Archive for the ‘Finnegans’ category

concerning dishes and laundry and half marathons and the like

April 23, 2018

Sorry about the last two weeks and me being more or less absent in cyberspace and all, but assuming the world doesn’t end today, I’ve written an account for your chortling pleasure.

I’ve been a bachelor for that time as my wife was in Seattle, bonding with our two-year-old granddaughter and doing what she can to help my son and his wife prepare for the new baby sister. (Who is due by C-section tomorrow and whose name will be Nilou, which is Farsi for lotus blossom. And I know right now you’re saying, “Don’t you mean Niloufar?” and I say, “No, just Nilou.”). So it turns out that laundry doesn’t do itself, dishes don’t get cleaned if you don’t do them, groceries run out, dogs need to be walked, floors need to be swept and mopped, and the list goes on, let me tell you! All of that and going to work at my regular schedule.

But I have been getting a lot of writing done. In those two weeks I’ve managed to write six chapters of Finnegans Fogbound. Sure, they’re first draft chapters and all that goes with that, but the groundwork is being laid. I have a total of 15 completed chapters now, and I’m guesstimating about 40,000 words. I’d said before that the story involves a half marathon in a small town, and I’ve just finished writing that bit, calling upon my own experience of running a dozen half marathons and resulting in an immensely richer story than I could have written without it. I think I’m about two-thirds of the way through the story.

My plan for the Finnegan cozy mysteries is for the husband and wife team to stumble into situations that aren’t even crimes* but in which some wrong needs to be righted. For Fogbound an entire city is suffering, and by the end of the novel, the healing has begun. No crime, certainly no murder, but a mystery resolved by some clever thinking and bold action.

At least that’s the plan.

I think I also said before that I started writing this story in part to take a break from the One-Match Fire universe that had consumed my creative ferment for years. I am getting that break, but I can also feel the itch to write another of those stories, which I’m calling “Spring Fever.” You know, when a young man’s fancy . . .


*Conan Doyle once did an analysis of his Sherlock Holmes stories and determined that most did not involve a murder and many didn’t even involve a crime.


where the latest Finnegans adventure stands

March 26, 2018

And you’ve been asking yourself, I wonder how he’s doing with that novel he’s working on? Well, I’ll tell you.

I’ve managed to write my way to the end of chapter 7. My husband and wife team — the Finnegans — are now immersed in the town divided by a river with a single bridge spanning it, and they’re poking around. They sense something is not right with the town, but they’re not sure what. Nor would they normally care since they’re just visiting while she is there to write an article about the half marathon the town hosts. But it’s a cozy mystery novel, so they will care, and they will figure it out, and they will even cause that which begins the town’s recovery from its ailment. But that’s all to be written still.

I estimate I’m about a third of the way through the story I have to tell. It’s coming along well; I don’t feel like I’m pushing any point beyond its purpose (which has been a problem for me in the past). I’ve introduced most of the characters, including the key character, and hinted at the remainder, including the antagonist character whose entrance I’m forestalling as a way to build the tension. (Most cozy mysteries have an off-stage murder that must be resolved; mine don’t. I’ve said before that I believe there is plenty of evil people can do that doesn’t involve crime. But I must set up tension early to keep the reader engaged.)

So far, the chapters are averaging 2,500 words, but I expect them to swell at least a little as I find any foreshadowing or character development or such that I need to do. I’m trying to be mindful of this short chapter length as a way to give the reader manageable chunks to read.

I had conceived this plot years ago, long before I had ever taken up running. But now that I have that experience in my toolbox, including running more than a dozen half marathons (of varying levels of performance and self respect), I am able to write that part of the story much more deeply. I can’t imagine what kind of story I could have written without that experience, which may explain why it’s taken me years to come to write it. (Also, those One-Match Fire stories that had dominated my creative self for so long. In fact, I began this cozy mystery as a deliberate break from those stories, though they continue to intrude. Pesky things!) Also, my husband and wife team always stay in a bed and breakfast on their adventures, and I have made certain I have plenty of experience with that. Research is important!

So I am satisfied with my progress and the development of the story. Characters seem to be running up to me fully formed and asking breathlessly to be put in it. That’s helpful. And I know exactly how the plot should evolve. Plus, this isn’t intended to be a deep, literary tale, so I’m not burdened with all of the fraught underpinnings that would require. I can race through a first draft without feeling I’m cheating the story.

who uses Scrivener (or anything like it)?

March 8, 2018

The One-Match Fire¬†short stories that have occupied my crusty creative self for the last few years eventually coalesced into what could be called a loose novel form. I consider (most of) them stand-alone short stories (and some have gotten published as such), but collected in the novel format they feel more like episodes than an attempt at a continuous narrative. That’s fine, of course, and I think it works well enuf.

But now I’m working on that cozy mystery novel (Finnegans Fogbound) and I’m finding that I must give a great deal more attention to plotting than I needed for One-Match Fire. Events must happen in a certain order at certain times in certain ways. And I am out of practice in conventional novel construction.

A commenter here recently asked if I used Scrivener to do whatever it is that Scrivener does. I don’t. I’ve never considered it. Looking at the site, I see how it could help a writer organize the grand effort, but I wonder if I need such an involved tool. (One I would have to pay for.) Would it do anything for me that drafting an outline and keeping a list of characters can’t?

Do you use Scrivener or anything like it? I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts or recommendations.

feeling my way

February 26, 2018

I continue to make progress on the Finnegans Fogbound novel. I’m doing about one chapter a week, which means I’m working on Chapter Four right now. I consider this reasonable progress for a first draft

Each chapter is currently weighing in at around 2,300 words, which I fully expect to grow as I find needs to do set up for later developments, introduce characters earlier, flesh out existing characters more, or whatever the rewriting will require. I figure that chapter size is manageable for a reader of a “lightweight” novel.

