People always ask writers, “Where do you get your ideas?” The answer is probably different for every writer, but what I want to talk about is how exciting it is when a new idea pops up. Lately, I have been attending to the business of writing. Publishing details, publicizing, copy editing, etc. Frankly, it’s not my favorite part about writing and I often try to avoid it. But that only works for so long. So, I slog away at the drudgery until magically in a moment, I get an idea for a new story. The embryo of a book. It may be a character whispering in my ear, begging for her story to be told or it may be that Greek Gothic house I drive by every week where I am certain events are unfolding that readers have to hear about. It’s an energizing catalyst for me. I am quickly inspired to finish up the busyness of the business of writing so I can return to the joy of playing make-believe. So, what is buzzing in my brain that has me so excited? I’ll share a little, but you’ll have to wait for the book for the full […]
This was my question for Miss Demeanors this week. What they told me that can’t be published was astounding! But what can be put in print is pretty amazing too. Michele: We write about crime, we read about crime. But do we know criminals? Tell our readers about at least one criminal you have met, either professionally or personally (related to?), and whether that influenced your writing. If you haven’t encountered a criminal (seriously?) tell us about someone who doesn’t quite play by the rules. What my grandmother would call a rogue. I’ll go first. I had to interview a man who was on trial for killing his wife in front of their three-year-old, who was in a crib. I sat alone with the accused in a small room with cinderblock walls at a small table. He hadn’t gone on trial yet and denied killing the wife. I was there on behalf of the child. There wasn’t an ounce of regret or contrition in his voice. He was arrogant and unfeeling. I was reminded why I didn’t practice criminal law (Keenan feels this way about family law). When I think of that interview, I wonder why I write crime. I […]
The rush from a new notebook. Do you relate to that phrase? If so, you may be a papyrophiliac. That is, someone who has an obsessive love of paper. I think the term can be extended to those of us who are wild about office or school supplies. Notebooks, pens, pencils, eraser, index cards, and stickies (my affectionate term for post-its). Don’t start me on stickies. Tiny, medium, long and narrow, wide and square. Lined, unlined. Pastel or fluorescent. My daughter attempted to make me promise never to buy another pad of them for as long as I live because my supply will surely outlast me. I resisted the pledge, knowing I would never fulfill it. But there is nothing like a new notebook. First, the search. The notebook need not be expensive; it only needs to feel right to the writer. I am partial to spiral notebooks because they open fully when I write in them, but now there are notebooks with new flexible spines that do the same. A whole new world has opened. I do not exaggerate. The cover may vary. I can be spellbound by a plain Moleskine or captivated by a floral design. I always […]
I read a fascinating account about a police detective in New Jersey who solved a number of cases involving the same serial killer. The article about Robert Anzilotti written by Michael Wilson in the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/13/nyregion/new-jersey-serial-killer-cottingham-anzilotti.html) gave a chilling account about Detective Anzilotti, who, days before his retirement, finally solved the last of the serial murders committed by Richard Cottingham. The story about Cottingham, who has been in prison since 1981when Detective Anzilotti was still a teenager, chronicles the brutal murders of young girls and women and is in its own right a riveting story. But, as a crime writer, I was equally fascinated by Detective Anzilotti as a character in his own story. He was more compelling than any cop in the many police procedurals I’ve read, and I have read many excellent ones. Writing a credible character is integral to telling a story. The writer likes to think she’s telling the story, but it’s the characters she creates who actually reveal it. The character must be displayed in full human dimension, never as a cardboard cutout. Within a one-page newspaper story, Anzilotti jumped off the page. I wanted to understand how he felt so […]
Before someone has the chance to say, “Enough with the daffodils, Michele,” I promise this will be my final post about them this year. But I’ve had so many lessons from daffodils this year, many of which apply to writing, I wanted to offer one more. This one is about perspective, which writers refer to as “point of view.” When winter has withered my soul and spring seems impossible, I take to my car in search of the first signs of daffodils. I post photos of stems popping through the earth in agonizing slow motion until there is a splendid array of blossoms. There is one particular yard that I watch and photograph. I always approach it after touring the beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side of my town. Last week, my husband and I were in a neighboring town on an errand. On the way back, he asked if I would like to tour the beaches and see if the whales that have been periodically performing were back. Of course, I said yes. Have you ever seen whales spouting, breaching, and playing? If you have, you know why I couldn’t refuse. We turned down the road […]
When the ground is frozen, hard, dry, and brown, I try to imagine them as they were in their majesty the previous April. I pass by day after day, shaking my head over the improbability that they will rise again. My pessimism is reinforced by the winter grey and brown thicket of branches that serve as their backdrop. They are all dead. There is no hope. But I am a mere human fool. I cannot give up on the daffodils. I am tortured at my own hands, forcing myself to search for any sign of life. What would have the audacity to spring out of this deadly mess? And then on a frigid afternoon, I see a barely perceptible sign of life. A little green point is poking through the dirt. My heart quickens, not daring to believe or hope. When I return several days later, I am excited to see the green point has become an inch of emerald showing off to its jealous surrounding thicket. The daffodils have survived. My gratitude is short-lived. I am an impatient human. I scold the daffodils about how long it is taking for them to grow. “Come on, show […]
While I share online event fatigue with many of you, there is no denying Zoom has saved the day or now, the year. This was evident to me during the fabulous MURDER AND MAYEM online conference, the brainchild of Dana Kaye and Lori Rader-Day, which was on Crowdcast this past weekend, when a single comment created value for me that transcended all else on the schedule. One advantage of an online event comes in the form of a sidebar that appears next to the main presentation, where a contemporaneous conversation among attendees takes place. Among the chatter about how much we all miss one another, little gems will sparkle. Brilliant comments or provocative questions appear that never would be available to everyone who attended an in-person conference. Someone (forgive me for not remembering who, but the scroll fires as rapidly as the synapses in the attendees’ brain cells) posed the question about whether writers who write about crime, most often murder, are ever troubled that they are essentially entertaining people with tales at the expense of the pain that real crimes bring. People chimed in, revealing they also had been troubled by the question. The fascination with crime can feel […]
Who won a copy of The Empty Chair, Murder in the Caribbean, the giveaway from Penny Goetjen’s appearance on Miss Demeanors last week. The winner is Nancy Novacek.
The Question of the week for my fellow Miss Demeanors is the question readers never seem to tire of, which is When and Where do You Write? What is your daily writing process and where does that magic take place? You are in for a real treat!