Monday, August 30, 2010

Hank and Ro and the ALA - or, Who Loves Us, Bloggers?

During the American Library Association Convention in June, Rosemary Harris and Hank Phillippi Ryan recommended a few blogs. 

They had this to say:  "We only had a limited time and so we had to choose a broad selection—there are lots of other wonderful blogs out there. The goal of our talk was to introduce librarians to mystery and thriller blogs, and encourage them to check them out. (Little library joke.) We emphasized it’s a great way to connect with authors, learn about new books and become part of the community."

And I have this to say:  "Yay Yay and Yippee Skippy!  I am over the moon that Meanderings and Muses was included!"

Rosemary and Hank listed their suggestions in alphabetical order.

I, being the greedy guts girl that I am, have moved Meanderings and Muses to the top of the list.  heh heh heh - sometimes it's good to be Queen of My Own Domain.

Drum Roll, please - - -

Fan and avid reader Kaye Barley has amassed a surprising number of followers and guest bloggers. She’s a trendsetter in the mystery community, beloved by authors from every genre in the field.  This blog is a low key, friendly and informative must-read–especially if you are interested in the genre buzz. 

(Tickled pink?  Me?!  You bet!!  Many Thanks and Many Hugs to Hank and Rosemary!).

 And, in all seriousness, if you're not familiar with the following blogs, please do yourself a favor and take a look.  I heartily join Hank and Rosemary in recommending them.

Features JB Stanley, Heather Webber, Lorna Barrett, Kate Collins, Deb Baker, Leann Sweeney, and Maggie Sefton. “We blog about our writing and our lives and discuss book promotion.”  They send quarterly newsletters and hold seasonal contests for readers.
“Ferociously talented women dedicated to the fine art of crime fiction.  Charlaine Harris, Dana Cameron, Kris Neri, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Toni L. P. Kelner, Elaine Viets, Mary Saums and Donna Andrews bring their wit and wisdom to this long-running cyberchat.
Feature two dozen authors published by Midnight Ink Books.  They blog about all aspects of the writing life–motivation, editing, publicity, marketing, book signings, and libraries.  Some bloggers are Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams, Beth Groundwater, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Felicia Donovan, Julia Buckley, Deborah Sharp, Alan Orloff, and G. M. Malliet.
Started about 2 years ago by a high school English teacher.  At JBT you’ll find review, interview, news about book events and author events, and special projects like “Six-Word Memoirs from Crime Fiction’s Greatest Writers.”  JBT has also incorporated video interviews on the blog.  Visiting authors have included James Lee Burker, Michael Connelly, Gregg Hurwitz, T. Jefferson Parker, Michael Koryta, Dennis Lehane, Sue Grafton, Lisa Unger, and Ken Bruen.
Writing well is the best revenge.  Multiple award-winning authors Hank Phillippi Ryan, Rosemary Harris, Roberta Isleib, Rhys Bowen, Jan Brogan, and Hallie Ephron write about writing, not writing, reading, and the publishing world and the real world.  Jungle Red Mondays are a special chat among all the authors, in a “View”-like atmosphere, they invite visitors to join in the discussion.  Wednesdays showcase a special guest–such as Katherine Neville, Linda Fairstein, Carolyn Hart, Michael Palmer, agents, editors, and some of their favorite librarians.  Fridays are “anything can happen!”
Lesa Holstine is a library manager in Arizona who has worked in public libraries for 37 years. Her blog features book reviews, author interviews, and recaps author appearances.  Articles are frequently picked up for syndication, and can often be read in the Chicago Sun-Times.  She also reviews women’s fiction for Library Journal and crime fiction for Mystery Lovers’ Journal.
The renowned and successful Lipstick Chronicles just celebrated five years online, and now includes authors who appeal to a broad fiction audience.  It’s irreverent, edgy and often hilarious, it gives an up-close look at some top notch writers.  The bloggers have won every award in the industry: Brunonia Barry, Diane Chamberlain, Heather Graham, Harley Jane Kozak, Margaret Maron, Nancy Martin, Louise Penny, Nancy Pickard, Cornelia Read, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Sarah Strohmeyer, Kathy Reschini Sweeney, Elaine Viets and Jacqueline Winspear.
Mystery maven and North Carolina author escort Molly Weston’s blog features mystery author guest bloggers on Tuesdays and reviews of great mysteries not usually found on the NY Times Bestseller List.  Meritorious Mysteries offers readers crime fiction gems they might not otherwise find.
Hard-boiled and medium-boiled mystery and thriller authors take turns writing thoughtful and provocative essays.  Their website says: “…examines critical themes, historical archetypes and trends in publishing, marketing and the life of the published author.”  Bloggers are: Alafair Burke, Alex Sokoloff, Allison Brennan, Brett Battles, Cornelia Read, JD Rhoades, JT Ellison, Louise Ure, Pari Noskin Taichert, Robert Gregory Browne, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Tess Gerritsen, Toni McGee Causey and Zoe Sharpe.
Poe’s Deadly Daughters bills itself as “a blog for mystery lovers.”  Bloggers are Elizabeth Zelvin, Sandra Parshall, Sharon Wildwind, Lonnie Cruse, Julia Buckley, and Sheila Connolly (aka Sarah Atwell).  Often it’s books, reading, the writing process, creativity, or language, but also a vast range of topics from crime and alcoholism to parenting and animals.
Seven Criminal Minds includes 12 crime writers including Kelly Stanley, CJ Lyons, Meredith Cole, Sophie Littlefield, Bill Cameron, Shane Gericke, and Rebecca Cantrell.  Each week, they respond to questions about writing and reading, murder and mayhem–focusing on one topic.
“Women writers on mission to bring mystery, human and high heels to the world.”  Visitors to TSG are treated to “healthy doses of humor, opinion, mysteries, and information.”  Gang members are Evelyn David, Marilyn Meredith, Maggie Barbieri, Rachel Brady, Misa Ramirez and Susan McBride.
Stop, You’re Killing Me is a resource for lovers of mystery, crime, thriller, spy and suspense books.  “We list over 3,300 authors, with chronological lists of their books (over 38,000 titles), both series (3,700+) and non-series.  And it’s perfectly fine with us if you print our pages for your private use, especially for a trip to your local library or bookstore.”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Road to the Skull Ring by Scott Nicholson

Scott Nicholson is the author of nine novels, including Speed Dating with the Dead, The Red Church, and Drummer Boy. He’s also written four comic series, six screenplays, and several children’s books, in addition to four fiction collections. Writing advice, articles, art, and more are available at

The Road to The Skull Ring
By Scott Nicholson

As a kid, I was very easy to please–just give me some crayons and scrap paper and I would stay quiet for hours. While the wax babysitter did wonders for family harmony, it also helped me build a rich internal world where anything was possible.

