Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm?

I stole the name for this piece from the WW-I song by the same title, written in 1918 by Young & Lewis with music by Walter Donaldson.  I woke up with it running through my primate brain around 4:30am and couldn’t shut it off, so I made a pot of coffee and sat down to scratch out the blog that was several days overdue.  

Last weekend I attended the Creatures,Crime, and Creativity Conference—C3 for short. As it turned out, it was my intro into the Big Leagues, if you’ll forgive the baseball parlance. I was like the farm kid with the ratty ‘ol baseball glove that hitched a ride to New York with hopes of trying out for The Yankees. There’s a Cinderella parallel in here somewhere too, but I think I’ve beaten the analogy horse long enough.   

The fact is, all three comparisons apply. I can’t remember ever being at an event where several of the top names in the business regarded me as much a peer as a fan. Can you imagine how that feels to a kid from the Minors? Ok, I slipped back into analogy mode for a moment, but it’s no less true. I had drinks with Jeffery Deaver and JohnGilstrap and Brian Keene, traded anecdotes and experiences and opinions, compared notes on writing and the writing business, laughed and joked and … God … just had the time of my life. They are all I aspire to be, and that would be enough for any rookie. But they were as down-to-Earth as you and I, just regular folk, like anyone you might meet on the street, or a restaurant, or a police station. OK … forget the police station, but you get my drift. From where I stood, it was Disney World.

Originally I thought to attend the conference by myself, but later, I decided that Maggie could use a break. Writing, as you know, is a solitary activity, and she deals with it—and me—on a daily basis. Most evenings, we see each other when we get home from work, and then for a bit at dinner. After that, not so much until she comes in to kiss me goodnight, usually around 7:30-8:00. So I brought her with me. She thought she’d go shopping, or hit the pool, or work out in the gym while I attended all those boring writer’s panel and classes and things. Then she’d join me for lunch and dinner, attend the signings, and we’d partake of an adult beverage or two after the day’s work was done. So I lugged her 90-lb suitcase to Hunt Valley along with my 5-lb overnight bag, all the while wondering exactly what kind of rocks she had packed.  

“Women never know what to expect,” she explained, “so we pack everything.” 

OK, I get being prepared … but rocks? Maybe there a Stoning Panel I didn’t know about. 

I had forgotten that I purchased an E-ticket for her and she could attend everything for the entire weekend, so she decided to sit in on the first of the two panels I was invited to. After that, the shopping and the pool were no longer in her future. She palled around with me and enjoyed the panels as much as I. She did, however, go to the gym. It’s like church to her. And brother, it pays off. I am fortunate enough to have a beautiful wife, and when she walked into dinner Saturday night, dressed to the nines, I remembered just how lucky I was. But she was so much more than just a pretty face. She blended—with me, with the other wives, the other fans, the big-league authors; everyone. She made me look good … or as could as she could considering what she had to work with. Maggie did for me what Joy Gilstrap did for John. Behind every successful man….  

How can I possibly fail? 

Before we knew it, The Ball was over. We had seen Paree' and the time had come to say goodbye. On the way home we chatted about the thoughtful things and the interesting things and the funny things we experienced. We rehashed the fun we had with the people we knew and the new friends we made, and at home we sorted through our goody bags like kids on Halloween night; the pamphlets and biz cards and bookmarks, magazines and programs and books signed by their authors—all except for Allison Leotta. For me she signed a bookmark since her books were all sold out.  

I have photos with writers I never expected to meet, but more than that, I feel I’ve developed a rapport with them as well, even if it is only on Facebook. But the cherry on the top of my Sundae is promised blurbs from Gilstrap and Deaver. Being a rookie and unfamiliar in the ways of literary etiquette and protocol, I had the gall and bad manners to ask them if they might find some time to read my one-and-only novel and provide a blurb for the back cover. They agreed, on the condition it would have to wait until after their deadlines. For a new writer like me, that’s tantamount to a kid waiting for Christmas. Just a few words from them could launch a career. They are as gracious as they are talented. 

When Monday morning rolled around, I realized what it must have been like for Cinderella. The fancy clothes were gone, the carriage was a pumpkin once more, and the daily toil awaited. I was once again Joe Average, and I found it wanting. Maggie said it was as if we had been a part of something special for a short while, and it felt a little weird dropping back into her normal routine.  

