Category Archives: Resources for Writers

Exquisite Words

Posted on August 8, 2011 by

The opening of Breakfast with the Ones You Love by Eliot Fintushel is a hard-working bit of prose: it establishes the narrator as young and female while also raising lots of curiosity. It’s a terrific hook for a terrific book.

If you want to be safe, a person like myself, you have to kill your face. Otherwise people get their hooks in you, which, who needs it? I already killed my face by the age of twelve. Problem is, my tits invaded. I tried not eating, which I hear stops tits in their tracks, but I couldn’t keep it up. In spite of everything, there is something in you that wants to keep you alive. It’s like a disease that you just can’t shake, no matter how hard you try. At least you can kill your face, see? Me, I can kill people too. I can kill them whenever I want to.

Punchy, mmm? Here’s the cover:


Exquisite Words

Posted on August 1, 2011 by

It’s the humor, the voice, and the way he reminds me of Doug Lain. Every spring, I made noises about getting my license, and I checked out the websites of local driving schools, which as a species embodied the most retrograde web design on the internet, real Galapagos stuff replete with frenetic logos and fonts they didn’t make any more, the HTML flourishes of the previous century. How could I give my money to a business with so incompetent a portal?

From part one of Occasional Dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia, by Colson Whitehead

Exquisite Words

Posted on July 25, 2011 by

This is one of my favorite paragraphs: the build is inexorable, and the way the rhythm breaks from a one-two-three cadence into a very musical crescendo of imagery midway through really works for me.

The difference between a bad sushi joint and a good sushi joint is: at a good sushi joint the sweetness of the sushi doesn’t challenge the taste of the fish. The difference between a good sushi joint and a very good sushi joint is: at a very good sushi joint the sweetness of the sushi doesn’t challenge the taste of the fish, and the fish is very good. The difference between a very good sushi joint and a great sushi joint is: at a great sushi joint the sweetness of the sushi doesn’t challenge the taste of the fish, the fish is excellent, and, piece after piece — sushi should never be served more than one piece at a time; each piece should come freshly made directly from the chef’s hands to you — the meal unfolds in a concert of many varied tastes, some delicate and some strong, all in a sequence of subtle harmony and balance that leaves you exquisitely satisfied…

— If you Knew Sushi, by Nick Tosches (Vanity Fair, June 2007)


Exquisite Words

Posted on July 18, 2011 by

This is non-fiction, from a true crime book, and it creates a great sense of scene despite being a monologue and nothing else:

“This one? A brilliant scholar, a distinguished professor in the Accademia della Crusca no less. But, as you can see, tonight yet another disappointment has laid me low; I have just opened the head and what do I find inside? Where is al this wisdom? Boh! Inside it looks just like the Albanian hooker I opened yesterday. Maybe the professor thinks he’s better than her! But when I open them up, I find that they’re equal! And they both have achieved the same destiny: my zinc gurney. Why, then, did he tire himself out poring over so many books? Take my advice, journalist: eat, drink, and enjoy yourself—”

THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE, By Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi


Two new essays on writing at Tordotcom

Posted on July 13, 2011 by

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Two new articles on TOR in the past week. One is the second in my sporadically-recurring series on writing about crime: it’s about thievery, the lure of the caper, and it’s called Imperfect Crimes.

The other, Tales out of School, is an essay about what it was like to start teaching SF and fantasy writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program in 2005, at the height of the Harry Potter craze.

Enjoy! And let me know what you like, or don’t, or maybe even disagree with.