Bird brains

Every class has its slow kids.

I walked out our back door, and a flock of twenty mourning doves burst into the air in a whoosh of wings and tittering, and flew away.

But two doves stayed right where they were, looking around the yard, as if to say, "Where did everybody go?"

They've got a word for such unwary creatures in the Animal Kingdom: Lunch.


How many times must we say it?

Today's tip for aspiring criminals: Put some gas in your getaway vehicle before the armed robbery. That's before. Previous to. Step 1, gas. Step 2, robbery. Got it?

Somebody needs to tell Justin P. Roberts of Craig, CO. Police allege that Roberts held up a restaurant in Wamsutter, WY. He was found a few hours later, 60 miles from the scene of the crime, with a pellet gun, $231 in cash and an empty gas tank.

Full story here.


Uncle Stevie's Rules for Writing

I'm giving the keynote speech at the Resolutions for Writers Seminar in Anderson, CA, today, and as part of that I'm telling some of the rules for writing that I've learned over the past 35 years.

Yes, I'm once again riding the coattails of Elmore Leonard, whose "rules" you can see at www.elmoreleonard.com. Mine are in addition to his, though there is some overlap, of course. Mostly, it's easier to put the rules here on my blog than it is to screw around with handouts at the conference.

Nothing really new here, but some good reminders:

--Write in scenes, and omit the stuff in between them.
--All drama (and comedy and romance) is conflict.
--Show, don't tell.
--Within scenes and within the overall story timeline: Come in late and get out early.
--Readers love dialogue. Use it lots, but keep it tight.
--Use the five senses and the "five W's and H" in your descriptive writing. Focus on the Telling Detail.
--Don't use two adjectives when one will do.
--Beware the adverb.
--Learn proper punctuation and use it. You're not Cormac McCarthy.
--Don't make the reader figure it out. Make it clear.
--Spend at least as much time on rewrites and polishing as on the first draft.
--Learn your craft and work hard.

If you'd like to hear the speech that goes with that (or any of my other talks), I'm available at reasonable rates for seminars, mystery conferences and bar mitzvahs.

Feel free to add your own rules for writing in the comments.


You're doing it wrong

Police in Hamilton, OH, are on the lookout for one frustrated robber.

Authorities say a man went into a Subway and tried to wrest the cash register off the counter, but a clerk pushed him and the robber ran away. Thirty minutes later, the same man entered a Family Dollar Store, showed a clerk the outline of a gun in his pocket and demanded money. However, when the robber couldn't get the cash register open, he gave up and fled.

Family Dollar? Really? That's the place you hit on your big holdup? Might be time for Remedial Robbery 101.

Full story here.


We've all considered doing this

Police in Dayton, OH, are on the lookout for a woman who responded inappropriately when told a gas station had no public bathroom.

The woman dropped her pants and urinated on the floor near the cash register, police said. Then she hitched up her britches, went out to a waiting van and departed.

My favorite part of this story (which you can read here) is where an employee says "he would recognize the woman if he saw her again."


Mug shot goodness

I know it's only January, but I've got a candidate for Mug Shot of the Year, and it comes from right here in Northern California.

Check out Aron Mark Johnson here.


Snakes on a flame

Firefighters responding to a trailer fire in St. George, UT, got a big surprise: 19 pet pythons, some up to 18 feet long.

Eleven of the snakes survived the fire, which began with a heat lamp in one of the snake cages.

Full story here.