Author Archives: sirsteve

Let’s Be Funny

hmorI never set out to write comedies. I don’t write jokes. Yes, I wanted Mallory Petersen to have some goofy cases so as to temper the serious cases which are the main thrust in her stories. I don’t write jokes. In fact, I steal humor. In Beta, I stole a joke I heard years ago from Redd Foxx. I don’t know if the one he told was original to him, but I remembered it after years and used it in the story.

For the other humorous scenes, those are the difficulties I have when trying to temper the serious parts. Sometimes, it’s tough creating humorous situations for Mallory. I don’t want to go too far over the top, but I do want some laughter. For the Val-Air ballroom scene in Alpha, that wasn’t supposed to be a humorous scene. Mallory was supposed to have a chase scene in an empty building, maybe down in the basement with construction projects going on. I’ve told the story how the scene came about and it’s humorous without being over the top and without being disrespectful.

Most of Mallory’s humor comes from the cases she takes on where she follows prospective cheaters and there I have the fun of coming up with different scenarios. One bit of humor I used in Beta came from not a real life experience, but a story I heard about one of my classmates. If you’ve read Beta, it’s the scene where she discovers the supposed marijuana someone is smoking isn’t really weed.

In Delta (coming soon to an Amazon link near you), I have Mallory encounters a bunch of kidnapped pooches. I wanted so much to have at least one of the dogs try to, uh, hump her leg or arm. However, when it came time to write that scene, I remembered an Evanovich book I’d recently listened to where Miss Plum has a similar scene. I didn’t want to steal directly from her so I changed my scene. It’s still humorous, though not how I REALLY wanted it. Later in the book, I have Mallory encounter some women who used company funds for uh, extra-curricular activities while on a business trip. I thought the entire case she accepts was pretty good. I kept the humor to a minimum, but I hope you’ll enjoy the good moments. In another scene, Mallory attends a speed dating event and has fun with the prospective dates. There aren’t a lot of ha-ha moments, but I’m hoping the scene will bring a smile to the reader. With Delta, the main story deals with some serious material that affects Mallory in a personal way, so I tried to deal with that. I did feel, though, there had to be some humor to offset some of the murder bits.

In the two subsequent stories, Gamma and Zeta, I’m am having to deal with too much humor and over the top humor taking away from the thrust of the story. The humor needs to be lessened so that when it does show up, it’s truly funny. This is the challenge. How not to get too comedic to where the reader will expect it and won’t take the main case with the intended drama. Especially in Zeta, where Mallory’s personal problems come to a head.

At the time of this writing, I’m working on a couple projects, one of which has zero humor and the other-a Reznik story-I want some humor, but not Mallory-type humor. There’s some Reznik humor I’ve developed that I think works well with his character’s cynical nature. And I have time to play with it, tweak it so it’ll work.

Humor can be tricky to write. Several ways to write it, but it depends on what the author wants out of the story and how the author wants the reader to view the story.

What are some good examples of humor in stories you’ve run across?

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To Plot or Pants

outlineA common interview question is whether I outline with the follow up being why.

Let me discuss story outlines. Sure, others have done it before, but let me make it personal. To you and to me.

The common terminology is are you a plotter or a pantser, meaning does one lay out a story from beginning to end or does one start writing the story with no clear direction and see where it takes you. I’ve done both. Actually, I’ve done the free flow writing as an experiment but for some reason my mind jumps ahead and starts to lay out the story. I don’t think that’s bad and probably is the correct way to go.

I have yet to see a true pantser. At some point, one has to turn into a moderate plotter, because at some point, the story, to be complete, has to go somewhere. It has to develop. The characters have to have tension, conflict, and themselves develop. None of this can happen by just writing willy-nilly.

In all my experiments in my free flow writing, I start with a basic idea, then start writing. Soon, a half-formed plot appears and I know in which direction I want to take it. However, more often than not, I stop writing because the mind wants to finish the story, wants to create an outline. Otherwise, I feel like I’m writing nonsense or whatever I churn out will be nonsense, and I won’t like it or else know I have to do some major rewrites.