Indeed … part of something special. 

See you next year.


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Monday, September 9, 2013

When Do Reviews Really Make a Difference?

That’s a good question. 

Let’s find out. 

Since its launch five-weeks ago, Chain of Evidence has received 14 reviews on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com. It’s averaging 4.85 out of 5 Stars over all. I think that’s pretty good for a debut novel … but it’s not what I think that counts. It’s what the readers think that’s important. 

If I discount the reviews by friends and acquaintances, that leaves 8 reviews written by industry reviewers, book clubs, and folks I’ve never met. The rating stays at 4.8 of 5. But I would like to know if a good review would prompt a reader to spend a small portion of their hard earned wage to purchase and read a novel. 

So, to that end I am including the reviews here that were written by folks unknown to me. I do this mainly because there are many outside the U.S. that read this blog, I am thrilled to say, but may not have had the opportunity to read the reviews. Plus, this is a great way to get in a shameless plug.  

Please leave a comment as to whether any of these would coax, persuade, compel or otherwise convince you to read Chain of Evidence, based on its reviews. 

Following the reviews is an excerpt for those who may not have seen it, but might like to. It’s the same scene as on http://www.dbcorey.com/Excerpt---Chain-of-Evidence.html

C.A. Webb
D. B. Corey's CHAIN OF EVIDENCE is an enjoyable thriller from beginning to end September 6, 2013
If you are looking for a book that gives you not just a fast-moving storyline as well as characters that pop right off the page than CHAIN OF EVIDENCE is one you definitely need to add to your reading list.

Led by Detective Moby Truax you are put right in the middle of a series of murders that all seem to point to a serial killer that is targeting young women. Known as the Cyanide Killer, there seems to be nothing...Read More
If you are looking for a book that gives you not just a fast-moving storyline as well as characters that pop right off the page than CHAIN OF EVIDENCE is one you definitely need to add to your reading list.

Led by Detective Moby Truax you are put right in the middle of a series of murders that all seem to point to a serial killer that is targeting young women. Known as the Cyanide Killer, there seems to be nothing linking the women except for the exact way they are meeting their demise---that is until a murder that doesn't quite fit the rest raises suspicions for Moby, igniting a rift with him and those who are trying to tie all the murders together.

It is at this point another character emerges---Frances Vecchio---a woman that seems to have her own agenda. Will Moby be able to show he's right about his hunch or will the evidence prove that maybe he's not cut out for this line of work anymore. Combine these two characters with the actions of the serial killer and you are given an insight as to what drives them and what just might be the key to their identity. Combine Moby, Frances and our serial antagonist and you have an exciting dance that the reader becomes a part of, one that is sure to keep you wondering into the very end.

I love a book that can entertain you and keep you guessing, and D. B. Corey's CHAIN OF EVIDENCE hit the mark on both fronts. If you are in search of a book that will thrill you from beginning to end, then this is one you definitely want to add to your reading list.

Tamika Newhouse

AAMBC Book Reviews August 28, 2013
I am honestly not a big murder mystery lover so this started of rather slow in my opinion and full of mundane details as many murder mysteries need to have to keep you following the subject with factual information, however as i carefully read i grew to become interested in the not your run of the mill case but a mind bending smart grotesque individual committing senseless selfish murders and started to get into it. I liked...Read More
I am honestly not a big murder mystery lover so this started of rather slow in my opinion and full of mundane details as many murder mysteries need to have to keep you following the subject with factual information, however as i carefully read i grew to become interested in the not your run of the mill case but a mind bending smart grotesque individual committing senseless selfish murders and started to get into it. I liked it! The ending was surprising and unexpected.

