Teach Peach and Best Fest: What All I’m Up To



bouchercon-2016Bouchercon is always a great weekend, and this year there was a serious bonus: Murder Under the Oaks, the 2015 anthology from Art Taylor and Down&Out Books, took home the Anthony Award for Best Short Story Collection. I was lucky enough to land my “Crack-Up at Waycross” in MUTO’s pages. Congratulations to Art, the other terrific contributors, and to everyone involved. Best of all, proceeds go to funding educational programs at the Wake County Library System.


sinc-atlanta-logoOn Saturday, October 8 I’ll be helping teach a short story workshop for Sisters in Crime Atlanta. I’m covering how to use setting, character and dialogue together to make a story pop. It’s been a fun challenge pulling materials together — it’s stuff I think a lot about but haven’t ever put to paper (or PowerPoint) in teaching form. If you’re anywhere near the Decatur Library, come check us out!



October 14-16 is this year’s Southern Festival of Books right in the heart of downtown Nashville. Thousands of book lovers wandering the Plaza and hearing from some of today’s best authors. And food trucks. I frigging love food trucks. For my small bit of it, I’ll be working the Sisters in Crime booth, and it’s my honor to moderate the “Crimes, Cons and Capers” panel for MWA. Playing experts to my Charlie Rose routine will be Holly McClure, Jessie Powell, Clay Stafford, and Erica Wright.

874 Rules for Humor Writing. Too Many? OK, 10ish Rules for Humor Writing.

Last month I participated in a panel on humor writing. This is more dangerous than it sounds. First of all, it was at a mystery writer convention (Killer Nashville), where you know half the audience minimum was dwelling on murder. Then there’s the self-directed pressure. I’d get tomatoed, hooked or gonged as a stand-up comic, I reflected in bathroom mirror moments. They’ll expect me to be frigging hilarious. Finally there’s E.B. White’s famous warning: “Studying humor is like dissecting a frog.

Still, I had to say something. It was a panel. To be honest, I hadn’t ever attempted to quantify how I go about writing humor. I have a core philosophy, though: Continue reading 874 Rules for Humor Writing. Too Many? OK, 10ish Rules for Humor Writing.

You Could Do Worse?

Vernon Stagg Bumper Stickers stateSure, he’s fictional, and sure, he’s a frequent target of the Tennessee State Bar Association. And sure, the Bar is on his case typically because he did it. Done in the great and glorious quest of justice, Vernon Stagg would remind us. The eternal fight for your legal right.


In “The Cumberland Package,” published earlier this year in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine,  it’s no accident Vernon thinks about tie colors and his “gubernatorial-grade smile.” The Vernon Stagg smile. He’s got aspirations as big as Continue reading You Could Do Worse?

Fairly at the Middlin’

Fair to MiddlinThere’s a somewhat-green land in a somewhat somewhat-green valley, where the wine and honey somewhat flow and the keen is somewhat peachy and a sometimes-golden sun shines on somewhat-grassy fields an equal somewhat-green from all perspectives. This is the land of fair-to-middlin’, and it’s my halfway self-grade for 2016.

Ah, the fair-to-midlands. Nothing to brag about except old-fashioned, one-step-at-a-time progress. Nothing to regret except regret itself. Not a bad score, really. Really? Yes, really. Mostly.

I arrived at the grade after literally minutes somewhat thinking about it. At the beginning of 2016 I set stretch story-production goals for myself. Now those, I think about all the damn time. Ah, stretch-ish goals, that less somewhat-serene zone between Continue reading Fairly at the Middlin’

A Play in One Scene: “The Big Press Conference”


COACH, head coach of the Washington Generals professional basketball team

 various REPORTERS

The Scene:

[open to crowded press conference. COACH sits behind table with microphone].

COACH: [hubbub] We’ll start here in the front. Teddy?

REPORTER 1: Thanks, Coach. Another tough loss to the Trotters tonight. Thoughts?

COACH: Yeah, you know, I thought we moved the ball well, were patient and defended well in stretches, but you really have to hand it to the Trotters. They found ways to dribble-drive, spin, flip, pass, fake-pass, fake-pass-then-really-pass, bring out the spectators and break us down. [hubbub] There, in the back.

REPORTER 2: Coach, it did look like your problem was defense. At times your guys looked a little lost out there. Can you talk us through what adjustments you made?

COACH: I’d like to say there was a good answer, Freddie. Everybody knows they are a great passing, fake-passing, and fake-passing-then-really passing team. You have to close that down. But every time I thought we had a stop, Cheesie, Buckets, all their little guys got us chasing them all over the floor, after those whoop-de-whoops and spin dribbles. I don’t know how many dunks Big Easy got off that play, but we Continue reading A Play in One Scene: “The Big Press Conference”