Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards

‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterwards.’

‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’

‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

You wouldn’t normally associate the Queen of Hearts with thoughtfulness, but Her Mad Majesty is on to something here, at least as it speaks to writers. Our first and most basic task is conceiving, birthing, nurturing–wait for it–a sentence. The noun plus verb kind.

And as Alice found Wonderland, sentence construction isn’t easy. The artiste in you wants Continue reading “Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards”

Setting Ablaze

Gone With the Wind, 1939Cue Scarlett O’Hara shambling beaten and ravenous into what’s left of Tara’s gardens. She roots in the dirt for anything, anything to eat. The music swells. Scarlett digs up a radish and tries to devour it raw. She wretches, gathers herself, and declares to a fiery sky that she’ll never go hungry again.

Like other movies turned pop culture shorthand, Gone with the Wind makes  common language to talk story mechanics, thank you Margaret Mitchell and Victor Fleming. We all know Scarlett and her arc, how this moment cues her shift in motivations come Act Two. We remember her Big Declaration as alive with Continue reading “Setting Ablaze”

Derringer-ered!

I’m incredibly proud  that last year’s “The Cumberland Package” (AHMM, May 2016) has been named a finalist for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Awards.  I mean, like busting-at-seams proud.

Of being named, because the crime space these days is terrific in its voice and depth. The stuff that leaves me vibrating explores in stark terms human nature at core. Not much more human than the crimes we choose to commit–or choose not to.

And there’s the bust-at-seams honor. Any story of mine is thought even near the best of that buzz level?

Thank you.

B

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Here’s my Derringer finalist Q&A.

And here’s each of the finalists’ Q&A. Fascinating behind-scenes stories. Writer-to-writer, what it took is where it’s at.

The Case of the Conjuror’s Trick

800px-A_Study_in_Scarlet_from_Beeton's_Christmas_Annual_1887Sherlock Holmes. Just that name conjures up a lean man in cape and deerstalker tracking through the moors or pacing 221B Baker Street over a multi-pipe problem. Holmes long ago achieved literary escape velocity, transcending Victorian London, crime fiction and even Conan Doyle. First sleuthing upon the page in 1887’s A Study in Scarlet, these days scads of pastiches and reinterpretations are published every year. Holmes movies, television series, theatre productions. Holmes societies across the world. The game has never been more afoot.

What about him has such lasting magic?

Last year I found myself immersed in that question, tasked at Continue reading “The Case of the Conjuror’s Trick”