1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”
2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”
3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”
4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”
5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”
6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
9. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”
10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”
11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”
12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”
13. Eliminate distraction. “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”
14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”
15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”
16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”
17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”
18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”
19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”
20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”
Thank you. Stephen King!
Gillis and Pickle stared at their burritos. Each one weighing more than a pound. They were covered with a thick, cheap yellow cheese spreading over the burrito’s side like slime. Pickles took a large bite of the cheese and refried beans. He looked up at a tall thin, brown skinned male, whose left are was a tapestry deserving to be hung in a museum of fine tattoos. Pickle said, “Great queso, what kind is it, Pancho?”
The kid behind the counter said, “No hablo inqles, senor.”
Pickle turned to Gillis, “You understand him? I’m fluent in Spanish and I’m positive what he said is not Spanish.”
Gillis always sensitive to Pickle’s need to be right, said, “You nailed that one, Dill. The kid isn’t speaking Spanish. They only speak Spanish in Spain. He’s speaking Mexican. Only a fine ear like yours can distinguish the subtle differences. From what I understand of Mexican, he said he doesn’t speak English.”
“Tell him the cheese is very good, Gills.”
“Muy bien, gracias,” said Gillis.
“I got to give it to you, Gills. I wouldn’t be surprised if you take over for Cap when he retires. You understand all the minorities,” said Pickle.
“I’ve thought about it. I’d make some changes. First, I’d give you a promotion, then I’d change Wendy’s job and make her my administrative assistant, on call twenty-four seven.” Gillis paused for a moment. “I’d put you in charge while Wendy and me went to conferences at only the most exclusive resorts. It would all be on the taxpayer’s dollar.”
“You’re always learning, Gills. I’ve got to hand to you. And, to think you’d trust me with running the department in your absence. That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
Gillis saw that Pickle was on the verge of crying. He changed the subject, “I love this place because they don’t charge us since we’re cops and we overlook the fact that every worker is an illegal immigrant. You can have my refried beans. I don’t want to have gas when Wendy shows up to spend the night with me.”
“You got to be worried about Wendy, Gills thinking how tough the divorce will be on her financially. Pat might take everything.”
“My mind’s been working overtime on that one, Dill. I’ve already made a call to Jimmy D. I asked him if he had any openings on his all nude review. I think Wendy would make a great team member given her physical qualities, if you know what I mean.”
“Know what you mean, Gills. Have you told Wendy about Jimmy D’s interest in her?” asked Pickle.
“I’m waiting for the right moment. You know, when she’s complaining how Pat ripped her off and all that. I’ll be her hero when I tell her about a great career move.”
“Gills, if a cop ever becomes a saint, it’s going to be you,” said Pickle.
“I appreciate it, Dill. I’m Methodist. Before that I was a Baptist. Before that I was a Fundamentalist. Before that, I was a Buddhist. Before that I was searching for love in all the wrong places.”
“What do you think you’ll be next, Gills?”
“The way I see my spiritual life evolving, if the Catholics allow priests to get married, carry a gun, and work as a private detective on the side, I might consider making the move,” said Gillis. His voice dripping with sincerity.
Gillis and Pickle methodically worked their way through their burritos. Every now and them they’d take a sip of Dos Equis. Suddenly, Gillis swiveled on his stool and faced Pickle. He said, “Food helps me think, Dill. I believe I’ve solved the case. We might be able to wrap it up in a half hour or less. Let me lay out the case to you. One, we got a serial killer loose. Two, the serial killer has a thing for the insides of the victim. Three, the serial killer has no use for the head, unless Wendy missed something and didn’t do an autopsy on the brain. This gives me an excuse to stop in and check it out. I want to make sure she’s not thinking of reconciling with Pat. Four, the two victims are friends of Folsom Sampson. Five, Folsom has something on Cap. I think he’s blackmailing him. If this wasn’t true, why did Cap get so upset when we said Folsom was our prime suspect. We got to tiptoe around him. And six, this is the big one, all this leads me to recommend we need Lady Zonga’s help to break the case.”
Pickle stopped eating chips. He twisted a half turn toward Gillis. He said, “You’re blowing my mind, Gills. You seared all the pieces to the puzzle and found the corners. You picked up Humpty Dumpty and put him back together. You found a four leaf clover when nobody could find a three leaf clover.”
