My mind works in mysterious ways.
Every writer, to a degree, is unique in his or her thought
process. Otherwise, how would we come up with new and exciting tales to
captivate our readers, create characters who spring, fully grown, out of our
minds, like Athena from Zeus’ head? I’m not sure exactly how everyone else’s
minds work, but my thought process is a little, well, off.
Writers, for the most part, are solitary creatures, happily
living in our own minds. We have a 24/7 job. Imagination is a tough wellspring
to turn off. No matter what I’m doing – work notwithstanding – I’m thinking
about work. My stories. My characters. The blog. How to fix that one scene in
the short I’m working on. How to compile the perfect marketing campaign. Book
launches. My characters. Do I need a professional photographer, or will my new
digital camera do the trick? My stories. You get the idea.
I think being a successful writer is really a function of
being comfortable alone. Being content to roam your own mind, allowing your
subconscious to come to the forefront, to acknowledge some of the crazier
ideas, even those that border on sociopathic, harness them, and create from
them. Or we’re just a little bit crazy. Take your pick.
Many writers I’ve talked to claim to be shy – I’m a bit
reticent myself, until you get me going. Is it really shyness? Or is it a
mindset that’s just plain different, and hard for a non-writer to “get?” Are we
shy, or are we actually worried that we’ll be judged for thinking the way we
A lot of my perceived “shyness” problem stem from the way I
look at the world – a bit skewed, off-kilter. To be honest, I’m a little
sheltered. I’m always so excited to find another like mind, someone who won’t
be freaked out if we talk about an autopsy over dinner. Journalists make good
friends; they’ve seen so much that it’s hard to shock them. For obvious
reasons, law enforcement folks are lovely dining companions.
The question I’m asked most often is, “Where do you get
your ideas?” Actually, it’s an interesting question, because I’m willing to
venture a guess that we’re all inspired by different things. It’s what makes
our writing so unique. My ideas can come from a mundane walk around the
neighborhood, a television show, another book, a dream, or real life
occurrences. Here’s a perfect example of both my skewed perception and a story
This past weekend, Hubby and I were in a big box retailer
who will remain nameless so I don’t get sued somewhere down the road. We were
searching for an overstuffed pillow. I’m pawing through the lumbar rolls when
something shiny winks up at me. I lift the pillow and see… a knife.
No kidding. A knife. Lying quietly on the shelf, under a
pile of pillows. It’s a standard steak knife, serrated blade of about 5 inches,
black handle. Now this strikes me as strange. Why would there be a knife
concealed under a stack of pillows on the shelf of a big box retailer, unless
someone was trying to hide it?
We have a mystery, and I’m juiced beyond recognition. I lean
in and look closely for signs of blood or tissue.
Hubby, well trained after living with a forensically minded writer for many
years, admonishes me not to touch it. Duh. To my untrained eye, there’s something
on the first inch of the blade; it looks like it’s been wiped off.
I find an employee, share my nugget of information. I ask,
half joking, if someone had been stabbed in the store today? She looks at me
like I’m out of my mind, then immediately shows an appalling lack of both
imagination and common sense. Despite me saying “Really, don’t touch it, let’s
get your supervisor,” she touches the knife. Actually picks it up, and holding
it pinched between her forefinger and thumb, walks away with it. My dreams of
being interviewed on the news for finding a murder weapon slide away. But I
tuck it into the cranial file folder to use at a later date.
Other juicy story ideas come from the 24-hour news cycle. On
May 15, 2006 a great story broke. A manhunt was on in the Kansas and Missouri
area for a couple suspected of murder. As the day progressed, more information
came to light. A body had been found in a shallow grave. Rumors began that a
videotape of the murder had surfaced.
Now, that’s more than enough information for me to create a
story. Fascinated, I dropped what I was doing and read all the news accounts I
could, watched FOX, and caught the story as it unfolded. By the time Hubby got
home, the videotape had been confirmed. A couple, Richard Davis and Dena Riley,
were suspects, wanted for the rape, sodomy and murder of 41-year-old Marsha Spicer.
The information is pouring in, and I’m thinking – man,
that’s a pretty sophisticated first murder. And they taped the whole thing?
Told Hubby right then and there, there are more bodies out there. I was
smiling. Thinking, Ooooh, this is a good story.
That’s where I go horribly wrong. It’s not that I enjoy the
pain and suffering, I don’t. I abhor violence. I’m a big fraidy cat myself. But
my inner monologue loves this stuff. It’s all processed, sanitized for my
edification, then spit out, ready to be fictionally capitalized upon. I can
separate my psyche from the actuality of the situation and create a fictional
case around it, no problem.
I was right about the couple from Missouri. Two more bodies
have been linked to them. I feel vindicated, in a way. My research has paid
off. I recognize the bad ones quickly now.
The news is fraught with ideas. Hour long news shows are
dedicated to open cases. Families with media savvy get their message out,
sometimes with good news at the end of the story, sometimes bad. I watch
endlessly, and all of it goes into my brain funnel, to be brought out and
chewed upon by my subconscious. Many times, I’m haunted by nightmares. I wake
and write these down. Other times, I can’t sleep. Saying a prayer for the
family helps my conscience, but what am I really doing to help? I’m not. I’m
glorifying their pain and suffering into words.
I realized that writing thrillers is just my way of coping.
In my stories, there are happy endings to go along with the bitter. Bad men are
caught and or killed. There is retribution and revenge; I mete out the
punishments, and I’m not shy. I’m happy to make them hurt. I wish I could wave
my keyboard over the homes of the true victims, ease their pain a little.
Perhaps, one day, they’ll read a book I’ve written and will realize that this
is their story, and in the make believe world, they’ve won.
With that in mind, please stop by Murderati next Friday and
see if you can’t help solve a real cold case. Tell all your friends, too – the
more people who come, the better chance of finding some long awaited answers.
Wine of the Week – La Crèma Pinot Noir
I know some of you are probably sick of reds by now, so
I’ll throw a bone to the white lovers out there – Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio
“Charity never faileth: but whether there be
prophecies they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether
there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy
in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part
shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a
child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish
things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I
know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth
faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”