Friday, December 16, 2011

Louise Penny

Louise Penny - anyone familiar with her work?

I just completed THE BRUTAL TELLING. Hated it at first, but kept going because it was a gift from DD2 for my birthday. That's a clue right there, I can read a book I like in a day or two. This one took two weeks.

I hated the idle chit chat of the villagers. I detested the introduction of so many characters, and how they interfered with the story. I did not like how she portrayed the small village, nestled into the woods, and how the villagers avoided the forest. Having grown up in a small village nestled in the woods, many of the points were implausible. But I plodded on, a scene here, a chapter there, and waded through it. Not much action, just a lot of idle chit chat.

This is a book I would have put back on the shelf fifteen seconds after opening it. But I knew DD2 would ask me about it, so there was no turning back.

Then a strange thing happened. As I progressed into the story, the village began to open, and I became interested in the villagers. What I earlier dismissed as idle chit chat became important to me. That's when I realized the story wasn't about the murder, it was about the people.

I'm always about the story, and confess a weakness on character portrayal. I can tell you what they look like, smell like, and walk like, but I haven't yet developed the skills to portray the rich tapestry of thought and emotion that Louise Penny has accomplished. THE BRUTAL TELLING is an MFA in character development. Give it a try, if you haven't already.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Home Front

There is a woman who waits in the post office nearly every day. She's watching for people who are sending "Care Packages" to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. When she spots a package, she offers to pay the postage.

My wife was overwhelmed by her generosity when she carried several small boxes into the post office last week, and couldn't help but ask her why. "It's for my son," was her response. "I promised him I would take care of all the boys over there."

"I see," my wife replied, "and who is your son?"

She pointed to a picture on the post office wall. "Him," she replied.

The picture is of Sgt. Lea Mills, who died at age 21 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The post office is named in his memory.

So this is for the woman who waits at the post office, and all the family members of those who serve.

Home Front

With a bloody knee he pushes his bike slowly up the lane,
He’ll try to put the training wheels back on.
There’s a little girl whose daddy won’t be watching her tonight,
As she dances in her very first ballet.

There’s a woman in the kitchen fighting silent tears alone,
It’s mac ‘n cheese for dinner once again.
She prays to God for strength to make it through another night,
And wonders when her husband’s coming home.

A faded yellow ribbon hangs in tatters on the door
The candle in the window’s lit each night.
One day a gentle wind will see our weary soldiers home
To find the peace that they’ve been fighting for.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What's in the hopper

Working on two manuscripts, they're both coming along nicely. The first is a follow-up to DOG ISLAND. It picks up the unresolved conflict, and carries the story into another arena. It is way too early to let you in on any details, but the working title is DEAD MAN'S KEY. That title may not stick, but it's okay for now.

The second is a Southern Gothic, titled IT WAS AUGUST. Inspired by a short story I wrote and got published in WORDSMITH, the Tampa Writers' Alliance annual anthology, it expands the story and delves a little deeper into the psychological pathology of a killer's mind and the people who refuse to believe he could kill.

Another story line is running through my brain, screaming for attention. This one will be more or less true, and could be the most powerful of all. But it will have to wait until I finish the other two.

What's coming out of your word processor? Do tell!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Breaking News

DOG ISLAND, the story of a man forced by circumstances to resume a role he thought he'd left behind, will be published by the wonderful people at Oak Tree Press. Details on publishing date, cover art and rewrites are being hashed out. I will post more information as the project progresses.

Many thanks to Sunny and Billie for making this a reality. This is a very exciting time for me, and I can barely wait to hold the printed book in my hand and flip through the pages.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Breaking the Rules

A few previous posts discussed some of the things I've learned about writing. Things like "Start the story close to the action" and "The Inciting Incident should be near the beginning".

Well, I recently read a story that broke both those rules and did so brilliantly. It's no secret that I admire Timothy Hallinan's writing, and QUEEN OF PATPONG is, in my humble opinion, the best work I've read in a long time.

The story opens with a man entering a brothel in Bangkok. He is looking for a woman, not just any woman, a certain woman. You don't know who the man is, but the woman he seeks is a very young (age 16) prostitute appropriately named Toy. Alternating with the brothel scenes are the actions of a Thai police officer. The man exits the brothel with Toy in tow, only to be accosted by the police officer.

Interesting, but it doesn't have much of anything to do with the story. But it is so compelling, that I as the reader didn't mind at all. I loved the opening. The Inciting Incident didn't occur until Chapter 2, and a few pages into the second chapter at that.

So why did he break the rules? I don't have any special insight into the author's mind, but I did pick up a thing or two.

Aside from painting a colorful image of Bangkok street life, several important elements emerge from the chapter. In one of the scenes depicting the police officer, a young woman, ostensibly a hooker, empties the pocket of her "john" in full view of the officer. When the "john" complains, the policeman asks for her name. The "john" didn't know her name. The police officer responds, "in Thailand, everyone has a name." That scene humanizes the hooker, and in effect, humanizes all of Patpong's hookers. They are no longer anonymous faces in the crowd, but people with beating hearts and blood running through their veins, not unlike you or I.

As it turns out, the man in the brothel.... well, I don't want to give any more of the story away than I already have. If you've read the story, I'd love to hear your comments. If you haven't, you should treat yourself to the book. It was one of the Edgar nominees, and is a very worthy novel.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beta Reading

Do you review others' work? Beta reading can be a challenge, especially if the voice is way different from mine. When making suggestions for revision, I try to make no impact on the voice or the flow of the work.

A tremendous amount of time and energy can go into beta reading, but it is a critical part of getting your novel ready for publication.

Some suggestions:
1) Don't be snarky. It adds no value whatsoever, and will alienate yourself from your reading group.
2) Check for the fundamentals. Paragraph and sentence structure, punctuation, spelling. It is easy for a writer to overlook a lot of these, since the brain will often see what it meant to put on the page, not what is actually there.
3) Does a word or a phrase cause to stumble, or pause to consider the message it conveys? If so, it may be best to revise that passage.
4) Is there a natural flow to the story, or is it hard to follow?
5) Characters are harder to convey, but check to see if the character motivation and actions make sense.
6) Continuity - if a character is wearing a red dress, then falls down and rips her blue slacks, a continuity check is in order.

Good luck, and let me know if these tips are useful. I'd also like to know what you look for when reading others' work.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Do you have a secret to share?


If I shared with you a secret, would you promise not to say
A single word about the things we whisper here today?

Come a little closer and I’ll murmur in your ear
But first you have to promise you will hold this message dear

And never tell another soul, but darling, if you do
Be sure that you extract from them their sacred promise to

Never breathe a word of this to any of their friends -
On second thought I think that I shall whisper to the winds.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reflections on Turning 100

No, not me. My Dad turned 100 a couple of weeks ago. That's quite a milestone for anyone to make, and we celebrated with a grand party at the home where he now lives.

He's only been in the home since March. For 99 and two-thirds years he's lived an independent life, hale and hearty. He always was a big man, over six feet tall, strong and healthy.

He loomed in my mind as larger than he really was. When I lived in the Netherlands, I bought him a sweater made in Denmark. Knitted of fine wool, the sweater was meant to ward off the North Sea gales and would do well against the rugged winters of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"What size should we get?" asked my wife. Holding it up, I replied. "Better get the extra large."

When we called that Christmas, Dad laughed. "How big do you think I am, anyway?"

"Just wash it," I said, "it will shrink."

It was a shock to see him at the nursing home, in a wheel chair, face bruised from a nasty fall taken a week or so earlier. He's nearly blind from macular degeneration, diminished in strength and stature. I gave him a CD player along with several audio books so he could listen to the stories he can no longer read.

But his spirit is undiminished. His mind is clear, and his memories are sharp. We talked about the old days. how he and his cousin hoboed their way out to California in the early days of the Depression.

"I worked in a bakery on LaBrea," he said, "A Frenchman owned it, or maybe a Swede. It was so long ago, I can't remember. But he was fat." Never trust a skinny cook, or baker for that matter.

So I set up the CD player and showed him how it works. One button for the power, and he could see enough of the LED lights to tell if it was on or off. One button to make it play, and one button to open the cover to change the CD.

I wished I could do more. But fighting City Hall would be a piece of birthday cake compared to fighting old age. May God bless our Centenarians.

Friday, July 29, 2011

New York Writers Workshop

If you've completed a novel, New York Writers Workshop has a new class

Have you written a novel? Are you thinking about 'next steps'? Today there are more publishing paths than ever--from traditional deals to becoming your own independent publisher.

This fall, Jenny Milchman will be teaching a class for New York Writers Workshop that explores the whole range of publishing options. You will learn what makes a novel ready for publication, and how to ensure that yours is truly ready. A close knit atmosphere of writerly support is a hallmark of NYWW courses.

After 11 years of trying to break in, Jenny recently received an offer on her debut novel. It will be coming out from Ballantine/Random House in early 2013. The experiences she's had along the way will inform this class, as will special guest author appearances by people who have self-published, been traditionally published, and some who have done both.

Please follow this link to learn more and feel free to email me with any questions.

This class will assist your novel find its best path to publication!

I've taken a class from the NYWW, and it was instrumental in moving me forward in my writing career.  It will be worthwhile, I'm sure.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Car

The car in the blog header is a 1946 MG TC, and the picture was taken the day I got it.  It was a gift from my wife on our wedding anniversary, and she remains a part of our family to this day. 

We were celebrating our anniversary with our two daughters.  After a special dinner, my wife wanted to drive to a nearby picnic spot on the Gulf to have dessert.  So we piled into the family car with our two daughters.  About half way there, our oldest daughter claimed she needed a bathroom break.  So we pulled into a nearby fast food chain.

As it happened, the local antique car club was holding their weekly car show.  We parked, and I got out to admire the cars.  All the cars were beautiful, but the one English beauty stood out among her American cousins.  As we waited for our daughter, we wandered through the parking lot, admiring the cars.

The club had a DJ playing music from the fifties and sixties.  The music stopped and the MC announced, "It's time to announce the car of the month award."

I didn't pay much attention, just kept wandering through the show.  By this time, our oldest daughter had joined us.  The MC continued, "The car of the month is the 1946 MG TC."

My wife asked, "Which one is the MG?"

"It's the white one over there," I said.

The MC continued, "The owner of the car is Tom Gill."

I was certain I had imagined it.  I didn't have a car in the show.  There was no way I could win an award without even entering.  There must be some other Tom Gill here.

The MC called out once more, "Will Tom Gill please come up and receive his prize."

My wife nudged my side.  "It's you," she whispered.

Dazed, I slowly walked up to the MC, wondering where the hidden cameras were placed.  It had to be some sort of joke.  The MC handed me a ribbon with a medal and my bride, beaming with pride and pleasure, said, "It's your anniversary present."

The gift was a total surprise.  My wife bought the car and had arranged to make it road worthy with a local MG specialist.  The presentation was arranged with the car club, and everyone there was in on it except me.

Well, we promptly named her Annie, which is short for Anniversary, and gave her a prize location in our garage.  Years later, I still have a hard time believing it really happened.  We've enjoyed several trips in her, and have met some wonderful people through her.  The car turns heads every where we go.

Best of all, every novel I write has, or will have, a vintage MG "T-Type" featured in at least one scene.  That's why I chose that photo to be the introduction to my blog.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shaken: Stories for Japan

Timothy Hallinan has edited an ebook anthology of twenty top authors called SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN.  The anthology is now available on Amazon, and all the proceeds go to Japan's earthquake relief efforts. 

The anthology is not only a worthwhile literary achievement, it is a remarkable humanitarian effort as well.  Timothy and his team of authors worked hard to create this edition, and I applaud their contribution.  Let's make their work worthwhile by purchasing the ebook.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Timothy Hallinan has just completed "an e-book collection of original short stories by 20 terrific writers". Look for it at your favorite e-book store. Knowing Tim's writing, this will be a terrific anthology. And all proceeds from the sale of the book go to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial day is coming up. It's a day set aside to remember those who lost their lives defending ours. I wrote this in honor of the men and women who did not return, knowing that I, too, was once a soldier.

Memorial Day

Please think of me when autumn frost,
Turns leaf to russet gold.
When sheep file down from pasture high,
To keep in winter fold.

When bugles blew and drums of war,
In rhythm deep and slow,
Sent forth their call across the land,
To soldiering I did go.

Remember me when pale moon lights
Our valley cloaked in snow.
When nestled snug in woolen shawl,
Near firelight’s ruddy glow.

The poppies red of Flander’s field,
Bloom high in Afghan dale.
With silent tears they bow their heads,
And weep in hidden vale.

Forget me not when spring winds blow,
Place flowers near my name.
Please keep me locked inside your heart,
And love me all the same.

The guns report their deep respect,
The bugles solemn blow,
In grieving for the fallen ones,
Who did to soldiering go.

Please think of me when summer sun
Lies gentle on your shoulder.
Forgive me for the love unmade,
God rest the fallen soldier.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Inciting Incident

An earlier post discussed "Where does your book begin?" Not your story, your book. This post will delve a little deeper into the topic.

The question has been asked in several different ways, like "Where does the story engine kick in?" Or, "What makes the main character get up off his ass and do something?"

The Inciting Incident. The turning of the key that starts the story engine running.

What is it, and where does it occur?

Roughly put, the Inciting Incident is the singular event that defines the problem facing your Main Character. It should happen pretty early in the story, or the reader will get bored and go on to the next book on the shelf.

In DOG ISLAND, the downhearted MC is sitting on the beach in front of his house moping. The why of this isn't clear, and who he is isn't clear either. But he sits there, alone, depressed and moping until a boat, driven by a dead man, lands ashore at his feet.

That defines the problem. The boat landing is exciting in itself, and becomes the catalyst for all subsequent action. Up to that point, everything is backstory. Everything that happens afterward is DOG ISLAND, which is a great place to get away from it all until it all comes after you.

In Tim Hallinen's A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART, a man is digging in the mud and finds a safe. He is digging on behalf of another man, who watches from a distance. The digger is told not to look in the safe, but he does. That decision is the Inciting Incident, and sets the action in motion.

Tell me, what is your favorite Inciting Incident? It could be from a book, a movie, or a play. Would love to hear from you.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Dog's Life - Part 2

I must say that truly the only way to experience Beverly Hills is with a dog like Rocket! He was the magic key to the city. Last time we experienced the smell of street urine and the sound of grocery carts scooting along the asphalt in the heart of downtown. For contrast, on this trip we would smell the over-perfumed, plastic girls and hear the sound of diamonds clinking in Beverly Hills.

Here he is in front of this modern art piece.

Looking for a Pretty Woman, he strolled along Rodeo Drive

He took BH by storm. People in tour buses waved as they passed by. Paparazzi with clicking cameras followed his every move. Don't be too surprised if you see his picture featured in every supermarket tabloid.

Seriously, as we passed by all the people on the street we could hear them talk about Rocket in various languages. "Regardez, le chien," or "Mida! El perro!". Several children stopped to pet him. All the Beverly Hills women with little puffball dogs opened their arms to Rocket and me for conversation. "Oh how much does your Bichon weigh?", "Oh, what a cute dog!", and "Please do join Muffie and me on the verandah for some cucumber sandwiches!" (Um, okay, perhaps that last one was a slight exaggeration.)

Rocket went to Beverly Hills
at Jack & Jill's
to fetch a drink of water.

He sat down
and lost his frown
as the water came soon after.

Rocket had to join in the performance art scene on Canon Drive. Afterwards we headed back through the residential streets and he sniffed every tree and stone that had a story to tell.

Back at his hotel, the front desk girls all greeted Rocket by name. He went up on two paws and did his Snoopy dance. The front desk girls squealed with delight. He sure knows how to work a room! Now he is passed out under the table and dreaming about his next luxury destination.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Dog's Life

Our daughter is visiting, and she left her dog with Christine, a sitter. Christine has been kind enough to send her daily updates of Rocket's adventures. Here is a recap of Rocket's day, published with Christine's permission.

When you had mentioned that he had lived in NYC, I figured it would be fun for him to see some of the sights of downtown.
Here he is sending me telepathy for us to get a move on.

It worked! He loved watching the action out of the car window and would look over occasionally at me. I think he wondered who I was and what a change of events it was from yesterday. We even heard Elton John singing Rocket's song on the radio. I swear I heard Rocket humming when it came to his part of the song.

Rocket was very excited by time we arrived and parked on the border of Little Tokyo & the Arts District. Here he is posing with bated breath in front of the city. Let's explore!

He took a breather in a little square in Little Tokyo. You can see the lanterns dancing above him.

Uh, well I think Rocket has found his inside "dawg" while cruising down the city streets. Word. He had to get a photo of the tags on the wall, and me being his new mija, I had to oblige. I saw him flash the secret paw sign when we passed a homeboy.

Rocket really enjoyed the art district area. We even stopped at a little café and sat and relaxed. I enjoyed soup and he enjoyed a small sliver of his Happy Hips Duck Breast.

Here is Rocket after our respite. Adventure over, it was time to go home.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART a novel by Timoth Hallinan

Timothy Hallinan is a terrific author. A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART, set in Bangkok, depicts the complete spectrum of human existence. The tale draws you into a city where veins of poverty and depravity pulse through a heart of beauty. Poke Rafferty, a travel writer fascinated by the city and its people, knows well the darkness but chooses the light, even while the shadows whisper and claw.

I can’t say the book is for everyone. The blackest human nature is clearly shown, and is neither whitewashed nor sensationalized. It’s simply a fact of life in Bangkok, and has to be dealt with. All I can say is that it’s been a long time since I had to finish a book in a single read. This one kept me up until 2:00 am, and the game was well worth the candle. My next purchase will be THE FOURTH WATCHER, the second in Mr. Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty series.

You can see summaries of all four stories at

Does your book have a strong romantic element?

If so, check out

Sherry over at Crescent Moon Press is open for submissions. Her ms requirements are clearly stated.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Been travelin'

Sorry I haven't posted anything lately, been traveling. Visited Boca Raton/Fort Lauderdale, Dallas, Montreal, and Orlando - in that order.

Will have a post about Tim Hallinan's terrific NAIL THROUGH THE HEART in a couple of days.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How POV Influences your Book

For starters, I like first person. Yes, there are readers who claim “I won’t read ‘I’ books.” I know one agent who will not rep first person books, period. First person limits the writer because everything is seen through one pair of eyes. Backstory, plot, characters all await to be revealed – to the Main Character and the Reader alike. To me, this is a good thing, for it allows the MC and the Reader to travel together on a journey of discovery.

The key to first person is the voice. If the Writer’s voice is compelling the Reader will be interested. A dull voice will not carry any story, but first person is acutely vulnerable to voice.

Third person frees the Writer from a single POV. Jumping from one character’s head to another can be a joy, if it’s done right. Here are a few tips from Sleuthfest to help keep you on track. First, when changing POV, Meg Gardiner offered this advice. “Don’t spend too much time away from the MC.” If you spend too much time with other characters, the Reader gets drawn away from the MC, and this may negatively impact the Reader’s experience.

Another third person trap is omniscient POV. The story shouldn’t be told as from a camera lens observing the action, but from inside the head of the scene's primary character. Changing POV allows the Writer to provide information to the Reader from different perspectives. But the Writer must take care to let the Reader know which character is commanding the scene. Chapter breaks or a few lines of white space can help the Reader know there is a shift in POV.

One way for a Writer to choose a writing technique is to read - a lot. Which method draws you in? Try the style for yourself. How does it work for you? How will it work for your Readers. One of the best pieces of advice I heard was from Dennis Lehane. "Write the book you would like to read."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Meg Gardiner

Snapped this photo when Meg stopped by the Broward County Bomb Squad exhibit. Can't say enough about her as a person and a writer. She is gracious, intelligent, friendly, and has a terrific sense of humor. Read her books, you won't be disappointed.

Dennis Lehane at Sleuthfest 2011. Dennis is not only a great writer, he offered some terrific insights into the world of his writing.

Things I Learned at Sleuthfest

Randy Rawls (JEB’S DECEPTION, JASMINE’S FATE) gave a talk on “Where does your Book Begin”? Not the story, all stories begin at the beginning. “Where does your book begin?” is a slightly different question. I’m going to summarize what I learned from great writers at Sleuthfest 2011.

The obvious answer is to start your book with an opening that draws the reader in. There are no rules, no formulas, to make that happen. Each reader’s experience is unique, right? While there are no rules, I did pick up some tips to help make a compelling opening.

James Born (BURN ZONE, FIELD OF FIRE) gave some great advice. “If you don’t care about the character, you won’t care about the plot.” Make who the bad guy is clear from the start. The flip side of that coin says you should make who the good guy is clear from the start. So if your book starts with a throw-away character or one who gets marginalized later on, re-think your beginning.

Readers have to care about your character as much, or more than you do. To make that happen, tell a little about why the character is in the situation she’s in. Meg Gardiner’s THE MEMORY COLLECTOR starts with a boy riding a bike. Big deal, 99.99% of all healthy boys ride bikes. But by the third sentence, you get the sense that this is no ordinary bike ride and there is trouble afoot. “He never heard them coming.” Five words make up that third sentence, and it hangs like a thunderhead ready to spit lightning. So you’re hooked. You have to read more. You have to know what happens to Seth, and why.

Meg Gardiner (Evan Delaney and Jo Beckett Mystery Series) gave some great tips. “Start your story as close to the end as possible.” As in THE MEMORY COLLECTOR example, we don’t know where in the sequence of events the opening scene occurs. In the analysis of the book, it doesn’t matter. The scene is critical to the story, but it doesn’t matter when it occurred.

Meg offered more advice on what not to do.
1. Don’t explain too much of a story.
2. Don’t start with a dream sequence
3. Don’t do a “story within a story”.
4. Don’t be too introspective.

Will save more for later posts, and I’d love to hear your comments. Hope you find this helpful

Friday, March 4, 2011


Sponsored by the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, Sleuthfest is a must do event for mystery/thriller/suspense writers at all phases of their career.

Sleuthfest is a conference for writers, not readers. There are workshops that focus on plot, dialog, characterization, research, marketing. A cornucopia of craft honing by people who really know their stuff. Since it’s so hard to take it all in, the MWA volunteers tape every session and make them available to attendees.

The caliber of speakers and attendees is impressive. Dennis Lehane, Meg Gardner, SJ Rozan, Heather Graham, and that’s where the list starts. Too many to identify, for the entire talented roster, you’ll have to visit their website. With this level of talent at your disposal, how can you not improve your craft?

I got in on Thursday afternoon and hit Randy Rawls' talk on storytelling. Where does your book begin? Not the story, the book. Then Neil Plakcy, president of the Florida MWA chapter, gave a presentation on Writing to Avoid Rejection.

SJ Rozan talked about the industry in general, and focused on genre writing and how much it matters to the story. Afterward, I went to a great little burger shop with Neil Plakcy, along with Dan and Dawn Ash.

Enough for now, have to get back to the conference. I will post summaries of each of the topics I attended along with my own observations in subsequent blog entries. Come back often, leave comments. I always enjoy hearing from you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Going there tomorrow, should be great. Dennis Lehane is the featured speaker, and I hope to get my copy of Mystic River signed.

This is my first writers' conference, and will try to post every day,

Friday, February 25, 2011

What makes a great town?

Spent most of the week in Gonzales, Louisiana. This is a town that most of us would pass by on our way from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Flat country, not much to look at, but none the less, Gonzales is a great little town.

Went to lunch on Tuesday with some business acquaintances to a place called Brew Bacher's. Had a fried shrimp po' boy that was out of this world. Mike's daughter plays on the local high school softball team and most of the team was there. Beautiful girls, and they all stopped by to say hi. That's the memory that lingers. Everybody knew everybody and how they all came by our table for introductions. In no time flat I was an accepted member of the community. I can't remember anyone's name, but loved that they stopped by.

The two guys I worked with were Gonzales natives. Their office is next door to the high school where they both graduated some twenty plus years ago. They went off to college, of course, but came back.

Bought a King Cake at a local bakery to share with the guys.

Went to another place on Thursday called Sno's and had their Shrimp Helen. Lightly breaded and fried shrimp smothered in etouffe sauce, sprinkled with lump crab. Wow. I'd go back in a heartbeat. And they claim Sno's is "all right". More than "all right" by me.

So I ate well this week, but that's not what this post is about. I live in a mid-sized community in Florida where no one knows his neighbor, and all the high school graduates can barely wait to get out of town. We don't have a bakery, and our best restaurants are national chains. We're all transients, on our way from birth to death with a short, or maybe not so short, stopover in Florida along the way.

That's why we don't know our neighbors. The folks who lived across the street when we moved in here have all moved away. There are a couple of new people in the area, but they keep to themselves. So do we. The few people we know in the community are through my wife's work, since my job is more of a national scope rather than local.

I didn't realize how much I missed being a part of this type of community until I happened upon Gonzales, Louisiana. This town is a treasure. Not for its museums, not for its scenic beauty, not even for its restaurants. It has something far more important going for it. At the heart of Gonzales are some truly terrific people, people who were born there, grew up there, and came back to help their town get along.

To them, Gonzales is more than a place to make a living, it's a place to live.

So if you happen to find yourself traveling along I-10 westbound out of New Orleans, or eastbound out of Baton Rouge, stop by Gonzales and say hi. If you're feeling peckish, search out Brew Bacher's or Sno's for a bite. And when you do, watch the people around you. I'll be mighty surprised if you don't see people stopping by the tables to engage in some friendly small talk. It's common there, and that's what makes Gonzales special.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Daytona 500

Wow, what an event. Thirty cars rushing around a two and a half mile track reaching speeds over two hundred miles per. Bumper to bumper, fender to fender, tires screaming and a half million spectators watching them roar around the track on a brilliant blue afternoon.

First impression was the rush of people. Five hundred thousand extremely well behaved fans converged on this small patch of Florida real estate. People lined up everywhere; for shuttle buses, for souvenirs, for snacks, for the restrooms… But everyone that I saw was polite, mindful of others, and had respect for the event. Not something you see every day. I know, I’ve been to Disney World.

At the hot dog stand, a kid leaned toward me and asked, “Who would like to win?” “Dale Earnhardt, Jr.” I replied, “he’s had his share of bad luck, and he’s due for a change.”

“Not a bad choice,” he said, “not bad.” That day was the tenth anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

We had terrific seats, right at the end of pit row and in front across from a big screen where we could watch the dueling on the back side of the track.

The air itself blew in fresh from the south. Born far in the north, even a visit to the tropics could only take a little of the glacial sting out of the air. As the breeze climbed up the stands, it carried the scents of the race. Scorched brakes registered the low notes, blue tire smoke came in with an acrid sharpness, and exhaust fumes smelling like lighter fluid swirled among the spectators. The faint aroma of charcoal fires, carried from the infield where the travel trailers were parked, sizzled with burgers and steaks.

When the pace car left the field, everyone stood to watch the race begin. All across the stands, fans raised their fists with three fingers extended in tribute to DE, Sr. The car he drove, the car he died in, wore the number 3. And the fans did not forget.

There are no Porches at Daytona. No Ferraris, no McLarens, no Renaults. This is all about American muscle. Oh, a handful of Toyotas made valiant efforts, but none managed higher than fourth. The top three spots went to Fords. The Fords, the Dodges, and the Chevys owned the track.

As the engines started, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the noise. Louder than a jet roaring down a runway, the combined decibels from thirty unmuffled super engines married to the whine of thirty straining turbochargers was an experience in itself. I could feel the power of it vibrate within my chest as the main body of cars raced by.

The story of the day, though, belonged to young Trevor Bayne. A rookie who celebrated his twentieth birthday the day before the race, took first place in his first ever Daytona attempt. It was only his second NASCAR event. What a day for Trevor.

The only negative was the logistics in getting from the parking lot to the speedway and back again. It took over an hour to negotiate. And a big raspberry is blown to the Daytona police force, who forced traffic out of the city by way of indirect routes. They closed my path homeward, even though there was no logical reason to do so. Their decision caused an additional hour of wasted time trying to get home. Next year, I’ll work out a better way to get in and out of the city.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So you just wrote a best seller

What makes a best seller? The short answer is, “Nobody knows.” Why do people buy one book and pass on another? Maybe the cover is attractive, maybe the first page is compelling, maybe, maybe, maybe. In actual fact, if anyone knew the formula for a best seller, J K Rowling wouldn’t have endured fourteen (some sources say twelve) rejections before finding a publisher to take on her Harry Potter series.

So what does that mean for writers? Whether you are self published, work with an indie, or a major house, you need to know the market for your book. When writing, keep in mind who you’re writing for. Oh, we can always fall back on that “I’m writing for myself. I don’t care if anyone else likes it or not.” Fine, in that case, why not just keep a diary and save yourself the struggle of landing a publishing contract?

If you want to get published, consider your audience. That’s still something of a black art as far as I can tell. Even the publishers aren’t completely sure of who will buy your book, and they are the experts, right?

I started with genre. Genre wise, I am a mystery/suspense writer with a style that falls somewhere between Randy Wayne White and John D. MacDonald, with a slight dose of Tim Dorsey thrown in for humor. While I’m not arrogant enough to consider myself at their level (yet), a lot of elements are similar enough for classification purposes.

Okay, I’ve got a handle on who I am as a writer. But who would buy my book once it’s out there? Sisters in Crime recently published a study on mystery reader demographics. According to their study, 70% of mystery buyers are women, and 70% of mystery buyers are over 45 years old.

Ouch! My book is a bit more male centric. Did I cut myself off of the largest market segment? Not necessarily, my beta readers were female, and they enjoyed the read. They also offered major suggestions, which I took to heart. I wanted the story to appeal to the ladies as well as the men.

How do I reach the mystery buying public? The Sisters in Crime study claims that 19% get their books at libraries. Maybe I should consider donating some books to libraries, maybe try to do a talk or two over there? 11% of mysteries are acquired through book clubs. This bears a little research as well. Maybe try to get a review and a recommendation from Mystery Guild or Mystery Readers?

SIC claims that 39% are store bought. How to get on the shelves at Barnes and Noble? Talk to some store managers, see if they allow signings, see if they have a shelf for local writers. Unless you are working with a big publishing house, I think that getting onto the shelves nationwide will be a tough battle. Except for the local stores, it may be better to save your energy for activities with a greater payback percentage.

Another interesting tidbit from the SIC study is that 35% are purchased in the South. Good for me, I live in the South. So I need to reach out to women over 45 who live in the South. I travel quite a bit, so dropping in on libraries, book clubs, book stores, and book fairs is a possibility. Locating them and finagling my way in will take some work, but may be worth the effort.

What this all boils down to is work. Stretch yourself. Do some research. Reach out to people in different areas and see if they are willing to work with you. Don’t take no too easily, but don’t push to the point of being obnoxious. Think of non-traditional ways to get the word out. In return, remember others who, like you, are struggling with the same issues, and lend them a helping hand along the way.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Literary Suspense

Is there such a thing? I just read two suspense novels by accomplished authors, and was less impressed by the storyline than by the prose. By nature, I am a mystery/thriller fan, and am wondering about this subset of the genre.

Both authors are positioned on the mystery/thriller bookstore shelves. In the first, I found what is perhaps the most eloquent one line description of a character's action I've ever read. In the second, the emotions swirl in a prosaic kaleidoscope as the story progresses to its ultimate conclusion.

At some level, all stories have drama. But in most mystery/thriller stories, plot by far is the focus. In the "literary suspense" stories, the prose slows the pacing and allows the reader to live inside the character's heads.

Your thoughts on this are greatly appreciated. Start the discussion by leaving a comment.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Morning Visitors

Was enjoying my morning coffee, looking over the backyard. It's spring in Central Florida, the nectarine tree is blooming and the orange tree is in the early stages of budding new blossoms.

My backyard ends with a thick tangle of underbrush. I don't live in the country, but there is plenty of cover. Cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, quail, squirrels, rabbits, gopher turtles, and a host of other wildlife are frequent visitors to our back yard.

The small animals attract their share of predators. I've seen hawks, owls, fox, and even a bobcat makes an occasional visit.

But this morning, two coyotes passed through the back yard. They've been around before, but haven't been spotted for a couple of years.

Our two dogs went berserk when they saw the coyotes. When the barking started, the coyotes stopped and looked toward the house. After a moment, the lead animal continued into the wooded area and soon was out of sight. The second one waited a moment longer, and limped off. Interesting enough, he didn't limp into the yard, only on his way out.

The limp was on the right foreleg, plainly visible from the house. I wondered about the coyote's intentions. Many animals feign injury to draw a predator away from their nests, but this is the first time I saw an animal feign an injury in hopes of luring an animal into a trap.

The coyote obviously hoped our dogs would give chase. Our dogs are 20 pound bichons, no match for the coyotes. If they had been outside when the coyotes came, one or both of them would have been easy prey.

Looks like I'll have to keep a close eye on the dogs.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

O, to be an Author

Here's another poem. This one was written a few years ago, when my first novel was on sub, garnering rejection after rejection from agents.

I thought the sweaty palms were bad
Until the butterflies went mad
And raced their engines in the pit
Of my ample stomach, then they quit.

I hoped they weren’t gone for good
For I that moment, understood
The ups and downs, excitement, nerves,
This fast ride through slow endless curves
Were all a part of what it takes
To be an author, goodness sakes.

The letter held with aching hope
Was from an agent. The envelope
Contained the answer that I sought,
But alas, I found that it was not.

Your work is fine but not for me,
I suggest you find an agency
That can deliver what you seek
Just stay away from me, you freak.

I stood there in the setting sun,
And thought about my work undone.
More novels, poems, and stories rage
To be born upon a printed page.
Tomorrow brings the mail once more
With a better batch of news, I’m sure.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

So You Want to be an Author?

I've read a lot of posts about the writing process, but not much about the life of a writer. Actually, a writer's life is great fun, we sit around the computer, drink a lot of scotch - or wine if the writer's a female, and tell jokes to one another.

For relaxation, we hie ourselves to the French Riviera or the Swiss Alps and regale each other with tales of woe about how badly our publishers treat us while we reach for another bite of caviar.


Typically, there are times of writing frenzy. Our muse stands behind our chairs, whip in hand, goading us forward until the story is complete. During that period, our lives are solitary, alone with notes and thoughts. Our characters keep us company and we guide their antics along as best we can. Sometimes, they take off on tangents that have to be clipped later.

Then comes the editing. Grammar errors, spelling errors, structural errors, plot holes, character inconsistencies, time line problems, red herrings all have to be excised. For me, that's the hardest part.

Then the research begins. What do the settings really look like, smell like, feel like? I had one character stop to buy a new car, and before the story was done, that car line was taken out of business, so every reference to it had to change.

If it's a period piece, are the characters wearing the right clothes? In one scene set during WWII, I had Eva Peron dancing in a Dior gown, straight from Paris. Unh-uh. During the war, most fashion houses either closed or were moved to Berlin by the Germans. So the gown had to come from Berlin.

Then the story is complete, right? Not yet. The story has to be examined for consistency, redundancy, and every scene has to have a purpose. Many lovely scenes have been deleted not because they were poorly written, but because they were not necessary. I have two great songs sitting on my hard drive that I had to cut from DOG ISLAND because they just didn't fit. During this phase you have to be your own worst critic. If you aren't, there are thousands sitting on the sidelines waiting to chop your work to bits.

Then comes the final phase, which I call "Taking it up a notch". Where can there be more conflict, drama, turmoil, problems? In the genre I write, there can never, well almost never, be enough problems to work through. Don't make it too easy for your MC to achieve his goal.

Now your manuscript is ready for submission, but that is a topic for a whole other post.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

An Ill Wind

This is a short story I wrote a few years ago.  It first appeared in WordSmith, the Tampa Writers Alliance annual publication, in 2007.  Enjoy!

An Ill Wind

Armand Lebleu had traveled up and down Bayou Chapelle at least a thousand times, but it had been many years since he had poled a pirogue. He was among the last of the few true Cajuns still living in the bayous of south Louisiana. Scratching a living from the swamps was a chancy business, and most of the people born and raised in Terrebonne Parish had left for jobs on the oil rigs that dotted the gulf or the refineries that blackened the skies of Baton Rouge. Armand Lebleu had stayed in Terrebonne; it was his home and he knew everything there was to know about it.

He knew how the grey-green Spanish moss that hung in heavy clumps from the water oaks that grew thick on the hammocks of high ground. A few pines grew among the oaks; if the moss grew on them, it was a sure sign they were goners. He knew how the little bit of snow that fell each year would only stick to the curled edges of the oak leaves that lie scattered on the ground. He knew where the redfish made their beds and the salt water flats where oysters could be forked out of the mud at low tide. He knew how snare a gator and how to rig a trot line for catfish. Armand knew how to turn corn and water into cash with the help of a copper still and some mason jars. He knew the ways of the swamp animals. The slow moving bayous were home to osprey and otter, raccoon and rabbit, cormorant and crane. And if the old stories were true, they had once been the home of pirates.

His father taught Armand the ways through these swamps by his father, who in turn had learned from his father. That’s the way it was on the bayou, lore and legend alike were passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, until there were no more sons and daughters to teach. Armand Lebleu, last of the true Cajuns, lived alone on Bayou Chappelle because no woman would tolerate life so far from stores and television and Armand could not tolerate life in town.

A hurricane had passed through a few days before, drenching the ground with a rain best measured in feet rather than inches. The land had been lashed by the strongest winds the parish had ever known. Armand weathered the storm well enough in the house his grandfather built on high ground about a mile from where Bayou Chappelle met up with Bayou Penchant. The wind did its work. The old timbers creaked and the floor joists groaned, but the house held together just the same. The old homestead had withstood the force of many hurricanes. Ladies like Audrey, Betsy and Camille had tried their best but went their way and left the home untouched, but Katrina was no lady. She was a bitch.

Katrina stole his john boat and his runabout, and battered the dock with waves until only a few boards were left as a reminder. At least she left the house alone. Now the storm was over, and the winds had scoured away the clouds. The morning sky was as blue as the turquoise stone that graced the silver clasp of the bolero tie Armand wore to the fais do-do that were held on Saturday nights.

But today was Wednesday, and there would be no dancing tonight. Armand had to check his crab traps and all he had left to travel in was an old pirogue his father had carved from a cedar trunk. So he loaded the pirogue and stood in the back like a Venetian gondolier, where he slowly poled his way toward the flats where the blue crab lived.

He hadn’t quite forgotten the beauty and mystery of the swampland, but Armand got closer to nature this trip than he had been since his childhood. Running the channel in a powerboat didn’t give much time to look around, but today, poling the old pirogue down the bayou, he had the chance to gaze a little deeper into his heritage.

Cypress trees, knee deep in the shallows, allowed just enough sunlight through to cast rippling shadows. Armand would catch the small movements in the corner of his eye, and he was glad he was not a superstitious man. An invisible woodpecker drummed in the distance, beating his beak against the hollow of a mossy pine. Blue herons, their fishing disturbed, took wing as he approached. Watching them fly, he understood why the scientists at LSU claimed the birds were descended from dinosaurs. A distant bullfrog gave throaty thanks to God for sparing him from the wrath of the storm. A turtle, startled by the passing canoe, dropped from a log into the safety of the water. A pair of wide set yellow eyes examined Armand as he passed. The alligator decided there would be easier ways to find breakfast and slipped out of sight into the depths of the swamp.

There was a tricky oxbow bend in Bayou Chappelle. It was almost a loop and was only tricky if you tried to run it full throttle in a powerboat, like Armand did one night when he was seventeen. He was on his way home from a fais do-do with visions of a yellow haired girl from town in his mind and too much white lightning in his belly. He ended up missing the turn and probably would have jumped the narrow peninsula into the channel beyond if a giant white cypress hadn’t leaped out in front of him. Today in the pirogue, the bend was just another easy curve, and Armand was able to drink in the sights and smells of the bayou as never before. As he readied to round the bend, Armand’s gaze was arrested by something new.

The cypress that had nearly claimed Armand’s young life commanded the narrow neck of land and forced the bayou to curve around it. For all he knew, that cypress had been there since God formed the Garden of Eden. But today, the cypress lay flat on the ground, courtesy of Katrina. All that was left was a tangled mass of roots that couldn’t keep their grip in the soft mud as Katrina’s fierce winds clutched at trunk and limbs.

That in itself was a shock, but it wasn’t the uprooted tree that caught Armand’s eye. It was an ancient and rusted sword, stuck point down into the earth with its hilt toward the sky that grabbed his attention. It reminded Armand of the old King Arthur story, the one where he pulled the sword out of the rock and won himself a kingdom. It looked a bit like the cross that was carved into the front door of St. Vincent’s Church in Assumption, the church that Armand seldom bothered to attend.

He silently poled the pirogue to the shore and tied it to the shredded end of a limb on the downed cypress. “What have you been guarding all these years, old friend?” he asked the tree as he studied the sword.

It was old, that was plain as the claws on a crawfish. It didn’t have a hand guard like the French and Spanish preferred, the blade was separated from the handle by a flat bar. To Armand, it looked more like the heavy blades favored by the Scots. “It could be Scots,” Armand mused, “they were good Catholics and hated the English as much as the French did. Grandpere always claimed the pirates always left markers to show where they hid their treasure.” He went back to the pirogue to fetch his shovel.

He always took a short handled, flat bladed sand shovel with him on the bayou. One could never tell when a sandbar would shift; causing even a shallow draft boat to run aground in a channel that once was a safe passage. Reverently, he removed the sword and carefully leaned it against the fallen cypress trunk and gently began removing the mud.

He couldn’t sink the shovel’s flat blade very far into the heavy soil, so he went slowly, scraping a little and shoveling a little. Bit by bit, a shallow hole was dug into the soft mud.

The shovel hit something solid, and Armand dropped to his knees to claw at the wet dirt with his bare hands. He jumped back as his grasping fingers pulled a human skull from the earth.

“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, what have we here?” he whispered. “Dead men tell no tales, do they?” He had heard the old stories of how the treasure was buried. Lafitte would kill one of the men who helped him bury it and leave the corpse behind to guard the hoard until Lafitte himself came back to claim what was his.

Now Armand was excited as he grabbed the shovel and went to work. Rib bones, leg bones, and rotted scraps of cloth joined the mud to make a heap alongside the hole that Armand dug. Heedless of the grave’s desecration, mud flew in all directions as Armand scrabbled at the dirt, greedy to find the treasure the skeleton was guarding.

Finally his work was rewarded as the shovel hit something solid. Sweat dripped from his forehead as he removed the final chunks of mud to reveal the object below.

Armand laughed like a drunken pirate and the sound of it echoed through the trees as an oak chest, bound with bands of iron, was visible in the clinging mud. He tried to lift it, but the strongbox was too heavy for him. “Ropes,” he muttered, “I need a couple of ropes.”

He ran, stumbling on the upturned cypress roots, back to the pirogue. He rummaged through his gear and found two lengths of rope. These he tied around the chest, one at each end. Using the cypress trunk for leverage, he strained to raise one end. As he gained an inch or two, he tied the rope to a limb and worked the other end. Inch by tedious inch, he raised the massive chest from its shallow grave. He did not notice the shadows that formed an ever tightening circle around him as he worked.

Though he remained fit by years of wresting his living from the swamp’s larder, Armand’s lungs heaved with exertion as he dragged the heavy chest to his boat. “Better to open this at home where no one can see,” he thought as he levered his booty aboard. The pirogue nearly sunk under the weight, but the bayou’s waters were calm and Armand decided to take the chance. The shadows of the swamp played at the edge of his vision as he poled his way homeward, yet he managed to make his destination with the cargo intact.

As he hauled the trunk out of the pirogue, the bottom of the chest gave way and a heap of gold coins spilled out onto the ground. Hastily grabbing them up, Armand loaded them into his tool chest as he nervously looked around to see if anyone had happened by as he dragged the hoard into the house.

All told, there was more gold than Armand had ever dreamed, even as a boy when his grandfather first told him the tales of Jean Lafitte and the treasure the old pirate had hidden somewhere in the bayou swamps. Gold coins made a heap on the floor, and a rotted sack split open. Emeralds and rubies rolled like marbles across the kitchen linoleum. Armand’s eyes glittered brighter than the jewels as he surveyed his loot.

As he sifted through the coins, a large brooch rolled out of the pile. It was a scarab made of solid gold, with eyes fashioned from the deepest green emeralds Armand had ever seen. His hand stretched to take it.

The moment his fingers touched the brooch, all the windows in his house simultaneously shattered, as if dynamite had exploded inside. Armand had been knocked backwards and was momentarily stunned. As he regained his senses, he sat up and muttered, “Son of a bitch, what on earth was that?”

Armand’s eyes rose to the devastated windows. It wasn’t the jagged shards of glass that caused the hairs on the back of his neck to rise, it was a pair of eyes, glowing red in the gathering gloom, that made him feel as though he was standing at the very gates of hell.

A howling sounded in the depths of the swamp. It started as a faint wail, but it grew louder until the wicked keening rushed over the rooftop like the cry of a wounded wolf. Wind whistled across the chimney top and circles of leaves danced in the front yard. Armand’s blood ran cold and he knew that something evil was loose in the swamp.

He gathered the treasure into an old flour sack, but the sack ruptured and the coins spilled across the floor. In the shed, he found an old wooden box and dumped its contents onto the concrete, but it was too small to hold all the treasure. Then he remembered the old cedar chest his mother had stored in the attic, her “hope chest” she called it. Armand hoped it would hold the gold.

Scooping up the treasure, he carefully filled the chest. Black clouds roiled and flashes of lightning streaked through the darkening sky as he dragged the chest back to the pirogue. Red eyes peered from behind the trunks of trees and through the dense foliage, giving speed to Armand’s labor. Pushing like a madman, the pirogue made a small wake as he poled toward the fallen cypress.

The sword was where he left it, leaning against the tree. Using the ropes, Armand carefully lowered the cedar chest back into the ground until it hit bottom with a thud. With all his strength, he thrust the sword into the chest’s lid. The point stuck into the soft wood, leaving the sword standing much as it had before. Carefully sifting through the mud, he gathered the skeleton’s bones and arranged them as best he could on top of the chest. He scraped the heap of mud back into the hole. When all this was done, very little remained to tell the tomb had ever been disturbed. Armand felt compelled to say a few words, but prayer did not come easy so he removed his hat and voiced, “When old Lafitte ordered you to guard his treasure, you took him at his word. Rest easy, old pirate, I meant you no harm.”

The sky was clearing as Armand poled his pirogue toward home. He wondered what people would say when he told this story. “No one would believe me,” he thought, “it would be better just to keep this to myself. I never want to see those red eyes again.”

He walked into his house and surveyed the damage. The setting sun cast golden rays through the shattered western window, letting in just enough light to illuminate the corner where an overlooked doubloon lay hidden.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dog Island - A great place to get away from it all until it all comes looking for you.

For me, writing is an obsession.  My job requires occasional travel, so a lot of writing happens on airplanes, which incidentally is a great place to cultivate fans.  Unless the seat next to you is empty, your neighbor's eyes inevitably travel to your computer screen.  Then they get hooked.  When I mention I'm a writer, the first question they ask is "What are you working on," followed by, "what's it about?"

To answer both questions, my current project is honing DOG ISLAND, a mystery/thriller novel.

It starts on Dog Island, which is a real place off the Florida Panhandle town of Carabelle.  Dog Island's west end is developed with some pretty expensive vacation houses.  The east end is nearly deserted, with only three homes sharing a mile or more of unspoiled beach.

One of those homes is owned by Cornelius "Corney" Graham, the story's main character.  His wife, unable to adapt to Dog Island's isolated life style, leaves him.  Corney wanders to the beach where he sits alone, feeling sorry for himself.  Then the sound of a boat engine catches his attention.

The engine noise grows steadily louder, but Corney can't spot the boat in the darkness.  Without warning, the boat runs straight into the beach where Corney is sitting.  The pilot of the boat is dead.  Lisa Cataldo, the boat's lone passenger, is wounded.  Unable to call for help, Corney treats Lisa's wounds.

With Lisa tended to, Corney searches the boat.  Aboard is a cargo of cocaine and a large stash of cash.

What would you do in this situation?  Corney's choices, for good or ill, form the basis of DOG ISLAND. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tales out of School

I have a family of school teachers.  DW has the great good fortune to work one-on-one with a terrific autistic child.  DD#2 teaches second grade, and her husband is a reading resource teacher who works with ESE kids.

Every once in a while they come home with a story to tell.  Here is one.

DW heard this from a fourth grade teacher.  She was preparing her class for "Florida Writes", a program to encourage creative writing.  A lot of kids have a story within but don't have the confidence to express themselves.  So she came up with an idea to help them along.

The teacher bought a box of pencils.  Shiny, glimmering pencils.

"Class," she said, "I have an important announcement to make.  I was at the Learning Station, looking for some books, when these pencils caught my eye.  They were so sparkly and pretty, I couldn't resist picking one up.  Much to my surprise, I realized they weren't ordinary pencils.  No, they are special magic pencils."

The wide-eyed children listened intently as she continued, "The magic in them will help you get ready for the Florida Writes test.  But there's one thing you have to remember.  When you sharpen them, be sure not to use an electric sharpener.  There's something in the electricity that takes out the magic.  Oh, and one more thing.  We can't use them on the test itself, that just wouldn't be fair to the children who don't have magic pencils.  Are there any questions?"

A hand shot up in the back of the room.  "Yes, Jimmy?"

"Can we use them for math, too?"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why I blog

My editor said "You have a book to flog, so you need to get out there and start a blog."
"But I don't have a clue about what to say." She said, "Better get started on it anyway."
 So I got into my vehicle and put it in gear, then launched myself way out into the blogoshpere.

And I'm bloggin', well whaddaya know, Yeah I'm bloggin', just like an old time pro.

Now it's movin along at a pretty good clip and it's startin to attract a little readership.
So I'm hopin to get a couple guests to post so my lazy butt won't have to do a thing but host.
And watch the lovely fans as they grow more and more, so they will want my book the day it hits the store!

And I'm bloggin', well whaddaya know, Yeah I'm bloggin', just like an old time pro.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


A little about me.  First, I'm not one who opens up a lot, so this is a growth experience for me. 

For starters, I am a veteran of the US Army - Vietnam Era.  Didn't spend any time in 'Nam, the Army saw fit to send me to Europe - the Netherlands to be specific.  In retrospect, that was one of the formative experiences of my life.

Married my high school sweetheart in 1972.  She's still my high school sweetheart, and still my wife.  We have two beautiful daughters.  The oldest is in PR, the youngest is married and teaches second grade in a nearby school along with her husband.

I have a terrific job, and work with wonderful people.  But this blog isn't about my job, it's about my passion for writing.

I've written two novels, as yet unpublished, and am working on a third (and a fourth and a fifth).  I also am one of the poetry editors for Conclave: A Journal of Character.  We published two editions, both available on Amazon, but am afraid there may not be a third.  Readership hasn't been what we've hoped.

My first novel took first place in the Florida Writers Association's Royal Palm Literary Award competition.  I submitted it to the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, and it was ranked 9th by readers but didn't make the finals.

So I spent some time honing my craft, and voraciously read other mystery writers, primarily Florida based.  Really enjoy Randy Wayne White, Carl Hiassen (of course), and Tim Dorsey.  And John D. MacDonald, author of the timeless Travis McGee series, remains an all time favorite.

Then I tackled my second novel, titled DOG ISLAND, which could well become (like JDM and RWW) a series.  The novel is being considered by Oak Tree Press.  Sunny Frazier has been very helpful in sharing her experience in the publishing business.

I'd love to hear from readers and writers, especially those interested in the mystery/suspense/thriller genres.