Majestic Burroughs
AAMBC Reviewer

Rob Walker

Keeps the Reader Chained to the Story! July 11, 2013
D.B. Corey has fashioned a layered, character-driven crime drama in Chain of Evidence that promises even better to come. As a first novel, I have to admire the skill level and the finesse with language Corey commands. Stylistically, this is an excellent novel, and the dialogue is smart and does what dialogue should do - push the story onward and upward while revealing character. Moby Truax has to become a series character. He...Read More
D.B. Corey has fashioned a layered, character-driven crime drama in Chain of Evidence that promises even better to come. As a first novel, I have to admire the skill level and the finesse with language Corey commands. Stylistically, this is an excellent novel, and the dialogue is smart and does what dialogue should do - push the story onward and upward while revealing character. Moby Truax has to become a series character. He is rich in interesting traits, and those traits are admirable for the most part, and more important, they are challenged by the circumstances he finds himself in. I like it that he's no spring chicken and that he is all too human with a dark and cynical side as well brought on by what he has done with his life and the work he does. Other characters are also drawn with a deft hand. Corey is not so much a mechanic of storytelling as he is an artist. I found the antagonist just as compelling and given enough layers and time on the page to become a great foil for Truax, the deadly Cyanide Killer or CK.

I give this debut novel a five star because I see next to no first novels as well constructed as Chain of Evidence. Intrigue has done us a great service in discovering D.B. Corey.

Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite

Chain of Evidence, by D.B. Corey, is a debut mystery novel that will intrigue the reader from the first chapter. A medical examiner (with obvious psychological problems) first rapes the women he has murdered via cyanide and then autopsies them. The female victims appear random but the ages of the victims are confusing to investigator Moby Truax. Truax has a few problems of his own. He is ageing and he fears retirement or, worse, a desk job. His skills seem to be faltering and he is resentful when an FBI investigator named Frances Vecchio is assigned to work with him on the cases. Older women in California have been killed and now, younger women are being killed in Truax's territory of Baltimore. To make matters worse, the female investigator assigned to help the lead investigator seems to be a step ahead of Truax, keeping him continually on guard.

The reader learns about a killer in the first chapter. This is both unnerving and interesting as it allows the reader the opportunity to try to understand the killer's disturbed psychological ruminations. As if the medical examiner's antics were not sick enough, the reader is yet to experience another surprise toward the end of the book. The 'surprise was somewhat predictable for this reader. Nevertheless, I found the book to be a well written and interesting psychological study of both criminals and the persons attempting to hold them accountable. The 'Chain of Evidence' does indeed lead the reader, as well as the detectives, to logical conclusions.
"Every sentence hits like a high-caliber bullet. One of the best thrillers I've read in years, just grabs you and doesn't let go."
-Bestselling author Shane Gericke, Torn Apart
"Author D. B. Corey's debut novel, "Chain Of Evidence", reveals a remarkable talent for the suspense/thriller genre of mystery fiction. Readers will appreciate the deftly crafted characters vividly embedded the high-action storyline laced with surprise twists and turns. Appreciative readers will look eagerly toward Corey's next literary effort! Appropriate for community library collections, "Chain Of Evidence" is a highly recommended and thoroughly entertaining read."
- Midwest Book Review - Mason's shelf 2013

