Friday, September 22, 2017

Bear Claw Ate Lee Child's Lemon Pound Cake

Last weekend I had the pleasure of introducing Lee Child on stage and rubbing elbows with him (he’s a Yankees fan) as I chaperoned him for the day at our Milford Readers & Writers Festival in Milford, Pennsylvania.

Prior to the festival, when I was going over final arrangements with his associate, I noticed that Lee had requested his driver pick him up before our dinner for festival speakers and organizers, so I said I’d get him something to eat for dinner. She described Lee as the very definition of the word “chill” (he is)—content with a place to have a cigarette and a cup of black coffee—and suggested he'd be happy with a piece of lemon pound cake for the car ride home.

Manette got a chuckle out of that story and the day before the festival she saw slices of lemon pound cake as impulse purchase items on the checkout line at the grocery store. She bought one for Lee.

When I met Lee the morning of the festival at the Hotel Fauchère, we were going over the schedule for the day and I mentioned that I would arrange something for him to eat before the car picked him up. I told him the story of the lemon pound cake. He smiled and asked me to thank Manette.

After the first event I went home to walk Styles and when I looked for Lee's lemon pound cake it was gone. We call my stepson, Zac, Bear Claw, because he has a habit of wandering downstairs in the middle of the night and eating whatever is around, most times mauling it in the process and leaving a trail of crumbs and wrappers behind. In this case there was no evidence that Lee's lemon pound cake had ever existed.

I was sitting next to Lee during the next presentation at the festival and someone on stage mentioned food. I leaned over to Lee and explained to him who Bear Claw was and that he had eaten Lee’s lemon pound cake. He laughed.

I had told Manette about Bear Claw’s indiscretion before I returned to the festival, and when it came time for me to introduce Lee on stage, we were sitting in the front row, waiting to go on. Manette walked up and I introduced her. She handed Lee a paper bag and leaned over to speak to him. I heard Lee say something to her about Bear Claw and they both laughed.

After the festival, Manette told me she had given Lee a lemon meltaway cookie—the only substitute she could find at the Patisserie Fauchère. In the process she said she was a fan, too. She said Lee smiled appreciatively. Then Manette said, “Of lemon pound cake.”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

Elmore Leonard, one of America’s recognized masters of thriller/suspense fiction, primarily in the crime genre, wrote a piece for a New York Times column, “Writers on Writing,” in July 2001.

Click to Buy on Amazon
He since published it in book form as Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, which you can get here on Amazon.

Leonard got his start by scraping out a living writing short stories and westerns (one of which, Valdez is Coming, is now considered a classic of the genre). He grew up in the Detroit area, and it’s only natural that he transitioned to writing crime fiction, where he displayed an unmatched virtuosity in capturing authentic street characters and slang in his novels.

Over 20 of his stories have been made into movies or TV shows. Westerns: Hombre and Joe Kidd, starring Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood, respectively, and more recently 3:10 to Yuma starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Crime: Get Shorty starring John Travolta and Gene Hackman; Out of Sight starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez; Killshot starring Mickey Rourke and Diane Lane; the FX series Justified starring Timothy Olyphant; and so on.

Leonard didn’t achieve that kind of success because he was lucky; he earned his chops the hard way, from the ground up, and as he says about his little book: “These are the rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story.”

Anyone who writes fiction, or aspires to, will benefit from the advice based on his experience.

Here it is in summary form:

1. Never open a book with weather.

2. Avoid prologues.

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
I encourage you to read what he has to say about each of those rules, sparing as it is.
I keep a hardcover copy in my living room so I can read it from time to time. I find it always helps keep me on track.