Thursday, June 20, 2013

A brief story of my wandering mind

By Gayle Carline
Author of Mysteries, Humor, and Whatever She Damn Well Pleases

We writers are a funny lot, especially those of us who write mysteries and thrillers. A hike through the woods has us thinking about all the places we could hide a body. When we take out a knife to slice an apple, we often caress the handle and study the blade - could this penetrate deeply enough to cause instant death? Medicine cabinets are like treasure chests. Ah, the drugs!

Apparently, not everyone shares our imagination. My husband, Dale, needed his car serviced recently, so we traded vehicles for the day and I drove to my favorite mechanic, Allen. His employee, Bob, changed my oil and rotated my tires while I waited.

He backed my car out of the service bay and came in to tell us it was ready. I watched him look back, out the door.

"Oops," he said.

It's not a word I like to hear, but I'd rather hear it from a mechanic than, say, my surgeon. It seems there was a brown, greasy trail on the garage floor, leading out to my car. After some investigation, he discovered a bad O-ring and went to work fixing it.

Allen and I walked out to see what had happened and I saw the trail of oil. It was a dark dribble straight to my vehicle. Gayle the wife who helps her husband disappeared. Gayle the mystery writer (whose stories are set in her hometown) entered.

"You know, this looks like it could be a blood trail. Allen, there may be a murder in your garage soon."

He laughed.

My brain didn't stop there, so neither did my mouth. "You come in one morning, open the big door, and see this dribble all over your floor. You're all mad, thinking, 'darn that Bob, leaving a mess for me to clean up' and you start mopping it. Then when you get to the car, you look underneath and surprise, there's a body wedged under that Ford."

Allen laughed again, but from more of a distance.

"Of course, you've just destroyed a bunch of evidence," I continued, "but hopefully a good CSU could find the blood trace with luminol."

Now he was across the parking lot from me.

"I don't know," he said. "The floor is epoxy with a coating of degreaser. There may not be any blood left."

He was either trying to discourage me or shut me up, but it wasn't working. I was on a mission.

"Not unless you used bleach to clean it," I told him, then suddenly realized how macabre I sounded.

Making up stories is half the fun of being a writer. Sharing them with others is the other half, however, you may not want to share them before they're in your book. You might give someone the wrong idea.


  1. LOL, Gayle! I LOVE your posts!

    Even among other writers, mystery and thriller writers can "kill" a conversation. I was at my first writers conference. At our lunch table we were sharing the gist of our WIPs. Because the group had only recently broadened their membership from romance writers, my table was heavily weighted on the side of romance. When it was my turn to share, I simply said, "My story involves body parts and murder." I remember hearing a tiny nervous giggle—then stone silence.

    1. Dear me, did none of those writers write romantic suspense? I'm actually writing one now and it's kind of fun - I get to have flirtation AND murder.

  2. Fun post! I rarely talk about my work except to my husband, who has perfected the art of listening without really engaging. But I look at every physical scene through my "story eyes" and often takes notes.

    I actually have the opposite problem. People I interact with know I'm a crime fiction author and try to feed me story ideas. It's often amusing.

    1. I sometimes get that, too, LJ. A friend of mine wants me to fictionalize his brother's true story of being convicted for murder. Thanks, no. The funniest was a friend's mother who was told that I write humor columns. "You know what you need in your columns?" she asked. "Recipes."

      Well, okay then.

  3. This post gave me a giggle, Gayle, especially your "oops" comment. I think a writer's mind always wanders. Mystery writer's minds often go to dark places that would scare their non writing friends. As Nathan Fillion puts it, 'there are only two kinds of minds that think about ways to kill people: psychopaths and mystery writers.'

    1. Is that Nathan Fillion himself or Richard Castle speaking the words of the writer Andrew Marlowe?

      Gayle, what's the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? Organization and charm seem to be the two main differences - the psycho having them, the socio not.

      There's a joke or pun in there someplace.

  4. You make me laugh, Gayle.
    But it's true even for a mystery reader/reviewer like me.

    1. Marlyn, I can just TELL you have an active imagination!

  5. Brought to mind the Bill Cosby routine when his dentist said "oops". Hubster and I have often sat in a coffee shop or restaurant and brainstormed ways to kill people and hide bodies. Every now and then he looks around, and if people are watching he'll say, "It's OK -- she's a writer."

    Terry's Place

    1. You sound like a great couple to have dinner with!

  6. Right there with you, comrade. As soon as I start saying, "You know what I was just thinking? Wouldn't it be really cool if..." the eyes start doing a collective roll all around me. It appears my reputation precedes me. It's just not easy being us, is it?

  7. I never tell people what stories (or poems) I'm writing when we have conversations. I get enough eye rolls for the puns, which I don't keep to myself.

    Regarding the mechanic shop murder story. It seems like the murderer would have to use two tubes - the degreaser and bleach - to wash away the blood. And he (or she) would probably get some of the floor substance on his hands, transferring it in the process. You could get fingerprints off the tubes. I'm sure his name would be Quicksilver, because when you caught him he'd turn to the mechanic and say, "epoxy on both your hoses."


    1. David,

      *Insert long, heavy groan here*

      Actually, you've given me an idea for a stupid killer, who grabs the wrong thing instead of bleach and ends up ingraining the blood into the floor instead of washing it away.


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