December 26, 2006
It's over. All the hoopla and shopping and cooking and eating and celebrating. Presents unwrapped, eggnog downed, credit cards maxed out. It was a fine example of that strange ritual called The American Christmas; an event both sacred and profane.
Last night, somewhere after the smoked trout and turkey, but before the port and carmelized pear tarte, awash in a sea of wrapping paper and bows, the conversation turned to Useless Things.
Certainly not those presents we'd just opened. Not the baseball cap with the three little lights on the brim so you can see the dog poop you're trying to pick up in the middle of the night.
Not the ballpoint pen with the picure of a hunky, black-haired man in a Speedo who loses his swimsuit when the pen is held upright.
Not even the hatbox-shaped plastic purse from Japan that says "It's so fabulous being me!"
I mean truly Useless Things. Those items we've owned, whether through our own besotted bad judgment or the misplaced affection of someone else with just a fingerhold on sanity.
Everyone had a story.
Karen talked about the olive tray from Hell. Two feet long and one olive wide, it was The Rockettes of all olive trays. It could hold two dozen of the black olives we used to stick our fingers in, or fifteen of the big green ones that look like they're staring at you. This is your eyeball on drugs.
Her husband ate an olive and she glared. Where once had been a perfect symmetry of olives doing a high kick in unison, there now lay a briny gap in the line. She corrected the design with a new olive, served from the Tupperware container in her hand.
Another one was eaten. She refilled. And refilled. She spent the night hovering near the crudités, a handful of pristine olives at the ready, unable to walk away from a tray that only looked good when full.
My own story was The Toast. Surely, you remember The Toast? That crusty bit of dried out, seven-grain bread with the face of The Runaway Bride on it? She looked wistful, vulnerable. Yeah, and bug-eyed, too.
When I spotted it on eBay, I had to have it. It was the perfect example of all things useless. Food you can't eat. Art that isn't art. A person of fame simply for being a person of fame. A spiritual visitation of the most superficial sort.
I placed a bid and watched -- aghast -- as another offer came in. I upped the ante. Nobody else was going home with my toast. Two minutes and fourteen seconds left in bidding. I was still five bucks under the limit I'd set for myself. There was wiggle room.
Thirty seconds left. Somebody bid the price up ten bucks. Who was this evil creature, Mr. email@example.com? He took the prize. I hated him. And I hope he choked on the toast.
Dennis's story was better than mine. He had bought a thousand gross of arrow fletchings. Not the arrows themselves, mind you. Not the arrow heads. Just the little feather things on the back that make the arrow fly straight and true.
"Why?" I asked him.
"Because they were such a good deal."
Now all he needs are 144,000 boy scouts who want to earn merit badges in archery.
My friend Bob nodded his head, understanding completely. "I bought airplane tires."
He nodded again. "Eight hundred of them. For 747's." He looked as proud as a retriever with a dead duck in its mouth.
His wife, Joanna, snorted. "You'll recognize him on eBay. He's the guy who writes 'my wife says I have to sell them or she'll leave me."
So what's your most useless gift or purchase? C'mon. Fess up.
THE S WORD
December 12, 2006
My name is Louise Ure, and I don't use the S word.
You know the word I mean.
I don't speak series.
Lee Child has Reacher. Denise Mina has Paddy Meehan. Our own Pari has Sasha Solomon. Hell, Bill Pronzini has a series character, even though he's Nameless.
And I love reading series books. They're like going to dinner at an old friend's house: you know who's going to be there, just not what they're serving for dinner.
But my books are one-offs. (I know. I could call them stand alones, but that's another S word, and I didn't want to confuse the issue.) I put characters into as much trouble as possible, cause there's no way they're going to agree to come back for more.
Some of my favorite books are not part of a series. Laura Lippman's Every Secret Thing. Sara Gran's Dope. James Sallis' Drive. Books that make you question how they will end, whether the good guy will win, whether there really was a good guy there at all.
In my first novel, Forcing Amaryllis, I got jury consultant Calla Gentry face-to-face with the man who raped her sister and left her for dead. And I didn't exactly help her get out of it.
In the next book, The Fault Tree, a blind, female auto mechanic is the only witness to a murder. Think Wait Until Dark, with a heroine who knows how to change the oil.
The third book (titled Liars Anonymous, for the moment) brings in a whole new cast of characters since none of the old ones were willing to show up at the reunion.
