Category Archives: Pari Noskin Taichert

In the thick of it

by Pari

This holiday season, the only sugar plums dancing in my dreams have price tags on them.

I’m thinking about travel arrangements for our Left Coast Crime 2011 guests of honor; making sure those *hotel rooms at La Fonda are really for our convention guests; programming; my budget; designing and ordering tote bags; the cost of entertainment; whether or not to have convention pins made; how much audio visual equipment we’ll need since we have to pay for it all; my budget; the auction(s?); advertisements in our program books; trying to get sponsors to help defray costs; identifying tasks for volunteers; getting volunteers; public relations and media attention; whether to cap attendance at the convention; name badge pouches; budget, budget, budget; getting discounts for attendees on the local shuttle service; our financial ability to provide extras; budget; how to make people feel welcome; answering all my wonderful committee’s questions and making decisions when there aren’t obvious answers .  . .

And, Lord, help me, the food.

Let me tell you about the food. I thought I was doing a fabulous thing by including two continental breakfasts, hors d’oeuvres for the welcoming ceremony on Friday night, and a banquet buffet (which is more expensive than a sit-down dinner, btw) on Saturday – all in the convention registration price.

That’s a lot of grub.

And when you stop to consider that EVERYTHING food-related in Santa Fe has an approx. thirty-three percent (yes, you read that right) additional fee slapped on for service charges and city taxes, well, that’s a lot of food to provide.

However, now my committee tells me that people will judge us harshly if we don’t have snacks in the f**king hospitality room. Snacks. La Fonda is a dream to work with, a delight. I negotiated a wonderful room/night fee for our LCC members to stay in an historic hotel, with enough personality to knock every attendee’s socks right off, and it’s mere feet from the heart of the city. The cost for that great rate? I agreed that we wouldn’t bring in food ourselves.  

And now the lack of a bowl of pretzels or popcorn might totally undo all the incredible effort we’re expending to make this convention a success?

Grrrr. All I can say at the moment is that it’s good this blog isn’t in video format. You. Do. Not. Want. To. See. Me. Right. Now.

Okay. It’s time for several cleansing breaths . . . in  . . . out . . .  in . . . out . .  .
Focus, Pari. Think about what you
can do . . .

All right. Here’s something; I can remind people about a few dates they might have forgotten and spotlight a few new ones.

Jan. 1 – registration fee goes up
Jan. 1 – award nominations begin
Jan. 15 – main deadline to be considered for a panel (we’ll give the nominees until Jan. 31)
Jan. 21 – nomination period ends
Jan. 24 – nominees announced
Jan. 31 – hotel rates for people not already registered for LCC go to the normal, higher La Fonda rate

Whew! That feels better. More in control. But then there’s this:

* Hotel rates
[Begin rant]  In our contract with La Fonda, we agree to have a certain number of hotel rooms filled each night. People who have reserved rooms but haven’t committed to coming to LCC could really torpedo our budget.  Plus, there are many other attendees who’d love to stay at La Fonda — who have registered — and would be delighted to have the opportunity!

So  . . . my message is this: Stop hedging your bets.
We’d love to have you at LCC. But if you’re not planning to come, please give up those rooms now while we can fill them.
[End of rant]

Okay. I’m done pouting now.
I’ve combed my hair,
gotten dressed,
and had my second cup of coffee . . . 

1.  What is the most important thing – content, food, entertainment, location – to you at a convention?

2.  Are snacks in the hospitality room a deal-breaker for you?


Meet Dirk Cussler. Yes, THAT Cussler . . .

by Pari

When Bookworks, one of the truly great indy bookstores in my city, contacted me about a possible interview with Dirk Cussler, I jumped at the opportunity. I was fascinated with the idea of learning how Dirk started working with his legendary father, Clive Cussler, and how the two them could keep coming up with their action-packed plots — that span continents and centuries — for all these years. I also liked that my Albuquerque readers will have the chance to meet Dirk and Clive this Wednesday night

