Friday, January 27, 2017

My Fabulous Writing Life – Or the Wonder of Me, Part Deux

Now that we’ve told you all about our writing journey, here are some insights into our writing life, and how we live it.

by Paul D. Marks

Before I get to the question, I want to congratulate Catriona and Art (Criminal Minds Emeritus) on their Agatha noms. Good luck! And now to the question at hand:

Ah, the glamorous life of a writer. TV interviews. Being invited to speak on cruises going around the Greek islands and getting the royal suite. Being invited to be Jennifer Lawrence’s boy-toy and accompany her to the Academy Awards (look for me on Feb 26th). And, of course, you’re immune to every disease under the sun. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Ok, time to change the channel. I think the most basic insight is just do it. Put yourself in a chair, face the blank screen and start typing. Even if it’s just stream-of-consciousness and most of it won’t be used. I look at that like the finger warming exercises a pianist does. Playing scales. And, of course, don’t give up. A writer writes – how’s that for original?

Some of this may be repetetive of earlier posts, but since we’re re-introing ourselves, I figure why not and I’m lazy. So here’s a little refresher from a couple of previous posts on my fabulous writing life or the Wonder of Me, Part Deux:

Do you do anything to get in the mood to write? Do you need anything special beside you?

Well, if I was Hemingway, I’d drink heavily.

If I was William S. Burroughs, I’d shoot up.

If I was J.K. Rowling, I’d run to the nearest café for a caffeine fix and a dose of writing.

But since I’m me, I don’t do any of those things.

I don’t have any set routines that I go through before writing each day, but I do tend to goof off, uh, procrastinate, on the internet or Facebook. No, make that I do research on the internet.

And research is always fun.  It helps get me in the mood and I can pretend I’m working.

Sometimes I’ll walk the dog. Or weed, not do weed, but weed the yard. Don’t ask me how that helps get me in the mood.  But it has to be done. Besides, killing weeds gets me in the mood to kill the badguys in my stories.

In the good old days, I might skydive or SCUBA dive.  Anything with ‘dive’ in its name, including the Maldives – though I know it’s pronounced Maldeevz. Or take a trip to Paris, Perris, California, or Parris Island, but not that one with the Eiffel Tower. I just can’t swim that far. (Insert SCUBA photo here. Amy wanted me to put a diving pic here.  Unfortunately, those are buried away in one of many boxes somewhere – unlabeled, of course.  And shoved in corners everywhere.  But someday they’ll be gotten out and scanned.  Unless Amy wants to spend four months going through them right now 😏.  And if you saw our garage and closets you’d know that four months is underestimating.)  So, this is as close as I could come for now:

And depending on what I’m working on, I might listen to music.  That’s probably the most serious answer here and what I really do more than anything. The music often has the same tone and mood as the story. So if I’m working on a dark story I might listen to the Doors or Leonard Cohen. If I’m working on something set around the time of World War II, in the 30s and 40s, I’ll listen to swing music. Sometimes I just listen to baroque, my sort of all-purpose go-to music—which seems to fit any mood, at least for me.  So here’s something to get you in the mood.  I could have gone with the Andrews Sisters, but couldn’t find a live version:

Where does the writing muse strike you?  Anywhere or do you have a favorite place to write?

The muse can strike anywhere. Anything and everything can spark ideas, either ideas for new stories or ideas for scenes or bits for something I'm already working on.  I can be walking the dogs or driving or at the beach. Watching a movie, having a conversation with someone. The muses are everywhere, you just have to be tuned into them.

One of the places that they strike often is in the shower.  For some reason that frees up my mind.  To that end, I keep a diver's slate in the shower to write down notes so I don't forget things by the time I get out.

But getting ideas and thinking about new works or works-in-progress come anywhere and everywhere.  There's a FB meme attributed to Eugene Ionesco that says "A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing," and it's very true.

My favorite place to write these days is in my home office. Not very romantic, but it's got everything I need close at hand. Probably more than I need. I know some people say you shouldn't have a TV or phone in your office, but I do.  But I can turn them off.  And I have a nice view. Pictures on the wall that inspire me.  Mostly album covers and movie lobby cards, some other things.  And, of course, my picture of Dennis Hopper flipping the bird from Easy Rider.  When I was younger I had a full-sized poster of that shot, now it's just a little 8x10.  Oh how we change as we get older.

Now that I think about it though, who is Hopper flipping the bird to?—I’m the only one here.

I also have access to diet Cherry Pepsi and Waiwara water.  And I used to like to scarf down Red Vines while I wrote, but that is, unfortunately, a thing of the past.

Plus I have my assistants to help out:

When I was younger, I had dreams of sitting on the Left Bank, sipping Absinthe and writing. But, as I may have mentioned before, when I did try drinking and writing all I wanted to do was play. So no writing got done. And when I was a student I would wonder about people who could study or work in libraries.  I always wanted to flirt and goof off. And every movement around me distracted me. Same for writing in parks and other such places.  So none of that for me. No, the best place and, therefore, my favorite place to write is definitely my home office.

Well, that’s about it for now and I’ve got to start getting ready for my date with Jennifer. The tailors are waiting and the valet is….well, he’s drunk, but don’t tell anyone.


Releasing Monday January 30th, 2017: Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, that I co-edited with Andrew McAleer. Here’s what people are already saying:

“High fives all around!” —MWA Grand Master Bill Pronzini. 

“Tough, taut and terrific!” —Hank Phillippi Ryan. 

“A bang-up read of PI fiction from a gallery of impressive authors. Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea is compelling, fun, and full of surprises. A treat.” —Shamus Award-winning author John Shepphird

Available at and Down & Books



GBPool said...

Words and ideas are everywhere, but without that discipline to sit in a comfortable spot and do the writing you would just be the guy on the park bench thinking about being a writer. Glad you have the talent and drive to do the hard work because those who actually produce something know what blood, sweat and tears goes into every page. But your side trips whether through your imagination or actual drives with Amy sure do enhance the view of those mean streets you capture on the page.

Art Taylor said...

Great post, Paul—as always! And thanks for the shout-out. I'm getting to work myself this morning—no absinthe here either (but also no Cherry Pepsi either, I should stress).

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Congratulations on Coast to Coast, Paul. Looking forward to checking it out.

Cathy Ace said...

Super post, Paul - I agree, couldn't focus in a coffee shop (too many people to watch!)

Unknown said...

Enjoyed every word, as always! - and thanks for the great song to go with it.
I too wish I could drink & write, but it never works out.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your kind words, Gayle. And I think there are a lot of people on park benches, talking about being a writer. I know several people who are always telling me what great ideas they have, how they’ll be the next so-and-so Big Writer. But they never park themselves and do it.

Thanks, Art. But how do you work without either absinthe or Cherry Pepsi. You must be a monk ;) . And good luck again!

Thanks, Dieter. I’d love to hear your thoughts after you check it out.

Thanks, Cathy. For me there’s just too many distractions in a coffee shop or library. And even if I were to go to the beach and no one was there I’d just want to be enjoying the beach. Some people find too many distractions at home, but I’m just the opposite.

Thanks, Rachel. Always glad to supply music to go with anything. :-)