As Time Goes By . . .

Things have been going downhill now for a few weeks. Minor out-patient surgery, then a stroke that got me to Miami for a weekend and, of course, the hurricane hitting Key West only miles from my house.

As the hurricane got closer, all services in Key West were canceled, in including medical. I decided to drive to my daughter’s house in West Nyack, NY. Somewhere been I-81 in Va., and my daughter’s house I had another stroke. My son-in-law Paul got me to the hospital in NJ where he knew people.

Accept for a slower than normal memory of people’s names, I am fine. If I continue to feel good, I will head back to a messy situation in Key West next Monday. I have no droopy eye or limp arm. I am told if I could choose the type of stroke to have, I chose right. apparently, vessels in the back of my head burst. Will it happen again? Maybe, maybe not. Medical science!

According to my wife, who stayed behind, the house has minor damage but the once landscaped yard is a mess. Three trees down and plants . . . well there ain’t no plants!

We certainly made out better than folks only 30-miles or so north of us in Big Pine and Marathon. Many of the homes in the middle and upper Keys were destroyed.

I am only 50 or so pages from completing my novel, Mistaken Identity, but with illness and worry over my family and house in Key West, I haven’t been able to find the imputes to writer! Maybe when I get home to my desk and books surrounding  me the story will finally come to an end.

Stay tuned. Would like to hear from any of you that are stroke survivors.



My writing is  moving along better than I hoped for. Working on chapter 56 and can see the ending  it site – of course I’m using binoculars!

I’ve some ‘honey-do’ items on the schedule, so I am cut down to just two days of writing this week. Thought it went good today and if I can hold onto that feeling I might be tempted to write on the weekend.

Some good dialogue, I think.

When I write dialogue, I write it as quickly as if it was being said. I want to capture the moment and good dialogue seems to flow, whether you’re writing it or reading it.

When I go back  over the pages of dialogue what I find is that each person I’m quoting sounds the same as the others! I know that’s gonna happen. If I stopped in the middle of writing to correct that I fear I’d never get it done. I try to capture the idea of the dialogue and then I go back and re-write it. Each person that’s talking has to sound original. That also helps keep the tags at the end of a quote to a minimum.

When I go over the dialogue I take the idea of the sentence and compress it. Add the flavor of the person talking so the reader knows who it is without have to say “Norm said . . .” You get the idea.

Norm, as an example, will refer to Mick as “Hoss” at different times. When the reader sees Hoss he/she knows it’s Norm. Or, at least, I hope they do.

Putting too much of a dialect into a character’s talk will slow down the reader and may even turn him/her off. In a number of my books I have Irish characters. The Irish tend to drop the H in words. Thousands becomes Towesands.  The idea is you mention it once or twice and forget it and hope the reader understands.

I have an intermitted character from Louisiana. The few times he refers to his state I write it “Loos e anna.” If  you traveled in that area that’s they way many residents call the state.

Other characters in my books don’t want excess talk and try to bring whatever conversation around to the point, eliminating the fluff. Burt twirls his bush mustache when he talks and maybe mumbles too often.

The final test is to read it out loud. If it sounds off or mixed up, it usually is and I need to go back and re-write again.

Back to normal – whatever that is!

I arrived back from Dublin, Ireland last week on Wednesday night. I went from 6 weeks of cool weather to HOT! The Keys have been seeing 90-degree temps and it looks as if it will continue for a while. Right now, as I write this, the tail end of the tropical storm hitting Tampa is dumping rain with winds on my house. Welcome home!

Dublin has always been a good place for me to write. Maybe my Muse lives there and waits for me to visit. I wish she’d stop being so elusive!

In the three and a half weeks before Celine arrived, I wrote about six chapters. I took the few remaining days of last week off and started writing again today – and only watched about 15-minutes of Morning Joe. I finished chapter 52 that I began in Dublin and almost finished chapter 53.

When I say I took days off, it doesn’t mean the story didn’t ramble around in my head. I have the ending, a good twist (I think) and pretty sure I know how to work up to  it. Will the characters let me, is always the question. Will one of them say or do something that will force me to change my direction?

