Tag Archive for writing


The world is going to hell. You want to write about it, a novel, but you don’t know where to start.

The world is going to hell. You want to escape it, just briefly, and write a novel, but you don’t know where to go.

You’ve started to write a novel, but it’s become such a mess that you wish the entire thing would go to hell.

Come to Assisi!

I’ll be leading a two-week fiction writing workshop from the tail end of June into early July at Art Workshop International in Assisi, Italy. I’ve been doing this for many years. Assisi is beautiful, the hotel is beautiful, and you’ll hang around with writers and artists making beautiful work.

We’ll get you started, or keep you going, unknot the mess and straighten things out. You’ll critique and be critiqued by others in the workshop and, not entirely incidentally, eat wonderful food. You’ll sit on the terrace and watch the sun go down.

Come to Assisi!

You need more pix?





CRIME HITS HOME, the anthology I edited for the MWA, has been nominated for an Anthony Award!

As you crime people know, that’s given at Bouchercon, which this year will be in San Diego over Labor Day weekend. It’s the editor who gets listed on the nomination; but an anthology editor is like a choreographer, and no matter the concept of the piece, it’s the dancers — and the behind the scenes people — who make the thing work.

So, a huge congrats and thank you to the MWA, who asked me to take this on; to Hanover Square Press, who published it; to the well-known writers who agreed to send stories so the contest winners would be sharing a book with established names; to the judges, who read all the contest entries, discussed, debated, and sent me the ones they rated the best, to make the final choice; and of course, to the writers who took a chance and entered the contest.

Everyone now needs to read all the Anthony nominated works in all categories before September, so you’d better get to work.

A Glimpse into the Writer’s Mind

I just typed “shellshocked” in a new chapter, and then checked the spelling to make sure the word doesn’t need a hyphen. Turns out it does. Okay, fine. But Spellcheck also gave me the choice of spelling it as two words without the hyphen — or, in case “shell shocked” were not the two words I wanted, it offered “shells hocked.”

And bingo, I was off. What shells could be valuable enough to hock? Would all pawnbrokers recognize them, or you’d need a specialist? Or maybe these aren’t seashells, they’re mortar shells. If you had mortar shells, why would you hock them? Because you knew you were about to get raided by the FBI…

It ain’t easy corralling this kind of brain.



More Assisi, and a little Bastia

I had the best of intentions of blogging often. I was thinking Ah, I’ll be lounging about, drinking a little cappuccino, laptop on my lap… My tenth year here at Art Workshop International in Assisi and I still haven’t figured it out. Between teaching and hanging with my buddies, between walks and art and my local friends I only see once or twice a year, all that lounging time doesn’t exist.

So here I am, belatedly, back again, with some photos. Most of them are from Assisi, though we took a little trip — and I mean little, literally 4 minutes on the train (though of course you have to walk down to Santa Maria degli Angeli to get the train, and then wait for the train, so from the hotel the trip is about an hour and 4 minutes) — to Bastia, and strolled around.

View from our favorite cafe


Breakfast at the Hotel Giotto (plus a little fruit for lunch…)


The hard-working guys holding up the rose window at San Rufino


Below street-level plantings. Don’t show this to Grow Dammit, he’ll feel insecure.


Flower pot on the wall


Sunflowers, almost ready for harvest


Bastia: the market’s over


Bastia: painted wall


Filipina nuns in habits and identical straw hats waiting for the bus.


Bastia: I don’t think this is the police station any more…


…or else some cop has a very green thumb.


Dragon sings karaoke

The pond at the edge of the 100-acre wood

The Wisconsin Writers’ Association Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp, where I’m Writer-in-Residence, is held at the Cedar Valley Retreat Center. 100 acres of woods and streams surround the buildings, which include the main building where the guest rooms and classes are held, a larger meeting house, a chapel, and a small screened outdoor room. Here’s the pond, where a pair of killdeer are nesting on shore and the trees are full of tweeting, chirping, chipping, and singing. A certain amount of honking and quacking can also be heard.


4 Storytellers/4 Friends

Tomorrow night, Tues. the 22nd, at the Center for Fiction, 17 W. 47, NY NY. Joe Goodrich, Honor Molloy, Jonathan Santlofer, me. Free! We’re expecting you.


Wherein I run my mouth again

Here you go, Episode 80 of the Speaking of Mysteries podcast, in which I’m interviewed by the excellent Les Klinger and his partner in this particular kind of crime, Nancie Clare (Les has many partners-in-crime as he’s involved in many crimes).

Family tree

I have spent four days — FOUR DAYS — working out the family tree of Lydia Chin’s Mississippi relations. Its importance to the story means it has to be right but gack it has driven me nuts. I think I’ve finally got it. In its reduced form (a number of branches that don’t make it into the story have been left out) here it is. Now I can get back to writing the damn thing.


It’s the latest it’s the greatest it’s the Library

Anyone remember that jingle? It’s from so long ago I can’t even say when.  I’ve always been a big fan of libraries, especially the New York Public Library, my hometown system.  Never as much as now, however.  Because of construction in the apartment above me, I’ve been forced to flee and find other places to write.  That’s how I discovered Malcolm Gladwell’s café (no, he doesn’t own it, he just writes there) and some other fine spots around the city; but by far the best is the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room at the 42nd Street Library.  The building where the reservoir used to be (there, a fact for free) with the lions, Patience and Fortitude, flanking the steps outside.  You sit here surrounded by other hard-working people — some of them actually reading periodicals — and by carved moldings, high windows, and frescoes of NYC buildings, with faux-marble frames.  What writer couldn’t get something done here?


photo 1(2)carved ceiling 30 feet above our heads


photo 2(1)high window and hard-working people


fresco with faux-marble frame


Action scenes, action scenes, oh how I hate action scenes

I’m close to the end of my new Mongolia-set thriller.  I’ve got my six bad guys and five good guys all in the same place.  Now come the big confrontations, battles, deaths, heroic sacrifices, and finally the revelations of What It’s All Been About.

To do this I have to start separating these eleven people into small groups and showing each little confrontation, battle, death, and heroic sacrifice.  Otherwise it’s just one big confusing shoot-out with the reader waiting for the dust to clear.

Right now I’m working on two good guys and two bad guys on a hillside.  The bad guys have more guns but the good guys have more brains.  There’s a lot of climbing around on rocks.  Shooting, hitting, shooting, missing.  I think someone’s about to cut someone’s throat.  I hope so, because there are seven people to go and the author has a deadline here!