So, before I start the actual writing, I will create a basic outline. I’ll tinker with some scenes, do a bit of research if necessary, then figure out a cool way to start the story with a hook to attract and keep readers. This may take two days or two weeks. deaverI remember listening to Jeffrey Deaver’s method of outlining a story which is to create a 160 page outline where all he has to do is fill in the blank spaces with prose. My method is simple. I create a two to three page outline highlighting the scenes, then as I write, I may add, subtract, or change those scenes dealing with problems of time and research as they arise.

At the time of this writing (several weeks before the actual posting), I’m working on a couple projects, one being the first of what I’d like to be a series with Harry Reznik and a new partner, Tafari ‘Tiff’ Selby. I had written the outline a few years ago and had even started the story once. Unfortunately, when I wanted to work on it again, I couldn’t find the original, so I started fresh. That’s okay because I would bet the second start will be stronger than the original.

So, my issue with this story came up when I was moving along through the opening scenes. I have a crime established and the partnership created, but I started thinking about the clues the two investigators discover and came to the conclusion that they are coming to fast. Plus, with the timeline I’ve set up, I don’t have the time to deal with a subplot. So what do I do. Well, I had thought of finishing the story as I’ve outlined it, then going back and moving large chunks of it with changes to other places and filling in with more story. I am trying to figure out where/when to start the story. With the third murder or the second? I’m leaning toward right after the second. I think it would give more time for the story and the characters to develop. My problem now is, when do I stop with my current train of writing and go back and give this book a third attempt at a beginning?

I’m not anxious about it and I think it will be an easy change over. I’ll probably take some time and create another outline to link the current story with what happens before. It might be a bit of work, but I’m confident it should put the story in too much disarray.

I’m not saying Deaver’s method is wrong. It works for him That’s my point, really. Pick what works for you. I remember my taekwondo instructor making some suggestions on how to breathe while executing my form. I had mentioned I had changed the method a bit, but when he noticed how exhausted I was, he said to go back and try what worked before, or at least take some of what worked before.

So, a method for performing the taekwondo form can be adapted to fit and the principle can be used for writing.

What method works for you?

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With a little help…

picWhile writing the previous series of blogs, I had an idea that I wanted to share with writers, and everyone else. In that series, I had mentioned some assistance I received on the novel Zeta from an author friend and it got me to thinking about all the assistance I’ve received from people whether they knew they were being helpful.

Mike Van Netta (author of Leo’s Birds, which you can purchase if you visit Nearwood Winery south of Knoxville) is a doctor and moderator of the Marion County Writers Workshop which meets every Thursday at the winery. (Okay, technically not the moderator. That job fell to yours truly back in November. And not by choice, either. Ask me about it, I’ll tell you the story.) Whenever I have medical questions, I go to him. He’s helped me on several scenes and has corrected one or two mistakes. The good thing about him is he gives a lot of information, not just the basics. Which is a good thing, because it helps me filter through the information and not take the first idea that pops into my head. For instance, in Zeta, there is a scene where Darren helps a woman give birth. (I know, you’re saying, “Whoa! What? Tell me it’s not Mallory.” Uh, no. Just wait, you’ll see.). When I wrote the original plain Jane first draft of the scene, I knew it was going to be rewritten, but I wanted to get down the basic idea and some of the dialogue. After talking with Mike, I changed a major part of the scene and with a suggestion, made it stronger.

Other friends have helped strengthen my stories. I mentioned in the Origin blogs how a group of women told me the names of two of my male characters needed to be changed to reflect more masculinity. Thus, Jamie and Laurel became Darren and Lawrence.

Anther writer friend, Katherine (not her real name but I’m sure she would prefer the penname here), often told stories of her grandmother and how brazen she was when speaking. I enjoyed those tales enough to include a similar character in a scene in Delta (watch for it coming soon to an Amazon listing near you).

Years ago, at a critique group, an author described an incident involving her aunt and water balloons. That was put into a story, though at the moment, I couldn’t tell you which one.

