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Wednesday, December 30, 2020


Michele's File System
Michele Drier spent more than twenty years as a reporter and editor at California daily newspapers. She writes two traditional mysteries a paranormal romance series, and a stand-alone medical thriller. Learn more about her and her books at her website 

A Collector…Or A Hoarder?

My daughter keeps threatening to call the show Hoarders about me.


I keep telling her it’s not hoarding if they’re books.


There is one aspect of my “collecting” though that I have to ‘fess up to as hoarding—the collecting and squirreling away of small, interesting, possibly offbeat facts and pieces of information. 


Most of these are on pieces of paper that get stored somewhere in my “office,” a third bedroom. I go through sticky notes, push pins, staples and manila folders to keep my collections somewhat sorted. Until I get rushed and just stick the piece of paper into a cubbyhole.


It usually takes me a bit to locate the note I want, but I was able to find the short article about a discovery of 60,000 pieces of medieval stained glass in the attics of Westminster Cathedral. This was the springboard for the plot of my latest book, Tapestry of Tears


The fires at Notre Dame and Nantes cathedrals are the catalysts for the third Stained Glass Mystery, Resurrection of the Roses. I only have about 5,000 words, and I’ve bookmarked stories on these.


But it’s not just things I’ve read that get stuck away. One of my doctors told me about some anti-Russian literature being dropped over Estonia. I came home and jotted maybe five key words on a sticky note, added it to a short Reuters story I saw about a South Korean sending notes over the border to North Korea by balloon and now it’s a subplot in the eleventh book of the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, SNAP: Pandemic Games


Probably because I spent years in the newspaper business, I tend to weave current events into my stories. My books have had pedophile priests, Nazi art thieves, the Russian incursion into Crimea, medical research gone awry and international sex trafficking as background. 


I learned my filing system while a reporter with the San Jose Mercury News. Those were the days when everything was on paper and I had a big “spike”, a long, sharp metal rod where I stored stuff that I needed to refer to. Everything else was on the “waterfall” filing system—pile up a stack of paper until it fell over on the floor. Things that fell on the floor got tossed.


2020 has been such an odd, out-of-sorts year that even my rudimentary echolocation filing system got out of hand. I was the co-chair for Bouchercon 2020, the oldest and largest convention of mystery fans and authors in the world. I spend five years planning for this to take place in October, then in March the world fell apart. Piles of paper with room layouts cross-referenced with panel descriptions, moderators and panelists were useless. Seating charts for the gala Anthony awards dinner didn’t matter. I regrouped and we ended up with more than 800 attendees at a Virtual Bouchercon, two days of interviews and panels that debuted to rave reviews and included a short article in Publisher’s Weekly.


But come November 1, I had more piles of paper.


It will soon be a new year and a goal I’ve set myself is to coax my granddaughter into helping me sift through the stacks in my office so that I have a chance to get to the closet. Which is stuffed full of Christmas wrapping paper and posters from travels.


Somewhere in all of that, I have a poster of a Wayne Thiebaud print made in celebration of the California Arts Council’s Tenth Anniversary…back in the mid-1980s.


I’d like to find that.


Tapestry of Tears

A Stained Glass Mystery, Book 2


History had always been a strong magnet for Rosalind Duke.


She took up the medieval craft of making stained glass and was building a solid international reputation, taking on larger and larger commissions. Her idyllic life with her husband, Winston Duke, an art historian at UCLA, was cut short when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.


After moving to a small town on the Oregon coast, she’s offered a commission to translate the medieval embroidery, The Bayeux Tapestry, into stained glass for a museum at a small Wisconsin university. Roz jumps at the chance. Not only to try to transfer the Tapestry into a new medium, but to spend time in Southern England and Northern France, tracing the path taken by the invading Normans under William the Conqueror.


But the 21st century drags her back when she finds a body crumpled against a wall in an ancient stone church in the small town of Lympne, on the southern coast of England. Has she walked into a contemporary murder?


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Michele Drier said...

Thanks so much for hosting me, Lois! My "collecting" buried me in shame yesterday when my internet went out and I had to have an ATT tech come in and spend two hours in my mess. I know where the first hours (days?) of 2021 will be spent!


Not leaving it to spring cleaning, huh, Michele? ;-)

Elaine Faber said...

I think a file cabinet could be helpful to hold all those articles you are hanging onto. A cleaner desk is an incentive to park your behind in the chair and write. Though, from your many published books, it doesn't seem that it's necessary for you. Loving Tapestry of Tears... reading now.

Michele Drier said...

Thanks. Elaine! I’ve been thinking the same.

Michele Drier said...

I don’t dare!

Danna said...

Isn't that why God invented micro-fiche"? LOL! Testimony to why your books are always chock full of interesting tidbits and history. Proof that you do your homework! Not hoarding, more like "honing" your craft. Besides, Einstein said a messy desk is the sign of a genius!

Cynthia Sample said...

I'm halfway through Tapestry of Tears and was wondering how much of the plot was based on fact. It's a fast-paced read with a lot of interesting information thrown in. Plus now I want to go back to England. As to filing, I ran out of room and have switched to all digital newspapers (at least 6 subscriptions). When I find something of interest I just email the link to myself. So if my laptop goes out, those emails are floating around somewhere!

Lourdes Venard said...

I have a scanner app on my iPhone, so I can scan any pieces of paper I want and email them to myself. Then I always have a digital copy -- although it's not always easy to find the digital copy because I have so many folders and subfolders on my computer. But at least my physical desk looks tidy!

Cherie O'Boyle said...

Fun post! Around here we call it A Paper Purge. Every little tidbit gets jotted into a notebook, added to tthe WIP, or tossed. Or paid with apologies if it tturns out to be an overdue bill lost in the tornado of trash.

judyalter said...

Thanks for making me look organized! I suffer from Lourdes' problem--save things on my computer but can never remember where I saved them. My desk is literally awash in sticky notes, including one on the street price of cocaine which made my daughter raise her eyebrows at me.

Happy New Year!

Paula Bernstein said...

I think each of us just has to do what works. I'm the opposite of a hoarder. My husband fondly refers to me as "the terminator." I can't work on a messy desk and am constantly going through papers to file them or throw them out. When I work on a new novel, I have a file folder for all the bits and pieces I come across that I think I might need to use. Anything in my closet that I haven't worn in three years gets donated. He still has stuff from graduate school.
I'm not counting this year. Who among us wore anything but pajamas, jeans and yoga pants?
The time to organize is when not being organized interferes with your creativity.

Michele Drier said...

Boy, I love you Danna, Cindy, Lourdes, Judy, Cherie and Paula...not one of you seconded my daughter's call to to Hoarders!
Love your cocaine note, Judy!
And overdue bills, Cherie!
Cindy, all the places are real as is the discovery of the hoard of medieval glass at Westminster. The rest, comme si, comme ca.

For those of you who save things in a digital format, well I have about 25,000 emails as well and finally took some time and went through my bookmarked sites. Eliminated about 250, including one that featured a carved head that was a capital on a pillar in some Gothic cathedral but now I don't know where!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I had to laugh, reading about your filing system. I've never had the spike, but I sure have sticky notes on every available surface on my desk. I am looking forward to Tapestry of Tears, although it will have to wait for a bit due to a projec going on in our lives right now. From reading the blurb, it sounds GREAT!

mysteryfictionfan said...

Michele -- I loved this post, and thank you Anastasia Pollack for this blog. I recently moved and had to deal with a lot of boxes of paper. My process distilled to the following method. I'd quickly riffle through a handful and toss the entire handful unless I saw a compelling item. The next handful I'd page through more carefully. Usually, I'd toss more than half of that handful.

As Paula says, we each find an individual way that works for him/her. Even quick notes can remind me of why I saved the information. Yes, it's how I keep story ideas, but usually it's the writing of the note that logs something in my memory. Luckily, with the Internet, I can cast about for the original or even better leads.

Now, going through my grown children's school papers and such was nostalgic, but I finally said goodbye to that heap. I'm stuck on what to do with my late mother's papers, though. Those are in a "project" box!

Michele Drier said...

Thanks, Mitty, I know you just went through a winnowing process downsizing to a new home! And yes Mysteryfictionfan, when my sister, also a retired teacher read this she had to call! She’s trying to find space in her house...and her girls are grown and gone,

Ana Manwaring said...

Michele, I've spent the last week going through and cleaning files, cubbies, more files, drawers, boxes, baskets, more files, under the couch, the bed, the coffee table, the sinks, in the cabinets, in bags, in the shower, in the crawl space, in books and bookcases, — even in my SINC treasury box! I've managed to eliminate 1 shopping bag of outdated catalogs, 4 dried up pens, two dead erasers, some twist ties and several unidentifiable objects. What is it with hanging onto paper? And now my desk is so clean, I can't find anything. Good post! Can't wait to read the book. Happy New Year!