Tell us about the new book Crescent Dawn.
As with most of the Pitt books, a historical element provided inspiration for the story. In this case, there were actually two events. I became interested in the loss of the H.M.S. Hampshire, a British cruiser that sank under mysterious circumstances in World War I, while transporting Lord Kitchener to a secret meeting with the Russian Czar. Dozens of rumors and theories abounded after the sinking, including speculation that the ship was sunk by the IRA or even the British government, rather than a suspected German U-boat. It all seemed to me like good fodder for a fictional sub-plot. At the same time, Clive was intrigued by Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who traveled to Jerusalem in 327 A.D. to search for relics of Christianity. The trick was then to tie the two events into a contemporary-staged thriller.

What inspired you to start writing with your father?
About eight years ago, I quit my job in the tech industry, where I’d worked in corporate finance for almost 15 years. Kicking around to do something different, and with the writer’s bug nibbling at my extremities, I teamed up on a writing project with Craig Dirgo. Dirgo had co-written the two Sea Hunters books with Clive, which were non-fiction accounts of several of the NUMA shipwreck expeditions. Dirgo had also worked with us on a few of the actual searches. So he and I started working on a non-fiction historical book we hoped might lead to a series project  . . . but ultimately went nowhere.

About that same time, Clive was working to finish Trojan Odyssey. He was 71 and supporting my mother, who was battling lung cancer. That made for a weary time, and I think he lost his passion for writing a bit. Seeing that I had a sincere interest in writing at that point, he called me up out of the blue one day and asked me if I wanted to take a crack at writing a Pitt novel. It was a proposition I never anticipated, but I eagerly jumped in with both feet. I never expected to be writing the Pitt books, but having essentially grown up with the series, and having a little extra insight on their creator, it’s been a completely fun experience. My father and I have a strong relationship, so it is of course quite rewarding to be able to work together with him, even if it did come a bit late in both our professional lives.

How do the two of you work together?
As fortune has it, my father and I only live about ten minutes apart in the Phoenix area, so we see each other several times a week, whether writing or not. We actually work separately, but meet often to discuss the current book’s progress.

What’s the division of labor?
Most of our joint work is at the front end. We’ll meet together regularly over the course of several weeks to kick around plot ideas and then hash out an outline. Once that is set, then I’ll go off and do the bulk of the actual writing, with my father editing along the way. I would say the challenges of working together are few, beyond the normal struggles of writing a book. It’s a real pleasure picking the brains of my father, however, as his creativity seems to have no bounds.

What do you think are the essential elements of good storytelling?
I might say that the three C’s of Character, Conflict, and Compulsion are at the heart of any good story. Writing action adventure tales, we don’t necessarily delve too deeply into the psyche of the characters, but it’s always important that the reader can empathize with one or more of the main figures. Some measure of action is required, typically driven by a conflict or odyssey of some sort that leads the characters forward, either physically or mentally. And it all must be done in a compelling manner that keeps the reader turning the pages, be it by mood, dialogue, style elements, or the conflict or action itself.

photo: C Ronnie BramhallWhat’s up next? Any solo writing?
Clive and I have already been formulating some plot lines for the next Dirk Pitt book, so I expect to begin writing on that shortly. I haven’t yet found the time to complete a solo novel…but some day!

What’s going on with the real NUMA right now?
We’re currently involved with two ongoing NUMA search projects, one in Lake Michigan and one in the North Sea.  We’ve been searching in Lake Michigan for a Northwest Airlines DC-4 that crashed in a thunderstorm back in 1950, and represented the worst air fatality accident at the time. In the North Sea, we are also trying to locate the Bonhomme Richard, the flagship of John Paul Jones which sank after battling a British squadron in 1779.  We’ve spent several unsuccessful years looking for this one, but hope to try again next summer.

Thank you so much for this wonderful interview. I look forward to reading your — and your father’s — books for many years to come.