OK, I think this will suffice. I know this has been a lot of reading, and I thank you for staying with it to this point. 
Now, if I can just entice you to read a bit more, I think you’ll find this excerpt exciting and satisfying.
It is my favorite scene—
Electronic strobes painted the small room with light as cameras recorded the scene and several techs
tagged and bagged anything of import. There was no evidence of break-in or assault, nothing was 
disturbed, and all was as it should be—except for the dead woman lying on the floor.
     Without way of announcement, Truax caught the field ME’s attention by tapping on the doorjamb.     A slender man of six-feet, looking like he should be teaching chemistry instead of heading a field forensics team, halted his jotting of notes, turned, and smiled. A lock of fine black hair fell across his glasses and he tossed his head to send it back where it came from. The word FORENSICS was blazoned across the back of his smock, and his sleeves were rolled to the elbow. He didn’t offer his hand.
     “Good morning, Detective,” Johnson, said.
     “That’s what they tell me, Doc,” Truax replied.
     “So who’s your friend? New partner?”
     “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Doc. This is Special Agent Vecchio. FBI. She’s here to— well, let’s just say she’s here.”
     “Oh? Well, it’s very nice to meet you, Agent Vecchio.”
     Vecchio raised an eyebrow, smiled, and nodded.
     “So, Truax asked, taking a quick look around the kitchen. “Is this how you found her?”
     “Pretty much, except her left hand was jammed in the top shelf of the refrigerator door up to the wrist. Must have tried to catch herself when she began losing consciousness. Welford and I freed it. Laid her down. Other than that, the body hasn’t been touched.”  
   “Okay.... What’s your call?”
     “Unofficially? She died of cyanide poisoning. Dead no more than three or four hours. The neighbor called it in.”
     “Yeah, Welford told me.” Truax lifted the forensics sheet. “She’s got a pinkish coloring. Is that why you think cyanide?”
     “That, the vomit, and this.”
     Johnson pulled a plastic bottle of commercially sold water from an evidence bag. “Dasani, he announced. “Found it in the sink. How’s your sense of smell, Moby?”
     “Not bad for an old fart.”
     “Okay,” Johnson said. “Take a careful whiff of this and tell me what you think.”
     Truax took the empty bottle and inhaled cautiously with three short whiffs.
     “Almond.” He passed the bottle to Vecchio who examined every inch of it.
     “Yep. Very faint. I doubt she detected it. And even if she did, it may not have concerned her. Anyway, we’ll know more after her autopsy. Tox will be able to nail it down, but I don’t think they’ll come up with anything different.”
     “Probably not. Damn! If this is CK, I’m fucked.”
     Johnson cut to Vecchio who rolled her eyes.
     “Why do you say that, Moby?”
     “Ah!” Johnson replied. “Say no more.”
     “You heard?”
     “Everyone has. It’s no secret he’s on the hot-seat, and shit rolls downhill. Right into your lap.”
     Truax produced a belligerent smirk. “Don’t I know it. I wonder why he’s changing his MO. CK, I mean. This kill; it’s the same as Baumgartner and the Culver girl, but different as night and day from the other three.”
     “The ‘Why’ is your part of the puzzle,” Johnson said with a grin. “I’m more of a ‘What’ kinda guy myself.”
     Moby returned the smile, but his heart wasn’t in it. It seemed the bad guys never took a day off. He was worn down, and as far as he was concerned, doing something for thirty years was long enough for anyone to be doing anything.
     He glanced Vecchio’s way, and thought that maybe Atkins was right. Maybe a partner would make it all easier to take. He thought about mentoring Vecchio, training her, stealing her from the Feds. She was obviously smart enough, and she came equipped with a photographic memory, one like he used to have. He smiled inwardly. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing. And God knows … I could do much, much, worse.
     “Make sure I get the report, Johnson.”
     “You got it, Moby, and I’m ready to release the body. The EMTs are going to transport her to OCME since they’re already here. You done with her?”
     “Yeah, go ahead. I’m gonna look around a little.”
     Johnson called in the EMS team and Truax waited until they removed Kara’s body before examining the kitchen. He noted the highchair with the baby’s formula bottle lying on its side. He noticed the baby’s water bottle on the counter, and the pot on the stove that she used to heat the baby’s formula. He found that curious. Nowadays most women use the microwave. He guessed she probably didn’t trust it for the baby. Sometimes the old ways, are the best ways.
     He opened the refrigerator with a pen from his shirt pocket. Inside, he didn’t see a single bottle of commercially sold water. Just eggs, milk, Enfamil, a two-liter bottle of diet soda, some yogurt, and the other things one might find in a single woman’s fridge.
     Maybe it was her last bottled water, he thought.
     He checked the trashcan for packaging and empty bottles, and reflected on the Tylenol killings of the early 80s as he poked around. He found no water. The kitchen cabinets told the same story. Then he took a quick check around the apartment, ending with the smaller bedroom. Vecchio followed him in.
