Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Taking Chances: La Bestia

This month's challenge at Write...Edit...Publish is Taking Chances. Drop by and submit your entry of 1000 words or less between August 20-22. Begin or end your story with the phrase: "There was once a chance I did not take." (Please provide a full critique.)

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     Emilio stared into the dark, luminous pools of Maria’s eyes. Trapped.

     “I’ve got a backpack ready. Hid it in the corner of my closet, ready to go. A change of clothes, toothpaste and a brush.” She laughed. “I even got bags of beef jerky, dried fruit and nuts. You just say when.”

     “No.” Emilio grabbed hold of her shoulders and gave her a gentle shake to make the idea fly out of her head. “No. It’s too dangerous. And you don’t want to be with me if I get deported again. The gangs kill you for that. They already tried to kill me once. That’s why I got to go alone.”

     “I don’t see what the big deal is. I might die following you north or I can die here just crossing the street. I don’t want to be holed up in my abuela’s house behind a wall of razor wire. You call that living?”

     Emilio let his useless hands drop to his sides. He knew he could never change the mind of someone as bull-headed as Maria. He’d have to trick her.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Flash Fiction: Blinders

The following snippet of flash fiction is probably the kernel of a second book that has a working title called Blinders. I don't know about the title or content. I am just putting it out there and letting it spin around in my brain.



     A cool mist had settled on the twilight trail behind their neighborhood. She felt it brush against her face like a feather. Her hair kinked into damp ringlets. Ahead, her husband Jake and their dog Jersey trotted along the path. Trail lights began to flicker on. Sonya buttoned up her sweater, turned up the collar, and buried her hands in the pockets. She picked up her pace to keep up with Jake, but she had to glance over her shoulder. Something was there, lurking in the bushes, ducking between trees, calling her name softly. She wasn’t in the least bit frightened, just curious. Her imagination was playing tricks. Perhaps it was all just boredom with the routine after-dinner hike that had provoked the curious sensation of being touched and spoken to.

     “I am here.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Three Ds: Disease, Destruction, and Death


I start every morning with a cup of coffee. I can look out the window from my kitchen table and see the mountains in the distance, the flowers in my back yard, and the birds stirring in the trees. It’s peaceful, quiet. It seems like the beginning of a perfect morning. Sweet.

And then I pick up the newspaper. The front page is almost always devoted to bad news—disease, destruction (man-made and mother nature), and death in all its forms for all its causes. I understand why people don’t want to read newspapers or listen to the news on TV. It’s mind-numbing and heartbreaking. Of course, there is news that is uplifting or enlightening. We desperately crave these stories but there just aren’t enough of them. We feel overwhelmed by all the chaos and close our eyes to the darkness in the world, hoping it doesn’t touch our lives. It does. It always does.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nightmares

The coffee shop was busy and the scent of fresh-baked scones and coffee always made Lana feel comfortable and relaxed. She pulled the lid off her too hot coffee and looked up at her friend Joan through the ascending steam.

“You look tired. Did you not sleep well last night?”

Joan took a sip of her coffee. “Nightmares.”

“I usually don’t remember my dreams, but few of them seem to be nightmares. Most are just bizarre and nonsensical and so I just sweep them out of my head like so much fairy dust.”

“I suppose it’s work-related. I’m always getting lost in buildings and can’t find my way out. This morning I was being chased by furry monsters that started out as coworkers.”

Lana smiled.

“It’s aggravating and when I wake up, I feel exhausted from running all night.”

“Do you remember that cottage we used to have at the beach?” Lana asked.
My Crude Watercolor Sketch

“Of course. I loved that place with its quaint little rooms and window boxes full of flowers. God, the smell of salt in the air. The balmy breeze. Oh, those lazy days laying in the sand while the kids splashed in and out of the water. That was pure heaven. Why in God’s name did you ever sell that place?”

Lana shrugged. “Frank was adamant about it. I thought it was a big mistake. I never understood his reasoning. He had a dozen lame excuses why we should get rid of the cottage.”

“If we had had any money, we would have bought it from you. I really miss that place.”

