Refusing to paint tan

9

For some reason this weekend, (maybe because we were staying in a modern and inspiring Sofitel in Chicago), I recalled a quote from Antonio Ballatore when he was a contestant on HGTV’s Design Star. He’s designing a living room for a Navy family whose husband is in Afghanistan. The mom has requested a room done in neutral colors like tan and caramel. Antonio comes back from the store with blue paint.

“Tan isn’t the answer. … I didn’t come here to paint walls tan! … I don’t want to paint a wall tan, and that’s where I’m putting my foot down! … I will gladly go home right now for refusing to paint tan. I will go home a happy American for not paintin’ somethin’ tan on a Navy base. … As designers, I feel we’re here to bring something great to the space, especially in a Navy base where the front gate is tan, the house is tan, the grass is tan, the kids’ dog is tan. Everything’s tan!”

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

Plot questions about Bin Laden

5

Another of the skills that translates well from journalism to fiction is open-ended thinking. Trying to broaden the universe of possible questions or explanations beyond those your mind first leaps to. As a reporter, you think critically about a set of facts, setting aside any premise offered along with those facts as well as your own hopes or biases, as best you can, and relentlessly look for different possible conclusions. In a novel, you have your first idea for a plot point or backstory or motivation, and then you look for three more, less obvious ones, until you find one that is fresh and fascinating.

Here’s a Reuters story that performs this exercise to sketch several possible scenarios about Osama bin Laden, how he came to Abbottabad, Pakistan, and who may have known he was there. This could be a conversation over beers among novelists (and it probably was a conversation over beers between Reuters journalists before it was a story). Journalists can do research to validate or reject these theories. A novelist would take the most fascinating one and begin writing sketches to see if it works as well as he thinks. Many novelists have been watching the real bin Laden story, asking themselves, “What if a guy…” and coming up with their own thriller plots.

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

Hang out w/me & Paperback Dolls today

3

Very excited to be the guest today of the Paperback Dolls, a group of readers and bloggers who love genre fiction. We’re talking about using audiobooks to add more reading time to your busy week and reminiscing about having bedtime stories read to us when we were kids. There are FIVE ways to win a free copy of the Felonious Jazz audiobook — so head on over

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

J.D. Rhoades on my kind of hero

2

I couldn’t have planned this, but it’s the perfect follow-up to my post, My Kind of Villain. Today over on Murderati, fellow North Carolina thriller author J.D. Rhoades, the master of a subgenre he affectionately calls “redneck noir,” talks about how he doesn’t like his heroes perfectly capable or perfectly good:

 

Problem is, far too many thrillers–some of them extremely popular–feature heroes I can never quite accept as human. Instead of realistic people who feel fear, doubt, tension, you get Bolt Studly, the mavericky, two-fisted, fearless ex-Navy Seal/CIA Agent whose only flaw is that he rushes headlong into the action. I much prefer my action heroes with some vulnerabilties: Charlie Fox, Jonathan Quinn, John Rain, to name just a few. Even Jack Reacher got a lot more interesting when he began to face the possibility he could lose.

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

My kind of villain

6

Readers of crime novels need great heroes. Writers of crime novels need great villains.

The villain’s crime brings the story into being. Villains provide the tension and suspense and surprise. They challenge society’s rules. They bring the fear. But I am not interested in writing about “alien” villains, some personification of Death. I want to write about villains that will feel familiar to us: Those who have let the forces of death in this world begin to rot their souls.

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

An Easter reflection

This Easter, with the theme of resurrection vivid in my mind from church, I’d like to share with everyone an essay I published in the St. Petersburg Times after visting Ground Zero — and more signifcantly, a nearby Irish pub — in New York on Easter weekend, 2002.

I have been to New York City four times. Each of the first three, I lay on the plaza between the World Trade Center towers and stared at the point in the sky where extensions of their strong vertical lines would converge on an artist’s canvas.

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

Felonious Jazz audiobook $10

New release special:

Just $10, FREE delivery (reg $23.95)

Enjoy a thriller novel during your commute or workout.

Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist: Jeff Davis Swaine digs up evidence for a Raleigh, North Carolina, trial law firm. When a client comes home to find his McMansion burglarized — and his new wife’s dog dead in the kitchen — he suspects his ex-wife. But this is someone far more dangerous.

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Promo

Continue Reading

You can never have a bad day as a writer

4

At a summer program I did in high school, one of my writing instructors, whose name I forget, told us that as writers we should “learn to savor melancholy.”

He was right. Being a writer makes most situations fascinating and useful, even ones that most would call unpleasant or annoying or forgettable. The a-hole at the convenience store, the peculiar physical sensations of an illness, a fear in the middle of the night — all of them become fascinating, rich experiences that can be worked into the next story. Being a writer makes you experience life. It makes you wonder about people and how they became themselves. There’s something fascinating about every person; just behind the canned smalltalk at the party is a cast of fascinating characters.

Great fiction shows us these details of our world, makes us

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

Q&A with mystery author Bryan Gruley

Here’s the transcript of an interview I did a while back with Bryan Gruley, author of the excellent mystery books STARVATION LAKE and THE HANGING TREE (and the forthcoming THE SKELETON BOX). Bryan’s a Bouchercon buddy of mine and the Chicago bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. I’m hoping the similarity of our names causes people to buy my books when they’re really looking for his. If you post your own questions and comments in the thread, I’ll try to get him to stop by.

Q: You’ve made your career in journalism. Starvation Lake features a small-town newspaper editor as the protagonist. How did working as a reporter and editor prepare you to write a novel, and how did that influence you to write this novel?

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

How to make me hate your company

One of the most important principles of both journalism and corporate communication is to consider your audience and frame your message in a way that meets their needs. As a reporter, it was my best way to come up with stories. Put myself in the shoes of a typical reader and ask myself, what do they want to know more about? How can I package the information in a convenient and engaging way that they can act on? It’s also the way I think about how a client’s website content should be organized and what should included. How do we make people feel welcome and appreciated? What can we give them? How can we build a relationship with them and persuade them to do the things we want? How can we be of service?

I wish more advertisers did that. Instead, particularly online, many advertisers behave like a four-year-old who’s half an hour past hungry.

Like this: I begin to read an interesting article. Your company covers up what I was reading with a floating ad that maybe even flashes. I’m just as annoyed at you and your product as I would be if you stuck your hand between me and what I was reading on an airplane.

Share on Facebook
Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

Follow Bryan

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Twitter

Javascript needs to be installed to view the twitterfeed. Get Javacript

Follow Me on Twitter

Contact Bryan

Send me a note at

Blog feeds