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Did You Miss This? Building the Writing Habit

Longer Books Through Better Planning

Anodyne-cover-2015Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Twitterific writing links a couple weeks back led me to Ryan Lanz writing about stretching your word count.

In a moment of weakness, worried that Anodyne is too short, I followed it.

Expecting smarmy tricks, I found solid advice, which if implemented properly and with good motives is, what’s the phrase I’m looking for . . . oh yes; Good Stuff.

The 5 stretches listed by Lanz:

Continue reading “Longer Books Through Better Planning”


Chandleresque (Guest Post at Lilac Reviews)

More than one person has generously compared my book A Long, Hard Look to Raymond Chandler.

One person asked why, and posted my answer at her review website.

Give it a read. Comment. (Let’s make others think I have a huge audience of loyal supporters, eh?)

Lilac Reviews


An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Special edition post; I’ll keep it brief and direct.

Get a free digital copy of A Long, Hard Look at Story Cartel. Write a review, and you’re entered to win a print copy.

More importantly (to me) you’ll be spreading the word about my writing, and giving me honest feedback on my latest book.

Don’t say no.

Download it right here: http://storycartel.com/books/a-long-hard-look/


That Don’t Make NO Sense

I could probably title every post I ever write with a quote from O Brother, Where Art Thou?

When Pete says the above to Everett, his reply is one of the foundations of art: “It’s a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.”

chess: logic and art and art and logic

During the final proofreading of A Long, Hard Look James discovered a logical anomaly. Since that’s part of his job, he done good. Next book he proofs, I expect no less.

I’m leaving it the way it is. Here’s why: Continue reading “That Don’t Make NO Sense”


Doors (Excerpt from an Unpublished Work)

c'mon in!No one door opens and closes properly. Some do one or the other quite nicely. Some do neither.

The front door technically opens and closes just fine, but since we don’t have a key for it, well, there’s that. The screen door (no longer a storm door because half of the glass is missing) has to be kicked open and closed, which we wouldn’t except the mailbox is hanging right there beside it.

The nice solid pine doors on the coat closet, which match the solid pine walls in the dining room/office, open just fine, but neither will really close. Continue reading “Doors (Excerpt from an Unpublished Work)”


Mom and Dad and Bets

This is an excerpt from an unpublished work.

“Jacob, are you even listening to me?” His mom always seemed to think he was ignoring her.

the music“I didn’t hear you. Sorry.”

“I’m standing right here. I’m glad you love reading, but honestly, you get so lost in those books. Are you going or not?”

“Aw, mom. It’s a bunch of girls and they don’t even like music.”

“You can talk to girls. And even, heaven forbid, people who don’t like music.”

Continue reading “Mom and Dad and Bets”


Ginger and the Mouse

This is an excerpt from an unpublished work.

Ginger's shipIt was summer and they were crossing the sea. It was pleasant sailing. There was nothing exciting going on. Which meant that after napping 18 hours a day, Ginger was bored. When he got bored he looked around to see if anything exciting was happening. And if nothing exciting was happening, he looked around to see if he could make something exciting happen.

Continue reading “Ginger and the Mouse”


The Music – Excerpt from an Unpublished Coming of Age Novel

The Music

When he first realized that no one else heard the music, he went to his room, sat on the bed, and stared at the closet door. It had never occurred to him that he was a freak, walking around with this noise in his head all the time.

the music

When his father used to tell him to turn off the record player and enjoy the peace and quiet, he’d been too baffled to respond. Continue reading “The Music – Excerpt from an Unpublished Coming of Age Novel”


Anacrusis – Excerpt from an Unpublished Work

This is an excerpt from an unpublished novel.

anacrusisYou have to wake up early to beat the summer sun around here. I must have fallen asleep before 9 last night. Dark meant it wasn’t even 6 yet. By 6:00 the far side of the lake would already have a glow behind it as the sun rose.

Yup; clock on my phone said 5:50. I felt restless, anxious. I wandered from room to room as I drank a mug of coffee. Felt like I was looking for something that I knew wasn’t there.

The neat columns of boxes here and there, the big empty spaces where I had nothing, the quiet and dark drove me out.

A run was still the best way to clear my head, morning or evening. I paced myself to let the thoughts percolate and dissipate. I know you can’t go around the grieving process, you have to go through it. Doesn’t make it any less painful. At least I could be doing something I loved as it happened to me.

The slower pace took me farther than my sprint had yesterday. I realized I was running around the south end of the lake, running toward the sunrise. The trees thinned, and I could see more of the pink behind. It was as if the sun were making a sound, a rushing sound like water. I knew I’d drifted away from the lake by now, farther south. I couldn’t see water to the left at all, just the gentle slope down from the little ridge I ran along.

The sparse grass and dirt gave way to flat rock, shale, maybe, like the places I ran in Ireland. Hard on the legs, but here I expected it to turn back to springy soft forest floor again.

Instead, it turned into nothing at all.

If I’d been running any faster I’d have gone right over the edge. The rushing sound I’d been hearing was the lake pouring out through the narrow outlet Mrs. Wright had mentioned. I slid to a stop at the sharp edge of the rock. The water scrambled through an eight-foot-wide channel, pressed by the rock walls.

It was probably deep enough that if I’d fallen, I wouldn’t have been injured by hitting bottom, but water is powerful. When you’ve been slammed by ocean waves in California you develop a healthy respect for it. The best case scenario would involve being dragged downstream far longer than I wanted to walk back wet.

The other side of the chasm looked different. Sycamore or elm or something like that instead of pines. Approaching from the other side wouldn’t have been as frightening. The shale had broken off and was a foot lower than this side. You’d probably notice the gap.

It would also help that it was clear, not covered with pine needles like this side. Pine needles on smooth rock are slippery as ice.

It didn’t look too wide to jump, but the slippery edge made me too nervous to try it.

I wasn’t going any farther around the lake this morning, so I turned around and headed home.


A Long Hard Look: Writing a Light Mystery in Public

A Long Hard LookI’m working on a light mystery novella. (It’s either a big novella or a short novel. Seems I keep hitting the word count just between established norms. Surprise.)

Been posting a 1,000-word chapter every weekday at my personal blog; 17 so far. Start reading Chapter 1 now. Unless you have an important appointment in the next hour. Think potato chips.

What Readers Say:
I love it so far!! – Rebeccah

I love the way you continue raising questions to be answered throughout the chapters instead of just having the murder itself as the puzzle. That made for a great hook. – Elizabeth


Into the Fog – Book Excerpt

Through The FogThe following is an excerpt from my Irish mystery novel, Into the Fog, a sequel to Through the Fog.

“Niall; Fearghal. Step in side and have a whiskey.” The look on their faces was almost worth the days that came after.

“Told you he was here.”

“You also said he wasn’t a fool. You’re one for two, Niall.”

Niall glared at his older, larger (but, shall we say, less intellectual?) brother and moved toward the front step. “I’ve given up whiskey entirely, Martin, but a cup of something hot wouldn’t go amiss.” I had to step back inside to make room in the doorway for them to come in.

Fearghal O’ Quinn wasn’t quite tall enough to duck as he came through, but he filled a normal sized room well enough. Niall, not as tall and not as broad, always seemed restless, as if he were anticipating a surprise he wasn’t going to like.

Niall jostled Fearghal. “Get in, get in; my backside’s hanging out the door.” Stepping around his brother, he stopped cold.

Continue reading “Into the Fog – Book Excerpt”


Ginger and the Captain Part 2 – from an Unpublished Work

GingerGinger had been sitting very still, looking through the kitchen door, hoping he could dash through the kitchen door when it was open and out through the dining room. But he could never tell when the door was going to open. Boom! It would open and someone would come through. Then it would just slam shut again.

He started to get worried and without realizing it he stood up. When he moved, the chef saw him out of the corner of his eye. He looked up and there was a cat in his kitchen! The chef screamed in Japanese and he threw a great big meat cleaver at Ginger. Continue reading “Ginger and the Captain Part 2 – from an Unpublished Work”


Writing in Public: A Silkworm Instead of a Parachute

happy landings!A guitarist I once knew said he had a friend who wanted a band to play at his anniversary party.

I said “Take the gig, and we’ll put a band together.”

He blinked a couple times and said “I find your level of confidence disturbing.”

Since I grew up (at the age of 43) I’ve often leapt from airplanes with a silkworm instead of a parachute. It lends immediacy to the task.

I chickened out just a little and didn’t tell you about this until I was 11,000 words in, but I’m writing another light mystery, a 1,000-word chapter at a time, over on my personal blog. It’s called A Long Hard Look.

I have an idea where the story will go, just as when you leap from an airplane you’re fairly certain of your destination.

Getting there in one piece, though, is not a foregone conclusion.


The Shower – From an Unpublished Work

shower of painI looked up as the shower needled my I suppose lower chest would be correct though not necessarily medically or anatomically accurate (I apologize in advance to those who know what things are called for being fairly loose in my terminology — but just this once). As I say, I looked up and noticed that the mini-blind wand (see previous apology) was inside the shower as was I.

At first it seemed as though the blinds had been installed a bit too wide at the top and cut to width around the shower. Further reflection during my aqueous impalement suggested another answer for the strange inverted L shape. It appeared that the almost human-sized glass box I was in had been installed after the window and blinds already existed.

Since the bathroom was only just larger than many showers I have used in the past, perhaps originally the entire room was used for bathing with, perhaps, a drain in the center of the floor. Continue reading “The Shower – From an Unpublished Work”


Ginger and the Captain – An Excerpt From an Unpublished Work

GingerThe following is an excerpt from an unpublished children’s story. It’s transcribed from the recording of me telling the story to our Little One. Completely unedited at this point. The illustration is a sketch by Davina Kinney, who just might illustrate the series of 30 Ginger stories I’ve written.

The first Ginger story was about Ginger the Captain’s cat. Ginger lives on a sailing ship and he belongs to the Captain of the ship.

Ginger went everywhere with the Captain of the ship. When they would stop at a port Ginger always rode with the sailors when they went into town and Ginger would always find something interesting to do. He liked meeting new cats and seeing people and looking at what was going on. He enjoyed traveling the world.

Continue reading “Ginger and the Captain – An Excerpt From an Unpublished Work”