That Buxom Blonde Phil Was Looking For

A Long, Hard LookAn excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. Watch for the second Phil Brennan mystery, A Still, Small Voice, this summer.


My front door does not have an annoying habit of failing to stay latched.

It latches just fine. I make sure of it.

So it concerned me not a little that it was ajar when I rounded the top of the stairs.

I froze, then stepped back a bit. I stopped on the top stair and leaned my forehead against the wall, which put my good ear almost in the hallway where it could listen better.

Nothing.

These old wooden floors creak if you look at them. Nobody was moving in my place.

Which meant one of two things: nobody was in my place, or they just weren’t moving.

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The Rise of Rafe Keyn

jakecalcuttaIdea — blend action/adventure with scifi
Concept — a genetic mutation allows a man to travel through time without the equipment other time-travelers need
Premise — what if a group of researchers discovered that the universal timeline had been corrupted and the only way to restore it was to send a mercenary back to pivotal points of ancient history to fix them — if he wasn’t killed first?

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Minimum, Conservative, Necessary: Overdoing Character’s Actions

doing nothing“Why did they do that?

When you find yourself wondering why a character in a book or on screen is taking certain action, sometimes the problem is nature.

Nature conserves energy, physical and mental. We don’t take actions which we don’t believe are the minimum conservative necessary action. Our wiring makes us look for the easy solution to whatever comes our way. And if it’s something we can ignore, inaction is the ultimate conservation. We do nothing. Lots of it.

Making our characters do something because it’s good for the story is weak writing. Readers will sense something’s amiss because they instinctively grasp nature’s imperative.

I’m highly unlikely to walk out to the frozen edge of the lake and look around, just so some storyteller can make me find a body and let them get on writing their mystery.

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When You’re All at Sea is No Time to Remember the Anchor

The first characteristic of an excellent company, according to Tom Peters and Bob Waterman (In Search of Excellence) is a bias for action. Those companies which lean toward doing something were in better shape than those which gave the appearance they were afraid of action unless it was guaranteed safe.

That’s not to say that a bias for action can’t be married to careful planning.
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