Category Archives: Books

A Taste of Things to Come – A Teaser for My Next Novel, ‘Mystery White Boy’

I had a great opportunity on Sunday to read an excerpt of my work in progress, Mystery White Boy, at a four-author event at Kennett Brewing Company in Kennett Square, Pa.

At first, I was a little unsure what I was going to read. But after some soul-searching and review of the MWB manuscript (as it stands so far), I figured reading from it would go over much better with the folks who would be paying to hear “thriller” writers talk about what they do. Continue reading

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Returning from That Summer Place

It’s almost back to school time here in southeastern Pennsylvania, which means the kids will be terminating their summer brain dumps, rushing to catch up on assigned reading and trying to remember how to convert improper fractions to mixed numbers. That usually means time for the grownups to start getting their acts together, too.

I admit that I’ve slacked off this summer in a few areas – writing every day being one of the biggest. But where spring has always been the traditional time of renewal for nature, back to school time is, for kids and adults, typically the start of something fresh. It’s an opportunity to establish new routines and actually stick to them because so many other scheduled events depend on things running smoothly.

Yeah, this summer my word count for Novel #2 has fallen off, but I’ve also gotten the chance to do some things that will help make that book better even though I’ve spent a few weeks not actively banging away at it. One of those weeks was spent at our family’s own summer place, this one deviating from past years by switching the Outer Banks of North Carolina for Folly Beach, S.C.

New places equal new inspiration, so in lots of respects it was a worthwhile trip. I’m hoping it ends up as a salable travel story for the freelance writing side of my work, and there are always little details I can pick up from somewhere new to add into a story. Plus, as someone who sets his books in South Carolina but is based full time in Pennsylvania, it’s good to get back once in a while and get in touch with the people you’re writing about.

It’s also been good to go down some roads in my own reading that I don’t often travel. I tilted more toward the fantasy side of things with Fran Wilde’s Updraft and delved into the world of the Mafia – particularly as it relates to Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. – in Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses (look for an upcoming story on Charles and the forthcoming film version of his book in September’s Out & About magazine).

Novel #2 includes more of a criminal enterprise subplot, so it was great to read Brandt’s book and get a window into mob life beyond that provided in the Mafia film pantheon of The Godfather, Goodfellas, etc. And it’s always interesting to see what styles other writers adapt. Wilde’s is lean and tight, which keeps her sprawling, world-building tale to a reasonable and accessible length. While I’m not creating new universes out of whole cloth this time around, I’m trying to keep things leaner myself, so reading other writers who can do so is a bit like taking a master class in how it’s done.

So, here’s to parlaying my non-writing experiences and unassigned summer reading into some good, solid work on Novel #2 once everyone in the house gets back to their school year schedules. It might not be lounging on the beach or by the pool, but there will be plenty of that again next year.

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Zoinks! A Big Announcement

 

I know this will come as a shock to many of you, but I’ve decided to forgo any additional work on my second novel and leave Codorus Press.

I appreciate that many of you enjoyed “Immaculate Deception” when it came out back in 2010, but the truth is that on the side sense then I’ve been earning an additional living as a closeted writer of erotic Scooby Doo fan fiction. Continue reading

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NoNoNoNo: The Tyranny of #NaNoWriMo

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We’ve now officially passed the middle of what all writers (and exasperated spouses/family of writers) know as National Novel Writing Month. And I have come not to praise this obnoxious exercise in virtual participatory nonsense, but to kill it, burn it, gather the ashes in a bucket and bury them. In a deep, deep hole.

But what is NaNoWriMo, as it is so frequently described and hashtagged by those writers the rest of us just want to punch in the throat? It is a challenge, issued to writers annually by NaNoWriMo.org, to pound out 50,000 words of a novel during November. Continue reading

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In the Wake of Charleston, Waiting for Tomorrowland

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Wow – what a weird couple of weeks. A few major Supreme Court decisions that permanently turned things in the U.S. in a dramatically different direction, preceded by the tragedy of the Charleston, S.C., church shooting. The day of the shooting was hard for me. So hard for me that by 11:30 a.m., I had already decided to decamp from home and take my two kids to the movies.

Our choice was Tomorrowland, the Disney feature loosely based on the section of Disneyland and Walt Disney World that focuses on The Future. The film itself has been equally praised and panned, with detractors saying that it offers too nostalgic a view of the world to come because it focuses precisely on that Baby Boomer bang-zoom jet-pack-and-hovercraft ideal in which everyone would get along and we’d all be strolling around in shiny spandex unitards.

I’d spent the morning trying to wrap my brain around yet another mass shooting, this one in a city very close to my heart for a number of reasons. Continue reading

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Monday Motivation: The Writer and the Altered Mental State

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Back when I wrote a weekly column for my home town’s newspaper, I took it upon myself to occasionally add a hefty dose of weird to my readers’ lives. Many times, this was accomplished simply by my being … me. I could take a while to list all the ways I never quite fit the male ideal for small town Southern life, but that would bore you. Suffice it to say that it seemed like many folks had never read anything quite like the things I wrote, and had a tough time placing me into a box that would make them more comfortable.

After a particularly freaky column – in which I remember invoking the power of George Clinton‘s Parliament-Funkadelic and its funk/sci-fi hybrid Mothership Connection to bring about world peace through a global funk invasion (really, it was magnificent, and for the life of me I can’t lay my hands on it) – one reader pulled me aside that day and said, “Whatever drugs you were on when you wrote this, I want some!” Continue reading

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Tuesday Writing Tip: Every Generation Has Something to Say

I’m a child of the late 1960s, which – if you do the math of generational pigeonholing – puts me squarely among what has historically been referred to as Generation X. Because we can with some clarity recall live in the final 30 years of the 1900s, we are the last of the true 20th century boys and girls.

The Generation X moniker comes in large part from the novel/short story collection Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland, and has since been used as both a term of derision/proud banner by those who view this demographic from the outside and those who belong to it. Continue reading

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Wednesday Writing Tip: The Best Genre is the Genre Mashup

This video, brought to us by the fine – and brilliant – folks at Postmodern Jukebox – is a stunning example of what I like to call a genre mashup.

Assuming you have any perspective on 20th century music and 21st century TV, it’ll be easy for you to get most of the references above. For those who need an education, here’s a brief breakdown. Continue reading

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Entirely Biased and Totally Subjective Book Review: ‘Phoenix Island’ by John Dixon

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In the lives of kids, there aren’t many grays. In the case of bullying, there’s usually the bully, the victim and the bystanders – bad, good and indifferent. Young boxing champ and heavy rotation foster kid Carl Freeman is none of the above, having declared himself, thanks to a pact with his late father, a Philadelphia cop, to always protect the weak.

But within the confines of the foster care system and the various public schools Carl is dropped into over the course of his 16 years, his attitude is considered more criminal than heroic. When we meet Carl, his latest episode of vigilante justice has landed him in front of a judge who sentences him to the eponymous boot camp facility located off the Mexico mainland – away from any type of governmental supervision and outside the reach of U.S. child protection laws. There it becomes clear to Carl that something nefarious is being perpetrated by the camp commanders and that the teenage detainees are there for more than just reformation.

It’s with this nicely crafted setup that first-time author (and fellow member of the Brandywine Valley Writers Group) John Dixon begins his novel Phoenix Island (2014, Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster). Continue reading

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