I’ve mentioned in interviews how I enjoy doing research for stories, visiting sites where scenes will take place. Often my original idea will change to something much better by seeing someplace in person. You can’t get the same perspective from the street view on Google Maps as you can by being there. As many authors will conceive of stories from newspaper headlines (I have a small newspaper clipping I’ve kept regarding a humorous police call that I want to use as a scene), don’t underestimate the benefits of listening to people talk. I’m sure I could jot down loads of ideas from passenger conversations while driving Uber. Surreptitiously eavesdrop on restaurant conversations or those you hear on the street or in the mall, or at family reunions. Listen to the advice from friends and seek out those who know about the subject matter in your story.

Who knows what the end result will be?

(By the way, ‘end result’ reminds me of a bit George Carlin would do. Isn’t that redundant? Isn’t a result, the end of something? Oh, well.)

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Beta Locales, Part II

There were a lot of places I visited when I did a day trip to the Quad Cities. I traveled all over following the route Mallory took when she paired with Lawrence on the search. She first stops at her grandmother’s house. And here it is. Oh, yes, that was my grandmother’s house.

grandma's house

She meets Lawrence in the Blue Building in East Moline. There is no such named building and to tell you the truth, I don’t know where the actual police station is located. However, I’ve put it along 23rd Avenue at Kennedy. The building I used was originally a light blue but as you can see, it’s changed color and is currently the Black Hawk College Outreach Center.

blue building black hawk co outreach ctr

Davenport and the other cities have changed so much that I couldn’t find but two spots Mallory visited in her search. I tried, but nothing looks as it did 15-18 years ago. Anyway, the first place they visit is a gelatin plant. I believe this is the place where I encountered the rude secretary who was put into the book.

gelatin plant

They also visit the Kraft Foods plant downtown, but I renamed it Carlton. The only realities in the book are: the interior part of the reception office where prospective employees fill out applications, the flighty receptionist, and the employee list book. The layout and interior of the plant are based off another plant since nobody at Kraft would describe anything or any piece of machinery when I contacted them. Fortunately, I had a friend who had done some CAD work for a plant in Ottumwa

carlton plant

This next picture is of a vacant lot and I’m a bit sad because the mat market that was in this spot had been there for decades. I don’t remember the original name and I think I was in the place once or twice. I just always had a fondness for the site being so close to my grandmother’s house and I thought it would be the perfect place for the main operation of the bad guys. I created the interior but much of the exterior is based on my memories. Alas, nothing exists any longer.

meat market

Later in the story, Mallory does a ride along with the FBI in a planned raid on one of the houses the bad guys uses. The house I used was the house next door to the right of the brick one in the picture. I feature the brick house because I used to live there until fifth grade when my family moved. 1015 38th Street, East Moline. 200 yards from the high school, but because of the way they carved up the districts, I would have been shipped to the one downtown. Anyway, a few things have changed with this old house throughout the years

1015 38th avenue

One of Mallory’s chase scenes is on a bicycle and she follows the bad guy but ends up in the mud on the Short Hills golf course.

short hills golf course

So there are some interesting spots where scenes in Beta take place.

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Beta Locales, Part I

When I was writing Beta, I was still living in Oskaloosa, but going to Des Moines almost every week to attend a writers’ critique group at Barnes & Noble. Many times, I’d be up there early to drive around to do some research, look at different locations.

Again, some people may recognize the sites I have pictured that I’ve used in the book, but I have changed the names and created interiors when I couldn’t go inside.

Beta begins with a little girl being kidnapped and the beginning of her hellish involvement with child pornography. Mallory Petersen gets involved by being hired by the girl’s mother. Mallory visits various places, talks to different people, including Willy Washington. She meets hi at Java Joe’s down on Court Avenue. By the way, the atmosphere in the book is real and the gentleman she sees who is a bit odd, is based on a real person I saw.

joes

Following a tip, she goes to this place and sees an interesting transaction. Yes, this place is in the book, but it’s called the Video Vault and I fictionalize the interior and I give my disclaimer here that I am not implying anything is illegal here. I used it only because it was there. If the video store was somewhere else, I’d use it there.

video vault

She follows the cashier to his apartment complex off of 86th between Douglas and Hickman and extracts further leads.

