Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

What Writers Can Learn from Tolstoy’s Novellas

Lev_Nikolayevich_Tolstoy_1848I’m shocked when I read lists of favourite novels and see that most, and sometimes all, are American. There may be a leavening of British authors too; that’s something. Still, I think, haven’t you read the Russians or the Germans? You really think Toni Morrison or Jonathan Safran-Foer are better than Tolstoy or Musil? Anglo-Saxon culture is lamentably insular, and American culture is not merely insular but downright provincial these days. The greatest weakness of the writing done by creative writing students—graduates as well as undergraduates—is that it’s so rarely informed by wide reading. And however unfashionable it may be, my remedy is to send them to the canon. Not “back to the canon”, sadly, because most of them aren’t familiar with it in the first place. And you can’t do better than start with a Dead White Male who was also (oh, unpardonable elitism!) an aristocrat, Count Leo Tolstoy. (Continue reading)

Peter Pollak

PETER POLLAK

The Expendable Man (2011)

Making the Grade (2012)

Last Stop on Desolation Ridge (2012)

In the Game (2014)

House Divided (2015)

What Rachmaninoff Can Teach Us About Writing

Tamsin Silver, writing for the Magical Words blog, asked recently whether too many books on writing, too many classes and too many rules can interfere with one’s creative instinct. Clearly that’s a danger, a trap to avoid. Her post also got me thinking how Rachmaninoff might have gone about composing his third piano concerto and whether that sheds any light on Silver’s question.

Writers who seek to improve their skills are naturally drawn to books, classes, workshops, critique groups, etc. While all of the above can be beneficial, it’s also possible to drown in the deluge of available resources, many of which promise to reveal the secrets of a successful writing career––i.e., one that pays the bills and the occasional vacation. By drowning I mean being unable to move forward because of conflicting advice or a fear one is not doing it the way a teacher, author or critic recommended. Following a rule rather than one’s instinct can lead to dead-ends and writer’s block.

(Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

MurielSpark8/20/16  READING MY WAY THROUGH MURIEL SPARK   On Goodreads I posted the question, “Who writes like Barbara Pym, one of my favorite authors?” A friend replied that I should try Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensington. There began my reading of Spark, an author who had escaped me, though she was twice short-listed for the Booker Prize and in 2008 included by The Times as among Britain’s top 50 writers since 1945. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

8-17-2016. A Course in Decision-Making.

Writing is full of decisions. Did a writer make the best choice of words, plot points, structure, characterization? Recently, a writer friend asked me and other writers to respond to the questions below. How would you respond?

  1. Question: At what point is too late to introduce a new character? An editor who looked at her book before said everyone needed to be introduced somehow before the sixth or seventh chapter. But when she tried to do that, it seemed cluttered and disorganized. She has read many books, great books, where characters come in much later. Is there a rule about this?.

My response:  If you were writing a travel adventure, some of your characters would have to be introduced as you traveled, I would think, even as late as several chapters before the end. If you were writing a mystery, readers would cry “foul!” if you introduced a character and possible suspect late in the novel.  Rules are broken every day and that works when they are done skillfully by a writer who knows why there is a rule and has found a way or reason to circumvent it without raising eyebrows.

  1. Question: When you are re-writing, what is your most effective process? Re-write the entire thing at once? Do small sections at a time? Do you remake your plot/grid and create a tactical plan for the re-write, or just dive in and chew away at it? What is the best way?

My response:  I write and rewrite as I go along. Once I have the entire novel written, then I can go back and expand, touch up, redirect, cut, etc. etc. because I know where the novel is going and have a better sense of the characters–what I want them to be like, feel, and do.

5) At what point do you feel like you can comfortably walk away and say a book is “done” – that yes, maybe you could improve it, but you are happy with it as-is, and ready to move on to something else?

My response: It is truly scary to put your book out there to endure the “slings and arrows” of the critics. Once you have a completed polished novel that you feel is the best it’s going to get right now and you have two or three other novelists (not family but people from your critique group) read it and give you positive feedback and it has been copy-edited and proofread, then I say go for it. Then see what readers and reviewers say. It may not be perfect, but then most things rarely are. I would hope the book I write tomorrow will be better than the one I write today. I recommend a book called Rotten Reviews and Rejections, edited by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernard. The editors include devastating critical reviews of many books now considered  classics. Examples:

On John Milton:  “His fame is gone out like a candle in a snuff and his memory will always stink.” – William Winstanley, Diary,  1687

On Herman Melville’s Moby Dick: “…a huge dose of hyperbolical slang, maudlin sentimentalism and tragic-comic bubble and squeak.” – William Harrison Ainsworth, New Monthly Magazine.

On Rudyard Kipling:  “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” – San Francisco Examiner rejection letter.

On Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary:  “Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer.” – Le Figaro.

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

8/10/2016. INTERVIEW WITH PATRICIA SCHULTHEIS, AUTHOR OF ST. BART’S WAY

One of Patricia Schultheis’s greatest strengths as a writer is her abilityPatricia Schultheis to examine relationships between people. She’s also very good at exploring relationships people have with expectations, rules, traditions, and other conventions of life. In her short story collection St. Bart’s Way, which I reviewed here last month, she offers a host of individuals, all trying to understand life and their role in it, particularly as it relates to others. In the interview below, Schultheis talks about how she creates these characters and how they come to inhabit her stories.

Schultheis’s other publications include her pictorial history Baltimore’s Lexington Market and numerous short stories and essays in national and international literary journals. (Continue reading)

Janet Willen

JANET WILLEN

Author of Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery and Five Thousand Years of Slavery

8/7/16 — Goodies from My Book Groups

A friend of mine was in four book groups for many years. She couldn’t help herself. Whenever she heard about one, she thought she’d give it a try and quickly found herself hooked.

I’m now in three book groups, so I understand. One is with friends, another is at synagogue, and the third is at a home for seniors. Each group has its own personality, and I wonder how I ever managed with only one.

Without these groups, I’d have missed many a good read and discussion. They introduced me to Harriet Scott Chessman, Howard Norman, and so many more. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

08-04-16 IF YOU COULD OWN JUST ONE BOOKLibrary on Desert Island

The other day I left my computer in the middle of a writing project to look something up. I actually left my chair, pulled a book from grad school from my bookcase, scanned the index, and turned to a page that suddenly looked familiar, marked up with notes I had left like breadcrumbs. I hadn’t done anything like that in years.
(Continue reading)

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

The Buried Giant: Ishiguro’s Masterpiece?

Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro. Source: Getty Images

 Good art, Tolstoy said, is of two kinds: either religious or “universal”, which he defines as conveying “the simplest feelings of life, such as are accessible to everyone in the world.” I quibble with his use of the term “religious”, although I would accept the broader “spiritual.” About the universal, it’s hard to disagree. The question I ponder here is whether a novel set in Dark Ages Britain, with elements of fantasy including ogres, a dragon, a knight of the Round Table, and a constant mist that causes amnesia, could possibly fall into that category. (Continue reading)

Peter Pollak

PETER POLLAK

The Expendable Man (2011)

Making the Grade (2012)

Last Stop on Desolation Ridge (2012)

In the Game (2014)

House Divided (2015)

If you read any self-publishing magazines or blogs, you’ll come across dozens of columns on how to build your brand, use the latest marketing techniques, and approach your writing as a business. Anyone who is a business person first and an author second will decide what to write about based on their analysis of what the market is looking for. They will plan their marketing campaign early in the process, and spend thousands on pre-release publicity, on an audio version, and on a marketing firm that promises to put their book on the shelves of bookstores and libraries.

(Continue reading)

JENNIFER YACOVISSI

Author of Up the Hill to Home

7/20/2016 — Musings: When Your Favorite Author Breaks Your Heart

I’m a frequent reviewer for both the daily Washington Independent Review of Books (WIRoB) and the quarterly Historical Novels Review of the Historical Novel Society (HNS). As an author and avid reader, I find that reviewing offers a host of benefits for me. Not only do I end up reading books outside my normal genre preferences, which is good for me as a writer, it also introduces me to wonderful debut authors about whom I then get to spread the good word. Completely selfishly, it’s also pretty cool to have, say, Viking or FSG quote me in a tweet to their vast legions of followers.

