I have an obsessive personality. There, I admit it. I become obsessed with TV shows (currently Arrow. And Doctor Who. And Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries) and books (Ann Cleeves Shetland Series) and food (Thai rice) and pictures and all kinds of things. I have often sought to fight these obsessions in the past, and be sensible, and restrained, but that only heightens the need. The only thing to is to feed my obsession until it’s sated, and it drifted away.

This is why I write. I have an idea in my head, a line, a character, a beginning, and I have to write until the story is told. Then I have to go back and dig into the story to find all the hidden background details I didn’t see first time. Then I have to go back and expand everything else in the story until everyone has a backstory, even if I don’t write it.

It’s an obsession. I can’t let this story go until I know everything. Only then can I let it go.

Health Insurance Plea by Christine Duncan

Please share this post,as I know I am not the only one. You see I can NOT sign up for health insurance. I have been trying for literally months now. If I go to my state’s health market place, it tells me I must call in as I cannot sign up online. No reason is given, just that I cannot. I tried several times in December alone.
I interspersed this with trying to call in. Trying to call in to Connect for Health here in Colorado was a full time job in December. I never did get through. I started to get worried. Last years insurance was with a health coop that had gone out of business, so I had extra time, but still, I wanted insurance in January, just in case I needed it. It wasn’t to be.
Finally when I called in mid-January, I waited for almost an hour but I finally got through, only to be told that the person who was helping could not get my tax credits to come over. She was unable to help, she said. What did that mean? I asked, to the empty air. She had already hung up.
In the following week, I got a series of confusing emails from Connect for Health. One asked for documents to be sent by May of 2015. Another said my issue was closed. Still I could not purchase insurance on the state website. I had no idea how to go back to last year and give them documentation I had already given.
I was undeterred. I had had problems last year too, as they seemed unable to understand that my husband got VA insurance and did not need their help. It went on all year but someone could surely help. I went to the library
in another suburb, to enlist the support of people who had experience in this, at a Connect for Health site.
Two ladies were there for a line of people. Still they tried to juggle us all. First they had us all sit at computers, and they went down the line. When one finally got to me, she cut short my explanations, having heard much the same from others all day. She put me through the drill, asking me to show her what I saw in the website. She could not help me purchase insurance either. She told me not to worry. The system was merely behind and they would correct this. I was allowed to be uninsured for two months with no penalty, she said. I would surely have insurance by March.
What if I were hit by a bus on the way home, I asked? Would the system help? Well, no, she said. She gave me her card and promised to call me back in the next week, which she did. But now she sounded puzzled. Surely the state will fix this soon, she said.
Will I have a penalty? I asked. “Only,” she says, “If you don’t purchase by March 1st.” I am not feeling confident. Please share this post.

I’m a Murderer!

I burst into tears whilst writing the death of a character this week. They had to be killed, their death was absolutely necessary, given I write crime novels and that usually involves a murder or two, but I liked this person. I could see them very clearly in my mind. They were full of life, and I just killed them. Never mind the actual killer, I felt like a murderer myself.

But as I had such a reaction to their death, hopefully the reader will too. It seems to me that if a writer is emotionally invested in their characters, the reader will be too. If I love them, or hate them, or admire them, or think they’re funny, or kind, so will the reader.

I’ve read books where it’s obvious the author doesn’t care about the characters. They’re just ciphers, there to fulfil the function of the plot, to cause the events to happen. When they die, or suffer, or even fall in love, I don’t care either. And when the book is closed, I forget they ever existed.

I don’t want to write like that about characters. I want them to live, even if only in my head. I dream about them, I think about them all the time, I know their favourite books, and what they think about jam and who they love and what irritates them and how a rainy day makes them feel. Hardly any of that may make it onto the page, but it’s there in my mind.

I hope that makes the characters real for my readers too. And I hope, though it may sound a bit cruel, that they cry too, when they read about this death.

Write a House by Christine Duncan

Before I get started, I need to apologize for my absence last week. I was out of town, attending my sister’s memorial. I should have prepared in advance, but somehow, I could not. I try not to miss this blog’s deadlines. I just was not walking in real time last week.

I have wanted to do an update on the Write a House awards. They recently awarded their second house and you can see pictures here.  For those who haven’t heard, this is such a cool and innovative idea.  In Detroit, the non-profit Write a House is giving writers a chance to win a home in Detroit.   It is such a win-win idea.  The non-profit is seeking to not only support the literary arts, but to bring in people who will help stabilize a neighborhood in Detroit. In the process, they are also helping to provide vocational training to students who will help with the renovations of the houses.  If you are interested, the 2016 applications are not yet out, but keep this link bookmarked.  These folks deserve some publicity for the sheer brilliance of their idea, of renovating their community, supporting education and the arts.

Where the Ideas Are

It’s 10am, on a Thursday. I am sitting in a coffee shop. It’s cold, but dry.

In this coffee shop is a man sprawled out, reading the newspapers. I swear he has slippers on. He tuts occasionally at the state of the word, then just turns the page over. There is another man in a suit, tapping away at his laptop and looking up, anxiously but hopefully, every time the door opens. I think he is slightly short sighted, because it takes him a moment to realise the person entering is not the one he is waiting for.

In the corner are two women with babies in pushchairs. They are trying to talk, but are constantly distracted by the fact that their children are actively trying to kill each other. Over there, at the sofa, is a girl in a bobble cap, writing away in a notebook. She looks very intense, but very happy. Near her is a handsome man typing into a laptop, but he keeps getting distracted, and looking round the room.

And in the corner there’s me, writing this, and spying on them all.

There’s more than enough material for a few short stories here, maybe even a book. What we need for our tales is all around us. There’s a story in every place. All we have to do is find them, imagine them, and write them down.

Almost Anything

I’m supposed to be writing a little piece about what inspires me, but it’s really difficult to define it. Today, for example, I have been inspired by;

Reading Pride and Prejudice

The strange conversation behind me in the coffee shop

Spotting a dress in the window of the charity shop

An episode of The Walking Dead

Dogs playing with each other in the park

A woman having a very loud, and very private conversation on her mobile phone.

And it’s still only mid-afternoon. And I’m having a slow day because I have a cold. I wasn’t even going to write today, but the ideas still keep coming.

Inspiration seems to be everywhere, if I just take a moment to stop, and look and listen to the world around me. I just need the time (and energy) to let all that inspiration take root, and actually become part of a story.

E-Magazines by Christine Duncan

I have long been an advocate for e-books. It is wonderful for those of us with lousy eyesight, and I wanted my books published that way. I only wish I could say the same for magazines.

I just have never gotten the hang of Zinio, although I continually try. My finger always lands on the wrong spot on the page and I go from an article that I was really interested in to some other page. Or the page will get stuck somehow, and load and load and load. Yes, I do have high speed internet.

I usually end up reading it while I scan Facebook, so I won’t get too frustrated. Still, it is rare for me to finish reading a whole magazine. I’m almost ashamed to say this, but I would never purchase a magazine this way. I read only what my library provides for free. I still have a paper subscription to the magazines I love.
I have been impatient in the past when people told me they would never read e-books. What’s not to like? I would ask. You can carry a whole library with you anywhere. You can buy books cheaper, letting you try new authors more easily, and you can adjust the font so you can read without glasses or contacts. All of this is true of e-magazines, but somehow, I can’t get the hang of it. Anyone have a tip?