Category Archives: Pari Noskin Taichert

Did ya know . . . ?

by Pari Noskin Taichert

There’s a lot I don’t know about a lot of things.

Most of the time, I’ll brazen my way through a scene I’m writing and eventually do enough research to ensure my premise won’t knock a reader out of the story.

This was the case last week. I’d pushed through several chapters and began to think that I might be really, really off base. So, with the help of the handy-dandy Yellow Pages, I found listings for local home/corporate security businesses. My story line required a high-end place, maybe with a store front, so that I could see some of the hidden cameras up close.

Many of these services had online presences and their websites gave me a little feel about their clients and expertise. From there, I selected the one that most intrigued me and picked up the phone. A nice, neutral receptionist answered. After explaining the following request might be a bit odd, I launched into my standard pitch about being a mystery writer and wanting to get my info right.

The receptionist asked me to hold. I played a couple of games of spider solitaire and waited. A young man came on the line and proceeded to answer my queries. He then offered to show me some  equipment — his business doesn’t have a store front — if I wanted to come see.

Oh, baby. What an opportunity.

The next morning at 9 am, I pulled up to one of those purposely nondescript buildings, the kind you find in industrial parks around the country. The kind you’d never remember after you left. The door was locked. The nice receptionist clicked on something out of view and let me in. She also brought me a great cup of coffee. The young man with whom I’d spoken used a magnetic key to let me into a conference room with a gorgeous rosewood table, sat me down in a plush leather chair  . . . and opened his world to me.

Covert cameras, digital versatile recorders, computer interfaces — he answered every single one of my questions. He took me into secured areas so that I could see some of the systems first hand. He brought out a video camera no larger than the last joint on my little finger and told me how and where such an instrument could be hidden. He showed me all the security cameras in his own building and then took me into another secured room where I could see the recordings. He used a joystick to move one of the cameras outside and we looked into a building about 1/3 mile away; I actually could see what the people inside were doing. It was creepy, fascinating and wonderful all at once.

One of the unexpected pleasures of writing fiction is that I get to learn all kinds of things that I never thought about before. I love going into food processing plants, agricultural research centers, government buildings and talking with experts about what they do. I’ve done it for years in my nonfiction — but fiction now affords me many of the same perks.

And, they’re ALWAYS a gas.

I hope in the comments you’ll share:
Readers: What are some of the most interesting things you’ve learned while reading a novel?
Writers:  What are some of the most interesting things you’ve learned while writing your novel (or short story)?

I can’t wait to read what you’ve got to say . . .

Name the author

by Pari Noskin Taichert

I love my name. That’s why I’ve used it all of these years. That’s why I added on to it, rather than dropping my surname when I got married. It’s been a point of pride and I didn’t hesitate to sign it to my first book contract.

Pari Noskin Taichert: it’s got everything. You want exoticism? Pari is Farsi for angel, fairy or sea nymph. You want lyricism? I think it fits the bill; it certainly gets the old imagination going. Intrigue? Yep. No one knows where the hell it comes from or how the hell to pronounce it.

About the only thing my name doesn’t have going for it is memorability. There’s nothing there for people to hang their mnemonics on.

I’m not kidding.

A month ago, I was down in Las Cruces at the farmer’s market and met a woman who loves my books. I was giddy with meeting her and she felt the same way about me — once she realized who I was. Talk about a love-fest.

"I was just telling a friend about you yesterday," she said, a’flutter.
"Thank you." I wanted to kiss her feet. Not only had she read my books, she was doing my marketing for me.
"Yeah, I told her not to bother trying to remember your name, but that the titles were pretty easy."

Lovely.

At both Agatha Award banquets, the announcers mispronounced my name. It happens on panels unless the moderator takes the time to email me in advance.

It’s demoralizing to see the disappointment in readers’ eyes when they meet me for the first time. Instead of some gorgeous woman with a long black braid and skin the color of chai, they get a soccer mom.  And, bookstore employees tell me they often get requests for "that lady from New Mexico with the weird name." They always know exactly who the customer is talking about.

Frankly, though, I’m tired of it.

Now, I know I’m putting the cart before the horse, the butter before the bread, but when my new series sells (you’ll notice the confidence in that phrase . . .) I’m considering using a pseudonym. Something simple — with initials.

I need a name with some pizazz like the ones you find on this blog. Just look at those initials, those short names or the three-name jobbies with at least one that’s familiar. Holy cow. You’d think I’d have enough inspiration right here.