Still, I worry about setting up the tension early enuf to hook the reader. So far I’ve made a few references to a not-yet-seen character who is a martinet and who will be the primary source of tension once the forces are all in play. (She has a huge humbling coming!)

I recently read Kate Vaiden, by Reynolds Price. It was a quiet, contemplative read, though I raced through the 300+ pages in less than a week. But the opening paragraph sets up the tension of the story. It states more or less exactly why things are wrong and what is going to be attempted to fix them. The next 300 pages then do that. Anyway, my point is that the reader of that novel is hooked from the start (or turned away, though that seems less likely for anyone willingly picking up a Price novel).

Of course, Finnegans Fogbound will be a cozy mystery, so likely readers will know there is something afoot and will be in the hunt to find out what it is. I think there will be less pressure to set up an obvious tension because of this. Still, genre novels have certain conventions, and you don’t generally want to break into a genre with something that bends those conventions.

But I’ve been accused of overthinking before.

lost in the fog

February 19, 2018

I am making acceptable progress on the beginning of my new Finnegans novel, which, by the way, I’m calling¬†Finnegans Fogbound. I’m on chapter 3 and it’s mostly introducing characters and scene, though I’ve hinted at some of the coming tension. Still, it’s supposed to be a mystery novel, and these generally have some kind of hook in the beginning to draw the reader in.

This is problematic for me in large part because the Finnegans mysteries don’t involve any crime in the conventional sense. I still believe there is plenty of evil people can do to each other that doesn’t involved murder or even crime. (As an aside and a justification, Conan Doyle noted that more than half of the Sherlock Holmes stories did not involve murder and many didn’t even involve a crime.) Further, the Finnegans aren’t sleuths in the conventional sense either. They’re a retired husband and wife who stumble upon situations that need the light of day illuminating them. Generally, they don’t even know they’re on to something until late in the game.

Fogbound involves a half marathon (something I know a bit about) in a socially divided town. The dense fog hampers the running of the race and serves as a blatantly obvious symbol for the mystery.

As I said, I’ve begun chapter 3 but the whole things is an inchoate blob of words right now. I fully expect revisions to what I’ve written; I may even slip in another early chapter just to add that hook, but we’ll see.

Anyway, the writing is coming along fairly smoothly, and for that I’m grateful. I wish I could say the same for all of the stories in my head for the Clark family from One-Match Fire. Those are a struggle. A worthy struggle, but still a struggle.


Finnegans commence

February 5, 2018

I had a great weekend of writing this past. As I said in my recent post (betwixt) I needed to embark on something wholly different from what has occupied most of my creative energy for the last few years, and I did. I began work on a new Finnegans novel.

The Finnegans are a husband and wife team I’ve envisioned being the protagonists of a series of cozy mystery novels set in bed and breakfasts. Their stories would be unique because there wouldn’t be any actual crime involved, and certainly not any murder (which is standard issue for most mysteries). I’ve always said that there is plenty of evil people can do that doesn’t involve crime. The Finnegans stumble into these mysteries and bring them to some resolution, generally vindicating the innocent and revealing the guilty.

I’ve actually written four of these novels (none published), so I know the characters well and can more or less throw them into the plot I have in mind and let them do the driving. I think they’re perfect for the break I need from my “literary” writing. I can more easily pick up where I left off with the Finnegans, meaning I might do some writing at unexpected times, like in the long, dark winter evenings before me.

This latest, which I’m calling Finnegans Fogbound, involves a half marathon in a town bitterly divided by ethnicity (Irish on one side of the river, Hispanics on the other and only one bridge betwixt them). I had originally conceived this plot long before I took up the sport of running, but now that I’m revisiting it with some actually running experience, I can see how much better I can tell the tale.

The writing has been going well. I put down more than 2,000 pretty good words and completed a first chapter. Slyly introduced in that chapter are the tensions that will be resolved in the story, so the plan is well laid.

Feels good being in this kind of place.


We were at the art museum when the “light dusting” began yesterday. Thinking it prudent, we headed home with some trouble. Four inches and some shoveling later and it all seems like a dream.

momentum, maybe?

January 12, 2018

With the apparent (though only one time so far) success of my ambition to devote one night a week to the more mundane aspects of writing, I’ve begun to wonder if I ought to dedicate another evening of the week to another aspect of my writing.

Long-time readers will recall that I have written a few cozy-mystery novels with a husband and wife team called the Finnegans. Indeed, those novels were why I had originally begun this humble blog. I have four novels written for the duo. One is an apprenticeship mess, one was lost during a hard drive crash (though I think I have enuf pieces of it in emails to put it back together), one is pretty good but needs some structural work, and one is what I consider finished and that I had even begun shopping around years ago. But then my more fraught and literary One-Match Fire stories began asserting themselves in the limited space of my creative brain, and the poor Finnegans (who are not young people by the way) were shoved to the curb.

But the thing about the Finnegans novels is that they are not intended to be literary works. They are genre works, and though I think I bring a new look to the genre with them, they aren’t “deep” reads. They do what they set out to do but they don’t ask too much of the reader.

Which brings me back to my point. I believe I can write these novels in the evenings of the week, when the household is noisy and my soul is mostly crushed by the real world and so on. I don’t have to enter the same creative place in my mind that my loftier writing requires.

And so, I’ve thought, why not dedicate another night of my week to the Finnegans? I could polish the two novels that I think are ready, and I could retrieve the novel that was lost. Plus I have thousands of words of notes for a new novel that I could begin writing. This seems workable.