Saturday, November 14, 2020

Latest news- audio, Zoom talks, and more

So much going on these days, most of it good stuff, for a change...

Editing services now available. Make your manuscript better, at an affordable cost.

Contact me for details and rates.

Two Zoom events coming up:

And I've got recent audiobooks out, with more on the way!
Some are free with an Audible trial membership!

  • Deadly Encounters- 3 Zack Taylor stories
  • The Return of Fear- 5 Scary Tales
  • Neptune City- A Mystery- Coming soon
  • Five Fingers of Fear- 5 Scary Tales- Coming soon
  • How to be a Successful Indie Writer- Non-Fiction writing help- Coming soon

Friday, October 30, 2020

Stephen King for Halloween

Scary time of year, isn't it? More so than usual. Much more horror this year. Death seems ever closer.

Here it's SNOWING (a lot) on the day before Halloween-- which has been cancelled, anyway.

Along with our Samhain firepit celebration with friends... too much COVID for safety.

Freezing and miserable. Ugh. No fun. All-around frownie-face emojis.

So here's a little something fun. It's an article I wrote a long time back on having Stephen King as my writing teacher, back at the University of Maine, when he returned to teach for a year. 

And yes, it was awesome. Even more than it sounds. Best part of my college career. 

Pics from his talk at UMass Lowell- and I cannot believe that was 8 YEARS ago. 

Photos courtesy of Anne Kuthmann and Bruce Lepore.

For a post on that night, and meeting him years later, go here.

My Teacher, Stephen King

(First Published in Parlour Papers, July/Aug 1994)

The University of Maine at Orono was a great place to be in the late 70’s. The turbulent activism of the 60’s had quieted down and the campus had yet to experience the horrors of the 80’s Yuppie greed and the 90’s politically correct agendas.

It was announced in my junior year that Stephen King would be returning to his alma mater to teach for a year as a writer-in-residence. He had had a few hits out and was well-known, but had yet to explode into the megastardom of later years.

It was easy to get into his literature course in horror/science fiction, but I needed his permission for the writing seminar. Off I went to his on-campus office to plead my case (and ask him to sign a few books).

Stephen King is not one of those celebrities who are told “I thought you would be taller” when people meet him for the first time. His height and his eyes are what keep him from going unnoticed. He doesn’t need capes, or fangs, or skeletons to illustrate what he does. He just looks at you (or the camera) and focuses those intense, slightly out-of-kilter eyes through thick glasses, and you get a little nervous. When he smiles, you shiver and go check the children to make sure they’re safe. He knows what effect he has and likes to ham it up a little when he’s in the mood. Nervous as I was, he soon put me at my ease and graciously consented to my requests.

The literature course was an excellent study of fiction that shaped the genre, and King provided a well-versed and enthusiastic instructor.  As good as the literature course was, however, I was even happier having my writing critiqued by a writer whose work I enjoyed. King told us right from the start that we were going to write a lot, and we churned out an immense amount of work within a fairly brief time. All of this King read and commented on, and returned in short order, while keeping up with his other classes and writing his own works. This should give you some idea of why he has been so astonishingly prolific over the years.

I had never drilled so hard in writing, before or since. To produce enough work, I had to constantly think of new ideas, create new characters, and plot story after story. King was helpful without being condescending or handholding. He is not a subscriber (as are some writers) to the belief that constantly tearing apart someone’s work makes better writers. Rather, he told you in plain language when writing wasn’t working and why it wasn’t working. When you turned out something good, he was delighted and encouraged you to do more of the same. We made plenty of mistakes, but we learned a great deal. Not unsurprisingly, I wrote horror stories almost exclusively.

Why does someone choose to write horror? Because he or she has a way of looking at the world with a fascination for things macabre. A comedian looks at life and draws humor from situations; an artist may constantly seek the relationship of figures and color. The answer to the inane question ‘Where do you get your ideas?” is “All around.” A horror writer looks at a nasty machine in a laundry and imagines what it could do to human flesh. Then the idea comes of how the machine becomes alive, seeking victims to mangle. The frightening part is how easy it is to look at the world this way. Gahan Wilson turned life into funny macabre cartoons. Stephen King puts nightmares into stories.

