Max Scratchmann is doing his part to make me famous


The Walrus And The Carpenter, by Max Scratchmann

The eminently talented Max Scratchmann, who did the cover illustration for Yesterday Road, has added that image to his Indie Wall of Fame. There you’ll find a number of his superb, and slightly twisted, book covers and gig posters. Do check it out!

Indie writers who are on the verge of self-publishing can do no better than Max for their professional book covers, by the way. He’s responsive, creative, quick, and — best of all for those of us on a budget — inexpensive. And he’s delightful to work with. And he’s from Glasgow.

Have a look at the Wall of Fame, and while you’re there take a gander at Max’s portfolio and his one-of-a-kind web site.

Alice Hoffman sez writing novels is a cinch!


This assemblage of tips from novelist Alice Hoffman purports to show you how to write a novel. To summarize:

1) Start with an image.

2) Write lists (random words mainly).

3) Recall a memory.

4) Write a first line.

5) Start writing the novel.

Ah, were it only that easy! It always amuses me when someone tries to boil down the process of writing a novel to a few simple steps, as if it were akin to home brewing or building a birdhouse. Usually you get a few laughably obvious points (“Write a first line”), tacked on to a couple of little tricks the writer has picked up over her career. Hoffman’s list could easily be sifted into one line: “Open your imagination to key images and memories, focusing on a set of important words that you will use to evoke them; then write your novel.”

More seriously, I find these tips a little too ethereal for my taste. Not all novels have the almost Gothic feel they suggest. I don’t recall having read an Alice Hoffman novel, but I get the feeling from their titles that they fit right into this approach.

My own pointers about writing a novel?

1) Start with anything you feel like. It probably won’t survive revision.

2) Make sure your protagonist has a job.

3) Don’t start writing till your character(s) have some depth in your mind. Otherwise they look and feel like zombies. (Does not apply to zombie novels.)

4) Use words that fit the material.

5) When you finish writing, start again. Repeat until the book matches your vision of what it ought to be.

Between Hoffman’s and my tips, you’re well on your way to writing a killer novel!

Unnecessary question: What should I read next?

People do seem to ask this question, but almost everyone I know has no trouble landing on their next read. If you’re at all tuned in to books, odds are you have a TBR stack up to your waist. One of the advantages of the fabled independent bookstore is that vast knowledge of the well-read staff, but I don’t remember ever asking a bookstore employee, “Say, what should I read next?” Why should a total stranger have an inkling of the kind of ink I’d appreciate?

Never fear, though. There is a convenient service that will assist. It’s called The Book Seer, and all you have to do is type in the book you’ve just finished and he (The Book Seer is apparently a be-bearded Victorian man) will make some recommendations. For instance, I just typed in V, by Thomas Pynchon. The Book Seer thinks I should move on to everything else written by Pynchon, plus a book about Gravity’s Rainbow. For 50 Shades of Grey, TBS says I should keep dabbling in similar indulgent soft-porn, plus The Hunger Games Trilogy.

Hmmm. Maybe this thing is more of a party game than a useful tool. It purports to use’s algorithm to come up with its suggestions. We know how incoherent those results can be.

By the way, when I typed in both Yesterday Road and Parts Unknown by Kevin Brennan, what did the bearded one come back with?

Nothing… (Well, no books anyway).”



Real Life Seeps into #Fiction

Kevin Brennan:

A thoughtful look at how fiction and real life are intertwined…

Originally posted on Writing Whims:

Click here to grab Kindle copy for .99 cents during April

Click here to grab Kindle copy for .99 cents during April

I’m often asked if real life seeps into my novels. As we head into the anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill on April 20, I’ve thought about how much of my life seeped into the writing of Trails in the Sand.

During April 2010, two significant manmade disasters occurred in the United States. Both of the tragedies became a part of my life for the remainder of the year and led me to question how we live our lives. It took me some months to make the connection between the two events, but when I did, they both found a home in Trails in the Sand, the novel I began writing in late 2010.

The first tragedy occurred on April 5, when a coal mine exploded in West Virginia, several hours away from my new home…

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Bass instincts

Do you like the idea of a young lady playing the stand-up bass like a son-of-a-gun? I do.

She sings too, and with feelin’. Esperanza Spalding is one of those sinfully talented people who makes you see that you are totally inadequate and need to barricade yourself in an isolated room and listen to…Esperanza Spalding.

I’m especially fond of her version of “Body and Soul,” called “Cuerpo y Alma.” Look it up sometime.

By the way, her name means Hope.