Does the author have to know whodunit?

I “read” the classic Hercule Poirot mystery Murder On the Orient Express audiobook this week during my commute to the day job. Poirot and David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series have been my light “reading” this summer.

I had the advantage over Christie’s famous Belgian detective because I remembered the gist of the solution from memorable adaptations on the big and little screens, but even knowing whodunit, the novel is a lot of fun and shows Christie’s ingenious imagination at its peak.

As a writer it’s interesting to see how she drops the pieces so they tumble into place at just the right moments. I imagine she figured out how the killer did it and worked backwards from there.

In the old “plotters vs. pantser” argument — should you plot out your story before you start writing or fly by the seat of your pants — I suppose mystery writers at the very least need to know whodunit before they begin. Or do they?

I’ve found it helps to have a target. One of the first things I wrote for The Imaginary Bomb was the last paragraph of Chapter 26 (it has 27 chapters), and then I crafted a story aiming for that paragraph. So I think it probably helps a mystery writer to understand what happened, even if you dive in not knowing how the hero can possibly figure it out.

But would it work to just start writing and figure out whodunit as you write along? It might be fun to try.

winter

I am a gentle snowfall
a breeze making me dance
and a cool (not cold) night
by the water.

Do the deer rustle in their sleep
or is that a night prowler
foraging for odds and ends
in the shadows?

Too quiet for melancholy
I cover last week’s snow
with a fresh coat of chilly paint
without a sound.

Not a stirring within or without
To cut the peace apart, so all rest.

cried the poet

“Not enough,” cried the poet. “What I have done is never enough.”

“Calm down,” whispered his soul. “It’s not for you to say what is enough. Keep growing, keep practicing, keep on, spread what joy you can, sow the thoughts in rich soil, and tend the garden and see what you harvest.”

Give and receive

Every day we give of ourselves through our work, producing something of value that did not exist until we did so, whether it’s a Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a theory of relativity. We are compensated for that work under terms that we agreed to when we signed up to perform the work.

You did not steal from me when you took my bucks in a peaceful exchange for the burger. My life was enriched because I had a decent meal, and your life was enriched because you earned a few pennies for your effort.

Please, please, please stop thinking that one of us exploited the other, or that Mr. McD exploited us both. That way lies pain and anger and resentment and hatred and all the other nasty stuff that ruins lives.

Shameless self-promotion

I have a morning routine after I turn on the computer. (I have a morning routine BEFORE I turn on the computer or the “smart” phone, and I find that I am most productive on those days that I wait longest before looking at a screen.) In addition to Dick Tracy and Luann, I have a folder of bookmarks called “Important People,” writers and liberty lovers whose blogs I find important to check in on.

I’ve noticed of late that my Important People spend a lot of time promoting their work: their books, their online classes, et al.

I have not become a self-supporting writer with my lifetime “If you build it, they will come” approach, and so I wonder if I should occasionally follow the example of my Important People mentors and remind you that I have Stuff 4 Sale out there. What can be the harm? Hey, it’s Saturday, maybe you have a shekel or two you’re waiting to spend on a tremendously helpful and/or entertaining book.

So, in approximate reverse order of publication (most recent first), here are the books I have currently in print. Ebooks are available by searching for my name on Amazon or (most of them) Kobo.

(If I was a good shameless self-promoter, I would put links with all of these, but I am not a good salesperson. Go to your favorite book source; you know better than I do what that is.) (Heck, it might be even better if you went to your favorite bookstore and asked them to order one or several of these for you. Word of mouth, don’t ya know.)

Refuse to be Afraid – The 2010 cut. I reproduced the original, short edition because I believe it’s important you hear this in this world where TPTB are working so hard to make us afraid of stepping out the door into the sunlight, to make us afraid of traveling around the town or the state or the country freely, and most of all to make us afraid of each other.

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton. This wonderful 1908 novel is #4 in my Roger Mifflin Collection of classic early 20th century literature, curated by the proprietor of The Haunted Bookshop aka Christopher Morley.

Full – “My God, I’m full of words.” A collection of posts from this blog on the subjects of creativity, freedom of thought and action, and encouragement against the darkness.

Trivia by Logan Pearsall Smith, Men in War by Andreas Latzko, and The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. The third, second, and first books in my Mifflin Collection. Paperbacks everywhere; hardcovers at Lulu.com.

A Little Volume of Secrets – Three timeless essays on the mindset of success: As A Man Thinketh by James Allen, Acres of Diamonds by Russell H. Conwell, and The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles. Another 2010 collection that needed to be out there again.

24 flashes – Two dozen bits of flash fiction, as short as the three paragraphs of “The Sudden Waltz” and as long as the six pages of “Once Upon a Midnight” and “The Old Man and the Press.”

Gladness is Infectious – A book of celebrations, because we all need to be reminded how wonderful this life is. More excerpts from this blog.

Resistance to Civil Government by Henry David Thoreau – The seminal essay on civil disobedience, because we all need to be reminded of what works best against what we’re up against. (Another 2010 reprint)

Letters to the Citizens of the United States by Thomas Paine – The author of the great Common Sense sent out a series of essays about the nature of this new republic and the forces that wish to extinguish it, with concerns remarkably similar to those at play today. (Still more evidence that I was quite busy in 2010, it turns out.)

