Author Archives: cwall34


 Another Sunday Scribbling…..

      Not long ago, my twenty-year old niece broke the news to her parents that she was pregnant and the baby was due in a month-and-a-half. She hid the pregnancy while living at home the entire time she was pregnant. Not only was my brother and sister-in-law going to be grandparents for the first time, the event was going to happen in barely enough time to process the news. And then there was the father of the child. Who was he? They didn’t know him. Never met him. Didn’t get to meet him until the night of the delivery. The only thing they knew about him was that he was black and had an arrest record.

     Waiting for his grandchild to be born, my brother remarked that he never pictured becoming a grandparent under these circumstances. He felt betrayed and rejected by a daughter that was running wild and hostile. Instead of retiring next year, he would have a new baby in his house to support.Instead of proudly launching a daughter into adulthood, he faced a turbulent relationship that needed healing. His Plan A smashed to smithereens the moment his daughter shouted out “ You want to know what is wrong? Well, I’m pregnant.”.

Plan B isn’t for sissies. When Plan A miserably fails, Plan B challenges us to be resilient. A quote I recently came across says that “Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.” Plan B shows us the gifts.

Shaking off the surreal feeling my brother and his wife had when they suddenly became grandparents, they have found joy in their beautiful baby grandson, they have found that the baby’s father is actually
pretty nice, and they hold on to hope that their relationship with their daughter will soon begin the painful journey towards healing.

Barely two weeks after the birth of my niece’s baby, our daughter surprised and shocked us with the news that she too is pregnant. The father is a man we do know but have never liked. She used to live with him but
moved back home a couple of years ago. They maintained the status of “just friends” while moving on to date other people. Unlike my niece, our daughter has at least given us sufficient notice of her due date.

So suddenly our world feels like a Jerry Springer show even though we are educated professionals trying to live a relatively normal life.There’s only one thing we can do. Go to Plan B!


Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Uncategorized


Sunday Scribblings-Easy

Sunday Scribblings is about writing prompts. The stuff that inspires creativity, that gets the juices flowing. And so today is Sunday, I set a timer, and pumped out my thoughts on the word “easy”. Here are my scribblings.


It is easy to walk away from an argument

to walk by a stranger

to give up

But it is also easy

to give a stranger a smile

to hold on to hope

to search for peaceful solutions.


I’ve learned that it is easier to do it yourself than to count on anyone
to do it for you.

I’ve learned that what sometimes seems so easy isn’t.

I’ve learned that loving is never easy.

I’ve learned that shutting out the world is easier than embracing

I’ve learned that people don’t find it easy to tell the truth about

I’ve learned that easy isn’t.

I’ve learned that it is easier to judge then it is to awaken compassion.


Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


Ten Books for the Mystery Writer’s Library

After going to a class on crime scene investigation (read previous post), I checked to see what books I had on the topic at home. Not much. I have Book of Poisons by Stevens and Bannon and Cause of Death, A Writer’s Guide to Death, Murder, and Forensic Medicine by Keith Wilson.

While I have my daughter searching through her room for the textbook on forensic science she purchased for a college class she took years ago, I’ve done some research on books that belong on every mystery writer’s bookshelf. Textbooks written for the criminal science
professionals are way too expensive and probably contain more information then we need to write a good mystery. The list I compiled are books that are not only affordable but seem to zero in on just the right amount of information. The prices listed are from

I would love to hear what books are your favorites so be sure to leave a comment.

Forensics and Fiction: Clever, Intriguing and Downright Odd Questions from Crime Writers by D.P. Lyle  $16.76

The Writer’s Complete Crime Reference Book by Martin Roth  $4.75

Howdunit Forensics by D.P. Lyle $28.96

Missing Persons: A Writer’s Guide to Finding the Lost, the Abducted, and the
Escaped by Fay Faron $15.96

The Anatomy of Motive: The FBI’s Legendary Mind-hunter Explores The Key To Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals by John Douglas $7.99

The Everything Private Investigator Book: Master the Techniques of the Pros to Examine Evidence, Trace Down People, and Discover the Truth by Sheila Stephens $10.70

Forensic Casebook: The Science of Crime Scene Investigation by Ngaire E. Genge

Police Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland $13.59

FBI Handbook of Crime Scene Forensics $9.95

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Criminal Investigation $10.00

1 Comment

Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Mystery Writing, Writing


Tags: , , ,

Homicide Investigation 101




What does every mystery writer need to know about the real world of crime scene investigation? I found out yesterday when I spent four hours listening to Eric Lopkin, writer and former NYC auxillary policeman, speak extensively about such topics as rules of evidence, police procedures, and who does what at the crime scene. 

Here are some of the take-away points he made:

Private investigators are never hired to investigate a murder. They track a spouse, find a
missing person, locate something that is lost.

The gun never remains in the hand of someone who commits suicide. The gun will always drop out of the hand when it goes off.

Almost impossible for a person to stab someone without getting cut themself. The hand that holds the knife keeps going when the knife slows from contact with the body.

Every suicide, unless witnessed, is investigated as a possible homicide.

The word “murder” is a reader term. The word “homicide” is a police term.

Crime scene investigators never talk to witnesses. They are not the primary investigators. They process the scene, take evidence to the lab, and turn over results to detectives in charge.

Know structure of police department in the setting your story is in before you write your

Gun permits are hard to get in NYC but easier to get in other parts of the country.

Suspected murderers don’t usually go to trial for 2-3 years so writers need to be careful about the time-lines in their books.

Two motives: greed and revenge. For serial killers, it is always about revenge but the
victims are not the real person they want revenge on.

When there is a gruesome body found, the civilian or rookie usually vomits, the veteran
cop/detective will make jokes at the crime scene. The detective is not usually caught emotionally off guard by a particularly gruesome crime scene.

Know the technology that the police force has in the setting of your story. It isn’t unusual
for some police departments to have minimal technology.


Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Mystery Writing, Writing


Tags: , , , , ,

A Writer’s Life Interrupted






Reasons for not writing last week:

  1. tired from working forty-plus hours at day job
  2. had to make refreshments for a meeting I was going to
  3. prepared a talk on “Lemon Herbs” for the meeting
  4. went shopping for shoes for a wedding on the weekend
  5. packed my suitcase for out-of-state wedding
  6. three days away with at an incredible resort

Now I have writer’s guilt. I should have been able to write something besides a to-do list. I could have written down conversations I heard at near-by tables at the wedding reception. Instead of taking a Lisa Gardner book with me when I walked to the sandy lakeside beach near our cottage, I could have taken my lap-top or at least pen and paper and written plot ideas for my book. What was I thinking when I drove almost four hours without recording my rapid-firing thoughts on the tension and conflict my protagonist faces? Shame on me for listening to an audio book called “Prayers for Sale”, a gentle story of an old woman and her young friend that was set in a gold-mining town in Colorado during the Depression. Did I even pay attention as I was listening to the book to plot structure and character development? No, I did not as I now hang my head in shame.

But today is another day and last week is just a memory. I am refreshed and renewed. The first draft of “Old Age is a Killer” beckons me to finish Chapter 10. The TV is off. The only noise is the sound of a neighbor mowing his lawn. The cats and dog are fed and sleeping. This blog post is almost done. So it is time.

Talk to you later!

1 Comment

Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Mystery Writing, Writing


Tags: , ,

Killer Titles-Just Not Mine

Books need catchy titles that pull customers towards your book and hopefully buy it. I get it. I just can’t come up with one for my current work in progress. Many writers show off their wit and creativity with titles that are just so amazingly clever. I start drooling with envy when I see titles like High Heels over Murder, A Dilly of a Death, Ice Cold, or Bone House.

The titles I come up with are the equivalent of “What I Did on Summer Vacation.” Boring. Unimaginative. And it has always been that way no matter what I write. So far my working title for the mystery novel I am working on is “Senior Sleuth”. That’s it. I nearly had a great title when I thought of “Old Age is Murder” but a quick look on Google showed me it was very much already used. Drool. Drool.

I picked through my writing books and searched through the web to see if there was a
magic formula for creating the perfect title. I didn’t find one but I found lots of advice:

  • make it catchy ( of course)
  • link it to a familiar concept so people will relate to it
  • make it memorable
  • spark interest
  • use words with a “plosive” letter (use letters B,C,D,K,P)
  • be brief

And then I found this definition of the perfect title written by Alan Rinzler: “the perfect title is a tight high-concept combination of words that crystallizes the content of the work. A title so scintillating and irresistible that millions of readers want to run and buy this book
OMG I think I am so doomed. 

I decided to try out titles using plosive letters. Death by Popcorn. Killing with Barbecue
Sauce. That was about all I could come up with and neither title relates to my book. Probably relates to the fact that I was hungry while I was trying out titles.

So I think I am screwed. I’m three-quarters through writing my nameless novel that will never have a title that will make readers run to buy it. I am definitely title-challenged. Even the title of this post “Title Phobia” is pretty lame. I use a soft “p” and not a plosive “p”. I should have named this post “Dynamite Titles” or “Killer Titles”.  Wait a minute. I like that. “Killer Titles” . Sounds catchy, doesn’t it? Scroll upwards. Delete “Title Phobia”. Proudly type in “Killer Titles”. I think I am on to something.

My book is about a senior sleuth named Bernadette DiStefano. She’s passionate about preventing crimes against the elderly and just as passionate about cooking. She’s even been known to bring food to her suspects!

Keep reading my blog to find out what the title of my mystery novel turns out to be. Be sure to let me know if you have any suggestions. We title-challenged people can use all the help we can get.


Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Uncategorized


Using Drive-Time As Write-Time




Can you pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time? I never could. Can you write when you drive? I think I can.

My day job as a visiting nurse means long hours on the road with stops along the way to check on my patients. When I am in the car my time is my own. I can listen to the radio, blast a CD, talk on the phone (speaker phone, of course), or just bask in the sun and silence of driving solo. Or I can write. Loosely speaking that is.

Since I work full-time at my day job and write evenings and weekends, squeezing in extra time for writing isn’t always easy but I think I’ve found a way to take advantage of my down-time during the day to advance my writing. Here is how I do it:

I jot notes at red lights. Amazing how long some of the lights can be. This is when I work on my plot outline. My notes look like this:

Bernie meets Andrea.

House gets broken into.

Bernie stumbles on to the body.

Enough red lights and my chapter outline is almost done. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Mystery Writing, Uncategorized, Writing


Tags: , ,