Writing . . . and Writing

Time flies . . . when you’re having fun, and even when you’re just doing stuff.

I’ve been finishing up Mayfield – Napolitani number five, Cyberstorm. Draft’s done, and my critique friends are almost finished chewing on it. Number four, Fatal Cure, has been done for a while, but I’m still picking at it. For me, at least, I like to set a book aside when it’s mostly finished, let it marinate. Fatal cure should be pretty tender by now . . . almost ready for final editing. I’m hoping to release it next Spring.

And just when I start feeling that Mayfield – Napolitani is getting a little stale, a couple of interesting new challenges come along. 

  • A five-way novel:  We of Midwest Mystery Works—five of us who write mysteries and band together to do some of the other work of an independent author—have decided to write a novel together. The twist is that it will include each of our protagonists. The story will be contemporary, which gives me an opportunity to write Weezy as a young woman. I’m careful never to show exact years in the Mayfield – Napolitani series. The technology is all recognizable extension of today’s tech, but we’re clearly in the near future. (The inexactitude prevents embarrassment of me miscalling technology events.) Of course, there is a timeline in my mind, and 2023/4 is a lucky slow spot. Weezy graduated from MIT in June, 2020 with a masters in Mathematics and Operations Research. (She meets Joe Mayfield over a decade later, when the first book of the series, Fatal Score, is set, and the first Cyber War happens after the MidWest Mystery Works story will take place.) She was snapped up by a Silicon Valley software startup whose youthful CEO had dazzled potential investors with what he called his Big Freakin’ Idea (Theranos, anyone?) and was listed in Forbes’ 30 under 30. Weezy pointed out that the BFI wouldn’t work, Weezy’s “dumb idea” went viral on the internet, and Weezy was fired. So in 2023, she’s back in Boston working as a lab assistant at MIT, and I get to discover her as a young woman and write her into the 5-way story.
  • A short story with conditions: Sisters in Crime, the go-to mystery writers association in the Twin Cities, is planning a book of short stories. The first three such collections, Festival of Crime, The Dark Side of the Loon, and Minnesota Not So Nice, were great successes. I’d like to submit a short to the fourth, probably coming-out fall of 2024. The tentative title: Dark and Stormy Nights. (And of course, one of the conditions is that the story’s first line must be “It was a dark and stormy night.”) I’ve never set a story in Minnesota, so I’ve never had a chance to write about canoeing in the Boundary Waters, one of my formative experiences. I’m looking forward to it. Any ideas about how to write a mystery set in the lakes and trails of the Minnesota forest? Let me know . . . I’m still cogitating.

Bloomsday, June 16th, celebrates James Joyce’s protagonist Leopold Bloom’s 1904 meander around Dublin, in which he replicates Ulysses’ travels in Homer’s Odyssey in one relatively ordinary day. (Apparently Joyce’s first exposure to the Odyssey used the Romanized name, Ulysses.)

Bloomsday brings two thoughts: The first comes from one of the disheartening aspects of the present day: When will we ban Ulysses again (for “pornographic” content)?
Possibly it’s safe because few to none of the book banning enthusiasts have read it.

The second thought is about an author’s balance between communicating with the reader and writing the author’s own truth. Some of Joyce’s chapters are difficult to access, but Joyce was investigating—experimenting with—literary styles. His intention was not to write accessible prose and poetry. The last and perhaps most famous of the chapters is a 3,000+ word sentence, Molly Bloom’s stream of consciousness interior monologue. It is gorgeous writing, and Joyce pulled off the behemoth sentence without confusing the reader. I was thinking about that author-reader balance and Ulysses because I’m reading a book that is very difficult to get through (A Journey to the End of the Millennium), partly because its author uses long sentences (not stream of consciousness). I went back to Joyce to help figure out why the long sentences of Journey don’t work as well as Molly Bloom’s. The difference is at least partly that A Journey is popular literature—on starting it, I expected the author to lean heavily toward making the story accessible to the reader. Once I got beyond that expectation, the reading got easier.