This is day four of the Mystery We Write blog tour, and the one and only Earl Staggs is my special guest. Two-time Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups. Readers can email him at email@example.com or visit his website: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com
Welcome back, Earl. It is always a joy to visit with you. Let’s talk writing! Do you have a unique place to write?
Earl - Definitely. Most people listen to their car radio as they drive. That would only be a distraction for me because I do a lot of writing while I’m driving. I should amend that statement, I suppose. I don’t actually write as I drive, but I do a lot of thinking about my writing as I drive. Many times, I’ve been able to work out a plot problem or come up with just the right phrasing I need as the miles fly by beneath me.
I also have another unique writing location. I drive a school bus as a part time job. No, I don’t think about my writing when I’m driving the bus. Having forty to fifty kids behind me demands all my attention. There is, however, a long break between taking them to school in the morning and getting them back home in the afternoon. That’s when I take my laptop into the driver’s lounge, tune out the blaring TV at one end of the room and the loud conversations among other drivers at other tables, and write.
Anne - When did you first realize you were destined to be an author?
Earl - In high school, an English teacher said I had writing talent and urged me to enter an essay contest. I did and won the first prize of fifty dollars. From that time on, I felt I would someday be a writer. I suppressed the feeling for a long time, and I’m sorry I put it off for so many years. If I’d begun writing seriously sooner, I might be much farther along in my writing career. Maybe not. Maybe I wasn’t ready until I’d chewed up a large chunk of life. When it comes to what might have been, one never knows for sure, does one?
Anne - What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Earl - The hardest part for me is letting go. I’m a chronic tinkerer with my writing and find it hard to stop messing with it and say it’s finished. I tell myself, “Just one more quick read-through and that’s it.” But I always find a revision to make. It may only be a word here and a word there. It may even be <gasp> a typo I missed the other thirty times I read it. So I’ll make the revision or the correction and file it away. Next day, I’ll open the file and tell myself, “Just one more quick read-through and that’s it.” And that’s how it goes, over and over again. I need help.
Anne – Oh, I can SO relate! You described my process. I joke that I edit and revise until my eyes bleed, but honestly, like you, I can’t let go. Would you share an excerpt with us?
Earl - This one is from my novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER. Adam Kingston is a private investigator with a psychic gift. In a recent psychic image, he saw a disheveled, homeless man with long hair and a scraggly beard coming toward him. He has no idea who the man is or what he wants, but he sensed trouble. This scene is at the end of Chapter One.
After a long, lazy shower, Adam turned off the water in time to hear the buzz of his intercom. He sloshed to the foyer on wet feet, wrapping a towel around him as he went. He recognized the voice of the dayshift doorman from the lobby.
"Hey, Henry. Good morning.”
“Mr. Kingston, there's a, uh, man down here. Says he wants to see you. You expecting anyone?"
Adam smiled. A retired postal worker, Henry's purpose in life now was to protect residents of the condo building by screening all non-residents who entered. He took great pride in his vigilance. "No, I'm not expecting anyone. Who is it?"
Adam waited through a moment of muffled voices before Henry spoke again.
"He says his name is Weathers. Says it's important, and he wants to talk to you, but I, uh, I . . ." Henry's voice dropped to a whisper. "I think I should send him away. He's, well, like one of those street people. You know, the kind that hits on you for a handout? Maybe I should get rid of him."
Adam's curiosity kept him from telling Henry to send the man on his way. He could go to the lobby and meet him, but he had things to do first. Like drying off, getting dressed, having breakfast.
"Tell you what, Henry. Ask him to come back in an hour. Tell him I'm in the shower."
"In the shower. Right, Mr. Kingston. Will do."
Adam thanked Henry and headed for the bedroom, toweling as he walked. He had one leg in a pair of slacks when he heard the intercom buzzer again. He jabbed the other leg in and hurried to the foyer.
"What is it, Henry?"
"Mr. Kingston? He, uh, says he'll wait for you, if you can come down after your shower."
"Well then, if he insists on waiting, tell him I'll be down in half an hour." The man could wait until he finished dressing and had a bite to eat.
"But, uh, Mr. Kingston?"
"I don't know, I mean, him hanging around the lobby, looking like he does. I don't know about that."
Something clicked in Adam's mind. “Does this man have long hair and a beard, dressed kind of scruffy?"
"Yes, sir. That's why I don't think he should—"
"Henry. . . ."
"Send him up."
Thanks for letting me visit here, Anne. Thanks also to everyone who stopped by. I hope you’ll take another minute to leave a comment. On April 28, I’ll put the names of everyone who commented in a hat and draw two of them. The first one drawn will receive a signed print copy of my novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER. The second name drawn will have a choice of a print version or ebook of my collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS.
You’re also invited to visit my website. You’ll find Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER there. You’ll also find a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.” Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written. There’s also one called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with a boyhood idol, Roy Rogers. It’s a true story and there’s a picture to prove it.
Just a final word…I’m visiting Earl’s blog today on the Mystery We Write blog tour. Leave a comment to win an ecopy of Frank, Incense and Muriel, book one of the Muriel Reeves Mysteries.
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