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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Books Read Lately: Harding, Fowles, and Roth

One Big Damn Puzzler by John Harding

Last Christmas I gave the John Harding novel “One Big Damn Puzzler” to my wife as a Santa gift. She read it and told me I had to read it, for its laughs and oddities, and its anti-American (or, really, anti-modern world) slant, and because so many of the scenes had stuck with her. This last week I read the 200K-word book, and my wife was spot on: this novel has so many odd adventures, characters, and themes inside, that I shall remember it, and its “idea” of life vs. art vs. existential breadth, for a long time.

[quick synopsis]
On a small Pacific island, Managua, one of the village elders — and its only literate member — is translating “Hamlet” into the local pidgin English, a language “gift” from the American army that had used the north half of the island as an aerial bomb proving ground. Enter William Hardt, American foreign-claims attorney, who descends on the island to get them compensation for the harm that America has done to the island, and the so-many-legless people (from late-exploding ordnance).

What Hardt discovers is a society that is entirely unreliant on the outside world, and which has its own view of life, death, sex, society, and love. While many fine scenes exist for excerpt, one of the shining lights in the novel is the Shakespeare-to-vernacular that Harding has accomplished for Hamlet’s soliloquy.


The Magus by John Fowles

The stranger the book, the better I like it. And this book is strange. As all stories — well-written stories — have some overriding mystery, we readers are pulled along by characters who don’t much know themselves why they do what they do; not exactly, anyway. It’s call “personality.” Now isn’t that the essence of life? So for THE MAGUS, the mystery is a step onto a wire, a thin wire, that gets longer and thinner, and higher, as you move with the characters.

What I liked most about the story was that, once I realized there was a veil between what I thought I knew (dramatic irony) and what was really happening (fictively), the more I liked the book. Not all books can do this effectively; not just any writer can take the care which this kind of story needs. THE MAGUS is a well-written, well-crafted, and thoroughly original book that should be on your reading list. It has history, psychology, love, sex, intrigue, betrayal, and redemption.


I Married a Communist by Philip Roth

The story of the rise & fall of Ira Ringold, a hood in his youth, zinc minor to escape his youth, Communist to escape the mines, and discovered-radio-personality to bring the good word of REVOLUTION to America. I liked this book for many reasons, but mostly because Philip Roth knows how to write a descriptive sentence AND dynamic dialogue. As a story heavily laden with politics — and America’s disastrous treatment of Communist-leaning (or not) citizens in the 1950s during the HUAC hearing and RED SCARE days — some readers might think this is a difficult book. It is, if you’re uninterested in 20th-century American history. Otherwise, the reward of this book comes through the story of human beings living in these times, experiencing the emotions of the day, re-living those emotions, and attempting to come to terms with them. Also, this human puzzle (if there’s not a puzzle, this isn’t a Roth book) comes together in the last 20 pages. And that ending is as satisfying as any book I’ve read in 10 years.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Gnocci w/Pork cubes & shaved garlic

“Eat it, it’s good. That plate is filled with homemade food.”
“You made gnocci?”
“I boiled it properly.”
“You raised the pig?”
“No, I didn’t raise the … Do you see pigs in my house?”
“You could have a sty out back you’re hiding from the neighbors. Did you grow the tomatoes.”
“The carrots?”
“The peas?”
“NO. Hey, I didn’t say home-grown or home-raised, I said home ‘cooked.’ Don’t you know the difference? Now eat before I take your plate away, send you out back to pick wild carrots and dandelion leaves for a mud-yard salad.”
“Hey, this is good chow!”
“A bit cold though.”

Drama can be about the misunderstanding of words, actions, and intent. Great comedic moments can come with a simple (often universal) interaction b/w characters. It becomes cliché only when the context is left ungiven and scene shortened just to highlight this moment.


My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. Read an excerpt here that you won’t find at on-line bookshops.


What Beauty is  a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Writing Time and Time to Live: the same thing?

We writers have a conundrum that is our life-blood and our life-long bane: how much time can we reasonably spend writing each day?