But the cherry on top of the pie is the chance to review my favorite authors’ latest books. I didn’t really consider this perq until just such an opportunity popped up late last year. My A-List of favorite authors is literal — all their first names happen to start with A: Annie Proulx, Alice McDermott, Ann Patchett, and Anthony Marra. When Marra’s second book, a collection of (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

7/17/2016 – Bloggers Take On Book Reviews

As usual, the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime served up an excellent program along with lunch at its monthly meeting this July. Presenters were Dru Ann Love of drusbookmusing.com and Kristopher Zgorski of BOLO Books talking about their blogs.

Dru Ann Love is owner/writer at dru’s book musings and at her daytime work as a market research analyst. Her blog is a bright spot among hundreds, it seems, that focus on cozy mysteries which she reviews and discusses. A New Yorker born and bred, Dru Ann is an blogcardsavid reader but she also writes poetry, quilts and loves attending mystery fan conventions with readers and authors. Her musings will appear in Crimespree Magazine and her name has appeared in several cozy titles.

As for her blog, most of her reviews are posted on Sunday and she will not post a negative review. She also invites authors of cozies to submit a guest blog to her “Day in the Life of. . .” (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

7/10/2016. BOOK REVIEW: ST. BART’S WAY BY PATRICIA SCHULTHEIS

When I was a little girl, I loved riding home from my grandparents’ house with my St. Bart's Way coverparents after dark. It was one of the few times I was in a car at night, and I was fascinated by the lights in the windows of the houses that lined the two-lane highway that led from my hometown to my grandparents’ farm. In my child’s understanding of the world, those lights suggested warmth, a refuge from the darkness our car was plowing through. St. Bart’s Way, a collection of short stories by Patricia Schultheis, is like looking at the lights inside those windows and seeing all the way into the residents’ souls. But what’s inside is not always refuge, and what refuge there is isn’t easily earned. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

7/7/2016 — A Sense of Place: What We Can Learn From Richard Russo

richard russoWhen I was in graduate school and working on an early version of my first novel, Hawke’s Point, my thesis advisor asked me if I’d read Richard Russo. I hadn’t, but when he said my writing reminded him of Russo’s, I rushed out to get everything I could lay my hands on. The advisor’s comment was reinforced when a reviewer of Hawke’s Point also cited a similarity to Russo. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

07/04/16 – MORE WORDS TO WRITE BY

A while back I shared some favorite quotations about writing, literature, and art that I’ve kept posted in my office for decades. I’ve printed and laminated these snippets whenever I find them since high school, and keep them taped to my desk drawers and file cabinets alongside a few pithy cartoons and family photos. Here I’ll share a few more favorites that have inspired, delighted, and consoled me over the years.

(Continue reading)

Betty May

BETTY MAY

Changing Corners – A Young Adult novel based on racism

7/1/2016 – GUEST BLOGGER BETTY MAY – WRITING ABOUT PRISON LIFE

The phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Is this Betty May?”

“Yes.”

“And you write and direct plays?”

“Yes.”

“Can you write a comedy about life in prison?”

In 2008 a group of women serving life sentences in a maximum-security prison wrote a play designed to warn teenagers and young adults about the consequences of poor choices. Their efforts were not well received; the young people were disinterested and bored. The women decided the indifferent response was due to the serious nature of the play: “Kids want funny.”

Thus the rather bizarre phone call. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

PREVIEW OF OUR JULY 1 GUEST BLOGGER, BETTY MAY–Betty May is a theatrical director, writer, and clown. For the past eight years Betty has worked with a group of Lifers at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. She went into the prison in response to a somewhat bizarre reqBETTY azaleas crop (2)uest: write a comedy about life in prison. While she continues with her writing and her work as a theatrical director, clown, and circus coach, she is totally committed to advocating for the women who have become her friends, and lobbying for progressive changes in our judicial and penal systems.

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

J.K. Rowling’s Magic Bookshop

 

Skylight in Lello's

Skylight in Lello’s

The most beautiful bookshop in the world is surely Lello e Irmão in Oporto. It is the bookshop J.K. Rowling used to visit when she was an English teacher in Portugal in the eighties (as I was), and the one whose spectacular staircase—a neo-Gothic carved extravaganza—inspired the one at Hogwarts. For this reason alone, perhaps sadly, it has become a site of pilgrimage for Potter fans (Continue reading)

Peter Pollak

PETER POLLAK

The Expendable Man (2011)

Making the Grade (2012)

Last Stop on Desolation Ridge (2012)

In the Game (2014)

House Divided (2015)

PGP977_face0If you asked me ten years ago what genre I’d be writing when I started writing novels, I would not have said thrillers. Yet from a dozen false starts, I picked a thriller for the first novel I tried to complete. That became The Expendable Man, which some still rate as my best story. And what is the genre of the story I’m working on today? You guessed it––a thriller.

Thrillers are one of the most competitive genres these days in terms of sales and numbers of books published––along with romances and mysteries. Why? What is it that attracts both writers and readers to this genre? I have some ideas. Let’s see if they make any sense.  (Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

6/20/16 A TASTE OF NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST AND NYT BESTSELLER BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK BY BEN FOUNTAIN

BILLYLYNN'SLONG2“His [2½ -year-old] body was all spring and torque, a bundle of fast-twitched muscles that exuded faint floral whiffs of ripe pear. So much perfection in such a compact little person—Billy had to tackle him from time to time, wrestle him squealing to the ground just to get that little rascal in his hands…”

19-year-old American soldier Billy Lynn, stateside from Iraq on a two-week promotional tour because his company—Bravo Squad—made the news for its heroism, is essentially prostituted for patriotism on Thanksgiving Day as part of the halftime show at a Dallas Cowboys football game. Tomorrow, Bravo will be re-deployed to Iraq.

(Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

6/17/2016 – HopeWorks: Healing Through Art

Michael Caine once chastised an actor who had delivered a particularly wooden performance by saying, “Acting is about emotions; why don’t you show some?”

Poetry is also about emotions. Last night I attended an outstanding poetry reading at the monthly meeting of the Howard County (MD) Chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Assn.  The poems read had appeared in the Dragonfly Arts Magazine, a publication of HopeWorks, Howard County’s sexual assault and domestic violence center. The poems are reflections on life, love, trauma and hope, and (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

6/10/2016. CAN A MOVIE BE AS GOOD AS THE BOOK?

I love movies almost as much as I love books. And, thanks to Netflix, I Brooklyn coverwatch as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, movies based on high-quality fiction rarely seem to achieve the richness of the original novels. Nevertheless, novels have become popular sources for movies. Of the eight movies nominated for the 2016 Best Picture Oscar, four were based on novels. Three of those offered stories that didn’t interest me, but I was eager to see Brooklyn. In my opinion, it was an all-right movie, but even though I haven’t read the novel, I kept thinking the novel surely offered so much more. The main character, Eilis Lacey, was appealing but not engaging. I wasn’t with her as closely as I wanted to be. I didn’t feel what she felt. (Continue reading)

Janet Willen

JANET WILLEN

Author of Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery and Five Thousand Years of Slavery

6/7/16 — A Cozy and Guilt-Free Escape

I owe a debt of gratitude to public TV because PBS made me a fan of cozy mysteries. I didn’t even know the term when I first met the writer Dorothy Sayers through Ian Carmichael’s portrayal of Peter Wimsey, the upper-crust dilettante who solved murder cases with wit and his trusted valet.

Some people restrict the term cozy mystery to stories that occur in small towns, like Miss Marple’s village of St. Mary Mead, but I think that’s too limiting. The distinction, I think, is what action takes place off the page or off the screen. Cozy mysteries are family entertainment; there’s no graphic violence, no graphic sex, and no reason to cover your eyes. The protagonists’ skills may thrill you as they use their calculating minds and cool instincts to identify the villains, but you’ll never mistake these books for thrillers. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

The boardinhouse where Julia Wolfe brought her young son, Thomas, Asheville, NC

The boardinghouse where Julia Wolfe brought her young son, Thomas, Asheville, NC

6/4/16 – YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN: VISITING WRITERS’ HOMES

Touring Thomas Wolfe’s childhood home in Asheville, NC recently, I saw, like many others before me, how his childhood translated into his novels. I also saw how growing up here had in many ways been perfect soil for a budding writer.

A kid separated from his siblings to grow up in a boardinghouse, share bedrooms with guests, and help his enterprising mama serve up stews would have plenty of material to ponder, and time to ponder it. Having a maverick but grief-stricken mother and the temper and passion of his father on hand didn’t hurt either. I wondered whether I might find equally conductive conditions in the childhood homes of other writers. (Continue reading)

GUEST BLOGGER CANDACE LEVY

GUEST BLOGGER CANDACE LEVY

Full-time freelance book editor, reviewer and journalist, and author of the blog Beth Fish Reads.

 

6-1-2016. READING WITH YOUR EARS: ALL ABOUT AUDIOBOOKS

Have you ever wished you had more time to read? If you’re like me, each week, when the new books are released, you vow to spend more time cuddled up on the couch, lost in a good story. For most of us, however, there aren’t enough quiet moments in the day to indulge. Say hello to audiobooks, your new BFFs.

Audiobooks allow you to capture all kinds of lost minutes: imagine reading at the same time you’re driving, exercising, cooking, and gardening. There is something magical about being read to that touches us deep inside, reviving memories of childhood bedtime stories and also linking us to our long-ago ancestors, who listened to tales told around the evening fire. (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

5/29/2016. BOOK EDITOR AND REVIEWER CANDACE LEVY IS GUEST BLOGGER ON JUNE 1

Do you enjoy listening to audiobooks or are you a hard line advocate of the printed word? I’m a devoted fan of both and usually have one of each going all the time. As guest blogger on June 1, Candace Levy will tell us why she loves audiobooks and why, if you’ve never listened to one, you really should give them a try.

Levy is a full-time freelance book editor whose clients include both major publishing firms and prominent independent presses. She is also a freelance book reviewer and journalist, covering books in a wide range of genres. When she’s not at her desk, you’ll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the Audio Publisher Association’s Audiobook Blogger of the year for 2016. To keep track of all her bookish adventures, follow her on Twitter (@BethFishReads) or visit her blog, Beth Fish Reads.

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

A New Path for Literary Fiction

 

We need a revolution, not just in politics, but in literature. It’s long been apparent that most fiction writers are stumbling blind down one of two dead-end streets—either trying to rewrite the nineteenth century novel, or else writing so-called ‘experimental’ fiction, usually based on postmodernist principles, often cleverly enough, but for me most of them are unreadable, because they’re little more than cerebral and linguistic games. Obviously I’m generalizing, and naturally there are exceptions. Still, I stand by my thesis: most current fiction, especially in America, and especially if we consider the literary stars, is neither engaging nor significant, and I want to consider why that is and what can be done about it. I think there is a way out of the impasse that fiction in English has got itself into. (Continue reading)

JENNIFER YACOVISSI

Author of Up the Hill to Home

In my last posting, I highlighted Foreword Reviews magazine and its mission to draw readers to the best of independent publishing. What is perhaps most remarkable in the world of indie publishing is the sheer number of presses operating more or less on a shoestring in an industry whose margins continue to shrink. Indie presses typically don’t make fortunes for their owners, so what makes those people keep at it?

Open Country coverIn a word, passion. Okay, perhaps two words, the other being dedication. Both are crucial to persevering in the best-seller-driven world ruled by publishing’s Big Five, but that big-press culture certainly leaves behind underserved readers and underrepresented writing voices, which is where indie presses shine.

Passion, dedication, and perseverance all describe Richard Peabody, the force behind Gargoyle, the Washington, D.C.-based literary magazine now in its 40th year (minus a seven-year hiatus in the 90s), and its publisher, Paycock Press. Peabody is justifiably known for his tireless support of those in the D.C. writing community, and Paycock publishes many local authors.

One such author is Jeff Richards, whose debut novel of connected Civil War stories, Open Country, celebrates its one-year anniversary of publication on May 21st. Several of the stories that appear in Open Country were originally published in various journals and magazines, one of which was Gargoyle. Paycock later published the full novel.

(Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

5/17/2016 – The Rogue Wave

Last night I watched the movie, Abandoned, about four men lost at sea for more than 100 days after a rogue wave wrecked their sailboat. When they were finally rescued, the media expressed intense skepticism. People didn’t believe their story until a close examination of the wrecked boat proved the sailors told the truth.

The movie brought back memories of living on a motorsailer called the Hardtack for three years back in the seventies. A motorsailer is a hybrid between a sailboat and a poweHardtackrboat. Our boat was a heavy, double-planked classic yacht designed by famed naval architect John Alden. The single mast was stepped to the full keel and 58 feet high. However, the boat also had a heavy-duty Caterpillar diesel engine.

The Hardtack was a comfortable, roomy boat for live-aboards with a large cockpit that served as a “playground” of sorts for our toddler daughter. It was also very forgiving, which saved our lives more than once.

One of the joys that came with that boat when we bought it was a library of nautical and nature books. However, these books included a pulse-stopping account of rogue waves and “ultimate storms.” I don’t remember the exact name of the book except that it was something like The Deadliest Wave, which gave me pause, I can tell you. We had many adventures on that boat, of varying degrees of terror. (Continue reading)

Michael J. Tucker

MICHAEL J. TUCKER

Author of  Aquarius Falling and Capricorn’s Collapse

Paint It Black, The Song, and The Novel

A Review of Paint It Blacka novel by Janet Fitch

220px-PaintitblackHappy Friday the 13th. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones release of their iconic song Paint It Black.” I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this anniversary than with a brief discussion of the song, and since Late Last Night Books is a literary blog, include a review of Janet Fitch’s 2006 best selling novel by the same name.

Astute readers will notice the album cover has a coma between “It” and “Black.” Grammarians among us will interrupt this to mean a man by the name of Black is being instructed to paint “It”…whatever “It” is. This must have been to the great consternation of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the songwriters, who properly did not include the comma in the song’s title. It’s also worth noting that the title phrase does not appear in the song. The lyric is “I see a red door and I want it painted black.”

(Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

5/10/2016. INTERVIEW WITH JAMES SCOTT, AUTHOR OF THE KEPT 

Only a brave author would create his debut novel with characters whoJames Scott are different from him in almost every way. James Scott, author of The Kept, took on that challenge and compounded it with a harsh setting and even harsher themes. But as I said in my review of The Kept last month, Scott gives his characters multi-dimensional personalities that shine against the turmoil of the story. I was eager to ask him how he combined those elements so well. He shares some of his thoughts on process and inspiration below.

Scott’s previous work has been short listed for the Pushcart Prize and nominated for the Best New American Voices. He’s received awards from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, the Millay Colony, the Saint Botolph Club, the Tin House Summer Writer’s Conference, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

5/7/16 — Novelists Still Intrigued by World War II

What is it about war that produces such compelling literature? And what is it about World War II, in particular, that continues to capture us like none other?

As long as there has been war—and that’s since the beginning of time—storytellers have been trying to capture the experience, first to preserve it for history (think epics like Homer’s Iliad) and then to try to make sense of it. They have tried to explore it as tragedy (Shakespeare’s Henry V), as philosophy (Tolstoy’s War and Peace), through psychology (Pat Barker’s Resurrection), as memoir (My War: Killing Time in Iraq by Colby Buzzell) and even as comedy (Joseph Heller’s Catch 22). But whatever the approach the aim has been the same: to describe what can’t be described, to find humanity in the midst of cruelty, to understand what can’t be understood. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

CUPIDITY Poster 413165/4/16 – WRITING ACROSS GENERATIONS

Nothing is quite so thrilling as seeing your writing come alive—except perhaps bringing it to life with the help of your own offspring. In my case, the thrill came from seeing a play I had abandoned decades ago reborn when my composer son offered to write music for it. By writing across generations, we created something far better than anything I could have imagined on my own. (Continue reading)

Carolyn Marie Wilkins

CAROLYN MARIE WILKINS

Author of Melody for Murder: A Bertie Bigelow Mystery; They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her; and Damn Near White: An African American Family’s Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success

5/1/16 — Bucking Convention – A Cozy Mystery on the South Side of Chicago

There’s something comforting about a world where truth and justice always prevail. In a modern society adrift in a sea of senseless violence, the cozy mystery format provides a welcome sense of moral certainty. By using time-honored conventions and well-worn tropes, the format affirms our deepest core values.  It might seem predictable, perhaps even boring to some readers.  But for me, a well-written cozy never fails to satisfy.

In a cozy mystery there is always an intrepid hero and there is always a murderous villain. Although crimes are committed, the messy details of the murder are kept in the background, and the story is told without gratuitous sex or violence.  All events unfold in a logical sequence and (surprise, surprise) the good guy wins in the end.

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Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

Carolyn_headshot4/29/16 – Carolyn Marie Wilkins Is Our May 1 Guest Blogger

Carolyn Marie Wilkins is the author of Melody for Murder: A Bertie Bigelow Mystery; They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her; Damn Near White: An African American Family’s Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success; and Tips For Singers: Performing, Auditioning, Rehearsing.

Wilkins, a Professor of Ensembles at Berklee College of Music, is also an accomplished jazz pianist, composer and vocalist. Her performance experience includes radio and television appearances with her group SpiritJazz, a concert tour of South America as a Jazz Ambassador for the US State Department, performances with the Pittsburgh Symphony as a percussionist under Andre Previn, and shows featuring Melba Moore, Nancy Wilson and the Fifth Dimension. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, where Melody for Murder is set, she now lives in Cambridge, MA.

Peter Pollak

PETER POLLAK

The Expendable Man (2011)

Making the Grade (2012)

Last Stop on Desolation Ridge (2012)

In the Game (2014)

House Divided (2015)

Many, if not most, authors love their main characters because to some extent they are a more perfect version of themselves. Your protagonist may be the person you wish you were, particularly if you made him or her brave, resolute, compassionate, and clear-headed. However, after sharing your hero’s story with the public, have you been surprised when readers don’t love your character as much as you do?

Have readers said they liked your plot, but were not sold on your protagonist? There’s a reason this happens and there are things you can do in your next book or short story to create characters your readers will love––perhaps even more than you. (Continue reading)

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

Arthur Schopenhauer - German Philosophy - Deutsch Idealismus - Deutschland Ostmark - Peter Crawford

4/26/16 — A Philosopher on Writing

One of my favourite philosophers, Schopenhauer is especially interesting for writers because he has a cogent Aesthetics and addresses writing specifically, which few other philosophers do. For instance, he declares that there are three kinds of author. The first are those who write without thinking; this is the largest group. Who can doubt this, even among writers of so-called literary fiction? Most tell stories merely for the sake of it, so as to “express themselves.” The second group consists of those who think while writing, in order to write. These too are common, according to him. Lastly, there are those authors who think before writing, and write because they have thought. Rare, says Schopenhauer. (Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

4/20/16 INTERVIEW WITH LOU ARONICA, AUTHOR OF THE FOREVER YEAR

In The Forever Year, Jesse, a young man, is the last child in his family, born when his father was lateLOUARONICAheadshot middle-aged. Growing up, Jesse felt that his father and older siblings lived in a world apart from him and that he didn’t know his dad as his siblings did. When his father is no longer able to live alone, Jesse surprises his siblings by arranging for Dad to live with him. During the time the two men spend together, Jesse hopes they’ll connect. What he doesn’t expect is to learn that the love of his father’s life was not Jesse’s and his siblings’ mother. Yet their mother was the only woman their dad married, a marriage that lasted most of his lifetime and lasted until their mother’s death—not an unhappy marriage. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

4/17/2016 – Review: The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards

Here’s an excellent read for mystery buffs written by Martin Edwards, author of the Lake District mysteries and a commentator on detective fiction. The Golden Age of Murder is a history of an elite club of outstanding mystery writers from the 30s and 40s.

This delightful book is full of interesting tidbits about the lives and personalities of the club members and guests. It opens with Ngaio Marsh’s impressions of a meeting in 1937. She was a guest for the evening, which began with a banquet in an opulent dining room. The meal ended, everyone rose and the party adjourned to another room, where the ritual began. With lights out, a door opens and the Orator enters holding a taper. The rest of the ceremony involves a grinning skull and lethal weapons. For this meeting, an oath was administered to a burly man in his sixties who had been elected to preside over the club affairs. He pledged to honor the rules of the game they played:

“To do and detect all crimes by fair and reasonable means; to conceal no vital clues from the reader; to honor the King’s English…and to observe the oath of secrecy in all matters communicated to me within the brotherhood of the Club.”

These are my kind of people. (Continue reading)

Michael J. Tucker

MICHAEL J. TUCKER

Author of  Aquarius Falling and Capricorn’s Collapse

A Book Review of

Girls, a Novel by Frederick Busch

 

It has been said that Frederick Busch is a writer’s writer. BuschHe was an award-winning author whose books were loved by critics but ignored by the mass audience required for climbing bestseller lists. And that’s too bad for readers, for they are missing out on beautifully woven, poetically told, compelling stories of the intimate lives and tragedies of ordinary people.

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Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

4/10/2016.  BOOK REVIEW: THE KEPT BY JAMES SCOTT

Several years I ago I stood on a red-rock mountain in Arches National The Kept cover 2Park, Utah, and looked across a vista of severe canyons and soaring rock formations, including amazing natural arches. The land was stark, but it was beautiful. In the same way, The Kept, a novel by James Scott, is beautiful. It’s not the kind of novel that welcomes you with warmth, but it takes your breath with its incisive characterizations and the harsh realities they reveal. The characters of The Kept expose the good and bad in all of us with crystal sharp clarity.

The Kept opens with Elspeth Howell arriving at her isolated home in upstate New York after months away working as a midwife. The year is 1897, and with no access to more sophisticated transportation, Elspeth is walking through deep snow. She knows things are terribly wrong when she sees no smoke above the house’s chimney nor light in the windows. No sounds from her five children break the silence of the snow. (Continue reading)

Janet Willen

JANET WILLEN

Author of Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery and Five Thousand Years of Slavery

West pf Sunset4/7/16 — Stewart O’Nan’s Novel Take on F. Scott Fitzgerald

It takes a lot of courage for an author to write a fictional book about a writer who’s almost as famous for his life as for his novels. Stewart O’Nan meets the challenge with West of Sunset, a novel about F. Scott Fitzgerald. In O’Nan’s imaginings we’re shown a depth, intelligence, and artistic struggle that meshes beautifully with the outlines of Fitzgerald’s life that his fans know so well.

The 2015 novel is a fictionalized account of the last three years of the famous author’s life. In the opening chapter, the forty-year-old Fitzgerald is no longer the golden boy of the literary set. In poor health and financially strapped, he’s about to leave the East Coast for Hollywood to work as a script-writing hack for MGM. His wife, Zelda, is in a sanatorium in North Carolina, their daughter, Scottie, is in a boarding school in New Jersey, and Fitzgerald feels he has no choice but to compromise his talents so he can pay the bills. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

4-04-2016 – IF YOU LOVE BOOKS, DON’T READ THISSocial media icons

As a writer who spends endless hours alone glued to a computer, I’m well aware of the lure of Facebook, Twitter, and other digital distractions. And yet the more diatribes I read about social media addiction destroying civility and civilization, the more I am reminded of many age-old critiques of book-reading. So, at risk of incurring the wrath of book lovers everywhere, I have to ask: are books and social media all that different in their potential to distract us from our friends, family, and even ourselves? (Continue reading)

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

Does Fiction Need Philosophy?

American writers rarely seem to have any formal philosophical training, wrote David Joiner to me recently (I am paraphrasing). Reading Flanagan’s biography of Yukio Mishima, he had been struck by how strongly and consistently the Japanese novelist’s work had been infused with his ideas, which amounted to a coherent philosophy concerning beauty, purity, and honour. Joiner, who is himself an accomplished novelist (Lotusland, Guernica Books, 2015), speculated that all great fiction probably has an underpinning of philosophy. (Continue reading)

JENNIFER YACOVISSI

Author of Up the Hill to Home

3/20/16: Celebrating Vibrant Voices in Independent Publishing: 2015 Debut Novelists Caitlin Hicks and Barbara Stark-Nemon

foreword reviews_thumbLast summer, eight debut novelists gathered for 30 minutes in the virtual, electronic community of Twitter to compare first-time experiences, discuss the thrill of (finally!) being a published author, and exchange ideas about how to shift from creator to marketer in order to find an audience for our small, independently published books.

