Mystery Stories

I grew up reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Kim Aldrich. I could never get enough of girls having adventures with something exciting like solving mysteries.


A woman on a pier, holding an umbrella over her face
I broke my right foot. Terribly inconvenient. But it inspired this story.
Beach view of Morro Rock
When I was driving home, a white dog was standing up on his hind legs, feet propped up on afence, looking like he was chatting with the neighbors. So I had to use him in a story.

Apologizing for What’s in Our Stories?

Kitten sleepily looks up from wool scarf

Last week, Tamora Pierce’s new book Tempests and Slaughter came out.  Long-awaited for me.  I love reading her books.

But animals also die in her books.

I don’t mind that because she portrays them as characters.  They carry the same weight as human characters.  If we mourn the loss of a human character, we mourn the loss of an animal character.

Are others offended that animals die in her books?


I’ve had problems with thrillers.  If a cat or dog makes an appearance in one of those, I’m done.  I stop reading.  Most the writers of those books kill the animal to show how evil the kill is.  In one book, I was pretty sure the writer was fictionally killing off the cat his wife had forced him to have.

Do other people read through those books and enjoy them?


Chihuahua holding a pink rose in his mouth, giving a soulful look.

It’s part of writing stories that we have to push at our boundaries.

And sometimes make people uncomfortable.

Star Trek also did that.

It’s one of the reasons the show has endured despite 50 years.  No one apologized.  They simply did.

But as I was driving into work this morning, I heard a story about the new Peter Rabbit movie.  Seemed that a scene offended people so the movie company apologized.

I haven’t seen the film, but the scene sounded like teenage bullying…with rabbits.  So we can’t use movies to bring up bullying?  Or that it should only be in a certain way?  That the readers aren’t capable of figuring things out for themselves?

Sometimes books and movies are a safe place to push at a boundary.  Star Trek was great because it was set in the future and could be escapist at the same time.  But now, somehow, it’s become the thing not to offend.

Yeah, there are people like artists who do something for the shock value.  Then there are those who bring their experiences to the story and show us a different perspective.  They make us think.

Problem is that people can be offended by pretty much anything.

Tiny man standing on laptop, pointing at screen, horrified

So we rob our society of the ability to do social commentary of differing viewpoints.  We end up with the watered down “committee” stories because people are afraid a reader will call offense.

Star Trek is still relevant today.  Yet, Chris Pine, the “new” Captain Kirk says we couldn’t make show like that today.

Think about that.  Think about that a long time.


Adventures Around the Web Octber 21-26

This week, the colder temperatures marched in, and then bounced around.  Pretty typical for DC, but it’s hard when your sinuses are going, “I’m not happy”…

Lulu the dog flunked out of CIA bomb-sniffer school because she just didn’t care

Spy dog fails classes at CIA!  Lots of very cute dog pictures for Friday.  Labs have a gentleness about them that’s just fun to look at.  Link courtesy of Day Al-Mohamed.

Serialized television has become a disease

I’ve of mixed feelings about serialization.  Early on, I did think it gave shows a continuity they desperately needed.  On the show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, it was like the writers hit a reset button each time they wrote a new episode.  If aliens invaded the ship, it was treated as if it was the first time, even when it wasn’t.  Characters come into our lives and become something more, just like in books.  But serialization does not allow episodes to stand out.  What if the serialization for the year is poor?

Adding Tags in OneNote

This one’s a software tool I’ve been using for my research library.  I was on Evernote, but I switched over over because I don’t need extra software to confuse things.  I already had OneNote as part of the 365 subscription–why pay for a second program?  I know Scrivener had notes for projects, but I always thought research notes should be available for reuse. That’s a little hard if it’s done by project.  I also heard someone say that OneNote doesn’t have tagging.  I don’t use it myself, but the link explains to to tag.  And a photo of my research library …

A screenshot of my index pages showing headers for Ocean Liners and links underneath.



What does your writing muse look like?

Sometimes it helps to picture the muse.  That’s the creative side of the brain, the part that plays when I write.

Most of the time when I see discussions about the muse, it’s either treated like fairy dust or a stern school teacher.  I was thinking about what it looked like after reading an article on Novel Writing Help:

The muse sulks when he doesn’t get his own way and sometimes throws things across the room in a temper. The critic sighs, shakes his head, and fetches the dustpan.

In one of the many online workshops on writing that I took, one of them had a lesson that asked me to come up with what my muse looked like.  The first image I had was a Golden Retriever:

Golden retriever in the water
Golden retriever swimming in muddy water with dragonfly on head

© Kitsen | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It’s not hard to see that happy dogs like exploring the world.  Mention walk (or in my case, if I bumped the leash hanging on the all), and it’s time for a dog party.  Yet, any inking that a vet is in the future and that same dog puts down her front feet and will. Not. Go.

That’s the muse, all wrapped into one package.

What does yours look like?

A Little Pool Action

We’re going for record-breaking temperatures in Washington, DC today and tomorrow.  According to the news, the humidity is up in the tropical category, so it’s just clogging the air.  Definitely a day for a little pool action:

Summer Dogs

This is a wonderfully fun video of dogs and water.  Of course, it’s another story when it comes to bath time …

Dogs of Desert Storm – Photo

As the war started, this small dog wandered into our camp, and one of the women — my roommate from back in the barracks adopted him.  She called him “Muttley.”