If given carte blanche, our “job” would be to write, read, correspond w/book journalists (some might call them “compassionate critics of my books”), and go on literary tours that take us to major cities and small towns across our home country and every country in which our books have been translated. And what’s more… okay, stop!

Wait a minute. Is this what all writers want, or just me? Honestly, it must be somewhere in between. But even as a somewhere-in-between notion, we’re talking the second conditional for 99.999% of writers. Yet that’s still me I’m talking about. So let me talk about this, The Writing Life, as a Way of Seeing.

You must understand that this life I’ve proposed in not so far fetched, even in the real time of working for a living, being married, contemplating buying puppies (two sausage dogs, bitches, great companions, though sometimes noisy), and moving to yet another country (my fourth in 7 yrs).

Here’s how this The Writing Life works (for me): I’ve long-ago ditched the concept of “carving out time” to write, read, love, travel; instead, I’ve carved out time to “make a living” in between writing and reading and writing-about-reading, and travel and love and thinking about the puppies. My world is mostly a fictional world, lived inside my head while I walk, while I eat, while I talk with friends, while I read, while I fuck (hey, you never know when a great idea will pop up), and, especially, while I make a living.

Let me clear on this one point — Nothing gets in my way of this … except when I cross the street, wherein I take time to look both ways.

I do this — all of this — successfully because at the time I am living outside my present writing project, I’m actually allowing the writing project to live inside my everyday life. And when I’m inside my writing project, I feel some of the way through it by negotiating with my memory of life outside the writing project (present, past, past perfect, and even the future tense). Stay with me here, because this concept is not so difficult ….

Eudora Welty spoke glowingly of being receptive to her world when she wrote, and taking whatever happened in her day — verbatim events and speech, or metaphorical or as fictional constructs based on the former — for use in her fiction. It didn’t matter what these were: dialogue, scene, place, gesture, group dynamics, memories or dreams or anecdotes or jokes told by people. All of this could be used at will or discarded if useless. And … this is the best part, as I brought Welty’s idea into my own writing life … all of what lands in my net can be changed to suit whatever I need it for to make my story good, better, and the best my abilities can make it after draft, re-draft, third draft, fourth, fifth and onward until every written word makes perfect sense for its position and holds true to the world of its creation and the story for which it lives.

That’s the long and short of this concept. The only adjustment to it is how much you want to continue interacting with the “real” world in place of the “fictional” world where you are happiest (or happy-ERRR, if that helps soften the disconnection with so-called society that you might think I’m proposing; which I am; sort of).

The one drawback to this The Writing Life concept is that it’s terribly selfish to most of the outside world. On the other hand, if you don’t want much to do with the so-called outside world, then this concept begins to look better and better. For one single example, I give you TELEVISION. I gave up TV nearly seven years ago. In that time I’ve been more creative, more dynamic, more ME, and more productive than I had been for 25 years previous to that conscious decision to kill the machine that spews out mindless mush. I have no guilt over it’s murder.

The only time I need to compromise with this The Writing Life is when I’m spending time with my wife, us two alone, time for each other, time set on our own private terms, time for which we don’t need to negotiate or compromise because this TIME takes place on the go and in-between and over-and-back-on-time; this is time that I truly cherish because, without it, I might just leave the real world for the fictional altogether.

Which, on the face of things, can be scary. But let’s face it, for a writer, there’s not much else we want to do anyway.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.


5:45 a.m. … August 14, 2012 … First day with a new novel

I started my new novel this morning. There had been enough looking, reading, thinking, noodling, characterizing-in-the-mind, visual planning, and building scenes via the Stepping Stone method. The story had begun to jump out from my mind at odd moments and with real zeal. It was time to start writing from Page 1.

There used to be the day when I could slip a piece of paper into a typewriter and fire away. Now, the first thing to do is create a document with all the proper settings. So that took me five or eight minutes. Then I was really ready. A cut & paste from the master notes file (having climbed to 234 pages) into the new document of about a page, and I was off. Slowly. Deliberately. Wondering why I had said this, who could say that other than whom I’d intended (because it was a better line for someone else), and finding out just where this scene was taking place.

