What If It Were Me? Finding the Right Ending

hamlet everyone dead

Recently a fan posted this statement on my Facebook page: My wife and I have now both finished Gather Her ‘Round and find ourselves wondering if the Tufa ever get a HAPPY ending? I replied, I can’t speak to that (we all have our definitions of “happy”) but I hope they all have the right endings for those particular stories. I wanted … Read More

Guest post: Robyn Bennis on the Uselessness of Writing Advice

Guns Above cover

I firmly believe that all good writing advice is generalized to the point of uselessness by its third retelling. You know the sort of advice I’m talking about. It takes the form of the tired maxims your critique group can’t stop themselves from repeating, the literary platitudes from a once-great author whose work began to flag about the time they … Read More

The Heat from the Story Fire

Jacobi Henry V Muse of Fire

As I’ve said before, I’m a Shakespeare fan. I mean that literally: I feel the same mix of affection and excitement that I do for James Bond, Star Trek, Godzilla and Dracula. I obsess over the minutia, watch my favorite “episodes” (plays) over and over, and collect things that have meaning for me as a fan. And although I’m no scholar, … Read More

Getting Down to the Story Quark

computer keyboard

Recently, I had writer’s block. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: he always says there’s no such thing as writer’s block! And that’s true. But what I experienced is the feeling often called writer’s block. And here’s how I addressed it. This particular work-in-progress is a spec effort, so there’s no deadline or contract involved; at this point, I’m just writing … Read More

How a Springsteen Bootleg Inspired a Scene in WISP OF A THING

The back cover of the Fire on the Fingertips bootleg, with all the wrong song titles. For reference, they should be; SIDE ONE, Santa Ana, Bishop Danced, Seaside Bar Song; SIDE TWO, Zero and Blind Terry, Thundercrack.

Since today’s my birthday, I thought I’d bring y’all a little somethin’-somethin’: an example of how things end up the way they do in novels, along with an absolutely kick-ass song. It used to be a lot of work being a Bruce Springsteen fan. He notoriously wrote many more songs than he put on his albums, and if you wanted to hear … Read More

The Two Sides of Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway

In Seanan McGuire’s brilliant (and now award-winning) short novel Every Heart a Doorway, teens who’d once escaped reality to various fairytale realms find themselves back in our world, attending a special boarding school to help them re-acclimate to “reality.” They’re all desperate to return to those places where they felt accepted for who and what they were, and one of … Read More

The Idiocies of Genius

Genius-Movie-Poster

Recently I watched Genius, the 2016 film about the relationship between Southern novelist Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) and his editor, Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth). There are also cameos by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West). The moral of the story: genius comes in different packages, and sometimes it isn’t recognized until it’s too late. Or something. I … Read More

Ode to Billie Joe: the value of the hidden

ode to billie joe single

Yesterday was June 3rd, or as Bobby Gentry describes it: It was the third of June, another sleepy dusty delta day…. That is, of course, from her magnificent ballad “Ode to Billie Joe,” a song as much about what’s unsaid (or unsung) as it is about what’s said. Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge; the singer, a young … Read More

The Point of the End of the Tour

Jesse Eisenberg (David Lipsky) and Jason Segel (David Foster Wallace

The End of the Tour is a film adapted from the memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, by David Lipsky. It begins with news of Wallace’s suicide* reaching Lipsky, who then digs out his audio tapes from the five days he spent with Wallace at the end of his author’s tour … Read More

Across the same river with The Idylls of the Queen

Idylls of the Queen

Alice Walker wrote The Same River Twice about the process of turning her novel The Color Purple into a movie. The title itself is a paraphrase of the philosopher Heraclitus, and is more fully translated as, “You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on.” In 2011, I wrote Dark Jenny, the third in my Eddie … Read More