Sunday, October 30, 2011

Deadlines

Some people fear deadlines.  Maybe it's the ominous first part of the term.  But I have to admit, I love them.  I love knowing they are there to keep me focused, and occasionally, I love the whooshing sound they make as they rush on by.

I'm a writer.  That means I am distracted by every shiny thing known to man AND I've relocated to the Florida Keys for the next six months giving me a whole palette of new things to gaze upon with wonder.  Today, I accomplished a considerable amount considering I woke up hungry (not an unusual occurrence) and decided I must make waffles.  Then I found myself lamenting the horrible writing setup I have in the new abode.  Problem solved with a new office chair from the local Big Box office supply.  Too cheap to have it assembled for me, I spent the next half hour deciding what constituted Tab A and how it fit in Slot B.  Thank goodness my better half knows his way around furniture assembly far better than I do.
Aahhhh.  Just what I needed to buckle down and polish my manuscr--

Sweet!  New email!  Zombie pumpkins, Publisher's Weekly, Airfare Watchdog, writer's group....
Okay, that's finished.  Wow, is it lunchtime already?  Who wants pasta salad?
Settling back into my new chair, I marvel at how comfortable it is.  It's so comfortable that I think I may zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Refreshed and reinvigorated, I return to the manuscript.  I reflect on the alliteration of the last line.  Isn't it delightful?  I dwell on the literary devices open to writers.  Maybe I should inject some of that in my --Holy cow!  My manuscript!

Focus.

Hard to believe that today I addressed all of the remaining formatting issues--especially since the pizza guy is almost here....

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'll Be Write Back...

I spent the last weekend at the Florida Writers' Association Conference in Orlando and hobnobbed with over 400 like-minded individuals.  For those who have never been to a major conference, the energy is phenomenal. I participated in a pitch session that resulted in a request for my full manuscript.  When I can wipe the grin off my face, I'll be back for a proper post.  Until then....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

...And Justice For All

Why do people need social artifacts?  What is it about a structure that can capture the essence of an idea?  How can a statute take away our breath and leave in its stead the resolve to accomplish great things?  Where in a reflective pool do we find the memories of our culture?

Law enforcement is a culture of artifacts:  badges, patches, oaths, uniforms and memorials honoring fallen partners.  We are quick to call each other brother and sister.  Yet, like a family, we squabble and compete for attention.  We unite in grand scale adversity, and bicker in the doldrums of the shift.  

Policing is often an individual endeavor, and many officers find comfort in traditions.  Some wear medallions of Saint Michael, the patron saint of law enforcers, around their necks.  Others slap challenge coins down in a bar and tell war stories over beer.  Some lose themselves in the stress of the job as the years tick by.  Artifacts help people hold onto a collective identity.  The best officers never forget that they are a small part of a greater good.

When I attended the FBI National Academy, I had the opportunity to wander the mall in Washington, DC.  There on the expansive lawns and in the shadow of marble monuments, patriotism positively thrummed through my bloodstream.  Yet, I suspect that it is really a sense of ownership that makes all the monuments, memorials and tributes stirring.  After all, isn’t there a connection, a basic recognition of self and the goals of heroism and strength that each of us holds within ourselves that flares when we cast our eyes upward or stretch our fingers to stroke the cold marble?  

It is only worthy because we deem it such.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Guilty Pleasure

I have a confession.

I love Castle. The television series, not the stone and mortar fortress--although to be fair, there's nothing like a medieval stronghold to launch the creative muse into overdrive. But no, I'm talking Nathan Fillion as best-selling mystery writer Richard Castle shadowing New York Homicide Detective Kate Beckett as she investigates the nefarious side of the Big Apple. It is also the perfect example of how an improbable situation (and I'm being kind) in real life makes for great entertainment.

Writers strive to bring realism to their work, but let's face it; life is often tedious and realism at the expense of story is just plain boring. The writers who craft Castle understand this. Their reel life bears a strong semblance to the real world, but never lets truth get in the way. This is a critical component for writers to grasp and incorporate into their story. Castle gets a lot right. It is the screenwriters' ability to spin a yarn, however, that prompts their viewers to suspend reality, lean back and enjoy the show. Having escorted scores of people on ride-alongs, the premise of a novelist conducting research by shadowing a detective is absolutely grounded in reality. When I worked in California, I facilitated a Citizens' Police Academy attended by best-selling mystery writer Sue Grafton. Life imitating art or art imitating life? Answer? She attended first. What isn't realistic about the show is that NYPD continues to allow him to play at being a sleuth for 4 years. Do you care? That's how you winnow out the nuggets of truth that distract or damage your story. Just make sure you get all the other details right.

Oh, and he really is ruggedly handsome.

Friday, October 14, 2011

And So It Begins....Again

Every endeavor must have an inspiration. Mine bloomed 22 years ago when I held up my right hand and swore to uphold the public trust. Since then, I have served in two states, and either held or supervised every rank in a municipal police department. But this is only half the story, the other half reveals a little girl who climbed the family Mimosa tree and wrote bad (really, really, bad) poetry while cradled in the boughs. Since then, my love of word has only grown, and the creative outlet of writing kept me grounded when the realities of my profession grew heavy.

Today, I am fortunate to be able to merge the duality of my life.

Law enforcement has long been a favorite topic in the media, and its portrayal has ranged from spot-on to dismal. Today, the proliferation of television shows such as CSI, SVU, The Closer and more have created savvy viewers. Crime writers such as Lisa Gardner, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Connelly and others infuse their writing with details of the trade that invite their readers into the lives of their characters. But what about the other genre writers who need to craft a scene involving law enforcement? How can a person who has never sat in a patrol car, served a warrant, or processed a crime scene write a scenario that won't destroy the credibility of their audience?

Getting arrested is not the answer. (Although to be honest, being handcuffed, stuffed in a tiny plastic backseat that smells of --wait, I digress.) The internet has its value, but nothing beats talking with someone who has lived it. Go on a ride along and experience how cramped a patrol car is when it is outfitted with a computer. Talk to the officer. Ask questions. The more specific the question, the better the answer.

This blog is also a resource. The inspiration behind it is to help other writers create realistic scenes and characters. Check back for future blogs. Who knows, you just may find the very tidbit you need to make your story shine.