Dirk Cussler, an MBA from Berkeley, worked for many years in the financial arena, and now devotes himself full-time to writing. He is the coauthor with Clive Cussler of Black Wind, Treasure of Khan, and Arctic Drift. For the past several years, he has been an active participant and partner in his father’s NUMA expeditions and has served as president of the NUMA advisory board of trustees. He lives in Arizona.

Clive Cussler is the author of forty-two previous books, including twenty Dirk Pitt® adventures; eight NUMA® Files adventures; seven Oregon Files books; and two Isaac Bell thrillers. His most recent New York Times bestsellers are Spartan Gold, The Wrecker, and The Silent Sea. His nonfiction works include The Sea Hunters and The Sea Hunters II; these describe the true adventures of the real NUMA, which, led by Cussler, searches for lost ships of historic significance. With his crew of volunteers, Cussler has discovered more than sixty ships, including the long-lost Confederate submarine Hunley. He lives in Arizona.

(I’ll be out of pocket much of the day today, but will respond to comments as soon as I can this afternoon. In the meantime . . . enjoy!   
Cheers, Pari)



by Pari

A few weeks ago, I started a blog about public relations and marketing. Originally I thought the endeavor would be a good way for me to share what I’ve learned during decades of work in a field that I respect and enjoy. The other impetus was that I’ve written a fair number of short articles  about PR and they’re just lying around. So why not pull them out, organize and update them and eventually turn them into an e-book? It seemed like a nifty and easy project. A no-brainer.

But something changed between the first post and the fourth. I realized that during the last few years my whole attitude about public relations has gone through a subtle but seismic shift. I’ve always cared about what I do, but now I’m only taking on clients whose missions I adore. And that, my friends, has affected how I think about PR in general. All those already-written articles need a rewrite because I no longer want to merely present the tricks of the trade; I want to frame them within a different context.

You see, I don’t think you can be good at PR without heart.

So what is heart?

There’s the rub. I’m not sure I can define it well and I don’t want to cop out and say something like, “I know it when I see it.”

But the horrible thing is . . . it’s true.

Here’s how this new framework is affecting me:
The Election
I’ve been particularly disgusted this year with the hoopla leading up to tomorrow’s election. You know why? I realized that it’s because in spite of all the finger-pointing and righteous indignation, the glossy brochures, robocalls and slick television advertisements  — there’s no heart. Sure there’s anger and passion. But how much of that incredibly loud, rude and mean-spirited noise is coming from that place where a person goes deep within to find his or her personal truths?

I just finished The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis and remain totally floored by it. The book is a masterpiece of storytelling. I don’t remember the last time I read something that affected me so that I can’t stop thinking about it. Why this book? I think it’s the incredible concern and caring for each other the characters manifest during extraordinarily tough times. Willis is such a fine storyteller that she doesn’t need to bang us over the heads with the heart of her characters, she just shows us their actions and we’re forever changed.

The wonderful school my children attend is in the process of selecting a new leader. Because I’m a concerned parent, I went to every meet-and-greet with the candidates for the job. The two that impressed me most had an incredibly powerful spirit, and fabulous enthusiasm for education and their role in it. I came away from both of their interviews thinking the world is lucky to have these people who know themselves so well that they can be this passionate about what they do.

I’m helping with the school’s annual fund this year. The process has made me think a lot about the fundraisers I know and those who are most successful. They’re the ones that believe totally in the work of the organizations they represent. Because of this conviction, they’re able to inspire other people to feel and understand the organization’s mission . . . and to want to participate in that story by opening their wallets and checkbooks. 

What’s it all mean?
I know this post is jumbled. That’s because I’m in the middle of looking at the world through this particular pair of glasses. It feels important to me. Critical, in fact. I want to be a person who operates from that center of heart in everything I do – personally, creatively and professionally.

Otherwise . . . why bother?

Today’s questions:

1.  First of all, did I make any sense?

2.  Do you have examples of where heart exists or is lacking in the world – or your own life — right now?

3.  What book has touched so deeply you felt permanently changed by it?

I look forward to a good conversation.


