Tag: writing

Tips for writing in a cafe

Seeking refuge in a writing place not your own? JK Rowling did it, Brad Parks does. The trick is to know what you need from your home away from home. In other words, make it work.

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Last of the Summer Wine: Why Character Counts

Last of the Summer Wine, the television series about three Yorkshire lads who got old but never grew up aired from 1973 to 2010, an amazing 294 episodes, making it the longest-running scripted sitcom in Britain and the world. That’s impressive.

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The Plot

Here is the plot for the novel, The Plot. A down-on-his-luck writing teacher feels like his life has passed him by. Then, a brash student comes to him and tells him  he has an idea for a novel that is SO GOOD, it cannot fail. Whoever writes this novel will have a guaranteed best-seller. The writing teacher is dubious. Naturally. But then the student tells him his idea and, lo and behold, it is actually a fabulous idea. Years pass. The writing teacher continues on his downward trajectory. One day he’s thinking about his student and wonders why he hasn’t seen mention of his book. He does some research and discovers the student is dead. So. He thinks about it a bit, and then he steals the plot. Writes the book, and has fantastic success. He’s on Oprah. He’s wealthy. Life is good, and then he gets an e mail. I know what you’ve done. It’s a very entertaining book, and if you’re a writing teacher, as I am, there is boundless material to chew over, but I found myself wondering–Do you think that’s true? Are there some plots that are so idiot-proof that if you just write them down […]

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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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Should we be writing about the pandemic? Now?

A few nights ago I attended a virtual reading at Neo-Noir at the Bar. Got to hear a number of exciting authors, among them Kellye Garrett, Lori Rader-Day and Ivy Pochoda. At one point, Pochoda mentioned that her new work was set during the pandemic. She’d gone to a panel where a number of writers were saying that they didn’t intend to write about the pandemic, and as soon as she heard them she thought, then I will. (She also read the opening pages of her new work, which started with someone looking at a tree, so you can imagine that I was on-board immediately.) She did get me thinking, however, about whether I intend to write about the pandemic. I’ve not been tempted, though not because I don’t find the subject intriguing. It’s the timing I can’t figure out. I’ve written a bit about 9/11, but years after the event. My concern is that I’ll be overtaken by events. By the time a book comes out, it will probably be in 2023. By then we might have forgotten all about it. Or we might be fighting off something worse. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Alone in Berlin, which was written […]

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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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What do you mean when you say Surreal?

The other day I noticed an ad for a collection of short stories about the pandemic. According to the blurb on the cover of The Decameron Project, “When reality is surreal, only fiction can make sense of it.” That made me think of how often I’ve used the word “surreal” since the pandemic started. When I say something is surreal, what I mean is that it’s unbelievable. Or strange. But I began to wonder about what the word actually means. In the deepest sense. So I popped over to the Museum of Modern Art. Everything you’d ever want to know about surrealism is explained there, and I was intrigued by the definition. Influenced by the writings of psychologist Sigmund Freud, the literary, intellectual, and artistic movement called Surrealism sought a revolution against the constraints of the rational mind; and by extension, the rules of a society they saw as oppressive.  Our country has spent a lot of time over the last year discussing the rules of our society, and what they mean, and who they apply to. It’s our job as mystery writers to push people to the breaking point, and see how they respond when a rule stands in their way. […]

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