     Four enormous plaster letters, hand-painted in green pastels, hung juxtaposed in organized chaos against a yellow wall, angled precariously beside a poster of Sponge Bob Square Pants; a proclamation of love and motherhood, heralding the name of the room’s owner—Jade—to all who entered. Above the crib, a colorful Disney mobile spun in easy circles.
     “The baby’s room,” Vecchio murmured.
     They headed across the hall to talk to the neighbor. Entering the apartment, he found Welford taking a statement from a woman holding a small child on her lap. He would ask her the same questions that Welford did. It was standard procedure to question witnesses and suspects repeatedly to see if their stories stayed consistent. Then, he’d compare the answers, verifying everything with Vecchio and her big brain.            
     He quickly conferred with Welford, and Vecchio listened in. Then, after Welford left, he turned his attention to Kara’s neighbor.
     “I know you’ve been through this a couple of times already, Miss,” Truax said, “but would you please tell me again what happened?”
     Audrey shifted Jade to her other knee, wiped fresh tears from her eyes, and began.
     “Kara went to a bachelorette party last night. Her best friend is getting married next week and she is—was—the Maid of Honor. My daughter Annie and I watched the baby in her apartment. We were asleep when she got home around 1am. I left Annie sleeping on her sofa and walked back here. This morning, around 6:30, I heard Annie knocking. She said Kara was playing on the refrigerator. I walked over and found her like … like….” A silent tear rolled down her cheek. Truax gave her a moment.
     “No, she didn’t marry Jade’s father. He’s an asshole.”
     "I see. Did she bring anyone home with her?”
     “No! Never! She wasn’t like that. And I resent you asking—”
     “I’m not passing judgment, Miss. These are routine questions. Nothing more.”
     Vecchio raised an eyebrow and shifted her weight from one leg to the other.
     “Did she bring anything home? Food maybe? Or maybe had something delivered?”
     “I don’t think so. She seldom ate anything at night.”
     “Did she use bottled water?”
     Audrey stopped and thought for a moment. She came up empty.
     “Bottled water? No. She had one ‘o those filters on the faucet. You know ... those attachments that purify the tap water?”
     “I’m familiar with them. So how did she get along with the baby’s father?” The asshole, he thought.
     Audrey rolled her eyes. “He’s a jerk. Never takes the baby when he’s supposed to. But if you’re asking me if they fought? … Sure. But no more than any other estranged couple.”
     Truax added a line to Welford’s notes. So far, everything jived. “Can you tell me where the party was last night?”
     “Bamboo Billy’s. It’s a club not far from here.”
     “Would you happen to know who was at the party?"
     Audrey rattled off the people she knew were there, and Truax jotted down their names.
     “You said Annie stayed at Kara’s overnight?”
     “Do you mind if I speak with Annie?”    
     “Speak with Annie? Why? She’s only three years—”
     “It won’t take long. You’ll be here.”
     “Yeah.… Sure.... I guess.”
     When Audrey called Annie, Truax watched a little girl in Scooby-Do pajamas shuffle out from the relative safety of her bedroom, the music of the Wiggles coming from somewhere within. When she sat down on the couch next to her mother, Truax got down on his knees facing her, and sat back on his heels. He placed his hands in his lap, and softened his features.
     “Hi Annie. My name is Moby. That’s a funny name, isn’t it?”
     Annie’s dark hair hung in twin ponytails and her eyes sparkled blue. She answered with a shy smile that formed a dimple in each cheek, but scooted closer to her mother and her thumb went into her mouth. Audrey promptly pulled it back out.
     “It’s not you,” Audrey said to Truax. “Besides her father, the only other man she ever saw this close up was Santa, and he made her cry.”
     Truax saw the fright in the child’s eyes and decided not to push her.
     “Frankie?” He motioned her down next to him. “A little help if you please?” Vecchio was there in an instant. Annie relaxed, and Truax stood, giving Vecchio the go-ahead.   
     “Annie,” Vecchio said, “can you tell me what you saw at Miss Kara’s house?”
     Annie looked up at her mother.
     “Go ahead, Annie. Tell Miss Frankie what you saw.”
     Annie turned a pair of wary eyes on Truax, displaying all the trust one would give a used car salesman, then looked back to Vecchio.
     “Miss Kara swang from the fidgadater door,” she said, “and went to sleep.”
     “Why did you go into the kitchen, Annie?” Vecchio asked. “Were you hungry?”
     “Yessss. And Miss Kara telled me somtin.”
     “She told you something?” Vecchio repeated. “What did she tell you?”
     “She telled me ‘bottle’.”
     Jade began to fidget and cry, Annie looked up, and Audrey began bouncing Jade on her knee. It did little to appease the child.
     “I think she’s getting hungry. Can we go next door? I want to make her some lunch.”
     “Sure. We’ll go with you.” Truax got down on one knee. “Thank you, Annie. Only a big girl could be so much help.”
