Archives for posts with tag: writing

A friend recently told me that she had to call the pharmacy because the instructions for her medicine were wrong. She was worried abut calling because she was afraid she wouldn’t or couldn’t explain the problem properly.

“I know I’ll get all confused. I  never seem to say what I mean so I end up saying too much or all the wrong things.”

I had one piece of advice for her.

“Write it down,” I said. “Write down exactly what you want to say, what points you want to make and then call the pharmacy and read it; read exactly what you’ve written.”

This is a method I use all the time.  Did someone hurt my feelings, make a mistake, say or do something I thought was wrong?  I write down what I want to say; sometimes just the act of writing is enough and I don’t  have to actually confront the person.  Other times, I do have to act and at those times  my thoughts are organized and I say exactly what I want to say. Sometimes I even anticipate their answers and prepare a reply or rebuttal.

The pharmacy says, “the instructions on the bottle came from your doctor.”

I say, “they are not the instructions I received in the past.  Please check your records.”

The person I’ m confronting  says “oh, don’t be so sensitive, I didn’t mean it”

I say, “my being sensitive isn’t the point, the point is that I think what you said (or did) was wrong  and I wanted you to know.”

Writing,venting on paper or on the computer is a great release; it’s my therapy.What I do is write  everything I feel or think as fast as I can.  I just let the words pour out;  I don’t worry about spelling or punctuation or complete sentences.  I just write and write until I’ve said everything I want to say, until I get that “wow, that felt great” feeling.That’s when I  go back to  use spell- check, to  punctuate and make corrections, Then, I either delete it or file it away under a code name so I can read it another day. This is important.   Never send an angry letter over the internet; it will be there forever and you can never take it back.

Writing can even solve problems for me.  I had a situation with two friends and I wrote a short play about it.  I wrote it from all three viewpoints and when I finished the situation didn’t bother me so much anymore.  Seeing the problem on paper reduced it to  (almost) nothing, made me see that it really wasn’t much of a problem after all.

I wrote a whole book of memories when my mother died  and another,  Widowpedia,  when i lost my husband.  Writing about them softened my grief, made it (a little) more  manageable.

One of my best gifts ever came from a friend who wrote a “this is your life” poem for our twenty-fifth anniversary.  She summed up our whole marriage, children, jobs, vacations, places we lived, in thirty lines of poetry. It was and is one of my favorite possessions and it gave me the idea to try writing life poems myself, maybe for senior citizens who want to leave a remembrance of themselves to their families  without  writing a whole autobiography.

Writing is the best thing I can do for myself. I was feeling headachy and sneezy when i started  this article but, somehow, I feel much better now.  Writing can even cure a potential cold!














I’ve been writing and producing interactive murder mysteries since 1986 when I sort of stumbled into the mystery business by accident.  All I wanted to do was act in a participatory murder mystery but there weren’t any theater companies in Washington DC (where I lived) who were  doing  them so I decided to write and produce my own play. I did so, enlisted several  actor/friends, found a venue and, on Friday the 13th (an appropriate date) presented An Elegant Murder  to a very enthusiastic audience of over 150 people.
I was completely satisfied and ready to return to my “real” life of acting in regional theaters, writing for a local newspaper and enjoying, with my husband, our four almost grown children and our new home in Georgetown but,  some completely unexpected things began happening.

Newspaper articles reviewing ” An Elegant Murder” appeared and called it “a fun, new form of theater”,  the venue where I presented the show (Coolfont Resort in West Virginia) sent a contract for six more mysteries  over the next year, the owner of an art deco train contacted me about presenting mysteries on the train between Washington and New York and the  manager of a local radio station called to discuss presenting a mystery show at a fund-raiser. He added that that Vincent Price would be the guest of honor and would it be possible to somehow work him into the plot?

Does an actor ever say “No”? Of course not so, within the space one month, I became the producer/director of  my own theater company,Mystery On The Menu, wrote three more mysteries, formed a core company of ten actors, conferred with lawyers and accountants about contracts and book-keeping  and negotiated contracts with  several  businesses and resorts for future mystery plays.  I was in business; Mysteries were hot!