I still remember the impact of those odd Dr. Seuss books and how words could be silly and serious at the same time. And then I entered the world of monster comic books, learning a different type of storytelling, and so I started making my own comics on folded notebook paper. In the middle grades I was winning essay contests, and by high school I was the weird guy writing short stories and humor for the school newspaper.

My college years involved lots of writing classes and a strange mix of influences ranging from Hemingway, Vonnegut, Lennon, Brautigan, and the classics to mood-altering substances. I was writing serious fiction that had no plot and involved lots of suicidal guys smoking cigarettes. Highly original, I know.

Somehow my creative energy shifted to song writing and rock bands, but I still played with words, eventually getting back to fiction when I took my second turn at college. Again with the writing classes, but now my influences had broadened to include mystery, science fiction, horror, suspense–lots more commercial fiction. I remember a guy brought his novel to class, written on yellow legal pads and based on the Dungeons and Dragons game, and I was thinking, “Well, if he can do it, I can do it.”

A year and three novels later, I was finally ready to start learning, and my fourth novel actually sold, but it was my fifth novel, The Skull Ring, that got me my first agent. I remember his saying at the time, “I like it but I don’t see it being a big novel.” 

I wanted to say “Well, I can write it on 11" x17" paper with a font size of 48 if you want,” but in those days you pretty much had to just put up with whatever your “handlers” said was reality. Though we sold six books together, for some reason The Skull Ring never came up again. I think we pitched it to my editor and he came back with “Satan is too dated.”

I didn’t know Satan could go out of style.

Actually, Satan is not a character in the novel, though it does contain Satanists. My heroine Julia Stone is piecing together childhood memories when the past starts creeping back–first in mysterious messages, then little clues around her house, and soon in larger, more threatening ways. And the therapist who is privy to Julia’s innermost secrets has begun to violate and exploit that trust–and the rural handyman is taking a little too much interest in Julia’s affairs.

Inspired by actual case histories described in psychological diagnostic manuals, Julia undertakes a journey to hell and back–much of it in her mind, though certainly she has plenty of tour guides along the way.

I hope you’ll take that journey with her. Because Julia Stone will remember...even if it kills her.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Secret of Good Writing . . . by Leighton Gage

Leighton Gage is the author of the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Series, police procedurals set in Brazil.

He loves to communicate with people, which may be one of the reasons why he is fluent in three languages and conversant in three more.

He loves to travel, even to places that other folks may not find particularly appealing. He visited Spain in the time of Franco, Portugal in the time of Salazar, South Africa in the time of apartheid, Chile in the time of Pinochet, Argentina in the time of the junta, Prague, East Germany and Yugoslavia under the Communist yoke and lived in Brazil during the time of the military government.

He and his Brazilian-born wife spend much of the year in a small town near São Paulo and the remainder visiting children and grandchildren who live in three other countries.

The Secret of Good Writing…

…is rewriting

Ernest Hemingway rewrote the first chapter of For Whom the Bell Tolls twenty-two times. When asked, How come? The Master said, Because I couldn’t get the words right.

I cannot think of a better way to put it.

It takes me a year to write each of my books.

I work from outlines. I know how a book is going to end before I sit down to write it. I generally have the first draft on paper within six months of developing the overall concept.

The rest of the time I spend on getting the words right.

A friend of mine, a woman whose writing rhythm is much like my own, told me of a signing she’d done with another author. He said to her, I write three books a year. Do you think your books are three times better than mine?

Flabbergasted (great word, that. How often do you get to use a word like flabbergasted?) she was unable to give Mr. Fecundity the kind of answer he deserved.

Backward, turn backward,
Oh, time in thy flight,
I’ve thought of a comeback
I needed last night!
             - F. G. Kernan

A sweet and simple Yes would have sufficed.

It would have been true as well.

Each of her books is three times better than anything that gentleman (gentleman?) has ever written.

He’s able to grind out his three books a year because he doesn’t re-write any of them.

There was a cartoon, years ago, in The New Yorker. It showed a diminutive French sculptor. (You know he’s French because he’s got a little moustache and is wearing a beret.) He’s up on a high ladder with a mallet in one hand and a chisel in the other. His wife, hands on hips, is standing in the doorway of his studio. The huge statue he’d been working on has just split down the middle. Her line: There you go again, Pierre. You and your ‘one more tap’.

I identify 100% with that gentleman.

I don’t have a beret or a moustache, but that’s me.

One More Tap Gage. (My taps are on keyboards.)

With every book, I keep on tapping until my publisher tells me the galleys are set in stone.

I think all of us should do likewise. We owe it to our readers.

A few years ago a gentleman I knew wrote a novel. His first and only. He developed a great premise, wrote it in a furious one-off, and submitted it to agents. And received the usual rejections.

Impatient, he self-published – and, only then, did he ask me to critique it.

I owed this guy. So I did it. I read his work, made copious notes and composed myself for a long session with him. Fifteen minutes in, he started to balk.

“I already wrote it once,” he said. “I don’t want to write the damned thing all over again.”

I told him what I tell anyone who considers embracing this profession: If you’re not prepared to write your book all over again, don’t waste your time writing it in the first place.

He wasn’t so prepared. He gave up.

Here’s a photo of me at work.

See that stack of paper? That’s a clue, that I’m revising, maybe for the fifth or sixth time. I don’t remember which draft it was, but I do remember the book I was working on: Every Bitter Thing, the fourth in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva series.

Like all the others, it took months to get the words right.

Our shopping lists, my grandchildren’s drawings, my daily notes, messages that my wife and I leave for each other – all are on the back of marked-up manuscript pages. The mother lode of the entire neighborhood’s supply of scrap paper is located in my office. Every book yields a stack half as tall as the working surface of my writing desk. I bought a laser printer because I got tired of waiting for manuscripts to print-out on my aged inkjet.

I have never seen a single page of my prose that I didn’t think I could improve upon by re-writing.

Including what I’m writing now.

I’ll put it aside for a few days when I’ve finished banging it out.

And then I’ll tap, tap, tap.