P.N. Taichert. Nah, the n doesn’t flow off the tongue and Taichert still confuses the crap out of people. P.T. Noskin? That might be better but it’s not very catchy. Pari Jones? Might work. P.T. Jones? That has a certain appeal.

Ah, darn it to Hades, I don’t know. I could use some help here . . .

Got any suggestions? You might just come up with a winner in this name-the-author — literally — discussion. Hey, you might even get a prize.

*****************************************************************************************************

And, speaking of names . . .

I’ll be one of the interviewees on MWA’s Murder Must Air broadcast this Thursday evening, Oct. 18, at 8 pm central time. The topic is promotion and host L.C. Hayden wants me to talk about how to "get your name out there." Hah! I’ll have plenty to say.

The other known guests are: author David Skibbins and PR pro/author Jo-Ann Powers. L.C. says that there’s also going to be a mystery guest for an additional 15 minutes of the show. Can’t wait to find out who it is.

His name was Carl

by Pari Noskin Taichert

She was 18, home from her first year at college. They met at the diner where they both worked. She, a waitress. He, a prep cook and dish washer. He represented everything she knew nothing about — coarse, druggie, uneducated. She was fascinated.

He asked her to come over one night after work, near 2 a.m.

Why not? He intrigued her.

They walked to his apartment, her trusting him with all the naivete of a kid who’d mainly seen the good side of life. His place was in the bad part of town, somewhere she’d never been allowed to go before. But she felt safe with him. He was big, probably outweighed her by 125 pounds. He’d know what to do in a dangerous moment.

The apartment he took her to couldn’t have been a place where anyone actually lived. No telephone. No mattress on the bed. His brother and wife were supposed to be there, too. Only, they weren’t.

The small fridge was full of cheap beer. She drank one with him, then another, feeling increasingly unsure. Fear wormed through her shell of optimism when she realized how limited her choices really were. Should she stay with him — a sort-of known quantity — or go outside and take her chances in the unfamiliar dark?

His face changed into a mask of oddness. His eyes no longer focused on her. The folly of her trust became apparent when he began talking about her being his "guardian angel" and the "purity of her light." He smoked a joint and then offered her the next one. Trembling, she refused.

During the next four hours, she learned that she could leave her body, go somewhere else, totally disassociate from the pain and horror. She survived it all and left him, sleeping, on the floor. In the cool early morning, the bruises and bites were only small remnants of her loss of innocence. She now knew, with unshakable certainty, that some people were simply, sickly, insane.

Her mother noticed the violent signs, but never asked.

Carl skipped town the next day.

Though she continued to work at the diner for a few more weeks, she never saw him again.

She also never spoke about it until 12 years later. A serial rapist terrorized the part of town where she lived. One afternoon, walking home from the store, she thought someone had followed her. In her apartment, she threw her groceries onto the kitchen counter and ran to the bedroom closet. She cowered there for two hours. The ice cream melted. Finally, she acknowledged the rip in her own core.

She called the police first, to report what she’d seen. Then she called the rape crisis center, went for counseling, and began to unravel her tangled despair.

Yes, it’s a true story. What a difference a few pronouns can make: she, her and they rather than I, my and we.

I wrote this after reading Ken’s and Dusty’s posts last week. What struck me was the thin line we writers tread, tiptoeing down dark alleys, mining our own sorrows and experiences.

We can craft the output. We can experiment with description, tense, POV, what to include and what to leave out.

We can re-write our histories.
My heart goes out to those people who can’t.

Stormy Weather

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Don’t know why
There’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather . . .

Do you think much about the weather?

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we’ve got no place to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

I do.

Some people might think we’re a bit obsessed with it here in New Mexico. A hefty portion of each news broacast is spent with witty meteorologists giving play-by-plays about storms and wind advisories. They blissfully fill our minds with numbers referring to relative humidity or barometric pressure. In New Mexico, we have hailstones as big as golf balls. Rainstorms dump inches of water in minutes and then disappear as quickly into deep, cloudless azure. When rare tornados touch down, their landings merit higher billing than commonplace murders.

Maybe New Mexicans feel a kinship with our mercurial world because we can see it. We’ve generally got 30-60 mile views in most places; that makes for mighty big skies. Thunderstorms don’t sneak up on us; they lollygag.

Are New Mexicans loners in their eyes-to-the-sky approach to the world? Are we the only ones who care so much about jet streams and El Nino?