Refuse to be Afraid 10th Anniversary Edition – This is the version with the “bonus tracks” added in 2016 and 2020, with a lovely preface by Wally Conger (thanks WC!), for those who might need a little more bolstering against imaginary hobgoblins.

How to Play a Blue Guitar – It’s a manifesto for peaceful libertarianism, as well as another eclectic mix of blog posts, including my semi-famous short story “Wildflower Man,” previous editions of which are out of print.

Myke Phoenix: The Complete Novelettes – From 1990 to 2014, I wrote 16 superhero adventures – 18 if you include the short stories “Ghosts” and “A Myke Phoenix Christmas.” Here they are in one boffo 715-page conglomeration for a mere 25 bucks, probably my best deal per word.

A Bridge at Crossroads: 101 encouragements – The complete title of that first book above is “Refuse to be Afraid. Free yourself. Dream.” A Bridge at Crossroads is more on the topic of freeing yourself to dream.

The Imaginary Revolution – A short novel or long novella that purports to be the memoirs of Ray Kaliber, founder of the thriving no-government society of Sirius IV. Originally published on Bill of Rights Day in 2012.

A Scream of Consciousness – My follow-up to Refuse to be Afraid is about staying awake and paying attention moment by moment. I still read this to myself 10 years later as a reminder.

The Imaginary Bomb – My first published novel/novella, released in podcast form in 2006 and print in 2008, originally credited to my alter ego B.W. Richardson. Humanity has tapped into the unlimited power of the imagination as an energy source, and you know what twisted minds like to do with new energy sources. (Hint: What’s the book’s name again?)

So there’s your guide to the 18 books currently available under the “Warren Bluhm” imprint. Check back here for fragments of future books and announcements about what’s coming next. Thank you for indulging me for a few hundred words.

P.S. In case you’re keeping track, this is the 400th consecutive day that I have given you a blog post in this space. You’re welcome.

Picking Summer

We hereby dub thee Summer

I look like I’m crying in the photo Red took just after we decided which one of the 10 golden retriever pups in the pile would be the one we would name Summer. It was an emotional moment, in fact, and at the moment of decision, all I could do was point at the little girl I’d placed in Red’s arms and nod.

We had decided to pick one of the eight female pups in Windsor and Lady’s litter, which made it awkward for the puppy in the black collar they named McIntosh, who was clearly the dog most interested in me during the hour we all spent together. Mac, alas, is a male, so even though he “picked me” I was obligated to deny his kind offer. Nikki our hostess hopes that her brother will adopt McIntosh, and I am, too, because that may make it easier to keep an eye on his progress.

Of the eight girls, it took most of the hour we were given to make up our minds. (Although when you’re swarmed by five-week-old puppies, why would you want to rush a decision?) Red gave me prime responsibility for the choice, because Summer will succeed Willow The Best Dog There Was™ in our household and no one denies that Willow was “my” dog, as inseparable as we were to the last.

The puppies had different-colored collars. My fondest hope was that I would sit down among them, cry, “Here, Summer!” and one and only one would run into my arms. In reality, I cried, “Here, Summer!” and they looked 10 different places besides in my direction. So on to Plan B.

The little girl with the green collar was the first to climb up and say hello, so she had the early lead. I was intrigued at various times over my delightful 45-minute dive by Orange, Blue, Purple, and of course Black, but Black was the afore-mentioned McIntosh. He is a very friendly little fellow but lacking in estrogen, which fuels our household.

At one point I lay on my back to see what might happen. The ones who licked my nose and right ear made me laugh out loud until I noticed the one who was chewing intently on my left ear and (ouch!) became the first to be eliminated (or was she? I forget what color collar she had).

We actually were well into the adventure when I began to notice the shy little one with the yellow collar, whom Nikki had code-named Mimosa. I pulled her into my lap and admired her long, soft shagginess, and I think I remember her being one of the best nose lickers.

Twelve years ago I asked a puppy, “Are you Willow?” and received an immediate electric affirmative in my heart. It was too much to ask for a repeat, but I nonetheless asked several of the little love muffins, “Are you Summer?”

I wish I could say what was the tipping point, the moment when the choice became clear and indisputable. All I can say is I asked one last time, “Are you Summer?” and Yellow nestled in as if to reply, “OK, sure, if you want me to be.” Instead of a lightning bolt, it was more of a slow warming.

That’s Summer on the right

She looks anxious to me in the solo photos we took afterward, and I choose to believe it’s because she is thinking, “Why did my new daddy set me down? What am I doing in these arms instead of my new daddy’s?”

I have to temper my expectations, because Summer can’t possibly be a reincarnation of Willow, who singlehandedly changed me from a cat person into a dog lover, who forged a bond with me that both hurts and comforts me now that it’s broken. Summer will be her own puppy and will have her own personality, and only the coming years will determine where she fits in this interesting mosaic that is our lives.

I’ve been enjoying the irony of adopting a dog named Summer just before the first day of autumn, and I’m loving the idea of having Summer all year round. Mostly I’m looking forward to introducing Dejah to her new little sister and having a full house again.

The future big sister
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