Auntie M is at her writing group, workshopping the opening to the new Nora Tierney (The Golden Hour, for those of you who are wondering what the next color will be). The cover is completed on Death Unscripted, the first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, and she’ll reveal that shortly.

Please welcome author Fran Stewart, who writes two mystery series,The ScotShop and the Miscuit McKee Mysteries:

Wee Murder

In between writing my ScotShop and Biscuit McKee mystery series, I sometimes go off on tangents of sheer whimsy. One of these inspired moments came as I sat beside the creek in my back yard a few years ago, mulling over how I was going to handle Biscuit. I ended up revising what I’d written and using it in the regular monthly column I wrote for the Atlanta Writers Club. Then a publisher grouped six years of those columns together in a workbook—the easiest book I ever had to write.

Here’s what I came up with that day beside the creek, revised slightly once again. Whether you’re a writer or a reader (we writers LOVE our readers!), you just might get some ideas from this “Pencil Play:”

Spring is a good time to take up where I left off last fall and begin to write outdoors. Even if you have a laptop, why not step outside and write with a pencil, just for the fun of it? Pencils have been around since 1565. Anything that’s lasted that long must have a few things going for it.
Let’s see, a pencil . . .
1. is portable.
2. runs without batteries. For that matter, it can run without brains, but I hope that’s not the case here.
3. has an eraser, the 1565 version of a delete key.
4. provides a handy canvas for tooth imprints. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t occasionally chewed on a pencil. What computer gives a frustrated writer that kind of alleviation? I don’t group solitaire, Sudoku, or Candy Crush in the same league with a yellow number 2 Ticonderoga.
5. can be thrown across the path / room / deck when simple erasure or chewing isn’t active enough (see numbers 3 and 4 above).
6. can be sharpened without a fancy gadget. My Swiss Army knife works just fine. If the circumstances are dire enough, I can even sacrifice a fingernail to tear the wood back away from the graphite.
7. can be broken in half to fit in a tiny notebook or a small pocket. Of course, this eliminates the delete function of one-half of it, but I can use the bare half for my Journal of Work in Progress. That Journal isn’t edited, after all. It just gets me rolling and gives me a chance to air those vague ideas. And the just plain stupid ones that will never show up in my finished manuscript, but need to be released from my psyche before the good ideas can roll out.

Go ahead. I dare you. Try writing outside, under a tree or on a deck or next to a lake. All because of a simple pencil.

Over the years since I originally wrote this, I’ve continued to follow my own advice. Pencils—and the ideas they seem to generate—have saved my story line most than once. Only last night, my fourteenth-century Scottish ghost wouldn’t stay where I wanted him to be. I kept pounding away at the keyboard, trying to force a recalcitrant character into my (sort of) outline, and he kept growling at me with that wonderful Scottish burr of his: I dinna wish to go there, my lass, and ye canna make me do it.

Finally, in disgust, I brewed a cup of tea, grabbed my spiral-bound notebook and my trusty pencil, headed for the loveseat in my living room, chewed for a moment or two (see number 4 in the list above), and began to follow him where he wanted to go. His journey was, I must admit, much more interesting than what I’d had in mind.

Could I have followed him just as well on the computer? Well, okay; I admit the possibility. But the pencil gave me a good excuse to put my feet up, thereby jostling my muse (the cat who had to move her perch when I relocated). Obviously, the newer, better ideas began to flow.
* * *

Fran Stewart is the author of the Biscuit McKee Mysteries – GRAY AS ASHES is the seventh book in that series – as well as a standalone mystery – A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT. Her non-fiction work includes FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: A WORKBOOK FOR WRITERS. Her new ScotShop Mystery Series from Berkley Press begins with A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP.

Fran lives quietly with various rescued cats beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta.
She sings alto with a community chorus and volunteers at her grandchildren’s school library. She is a member of the National League of American Pen Women, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America.
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Hamelin, Vermont, isn’t the most likely place for bagpipes and tartan, but at Peggy Winn’s ScotShop, business is booming…
While on a transatlantic hunt for some authentic wares to sell at her shop, Peggy is looking to forget her troubles by digging through the hidden treasures of the Scottish Highlands. With so many enchanting items on sale, Peggy can’t resist buying a beautiful old tartan shawl. But once she wraps it around her shoulders, she discovers that her purchase comes with a hidden fee: the specter of a fourteenth-century Scotsman.
Unsure if her Highland fling was real or a product of an overactive imagination, Peggy returns home to Vermont—only to find the dead body of her ex-boyfriend on the floor of her shop. When the police chief arrests Peggy’s cousin based on some incriminating evidence, Peggy decides to ask her haunting Scottish companion to help figure out who really committed the crime—before anyone else gets kilt…

Photo credit: Mozelle Funderburk