Rewriting a manuscript

In early summer, my nephew Brennan Carroll and his wife Erin read the manuscript of a book with two possible titles. It’s a Carl North novel, a sequel to Snow Candy, which seems to be selling better than any of my other books.This new novel had been critiqued (hope that’s acceptable as a verb) by […]

Why Ross is out of favour

I’ve had the mixed blessing of reading a late Ross MacDonald mystery THE GOODBYE LOOK. It has all the trademark touches . . . a plot so complicated there should be a chart, beautiful metaphors interspersed with descriptive writing that’s occasionally a stretch, plot lines and relationships that go back and back and back. While […]

Location, location

I set my first two mystery novels in fictional small towns, one in Alberta and one in Ontario. These settings have the advantage that you can do whatever you want with the layout of the town and the countryside. The downside is the not inconsiderable work involved in mapping and keeping straight the geography. Two […]

MacDonald vs. McDonald

Within the last couple of years, I read a piece on why John D. McDonald is still in print and Ross MacDonald is not. Something to do with the hipness of John D.’s Travis McGee outlasting the psychological depths and family secrets unearthed by Ross’s Lew Archer. But the world has turned again. I see […]

Why do readers seem to know more?

Volunteer readers have been responding to the manuscript for a new Carl North novel, an unpublished sequel to SNOW CANDY. I’m working in the noir tradition but setting these books in modern times. It’s a tricky road sometimes, easier to avoid cliches like shamus and patsy and rum-runner than to deal with the changes in […]

Second printing

It looks like my third mystery novel SNOW CANDY from Mercury Press has sold out its initial press run of about 750 copies. This is extremely small potatoes, in the great scheme of things, but gains a little more traction when you realize that the vast majority of books in North America do not sell […]

First Lines

James Crumley, who recently died, is credited with one of the best opening lines in hardboiled fiction. “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.” […]

Little Changes with Big Impact

There’s a time in every manuscript for little changes that have big impact. It comes in the third or fourth draft, when you’ve been working on a book for a while and the characters are solidly in your head. Usually, these little changes occur to you when you’re finished writing or editing for the day. […]

Where ideas come from

It’s a time of uncertainty, just before you start a book.It’s difficult to have faith, to believe you can do it again.What’s the next story about?Where do ideas come from?Will they be any good?Should you just start writing?Why would any sensible person try to write a book?Sounding a lot like a business coach, let me […]