And tap again before I send it off to Kaye.

And, since you, Dear Reader, are unlikely to honor me by putting it on a shelf in your home, or paying to acquire it, I figure I can take some liberties with it.

By not revising this post anywhere near as much as I would a book.

Knowing me, that means I’m going to blush when I see it up on Meanderings and Muses.

Should I have begun three phrases in succession with the word And?

Should I have kicked-off the post with the description of the cartoon instead of the quote from Hemingway?

Stuff like that.

There’s always a good deal to consider, even in a short post like this one.


It’s not only the secret of good writing.

It’s the soul of writing well.

Meanderings and Muses - where's it going from here ?

Who would have ever thought this blogging thing might ever become a bit of a problem?!

On July 25, 2008, I was guest blogger at The Stiletto Gang Blogspot - - I wrote a piece called "Smoking and Not Smoking"  At that time I had just quit smoking.  It was just the most fun writing that piece.  I had no idea I had words inside me that wanted to pop out. (still not smoking, by the way.  I haven't had a cigarette since May 2008.  I don't know the exact date 'cause I didn't want to get caught up in saying out loud (even to myself) "this is the very last one," and being disappointed in myself when it wasn't.)

Then in September, 2008 I was guest blogger at Murderati - - JT Ellison invited me to share thoughts about "A Virtual Montparnasse."  JT had no idea, I'm sure, that she was a party to building a monster.

Then, in October I made my first trip to Bouchercon

the rest, as they say, is history. 

It was an incredible experience and all the emotion needed an outlet.  With the help, and seemingly, the blessing of Evelyn David of The Stiletto Gang, and JT Ellison, I now knew there was a perfect outlet for me.  Blogging was born with me in mind, I'm sure of it!  The monster was unleashed.

When I first started playing around with blogging, I had not a clue.  Truth be told, I'm still doing it by the seat of my pants.  I knew I had some things I wanted to say.  One of the things I will always remember my friend Vickie saying is "if you don't really want to know Kaye's opinion, don't ask."  After poo poo-ing blogging in general for a couple of years, I was now not only a convert, but one with a mission.  I knew I didn't want to blog every day.  Even if I could think of something interesting to say every single day, I knew I wouldn't have time.  Not and say it the way I really wanted to say it.  So, thought I.  How about tapping on a few shoulders and see if maybe some friends in the mystery community might want to come play?  I wanted my new on-line home to be similar to Bouchercon.  A whole group of people, many of whom know one another, but many who may not - hanging out and enjoying one another and their one known commonality - crime fiction.

Next I wanted my on-line home to look pretty.  We always want our homes in the best shape possible when company comes to call, right?  Why not extend that same respect and care to our on-line homes for our on-line friends and family.  It took me (a non-techie) a long time to come up with what seemed to work.  I had no idea what I really wanted, so I browsed around in Blogger knowing I would know what I wanted when I found it (sorta like that perfect pair of shoes).  As time went on, I stumbled onto a lot of  different backgrounds and designs, played with a few of them for awhile, then with the newest version of Blogger designs I made yet another little change, which is where we are now.  I'm sure, though, that, like life - we'll see more changes while we're here.  Along the way, I had to ask a lot of questions and count on several experts to get me to a point I was happy with.  A major snag in the very beginning was learning the name I really wanted for my new home wasn't available.  Someone else had already snagged it.  The nerve!  So I just had to play around with the words until I was able to place them in a way that someone else had not yet stumbled upon.  Hence, we have Meanderings and Muses.  And that picture of Harley is a nice fit, and seems to sum things up quite nicely, don't you think?  He had wandered meandered down our driveway, and appears to be thinking musing about whatever he sees down the bank around our pond.  Probably a bunny, possibly a deer.  Or maybe he just had a thought he wanted to ponder a bit while he sat in the snow. I do like "Meanderings and Muses" loads better than "Wandering and Thinking" don't you?

So,  then I made a list of names of people I'd like to have as guests in my new home.  I was heartened and gratified when so many of them graciously agreed.  I had initially hoped for 12 responses, thinking that if I could get one guest a month, it might prove enough to keep some folks interested enough that they'll be willing to drop in every so often to see who might be visiting.

Suffice to say, I got a few more than 12 responses.  And now, by golly it's grown.  A lot.  I now have two guests every week; one on Mondays, and another on Thursdays.  Additionally, I also have guests on the occasional Saturday.  And this past year I received some notes from people who were interested in participating.  Some of whom I just was not able to accommodate, but not because I didn't want to.  If I didn't have this pesky little full-time job, it would be a different story.

Through all this and future changes, I want Meanderings and Muses to remain what it started as.  A group of people who love books, (mysteries and crime fiction mainly, but not exclusively).  I also want to continue the mix that, to me, keeps the mystery community the special place it is.  A lovely mix.  Writers who are well known, along with those who are not so well know.  Writers who are still working towards being published, along with fans who just enjoy reading good work (and who are the most loyal group of people on God's green earth).  All of whom truly enjoy one another; offering advice, assistance and words of encouragement to one another freely and without ego.  Mixing and mingling, sharing a hug, a laugh, and a memory. 

When I first started this adventure, I didn't give a thought as to where it was going, or if it even had a future to think about.  As the first year was drawing to a close, it dawned on me I had to make a decision as to whether we'd try again or just fade into oblivion.  The only way to find out whether we might have a go at a second year similar to our first was to send out some invitations and just wait and see if we were going to be able to fill enough dates with guests to move forward.  The calendar was filled within a couple of days.

Recently, I decided to try something a little different in an attempt to fill next year's calendar. First,  I really wanted to try to lasso in a few of my very favorite people who have not participated in the past.  Writers - well-known and not so well known, bloggers, reviewers, and readers.  So.  Here's the thing.  And I have to admit, it's been a bit of a surprise.  While trying to gather in some new voices, I've received a couple of notes from people who have been guests in the past asking why they were eliminated from my invitation list this year.  Not so.  Not so at all.  I'm just issuing invitations differently this year.  And right now, I'm really just getting started.  No one is being eliminated from my list of guests.  However,  truth be told, unless I want to have a different guest every single day (which I don't), I'm not going to be able to invite everyone I'd like to invite this year.  So, please be patient with me and let's see how this works.  If someone who has participated in the past does not receive an invitation this year, it's only because the calendar got full before I got to everyone I'd like to include (that has not happened yet).  The invitations (once I was able to contact several new guests), are going out in a totally random fashion.  I'm sure there's a better way of doing this.  But.  It's the way I've chosen to do things this year.  Randomly.  Totally Randomly As a name pops into mind, I'm sending them an invitation.  There truly is no rhyme nor reason to how these are being sent.  I'm not out to hurt ANYONE'S feelings, and I'm not passing over anyone intentionally for any reason.  I still have some dates to fill.  The invites will be continuing for several more days, maybe even another week - maybe two.  Next year, if Meanderings and Muses is still around, we'll see how the invitation process irons out then.  And chances are, if someone has participated in the past but doesn't receive an invitation to participate this year, they'll receive one next year (IF we're still around).  I may have to start staggering the invitation list from year to year.  But you know what, it's early!  Everyone who is interested "may" yet receive an invite.  Again, bear with me, please. 