I don’t think so. Otherwise, there would be no Weather Channel. Al Roker wouldn’t have a job. And hundreds of bloggers would have to find other things to write about. What would these guys do? Or this guy? Or the millions of others I found through a Google search?

But where does weather fit into fiction?

Elmore Leonard advises never to open a book with weather. Yet the recently deceased Madeleine L’Engle does just that in her masterpiece A WRINKLE IN TIME: "It was a dark and stormy night."

I believe weather is underestimated in novels. It can set the tone, cause problems, invite sensuality. L’Engle’s tongue-in-cheek opening gives us an anything-can-happen, delicious feeling that’s both ominous and tempting.

I know I often write about weather in my novels — but then I’m a New Mexican, so it’s natural for me.

Don’t other authors see the connection? Why aren’t writing blogs abuzz with discussions about weather’s roles and uses in literature?

I want to know . . . (have you ever seen the rain?)

Maybe in big cities, weather isn’t important. Maybe it’s just a nuisance or a given. The only time it attracts attention is when it’s exceptional — a blizzard or a drought — not like here in NM, where each day it’s a fascinating topic even if nothing much is happening.

I wonder.

Why is weather taken for granted?

Who writes it well?

Does weather even matter in fiction? Is it overdone (and I’m just missing it)? Underrepresented?

One place where weather certainly does matter is in music. Here’s one of my favorite songs of all time, a beautiful version by Louis Armstrong when he entertained the troops in Vietnam. He could have been singing about New Mexico.

I’ve seen skies of blue, clouds of white . . .

Mistakes . . . I’ve made a few

by Pari Noskin Taichert

"Mistakes are at the very base of human thought, embedded there, feeding the structure like root nodules. If we were not provided with the knack of being wrong, we could never get anything useful done . . . We are built to make mistakes, coded for error." Lewis Thomas from The Medusa and the Snail

The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called "The Days of Awe" and is a time when Jewish people are commanded to think about their lives, to make amends, to atone.

I’m not very observant in my religious practice, but I do like the idea of awe and of reflection, peaceful introspection that results in action — in trying to put things right in one’s life.

But this year, for some reason, my pensive time has focused on Lewis Thomas’ quote and the mistakes I’ve made that have resulted in great felicities.

No one advocates taking the wrong path, scraping a knee, or banging an ego against prickly lessons. However, there are times when a decision that seems incredibly knuckleheaded in the moment actually opens a door to wonderful possibility.

These instances crowd my life. (I won’t even talk about all my past boyfriends; those mistakes are too obvious . . . but the end result was a late marriage to the right man for me. )

There was the time in Ann Arbor when I saw a bunch of people walking into a building and decided to follow. I stumbled into a master class on pantomime taught by Marcel Marceau. Yeah, it was a mistake (I should have gone to work and almost lost my job).

But I stayed . . . 
Even more incredible, he let me (though there were only fifteen people or so in the class). I spent two of the most fascinating hours of my life in his company.

That was the summer of marvelous mistakes.
Another time, I ended up in an invitation-only (don’t ask how I got in; I still have no idea) press conference Noam Chomsky gave prior to his public presentation at the U of Michigan.

A writing example? Oh, there are so many . . .

When I was working on The Clovis Incident, I based it on a remembered article from the local paper that had been printed years before. Half way through the manuscript, I decided to hunt down that original piece and, after much searching, realized it was about Aztec, NM. Clovis is in the SE part of the state. Aztec is in the NW. Still, that book couldn’t have been written about Aztec and have been nearly as much fun.

Oh, and what about my new book, The Socorro Blast, that’s due out this coming January? I wrote the entire first manuscript and thought it was so bad, I threw it away. Yep. I’d call that a mega-mistake. Three hundred and seventy pages gone. Kaput. So, I wrote it all over again. I believe that first mistake has made the second iteration far stronger.

Bone-headed career decisions? Oh boy, let me tell you . . .

My first agent was unscrupulous (really). My second one was mediocre. By the time I searched for the third, I’d learned from those mistakes and got a winner.

Some might posit that writing the Sasha series in the first place, setting a series in New Mexico and insisting on it staying there, is a mistake. But, I’d counter that my experience with the University of New Mexico Press and all it has taught me about the business, distribution, bookseller/reviewer strengths and biases — everything — will serve me well for the long haul.

