Friday, October 31, 2008

Dappled, and drowsy, and ready to sleep

Life, I love you, all is grooovy. . .
Song by Simon & Garfunkle
Photo by Np

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I love the contrast, in this photo, between the black tree trunks and the delicate wildflowers. If I recall correctly, this is "fireweed," that grew after this forest burned. Is that right, Andi? (See comments for her answer.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Refuge in the woods

Andi, is this your photo or Jim's? It's one of my favs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Light On

Photo by Andif, illustrating the moment when. . .

the detective knows whodunnit. . .

the hero realizes the heroine loves him. . .

the heroine realizes the hero is a vampire. . .

the crew of the spaceship recognizes the way to Earth. . .

the adventurer finds the Holy Grail. . .

nancyp takes her first sip of morning coffee.

Monday, October 27, 2008


We might first try approaching the writerly subject of "pacing" by using analogies.

I'll start with this fortuitously available photograph of the moon, by Andif..

You could say that pacing is like any 24-hour period of the sun and the moon. There's the initial drama of the dawn, which lets down slightly into the ordinary and yet ever-building rising of the sun, which hits a dramatic high point at noon, followed by the let-down of early afternoon, then the pace starts to pick up again as we move to sunset. . .

Most of us probably don't want to live in a place where there's 24-hour high-noon sunlight, or 24-hour moon-lit darkness. It would get on our nerves eventually. Never-ending sunshine might keep us too "up" for too long; never-ending night might depress us, even to suicide. We wouldn't be able to stand the sameness. We would long for a shift, a change, something different but which also smoothly connects with what came before and what will come after. . .

That's pacing. Nice work, oh great Writer in the Sky!

By the same token, most of us don't want to read something that moves at the same pace throughout. We want to go up and down and all around, with shifts in mood and the propulsion of the story, with pauses for us to relax a bit from high action or high drama, and with climaxes that really do seem like high points because of the lower, slower points that came before. We want, in other words, for stories to read like a particularly interesting 24-hour day. . .with a dawn that grabs our attention, and then an interesting morning, building to a high point of surprise and tension, and then a relaxing, followed by ever-increasing build to the last big drama of the day, and then sometimes followed by a brief winding down. . .

I also think of pacing as being akin to rhythm in music. It helps if you have natural rhythm in your dancing and your writing, but I think it's possible to learn it to some degree, mainly by paying attention to it in the work of writers you enjoy. How do they do it? Chart it out in one of their books. Try to "feel" it, the way you'd feel rhythm in music.

What do the rest of you think? Want to add anything to this? Either with analogies, instruction, or the wisdom of experience as a writer or reader? I'd particularly love to hear from you readers. What pacing do you hate, what do you love, what stops you from continuing to read, what pulls you along to read more?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Just to be perverse. . .

Here's spring. By Andif, of course.


Just experimenting. Pretend I'm not here. :)

Details for Lisa, too

Ah, now that's detail! Photo by Andif.

Detail for Lisa

Okay, out-of-focus detail, but hey, I'm learning!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Yo! Rapunsel!

This is another of Linda Grant's recent photos taken at Bled, in Slovenia.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Once upon a time. . .

This may look like a fairy tale, but it is a real place. This is a church on an island in the fog in the middle of Lake Bled in the Julian Alps in northwestern Slovenia. This photo was taken this week by my friend, mystery writer, Linda Grant. If it inspires you to write a story (or a poem!), so much the better. . .

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Poetry Day

Afterwards, by William Stafford

Mostly you look back and say,
"Well, okay. Things might have
been different, sure,
and it's too bad, but look--
things happen like that,
and you did what you could."
You go back and pick up the pieces.
There's tomorrow.
There's that long bend
in the river on the way home.
Fluffy bursts of milkweed
are floating through shafts
of sunlight or disappearing
where trees reach out from
their dark roots.

Maybe people have to go
in and out of shadows

til they learn that floating,that immensity
waiting to receive whatever arrives with trust.
Maybe somebody has to explore what happens
when one of us wanders over near the edge
and falls for awhile. Maybe it was your turn.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The worst of times. . .

