Saturday, March 31, 2012


Hi folks,
  Update on the Spinetingler Magazine Awards:

My  psychological thriller, THE BITCH, has been nominated for the prestigious Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Novel in the Legends Category. There are six nominees out of hundreds considered and I’m up against some real giants in crime writing such as Lawrence Block. Kind of David vs Goliath. Now, it’s up to the public and readers to choose the winner by voting. If you can take a few minutes and cast your vote for THE BITCH, I’d be forever grateful. Just go to

and scroll down to my category (Legends) and click on your vote for THE BITCH. Please vote for others in other categories—this is a huge honor for all of us nominated. If you can persuade friends and relatives to vote for me that would be huge!

Voting ends at the end of April.

Also, I have a dog in the fight with two other nominees and I’d like to ask you to vote for them also. First, is Noir Nation which is up for Best Zine. I’m the editor-at-large for NN (which means I fetch the coffee and empty the ash trays), and it’s a ground-breaking truly innovative ezine, publishing some of the best crime writers internationally. It was Noir Nation's sister publication, the publisher Bare Knuckles Press, who published THE BITCH. Cort McMeel and Eddie Vega are the forces behind both of these and are not only brilliant editors and writers themselves, are the kind of guys who are what we all as writers hope to be the people publishing our work. They genuinely care about the work and the writer.

Second, is a new publisher with whom I have a new novel coming out next year. Please vote for New Pulp Press, which is a nominee for the Best Crime Fiction Publisher.

You folks are the rock in my slingshot and with your help, David can once again topple Goliath!

Thank you so much!

Blue skies,

P.S. If interested in purchasing THE BITCH or in checking out the other two entities, the links are here:

Friday, March 30, 2012


Hi folks,

I'm actually kind of shaking. Just learned my novel, THE BITCH, is one of six nominees for the prestigious Spinetingler Magazine Best Novel Award, Legends Category. This is the biggest honor of my life.

Now, it's up to the public and voters. I would really appreciate your vote! The "polls" open tomorrow (Friday) at 6 a.m. on the Spinetingler site at

I feel like David going up against Goliath. One of my five competitors is Lawrence Block. A true giant in the crime fiction field. The others are no slouches either.

This is my best work. I'm proud of it and proud that it's been nominated. If I were to win, I don't care where you live, you'll hear me yelling.

I can't breathe...

Thank you!

Blue skies,

Monday, March 26, 2012


Hi folks,

I am genuinely and 100% jazzed, stoked, excited, pumped... you apply the proper word... that I'll be reading my work (from THE BITCH) at Noir at the Bar at Subterranean Books in St. Louis on Saturday, April 28! It's going to be a transcendental experience. Noir at the Bar! This is the Valhalla of venues for noir writers. I'll be reading along with Cort McMeel and David James Keaton and one more writer, as yet unnamed.

Check out the announcement at

This is Jed Ayres' venue--he who writes brilliantly himself and has a world-class column for Barnes & Noble and other places. I feel exactly like Sally Fields must have. I get it now, Sally!

If anyone reading this may be there, lemme know! I'm not going to get any sleep until then.

Guess I should act all cool and act as Bear Bryant advised his football players to behave when scoring a touchdown--to "act like you've been there before," but I'll be damned. I haven't been and I'm spiking the ball and the coach can yell at me all he wants for drawing a penalty on the kickoff.

Sue me, Coach...

It's Noir at the Bar!

Blue skies,

Uber-Agent Andrea Hurst's AUTHORNOMICS

HI folks,

I'm very pleased to point you in the direction of super-agent Andrea Hurst's AUTHORNOMICS blog where she and Katie Flanagan interview us writer-types. Katie handed me some of the best questions I've ever been asked in an interview.

Check it out at

Some of my answers may offend some folks. Hope so! Not that I enjoy offending people... well, maybe sometimes... but I see an interview the same as I see a novel or short story. If everyone likes it, it isn't good writing... or good interview. One of the reasons I enjoy being a writer is that, unlike life insurance salespeople or politicians, we're allowed to have opinions and express 'em. As of today anyway, we don't have an official "Pravda."

Hope you enjoy at least some of it!