This first section is something I wrote little more than three years ago, when, after having been to a Prague outdoor market, I saw an older couple moving along the line of kiosks. The man’s hand gripped his wife’s upper arm. He was obviously in need of help to negotiate the cobblestones. A cigarette dangled from his outer hand. Yes, the generation that smoked, always and without end, till death do they part. He didn’t look too bad, actually. Just … blind.

From that moment on a street corner in Prague, I suddenly got the kernel of novel at which its roots dug in with this thought: what does it take for a woman to hold onto a blind man for 40 or 50 years? What kind of devotion? Is it only love? Are they a good match any longer? What has happened in their lives — in their combined life together especially — that finds them here, together, arm in arm and talking happily to each other.

That’s what the story is about. And it’s going to take me 3 or 4 years to answer those questions.

Stay tuned.

The Writing Life: Scene Location

I went to the park this morning. Writing was on my mind; my new novel is seeping through my cranium cracks, but I’m wearing a hat to soak up the ooze while I do some further scene & character development. Thus, I needed to get out of the house for fresh fields, lateral vision, and the scent of automated life outside my palace apartment.

Down the street lies a beautiful park with an ancient (restored) vineyard, sloping hills and flat lawns, lush pine greenwoods, a fashioned grotto with fountain and labyrinthine “rocks,” and a cascading waterfall w/pond surrounded by oak, maple, pine, and chestnuts. The latter is where I sat to read through my notes, noodle with scenes, and capture dialogue of some characters yet “solid” in my mind.

Before I got up to the waterfall, however, I had walked along a path lined by weeping pines and European plane trees, silver-hued rhododendrons and flowering begonias. As I walked I thought of my characters, now married and the husband, a painter, asking his wife to model for him nude while she’s pregnant with their first child. Hardly a prude, her only stipulation is that he paint her outdoors. This, she thinks, should break his resolve. But no, he’s all for that, and has the perfect place: a forest, west of the city, secluded from dawn to noontime, when the chill air is swept out by summer breezes.

What I had imagined as I walked along this path was about thirty places that could work for these “painting” scenes: from western Illinois to Malta to the French Alps to a Venetian urban park, and all the way back to a Midwest golf course on which I first learned to play the game. But all of those places — as vivid in memory as nearly anything I’d experienced — didn’t seem as suddenly real as the very park in which I stood.

“Here is your location,” I thought. Here were indeed nice frames in which, wonderfully and suddenly (such as inspiration strikes) a nude pregnant mother-to-be might be seen, on a canvas, as a classical figure. This is what she would become under the guided artistry of her husband.

I took out my camera and began taking pictures. What? Of course!

These are canvases in which — on which — I only had to see and insert my leading lady. This, I realized, was something how (I don’t known for sure, because I’ve not worked on a film production) a location director finds places for film scenes. Of course, I could have walked around for awhile and taken notice of settings, nooks, crannies, and grottoes … but I wanted an exactness because, for these scenes, my artist-protagonist is fascinated with the various chroma of the flora that surrounds him. Inspired? Indeed!

A few thoughts about what happened today.

Firstly, I’ve worked for years now with the notion that — so well espoused by Eudora Welty in her Paris Review interview of 1972 — wherever I’m at and whomever I’m with can somehow infiltrate my story. So when I turned 360 degrees to see where I was in this park, I saw parts of this grand stage that I could use in my story. Thus, the photographs.

Secondly, I was reminded of Ezra Pound’s tutoring the young Ernest Hemingway by, among other things, taking him to the Louvre to look at paintings, and asking him to think about how he would write a description of the particular scene before which they stood. (Pound also, famously, instructed Hemingway to read the Russians and the French to learn how to write short stories — but that’s for another blog post.)

Lastly, the story of Vladimir Nabokov teaching literature at Cornell University struck me as particularly relevant. He told his students that if they were going to read Joyce’s “Ulysses” they best have a map of Dublin nearby as they worked their way through the story.

