You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Deadly Duo Mysteries’ tag.

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

By the time I finish the first draft of a novel, my desk is awash in file cards, stacks of books, notebook pages, scraps of paper, pencil stubs, coffee mugs, and other things that don’t bear close inspection—some of which may possibly have legs.

Because everything falls by the wayside when I’m in the home stretch of a novel, there are also smudges on the computer screen, smears on the phone, crumbs in the keyboard, and spider webs in the corners. Not to mention dust, dog hair, and general disarray.

Clearly, it’s time to clean.

It’s also time to organize.

Being a Virgo, I embrace the concept of organization. Sadly, that embrace isn’t always a close or long-lasting one.

And, being a Virgo, before I take action, I prefer to have a plan. A plan, of course, requires a list. (I love making lists. I REALLY love checking off the tasks I’ve completed.)

The best list is made on a fresh, crisp, bright white sheet of paper and written in pen, never pencil. Tasks noted in ink are more difficult to erase or write over and therefore signal genuine commitment. So, pen in hand—a pen containing black ink and featuring a medium or thick point—I make a list of the steps involved in tackling the project.

#1 Assessing the Situation. Depending on the time of day, I might do this while sipping a mug of coffee, or I might have an adult beverage in hand.

#2 Gathering Materials. This part is almost as good as making lists because it involves searching through cabinets for folders and binders and colorful plastic tabs. It may also involve—oh, joy!—a trip to an office supply store where I can roam the aisles for an hour or more gazing a plastic tubs, rolling carts, clips, tacks, and tape.

#3 Deciding Where to Begin. Should I organize first and clean later? Stuff every stray bit in a garbage sack, clean, and then file and arrange those bits? Start in one corner and clean and organize as I go? Start right now? Put it off until tomorrow morning? Should I gather a few more materials first? Change the vacuum filter? Buy a new container of spray wax?

#4 Deciding What to Toss and What to Keep. Like many writers, I’ve accumulated newspaper clippings, Internet articles, and notes jotted on napkins, file cards, and grocery lists. Some are stacked at the edge of my desk and some tacked to my four bulletin boards. My fear is that I’ll toss the one note or article that might be the seed for a book, so the stacks lean like that tower in Pisa and the bulletin boards are as shaggy as the pelt of a yak. And then there are the file cabinets and those boxes in the closet under the stairs. But let’s not go there. Let’s just admit that darn few things get tossed—at least not for a few years.

#5 Getting to work. Often this requires a return to Step #1 and the fortification of a beverage.

#6 Admiring What I’ve Accomplished. Ah, the clean window, the gleaming desk, the crumb-free keyboard. Each time I enter, I pause in the doorway, gaze around, and sigh at the perfection of it all. But because of what comes next, I never capture the clean moment with a camera.

#7 Vowing Never to Sink to Such Depths Again. Notice that I don’t vow to keep my office neat and organized. I know I’ll get tunnel vision toward the end of a project and be overcome by clutter. So I stick with a promise to remain somewhere above the previous level of grunge and grubbiness. Not having that level documented in a photograph allows me to kid myself into believing I manage to do that.

What about you? Are you also prone to let things slide until you’re overtaken by a tumble of jumble? Or do you keep up with your clutter and crud? Most important, do you have a secret system for keeping up—or a creative and believable rationalization for falling behind—that you’d like to share?

No Substitute for Money by Carolyn J. Rose

No Substitute for Money by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

www.deadlyduomysteries.com

http://www.deadlyduoduhblog.blogspot.com/

It rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest. Yearly totals exceed the national average. Some folks describe the climate here in Washington as nine months of rain followed by three months of drought. Those nine wet months have given birth to a wealth of terms to describe the stuff dropping from the sky. Increased interest in weather phenomena has helped add to that list.

