Lucy Crowe's Nest: February 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Ah God, You're Killing Me!"

Today’s blog takes us to the fictional location of Mount Bloom Fire Station, where I’m interviewing a handful of my central characters. It occurs to me, belatedly, that these folks often take a backseat to my narcs, Rush and Bobby, so I’m hoping today to rectify that, and to provide my readers with a fuller glimpse of this crew – essentially, who they are and what they do.
            “Most memorable call?” Chief Cotton lounges in the doorway with a coffee mug cradled in his big hand, brown curls on end and a sardonic smile quirking his lips. “Hey guys, c’mere! The nice writer lady wants to know about our most memorable call.”
            “The five kids in the rollover.” Jess Cantwell offers in his unabashed fashion. He is the baby of this bunch, at twenty-two, and the only guy with an earring – big gaudy diamond in his left earlobe. His sandy hair is buzzed short, but he lets a stripe down the middle grow to an inch and a half Mohawk.
            Cotton is frowning at him. “Ugly call,” he says briefly. “Entrapment, sleet, Life Flight couldn’t get to us. We did what we could do.”
            It takes a moment for me to understand there will be no further embellishment, and in that time, Cantwell has moved off to the doorway, where he lights a Marlboro and lets the smoke drift up around his face.
“Downtown fire,” Allen Burwell speaks into the quiet. “Coupla’ kids lit up the old Laundromat. Connected roofs downtown, shared basements, hard wind out of the north.”
“Ten freakin’ degrees below zero,” Cotton elaborates. “Pump froze up, street was a skating rink. Quill broke his ankle.”
“We were frozen in our gear,” Cantwell says. “Like icemen. We couldn’t unbuckle. The newspaper man took pictures of us.”  He holds his arms out stiffly and laughs. “I frostbit two fingers.”
“We lost three buildings.” Burwell runs a hand over the bald dome of his head. “Finally brought a bulldozer in and took out the fourth. Stopped it right there.”
“My ex lived in the upstairs of the building we took out,” Cotton chuckles. “Which pretty much put a cap on the whole mess.”
Nic Thomas wanders in from living quarters with a coffee and a bag of Oreos clutched to her chest. Mount Bloom ’s only female, she is short, and blonde and sturdy in the way of a small athlete. “What about the time me and Jess dropped Albert Logan?”
“Criminy, Thomas, confidentiality.” Cotton pokes her with an index finger, snatches the cookies and scowls at me. “You didn’t hear that name.”
Nic is undaunted. “Grouchiest patient ever,” she says around a mouthful of cream filling. “Frequent flier. He could never talk to us, not one word. Hated the hell out of us. The wife always called, and we’d load him up, not knowing if it was chest pain, stomach, whatever. All the way to Sorrows, we get nothing, not a word.”
“So one day,” Cantwell picks up the thread. “We get a call just like all the others, but when we pull the cot out of the rig at the hospital, it gives. Just freakin’ collapses, and Albert’s on the ground. Thumped the piss out of him.”
“He spoke!” Nic is laughing now. “He said, ‘Ah God, you’re killing me!’ That was it. Never heard him speak again.”
“Dead now anyhow,” Burwell says, and his bright eyes settle on Nic for a moment.

       “I cried when I heard,” she sighs. “I don’t know why. I didn’t like him.” 
      “Her and Quill had a good call last week,” Cotton rallies. “Big guy, full arrest. I’ll never know how they got him into the rig, must’ve weighed four-fifty. He’s still alive. Got him in ICU, but he’s not gone yet.”       
      “It was a nice save,” Burwell acknowledges, and Nic grins.
     “The little boy who fell through the ice,” Cantwell pitches his cigarette outside, and the group grimaces as one.
“Jesus, enough gloom and doom,” Cotton says. “That’s it. We gotta’ do rig checks.”
They are gone – trailing laughter and Folgers scent behind them into the bay - while Cotton’s order is still resonating. 
 I love these guys. 