While much of any story setting can come from real places, we often must place scenes in invented spaces — most scenes happen indoors, and whose house or apartment or office are you thinking of while you write? — but for those scenes that are specific for so many reasons, not least of which is the imagery you want to convey to the reader, actual places are integral to your creativity and for the story’s success.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.


Foamy Coffee w/chocolate & cinnamon dust

“Cup’a jo?”
“Joe? What’s that?”
“Coffee. Haven’t you ever seen a war movie.”
“Yeah … ‘The Hurt Locker’ is my favorite.”
“Not THAT war, dummie! World War Two.”
“Oh. That’s like really old, innit?”
“Your grandfather’s war. Maybe. Nineteen thirty-nine to ‘forty-five.”
“No, I mean the movie … it’s in black and white, right?”
“Of course its–”
“No-no, I can’t watch black and white films. It hurts my eyes.”
“So you’ve only read books about that war?”
“What’s a book?”

When you listen for the unintended response, your characters define themselves. Make your characters “try out” for their parts by letting them be what you half-imagine/half-invent. When you hear your main character’s voice, that’s when you begin to understand what he/she is about, and therefore what the story can become.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Reading Philip Roth

Philip Roth is the kind of writer that, when I desperately need a “go-to” book — for a trip, to follow a “great read”, or when I want to know what it feels like to compose a great sentence — he’s the writer whose books I’ll shuffle and pick one at random. Roth’s humor, his fully-realized and multi-dimensional characters, his crisp dialogue that gets to the heart of the subject and scene, always captivates, exhilarates, and inspires me.


july 11, 2011

“Standing singly at the Wall, some rapidly swaying and rhythmically bobbing as they recited their prayers, others motionless but for the lightning flutter of their mouths, were seventeen of the world’s twelve million Jews communing with the King of the Universe. To me it looked as thought they were communing solely with the stones in whose crevices pigeons were roosting some twenty feet above their heads. I thought (as I am predisposed to think), ‘If there is a God who plays a role in our world, I will eat every hat in this town’—nonetheless, I couldn’t help but be gripped by the sight of this rock-worship, exemplifying as it did to me the most awesomely retarded aspect of the human mind. Rock is just right, I thought: what on earth could be less responsive? Even the cloud drifting by overhead, Shuki’s late father’s ‘Jewish cloud,’ appeared less indifferent to our encompassed and uncertain existence. I think that I would have felt less detached from seventeen Jews who openly admitted that they were talking to rock than from these seventeen who imagined themselves telexing the Creator directly; had I known for sure it was rock and rock alone that they were addressing, I might even have joined in. [. . .] Of course, to be as tenderized by a block of stone as a mother is by her ailing child needn’t really mean a thing. You can go around kissing all the walls in the world, and all the crosses, and the femurs and tibias of all the holy blessed martyrs ever butchered by the infidel, and back in your office be a son of a bitch to the staff and at home a perfect prick to your family. Local history hardly argued that transcendence over ordinary human failings, let alone the really vicious proclivities, is likely to be expedited by pious deeds committed in Jerusalem.”

“The result was that for the first time in my life I felt some sort of power in her (as well as some womanly appeal) and wondered what I could possibly achieve persisting on playing the domestic peacemaker. Wasn’t everyone happier enraged? They were certainly more interesting. People are unjust to anger—it can be enlivening and a lot of fun.”

– Philip Roth, “The Counterlife”

The Divisions Among Us: Literature and Genre mix surprisingly well

“Literature and Fiction” — You’ll find this category listed on a plaque in the major bookstores. These titles are the industry’s marked division between contemporary/historical-themed stories that have been divided from the genres typically titled “Horror” or “Mystery” and “Thrillers” or “Science Fiction” — plot-heavy stories whose characters are, well, part of the plot. Oh, and then there’s one of the newer categories, “Dark Romance” (love that has an obsession with fangs, is my guess).