“Because Kait is worth the truth . . .”

by Pari

I remember when I heard about Kaitlyn Arquette’s murder. It was 1989 and I worked in PR at St. Joseph Healthcare Corporation. My office was just a few blocks from the gas station where Kaitlyn was shot in the back of the head. Hell, I’d gotten gas there, had parked on the same stretch of crappy real estate where her car came to rest after being run off the road.

The murder was too close somehow. Too unthinkable. How could this 18-year-old, beautiful, bright girl be killed like that? It also sat horridly in my heart because one of my good friends still lived with the unresolved questions surrounding her sister’s murder more than a decade before.

Two young women, alone on a dark night, each murdered in cold blood. And no one could explain why.

In Kait’s case, after a few months the police claimed the murder was a random drive-by. But for some reason, the questions surrounding Kait’s murder didn’t go away. People I knew and respected whispered about police cover-ups, insurance scams, Vietnamese gangs, witness intimidation. In the newspapers and on television, Kait’s mother, Lois Duncan, talked about uncovering forensic evidence that refuted the idea that the murder could possibly have been random . . . or a drive-by.

A prolific and award-winning YA author, Duncan wrote a book in 1992 that cast serious doubt on the investigation and its conclusions. She did the national media circuit, verbally sparring with reps from the Albuquerque Police Department and the DA’s office. (Robert Schwartz was the DA at the time.) Those appearances on Good Morning America, Unsolved Mysteries, Sally Jessy Raphael and Larry King breathed new life into the investigation  . . . for a little while.

Kaitlyn Arquette isn’t front-page news anymore. The corner on the busy street near Albuquerque’s downtown looks as innocuous as ever.

And more than 20 years later, Kait’s family remains convinced the shooting was absolutely NOT a random drive-by. Is this irrational grief? Are they deluding themselves?

The police still stand by their investigation and conclusions. Are they right? Or was there malfeasance that should be looked at anew?

I don’t know. But I think that there are too many valid unanswered questions. I also know that the Arquettes didn’t start out as conspiracy nuts. They were just a regular family not angry at or suspicious of the police. Through the years, with reason, they became disillusioned.

Lois and I have known each other tangentially for years – one-to-two degrees of separation. We reconnected more recently on Facebook. Two weeks ago she told me that someone had set up a Kaitlyn Arquette channel on Youtube. You can watch some of the media clips there and judge for yourself.

As a parent, my heart aches for the Lois Duncan’s continued pain at the loss of her daughter. As a mystery writer who basically has tremendous faith and respect for law enforcement, I can’t ignore the questions Lois, her family, and credible private investigators have raised.

Decades ago when Larry King asked Lois what she possibly hoped to accomplish by keeping the investigation alive, she answered simply that her Kait deserved the truth.

She does.
My friend’s family does.
Everyone does.

So, look at the website and media clips.  If by some strange coincidence, you have information on this case, please contact Lois here. Who knows? Maybe you know more than you think.

And for discussion today  . . .

  1. Do you have good examples of police investigations? Detectives that deserve a shout-out for the work they’ve done?
  2. Do you have examples in your own life of investigations that ended with only more questions? Or that were abandoned before they should have been?

Those people

by Pari

I’ve been thinking about stereotypes and generalizations. We’re taught that they’re evil, to be avoided. But let’s be honest. We use them every day to categorize our world. They provide a necessary shorthand, without which we’d be mentally paralyzed.

But how do we know when we’re using stereotypes and generalizations in the negative? I’m not talking about the obvious, easy examples. We know they’re bad. It’s the subtle everyday ones that interest me. The thing about them is that they’re frequently only negative in the eyes of the beholder. 

Here’s an example: In one of my books (it’d give too much away to name it) two kids, who’d been abandoned by their birth mother, end up being the bad guys. A few months after the book was published I received an angry email from a reader.

“Adoption has such stigma and challenges already,” she wrote me. “Why did you perpetuate the myth that these kids are problem children in their new homes?”

