Assume the Position

Here’s a snippet from my black comedy, Assume the Postion, coming soon to all the ususal outlets. Stay tuned.

We buried Rick Johnson—tried to—just after ten o’clock on a Sunday morning. It was raining, the first rain Southern California had seen in two weeks. The grass was squishy underfoot as I trailed Rick’s relatives up the soggy San Bernardino hillside toward the grave. I slipped once and went down on my hands and knees. My new gray suit was smeared with mud, the shine was gone from my wingtips. Nobody offered to help me up. I got up and straightened my tie with a muddy hand, making things worse.

The group around the grave was small, less than a dozen. Rick’s lacquered ivory casket glowed like a magic mushroom under a white canvas awning. The   box didn’t look long enough to accommodate his six-foot-seven inch frame.

He had lain undiscovered in his New Orleans apartment for two weeks. Poor bastard. Heart attack at thirty-two. Rotting away in the heat—Jesus, I didn’t even want to go there.



Write, you writers, Write.

This piece appeared first in 2009. Still relevant, sadly enough.

The national economy is leaking on the sheets.   Everybody knows that.   The publishing industry is circling the bowl    Everybody knows that.    So why write?     Here’s why. Whatever happens, you’ll be better off with a top-notch book to sell when things get better. Your psyche will be strengthened as your writing skills improve. It will be two years before anything you’re working on now sees the light of publication. Things might well be a lot better. Even if they’re not, you will have gained just by the affirmative act of writing itself.     Your goal for today: Cease whining about the state of the world. Even if you have to use both sides of your yellow pad and sharpen your pencil with your teeth, HIT THOSE KEYS.     The awful state economic affairs is nothing to laugh about, but take your nose out of the Business Weekly and keep polishing that book.     You’ll be a better person for it. To accomplish this mission, of course, you will have to WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED.   Godspeed,    John

Santa Barbara Winners

Congrats to the winners. Great style, great creativity. Still time to register for the conference, but you better hurry!

After reviewing over 200 entries into SBWC’s 2012 Best Opening Contest, we’ve named one winner and two runner-ups.

  • First Place: Melanie Thorne

We compare scars like war veterans, replay our history by the marks in our skin. At night, quietly so Mom can’t hear, we trace the raised flesh road maps of our lives and whisper our stories into the dark.

  • Runner-ups: Christina Gessler & Chris Westphal

From Christina Gessler: “Of course the average man doesn’t take his dead lover for a spin in a hot-wired hearse,” Sheila Miller told the district attorney, “but I did not raise my Robert to be average.”

From Chris Westphal: Destiny approached Tom Huttle like a door-to-door salesman: furtive, eager, a little rumpled. It had something special for Tom, yes indeed; something that he really needed, something just perfect for him, if only he would take a look.

Characters in a Nutshell

The core of your character is character’s ability to CARE ABOUT SOMETHING. To feel implicitly or explicitly that something is important.

Give your character something that looms important to him or her.

Plunge your character into a situation that challenges the part of him that cares, or threatens the thing he feels is important.

Give a character so compulsive a desire to make a given change that she can’t let it be. Then you have the basis for a story.

Still time to sign up for Santa Barbara

Enter the 40th Annual SBWC Scholarship Contest – Best Opening


Dear Writers,

Enter the 40th Annual SBWC Scholarship Contest! Send us your BEST OPENING, up to 40 words — a beginning most likely to compel a reader to turn the page.

  • Email all entries to:
  • Please include contact information: name, phone number, email address, & mailing address
  • All genres welcome
  • This must be your original work, published or unpublished
  • Winner receives a tuition scholarship to the 40th Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and a signed copy of Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina
  • No entry fee
  • Contest Begins: Today!
  • Deadline: Friday, June 1st, Midnight (PST)
  • Winner Announced: Saturday, June 2nd

“I think your opening is enormously important. You’ve got to write a first line that will haunt you. It’s got to be magic.” – Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina, and keynote speaker at SBWC 2012


Please share this opportunity with writers you know.