“To Categorize” has been an ordering device since Caxton’s day. Cervantes based his most famous character on the delusional fantasies one gets from reading too much — in Quixote’s case, Chivalric Novels. You need only jump a few generations to find what LeCarre and Fleming had developed on top of Conrad’s “The Secret Agent” … and how Steven King brought back what Edgar Allen Poe had begun with most of his short stories a hundred years earlier.

Are there differences between the “literature” of Cervantes and LeCarre and Conrad and Poe and the “genre” of King and Fleming and (most recently) Larsson and Meyer? I can only answer with my opinion, not any difinitive answer. And my answer is…

Yes, but less are the differences in writing quality as there are with intent. You can investigate this yourself by going to the library, bookstore, or look through your own shelves. Pull out several genre-category books you know well, and the same for literature-category titles. How does each begin? How are the stories sustained? What happens at the end? Easy questions to answer, really. The more difficult questions to answer are What do you know about the three main characters? How did the beginning make you feel; and how was that different compared to the ending? What is the turning point in the psychology of the main character? Do the characters represent real life, and does the story say anything about the culture in which it was written?

If you answered the first series of questions with details about the events that take place, in which a character must do something in order to prevent, or make certainty, something happening; and if you can tell me only that this character lives in a particular city, likes wine over beer, and eats sandwiches standing up at the kitchen sink, then you’ve probably gathered the definition of genre fiction: plot heavy, light on character introspection, with “twists” at the end, or beginning, of each chapter.

If you answered the second series of questions by focusing on relationships, emotions, character action & re-action to each other, dialogue rich with introspection and investigating each others’ motivations and emotions, then I think you’ve gathered a good definition of literature: little or no obvious plot (or that which doesn’t turn every other chapter), focus on characterization and motivation and emotional connection to events/other characters, and an overall relationship and association with contemporary culture. Also, information that is left out is as important as that which is given. Likewise, on nearly every page you’ll find something wise.

But let’s face it, lots of classic AND contemporary “literature” sucks because its intent is not well planned and then poorly executed by a less-than-competent wordsmith whose best-formed sentences often begin with “The…”. On the other hand, such well-plotted — and highly crafted sentences — can be found throughout the novels of Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen, Sophie Hannah, Larry Niven, John LeCarre, Tom Clancy, King and Straub.

However, they won’t be found in James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, Dan Brown, or Sue Grafton. Heavy names on the Best Sellers lists every year, right? That’s true. But that doesn’t mean they write good story, nor good prose.

What people read is as personal as who they marry. This makes sense. Yet even a marriage has its ups and downs, and must evolve over time; evolution that’s not so much going toward something “better” by anyone’s definition, but at least something different.

My marriage with genre fiction ended shortly after I finished writing my second novel. It was crime fiction, and it was pretty good: lots of story, plenty of twists, some blackmail and murder, and sex that was less gratuitous and more in line with the plot. But I had found that, with this second novel, there was nothing more I could “say” to readers.

My divorce with genre happened because I married too young (first novel, 18; second, 24). And then I realized there was far more to talk about, and the stories in which I could say so much more, in the “category” of literature, where characters reigned, not plot twists; where life could be investigated against the backdrop of contemporary society; and, finally, a place and “person” whom I could love over and over, finding more inside her, getting more from her, giving more of myself to her, than anything from that youthful, whimsical love.



Lit-Fict: if the “plot” can best be explained by ITS THEME, then it’s literary (eg, “A man thinks the world is against him and his revolutionary ideas about architecture, but in the end he is proven wrong by his success.” — “The Fountainhead”)

Genre Fict: if the “plot” can best be explained by WHAT HAPPENS, then it’s genre (eg, “A vampire tells his life story to a journalist, and we learn the chronicles of vampirism over a two-hundred-year period.” — “Interview with the Vampire.”)


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

If You Have a Thick Skin, You Might Want to Be a Writer

I used to tell my fiction writing students — especially the ones that needed a kick in the ass to hand in pages — that “The easiest thing to do in the world is NOT WRITE.”

