>Your Comments Here

January 20th, 2015 | Posted by Steve in Odds and Ends - (0 Comments)

Leave your comments here. They’re moderated but I do that quickly. Be sure to START YOUR POST TITLE WITH “>” and then whatever else. That way I know you’re a human. Like this: >Your Comments Here

Book Signing — Naples Barnes & Noble

Did a signing Saturday, 25 March in Naples. Thanks so much to Jessica Olson and staff!

Long drive from Tampa (about 180 miles the way I go) and, as I cruise along at 60 MPH, EVERY vehicle on the road passed me. I passed no one, going or coming. Was even passed by an antique car on its way to some car event. Trip complicated by the fact that my GPS thing went on the blink. Tampa to Naples is no problem, get on I-75 and follow the signs. But inside Naples I found myself wandering around. Finally I found myself driving up and down a major street looking for the intersection with U.S. 41  — the Tamiami Trail mentioned so often in my books. After a mile or so it dawned on me that I was ON the Tamiami Trail and only a few blocks from the book store.

I never got lost with maps. But with GPS  …

Is Writing Long a Sign of Senility?

Was James Joyce senile when he wrote Ulysses (at 265,000 words, one of the longest novels in English literature)? Was William Faulkner habitually drunk when he wrote his famously-fragrant

.             James Joyce in Dublin

prose? Probably not.

But “rambling and long-winded anecdotes could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research that suggests subtle changes in speech style occur years before the more serious mental decline takes hold.” Read the article here

“Sherman cites studies of the vocabulary in Iris Murdoch’s later works, which showed signs of Alzheimer’s years before her diagnosis, and the increasingly repetitive and vague phrasing in Agatha Christie’s final novels – although the crime writer was never diagnosed with dementia. Another study, based on White House press conference transcripts, found striking changes in Ronald Reagan’s speech over the course of his presidency, while George HW Bush, who was a similar age when president, showed no such decline.”

My fiction writing problem seems to be the opposite. More than thirty years of writing nonfiction — articles, news, even grants — has made me habitually spare. When I’m told, a few thousand times, to be as brief as possible (often more brief than possible) to meet 1800 to 2000-word magazine lengths or 250 to 500-word news reports, it’s hard to relate to writing a novel 70,000 words long.

So my stories’ rough drafts usually end up at about 50,000 to 60,000 words and must be 70,000 to meet the standard length for the type of mystery I write. It’s worse in fantasy where my final-draft 80,000-word stories fall well below the standard of 120,000.

This is not all bad, though. That 50,000-word rough draft gets better as I rewrite to add depth and color. And with each rewrite it gets longer. After ten or a dozen rewrites it’s no longer nonfiction-news telegraph style but a more rounded, colorful, pleasing story.

And I love rewriting. Someone once asked me who my favorite author was. “Me,” I said. The obvious danger is that I could rewrite and rewrite and end up ruining the story through overblown padding. I try not to do that, pad. I notice that later rewrites are less and less rearranging or adding verbiage and more and more focusing on grammar and punctuation.

This is as it should be. To continue to expand each sentence might be considered — senile.


*NOTE: WhenI wentto Wikiopedia COmmons to find a graphic to use, I typed in the search box “big books” and it asked me if I really meant “big boobs”. What have we come to?


Upcoming Author Events:

March 12th, 2017 | Posted by Steve in Fiction | Mystery - (0 Comments)

Upcoming Author Events:

Springtime and book signings. Great!

Saturday, March 25, Naples from 2-4 p.m. Barnes & Noble, Waterside Shops, 5377 Tamiami Trail, Naples

Weird Literary Agents

February 21st, 2017 | Posted by Steve in Fiction | Nonfiction | The Writing Life - (0 Comments)

Weird Literary Agents

So I’m once more using my database of agents to look for a partner in a new project.  I try to get all the information I can about an agent before wasting my time and his or her time. I carefully examine their web sites, any other web sites listing them, and I have several printed books to refer to as well, the best being Jeff Hermann’s annual guide. I do this in order to submit to them queries carefully tailored to their wishes.

