Help! The Well’s Gone Dry

Kate Flora: I don’t know about you, but I look forward to each day’s new posting here atFullSizeRender-11 Maine Crime Writers. The subject matter is so diverse—real Maine crimes, the challenge of balancing book deadlines and a loved one’s illness, what writers read when they’re not working. The writing is so good and I usually come away with something new to read, or to think about, or a new slant on the work that we do every day. But suddenly, after more than thirty years in the writer’s chair, when it’s my turn to blog, I stare at a blank page and think: I have nothing new to say.

This is not a case of writer’s block. On the writing side, I have a huge book project to work on and three books I need to revise. I’m writing a short story that’s evolving in fascinating ways, beginning with a comment made on Facebook when I inquired about making gumbo that described the moment when the cook knows the roux is perfect as a “rouxgasm.” [Here is the quote from Ramona DeFelice Long: There is a very precise moment when a roux base (oil and flour) is dark without burning. At that moment, you add the vegetables (onion, celery, bell pepper aka the Holy Trinity) and there is a loud sizzling sound, fantastic smell, and the feeling the cook has if the timing is right is called a rouxgasm. (I am not making this up.)]

On the blogging side, though, I feel like I don’t have anything interesting, entertaining, or useful to say. I think you must be weary of my posts about observing the world and about the writer’s life.

Is it interesting that I have a sheet of paper taped to the wall with lists of words for cold? For pain? For fear? That my Rodale’s Synonym Finder comes off the bookshelf many times a week? That I used to keep a notebook where I copied out other author’s actions scenes to figure out how to do it well?

FullSizeRender-12Is it interesting to note that my copy of Practical Homicide Investigation, which I believed was lost, has suddenly reappeared in my office? I often wonder if the way things happen is a sign. Am I now supposed to open the book and become re-enlightened about some aspect of homicide investigation? Finding it there on the shelf reminds me of my local librarian’s reaction to the book. I had been trying to decide which reference book to buy as I was embarking on my Joe Burgess series. Joe was going to investigate homicides and I wanted to know what he would know. Reference books and textbooks are very expensive, so I previewed this one through an interlibrary loan. The pictures in the book are, quite frankly, horrible and graphic and most of them are of women. Before the male librarian handed it over, he inquired with quiet concern whether I was sure I wanted to see it.

Rediscovering this book, which was an essential reference when I was working on my first true crime, Finding Amy, many years ago, send me looking around my office at other forgotten books and reminded me that I want to reread M. Lee Goff’s book A Fly for the Prosecution: How Insect Evidence Helps Solve Crimes. That reminded me of the role that entomology played at Russ Gorman’s trial. And that last year I met a forensic entomologist at a conference, and thought she’d be a riveting conference speaker. I wonder what I did with her card?

Oh. Forensics. I’ve got Criminalistics. I’ve got Criminal Investigation. For a scene where Joe Burgess encounters a house rigged with bombs, I’ve got Bomb Squad. For interrogation and interviewing, I’ve got The Truth About Lying. We Get Confessions. I have a book about cops and PTSD. And one called Inside the Criminal Mind. Sometimes I wonder what a nice girl like me is doing in a place like this?

When I go to people’s houses, or rent a condo or apartment, I always want to know what’sIMG_1973 on the bookshelf. In my case, way too much. Along with all the forensics reference books, I have lots of poetry. Maybe in part because I love epigraphs. (I have a whole book where the epigraphs are all from Paradise Lost and The Scarlet Letter.) So yesterday my about-to-be-retired husband said he wanted to reread some poetry, and was looking for a Norton Anthology. I said, “Hold on a minute,” and found two Nortons and three other college poetry textbooks. I left him to decide which was “the one.”

I read recently in the Bangor Daily News about a crew taking ten tons of stuff out of a Maine hoarder’s house. In my case, the books alone probably weigh that much. But as a writer, I want to surround myself with books. I’ve even clipped pictures of the book Christmas tree and the book chair, in case someday I have time, and books, on my hands. Here are some great ideas for using books: or perhaps this:

And so. Another case of the rambling writer’s mind comes to an end. And the page isn’t so empty after all.



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5 Responses to Help! The Well’s Gone Dry

  1. dragons3 says:

    Even when “the well’s gone dry” you manage to produce an interesting blog post. I have an insatiable curiosity about writers and what makes them tick and how they go about their craft. It’s interesting to know what reference books you find useful. Thank you.

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Your well will never run dry, Kate! Occasionally you may need to drill down a little further .. or even move to another source of water until the well refills. This blog is proof … onward!

  3. I love these rambles through your study and your mind, Kate.

  4. Kate, you are NEVER boring. I love your list of books. I have piles of newspaper clippings, the more bizarre the better. The problem is, I usually can’t find where I stashed them.

  5. Sennebec says:

    You could write about your failed adventures as a blueberry queen, the steer riding runty rooster, or your ‘sheepish’ career as a 4-H diva.

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