Geographically far-flung and working in a number of genres, we were brought together by a feature article about our eight books in the Summer 2015 issue of Foreword Reviews magazine, a well-respected quarterly periodical and website that focuses entirely on reviewing work published by independent presses—that is, anything not from an imprint of The Big Five publishing conglomerates. After I read the other novels, it was clear to me that, while these folks might be debut novelists, they are fully mature writers. Their books might be from small presses, but there is nothing amateurish about them. That concept is exactly what Foreword Reviews celebrates. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

3/17/2016 – What I Learn for Fiction –

We mystery writers strive for accuracy in our fiction. This need propels us to listen to experts, surf the Internet, read unusual books, and sometimes make pests of ourselves.

In pursuit of accuracy, I asked the fire chief of a large metropolitan area what exactly was the protocol in responding to an emergency. His answer added depth and reality to that scene in my novel. I paid $250 for an eyewitness account, published in 1782, of traveling in Morocco, which helped immensely when I wrote my historical novel, Shadow of the Rock. All of us writers joke about what someone would think if he read the history of our Internet searches on poisons, guns, missing persons, fingerprints, burglar alarms, DNA as evidence and similar subjects.

So as a member of Sisters in Crime, an association of mystery writers and fans, I look forward to each meeting and its guest speaker. Last Saturday’s meeting was no exception. Speaker was Lt. John Weinstein, whose topic was “Active Shooters and Other Campus Policing Challenges.” He serves the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Police Department as (Continue reading)

Michael J. Tucker

MICHAEL J. TUCKER

Author of  Aquarius Falling and Capricorn’s Collapse

Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough

The stereotype that writers are considered to be a bit odd or reclusive is Shakspeare's Tremorperhaps because they are odd and reclusive. John J. Ross, a physician at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and guest editor for the prestigious quarterly Infectious Diseases Clinics of North America, has written a highly readable and entertaining book that delves into the lives and illnesses of some of our most famous and beloved authors. His book is an easy to read combination biography, review of classic literature, and medical journal.

 

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Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

3/10/2016. BOOK REVIEW—MY BRILLIANT FRIEND BY ELENA FERRANTE

When I learned that Elena Ferrante (a pen name) refused to reveal anyLayout 1 information about herself because she believed her novels should stand on their own, I wanted to applaud. As Mark Willen explained in his post on Late Last Night Books in July, Ferrante believes that “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t.” What a refreshing idea. I couldn’t wait to read My Brilliant Friend, the first novel in Ferrante’s Neapolitan tetralogy. Here’s what I found: the novel definitely stands on its own, but it’s almost as difficult to talk about as its enigmatic author. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

3/7/2016   What makes a good book series?  And why do readers love them?

Check the best seller list on any given week and you’re bound to find lots of familiar authors writing about familiar characters. The heroes of mysteries and thrillers often lead the pack (Jack Reacher, Alex Cross, Lucas Davenport), but series characters also dominate in fantasy and even  appear in literary fiction (John Updike’s brilliant Rabbit series). That’s no surprise. Picking a book to read can be difficult and sometimes it’s easier (and safer) to spend a few hours with a character you know in the hands of an author you trust. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

3-04-2016 – WHERE GO THE BOOKS?

No one was more surprised than me—a self-confessed book hoarder—when I let stack upon stack of books go free from my home. It all started when my 20-something daughter, packing up her childhood room, confronted me with a hallway of books that had lost their shelving status. My chance for redemption had at last arrived.
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3/1/16 Guest Blogger Tawnysha Greene

3/1/16 GUEST BLOGGER TAWNYSHA GREENE

Author of the novel A House Made of Stars and short fiction in PANK, Bellingham Review, and Weave Magazine

SHOPPING IN MY OWN CLOSET    When I took one of my first creative writing classes at Auburn University, my professor, Judy Troy, suggested that we all “shop in our own closets” when writing stories. What she meant was that for a story to be real, we had to become vulnerable, and we had to place ourselves in our stories. While the characters, the settings, and the plot points were fictional, the emotions had to be real, and sometimes, we had to dig at the deepest, darkest parts of our lives to get there. (Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

2/29/16 TAWNYSHA GREENE, AUTHOR OF A HOUSE MADE OF STARS, WILL BE OUR MARCH 1 GUEST BLOGGER.Tawnysha Greene author photo.jpg2

Tawnysha Greene received her PhD from the University of Tennessee where she served as the fiction editor for Grist: The Journal for Writers. Her work has appeared in PANK, Bellingham Review, and Weave Magazine. Her first novel, A House Made of Stars, was released from Burlesque Press in 2015 and was reviewed here on Feb. 20. Cleaver Magazine described A House Made of Stars as “stunning.”

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

Can Fitness Help You Become a Better Artist?

Living as we do in a world of Cartesian duality, most people would probably say, of course not. You use your mind when you’re writing; the body is irrelevant. It’s taken for granted that mind and body are distinct things that have very little to do with one another. And in the West, most people are much prouder of their brains than their bodies; I’ve never understood why, since both are largely inherited (Continue reading)

Sonia Linebaugh

SONIA LINEBAUGH

Author of At the Feet of Mother Meera: The Lessons of Silence, and the (unpublished) novels The Wisdom Project, The American Year, and the Hardest Thing.

2/23/16 INNOCENT—AND ON WELFARE BY SONIA LINEBAUGHInnocent

Hillary Clinton wrote to thank Barbara Morrison for writing Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother. The letter said: “I am grateful to you for sharing your personal story and demonstrating the positive impact that social assistance programs make upon families, communities, and our country. Yours is a vital story to tell.”  I found Innocent a compelling page-turner as well. (Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

2/20/16 REVIEW OF A HOUSE MADE OF STARS, A NOVEL BY TAWNYSHA GREENE  AHOUSEMADEOFSTARSThe more fascinating because of the unique narrator—a man’s 10-year-old deaf daughter—is this story of abuse committed by a manic-depressive, unemployed (and probably unemployable) father, himself the child victim of abuse by a deaf mother. The abuse he commits is allowed to continue by his helpless, complicit wife, the mother of their children and a psychological victim of fundamentalist Christianity’s tenet that wives should be submissive to their husbands. The wife’s own mother wants her daughter to bring the children and live in safety and
economic stability with her. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

2/17/2016 – Vampires, Werewolves, and Psychics, Oh My!

Vampires, werewolves, zombies, psychics—all have been popular in books over the years. Now a fellow writer is working on a novel with an otherwise normal protagonist who gains awareness of his extrasensory abilities.

Shades of J.B. Rhine. My critique group buddies know I am no fan of fantasy. My eyes glaze over at the first paragraph, but where does extrasensory perception, ESP or parapsychology as it’s known to its friends, stand? Fantasy or science? Being skeptical of all things psychical, I’m not sure how to take my friend’s writing. In the words of Hercule Poirot, I believe, this has given me furiously to think. What is going on in the world of extrasensory perception? (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

2/10/2016.  THE GENDER BIAS BLIGHT IN NOVELS

Think about the novel you’re reading now. Is the main character or protagonist a man? If the protagonist is a man, does the story also have strong female characters and do they get a reasonable amount of time in the spotlight? If the protagonist is a woman, how are the men defined? How often are they seen? In some of the very best novels, both classic and contemporary, most of the good parts are taken over by characters of one gender or the other. In fact, the high quality of writing in some novels helps mask the disparity in gender importance. Readers just don’t notice that the most interesting characters are all men—or women. (Continue reading)

Janet Willen

JANET WILLEN

Author of Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery and Five Thousand Years of Slavery

CITR_Salinger_Signet_294px2/7/16 — Another Look at The Catcher in the Rye

I don’t recall how old I was when I first read J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye–fourteen or fifteen, perhaps. Everyone seemed to be reading it then, and afterward, everyone seemed to adapt Salinger’s writing style. English classes became tedious as student after student read his “original” composition in an imitation of Holden Caulfield’s voice.

All of us wanted to be Holden Caulfield. We wanted to travel through New York as he did — alone, with money in our pockets, and at all hours. We wanted to read the books he liked, drink scotch, and call out the phonies. We liked that he was a straight talker, glib and slangy, a no-holds-barred kind of guy, our generation’s John Wayne.

