Thursday, December 27, 2007


The whole time I pushed myself through college, working by day and schooling by night, I don’t recall ever hearing the dirty little secret about the accounting profession. If you work in public accounting, your life is not your own during the first quarter of the year as everyone comes begging and pleading to make their tax return as tolerable as possible. If you’re in corporate accounting, the same premise holds true during the last two months and first couple months of the year. It is during this time that end of the year financials need completed, external audits endured, and budgets finalized.

Pulling down a “paying” job while trying to advance a writing career can be challenging, especially during the accounting crunch time when the job demands those precious excess hours that were specifically carved out … to write. But, as I have learned while working in this industry for ten-plus years now, it is what it is; it won’t change, and there is no use crying about it--at least not too much.

There is good news, though. My stories have a couple of months to sit and percolate. When I do revisit them, I can truly approach them with fresh eyes and see the flaws. Last month, I finished a nice crime story for the Holiday Story Exchange. Since starting it, I have had three separate writers critique it, each offering good advice. Next month, after I wade through all the accounting demands on my life, I plan to sit down and re-work the story and submit it. While I’m at it, I’ll brush up a Western Crime story that I submitted to the Tony Hillerman Mystery Contest, which obviously didn’t make it, and I’ll wrap up a third crime story that has been seen a first draft and several revisions. And even though my day job pulls down my resources, I can still read (which now takes between two and three weeks to finish a novel) and submit small posts such as this to my blog.

While I’m at it, here is an excerpt from my Western Crime story. I hope you like it.

From “Meant To Be”:

Sheriff Tom Harper squatted down at the base of a towering ponderosa and studied the sign, picturing in his mind how the scene might have played out. Above him, the body of Jeremiah Winters swayed in the cool breeze that carried the scent of a late autumn rain down the ridge toward Deerhead Canyon. The taut rope creaked with each subtle sweep of the dead rancher. Across the mountain slope, evergreens and aspens whispered their secrets in the wind, and Tom wished for a fleeting moment that he could speak their language, hear what they had to say. As it was, only the impressionable soil offered to tell its side of the story.

Twenty yards down Deputy Ethan Meade reigned up on his sorrel next to two men huddled at the edge of the trail--the same two who discovered the body earlier in the morning. Henry and Jesse Alton. They came to Cloudcroft a few years back to help drive the railroad up through the mountain pass; after the work was completed, they decided to stay. Henry said he liked the atmosphere.

Tom wondered how the atmosphere suited the Alton brother now.

He watched as Meade swung down from the horse. The deputy stood at least a foot taller than the other two, the brim of his hat curving down as he talked with them. He had migrated up to Cloudcroft two years ago after spending ten years with the 10th Cavalry at Fort Concho over in San Angelo, Texas. Ten years too long, he told Harper. If he had to protect settlers he would rather do it in a place that had more to look at than scrub brush and yucca plants. Tom informed him that Alamogordo was only a half-day’s ride down the mountain if he ever got homesick.

After talking with the Alton brothers, Ethan walked toward the scene. Tom spoke first.

“The Winters family been notified?”

“Took Sarah with me,” Ethan said, referring to his wife. “She stayed behind to offer Mrs. Winters some comfort.”

“What did the wife have to say?”

“It appears Jeremiah left the ranch out of sorts some time yesterday evening. They haven’t seen him since.”

“She say why he was upset?”

“She didn’t know. Said her son didn’t know either.”

“So you didn’t talk to him?”

“He was out doing chores, and I didn’t stay. I figured you would need me back here.” Meade chucked his chin. “What do you have?”

“Not quite sure. There’re horseshoe prints all around. This here, though, is a boot heel.” He ran his finger along the earth. “Looks like the owner gave a slip and fell. The mark runs almost a foot long.”

“With the rain last night, it wouldn’t surprise me if Winters took a spell.”

“Maybe. But why would a man dismount out here,” he looked around, “in the middle of a storm?”

“A man who plans to hang himself ain’t using the good sense God gave him, if you ask me.”

“Did his wife say what he was planning to do?”

“No, I’m just guessing.”

“Well, let’s hold off on the guessing.”


  1. "Tom wondered how the atmosphere suited the Alton brother now."

    That's greatness...

  2. Thank you for the compliment. Two other writers who have critiqued the entire story also remarked how they liked that line. It was one of those times when my brain told me I needed to address the previous sentence, and I just instinctively wrote it. I'm glad it worked.