Carolyn J. Rose, author, 2015

Carolyn J. Rose, author, 2015

When I grew up in the Catskills back in the 1950s, long before 24/7 weather reporting and weather-related reality shows, we had relatively few words to describe precipitation: snow, sleet, rain, thunderstorms, hail, and drizzle. Today, I hear more descriptive words: mist, mizzle, sprinkles, deluge, drenching rain, driving rain, pouring rain, torrential rain, continuous rain, freezing rain, and intermittent all of the above. There’s also fog, freezing fog, and snow in all its forms and accumulations.
All that winter precipitation makes for glorious green growth, tall trees and rushing rivers. It makes for great skiing, boating, fishing, gardening, and dozens of other recreational opportunities.
It also makes for a lot of dank and dreary days.
My first Northwest winter (1989-90) was filled with new experiences and I scarcely noticed the weather. My second winter, however, was ugly. Fog moved in, not on little cat feet, but like a 200-pound cougar driving a bulldozer. That fog hung around for weeks. I made it through by indulging in massive bouts of comfort eating followed by rolling up in a quilt for yet another nap.
The next fall, having finally shed the winter poundage, I vowed to adopt a healthier lifestyle and focus on the weather in my fictional settings instead of outside my window. By spring I was halfway through a novel and hardly noticing the thick drops hammering on the roof. (Except when the gutters clogged with leaves or a leak appeared in the living room ceiling.)
Since then, I’ve followed the same plan:
• Step up those vitamin D capsules.
• Beam on those bulbs. Light up the workspace. Strings of twinkle lights are always fun. Phototherapy with a light box may brighten your mood and regulate your circadian rhythms.
• Cut back on greasy foods and heavy meals. (I know, I know. That’s tough to do with those holiday parties and treats, but give it your best shot.)
• Don’t overdo coffee and caffeine. Sure, it wakes you up on a dreary morning, but too much can mess with your sleep patterns.
• The same goes for alcohol.
• Escalate the exercise.
• Get out and confront precipitation. Walk in all weather.
• Concentrate on what you can control and try not to think about what you can’t.
• Do nice things for yourself.
• Vary the routine. Go places you’ve never been—even if it’s just a new coffee shop or walking trail.
• Catch up on movies you’ve been meaning to get to and books yet to be read.
• Reconnect with old friends and make new ones.
• Ask for advice about beating the blahs.
If you have tips for powering your writing through the winter, please share them in the comment space. I’m always looking for ideas to add to the list.

 

The Devil's Tombstone by Carolyn J. Rose

The Devil’s Tombstone by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone, just released). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).  www.deadlyduomysteries.com

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose, author

In recent years several best-selling authors announced their retirement from writing. My first reaction was disbelief. These were successful writers. They won prestigious prizes. Their works were rich with theme and message. They had thousands of devoted readers awaiting their next publications.

And maybe that’s one reason they chose to retire. There’s something to be said about knowing when to leave the party, about going out at the top of your game.

I’ve never—to use a baseball analogy for success as an author—hit one out of the park and cleared the bases. If I had, I probably would have 1) wondered how the heck I did it, 2) doubted I could ever do it again, and therefore 3) been afraid and embarrassed to return to the plate.

But I haven’t had that base-clearing slam yet. I haven’t hit the top of my game. Or . . . maybe I have. Maybe I didn’t realize it. Maybe . . . Well, let’s not go there. That leads to self-pity and that leads to the basket of snacks on top of the refrigerator.

In at least one case, a retiring writer used the word “struggle” in connection with the writing process. Now, “struggle” is a word I’ve also been known to apply—but mostly to my attempts to stay at the keyboard and out of the kitchen and away from that basket I mentioned in the last paragraph. The struggles of these successful writers were on a much deeper and/or higher level and probably didn’t involve snacks. And that could be another reason for retiring.

Lurking on a number of chat sites as I’m wont to do when I’m putting off writing, I’ve encountered writers wringing the towel and considering whether to throw it in. Many of them have written just a few books—or perhaps only one—and haven’t had the positive reader response they expected, didn’t make the money they hoped for, or were stung by reviewers. Others stagger under the burden of jobs and obligations, responsibilities and interests that leave them little time to write. They take time out. Often, they return revitalized and with fresh ideas and perspectives. Sometimes, no matter what their intentions, they never return.