86th st. apt. complex

Ditto disclaimer here. I was able to enter this building from the front, but, as mentioned in the book, got no further than the front reception. I used parked here one afternoon and scribbled down some descriptions to use when Mallory comes to visit. I had to create the interior and I have changed the company name to Manchester.

manchester

So, the trail leads Mallory to Oskaloosa. I supposed some people would wonder at the logic of taking the girl to Oskaloosa for some photographs, but there you have it. I wanted to use the town. As I mentioned in the Alpha Locales blog, I have looked for some of these places but was unable to find the exact site because of changes, or I just am not able to remember where I went. This is true of the place in Oskaloosa. I don’t know if the building I used still exists, but I know it was down this street. South D.

south d street osky

Okay, Mallory will head to the Quad Cities for the next part of the story and next week, we’ll follow her.

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Alpha Locales, Part II

Continuing from last week on Alpha locales in Des Moines. I put Mallory’s house on Ash Street in pleasant Hill, just down the hill from the back of the building that houses the library and Pleasant Hill Police station. I’ve changed the description of her house because I envision it as more a ranch style residence than a two story with a wider yard. Creative license and all that, but it’s located roughly where the second house from the corner is.

mallory's street

Mallory discovers a narcotics operation going on at the Southridge theatre and I have to fictionalize the theatre’s layout. In the scene, Mallory follows the lead guy inside the building and into the restroom. However, the restroom is located in a different spot in the real theatre. I had to change the location to make the scene work.

southridge theatre

The next phase of discovery is her relaxing at the Botanical Center and seeing a shipment of narcotics come upriver.

botanical center

Later, she follows two bad guys out to a park along the Greenbelt Trail off of 100th Street.

greenbelt trail park

After this, she meets Reznik and a narcotics officer at her fitness center to discuss her discoveries. This isn’t a fitness club near Copper Creek in Pleasant Hill, but I made it one for the book. The area around this building is very nice.

copper creek 24-7

When I was driving around Des Moines either shopping or looking for different places for scenes, I visited the Merle Hay Mall area a lot. On the southeast corner across the street at the intersection with Douglas as an auto mechanic. That stood there for a long time. But, as time goes by, things change and that entire area is now occupied by small stores and restaurants. But this used to be where Sands Auto stood (fictional name), where a task force meets to discuss a sting operation.

former sands auto

Later, Mallory meets a gang that gets involved in the sting operation at Val Air Lanes.

val air lanes

It’s a bowling alley across from the Val Air ballroom, where Mallory has her next fun, then terrifying scenes.

val air ballroom

Mallory has a scene with the missing woman’s ex-husband at the state fairgrounds. Here’s the Grand Avenue entrance.

fairgrounds

Mallory and the task force put phase on of their sting operation into play at Glendale Cemetery, along University.

glendale cemetery

Mallory discovers that the bad guys who attacked her outside the Val Air works for Edward Brougham III. Brougham, as mentioned in his character profile, operates The Red Tomatoe bar. Although the bar no longer exists, this is where I have placed it. Where Perkins Sits on McKinley, just north of the airport.

the red tomatoe

THE climax of the story takes place under the East 30th Street bridge south of the fairgrounds. I thought it was a superb place to have it. I tried to describe it as I saw it when I visited the area (inadvertently trespassing according to one official. Don’t worry, no fines or trouble.) and I thought it worked very well.

train yard

So, there’s a bit of Des Moines for Alpha. Next week, we’ll take a look at some sites for Beta.

Stay tuned.

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Alpha Locales, Part I

I have a friend whose mother read both Alpha and Beta (and if you haven’t, then buy them now on Amazon) and kept sending her out to take pictures of some of the locales I uses in the stories. At least those around Des Moines. Beta, of course, ventures down to Oskaloosa, then up to the Quad Cities.

I thought you might like to see some of those locales from some of the scenes in each story. As you may know, I like to use actual places, fictionalized, in order to stay as close to reality as possible. I mean, unless I’m completely rearranging Des Moines in an alternate universe story, people familiar with the city won’t buy that the Principle Building is located on Mils Civic Parkway and E. P. True Parkway if that’s where. I put it. When I set out to write a story, I use as much of reality as possible.