That was the Holden Caulfield of my childhood. Some fifty years later, I’ve revisited The Catcher in the Rye, and Holden looks very different to me. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

2/04/2016 – WORLD’S FIRST NOVEL – AND THE WINNER IS…The Golden Ass, a Contender for World's First Novel

I just finished reading Sarah Ruden’s acclaimed translation of The Golden Ass, a 2nd  century AD, a  classic and wonderfully ridiculous work that has been called the world’s first novel. And then it dawned on me: just recently I had read (and blogged about) a couple of other first novels of sorts, The Tale of Genji and Don Quixote. I started wondering: just how many novels have claimed this title?  (Continue reading)

Millie Mack

MILLIE MACK

Author of Take Stock in Murder, Take a Dive for Murder, Take a Byte Out of Murder

2/1/2016 – GUEST BLOGGER – MILLIE MACK

Miss Marple Still Going Strong

I recently attended a course on Agatha Christie. At the first class the teacher asked—what makes Agatha Christie’s mysteries as popular today as when they were first published? I found this question of interest, because I have some personal experience with the popularity of one of her characters — Miss Marple.

Back in October of 2012, I wrote a blog entitled the “Quotable Miss Marple.” To this dChristie-2ay, this blog remains one of my most popular. Therefore, like my teacher I will ask a similar question. What is it about this detective that continues to attract readers, fans and admirers?

Miss Marple is not your typical detective. She’s elderly, she knits and she’s nosy. She lives in the tiny village of St. Mary Mead where her knowledge of village life (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

 

COMING FEB. 1—GUEST BLOGGER MILLIE MACK
February Guest Blogger is Millie Mack, author of the Faraday Murder Series featuring amateur sleuths CMille Mack's Caricaturearrie and Charles Faraday. The third book in the series–Take a Byte Out of Murder—is now available. She enjoys everything mysterious including books, videos, plays and especially jigsaw puzzles where completion of the puzzle reveals the solution to a crime.

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

A (Somewhat Less Insular) Reading List for Students

Having taught in an American university writing program for a dozen years, I am convinced that what my students need more than anything is to read more, and to read differently. Many of them do read a lot, but they are reading American writers and very little else. Recently I discovered that two of my most gifted graduate students had not read Graham Greene, which flabbergasted me. And this is not their fault–it’s the fault of the professors who keep feeding them the same predictable stuff. The obvious weakness of the contemporary fiction scene in the US (and of “Program Fiction”) is its homogeneity and its insularity. (Continue reading)

Sonia Linebaugh

SONIA LINEBAUGH

Author of At the Feet of Mother Meera: The Lessons of Silence, and the (unpublished) novels The Wisdom Project, The American Year, and the Hardest Thing.

1/23/16 THIS IS NOT A REVIEW BY SONIA LINEBAUGHIMG_0398

This is not a review of British author Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes: Five stories of Music and Nightfall. It’s a meditation on impermanence inspired by his writing. 

Mono no aware is the Japanese idea of the pathos of things, expressed by Ishiguro as sensitivity for a past that seeps into the present of his characters’ lives. Their lives exist as words on paper, bound up in paragraphs of unresolved melancholy, tied inextricably to the falling of the day. (Continue reading)

JENNIFER YACOVISSI

Author of Up the Hill to Home

1/20/16: E. A. Aymar, author of the Dead Trilogy, Talks Noir and Sympathy

E. A. Aymar, author of the DEAD trilogyE. A. Aymar is a noir kind of guy. He hosts D.C.’s “Noir at the Bar” and just finished up hosting the expanded version, “Noir on the Air”, on 11 January, in which nine noted thriller writers read their work on the Global Radio Network. His short story “The Line” appeared this month in Out of the Gutter, a lit mag known for its dark, edgy content. He’s also the Managing Editor of The Thrill Begins, the online resource for beginning and debut thriller writers from the International Thriller Writers Organization. Aymar is best known as the author of the Dead Trilogy, the first two entries of which are I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and You’re as Good as Dead. Fans eagerly awaiting the final installment can get their fix of Aymar’s signature deadpan humor and general take on things in his monthly column “Decisions and Revisions” in the Washington Independent Review of Books. I met Ed through my own participation with the Independent, and asked him to chat with me here about his writing.

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Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

1/17/2016 – Always Learning

I am an avid reader of mysteries. No apologies. And I find I enjoy women writers more than male writers because I am often irritated by the usual male mystery writer’s lavish descriptions of fawning, willing and pulchritudinous women. Fantasy land. The acknowledged “grand dame” of mysteries is, of course, Agatha Christie. So it was with interest that I found out about a book called A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by British chemist Kathryn Harkup. Amazon reviewers give it 4.5+ stars. Each chapter features a specific poison beginning, of course, with arsenic and continuing on to veronal.

This is by way of introducing the topic of the latest meeting of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, an association of mystery writers and fans. The speaker was Steven (Continue reading)

Michael J. Tucker

MICHAEL J. TUCKER

Author of  Aquarius Falling and Capricorn’s Collapse

Book Review: the reasons I won’t be coming by Elliot Perlman

the reasons I won't be...The cliché advice to writers is, “write what you know,” and if Elliot Perlman’s collection of short stories is based on what he knows and has personally experienced, then I feel very, very sorry for him.

The characters in these nine stories deal mainly with rejection in one form or another, and the reader watches as they spiral down a path of depression. This is not a book filled with cheerful stories and happy outcomes, but nevertheless, it is still a worthy read.

 

 

 

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Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

1/10/2016. INTERVIEW WITH JEN MICHALSKI, AUTHOR OF THE TIDE KING

In her novels, novellas, and numerous short stories, Jen Michalski jen michaelskiwrites about topics as varied as the colors of the rain. She’s tackled murder, incest, romance, loneliness, and other subjects, coming at them all from different angles and with different perspectives. In her debut novel, The Tide King, which I reviewed here last month, and her forthcoming novel, The Summer She Was Underwater, Michalski explores her subject matter with magical realism, only one of the many tools she wields so well. She was voted one of the best authors in Maryland by CBS News, one of “50 Women to Watch” by The Baltimore Sun, and “Best Writer” by Baltimore Magazine (Best of Baltimore issue, 2013). In the interview below, she talks about writing with magical realism, labeling of authors, understanding loneliness, and more. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

Johnston21/7/16 – Review of Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston

Reading Bret Anthony Johnston’s Remember Me Like This brought me back to 2003, when kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart was released after eight months in captivity. I was teaching a course in journalism ethics and I asked my students to assess the media coverage, which included 24/7 speculation about why Smart hadn’t escaped earlier and what horrors she’d been subjected to. That led to a vigorous debate over the conflict between the right to privacy and the public’s right to know. I argued that in this case there was no right to know, only prurient interest and morbid curiosity. Not everyone agreed (and certainly not cable news). If only Anthony’s novel had been available then, it would have been assigned reading. It’s the perfect answer to media callousness. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

1/04/16 – READING AND WRITING THROUGH THE YEARS

Flipping through The New York Review of Books the other day, I realized my reading habits had changed drastically. Once upon a time I read every page from cover-to-cover – even the personal ads (in fact, I met my husband by answering one of them). What had changed wasn’t the The New York Review of Books. What had changed was me. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

12/17/2015 – Happy Holidays and the best to you in the New Year!

wreathe copyHoliday messages surround us. We hear of Hanukkah candles lighting the stand against oppression; the Christian carolers singing of peace and brotherhood; and the Kwanzaa message celebrating family, community, and culture. Muslim festivals are at other times of the year, but their message of celebration and good wishes also spring from the well of kindness, hope, and good cheer.

But the most powerful tool we have toward peace and a better world is the written word. As Martin Luther said, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” (Continue reading)

Michael J. Tucker

MICHAEL J. TUCKER

Author of  Aquarius Falling and Capricorn’s Collapse

 

Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded, a Killer Nashville Anthology

killer-nashville-finalKiller Nashville is an international thriller, mystery, crime literature writers’ conference held annually in downtown Nashville, TN. The conference draws some of the genre’s best writers to mix and mingle with aspiring authors and fans.