Monday, June 23, 2014

Movie Review: The Immigrant

Ellis Island
We Americans like our happy endings and bigger-than-life characters. The actors—Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner all give excellent performances, but The Immigrant is a little too dark and dreary for me. It’s not just the story that’s dreary, but the filming is done in sepia tones that allow no ray of sunshine to break through. Two Polish sisters, Ewa and Magda, arrive at Ellis Island in the early part of the 20th century. Magda is ill and ends up in quarantine, while Ewa is left to her own devices to avoid deportation. Ewa quickly falls victim to Bruno, a charming but evil man who forces her into prostitution as she desperately tries to survive and reunite with her sister. Her uncle, whom she had hoped would help her and Magda, disowns her and throws her out on the street. Bruno’s character deceives and mistreats Ewa but falls in love with her. To complicate matters, Bruno’s cousin Emil also falls for Ewa. For Ewa, it’s a dark struggle of desperation and disappointment as she hopes that either Bruno or Emil will help her reunite with her sister. In the end, Ewa takes matters into her own hands and manages to persuade her aunt to provide the money she needs to get her sister out of quarantine.

It’s a film that leaves you as hungry for happiness as Ewa herself.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Backyard Romance

Write...Edit...Publish has selected "romance" as its short fiction topic for June. You are invited to post your own short fiction by June 24-26 and place your link on their website. Please feel free to critique my submission below.

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When Martha learned that her best friend Rhonda had taken a freakish fall on a Chamonix hiking trip and broken her left wrist and leg, Martha called to inquire about her friend. The phone was answered by her middle-aged son Ben who gave a humorous rendition of the accident and Rhonda’s return to the States, followed by an invitation to visit Rhonda. He could be so charming, but she sensed Ben was angling for something.

“I’m on my way.” On the drive to Rhonda’s home, Martha wondered who was going to be able to provide the kind of care that Rhonda would need during recovery. Rhonda was a 70-year old widow who lived by herself. Certainly, her son Ben and his wife Suzanne were not logical choices. Rhonda was the kind of person who was unafraid to travel anywhere in the world, but she never had the courage to tell her own son what a self-centered, stingy, inconsiderate bastard he could be. An accomplished, successful businessman, he nevertheless left much to be desired as a son. Now that he had reached middle age, he had evolved into a tired, harried, dull fellow who had no time for his aging mother.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie Review: Belle

There have been several movies about the experiences of blacks in terms of slavery and civil rights—Gone With the Wind, Roots, Mississippi Burning, and, more recently, Twelve Years a Slave, The Help, and The Butler. Most films tend to deal with the in-your-face brutality and injustice of racism. Overt racism has tended in recent years to be replaced by more subtle forms. In life and in film, transcending these subtle forms of racism can be just as challenging as overt racism.

Belle is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, born in 1761 to Admiral Sir John Lindsay and an African slave named Maria Belle. After the death of her mother, Belle is sent to live with Lindsay’s uncle, William Murray, First Earl of Mansfield and Lord Chief Justice. Her great uncle and aunt are childless, but they are raising her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, who has also lost her mother. Belle is raised in luxury and is treated as an equal in many respects. While Belle may seem to be insulated by the high status of her family and eventually her inheritance, she nevertheless must negotiate a course through 18th century racism and strict rules of propriety to find love and to influence the question of slavery in Britain.

The Lord Chief Justice is responsible for rendering a decision about the important Zong case in which a slave transport ship threw its slaves overboard to collect the insurance money. Belle argues that slaves are human lives, not cargo, and the Lord Chief Justice, a man of the law, eventually rules against the slave ship’s claim, which in turn affects the course of the slave trade in Britain. It is believed that Belle was very informed about his cases, helped with legal correspondence, and influenced her great uncle’s decision.

Belle is the story of an old-fashioned romance and a determined, but subtle feminist and activist. It’s not a flashy film with bull whips and lacerated flash, but death and injustice are in the room and Belle combats them with the means that are available to her. It’s an intriguing story that I think you will enjoy. The picture here is the painting of  Belle and her cousin Elizabeth as it hangs today in Scotland’s Scone Palace.