcer of the law, “blind justice” being what it is. But in reality, a person cannot do that for years and come out the other end being the same as when they started.

Bernice, on the other hand, has witnessed first hand how a person of law enforcement can be corrupted, can decide to exert authority over others for exploitative purposes, and hide behind the badge and that cop face to conceal sins, some as atrocious as murder. Her perspective is different from Evan’s because she exists outside the fold of the law enforcement culture. She has no loyalty to consider, no sense of obligation with which to contend.

Meanwhile, Evan’s chosen profession often behaves more like a close knit family. He had to take an oath. There exists codes of honor that he is expected to abide by. Much like our armed forces abroad, our armed forces at home have vowed to defend our laws and law-abiding citizens. Putting themselves at risk each day creates internal bonds that aren’t easily broken, even when it is necessary to do so.

I hope in my writing I have demonstrated this duplicity of existence in our men and women in blue (or whatever color your local cop uniform happens to be). I hope I have presented them as people, flawed, fragile, courageous, and feeling people.

I asked a reader once why she liked my books. She replied, “They make me think.” What a lovely compliment.


Oh well, maybe I do suck

So, as I have explained in previous posts, I started my journey into writing with a dream of being a screenwriter, more specifically, a screenwriter for television. I finally got my feedback from the pilot I submitted to a screenwriting contest last fall. It wasn’t good. What I mean is the feedback was honest and very reasonable, but my submission wasn’t good. Let me clarify that this is the third submission in about ten years that has failed.

Admittedly, I’m feeling pretty sad. That can’t be helped. There’s always a grieving process that takes place when a creative project is rejected. It’s necessary to move on. And honestly, this is a project that needed to fail. This is a dream that needed to die.

How I write has changed because my life has changed. Presently, I am engrossed in the world of a toddler, simpler, more innocent, more socially sensitive. I honestly couldn’t tell you what’s good on television beyond the small 90 minute window I allow myself on Sunday nights to watch Masterpiece on PBS. Sometimes, even that’s a stretch, if it’s a mystery and it’s too violent to have running while my full time job is still awake.

The sharpness of dialogue, the veracity of action and story, the clear conveyance of emotion, these are all elements of good screen writing that are foggy to me at the moment, like they are buried in some murky tide pool that I just don’t have to stones or energy to dig into. That’s a hard reality to accept, but reality it is, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that I am finished as a writer. It just means that I need to continue my journey from where I am in the present moment and not force my perspective into a future that doesn’t exist.

I am happy to be able to continue my journey with Bernice and Evan and Darlene and Cameron and the all their friends, enemies, baggage, foibles, and dilemmas. They still need me.