Sometimes this did the trick. Of course, the writers in the class (usually just 3 of the 20 students) hadn’t a problem to make story and put it on the page. It was the middle-grounders, the kids who had potential and imagination, but needed a few years to figure out how to tap into their heads, those were the hardest nuts. Nevertheless, the in-class methodology wasn’t hampering them, which was as open a process as made possible for imagination to find a story thread. Perhaps they didn’t like what they had written, or were trying to write, or how it was coming onto the page from the images in their heads.

These are all great concerns of the writer. Fortunately, criticism wasn’t part of the games we played in class. Criticism was the last thing these young writers needed at this stage; peer criticism worse still, because Who would you want least to criticize your early writing efforts but some schmo sitting next to you who himself can’t compose a coherent sentence? Right. What young writers need is encouragement. (I’ll discuss the CCC Fiction Writing Dept’s methodology in a future post)

Encouragement is a fortunate part of a writer’s life, because it can be found everywhere: the written word is bountiful in our literate world; at least, you should have a bookshelf of the best writers whose prose and characters and story are there for you to learn from.

READ GOODS AUTHORS TO LEARN GOOD TECHNIQUES! … (Roth, Bellow, Atwood, Murdoch, Woolfe, Joyce, Rush (Norman, not Limbaugh), Updike, Naipaul, McEwan, Theroux, Doctorow, Franzen, Eugenides, Waugh, Beyer, J.F. Powers, Ford, Barnes, McNair, Harding, Banville, McCarthy, Nabokov … to name but a few) … That’s another thing I told my writing students, mostly because it had worked for me and every writer for whom I held admiration of style, character, content, theme, use of metaphor, story progression; and onward. No, I am not being redundant here.

Redundancy would be for me to point out that rejection and criticism and ignorance is what writers must battle daily. Agents don’t answer but 5% of your queries (90% of which are rejections); publishers send rejections written (scrawled!) across the top of your well-written query letter; the agents and/or pubbers who ask to see your work take 6mos to answer, with another rejection (“We don’t know where your book fits in our marketing profile.”); your writers’ group colleagues don’t understand why Character-X won’t want to continue fucking Character Y “just because”; and, your family keeps asking “When is that book going to be done … Steven King writes a book every year!”; you look at your work one day, and its Pulitzer-bound, while the next day that same page is S-H-I-T; you sign a book contract only to learn the editor-of-the-day doesn’t like your book; when your book is published, the reviewers pass over yours for another title from yet another vampire author; and then, no one buys your book because it’s a single drop in the ocean of titles published this year.

This is what writers live with. And if you have a thick skin, or the perfectly matted feathers of a duck, then you might want to continue as a  writer. Why? Because you need to let the water-beads of rejection slide off you over and over. Meanwhile, you must write one sentence at a time, one paragraph after the next, one chapter and then another, until THE END appears one day on the last page. And then you start another novel.

Forget about the fact that you can publish your long-worked novel (or – GASP! – the one finished yesterday) via Amazon or another POD provider. That’s the first step in the public life of your book. Twitter away; FB is your “friend”; write another blog post — these are just starters in today’s market. And, as far as social media goes, writers are often enough hooked up with other writers, not with the readers they want to engage with. While this isn’t rejection, it can feel like a circle jerk.

So where do you find YOUR readers? Where have all the publishers gone? Why won’t your family read your published book? When shall recognition come to you, and with it the trappings of fame and success?

All of these will happen after you finish the next book. I promise. Now get back to work.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Steamed Corncob and Tomato-Curried Cauliflower

“Don’t pick your teeth.”
“I used the last of my floss yesterday. Do you have some.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then can I borrow some?”
“Borrow? I don’t want it back once you’ve used it!”
“Lend, then. Will you lend me some floss? Please!”
“What’s this?”
“What do you mean?”
“This isn’t enough to strangle a flea with.”
“Well what do you want? You’re not hanging laundry, are you?”

Characters “speak” in all manner and fashion. Words convey emotions. Phrases highlight the idiomatic nature character differences. Likewise, the idiosyncrasies of your characters present a wonderful opportunity for play — between each other, but also with the audience.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

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