Lockdown: Making connections

Some years ago, I started writing a series of short stories that appeared in various anthologies. There was no apparent connection between them. They are set in New Guinea or in coastal California, in the 1980s and modern times. The characters are a young missionary confronting an enigmatic Brit; a man who sold ice creams from a hand-pushed cart; a small-town cop meeting a Holy Fool; some middle-school kids going into a haunted house; a basketball coach with a problem; and a weaver going blind.

As I say, no apparent connection—but in my mind, each of those stories was a stepping-stone, leading the heart of a novel. From the Englishman to the cop, from the cop to the kids, from the kids to the coach, and on.

To some writers, this would be outrageous, absurd. They’re the sorts who work to an outline, laying out the book before committing a word of the manuscript to the page.

Me? Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not exactly sure what method I use. From the outside, it would appear that I’m of the “organic” school rather than the “organized” (those are the terms we used in Crime and Thriller Writing) since I don’t have an outline pinned up to the wall, but in fact there seems to be a very clear plan—it’s just that the front of my mind doesn’t always know what it is.

What it does know is the sensation of certainty that comes when that hidden, organized part of my mind knows what it’s doing. Even my editor couldn’t see how this was not an anthology of stories, but a single woven story—but I knew it was.

For example, principal Linda McDonald:


5:45 am, Career Day


Linda’s clock was so old-fashioned, it gave a little wheeze before its alarm went off. As usual, she hit the button before the ring started—although this morning she was nowhere near sleep when it wheezed. She had managed a few hours of unconsciousness after Gordon’s soothing, but when he got up for his run, the whirring of her mind (which, equally old-fashioned, seemed to have gears instead of silicon chips) started up again.

Career Day? What was she thinking? Just a year ago, her life had been so easy! Sure, the elementary school had its problems, but at least she had an experienced staff, community support, and children that memory tinted as sweetly innocent.


Lockdown goes on sale June 13, but you can pre-order a copy from: Bookshop Santa Cruz (signed), Poisoned Pen (signed), your local Indie, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Read the other posts about Lockdown here.

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