Defeating the Pink Gremlin

At a recent writers’ retreat, we were challenged to identify our “pink gremlins,” meaning those private obstacles to achieving our writing goals. Each person wrote silently for 20 minutes and then shared the results. (If you’ve never tried a timed writing exercise, it can be enlightening. Set the clock and write!) Each individual’s pink gremlin was distinct: fear, wordiness, etc. This was mine: “The trouble with trouble is that it starts out like fun.” Remember this the next time you set aside your manuscript and Continue reading →

Writing 101: The Mountain as Metaphor

Not many of us wake in the morning and think: “I’m going to climb Mt. Everest.” Ascending a twenty-nine-thousand-foot peak requires a skillset hardened by years of dedication and training. The same holds true for writing a book. It’s not done on a whim. You don’t cast a glance at the Toni Morrison novels on your bookshelf and think, “A Nobel Prize in Literature? Sure, I can do that.” Now, this metaphor might be a bit of a stretch, but I was thinking about it while Continue reading →

Writing from Here to There

Most of us love the fact that books can take us out of our ordinary lives and transport us to distant lands. But how does an author create a story that can do that? Many novelists root their stories in places they’ve once lived. Barbara Kingsolver, for instance, spent part of her childhood in the Congo, which lends verisimilitude to her terrific novel, The Poisonwood Bible. And while The Stockholm Octavo is set in the 18th Century, the novel was doubtless inspired by the nine Continue reading →

Judging a Book by its Cover

A or B. Which of these two covers below best addresses the question, “What does an old stuffed bunny have to do with a missing three-year-old and a religious cult?” If your answer is “A” you agree with everyone I asked last Sunday while signing at the L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC. “A” is the fantastic new Suspense Publishing cover for Last Writes, which was the fourth book in my forensic handwriting series (2010). The first four books were published by Penguin, who Continue reading →