Blue skies,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


HI folks,
I'm writing a new writer's how-to book, and I thought I'd share a sample chapter with you to get your feedback and also to helpfully give you some tools in your fiction writing. Still looking for a publisher, but may end up publishing it myself. Not sure at this point. Anyway, hope you enjoy the excerpt and get a bit of usefulness out of it: 


Les Edgerton



Defining characters and their arcs

by their physical actions

            I think you’ll find this chapter alone worth the price of admission to our little “theater” between the covers. The writer who can master the art and craft of defining their characters by their actions is going to be the author whose work gets read. By lots and lots of folks… Enough, hopefully, that you’ll never again have to say to someone about the novel you’ve written that it’s “only available in my room.”
A common fault of fiction writers in defining their characters and their character arcs is by neglecting to use one of the most powerful methods available. The technique? Namely, by showing the reader the nature of their character by the physical actions the writer chooses to provide their characters with. Precisely what countless writing gurus have been talking about for eons when they urge their students to: “Show, don’t tell.”
Movie people do this better than almost anyone. We can learn a lot from those Hollywood folks!
            Most of us as fiction writers flesh out our characters with the use of description, via dialogue, by the interior thoughts of characters and by similar methods. All of these are good techniques and work well in the short story and novel. However, if the author ignores the use of using physical actions to help create their characters and to also show how they’ve evolved due to the events that happen along the way in the story (that character arc us writing teachers are always talking about), they’re missing what can be the most powerful tool of all. This is an area we can really make our novels come alive and impact the reader on a much deeper level.
The use of description is perhaps the weakest of the novelist’s tools in terms of character description. What of the following makes more of an impact in the reader’s mind? To read: “Elizabeth was an arthritic old woman.” Or, to read: Elizabeth labored up the stairs, a painful step at a time. She paused at each step, grasped the handrail with both hands and forced her ancient legs up yet another step. The second example wins, hands-down. Why? Because we “see” an action the character takes and because we see it happening it has an emotional impact on us. In the first example, we’re “told” what the character is (arthritic). Doesn’t make much of an impression at all. Not even close to the impression we get when we see her inching painfully up the stairs.
This is important enough that I’ll say it again: Characters are defined best and on a deeper level by their actions. As are their character arcs. You know, that deal where the character emerges at the end of the story a different person than when the story began as a result of all they’d gone through during the course of the tale. Why? Because they experience what the character does and what the character experiences at the same time the character does. They’re not being “told” this character has undergone a sea change—they “see” it with their own eyes, and are therefore convinced to a degree not remotely possible with the author “telling” them there’s been a change via their thoughts or any of the other aforementioned techniques.
            A movie that illustrates brilliantly how all this can be accomplished through the character’s actions is screenwriter Callie Khouri’s Thelma & Louise. We’ll be looking closely at this film in this chapter and others, as it’s one of those rare movies that provide many, many teaching moments that can be valuable to fiction writers.
            The basic plot of Thelma & Louise, is that two friends plan to go on a weekend getaway fishing in the mountains. On the way there, they stop at a roadhouse for a quick drink or two and Thelma gets sexually attacked by Harlan in the parking lot. Louise saves her friend by putting a gun to Harlan’s head just as he’s trying to penetrate Thelma. Situation defused, Harlan just has to say one last insult and Louise shoots and kills him. The women flee the scene and the rest of the movie is basically a chase scene, ending with the women opting for suicide rather than to go prison.
            The plot is fairly simple on the surface, but the characterizations Khouri has created of these people make this an extremely complex film. What is magnificent about their characterizations is that they are each revealed chiefly through their actions. Virtually every single line in the script and every moment on the screen can be studied to your gain. I’ve watched this movie more than a hundred times and each time learned something new, both from the script Khouri has created and from the brilliant work these talented actors  and the director Ridley Scott bring to the project.
First, let’s look at the physical actions Khouri has given to character Thelma (as played by Geena Davis) which define her character and brilliantly carry the viewer through as she transforms into a “new” person at the end. Louise is also given actions to define her character and arc, but we’ll mostly be looking at Thelma’s. Once you’ve read this, then the script, and then watched the movie, take an extra step and go back and see how Louise’s actions inform her character as well.

The setup

            We’ll begin with the “setup.” The structure of movies used to be that roughly the first ten minutes served as the “setup.” This is where the principle characters are introduced and we learn who they are and what their situation is and the inciting incident and story problem are dramatized. This is one of those things that have changed in the last few years. Setup time has been drastically reduced in more and more movies and is fast becoming a thing of the past.
            In the beginning of the setup of Thelma & Louise, there are a series of intercuts between the dual protagonists. We see Louise (played by Susan Sarandon) at her work—slinging hash in a Denny’s-type restaurant. We see Thelma at home with her emotionally-abusive and immature husband Darryl (played by Stephen Tobolowsky), a guy who’s transcended the role of male chauvinist pig to that of male chauvinist hog.
            What actions does she perform that define her character? The very first one is her dialogue with Louise. The movie opens with Louise at a pay phone at the restaurant calling Thelma, asking her if she’s ready to leave on her trip. Here’s the way it looks in the script.