What a contrast to the rich beauty of the autumn photographs below!

Once, this town had the best of times, when it was a mining boom town of 30,000 people. I've seen a photograph in which this very street was shoulder-to-shoulder with humanity on a similarly sunny day. It was rough and tough place, so tough that it declared war on a neighboring town. I don't know if it lost that battle, but it lost the bigger war when the mining went bust and all the people drifted away to the Next Big Thing. Today it looks empty and feels creepy, and yet I couldn't stay away from it after I saw it for the first time. I kept thinking about it that night. The next morning I knew that I had to travel 20 miles back--and then another 20 miles to return to my hotel-- just so that I might drive up and down this barren, hopeless street again.

A spooky good morning to you all, heh heh.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October Wins at Life

I love, love, love this Andif photo. It's so phine.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New week

We've been too long without an Andif photo. Here's a lovely one for Monday.

Lobby Hobby

Two very different lobbies in two unique Kansas hotels. The red leathery one is at the Tioga Hotel in Chanute, the hotel where only one floor of the six-story building has hotel rooms. The other one is the lobby/art gallery of the Maple Uncommon Hotel where I am now There are good books all around, snacks and drinks on the honor system of payment, and paintings and sculptures. The price in both cases is abut $56, plus tax. I'm going downstairs to the kitchen now for coffee, and I'll bring you back some.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pancakes, eggs, sausage, coffee

Hi, Guys. I have finally arrived in deepest Kansas, or at least the southeast part of it. If you took out a map and put your finger right where K meets Oklahoma and Missouri, you'd see where I am.

Today I drove on parts of Old Route 66.

I'm in Columbus, Kansas now, but the photo shows where I ate lunch yesterday and bfast today in Chanute, a town where I felt comfortable enough to wish I could hunker down for a longer spell and stay to write. You can see from the picture that the cafe wasn't pretty--it's a former bar--but it was packed with locals who were packin' in the home-cooked food.

Today, I drove through a spooky town named Galena, right by the Missouri and Oklahoma borders, and I realized it's where one of my future characters will meet his unfortunate fate. Ooo, just as I wrote that sentence about that character-- who dies in a motorcycle accident, sorry Far!-- a motorcycle sputtered by in the street outside of the hotel lobby where I'm writing this.

This hotel is pretty strange, itself, and I haven't quite figured out how to describe it for you. It's called The Maple Uncommon Hotel, which tells you something already. When I got here it was locked. I had to call the owner--who is off at an art festival in another town-- so she could give me the combination so I could get in. I'm now sitting in the lobby typing this and there is, I think, one other person on the premises.

The furthest corner of southeast Kansas is a kind of strange place, no offense meant to the natives who are, I'm sure, intelligent, handsome, and charming. I like it for fictional purposes, but I can't say I'd ever want to live here.

I'm seated beside a metal, life-sized sculpture that looks like a cross between Dorothy's Tin Man and a bird. He sends his regards to you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fall River, Kansas

First of all, Mary! Thank god you're okay. I hope everybody else is, too.

Far less important, the above is where I gave a couple of talks this (Thursday) morning. Just me and a bunch of nice, smart, funny librarians. Now I'm in the town of Chanute in the lobby of a wonderful old hotel. My guest room is the Susan B. Anthony room, but I'm in the lobby because Susan seems to be repelling wifi waves. I'll give her your regards anyway.

I hope all of you are well and safe.

Love from not-quite deepest Kansas. That's not until Saturday.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I'm leaving tomorrow (Wed.) for a driving trip in southeast Kansas.

If you feel like brainstorming while I'm gone, here's my challenge: I need to change the name of my website. (Not this place, but my official website.) Right now, it's called I can't call it just Nancy Pickard, because a realtor in Las Vegas has that one. So I'd like something that has my name, plus. . .what? It can't be just mysteries, or just fiction, so what can it be? Help!