The examples just keep piling up. My life has been filled with wrong turns, ruts in the road, and missed goals.

Thank goodness for most of them.

How about you? What are some of your happiest mistakes?

BTW: L’Shanah Tova (Happy New Year!)

Standard Bears

by Pari Noskin Taichert

A few months ago, Mystery Writers of America revised its approved publishers list for active membership. The change went up without fanfare and there it would have stayed — in my opinion — if not for the fact that Left Coast Crime’s standing committee adopted the list as a primary guideline for defining "authors" for signing slots.  (Note: Writers with other publishers are not excluded from being on panels. There are two separate things going on here.)

Here’s the exact wording — taken directly from the bylaws:

"To be considered an author at Left Coast Crime you must either meet the requirements for active membership in the Mystery Writers of America (you don’t actually have to be a member) or have been shortlisted for a major mystery award (the Edgar, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Dilys, the Barry, the Hammett, the Macavity, the Lefty, the Nero Wolfe, the CWA Dagger, the Shamus, the Arthur Ellis, and the Bruce Alexander Awards). Non-American writers without U.S. publishers who meet the requirements for active membership in their national mystery writer associations also qualify."

You can see that LCC’s definition is more inclusive. Authors who were once published by any of the "approved" houses also fall under the rubric; there’s no timeline specified on that.

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that the writers with publishers that were dropped, or have not been "approved," have been quite vocal about these new decisions. Their distress and anger are evident. I do, honestly, understand where they’re coming from — especially in the case of legit publishers who’ve only been around for a year or two.

Here’s the but . . .

I don’t pretend to know why MWA made the changes, but I’m glad they did — however imperfect the list may be. 

To me, a professional/trade organization must stand for something difficult to attain. It’s main purpose is to define and support professionalism in its particular niche — not as a social group or outlet for marketing. Without exams or tough requirements, active status (as opposed to affiliate) means little to those who do qualify.

As soon as I signed my first contract, I joined MWA. I knew from the start that the normal networking that might take place in a larger urban area wouldn’t be available to me. Denver is the Rocky Mountain MWA base and that’s a healthy eight-hour drive from Albuquerque. My networking happens mainly via email and that certainly has huge limits.

Even though MWA doesn’t meet a lot of my needs, I’ll remain a member. I believe its a professional’s responsibility to support the trade organization. (I’ll be honest though . . . If my publisher weren’t on the list — if MWA didn’t consider me a professional — I wouldn’t stay a member. That’s my bias.)

Strict standards for active membership remind me of exams for entrance/certification into a profession and I’m not going to tell the examiner what to test me on.

Other writing organizations have similar requirements:

Romance Writers of America draws sharp distinctions between its PRO and PAN and other members.
International Thriller Writers does, too. And, look at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as well.

I’d like to know what Murderati readers think about all of this. Do you, as fans, care if publishers have been vetted by a professional organization? Will the new definition that LCC has adopted affect your willingness to attend the Denver convention next year? (Disclosure: I’m helping with publicity on this con and expect it to be a wonderful event. Don’t worry: The website will be updated soon.)

What about you, the authors who qualify, who’ve complained about the mix of writers at conventions, will you step up and support the changes or will you sit on the sidelines to watch the fallout?

And, I want to hear from writers who feel they’ve been snubbed. I want to know what they think about professional standards and how they think MWA could have done a better job of defining them . . .

My only request is that everyone BE NICE. I want a true dialog and thoughtful discussion.

I’m not looking for a flame war here and won’t tolerate it.

Here goes . . . 

On Sight

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Near the southern edge of New Mexico sits the state’s second largest city. Las Cruces — "The Crosses" — is a solid four hours from Albuquerque even if your foot hits the acclerator too hard for most of the time.

P1010052I went down there a few weeks ago with my two school-age children to do more research for my fourth book in the Sasha Solomon series. I’d been in the area earlier in the year to attend an international chile pepper conference, but that trip had been limited to sessions about plant DNA, pesticides and fertilizers, and how the local industry was faring against competitors in South America and China.

This time, I didn’t expect to accomplish much with kids in tow. I wouldn’t have the freedom of spontaneity.

It just goes to show how wrong a person can be.