I don’t blame them. Writing can be frustrating and discouraging and painful, especially when your expectations don’t mesh with reality. It can give you tunnel vision and put a strain on relationships.

On the other hand, writing can also be rewarding. I’m talking not about financial rewards, but about getting that e-mail from a reader that thanks you for making her laugh, or about someone who drives an hour to a book fair to meet you.

So, I’m not retiring just yet. My husband and I have a collection of short stories called Sucker Punches about to pop up as a digital book and I’m putting the final touches on The Devil’s Tombstone, the 3rd in the Catskill Mountains Mysteries. After I demolish the leftovers from Thanksgiving, I’ll waddle to the keyboard and start on the 4th in the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series.

What about you? Which one of these statements describes when you’ll retire from writing?

When I reach my goals
When I’ve delivered my message
When the thrill is gone
When the idea well runs dry
When the voices in my head stop
When the voices in my head start
When they pry the keyboard from my cold fingers
Other

The Dames and I are looking forward to your comments.

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and soon-to-be-released The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking

www.deadlyduomysteries.com

http://deadlyduoduhblog.blogspot.com/

 

First, let me say that I have nothing against cats. I like them. At least six have “owned” me over the course of my life.

But my heart belongs to dogs—both real and fictional.

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Right now I share my furniture and take long walks with two ten-pound hairballs, Bubba (a miniature Schnauzer/Yorkie mix) and Max (a purebred Maltese with issues). (Pictures on my website, www.deadlyduomysteries.com )

I share my office with a trio of fictional canines, Sebastian, Nelson, and Cheese Puff.

That puts me in good company. Dogs reside in far more than a third of all U.S. households. And a heck of a lot of writers have created canine companions—from Argos to Lassie to White Fang to Old Yeller to Winn-Dixie.

Many fictional dogs work hard, serving as symbols or sounding boards and providing pivot points for plot. Some are loyal companions, faithful and protective. Others supply comic relief, clues, or red herrings. Some are smart. Others are goofballs. Many help ratchet up tension.

Some writers hesitate to write kill off a dog (or cat or other creature) because they believe readers won’t forgive them for it. Others, however, create fictional canines that make the ultimate sacrifice.

Do well-drawn, memorable fictional dogs increase sales? Especially sales to dog lovers?

Probably.

Did I consider that before I created my fictional dogs?

Nope.

I created them for their value to plot and characterization.

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

My first fictional dog, Sebastian, makes a brief appearance at the beginning of A Place of Forgetting. He’s old, his muscles are limp and stringy, and his eyes are clouded, but protagonist Liz Roark loves him. To disrupt her life and force her to leave her hometown and get on with life, I sent them up a mountain on a perfect autumn day and let him die a peaceful death. Several readers wrote to tell me they loved Sebastian and were sad to see him go, but understood why I did that.

Nelson, the three-legged dog out for vengeance in Through a Yellow Wood, is the lone survivor of a serial killer’s attempt to hide his crimes. I thought long and hard before allowing that killer to shoot Nelson’s seven kennel mates (before the book begins). I finally took the leap in order to deepen and strengthen his character and will.

I created my third fictional dog, Cheese Puff, to get protagonist Barbara Reed out of the dumps and back into the world after a nasty divorce. He’s a shrimp of an orange mutt she finds in No Substitute for Murder, the first book in the Subbing isn’t for Sissies cozy mystery series. Barb’s neighbors find Cheese Puff endearing, but their pampering undermines her efforts to train him and encourages an excess of small-dog attitude.

Cheese Puff has been a hit with readers—especially those who have small dogs as companions. Several have suggested ideas for what might happen to him in future books. Thanks to some of those readers, he found love in No Substitute for Money and broadened his social and cultural life in No Substitute for Maturity. In the fourth book in the series—a book I hope to write this fall—Cheese Puff will be keeping a diary and tangling with Bigfoot.

