Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dear LCC: Welcome To My Secret Garden

My Best Conference Buddy (BCB), Tina Whittle, and I have just shared the writing of a post about our first Left Coast Crime which happened in Sacramento in 2012.

As part of that project, Tina says I should include a Bio, a Photo, and a link to my blog.

AKA, The Trio of Death & Shame.

Okey, dokey.

Bio, I've got. Photo I could mainly handle — with some carefully applied special effects. But the blog, the blog!

C'mon. You know how how it can go with a blog. Starts off with impeccable intentions, proceeds through the first burst of enthusiasm, loses momentum, and, at last, occupies the seat of baleful rebuke, wrapped in a black cloak, hood obscuring the visage. One bony finger skewering your worthless, careless, lazy little soul.

The worst part — or maybe it's the best — is that almost nobody knows how neglected and bare, how wintery and sad, your blog has become. Because almost no one ever goes there. It becomes your Secret Garden of Despair because the children don't play here anymore. Mostly never did.

But I tell you what: It's still a fine little garden. I planted some nice bits of my life in here. When I thought I had an idea to pursue or a scrap of something fun and no place to put it, I put it here. Thoughts about looking for an agent and not getting one (I've got one now!), thoughts about my life and my parents, stuff about books I read or didn't read, a poem or two, one spooky Halloween story, reports on presentations by writers I admire, and some encouraging words for my fellow-travelers. We all need those keep on, keepin' on encouragements sometimes. They help us fend off the big bad wolves of doubt.

So welcome to you, any LCC-ers who may open the gate to my quiet little corner of the Interweb. And anyone else who stumbles in here, out of the rainy dark…ether…cloud. Now I have two — count 'em TWO — brand new posts, especially for you. (And for the lovely fellow traveler who just left a comment?  Wow!  Thanks!  I thought I was all alone in here.)

Perhaps my Secret Garden may yet bloom anew.  See y'all in Phoenix!

xoAnnie Hogsett

Where does it come from?

One of the things that happens to us writers when people find out we’re writers is we get The Questions:

1) “Would I have read anything you’ve written?” 

Answer: Well, I wrote a lot of ads. Did you ever feel compelled to buy something you didn’t need and couldn’t afford? That could have been me.  I have a blog, but it's a big Internet ….

2) “When will I be able to buy your book in a store?”

Answer: Not yet. Probably not for a while. Possibly when pigs fly. Keep watching the sky. I sure do.

3) “Where do you get your ideas?”

Answer:  This is the one I love. (And I’m not being bitter or sarcastic or anything.)

The truth is as follows: I got A Parsnip Universe one day when I was not finding some item I was looking for and muttered, “Dang. It must have gone into another universe.” I got Motes because the woman who cleaned for us was resolute about turning everything cattycornered. I drove by a Bratenahl gatehouse and suddenly just knew there was an ex-CIA agent living there. Shortly after that, he told me he was in love with the lady of the mansion who’d been married to his best friend and that the best friend was now“Twice As Dead.”

Most recently, I was driving back from the – now demolished – McDonalds on Lake Shore and I heard a voice that was not my own saying, “You know you live in a rough neighborhood when someone honks at a blind man in the crosswalk.” 

Hello, Allie Harper. Go grab that blind man. He’s kind, smart, handsome, and hot – and about to be very, very – very to the 10th power – rich. Be careful, though. With money like that, Somebody's Bound To Wind Up Dead.

Of course, the magical whatever-that-was did not stay around to dictate the whole book in any of those instances, but the spark was powerful enough to get me going and, over time, I began to trust that I could keep on going long enough to find out what those folks were up to. I swear to you that for me this is pure, irresistible magic. 

Now. Listen up. The “Story Idea Fairy” doesn’t visit only the “real writers.” She/He comes to us all. She came to my mother every time she said to me, “Look at that couple over there. Do you think they’re happily married?” (I always said, “Shhh! They’ll hear you.” And no doubt scared the magical muse away.) We see things and imagine things and remember things and if we can tell our rational self to just shut up, sit down, and type something, they spin and turn and weave themselves into stories. 

They can’t really do it all by themselves, of course. The work, the doubt, the dejection & rejection, the pain in your neck, and the delight of your heart are in your keeping. Yours alone. 

