On stroopwafels and food in fiction

Delicious stroopwafels

Recently, a co-worker returned from Amsterdam with a treat for us: Stroopwafels. Now, if you’ve never heard of these, as I hadn’t, they are oversized buttery cookies with a caramel filling.  As I savored my one allotted and absolutely delicious stroopwafel, I thought, “Now, this is something from a Louise Penny novel.” Reality is good, but fiction – that’s where I can indulge in food without the calories.

As much as I read Penny for her wonderful characters and great plotting, I also… Continue reading

A Moveable Feast

On my bedside table is a stack of mysteries, with my current read being Linda Barnes’ The Perfect Ghost, a well-done psychological thriller. But the audiobook in my car is, for a change, not a mystery, but a memoir: Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, published posthumously. The book follows Hemingway’s years in Paris in the 1920s and dishes dirt on the expat writers and artists with which he was acquainted. The book is interesting for that peek into society.

moveableBut the “restored edition,” published in 2009, is also fascinating for… Continue reading

Acquiring editors’ pet peeves

Are you unwittingly turning off an acquiring editor by committing one of her pet peeves?

Two acquiring editors spoke recently about what works – and what doesn’t – at a panel at the Left Coast Crime convention in Colorado Springs.

Denise “Deni” Dietz, a senior editor for Five Star publications, says any manuscript sent to her should follow the submission guidelines, and authors should be professional in their dealings with her.  She isn’t looking for perfection in a manuscript, but she is looking for someone with a “good voice” and for solid “characterization, plot, and pacing.”… Continue reading

Self-Editing, Part 2

In my last post, I spoke about showing versus telling.

You can do that through dialogue, as well. Good dialogue serves to show, versus tell.

On the other hand, if too many of your characters’ emotions are being described through narrative, or through tags appended at the end of the dialogue, then you probably need to rewrite your dialogue.

Words such as she grimaced, she laughed, he bellowed, he growled—in place of he/she said—are the mark of an amateur. Just as unnecessary and clumsy in dialogue tags are the –ly adverbs: angrily, grimly, harshly, etc. Again, your… Continue reading

Self-Editing, Part 1

Recently, I heard a writer describe her editor as “the person who puts the hyphen in anal-retentive.” Had the editor been there, I’m sure she would have been beaming at such a compliment.

Some writers think editing is easy; others know better, especially after their manuscript comes back marked up. Editing deals from the small (hyphens, capitalization, and other minutia that can only be learned after having spent a lot of time with The Chicago Manual of Style) to greater issues of whether a character’s name is suddenly something else or a scene in the story is bogging down… Continue reading

Finding the perfect editor

“With the aid you’ve given me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote Maxwell Perkins in December of 1924, “I can make Gatsby perfect.”

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Maxwell Perkins

Perkins, the noted editor who also worked with Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is probably best known for helping Fitzgerald craft his American masterpiece. Not only did he help Fitzgerald with the characters and language in The Great Gatsby, but he even helped him with the book’s title – the classic might have otherwise been named Among the Ash-Heaps and Millionaires (for more… Continue reading

Where do you write?

Years ago, when I visited Hemingway’s home in Key West, I was mostly struck by his writer’s office – a freestanding carriage house out back, near the pool and the lush tropical flowers, near where his six- and seven-toed cats ranged. As a place to work, you can’t really improve on that.

That is not anything like where I work. At the moment, there is snow on the ground outside. And I certainly don’t have a pool. I do have a cat. When he’s outside, he perches on the wicker sofa on the porch and looks… Continue reading

Beyond the ‘Yellow Peril’

Throughout history, crime fiction has reflected the mores and beliefs of the age—as well as pushed those boundaries. So crime fiction has both mirrored, and battled, racism and other stereotypes.
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It’s no surprise that mystery writer and Anglican priest Ronald Knox, during the Golden Age of mysteries, included this directive in his 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction: “No Chinaman must figure in the story.” Knox was probably tired of this cliched figure, knowing that it reflected badly on a culture. Continue reading