Short answer? I didn’t.

Longer answer? I wasn’t saying what the reader chose to read into that particular plot point. I know good parents can have rotten children. I knew it at the time I wrote the book too. But the woman my protag cared about didn’t deserve these kids and I didn’t want them to be of her blood.

And now there’s my WIP. It’s a YA novel. The protag is a freshman in high school. She’s a tall girl who has already earned her black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She knows how to take care of herself and is self-confident until kicked in the gut with problems no one should have to face. During her first week at a new girls’ school, the only student who offers her a glimmer of friendship is a “little person.”

Why did I choose to have the tallest kid in the class befriend the smallest? Because that’s how it came out. Both these girls experience being different in a real, physical – visual — way. And that informs who they are and their immediate gravitation toward each other.

And yet . . . I can already see the nasty-grams because the little person in this book isn’t a charmer. The  comments won’t come necessarily from “little people” either. With my Sasha books, especially the last one where I reveal some of Sasha’s own nasty prejudices, I’ve received comments from non-Jews who didn’t like her attitude.

Why is it that people take offense at certain stereotypes and generalizations and not at others? I can guarantee that no one will refuse to buy my future book because the blonde is a bitch. Tall people won’t be pissed that my protag doesn’t always act admirably. Martial artists won’t put me in a choke hold when they see me.

So what gives?

Questions for today:

  1. Can you give an example in your own work where something you wrote with one intention became a hot button for someone else?
  2. Should writers care about those potential hot-buttons? Does it compromise art to consider them?
  3. What are some of the stereotypes and generalizations we use daily?
  4. What are some less common examples that drive you batty? 

Enjoy the video below. It’s a happy stereotype buster:




Those Pesky Voices

by Pari

I’ve been thinking about the voices that impact my life. I’m talking about the ones I hear when no one else is around. A bevy of naggers, destructors, cheerleaders and optimists that crowd my inner life and influence the way I work, parent, and perceive the world and my relationship to just about everything.

Many cultures believe that naming something gives the namer (yes, it’s not a word, but it should be) –or the named – power. But how many of us have bothered to stop and name our voices? I suspect most of us simply listen without any filters.

Well . . . no more. I’m going to give it a shot right here, right now.

The first are a family of scraggly-haired, snaggletoothed, warty women. They live in the open on a tiny island in the middle of a swamp with an incredible amount of methane gas and sulfur. Only acid rain falls on their muddy, bleak domain. The subsist on moldy, half cooked grains — and bugs — scounged from around their yard. They speak in creaky, cracky, wheedling whispers. The only thing they can successfully grow is decay.

Let’s get out the disinfectant, bug spray, pointed stakes and matches for  . . .

Ms. I’m Crap, My Writing Is Crap, My Life Is Crap

Ms. I’m A Bad Mother and her sister Ms. I’m A Bad Wife

Ms. Why Does Everyone Else Always Get All The Attention?

Ms. This Will Never Work

And their cousins Ms. Why Bother? and Ms. I Don’t Deserve Success

Down the road from these maggots masquerading as ladies is a run down cottage. Its walls used to be white and strong, but now they’re a strange combination of peeling, crumbling shades of brown and gray. A spindly hedge with pale green leaves and large black thorns surrounds the thatched round-roofed building. Three middle-aged sisters, wearing torn dresses and stockings with countless holes, hoe and dig in the hard dirt. They think of having a garden someday, but do nothing to improve the soil. They eat gray flavorless foods. Dust covers their expressionless faces.

Hello to  . . .

Ms. This is Hard, So Why Don’t I Give Up?

