A writing life…

I love to write. I love being entertained by a good fiction story; I love to write them. I read non-fiction as well, although I don’t write it (exceptions considered below). I can’t say I’m a successful author—that’s like winning the lottery, in spite of what marketing gurus and many successful authors say—but that doesn’t stop me from writing. I always wanted to do it, collected story ideas for years, and now am producing many stories that I hope entertain some people. My father was of Irish descent, so maybe it’s just the blarney in me, but spinning a good yarn is about the most rewarding thing I do these days.

Success with one book often leads to other successes, of course. Nowadays, with so many good books and good authors, the likelihood of winning the lottery with a successful book is small. Add to that the declining readership—there are too many distractions for the internet generations like social media, computer games, and streaming video—and I have to wonder whether any of my books will “take off” and become popular. I don’t particularly care because I love to write. Perhaps immodestly, I believe my short stories and novels are just as good as anyone’s, but a lack of success won’t stop me.

In these posts on writing, I have written about plots and themes. Themes can weave around and through a good plot and make it into a great one by adding to the entertainment readers derive from a novel material that informs and makes them think. Again, because there exist other distractions which are largely passive, I recognize that some readers will rebel against meaningful themes. But does good entertainment imply no serious themes? The novels I like to read the most have themes; my own also have them. Because I can’t write a story without some ancillary theme, maybe that keeps my books from being successful. I don’t know, and I repeat: I don’t much care.

Of course, writing fiction or non-fiction books isn’t all there is to writing. I admire journalists, for example, and think a journalism degree is far more worthwhile compared to an MFA in writing if the future writer of books thinks s/he needs some sort of formal training. Journalists are in contact with real people and real events in the world—they can make their fiction seem real a lot easier than some graduate from an MFA program can, and they can write non-fiction more easily too.

In some sense, I dabble in journalistic writing. About half these posts are op-eds treating topics I consider important for our nation and the world. Kurt Vonnegut is my idol in this respect; his “and so it goes” usually ends my op-ed blog post as a bow to him. He started out life as a journalist, and his A Man Without a Country is basically a collection of pithy op-eds. Generally speaking, writing any kind of blog post, op-ed or not, is an important writing activity. I no longer do it to impress Google bots, receive praise or damnation from different sectors, or show off any writing skills I might possess. I do it because it’s part of my writing life, just like telling tales in novels and short stories. In the old days, that would be called being an essayist. Nowadays we just call it being a blogger.

Writing is being creative. When I was in academia or worked on an R&D day-job as a scientist, that was being creative too. There’s a great satisfaction in creating something and saying, “That’s my idea!” or “Geez, that’s strange—let me pursue that and see where it takes me.” Here I have to confess that not everything I write satisfies my self-critical eye. That’s to be expected. I don’t think that the bad stuff reaches the percentage of Sturgeon’s Law (look it up), but my critical eye is very unforgiving. Sometimes I think something is pretty good, but I don’t know how to complete it. The material is stored on my hard disk until I get motivated and decide to finish it, but there’s a lot there that I might never finish. You have to be self-critical when it comes to your creative ideas.

Writing is often a struggle. My attitude has become: Don’t try to force it. With plenty of story ideas on hand and more coming all the time, why should I? There’s always something I can write. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Teeter-Totter between Lust and Murder. Detective Chen is framed for the murder of a U.S. senator. As her partner Castilblanco moves to prove her innocence, they uncover a complex plot involving the underbelly of NYC as well as the overbelly corresponding to the rich and powerful. #3 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” this book is now on sale at Smashwords and is available in all ebook formats. Use coupon code XW55G. Coming soon this spring from Penmore Press: Rembrandt’s Angel, an international tour de force involving a Scotland Yard expert on art heists and an Interpol agent. Chasing down some dealers in stolen artworks suddenly becomes very dangerous!

In libris libertas!

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