These books are an invitation to a dinner party where you don't know either the guests or the menu. Hell, you don't even know the address.
Or maybe you do.
The only thing my books seem to have in common is Arizona. Arizona, in all its caliche-riddled, sweat inducing, gazpacho guzzling, skinned-rattlesnake glory. They're my Arizona Trilogy.
I haven't lived there for thirty years, but it's the place I turned to when I started to write. The place I can smell and taste most clearly.
Can a place be a continuing character? I'd argue that Florida was as important a character in John D. McDonald's work as Travis McGee was. And Tony Hillerman has assembled a motley crew of characters to populate his desert southwest.
But maybe you can use place in a different way.
I spent almost three decades in advertising; evaluating 30-second epiphanies for beer, cruise lines, Shake 'n Bake and the Dancing California Raisins. And for much of that time, those jobs only took me to cities that started with the letter S. Cities like:
The S train was derailed after twenty years by an eight-month stint working in Denver, but I forgive them for that. I had a great time.
Can you imagine a series where the only common denominator is that the location starts with S? It would be great fun to write, and the research possibilities are mouth-watering.
There are so many other S cities that I haven't explored yet. Siena. Stockholm. St. Petersburg.
When you think about it, there really aren't any bad S cities. Except maybe Seoul. And Soweto. And that little S-named suburb I had to commute to for three years, where the employer insisted that I arrive by seven a.m., and that I wear pantyhose.
I may have just found my Series with a capital S.
On the other hand, this may be the dinner invitation from Hell. The one where you don't know the hosts or the menu. You can't figure out the dress code. And Mapquest can't find the address.
P.S. Not only is this my first Murderati post, but it will also be my last post before Christmas, as Paul takes command of Tuesdays again next week. So I leave you with a Christmas cartoon sent to me by a "deer" friend who knows how warped a crime writer's sense of humor can be.
Merry Christmas everyone!
WRITE WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW
August 14, 2006
You know the old maxim, "Write what you know?" I say, "Horseshit."
There are lots of writers who make it up from the whole cloth. Michael Connelly was never a lawyer driving around in a Lincoln-sized office. John Irving never lost his hand to a caged lion at the circus. And as far as I know, Lee Child never killed anybody.
Hell, Homer was probably a stay-at-home dad, and J. K. Rowling has never done a magic trick in her life.
If I were to write about what I know, it would be a story about advertising agencies, how to make great tacos, and smoking too much. Short tempers in traffic, overweight golden retrievers and killing any plant that isn't approved by the California Highway Department for planting in the medians.
And who wants to read that?
There are some writers whose histories are so fascinating that just listening in on their lunch orders at Subway would be fodder for a story. Barbara Seranella and her outlaw past. Zoe Sharp and her motorcycle racing. Barry Eisler's shady CIA history.
Cornelia Read can lift any page from her diary and create a book from it.
And there are other fine writers who have taken the guts of the world they knowjournalism, teaching, businessand created a universe where adventures abound. Karen Olson, for example, with her reporter-protagonist Annie Seymour, or Patricia Smiley, who can make even the most innocent business transaction fraught with menace. Elaine Flinn brought murder to the antiques biz in tiny, charming Carmel. Gillian Roberts parlayed her years teaching high school in Philadelphia into a thirteen or fourteen book series, and proved that association with teacher Amanda Pepper could be just as lethal as any day spent with Jessica Fletcher.
If I were to try that, you'd have the story of an Account Director in an ad agency wondering how she was going to motivate the Creative Director to try for one more campaign, since the client put his foot through the last storyboard. Yawn.
If you're a taxidermist, do you love reading fiction about your field? Or do you avoid it?
I dislike reading about my own world, and I think I'd hate writing about it even more. (I did read two advertising agency mysteries written by former colleagues, and had to struggle to find something nice to say about them. If they got the facts right, the story was boring. If they got them wrong, it just sounded silly.)
In my first book, FORCING AMARYLLIS, I wrote about a jury consultant put in the unenviable position of representing a man she thought might be the person who attacked her sister. And I didn't know a damn thing about jury consulting.
But that's where the fun began. I read voraciously, interviewed lawyers who had used jury consultants and analyzed every trial transcript I could get my hands on. I haunted the corridors at the Criminal Courts Building in San Francisco, eavesdropped on lawyers' conversations after the verdicts were read, and practically memorized entire chapters of "Stack & Sway: The New Science of Jury Consulting."