I'll see you guys Monday, and I'll check in sooner if I can manage it. I'll miss you!

Monday, October 13, 2008


What a fabulous photo. Thanks, Andif.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Close up

I don't know if this is the same tree that stood out in the crowd yesterday, but let's pretend it is, even if Andi tells us it's not. So, this was the fellow with the Voice that could be seen from far away. Now here we are close to him. Hmm. He seems to have all the same parts the other trees have. Trunk? Branches? Check. Twigs? Check. Leaves? Check. Sap? Check. The only difference is that he's more colorful, and he's more colorful because why? Because he's earlier. Earlier? What's that got to do with writing? Sometimes, a lot. The early writer gets the publishing contract, and by "early" I mean any one of a number of things. . .

You may be among the early ones who write a kind of novel that eventually becomes very popular, like female private eye books. And why were you smart enough to do that? Because that's what you really wanted to write, even if nobody else was writing that, and so you followed your heart, which gave your voice resonance.

You may be someone who has a true story that a lot of people *could* tell, but you're one of the few who actually does it.

You may have a style of writing that's unusual and very "you," and so you put it out there, becoming a red tree on a green hillside.

There are a lot of ways to be either early or colorful, or both, and some of those ways are even genuine. But I think that the simplest and most obvious way to be colorful and "early" is to release as many inhibitions in our writing as we can, write what is truly "us," and start to do it now, rather than later on. Of course, it's also possible to be "too early," or "too colorful," and those writers do NOT get the publishing contracts, but that's another tree of a different color for another day at the blog. . .

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Standing out in the crowd

At a Sisters in Crime meeting on Saturday, we talked about fictional "voice," that quality that's so hard to define, but which you know when you see it. When an editor finds a manuscript with a distinctive voice, she feels as someone might who is looking at that red tree above. She can't take her eyes off it, and all the other manuscripts on her desk blend together like so many identically-colored trees on a hillside.

Photof by Andif

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Even more gorgeous

Photo by Andif. No words by NancyP.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Maple tree, by Andif

I'd be lion. . .

. . .if I didn't tell you I totally forgot to make a new post last night. Gak!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tree by tree

This photo by Andif reminds me of that famous E. L. Doctorow quote that can never be repeated too often: Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tell me, Amadeus. . .

Remember that old dinner party game, where each person has to pick 10 dead people to bring back for a dinner party? I thought of a new version. Pick a few musicians to bring back for a concert. Or, maybe a series of concerts, since Wolfgang opening for Richie Valens might not be quite the thing. Actually, I haven't thought this through yet, so I don't even have my own list. We may have to drag this out all week, amending here and editing there. I do think I want to bring back some of them, not just for their music but also because I really want to ask them something.

For instance, I'd love to ask Mozart about musical precociousness and how it happens: "So, yo, Wolfgang, how did you DO that???"

I don't know that I'd have a specific question for John Lennon, except maybe, "Do you still think it was a good idea to marry her?" I'd just like to hear him talk about the Beatles, and watch him write a song, and listen to him say witty things.

Are there any musicians you'd like to bring back for dinner and a concert?

Take your time. They're in no hurry. :)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Coffee, or tea,
Far's homemade rolls,
Sunday at the blog.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Do not water

Remember Andif's amazing frost flowers?

Those of you who weren't here last winter, have you ever heard of these before?

Because I'd never heard of them until Andi brought them, I now wonder if poets or fiction writers have used them in images and I had no idea what was meant. Won't fool me next time, ha! Oh, wait a minute, yes they will, because I think I have already forgotten. They are formed when frost forms around leaves and then the leaves melt. . .

No, no, that can't be right.

Yelp: Help!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Thank you for participating in our poetry day yesterday. It was lovely, yes?

Here's one of the equally lovely photos that Andif was inspired to contribute.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Poetry Day!

From Emily Dickinson

Presentiment - is that long Shadow - on the Lawn -
Indicative that Suns go down -

The Notice to the startled Grass
That Darkness - is about to pass -