     Without another word, Annie slid off the sofa and ran back into her room as fast as her little feet would carry her. After Audrey made sure that her apartment door would not lock, she started across the hall to Kara’s apartment with Jade on her hip. Truax and Vecchio trailed her by a couple of steps. As they went, Truax’s mind was working.
     Bottle…. Bottle…. She must have meant the poisoned water bottle Johnson found in the sink.
     When they stepped into the kitchen, Audrey placed Jade in her highchair. Fetching a clean bottle from the dishwasher, she filled it with formula and sat it in the pot, still sitting on the stove. She turned the burner on low.
     “Why not use the microwave?” Truax asked the question, but was pretty sure of the answer he’d get.
     “Oh ... Kara never trusted it for the baby. Always heated her bottle on the stove.” Jade continued to cry and held her arms out toward the counter.
     “What sweetie?” Audrey asked.
     She turned and saw that Jade was reaching for her water bottle. “Oh, you want some wa-wa?” She placed the bottle on the tray. 
     Jade picked it up and, once she found her mouth, began to drink. Audrey continued.
     “I’m sorry Annie couldn’t be of help, Detective, but she’s just little, and….”
     Audrey saw that Truax had stopped listening.
     Vecchio‘s head snapped around when Truax didn’t answer.
     Truax ignored both women. His eyes were fixed on the sink and the flashing red LED on the water filter. He glanced over to Jade happily drinking from her bottle and saw the water level decrease with each swallow. His eyes shot back to the faucet and the flashing red warning light, then again, back to Jade’s bottle.
     Something ate at him, gnawing away at his insides like a parasite. If Kara didn’t trust a microwave to heat her baby’s milk, would she give her water from a dirty filter? Especially when she had a bottle of commercially filtered water?
     Truax exploded across the room startling both women. In a blur he lunged at the highchair, and Jade.     “NO!”
     Audrey stood in stunned disbelief as Truax slapped the half-sized bottle from Jade’s hands and sent it flying across the kitchen. Vecchio froze not knowing what to do. Truax snatched up the startled child, knocking over the highchair, and sprinted to the front door, leaving the two women, mouths agape in the kitchen.
     Running outside, he saw the ambulance with Kara’s body turning the corner two blocks away. Then he spotted Johnson getting into his car.
     “Johnson! … JOHNSON!”
     “Yeah, Moby.… What?”
     “Do you have a poison kit?”
     “A poison kit? No, I don’t usually carry—”
     “Get the paramedics back here, NOW!” He turned and nearly knocked Audrey down after she overcame her hesitation and followed him out. He grabbed her arm hard enough to leave bruises. “Did she use vitamins?” Truax shrieked. “B-12! DID SHE HAVE ANY B-12?”
     “B-12? I have some, but why—”
     “GET it! Right NOW!”
     Suddenly panicked by the intensity of his outburst, Audrey rushed back into her apartment with Truax on her heels. Vecchio, hearing the exchange was already in the bathroom, ripping open the medicine cabinet and rifling through the medication. She found the bottle of vitamin B-12 capsules.
     “Dump them in the sink,” he commanded Vecchio, shoving the baby into Audrey’s arms. “Hold her! Open her mouth!”
     Grabbing several capsules from the sink, Truax broke them open. Seeing Audrey struggling to get Jade’s mouth open, he forced the baby’s jaws apart with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and poured the powder into her mouth with the other. Jade cried and squirmed and tried to spit it out.
     “HOLD her! God-DAMN IT!” He dumped water into her mouth and clamped her jaw shut, closing off her nose at the same time and forcing her to swallow.
     Audrey stood horrified holding a writhing Jade in her arms. She turned the child away in an attempt to protect her from a madman. “What in the HELL are you DOING to this BABY?” she screamed.    
     Truax’s light gray eyes bored into her like a drill. His face hardened, but his voice did the opposite, commanding her attention. “This child will be dead in minutes,” he said softly, “if you don’t hold her still.”
     Audrey’s mouth dropped open as if the muscles holding it closed had suddenly vanished. She did as ordered and Truax gave Jade another dose. The paramedics arrived moments later.
     “Treat her for cyanide poisoning,” he ordered, “and HURRY!”
     The medics hustled Jade to the living room and held an inhaler of amyl nitrite under her nose. They followed up with dosed, intravenous injections of sodium nitrate and sodium thiosulfate.
     Afterwards, they hurried her to the ambulance and rushed her to the hospital. As they pulled away, Truax watched from the doorway and ran his fingers across his bald head, a nervous habit that replaced his old one of reaching for his cigarettes without thought. Until lately. 
     When they walked back to the kitchen, Truax picked up the water bottle, unscrewed the top and gave it a sniff. There was the faint aroma of almond. He screwed the lid back on and tossed it in a zip-lock baggie he found in a drawer, then began patting himself down for the pack of cigarettes he knew he didn’t have.
     “Jesus, Moby,” Vecchio said, shaken to the core. “How the hell did you know?”
     Truax turned and leveled a pair of tired eyes at hers.
     “I’m a cop, Frankie. I’m supposed to know.”