P1010054_2My trip was one of those blessed adventures when everything comes together. I met the right people — the ones who read mysteries, who work at the library, who offered to be my eyes and ears in the town after I left. They told me about great restaurants and marvelous blue highways. I went to the farmers’ market and talked with an old woman who grew and sold medicinal herbs. I met a food processor who allowed me to come back to his business and see how his family makes their products (highly proprietary information). His wife opened their business files so that I could see what the EPA and FDA demand during their annual inspections. For more than an hour, his wife answered every one of my questions. 

I got to see the New Mexico Chile Pepper Institute and its demonstration garden in full fruit.P1010081

P1010091I love doing on-site research. I adore having an excuse to be an observer in a different location, to be able to take notes and veer off the road well traveled. It’s part of the joy of writing my New Mexico series.

But what am I going to do for my new series? How will I reconcile myself with being forced to depend on the internet and my imagination rather than on-site visits? It’s going to be frustrating as hell. Believe me, if I could spend weeks away from home in places like Malibu, Tahiti and Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat, I would.

I keep telling myself that it’s going to be all right. For my first book in series #2, I’ve met some people who live in Houston and who are sending me pictures of River Oaks detailing the plants and animals a person might find there. They’re and telling me about restaurants and stores that the wealthy residents of that area might patronize, what they might wear on a July day there.

P1010051 Still, a part of me screams. How will I get the details that I notice — the smells, the exact color of the heavy humid sky, my first sighting of a palmetto bug — when I’m not there to experience them myself? What if I don’t ask these people the right questions? Will I ever be able to make the places believable to my readers?

So here’s what I want to know from writers: How do you handle putting your books in locations away from home? Have you ever completed a manuscript without visiting the places you mention? How do you get the feel and details that make these descriptive sections real?

And, for readers, what interests you most about the locations where mysteries are set? Of course, I’m talking about real places — not made up towns or villages — the ones you might actually visit some day.

Pushing through the pain

by Pari Noskin Taichert

P8040874_2On Saturday, August 4, I earned my brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. I also broke my toe and seriously bruised my right forearm. In the first photo in this blog, you can see me standing with one foot off the ground. That’s because I couldn’t put my weight on it. The pain was excruciating due to the double whammy of osteoarthritis in the same toe.

P8040867_2 I’ve also included two photos of my friend who tried the same kick (double shuffle front). She had the height and the power, but couldn’t break the boards either.

P8040863_2 I’ve been thinking about this testing and how very difficult it was for me.

The first parts of the afternoon were wonderful. I did the forms — known as "kata" in Japanese martial arts — beautifully. In the first two photos in this section, you can see that I’m in the center; we all faced different directions to make the test more challenging. Look at the concentration on my face when I’m yelling — and with the lower belts whom I was asked to inspire later in that portion of the event — and you’ll see that I put my heart and soul into it.

P8040617P8040603P8040595Master Kim also had me spar with lower belts, to teach them. We had fun; the less advanced participants got in some good shots and felt great about that portion of the testing.

But the real lesson for me came at the end of the day. It was the fact that I couldn’t give up, even though I really, really, wanted to. Believe me, I would have gladly hidden from the world. When that toe hit the board with all the force I’d mustered, I sank to the ground and screamed.

It didn’t stop hurting just because I moved on to another board-breaking technique. I screwed up that one too. I finally broke a single board and felt like a total failure.

(Now, before anyone starts worrying about undue cruelty, I want you to know that I could have stopped; I think Master Kim would have let me. But a broken toe is only a tiny part of a human being and I wasn’t about to give up.)

However, in the photos below, you’ll notice me looking down, holding myself. These photos were shot right before we got our new belts. Master Kim knew this had been an awful testing for many of us and he spoke about perseverance and dedication. All I wanted to do was to run from there and cry in shame; I didn’t feel I deserved such a high rank.

Img_0837_4Img_0834(Do you see the crap I was pulling on myself? How often do we do this, make ourselves feel bad when we’ve actually accomplished something important and have shown true spirit?)

When my husband saw my tears, he spoke to me about true mastery and what it means. People can be dilettantes all of their lives. The real test of your mettle is when you come up against a major setback and you refuse to let it stop you, when you find another way to achieve what you need to do.

Most of us — writers and everyone else — have experienced these moments. They can be seminal.

That day, I forced myself to continue the testing and to go to the celebration party afterward. For two weeks, I’ve looked within to see if I have the strength of will to continue TKD, to earn my black belt.

I do.

It’s the same kind of test I’ve had with my writing over the years. And I’m still here.

What about you? Will you share one of your life tests with us?

I’m in the mood to be inspired.