It will be interesting to see what readers think about that.

The Dames of Dialogue and I would love to hear about your dogs—both real and fictional—and we’re looking forward to your comments.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity have sold 50,000 electronic copies), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and soon-to-be-released The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

For some writers—and I’m one of them—writing a synopsis seems more difficult than writing a book.

Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

With a book, there’s plenty of “room to roam,” dozens of pages on which to flesh out characters and enlarge themes. There are opportunities to slow the action to provide sequels to follow tense scenes and add description to set the mood and foreshadow action to come.

But a synopsis must be pithy, a neat progression of plot points, thumbnail sketches, tight but evocative description. It must be a distillation of tone, theme, and character arc.

So when writing coach Elizabeth Lyon suggested I write two versions of the synopsis for An Uncertain Refuge, I came as close as I ever have to giving up on my writing dream and getting out that failed knitting project (Who knew a scarf would be so difficult?) from 1970.

To her credit, Elizabeth’s logic was sound. She felt the synopsis I’d labored over for two weeks (Fourteen days! Long days!) didn’t do justice to the emotional journey of the protagonist. She said my synopsis didn’t fully illuminate where Kate Dalton was when the novel began, the challenges she faced, the ways in which she grew, changed, and adjusted her attitudes, and where she was at the end.

Not wanting to break my perfect record of resisting good advice, I fought Elizabeth’s suggestions the way a feral cat fights a bath.

There came a point, however, when I realized I was expending more time and energy avoiding the project than I would if I just did it. So, after kicking over a wastebasket or two, punching out a family-sized bag of corn chips, and downing an adult beverage, I got right to work.

“Easy” is not a word I’d use to describe the process. Neither is “painless.”

“Time-consuming?” Sure. “Frustrating?” You bet. “Worthwhile?” Yes.

When I was finished, I presented both versions to Elizabeth. She reviewed them and gave me a lukewarm “Okay.” Then she dropped the bomb. “Now put them together into one synopsis.”

What?

An Uncertain Refuge by Carolyn J. Rose

An Uncertain Refuge by Carolyn J. Rose

Combining the two meant boiling down 10 pages into 5. That involved tough choices and hard decisions and (Gasp!) deep thought. I punched out a giant-sized sack of pita chips, kicked a footstool, and found a dozen reasons to delay or ditch the project entirely.

But then I got down to it and, after a solid week of work, had a polished product I could send out. Over the next two years, that synopsis went to hundreds of agents and editors. It raked in a few dozen requests to view the first chapters, but no one wanted to take a chance on it. Eventually I published the novel myself. (E-sales to date: 16,000+)

Given all of that frustration and time spent, was the synopsis exercise worthwhile?

Absolutely.

I developed more discipline and focus. I learned how to refine my thinking, strengthen description, and capsulate characterization.

Would I do it again?

I don’t know. But one joy of self-publishing is that I don’t have to.

 

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

A few days ago I watched a group of high school seniors struggling to write two-page essays about their lives and their plans for the years after graduation.

 

These were kids who spend untold hours sharing information—sometimes what I consider to be way too much information—in conversations and phone calls and text messages. This was a topic that required no research or attributions. The assignment seemed like a no-brainer.

 

And yet, after putting down their names and the date and the class period, most of them came to a full stop. Hung up on how to begin, they stared at that blinking cursor.

 

I felt their pain. Hoping to hook readers who happen across my books but aren’t familiar with my name, I labor long and hard on first sentences and leading paragraphs. Years ago I learned to delay the stress of crafting that opening and leapfrog into the story by leaving a blank space and writing this: Something brilliant goes in this space and I know I’ll think of it later.

 

I passed along that advice and saw a few kids catch fire and start hammering their keyboards. Others, though, sat like statues. I offered another piece of time-worn writing advice. “Don’t worry about getting your sentences and paragraphs in order. You have that cut-and-paste function. Move things around and clean up transitions later.”

