Writing Can Be Murder

January 15, 2008

What Scrabble reveals

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 8:46 am

I’ve got the first turn in Scrabble. I pick up the letters E,I,I,L,U,U,V (yeah, they suck, but it’s pretty standard for me).

What four letter word do you see?

I see VILE and EVIL.  I look longer, convinced there must be another word in there. Finally I see it.

I tell DH what my letters are. “What word would you make, sweetie?”

“LIVE” he says. A beat. “You’re going to make EVIL, aren’t you?”

“No honey, I’m putting down VILE.”

He shakes his head. “And that’s how we both see the world. I see the positive — life, and you see vile.”

“I saw evil too.”

January 14, 2008

“Die and Deliver”

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 4:47 pm

How’s this for a thriller concept:

Deep in debt to the healthcare industries that got him elected, the President of the United States, signs into effect the “Die and Deliver” bill, allowing physicians to harvest the organs of deceased patients without first obtaining consent.

Interesting idea, isn’t it?

It’s not really mine.  I cribbed (and embellished) it from news coming out of the UK, which basically states that Gordon Brown is backing a program of “presumed consent” –removing  organs from dead patients (hey this is real life, in a novel they’d still be alive!) unless family members protest, or the deceased has opted out of the donor register.

 I’m personally all for organ donation, so I think this is a great idea. (An idea that’s already been tested in Spain where they have the highest proportion of organ donation.) It’ll be interesting to see if it flies.

Living in the US and interested in becoming a donor? Go here to find out how http://www.organdonor.gov/  It’s painless. I promise!

January 10, 2008

Writing a “good” villain

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 11:37 am

Allison Brennan has a fascinating post up at Murder She Writes about how she develops her villains (who, imho, are WAY creepy — which is a good thing!). And yes, I am the dork, Jennifer, who asked the question in the first place.


January 9, 2008

Wknd at Bernie’s “lives” on

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 6:35 pm

Did you see/read the news story about the pair of morons who propped a dead guy up in an office chair and wheeled him down the streets of NYC in an effort to cash his Social Security check?

Don’t EVER tell me anything I make up is too “out there”.

Get off of my cloud!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 12:48 pm

I’m thinking I should adopt that old Stones song as my personal anthem.

One of my resolutions this year is to protect my writing. I’m not talking about copyright, or locking my manuscripts in a fire-proof, uncrackable safe. I’m talking about protecting it from interruptions.

I recognize that some of these interruptions are of my own doing — I “need” to do research, send an email, check a message board, pour another cup of coffee, scrub the toilet, etc. I’m doing my best to be cognizant of these distractions, and work through them. I’ve been keeping a time log of what I do when. It’s helping.

A lot of the interruptions come from outside sources, usually in the form of the phone. It’s okay that people call. I don’t mind them leaving messages. What drives me nuts is when they:

A: Call repeatedly

B: Call my house phone and then my cell phone

C: Respond to an email with a phone call.

Because here’s the thing. I’m WORKING. I am not available just because YOU want to chat because it’s a convenient time for YOU.

How do you protect your writing time/space?

January 8, 2008

Writing for the audience

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 4:17 pm

The other day I was doing some nonfiction writing (yes, I know, you were under the impression that I spend ALL my time torturing and killing people).  I was trying to rewrite a statement from a nationally known organization about one service some of their members provide for the general public.

The piece I was working from was, ostensibly, written for the general public, but it was filled with such clinical terms and language, that I felt as though I was translating from a foreign language. The person (or I’m guessing since it was FUBAR, the COMMITTEE) that composed this message had no idea who their audience was. It was written as though it was an in-house document to be shared by peers. It was stilted, and strangely worded, and so full of cover-your-ass terminology, that this document, which in some respects was supposed to be a sales pitch, was a total turn-off.

I started chanting “Know thy audience” “Know thy audience” (the dog and bird hung on my every word).

So my message today, for everyone, regardless of what you write, is “KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!”

Cooking and writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 9:48 am

Yesterday it occurred to me that I cook the way I write.

