Monthly Essays

A New Adventure

Whenever I start thinking of a new plot for a book, I have to stop myself from writing the first line. The beginning is such a spark. Even if it isn’t the first line my revised story will have, it’s exciting to get something on paper.

Actually, I used to do that, but now I know better. Now I start by researching setting, occupations, and other information I need to know in order to write a convincing story.

Before I wrote a romance with a newscaster as the heroine, I spent time at our local TV station–interviewing employees about their jobs. I started in the newsroom to see how assignments were handed out. I walked into the studio and sat at the anchor’s desk. I crawled into the van for remote shots and learned how high the pole had to go up to broadcast back to station. I don’t remember how high now, and I don’t know if the pole is even necessary with new technology. If I wanted to write again about a TV news anchor, I’d have to do more homework.

I’m toying with the idea of writing a mystery. I’ve worked a mystery into a few romances and children’s historical novels, but this time I’d like to write a real who-done-it. Friend Suzann, who’s written many mysteries, gave me several books covering causes of death, body trauma, and poisons. Writers have to know this deadly stuff before they can murder someone on the page.

Tonight I start research for real. It’s my first evening at the Citizen’s Police Academy. Over the next 14 weeks, I’ll learn about all the different types of calls police get. I’ll learn about crime scene procedures, traffic stops, child abuse (ick), DWI arrests, clearing a building, 911 operations, and I’ll do a ride-along. I’ll meet the K-9 unit, not my thing since I’m not an animal person, but I’ll do it.

You don’t have to be a writer to apply for the Citizen’s Police Academy. Many towns have this program to teach civilians what police do so citizens can be better informed. Police performed a background check on me, so you probably shouldn’t have an outstanding warrant if you want to apply for the academy.

You can believe I’ll take copious notes. And I hope to make friends with a few policemen who will take my calls when I have questions about something in my mystery plot.

I’ll let you know if I do write a mystery. And if anyone has a new way of committing a perfect crime, I’m all ears.





I know I said last month that I wasn’t going to post a new first-of-the-month essay, but this morning I just sat down at my computer and it didn’t feel right not to think about my world. Don’t expect one for February, but here is January’s essay:  

Another Year

On the day we make big resolutions for a shiny new year that stretches ahead, I’m still working on the rough draft of my new life as a woman alone facing the world, knowing the time ahead is much shorter than the time behind me.

Jim always followed the architect/builder rule: Measure twice before you cut.

My artist/author friend Cheryl Harness says her former art director would see several drafts of a drawing before approving one, and then she wanted the finished product pronto. “Slow trigger and fast bullet,” was her saying.

Cheryl equates it with a pitcher, deliberately winding up, then throwing a fastball. Runners in a race listen for the “Get ready, get set, GO!”

In my case, lots of change requires planning, preparation, and development before the final effort of slipping into an altered lifestyle.

Because I’ve lived in this house over half my life, I’ve accumulated a lot of record-keeping paper I don’t need. My shredder has worked overtime as I’ve demolished income tax files back to the late 70s. I’ve given two old four-drawer file cabinets to a friend, and my load feels lighter just having bid farewell to unneeded documents and owner’s manuals for things I no longer own.

Yesterday I tackled the recipe drawer in the kitchen, which held a hundred little booklets from products like Jello and Bisquick, recipes that came with a fondue pot and a food processor, and ones I’d cut out of the newspaper. The recycle cart is getting full again.

Also in that drawer I found an old journal. On our anniversary I wrote, “In three years Jim and I have grown dependent on each other. He actually asked me where I thought we should put the sand (to be mixed for mortar), and I ask him the silliest things. Yet in lots of ways we are very independent, too.”

Now I have to rely on that independence to acclimate to my new life.

I have so many decisions to make as I carry my shovel into my office. Do I really need four drafts of the same book in a file, or can I settle for the paperback itself? Can I throw out decade-old letters by my students from when I taught a writing correspondence course?

This cleaning out of detritus is a process. What I’m not cleaning out are memories. Those live in my heart and mind, and they will stay.

But I’m looking forward to this shimmering New Year. I’ll keep preparing for a different life by shaking things up around here, but there may be a few more rough drafts. Or is life just made up of multiple rough drafts? Shouldn’t we all be open to change even if it’s not forced upon us?

2017 essays:

2016 essays:

2015 essays:

2014 essays:

2013 essays:

2012 essays: