Friday, February 10, 2012

What Do You Think About...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I remember running. Before I blew out my knees. I started with once up and once down Charles Street--do you know it? On Beacon Hill in Boston, a tiny slice of London-looking shops and beautiful brownstones. And, I'd say, three blocks long.

At first, I could barely make it up and back. I was winded, panting, a wreck. But I kept at it. After all, I'd gotten the shoes and the little shorts.

And soon, I was going up and back, then up and back again, and before I knew it...well, it was wonderful. I had accomplished something physical, very unusual for me, and I was so surprised about it! And then my knees started to hurt and so much for that.

But I know running was a marvelous way to clear my head.

Now. Part 2. You know how you sometimes meet a person who's completely a kindred spirit? That's how I feel about Clare O'Donohue.Yes, we're both in TV, different parts of TV, but we know the biz and care about it. And we both write mysteries, and we both love...well, lots of similar stuff. Clare is on her second mystery series, (just as I am). Her first one, very very succesful, is about quilting! (mine isn't, but I love quilts.)

Her new one is about TV. Isn't this irresistible? Listen to this about MISSING PERSONS:

Crime TV producer Kate Conway’s job is simple. Create episodes of "true crime" television where the truth doesn't matter as much as a good story. ...There's a lot more. But who needs more. That's a fantastic hook. I mean--we all know reality shows are made up, right? Or...are they?

Anyway, now part one, running, and part 2, Clare, cleverly merge together. Meet Clare. Who, today, says:

I've got nothing on my mind.
by Clare O'Donohue

I just got back from my morning run. Believe me, no one is more shocked than I am that I actually get out of bed every morning, pull on some gym shoes and, with the little sticky crusts still in the corners of my sleepy eyes, head to the local park.

I’d been walking every day for a long time but never bothered to run. That looked like too much work. But one day for no reason at all, I just went for it.

I think I ran about 300 feet before my lungs gave out. The next day, I did it again. This time I slowed to about the same as if I was walking, and that helped a lot. Sure, I looked like I was running in slo-mo, and maybe the occasional duck would waddle past, going faster than I was, laughing at my pathetic attempt to keep pace with him. (Don’t let the feathers fool you, ducks can be bitchy.)

I persevered, and every day since I’ve increased my distance little by little until I actually run more than I walk these days. And I run faster, while still keeping my lungs inside my body.

(Who’s laughing now, duck?)

I thought I was doing it to lose some weight, build endurance… all that good stuff. But, it turns out there was a benefit I hadn’t considered. When I’m running, I stop thinking. There are no plots for my next book, no list of errands to go over, no wondering what will happen on next week’s Justified. Nothing. I’m just breathing and moving.

I think a lot. Like every other writer, I’m living multiple lives at once – mine, of course, as well as a lot of fictional ones. There are a dozen lives in the two series I currently write and there all the characters waiting for their turns in the books I hope to write someday. It gets crowded in my brain with all the murders, and romances, and mayhem.

And sometimes it gets a little exhausting. Making it worse, my imagination has a tendency to wander into my own life and create little dramas to stew over. “The mechanic is going to tell me that my car needs some expensive repair,” I used to tell myself on what was supposed to be a peaceful morning walk. “There’s no way I’m putting more money into that old clunker and if he’s trying to rip me off…” The poor mechanic was getting silently slandered while I fought a fight that hadn’t even happened, and in all likelihood wouldn’t happen.

But when I run, I’m focused on only two things, getting around the track without stopping, and not falling down. Everything else just goes away. When I finish, my body is tired, but my brain is refreshed. It’s easier for me to let go of the imaginary arguments and useless information, and focus on important stuff – like the plot of my next book, or where I put my glasses.

I mentioned this amazing experience to a friend of mine over deep dish pizza one day. (Okay, so I’m not a health fanatic.) “You should write a book about a killer who uses his morning jog to look for his next victim,” she suggested.

It’s a great idea, and I’ll probably think about. A lot. Except tomorrow morning when I take my run.

HANK: Told you. So, Reds--how do you clear your brain?

And we'll give away a signed copy of Clare's brand new book--coming soon!--Life Without Parole to one lucky commenter.


Clare O'Donohue is the author of Missing Persons, the first in the Kate Conway Mysteries, as well as four novels in the Someday Quilts series. She also works as a television producer on documentaries for A&E, the History Channel, truTV and others. Her next book, Life Without Parole, will be released April 24th.

More about Missing Persons :Crime TV producer Kate Conway’s job is simple. Create episodes of "true crime" television where the truth doesn't matter as much as a good story. But Kate's life is complicated. Her soon to be ex-husband has turned up dead with Kate the main suspect. And to make matters worse - and weirder - his new girlfriend suddenly wants to be friends. Kate wants to focus on her new assignment, a TV show about a seemingly angelic young woman who disappeared a year earlier. All Kate wants is to bury her feelings for her late husband, and get another typical story. But for once in her life - she's going to have to find the truth. Even if it kills her.


  1. "Don't let the feathers fool you, ducks can be bitchy."

    Clare, you are so right! (And I laughed so hard that now I feel compelled to go find all of your books...)

    Our across-the-creek neighbors have ducks and geese and it is never-ending drama. They're not even nice to each other! We give them fancy names (Martin Francis Duckston III and such) and soap opera backstories; it's great fun (because they stay on their side and we stay on ours!).

    Running, I run when I'm late. (Sometimes not even then...)

    Thanks, Hank, for another great introduction!

  2. OH, you're so welcome, Paula! We have ducks in our back yard i the spring, Flo and Eddy. I'll tell you more when they arrive this year...and interestingly, one of the ways I clear my to watch them.

  3. Thanks for introducing another interesting author. I don't run either - bad knees, too and now the hips don't feel as young as they used to either... :) Dee

  4. I have been running for about thirty years and use it relentlessly to clear my head - shut the brain down, get ideas! There is a wildlife preserve near my house, with a rooster who stages jail breaks, stomping around the neighborhood clucking and crowing - particularly when I'm running by or so it seems to me.

  5. Claire, I've read one of your first series and loved it; will look for others, and this new one, too. It's fun to learn the behind-the-scenes about the TV business, as in Hank's Charlie books.

    Hank, you crack me up. Your story yesterday about your sudden realization that you'd been tricked, and now this. You probably just needed better shoes.

    I ran for a long time, until my body began to gripe, and also really miss it. It cleared my head to the extent that I could not do math of any kind while I was running. The best was finding someone who ran the exact pace; she and I ended up being best friends ever since, for the last 35 years.

  6. Running? Not so much with my body but I do walk and listen to Bach (or Prokofiev) which gives me a brain vacation. All I have to do is take the next step and let Bach direct my walk till it's over. Wonderful!

  7. Welcome to Jungle Red, Clare.
    Thinking, positively and creatively is good -- "dwelling" (on perceived slights) not so much. And one can so easily slide into the other.

    I would think playing a challenging piece of music, or rock climbing, or Zumba, or playing a video game could 'clear the brain' department. Sadly I don't do any of the above. I know doing laundry doesn't work, and taking a walk can only make things worse.

    Yoga, anyone?

  8. Welcome, Clare! *waves* We met when you were at I Love A Mystery in Kansas City with your first or second book in the old series. Great books for anyone who loves mysteries and quilting!

    And just so you know, Canada geese, which have started living here all year round, are even worse than ducks.

    Hank, another great introduction! And so sneaky to tie the two together. With my knees and back, I'm lucky to walk. The big trouble is finding time for even walking. Read the other day about a writer who rigged a standing desk at the treadmill and puts in exercise walking while writing the latest novel. Gonna have to try that.

  9. Ted! SO terrific to see you were such a wonderful moderator at Love is Murder..cannot wait to start on your book!

    (Awww..thanks Karen! xo)

    ANd yes, taking a walk can only make it worse. HOWEVER I am a new convert to iTunes listening while I walk. You cannot really think much while listening to music--LaurieB, I'm with you--and although I used to sneer at the people with the earphones they are me.

  10. NO no no, NOT try this at home! The treadmill desk..yeesh..I can't even imagine.

  11. Welcome Clare. Your book just went on my TBR list.

    Hey Linda, I don't have a standing desk at a treadmill--because I don't have a treadmill, but I do have a shelf clamped to a small ladder that's acting as a kind of sitting desk in front of my exercise bike at the moment so I can proofread the poetry that's part of a mixed media project.

  12. Darlene, great idea! I don't have a treadmill but do have an exercise bike. I don't think it would work well for writing, though--too too bumpy. But for proofing and reading, it should work fine. I never have enough time for reading, no matter how much time I make in my schedule.

