The Saturday Writing Quote: on regret

“No regrets? Really?” asks author Richard Power. “I have regrets. They are sacred to me. They inform my character. They bear witness to my evolution. Glimpses of lost love and treasure are held inside of them; like small beautiful creatures suspended in amber.”

In his Breakout Novel Intensive writing workshop, literary agent and teacher Don Maass works hard at getting writers to think about all aspects of character and how our characters’ emotions drive their action. One tool he uses is to ask students to think about a specific experience they’ve had of an emotion. “What do you regret?” he asks. Invariably, students say “Just one thing?” The same thing happened when I asked that question to students in a class I taught, which answers the question “Does every character need to have a regret?” quite nicely, doesn’t it?



Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers — and more resources for writers

IMGP1813Over the weekend, I attended Colorado Gold, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in Denver. What a welcoming group, and what an impressive program — two and a half days crammed with four or five tracks of substantive material aimed at both new and established writers. Some of my favs: Sharon Mignery’s Master Class on Scene Craft, Quincy Allen and Travis Heerman’s presentation on fights and action scenes, and Jeanne Stein and Angie Hodapp’s workshop on description. A huge thanks to the conference organizers and RMFW members for the chance to teach and to learn, and for such a warm welcome.

Saturday morning, I gave a two hour presentation on 10 Common Mistakes Fiction Writers Make About the Law. Good turnout, great questions — they made me think! And I hope I made them think, and provided useful information in an entertaining way.

I pointed the class to the links and references on my website , but also promised a few more. These books and online references are helpful for writers in all genres, not just mystery and crime fiction. I hope you find something you can use.


PsychologyThe Writer’s Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior , by Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D. (Quill Driver 2010)

Police procedurePolice Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers, by Lee Lofland (Writer’s Digest Books, Howdunit series, 2007)

Don’t miss Lee’s blog, The Graveyard Shift, and his conference, the Writers’ Police Academy. (SinC members will again get a hefty subsidy for the 2014 WPA.)

Crimescenewriters Yahoo! discussion list. Former law enforcement officers, forensics folks, and other experts answer writers’ questions.

And check whether your local offers a Citizens’ Sheriff’s or Police Academy.

Medical infoMore Forensics & Fiction: (2012), Forensics & Fiction (2007), and Forensics (Howdunit series, 2008), and Murder and Mayhem (2003), by D.P. Lyle, M.D. And don’t miss Doug’s blog.

Private investigation: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating, by Steven Kerry Brown, a licensed PI in Florida and former FBI special agent, is a super-handy reference for all variety of investigation, even if you’re not writing about a PI.

And as always, if you have questions or suggestions, drop me a line at leslie at lawandfiction dot com!

The Saturday Writing Quote — Walt Whitman

“The secret of it all is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood of the moment—without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote—wrote, wrote…by writing at the instant, the very heartbeat of life is caught.”

Walt Whitman (1819-92), American poet, publisher, and more  


Update: The Case of the Copper Heiress Heads to Trial

Update to the update: A settlement agreement has been reached and trial avoided. Here’s the account from MS NBC, where reporter Bill Dedman broke the story and has followed it closely.

The legal world has continued to spin while I’ve been off launching my first mystery, Death al Dente. Many thanks to all of you who bought a copy or borrowed one from the library, came out to hear me speak, or otherwise helped me celebrate. You have made me welcome in libraries and living rooms, uttered kind words at just the right time, and helped make my dream come true.

HuguetteLet’s ease back in to talk of more serious subjects by updating a few stories. First, you all know my fascination with the story of Huguette Clark, the multi-millionaire daughter of William Clark, the scoundrel Copper King who bought himself a U.S. Senate seat from Montana. (Read my earlier posts here.) Huguette’s death in 2011 at 104 set off a battle over her estate — with an estimated value of $300 million — between her financial advisors and the heirs named in her will, and relatives asserting that those same advisors and legal heirs had used undue influence to keep them away from Clark and to insert themselves into her affections and her will. Which will controls? Should certain gifts made during her lifetime be ordered to be repaid, because of improper influence? Did her financial advisors mismanage her funds before her death, to the benefit of themselves and their families? Trial begins Tuesday, September 17, in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan. I expect nationwide coverage.

Meanwhile, the investigative reporter who broke the story, Bill Dedman of MSNBC, and a EmptyMansions_cover_2013.07.10-197x300relative not involved in the suit, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., have written a book on Huguette and her life called, appropriately, Empty Mansions  (Random House, September 2013). Dedman will be in Missoula in early October for the Festival of the Book — I’ll be there, too, talking mysteries and Montana fiction with other Montana writers, and hope to catch his talk. (And yes, get a signed copy of the book!) Meanwhile, the website for the book  includes excerpts, photographs of Huguette’s doll collection, and aerial video of her Santa Barbara estate — which she hadn’t visited since the 1950s.

Whether you’re writing a historical novel set in the dying years of the Gilded Age, delving into the history of the Copper Kings and their influence over Montana, exploring allegations of financial influence and abuse, or are simply fascinated by the story of a woman who lived out her last years in a hospital, though she wasn’t ill and owned several amazing properties, who collected fine art and doll houses, this book promises to be an intriguing read and a good reference.

(Photos and links courtesy of Bill Dedman.)


Ah, September. Time to hit the books!

Costco - Kal sign for signingAh, September. While I’m past the back-to-school days, it’s definitely “back to books” time! I’m deep into the first draft of Spiced to Death, first in the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries. Pepper–yes, that’s really her name–Reece is about to celebrate her first anniversary as owner of a long-established spice shop in  Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market. But she’s forced to investigate when a homeless man dies on her doorstep, and one of her most trusted employees is charged with his murder.

Yesterday, I got to invent a restaurant that Pepper and her friends enjoy, and dang, made myself seriously hungry. That’s a good thing, right?

Delighted to report that Costco is now carrying Death al Dente in the 5 Montana stores (Billings, Bozeman, Helena, Missoula, and Kalispell). I’ll be signing books in the Kalispell Costco on Saturday, Sept 14, from 12 – 2. Hope to see you there!

In the Denver area? A million writers coming to you! Well, maybe not a million, but more than 40 writers, including me, will participate in a group book signing, free & open to the public, on Friday, September 20, starting at 7:00 pm, at the Renaissance Hotel, 3801 Quebec Street (near I-70). See for the complete author list. Hosted by Colorado Gold, the annual Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference.

In the Flathead? Join the fun at Local Authors Night at the Whitefish Community Library, Thursday, October 3, from 4 to 8 p.m. Local authors will mingle and chat with readers from 4-6, then read from their work from 6 to 8 p.m. (I’m first up, at 6 p.m.) Sponsored by the Library and the Authors of the Flathead.

My regular posts on legal issues will resume soon — promise! Meanwhile, the Saturday Writing Quotes continue, without pause.

The Saturday Writing Quote — on fear & transformation

“In the process of creating something, we not only make art, but we transform ourselves as well. Either through the stories themselves or the struggle to get them down on paper, something in the process forces us to deal with and rise above certain issues and hurdles we might not otherwise face, let alone conquer.”

— Robin LaFevers, on Writer Unboxed, 7/12/13