Donnell's Articles

Technology is making my life miserable

Does anyone remember the day when you could Google, check out research material at the library, and have a pretty good idea how to write a believable plot? I’m sure it happened once upon a time. I can’t imagine Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler and other greats had to worry too much about DNA evidence, bloodstain pattern analysis, 3D printer guns, CODIS, IAFIS, LEDS databases and a multitude of other technologies that have ballooned seemingly overnight.

You might argue that technology has made our lives simpler, so why am I whining? After all, these people used type writers with carbon paper for crying out loud. They mailed their novels to their publisher in manuscript boxes.

I’m whining because technology refuses to stand still while I finish my book. Someone opened the door to the Information Age, created an avalanche and laid me out flat. Oh, sure, I enjoy my laptop, smart phone, tablet as much as the next impatient person, but for a contemporary crime fiction writer, it’s a disaster. For instance, say you start your book in January and finish it the following September, you’d better go back and check your facts, AGAIN, because during that short amount of time, based on today’s technology, your research has probably changed.

Think I’m exaggerating? Are you ready for what I learned last night? Last night at Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, our guest speaker was Greggory LaBerge, Director-Forensics and Evidence Division, Denver Police Department. Along with learning that if a person breaks into a home and leaves his DNA evidence (blood, saliva, or hair) in Colorado and his DNA is left at another crime scene across the country in Michigan, that bad guy, once he is located, is going to jail.

I also learned that DNA technology has gotten so sophisticated that if your detectives are having a conversation over the body, (which we’re known to do when writing a book to advance the plot and cue the readers in on possible clues) they’re contaminating the crime scene. I like to think I don’t spit when I speak, but evidently we human beings do. That’s how accurate scientists have gotten at identifying our DNA.

I didn’t even fret about ballistic fingerprinting or the fact that every automobile out there can be identified by the make and color of its paint. (And you can’t even confuse the issue by taking it to one of those autobody paint stores because forensic analysts can break it down by layers.) Quite frankly, it’s getting darn hard for criminals, and for that matter, us writers.

The truth is I love storytelling too much to give it up, so I’ll keep learning and doing my best to stay ahead of the ever-changing curve. But for you technology/forensic people out there so proud of the progress you’re making, would it hurt you too much to slow down?

And they say writing historical fiction is hard.

Mega Million Dollar Lotteries–Who Needs ‘Em?

Currently the country’s astir with people who won part of the Mega Million lottery last week. It was the topic of conversation, and I imagine co-workers of various companies pooled their resources to get in on the action as well. I didn’t buy a ticket. Not that I don’t need more money, you understand. Who doesn’t?

But as a romantic suspense writer, my mind goes to what ifs and always, always the worst case scenario. So here are a few things that “could” happen in my writer’s imagination if I won Mega Millions.

  1. At first my husband and I would be elated. Then as the excitement wore off, the phone started ringing, the media began pounding down our door, investment bankers seeped out of the woodwork, and every relative I’d ever heard of –or not—we’d come to our senses and decide to go into hiding. With the kind of money at our disposal, we might even pay to go into WITSEC.
  2. If WITSEC turned us down, we’d have no choice but to hire our own private security service.
  3. The private security service naturally would employ a corrupt individual who leaked our whereabouts, and #1’s scenario would begin anew – ad nauseum.
  4. My ALREADY ringing phone that begs for charitable contributions would quadruple and I would need to buy a burn phone to keep in contact with my mother.
  5. My children, immediate family, charitable organizations I do care about would suddenly find themselves growing richer.
  6. While out running, my husband would be kidnapped, and I would have to pay a King’s-size ransom to get him back.
  7. I would, of course, cooperate with the FBI and at the same time, use my enormous fortune to hunt down the thugs who kidnapped my husband, save my beloved, and dispose of the kidnappers in some obscure lake or cement plant.
  8. The kidnappers turn out to be on the Top 10 Most Wanted List of the FBI, part of organized crime, and now instead of prison time, I agree to testify against them. The result? The FEDS want to put me in WITSEC.
  9. WITSEC, where I should have been in the first place, contacts me and assigns me an incredibly hunky, handsome and romantic US Marshal that I can’t take my eyes off of.
  10. My husband divorces me after he learns I’ve had an affair with the US Marshal.

I hope I’ve made my point that money is the root of all evil and cannot buy happiness. But while we’re on the subject of Mega Million Dollar Lotteries, can anyone tell me when the next drawing is?

Don’t Leave Your Readers Fragmented

Fragmented sentences have left me feeling  fragmented of late.

Writing is all about feeling.  If you write a story, the number one thing you must be concerned about is not perfect sentence structure, not is your plot the most brilliant ever, and not even are the characters quirky and out there.  The number one thing writers must be concerned with when adding words to the page is how am I making my reader feel?

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Deadline Hell

Back in 2008, I read a blog by Tess Gerritsen called ,”When business runs your life,”  in which she expressed concern over a bestselling author, a millionaire many times over, who had become so consumed by her deadlines she was literally making herself sick. 

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Are you passionate? Or are you a bully?

I have a strong concept of right and wrong.  Perhaps that’s why I write fiction.  That way I can ensure the bad guys get their comeuppance and that’s where I prefer to keep my conflict.  It’s reality that troubles me at times; I see no happy ending for this dilemma.

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Living Vicariously Through My Characters

This article first appeared on the Stiletto Gang blog.

Hello, Stiletto Gang, and thanks to my buddy, Joelle Charbonneau, for inviting me to chat with you today.  I hate to get off to a bad start, but frankly, I have a bone to pick with all of you who wear stilettos—and now I see you’ve formed a gang?!!!

You see, I’m an unwillingly reformed shoe-aholic.  I didn’t even get to go through the twelve-step program.  Pretty high-heeled shoes to me were an addiction.  I’d buy so many pairs I’d hide them in the trunk of my car.  That worked until my husband came in, arms full, and said, where do you want these?

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On Accepting Advice

“No enemy is worse than bad advice.” – Sophocles

Every once in a while people offer advice that really works. E.g., Look both ways before crossing the street, read warning labels on products and exercise three to five times a week to maintain a healthy weight. Those kinds of input I can use and appreciate. But some of the advice I’ve received of late leaves me shaking my head.

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The Intervention

I don’t smoke, I rarely drink, and I certainly don’t do drugs.  Why then did my family get together and decide an intervention was necessary where I was concerned?

I’ll tell you why.  They took away my scooter.

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You’re Who? You Want to Do What?

One meets the most interesting people when writing romantic suspense and mysteries. Like it or not, writers are forced to leave Google every once in a while, walk out the door or pick up the phone to do research. There’s many a raised eyebrow and snicker aimed at writers who perpetrate their fictional situations and crime scenes. And I’m certainly no different.

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Help! I’ve Lost My Noodle

By Donnell Ann Bell

I developed plantar fasciitis a while back and the inflammation has been cramping my walking program. I enjoy that exercise more than any other, but since that routine has reduced me to limping, I’ve decided to take my friend Kathy’s advice.  Kathy suggests I join her in water aerobics until I recoup.  Water aerobics, she assures me will take the pressure off my joints, and according to Kathy, “anyone” can do it.

I’m writing today to explain why Kathy is now my ex-friend.  What she failed to tell me is that water aerobics requires coordination.

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