Ms. There’s Never Enough, I Need More

Ms. I’m Selfish For Taking Time For Yourself

and everyday, sometimes more than once, their neighbor stops by: Ms. Clean the F*cking House

Several miles away from the other two dwellings is a modest brick home. Its front yard has beds and beds of herbs – borage, basil, lemon balm, rosemary, lavender and so much more – and fruiting apple, apricot, peach and cherry trees. Hummingbirds, bees, ladybugs, spiders and praying mantises find happy refuge here. In the backyard on the other side of the garden’s fence, chickens cluck. The building’s windows are all open, the doors too. Every room is full of natural light. All are welcome to come in and sit in the kitchen at the large wooden table for a cup of coffee, tea, or a slice of homemade bread with butter and honey. Cello practice, fingers clicking on a computer keyboard, grunts from rigorous exercise, singing and laughter – oh, so much laugher – testify to the health of this dwelling.

Let’s embrace the last of my voices . . .

Ms. Isn’t Life Beautiful?

Ms. My Life Is Filled With Love

Ms. I Like The Person I See In The Mirror

Ms. I Am So Fortunate

Ms. There Is Enough

Ms. Thank You For Absolutely Everything

Ms. How Incredibly Interesting! How Cool!

Ms. Maybe This Would Make A Good Story

and Ms. Why Not?

I’m sure there are more names, more voices. But doing this today, taking the time to name and personify some of them, has been fascinating. I’m left feeling a little naked and, strangely, cleansed, lighter, more powerful.

Tell me . . . Who are your voices?

Theme week(s) at the ’Rati: Work space & writing process

by Pari

Oh, man, this is embarrassing . . .
When we decided to take two weeks for the ’Rati to write about our workspaces and processes, I thought it’d be nifty. What better way to learn how my cohorts work and how their home environments reflect their personalities and literary brilliance?

That was before I looked at my own office.


Crap sticks.



As you can see, there’s a certain amount of chaos in my life. I won’t defend it. I always have several projects going on at once and my workspace reflects that . . . rather painfully. Up until July 1, I wrote my fiction in this chaos too. That’s why I still have posters and inspirational sayings on the wall behind my computer and to each side of it.

I managed to produce five manuscripts here along with several feature articles and short stories. So even if it seems horrific to the neater folks reading this post, it worked for me. But anyone who has been following Murderati for the last year knows I’ve been going through tremendous transformations in my career and self perception. The slapdash approach I had for the first decade — mas o menos — just stopped being effective for this new, improved Pari.

On July 1, when I made the vow to write fiction daily, I needed a workspace that mirrored that commitment. So I appropriated one wall in the mess of my office for free-rein creativity. No editing allowed. No self-criticism. No distractions (unless they feed my creativity). NO INTERNET.  And I came up with this:

Isn’t that better?

I know it may seem cluttered to you, but to me it’s quiet — easy on the eyes and mind. I keep my little notebook computer here; it’s dedicated solely to fiction.

Every time I walk into my office, I consciously decide if I want my business or writing hat on. If it’s the former, I head to the desk with the clutter (though to be honest, it’s cleaner since I took those photos.) It’s where I’m sitting right now writing this blog. It’s where I write features, do my public relations work for clients, post anything on the internet and send emails.

It’s where I edit my fiction too.

I use Open Office to write all of my stories/manuscripts now. When they’re done, I put them on a flashdrive and bring them to the business computer. To make the distinction even more profound, I convert those docs to MS Word. The result is that my internal editor, and quite a few of my demons, now sit at the messy desk. They don’t interfere with productivity, though they’re causing a bit of a bottleneck in Heinlein’s Rule #4. (You can see that in the third picture in this post.)

While it might seem hokey, by making the division between my business space and fiction space so pronounced, I can more easily protect my creative process. Self-doubt isn’t permitted on the fiction side of my office. If it starts to creep in, I get up and move. Simple. And amazingly effective.

If I’m in need of positive inspiration while writing fiction, I look out the window. More often, I glance at the statue my friend sent me. It’s the Hindu god Ganesha — the god of success and remover of obstacles — with additional talismans that mean something to me.

