Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Novel "tournament"

Hi folks,

Spinetingler Magazine is having a bit of fun. Editor Brian Lindenmuth is conducting a NCAA-Tournament-style competition for crime novels published last year. It's just for fun, so if you'd like to participate, go to
and cast your vote for the books you like.

As it just so happens... I have one of mine listed. JUST LIKE THAT. I'd ask you to vote for it Chicago-style... you know--vote early and vote often, but... curses! Brian's thought of that and it's only one vote per email address.

There are a lot of really good books in the competition.

Blue skies,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bill Crider's Blog

Hi folks,

Well... I'm STOKED. Bill Crider, writer-extraordinaire and publisher of one of the most-viewed and respected blogs out there on writing and books (Bill Crider's Pop-Culture Magazine), just posted a review of my "baby" THE BITCH. Thank you, Mr. Crider. I've been a long-time fan of his own books and this feels so darned good!

Check it out at

Blue skies,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Where we work...

Hi folks,

Luca Veste just did a kind of different article today over at Crime Fiction Lover, showing where some of his writer friends (including yours truly) write. Kind of interesting...

Check it out at:

Blue skies,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Interview with B.R. Stateham and library stuff

Hi folks,

I was asked to appear on a panel for the service day at our local Ft. Wayne downtown library and just got back. It was on ebooks and how librarians can help authors who publish ebooks. Great discussion and a great audience (all librarians). These people really like authors and want to do everything they can to help us.

Also, I was asked by Sean Casserley, the Manager of their Bibliographic and Information Technology Services to return in the next few days and record a 40-minute interview on writing, which will be shown on local TV and UTube. Kinda pumped about that. I really connected with Sean--he's a native New Zealander and has a half-brother who's a Maori. It's quite an honor as the Ft. Wayne library is nationally-acclaimed--they have what's considered the third-biggest resource on genealogy in the world, ranking just behind the Library of Congress and the Mormon library. We gets hundreds of thousands of visitors a year from all over just for the genealogical resources. Anyway, I'll let you know when it comes up on UTube.

And then , when I got home a few minutes ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see that B.R. Stateham--an author whose work I love--had just posted an interview on his blog that I did with him a couple of days ago. One of the best interviewers around, imo. Check it out at

And, it's still cold and wet and gray out... That object in the sky I saw yesterday that I was told was the sun, has vanished. I imagine it's gone to where the weather's better... Which would be about anywhere...

Blue skies,

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Hi folks,

As most of you know, I was an outlaw for some years and did time and stuff like that. What we call "ancient history." However, I still visit my "alma mater" occasionally (Pendleton) and when I do, I usually take a few cartons of books to donate to the prison library. It's pretty much the same as when I was there--fairly sparse and not much on the shelves. Therefore, I was delighted at two recent blogs that talked about the value of books for inmates and wanted to share what they had to say with y'all. The first is by Thomas Pluck, noir writer extraordinaire, who brought to my attention a wonderful organization that helps furnish prison libraries. You can read his post at:

Tom's post came out awhile back. And then, today the great Lee Lofland presented a marvelous post on his blog (The Graveyard Shift) an terrific article that really depicts honestly what books can do for inmates. Check it out at: 

For those who maybe aren't familiar with Lee, he's THE expert on police procedures and forensics and runs a police academy for writers that's unparalleled anywhere. Check out his blog. Always great and informative stuff.

And finally, I want to share a little love my friend and fellow crime writer, B.R. Stateham gave me on his blog where he reviewed THE BITCH. He made me feel guilty as I read one of his novels--A TASTE OF OLD REVENGE--awhile back and loved ir and told him I'd be posting a review of it... and haven't yet written it. I will, B.R.! I promise! It's an absolutely great book so don't wait until I review it to buy it! Anyway, here's what B.R. had to say about my novel and a couple of other really good ones at

I don't know what the weather's like where you folks are, but here in Ft. Wayne today, while it's still cold and there's still snow on the ground... THE SUN IS SHINING! I had to call someone to find out what that big shiny thing in the sky was and I was told it's THE SUN! Hooray! It brought back so many memories of when I lived in New Orleans and in Texas where you see it all the time...

Have a great day and keep your powder dry!

Blue skies,

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Hi folks,

You might want to check out the interview Nigel Bird just posted on his blog, Sea Minor. The guy interviewing the subject (hereunto referred to as "The Interviewer") is really a bad interviewer, but the interviewee (hereunto referred to as "The Interviewee") is somewhat better. At least he has some whacky ideas...

Check it out at

These two are obviously drunk or otherwise impaired... Both seem the product of a bad education or suffering from a drop on their head during childhood. The Interviewee urges his students not to read it...

Blue skies,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Skype Class to Begin with the New York Writer's Workshop... and moi!

Hi folks,

This is to announce that I will be co-teaching a live Skype class for the New York Writer’s Workshop with author Jenny Milchman, beginning on Thursday, February 23. The class is called: Beginnings: The Start of Your Novel, Your Career, and Your Writing Life. The class size will be limited, so if you’re interested please apply as soon as you can.


Please go to for complete details and how to apply.


Here are the basics:

Craft a solid beginning and you just may have a novel that sells.

In this class, you will learn what constitutes a great opening, techniques that will apply to the rest of a successful novel as well. You will also learn the three main ways to get published and how to determine which one is best for you. Finally, you will explore ways to jump-start your creativity and enter the state of flow that is so essential, not only to getting started but to getting all the way to the finish line.

Taught by acclaimed writing instructor Les Edgerton (author of HOOKED) and Jenny Milchman, an author who recently sold her debut novel to a major house after eleven years of trying, this class will bring you that much closer to your own successful writing career.

Class will be taught online via Skype in a round table format
on seven (7) Thursdays, 2/23, 3/2, 3/9, 3/16, 3/23, 4/5, 4/12
from 7-8:30 pm EST.
There will also be a version offering pre-recorded lectures with email access to instructors.
An optional session of writer’s coaching will be offered on
Thursday, April 19
to be scheduled with either instructor.

Pricing is as follows:
Live Skype Class: $535
Pre-recorded Sessions with Email Access to Instructors: $335
One-on-one Coaching: $100/hour
Information on how to apply for a seat in class is on the website. Hope to see some of you in class!

Blue skies,

Friday, February 3, 2012

Adverbs and adjectives

Hi folks,
I've posted this before, but it's been awhile and in the past I've received good feedback from people who haven't seen it before. Hope it helps inform your own writing a bit!


As thinking creatures, most of us look for easier ways to complete tasks. That includes writing. Nothing wrong with that—it’s a mark of intelligence. Sometimes, though, that approach can get us in trouble. We seem to have a need for shortcuts and sometimes end up relying on bumper sticker kinds of slogans to guide us in our writing.

Sayings like: Write what you know. That’s about the silliest advice ever given a writer. If we wrote “what we knew,” we’d be unable to write about murder… unless we’d murdered someone. We’d find it impossible to write stories set in the future or the distant past… unless we’d lived a thousand years or had a time machine. We couldn’t write from the opposite gender’s pov. Or, from the pov of an animal. We couldn’t write about anything we didn’t personally know about. The proper advice is: Write what you can convince the reader you know. Problem is, that doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker as easily…

Another of those bumper sticker slogans thrust upon writers is: Show, don’t tell. Like most of these nifty sayings, there’s a germ of truth buried there. The fact is, there are plenty of times in fiction when telling works much better than showing and is the proper thing to do. You can’t show everything. If you did, you’d end up with a… screenplay. This is one reason novels are longer than screenplays. Three-four hundred pages versus ninety. A lot of those additional pages are devoted to… telling. Exposition/summary. It’s one of the advantages of a novel over a screenplay for a literary or reading experience.


It was not that he was a cowed or naturally timorous person, far from it; but he had been for some time in an almost morbid state of irritability and tension. He had cut himself off from everybody and withdrawn so completely into himself that he now shrank from every kind of contact. He was crushingly poor, but he no longer felt the oppression of his poverty. For some time he had ceased to concern himself with everyday affairs. He was not really afraid of any landlady, whatever plots he might think she was hatching against him, but to have to stop on the stairs and listen to all her chatter about trivialities in which he refused to take any interest, all her complaints, threats, and insistent demands for payment, and then to have to extricate himself, lying and making excuses—no, better to creep downstairs as softly as a cat and slip out unnoticed.

That kind of looks like “telling” or “exposition” to me. And it is. It’s also from a pretty good country writer—a guy named Dostoevsky and it’s from a book which has enjoyed healthy sales, a little tome titled Crime and Punishment. Bet that bumper sticker (Show, don’t tell) wasn’t on his writer’s buggy…

Sayings like: Avoid adverbs and be sparing of adjectives. Which just happens to be the point of today’s discourse.

Why on earth would a writer avoid using adverbs? They’re a legitimate part of speech and, if used properly can be among the strongest tools in the writer’s toolbox. Most will claim they’re the weakest, but I’ll show you some examples where no other part of speech works as well.

The same deal holds with adjectives. Used properly—which means with originality—they can transform your prose.

So where does this advice come from? That’s easy. It comes from the selected reading style of many writing teachers. By “selective reading” I mean lazy reading. A person who sees part of a piece of advice, but either ignores the rest of it or just doesn’t see it—it’s invisible to him or her. If it doesn’t come from lazy reading, it perhaps comes from a predilection for… lazy teaching. It’s just so much easier to tell our little charges to eschew adverbs and most adjectives, rather than actually reading the writer’s work and showing him or her which work well and which don’t and why. To do that would be… work. Or, perhaps this advice comes from the fruit of the same tree—the instructor simply parrots what was taught him or her and accepts everything his or her mentor passed on as gospel without challenging it. Again, a form of laziness.

John Gardner said, “Adverbs are either the dullest tools or the sharpest tools in the novelist’s toolbox.” Mark Twain said, “When you catch an adjective, kill it.” William Zinsser said, “Most adjectives are… unnecessary. Like adverbs, they are sprinkled into sentences by writers who don’t stop to think that the concept is already in the noun.”

Here’s how several generations of writers have read these guys’ advice.
Don’t use adverbs and adjectives.
Which… isn’t exactly what they said. They’re like the Paul Harvey’s of writing instruction. Well, they’re like half of a Paul Harvey. They kind of forget to include that famous “rest of the story.”
You wonder if those who keep parroting this advice on adverbs and adjectives have read what these guys actually said. All of those folks quoted are good, if not, great writers and teachers. Makes sense that what they’re telling us is sound, right? Well, if we actually read what they said precisely. Nary a one of them said: Don’t use adverbs and adjectives. Just about every one of them had a disclaimer. Gardner: “…or the sharpest tools in the novelist’s toolbox.” Zinsser: “Most adjectives…” Notice he didn’t say all; he said most. That sort of means that some adjectives and adverbs work and work well. Zinsser also went on to say: “…they are sprinkled into sentences by writers who don’t stop to think…” And, that’s the source of the problem. Writing instructors who pass on these “rules” haven’t stopped to think themselves perhaps, so they’re incapable of recognizing students as being any different from themselves. Writers who… don’t stop to think.
What each of these guys is maintaining is that adverbs and adjectives are fine to use… if used judiciously. With originality. That’s the… rest of the story. The important part that never seems to be delivered in classes and books.
I took a lot of the information here from three sources. One, from the best writer’s textbook ever written, Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction and from a 2006 article by Ben Yagoda in the NY Times, which you can accesss at: . Also, some of the material here can be found in my writing book, Finding Your Voice.
Used thoughtfully (which some of these writing advisors don’t think you’re capable of, alas), adverbs and adjectives can sharpen and illuminate your prose magnificently, as in the following examples:
"In those trusses I saw a reminder of a country-fairgrounds grandstand, or perhaps the penumbrous bones of the Polo Grounds roof." -Roger Angell on the gridwork at the new baseball stadium in Baltimore
"She shook her head, and a smell of alembicated summer touched his nostrils." -Sylvia Townsend Warner
"The Sunday's events repeated themselves in his mind, bending like nacreous flakes around a central infrangible irritant." -John Updike
"He had the surface involvement-style-while I had the deep-structural, immobilizing synovial ballooning of a superior mind." -Nicholson Baker on Updike
"The great out-sticking ears that frame his face like cartilaginous quotation marks." -Michael Kelly on Ross Perot
 “She had been to Germany, Italy, everywhere that one visits acquisitvely.” Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September

“She jammed the pedal to the floor, and like something huge and pre-historic and pea-brained, the Jeep leapt stupidly out of its stall.” Sharon Sheehe Stark, A Wrestling Season

“So closely had we become tied to the river that we could sense where it lay and make for it instinctively like cattle.” W.D. Wetherell, Chekhov’s Sister

“When Sula first visited the Wright house, Helene’s curdled scorn turned to butter.” Toni Morrison, Sula

“With a bladdery whack it (the boat) slapped apart and sprang away.” Sharon Sheehe Stark, A Wrestling Season

“Hank was not accepted at Harvard Law School; but goodhearted Yale took him.” John Updike, “The Other”

“On the far side of the room, under the moiling dogs the twins are playing.” Francois Camoin, “Baby, Baby, Baby”

Are you gonna tell these people not to use adjectives or adverbs?

My advice isn’t to eliminate adverbs and adjectives. Just take some time and use them in an original way. They’ll elevate your writing if you do. Just about everybody who is writing these days is culling out their adverbs and pruning their adjectives. If you can learn to use both in truly original ways, whose work do you think is going to stand out?

You might wonder if I’ve ever given any of my writing students advice to not use adverbs and adjectives. Well, sure. Nobody’s perfect! I’ve also changed. Like they say: If you’re green, you’re growing—if you’re ripe, you’re rotten.” I hope I’m green enough to not keep telling folks the same things, ad nauseum. Especially if I discover the advice was wrong. In this case, I think it is.

The next time somebody delivers a writing “absolute” to you—especially one that could easily fit into a bumper sticker--you might want to look at it with a clear and open mind. Don’t trust everything you hear. In fact, your own instincts are often much better than what others may tell you. Chances are, you’re a writer because you were a reader first, and it’s that reading experience that I suspect has given you the best body of advice you’ll ever get for your work. You’ve already internalized most of what you need to know from reading lots and lots of books. Use it. It’s trustworthy most of the time.

Hope this helps!

Blue skies,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Hi folks,

I’m very pleased to announce the ebook publication of my second short story collection today from Snubnose Press of GUMBO YA-YA!

This book is a bit different from my recent books which were crime and/or noir novels. While there are some of those types of stories in this, the collection represents a range of what I write and includes stories written over the past 20-30 years. Also included at the end are two nonfiction works—an essay against censorship and political correctness that was my graduation address for my MFA in Writing degree at Vermont College that I’m very proud of—and the beginning of a memoir that I’m still working on.

I hope you enjoy these stories and essays! If you do buy a copy, please do me a favor and click on the “Like” button on the Amazon page and if you really, really like the read, please do me the honor or writing a review. It would mean a lot to me.

And, as always—thanks for your incredible support!

Blue skies,

P.S. While you're on Amazon picking up a copy of GUMBO, stop by and take advantage of Snubnose Press's free offering (for a couple of days only) of their outstanding collection titled  Speedloader. It's a fantastic collection of stories from some outstanding writers. Get it at