O is for Obstinate and More


The Stubborn Mule by Hermann G. Simon

People who are obstinate can be real asses, can't they? I expect that characteristic will loom large in the beginning of the first book of the Cutting Edge mystery series. I have three people to define, two in an antagonistic hero and heroine relationship, that will eventually (who knows when?) turn into a romance, and one adolescent child between the two determined to get them matched up. All will exhibit unique forms of obstinance. Because the ways we're are stubborn are very personal, aren't they? And the reasons for obstinance are even more interesting. Some negative characteristics often cloaked by obstinance include:

  • Close-minded
  • Manipulative
  • Hostile
  • Anxious
  • Rebellious

But even more interesting are the positive aspects, which include:

  • Strong will
  • Resilience
  • Defense against peer pressure
  • Passion and vigor
  • Good work ethic
Just to name a few good qualities that all my mains will possess! And maybe a few of the negative. I'll have to pick a few for each so they don't overlap and sound like the same character. Or worse, the writer! Who me? Obstinate? That could never happen. 


N is for Narcissism

Narcissus by Caravaggio

I have read that narcissism is at epidemic levels in western culture, and I am not sure what that means exactly. We're a selfish society? Yeah, well, who can argue with that?

From Wikipedia:

Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterized as having an excessive interest in one's physical appearance and an excessive pre-occupation with one's own needs, often at the expense of others.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Being overly boastful, exaggerating one’s own achievements
  • Pretending to be superior to others
  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Looking down on others as inferior
  • Monopolizing conversations
  • Impatient, angry, unhappy, depressed or has mood swings when criticized
  • Easily disappointed when expected importance is not given
  • Always craves for “the best” in everything
  • Has a very fragile self-esteem

I don't know about you, but that sounds like an antagonist waiting to happen! 

Note to self: Read this book. The Narcissism Epidemic


M is for Murder and Mystery

Dial M for Murder by Alfred Hitchcock

It has to be for murder, of course. It's a Cutting Edge Mystery. What will make this set of stories a little different is that all the murders will involve blades of some sort. Knives, swords, and even box cutters. And don't forget straight razors. Henry Bell, my hero, is an expert blade master. He might be a suspect in any of the murders, but not for long. He usually is sought out as the civilian expert and becomes part of the police team.

So, let's think about murders and where they might happen. It's early days here, and I have only started brainstorming the first book's murder.

Most obvious, since Henry is a knife sharpener with restaurant clients, is a chef's knife that is used for a murder... with Henry's fingerprints on it. They would be easily explained and, of course, he'll have an alibi. Probably the antagonistic heroine. I have to find ways for them to keep running into each other.

Another idea: because he helps choreograph theater fight scenes, a sword could become a murder weapon in that setting. No clue why, but actor egos seem logical. Maybe even some competition around the heroine?

He participates in knife throwing contests and also teaches knife throwing. Those settings are competitive and involve people of a certain mindset, and I'm not talking warm and fuzzy crafters. Definitely murder potential!

Shears. He sharpens those too. Murder at a hair styling salon? It could happen. Those scissors are pointy and very sharp. There is a lot of pressure on business folks in the early days of the pandemic, and hair salons were shut down. Death by stress? It could happen.

Garden tools, farm equipment, and even power tools like drill bits can all be used to maim and murder. I don't even like thinking about those possibilities. Ew.

And the classic throat slitter, er, I mean, straight razor, a time-honored way to end a life quickly. Double ew. 

I don't have a straight razor, and I definitely need to buy one for research purposes. Those things aren't cheap though, if you buy a quality one. Wow, even the used ones are pricey. A European brand-name vintage razor in good condition on eBay will cost you $50-$100 easy. 

L is for Laundry

 ... and for laundromats. I haven't used one in forever, and probably take my washer, dryer, and clothesline too much for granted. But someone who travels in a home on wheels, would have to scope out laundry facilities everywhere they park, right?

I am guessing most aren't nearly this fancy, especially in small towns. 

How do they even work nowadays? Does one still use cash? How much per load? Do campsites have laundry facilities? I'm guessing probably so, but don't know for sure.

And think about personal behaviors, when cleaning clothes becomes an event that has to be planned. You wear your clothes more than once, right? Or you wash by hand. But you can't necessarily do this sort of thing wherever you happen to be parked:

No, indeed. You'd have to figure out a way to dry handwashed clothes inside your rig. The bathroom would be logical, but they are tiny in travel vans. Of course, there are other options too. You could park at a friend's house and catch up on laundry there. Here are some other options in an article about van life.

Now keep in mind that my main character has a child. That changes the paradigm a little, too, doesn't it? Because children are not naturally clean, and most kids love to play.

