Saylor's Goodreads Bookshelf

Saylor's books

Animal Farm
Where the Sidewalk Ends
The Great Gatsby
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Catcher in the Rye
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Little Women
A Tale of Two Cities
The Count of Monte Cristo
Les Misérables
Moby-Dick or, The Whale
The Joy Luck Club
The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Saylor's favorite books »


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The O Line Mysteries are now available to all eReaders through Smashwords. Free downloads are also available through your local public library. If your library does not carry the title, please request it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Crazy Questions


“Excuse me, my name is Saylor Billings and I write a mystery series called The O Line Mysteries. I’m working out a plot just now and I just have a couple quick questions if you have a moment.”
“Is there a way I could murder someone with your organic beans?”
“Well sure, I’ve actually thought about that a lot…”

Coming up with original and inventive ways to create mayhem on the page is really a part time job. Imagined conversations, motives, underlying meanings all make for a rich interior life and if you can get it on the page all the better. There are also plenty of writer’s murder manuals out there as well. But there is always a point when you, as a writer, are standing in a store – be it a hardware shop, florist, or whatever – and it dawns on you that maybe your protagonists can defend themselves with duct tape.
I would love to write a series called the Duct Tape Mysteries. It would be about the protagonists in a bad situation and each time all they have is a roll of duct tape to save the day. But that’s not my point…
My point is you’ll have to have the conversation with someone (probably someone who, up until that moment, is a complete stranger). And you need to do it without sounding like a complete lunatic or an actual criminal. As writers we aren’t exactly the most gregarious group of social butterflies but there are a few guidelines to help guide you through until it becomes second nature.
Here’s what I do: first of all, I don’t worry about what people think of me or my crazy questions. But with that in mind I am respectful of other people’s time. Don’t bug someone if they’re in the middle of something. If someone looks busy I just introduce myself and ask if I may come back later to ask them a couple of questions about their work or product or whatever. If you are in a hurry don’t put that burden on someone else.
Secondly, don’t argue with them. I only say this because I’ve seen another writer do it. They actual called a travel agent, introduced themselves, asked their plot question and then proceeded to argue about the answer. (Ooof, some people have no shame.) But my original second point was: Secondly, try asking open-ended questions. Such as I was going to have a character work in a dog food factory and I’m wondering what type of background you look for in your employees who make up the ingredients? Is it biology or chemistry or animal sciences?
Third, thank them for spending time with you and sharing their knowledge. Whether or not they’ve been helpful. Whether or not they’ve answered your questions. If they’ve gone out of their way or inadvertently saved your bacon in some way - always thank them in the book.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The O Line Mysteries Blog: There are a lot of things happening below the surf...

The O Line Mysteries Blog: There are a lot of things happening below the surf...: There are a lot of things happening below the surface in The O Line Mystery book series. I spend a lot of time thinking up new and fictitiou...
There are a lot of things happening below the surface in The O Line Mystery book series. I spend a lot of time thinking up new and fictitious consumer level "tracking devices". How would your everyday Jo(sephine) Schmo get caught up in an international satellite spying ring using her shopping club card? These everyday accidental occurrences are definitely a running theme through out in the character’s lives and the plot lines. There isn’t one incident where I got this theme, it was a conglomeration of daily incidents that always seemed to surface. Not exactly irony, per se but kind of like how body language speaks louder than words. Also my partner and I often joke around with the phrase “just because your paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you”. (Which sometimes turns into ‘just because you’re angry doesn’t mean you’re not mad” and ‘just because you’re lost doesn’t mean you’re a loser” – you get the picture.) Marry those two ideas with the idea of how grocery stores hand out those customer club cards that really could track your purchases and you start to get the running theme.
BUT then I read something like this and my heart goes out to this guy. Ya know, just because he’s paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. This poor fella is screaming it from the You tube mountaintop, “HELLO I’m living in an Orwellian Nightmare! They ARE tracking us!! HELLO! This is bad! hello?”
Enter the man in a white lab coat. “On a scale of one to ten, one being not at all and ten being the worst, how would you describe your stress level at this news, Mr. Eckhart?”
“Well, I mean it can’t be good tracking our every movement. So 10 I suppose. Because I can’t shut it off – it’s embedded in the software!”
“So, do you often imagine somebody embedding a chip in you, Mr. Eckhart?”
“No, but this is just another step in the erosion of freedom of choice, don’t you see?”
“Tsk, tsk. Now Mr. Eckhart what would you say if I had something in my pocket that would make all these icky feelings go away?”
“It’s just a pill. A serene blue pill filled with re-uptake inhibitor’s. I call it Soma.”
And the next scene is Trevor Eckhart sitting in a box car with his one armed friend eating cocktail wieners from a can….
Sorry, that was so off topic. My point is what is the right answer here? So we now have these smart phones, which allows us knowledge at our fingertips. Knowledge = Power. (Just as an example I offer Egypt, but it could be shopping for the best price.) Right, so we have this vast knowledge base and it turns out someone is watching you. It’s true the ramifications of the act of tracking could be horrible OR it could just be the market trying to find trends. It is an interesting discovery Eckhart has brought to light and one we won’t know the ramifications of until it’s too late! mmmmwahahaHAHA! Enter the plot point...