Get Cozy: A Chat with Novelist Nancy J. Cohen

posted in: Writing Craft | 24

My mother devoured every Agatha Christie novel ever written, and though I developed an early appreciation for Christie’s fussy little Belgian, Hercule Poirot, I didn’t become familiar with the term “cozy mystery” until many years later, but the moment I heard it, I knew it described Christie’s work to a tee. Or a tea, if you will. The cozy is the gentle workhorse of mystery fiction, a reliable subgenre with a dedicated following, and one that shows no signs of … Read More »

Being There: The Writer Takes a Vacation

posted in: Writing Life | 10

First off, the writer should never take a vacation. At least not from writing. Always be writing, even when you’re out there. Over the next few months, writers will join millions of other Americans in sojourning forth on vacation, by road, rail, wing, and sail. Sipping fruity drinks. Snapping pictures. Living it up. Take advantage; trips provide marvelous opportunities for writing because they throw the new and unexpected right in your face. Good writing lives in details, and there’s no … Read More »

Tales of the Epistolary

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In high school, I picked up Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and was quickly smitten by the method of the storytelling, rendered through characters’ journals, letters, ship’s log entries, telegrams, and even wax cylinder recordings on that newfangled invention, the phonograph. I didn’t know it at the time, but Dracula represents a great example of the epistolary novel. Documents. It’s all about using documents to tell the story. An example is this log entry jotted by the troubled captain of the … Read More »

Warping the Universe for Fun and Profit

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Beginning in 1905 with a series of papers and little fanfare, Albert Einstein turned the Universe on its head. The notion of time and space being fixed, separate entities, he deduced, is all wrong. He envisioned “spacetime” as a single thing in his special and general theories of relativity. Better yet, spacetime flexes and bends and warps with gravity. And if all matter exerts a gravitational force, my time is not your time and your time is not mine. This … Read More »

When Setting Becomes Character

posted in: Writing Craft | 8

When I was in college, studying landscape architecture when it didn’t interfere with my busy beer-drinking schedule, the dean liked to hammer home a recurring concept. “Genius loci,” he would say, his eyes agleam, his bowtie aflutter. “Spirit of the place.” You must understand a site fully before you design for it, he argued. Ideally, one should sit upon the ground in the middle of the place and meditate. Throughout a full year. Feel the sunshine. See the dappled light … Read More »

A Vaccine for Viewpoint Troubles

Once upon a time, I was a lot younger and a lot smarter than I am now. Rules of writing in viewpoint? Ha! I didn’t need lessons from all those tedious how-to-write books. My natural talent would carry the day, my written words would sing, and my genius would shine through. Oh well. Live and learn. I did, the hard way. At least I hope I did. Years later, in 2009, I was thrilled to win a first-place Royal Palm Literary Award … Read More »

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