Sunday, July 26, 2015

Can't Get Luckier Than This

Last night I had my inaugural signing of my new book TAHOE BLUE FIRE. The signing was held at Artifacts in South Lake Tahoe. I was so fortunate to have an amazing turnout. That so many of you had such positive things to say about my characters and their previous adventures was even better.

We writers build a fictional world, and we tell stories with elements of truth and reality embedded in that fiction. If we're very lucky - as I have been - people respond. When readers want to spend time in the world of Owen and Spot, Street and Diamond, it is the most wonderful, gratifying reward that I can imagine.

Thank you all for your support. I'm eager to dive into this book launch. My next event is Wednesday, July 29th. I'm giving a talk about TAHOE BLUE FIRE at the South Lake Tahoe library at 6:30 p.m. I know I'll see a lot of you there.

Thanks again. I'm a lucky guy.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Is Your Character Development Too Much, Too Little, Or Just Right?

Last week, I received an email from a fellow writer. This person asked how a writer knows when they’ve developed a character enough, not enough, or too much. I thought the question and my answer would make a useful blog post.

Here's the letter:


Realizing you met several people at the Book Fest Solano in Vacaville this spring, I do not expect for you to remember me!

Having said that, I enjoyed visiting with you and purchased several of your books. All favorites. Thanks for writing!

If you have time, I have a fairly basic question that bugs me as I write my mysteries.

As a mystery writer, I find myself either not developing my characters enough (I don't want to bore my reader) or possibly too much. How do you know when too much is really too much? Does this apply to all characters in the same mystery or should it vary?

Thank you in advance...

My answer:

Hi Fellow Writer,

Thanks for writing.

Your question is a valuable one, but I don't think there is a black-and-white answer. So I'll toss out some general guiding concepts that I use.

Yes, I'd vary how much you reveal of character according to how important your character is to your story.

Deciding how much one should develop characters is probably best looked at by the principle of making sure that everything you write advances the story and moves it in the direction you need. No matter how interesting a particular character tidbit is, if it doesn't help move the story forward, then it should go.

Thus some characters need only the briefest mention with, perhaps, one telling detail. Other characters that are central to the story might need a great deal of development for us to understand where they came from and what is involved in their character transformation.

A critical aspect to how you reveal character is to try to stick only to dialogue and action and delete your exposition (the stuff you tell the reader because you think the reader needs to know it). Don't worry, we all write with exposition, but the more of it we can eventually cut out, the more interesting the story will be. (Readers are very smart. They can figure out all manner of aspects to your story without being told. All they have to do is read action and dialogue, and those reveal nearly everything the reader needs to know.)

This is another variation of the "show, don't tell" rule, i.e., don't tell us that your character is a fastidious dresser and might be a misogynist and that he smokes cigars. Instead, show him standing in front of the mirror adjusting his tie and picking at flecks of lint on his shirt all while saying disparaging things to the woman in the room. Then show the woman nearly gagging on the smell of the cigar in his teeth. 

If the nature of this character's personality is critical to the story, and if you show it instead of telling it, then we probably can't get too much of it. And we'll be intrigued to see every little aspect of this character as it is revealed.

Here are two editing techniques that many writers use to help with character development. I do both of these things.

First, when you are done with your first draft, go through and determine to trim it by 30%. Your goal should be to tell the same story as you go from, say, 500 pages to 350 pages. What happens is that you'll never throw out your best stuff. You'll automatically keep every passage that makes you laugh, or cry. You’ll keep everything that gives you anger or tension or fear. You'll keep your most scintillating dialogue and your most emotional scenes. As you force yourself to cut, you'll toss the weakest stuff, perhaps a bit of dialogue and a bit of action, and you’ll take out a whole lot of exposition. In the end, you'll have a much tighter story that will leave the reader wishing the book was longer (the best way to ensure that they rave to their friends and buy your other books).

Second, read your book aloud, imaging that famous book reviewers and English professors and New York agents are listening. That is a good way to identify unnecessary stuff regarding both characters and plot. As you read, you'll be proud of certain parts. You might also suffer hints of embarrassment at other parts as you think that your imaginary listeners are frowning or rolling their eyes. (At least, this is my response to the reading aloud exercise!)

