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Monday, May 12, 2014

Mayhem with a Crothety Old Man.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk on your blog about my books and myself—two of my favorite topics!

Writing has been a favorite pastime for as long as I can remember. But along with swimming the English Channel and fixing a plumbing or electrical problem, writing fiction was on a rather lengthy list of things I never thought I could do. I’m not smart enough for plotting and hadn’t yet heard of pantsing.

On a whim, I started a blog in 2008 called The Crotchety Old Man—hence my Twitter handle (@crotchetyman). Even without any followers, I was hooked. Free from the constraints picked up from thirty years of academic and technical writing, I had a blast spouting off snarky opinions about trivial issues like neighbors leaving dog poop in my yard. Regular readers—both of them—said I had a way with words and should write a book.

The result was Glass Houses, my 110,000-word all-tell, tell-all memoir that will never be published—at least, not in it’s current form. I queried agents and all the big houses, with rejections often arriving within hours of having hit send. Given the quick turnaround, I was certain my brilliant manuscript wasn’t the issue and sought out a writers group for help with the query letter.

The mean-ass bunch of English teacher wannabes had the nerve to suggest my masterpiece needed a lot of work. When pressed by the irate author, they mumbled something about conflict, stakes and tension, info-dumping, and showing instead of telling. Whippersnappers.

During the months I waited for them to read my tome, I participated in the every-other-Saturday night critique meetings. I read the 5000 word submissions, marking the occasional missing or extra comma and perhaps a misspelled word. The feedback everyone else provided was over my head. But I kept coming back and, after a few months of pouting, got up the nerve to write the first 5000 words of what would eventually become Until Thanksgiving (blurb, excerpt, reviews, and buy links available at

If I could play chess, I could plot. But I can’t. Like I said, I’m just not that smart. Pantsing—aka making up the story as you go along—requires a huge amount of painful and confusing editing. I approached my second novel with more deliberation, developing pages and pages of character profiles and chapter descriptions for After Christmas Eve (blurb, excerpt, reviews, and buy links available at that I abandoned before I got to chapter eight.

Dreamspinner Press will release my third book, Happy Independence Day, this fall. Terrence Bottom, Harold Clarkson, and Abigail Dombroski from After Christmas Eve join Philip Potter and George Walker (from both Until Thanksgiving and After Christmas Eve) in New York City just in time for the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. No serial killer in this one. In fact, for the first time, nobody dies!

I’m working on a trilogy inspired by Glass Houses. Rewriting a memoir as a work of fiction is a blast. No longer limited by what really happened, I’m free to dial things up and even throw in stuff too embarrassing or personal to include in the memoir. I’m shooting for Tales of a Slow Learner and Adventures in Trauma Car to come out in 2015. The last book—If a Frog Had Wings—should follow in early 2016.

I write stories “true enough for government work.” For more information about me or my books, visit my web site ( or shoot me an email ( I look forward to hearing from you!

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