Before I get started with showing you the images (unless you’ve skipped ahead and have already started looking at them), I want to say three things. First, all of the following are screen shots taken from Google Maps either at street level or an aerial shot. There is no advertising being done here so don’t get uptight. The second thing is that some people may recognize these places and that’s okay because, like I said, I fictionalize them, changing the names. In no way am I suggesting that anything illicit or illegal is happening in any of these places. This is fiction. Third, I would have liked to have gotten more pictures of buildings and locations, but many years have passed since I visited these places and the landscape has changed so much in the intervening time period. Some places don’t even exist any longer as you’ll soon see, or else, I’m unable to find them on the maps.

Let me start with Alpha. I’m showing you a stretch of Locust Street in downtown Des Moines. The first building on the left is where I envisioned Mallory Petersen’s office to be. At least I think it’s the building. Again, I can’t be sure since downtown has changed over the last 20+ years, but it’s a pretty good proximity.

locust street-office

Mallory visits the Des Moines Police Department and here it is.

police dept

Moving through the book in a general timeline order, (but don’t hold me to it), Mallory, on the trail of finding some information about her murdered boyfriend, first stops at his mother’s house, then at a bar on 86th near Hickman they frequented. As you can see, it’s now called The Rack, but when I was researching it, it was called something different and actually sat empty for some time.

bar

While searching for answer to the murder, she is also trying to find her landlord’s missing daughter. She first visits the house of her ex-husband who lives in a house not too far down Forest Avenue near the Drake University campus. I don’t have a specific house chosen, but it’s not too far down this block.

forest avenue

One night, she receives a call from Darren who has a police report that she’s been seen up near Hy-Vee Near Euclid and MLK. When Mallory gets close, she sees the woman in a bus depot, ends up losing her and winds up fleeing from some bad guys along a bike path out to a walking bridge that crosses the Des Moines River. There, she defeats one of the bad guys by dumping him in the river.

Next week, I’ll continue through Alpha with more fun places in Des Moines.

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Around The Globe with Andy Potter

Coromandel PeninsulaIt’s been a while since I’ve traveled and I am so happy to be going someplace warm, since Iowa has had trouble bringing on spring and the warmer temps. Of course, by this time, it’s here, but…

We’re off to the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. No crowds, excellent water and atmosphere and the locals’ accent is terrific. So, let’s sit back and enjoy for a bit…what? What’s wrong? Oh, yeah, I have an interview to conduct.

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andypotter_300pixels1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

Hello. I’m very glad to jump onboard this globe-trotting blog. My name’s Andy (A.M.) Potter. I write detective fiction, which I call North Noir, aka Canuck Noir. You know what I say? “Leave your Scandinavian Noir in the sauna. It’s time for North Noir.” On the bio side, I grew up in Nova Scotia and Boston. I’m not the most fascinating person in my town. No way. I’m just an observer. I try to capture nuances with words.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t mind the cold. (Most folks know I love tropical beaches, but cold is good. Gets the body – and the mind – moving.)

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as a rock star?

Couldn’t sing for my supper, let alone for an arena.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

Martin Amis, whose prose is Bowie-knife sharp. I imagine he’d be a knife-sharp conversationalist. Plus Anthony Bourdain. If he were cooking, you’d get great food and great ‘craic,’ as the Irish say.

BayofBlood-Cover-2019Feb025. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

Bay of Blood, the first novel in the Detective Eva Naslund series, will take your mind off the suffering/boredom. It’ll exercise your grey cells. According to one reviewer, “it’s a genuine page-turner. Naslund grapples with few clues and many suspects, all of whom seem guilty of the murder of her friend, an internationally famous painter. Page after page, Potter reveals captivating character twists and Naslund’s creative forensic skills.” As for me personally, I’d be reading London Fields by Martin Amis. Some find it sexist and misogynist – and, in places, it is – but give me the sheer exuberance of Amis’ prose. Will he go off on tangents about pubs, sex, or the sky over London? You bet he will. If it’s not your cup of novel, you’ll know within pages. Me, I knew within a page that I’d keep reading. And that I’d laugh and chortle. As I alluded to, London Fields is not mainstream. It’s not politically correct, it stretches boundaries. Like a certain beer brewed in Nova Scotia (an IPA), those who like it like it a lot. I’m one of them.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