I'm tickled pink so many have agreed to play.  Including some surprises.

I'm gratified beyond words that Meanderings and Muses has become a place that seems to have garnered your respect, and still maintain its uniqueness.  Some posters may find it disconcerting that there aren't a lot of comments left.  Me too!  But - I can assure you; we continue getting a lot of hits.  A LOT!  And as you know, many of you receive comments in your email, or on your Facebook page instead of here in the comments section.  I have a theory about comments.  I'm thinking there are a whole lot of reasons why some people don't leave them; one of which is just simply not feeling comfortable with doing that.  Another is that they just simply don't want to be viewed as someone who's bouncing all over the web leaving random comments far and wide; so they read and then just move on.  It's O.K.  We all, honestly, do a lot of that, I think.  But I think it's fair to say that what you're writing is being seen.  You do have an audience here.  A very appreciative one; including me.

I want Meanderings and Muses to always be a place of honesty, where we can speak our feelings freely while showing respect to those who think and feel differently than we might in our ideologies.

But mostly?  Hell, Honeys - I just want you to have fun !

When the 2011 calendar is complete, I'll be posting it right here.  I hope you'll keep checking back often.  I enjoy having you all drop by.  And I hope you'll enjoy all the terrific guests we have lined up for the coming months.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Robert Fate served 8 years in the Marine Corps, studied at the Sorbonne, and worked as an oilfield roughneck, a TV cameraman, a fashion model, a chef, a sales executive, a fabric painter for the garment industry, a scriptwriter for the soap Search for Tomorrow, an independent film producer, and an Academy Award-winning special effects technician. Around the age of 70, he tried his hand at writing crime fiction, which resulted in the Baby Shark series, told in the voice of a young woman named Kristin. The series has gotten good reviews and award nominations. (Baby Shark and Beaumont Blues, the first two books in the series, are Anthony Award finalists. Beaumont Blues earned a Library Journal starred review, book three, High Plains Redemption, earned a starred Kirkus review, book four, Jugglers at the Border received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.)

by Robert Fate

My Dearest Kaye –

I know I said yes––how can anyone say no to you? And though I normally like the sight of a blank page, all white, no marks, just waiting to be defaced by the written word, contributing to your successful blog was intimidating. Concerns such as these came to mind: How do I meet this challenge with something new? How do blogsters do it day-to-day? What wine would JT Ellison choose? Where did I leave my garter straps? Etc.

Well, since responding to questions is easier for me––and since easy constantly figures into the way I make choices––I asked Brant Randall (some know him as Bruce Cook) to fire some questions at me. I figured that only a magician could fathom what he might ask, given his twisted approach to life, and that in itself could be the originality, the fresh approach, I was seeking––along with inner peace, which is something else I always have an eye out for. Anyway, I felt Brant’s questions might make something interesting happen. Ha! (That slipped out. Sorry.)

So, all of the above is to say, if this goes to hell in a hand basket, Brant is to blame. I’ve included a picture of him so all may be warned as to his identity.

Brant: What prompted you to depart from your Baby Shark series?

Fate: You must be referring to Kill the Gigolo, the noir stand-alone I’ve just finished, wink, wink. I hope the rest of your questions aren’t going to be so blatantly self-serving. (Brant can be a twit and his first question is a good example.) But I should try to take him seriously. Well, Brant, there was a story and a character that had been kicking around in my old brainpan for a while. I tried it with a friend as a screenplay a few years back, but couldn’t get it to fly, so I thought after four Baby Shark stories, I’d just take a break, and see about a new angle on a story that I’d had in the drawer long enough. My hope is that the readers of the Baby Shark series will give me a chance to try something new. It’s darker than my series with characters that lie, cheat, steal, and murder, but live interesting, if hopeless, lives. I’m aware that noir is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve done one anyway, complete with an unscrupulous, cruel, and deceitful femme fatale––can it be noir without her?

Brant: How does writing multiple POV differ from the 1st person of Baby Shark?

Fate: Trickier than all gitout, he said without using expletives. There’s something comforting about being inside Kristin Van Dijk’s head. She’s a dangerous young woman who’s capable of doing violent things to bad people, but is basically a good girl. You sort of always know where you are with her, even when she’s killing someone. She’s taught me a thing or two about humanity as I’ve trailed along on her adventures and seen things through her eyes. Now this multiple point of view business is another matter. First you’re inside the Gigolo’s head, then you’re hearing the thoughts of a mafia soldier, or one of the gigolo’s amoral clients, or sharing memories with a mob hit man, or the dreams of a Mexican policeman. It took some getting used to, all that moving around from mind to mind. It’s a kind of literary democracy, really, since the reader is in on everything and can know about the schemes that are being hatched before the poor protagonist is blind-sided. But, in the end, the story gets told no matter how it’s done and for me that’s the important thing. I want the reader to be involved in the story and care about the characters––even if they are creation’s own worst nightmares.

Brant: Why did you start a new career as an author at 70?

Fate: When I was much younger, a woman I respected told me something that at the time seemed too straightforward to be taken seriously, but later I saw the wisdom of her advice. We were discussing me returning to college after my military service. She said the time would pass whether I attended university classes or not, but after that time was gone would I be looking back at a wasted opportunity or looking forward better prepared for the rest of my life? Time passes regardless of what we choose to do. Time passes, so what difference does it make what age we are? The best time to start something is today.