But the best research was conducted on a drunken Thursday afternoon with Beth and Idgi, two local jury consultants, over cassoulet and a bottle of good Medoc at Le Central, downtown. They had started out as idealists, wanting to ensure that every man would be guaranteed a jury of his peers. That never again would we see the kind of jury stacking that went on during the trials of anti-war protestors Daniel and Philip Berrigan during the Viet Nam era.
And they are still idealists; even after the smearing their profession took in the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials. It's not "the best jury money can buy" for these two; it's "leveling the playing field." Although we all agreed that the field would not truly be level until the investigative services, the jury consultants and the expert witnesses are equally available to everyone, not just the Robert Blakes of the world.
The stories got better as the afternoon (and the wine) wore on. Stories about the black teenagermore girl than womanfacing an adult murder charge. Stories about the lawyer who had his wife second-guess the jury consultants' decisions from her seat in the first row. Stories about the case they lost that will never leave them.
The stories were important. And it was so much more fun than writing about advertising.
In the book I just finished, THE FAULT TREE, the protagonist is a blind, female auto mechanic. I am not blind. And while I'm a dab hand at minor car repairs, I also have AAA on speed dial. By the time that research for the book was done, I could do a tune up in thirty minutes with my eyes closed and I've now filed my nails into the shape of both regular and Phillips' head screwdrivers.The book I'm working on now features a twenty-four year old woman who is both a body builder and a compulsive liar. Well, at least I've got one thing in common with her.
My advice to aspiring writers? Don't limit yourself to what you know. Write about what interests you, even if you know nothing about it at all.
In fact, even better advice: Write about what you're afraid of.
What about you? What's that thing that so interests or terrifies you that you have to write about it?
April 19, 2006
I'm triple happy today.
I just finished my next book and sent it off to my agent ...
I read two incredible mysteries by a new friend ...
and the paperback edition of FORCING AMARYLLIS will be out in less than a week.
Last things first. The paperback edition of FORCING AMARYLLIS (ISBN 0-44661-502-1) goes on sale April 25. There are two pieces of good news in there: they kept the same gorgeous cover as the hardback (designed by Warner Books' Brigid Pearson) and now the book ($6.99) is priced at a level that most of my family and friends can actually afford.
And that friend with the hot new mysteries? Scotland's Allan Guthrie. I met Allan at Left Coast Crime in Bristol in March. He's shya quiet man who seems stunned that anyone has read his work, let alone fallen in love with it. He writes of lowlifes and high crime in gritty, gray Edinburgh. Of Guthrie's first novel, TWO-WAY SPLIT (from Point Blank), Ed Gorman said "Memorable and stunning and pitch-perfect. I can't remember a first novel this good in a long, long time." And his second book, KISS HER GOODBYE (from Hard Case Crime) proved that Guthrie could do it again. Loan sharks and leg-breakers and some of the tightest writing you'll ever read. Go find these books.
The third happiness was sending off my next book, THE FAULT TREE. I thought I'd finished it a year ago, but soon realized that, like a child born with a weak heart, it was a creature I would love, but it did not have the strength to live for long. It needed a transplant, and that's what it got. I ripped out characters and bolted new ones on. I lifted out diseased organs and replaced them with stronger ones. I grafted healthy pink skin over scar tissue. The scars are still there, of course, but you can't see them as much now.
It felt at times like I was building a Frankenstein; a book I recognized only in silhouette. A familiar size and shape and smell, certainly, but with a face I didn't know in the bright light of day.
I recognize the face now. It's mine.
This week Louise is reading: Nothing. She's at the gestation stage of the third book.
This week Louise is listening to: Calexico "Feast of Wire"
NOTES ON THE COMPUTER #2
February 15, 2006
The second note that I pasted to the front of my new computer was a quote from Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast."
"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know."
I put the note up when FORCING AMARYLLIS was wending its way through the Time Warner production process, and I was facing the blank screen of a second novel.
You remember, don't you, that I am an accidental writer? I began writing FORCING AMARYLLIS on a dare from a friend. Imagine, then, the gut-sucking insecurity and hopelessness of that blank screen. That critic on the shoulder that says, "The first was just a fluke. You don't have it in you for another."
Many authors have noted the "sophomore jitters" of the second-time novelist. Many more have said that it never goes away. That after five books or fifteen, every author still faces that dark-dreaming nemesis who says, "This time nothing will come."