Photo credit: HuffPost

We might get a glimpse of Grumpy Dad every now and again.

K is for Kissing

It's something I love to do in real life and something I love to write about in romance stories. 

But in a novel that begins during a pandemic when everyone is cautioned to wear masks and social distance, kissing is going to present quite the challenge, isn't it?

Even more interesting, characters will have to smile with their eyes, if they smile at all. They will wonder what's under that mask. Nice teeth? Dimples? What kind of a chin? Lush kissable lips? Will they be pleased? Disappointed?

So that leads to research about a new kind of smile - the Duchenne smile. How would I describe this in my story? Smize like you mean it! I do believe I'll use that expression.

I suspect the romance (enemies to friends to romance) is going to be a slow burn in this series. A very, very slow burn. It already feels like a modern-day Regency romance, where characters didn't touch hands, much less lips. 


J is for Jousting

Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horseriders wielding lances with blunted tips, often as part of a tournament

And I can tell you in no uncertain terms that my protagonist, Henry Bell, will not be doing this. For one, he doesn't know the first thing about horses. He does, however, know a lot about swords, and about the choreography of sword fights. You will see him staging realistic fights with this kind of knowledge:

So enough of that. How about jealousy? Will we have some of that between the current enemies who will eventually become friends and even lovers? Probably more of that feeling as the story progresses, than any real romance. Poor Henry is so tormented the first half of the book. He is attracted and repelled by Fae Donovan. Who? Oh, MY, the heroine has a name now! Fae owns Faerie Creations, and though she doesn't really look like fae herself, just the connection reminds Henry of his first wife. Thus, the repulsion. So why should he care if other men are attracted to Fae? Why should he feel deep and aggravating jealousy?

Because, well... is lust every reasonable? No. Is love? No again. 

I is for Internet and Income

The Cutting Edge mystery series begins at the start of the COVID pandemic. So many things were instantly impacted, including travel and how businesses operated. Can you imagine what is was like for a traveling business, not knowing how your usual venues were impacted? Theaters closed. Stores closed. Restaurants closed or had limited hours.  And how to find more work? I think we all realized how dependent we were on the internet. Certainly my book characters did.

So that begs the question: how do RVers access internet? Do they have equipment on their rigs? What's a hotspot? Or do they rely on their smartphones? Because you can bet that everyone was tapped into some form of virtual communication. Must research this some more.

Income: another problem from the onset. Traveling creatives, of course, know how to adapt and find new venues. My heroine, a costumer maker, jumped on the custom mask bandwagon right off. The hero? It was spring, so rather than travel to restaurants to sharpen knives, he made contact with farmers needing equipment sharpened for spring planting. Those are just a few ideas.

That made me wonder how banking would work for people on the road all the time. Online banking, but what about carrying cash? How would you hide money on a rig?

And those stimulus checks. No problem, I guess, with federal payouts, but what about state support? Do travelers register somewhere so they have a home base? Would they qualify for some sort of state unemployment?

Please leave me a comment if you know the answer to any of these questions!

H is for Happy or Not



True confession: I could write about the unnamed heroine's hair all day long.

But I won't. There is a theme that has to play into this story for various reasons. 


Because Henry Bell and his daughter travel, by necessity she can't exactly be enrolled in any school. Which, of course, sends up all kinds of red flags with local authorities.

As well, we have a dark-haired father with a very light-skinned, blonde daughter. The dissimilarity in appearance sends up red flags too. 

The blonde heroine who is the eventual love interest might have a card to play if there is some nefarious reason the child becomes a legal pawn. Do you see where I'm going with this?

So back to homeschooling on the road. Turns out the proper term is roadschooling. More information here.

I have a lot of research to do yet. I haven't even started to hatch a plot yet!

G is for Gypsy

Modern Day Gypsies

I am having a tough time with the Gypsy theme. The more I dig, the harder it gets. Let's start with the meaning of the word.

Henry Bell, an American, clearly fits into the second category. But from the beginning, I felt he had gypsy blood too. Which required a lot more research that is very complicated. 

The Romani, Gypsy, Traveller labels are much less confusing in the United Kingdom. Once I started researching the immigrant situations of those people into America, things got a little dicey. 

There are more than ten separate sects of gypsies in the U.S., but Henry Bell is likely a Scottish Traveller, given his trade as tinker and knife-maker. The Gypsy Lore Society - Gypsy and Traveler Culture in America

His pattern of travel definitely ties into what is described in this article: Gypsy Americans - History, Immigration waves to the united states, Settlement patterns (

A bit more information at Wikipedia

Which brings me to WHY I am doing all this research. Does it have to be this complicated? Do I really NEED to know his family background? Maybe. Especially if he has siblings that will be introduced. Also, there is storytelling and music pattern, that not only defines his personality, but connects him to the heroine who I am sure is Irish. So, yeah, that Gaelic connection is strong. Maybe even some prejudice against gypsies? Not sure about this.