 

More fingers prodded the keys, but about a third of the class was still floundering. I hit them with the ever-popular first-draft dogma. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be great or even good. It just has to be done. You’ll fix it later.”

 

Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

That was enough incentive for a few to suck in deep breaths and tap hesitantly at the keys. But there were still three staring at their screens with expressions of fear, loathing, panic, and/or soul-searing anxiety. Trotting to their sides, I did a quick survey: “What are you having trouble with? What would help you?”

 

If you’re a writer, their responses won’t surprise you. They felt that what they wrote—in this first draft or any other—wouldn’t be good enough.

 

Thanks to that critical little voice in my head, I know Not-Good-Enough Territory well. In fact, I take up residence there every time I sit down to write.

 

The terrain is riddled with sinkholes and quagmires and quicksand. If a map exists, it’s not accurate. Storms swirl across the landscape and a sudden freeze is always imminent.

 

One trick to traversing this hostile land is to get moving and keep moving. If you write fast enough, you may outdistance the inner critic or develop enough momentum to leap across or plow through obstacles it throws in your path.

 

Another trick is to be your own BFF and make plenty of positive noise to drown out snarky comments that could bring you to a halt. If you can’t shut the inner critic up, then shut it down. Congratulate yourself on every simile and bit of dialogue. Cheer the completion of each paragraph. Reward yourself for every chapter.

 

I shared that philosophy and saw one boy take it to heart. In a few moments he was pounding away. Ten minutes later he had a full page. One of the others managed a paragraph before the bell rang. The third said she couldn’t work in a room filled with people, but made notes.

 

As for me, when I got to my keyboard, I took my own advice, shut the little voice down, and cranked out eight pages. They might not be good. They might be barely this side of dreadful. But they exist.

 

What are the tricks you use to get the job done? Leave a comment and share your strategy.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), and the Catskill Mountains Mysteries (Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood). She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking. Website
www.deadlyduomysteries.com

So, I’m forming a secret society and you’re invited to join. There’s no initiation fee, no member screening, and definitely no meetings. It’ll be great. We’ll have a complicated but elegant ritual handshake, a mystic-looking logo (something with a hairy eyeball and fleur de lis, maybe), and possibly decoder rings.

But, you may be asking yourself, “Why Mike? Why now? What compelling purposes will this secret society strive to accomplish?”

I don’t blame you. After all, my past efforts to organize people haven’t gone so well. Sadly, the debacle that was the First United Church of Uh-huh, Uh-huh back in the late seventies still lurks in my memory. Sure, hymns set to a disco beat were hip, but preachers in open-neck shirts, gold chains, and six-inch platform heels proved to be one toke over the line for most people. And, face it, the yearly telethon to benefit the incurably Anglo-Saxon tanked.

Hear me out. We’ll call this grassroots organization Seek New Opportunities for Resurgent Thronging. Or, if you will, S.N.O.R.T. (Like the G in gnarly, the for is acronymically silent)

audience with 3D glassesFace it, friends, as a people we are becoming increasingly isolated. And the culprit is communications technology. Ironically, devices and gizmos designed to allow us to stay in touch and tweet our every movement, desire, unsightly facial blemish, or change in prostate pressure stand accused of the crime. The evidence is overwhelming.

Before you dismiss this as just another rant by some old fart Luddite, consider this. I own a cell phone and have used it. You could look it up. (Okay, okay, so I’ve never actually received an incoming call and only keep it for the eventuality that I personally witness the second coming and need to text somebody.) Honestly, I don’t hate technology. I-phones, Droids, X-boxes, GPS systems and the like are a phenomenal development. They’re capable of bringing the world right into your car while you rocket down the road at eighty miles an hour ignoring rear view mirrors, pedestrians, and police sirens. You can have a pizza delivered while simultaneously T-boning a Smart Car. It’s all good.