This was taken inside the women’s tent, so you can see what our living conditions were like.  The floor was covered and taped down.  In back and to the left a little are boxes of ubiquitous water bottles.

Small dog walks across tent floor

Week 2: Month of Setting

This is week 2 of my writing one setting a day for a month.  It’s nothing fancy, and in fact, the small bits are the ones I have the hardest time even remembering to get into the story.  This was a “furry” week, since I ran into a dog, a cat, a squirrel, and a mouse.  We had blistering cold weather (30s) and then warmed into the 60s (back to 30s today), so the critters came out for a visit.

1.  It was an apartment building, but the dirty yellow brick facade and iron fence with spikes made it look more like a prison.

2.  A yellow Labrador stood on his hind legs, front feet hooked over the top of the chain link fence.  He was just enjoying himself, tail wagging comfortably as he watched the cable man.

3.  Leaves crackled, and she caught a flash of black.  One of the black squirrels drawn out by the warm day, no doubt.

4.  The crackle alerted me that something lurked in the tall, dry, yellow grass.  I squinted, expecting a squirrel.  It was unbearably warm, and they were about.  But the shape, dark brown, had stilled, watching me.  A cat?

5.  Red Christmas lights followed the line of the chain link fence to the end of the sidewalk.

6. The fog made fuzzy halos around the white glow of the street lights.

7. As I rounded the corner of the dishware aisle, a blur of a black shape with a tail made a dash across to the kitchen utensils display.  I heard a curious thunk, and the shape was simply gone

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of the cat in #4.  I was surprised to get this good a picture.  This was taken at the Fredericksburg National Battlefield while I was on the Sunken Road.   The ranger in the video is actually standing pretty close to where I spotted the cat.

Cat mostly hidden by tall yellow grass

Rule N: Never look desperate when it comes to writing

Linda’s Rules of Writing

Close up of a little dog stand on hind legs and begging, against a red background
Begging is cute on a dog, most of the time anyway, but smacks of desperation from a writer.

We’re onto the letter N in Linda’s Rules of Writing of the A to Z Challenge, and it’s never to look desperate.  Sort of like Gibb’s rule to never apologize.

This one was inspired by a review request I got.  The writer was emailing me blindly because I had a blog.  He didn’t notice I didn’t do book reviews, nor did he notice what I read, nor did he notice how to spell my name correctly.  Honestly, Linda Adams — is that hard to spell?!

Desperation comes in many forms.  It’s the writer begging for reviews like above.  It’s the writer spamming strangers on Twitter. It’s the writer slipping a manuscript under a bathroom stall to the agent inside.  It’s the writer willing to lie to an agent to get what is needed.

It’s tough getting published, and there’s a lot of competition.  Only about 5 percent get an agent’s interest and 1 percent of that gets to a publisher.  It is enough to make people desperate to be seen.  But if the story doesn’t work, fancy tricks aren’t going to sell it.  Desperation just plain looks bad.

What’s your gripe about desperate writers?

Which is Better — Cats or Dogs?

At my critique group this last week, we got in a discussion about cats and dogs.

One member had cats and thought cats were better.

Another member had dogs and thought dogs were better.

I grew up with both.  We had a total of four dogs and four cats.

We’ll start with dogs.  They’re lovable doofuses.  They get into all kinds of trouble because they don’t think.  Their memories are both short and long.  They’re remember what time dinner is, but completely forget it’s a bad idea to run off down the street.  Running down the street was always what scared us the most, because it was Los Angeles, and I don’t think I went a day without seeing a dog or cat dead in the street.  Two of our dogs would out, and it was like, “Time to party!”  They didn’t have a brain between them, so when they went out roaming, they followed each other.  They were like a couple of drunks, who didn’t know where they were going.  Of course, we’d catch them eventually and yell at them.  They’d look guilty, and then a few weeks later, they were out partying again.  They were very lucky dogs because both survived to old age.  One was over 20!

Cats are royalty.  Or at least, that’s the way they act, particularly the Siamese we had.  Our cats were surprisingly well-mannered.  I’ve been amazed at photos on LOL Cats of cats shredding toilet paper.  None of ours did, though the Siamese could be vindictive.  After we got Dog #4, the cat let us know he was displeased with our decision: He turned the computer paper box into a litter box.  There was no doubt in ours minds he knew exactly what he was doing.  He was the worst when it came to food.  Because of the dogs, we had to put his food on a cat tree, unfortunately placed near the kitchen.  This cat would get up on the shelf and check his can of cat food. If it was empty — Whack!  He knocked it off the shelf and to the floor, where the dogs went for it.  Then he’d meow at anyone who passed by.  Since we were trying to diet him, we ignored the meows.  So he’d take to swatting people, claws extended.  He later died from hardening of the arteries.  According to my father, the dogs knew something was wrong and allowed the cat to sleep in one of the dog beds, where he died during the night.

Which is better?  No contest.  When we had to let both cats and dogs go to old age, it didn’t make it any easier.

Do you have any favorite cat or dog stories to share? Which are better?