Since that time I’ve done thousands of mysteries aboard trains, cruise ships and buses, at resorts, hotels, restaurants, museums, conference centers, private homes and gardens.  I’ve written dozens of different mysteries and created characters who are sometimes more real to me than actual people.   Seven years ago, when the economy and therefore the mystery business started slowing down, I developed the  economical one- woman murder mystery series and called in Murder Is Served.  It proved to be a very profitable idea, people loved the idea of becoming a character and being a vital part of the play.

I’ve had a wonderful, successful twenty-seven  years but maybe, maybe  it’s time to quit.   Mystery On The Menu  was once  one of the  only murder mystery companies  in the country,  now there are  dozens and more springing up everyday.   When I started out in 1986  it was impossible to find a script for a participatory murder mystery  (which is why I started writing them) now hundreds (even free ones) can be found on the  internet with the click of a mouse.   This year I only did  the  ” A Very Merry Murder” holiday show two times as opposed to the year when I did it in five different  locations with five different  casts on one night.  My agent for the cruise line shows retired, three cruise lines decided not to do murder mysteries in their enrichment programs and my new, public  show, Bingo! It’s Murder , which I thought would be so successful, is selling very, very slowly.  

Maybe it’s time  to quit and concentrate on finishing my novel.  I’m writing  the third in my Inn series, Murder In the Inn and Another  Murder in the Inn were published a few years ago; now I’m working on Murder in Another  Inn.  I certainly have enough to do, swimming, line dancing, reading, traveling, people-watching on Lincoln road , traveling, going to the shows at the Hollywood beach bandstand, playing pickleball but…I miss my mystery shows.  I miss seeing people participate and ask questions and laugh; i miss the fun of seeing characters I created come to life. I miss the satisfaction, the high that comes from hearing applause for something I  created.  However, business is slow!  Maybe I have to face facts, be realistic.  Maybe it’s time to quit but…wait!  Someone just called to make reservations for six for the bingo show and a restaurant emailed about booking a mystery for a private party….maybe it’s not!

A few years ago I published my first mystery novel, Murder In The Inn, followed, the next year, by Another Murder In The Inn and now, I’m working on Murder In Another Inn .  This might seem like a lack of imagination in titles but there’s  a good reason.  The first two Inn books  are set in Washington DC where I lived but, since I moved to Miami Beach, I decided that the  protagonist, Sandy, the owner of the Inn,  should move too.  Sandy, and her husband, the comedian Joey Jason, will decide to buy  a bed and breakfast inn in Miami Beach and become snowbirds, dividing their time between DC and Florida.  I’ve  become very attached to Sandy and Joey,  Noah the house-keeper, Janie, Sandy’s step-daughter and Allison, Sandy’s twin sister and it feels so good to be  writing about them again; its sort of like catching up with old friends.  I’m going to write the book in the same format as the first two; each chapter  will begin  with a telephone message from Sandy and continue with her narration of the events.

There will be lots of new characters like  Chef George, the celebrity chef, Sophie, the owner  of the catering company Sophie Says Eat, Tommy Silk, a dance instructor at Smooth as Silk Dance Studio, Marsha, the president of the Temple Sisterhood, Jay Harmon, the best-selling author,  and Joshua Greenburg, , a young, single rabbi.   They and several others  will be staying in the Inn and will participate in a murder mystery week-end, a Jewish Passover Seder and a book-signing event.  Janie will begin a romance with a very unlikely suitor and of course, there will be a murder (or two) to keep Sandy busy

I think about the book and the characters constantly; they are almost as real to me as friends  I see everyday. I  talk to Sandy and Janie and Noah  in my head and almost dream about them.  I can see the book, I can see myself holding it in my hand and turning the pages.  I picture  it on Amazon and in bookstores. I feel like it is already written and finished but it’s  not even half-way there, except in my mind. I’ve been  been working on it on and off for a few months but now, I’m going to get serious and focused. So far I’ve  completed a brief outline, a rough draft  and a  character description detailing each person’s personality and  relationship tothe others. That was a  really fascinating thing to do, I didn’t  know, until I wrote it, that Marsha was divorced from Chef George or that Sophie had a terrible temper or that Melvin owned Glass restaurant. I get so attached to my characters, it’s really hard to murder one of them and even harder to decide which one will turn out to be the murderer.