Gillis cut Pickle short. He still had Wendy on his mind. He said, “I agree with all you said, Dill. When I look at the puzzle from over here, the only way we bake the cake, chill the wine, and get lucky and score with one of the department ladies is if we see Lady Zonga, pronto.”
“Which one of the department ladies do you have in mind for me, Gills? I still see one problem. It’s a problem bigger than the half time Super Bowl show.”
“What’s that, Dill? Lady Zonga’s got the inner eye. Recall how she helped us solve the suicide?”
The Mexican burrito maker was behind the counter listening to the conversation. He said, “You got the wrong lady. Who you need is Señora Mendoza. She can read signs better than anyone I know. She was the one who told me what day I could sneak across the border without getting caught. Her prices are high, but she’s worth it.”
Gillis said, “I thought you couldn’t speak English?”
“I graduated from the university in Mexico. I only put on an act because I didn’t want to tell you guys the cheese was stolen and moldy.”
“You mean to say she’s better than Lady Zonga who figured out the guy who killed himself committed suicide?” asked Gillis.
“She would have predicted the event a week before it happened, it which case, it wouldn’t have happened because you could have interfered and stopped it.”
“She’s got to be good,” said Gillis. He added, “You want to work for the department? We need new blood. Especially Romanian blood.”
“I’d like to, man. Making burritos is my life’s calling. My name’s Tomas, ask for me next time you come in and I’ll make sure you get queso no older than two weeks out of date and with minimal mold.”
“You’re a dude, Tomas. I’m going to give you an address where you can get a forged green card. Mention me and they’ll throw in a coupon for hamburgers from Rusty’s,” said Gillis scribbling an address on a paper napkin.
Gillis finished his beer and Pickle’s beer. He stood up, punched his stomach and belched. His belch was louder than a recess at an elementary school. When he finished, he said, “A sign of good meal is that it tastes as good coming back up as it did going down.” Gillis tossed a thumb’s up to Tomas. He tapped Pickle on the shoulder, “Let’s head out to Folsom’s place, maybe we’re missing something, Dill. We’ll look at the stuff we didn’t look at yesterday. I’m going to keep my eyes on Fleming. It’s not a far stretch to say the administrative assistant did it.”
Pickle looks at the empty stool between them. “I could swear I put my beer on the stool. I must have been so thirsty I finished it. Don’t forget the cufflink. If Fleming or Folsom is walking around with one cufflink we got our man.”
“I can see why the department teamed you guys up,” said Tomas over his shoulder while working on four burrito’s.
“The kid’s got smarts. We got to keep recruiting him, Dill,” said Gillis.
Gillis pulled into Green Tree Park, turned off the road and pulled onto the grass. He gunned the motor causing the tires to spin making large ruts in the well kept picnic area. He drove his pickup around the picnic area practicing spinouts. When he was satisfied he mastered the spinout, he cut over to the bike and running trail and took a left to head toward the park pavilion.
“Dill, here’s a tip. When you have a crime scene in the park, you have to get off the road, and take the bike trail. It’s quicker and the bikers usually will get out of your way. If they’re wearing headphones you get up close and blast the siren, scares the hell out of them and teaches them a good lesson.”
“I learn something new everyday from you, Gills. Thanks for being my mentor. BTW, the young kids will love playing with all the dirt you kicked up in the picnic area,” said an appreciative Pickle.
Two blasts of the siren later, Gillis reached the park pavilion. He drove across the grass, and cut over to the parking lot and pulled into a handicap parking space. Pickle reached into the glove compartment, pulled out an oily rag, got out of the pickup, and draped the rag over the handicap sign. A moment later, Gillis joined him.
Pickle said, “The handicap folks have a great lobby, Gills. They get all the best parking spaces. Never seen anything like it.”
“No kidding, Dill. There’s even a three hundred dollar fine for parking in these spaces if you don’t have a valid sticker.”
“What handicap space Gills? I don’t see any,” laughed Pickle.
The detectives fist bumped. They turned and walk over to the crime scene. Gillis spotted two patrolmen on the scene. He said, “Looks like Fluke and Fluck. Don’t know why they don’t change their names, Dill. Somebody’s always writing about them on the commode stall walls. A lot of what is written is pretty creative. I’ve been thinking of using my vacation to travel across country and chronicle the writing on bathroom walls and I’ll take plenty of photos. My goal is to put together a coffee table book of women and men who will perform all kinds of weird sex acts along with their phone numbers.”