(at pay phone)
I hope you’re packed, little sister, ‘cause we are outta
here tonight.
(By the way, when Louise calls her “little sister,” this also defines their relationship. As you’ll see, Louise begins in an almost “mother” role and Thelma as the child and in the very first line of dialogue in the movie, Khouri has already begun to define that relationship.)

            Thelma responds with her first dialogue, which likewise immediately begins to define her character.

(whispering guiltily)
                        Well, wait now. I still have to ask Darryl if I can go.

            Right off the bat, we can tell from what she says to Louise that she’s one of those “dutiful little wives.” We don’t know at this point if Darryl is her boyfriend or husband, but we do know from what she says that she feels she has to get permission from him, and that bespeaks volumes about their relationship, whichever it is.
            But, as Louise answers her offscreen on the phone, and we hear Louise’s voice, Khouri gives Thelma a great piece of “actor’s business” (action) that really shows her character and where she’s at in her relationship with Darryl. Here’s Khouri’s action for her character (italics mine):

Thelma has the phone tucked under her chin as she cuts out coupons from the newspaper and pins them on a bulletin board already covered with them. We see various recipes torn out from women’s magazines along the lines of “101 Ways to Cook Pork.”

            If that action doesn’t show us who Thelma is and what kind of person she is, nothing ever will! In less than fifteen seconds on the screen, Khouri has given us both a bit of dialogue and a specific action that deliver us a three-dimensional character and speaks volumes about who she is.
            Then, after she hangs up from her conversation with Louise, Thelma goes to the bottom of the stairs, leans on the banister, and yells up, “Darryl! Honey, you’d better hurry up!”
            Again, with dialogue, she’s shown she’s the dutiful little wife, pandering to her husband almost as if he was a little child and she the mom urging him to get up. You can just tell that this is a daily routine and that she has to be the “mom” to her husband… and we get all this before we even see Darryl. By her dialogue and by her actions. All in about thirty seconds.
            Darryl makes his appearance and Khouri defines his character also by his actions. First, by the way he’s dressed and the way he acts. Khouri gives him this appearance: Darryl comes trotting down the stairs. Polyester was made for this man and he’s dripping in “men’s” jewelry.
            She further defines his character by his response to Thelma’s urging him to “hurry up.” He says, “Dammit, Thelma, don’t holler like that! Haven’t I told you I can’t stand it when you holler in the morning.”
            Less than a minute has gone by in the story and we’ve already got a crystal-clear view of these two people and of their relationship. Thelma then replies (sweetly and coyly), I’m sorry, doll, I just didn’t want you to be late.”
            Next, Khouri provides the character of Darryl with a very revealing bit of action, when she writes: Darryl is checking himself out in the hall mirror and it’s obvious he likes what he sees. He exudes overconfidence for reasons that never become apparent…He is making imperceptible adjustments to his overmoussed hair. (Then, another action by Thelma that further defines her character. Italics mine.) Thelma watches approvingly.
            In the briefest span of time, we see these two people for exactly who and what they are. All delivered via their actions (mostly) and a bit of dialogue.
            Louise's character is defined even before Thelma's, in the very first scene. She's waiting tables and one of her "tops" has a group of teenaged girls, whom she admonishes for smoking, citing the well-worn chestnut that "smoking will stunt your growth." This action informs us of her character and role in the movie—that of the mother. Immediately after she's chastised the girls, she goes into the kitchen for a break and has a cigarette herself. Not only does it define her mothering character, it shows us that she's an unreliable character. She preaches one thing but does another. Pretty much what a normal parent might do!
            Also, each woman has an action that defines both their individual characters and their relationship to each other. Louise is smoking—an “adult” action. In the intercuts, Thelma is chewing on a candy bar—a “child’s” action. As the story unfolds, Thelma will abandon the candy bar and take up smoking as she moves closer to adult status.
            There are countless other examples of how Callie Khouri defines each and every character by their action—virtually everything the people in her story does defines their characters. There isn’t any “actor’s business for the sake of actor’s business” anywhere in the script. These aren’t things they just “do” while delivering their lines. They do serious plot and story work.
            Let’s move on.

Guns to create character arch

            Tools and how characters use them are very effective ways to create a character's growth. In Thelma and Louise, one of the most important actions Khouri uses to deliver Thelma’s character arc in the story is when the two women meet at Thelma’s house to begin their trip. Thelma has elected to bring along a revolver and it’s the way she physically handles it that is a particularly brilliant piece of writing by Khouri. Thelma picks up the gun gingerly by the thumb and two fingers, obviously terrified of the weapon when she takes it out of the drawer to pack. That action is reinforced when, minutes later, she reveals to Louise she's brought the weapon and she again holds it as if she's afraid it will go off and shoot her when she follows Louise's order and puts it in the older woman's purse. By the end of the story, she’s whipping the gun around like Doc Holliday’s been mentoring her out behind the O.K. Corral. This one simple action and the way it evolves during the story by itself beautifully shows the viewer how far Thelma’s come and how she’s emerged as a much different person as a result of what she’s undergone.

Smoking to show character arc

            However, Khouri doesn’t use just this one action to create a character arc for Thelma. Smoking is another one. We've already talked about Louise toking on a cigarette after she's admonished the teenagers for smoking. At the beginning of the trip, Thelma pantomimes smoking an unlit cigarette, imitating the older and more world-weary Louise. The action is of a child, imitating an adult. As events progress, she eventually becomes a true pro, chain-smoking to beat the band and looking like she’s been at it since she was twelve and a half.
            The physical action of smoking is used in many places in this movie to symbolize important points. For instance, after their money has been stolen by J.R. (played by Brad Pitt), Louise has completely given up. Rather than “tell” us she’s quit the good fight, via some awkward dialogue, Khouri uses the physical action of smoking to show us. Waiting in the car, while Thelma goes into a convenience store/gas station (which she’s going to hold up, unbeknownst to Louise), she lights up, takes a desultory half-drag and then tosses the cigarette away. More than any dialogue ever could, this simple action of resignation shows the audience exactly the level of despair Louise has sunk to. She’s given up the only pleasure she had left in life (smoking). A second or two later, she takes out a tube of lipstick and begins to apply it, almost as a lifelong habit in her role as a “woman,” only to toss that away as well. Hard on the heels of giving up smoking, she’s now given up any pretense of being what society deems a woman should be as well as her very life, symbolically. With these two simple actions, we are completely convinced of the complete despair Louise feels. She’s stripped bare of everything. Her old life and old person is gone. It's at this point that she begins to achieve true independence. Only by giving up her old life can she proclaim her right to freedom from the tyranny she's lived under all of her life... from men in particular and from society in general.


            In the setup, both women pack for their camping trip to the mountains. There is a vast contrast to their packing "styles" which serves to further define their characters by that action. Louise, the "mom" is in control. She wraps garments in individual plastic containers and arranges them neatly in her suitcase. Thelma, in contrast, throws handfuls of clothes into her suitcase and at one point, just dumps her drawers into her suitcase. She's definitely not in control of her life, as evidenced by her chaotic packing method. It mirrors her existence, just as Louise's style does hers. If you knew nothing about either woman, as soon as you saw each of them pack, you'd make the firm conclusion that one was in complete charge of herself and the other was more than a little "scattered." You wouldn't have to hear either of them speak or do anything else to figure this out.
            Over and over, actions show us both women and how they evolve. In the beginning, Louise is not only a control freak, she's also obsessed with cleanliness. In fact, there's a scene when the antagonist Hal (played by Harvey Keitel) breaks into Louise's apartment runs his finger over a table surface, looking for dust and there isn't any.
            Another scene that reinforces her neatness jones, is when the women are waiting for drovers to get a herd of cattle around them. "Don't you scratch my car!" Louise screams at the men. Later, when they've achieved their freedom, her car is dirty, dusty and just downright filthy... and she doesn't even notice it. Evidence again that her character has evolved.


            Huh? you say. (I heard you.) How is hair a physical action?
            Let's take a look.
            Remember at the beginning, Khouri has established Louise as the "in-control" mother (adult) figure and Thelma as the scattered, undisciplined "child." Louise packs carefully; Thelma tosses her things willy-nilly into the suitcase. Louise smokes; Thelma chomps on a candy bar. Thelma is terrified of guns and Louise is an old hand at firearms. And so on.
            Now, look at their hair when the trip begins. Louise's is neat and pinned up. Under firm control. Thelma's hangs loose and free. Hair is important in this movie. Not only does it reflect the individual character at the moment, it also reveals the state of the relationship between the two women at a given point in the plot.
            As the story progresses, Louise's hair begins to come down at various plot points. As she inches closer and closer to her freedom from men, the hair comes down, little by little. I won't go into every single scene where hair plays a role, although it does in just about all of them—watch the movie and focus only on the hair and the times when it is up or down or in-between on each woman and you can quickly see how hair affects what's going on and the present state of their relationship with each other.
            There is a point, two-thirds through the film, when the two women reverse their roles. Thelma becomes the mother, the one in control, and Louise reverts to being a helpless child. Shortly after that, the two begin to move toward equality and their hair symbolically reflects that stage perfectly, in that both women are driving down the road and both have their hair partly "up" in the exact same "do." Not only that, but to further strengthen their new-found equality, they are both singing along in perfect harmony to a song on the radio. All actions.


            Let's imagine a hypothetical scene. A mother has just picked up her little girl at the playground and they have to be at the girl's best friend's house for her birthday party. The woman's daughter has grime on her face from the dusty playground. What does the mother do? Why, she gives her a spitbath, of course. That's just what moms do! I know from (painfully embarrassing) personal experience. Who among us hasn't been an actor in this familiar drama!
            Look at the scene immediately following the killing of Harlan. They're fleeing the scene and then Louise orders Thelma to pull over. Thelma's got gore on her cheeks from the bloody nose Harlan gave her when he hit her during his attempted rape. What does Louise do? (After she throws up of course, and re-enters the car, ordering Thelma back ot the passenger side.) She gives her a spitbath, an action right out of Parenting 101! You can find it on page three.


            I saw your eyes light up at this topic heading. Don't deny it. Just means you're normal.
            Sex is powerful, isn't it. We pay attention when we encounter sex on the screen or among the pages of a novel.
            Many writers write sizzling sex scenes that are definitely worth the price of admission. But... most of the time, those scenes don't do all that they could. Khouri gets Prius mileage out of her big sex scene, the one where Thelma and J.R. (Brad Pitt) make love. As Janet Burroway tells us in her wonderful book, Writing Fiction (the most widely-used writing textbook used in America and the best, in my opinion), that character changes must always be occasioned by a physical event, Khouri uses this maxim brilliantly.
            Up until the point when J.R. steals their money, Louise is in charge—the parent—and Thelma is the child. When they run to the motel room and find out J.R.'s stolen all their money, a role reversal takes place. Louise gives up and reverts to being the child—all hope is gone in her eyes. It is then that a miracle happens. Thelma becomes the parent in charge. (Incidentally, this scene is foreshadowed by an earlier scene in a similar motel room, when Thelma collapses on the bed in tears, clearly the child, and Louise takes charge.)
            How can Thelma change this drastically? Remember, character change must be caused by something physical that happens to the character. Have you guessed what the physical action was that allowed Thelma to do a 180?
            That's right. But... not just any old sex. After all, she's been married four years and has had lots of sex. But, what J.R. and she had was a different kind of sex for her. It was adult, mature sex. Not the version of teenager backseat dalliances she engaged in with her husband. No, this was grownup sex. And, it was because of this that she transformed into an adult and was able to take charge. Without this kind of sex, she would no doubt have stayed the child she was and would have most likely collapsed in surrender and defeat on the bed right along with Louise, as she'd already done in previous scenes in one way or another up to that moment.
            This is the biggest turning point in the movie and the most dramatic moment and Khouri does it up right. First, she makes sure Thelma's defining moment isn't obscured by anything. Louise leaves their room first and it's clear she's going to be having sex with her boyfriend Jimmy (the Michael Madsen character). But... we never see even a glimpse of these two between the sheets doing the nasty. Why? Because Khouri wanted to make sure that the most important scene in the story wasn't obscured or overshadowed  in the least which it might have been if we'd been witness to both women and their lovemaking.

            There are other actions in this fine film that the screenwriter Khouri employs, but these should give you a very good idea of not only how to use such actions to inform your character and his or her developmental arc, but how vital providing them is.
            Now. How might we use these techniques for our fiction? Good question! Here's some suggestions.


            Since Thelma & Louise first hit the movie theaters in 1987, the country has undergone a rather negative change in its attitude toward smoking. That means that it's probably best not to adopt Khouri's ingenious use of cigarettes in your story in an anti-smoking climate. What's kind of interesting is that while smoking has mostly vanished from movies, when it does appear, mostly it signals that this is a "bad guy." Instead of wearing black, the villain these days is puffing on a Marlboro Red. What might you substitute? Well, there are any number of possibilities.
            Let's say you're writing a coming-of-age novel or at least a novel with coming-of-age elements and you want something like Khouri's symbol to show the passage of your character from childhood into adulthood. What are some artifacts or actions that we associate primarily with adults and not with children?
            One that comes to mind is drinking. If you watched the movie, you'll recall how Khouri has Thelma buying whiskey in those little "miniatures" when she was in her role as a child. That's how a kid might buy booze. When she "grew up" she switched to regular-sized bottles. To show your character as achieving adulthood you might show her switching from flavored vodkas to regular martinis, or you might set him up by having him order drinks mixed with colas—say a rum and Coke—to a Jack and water. (Although there seem to be plenty of adults who still enjoy pop in their adult beverages...) A better example might be having your character always running around in t-shirts with athletes' names on the back. To show he's achieved maturity, you could have him toss his Michael Jordan tees and begin wearing shirts without logos or jocks' names on the back. I heard a radio dj commenting on this one day and open it up for discussion among his listeners and the consensus reached was that after the age of thirty, a man just looks silly walking around with another guy's name on his shirt.
            The point is to be observant and see what actions kids make that adults don't. In one of my short stories, "Blue Skies," the protagonist experienced an epiphany when he noticed that his mentally-challenged daughter Celsi still ate her sandwiches that were cut diagonally by taking the first bite from the center. He knew she was never going to get better when he and his wife and Celsi were out for her sixteenth birthday and she still took her first bite out of the middle. His observation was that most adults he observed always bit the tip of the sandwich off first.
            There are plenty of examples around. Just be observant and you'll find them.
            And don't limit yourself to just coming-of-age actions. Use actions for every significant change in your character. For instance, you may want to write a story about a man who has terminal cancer and your story is about the stages such a person might go through in coming to terms with his fate.
            Let's say that right after "Charley" learns of his impending doom, he goes through a period of utter hopelessness. From that he segues into a kind of hysterical hedonism, where he does everything he's always wanted to do, but was too conservative to do while healthy. From that you may have him moving on to a period in which he takes huge risks with his life. Maybe you have him buy a motorcycle—something he's always wanted but didn't for a couple of reasons. One, he was simply afraid of motorcycles, and two, he didn't feel the family's budget could accommodate one. Now that he's only got months to live, he races out and plunks down a check for a new Harley Sportster. His wife is beside herself. He tears through town at breakneck speed, at little or no concern for his safety. She's really worried because he refuses to buy a helmet. She even goes out and buys him one for his birthday present, but he never puts it on.
            And then, something happens. He has an epiphany. (What the epiphany is and how he gets it is your job—you didn't think I was going to write the whole darned thing, did you?) Something happens that somehow gives him hope and makes him come back to earth and realize that even though he's terminal, he's still responsible for his family and that if he were to get in a wreck and survive, the hospital bills might just finish off what little savings they have left. He also gains a small ray of hope that the doctors may be wrong—that he may somehow beat the death sentence.
            To show his realization by a physical act, you can have him go to the garage where he's discarded his wife's present and strap on the helmet. He's really grown here, by this kind of action. He didn't revert to where he was before—he's still going to ride his cycle and he isn't overly afraid to do so—but he's going to do it responsibly now.
            See how this physical action stuff works? It's kind of cool, isn't it!
            Now. Go out and figure out your own actions to give your characters to both reveal their character and to create their character arc. Your stories will resonate as they never have before.
 Hope this helps! The final version of this chapter will be a lot longer as there are dozens and dozens of actions Callie Khouri has employed to create character definition and arc. These are representative of her genius.
Blue skies,

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bri Clark's Blog

Hi folks,

If you get a chance, slide on over to Bri Clark's blog at where she had me on as her guest. I talk about hiring and firing agents and the response has been super. Bri just told me the post had over 485 hits in a 24-hour period, so it looks as if it's interesting to some.

Please join in the conversation going on there.

Alas, as you probably know, Jake and the JUST LIKE THAT team made it to the Elite Eight but no further in the Spinetingler Magazine Novel Tourney. I don't feel that badly about it... well, maybe a little... because some dynamite books beat me out. It was an honor to even be included in the tourney and to make it that far was super.

The good news is that we made enough on our winnings for our intrepid head cheerleader, Sandi, that she was able to get her much-needed botox treatment. The bad news is that we weren't able to earn enough for her to obtain the NoMoHair Dipilitory Wonder Machine she so desperately needed to treat her tragic condition of Excessive Hair Gene. Hank is still being called upon to shave her back hair every Friday night.

UPDATE! We've just learned that Hank has proposed to Sandi and they're going to get married in Marina Del Rey! It turns out, Hank has learned to love Sandi's backhair and was secretly happy he was going to continue in his capacity as her Personal Shaver. There will be an article appearing in the next issue of People Magazine, with a heartwarming photo of the couple, standing in shallow water at Santa Monica, both digging their toes into the sand and staring soulfully out to sea, thinking what we all know are thoughts of love. Good going, Hank and Sandi! We love you guys!

The word is, that after the wedding ceremony, everyone will be invited back to their suite at the Wyndham Bel Age to witness Hank ministering a Bic to Sandi's back. Complimentary champagne to all the attendees!

And, Jake still hasn't been spotted after we placed in the Elite Eight. We're all praying he shows up at the nuptials. Last seen, he was stumbling down the block in the direction of the Gin Mill. One can only guess what happened there...

See ya on Bri's blog!

Blue skies,

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


 Hi folks,

JUST LIKE THAT just advanced to the Elite Eight in the Spinetingler Magazine novel tourney!
All kinds of news to report!

First, a recap of the game that advanced the JUST LIKE THAT squad to the next level. Just as we thought, Jake didn’t show up. At first, that is. The last anyone had seen him, two nights ago, he was heading out for the bar scene to celebrate his winning shot that got the team into the Sweet Sixteen. Knowing Jake, we figured that would be the last time we’d see him.


With eight seconds left in the game, our intrepid coach who is NOT named Bob Knight, called time out. Tie game, the possession with the other team. Just as he’s about to send us back on the court, guess who walks in, dressed in his uni?

You guessed it!!!


Coach immediately yanks Bud and has Jake report to the scorer’s table. The ref handed the ball to our opponent’s point guard and he passed it in to their big star. He drove to just under the basket where Jake was now standing and started to go up and lay it in. And that’s when Jake won the game for us! Instead of going up to try to block the shot—which any ordinary lame-o basketball player would have done—Jake pulls the genius play we all have back on the playground but were afraid to use in a “real” game. Which was… ready?... you guessed it! He yanked the star’s shorts down!

The poor guy was so flustered, he muffed the dunk, clanking it off the rim. Well, you should have seen Sandi, our intrepid head cheerleader! She screamed so loud a window in the upper levels of the gym shattered. Later, she revealed she’d seen her dreams of a botox operation sliding out of the picture. The scream froze everyone in the gym—players, refs, fans. Little kids running up and down the aisles pestering everyone. Everybody but one guy. You guessed it. Jake. Jake had heard Sandi scream so often in their past dating days that he didn’t even hear her. While everyone else froze in place, he grabbed the ball, raced—well, “raced” perhaps isn’t the right word—after all, he was hungover—he race-walked to the other end and laid it up. Well, “race-walked” perhaps isn’t the most accurate description either. He kind of stumbled to the other end…



And now Jake’s disappeared again. Last anyone saw him, he was heading for his favorite haunt, the Gin Mill, down on State Street.

But, we’re in the Elite Eight!

So, once again we’re asking for your support. If you can tear yourself away from that Budweiser and the DVD of Debbie Does Dallas and Dallas Retaliates By Renaming Itself Fort Worth, which you’ve already watched 6,000 times, go on over to the voting polls at and cast a vote for JUST LIKE THAT.

More is at stake here than just a win for the Gipper. Well, duh… The Gipper’s dead, boobies…

But, Sandi, isn’t. As it turns out, she needs more than just that botox operation. Poor Sandi revealed to us last night at the victory party, that she has a deep, dark secret and asked for our aid in helping her overcome what is a serious disability, especially in her regular job, which is as a stripper at the Kitty-Kat Klub. As it turns out, Sandi is the victim of “Excessive Hair Gene.” Which means… again, you guessed it(!) she has lots of body hair. Especially on her back and shoulders. Some on her chest… She confessed last night—admittedly after a number of mimosas—that her weekly Bic budget alone totaled three figures a week. Plus, she has to hire a guy to shave it for her every Friday night. Which has the ancillary effect losing that guy as a member of her dating pool. She tried to put a brave face on her horrible condition, trying to paint us a upbeat picture of her on those Friday night seshes, sitting in her bathtub in tepid water, rose petals strewn about in the water, and Hank her Personal Shaver, sitting there on the side of the tub, whacking away at her mossy back with a Lady Schick. But, it was easy to see past the courageous smile she tried to create, to see the real pain in her eyes, as she trusted us with this intensely personal and tragic condition.

If we can somehow win at the next level and advance to the Final Four, our winnings will be enough that we can rescue Sandi and send her and Hank to East St. Louis to the factory for intensive and up-close-and-personal training on the NoMoHair Dipilitory Wonder Machine.

If you knew Sandi like we do, you’d drop everything you’re doing and rush out and vote. As Sandi so often says, quoting one of her heroines, Anne Frank, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

How true!

You can do exactly that, by voting for JUST LIKE THAT. Let’s get Sandi that machine!

Thank you.

Blue skies,

Saturday, March 3, 2012


HI folks,
Well, the novel tournament over at Brian Lindenmuth's Spinetingler Magazine continues. The star of our team, Jake, hit the winning shot as he was falling down, to advance JUST LIKE THAT into the field of sixteen. Yay, Jake! We may have lost him for the rest of the tourney as he went out celebrating last night and no one's seen him since...

Anyway, if you get a chance head on over and vote for our team, JUST LIKE THAT. If we win, we plan on spending the money on botox treatments for our head cheerleader, Sandi. (And, yes, Sandi spells her name with an i and dots it with a heart...) Sandi, has a particularly sad life story. When she was three, her parents lost her at the mall and security guards raised her. Horrible childhood! Shop, shop, shop... until your feet fall off! In a way, however, Sandi was lucky. When she was born, both her hands were in the exact shape and size of a credit card, which made her childhood much easier than it could have been. Actually, much better than if she'd been found and raised by wolves...

Sandi will be awaiting the outcome of this round, nervously sipping on a mimosa over at her regular table at Spago's. Let's don't let this brave girl down! Go to and vote for JUST LIKE THAT, and let's book that treatment for this little warrior!

Some terrific books are left in the tourney and some terrific books have already departed. If you're looking for a list of good reading material for this coming year, just copy down the titles you'll see here.

Blue skies,

P.S. If you haven't read JUST LIKE THAT, just scoot on over to and pick up a copy. Also, if you have time, please click on the "Like" button. It's at 44 "Likes" and I'm told when it hits 50 Amazon does neat things for the book in terms of marketing. That would be nice! Then I could get MY operation...

Friday, March 2, 2012


Hi folks,

Thanks to B.R. Stateham, I’m writing this after only a couple of hours of sleep. It’s his fault the insides of my eyeballs feel like sandpaper and I’m on my fifth cup of coffee and it’s only 6:30 ayem.

I fully intended to go to sleep at my normal beddy-bye time, Didn’t work out. Why? Because I picked up his danged novel, A Taste of Old Revenge. I picked it up to get to sleep. Read a few pages and drift off…

Didn’t happen. Couldn’t put it down. Had to go downstairs to finish as my wife kept complaining about the light being on and keeping her awake. Now, I’m not only exhausted from no sleep, but my joints ache from the torture instrument that is our couch.

Sounds like I’m complaining, right? Well, I’m not. It was worth it and I’d do it all over again. In fact, I have. I’m reading it for a second time. It’s that good.

I love crime novels and I love the guys who can really write ‘em—guys like Raymond Chandler, and Joseph Wambaugh and Ed McBain. And, B.R. Stateham. He’s right there in that wonderful canon.

I’ll leave it to others to describe the plot. I just want to let you know that this is just one terrific story. You’ll meet two old-style detectives—Turner and Frank--who don’t solve their crimes via computers and the Internet, but mostly by old-fashioned sleuthing and honest shoe leather. If you like vintage cars, this is your book. If you like delicious little literary inside asides… like a couple of mick cops named… ready?... Flannery and O’Connor… this is your kind of a read. If you like novels where you think you’ve figured it out and then a twist occurs that blows that all to hell… this is your kind of novel. If you like novels where the cops find a naked body in a snowdrift that the coroner discovers died from a fall from a great height and there’s not a building higher than a single story where he’s found, this is your kind of book. If you like your novels peopled with Nazi assassins, the FBI, the Russian Odessa, and the Israeli Mossad, then this is your kind of novel.

Best of all, you’ll meet two cops who aren’t the stereotypical “good cop—bad cop.” Both of these guys are good guys. Just up against it. Big-time. You’re gonna like ‘em both. Like the guy on those ads for the Men’s Warehouse says (paraphrased slightly):

Get this novel and read it. I guarantee you’re gonna like it.

And tonight, I’m waiting until three in the morning and then I’m going to phone Mr. Stateham. Wake his butt up and see how he likes it…

Coming soon--reviews of some other fantastic books by Julia Madeleine, Allan Leverone and some other great writers.

Blue skies,