Apparently, even Hemingway felt that way. Or at least he could so closely identify with the feeling that he penned advice to get himself beyond that Hydra-headed monster.
That "one true sentence" doesn't have to come from your own life. Just from real life. It's sentence that creates a real picture on the page. That breathes life into a character who thinks and acts like a real person. One true sentence that resonates in the heart.
For FORCING AMARYLLIS, that "one true sentence" was:
"It's not real unless you say it out loud."It was something I'd come to live by, practically part of our family crest. My mother taught us never to talk about the things that scared us. If you gave them names, if you described them, they would grow in power and strength like a malevolent wind. So when my brother was dying of cancer at the age of twenty-nine, we never admitted it out loud, lest we breathe life into the tumors by calling them by name.
I had my one true sentence, and it led to the rest of FORCING AMARYLLIS.
But now I faced that blank screen once again. Okay, deep breath. "Write the truest sentence you know."
"At the end, there was so much blame to spread around that we could all have taken a few shovelfuls home and rolled around in it like pigs in stink."Blame. Responsibility. And the ability to embrace it as well as reject it. There's a topic I know something about.
And that's the opening line to my second novel, FAULT TREE, which is just about to make its way out into the big, bad world.
Now the truest sentence I know is "Godspeed."
NOTES ON THE COMPUTER #1
January 11, 2006
I got a new computer this year, a flat screen big-as-a-multiplex, Apple G5. It's gorgeous. Full of the promise of high thoughts and perfect words. A Candide-like blank page if ever I've seen one.
I set it up right where the old computer had been on the desk. All of a sudden there was more spaceempty spacewhere once the guts of the old computer had settled. This one has a brain that's the size of a walnut, and doesn't require the moving box dimensions the old one did. It has maybe two cords coming out of the back like well-coiffed braids, instead of the Bette Midler-snarl of wires and cords that exuded from the last monitor.
But what to do with all that extra space? Hide a stack of CD's and old manuscripts? Raise orchids to peer over the top of the screen like they're previewing my work? Nothing for the moment. I'm just going to glory in actually seeing the desktop.
And what a desktop it is! I had the desk built specially for me, by a man who makes guitars. It's not much on practicality, but it has inlaid strips of ebony, turquoise and mother of pearl, and that alone is reason to love it.
I stretched my arms across the pristine oak surface. Nothing to distract me. That's good. But nothing to inspire me either. That's bad.
I realized there was a bigger issue with all this empty space. The front of the computer was bare, too. No "Buck up, Bunky" Post It Notes. No reminders of dental appointments. No snippets of email from the fan who said, "I'm the reason you need to keep writing."
I went down to the basement and opened the cardboard box that held the old monitor. I didn't need a light to find what I was looking for; I knew just where they were. Taped to the front of the monitor were three notes to myself that have been transferred between my purses and notebooks and monitors for years. Three scraps of paper held together by scotch tape so yellow they look like cowards.
I scrabbled and scraped until I had all three in my hands. I needed them now like I needed them then. They were going up on the new monitor.
I'll tell you about each of them, but one at a time.
The first "writing life" note I taped to the computer said:
Loss of nerve."
I'd cribbed the words from Elizabeth Hay's A Student of Weather, a beautiful Canadian novel about sisters and love and betrayal. The passage referred to the reasons the young woman couldn't paint anymore, but I immediately recognized them as my four excuses for not writing.
Four words, and they cover every possible excusereal or imaginedthat today I will be unable to put words on paper.
"Interruptions" is the easy one. That means normal life. The vet's appointment. The day job. The head cold. The need to wrap a birthday present. The husband who wants to know what's for dinner. That excuse is available any time you want it.
I'm getting better about ignoring the "interruptions" now. I can work through Angus's frenzied barking. I send gift certificates instead of wrapped presents. And my husband has learned to make four dinners.
"Timidity." Now we're getting closer to home. This was my best excuse when I first started writing, and joined a writers' group. What if I embarrassed myself in front of them? What would they think of this drivel? How could I dare to imagine that I had a story to tell?
I'm here to tell you that you can get rid of timidity easier than virginity. And once vanquished, neither comes back.
"Bad Temper." Now you're talking. "I'm in a bad mood," used to be just the ticket to get me out of that chair and onto the couch, clicking through the channels like I owed money to the Nielsen rating service. I've improved here, too. I still say, "I'm in a bad mood," but now I follow that by writing about some character having exactly the same "poor miserable me" feelings.