I add to my database as I go. I always prefer agents who are members of AAR, the Association of Authors Representatives. That web site has a wonderful agent search engine and it’s free, so go use it. These are the gold standard and sworn not to rip off authors. Not being a member of AAR doesn’t necessarily mean an agent is bad; merely that he or she is not a member. But membership is a handy way to screen them. If I were a literary agent I would certainly want to be a member so, as a writer, I want an agent who thinks like I do.

But I run across odd agents. Not many. Some. A few funny, a few sad. Some general categories:

– The 20th-century fans. These refuse to use email for communication, preferring stacks of paper in packages with small stamps plastered all over the outside. Stamps went out with buggy whips. Do they use telegrams too? The sheer labor and expense involved aside, the main question is this: Do I want an agent who is uncomfortable with modern communications technology out there representing me? (Answer: No. I skip them. They’re likely too busy with their letter openers anyway.)


– One (only one, and no more, I hope) with an unchangeable and sweeping indemnity clause in the submission form I must fill in at their web site. Pass. I’m not going to cover their legal fees because some weirdo chooses to claim that my manuscript was something remotely like his manuscript. I’m accustomed to indemnity clauses in my nonfiction work but was always able to modify them to be more reasonable. But this one was a required checkbox on a form. I told Laura Gross, the agent, she was cutting herself out of may of the best professional writers — and then reported her to the ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) of which I am a long-standing member. They agreed that the agent was out of line.

– I’m so special. The agent who insists upon an exclusive look at your manuscript. Only rarely encounter this any more. In fact some agents make apoint of saying they assume yours is a simultaneous submission — you have sent to more than one agent — and they are fine with that. I like to compare an exclusive demand to your telling a new car salesman to park that shiny car in his back lot and not show it to anyone else while you take up to two months (optimistically) to make up your mind. Let me know what his response is.


– Bad web sites. Lots of bad web sites. Literary agents aren’t the most technically-savvy bunch and some web sites were painful to navigate. But even that was better than the ten percent or so who had no web sites at all and no other clue as to what they want or how to communicate with them. Probably more 20th-century fans; I have no way to know. Pass.

– Burying the data inside the blather. Most agent web sites’ descriptions of their agents tell me where they went to school (I don’t care) or the names of their pets (I care even less) and brag endlessly about the authors they’ve repped in the past (usually far past; they don’t often update these web sites.) I don’t care, or care very little. I want to know what genres of writing they prefer to rep. I just wish to know if this is a person who wants to see the type of manuscript I have prepared. I don’t know why they make it so hard to learn that — and then complain about getting so many emails from authors who are off-topic. That information, if available at all, is buried in the endless verbiage. I’ve gotten good at scanning but, even so, it’s a pain.

– The dead. I even ran upon a few I could cross off my database because they died or retired. Even finding out someone is dead is not that easy; their listings in the various online sites go on and on. We’re all immortal on the Web, I guess.

But, with all the flaws, most literary agents are trying to do their best in a tough business and I appreciate their work. Spend a few hours per day reading agents’ web sites, interviews, blogs and personal descriptions and you can respect their efforts. Now, if you excuse me, I have some tweaking to do to my database …

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2017 | Posted by Steve in Just for Laughs - (0 Comments)

Happy Valentine’s Day

Unless you live in Pakistan: “A court in Pakistan has banned public celebrations of Valentine’s Day in the capital,

Islamabad, on the grounds that it is not part of Muslim culture. … some religious groups have denounced it as decadent. … argued that the festival promoted immorality, nudity and indecency under the cover of spreading love.

Geez. I had no idea. I thought it was just an excuse to eat expensive chocolates.


Support Planned Parenthood!

January 30th, 2017 | Posted by Steve in Fiction | Mystery - (0 Comments)


Buy our books.
Support Planned Parenthood!

I have teamed up with my publisher, Untreed Reads, to help out!
Untreed Reads will donate 5% of book sales to Planned Parenthood.
I will match that, for a total of 10% going to fund health care for women.

Click here for details

Book Signing, St. Petersburg

January 16th, 2017 | Posted by Steve in Fiction | Mystery | The Writing Life - (0 Comments)

Friday, February 3, St. Petersburg from 6-8 p.m. Books at Park Place, 10468 Roosevelt Rd., St. Petersburg
(might be there a little earlier). Click here for the Facebook event listing. And a personal note: For some time now, these folks have had to deal with having the road torn up in front of their store. Let’s turn out and support them!

Springtime and book signings

January 9th, 2017 | Posted by Steve in Fiction | Mystery - (0 Comments)

(update): Thanks to Cynthia and Book Swap for a pleasant outdoor event with some other writers.

Had to laugh at one point. A customer kept insisting the name was “mango” as in “Death Among the Mangos” and turning my Mangrove Bayou police chief into the Florida Horticulture Detective. Come to think, that seems an unexplored niche in the mystery field. hummmm . . . I’ll be planting some poinettias today. I’m thinking “The Poinsettia Poisoning” first in the Black Thumb mystery series.

“Professor Thumb, this man appears to have been done in by eating poinsettias.”

“How would you know that?”

“Well, he’s got about three pounds of poinsettia leaves stuffed into his mouth.”

Springtime and book signings. Great!

Saturday, January 14, from 12-4: Book Swap, Tampa. Free (used) book if you buy one of mine. If you cannot make the signing, you can reserve an autographed copy by calling 813-963-6979, or emailing info@bookswapfl.com. Six authors will be at the event:

  • Jeffery Hess: Beachhead (1980’s Tampa Bay area)
  • Stephen Morrill: Mangrove Bayou (Mangrove Bayou, #1), Death Among the Mangroves (Mangrove Bayou, #2) (Florida mystery)
  • Allan Drake: Harriet’s Journey (general fiction)
  • Chris Widdop: Velrco: The Ninja Ka, Velrco: The Green Lion, Velrco: The Masquerade (middle school fantasy)
  • Liza M. Garcia: Never Drink Coffee During a Business Meeting (business book to help get promoted or for the new grads)
  • Ana Aluisy: Reinvent Your Relationship: A Therapist’s Insights in Having
    the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted




Saturday, February 3, from 6-8 p.m. St. Petersburg. Books at Park Place (I might be there a little earlier). Click here for the Facebook event listing. And a personal note: For some time now, these folks have had to deal with having the road torn up in front of their store. Let’s turn out and support them!

Painful Research

May 23rd, 2016 | Posted by Steve in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Talk about painful research! I decided that, as I write police procedural mysteries, I need to know more about police procedures. And — guess what? — there’s a procedure for that.

My ‘Citizens Academy’ class at the Tampa Police Department learned about Tasers the other day. I still have the dart-marks in my back. They lit me up, and some others too, to demonstrate just how it feels. It feels bad. Paralyzing pain for five seconds while two friends hang onto your arms so you don’t fall down. I learned some things:

1. Taser time is MUCH longer than regular time. When I thought five seconds had passed the instructor called out, “Two.”

2. We also learned about “Tased-induced Tourettes” when most people not only screamed but usually screamed out nasty curse words.

Mangrove Bayou's photo.3. Anyone who agrees to hold onto you is a friend. The electrical current does not transfer from person to person (normally) and your two friends keep you from doing a face-splat on the ground.

4. Wear an old tee-shirt. Or no shirt at all. My old shirt ended up bloody and with small holes from the two darts. Some hydrogen peroxide got most of the blood out later.

5. I felt a pleasant … lassitude … hours after. Understandable, as my entire skeletal muscle system had just been tightly clenched and it was like having a workout without the workout.

Useful experience (for me; I can’t understand why anyone else would want it) because the next day I rewrote some parts of Mangrove Bayou #6 to correct or better describe several scenes with a Taser.

The sacrifices we authors make for you, the reader!

Supreme Court rejects Apple e-books price-fixing appealapplearrow

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Apple Inc’s challenge to an appellate court decision that
it conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices, meaning it will have to pay $450 million as part of a settlement. … The Justice Department said the scheme caused some e-book prices to rise to $12.99 or $14.99 from the $9.99 price previously charged by market leader Amazon.com Inc.

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