I’d never written a novel. I didn’t think that I could, even though I had written stage plays, screenplays, television scripts, magazine articles, poetry (oh, oh, my wife just fell asleep. The mere mention of my poetry puts her right out.) Anyway, even after all that writing, the novel seemed out of reach until I accepted an invitation to join a group of dedicated writers who had set a goal of writing a mystery novel and getting it published. Time passed. Instead of worrying about whether I could do it or not, I wrote Baby Shark. And then, Beaumont Blues. And then, High Plains Redemption. And then, Jugglers at the Border. And then, Kill the Gigolo.

I turned 75 in July. You asked me why I started a new career at 70. I think, after all things are considered, I did it to keep from having to look back and ask myself why I didn’t do it.

Brant: What impact does your previous work as a male model have on your writing?

Fate: Brant, my man, you are such a weird guy, and that is such a strange question. But, okay––let’s see. I went to NYC from L.A. in the mid-sixties, ostensibly to write a stage play with Don Chastain, a friend, who was, at that time, in the cast of a Broadway show. (Some may remember him from TV as Debbie Reynolds’ husband on The Debbie Reynolds Show.) It was the blind leading the blind when it came to penning a stage play, but looking back Don and I didn’t do too badly. Our finished product was read and considered. We got a shot. It was close, as they say, but no cigar.

Anyway––modeling. Well, having been born a member of the working class, a job was necessary to pay the rent and eat. So, as I considered labor, a girlfriend who was employed as a model in NYC suggested I give fashion modeling a try. She introduced me to some folks, I got hired, more work followed, and I ended up modeling for several years, and subsequently got a lot of writing done, as well.

That’s how that went down. Now, what impact did the work have on me as a writer besides the opportunity to practice removing adverbs from my finished products and putting food on the table at the same time? Every job I’ve had has exposed me to a new perspective and nothing can be more important to a writer. To have seen and done as many things as possible can only help when a story is unfolding in your mind, the smells, the sounds, the attitudes of the bit players––it all comes together better if you’ve had some first hand experience. During those years of modeling, I worked at and visited places I never would have seen without a job that provided a way in the door. I met folks in advertising, photography, the arts––people I might never have met if I hadn’t been modeling. To say nothing of the wardrobe I ended up with.

There was a minor celebrity that went with the work, too, that made it fun.  Strangers (mostly women) would say, “Aren’t you the guy in the Sak’s ads?” That sort of thing. After a picture of me landed on the cover of the New York Times Men’s Wear issue, I ran a copy by to show Robin Bright, a friend and noted fine artist. He took a look at the newspaper, and said, “Let’s go over to Fulton Street and watch ’em wrap fish in you.” In case you were wondering, that’s what friends are for.

I have sent along a copy of that Times Men’s Wear cover in case anyone is interested in a picture of Robert Fate at age 31. Eat your heart out, Brant.

Brant: Do you write to a schedule or wait for the muse to descend upon you?

Fate: I close my eyes, the muse is there––won’t leave me alone. I write every day and have written every day for years––always writing something. Not that everything I write needs to be read, most doesn’t––thought I’d beat Brant to the punch with that one.

But, for instance, I never think of a book as finished until it’s published, and it’s still a target, even then. I will fidget with it until someone pulls it from my grasp. My writing group routinely ignores the chapters I submit, knowing if they have two weeks before we meet, I will have rewritten what I sent at least twice––wait a minute. Two weeks? Make that four rewrites. I must say that there has never been any work that I have done that has been more satisfying to me than writing––and, in particular, the novel. Regret is an ugly thing and is to be avoided. Everyone knows that. But, between us, I wish I’d started writing novels years before I finally fell into it.

Brant: Since Baby Shark is a private eye type series, why did you go noir for Gigolo? What attracts you to noir? Are you afraid of losing your readers by going so dark?

Fate: Brant goes for the big finish. Notice how he ganged up on me with this last question? The simple answer to part one is the two stories are very different. A private eye story is optimistic. The reader never believes the private eye will fail in his/her attempt to right a wrong or save a client no matter how difficult that may be to accomplish. Baby Shark fills the bill. Kristin, Otis, and Henry all champion good over evil, and are willing to put their lives on the line to defend that point of view.

A noir story, on the other hand, is anything but optimistic––no heroes in that fiction. You wonder how the protagonist can meet so many losers, and which will be the one who suckers him in the worst way, who will be the greediest, or play the dirtiest trick on him? I am attracted to scenes of criminals squabbling over stolen goods. Anything is possible in an atmosphere drenched in greed and selfishness. I can imagine a reader not caring who wins those arguments, since all parties are equally depraved. But there will be, even in noir fiction, someone you can hope will survive, someone who might actually learn a lesson and straighten out his or her life. But that’s a lot to hope for in noir.

I’m hopeful the readers of the Baby Shark series will allow me to tell a different story now and again, even if it is a bit of a departure from what they consider the norm. I promise more Henry, Otis, and Kristin very soon––in fact, I am several chapters into a new story at this time. It takes place a year and a half after Jugglers at the Border, in the spring of 1960.

We are leaving the 50’s, but it will be a slow transition to the many revolutions that hit their stride in the mid-60’s. The series is easily two books away from Kristin and the gang having to face the major issues of the decade, i.e., sex and drugs and rock’n’roll, civil rights, Vietnam, feminism, et al, but you can count on our heroes adapting to the times––well, getting Otis to give up his fedora may be more trouble than it’s worth. We’ll see about that. And Jim and Linda have puppies to birth. Much to think on.

Thank you, Brant for the scintillating questions, and thank you Kaye, for the opportunity to appear on Meanderings and Muses––and sorry about the mention of my poetry that no doubt caused a large number of your readers to doze off.

My warmest best regards to everyone, Bob Fate

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When a Writer Can't Write by Shirley Wetzel

I was born in Comanche, Texas, but I soon got bored and hopped a train bound for Key West three weeks later, accompanied by my mother and big sister. My dad was in the Navy, and we bounced around the country, finally settling back in Texas.