I like to get up fairly early (sunrise), swim, and then write until noon or one p.m. I’ll edit and rewrite until I’m happy – maybe twenty times. I have no upper limit.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

My advice – hackneyed as it is – is to just start writing. Your idea is the gold. Jot it down, transmute the gold into words. Adjust, edit, move words/chapters around later.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

Get in trouble! Always. Best strategy for writing too. Stretch yourself.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

The second novel in my North Noir, Detective Eva Naslund series.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

https://ampnorthnoir.com

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Male & Female, Part III

Alright, the question now is, how does all of that affect my writing? Well, in regard to the most recently mentioned woman, the effect is that every now and then I scribble down some lines of poetry. I started a story about her and maybe one day I’ll get back to it, but the writing is mostly for relief. (Also, don’t think I’m turning into some kind of poet. I do not write poetry. I’m not saying I don’t like it, but poetry is not my thing, okay? So, if at the next Tuesday night Barnes & Noble group you hear me spouting a few lines about a woman in Oregon I’m longing for, just go with it.)

Since we’re talking about attractive women, I may have mentioned in the Petersen character profile discussion that a blue-eyed blonde was the first type of woman I thought of when creating a heroine. Not that I’m not attracted to others. I’ve seen a few reds that are gorgeous and there are a plethora of brunettes out there, including the one who severely broke my heart. But blondes…something about them. Reznik’s wife was a blonde. There’s a cop in Alpha who is based on a pretty blonde I’ve seen. Another cop is a redhead. I’ve written the opening chapters of another story with a blonde protagonist.

I’ve been discussing male roles in society, so how do I write the men? Well, Lawrence Cameron is the handsome cop who becomes Mallory’s long distance boyfriend. (And I just realized I haven’t written a character profile blog about him, yet.) But I have put him in the role of a confident, sure, strong, and romantic. In Beta, he takes the first move and kisses Mallory after telling her she’s beautiful. I thought about that scene when I wrote it and wondered if I should have written it another way. Looking back on it now, I think I’m glad I did have him initiate the romance. If I would have written the scene today, I don’t think it would have come off as strong, or show Lawrence in such a strong light. In the most recent Petersen story, Zeta, which I’m reading to critique groups, I have put a bit of me into Lawrence, which I’ve never done. That might be surprising, but it’s true. I don’t see me in Lawrence other than my name, because I’m not him. He’s taller, more handsome, stronger and surer with women than I am. He’s who I’d want to be could I be him. Make sense? No, I put me into Mallory. My emotions, my feelings, I transfer to her.

In Zeta, though, I have softened Lawrence just a little in a scene where he expresses his love for Mallory. When I wrote the scene, I wondered if the timing was right for both the scene and the sentiment. I think it worked and I’ll be interested to see what others think. Otherwise, in other stories, Lawrence has been the rock, the supportive and encouraging male. He is there for Mallory with affection, but also with common sense, and tries to communicate with her how she doesn’t need to feel guilty for all the bad things that happen to her or to him. (Yes, I’ve dealt some serious injuries to the dashing hero.)

When I finished the first draft of Zeta, I realized the story wasn’t long enough. I never concerned myself with story length until after I completed what I thought was the entire story. I discussed some ideas with an author, in addition to asking him some medical questions. (Thanks, Mike. You cleared up some things for me and made one scene a lot stronger with some ideas.) I spent more time writing extra scenes and what became a second storyline, this one featuring Darren. Wait, let me back up a bit. The week before I talked with Mike, I briefly discussed some ideas with him. On the drive home, I thought about one of the basic elements of a story. Conflict. I couldn’t have Darren just go through the days solving cases while Mallory was out of town. First, those scenes would have looked and felt like filler. Second, I didn’t think I could think of too many investigations, humorous or otherwise, before it became too much or too messy. I needed a reason for readers to care for Darren, to want to root for him. To make that happen, he needed conflict. What better conflict than heartbreak and heartache? Once that idea sparked, the door flung wide open (yeah, I’ve mixed my metaphors, work with me here) and I was confronted with a decision to, once again, put some of me into a character. And not just me, but one of my experiences into the book. The one I mentioned before I couldn’t detail. I was excited about, first, if I should cross that line, then how to do it? How to write the scenes. Which created some background, some history to the Darren character. I suppose I’ve seen a bit of me in Darren, but this was a chance to put more. I know I’ll have to tweak them a bit, but I think they came out pretty good in the first draft.

