When I first taught university-level business courses, I regularly asked students to analyze a company’s financial health and write a cogent research report. After a few semesters of putting my red marking pens to work, I grew frustrated with poor grammar, inconsistent logic and otherwise sloppy work from dozens of individuals. Whenever I received an assignment that read too well, my first task was to run blocks of text through a plagiarism checker. With great disappointment, few literate papers passed the test. Many students cheated by having someone else do their work entirely or extracting full pages of words from published professionals. Eventually I insistedRead More →

I took away lots of lessons from ThrillerFest 2016, including the need to spice up dialogue and emphasize active over passive. More than a few faculty members, bestselling authors all, went so far as to encourage attendees to learn about screenwriting techniques. Ever eager to learn, especially now at this early stage of my mystery writing endeavors, I signed up for the next Save the Cat workshop in New York City. For those who don’t know, this famed approach to screenwriting was created by Blake Snyder and described in a series of books he wrote prior to his untimely death in 2009. In a Writer’sRead More →

For the last year, I’ve been reading books and attending events about writing technique, how to market one’s book, what to look for in a contract, how to work with an agent and much more. After a whirlwind week at ThrillerFest 2016 during which many of these topics were addressed, I’ve decided that a writer has to do it all, especially if one is contemplating self-publishing one or more books. Even if an individual has an agent and/or is publishing with a traditional firm, my view is that it is still smart to inform yourself about topics such as intellectual property rights, cost-effective ways toRead More →

I’m just back from ThrillerFest 2016, raring to put lots of great ideas into action. Kudos to Kimberly Howe and her colleagues for producing an educational and inspirational event. Thanks as well to all of the faculty members who shared their wisdom and made themselves available for questions. As it turns out, one of the panelists, bestselling author Mr. Thomas B. Sawyer, is a favorite of mine although I did not know it until I attended a session entitled “Playful, Stern or Downright Rude? How Dialogue Affects Thrillers.” Introduced as the showrunner and head writer for one of my all-time beloved shows, “Murder She Wrote,”Read More →

I finally got a chance to watch the biopic about screenwriter and author Dalton Trumbo and am glad I did. Bryan Cranston served his real life model well by portraying this Hollywood blacklist member as a man of principle. While I disdain communism for lots of reasons, I do believe in free speech and understand that the politically charged era of the late 1940’s was beyond difficult for many who were ousted for their views. Regardless of one’s philosophy, an aspiring writer can readily look to this prolific artist for lessons about perseverance and discipline. According to Biography.com, Dalton Trumbo was “one of the mostRead More →

A recent trip to the beauty salon turned out to be an exercise in frustration. Instead of relaxing in between deadlines, I found it impossible to tune out two loud customers. Droning on for several hours, they chatted as if they were catching up on twenty years instead of just a few days. Believe me when I say I learned much more about their lives than I ever cared to know. What made things even worse was their nearly constant use of what speech professionals refer to as the “vocal fry.” If you aren’t sure what I mean, check out this two minute video starring comedian Faith Salie. Be warned. Your ears will hurt. AccordingRead More →

According to a recent email from the Authors Guild, there is a worldwide campaign to call attention to the impact of writers on the lives of others. Begun as the brainchild of the Writers’ Union of Canada, readers and authors are invited to reflect on this topic and then post their thoughts to #WhyWritersMatter. Coincidentally, I had already begun an essay about Mark Twain and his observations of the cultural zeitgeist of the late 19th century. The catalyst was my “eureka” moment during a tour of the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. Until then, I did not know that Samuel Langhorne Clemens (his real name) had coined the term “Gilded Age” to decry his view ofRead More →

National Teacher Appreciation Day on May 3 was a nice reminder of the many individuals who generously shared their wisdom and knowledge with me. One gentleman in particular comes to mind. In charge of my high school Advanced Placement English class, Dr. Graham taught his students about the ups and downs of creative writing. Under his guidance, we had opportunities to stretch our talents as authors, poets and playwrights without the kind of reprisal that might discourage beginners. His feedback was always positive even when it was negative. I realize that now even though I did not always appreciate his candor back then. Still, he must have seenRead More →