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Blog: Rae Looks Again

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Bill Cameron, mystery writer

Bill Cameron will be a presenter at Southwest Washington Writers Conference at the Walton Science Center in Centralia, Washington on September 10 and 11 of 2021.

If you get a chance, you should hike up there and meet him. He thinks deeply about what he’s doing, and then he writes a mystery that keeps you reading. Bill Cameron has won many well-deserved awards for his writing.

Woody and I met Bill Cameron while I was hosting a writers’ salon at the Heathman Hotel. He had just written Lost Dog, his first mystery novel. I had just read it and was delighted to find that my local park’s playground (his setting for a body-find) was a lot scarier than I ever imagined. Woody read Lost Dog, too, and has read every mystery of Bill’s since.

Not too many years later, Bill came to the rescue of a writers’ conference by filling in for the guest speaker who had become ill. Bill’s talk about character creation was a home run, which is why he since has been a speaker at many writing conferences.

Down a couple of years and Bill and I began meeting to share stories, then worked together for several years, teaching an after-school writing club at a local middle school.

We both like middle school students for many reasons. They push your buttons to see what you might do, they still want the world to be just, they want to understand villains and good guys, and they have fresh ideas about what makes a good story.

And the students loved it when we put out an anthology of their stories, and helped them learn to read aloud more dramatically, present their stories to others, and enjoy the accolades of their fellow writers and their families.

Each year, we had these events at 60th and Division, the Rain or Shine Coffee House, the same coffee shop where Bill and I met to critique each other. We all had a great time.

Thank you staff at Rain or Shine, and to Theresa Snyder at the print shop at Mount Hood Community College. You both were patient and fun. And thank you to our students. We really enjoyed our time with you.

Meanwhile, both of us were working on the next novel, and the next mystery. Bill came out with more stories featuring Detective Skin Kadish. His novel, Chasing Smoke became a huge hit.

And then, he wrote another winner. One afternoon at the coffee shop, Bill’s phone kept chiming. Each chime was a report to him of another sale of his hot novel, Day One.

And then came the torrent of emails. “Why did you kill him?” A beloved character had died and all of Bill’s fans were ticked off.

Does that tell you how well he writes?

And among his presentations at the Southwest Washington Writer’s Conference will be a talk on creating characters.

Another presentation covers what you hope to learn about world creation, which, as Bill says, is for all fiction, not just science fiction and fantasy.

So, I urge you, get your thumb out and hitch-hike to this very affordable event.

And go look for Chasing Smoke, County Line, Day One, Property of the State. His newest novel, Crossroad, gives us a new detective.

When Bill and his wife, Jill, moved to the Eugene area, Woody and I were saddened, but we keep track of his work, and we read his online tales of The Adventures of Bill as the Cat Valet. We look for his stories, and hope that cat allows him time to work.

Go to to see all of his works, including short stories that are also stunning

There’s a new novel coming out soon. We can all look forward to that.

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

When asked to find musicians for the intermission of a writers salon at Portland's Heathman Hotel, I said, "Yes." And the next thing I knew, I also became the host of the monthly event. During the next five years, I met some very wonderful writers as well as musicians. In my blog, I share what I learned about writing, music and the art of helping folks enjoy each others' gifts.

One of the first writers I had the fun of introducing at the Second Sunday Salon was Molly Gloss, author of Jump Off Creek and more recently of Unforeseen, a delightful short story collection.

I invited Molly to be our guest speaker soon after the publication of Jump Off Creek, which was selling fast and garnering acclaim.

A few years after this Salon event, I became a program planner for a writer’s organization and invited Molly Gloss to give a weekend workshop. She talked then about planning a novel, and how important it becomes to know the space in which your novel takes place.

During the weekend, we learned that Molly was planning what became the beautiful generational space odyssey, The Dazzle of Day. Her planning of the spaceship revealed a matter of life and death for her characters, and her description of that space is one I still remember many years after reading the resulting novel.

I recently bought a copy of The Dazzle of Day to send to a botanist I have met, because I was certain he would love the extraordinary care that plants inside the spaceship received, even as the people became stir crazy.

When I could do so, I signed up for a class with Molly Gloss at Portland State University, and found great inspiration from her insights into language, the process of research, and the workings of the self-protective human heart.

At the time of her class, Molly Gloss researched her book Wild Life, about a mother of five boys who joins a search party for a lost child and is herself rescued by semi-humans in the northwest woods. The next spring or summer after the class, Molly planned to live in a cabin under the flight pattern for migrating birds – a bit of research for Wild Life.

Since Jump Off Creek, The Dazzle of Day, and Wild Life, Molly has written Outside the Gates, introducing us to Vren, a boy put out of a city controlled by committee. He is shunned to the monsters outside the gate because he asks questions. Outside, Vren discovers another society, a community completely unlike the one that cast him to the ‘monsters’.

There followed The Hearts of Horses, a novel exploring the western life of a woman who trains ranching horses, and Falling From Horses, delving into the imaginary depictions of western-life, and the hard scrabble life of early Hollywood writers and stunt riders.

And now, Unforeseen has finally arrived. Unforeseen celebrates fourteen of Molly's imaginative tales including her best-known story, “Lambing Season”.

I learned from Molly that it is the human interactions that create the story within any place the humans find themselves. We can be in a spaceship or on a Hollywood set, yet the questions the readers want answered are still "What unspoken fears and hopes do our characters have that prevent them from realizing their goals? What personalities and physical obstacles create opportunity or destruction?"

For each character, Molly Gloss made the answer to these questions clear in the accumulation of events in her stories and novels. The Grizzly Bear in Jump off Creek is a benign but very dangerous obstacle. However, the fears and angers of the Osgood kid are malevolent and therefore, even more dangerous.

Thanks to Molly's writing we can be assured that women do not need to be beautiful for us to care about their struggles. Men do not need to be hunks. All need to have fears and weaknesses we recognize in ourselves. When their life goals are human their struggle seems to be our struggle. Our opportunity to read their story gives us perspective on our own character.

Molly taught that the Author needs to raise questions to which Reader wants answers. An author needs to take the time to show the purpose of the character so that the reader cares.

And, as we follow Molly's career, we can see that the author doesn’t have to stick with one genre. Life may be easier if you are always doing the expected, but how boring to always do the expected.

Instead, figure out what your goals are as an author. Will you want to open a mystery store that your readers can always find, and sell lots of mysteries? Or will you want to open a mystery store on one corner and a science fiction store on the block down the road and a suspense store in the next town? How do you want to spend your writing life and how do you want to measure success for you?

Post Script: When you look for Molly Gloss's books, understand that they come with different covers. For example, the cover I have copied here for The Dazzle of Day is for the Hardback version. The ebook/paperback has a completely different design in green and white that also is also indicative of the beauty of the tale.


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