“Brilliant, Gills. Brilliant. Can I go with you?” asked Pickle.
Gillis had different plans. He said, “I got a hunch Wendy will be riding with me. She’ll get the lady’s stalls and I’ll get the men stalls. It will be a big seller.”
“Did you read her text, Gills? Did she sext you? Can I see the photo?” begged Pickle.
“Haven’t had a second to check it out. I sent her a quick text, telling her I’d be a bit late. I told her there is a key under the mat. Told her to go in and make herself at home, take a bath and lounge around in one of my tee shirts until I arrive.”
“You got all the moves, Gills. Jagger could have learned from you,” said Pickle.
I know what you mean, Dill.”
Pickle waved to the officers, “Hey Flicker, how they hanging?”
Fluke adjusted his belt, folded his arms across his chest, and said, “Up yours Pickle.”
“Hey Fluke, fluck you,” saidPickle
“I’m senior here, guys, leave Fluke alone. He took a lot of ribbing at the briefing at the start of the shift. I keep telling him to change his name,” said Fluck.
“No offense Fluke and Fluck,” said Pickle.
“None taken, Pickle,” said Fluke and Fluck.
“This how you guys found the corpse? Where’s the head? Gutted right? What’s that over there?” said Gillis.
“That’s where Fluke puked. First time he’s seen a gutted corpse. It’s to be expected. The head’s over there. No witnesses. We come through this time of night to chase out teenagers drinking or having sex, that kind of thing. Slow night, usually we can confiscate four or five six packs of beer. I haven’t bought beer in ages. We confiscate it, tell the kids we’re letting them off easy and to drive safely even if they’re stoned. Between us it’s the paperwork connected with a DUI, it’s not worth it,” said Fluck.
“I hear yah. Did the same thing before I made detective,” said Gillis.
“I think the ME might have something for you when the body’s examined,” said Fluck.
“Wendy’s here? Where is she?” said Gillis looking all around.
“Be gentle with her, Gillis. I hear she’s going through a bad breakup. Don’t know whose fault it is. Usually in these cases there’s always a third party interfering in what seemed like a perfect relationship,” said Fluck.
“I’d like to get my hands on the bastard. Wendy’s naïve and innocent. She was telling me she believes in one great love. Well, it looks the piece of crap she married proved that wrong,” said Gillis.
Fluck walked over to the deceased, shined his tactical flashlight on the victim’s cavity. “If I’m not mistaken, it looks like a coin in the cavity, right there.”
Gillis and Pickle bent over and stared on the spot where Loomis flashed his light. Gillis nudged Pickle, He said, “That’s a piece of bone. How do you figure it’s a coin Fluck, “What’s wrong with Fluke? Where’s he going. Oh, he’s puking again. He might need counseling to get that under control. Here comes Wendy. I’ll remember what you said when I hit on her.”
Fluck looked over to the ME wagon, “You and Wendy Flox? She broke up with Courageous’ son Pat, yesterday. You’re almost twice her age.”
“Hey, what can I say. I’m better looking than Pat. I got seniority over him. I’m further up the pay scale than him. And, I please the ladies, it’s a well known fact. Plus, a twenty-four hour waiting period on a breakup is all that’s expected. I think the twenty-four hour limit has been reached.”
Pickle chimed in, “Gills is right. You can go in any of the women’s room at headquarters. Check out the inside of the stall doors. You’ll find the women writing, If you want a good time call Gillis 555-2222.”
“How do you know what’s inside the stall doors?” asks Fluke, his face a combination of purple, yellow, and orange.
“Common knowledge, Fluke.”
Courageous sat at his desk, his head bent low, his two hands pressed against the sides of his head. Not Margaret, my faithful wife and companion, is she really having an affair with the mayor? Courageous was having a hard time wrapping his head around. Sure he and his secretary, Clara, were banging each other’s bones. That was different. He was a man and he reasoned it was a well known fact men are the weaker of the two species and easily succumb to temptation. Hell, he thought, just ask Adam. What if Gillis was right? No, he couldn’t be. Margaret, his wife of thirty-seven years, was faithful, church going, Bible studying, compassionate woman who believed in the mayor and served as his confidant. What’s wrong with that? And, so it it went in his mind until Pickle butted in.
