Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I am still working on edits for my new book, but must take time off to give you some interesting information.

The news that captured my attention this week is about Clive Palmer, an Australian millionaire (some say billionaire), who is building a replica of the Titanic in China (why China?) to be launched in 2016. Yes, launched, as in a ship that will take passengers and sail somewhere. Not a replica like the portion of a ship that I visited in Branson, Missouri, the year I was writing COLD APRIL. Or the many small replicas built for tourists in advance of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship in April 1912.

Since COLD APRIL takes place on board the ill-fated original ship, I am, of course, intensely interested in the project and will keep my readers advised of the progress of the undertaking. What I know so far is that the ship will be named Titanic II and (it is hoped) will sail from Southhampton to New York in February 2016. It will be as glamorous as the original, but not powered by coal. The four smokestacks will be mere decoration. On the original, one of the four wasn’t used for venting smoke either.

By coincidence, this is the very same week in which my publisher is putting COLD APRIL into Amazon’s KDP Select program and the book can be downloaded free for one day, Friday, March 1st.

It’s also a mere week after I suggested cruise ships should have helicopter pads on top to avoid the horrific experience of Carnival’s passengers stranded at sea for five days. However, if Titanic II is indeed a copy of the first, I don’t know where they’d put a helicopter pad. And wouldn’t those 1500 passengers who died that day have wished helicopters had been invented?

COLD APRIL is a love story set on the Titanic and it received many five-star reviews when it was released in January of 2012. If you want to know more, and read an excerpt, just click on the Book List in another place on this website. As you may remember, I posted several articles on this blog on the fascinating things I learned about the ship while doing my research. They can be found in my blog archives beginning August 22, 2011 for seven weeks.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


This will be a short post because it’s almost eleven p.m. PST and I’m working on deadline to read the second set of edits for my new book coming out next month. But I have to tell you my great idea.

Behind our house (not close, but visible), some high tension towers have been built and are now being outfitted with whatever it is that goes on top of those things. This is all done by helicopters which fly in bringing equipment which they place on platforms. Workers are also flown in. Imagine seeing men dangling from the choppers and then set on the platforms!

At times the helicopters carried cables and wires and the pilots skillfully poked them into openings in the towers, then flew up and around and pulled the cables through on the other side. Awesome. So it gave me an idea.

What else occupied the news last week? The cruise ship on which 4000 people endured terrible conditions when the ship lost power and stranded them at sea for five days. As a character in my book NORTH BY NORTHEAST says about cruise ships. “Once they start, you can’t get off–it’s prison with a chance of drowning!”

So... why doesn’t every cruise ship have a helicopter landing pad on top? They’re certainly large enough, and the helicopters could bring in food, batteries or other equipment and even take away those smelly waste containers we heard about. If I were a passenger I’d certainly feel safer with a heli-pad than a bocce ball court on top of the ship.

Remember you heard this great idea here first. (Do they give Nobel Prizes for that sort of thing?)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Okay, I admit it: I missed a lot of films before we signed up for Netflix. We only went to movies or watched them on television when other things didn’t interfere, which was, obviously, seldom. I’m not going to apologize for our busy lives. However, I was surprised last week, when I barely posted my article about films with writers and three days later The Passive Voice carried an article listing ten. (Except THE WORDS, one of the two I named.)

One of the films, which PG quoted from Flavorpill, is the other one I mentioned, MISERY, from the novel by Stephen King. His hero writes romance novels, and I do too, so I couldn’t miss that one.

However, four of the others feature screenwriters - ADAPTATION, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, BARTON FINK, and SUNSET BOULEVARD. I’m not a screenwriter, but from what I’ve read about the process, it involves working with other writers, which would drive my writer friends crazy. They prefer to write alone, thank you very much. Although a few, who once had collaborators, harbored murderous thoughts about their pen-partners before the duo broke up.

Which is what happens to the writers in those films. Instead of writers’ cramp, they get demons. Warning--spoilers ahead.

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is about a horror novelist who goes too far trying to add realism to his work and goes crazy. In TENEBRAE, the author of crime novels goes crazy and kills people. SECRET WINDOW also has a writer protagonist who goes crazy and kills people. In SINISTER, a true-crime writer moves his family into a house where people were murdered, and this time the writer’s daughter goes crazy and kills people. THE DARK HALF features a former literary writer who switches to crime novels, thereby somehow unleashing the ghost of his twin brother (whom he had absorbed) who then comes alive and starts killing people. THE SHINING, also from a novel by Stephen King, is about a writer who--guess what?--goes crazy and tries to kill people.

Frankly, I doubt that reading such a list would deter someone from becoming a writer, because most writers--even crime or horror writers--are not like that at all. Moviegoers are smart enough to know all those movies are fiction, made up by writers who got bored sitting alone (even when surrounded by kittens and close to chocolate) and started to play “what if?”.

Although I also write mystery novels, I’m not worried I’ll go over the deep end, because I have a hobby that gets me away from the computer from time to time. I act in plays and sing in musicals. If you happen to be in Palm Desert, California, April 4-7, you can catch me singing a Stephen Sondheim (not Stephen King) song about love and marriage.

The Passive Voice
Stephen King
Stephen Sondheim

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


For the past two weeks, I’ve blogged about films and I’ve often thought that there are no good movies about writers. That’s logical because writers sit alone in front of a computer screen and invent stories, tell lies or imagine new worlds. Their profession is hardly prone to the adventure, danger or romance that go into a good movie. Yes, female writers do fall in love and get married, but not because they were rescued from danger, such as a computer monitor that turned into a werewolf. And not because a male writer hired a beautiful woman to pour champagne for him every hour or so.

Such is not the problem with writing about other occupations. Both doctors and lawyers require clients they can interact with. Also teachers, psychiatrists and architects. Soldiers and sailors are in constant awareness of danger, while a writer sits in a comfortable chair in a cozy room with beer or chocolate only steps away. Archaeologists (think Indiana Jones) may live with adventure or even danger. A writer’s only peril might be falling over because a caster fell off his chair, or be electrocuted by a faulty wire under his desk.

All right, I admit it. There was a film based on a novel featuring a writer, a horror novel at that. Yes, I’m talking about Stephen King’s MISERY. However, notice the protagonist had to get out of his office for something to happen. His car crashed, not his computer.

Last week I saw another film about a writer. It’s called THE WORDS and is about a struggling writer who steals another man’s manuscript and passes it off as his own, thereby gaining wealth and fame. Besides the plot I’ve just reduced to one sentence, the movie is like three stories in one: the writer who originally wrote the novel, the writer who found the manuscript and used it, and the narrator who tells the story about these writers.

I enjoyed the film, but was struck by the way the writer copied the found manuscript by retyping it. I was reminded of taking typing in high school, where we were instructed to copy text by looking at the material to be copied and not the keyboard. The teacher went around the room, talking to us as we typed, and we were expected to carry on a conversation with her without stopping. In other words, what we were copying was to go from our eyes to our fingers without touching our brains.

A writer who is copying someone else’s work must read it carefully first, because writing an original story is a process of thinking, imagining, visualizing what he or she wants to portray to the reader. The better that’s done, the better the finished product. A famous literary critic once put down a writer’s work by saying, “That’s not writing–it’s typing.”

So here’s to all my author friends who write, not just type. May 2013 recognize your hard work and talent.

Stephen King