I wrote from about 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. a little longer than usual, but the story and dialogue flowed and I couldn’t help myself. Sometimes that’s how it happens. It all falls into place and there’s no need to sweat blood. Wish it was like that all the time.

I’m reading Don Bruns’ new book, Thrill Kill, set in New Orleans. This is the 2nd in his new series and it’s fantastic! Reading helps clear my head and it also shows me how other writers present situations. If you can’t borrow from other writers, why write?

By that, of course, I mean when I see some fantastic writing I will re-read it. Go back and see how  the writer worked up to it. It’s a learning process I go through. Learning is the secret of writing. Reading is the secret of learning.  Learn everything you can. I even learn when I read bad writing. I try to find out where the writer went wrong and hope to avoid the problem in my writing.

If you see my Muse, send her home!

                           Below are the friends I left behind in Dublin. I miss them.



If there was a rule it would be WRITE

While I don’t have MSNBC’s Morning Joe to distract me, my wife arrived in Dublin last Wednesday (plane came in at 4 pm & was scheduled at 11 am) and I got to spend most of the day at the airport. Two terminals, lots of places to eat and drink.

I did get well into chapter 51 and each morning while Celine is still sleeping, I do a little tweaking of the pages. I can see the end in sight but it will have to wait until I’m back in Key West.

When I start a book, I don’t have an outline, only what I think is the begging,  middle and end might be in my notebook. So far, I’ve been lucky with the beginnings. Middle and end always change as the characters develop the story line.

The ending, as I see it now, wasn’t even in the cards when I began. But my ‘what if?‘ bug kicked in while watching Morning Joe’s exposes on the Russian involvement and people involved in the White House.

I remember sitting here in Dublin at the cottage. My writing for the day done, but I had to re-think the ending and then my ‘what if?’ came into play. I had a number of new scenarios but liked the Russian one! See, my hours watching Morning Joe wasn’t a waste of time.

None of us know if what’s going on in DC is real or not, but, as I’ve said before, the premise would make a great Robert Ludlum thriller!

I write down chapters ideas and quotes, etc., in a notebook I keep for each book I writer. Often much of it goes unused. Other times I am amazed when I re-read my notes and the section of the book I am working on changes.

I know writers who outline chapter by chapter and work from that. I am not sure how they do it. It wouldn’t work for me. And that’s one of the things that makes writing great, the diversity in styles, voices and approaches to doing it. What works for me might not work for you. There are no rules, only guidelines.

I guess if there was one rule, it would be WRITE.

Photo: Amy & Aodhnait, twin sisters & friends of Sheila Cullen, my friend in Key West. O’Donough’s Pub, Dubin

Writing in Dublin to keep warm

It’s kind of good to know the weather forecasters in Ireland are no better than the ones in the States. There have been a few good days (warm in Ireland seems to be the mid-60s) but more cloudy and cold days. Yesterday was the first time since arriving that I went without a sweater and actually carried my coat downtown. A sidewalk lunch day! And I took advantage of it. The weather can’t dampen my love of Ireland. That’s why I keep returning!

The chilly, stay-in weather has been good for my writing. I finished chapter 50 today. I seem to get up, chilly cottage, make espresso and get to work on the computer. Almost like the good old days before my addiction to Morning Joe and the political bruhaha out of Washington.

Without the distraction of news programs 24/7 on what’s happening, I am enjoying the writing/editing again. However, in chapter 50 I’ve worked in the Russian/Cyprus banking scandal into my book. If nothing else, out of months of TV new viewing, I did get to use that information.

Earlier in the week I took the train to Bray and had lunch with Darrel Darker and JJ Toner (who, unfortunately, is no relation to the people who own Toner’s Pub in Dublin). It was nice to get out and about a bit.

I am about to head out to the Temple Bar district to meet Laurence O’Bryan, who was one of the first writers I met in Dublin. It’s almost too chilly for a pint. Almost! Anyway, I’m going to wear my Irish sweater, so that should help keep me warm.

Chapter 51 tomorrow. Kind of like the old bar in Key West that had a sign hanging outside: FREE BEER TOMORROW.