But it doesn't matter if you sell a million copies or you only read the one tattered copy you have to the people at the rest home who can’t get up and walk away. Your work in the service of your characters and their stories will be a blessing to your creative self. For sure, you have one of those. I promise that you got one. It’s standard issue.

So here’s where stories come from:  Us.

P.S. And if you scroll down to the next post, you'll discover that sometimes a bit of a story can get delivered by the UPS man. Who knew? 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Where Writers Get Their Ideas. And Their Paranoia.

Okay.  It's winter.  What one might call "The Dead" of this season.  Lake E is locked down under an unknowable number of inches of ice and about ten inches of snow.  The quiet presses in.  The sky is sulking.  Even the wind is sleeping.  The writer is frozen in place. Stir crazy.  Cabin feverish.

That might explain it.

This object arrived last night. Shipped by Amazon.  Delivered along with another package ordered from Amazon.

"What is this?"
"I ordered the other thing, but nothing else. Did you order something?"
"What IS this?"

Well, there it was. A largish manilla envelope, very heavy for its size.  Sent to Ann Hogsett by the vast, intricate, rapacious, behemoth from its vast, intricate, rapacious, behemoth "Fulfillment Center" in Lexington, Kentucky.

Sent to me.  Not ordered by me. Very. Heavy. For. Its. Size.

So I am a writer.  I write mysteries. I watch Castle and The Blacklist -- lately a very, very heavy binge diet of Red Reddington.

So.  OMG.  Here's what you should do when you get a package you didn't order that weighs more than a manila envelope should reasonably be expected to hold. You put it down. Gently. You grab your spouse and the cat, not necessarily in that order -- especially since Spouse is chortling, "Oh, yeah. It's a bomb all right. No question about it.  Yuck, yuck, yuck."

You should sprint from your house through the snow to a "safe distance" and then you should think "BLEVE!" because a thriller writer/explosives expert guy, named John Gilstrap, has recently acquainted you with the Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion which you've planned for Book 2 of the current series and which you like to think of as the Big Loud Extra Very Explosive explosion. And realize you should run at least to the front gate. For starters.

And what did I myself do?  I unleashed some swearing at the Spouse and ignored the involuntary increase in heart rate.

Then I opened the envelope.

And found that thing.  It looked kind of like a bottle of balsamic vinegar.  That weighed about 2 pounds. Sealed in a heavy plastic bag. Smooth. Slick. Cold  It had a yellow cap that said, "Remove yellow cap before installation."

Balsamic Death Bomb.  Obviously.

I did the next best thing to the run-to-the-gate maneuver.  I put it in the garage.  Ha.

I took the (radioactive, I was pretty sure) envelope to the laptop, checked to make certain I had not somehow zoned out and ordered a Black Vinegar  Bomb of Extinction.  (BVBE.)  And then used my extraordinary sleuthing/hacker skills to find Amazon's phone number.  (I'm good.  I'm really good.)

I got the sweetest guy on the phone. So helpful and kind.  He explained after considerable searching that the item I had a tracking number for "does not exist."

Oh, man

He assured me that since the item did not exist, I did not need either to pay for it or return it.  The BVBE was mine all mine.

Cool.  So, I did the sensible thing.  I reviewed in my mind everyone at Amazon who might have cause to want to blow me up. Starting with Jeff Bezos and working my way through the folks who are sick to death of sealing up another smiley box on my behalf.  I decided that this number was unimaginably large and therefore I should forget the whole thing.  Have dinner.  Watch an Elementary.  Start speaking to the spouse again.

So what IS that thing?  I'll tell you what.  This morning -- both calmer and dumber at the same time -- I went out and looked at the sealed plastic bag and read the teeny little label:  "Replacement Short Office E.../Adjustment Range - S6103. New."

It's an Office Chair Lift Cylinder Pneumatic Thingie.  Worth $27.00.  And not, apparently, lethal at all.  It just makes a chair go up and down.

Somewhere out there this morning is a guy whose chin is resting on his desk.  Poor thing.

And how about me? Am I older?  Wiser?  Less paranoid?


I am in possession of a thing from that doesn't exist.

There's got to be a story in there somewhere.