Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

Is This a Good Author Photograph?

Is this a good author photograph?

When University of Central Arkansas student Park Lanford took this picture of me a couple of weeks ago (for the school’s literary magazine, the Vortex), I immediately thought, “That looks like an author photograph.” My next thought was, “Why is that? What makes a good author photograph?” Do you need, if you are a man, to look somewhat craggy, earnest and intense, as I do here? Does it help to be bearded, as so many of the giants of literature in the past have been? I am being facetious, but you get my point. (Continue reading)

Peter Pollak

PETER POLLAK

Aulthor of The Expendable Man (2011); Making the Grade (2012); Last Stop on Desolation Ridge (2012); In the Game (2014); & House Divided (2015)

I spent the week-end of March 11 & 12 at the Tucson Festival of Books, the third largest such event in the country. My goal was to learn from the best and the brightest, knowing from past experience that a number of hot, new writers come to Tucson to introduce their works to the world.

I was not disappointed and am happy to share with my LateLastNightBook followers the names of some authors you might want to give a try.
(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

3-17-2017:  Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!
Coming up next weekend is the 2017 conference of the Maryland Writers’ Association. As president of MWA, I appreciate all of the advance planning and work that has gone into producing this conference, especially by the conference chair, Jess Williams, but all of the board members have contributed.

With well-known authors like Maria V. Snyder and Jeffery Deaver as keynote speakers and a host of local authors in attendance, conferences like this are of interest to readers as well as writers. In fact, I was surprised to learn that my local chapter of Sisters in Crime is an association of mystery writers and fans. The national mystery conferences, Bouchercon and Malice Domestic, both draw a large number of fans as well as writers. In fact, most writers’ conferences, I would guess, are open to readers and to anyone with the registration fee. Participation in these conferences guarantees a rich, rewarding, and well-spent day.

I will be presenting a workshop at the MWA conference on evening the playing field for self-published authors. (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.

03-04-17 ARE YOU STILL READING FICTION?

“I’m not reading fiction much anymore.” “I can’t read novels these days.” “More and more, I’m restricting my reading list to non-fiction.”


Few statements can rattle a novelist like these. And I’ve been hearing a lot of them lately. (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

2/20/17 WALKER PERCY’S THE MOVIEGOER AND MIKE ALBO’S HORNITO: CAN YOU TELL WHICH QUOTE IS FROM WHICH?

I often read two or three novels at once. Reading Percy’s The Moviegoer and Albo’s Hornito, I read a passage and thought I’d picked up one book rather than the other. Both present a young man chasing sex and the meaning of life while also interacting with his elders and friends and working in an office and revisiting his childhood. When I finished both books, I noticed that many passages I’d marked in each could fit either, to some extent. Which left me struck by the similarity of the quest of the protagonists, although really quite different men.

Can you tell which of the quotes below belong together? The answers are at the bottom of this post, as is a little more information about the protagonists. (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

I recently took part in a program called “The Craft of Writing Mysteries” at the Perry Hall Branch Library. I was one of five mystery authors on a panel that also included Milly Mack, Austin Camacho, Michelle Markey-Butler, and Kate Dolan. Michelle writes medieval mysteries and brought in a slew of medieval weapons and other items, allowing the audience to touch and hold them—carefully, of course.

I won the raffle that day, and you’d think that I, being on the program, would defer the prize, a basket of mystery-related items, so it could go to someone in the audience. But no, I did not because included in the basket was The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories. As stated in the Introduction to this tome, this book is a “panoramic collection of stories and novels from Black Mask magazine (1920-1951).” Black Mask introduced the hard-boiled detective and published such authors as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, John D. MacDonald, Cornell Woolrich , Earl Stanley Gardner, and many more.

The Perry Hall program began with an entertaining slide show on Maryland’s role in the mystery put together by Millie Mack, author of the Faraday Murder Series.

Maryland’s claim to Edgar Allan Poe, often called the founder of the detective story, is a bit tenuous. Poe was born in Boston and spent most of his life in New York, Philadelphia, and Richmond, but he did die in Baltimore in 1849 at age 40. The cause of his death is unknown and has been attributed to any number of factors, including alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, or tuberculosis. He is buried in Baltimore, and a museum in Baltimore is dedicated to him.

In 1949 on the 100th anniversary of his death, (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

2/7/2017 – Can Books Still Change the World?

So, I’ve been reading Frederick Douglass’s autobiography. I like to keep up with the latest fads and, as President Trump pointed out recently, Douglass “is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more.”

Douglass is probably the most famous abolitionist of all time, and his work was widely recognized in the years before, during, and long after the Civil War, including by President Abraham Lincoln, whose response to Douglass’s criticism was to invite him to the White House to talk about their differences. Over time they developed a strong friendship and at least a partial reconciliation of their views. Lincoln listened, changed, and came to appreciate Douglass, and the feeling was mutual. (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.

02-04-17 FINDING NOVELS

What led you to pick that novel you’re reading? A friend’s recommendation? A book review? A bookstore display? Did your book club make you do it?

Last month I put out an informal poll to find out if social media made a difference in the way people were finding novels. I discovered some intriguing new ways to find reading material—plus a few surprises. (Continue reading)

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse

Writing in the Echo Chamber

Much hand-wringing and self-examination has taken place since the US Presidential election about why so many people, political pundits and journalists included, were blindsided by the result. The ‘echo chamber’ as a metaphor for social media has been the most frequently cited cause. Nowadays most of us, the argument goes, get our news from Twitter or Facebook feeds. This is true, not only for the millennials, but equally or almost so for older generations. Because most of us are reading ‘news’ (more often opinion, when it comes down to it) from our friends, who are likely to share our views, there’s a danger that our prejudices are never challenged and that we live increasingly in a world that bears little resemblance to reality. As an academic, I can confirm that this is the case for most professors, who are hardly better informed on matters of global economics and politics than the elusive and mythical ‘man in the street’. (Or woman.)

But if this is true of our political life, isn’t it true of our cultural life, too? Have we thought deeply enough about the consequences of reading literature that’s written by people like us, too? (Continue reading)

JENNIFER YACOVISSI

Author of Up the Hill to Home

20 January 2017 – Toward Compassion

Words matter. It would be surprising if I as a writer didn’t believe that to be true, since words are my entire stock in trade. Words have meaning. A shared understanding of the meaning of words is what allows us to communicate and function as a society. Words have shades of meaning, too—nuance—and understanding that nuance allows us all to send and receive exactly the message that’s intended.

There are roughly 130,000 words in the English language. It’s said that Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of 54,000 words, which was not out of the ordinary for an educated man of his time. In comparison, modern Americans have a working vocabulary of about 3,000 words. As we continue to pare back our words, nuance is lost. Shades of meaning are jettisoned, the subtle distinctions sacrificed, pounded out into the blunt instrument of whatever fits into 140 characters.

Words affect us. We may teach our children, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” as a lesson in resilience and the mature ability to walk away and elect not to engage, but we also know the power of words to hurt, as well as to heal. Certainly, we expect the leaders of our country, our shared community, to understand that fundamental truth and act accordingly.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the last year, and wildly more so since early November. Because I knew that I would be posting this essay today, I selected a few books to read that seemed to cut to the heart of the things that keep me awake at night. (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

12/17/2016 – The Pen is Powerful

Happy Holidays! As I contemplate the dismal political scene in this country, I am reminded of a quote from a 19th century suffragette whose name I don’t remember: “Take up your pen and save the world.” Or as Harriet Beecher Stowe said, “It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.” She did that in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book that helped change this country.

In a google search of quotes on this subject, I found a column on Goodreads.com that features a number of quotes about taking up the pen. Most of them are banal or cynical, but here are a few that echo the quotes above. (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.

12-04-16 IS HISTORICAL FICTION HISTORICAL?

andersonville

Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor

chesapeake

Chesapeake by James A. Michener

Listening to James Michener’s Chesapeake on recent driving trips, I’m finding myself increasingly uncomfortable. He’s cheating, I think. These characters – they are so vivid. He didn’t have to make them up from whole cloth. Doesn’t that make his life as a novelist considerably easier? Or his creative achievements less impressive? (Continue reading)

Ellen Prentiss Campbell

ELLEN PRENTISS CAMPBELL

Author of The Bowl with Gold Seams

12-1-2016: A COZY HOUSE FULL OF BOOKS

The holiday season finds me grateful for the profound reading experiences of childhood. Remember when reading a book was living the book? Certain books and authors left a mark on my reading, my writing, and my life. And for the reading of my childhood, I owe special gratitude to my great-aunt Mildred Campbell.

My grandfather’s baby sister Midge was small but mighty. She grew up on the family’s strawberry farm in Tennessee. Witty and determined, Mildred became a history professor at Vassar College. Her cozy house on College Avenue in Poughkeepsie was full of books─including a shelf for the Oxford English Dictionary. She loved books and words; talked a lot; read a lot; wrote a lot. (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

11/17/2016 – Nonfiction – A Writer’s Ally for Nuance

Researching a novel can involve more than history books, archives, and the other usual resources for honing details of terrain, lifestyle, time. What about describing emotions, personality, and the intangible nuances?

The subject came to mind  in riding along with a police officer on patrol. I asked the officer what resources she found helpful and that led to a conversation about lying. One book she found very useful, the police officer said, was Spy the Lie by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero with Don Tennant. The authors are former CIA officers who use a methodology developed by Houston to detect spy-the-liedeception in the counterterrorism and criminal investigation realms. They show how these techniques can be applied in our daily lives.

And in our writing, I add. I’m not going to go into the details of the methodology here, except to say that it focuses on a cluster of both verbal and physical cues. Length of time in answering, asking for clarification or sidestepping the question instead of answering with a clear “yes” or “no” are all clues to deception. Truthful responses tend to be direct and spontaneous, but deceptive people can mimic that behavior in responding to questions. The authors suggest ignoring what seem to be truthful responses and focus on the ones that may be deceptive. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

11/7/16 — Ten Great American Political Novels for Trying Times

As the campaign season draws to a close, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction. But what about fiction with a strong political theme? Can it help us understand and make sense of the world around us? You bet it can, and I’ve got just the list to prove it.

Whether you’re fed up with politics and need an escape or you just can’t get enough of it, here are ten American political novels worth considering before Inauguration Day. The choices are mine, and I’ll warn you that I’ve left out a few that might seem particularly partisan (Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, for example), as well as the many great foreign political classics (1984, The Trial, War and Peace, to name just a few). Most have been made into movies, but trust me, the books are better. (Continue reading)

Deborah Furchtgott

DEBORAH FURCHTGOTT

Author of the blog, The Children’s Bookroom

fairyland10/1/16 — Fairy Tales for Every Age

As a children’s book blogger and mother to a toddler, I’m an equal-opportunity lover of books, from board books to novels, and I’ve learned to largely ignore age recommendations.  That’s how I found Catherynne M. Valente in the children’s book section rather than general fiction, and, trust me, she’s not an author to miss, no matter how you find her.

I first encountered Cat Valente’s books through her Fairyland series, novels which are listed for ages 10-14, according to the back cover. I’m 29 right now, by the way. I soon finished reading them all and delightedly reviewed them for my children’s books blog, The Children’s Bookroom, praising her for her ability to frame characters with such heart and personal growth, and to create a world so fantastical and yet so tangible. But I wanted more Valente books. I wondered what else someone with her capabilities would be able to do. Topsy-turvy adult that I am, I went from reading her children’s books to discovering her adult novels. (Continue reading)

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

How to Write Like Gabriel García Márquez

  1. In your next incarnation, be born in Colombia, or anywhere that the beliefs of a traditional culture clash with those of western rationalism.
  2. Work as a journalist. Learn the importance of close observation. Learn how everything has political causes and repercussions. Understand that however extravagantly unique an individual may seem to be, he is as typical of his society as an animal is of its herd.
  3. Steep yourself in great literature: the Greek tragedians, for their belief in the implacability of fate; the great North Americans, especially Faulkner and Hemingway, for their disciplined, tightly-controlled storytelling; and the modernist masters like Joyce and Woolf, for their streams-of-consciousness and lyricism.
  4. Forget everything you’ve ever heard about how to write fiction. Tell, don’t show. Write entire chapters in expository prose. Write practically entire books in expository prose, with a rare scene here and there. Become a master of sleight-of-hand, a conjurer: stuff your paragraphs full of sensory images to convince your readers that they’re reading dramatic scenes, even though they aren’t. Do away with paragraphs when you feel like it. (The Autumn of the Patriarch.) Mix absurdist comedy with utter horror and tragedy. Be vulgar. If you feel like it, do away with protagonists. Have multiple plots.
  5. Write about politics constantly but never, ever preach. Let the reader draw her own lessons.
  6. Accumulate a vast vocabulary. Don’t be afraid to use it. If the reader doesn’t understand a word, she can use a dictionary.
  7. Work your arse off. No distractions, no social media or social life while you’re in the throes of creation.
  8. Abandon your job. Go into debt, get your wife to support you. Just write and to hell with the rest.
  9. Live somewhere beautiful and inundated with history: Bogota, Cartagena de las Indias, Barcelona, Mexico City. Ideally it should be a city that is corrupt, unjust, absurd, one of those sad spots on the earth where people are forced to laugh constantly or else they would slit their throats.
  10. Speak a sonorous language with rich, rotund vowels, a formal language, such as Spanish (or Italian or Portuguese). Know that you are the heir not only of Cervantes, but of Virgil, Ovid, and Cicero.
  11. Have grandparents who raise you and tell you tales of the supernatural and the fantastic constantly, mixing elements from different worlds in a bouillabaisse of myth, religious belief, superstition, exaggeration, and fables.
  12. Grow up in a tiny town in which there is nothing to do but read (and when you’re an adolescent, visit the brothel.) Make it a town owned by an American corporation that exploits people mercilessly and has them massacred if they go on strike. Learn the power and viciousness of capitalism in your flesh.
  13. Grow a bandit’s moustache.
  14. Become an intimate friend of Fidel Castro.
  15. Have a fist-fight with a fellow Nobel Prize winner.
  16. Above all, tell the truth, however much it hurts. Tell your own people you are leaving your land because it’s a “shit country”. Spare no one and nothing.
  17. Be ambitious. Retell the history of your continent. Homer did it; why shouldn’t you?
  18. Mix philosophical musings with lowbrow scatological jokes.
  19. Avoid sentimentality at all times.
  20. Believe in the dignity of ordinary people…
  21. And in the greatest miracle on earth, the love of one human being for another.