The biggee, of course, is "Loss of Nerve," and that one shattered me for months after my first book came out. Could I write another? What if readers and reviewers hated it? How could I get back to that newcomer's feeling of honesty and candor in writing, and stop caring about the pundits who say, "here's how to do it right?"
I don't have the answer to that one yet. All I know is that I keep writing. Every morning when I sit down at the computer, I look at Ms. Hay's list of Reasons Why Not and I pick one excuse for the day and shrug.
"Well, if that's the only reason not to write today, you'd better get started."
I'll tell you about the second note on the monitor in the next missive.
BOYS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DATE RAPE, TOO
December 8, 2005
At a recent signing at Barnes & Noble, one female customer took my proffered bookmark and asked what FORCING AMARYLLIS was about. I gave her my standard "rape and revenge in Arizona" reply. (Nobody has the time, interest or patience for the twenty-five word "elevator pitch" all writers are told to come up with.) She wasn't put off by the short description and we kept talking.
"It's about a jury consultant who is asked to help defend a man against a murder charge, but soon realizes that he could be the man who raped her sister and left her for dead seven years ago," I said.
She oohed and aahed and raised her eyebrows like any good mystery reader, and said, "It sounds great, but I'm looking for something for my son."
The aforementioned son stood behind her. Over six feet tall, dressed in black, with a half a dozen piercings. No visible tattoos, but a sneer as wide as a racing slick. He looked to be fifteen or so, with enough cynicism for a roomful of White House correspondents.
"Boys need to know about date rape, too."
I didn't realize how much I meant it until I said it out loud.
While the book is certainly not a young adult novel, I let my sixteen-year old niece read it in galley form. "She already knows what it is," I explained to my brother. "And she deserves to know how it can happen and how to avoid it."
But what about the boys? Isn't it even more important that they know and understand the impact of a date rape? After all, they could become the victims of that same crime, or maybe, wittingly or unwittingly, become rapists themselves. It would be like showing a car crash video to a classroom of kids with learners' permits.
"But at fifteen?" she asked. The kid looked more interested in the book all the time. He'd already read the back cover and was heading into the first chapter.
Is fifteen too young to tell someone how badly they can screw up someone's life? Is twenty too old? Would it make him think twice before tightening his grip on a girl's arm in the hallway? Would it give him pause, in that heated moment in the backseat of a Jetta, and remind him that when she pushes him away it's as good as a "no"?
The pen may be mightier than the sword but it can't hold a candle to hormones. I know that. But I believe that education of any kind is a good thing. Just ask the fine folks at www.mencanstoprape.org.
The mother bought my book. But her son carried it out to the car.
A FLORAL TRIBUTE
December 5, 2005
My desk is strewn with flower petals this morning. Wait a minute, you're saying, that sounds more like a romance writer than a mystery writer. You're right. The only reason I'm swimming in velvety red and gold tulip petals is because the flowers I bought for Thanksgiving are all dying, and have dropped the remnants of their finery everywhere.
But I think we should all work at a desk dappled with tulip petals; sleep in a bed besotted with soft roses, walk down a hall carpeted with daffodils. And today, I'd like to offer those flowers to a few special friends.
I spent Saturday afternoon at M is for Mystery, at the annual Christmas party for the Northern California chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. It takes an afternoon like that to remind me of how lucky- and how grateful- I am, to have met these talented and generous folks so early in my career. It's still amazing to me to see how supportive the community of mystery writers can be to a newcomer. How do those other new writers, the ones tucked away in little burgs across the country, manage to do it without a network of writer-friends like these?
To Ed Kaufman, proprietor of M is for Mystery, I give a bouquet of hyacinth, for being such a staunch supporter of the crime fiction world. He says each year at the bookstore has been better than the last, and he still has a light in his eyes that says he looks forward to every new ARC.
To Camille Minichino, President of the area Sisters in Crime, I offer a purple orchid. It's the only flower that will last longer than her Periodic Table Mystery series.
To Robin Burcell, President of the Northern California Mystery Writers of America, a whole armful of forget-me-nots. Robin missed the party due to surgery, but was definitely not forgotten. She's been a wonderful friend.
Cara Black deserves something exotic and fragrant to help celebrate her French-themed mysteries. Maybe lilacs. Or perhaps we should take a hint from Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose." Cara, like Robin, read my first manuscript and was kind enough to offer an author blurb. I'll never forget it.
