Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowplus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies, including Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2017.

 

1/10/14 –WHO KNOWS WHAT? THE PERKS OF A NARRATOR WHO SEES ALL

Story narrators who know everything are out of fashion. Readers today want to be close to characters. They want to experience events of the story the same way the characters do—the way any of us experiences the world—knowing only what we have seen, heard, or been told. Approaching a story like this has spawned a lot of novels written from one or maybe a few characters’ points of view, but it seems to me that as readers, we’re missing something by not seeing the larger picture. And as writers, first-person and third-person limited viewpoints restrict the richness of the worlds we create. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point and Hawke’s Return

1/7/14 – STONER: IT’S TIME YOU READ THIS BOOK

A few months ago, the New Yorker reviewed Stoner under the headline, “The Greatest American Novel You’ve Never Heard Of.” It was a clever line, but after Britain’s Waterstones named it the Book of the Year for 2013—and with U.S. sales finally topping 100,000—it may no longer be true. Admittedly, it’s taken 48 years to get to this point and the novel is still far from a popular favorite, but it’s clearly beginning to get the attention it deserves.

(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.

Peter Gordon1/4/14 – BECOMING A POET IN MID-LIFE: PETER M. GORDON, POET

For anyone who views a writing career as an impossible dream, poet Peter M. Gordon is an inspiration. After a 30-year career in creative work that has included theatre directing, writing, teaching, and television programming, Peter reinvented himself as a poet after the age of 50 – and very successfully so.  (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

12/17/13 — A TEAM EFFORT TOUGHER THAN FOOTBALL

After giving a talk recently about self-publishing, I received a series of plaintive emails from one of the participants who wanted to know why her book had been on Amazon.com for a year without one sale. I asked her if she belonged to the Maryland Writers’ Association, MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association or any association that might provide the help she needed.  “No,” she said, “they all want money for dues.”

Well, yes, but for a fledgling writer, the money is nominal and well spent.   (Continue reading)

Jill Morrow

JILL MORROW

Angel Cafe (Simon & Schuster 2003); The Open Channel (Simon & Schuster 2005); Newport (HarperCollins/William Morrow 2015)

12-13-13 – WROTE THE BOOK, HATED THE MOVIE

“I cried when I saw it. I said, ‘Oh, God, what have they done?'”

“…I was deeply disappointed.”

It was “crummy.”

Ouch. This isn’t what movie directors want to hear after a screening. Worse, these comments came not from random viewers, but from the authors of the books on which each film was based. (Which author said which is noted at the end of this post.)

Although authors dream of seeing their stories come alive on the big screen, it’s also a scary proposition. (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowplus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies, including Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2017.

 

12/10/13 – INTERVIEW WITH ANTON DiSCLAFANI, AUTHOR OF THE YONAHLOSSEE RIDING CAMP FOR GIRLS

Last month, in my review of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, I talked about

Anton DiSclafani

Anton DiSclafani

what a fascinating character Thea Atwell is. She’s also a controversial character. The New York Times called her “an impetuous, headstrong heroine, who often seems like a 1930s version of Scarlett O’Hara.” NPR Books said she’s a “budding feminist,” and The Boston Globe suggested she’s “impossible to like.”

Given the complexity of this character, I couldn’t wait to interview Anton DiSclafani, the author who created her. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point and Hawke’s Return

Edith Wharton

12/7/13 — THE LETTERS OF EDITH WHARTON

When I was having trouble with the first chapter of a novel I was writing, a good friend and writing mentor suggested I take another look at Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. Its first chapter is a classic; it not only draws you into the story but it also lays the groundwork and foreshadows everything that is to follow.

In fact, the opening was so good I couldn’t stop and quickly reread Wharton’s wonderful classic. But as I put it back on my shelf, my eye caught the volume next to it: The Letters of Edith Wharton, edited by her Pulitzer prize-winning biographer R.W.B. Lewis and his wife, Nancy Lewis. And what a marvelous treasure that turned out to be.

(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.

