Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

The Writer as Superman or Superwoman

Naturally I also admire artists and writers who are unexceptional at anything but their art. Nevertheless, the lives of people who do nothing but write or paint or make music, often seem barren or bleak. Who would want to live Kafka’s life, or Woolf’s, or Joyce’s? I have long been fascinated by multi-faceted geniuses like Leonardo, Michelangelo or Goethe, and those who performed great physical feats. Heroes live full lives. And by ‘heroes’ I don’t mean that we must approve of everything they did. But it’s useful to reflect on those artists who live on a grander scale, who consciously or unconsciously try to live as supermen or superwomen. (Continue reading)

JENNIFER YACOVISSI

Author of Up the Hill to Home

9/20/2016 – Musings: Writer’s Brain, or, Whose Story Is It?

On a recent trip to Florida, my husband, some friends, and I took a short boat ride out to an uninhabited barrier island. We hiked out to the beach, and they pulled up a seat while I continued on to hunt shells. I was perhaps a quarter mile away when I decided to take a quick dip to cool off. As I turned to go back to shore, a searing pain burned through my foot. I stumbled out of the water, fell onto the sand, and watched as blood pumped with every heartbeat from the top of my foot. The pain threatened to cause a blackout.

Here are the things that went through my mind as I sat there:screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-10-02-45-pm

  • I can’t put any weight on my foot.
  • I have no way to stop the bleeding.
  • I am completely alone on this beach.
  • I wonder how I can use this in a story.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a perfect example of writer’s brain. For all I knew, I was in the midst of a life-threatening situation with no obvious resolution, but that was no reason to delay imagining the fictional possibilities. I could immediately envision all the ways this could segue into great literature: (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

9/17/2016 – Research Is Fundamental

Lifelong Learning, necessary for everyone, is especially relevant for writers. The range of skills and knowledge needed to write well and successfully exceeds infinity. A writer’s basic attribute has to be curiosity.

I belong to the Maryland Writers’ Association, which has chapters around the state, each holding monthly meetings with speakers. The past week, I was fortunate to attend the Carroll County Chapter meeting with author Toby Devens and the Howard County Chapter meeting with author Nancy J. Alexander. Toby writes witty books about women’s friendships and struggles; Nancy is a retired psychotherapist turned author who writes the Elisabeth Reinhardt series of psycho-thrillers.

So in one week, I got a quick course in the importance of researching the facts in a novel from Toby and another quick course in developing characters from Nancy (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.

 

9/10/2016.  LOVIN’ THOSE INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES

The Annapolis Bookstore

The Annapolis Bookstore

When Borders set up shop in Overland Park, Kansas, in the early 1990s, my fellow writers and I mourned for what we believed was the impending doom of our local bookstores. Some of us had relatives who ran local stores, and those shopkeepers told us they could never compete with the mega-store on price or selection of books. And for years it seemed they were right. One by one the local bookstores dropped out of existence. Things looked even bleaker a few years later when Amazon.com burst onto the Internet and began sucking up the book business.  But today, the future of independent bookstores has taken on a whole new shine. Articles in prestigious publications including Time, Forbes, Salon, and The New York Times herald the news that indie bookstores are not dead. And the truth is, they’re right.

(Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

9/7/2016 — Open Magda Szabó’s Door and You Won’t Regret It

productimage-picture-the-door-447

So you devoured Elene Ferrante’s tetralogy and now you’re wondering what other international gems are out there—books so good you can’t believe you never heard of them. Well, look no further than Magda Szabó’s The Door. If you like Ferrante, I guarantee you’ll like Szabó.

Magda Szabó, who died in 2007 at age 90, was one of Hungary’s most important 20th century writers, widely read and admired at home but only recently getting the love and attention she deserves worldwide. The Door was published in 1987 but not translated into English until 2005, when it appeared in Britain. Last year, the New York Review Books classics offered it up to American audiences in a new, widely praised translation by Len Rix. We should all be thankful. (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.

09-04-16  JUST ONE BOOK: TOP PICKSJust One Book

If you could own a physical copy of just one book, what would it be and why? I asked this question last month and got a wide-variety of answers. Not surprisingly, several people chose the Bible, a single book that served the vast majority of people since the dawn of book publishing and ownership just fine. Other top must-haves for the digital age included cookbooks and other guides, marked-up editions, collections, and a random assortment of personal favorites, including memoirs, social analyses, and fiction. (Continue reading)

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 favorite 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

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

8/25/16 — 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?

(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.

 

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

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

 

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.

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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

Aulthor of 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.

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