February 8, 2016

My review of The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

The Good Lord Bird is a tour de force–the recreation of the last days of the abolitionist John Brown told through the eyes of a young slave who accompanied Brown on his last campaigns. No wonder it won the National Book Award for 2013. But The Good Lord Bird is much more than historical fiction. It serves as a treatise on race, gender, religion, as well as worthy and lost causes. What makes this novel work so well is the honesty of young Henry whose nickname Onion spared him from having to answer to a girl’s name despite the fact that he pretended to be one. Onion tells the reader “like it is,” including his own many shortcomings. Onion/McBride’s portrait […]
January 23, 2016

Technological and Critical Divisions over House Divided

The Critical Divide A judge in the 3rd annual Writers’ Digest self-published ebook contest didn’t much like House Divided. She wrote, “What could be an interesting family drama is somewhat overshadowed by the bureaucratic side of Leonard’s job running a counterterrorism task force––the Israel/Palestine conflict is overexplained through these characters.” I can see the basis for that comment, although bureaucratic is not the word I would have chosen. The story does center around the task force’s efforts to uncover the terrorist’s organization in order to stop them from striking a second and third time. If a reader finds “police procedural” story lines boring, then House Divided is not for him/her. In terms of overexplaining the Israel/Palestinian conflict, given that most […]
December 30, 2015

Year-End Report on my Fiction.

As 2015 closes, you may be interested in where things stand with regard to my fiction. Amazon is the measure of how well each of my books is doing, although they are also for sale in half a dozen bookstores in upstate New York and on Barnes & Noble, iTune and Kozo websites. Here are my Amazon numbers: House Divided, which was introduced at the end of January 205, has received 22 reviews, earning an average 4.5 stars. It is ranked #1,210 in the Kindle terrorism category. The book with the highest review average is my suspense novel, Last Stop on Desolation Ridge. Reviewers found it worth 4.8 stars. The Expendable Man, my first novel, has received the most reviews […]
December 16, 2015

The Mystery of Genres: What’s the Difference?

A recent survey reported nearly 90 percent of New Yorkers are concerned another terrorist attack will occur in their state. Test question: Why might these New Yorkers be more likely to read the latest thriller than the latest mystery? The answer has to do with core structural differences between different types of genre fiction. Writers ought to understand how those differences help define their ideal audience, but readers can also benefit. Knowing the difference between genre types can help readers find books that fit their interests. Genre fiction divides along the lines of solving problems for individuals versus solving them for communities. A romance, for example, rarely gets into social issues since its stories are about individuals resolving their need […]
December 10, 2015

My interview with author Puja Guha

Puja Guha is the author of two novels, Ahriman, the Spirit of Destruction, an international espionage, and The Confluence, an Indian family drama. She has lived in Kuwait, Canada, France, the U.S. and U.K. After meeting her at a writers’ conference, she agreed to answer a few questions about her writing career.   Q: You got the idea for your first novel while participating in the National Novel Writing Month. How did that event help convince you that you could write fiction? P.G.: I started to write with a limited idea. I hadn’t figured out how the book would end, or how much of the story would progress. When I started to write it though, everything just flowed. Pieces of […]
November 28, 2015

Fiction Writers Should Be Heard Not Seen

The modern aesthetic is for fiction authors to be invisible. That’s why so many novels are written from a close third or first person point of view. Early novelists often jump into the middle of their stories for short asides or long dissertations, but that style is long gone and today’s writers need to remove the last vestiges of their presence from their stories. Writers should be heard and not seen. Examples of where this issue needs to be addressed follow. Let’s start with chapter headings. Cute or even informative chapter headings should be dispensed with. They remind the reader that there’s an author telling this story and s/he wants you to know the theme of this chapter is “Madeline […]