12/4/13 – SLOGGING THROUGH THE CLASSICS

I spent high school immersed in Victorian novels. My purse contained four typed 9×11 sheets listing classic works that every “college-bound” student should read, and every year I dutifully read and crossed more of them off. I defended these books vociferously for their timeless ideas, eschewing more contemporary writing, most of which, I was sure, had only ephemeral value. Though I was writing fiction of my own even back then – and certainly wanted people to read it – my goal was to write something timeless, and I thought my greatest guide to doing so would come from reading other timeless works. (Continue reading)

Our 12/1/13 Guest Blogger John Beckman

OUR 12/1/13 GUEST BLOGGER JOHN BECKMAN

AUTHOR OF THE WINTER ZOO, A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK, 2002, AND AMERICAN FUN: FOUR CENTURIES OF JOYOUS REVOLT, PANTHEON, FEBRUARY 2014

THAT PRIVATE AND TYPICALLY UNCOMFORTABLE FEELING–IT’S A DIRTY FEELING–THAT SOMEONE IS READING OVER YOUR SHOULDER

Never once having blogged before, and writing on an Olivetti version of Word that does not recognize “blogging” as a verb (its two iterations already in this text have been underscored with disapproving red squiggles), I find myself, even now as I blog, seeking a heritage style of composition that may slide smoothly into this more recent convention, (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

BeckmanPHOTO211/29/13 PREVIEWING OUR 12/1/13 GUEST BLOGGER JOHN BECKMAN, WHOSE FIRST NOVEL THE WINTER ZOO WAS A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2002 AND WHOSE FORTHCOMING AMERICAN FUN: FOUR CENTURIES OF JOYOUS REVOLT IS ALREADY HIGHLY PRAISED

Kirkus Reviews said The Winter Zoo was “potent and deeply disturbing…the work of a most ambitious and unquestionably gifted writer.”

The New York Times said: “The hero of this first novel, a young man newly arrived in Poland from Iowa, trades his naivety for lessons in youthfulness; Beckman captures the rush of freshly liberated desires in post-Communist Europe.” Beckman taught literature in Poland and France before becoming a professor of English at the United States Naval Academy. (Continue reading)

M L DOYLE

Author of mystery and memoir with a military theme

During this holiday, when we should reflect on what we are most thankful for, I am thankful for the Marines.

J.E. McCollough served in the Marine Corps from 1996 to 2005.

J.E. McCollough served in the Marine Corps from
1996 to 2005.

Of course, I’m thankful for all the men and women who currently serve, thankful for my fellow veterans and retirees who have served in every branch, but it’s the Marines with which I have a special reason for thanks.

My gratitude began with a question posed by my literary agent when she asked me if I would be interested in co-authoring a memoir. I paused for several seconds then answered honestly. “I’ve never written memoir before.”

“Would you like to try?”

My simple yes was followed by a project that changed my life.

Shoshana Johnson had survived a deadly ambush, had been shot through both of her ankles and taken prisoner by a mob of Iraqis in the early days of the war. She and her fellow POWs were detained for 23 days. They were days filled with terror, confusion, boredom, and camaraderie.

Shoshana and her fellow POWs endured it all together until they were rescued. (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.

justinkramoninterview11-23-13 INTERVIEW WITH JUSTIN KRAMON, AUTHOR OF THE PRESERVATIONIST

Last month, I reviewed Justin Kramon’s new thriller The Preservationist. This time, I interview the author. When I first met Justin Kramon in 2010, he spoke to the Annapolis Chapter of Maryland Writers Association about his well-received first novel Finny. His vivid characters and confident writing style were impressive for an author still in his twenties. I interviewed him then for MWA’s Pen in Hand. He continues to be a thoughtful and engaging interviewee. (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

11/20/13 AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR RON COOPER. (SEE ALSO HIS GUEST BLOGGER POST ON NOVEMBER 1, BELOW, AND MY REVIEW OF HIS ACCLAIMED NOVEL PURPLE JESUS ON OCTOBER 20.)

roncooperQ: Your novels, Hume’s Fork and Purple Jesus, take us into the lives of the rural underprivileged. In The World Republic of Letters, Pascale Casanova says: “…the birth of the American novel may be said to coincide with the use of the oral language in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn… insisting upon a specific idiom freed from the constraints of the written language…” Purple Jesus is in the tradition Twain started, its characters far free of constraints, language-wise. What are you writing now, who’s at the focus, where’s it set? Will idiom be as much a part of the characters, or are you venturing otherwise? (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

11/17/13 MYSTERY LOVES COMPANY

Would you like to go where they really know your name? Better yet, if you read mysteries, they know what you want to read?

Try your local independent mystery bookstore. I drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge last week to the quiet shores of Oxford, Maryland, to drop in on Kathy Harig and the Mystery Loves Company Bookstore. An energetic woman with short white hair wearing a blue turtleneck and corduroy slacks, Harig greeted me with a smile as she waved good-bye to a woman bemoaning the fate of two handsome oak trees in town. The store is on the main street in a building dating from 1900—it’s on the Historic Register–and used as a bank and then a post office for 30 years each. The vault is still intact and, like the rest of the store, packed with books. (Continue reading)

Jill Morrow

JILL MORROW

Angel Cafe (Simon & Schuster 2003); The Open Channel (Simon & Schuster 2005); Newport (HarperCollins/William Morrow 2015)

11/13/13 – THE PUBLIC NATURE OF PRIVATE JOURNALS

I write journals. Year after year, the stacks of filled notebooks on my closet shelf grow taller, leaning into each other until I’m forced to start another pile. This stash doesn’t even include my high school journals, which I burned before leaving for college. (No regrets. A person can only stand so much embarrassment.)

My journals are a safe place to vent, float ideas, work through issues. They allow me to write honestly about my experiences. But what happens to these volumes when I’m gone? Do I really want anyone reading them when I’m not available to explain myself? At least I’m relatively anonymous; nobody outside my immediate family will care about the words I leave behind, so there’s not much worry about a public airing of my private thoughts.

Other journal writers are not so lucky. (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowplus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies, including Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2017.

 

11/10/13  BOOK REVIEW: THE YONAHLOSSEE RIDING CAMP FOR GIRLS BY ANTON DiSCLAFANI

I like a good mystery, especially a mystery embedded in a mainstream novel. So I was hooked when Anton DiSclafani started dropping hints of an unnamed “trouble” at home in the first chapter of her debut novel, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. The “trouble” is the reason fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell’s parents have sent her away from home in Florida to a boarding school where wealthy young women learn to be accomplished equestriennes in the mountains of North Carolina. (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.

11/4/13 – INTERVIEW WITH MARIAN SZCZEPANSKI, AUTHOR OF PLAYING ST. BARBARA 

Marian Szczepanski

Playing St. Barbara 2Novelist Marian Szczepanski and I met at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference in the summer of 1993. We recently reconnected through a mutual Facebook friend who had just reviewed Marian’s new (and first!) novelPlaying St. Barbara. Marian was gracious enough to catch me up on the missing twenty years, including how she came to write this historical novel chronicling the brutal lives and enduring spirit of Depression-era immigrant coal-mining families in southwestern Pennsylvania. (Continue reading)

Ron Cooper

RON COOPER

AUTHOR OF THE GOSPEL OF THE TWIN,  PURPLE JESUS AND HUME’S FORK.

I fell in love with literature when I read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. The backwoods Bundren family—some hard-working and honorable, some shiftless and depraved, and all dirt poor—were my people. I had never imagined that penniless and often clueless clodhoppers could be proper subjects for respectable art. I found that such characters surfaced in the work of other, usually Southern, authors, like Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and Erskine Caldwell. The fictive world occupied by O’Connor’s and Welty’s characters were familiar to me, but they were not the destitute and often violent milieu of Faulkner and especially Caldwell. These authors all understood something about poor people, although only Caldwell seemed especially to care for them. In the years after being awakened to literature by Faulkner, I discovered many writers I admired, but I wondered why nearly all of them wrote only about socio-economically privileged characters. (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

10/29/13, INTRODUCING 11/1/13 GUEST BLOGGER, RON COOPER, AUTHOR OF PURPLE JESUS, PROCLAIMED “SO PERFECTLY WRITTEN, IT’S EXHILARATING TO READ” IN A WASHINGTON POST REVIEW

“You just don’t know. She’s just that. Everything about her. She looks at me—a look that could worm a dog. And her mouth. Lips like corn.”–from Purple Jesus

A look that could worm a dog? Lips like corn? Did I read that right?roncooper

Who puts words like these in their characters’ minds and mouths? A philosophy professor and novelist named Ron Cooper, raised in South Carolina and noted in the French magazine Transfuge as one of a group of writers who focus on poor people living desperate lives. B.A., College of Charleston, M.A., University of South Carolina, Ph.D. Rutgers, Cooper teaches at the College of Central Florida. His fiction has appeared in Yalobusha Review, Apostrophe, Timber Creek Review, and The Blotter, and his first novel Hume’s Fork earned him recognition as a finalist for the Bread Loaf Conference’s Bakeless Literary Prize. He will be our guest blogger on November 1 and will be interviewed here on November 20. See, below, for my October 20 review of Purple Jesus, a tragicomic gem of a novel.

M L DOYLE

Author of mystery and memoir with a military theme

10/26/2013 – Along the Watchtower by David Litwack – a review

David Litwack says, “Nothing inspires his writing like the beautiful scenery of Cape Cod.”  The chilled crash of the shore and theAlong-the-Watchtower-eBook-189x300 craggy trees of the Cape are starkly evident in the pages of Litwack’s Along the Watchtower. The atmosphere he creates by means of the Cape is just one of the many successful  aspects of this novel.

Fredrick Williams is an Army Lieutenant leading his squad on a patrol in Iraq when he is gravely wounded. A man obsessed with the video game, World of Warcraft, Fredrick believes his distraction with the game is what diverted his attention and led to his injuries and the death of his closest friend, the man he calls archangel.

(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.

10/23/13, Review of The Preservationist by Justin Kramon.

Justin Kramon’s book is just out. He says it’s “a psychological thriller, written as a tribute to some of the classic thrillers I love, from Hitchcock to Ruth Rendell to Stephen King to Patricia Highsmith to Henning Mankell.”

I don’t know the last time a had so much to say to a character while I was reading a book. Most often I was saying aloud: No! Don’t do it! Don’t go 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

10/20/13 “Purple Jesus is so perfectly written, it’s exhilarating to read,” wrote Eric Miles Williamson in The Washington Post. “The publication of Purple Jesus is a literary event of the first magnitude.”

Ron Cooper’s Purple Jesus is the heartbreaking tale of a hapless, not always well-intentioned young man—Purvis—being led around by his penis and his penchant for fantasy by a young woman determined to escape the backwoods rural poverty that asthmatic Purvis lacks the self-esteem to ever really imagine himself escaping. The book is also the best explanation—illumination—I’ve seen of how some modern-life tragedies come into being, the kinds of fatal tragedies that leave all of us gawking at the TV news and saying, “Why would anyone do that? What was he thinking?” (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

My first encounter with an unreliable narrator—that I recognized, that is—was years ago when I first read Agatha Christie’s notorious The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, first published in 1926. The ending stunned me as it has many other readers through the years. It also gave rise to a list of rules for writing mysteries formulated by mystery author John Dickson Carr, rebuttals to that list from other authors, and an essay by the well-known literary critic Edmund Wilson entitled “Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?” (Continue reading)

Jill Morrow

JILL MORROW

Angel Cafe (Simon & Schuster 2003); The Open Channel (Simon & Schuster 2005); Newport (HarperCollins/William Morrow 2015)

10/13/13 – THORNE SMITH AND THE AMERICAN GHOST

With Halloween creeping upon us, this seems the perfect time to ask a personal question: how do you like your American ghosts? Do you prefer them spooky? Atmospheric? Maybe you savor a gothic entity laced with fear and darkness, or a tale where the supernatural explores the human psyche. If so, I’ll direct you to Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, or Nathaniel Hawthorne. But if (like me) you prefer the sorts of ghosts who eagerly urge you to hoist a drink or two (or twenty), then you’ll want to spend an evening with Thorne Smith. (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowplus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies, including Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2017.

 

10/10/13 – WHAT MAKES FICTION TRULY SCARY?

’Tis the season for “goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night.” And from all such creatures, the Cornish Litany implores, “Good Lord, deliver us!”

We may indeed need to be delivered from ghosts, vampires, aliens from other planets, monsters, zombies, and other strange beings. Such fiends have long been the staple of horror stories, tales told ’round a campfire, and movies that send people screaming from the theater. But I believe the scariest stories hit much closer to home. Although I never read books classified as “horror,” I’ve been plenty scared by some of the novels and stories I do read. (Continue reading)