This year, for the first time, conference founder, Clay Stafford, produced a collection of twenty short stories for the anthology Cold-Blooded. He’s pulled together such well-known thriller writers as, Jeffery Deaver, Anne Perry, Robert Dugoni, Heywood Gould, Maggie Toussaint, Mary Burton, Donald Bain, and Jefferson Bass. But the collection also includes many equally talented but lesser known writers, and it is works of seven of those people that I would like to introduce you to.

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Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

12/10/2015. BOOK REVIEW: THE TIDE KING BY JEN MICHALSKI

Jen Michalski is a wonderful storyteller. You could read her novel The Tide The Tide King coverKing purely for the characters and events that fit in with the reality we know. One reviewer on Amazon said she’d done that, finding the eternal-life-giving herb in the story unnecessary. If you read the novel that way, you’ll be treated to a beautiful piece of writing with well-developed characters and an exciting plot, but you will miss so much.

In her guest blog, “A Jolt of Vertigo,” published on Late Last Night Books last month, Michalski said she found herself writing about the fantastic herb because “sometimes reality is too constricting.” I never thought I would be a fan of magical realism in novels because I’ve always considered myself a true realist, a person who tells it like it is in her writing and her life. But The Tide King showed me how a well-grounded magic element or event allows a story to explore the meaning of what is in ways that otherwise it never could. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

12/7/2015 — Reading and Appreciating Paul Auster

Auster biggerI’ve become a big fan of the American writer Paul Auster—and not just because his first novella, City of Glass, was rejected by seventeen publishers before finding a home  and launching a prolific, thirty-year literary career (and yes, that means I’m a bit late in joining his fan club). I read the New York Trilogy (which includes City of Glass) last year and loved it, but it was only last month that circumstances led to me to pick up another Auster novel, Invisible (2009), which I found even more fascinating. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

12/04/15 –  HATE REWRITING? GIVE IT TIME

Writing is rewriting. Like most writers, I do my best to apply this old adage, even though redrafting, revising, and “killing my darlings” often means a bruising battle with my ego. However, I recently discovered a pain-free way to rewrite: time. Time not only heals all wounds; it also anesthetizes the ego. (Continue reading)

OUR 12/1/1015 GUEST BLOGGER DAVID MARSHALL HUNT

OUR 12/1/1015 GUEST BLOGGER DAVID MARSHALL HUNT

David is the author of the novel, Flower Girl: A Burton Family Mystery, and the fantasy series, The Star Stone, The Chair, & The Dog (Book 1: Secrets of the Star Stone Society) andT he Pilgrimage (Book 2: Secrets of the Star Stone Society).

12/1/2015 – How Experience Shapes Fiction

The blurry line between fact and fiction gets even more obscured when an author does extensive research into real world events, past and present, only to insert his/her personal experiences into the story which contains the fiction. For the most part realism is enhanced by personal experiences. I have for years adhered to the notion that, “There is no history written without ‘author bias’.” (unknown source). If you buy into this notion, then it becomes necessary to ask what is the difference between history and historical fiction? A short answer would be that the fiction-writing author is able to fantasize and get creative in the story telling process; nevertheless, it is critical to maintain a believable historical context. Thus the line is blurred intentionally. Author’s like Wilbur Smith, James Rollins, the late Tom Clancy, James Lee Burke, David Liss, and Clive Cussler are a few of my favorites at placing a story into an historical and cultural context that is believable, along with delivering a great story.

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Michael J. Tucker

MICHAEL J. TUCKER

Author of  Aquarius Falling and Capricorn’s Collapse

11/30/15 Preview of December Guest Blogger David Marshall Hunt

David Marshall Hunt began a new career at the mellowing age of 70-plus years. While that can be Casual David Marshall Huntdaunting and challenging, for David it has been mostly fun. For 35 years he taught and researched at universities around the world. His home is in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and near the C’est La Vie Coffee House where he hangs out on a regular basis to imbibe delicious cappuccinos and croissants and keeps up on local politics, football (a religion in Mississippi), art, and gossip.

His essay tomorrow is about how his experiences shaped Flower Girl: A Burton Family Mystery, and how his history bled into his eBooks.

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

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Novelist Cristina Garcia with me at the University of Central Arkansas, November 20, 2015

The Writer’s Responsibility

In this age of global terrorism, impending war and inevitable ecological catastrophe, does the literary writer have any political responsibility? As a young man, I detested politics and saw myself as an aesthete. I would have answered that the artist’s role was merely to create works of beauty. (Continue reading)

Sonia Linebaugh

SONIA LINEBAUGH

Author of At the Feet of Mother Meera: The Lessons of Silence, and the (unpublished) novels The Wisdom Project, The American Year, and the Hardest Thing.

11/23/15 ERIC D. GOODMAN INTERVIEW BY SONIA LINEBAUGHEric D Goodman

I love traveling by train, ensconced with strangers boarding and debarking according to some mysterious and personal trajectory. So right from the start I was intrigued by Eric Goodman’s Tracks, a novel in short stories about travelers on a train headed from Baltimore for Chicago. (Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

11/20/15 STAY-AT-HOME DADS: BRAFF’S THE DADDY DIARIES AND PERROTTA’S LITTLE CHILDREN  I’ve bought three books because of tweets. Joshua Braff’s The Daddy Diaries was one. I expected a stay-at-home dad with an infant or toddlers, in the vein of Tom Perrotta’s Little Children. But the children in Joshua Braff’s novel aren’t little. The protagonist’s daughter is 10, his son 13. (Continue reading)

Michael J. Tucker

MICHAEL J. TUCKER

Author of  Aquarius Falling and Capricorn’s Collapse

11/13/15 On Memoirs and Writing

I’ve never been one for reading memoirs. Oh sure, biographies, or a now and again autobiography, but memoirs just seemed too sticky for me. I never wanted to know that one of my favorite movie stars hated wire hangers, and beat her daughter, or really anything of the dirty laundry that takes place in the confines of a family. But this year I stumbled into the rabbit hole of the memoir.

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Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

11/7/15 – VETERANS DAY READING: 11 GREAT WAR NOVELS FOR 11/11

There are many ways to honor the men and women who put on a uniform and risk it all for the nations that send them into war in the name of duty and patriotism. One obvious way is to put their stories in writing—fiction or nonfiction—so that others can read and remember the sacrifices they made. Among literature’s many intrinsic values is its ability to give readers a sense of what other people experience, to help us understand, empathize, and learn from the thing that others have done.

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Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

11/04/15 – WORDS TO WRITE BY

I knew a boy in high school who kept laminated copies of favorite quotations in his wallet. Impressed, I started collecting favorite quotes about writing and art and life myself, and pinned them near my desk as inspiration. I still have them. And, yeah, I realize I could just Google any and every quote on writing or anything else these days. But these are my own private curated collection, and before the paper yellows much more, I want to share a few words of wisdom I’ve kept at my side for a lifetime.  (Continue reading)

Jen Michalski

JEN MICHALSKI

Jen Michalski is the author of The Tide King and The Summer She Was Under Water

11/1/2015 – A Jolt of Vertigo

”The best way to think about reality is to get as far away from it as possible.” – Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I have never been interested in magical realism, or so I’d thought. One Hundred Years of Solitude has sat in my pile of to-read books for almost a decade now, and although I enjoyed Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore and his collection of short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, I thought his use of magical realism as metaphor could be a bit gimmicky. I have always written fiction that concentrate on domestic lives, those quiet intersections of reality that ignite into disaster. In his article “Magical Realism and the Search for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki,” Matthew Strecher defines  (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

Coming up Nov. 1 – Guest Blogger Jen Michalski writes about the use of magical realism in fiction in her upcoming blog, “A Jolt of Vertigo.” Her fiction has always focused on domestic lives that ignite into disaster. Surprisingly, her first two novels rely heavily on magical realism. Jen Michalski is the author of the novels The Tide King and The Summer She Was Under Wajen michaelskiter, two collections of fiction, and a collection of novellas. Find her at jenmichalski.com.

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

Do You Know the First Thing About Writing Fiction? (It’s not craft!)

I’ve been thinking a great deal about how creative writing is taught in the US, about its strengths and weaknesses, and it seems to me that its great strength is that we teach craft very well, so well that there has probably never been a society that turns out so many competent, professional writers. As the Poetry Editor of a national magazine told me at AWP this year, most of the submissions he receives are technically accomplished—and yet very few of them are worth reading. Or as Robert Olen Butler describes his graduate students, they know nine of the ten things that fiction writers need to know very well—but they don’t know the first thing. And what is the first thing? Inspiration. (Continue reading)

Sonia Linebaugh

SONIA LINEBAUGH

Author of At the Feet of Mother Meera: The Lessons of Silence, and the (unpublished) novels The Wisdom Project, The American Year, and the Hardest Thing.