I started writing as soon as my fingers could hold a pencil, and have never stopped. Most of what I wrote was for my own amusement, but a few years ago I decided to get serious and started submitting personal essays, historical stories, and such to magazines, newspapers and anthologies. To my amazement, I sold most of them. My first love, though, is mystery. Last fall my first mystery short story was included in A DEATH IN TEXAS, published by L&L Dreamspell. I love to travel, and have seen a lot of the world, including Thailand, where I lived for two years, Guatemala, where I worked on a Highland Maya archaeological excavation, Turkey, Peru, and various parts of Mexico. My current work in progress is a mystery titled A Death in Comanche, and it's been in progress a loooong time. I write book reviews for, and sometimes for Mysterious Morgue. My blog address is

When a Writer Can't Write
By Shirley Wetzel

Back in 1996, when I first began to attempt to become a published writer, I started a mystery called A Crime in Comanche. I was going to call it Comanche Moon, but some other Texas author bet me to it, and even though titles can't be copyrighted, I figured it was best not to compete with Larry McMurtry. I started out like gangbusters, sitting down at work (sorry, boss) every morning, putting my fingers on the keys, and letting them fly. I used some of my colleagues to base my characters on, with permission (mostly), and they waited eagerly every day to see what new delight had poured out of my brain. I quickly discovered a problem. While the beginning wrote itself in the proper place – at the beginning of the book – other chapters showed up out of order. After several months, I had a beginning, an ending, and a bunch of chapters that went somewhere in between. The book came to a screeching halt. I just couldn't figure out how to pull it all together, so I put the pages away and worked on other things.

I took writing classes, read, read, and read some more, all kinds of books, dissecting each one to figure out what to do and what not to do. I read books by my favorite authors, mainly authors who wrote the kind of books I wanted to write. I devoured books on writing and tried to learn from them how to get my act together. When I felt bad about my lack of stick-to-itness, I found solace in learning I wasn't alone.

Mark Twain, one of my heroes, had this to say:

"As long as a book would write itself, I was a faithful and interested amanuensis and my industry did not flag; but the minute the book tried to shift to my head the labor of contriving its situations, inventing its adventures, and conducting its conversations I put it away and dropped it out of min mind. The reason was very simple … my tank had run dry; the story … could not be wrought out of nothing."

Mark understood! It wasn't my fault, it was the book's fault! I found another quote to support my theory, from Howard Waldrop:

"When I was a young guy just starting out, I'd find I couldn't finish a story. Then I figured out the story wasn't ready, so I waited until it was ready and then I wrote it." 

I recently found a small journal with this quote on the front page:
"My muse is like the Texas weather—long spells of drought and despair followed by days of wild, uncontrollable outpourings from the skies." - Shirley H. Wetzel, 24 June, 1996

That's just how it had to be for me, it was obvious. I wrote several essays and articles just that way, and they got published. When my novel decided to finish telling itself, it would do so. Right? No, of course not. My writer friends told me the first thing to do was "put butt in chair." Sit there and write, whether I felt inspired or not. Get something on the page, anything, bad or good, just keep going until you work through the block. I do try, but as Farley Mowat, whose work I do not know, said:

"...[I]f someone tells you writing is easy he is either lying or I hate him."

I acquired some discipline, overcame my inherent laziness, and wrote. I participated in my writing group, got inspired, wrote two short stories for anthologies, a family history, a historical article. Then life smacked me right in the face. My father died, my mother is not doing well, and I have a health problem that is chronic, progressive, incurable … life sucked big time in the past year, and the future is uncertain. So what do I do? I write. Not short stories, not my long-overdue mystery, but blog posts about how life can really suck, because that's where my head is now. When I sat down to write this post for dear Kaye Barley, I didn't know what I was going to say, maybe something about writer's block. I just sat in the chair and put my fingers on the keys, and I don't know if it's good or bad, but it's something.

In searching through my quotes file for inspiration, I found the perfect ending for my story. It applies equally to writing and to life.

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity." -Gilda Radner -actress and comedian (1946-1989)

Maybe my novel will decide it's ready to be finished, or maybe I'll write another one about something completely different. Or maybe I'll decide to give up fiction writing and do what I do best, essays and historical articles and family histories. I might give it all up for now and go take care of my mother. I might join a clinical trial and help medical science find a cure for what ails me. I don't know what will happen next, but whatever it is, while it's happening or when it's done, I'll write about it. I am a writer, and that's what writers do.

Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

Today I'm hanging out with the smart, funny, talented, gorgeous women at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen.

Avery Aames, Julie Hyzy, Jenn McKinlay, Riley Adams,  Cleo Coyle, and Krista Davis are the women behind Mystery Lovers' Kitchen.  In addition to writing terrific mysteries, they somehow manage to find time to share some pretty incredible recipes at this fun and hugely popular blog site.

I'm tickled pink to have been honored with an invitation to be their guest, and I hope you'll drop by.

I'm not a particularly great cook - especially compared to these ladies, but I've come up with a beautiful, and surprisingly easy, summer dessert recipe I think you'll enjoy, so come on over!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Old Dogs and Blue Leopards by Sylvia Dickey Smith

Old Dogs and Blue Leopards
by Sylvia Dicky Smith

Not only can old dogs learn new tricks, but leopards can change their spots. You don’t believe me? I’ve “seen it” with my own eyes, for I’m that old dog leaping backwards over an inflamed barrel. I’m also the blue leopard with the big orange polka dots.

In my bio, I describe myself as having been born backward—one foot first, and left-handed—and seem to have done most things backward ever since. At seventeen, and still a high school junior, I married a preacher and soon became “the preacher’s wife.” Today, it’s difficult to imagine a girl, barely 17, take on that responsibility—a kid playing grown up. But I sailed along just fine, any answer I needed given to me by my husband. He even gave answers to many questions I hadn’t even asked.

I started college as a forty-year-old freshman and in a few short years gained a degree in sociology, a master’s in educational psychology, and then a divorce! Five years later, I got engaged, bought a house, took a honeymoon in Hawaii, and married in Las Vegas on the way home.

You still with me so far on this backwards thing?

After many years working in the human services field, I retired and took on a whole new career—I wrote a mystery book that soon turned into a series of three—so far. (The Sidra Smart mystery series. Dance On His Grave, Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets and Dead Wreckoning.)

Now, I find myself in the midst of rebranding myself as a writer of women’s fiction. Why? I’ve realized that is where my passion is. So, I might right mystery, historical fiction, or something else, but whatever I write, it will feature a strong woman. Of course she likely won’t start out that way, but by the time I’m through with her, she will be.

Think that’s a reflection of my life? You bet your bottom patootie it is!

One thing I’ve learned is it makes no difference whether you live your life backwards or forwards, the important thing is that you LIVE IT!

Never say never. Never not do something because you think you’re too old, too dumb, too smart, too whatever. If you want to do it, go for it.