~Get to know Cotton, Cantwell, Thomas, Burwell and Quill in Lucy's first full length novel, Sugar Man's Daughter.  Available at ~

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Speed of the World

 The circumference of the Earth at the equator is 25,000 miles. The Earth rotates in about 24 hours. Therefore, if you were to hang above the surface of the Earth at the equator without moving, you would see 25,000 miles pass by in 24 hours, at a speed of 25000/24 or just over 1000 miles per hour.
"A Helping Hand" by Juli Cady Ryan
Lol, yes! This is exactly how we feel most days, barely hanging on while the world whizzes around. As though we are on a speed track, moving in ever-increasing fast-forward with each new morning. Never enough time for anything!
Okay, but specifically, where are we going and why so fast?
I think it’s a national problem, but we are so close to it, we fail to see it. Fast food, quick reads, instant messaging. We need it all now - or not at all - and the result is . . .  well, something less than pretty. We are exhausted and obese. We are depressed. And the list of what we don’t have time for is endless. Religion. Family. Aimless chatter. A good book.
And conversely – adding insult to injury - this very deprivation has resulted in the wretched propagation of “me time.”  People, it is everywhere. Our souls are seeped in it. How to make “me time”, what to do with it, how to utilize it, hug it close and keep it keep it keep it to ourselves. We are told continuously that we need to exercise, soul search, beautify ourselves.
Okay, we do, there’s no denying this. But the answer is probably not found in the mirror. The advocacy of “me time” has resulted in an indifferent nation. Coupled with a hurried attitude, it’s disastrous.
Small thought, but, I hope, important. Could we not feed our souls, and indeed, better ourselves, by, first, slowing down, and then, perhaps . . . looking outside ourselves?
What if, somewhere in our sixty to seventy-two hour work week, we made time to shovel the neighbor’s drive? Do homework with our kids instead of telling ourselves that they are better served by learning to do it themselves? What if, at the end of the day, we talked to our spouses? Could we gain more satisfaction than what we find at the bottom of the “me” barrel?  We need more empathy, more humor, more philanthropy.
We need more time, but we also need to recognize the gift in each day.
Ah God, is this preachy? I try to avoid that. But I’m in the same boat as everyone I know. I’m TIRED. I’m dieting. Sometimes at the end of the day I am just angry that I didn’t have time to sit down and read even for half an hour.
So, no wizard here, and I’m afraid, no real answers. But I think when I get off work tonight – whether on time or even into overtime – I’m going to actually look at and  talk to the people I love.
            It’s a start!     

Monday, February 10, 2014

Anatomy of a Bad Man

 “You gonna cut down a tree that size, you better be sure you bring a very big saw.” 

 He tips his head to one side and pins the camera with an emotionless stare, eyes like a cobra's fixed on a bunny. His voice? Pitch perfect, mellow as butterscotch schnapps. He has the smooth inflection of a Baptist preacher, utterly mesmerizing. A cruel mouth and a chilling intensity running just beneath the surface of his cool.
I give you Boyd Crowder. Whether he’s preaching the Good News or elbow deep in his latest massacre, we love him.

Who watches “Justified”? If you don’t, and you have even the teeniest creative bone in your body, I urge you to tune in. Just for Boyd. Here is a bad man the likes of which we haven’t seen since Bruce Dern gunned down John Wayne in front of God and everyone on the Sunday night movies. Except we hated Bruce. It was clear that we should – after all, he was The Bad Man.
            Boyd Crowder smudges those lines, and as a writer I find this feat most intriguing - not to mention well nigh impossible. Boyd came to us, of course, through the impeccable writing skills of the late Elmore Leonard, and has only been enhanced by the talents of Walton Goggins, who brings him to life on the screen - six feet of rangy height and hair-on-end.  Is that insanity in those cold eyes? Most likely.

            What’s to like? It may just be the voice. I am a sucker for a beautiful accent, and Boyd’s lovely southern tenor is to die for. But I think it’s more than that. The writers have taken great care to keep us, the viewers, invested in the life of this character. This is to say that they have gone to a good deal of trouble to make him a full-fledged, three-dimensional human being.
            Nobody did that for Bruce Dern, and I’m sure it makes all the difference.

             We have trailed Boyd now through four seasons, marking his progression from white supremacist to Born Again and finally to all out bad-ass. We’ve watched him gain and lose fortunes, find and discard religion and maybe even fall in love. Through it all, we have come to know him - and yes, even to like him – and I have come to believe that a shared humanity is the best possible feature a writer can bestow upon a bad man. The lesson, I think, is to make The Bad Man a Real Person. And real people suffer all sorts of real woes, from financial ruin to failed love; these tragedies allow us to bond with The Bad Man and even to sympathize with him.

            Not to mention, of course, if you make your Bad Man as cool as Boyd, everybody across the board is going to love him.
Even if he is rotten to the core.


Related Post and Video:  Tips on Character Development (video featuring clips from "To Kill a Mockingbird")

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