Immutable, indisputable, irrefutable truth: Men’s clothing has pockets. Inside and out. Deep pockets. Sturdy pockets. Pockets deep and sturdy enough to hold several phones, keys, pens, tablet, the puppy they can’t leave home alone, a laundromat, Wrigley Field, and the moons of Pluto. Women’s clothing has pockets that hold . . . oh wait, they’re “faux” pockets.     The [...]

2020-03-27T10:46:45-07:00March 27th, 2020|Fiction|

Writer’s Block Redefined–and Rerouted

Writer’s block! The phrase that launches endless debates, headaches, virtual paralysis. Is it real? Is it a figment? Is it just an elegant frame for procrastination? Is it unavoidable? The question comes up like hiccups in so many author interviews. So let’s tackle this basilisk from an angle not often considered. Q: How can a writer deal effectively with writer’s [...]

2020-03-13T14:10:55-07:00March 13th, 2020|Fiction|

Horse Sense and Nonsense from the Rabbit Hole: SHUT YOUR ASHPAN

The pink-chalk late winter sunrise peeks through the trees beyond my office window as I play out my literary life’s latest version of “all good things come to an end.” Behind me stands a tower of storage containers. I’m packing up ten years of research that went into The River by Starlight. A library of more than 80 books, binders [...]

2020-03-06T08:48:16-08:00March 5th, 2020|Fiction|

Name that Character

“We called him Barney for short,” Mark Twain relates in Following the Equator. “We couldn’t use his real name, there wasn’t time.” Long name, short name. Popular name, uncommon name. Family name, Biblical name, exotic name. Compound name, nickname, unusual-monogram name. If you’re writing fiction, you won’t escape having to invent names for characters. Some authors find this fun, others [...]

2019-10-01T10:28:38-07:00October 1st, 2019|Fiction|

The Anti-Advice for Aspiring Writers

I’m sometimes asked if I have any advice for aspiring writers, and I usually get a startled look when I snappily reply, “Nope!” I let it hang for a few moments, and then explain: in my mind, there need be no such thing as an aspiring writer, because the difference between “aspiring” and “writer” is so tiny, anyone with the [...]

2019-03-30T09:20:27-07:00March 30th, 2019|Fiction|

A HORSE RUNS THROUGH IT: How wild horse roundups, trading scams, and horse adages shaped The River by Starlight’s protagonists

Has any animal more shaped American historical fiction than the horse? I even have one outside my office window, a sculpture named Youngsong, created by my late brother in law as a tribute to the joy of young life. I had the honor of hosting the American Historical Novels discussion group on Goodreads and Facebook last week. The introductory interview [...]

2018-12-12T09:21:51-08:00December 12th, 2018|Fiction|

“To tell their story in a way that would heal prejudices and injustices”

"Every family has what we genealogists call a brick wall—that one person no one will talk about. There’s always an aura of taboo around 'the black sheep' or the 'fallen angel.' It took years of digging and a grain of luck to find out why the silence" surrounding Annie Rushton. From my interview with Rose City Reader: How did you [...]

2018-09-21T09:27:54-07:00September 21st, 2018|Fiction, Uncategorized|

The Fadoodlin’ Etymology of Sex

The question comes up at every reading and book club: how and where did you research? And the answer is a historical fiction echo of Johnny Cash: I’ve been everywhere, man. My research for The River by Starlight and its based-on-real-life protagonists Annie and Adam Fielding sent me across eleven states and four provinces, through the doors of seventeen libraries [...]

2018-09-13T06:49:44-07:00September 13th, 2018|Fiction|

Battered, abandoned, $1.50–and priceless: How the Sears Catalogue shaped “The River by Starlight”

How much research is enough? Writers of historical fiction know the dilemma well. We fall in love with our characters and want to know them as intimately as we can. What did their environment look like, smell like, feel like? What did they eat, wear, have in their homes? What were the tools of their trade, how did they conduct [...]

2018-05-29T10:41:48-07:00May 29th, 2018|Fiction|

Interview with Ellen Notbohm: Bittersweet necessity, quiet bravery, a wonder and a warning

“Reading and writing about history and the human condition is both a wonder and a warning.” Researching The River by Starlight revealed a portrait of century-ago life that disturbed, surprised, and inspired me. From my interview with Deborah Kalb:  Q: Did you need to do much research to write the novel, and what did you learn that especially surprised you? [...]

2019-09-29T13:49:51-07:00May 16th, 2018|Fiction|