The goal of S.N.O.R.T. then is not to bash those terminally self-involved people whose faces are literally glued to the screens of their I-pods (tempting as that prospect may be), but to draw attention to what we’re missing—actual face-to-face contact with other human beings.

I know many of you think you don’t miss it. After all, interacting with people can be messy. Sometimes they don’t smell so good. And they have opinions that might be different than your own. (A traumatic prospect for someone listening to Rush or Glenn on their smart phone). Plus, someone might say something provocative like, “Hey, how are you doing?” Then you’d have to come up with a response without using your thumbs.

Let’s talk about two of my favorite examples: movies and books. You no longer have to drive to a movie theater, buy a sixteen-dollar tub of popcorn larger than a barrel of crude oil (but with many of the same nutritional properties) and put up with twenty minutes of intelligence-insulting advertising mislabeled “pre-movie entertainment.” There’s no reason for you to sit through half a dozen previews of one-joke romantic comedies, male bonding tour de gross-outs, or slasher flicks featuring ritual disembowelments in “REAL 3 D.” There’s no need to hope what’s under your seat is only old chewing gum. You can load any movie you want, at your convenience, into your smart phone. And then, you can watch it all alone. Heck you can even tweet everyone on your list about how the movie is the second biggest waste of time of all time. The first biggest waste of time of all time, of course, is reading a tweet telling you what a waste of time the film is.

My wife and I recently saw The Kings Speech in a theatre near our home. The story of a reluctant prince with a speech impediment thrust into the role of Britain’s Monarch, as that nation stood poised on the brink of World War II, held a capacity crowd rapt for more than 2 hours, without once setting a stunt man on fire or having any characters chest bump. It’s well-written, impressively acted, funny, and poignant.

Sharing the pain, joy, and triumph of this man, as a group, as an audience, was a gratifying and humanizing experience. We could hear the collective intake of breath as King George VI prepared to utter his first words for a radio audience to reassure his subjects about the long cruel war they all faced. We were part of a roiling ocean of laughter as Lionel Logue, the hack actor, but brilliant speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush, persuades the King to unleash a torrent of ugly profanities to cleanse him of inhibitions rooted in a deep inferiority complex.

At the end of the film, Carolyn and I joined the other hundred-plus souls in attendance in enthusiastic applause to show our appreciation. How often does that happen when you stream something and watch it by yourself or even in a small group? As we milled about the lobby with the others after the film, collectively trying to remember where we parked our cars or collectively trying to decide if we could “hold it” till we got home, people held spirited discussions about the deeper meaning of the film or relived their favorite moments. (Hearing a dear, little old lady trying to reenact the profanity-spewing scene while her companions double-timed her out of the building was memorable.) We were all bonded in the moment, the shared experience of watching a masterfully executed work of art. We claimed membership in the human family, the collective consciousness.

Books. I have no problem with either Kindle or Nook. Although, I will say, one term used to describe an avid fan of Nook could be badly misunderstood. I’m afraid anyone using the term to initiate a Google search might find him or herself smack in the middle of a most unsavory web site offering X-rated downloads. But I digress.

Anything that gets more people to read is okay by me. And if claiming that you’ve read War and Peace on your phone brings you as much satisfaction as someone who claims to have read it as a book-book, so be it. But, again, you’re missing a big part of the experience.

I’m a huge fan of independent book stores. And they’re struggling. Not only do they have trouble competing with the big chain stores, but electronic publishing and young people who only read things in 17-word bursts with no vowels involved make for a shrinking customer base. Sadly, I can imagine a time when you’ll have to download an old Lawrence Block “Burglar” book to read about the joys of mom-pop booksellers.

And here’s why they’re important. They bring people together who love to read, including the store owners who are in the business because they love books. If you patronize the same store regularly, you’ll usually find the person behind the counter will have recommendations about what you might want to read next. Small bookstores are a place to mingle with other readers, to talk books and read sample pages before you take that used paperback home to become a part of your family.