My plan  is to  write a thousand words a day plus edit the previous day’s work and to have the book finished by my birthday in April. I’m going to blog about my progress from time to time because  I work best under the pressure of a deadline, even if that deadline is self-imposed.  I’m going to pretend that I have an editor breathing down my neck saying “write, Write, write that book.” I’m going to imagine  that there are hundreds of readers clamoring for it and empty shelves in bookstores waiting for it.   I’m starting tomorrow morning, right after I swim and eat breakfast and read the newspaper and check my email.



There are so many things I should be doing right now; I should write an article, unload the dishwasher,  give myself a manicure because the blue polish on my nails is chipped and coming off in spots, call my granddaughter in Texas to wish her good luck and a quick recovery (she’s having knew surgery on Friday to repair a soccer injury) send an email to my son in Africa to remind him that I and his sisters and nieces and nephew in America miss him and love him, organize the music for the line dance class I’ll be teaching tomorrow, make the strawberry scones from the recipe I begged my neighbor to give me three weeks ago but, it’s ten pm and all I really want to do is get into bed and finished reading :while I was watching Downton Abby” by Wendy Wax..a really satisfying book. but, the list of stuff (see above) keeps running through my head so, here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to start everything at the same time!

I’ll get out the nail polish remover and cotton balls and a fresh bottle of polish, maybe purple, open the dishwasher, unload the silverware and leave the door open, turn on the computer and sign in to my account, actually call my granddaughter (she doesn’t answer so I leave a message), put the butter for the scones into a bowl to soften and turn on the IPod to listen to possible songs while I do everything else.  I am, as anyone can see, actually writing the article!

There!  All of that took about five minutes and now, that I’ve made a beginning; it will be a snap to finish.  I dance a tango with the plates and glasses as I put them away, stand at the computer practicing a  mambo step as I write, keep dancing as I mix the flour and eggs and other ingredients for the scones and finally, start and finish my manicure.  I climb into bed, prop up the pillows and holding the book carefully so as not to smear my beautiful, perfect nails, I can  finish reading my book .  My conscience is completely clear, no nagging little voice disturbs me and, the best part, all of the above took less than an hour.

Sometimes, the thinking about everything you have to do is worse than the actual doing.  In that case, these five things should help.

1—  Begin the job or jobs, don’t spend energy thinking about  how long it will take or how hard it will be to do or how you don’t really know how to do it  or how much you don’t want to do it..Just, do it!  Begin. Make a start.

2—  Decide on a time limit, “I’ll spend an hour doing whatever it is and then I’ll stop.  Set a timer and when it goes off, that’s it—unless you are so deeply  into the job that you  can’t stop and don’t want to stop, until it’s done.

3      Picture the job already done,  the report written, the groceries bought and put away,  the dinner cooked,  the meeting concluded —whatever you’ve been putting off or dreading

4      Make a list of things to do and check them off or draw a line through each one as it is completed.  Make the check marks  big,  draw the lines with a flourish.  You’ll get such a feeling of satisfaction.
“There, you nasty, horrible job!  You[re done”

5   Reward yourself.    I did it, I finished…Now I’ll have a cup of tea, a glass of wine, I’ll read a chapter of the book, I’ll take a hot bath..

   One final thought and I believe it’s true—“the only thing worse than having too much to do is having nothing to do”.—

I love writing.  There is no greater thrill (really) then  seeing my words in print in a newspaper article or a short story or a book and knowing that other people, complete strangers, are reading them.   I  write  short plays where  I can actually hear the words I’ve written  come to life as they are  spoken by a live actor on a stage.  I  write  “This Is Your Life” poems for friends and family on their birthdays or anniversaries which they can (and do) keep and  I once, years ago, wrote a whole book of poems “Popsicles and Pennies” about my life as a suburban wife and mother.

My day is incomplete, I feel vaguely dissatisfied, uncomfortable, itchy, if i haven’t written something.  It doesn’t have to be particularly good, (that’s what the delete button is for) but I really  need to see five hundred to a thousand words on a page before the  day is over.  I just finished writing a short novel about three women which is based (loosely) on my life and  the lives of two friends who let me borrow theirs and now, I’m told, I   have to think about how to publicize it through social media.

Even the thought of social media scares me; It’s  overwhelming!  I heard a writer speak at a conference recently and she said she spends five hours a day on publicizing her books through social media.  Five Hours!    She talked about Google and blogs and websites (one for each book)  Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads and and author pages and –I lost count.  All of these things were whirling around in my head.  Where should I start?   Maybe I’ll just write a blog!