Confounded Fool

by Pari Noskin Taichert

If it did not seem crazy to talk to oneself, there is not a day when I would not be heard growling at myself, "Confounded fool." Montaigne

I’ve got a question for you: Which came first, the need to write or the need to be read?

After Alex’s and Mike’s wonderful posts this weekend, I’ve been thinking again about writing as a business. That’s sure been the biggest lesson for me during these last four years. All of my fantasies — those Technicolor visions of multi-million-dollar contracts, fans swooning at my feet, international critical acclaim and interviews on Charlie Rose have been eclipsed by the sheer day-to-dayness of sustaining a novelist’s career.

In Repetitive Virginity, I wrote about the fact that when each new book comes out, I fall into the same wide-eyed traps: the fantasies, the giddiness and anxiety, the deep awareness of wanting my work to be read by an ever-growing audience.

This is a good thing. It reminds me of the blessing of not remembering the physical pain of childbirth. Without that amnesia, population growth would be at a standstill.

Without repetitive literary virginity, I’m certain far fewer books would be written.

We need to hold on to some of our Panglossian world views — our faith in the rightness of outcomes — to continue writing for audience.

Sometimes, I wonder how I got into this purposeful track in the first place. When did writing for audience overtake the simple act of writing for personal pleasure? I know these aren’t mutually exclusive, but, for me, the experience of writing now has a different quality.

I struggle with creating novels because of my internal judges and editors (yes, there are more than one of each). But, the sheer act of putting words on paper, finding a new story, meeting characters for the first time and having all of it come together into a viable manuscript is an absolute rush. Seeing that manuscript become a book is heaven. Meeting readers is bliss.

I also love the research. Last week, I took the kids down to Las Cruces to poke around for my fourth Sasha Solomon book. It was one of those blessed trips wehre everything fell into place. I met the right people, had opportunities to see things I never expected to be able to see and ate some fine food. I even met a woman at the farmer’s market there who had read my books and was a true, dumbstruck fan. Talk about a great and unexpected ego boost.

But, most of time as a novelist is spent in front of the computer talking to myself, getting frustrated because I don’t think the story is moving well, feeling irritated that my first drafts read like lousy Dick and Janes.

At this point in my career, I do factor in different considerations than I did when I was younger and wrote only for myself. I CARE about what other people think, how my words might affect them. That doesn’t mean I try to write to other people’s expectations — my books are far too quirky for that — but I want my works to work for strangers rather than for my own self-indulgence.

What madness is this?
Why write?
Why write for an audience?

If you don’t have answers for those questions, how about these?

What fantasies did you harbor before you started writing fiction?
What fantasies sustain you now?

Readers: What’s your take on this craziness?

Secondhand writing

by Pari Noskin Taichert

For many of us, the news last week was grim. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine documented the sad fact that obesity is contagious.

Ice cream eaters shuddered. Pizza purveyors quaked. Donut dunkers’ hands trembled, sloshing the coffee in their awaiting cups.

The implications are mind-boggling. Secondhand obesity threatens to change the elastic band of our society. Will we have to start avoiding overweight friends and family? Will weight loss be legislated? Will overeating become a prosecutable offense?

These questions fried my tortured mind until another shoved its way into the very core of my thoughts. What about secondhand writing? Why haven’t the researchers at Harvard and UC San Diego tackled this frightening phenomenon?

I believe, fellow Americans, that this is a true plague. Writers are everywhere now and their numbers increase daily. Don’t tell me this is just an uptick in creativity. I don’t buy it. I bet the stats are worse than obesity. One in three? Hah! Try one in two . . . or less.

My hypothesis: Like obesity, writing is contagious. Almost everyone I meet becomes "inspired" after hearing I’m a writer. It’s horrifying. Pretty soon there won’t be any readers at all, just an ever-expanding mass of people hogging cliches, using up valuable paper, taking up bandwidth on the internet to see their names in print — their bylines.

Oh, woe is me! Where will it end?

Forget global warming. At the rate this is going, there won’t be any trees left. Words will be horded and sold on the Black Market. Dictionaries will become as valuable as real diamonds. Legislation banning stories will clog our democracy and writing will become a prime target for Mob control. We’ll become victims of La Cosa Literata.

The mind freezes at the horrors awaiting our society, our culture, our world.

Have YOU noticed this health risk?
Where?
When?

What steps are you taking to inoculate yourself against its ill effects?