The Saturday Writing Quote — Ira Glass on creativity for beginners

“What nobody tells people who are beginners… is that all of us who do
creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap.
For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s
trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not… your taste is why your work
disappoints you… We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want
it to have. We all go through this… It is only by going through a volume of work
that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your
– Ira Glass


(illustrated with one of my pastel paintings, just for fun)

Criminal opportunities: squatters, crossing plot lines

The home foreclosure crisis has triggered a resurgence of an old problem: squatters. Defined as occupying a house or apartment without the legal right to do so, squatters may be renters who stay on after their lease ends, without paying rent. They may be homeowners who stay on after foreclosure proceedings have resulted in an order to vacate. Sometimes a bank or other mortgage holder lets them stay, believing it’s better to have the home occupied than vacant. Criminal authorities often hesitate to get involved in squatting claims, viewing them as civil matters — and the legalities of who has the right to occupy property and who is a criminal trespasser can be tricky.

In Florida, according to this Seattle Times report, Bank of America is now taking civil action to evict a group of squatters in a pricey mansion — 7,000 square feet, sold for 3.1 million in 2005 — who filed a claim of “adverse possession,” asserting that because they had been occupying the property for a certain length of time, they are now the legal owners. (In some states, a key factor is who is paying the property taxes — and I doubt it’s been the squatters!)

Some unscrupulous types even rent out homes they don’t own — often foreclosed properties — to unsuspecting tenants. Foul, yes — but fiction would be dull without the unscrupulous and the unsuspecting.

Consider the story opportunities: you got your banks, not always the best-loved of folks these days. Was the foreclosure righteous or fraudulent? Does it matter? You got your squatters. Good folks down on their luck? Some, sure. Others, as the adverse possession claims illustrate, opportunistic. You got your cops, stuck in the middle. The former owners. The neighbors. Physical tensions. Yelling, screaming. Paperwork. Street battles. Courtroom battles. Lifestyles of the strange and litigious.

Go for it.

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Update — sentencing in a double homicide

I’ve written previously about a double homicide in Helena in which Michelle Coller Gable  broke into her estranged husband Joe Gable’s apartment and shot and killed him and his new girlfriend, Sunday Cooley Bennett, days after he unsuccessfully sought a restraining order against her and filed for divorce. Michelle Gable claimed self-defense. A jury convicted her in January of two counts of deliberate homicide. The Helena Independent Record reports that she’s now been sentenced to 100 years on each count, making her eligible for parole in 50 years. At 49, she’s unlikely to be released, absent a reversal or other unusual circumstance. Judge Kathy Seeley made some interesting remarks about Gable’s pattern of denying responsibility and use of emotion to manipulate others.

If you’re writing about homicide in domestic cases, or about what judges consider in sentencing, this sad case is worth a look.

The Saturday Writing Quote — P.D. James

“Why is the mystery genre so popular? “These novels are always popular in ages of great anxiety. It’s a very reassuring form. It affirms the hope that we live in a rational and beneficent universe.”

– P.D. James, British novelist (b. 1920)

And here’s a shot of me at 8, reading a Bobbsey Twins mystery — proving that once mystery gets its teeth into you, you’re done.