“I know what you’re thinking, Cap. We’re one step ahead of you,” said Pickle. “If you was looking more streamlined as opposed to looking like the Goodyear blimp, the Mrs might want you to have some horizontal refreshment instead of the mayor. You can’t blame her, she’s given you the best years of her life and all she gets is a guy with erectile dysfunction. Here’s my suggestion, have your stomach stapled, get a coffee enema. Starbucks may give you a discount if they’re introducing it. And, the big one, take three months off and go to a Tibetan monastery to master the karma sutra.”
“Are you insane?” Courageous said staring at Pickle.
“Cap, I can’t comment since I’m not a psychologist. Gills took a course in psychology. Gills am I insane?” asked Pickles sincerely.
Gills looked at him. Thought it over. Then said, “This is the way I see it. The most brilliant who walk among us are often criticized because their thoughts are so advanced. I see you so far out in front of the human race, Dill, not everyone understands you. Only, the most brilliant and sensitive people, like me, will get an inkling.”
Courageous watched the repartee between Gillis and Pickle and pondered what kind of hell he was living in.
Adding to Courageous despair, Pickle said, “No need to worry, Cap. I have it on good authority the mayor doesn’t have gonorrhea.”
“How do you know all this? Never mind. Don’t tell me. What about Sampson’s book?” Courageous muttered indistinctly.
“What book, Cap? I use an iPad to read my books. Books are old school. You’re better off donating your books so you can get a tax write off before they completely lose value. Sampson would be smart if he did the same thing. He’s got all these old books sitting collecting dusk in a book case. I’d gladly toss them in the trash for him,” said Gillis.
“If the police union wasn’t so strong, I’d fire you both. That’s what I’d do. I’d fire you both,” shouted Courageous
“Awe, you don’t mean that, Cap. That’s the stress your under talking. Pickle and me understand you have to satisfy two woman, your wife and Clara. That kind of stress can drive a man over the edge. Care to tell us how close you are to the edge? I’m trained to talk jumpers back to safety. I learned to do this when you assigned Pickle and me to psychological counseling. Changed my life. Changed Pickle’s too,” said Gillis
Courageous desk phone rang. Courageous held up his hand palm facing Gillis and Pickle, and put the phone receiver to his ear, “Yes. When? Keep it quiet. Don’t use police frequencies. I’ll send Gillis and Pickle over. It’s their case.”
“There’s been another killing, decapitation, and gutting. On the way out, stop by burglary and see if Clara is helping Santiago. Tell her I need to talk to her.”
“Give my best to Mrs. Courageous, Cap. Do you want Dill and me to get some photos of the Mrs and the Mayor? It’ll be helpful in your divorce. We’ll do it on our off time for free.”
“Get out. Get out. Get out,” screamed Courageous.
Gillis and Pickle left Courageous’s office.
“What was that, Gills?” asked Pickle looking back at the closed door.
“It sounds like he threw his revolver at the door. It’s a good thing he has us, Dill. We knock his stress down to a manageable level. Throwing things at the door is something I suggested to Cap when he felt overwhelmed. He must have had a stressful phone call right after we left.”
Gillis pulled his pickup truck out of a handicap zone knocking the rear bumper off of the handicap van in front of him.
“You gonna leave a note saying you hit him?” asked Pickle.
“Why?” asked Gillis. “If anything, whoever it was who parked there can go get three estimates and overcharge their insurance. They’ll get the bumper fixed and have a few bucks on the side.”
“Gills, you always think of the little guy,” said Pickle.
“It was the way I was raised,” said Gillis.
“Gills, we got to solve the case. The pressure’s getting to Cap. I’d hate to see him have a nervous breakdown. Deep down he loves us. He’s like a father to me. How about you?”
“I know what you mean, Dill. Cap’s coming apart right in front of us. The cookie’s crumbling. Humpty Dumpty’s falling off the wall. The egg yolk broke. He’s driving a six cylinder car and only two cylinder’s are firing.”
The faster I write the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.
Tomorrow the Bumbling Detectives Find Themselves In Deep Trouble With Captain Courageous.