Fiction in a minute: Voodoo Hoodoo

The tidy parlor smelled of decay and burning. Hand over her nose, Eustace scanned the floors, furniture and walls for the smell’s source. But the only disorder in her orderly room was the jumble of toys the twins left on the sofa. The boys were gone, but somehow she still felt their presence with an […]

Fiction in a minute: Straw hat

She waved at me today. The girl in the straw hat and red skirt stood on the roof of the abandoned Tolliver lace factory. She looked like Audrey Hepburn going a garden party instead of the usual street kid looking for a place to squat. She saw me staring at her from my apartment window […]

Drunken lit in real life

Ever read that melancholy writing that romanticizes alcoholic, desolate characters as broken geniuses hiding their light under dirty hair and scruffy clothes? I’ve heard it called drunken literature. Charles Bukowski and William Burroughs owned the genre. I just finished reading a short story along those lines, so I was intrigued to stumble upon a real […]

Fiction in a minute: Pizza Day

Jacob led the line of second-graders into the east entrance after the first recess bell rang. Even on pizza day, the hallway smelled musty and sweet just as he remembered from his own school days — a nostalgic combination of floor cleaner, old books and pots of paste. He pretended not to notice Emily, the assistant principal, leaning against […]

Fiction in a minute: Train

The cameraman said “rolling” and the red light over the lens glowed. The blond antiques appraiser slid his mirrored compact into his pocket and looked at Howard expectantly. “What did you bring to the show today?” “Train set. My father’s. He said it was the only thing he would save if the house was on […]

Fiction in a minute: Dancer

The heavy bass pulsed through my skin, alchemizing my old bones to stretchy, strong muscle. I danced and whirled and spun and slid, my body melting like liquid into the music. Then, silence. Laughter and the sound of high heels on wood floors echoed off of the dance studio’s mirrors. I opened my eyes to […]

Setting 101 at Sleuthfest 2014

Sleuthfest 2014 in Orlando had some great panels on mystery and thriller writing, but two of my favorites were about creating and describing the perfect setting for your novel. When it comes to writing about locations, fiction writers find themselves in a dialogue with their readers. They are describing streets and cityscapes and buildings that […]

Molasses to honey

My first draft writing comes out like molasses, thick and slow, trying my patience and my will. The second draft flows easier, like honey squeezed out of those plastic, bear-shaped bottles at the grocery store. Will my third draft be maple syrup? I wish for words to flow like water.

Streamline bloated writing

Add a powerful punch to your writing by using as few words as you can to express your thoughts. Readers’ attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, so concise writing is key to keeping their eyes on the page or screen. I’m as guilty of wordy writing as anyone. Here’s a bloated paragraph I wrote: […]

Mining for gems in your writing

Writing is not unlike mining for gemstones. It’s labor intensive, can be frustrating and sometimes surprisingly rewarding. You can write better reports, blogs, emails and tweets if you break your writing tasks into three easy steps, similar to those taken by a rock hound or gem miner. Step 1 – Dig and collect. Gems are […]