Photo: Darren (left) JJ and a bundled up me!

Cold & Wet in Dublin – Writing Weather

I’ve been in Dublin for a little more than a week and the weather gods must not be pleased with me! Converting celsius to Fahrenheit  I came up with the mid 60s during the day and too damn cold at night! Low 50s to mid 40s. Luckily, I came prepared for the weather.

Bad weather (by my standards) has kept me at the keyboard. I have finished chapters 46, 47 and 48. I’ve introduced a  new character. All I can say without ruining the story is the character is a woman. Good or bad, you’ll have to read the book to find out. But it has been fun throwing her into the mix of Murphy and clan, even Padre Thomas.

It’s also nice to be writing all day for a change. Maybe I’m not cutout to write in T-shirt and shorts. Can’t bundle up like this at home. I’d be committed!

There has a been a day or two the sun came out and I got pizza and took it to Cusack’s Pub about the five-minute walk from the cottage. The small pizza place is across the street and they welcome customers to bring the pizza in and enjoy a pint or two. I’d be going back but a cold pint is not inviting at this time.

The cottage does have an espresso coffee maker (there’s a God in heaven) so I have my daily overdose of cafe con leches.

Last night I put my Boy Scout training to work and started a fire in the fireplace. Jensine, whose cottage I am staying at, called the local firewood guy and though this is not the season for deliveries, she explained I was from Key West and cold. I ordered five bags and six were delivered! The driver said the boss felt for me! I think he would’ve laughed but knew it would be impolite.

My Boy Scout training is kind of rusty when it comes to starting fires and I proved that last night and this morning (can’t get the fire going no matter how much newspaper I put beneath the logs). I have to bundle up to walk to Fairview to the store and by some starter briquets. If they have cans of soup, I’m getting a few of those two.

It looks as if I will get a lot of writing done in the next week. Always a silver lining, my mother used to say. At least I’ve got matches and don’t have to rub two sticks together. Maybe I should return my Eagle Scout badge?




Dublin Writers’ Conference

I arrived in Dublin on the 22nd, after an overnight flight – Key West to Atlanta, Atlanta to Dublin. Only Delta has that connection. It beats flying to Miami, to NY to Dublin. No matter how you fly, you arrive the next day.

Before I left, Ireland was having a heat wave. Of course, the weather returned to normal on the 22nd.

The conference started Friday afternoon and offered good speakers in their field. Subjects included: Storytelling and Our Evolving Business. It was interesting to see how different writers felt about the evolving business. The one thing they all seemed to agree on is that publishing has changed and is continuing to change.

After the formal session, everyone headed to the restaurant and writers read from their works.

Saturday began at 10 am. Subjects the panelist talked about were: Self-Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing and Creative Elements.  Those two subjects took up most of Saturday’s conference. There were speakers with a lot of knowledge of subjects about self-promotion and how to set up book-signings.

An informal dinner was held Saturday evening and was well attended.

This conference gave me somethings to think about but also to network with other writers and a chance to catch up with some friends. My five weeks in Ireland will involved a lot of catching up.

There are actually large and small bookstores to visit and signings to attend and pub conversation with other writers.People actually buy books here! If the sun gods return, I might even take a tour of southern Ireland. If not, it’s always warm and snug in a pub.

Sorry about the poor quality of the image, but it was the best I could get from where I sat. That’s Laurence O’Bryan, conference founder, talking about promotion.

Where’s Hemingway & Tennessee Williams when you need them?

I have been writing! Honestly! Up to chapter 45 and ready for some more twists to the plot. I am also leaving Wednesday afternoon for 5 weeks in Dublin, Ireland. I arrive in time for the yearly Dublin Writers Conference and stay at a friend’s cottage in the North Strand neighborhood where my new book has a few chapters about the cottage, taken with poetic license.

I finished Right As Wrong Could Be at the cottage last year and hope the cool, fresh air of Ireland’s summer temps helps me finish Mistaken Identity. Last September I began the book and due to the circus in DC, I have logged more TV time than writing time! With a little bit of Irish luck, I will have the new book out in the fall.

