Sunday, August 28, 2016


I really enjoy the writer’s group I’m in. People get to share their works in progress, and get feedback from the others. That’s what it’s all about. We’re a pretty laid back gathering. I think that’s part of what makes it work so well. I remind them that it’s an open forum. Any topic related to the business of writing is fair game. Chances are if one has a question, the others are wondering too.

Recently we were talking about how the simplest thing can trigger an idea for a story.  To give an example, I shared this tale.

While in college, I took a creative writing class. The professor was also the editor for the school’s literary magazine. He often encouraged several of us to submit pieces for consideration. A few of us did and were pleasantly surprised when they were selected for publication.

About a year later, I received a notice from the school that they were looking for material on a humor and parody theme. I tossed the note.  Humor is selective. I grew up watching reruns of Abbott and Costello, The Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers. Woody Allen never made sense to me, nor did he make me laugh. What I find funny, you might think is stupid.

A week later I got another notice. And another. They kept coming, including a few with a hand written note of encouragement from my old prof. I kept tossing them.  Nothing was inspiring me.
Then one Monday night I came home from work to find yet another notice. I crumpled it, tossed it in the trash and sat down to watch Monday Night Football. Just before kickoff there was a MetLife commercial. Snoopy is sitting on the roof of his doghouse, typing away. The words? “It was a dark and stormy night.”

I sat there for a moment, muttering a few selective curses. Then I switched off the game, sat down at the computer and started writing a parody with the opening lines “It was a dark and stormy night. No, really it was.”  The result was a Sam Spade parody of about five thousand words.  I reread it a day later, made a tweak or two and sent it off to the literary magazine with a note ‘Leave me alone!’

A week later I bumped into the prof.  Turns out they loved the story and were going to include it in the humor and parody issue.

Inspiration.  As Bob Seger would say, “Goes to show you never can tell.” 

Abbott  and Costello

Image result for Abbott and costello photos

Sunday, August 21, 2016


I’m not a big fan of coincidence.  Some people claim there’s no escaping it. Others think it’s a form of fate.  Maybe it’s just a matter of timing. I don’t know. But whenever anyone tells me ‘it’s just a coincidence’, my Spidey senses get to tingling.  Usually there’s something more going on behind the scenes.

But once in a great while, I’ll be hit with an event that has no rational explanation.  Recently I was talking with Ben, a representative from a benefits company who was at my office for a few hours. He was there to answer any questions employees may have before the open enrollment period.  Knowing he’d have some free time between appointments, Ben wisely brought along a book to read.  He was about halfway through “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides.

No big deal, right?  

Except that I was reading the same book. Now this isn’t a brand new novel. It was released in 2002. I’d stumbled upon it at a library sale. Ben couldn’t remember where or when he’d gotten it. 

The bulk of the story takes place in Detroit. Part of it covers Prohibition and the generations that follow.  Turns out different components of the novel caught our attention.  The idea that we were both enjoying the same novel almost simultaneously was a bit odd.  Coincidence?  You tell me.

Image result for prohibition photos

Sunday, August 14, 2016

It's About Time

A while ago, (no pun intended) there was a fellow who used to drop in on the writer’s workshop. He claimed that he wanted to write a memoir of sorts, something about his many decades of escapades that could be shared with his grandchildren. However despite the urging of the others, he never put much effort into the project.  Whenever someone would share a piece they were working on, reading it aloud to the others, he always asked the same question.

“How long did it take you to write that?”

He offered no reactions, either good or bad to the particular effort. To him, it was all about time. I tried to explain more than once that the length of time is irrelevant to a writer, unless you’re on a deadline. The intent is to get the story down in the first draft, then go back and start the revisions and the editing process. But he always turned a deaf ear to me.

Once when I shared an excerpt from a work in progress, he blurted out his usual question before anyone else could speak.  It was time to end his curiosity.

“Ten years,” I said.

“Ten years! That’s impossible?”

I went on to explain that’s how long I’ve been seriously writing. While I can’t speak for everyone, I will often be working on a scene or dialog when I’m driving, particularly on a long commute where there is little traffic. It could be hours or days before I’m able to sit down at the computer and actually write, but my brain is at work, shaping it, making it better.  He didn’t like my answer and shortly after that, he stopped attending the group.  

Maybe he just didn’t have the time for us.

Here’s a little excerpt from “Fleeing Beauty” the third book in the Jamie Richmond series.  In this scene, Ian, the fifteen-year-old boy who is a friend of Malone’s, has been staying with Jamie, working on the project unpacking the artwork. He has recently met Brittany, a teenage girl from the neighborhood.

Ian returned after seven. He unpacked his clothes, grabbed an apple from the refrigerator, and scowled at me. He slumped into a chair at the kitchen table. 

“Logan’s gone.” 

“Yes, Linda and Vince came home this afternoon.”

 He gave me an exasperated look. “But Logan’s gone.” 

“Of course he’s gone. He was only staying here because she didn’t have time to put him in a kennel before their vacation.” 

Ian’s gaze went to the floor. He started bumping his foot against the table leg. I knew what was going on. He looked so sweet I couldn’t torment him for long. 

“She’s waiting for you.” 

His head snapped up. “What?” 

“Brittany is waiting for you. She stopped by before you got back. I told her Logan was gone but that you were due anytime.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” 

“I just did.” 

“But I thought, you know, without Logan, I didn’t have a reason to go by there.” 

He was so cute. I reached across the table and punched him in the shoulder. “She likes you, Ian. The dog was just your wingman. Go see her.” 

“She likes me?”

“Be home by ten.” 

He bolted from the table. Halfway across the kitchen, he whirled around. “Can I stay until eleven?” 

“We’ve got an early morning. Let’s make it ten.” I got up and went to the sink. 

“C’mon, Jamie, how about just a little bit later?”  

 “Ten-thirty. That’s my final offer.”

 Ian stepped over and gave me a hug. “Deal.” 

With a bang he was out the side door and jogging down the driveway. I rinsed my glass from the iced tea and started to laugh. I had seen four different men that day and been hugged by each one. This was very unusual for me. But I was starting to like it.

Here's a link to an older blog that you might enjoy.