But I feel ethnic history thrums through our blood. It's part of what defines us. It looks us in the face in a mirror. Curly hair. Dark skin. The need to wander. The thrill of pounding metal. The ATTITUDE!

More pictures of Henry Bell compliments of the author, Marcus Sakey. Remember that this story starts in the early days of the pandemic, so masks. What will the heroine feel when we uncover the cleft chin? 

Here's a curious twist. Sakey's first book is called The Blade Itself. I had no clue when I first saw his photo and decided my book character looked just like that.  I guess that kind of connection is appropriate for a Cutting Edge Mystery.



F is for Eff

Let's skip the effing swear words in the Cutting Edge book. I have a child in this one, and a parent who is sensitive to young ears and what they should hear. Swearing has its place in any piece of writing, but it doesn't fit these characters. At least not yet.

Photo credit:

But what about some other F-word prompts to help me understand these people?

Fear: That's always a big motivator, especially for parents. Henry Bell has a young daughter, and because they are constantly on the road and often in strange places, he keeps a wary eye on the girl. There are definite rules to follow, and he is very cautious about who takes care of her when he is gone. In fact, a certain level of trust with the heroine helps their romance develop. I really need to name this child. 

Fury: What would really set Henry off? Something unfair? Something cruel? I have to think about this. Henry strikes me as a man who might become irritated, but I don't see him as someone who would lose his temper easily. Yet we all are capable of fury, aren't we? Must ponder this some more.

Frustration: Right off, I think the circumstances would frustrate him because the pandemic put the kibosh on so many creative work environments. Same for the heroine. They rely largely on events like farmers markets, art fairs, Renfests, and other such gathers. As well, Henry has a lot of gigs sharpening knives for restaurants, which were largely closed early in the pandemic. The heroine is a costumer and most theaters had to close. So, everyone in their immediate circle had the frustration of trying to find work. 

Fun: The characters have lots of friends with whom they cross paths, even if it's just meeting at campgrounds. Despite social distancing, they can share food over campfires and grills, and it's a common thing for someone to pull out an instrument in the evening and start playing. Dancing is also part of the fun. I might have to add some outdoor games, like horseshoes. What other games are there that would be easy to transport? 

Friends: Lots of friends via travel and related work. Henry Bell is much-loved and respected. Have I mentioned his best buddies call him Tink? Short for Tinker Bell. Get it? Ha ha. 

Family: I don't have a sense of family at all. Henry might have a sister, but parents? Nothing strikes me. Yet his daughter might wonder about her grandparents, right? 

I must name that child. I already have a scene in which she wants a nickname and Henry teases her with ideas like this: Liberty Bell? Blue Bell? School Bell? Door Bell? Cow Bell? 

She needs a real and pretty name. I have until the letter N for Naming to figure this out. Any ideas?

E is for Eyes A-Z Blogging Challenge

The eyes are the window to your soul. ~ William Shakespeare

The eyes shout what the lips fear to say. ~ William Henry

The soul that can speak through the eyes, can also kiss with a gaze. ~ Gustav Adolpho Becquer

Eyes are always important characteristics and I like to describe them in my writing. Color is very important to me. It drove me absolutely insane that the Outlander heroine had whisky-colored eyes in the books, but the actress who played the role on Starz had lovely blue eyes. 

In the Cutting Edge stories, the eyes play an unusually significant role. The book begins at the start of the COVID pandemic when everyone is wearing masks. No smiles. No frowns. Just voices. And eyes. So much communication has to happen through visual contact.

And in an enemies-to-friends scenario? Oh, yeah, miscommunication could get very interesting. 

The eyes have it, right? 


The actual quote is "the ayes have it". Raise your hand and say aye if you knew that.


D is for Dagger

Henry Bell isn't just a tinker who travels around the country sharpening knives and other tools. He MAKES knives when he can find a forge to use.

Here's a blog post that explains how to do it. 

He also choreographs sword fights for theater groups and RenFest participants.

Photo credit:

And he's a knife thrower. He met his wife working for a carnival, and still goes to national meets and competitions to teach and participate in knife-throwing. Probably nothing THIS dramatic though, but you get the idea.

This is a part of the character that is totally me. I love knives, I collect them, and, yes, I throw them. But only at inanimate targets. I'd be embarrassed to admit how many knives I own. So, I won't mention it. 

This is actually a fairly inexpensive hobby. You can get a set of beginner throwing knives like this for about $20.

Does your character have any weird passions or hobbies? You have to admit, Henry Bell is an unusual guy.