    Hank, yeah. I suspect the treadmill-desk is not a good idea for me. I can only imagine how dark my writing would get! ;-)

  13. My bad knee salutes your efforts, Clare. Can't wait to read your next book.

  14. Like you gals, my novels consume me. I actually dream my novels and then write them. I am 61, married 41 years, and have lived on horse farms all that while. I destroyed an achilles tendon while skiing 30 years ago, and then a horse stepped on it 60 days after the cast had been removed. It is not worth a damn, so I can't run. I walk around the farm, but, still, I find I cannot clear my head with the simple expenditure of calories (which I really need to expend many myor of, pardon the pooor grammar). So I do things that demand hard work and full attention, like cutting firewood with a chain saw. You cannot think about a plot line or a character when the saw could take off your leg. I shovel horse crap from stalls, and while it is non threatening, it is sweat producing and the steady work, the stretch of back and forearms, thighs and ankles makes me zone into my farm, the horses, all old, all descendants of our earliest horses, and the novels, the other junk are gone from my mind. Fixing fence after deer have twanged a wire loose, any number of things accomplish not only a mind clearing but an actual job accomplished that is not another page of novel, not another plot twist or development of character. Thanks for posing this question, good on all you gals.

  15. I'm one of those surprised-at-myself runners too. Except I call myself a "jogger" because "runner," to me, implies a level of athleticism that is beyond me. Alas, my knees too -- don't know for how much longer!

    However, jogging doesn't completely clear my head. My thoughts wander around, and sometimes there's some good ones. :-)

    Reading has always been my balm. Full immersion into another person's words clears out my own. Also, sad to say: cocktails. "Letting go" (in quotes because I'm a pup compared to bonafide booze hounds) with a few drinks in the company of good friends clears my head too.

    Oh yes, and walks along forest trails. It's the trees that do it--so peaceful.

  16. Welcome Clare - I LOVED Missing Persons, one of my fave books from last year so nice to finally meet you (sort of.)

    When weather permits, I clear my head in the garden. Other times, any mindless activity from rowing (machine) to watching old episodes of The Sopranos.

  17. My legs are old, as is the rest of me, so to clear my mind, I take walks to see how the gardens are doing, and play in my own piece of green. Nothing like being in the moment, worrying about weeds ;)

  18. Charles, thank you! What a lovely and evocative post... (When I had to clean out stalls as a kid, I was not so philosophical!)

    And yes, the garden. My husband and I walk through, in the spring and summer, when we get home from work. Seeing who's arrived, and who's departing..

  19. How do I clear my mind? Two ways. One is by praying. I just can't harp on things of this world when I'm praying. My second choice is reading. Pulling myself into new characters, worlds and situations is a sure way for me to forget my own troubles for awhile.

    Welcome, Clare...a new author for my TBR list!

  20. Hey Clare, nice post. Sometimes I run with a 'sill mind' but usually not. When I'm trail running, I spend the time daydreaming scenes and characters from whatever I'm working on. And when I run on the treadmill, I listen to audiobooks.

    But to quiet the internal chatter, I meditate. And, like Hank, I listen to music.

    Ducks can be jerks, but I'm with Linda - Canada Geese are real bastards. Honk-honk. Shut up, goose.

    Love the blog, Reds!

  21. Hey, Sean..great see you here!

    And yeah, I'm such an iTunes newbie, I still walk along the street, singing along, forgetting I'm the only one hearing it.

    Today was Running on Empty..which, coincidentally, is quite appropriate!

  22. Clare, I'm going to love your books. I know it. Thanks for introducing us, Hank!

    Hank, I used to live around the corner and across the garden from the corner of Charles and Beacon(?) on Comm Ave. I would run across the footbridge and around to Charles, past that fantastic grocery (Is it still there? Was it Savenor's?) and up Chestnut to the Spooners' house where I babysat for the dear and very patient Susan and John.

    After I finished eating whatever I thought I could get away with in their fridge my run home was much slower down the hill. I would think about John's galleys he would leave draped over his gorgeous old desk, and I would dream about someday having my own galleys to leave out for a sitter. This could be why I had so much trouble with cobblestones?

  23. DeLuca's Market! (Which had a fire, and then the store owners got into trouble for selling the food afterward.)

    And that is a wonderful story, Reine! (I used to run across the footbridge, too..)

  24. *****And the winner of Nancy's STICKY FINGERS is" paulabuck! Email me at h ryan at whdh dot com for details!

