Momentary Lapses

This blog was created during a momentary lapse, a period when I'm stuck in my writing and trying to jog something loose in my brain or push myself so close to deadline that I can kill, without remorse, the beloved opening or headline or quote that is keeping me from moving forward. Most of my posts here will have to do with writing, including occasional Favorite Writing Quotes (FWQs). Please share yours, and your comments, too.

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Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Thanks to the mother of one of my Sisters in Crime for her no-nonsense reply to the age-old writer's lament, "I don't know if I'll ever get this book done."

"You will if you want to."

I really can't add anything to that.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Calendar Girl

(Photo by Roger Leo)

Call me Mrs. June.

This photo is taken (with permission--nay, encouragement) from the Sisters in Crime New England 2007 Calendar. That's me on the left with the deadly clippers (secateurs to you Brits) with fellow Sisters in Crime Judy Copek and Toni L.P. Kelner and Brothers in Crime Hans Copek (alive) and Steve Kelner (dead).

The month is June, which happens to be my birth month, and I also appear with the other sisters in the August group photo. I'm holding one end of the banner with the slogan I wrote for the national 20th anniversary celebration of Sisters In Crime: "SinC into a Good Mystery." I hope you will. For SinC Books in Print, visit

Additional images from the calendar and ordering information are available at

Monday, October 09, 2006

"Impressively Adequate Fiction"

I got the chance over the weekend to meet Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month, and hear him talk to an audience at MIT. The on-line writing challenge started in 1999 as "an over-caffeinated dare" and has grown from 30 participants to more than 42,000 last November. Chris's idea is simple: "Thirty days, fifty thousand words, you and your imagination. Go!"

I first signed up for NaNoWriMo in 2002 and completed a 50+K draft of a mystery novel--on December 2nd. In 2003, I tried to clear the decks of all distractions and minimize my other commitments in November. As my plans began to fail and item after item got added to my calendar, I gave up at about 25K. I tried a different strategy in 2004, concentrating on adding to the daily word count and making no particular effort to avoid other commitments. I even attended my first New England Crime Bake weekend smack in the middle of the month. I finished my 50,000+ novel draft with about two hours to spare. Last year, I followed the same strategy and finished ten hours before the deadline.

And that's what NaNoWriMo gives me: A deadline and permission to get on with the writing and to leave details like plotting and characterization to either work themselves out along the way or wait for the revision process. Chris Baty calls this "Releasing your inner MacGyver, the part of your brain that thrives on high wire, no net below, clock ticking situations."

So, I've decided to take on the challenge again in November 2006. I'm not sure what or who I'm going to write about yet. I might give some characters from a recently written short story their own novel-length adventure. I might develop one of the backstories from last year's NaNoWriMo project. I might ignore the highly-polished first chapter I wrote for a mystery novel about eight years ago and plunge into the story fresh and determined to see it through to conclusion.

Stay tuned. And visit if you want to take up the challenge to write 50,000 words of "impressively adequate fiction."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

About the Hat

Yup, that's me wearing the mystery-writing hat my son gave me for Christmas last year. So far, it's served as an ice-breaker at writers' events, concealed the evidence of a bad hair day, and kept my head dry on a rainy walk to Kate's Mystery Books in Boston. My goal is to wear it, at least in spirit, for some part of every day as I wrestle with the draft of my first mystery novel.

Writing Update: Yesterday I sent off the revised manuscript of a short story, "Deceptions & Desires," for a one-on-one critique by a published mystery writer at the New England Crimebake. The submission was restricted to 15 pages, and that limit helped me refine my draft. The biggest decision I had to make: Get rid of the opening line that had been the genesis for the story in the first place. Yes, it was intriguing, but it also gave away a plot turn and was forcing me to start the story with a prolonged flashback to the events that came before that part of the story. Once it was gone, I was able to introduce my first-person narrator, Cape Cod Detective Jeff Jenner, in a more detailed and natural fashion. (Yes, he's getting up in the morning, but only because he's been called to a crime scene. No tooth-brushing or ruminating on the night before involved.)

Lesson Learned: Limits can help you stretch your writing skills.