Kirk Russell was there. A gentle man with a rapier wit. I wish him success and a garland of laurel studded with proteus, He held my hand the night of my first official book signing and all of a sudden, everything looked easier.
A special tribute of bougainvillea to my friend Imma Trillo, who also came to the party. She's read my work more often than I have, and has been of incomparable help. Imma speaks English as a second language and still does it better than I do. Her first novel, "Old Poison," is currently being read by the Poisoned Pen team, and we'll celebrate with more than flowers when it comes out.
A couple of other special MWA friends weren't there, but deserve flowers in absentia. To Cornelia Read, my confidante and sister, I offer a basket of peonies to strew before her at her first book signing for "A Field of Darkness" in May 2006. And to Tony Broadbent, a good friend from my advertising days who walked beside me as I tried this new writing life, a big fistful of anthurium. They're heart-shaped, after all. And I missed seeing Elaine Flinn, who moved from Northern California to Oregon this year. Thank you Elaine, for your help at every step of the way. I wish you a whole backyard full of ginger. And maybe a Bird of Paradise or two thrown in for good measure.
Bouquets to all of you!
A GIFT WORTH GIVING
December 2, 2005
Marcia Muller told me last week that she'd finished her Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. Yet another reason to admire the woman. Or to hate her. She's written thirty-three more books than I have (and she's married to a man who has written seventy more!), enumerable short stories, she's gracious and kind, and she makes it all look easy. Now she tells me she's wrapping the final package. I'll bet her ribbons are color-coordinated and the Scotch tape doesn't show.
I, on the other hand, am just today sitting down to make my list, and I'm married to a man who still hasn't read my debut novel.
The list always starts with the Usual Suspects: the crazy cousin with a gaggle of wild turkeys in the front yard, the brother-in-law who finds treasures at flea markets, the sister I'm closer to than huevos are to rancheros. Birdseed, a down vest, and "whatever-she- wants-she's-had-a-tough-year," in that order.
The list goes on, but by then my inspiration is past its Use By Date. And who on earth did I think I was going to give those Bacon Strip Band Aids to? They look more like a festering wound than a bandage when applied.
Early in the year, I planned to create all handmade gifts, and I locked onto those trivet thingies made out of wine corks and auto hose clamps. I know, I know, you can't picture it. After all that wine, neither can I. Each trivet takes about fifty corks. Multiply that by an average of $10 a bottle and you've got the most expensive and ghastly homemade Christmas present to ever darken my condo doorway. I have enough corks for one trivet. A small one. Just enough to handle a coffee cup.
And then I heard the new Border's Christmas radio spots. "'I bought you this toaster cozy shaped like a chicken, because I know you like chicken, and everyone likes toast.' Wouldn't you rather say, 'I bought you this Italian cookbook because I know you love Tuscany and adore pasta?'"
Yes! Books for everybody! A bunch of new mysteries for my sister, something on the Civil War for the brother-in-law. And maybe a book full of recipes for wild turkey.
Here's to the Silly Season!
November 30, 2005
I tore my Achilles tendon earlier this year, and after months of trying to make that ski boot thing a fashion statement, I began rehab to strengthen and loosen my ankle. My favorite exercise was to spell out the alphabet with my foot. First in capital letters, then in lower case cursive font. Capital M's were the hardest on the vertical stretch. Cursive f's gave you the best side-to-side pull.
Every endeavor has its own limbering exercises, I suppose. Singers practice scales. Quarterbacks lob footballs. Yogis do breathing exercises.
When I took a typing class in high school (yes, typing, it was well before the advent of the computer age), the warm up exercises included ASDFG and :LKJH on the middle row, typed as fast as you could. Of course, we also had that "quick brown fox" jumping over that brown dog. But I longed for a different color dog. Black, maybe, since I'd only been able to exercise my "ck" muscles with the word "quick." Or perhaps a purple dog. That repetition of p's was bound to wake up my fingers.
These "Musings" are my way of limbering up my creative muscles before writing. A moment to free my mind from the next scene, the new character or the chapter rewrite. A way to loosen the mental cords that bind us to the uninspired analogy or the ill-chosen word.
I might add them to my site daily, or weekly. I doubt if I'll ever do it hourly; I'd never get any writing done. They may be news of the day, or a moment remembered, or advice on writing. Who knows? Think of them as a deep, cleansing, literary breath, before the workday begins.