For those wondering about my schedule or methods, I can’t say I have much of either — and that’s embarrassing too. I have the secret fear that ALL of my colleagues are far more together than I am in this regard. But the truth is that I’ve tried outlining, index cards, strips of paper, white boards . . . and none work well for me. Rather than tools, they seem like fetters.

So I just write my fiction every day. By doing so, I affirm the habit of creativity and put it in a place of honor in my life.

Well, that’s it.
I hope the following two weeks are interesting for all of you. I know I can’t wait to see and read what everyone else posts through Toni’s round-up entry on Sept. 19.

Bonus Pictures: I just had to share this. It’s a patty pan squash we grew that’s about the size of both of my hands. Yummmm.

What is a writer?

by Pari

Is the mere act of “calling” oneself a writer enough? Does someone who journals occasionally merit the appellation? Is publication a requirement?  Is a person who composes haiku as worthy of the name as a novelist who can’t manage to tell a story in less than 900 printed pages?

I’ve wondered about this for a long time. It bothers me most during dry periods when the computer screen and a blank piece of paper seem as terrifying as abject poverty.

During the assured and comfortable years when I was writing, editing and concepting my Sasha Solomon mysteries, the issue didn’t unsettle me. I was writing. I was getting publishing. I was valid.

Even when I had days or weeks with no more productivity than penning a grocery list, I still called myself a writer because I was living the life, living the dream . . . and I had street cred because of my three novels and two award nominations.

Then came the decision to discontinue my NM mystery series (at least for now), the life-changing Master Class, the need to start making a predictable income by going back to my PR consulting roots . . .

And, suddenly, I didn’t feel like a writer anymore. I hadn’t published much fiction in a few years. Writing had lost its joy for me. I felt like I had to force every word. Was I a sham? Could I legitimately call myself a writer when I wasn’t telling stories from my heart anymore?

My self identity plummeted. I felt like an imposter whenever I thought about writing and what I was doing with my life. Let me tell you, the world turned gray there for awhile.

In July, I decided to try something different. I promised myself to write fiction every single day. No exceptions. The quality didn’t matter – crap or brilliance – it was all the same. The amount didn’t matter – a sentence or 20 pages – the act was the important thing. In order to feel like a writer, I had to nourish my creativity daily. Period. I had to commit. I had to be consistent.

The first few weeks of the month were difficult. Who knew I could come up with so many excuses to avoid my computer?  “Well, then you’ll just have to use pen and paper,” I’d tell myself.

“I only wrote 100 words and they’re all shit,” I complained.
“Cool. Think of them as literary compost for whatever you’ll write next,” I responded.

Slowly I started feeling better, more honest.

This month, I decided to push myself further. I’m noting my daily fiction word count on my FB “fan” page. Without trying, I find myself writing more, getting lost in the story with greater ease and pleasure. I’m having fun.

I feel like a writer again . . .

So what do you think?
What is a writer? Is just calling yourself one enough?
Does consistency matter, writing daily/weekly/monthy?
Is publication a requirement? Once published are you forever a writer — whether you’re writing anymore or not?
Does length matter?

Who cares about privacy?

by Pari

This week I planned to write a blog about my experience with voir dire in federal district court. I sat down at the computer and, as usual, checked my email. The first message was from my kids’ school saying that its liability insurance carrier now requires background checks on all parents volunteering for school activities and/or driving for school events.

Screeech! I skipped a grove on the old vinyl and ended up in Pissed-off Land.

Perhaps most people don’t give a damn about privacy. I’ve heard it’s a generational thing. People my age care. The under-50 crowd doesn’t.

Is this true?

I, like my husband, have nothing to hide. Nothing. That doesn’t stop me from hating the idea that total strangers will have copies of my driver’s license. I also don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry to have my Social Security number. (Why is it even called “Social Security” anymore when it’s used for id’ing purposes anyway? It didn’t use to be.)

I’m not naïve. I know there must be files and records on me, cluttering cabinets and gigabytes all over the place. I’ve seen how some of that information is handled. Hell, I worked as a temp all over DC for more than a year. Confidentiality in most offices is a total myth.