My latest book is A War Of Her Own, set during a fascinating period—World War II. A small town’s population explodes 700% almost overnight when local shipyards gain contracts to build destroyers, destroyer escorts, landing craft, tugboats and the like. People still suffering the backlash of the Great Depression flood the town for jobs for the taking. Soon, all hell broke loose. Society and culture changed right before people’s eyes. Women took jobs previously performed by men—and did them well! Many families slept in rented “hotbeds”—beds still warm from the body of the person who just arose and went to work at shipyards that ran around the clock. War housing was built over night on river sand pumped in from the river bottom.

I recall many stories over the years about what life was like. I’d tuck those ideas away, pull them out and work on the project for a while. Then I’d stall over the hook and put it aside. Many stories revolve around family secrets, but I didn’t know that of my protagonist Bea Meade’s. Then several elements in my life clicked and the whole idea cemented itself in my psyche.

Bea Meade reminds me so much of my mother (and her sisters) who worked at the shipyard during the war and dealt with a world changing faster than could they. It is important we remember those years. They held great significance for women who, for the first time, moved into the work place in record numbers and performed jobs heretofore performed only by men.

A War Of Her Own is available for sale at online bookstores like and Barnes & and brick and mortar bookstores. Autographed copies are available to order on my website at:

Other Website links:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Positive and Negative Spaces by Toni McGee Causey

Toni McGee Causey lives in south Louisiana and along with her husband, Carl, owns a civil construction company. They have two sons who managed to survive the crazy. Sort of. She’d love it if you visited her site (with links to other blog entries) at









This post was first published at Murderati on Sunday, October 4, 2009.  Reprinted with Toni's permission.

Positive and Negative Spaces

by Toni McGee Causey

When I first went to college, my major was Architecture. (I had not yet realized that I could actually be a writer as an official occupation.) I couldn’t wait to take architecture courses and I perused the curriculum in the student’s catalog and read through the course descriptions with a lust that most kids that age reserved for hot cars or cold beer. (The caveat—I already had a hot car—a 1968 cherry red Mustang,

and I had access to plenty of cold beer.) (Hi Dad. I totally did not drink until I was officially 18, the legal age of drinking, because I was a very very good kid who did everything her dad told her.) (You cannot ground me retroactively, don’t even try.)

Anyway, I wanted to be an architect, and I imagined all the sorts of buildings I would design. I endured the first semester of boring classes and looked forward to being able to take Engineering Design, the very first freshman level course that was one of the official architecture courses.

(Frank Lloyd Wright -- Falling Water)

(Craftsman style house)

Turns out? They expect architects to use math much more sophisticated than simple addition and subtraction to formulate all of those pesky things like load bearing walls that will hold the building up.

It is apparently not kosher to make wild-ass guesses, which is how I would frequently solve math problems, and they heavily frowned on the eeny-meeny-miny-moe method. Ironically, I had placed out of every math requirement, including calculus—I had this uncanny ability to guess the right answers on tests, and yet, my professors, picky bastards, would not go with the percentage route that I was going to be correct a good solid 80 to 90% of the time. 10% to 20% of the buildings falling down would be bad.

It was a very short career.

In spite of that, I’ve remained fascinated with architecture over the years, as well as interior design. I pore over magazines and web sites, absorbing new trends. I have dozens of coffee table books with photos of spaces—old plantations, castles, bungalows along an Italian coastline, the white cities of Greece.

Recently, Janet Reid recommended a little book titled: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick. I love this little book. Since I didn’t even get past “2 things I learned…” in my own career, it was like having a crash course in all of the cool terms I’d wanted to study, but hadn’t. Some of these things I had picked up in my journeys, but it’s nice to see them laid out so simply. What I expected when I bought the book: to learn a few more terms, satiate that longing to design by at least sidling up to it and conversing with it a bit.

What I had not expected when I bought it is to see an entire book that has as much to do with writing and living as it does architecture. And I hadn’t expected to have a startling revelation about my own life.
Now, to be fair to Mr. Frederick, he did not design the book with the latter in mind—it’s something I simply “saw” in the book. Which is a bit ironic, since the revelation occurred over the architectural term “positive and negative space.”

Mr. Frederick defines these terms thusly:

“We move through negative spaces and dwell in positive spaces.”

It’s a simple concept.

When I thought about this in relation to writing, I had a twofold appreciation for the term. First off, just the physical aspect of the page—the words and paragraphs create positive space and the white space around it is the negative space. If you pick up any manuscript and it’s filled with long, dense paragraph after paragraph, it feels cluttered and heavy, weighted and overwrought, even before you’ve read a single word. A reader brings with her the expectation of balance, and you need white space to achieve that balance. Too much white space, though, feels bereft of weight, of value, of deeper meaning, and so it’s the writer’s job not only to craft the words, but to pay attention to the space those words take up on the page.

Simple enough, right?

The other meaning when applied to writing is the creation of the worlds we hope to evoke. Mr. Frederick goes on to explain:

“The shapes and qualities of architectural spaces greatly influence human experience and behavior, for we inhabit the spaces of our built environment and not the solid walls, roofs, and columns that shape it. Positive spaces are almost always preferred by people for lingering and social interaction. Negative spaces tend to promote movement rather than dwelling in place.”

(a place to dwell--a positive place)

(An example of a city street--a corridor--a negative space.)

Again, simple.

In writing a book, we’re attempting to create a world. We want to do such a fine job, that the readers feel as if they’ve inhabited that world and that they’ve met the people who live there, and know them well.

One time, a long time ago, my husband and I were house shopping. In the course of a random conversation with a man we’d met, he mentioned that he and his wife were about to put their house up for sale. When he described the location, it piqued our interest, because it was very close to where we’d been previously looking, and this house happened to be on a small lake with a decent view. It was the exact size we were looking for and, miracle of miracles, it was in our price range. We made an appointment to go view the home and double-checked with the owner prior to arriving to make sure the time was still convenient, since, obviously, they were still living in the home and it wasn’t yet listed.

We wound through the neighborhood of unique homes and arrived at his address to see a beautiful Craftsman styled house set against big oaks and a few pine trees. The landscaping was impeccable—and lush. They’d eschewed the boxy, regimented style of an English garden look and had, instead, created a free-flowing design that invited you to move through a winding walkway through a wonderland of color until you reached the front door. We had a hard time keeping our mouths from gaping open with awe and lust. I didn’t want them to add another $20K just from the look on our faces.