  25. Deluca's! Of course! Too bad about the fire-- oooh and the food selling thing.

    Talk about ducks, though! They could get a little bitchy around the pond there. I loved the geese chasing me down the Fenway near Louis Pasteur until I slipped on their poo one day. They have wicked-bad poo. Oh, I must be from New England, having to clarify wicked-bad from wicked-good!


    Captcha: Remidas

  26. When I'm exercising I can put most other things out of my mind because I need to concentrate on what I'm doing. I go to the gym around three times per week. On non-gym days I have exercises that I do at home. Walking is especially helpful for getting my mind off troublesome matters -but only if I sing to myself! Silently,of course!I don't want people to be pointing at the Crazy Lady on Treadmill Number Three (when I'm at the gym) or the Weird Woman from down the hall when I do lunchtime walks at work. (We have a great set up at work: our office building has long hallways and someone measured them some years ago -seven and three quarter laps are equal to one mile.) I am incapable of singing and thinking at the same time,which is apparently some sort of blessing for me! Some years ago I went to yoga class once or twice a week. I loved it and found that I put my worries completely aside during class. Unfortunately,yoga aggravated my back problems and I had to stop. Now that I have loads of hardware in my spine I am limited as to what I can do for exercise. I find that the exercises I can still do work wonders for both my mind and body. If I don't exercise for three or four days I feel quite grumpy!

  27. Clearing the mind is easy on a night like this one. The snow is falling and the world appears peaceful. A nice walk with my dog and I can put it all aside for just a little while.

    Claire, your new series sounds wonderful. I can't wait to pick up the first one and start reading.

  28. I've been teaching a mystery writing class all day (thanks Story Sudio Chicago!) so this is my first chance to pop in and say hi - HA! love the duck haters out there... I'm new enough to running that I must concentrate on it, but perhaps as I get to Sean's level I'll be able to let my mind wander to characters and scenes..who knows?

  29. Clare, I spelled your name wrong. So sorry; I know what it's like to have a misspelled name.

  30. Thanks to all the folks who loved my books and/or promise to love them! (I will hunt you down if you merely like them) I'm excited that Life Without Parole aka Kate Conway #2 will be going to one lucky commenter

    Thanks Hank.. my kindred spirit who dresses better than I do... to have invited me to Jungle Red Writers.

  31. I just realized I misspelled your name, as well, Clare. Mea culpa.

    Ya gotta watch those ducks! They're sinister, they are.

  32. Thanks for being here, Clare. I am such a fan!

    Today, ducks. Tomorrow: cheese!

    And, because the world loves irony..Sunday, ducks again.

  33. Oh, ducks! There are constant traffic jams outside of the building where I work,and they are caused by ducks and geese. A couple of years ago a "Caution: ducks crossing" sign was posted out there. We are NOT out in the country! We are located a couple of blocks from the center of town in a small CT city. There's a pond across the street from us. Our fowl feathered friends choose to waddle across the road mainly at rush hour. Wish I knew why they don't just FLY across the road. They spend the rest of the time leaving "land mines"on the sidewalks and grassy surfaces, which is one of the reasons I finally started doing my lunchtime walks inside. (I'm also less likely to end up with bird poop in my hair from the smaller birds out there. I say "less likely"because birds have occasionally ended up inside the buildng.)

    And it's easier to relax and leave my cares behind if I don't need to worry about Bird Incidents when I'm walking!

    Clare,I can tell that I MUST read your books and I promise to LOVE them! (Love... not Like!)

    Deb Romano

  34. You guys can spell my name anyway you like as long as you continue my crusade against duck cruelty. (That is - ducks being cruel to humans. Not humans being cruel to ducks... I'm opposed to that too, unless there's a sauce involved and some wine.

    Hank, I sense a theme...a little cheese, a duck. Dinner in Paris?

  35. Clare, you don't have to worry. Hank dresses better than any of us.

    Hank, cheese and more ducks? Like Clare, I'm sensing a culinary theme here.

    And my captcha is "ioning." This sounds like a little girl saying "ironing" or some kind of electromagnetic act with air filters. Getting a little slap-happy. Good night.

  36. ANd the winner of Clare's book is...Lisa Alber! Lisa, email me at h ryan at whdh dot com and we will get you your book! xoo

  37. Congrats Lisa! I hope you enjoy the book. And thanks again Hank for letting me guest. You're the best!