Nowadays this is more worrisome. There’s the little issue of identity theft.

Just as vexing is the pervasive societal presumption of guilt. Are we really assuming that everyone and her brother are pedophiles with crappy driving records full of DWIs?

I find it difficult NOT to take this kind of request/requirement for background checks and other personal information, well, personally even though I know they’re not meant that way. They’re just so damn heavy-handed, on a par with the school principal punishing an entire class for one kid’s transgression.

Perhaps the military is okay with this approach for team-building. But we’re not doing that here. We’re talking systematic suspicion, automatic distrust. Lawyers might benefit from this attitude, but it’s chipping away at civility in our society in the process.

We’re all so angry.

I’m not proud of this, but my first response to the school’s email was to write a snotty one of my own. “Give me the names, social security numbers and drivers’ licenses of the people who’ll be handling my info. Oh, and BTW, what are their credentials? Q Level clearance?”

Of course I didn’t do it. Well, actually, I did write the letter. Then I deleted it and called the school for more info. But my first reaction was there. I could’ve hit the SEND key as easily as the DELETE.

Am I being unreasonable? All I know is that this trend, and the public’s tacit acceptance of it, disturbs me to my core.

  1. Do you care about privacy? Where are your limits on what’s acceptable to request and what isn’t?
  2. Am I’m being silly?
  3. Does the whole let’s-suspect-everyone-of-wrongdoing-until-he/she-proves-otherwise meme upset you or is it just par for the course?
  4. Do you know anyone who has suffered from identity theft? What was that person’s experience?

I’m looking forward to your replies.


Who am I?

by Pari

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all existential on you. Leave that to Camus . . .
But I have been thinking a lot lately about what I write and why I write it.

Up until the Master Class, I always introduced myself as a mystery writer. End of story. Let people draw whatever conclusions they wanted. I knew what that meant. However, a weird thing happened during those two weeks in Oregon. All of us wrote well more than 30,000 words. And guess what? Of the three short stories, the ten or so book proposals, and all the other assignments, I came up with exactly one thing that had to do with the mystery genre. Yep. One measly four-page book proposal.

Of course, I didn’t write anything funny either. But that’s probably due to the fact that I was so tired I skipped over being slaphappy and went straight into morose.

What the hell?

The mystery thing, the lack thereof, seriously messed with my mind. I’d established myself with writing traditional mysteries. That’s where I’d garnered nominations, met other writers, relished spending time with readers. And I was abandoning all of that?

Skip forward nine months. I’m writing daily again. Short stories for now. The pieces I’ve worked on so far are all over the place – in terms of genre – horror, fantasy, mainstream, literary. Notice anything missing?

It seems that my identity as a mystery writer has somehow morphed into something far simpler but much more problematic.

I’m a writer.
C’est tout.

From a marketing/public relations perspective, this is a disaster. Conventional wisdom dictates that once you’ve established an audience, you should keep writing works that audience expects/wants. That way your readers can find you. But screw that!

I don’t want to be consistent right now. I don’t want to shove myself into any category – not even fiction vs. nonfiction. I just want to write, damnit! I want to have fun, to explore where my creativity wants to go next, to see what’s around all those twisty turns in my mind.

So where do I go from here?

Hell, I don’t know.
I’m just going . . .

(More food for thought: Toni Causey’s excellent exploration about writers and joy and joy in writing from yesterday — right here in the ‘Rati. Go there immediately if you didn’t read it. Go on. I’ll wait . . .)

My questions for discussion today:

1. For everyone: Has your personal myth, the one you repeat to yourself and the public, ever changed unintentionally?

2. Readers: Should writers stick to their successes, write what they’ve written at least some of the time, to keep growing audience? Is it a betrayal when they don’t? Should they use pen names to give readers/editors a clue that they’re going in new directions?

3. Writers:  Have you ever had these moments of redefinition? How have you handled them? Have they brought you joy (thanks, Toni) or caused misery?