 I know what most of my ingredients are when I start out, and I know what I want the final product to be.

 I’m not a recipe follower. I’m a pantser. 

So sometimes I use a little more of this, or a little less that, or occasionally I’ll have an epiphany and think to add the magic ingredient while I’m cooking, instead of after I’ve eaten the food. (Sort of like when you figure out how to improve a pivotal scene/sentence/chapter AFTER you’ve sent out a submission.)

 Take yesterday. I decided to make some soup. I took some of the unstrained chicken stock I’d made over the wknd and started tossing in whatever I had at hand — a can of chick peas, some tomato paste, cumin, frozen collard greens, and some elbow macaroni. I’d never put those things together before, but I was curious as to how they’d work together.

Writing is like that too. It’s a weird melding of ingredients that are never measured out ahead of time. You never quite know what you’ll end up with. At least I don’t.

January 7, 2008

Appropriate bedtime viewing?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 11:24 am

As the saying goes, “opposites attract”. DH and I are opposites. I am pretty much reminded of this every single day, but the other night this point was really driven home.

We usually watch reruns of  Will & Grace before we nod off. Now to be fair, DH would probably rather watch the news, but I can’t watch the news at night because I get too upset and aggravated to sleep, so we watch a stupid sitcom. I HATE sitcoms — don’t reference Friends, or Seinfeld, or 2 and 1/2 Men around me because I’ve never sat through an episode, but now, in the interest of marital bliss and sweet dreams I’ve seen every episode of Will & Grace…at least six times.

The other night W&G wasn’t on, so I seized the remote, and flipped to what I wanted to watch: Murder by the Book on TruTV (previously CourtTV). If you haven’t seen it, you can learn all about it at: http://www.trutv.com/shows/murder_by_the_book/episodes/index.html#210

 Murder, dismemberment, forensic evidence — I was in heaven. DH was in hell. He complained bitterly about my viewing choice, calling it the stuff of nightmares.

Needless to say, I won’t be watching any true life crime show before bed again any time soon.

 ETA: While DH will concede that we are opposites, he requests that I let everyone know that HE is the good one.  Happy honey?

January 4, 2008

Lollipop, lollipop

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 10:22 am

      I’ve been having a tough time writing. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve got the post-holiday blues (to be honest I’m blue thru the entire holiday season) or because my insomnia has kicked in, or because I’m light-deprived because it’s winter, or because I’ve got a book out on submission to agents (and a publisher) so I’ve got “waiting-to-hear anxiety” or maybe it’s because I’m starting a new book. Whatever the reason, it hasn’t been easy. Still, I’ve dutifully planted my butt in the chair, even though the words have come painfully s-l-o-w-l-y.

Then yesterday I needed a lollipop. I went nuts looking for a lollipop. The stash I keep on my desk was depleted, probably has been for months, and there were none in my kitchen cabinet, but I NEEDED one. Not for me, for Connie. Because Connie, a character in my new novel, sucks on lollipops all the time.

So I searched high and low for some sugar on a stick because I was about to write a scene from Connie’s POV, and if I had a lollipop, it would be easier to get into her mindset. I knew this would work because the entire time I wrote my last book I carried around a rock in my pocket (don’t ask…).

I finally found a Tootsie Pop in one of my purses, and it did the trick. Yesterday I wrote  1321 words for the new book. Progress! (and a mini sugar high!) 

January 3, 2008

Die! Die!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 9:09 am

Tess Gerritsen has an interesting post up on her blog about killing off characters http://tessgerritsen.com/blog/2007/12/31/kill-the-character/#comments

(personally I probably would have cheered if she HAD killed off Jane Rizzoli, but that’s me)

 I really wanted to kill off a specific character in the book I currently have out on submission. I started the book knowing that this character was going to die, and I was fine with that, but then my DH started lobbying for the character not to die. He’s my first reader and he really, REALLY didn’t want the character to die.

So in this version, the character doesn’t die.  DH is happy.  And I think I am too, BUT I don’t think I would have been unhappy if I had killed the character off.

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