Author: Connie Berry

Happy Birthday, Raymond Chandler

If Raymond Chandler were alive today, he’d be 113. Still, he lives on, not only in his own massive oeuvre but also in the books and short stories of writers who read Chandler and were never the same.

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Have You Read All the Books Yet?

Who was the last person to have read every book in existence? Believe it or not, this is a hotly debated question in certain academic circles. Several names are commonly proposed. ARISTOTLE (384 – 322 BC) The Greek philosopher and scientist is said to have known everything there was to be known in his time. Tutor to the youthful Alexander the Great, Aristotle’s own writings cover a virtual encyclopedia of Greek knowledge. LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452 – 1519) Da Vinci is perhaps history’s most recognizable polymath (Latin for “having learned much”). Painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer, Da Vinci’s genius epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. DESIDERIUS ERASMUS (1466 – 1536) One of the last scholars prior to the impact of the printing press, Erasmus mastered all the European and Scandinavian languages of his day plus Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Erasmus is reputed to have said, “When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” JOHN MILTON (1608 – 1674) The English poet is said to have read virtually every book ever written and knew enough about most things to discuss them with authority. […]

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Assembling a Cast or Creating Characters?

I have two sons, born three years apart—raised in the same household by the same parents, attending the same schools, going on the same family vacations, and sharing many of the same life experiences. And yet, in spite of all they have in common, my sons couldn’t be more different. Let me quickly say, they are great friends, and they are both delightful, intelligent, interesting, and talented human beings, but their looks, their personalities, their interests in life, and their gifts are so different, so unique, they might have been born on different continents—even, I sometimes think, in different centuries. It’s the differences between people that make life interesting. And challenging. The same is true of the characters we create as authors. Years ago when I’d “finished” my first novel, a mentor who was helping me with dialogue said, “Your characters all sound like you.” Not surprising since I’d created them, but I had to learn how to give each character, even the relatively minor ones, unique speech patterns as well as individual personalities, histories, and emotional lives. In the world of fiction, this is called developing “fully realized characters.” Recently I came across a helpful article in Dramatics, an […]

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Silver Linings

Yesterday evening at 8pm, just as the sun in central Ohio was sinking below the horizon and the cicadas were considering the merits of silence at last, I logged onto Poisoned Pen Bookstore Facebook Live for a conversation with well-known bookstore owner Barbara Peters and the amazing writer and teacher Jane K. Cleland. What a privilege for a relative newcomer like me to be talking about writing mysteries with such kind and generous women. Barbara, editor-in-chief of Poisoned Pen Press and owner of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a well-known advocate for writers. Her store has a worldwide clientele. She reads more books in a year than most people read in a lifetime and still finds time to host an incredible number of interviews and events. She does it all, as it turns out, not for profit but for the love of good books. Both Jane and I write stories about American antiques dealers who solve crimes on the side. I’m a relative newcomer. My protagonist, Kate Hamilton, owns an antiques shop in Jackson Falls, Ohio, but has been spending most of her time recently in a small Suffolk village called Long Barston. The third in the […]

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Time To Dream

Last Monday, after a three-month-long writing marathon, I completed the draft of my fourth Kate Hamilton mystery and sent it off to my editor. The book actually took eleven months to write, but the final three months were intense. Yes, there will be editing ahead, but suddenly I have free time again. Time to dream. Time to make decisions. What shall I work on next? The fifth in the series or something entirely new? Or both? Beginning a new book feels something like moving to a new house in a new town. When my husband and I were first married and in the Air Force, we did that frequently. Within the space of four years, three months, and nine days, we lived in ten different apartments. In one of those moves, to Bangor, Maine, our furniture was delayed, and because my husband had to report for duty, I spent two days in an empty townhouse with a bottle of Windex, a roll of paper towels, and my old coffee percolator. That old percolator was always the touchstone for me. In a new place, when I first heard the burbling of the pot and smelled the coffee, I felt like I […]

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And Just Like That A Book Happened

With a manuscript due in eleven days, I’m well into final revisions. Revision is where a book happens. About a year ago I wrote this: One of my fantasies is dreaming up a complete plot and typing it into my computer, full-blown like Venus on the half-shell. Maybe that happens for some writers. For me, the reality looks nothing like that—and I’m not alone. The only kind of writing is rewriting. Ernest Hemingway The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in. Henry Green In writing, you must kill all your darlings. William Faulkner Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon. Raymond     Chandler Revision is not going back and fussing around, but going forward into the process of     creation. Mary Sarton I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. Truman Capote One of the best quotes about the process of revision came in a recent Facebook post from a very fine writer, Louise Penny. She was about 20,000 words into the first draft of her next Gamache book. Her first drafts, she says, are “huge, soft and smelly.” Yup. She went on to describe the process […]

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I Need A Laugh

With a manuscript due at the end of the month, I need a laugh. And no one makes me laugh like the Scottish cartoonist Tom Gauld.

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Any Excuse to Party

Today, Tuesday, April 27, is National Little Pampered Dog Day in the United States. Now that’s an excuse to party if I ever heard one. Her name is Emmie, and she is eight months and one week old today.

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