I’m especially fond of used books. There’s something reassuring in knowing that another reader or many other readers let their eyes linger over the same words I’m tracking. I wonder if they felt the same range of emotions and connection (or lack of) with the characters. I even like the turned back corners noting where someone may have stopped reading for the night. Sometimes you’ll find reader-penned notes in the margins or between the lines of books. Cryptic comments like: Surely she must see this man is big trouble or sometimes arcane or even puzzling handwritten footnotes such as: The Knights Templar regularly used yew branches to make their cudgels. A real head scratcher since it was scrawled on the margins of a Michael Connolly police procedural set in 1990’s Los Angeles with no references to The Knights Templar, yew trees or cudgels anywhere in the book.

Unless somebody hacks your download (no, I don’t know what that means either) you’ll miss this facet of  the collective reading experience. And you surely won’t have the pleasure of enjoying a non-corporate latte and some book chat with your favorite independent book store owner.

S.N.O.R.T.’s mission then is to encourage people to partake in the rich carnival that is life. Get out, mingle with other people, throng for goodness sake. Go to movies, bowl at an alley, not with your Wii in front of your big screen. Strike up a conversation with a stranger in the produce section of your supermarket, attend a poetry bash, hit some yard sales in your neighborhood, sit in the bleachers at a high school basketball game or in the peanut gallery of  the local community theatre company. (Often comical, if sometimes for the wrong reasons.)

If we don’t take advantage of our opportunities to share experiences, to become another flickering electron in the collective brain wave of America, I fear our hermitizing will continue. Everything people need for continued existence will either be streamed or downloaded—books, movies, television, music, news, opinions and spirituality. Anything with a component of molecular solidity will be delivered to our doors: groceries, hardware, furniture, auto parts, gourmet meals, lovers. Without the efforts of you, the members of Seek New Opportunities for Resurgent Thronging, America (and the world) will be reduced to smaller and smaller islands with people increasingly avoiding any kind of face-to-face contact. One day, I fear, Time or Newsweek (the online editions, naturally) will publish a story about a man (or woman) who has lived from birth to death, without once leaving home. This would be tragic, not only for burglars but for humankind in general.

Downloaders, desist! Tweeters, give your thumbs the day off. Nookies and Kindlites, fondle some paper. The message is clear. The time is now.  S.N.O.R.T. today. You can download a diagram demonstrating the secret handshake at www.snorthandshake.com

Sometimes a Great Commotion by Rose & NettletonIf you’re looking for a book to “share” with a friend, try the newest from Mike Nettleton and Carolyn Rose called Sometimes A Great Commotion. It’s the hilarious sequel to The Big Grabowski which wasn’t too shabby in the belly laugh department its own self. When fervid evangelist Elspeth Hunsaker believes she sees an holy figure scorched onto the surface of a fried crab cake, religious pilgrims descend on Devil’s Harbor to view the image, stressing the town’s water system and the locals. Meanwhile a con man posing as an protesting tree sitter is killed when the old growth Douglas Fir he’s camping atop is chainsawed to the ground. Molly Donovan must once again find the murderer and help restore order to the eccentric Oregon coastal town. Available as a book or Kindle through my Amazon author page at http://www.amazon.com/Mike-Nettleton/e/B0034YZG44/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_2 or link to it through the our web site at www.deadlyduomaysteries.com

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,892 other followers

Beloved Woman by CC Tillery

Appalachian Journey Book 4

Beloved Woman by CC Tillery

The Search for Bobby McGee by Betty Dravis

The Search for Bobby McGee by Betty Dravis

The Search for Bobby McGee by Betty Dravis

Obsolete by CT French

Obsolete by CT French (Christy Tillery French)

Obsolete by CT French

One Shot too Many by Maggie Bishop

One Shot too Many by Maggie Bishop, mystery

One Shot too Manyby Maggie Bishop, mystery

Interior Designs, by Laurel-Rain Snow

Front Cover-resized-small
%d bloggers like this: