fiction

E.L. Doctorow (1931-2015)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I was (and still am) a huge fan of E.L. Doctorow. One of the first “adult” books I ever read was his. I picked up a paperback copy of Ragtime at a library book sale back when I was a kid, and was blown away—more by the novel’s narrative technique than by the story. Doctorow did things in that book that I didn’t know you could do in fiction. He eschewed quotation marks. He blended fictional characters with real-life figures doing fictional things. He presumed to speak as narrator for an entire period in history in a fearless manner.

I was never in love with history class at school, but I probably learned more about America and Americans by marching my way through Doctorow's bibliography. He was clearly fascinated with U.S. history, and how a writer could exploit and subvert the expectations of using historical material. In every book, you could almost feel him saying, “Yeah, I know this is supposed to be history, but it’s fiction first. Get out of the way—I’m writing here."

One of the best profiles of him I’ve ever read appeared in the New York Times Magazine back in 1985. You can read the whole thing here, but I’ve always liked this quote:

"Henry James has a parable about what writing is,'' Doctorow says. ''He posits a situation where a young woman who has led a sheltered life walks past an army barracks, and she hears a fragment of soldiers' conversation coming through a window. And she can, if she's a novelist, then go home and write a true novel about life in the army. You see the idea? The immense, penetrative power of the imagination and the intuition."

 

Celebrating F. Scott Fitzgerald's Birthday in Asheville, NC

Every year in the week of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday, the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC, opens his former lodgings to the public. Here are some pics I took on my visit last Saturday.

Fitzgerald stayed here in 1935 and ‘36, both for lengthy stays to visit Zelda when she was recovering in a nearby sanitarium—the same one where she later lost her life. These weren’t happy visits for Fitzgerald. He was always destitute, trying to write, and trying to avoid hard drinking. (To stay off liquor, Fitzgerald drank as many as thirty bottles of beer a day. People then had the notion that beer wasn’t really alcohol. The same assertion crops up in the works of Norman Maclean.)

I’d like to say I’m “proud” of my town’s connection to great writers, such as Thomas Wolfe, Fitzgerald, and Zelda Fitzgerald, but sadness and tragedy dogged all three while they were here that it doesn’t seem like much to celebrate.

Look for my short story "Nighthawks" in Hitchcock’s Mystery Mag!

Look for my short story in Hitchcock’s Mystery Mag!   Almost forgot. One of those short stories I was telling you about appears in the April 2014 issue of  Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM) , on newsstands now.  The story is called “Nighthawks,” after  Edward Hopper’s famous 1942 painting  of the same name. It’s probably the most parodied painting on the planet after the Mona Lisa. Four people sit in an oddly shaped diner in the middle of the night. What’s going on there? Well, my story offers just one scenario.  The artist Hopper said the painting was inspired by a diner on Greenwich Avenue in New York, but no one has ever located the original site. Some years ago, blogger Jeremiah Moss investigated the mystery, and has written about his search in the   New York Times  , the   Financial Times  , and on his  blog . Great reading, if you’re fascinated by the painting.  You can find a hard-copy version of   AHMM   wherever magazines are sold. (My local B&N tends to carry it.) Failing that, in a few days you can download a single digital issue via  Amazon ,  Barnes & Noble ,  Apple iTunes ,  Zinio ,  Magzter ,  Sony , and  Google Play . Just make sure you are downloading the April 2014 issue shown above.

Look for my short story in Hitchcock’s Mystery Mag!

Almost forgot. One of those short stories I was telling you about appears in the April 2014 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM), on newsstands now.

The story is called “Nighthawks,” after Edward Hopper’s famous 1942 painting of the same name. It’s probably the most parodied painting on the planet after the Mona Lisa. Four people sit in an oddly shaped diner in the middle of the night. What’s going on there? Well, my story offers just one scenario.

The artist Hopper said the painting was inspired by a diner on Greenwich Avenue in New York, but no one has ever located the original site. Some years ago, blogger Jeremiah Moss investigated the mystery, and has written about his search in the New York Times, the Financial Times, and on his blog. Great reading, if you’re fascinated by the painting.

You can find a hard-copy version of AHMM wherever magazines are sold. (My local B&N tends to carry it.) Failing that, in a few days you can download a single digital issue via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Zinio, Magzter, Sony, and Google Play. Just make sure you are downloading the April 2014 issue shown above.

Free Writing Tracker by W. Bradford Swift

Free Writing Tracker

Back in July I talked about how I track my writing progress using a handwritten ledger. It’s served me pretty well but on January 1 I’ll be switching to a digital system.

I have never learned how to create my own spreadsheets, but thankfully a writer friend and colleague, W. Bradford Swift, has done the heavy lifting already. His writing tracker template lets you input the number of words written daily, and will also calculate your hourly output, if you care about such details. When you get to the bottom of Swift’s existing spreadsheet, you can just cut-and-paste the cells to extend the sheet. You can download the writing tracker free at Swift’s website. If you’re inclined to thank him, check out his sci-fi/fantasy books. If you’re looking for a way into his fiction, check out his short story, "Hunt Along the Iron River," which I enjoyed.

In other news:

I recently completed a good draft of my historical fantasy WIP, which I’m cryptically calling TIMoNY for the moment, and am taking some time off to catch up on the blog and write some other material. While we’re on the subject of tracking your writing progress, I can say that it took me about 60 days to write the first draft, 50 days to do the second draft, 20 to do the third. I’m happy with the results, but that’s not the same as saying I’m done, or even satisfied. I’m asking Denise to read it first, and I’ll revise with her input in mind. I already have a batch of changes I’d like to make, but I need the distance right now. So I’m working on some revisions to another book in the meantime.

"Bloody Signorina" in Hitchcock's!

Look for my short story in Hitchcock’s Mystery Mag!   I have a short story in the September 2013 issue of  Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM) , on newsstands now. Can’t believe I got a cover mention!  Truth is, I’m a little surprised how this story, “Bloody Signorina,” turned out. I’d call it an experiment. It doesn’t sound like my voice at all. It sounds like me pretending to be Jane Austen, an Italian Jane Austen, or something. Anyway, check it out and let me know. The detective who makes a brief appearance in this short goes on to bigger and more horrifying things in my next book,  The Marshal of the Borgo.  More on that book soon, I hope.  You can find a hard copy version of   AHMM   wherever magazines are sold. (My local B&N tends to carry it.) Failing that, in a few days you can download a single digital issue via  Amazon ,  Barnes & Noble ,  Apple iTunes ,  Zinio ,  Magzter ,  Sony , and  Google Play . Just make sure you are downloading the September 2013 issue.  (BTW: I’ve been reading and downloading these magazines via the Magzter app on my iPad, and it’s been great. Good customer service, too. Highly recommended.)  * * *  Speaking of magazines, my  piece for Plots With Guns  got a  little mention on a blog by Andy Henion , who is always “searching for the perfect sentence.” I hope the other sentences in the story added up to something equally enjoyable!

Look for my short story in Hitchcock’s Mystery Mag!

I have a short story in the September 2013 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM), on newsstands now. Can’t believe I got a cover mention!

Truth is, I’m a little surprised how this story, “Bloody Signorina,” turned out. I’d call it an experiment. It doesn’t sound like my voice at all. It sounds like me pretending to be Jane Austen, an Italian Jane Austen, or something. Anyway, check it out and let me know. The detective who makes a brief appearance in this short goes on to bigger and more horrifying things in my next book, The Marshal of the Borgo. More on that book soon, I hope.

You can find a hard copy version of AHMM wherever magazines are sold. (My local B&N tends to carry it.) Failing that, in a few days you can download a single digital issue via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Zinio, Magzter, Sony, and Google Play. Just make sure you are downloading the September 2013 issue.

(BTW: I’ve been reading and downloading these magazines via the Magzter app on my iPad, and it’s been great. Good customer service, too. Highly recommended.)

* * *

Speaking of magazines, my piece for Plots With Guns got a little mention on a blog by Andy Henion, who is always “searching for the perfect sentence.” I hope the other sentences in the story added up to something equally enjoyable!

ARM OF DARKNESS is out now!

ARM OF DARKNESS.  A mysterious demonic stranger intrudes upon the lives of unsuspecting people, forcing them to make choices with horrific consequences. Six short stories.  * * *  His hand is fashioned from the night sky.  It is powerful, dark, deadly.  He dwells in the world’s oldest mountains and always comes bearing gifts.  Truth is, he cares nothing for you. He is a trickster, a prankster, a demonic being who desires only to wreak casual violence on every human he meets.  He’s about to offer you a bargain.   Piece of advice? Don’t trust him.   * * *    ARM OF DARKNESS  contains six short stories— Skullworm, Roadhouse, Glow, Kin, Sunshine Lady  and the origin story,  Arm of Darkness —for a total of 30,000 words. Three novel excerpts are also included in this e-book.   Available:    Kindle (US)     Kindle (UK)    Nook    iPad    Kobo    Smashwords    Paperback

ARM OF DARKNESS. A mysterious demonic stranger intrudes upon the lives of unsuspecting people, forcing them to make choices with horrific consequences. Six short stories.

* * *

His hand is fashioned from the night sky.

It is powerful, dark, deadly.

He dwells in the world’s oldest mountains and always comes bearing gifts.

Truth is, he cares nothing for you. He is a trickster, a prankster, a demonic being who desires only to wreak casual violence on every human he meets.

He’s about to offer you a bargain.

Piece of advice? Don’t trust him.

* * *

ARM OF DARKNESS contains six short stories—Skullworm, Roadhouse, Glow, Kin, Sunshine Lady and the origin story, Arm of Darkness—for a total of 30,000 words. Three novel excerpts are also included in this e-book.

Available:

Kindle (US)

Kindle (UK)

Nook

iPad

Kobo

Smashwords

Paperback