Lost In the Woods

Here’s another 100-word piece I wrote to a “Friday Fictioneers” prompt photo:




“Your Mama’s a gypsy.  You can’t tie ’em down.” 

“Why’d she take our car and not say goodbye?”

Daddy smiled and then refused to talk about it anymore.

“Just you promise me,”  he said, pointing a finger at me.  “You won’t leave like that.”

I went to college without leaving town.  Married a girl as unlike Mama as possible, bought a house sitting solid on an acre of land.

Two days ago I found the car, far up the mountain from the cemetery where Daddy rests alone.  Over the years Daddy had salvaged every part he could.  Except the truth.

Sometimes you just want to read a good book, not write one.

I enjoy Alyssa Maxwell’s “Gilded Newport” series so I entered a drawing in her newsletter. I won! A signed edition of “A Murderous Marriage” (book 4 in her ‘Lady and Lady’s Maid’ series), plus a beautiful teacup and saucer with some beautiful English Breakfast tea to go with it! Time to stoke up the pellet stove and settle in.

On a rainy, drizzly, icy overcast day, there is nothing like a cozy murder mystery and a cuppa.

An Ode to Walter Mosley

Last weekend I attended the 2018 New England Crimebake.  I had not been before and wasn’t sure what to expect.  But if you are a crime novel writer or reader, this is a place to celebrity-watch and get fired up over all the great new books coming out.  This year’s Guest of Honor was Walter Mosley, creator of Easy Rawlins and writer of many bestsellers.  His novel “Devil in a Blue Dress” was made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Jennifer Beals.  It’s excellent — watch it any chance you get and read the book for its superb blending of mystery and character motivation.

This year the administrators set up a short-short story contest.  In no more than 150 words, we were challenged to write a flash story in which a crime occurs [any kind], using no less than ten words from a list of seventeen that were taken from the titles of Mosley’s books.  I had a blast with it [I managed to use fourteen words from the list].  Three winners were chosen, and I was one of them.  It was the greatest thrill to stand up in front of a few hundred writers and readers of crime fiction and read my own story!  It’s something to remember always.

Mosley & the 3 winners

This is me on the right, with the other two winners [I’m ashamed to say I didn’t note down their names; hopefully the Crimebake website will post them soon] and Mr. Walter Mosley himself.  By the way, if you ever get a chance to listen to him talk about the craft of writing, grab it!  He is fun and informative and a natural speaker, which is not always the case with even the best writers.

So, just for fun, here’s the story, with words from Mosley’s titles underlined:

HEY, I LIKE TO COOK

Hey, I like to cook, and all I want is a quiet existence.  So I felt fortunate to have found a cheap basement apartment that had access to a charcoal grill on the patio.  But I hadn’t counted on the apartment manager’s dog, a raging evil brute with big ugly teeth that got a thrill out of chasing me away from my apartment door when I came home every single day.

The manager laughed when I complained and then tried to put his hand up my dress.  But he got used to seeing me cooking on the patio, so pieces of butterfly “chicken” on the grill didn’t cause him any fear, even after the dog came up missing.  The dog’s mistake was liking my cinnamon buns with just a kiss of arsenic.  His owner’s mistake was accepting my invitation to a delicious backyard fry-up.

Hey, it’s Halloween!

close up creepy dark darkness

Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

I subscribe to the newsletter of Cindy Brown, author of the Ivy Meadows mysteries.  In a recent edition, she talked about her love for the movie “The Sound of Music” and invited her readers to tell her about their favorite things.  Well, that got me going, and here’s my rendition.  I dare you to read it without singing it to the music — under your breath, of course!

“The Sound of Murder”

Mysteries in millions

And novels with corpses

Bright copper daggers

And all the pale horses

Brown paper packages dripping with gore

These are my favorites

So let’s have some more!

Cream-colored cupcakes all filled up with cy-nide

The doorbell is ringing so let in the hellhags

Witches that fly with revenge in old lore

These are my favorites

So let’s have some more!

Girls in white dresses with eyes that are scary

Killers in closets all red-faced and hairy

Silver-white moons that mean death on the shore

These are my favorites

So let’s have some more!

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite books
And then I can fee-e-el – quite ma-a-ad!

*Cue maniacal laughter*

Just an ebook

“It’s just an ebook,”  she said with sweet self-deprecation and some regret.

Of course, the writer was apologizing for having gone through an indie publisher online, rather than spending years working through agents, a Big Five New York publisher and the long process of editing, rewriting to the editor’s wishes, then waiting for design, typesetting, shipping to bookstores, etc, all to end up with no control over the product and what amounts (for new authors, at least) to very nearly a single-digit percentage of the profits.

I was at a writers group meeting when I heard this.  I had a hard time not jumping across the table.

“It’s not JUST an ebook!  You’ve published a book.”

Ebooks — people buy them and hold them and read them and love them, and discuss them and recommend them and even loan them to their friends.  They are made up of the words, sweat, genius, joy and tears of the writer who had the vision and the dream, just as much as anything pounded out on paper.

To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, a writer who was vilified by many readers and worshiped by others—a book is a book is a book.

Do we – nowadays – consider an electric car “just a car”?  As in, it shouldn’t be taken seriously?  Not like a gas-guzzling, climate-destroying, wallet-raping real car?  The price is the same, usually a heck of a lot more, (unlike, say, an ebook).  They’re made up mostly of the same parts, driven the same way, and they get you from point A to point B.  Would Chevrolet say that the Bolt is “just a car”?  Or would they say that it’s just as good as any other car – or even better?

Many people at the turn of the twentieth century believed that no cars should be taken seriously.  After all, they were just a weird bit of flash-in-the-pan technological silliness, whereas anyone who was worth anything drove a nice, quiet horse and carriage.

People came out to the fields to watch the new technology called airplanes, and they laughed.  Everyone knew that air flight was for the birds, so to speak.  Why bother, when it only took several weeks or months to take a train or a boat?  And that’s so much more gentile, dah-ling.

No one believed “movies” would ever be watched by serious citizens or acted in by real actors – after all, if you had an ounce of self-respect, you went to the theatah.  And once movies caught on and became respectable, who on earth would bother with a stupid little technological experiment called television?

Do you have a newspaper subscription?  Do you consider CNN.com and Twitter notifications foolishness?  Why not wait and get the story on your doorstep twenty-four hours later?

It used to be that writers were pressed to apologize if what they wrote was just a mystery or science fiction or a love story.  We now have crime novels that are considered Golden Age ‘classics’ of literature and science fiction that has won prestigious awards.  ‘Romeo and Juliet’ anyone?  I have it on ebook, and before that, I had a hardback copy – gasp!  It wasn’t on parchment written with a quill pen.  Is it, then, “just a play”?  And while people still pay lip service to ‘serious books’, romance novels are eagerly snapped up to the tune of millions of dollars a month.  A MONTH.

Oh.  That’s right.  If you want to make a lot of money, then you’re “just” a hack.  And if it’s not made of dead trees, it’s “just” a book.  And if you want to reach those millions of readers who prefer technology or appreciate convenience or simply can’t afford what the Big Five publishers are charging for paper, does that mean you are “just” a writer?

Come to think of it, what’s wrong with that?