Because these scenes deal with the theme of this blog series. Male roles. The rules. What’s accepted nowadays. Attitudes, emotions, thoughts, where do we go from here, and what happens tomorrow? I also think they help me deal with some of my emotions. Just like poetry helps relieve the pressure of missing that certain someone, putting myself out there in prose might help me move forward on some other issues.

Guess time will tell.

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Male & Female, Part II

I entered school, junior high, high school, a bit naïve about dating, and like most teens, unsure of how we’re supposed to act around girls. I was attracted to several girls in school, but even then, I was the biggest chicken. While other guys dated, went out on Saturday nights, I didn’t have one date in high school. Not one. And not for lack of trying. Well, a bit of trying. I kept falling for the girls who had no reciprocal feelings. (And come to think of it, that scenario has held true for too many decades) I won’t mention names to protect the innocent, but there were many. I even got around to asking one out. Again, and again with negative results. Finally, after a few times, it was mentioned in passing that why was I so dumb to not realize the girl wasn’t interested. The next time I asked, I told her that if she wasn’t interested, just say so. I’m not sure of her answer. Maybe a sweet ‘You naïve fool’ smile.

I didn’t have my first date until my second semester as a freshman in college with a girl who I was attracted to for a couple weeks. Then I messed up my next relationship in college and was too much of a chicken (again) to initiate another.

Nothing until ’91 and it lasted several years. Since, well, basically nothing. Not that I was burned by the previous-not much-but much of the reason was my job. I worked nights and my days off varied and I was still instructing martial arts classes. Oh, I had a couple dates with a girl from class, but she was a wanderer and didn’t tell me until the second date that she had a boyfriend (Uh, ladies, that’s not cool, by the way. Tell a guy, will you?) and she moved away soon after.

Since moving to the Des Moines area my schedule has become busy. Work, classes twice a week, writers groups once to twice a week, and weekends are spent earning extra money with a side job. The bar scene isn’t my thing and I haven’t joined any civic groups or any other organizations. Dating websites are pretty much filled frauds.

How about coworkers? Lots of attractive women where I work and I’ve asked out two. The first time ended with a no and the second ended in disaster which I won’t detail on this blog until many years have passed, if ever. I will say that experience has affected me, because, well, I’m not sure I know the rules anymore.

Seriously, with all that’s been happening in the last few years, what’s a guy to do? I’m sure there are all kinds of traditional bar and nightclub pickups down on Court Avenue every weekend, but that’s not my thing, like I said. And don’t tell one side is taking offense, not with some of the passengers I’ve driven around. Sure, there are still basic, sensible rules. But have some of those been blurred to a point where even a simple gesture or question is misinterpreted or deemed wrong? Would a simple comment be wrong? I was unsure whether I should mention to a coworker how I noticed she’d recently changed her hairstyle. Are guys supposed to notice attractive women? Acknowledge them as attractive? Is that wrong? I’m sure there are times and places where it’s not, but how about otherwise? The Gillette ad has a quick scene where an attractive woman walks by and a guy in a door starts to step forward wen another guy stops him by saying that what he was about to do wasn’t cool. Wait a minute. What was the guy going to do? That was never revealed. The ad has the atmosphere where he was going to be a jerk, make some crude comment or gesture. Maybe he was going to (heaven forbid) whistle appreciatively. You don’t know, maybe he was going to approach her and say hello like a gentleman interested in a pretty woman. Would that be so awful? I mean, Is it better to say something and regret it if something bad happens or regret not saying anything? Back in October, I wrote a post to and about an extraordinary woman with whom I had briefly worked. I learned too late she had left the job and learned too late she had moved. But she had affected me so deeply, that even two and half years since I last saw her, I still miss her. I regret not being brave enough to tell her in person how I felt.

Next week, let’s make this topic relevant to writing.

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