Or: writers’ block is a bitch, but I can still talk and read things, like Ruth Myers’ new period PI page-turner.
My thanks to everyone who suggested I obtain a speech-to-text program as a temporary cure for my writers’ block. I discovered that Microsoft Word has that function built in. I’m actually using it right now.
The program reproduces my words quite accurately. Moving the cursor around, inserting punctuation and deleting words however, is easier said than done. No, I mean it’s harder when said than done. No that’s not what I mean either. It’s quicker to make corrections with the keyboard than to speak them, but that exacerbates the as-yet-to-be-fully-diagnosed pain in my right forearm.
The chief suspect appears to be medial epicondylitis, a form of tendinitis. Ten minutes at the keyboard and mouse makes my arm painful for hours. Using my laptop and its palm rest, rather than my desktop PC, is marginally less unpleasant. If I stay away from the keyboard entirely the pain seems to hide for hours at a time, sometimes a day.
I can imagine my orthopedist telling me to simply stop writing and I’m good to go. That would be like telling chronically injured Olympic star Lindsey Vonn to stop skiing. Wait—she did stop skiing. It would be like telling Tom Brady—okay stop with the athletic analogies. (I’m really not saying this. The speech-to-text program must have mutated to AI. I’m switching back to two-finger typing.)
Regardless, I’m a writer. I’m not going to give it up. If I had to choose between painful writing or pain-free lollygagging—well, you know the answer. If you’re following along at home, I have an MRI scheduled soon. Stay tuned.
Writers write. They also help other writers. Recently I read a new novel by mystery writer M. Ruth Myers. The novel was so new it hadn’t been published yet. I was what’s called a beta-reader. When I and most writers I know write a book, we want to get feedback before a book is submitted to an editor and published.
In my case, the advance feedback comes in two forms. Over the years I’ve belonged to various critique groups. Group members share chapters of their books with other writers as they write them. This gives you ongoing feedback ranging from polite compliments to hard-nosed suggestions. The latter are far more useful and usually more plentiful.
The other type of feedback comes from the beta reader. I like to use two types: other professional writers and people who just like to read mysteries. I ask beta readers to read an entire manuscript and provide comments.
Myers’ mystery, A Penny Earned, turned out to be a gem. Ruth took a secondary character from her successful—and Shamus Award-winning—Maggie Sullivan PI series and made him the star of a planned new Murder Mutts mystery series set in 1950’s Wyoming.
Heebs Kelly joined the service to fight Hitler. He mustered out minus a left hand, replaced by a custom-made, L-shaped hook. The young private investigator is quick thinking, occasionally smart-alecky, has a soft spot for animals—especially a white fluffy pooch he finds in the desert—and he keeps a 9mm within reach of his right hand.
He travels from his home in Ohio to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to see his Army buddy, Paul Richardson, a crusading attorney who wants Heebs to work with him. When he arrives in Richardson’s office he finds his friend dead of a broken neck.
Although obviously innocent of the murder Heebs is nevertheless roughed up by the local cowboy-boot-wearing cops who seem less than dedicated to solving the murder. Richardson’s family ask him to investigate, but he needs little encouragement to find out who killed his close friend.
The depression-raised detective and his four-legged friend dig into Richarson’s cases and question a variety of locals from the bottom to the top of 1950s wild-west Cheyenne society.
A pair of thugs try to persuade him that he should pack it in, but Heebs defends himself with aplomb while trying to determine who is telling the truth, who is a potential ally and who would like to see him buried where the buffalo used to roam.
Ruth writes the kind of mysteries I like to read (and the kind I hope I write.) She challenges the reader’s head with puzzles, twists and turns to follow. And her stories progress apace often putting her protagonists at peril with an appeal to the heart. Violence and the threat of it are visitors but are not the purpose of the stories. Her books don’t descend into gore as some so-called thrillers do today.
Heebs is a likable character, his nickname coming from the 1940s expression of jitters, heebie-jeebies. And the inhabitants of Cheyenne are varied and engrossing. Ruth knows the territory. She grew up in Wyoming and wrote for a newspaper there before working on papers in Michigan and Ohio.
Get in on the ground floor of this new PI series. It’s available now in e-book and print. Here’s a link to all the e-book sites.
In the meantime, I’ll be taking heavy-duty anti-inflammatories and pondering whether I should switch from books and blog to podcast.
Hopefully help in on the way, I know what you’re going to say, “when exactly is that again.” I’ve known you a long time and am obviously very much aware of your passion. My best wishes for an answer sooner rather than later.
Hey Mark – I am so sorry to hear this is still plaguing you – my goodness!! Many healing thoughts and prayers will continue coming your way. I can’t imagine having to give up my life’s passion…
Hugs your way,
Nicely done Mr. B! Loved the telling of your story as well as your description of Heebs and “friends.” Good luck with the podcast thing.
Sent from my iPhone