(Continue reading)

Peter Pollak

PETER POLLAK

Aulthor of The Expendable Man (2011); Making the Grade (2012); Last Stop on Desolation Ridge (2012); In the Game (2014); & House Divided (2015)

Short Story versus Novel Writing

I consider myself a novelist not a short-story writer. In fact, I’m not satisfied with any of the three-dozen shorts in various stages of development that occupy a directory on my harddrive. Writing short stories is very different than writing novels. Some people think it’s best to start out with shorts and then move on to novels. That may work for some, but to me it’s like thinking you would be good at bull-riding because you can ride a horse.

A novel is not just a long short story. Psychologically it requires a much greater commitment because it can take months or even years to complete a 90,000-word novel. Most short story writers don’t need help deciding when their story is ready for public consumption. Many novels are so complex that to offer one’s novel to the public without first having others read it is asking for trouble. In a short story, you might have half a dozen to a dozen characters, and are unlikely to spell a person’s name two different ways in the course of the story. Novels can have dozens of characters, which means it’s easy to misspell a character’s name not to mention having a Tony and Toni in the same story. Of course, names that are very similar is something to be avoided.

(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

10/17/2016 – The Writer as Pigeon

Naiveté, desperation, eagerness. What does that spell to you? To me it spells V-I-C-T-I-M. It can also spell W-R-I-T-E-R.

A writer eager to find a publisher, desperate for an agent, naive enough to sign any contract that seems to promise an agent and publication. And that’s just the dirt on top. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find all kinds of “opportunities” to promote, sell, distribute or otherwise handle a writer’s opus—for a fee.pexels-photo-27191-pigeon

I have been a writer all my professional life and a publisher for the last twenty plus years. I know how eagerly a writer wants to be published; I know the anguish of being rejected again and again by uncaring and by, obviously, ignorant agents who can’t seem to grasp my vision. And I have been naive enough to hand over thousands of dollars for publicists who did nothing, distributors who charged more in fees than my publishing company made in sales, cover designers who cost more than the going rates or who never heard of “work for hire.”

Contests, awards, marketing consultants, advertisers, unscrupulous agents and editors, even reviewers, all add to the pile of “writer-get-rich” snares out there. Writer Beware. (Continue reading)

Janet Willen

JANET WILLEN

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

10/7/16 — You Should Look It Up

samuel_johnson_by_joshua_reynolds_2Kids hate dictionaries. That’s something I’ve discovered over fifteen years of tutoring elementary and middle school kids. If they come across a word they don’t know, they’d rather ignore it than go to the bookcase for a dictionary.

I couldn’t help thinking about that last month when I stopped by 17 Gough Square in London, the home of Samuel Johnson from 1748 to 1759, which is when he and a staff of six were hard at work compiling The Dictionary of the English Language [volume 1 and volume 2]. Visitors are welcome in most rooms, and all the exhibits give a taste of the Georgian life Johnson and his friends led. My favorite spot was the attic, where most of the dictionary work was done. You can sit where Johnson sat and thumb through facsimiles of the dictionary. (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.

10-04-16 WHY JOIN A BOOK CLUB?

“You’re in a book club?” my friend asked incredulously. “Why would you join a book club?”Join a book club

I was a bit surprised to be asked this question by a friend who also happened to be a professor of comparative literature. We had known each other since college. We are both writers.  I had just told her that our next meeting would discuss Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, a book she greatly admired. So why was it so odd to her that I was in a book club?

“I can’t imagine being in a book club,” she said. “That’s what I do for a living.” (Continue reading)

Peter Pollak

PETER POLLAK

Aulthor of The Expendable Man (2011); Making the Grade (2012); Last Stop on Desolation Ridge (2012); In the Game (2014); & House Divided (2015)

My Take on Plotting versus Pantsing

A common writers’ conference workshop topic is “Pantsing versus Plotting,” a reflection of the fact that many writers struggle with how to plot out their stories. If that’s you, perhaps my breaking down this issue will help you gain some insights into how to avoid some of the pitfalls of poor plotting.

(Continue reading)

1 2 3 9