10/23/15 MENDACITY “Mendacity is a system that we live in,” declares Brick in Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot The_World_of_Rae_English-250x386Tin Roof. “Liquor is one way out an’ death’s the other.”

In Lucy Rosenthal’s novel, The World of Rae English, both liquor and suicide fail to kill Rae’s self delusions. Mendacity—habitual deviation from the truth—survives.

Rae English, the protagonist narrator, confesses this about her former husband: He’s on a book tour to promote his second book titled The Pitfalls of Deceit. Often he’s paired with John Dean. (Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

10/20/15 NOVEL ENDINGS  I don’t think this can be a spoiler because I can’t remember the name of the book or the author. It’s set in small-town Minnesota in the fall, and the protagonist teaches school. I liked it and sent it home with a friend who came for the weekend. He taught high school in New York City. The teaching year had just begun, and he was in his usual back-to-school funk. I thought he’d enjoy reading about a fellow high school teacher in a book set at the beginning of the academic year. “Thanks a lot,” he said sarcastically in our next phone conversation. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

10/17/2015 – The Holocaust Memoir

Thank you to Steve Feuer and his Gihon River Press, http://www.gihonriverpress.com, whose mission is to honor the memory of the millions who died in the Holocaust by publishing the stories of those who survived. One of his authors is Miriam M. Brysk, a child survivor who has written two powerful books about the Holocaust. (Continue reading)

Michael J. Tucker

MICHAEL J. TUCKER

Author of  Aquarius Falling and Capricorn’s Collapse

10/13/15 – Review of Louise Colln’s The Women of Rogers Street

Don’t judge a book by its cover or its title. A blue-eyed woman’s image superimposed on colorfulWomen of Rogers metropolis suggests a story of sunshine and roses, but that is not the story of The Women of Rogers Street. Ms. Colln has crafted an exciting and compelling, multi-themed, character-driven novel, that encompasses human trafficking, class differences, deceit, deception, adultery, and ultimately a journey to self-knowledge, redemption, and finding true love.

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Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowavailable for pre-order from Pen-L Publishing now, plus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies.

 

10/10/2015. BOOK REVIEW—SOMEONE BY ALICE McDERMOTT

SomeoneAlice McDermott has written several highly acclaimed novels, including one that won the National Book Award and three others that were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. She also teaches at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, which is only about 20 miles up the road from where I live. Despite her obvious writing skill and her physical proximity, I had never read one of her novels until now. To introduce myself to her work, I chose her most recent novel, Someone, and I don’t regret my choice. Someone took me into the mind of a sensitive, yet strong, woman named Marie Commeford, who searches throughout her life to understand the line between joy and sorrow, a deep but narrow crevasse that seems to open and close at will. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

10/7/15 — Kids Write the Darndest Things

As a writer I love to read—first, for the joy of devouring a good book and, second, because as a writer I always learn something I can use. And as an aging baby boomer, I love to watch and try to mentor the youngest generation as it finds its footing in the world. That’s why I look forward each week to the 90 minutes I spend leading a teen writing club. It combines the best of both my worlds, and invariably I learn a lot—about life and about writing. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

10/04/15 – DON QUIXOTE ON TAPEDon Quixote Cover

My book club is reading Don Quixote – and they’re hating it. This is an erudite group. They have plowed their way through ponderous and elusive authors like Faulkner and Jane Austen. They’ve devoted long hours to devouring All the King’s Men and The Tale of Genji. But Don Quixote is killing the best of them. And I think I know why. They’re all listening to, not reading, the book. (Continue reading)

Kelly Ann Jacobson

KELLY ANN JACOBSON

Author of Cairo in White and The Troublemakers

10/1/15 — Women’s Fiction and Romance: Mutually Exclusive or Mutually Confusing?

Genres exist for a reason. Readers like to know what to expect, at least in general terms, when they pick out a book. And publishers want to accommodate them. As many budding writers learn during the querying process, the way they characterize a novel can be key to finding the right agent or publisher.

But what if a book doesn’t quite fit into one of the standard categories, or if it fits into too many? Or what if, to complicate matters even further, those categories aren’t all that different to begin with? (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

Kelly J9/29/15 – Preview of October Guest Blogger Kelly Ann Jacobson

In today’s world of publishing, genre can be crucial. Readers use it to select new books and publishers use it to decide how to market and pitch new fiction. But what happens when a work of fiction crosses over? Of when it’s not easy to decide whether a novel is best described as, say, a romance or women’s fiction? That’s the topic that guest blogger Kelly Ann Jacobson will explore on Oct 1. Kelly is a fiction writer, poet, and lyricist who lives in Falls Church, Virginia. She received her MA in Fiction at Johns Hopkins University and is an Adjunct Professor of English. Kelly is the author of the novels Cairo in White and The Troublemakers, as well as several other books of poetry and prose. For a complete list of her works, click here.

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

9/26/15 – Tell, Don’t Show

Show, don’t tell is such an axiom of creative writing programs, and indeed of advice given to writers in general, that it is rarely questioned. The most recent author to visit the university program where I teach, for example, gave this advice to our students—and of course it’s sound, especially for the beginning writer, who is much more likely to err on the wrong side, of summary and exposition, including so few scenes that the writing remains dull. No less a master of fiction than Joseph Conrad said that the novelist’s task was to make the reader see, and who can doubt that that entails writing dramatic scenes most of the time? All the same, I have been pondering this question a good deal lately, and would like to share my reflections on why “show, don’t tell” has become such an unchallenged axiom—indeed an almost sacred Commandment—particularly in the United States, and what interesting alternatives to this strategy there might be. (Continue reading)

Sonia Linebaugh

SONIA LINEBAUGH

Author of At the Feet of Mother Meera: The Lessons of Silence, and the (unpublished) novels The Wisdom Project, The American Year, and the Hardest Thing.

9-23-15 YOUR TEST OF CHARACTER(S)9-23-15 ROBINSON C

This is only a test—a test of characters. There’s only one question with multiple answers to chose from. I hope you’ll have to think about your answer before you read mine. The question: Can you name a novel that has only one character? Choose one answer from among the following:

1. Life of Pi by Yan Martel

2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

3. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe

4. The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

5. Downtown by Ed McBain (Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

INPRAISEOFWHATPERSISTS29/20/15  REVIEW OF JOYCE RENWICK’S IN PRAISE OF WHAT PERSISTS  “I kept finding the goat wandering in the dining room, or standing on the front room fireplace mantel just like she was wild on some mountainside… Pie Face was just an ordinary American mongrel milk goat, mostly black with white wedges under her eyes that gave her the name…[She] weighed about a hundred pounds and would chew or lick anything in sight that might contain minerals. She bit me every time I milked her so I’d gotten to expect it.”—from “The Goat” in the posthumous collection In Praise of What Persists. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

9/17/2015  Stereotypes–Not So Believable Anymore

In my writers’ critique groups, someone’s draft characters or plot will sometimes be criticized as “unbelievable” or “unrealistic.” Sometimes that may be the writer’s ineptness, but since just about anything can happen on this planet, the criticism is more an expression of a lean toward assumptions and stereotypes.

Fifty years ago, a Harvard-educated African-American would be considered “unbelievable,” ditto a mountain-climbing woman or a marathon-running 100-year-old. Anyone who grew up in the fifties might remember how stereotypes were common and drove the plots in the movies (Continue reading)

Michael J. Tucker

MICHAEL J. TUCKER

Author of  Aquarius Falling and Capricorn’s Collapse

9/13/2015 A Dialogue on Historical Fiction

Three authors join me this month to discuss their thoughts on the genre of historical fiction. They are: Louise Colln, author of Woman of the Land: Mary, Mother of the Christ, and The Women of Rogers Street; George Spain, author of Lost Cove, Our People: Stories of the South, and The Last Giant, and Come Sit with Me…and Listen…; and John Neely Davis, author of The Sixth William, and Bear Shadow.

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