Good luck, and keep writing!


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gotta Love That Drought Rain And Snow

We're almost four years into the worst California drought in recorded history, right?


Every winter since it began, we've had less snowpack than the year before.


The Jet stream has been shooting whatever moisture and cold it could to the Midwest and East Coast.


Tahoe and the rest of the West keep setting new high temperature records.



After an almost-no-snow winter, May in Tahoe brought more snow than all the previous winter months combined. And the last ten days in July have been constant storms, rain and hail. At the end of June, we set another record high. Just this last Thursday, after a week of rain, our high temp was 63. Friday, it was 62. The storms keep rolling in, Monsoonal moisture pushing up from the Southwest deserts, they say.

We don't care how the moisture gets here. We're just glad for it. Maybe it's the beginning of something beautiful.

Remember, before the drought began, the winter of 2010-11 set snowfall records. 700 inches on the passes. Ten feet of standing snow in our yard. It could happen again.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Tahoe Blue Fire Signing Schedule

Hi Everybody,

I've got 20 signing events currently scheduled for my new book, Tahoe Blue Fire. I'll list them in order and put headings for locations, so you can scan down to see when I'll be near you. Hope to see you soon!


July 24, 2015, 4 - 7 p.m. Signing my new Tahoe mystery, TAHOE BLUE FIRE, at Artifacts, 4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd (in the Raleys Village Center just southwest of Heavenly Village) (530) 543-0728

July 29, 2015, 6:30 p.m. Talk and Signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at the South Lake Tahoe Library, Rufus Allen Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA


July 30, 20155-7 p.m.signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at "Truckee Thursdays" downtown Truckee, CA


August 1, 2015, 11 a.m., Talk and Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE, Sundance Bookstore at 121 California Avenue, Reno, NV (775) 786-1188


August 1, 2015 3 p.m. Signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at Geared for Games, Boatworks Mall, Tahoe City, CA


August 2, 2015 8:30 a.m. Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE at The Red Hut Cafe at Ski Run and Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA


August 7, 2015 6:30 p.m. Talk and Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE, at Shelby's Bookshoppe, 1663 Lucerne St. in Minden Village, Minden, NV 775-782-5484


August 8, 2015 8:30 a.m. Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE at The Red Hut Cafe 4385 S. Carson, Carson City, NV


August 9, 2015 8:30 a.m. Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE at The Red Hut Cafe 3480 Lakeside #1, Reno, NV


August 15, 16, 2015, Signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE and exhibiting all of my books at the Burlingame Art & Wine Festival, Burlingame, CA


August 29, 2015 3 p.m. Talk and signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at El Dorado Arts Council Art Space at their new location in The Fausel House, 772 Pacific St., Placerville, CA


September 12, 13, 2015  Exhibiting and signing all of my books at the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival, Mountain View, CA


September 18, 19, 20, 2015 Exhibit and sign books at the Pleasanton Harvest Festival, at the Pleasanton Fair Grounds, Pleasanton, CA


September 26, 27, 2015 Exhibit and sign books at the Candy Dance Festival, Genoa, NV


September 29, 2015 6:30 p.m. Talk and signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at Browsers Books, 711 E Washington St, Carson City, NV (Across from the Carson City Library)


November 6, 7, 8, 2015  Exhibit and sign books at the Sacramento Fine Arts Show,  Sacramento Convention Center, Sacramento, CA


November 13, 14, 15, 2015  Exhibit and sign books at the San Mateo Harvest Festival, San Mateo CA


November 20, 21, 22, 2015, Exhibit and sign books at the Sacramento Harvest Festival, at Cal Expo at the California State Fair Grounds, Sacramento, CA


November 27, 28, 29, 2015 Exhibit and sign books at the San Jose Harvest Festival, San Jose Convention Center, San Jose, CA


December 4, 2015 5 - 7 p.m. Signing Tahoe BLUE FIRE at Epilog Books, Quincy, CA

THANKS for your interest!