All posts by Mike

Genre-bending writer.

The Final Word

Obit

My wife and I caught a pre-screening of the documentary “Obit” last night. It introduces the general public to the people and the process of crafting the obituaries of both famous and significant people who have died.

Now from that lede, you’re probably thinking this must be a yawner of a movie. In fact, it’s not only one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in years, it’s also an illuminating commentary on writing. In the picture above, New York Times reporter Margalit Fox fields questions from the audience. She’s the “baby” of the obituary staff, and gets much face time in the documentary.

She shared a few insider jokes that reveal much about writing. One involved a talented newcomer to the news business. He was not only a gifted writer, but took pride in thorough research. Despite his heroic efforts, he kept getting angry calls from readers about inaccurate statements in his stories. When he sought the advice of an old-timer, the pro sat back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, and said, “Kid, it’s real simple. Quit putting in too many facts.”

Margalit offered a useful example of what the old pro meant. In one of her first obits, she identified the deceased’s father as a “Democratic congressman from Illinois.” An irritated relative informed Margalit that her uncle had in fact been a Republican. “I assumed he was a Democrat because he was from Illinois,” confessed Margalit. “But my obit would’ve been just as good if I’d only described the deceased’s father as ‘a congressman from Illinois.'” Lesson learned: Less is better.

Another joke was about an experienced reporter whose editor told him to write a short report on a breaking story. “I can give you a 5,000-word story,” said the reporter. “I don’t have enough time to write a short report.” He had a point — short works are hard to do.

Bottom line, don’t miss this documentary. The characters (starting with the madcap manager of the New York Times’s morgue), the tension created by meeting deadlines while treating the bereaved family with respect and sympathy, and the fundamental difficulty of “getting the words right” make “Obit” a must see. Highly recommended.

Small is beautiful

Anne R. Allen observes that the art of fiction is constantly evolving, and that the alert writer must adapt to the times:

Fiction writing has gone through vast changes since Tolstoy’s day.

In fact, it has changed a good deal in the last decade.

Amy Collins at The Book Designer reports the average NYT Bestseller is now half as long as it was in 2011.

And the brand new Smashwords survey shows bestselling romance novels have decreased by 20,000 words since 2012.

The fastest growing fiction form right now is the novella.

If you want to sell books in the 21st century, you need to write books for the 21st century reader.

Whether we want to write potboilers or a future classic, we all want more people to read our work. So it only makes sense to learn what folks want to read. e.e. cummings once noted that poets not only have to compete with other fine poets for their readers’ attention, but also with “flowers and balloons and mud puddles and train rides.” And in the Internet Age, there are countless other contenders for increasingly brief attention spans, so Anne’s advice is crucial.

And there’s an added benefit to learning to say more with less: It makes you a better writer. Writing short stories, and then flash fiction — a form I once thought I’d never enjoy reading, much less enjoy writing — no doubt taught me to make every word count. And this week, I tried my hand at microfiction, with a story weighing in at less than 500 words. The process of selecting and marshalling your words within strict restraints is a demanding challenge and illuminating joy. Try it!

By the way, you’ll want to read all of Anne’s great article. As usual, she’s peppered it with links to fantastic resources and examples for both the beginning and seasoned writer.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore

Review of The Genie Hunt
The latest from Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life —
Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore: New Book on the Shelves – The Genie Hunt by M.C. Tuggle.

A welcome to M.C. Tuggle to the bookstore with his latest book The Genie Hunt (Spook Hunters Book 1) published on May 8th 2017. Thank you for popping today and it would be great if you could pass on the word about Mike’s new book.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord features book reviews, author interviews, and music reviews. Check it out!

Before you book that trip to Mars …

Mars

From Natural News:

The idea of heading out to space and traveling to the red planet is thrilling but consider this for a moment: Going to Mars significantly increases your chances of acquiring cancer. That’s what the latest study published in Scientific Reports concluded. Cancer risk for humans who go on a mission to Mars or on long-term space missions doubled because of exposure to radiation from cosmic rays. Being away from the protection of Earth’s magnetic field increased the risk of radiation because cosmic rays which contain iron and titanium atoms severely damage the cells due to very high rates of ionization.

That’s a fascinating and well-done article, so you’ll want to read the whole thing, but here’s the bottom line: There is no Planet B.

Occasionally, I’ll hear from science fiction aficionados who fancy that one day, humans will spread out across the galaxy. We must, they say, because when Earth dies, we’ll just blast off and leave this old burned-out hulk behind for new, more exciting worlds. Problem is, even if we proved Einstein wrong and developed faster-than-light travel, we can’t just pack up and leave Earth the way we can move to other states or countries.

The beautiful planet we’re on is where we originated, and where we live. We used to think people were autonomous entities, but in fact, our lives depend on Earth’s many processes. It hasn’t been that long that we’ve come to appreciate the existence and our relationship with gut flora, which help regulate our immune system, our digestion, and even the way our minds work. And look at the essential relationship we have with mitochondria, those living things with their own DNA, and without which we could not function.

There is no Planet B.

We’re not monads, those free-floating, ultimately simple entities cooked up by rationalistic philosophers. We’re humans, evolved beings with deep, deep roots in the natural world, and here is where we were meant to be.

The Genie Hunt Puts A Supernatural Twist On The Usual Mystery Novel

Manhattan with a twist

Kate Seabury reviews The Genie Hunt in Manhattan with a twist:

The author does a great job at combining real-life scenarios with elements of fantasy. The novella reads like a combination of the television shows “Law & Order” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The writing and content made it so I never knew what to expect; with each turn of the page came a new surprise and boy, does that make for fun reading. It was not at all a “horror” book, but rather a suspenseful mystery with a healthy dose of the supernatural.

I also enjoyed how Tuggle maintains the strong friendship between Buddy and Coot, even though the events in their lives seem to keep going from bad to worse. Even though everything happening could tear them apart, their bond never breaks. They remain loyal to one another and even are able to joke around and make the best of what is surely a terrible situation. I found myself endeared by their friendship, and I was rooting for them the entire time.

This was not my first M.C. Tuggle book–I reviewed a novella of his called “Aztec Midnight” sometime last year–so I knew there was going to be more to the story than what initially met my eye, but even I was surprised at the extent of the uniqueness and creativity which flowed from the beginning of the book to the very last page. I can confidently say I have never read anything like “The Genie Hunt” before, and I am looking forward to what Tuggle comes up with next.

Check out the entire review at Manhattan with a twist.