Many levels Tonto, many levels


I saw the title of this post written on the men’s room wall in a dive I frequented when in college back in the 1960s. It has stuck in my head ever since. A writer’s brain (at least mine) resembles a prickly plum thicket, snagging random stuff as it flies past. Factor in a love of trivia and the training acquired during graduate school while earning a masters in library science, and you have some idea of where the impetus for my writing comes from. How do I choose what or where to start a story?


The answer isn’t always simple. Back in January of 2022 my blog post for January at Maine Crime Writers featured ten story prompts/beginnings that had lodged in my head. Since then, two have become books, Over the Edge and When Magic Bleeds. Neither one was what I thought I’d tackle first.

Sometimes I see something that refuses to let go until I pursue it on paper. Take for example seeing tail lights reflecting off tombstones in a cemetery just south of where we used to live in Hartland. That image became Just Passing Through a short story that appeared in one of the Level Best mystery anthologies.


I’m just as likely to come up with a title and then figure out what the story behind it might be. Last week, I had this pop into my brain-Feral Kat. Some part of my creative mind insists that’s going to be the book I write after I finish Thor’s Wingman the one I’m completing now. I’ve gotten as far as imagining a girl (age as yet undetermined) being pushed from a moving car on a back road during a downpour. She comes to with no memories, but with a fierce determination to survive. Where this goes, I have no clue.

That’s another important part of beginning a book or story for me. I seldom know how something ends. I write as much to entertain myself and discover where a tale goes as anything.


I also like the challenge of a writing contest, especially one that must start with a specific prompt. I just finished one for the upcoming Maine Crime Wave a one day conference I attend every year put on by Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. This years 500 word flash challenge must start with “I was on my hands and knees scrubbing up blood in the entry when the doorbell rang.“ I took it in a completely unexpected direction which is part of the fun involved in such a contest.


  1. You know, I never tried writing prompts but Wow! That one really has my thinking.


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