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Could a Computer Have Helped Shakespeare?

I will go out on a limb here and state that most everyone today, with the possible exception of JK Rowling when she wrote the first Harry Potter book, uses some form of computer, word processor, or technology-driven writing machine to compose their work. I am not including typewriters in this group because they cannot do the things that a computer can do. If you make a mistake on a typewriter, you get to re-type the entire page; especially if you are typing a term paper—at least that is the way it was when I was in college. No Whiteout allowed. In this example, one eventually becomes a better typist.  

Last week, I was having a particularly tough time laying down a scene for my next book. I found I was cutting and pasting, copying and moving and deleting, words, phrases, sentences, and yes, entire paragraphs, all in an effort to maintain its rhythm and make it sing. And as I adjusted the flow of the language, I realized that without the tools of the day, writing would be far more difficult for me, if not altogether impossible. At the least, it would be more than simply frustrating. I began to reflect on the Greats. The ones who came before, those who set the standards for the literature I totally ignored while in high school; much to my chagrin.   

I began to wonder how the great writers in literature managed without them: Poe, Orwell, Milton, Hemingway, Melville … the list goes on and on. Did they spend hours and hours re-writing as I do? By hand? Or were they like Mozart? A savant? A man who already had the symphony written in his head, and merely needed to transfer it to paper? 

Was Dickens or Tolkien like that? Or did they make mistakes? Would a computer have helped Shakespeare? Or would it hinder him—or any of them? An ordinary writer, I stumble through scenes, writing and rewriting until I hit the right “notes.” Even as I write this short piece, I am moving entire sentences, leaning on Spellcheck, and cursing those green squiggly lines that appear under entire passages. 

It boggles my mind to imaging Twain rewriting a scene from Huckleberry Finn over and over, and he had a pen that didn’t need an inkwell. To him, I expect the Conklin Crescent self-filling fountain pen was a leap forward in writing technology. But still…. 

No, I do not believe a computer would have helped Shakespeare, or any of them, become greater than they already are. They did not have the luxury to click a misspelled word and have it magically correct itself, or suggest the proper punctuation, or remind them to avoid passive voice. They had to possess the skills and the knowledge in order to apply it to the work. I believe that these “advancements,” as we call them, help us, but may have diminished them, ostensibly preventing their greatness from bursting through.  

These crutches allow, and perhaps endorse an individual's lack of understanding of the craft; curtail knowledge, so to speak, because the answers to questions unasked are right there at your fingertips. I find I need not remember phone numbers any longer because I possess a cell phone. In these instruments of artificially administered knowledge is created a mechanism that enables an average writer such as me, to get to the meat of the writing without knowing all the rules. For this I am eternally grateful, for without a computer to guide my way, I may have never completed a novel.  

But for the Great ones? … Well, I heard somewhere that Ms. Rowling wrote her first manuscript in a coffee shoppe by hand.    

I’ve always maintained that penning a novel is not about the writing, so much as it is about the story, but that assumes an acceptable level of proficiency. One can’t expect the computer to do the writing for them. The writer still needs to have some command of the basics. They still need to know which words to put on the “paper,” and in what order. There’s nothing easy about it. The computer allows the writer to focus on the story, and not so much the rules and regulations surrounding it. 

Please understand that in this post I infer no peers, and I draw these conclusions based solely on self-perceived inadequacies regarding my current knowledge of Grammar and English.
However, I still believe that I tell a hell of a good story, no matter how I get it wrote.   

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