A small germ of an idea has planted itself in my head about a new story, but I don’t think too much about it because it would only be another distraction from my writing.

Dublin is a great city for writers, with its Irish Writers Center in Parnell Square. What a building! It has classes and lectures offered to members and the public all year-long. I joined a couple of years ago.

Also, the city has bookstores! Real bookstores that have signing that people attend!

I am fortunate that over the years I’ve met and become friends with a lot of people in Dublin that are successful writers to struggling writers. The common thread is that we all write.

That thread is missing these days in Key West. No gathering place for writers (or maybe I’m just not invited) and book signings for local writers and less known writers seems to be off from eight to ten years ago. Where’s Hemingway and Tennessee Williams when you need them?

I hope to post from Dublin but if not, I am either dead or enjoying the company of other writers. Some travel to other parts of Ireland is scheduled too. Oh yeah, and lots of writing. I prefer enjoying the company to death, in case you wondered.

(The photo above is a collection of writers at Toner’s Pub in Dublin. There was a reading by writers that night and the room was full)

24/7 the writer is on call

In the time I’ve not blogged, I have written three chapters (40-42) and am half done with chapter 43. I should have written more  . . . a lot more! Of course, I’ve been watching too much MSNBC. But I’ve found that it has actually helped me in coming up with a new ending of my book, Mistaken Identity.

In  my opinion, a writer of fiction is on call 24/7! What’s that mean? It doesn’t mean living, eating, sleep  in front of your computer, the screen always on waiting for that moment of clarity and/or brilliance.

I  my case, it means no matter what I’m doing when I am away from writing, editing, my mind is still buzzing, looking for some sharp dialogue, a piece of unique scenery I can work into the story, seeing a character that catches my eye and find a place for him/her in the story. Day dreaming, my wife tells me!

I find a lot of what will end up in my stories in the bars and restaurants of Key West. (Try explaining that to  my wife). It’s a tourist town but it has also become a destination for the wealthy. They’ve driven prices up for everything from food to rent. However, some of the real colorful characters of the island have hung on and seeing the two cultures mix is interesting and note worthy.

I’m at a nice restaurant and at one table are a few divers just off the boat and I can tell that from their dress and conversation; a table over are two couples with creased pants and tailored shirts, whispering; another table has a rag-tag couple of sailors who have stopped on their trip to Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean.

Was it Billy Shakespeare that said, All the world’s a stage? Well, whoever said it was right. Unless you’re writing sifi the real world is swirling all around you. Everything you need for the background of your story is right there, you just have to stop and observe  it. Because writers are observers and recorders of cultures and time.

My point in all this (yes there’s a point) is that in watching MSNBC’s Morning Joe recently, I was hit one morning with a new twist ending to my book and it came from the news! I’d explain it in more detail but then I’d have to explode your computer, or whatever you’re reading this on, like in the  opening of the old TV show Mission Impossible, but bigger.

The discussion on the TV focused on something that had been talked about before but the other morning, after some self-editing and wondering about the ending of my new book, the conversation between guests and Joe took on a new meaning. “What if,” I thought to myself, “I used that?”

How to twist the story in that direction came to me instantly! The more I thought about it the more fun it became and easier too. I took my small notebook I bought last year at Eason’s in Dublin and wrote down my thoughts.

If you’re a writer in any stage, stop and look around you. Pay attention and see things you’ve seen forever and look at them with new eyes and ideas. I’ve driven up and down US1 to the mainland and back too many times in the last 20 years, but I still stare out at the vista and wonder how Mick Murphy would react to such-and-such situation out there on the water or on one of the mangrove island. A good place to hide a body? It makes the ride a lot more interesting.

The opening chapters of Right As Wrong Can Be takes place coming southbound on US1 and the whole ride at night is true . . . accept the bodies and terrified teenage girl.

Keep your eyes open and look around like it’s the first time. You might be surprised.

Now, for the next two days, I will be following the drama playing out in DC. Maybe someone will say something that will kick-start my brian to work toward my ending.

    (I look forward to hearing from you and welcome any comments and suggestions)