Do Your Clues Add Up?

Elaine VietsI sometimes take for granted what I know, at least as it relates to crime.

Don’t worry: I’m not a criminal, but I did spend more than a decade as a spokesperson for a law enforcement agency.

Now that I am writing mysteries, I sometimes forget to include the details that will make the story stronger — the very details I learned on the streets.

Fortunately, I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, and we recently heard from Elaine Viets, who has written more than 30 mysteries in four bestselling series.

Crime details she reminded me about included:

  1. A privacy screen prevents people from gawking at the body. I was always astounded at the number of individuals hanging around a crime scene.
  2. Clothing gives you an idea of lifestyle but it can’t be used for identification. Do you ever switch clothes with a sibling? Think about it.
  3. You can’t give family members all of the details of the murder. Initially, they are suspects, too.
  4. It is blood spatter, not splatter.
  5. Clues might include whether the lights are on or off or whether there is mail in the house or food in the refrigerator.
  6. Bodies can be identified many ways, including through dental records, X-rays (reveal broken bones), fingerprints, DNA, implants (which carry serial numbers) and tattoos.

I need to go back and investigate my crime scene details.

Where Authors Write

I’m fascinated when I watch a movie or TV show and someone is curled up on a couch writing. That doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried it. I need a pillow on which to prop the laptop. But then the pillow wobbles, and I have to readjust it. My legs get tired of the position, and I have to stretch. Before I know it, I’m doing yoga on the couch and no writing is happening.


Where you write matters. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

My best writing is done sitting at a desk with few distractions. And yes, sometimes that means I don’t write, but I clean the desk. Once the surface is clear, I happily write away.

Of course, if I’m really struggling to focus, I can find distractions. That’s when I like to go elsewhere. On occasion, a coffee shop works. Usually, though, I go into the stacks at the Library of Virginia and find a desk. I stay for about three hours and write the entire time. I’m always amazed by how much I accomplish in that time.

I was curious to know where others write so I reached out. Here’s what I learned:

Javacia Harris Bowser, founder and editor of See Jane Write, a website and community for women who write and blog, said, “I probably do my best writing in my home office surrounded by the art and affirmations I’ve put on the wall to inspire me.”

She also is a freelance writer and blogger, and added, “I trained myself long ago to be able to write whenever, wherever.” Don’t be surprised if you see her writing on her phone while waiting for a food order!

She inspired this post with one of her own, 365 Blog Post Ideas and Writing Prompts (see prompt #36).

One of my favorite authors and friend, Adriana Trigiani shared: “I do my best writing at my desk at home, in Greenwich Village. I like a sunny day when the light comes through the window; but I also love a rainy day, as it slows me down, and imposes a natural rhythm on the work.”

By the way, be sure to check out Adriana’s “Very Valentine,” which airs June 8 on Lifetime.

Heather Weidner, author of the Delanie Fitzgerald mysteries, said, “My most favorite place to write is on the beach.” I have to agree with her on that one.

Of course, she said most of her writing is done in an office that she shares with two crazy Jack Russell Terriers.

Christine Ennulat, a content manager by day, author around the edges, said, she, too, liked to write first thing in the morning in a “dog-eared blue chair in my living room, before anyone else is up.” You will also find her writing while walking her dogs (aided by a voice recorder app on her phone).

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas said she writes “long after everyone in the house is fast asleep.” She “cherishes the silence at night.”

Marianne, who is the current president of the National Federation of Press Women, especially enjoy researching and writing about the dynamic women who were the founders of both the Illinois Woman’s Press Association and NFPW.

“Seeking clues to their histories is best done after the moon rises and the neighborhood is quiet,” she said. You can learn more about her writing at her website.

Where and when do you do your best writing?

Cy Wakeman’s Ditch the Drama

What would “great” look like?

It’s a question that Cy Wakeman asks her staff and her clients. She asks the question because the average person spends 2.5 hours per day in drama.

She identifies three sources of drama –

  • I hired it
  • I allowed it
  • I am it

Most of us don’t want to admit we are a source of drama, but if we look closely, we’ll likely discover we play a role.

To help individuals overcome the drama, Cy leads a digital 30-day “Ditch the Drama” program, which I recently completed for the second time. I find it inspirational and a good reminder of how important it is to step up. Last year, my team participated.

SympathyPart of ditching the drama includes learning resilience, which you develop by facing a challenge instead of blaming your circumstances.

She encourages leaders to use empathy and not sympathy with their teams. “Sympathy soothes the ego by agreeing with its narration and assigning blame,” Cy said. “Empathy bypasses ego, shares an observed reality, and makes a call to greatness.”

EmpathyAnother point she emphasized is to separate the facts from your story. Too often we make up stories about our reality, and those stories cause suffering.

To overcome drama, Cy said individuals should —

  • Expand their network
  • Explore what’s exhausting them
  • Reflect
  • Say yes to new opportunities.

In meetings, she encouraged individuals to add their expertise and not their opinions. “Opinions are often used to stop the action and talk about why it won’t work,” she said.

She also said it’s important to recognize the reality of our constraints and to stop enabling poor behavior.

Another point she made is to choose to be engaged. “What is one thing I could do to help right now?” she asked.

The 30-Day Challenge is not easy, and it’s easy to misstep or step down. That’s when Cy encourages us to redirect our energy.