(similar to this)

Crossing through the threshold, however, was a shock. Though the home was beautifully designed, you couldn’t tell it for the clutter. Now, I have two sons and a husband, all of whom could easily be celebrated on the poster for “Packrats Unlimited,” so I’m not unfamiliar with the challenges of digging out from under the constant influx of junk. But this? This house was piled with detritus beyond my wildest imagination. Every level surface had piles and piles of paperwork. In the dining room, the table (which could have seated eight) had a pile so high, that the chandelier above it (and these were ten foot ceilings) was actually skewed at an angle, resting on the top of the pile. Every countertop, every sink, toilet, bed, side table: junk. We couldn’t enter the spare bedroom, though they opened the door to show us the room; there was junk piled from floor to ceiling, spanning the entire room. It looked as if someone had routinely just opened the door and tossed items in, for years.

(And waaaaaay worse than this...)

When we left there, my husband wondered if they were moving because they wanted a bigger house. I predicted that they weren’t going to even get the house officially listed and that within a year, they’d be divorced and battling over the house in a lawsuit. It didn’t surprise me in the least to see it for sale a year later with an “Owner recently divorced, highly motivated” notation on the listing.

They had not created for themselves a positive space to dwell; instead, they’d created a negative space that they could only move through. Disconnected, they became apathetic to their needs—each others’ and their own—and the family dissolved.

I’ve had people hand me novels in the past for critique and they spend a couple of chapters (or more) “building the world” – telling the reading about the political and economic machinations which have brought this world into being, into the state we find it in at this moment in time. It’s a huge mistake to do this. For one thing, the story hasn’t started yet until the characters are moving through that world and experience conflict within it. For another, the writer isn’t trusting the reader to extrapolate the positive and negative spaces from a select few examples.

If you look at the paragraph above describing the clutter, I’d be willing to bet you mentally filled in those rooms, though I didn’t describe a single stick of furniture, or the style of the interior. You filled every nook and cranny with junk in your image, though I didn’t get very specific about the junk. What’s more, if you thought about the couple, I’d be willing to be you saw them both in rather rumpled, dragged from the laundry basket wrinkled clothes, though I never described them.

We don’t have to give pages and pages of details—we just need to give a select few that show not only the space the characters are in, but how they’re interacting with that space. Some of our own choices are determined by economics which can be beyond our control, but some of the choices we make in our surroundings communicate who we are and what we think of ourselves. Same with our characters and their worlds: how do they dwell? What do they move through? Why? What does their surroundings say about them? What does yours say about you?

While I was thinking about this application of the architectural terms of negative and positive space, and simultaneously reading JT’s blog about the clutter of the online media and the expectations of what we have to do to create a writing career and maintain it, along with marketing it, I had an abrupt-but-fine appreciation for the connotations of positive and negative spaces and how they impact our lives. With regard to the social media/marketing aspect, I think the online world—particularly Twitter and Facebook—create the illusion of positive space, a space to dwell. Only, there is no “space” there, there is no permanent peace or interaction with tangible walls and windows, living areas and social areas. It’s all hallways and moving, traffic and business with the veneer of being social, and at its most fundamental sociological construct, it’s in disharmony with our need to dwell, because in social media, we’re always moving through. Targeting something—more interaction, more movement, more recognition, more awareness (both of each other, of marketing needs and trends, of products, not necessarily just of our own products).

It makes sense, then, that these sorts of venues create a sense of discord over time. I think it’s ironic, but I think that while it gives the illusion of greater intimacy and friendship, it also emphasizes the disconnect we have in our lives because we’re not interacting with a space or with a person, but with a computer screen. I enjoy Twitter, and, tangentially, Facebook, but I have felt far less stress in this last month since I have cut back my interaction at both places to just a few minutes a day.

Aside from that, though, is another fundamental truth of space, and it’s the fact that we build our environment. We choose where we’re going to dwell (or, at least, what we surround ourselves with in our dwelling place). The epiphany I had when reading Mr. Frederick’s book was that the positive and negative spaces were a part of our philosophy of life, not just our physicality in life. (I know this is not a new concept. It just opened up something for me.)

I’ve always been the type of person who was an overachiever. I’d accomplish something, check it off as done and move on to the next thing. It felt lazy, almost, to just… be. To be in a place and time without some sort of pressing item that needed to be achieved next. The problem with this was that I was dwelling in the corridors of my life. If something was done, it was over and I passed on through to the next challenge, and there was no space to just enjoy.

In the world of publishing, there is always the next hurdle. Always.

As soon as you finish a book, you have to try to get an agent. As soon as you get an agent, you have to try to sell it. As soon as you sell it, you have to start worrying about what changes they’re going to want and whether you can deliver that. As soon as you deliver that, there are marketing decisions that are made (often without your input) and marketing decisions you make (which increases the pressure), because now there is a goal: sell the books. While all of this is going on, you’re trying to either write the next book on a contract (and you are worrying whether or not you can hit the bar you’ve set for yourself again, whether you even remember how to write a book, and why on earth did you think you could do it again?) or you’re trying your dead level best to convince someone that yes, you can write another one and here it is, or here is the proposal. As soon as your first book goes on sale, all sorts of goals will crop up—will it do well enough, will it further your career, will it die a stone cold death and stop your career. If the former, the bar is set higher. If the latter, that’s a whole set of other problems / goals / fears. People will tell you to stop and enjoy the moment, but you’re generally so frantic to accomplish all of the stuff you need to accomplish in the short window that your book will be on the shelf that by the time you think you have time to stop and enjoy it, it’s long past gone and is probably buried under the last three goals you were striving for.

It is very difficult to just “be” and dwell.

But positive space—not just positive thinking, but positive space—is as necessary to our mental health and our survival as that negative space—that moving, ever onward. We need the connections around us, the grounding in the here and now, the raft of joy in the midst of a chaotic world, to replenish the soul and the well of creativity. You can go a lot of years without doing this, and still function. I can attest to that. But you’ll be missing so much.

So beyond just the writing applications of space and how it’s relevant to character development, my own personal philosophy has shifted in priorities: take the time to enjoy the people around you. Take the time to look at the things you have done and enjoy them. Dwell. Be. Replenish. The world and the race will still be there when you’re ready to re-join. There is no one final race anyway, but millions of races. If you don’t join this day’s race, you can join tomorrow’s.

What is one thing you’d change about your physical environment that would make it a more pleasant place to dwell? Does your environment reflect the real you? If not, why not?