The popularity of horror today illustrates just how many others share this same way of looking at the world. After scraping out a meager living at teaching and other odd jobs, King finally got a book published, and then another, and so on. He got very lucky and makes a good living writing whatever he wants, but he didn’t get there overnight. He hammered out dozens of stories while polishing his craft and sold them cheaply to whoever would publish them. In those days the usual buyers of horror fiction were “men’s” magazines.

Writing as he does, King makes the task look easy. Sure—just a matter of sitting down at the old Underwood (or computer terminal or Big Chief writing tablet) day after day, week after week, until the months and years roll by, spinning yarns that people want to read. Lots of people can do it, but the successful ones are those who give up that huge part of their lives to pound away at the keyboard. King has said it’s like weightlifting: if you do it properly and long enough, you’ll develop muscles. After say, 10,000 pages or so, you should be able to write something fairly decent. If not, maybe you should give up writing in favor of some other hobby, or something more rewarding.

“So what’s he like?” This is a common question from people when they hear I took classes from him. He’s very laid-back, self-deprecating, witty, and plain-spoken. He dresses comfortably and casually, with no eye to fashion, much like most of the people in Maine. He likes watching the Red Sox and popping a brewski (at least in those days) now and then. He loves the crusty old downhome sayings that abound in Maine and elsewhere, and uses them in his writings. He likes movies, especially the bad old stuff of the 1950’s, with monsters and aliens threatening our American way of life (and of course, the local teen beach party). He reads a lot—as good writers do—and can discuss horror and many other subjects with a depth and breadth of knowledge that is astounding. He has been married to the same woman for years, and has raised children. So what is it about him that attracts people’s attention?

The first is fame. When a person reaches celebrity status, people want to know what it is that makes them special, sets them apart. But more importantly is his subject matter. He revels in the stuff many people don’t want to think about. He’s the one telling the scary tale by the campfire, the one who turns over the rock and peers beneath, the one who pokes the dead animal with a stick. He is an explorer into the dark and terrifying chthonic world. He makes you face the shadowy fears of our unconscious.

The first thing I read by King was Salem’s Lot, recommended by a librarian, and to my mind, one of his best works. The vampire story was great (admittedly owing much to Dracula and Invasion of the Body Snatchers), but better for me was the dead-on rendering of small-town life in Maine. Having had that background, I felt a real connection to the setting. King created ordinary characters, made us care about them, and put them into extraordinary situations. King’s first book, Carrie, was more than a teen revenge fantasy, it was a scathing indictment of the brutality and pettiness of high school hierarchies. After that, the books came so fast it was hard to keep up with them.

Even high school kids, who read little, read Stephen King. He suffers the sin of being popular, and of having a “non-serious” genre. But his success and output continue to amaze everyone, including himself. Not bad for a writer who admits his work is the literary equivalent of junk food. He does, however, pay homage to the masters, and has now become the standard by which others are gauged.

There are many imitators riding his coattails. Most of them dispense with character, and plot, and originality, and spend their time describing various dismemberments of human forms. I once received an unsolicited tape in the mail from some of these “Grand Guignol” writers reading their works and requesting I purchase some of the same. The only horror I discovered was that someone thought this hack garbage was worth money. With cardboard characters, bad plots, developments you could see coming like a slow-moving train, and dialogue that alternated between filth and the level of a not-too-bright 12-year-old, it was repulsive. I threw it away in disgust, wondering if these people actually thought they could make a living writing this way. Is it too much to ask for a modicum of effort and imagination? Lazy writers looking for a quick buck shouldn’t get your money. Demand and seek out quality work.

The way Stephen King writes, you think that the movies made from his horror books would be blockbusters. The scenes he presents should look great on film, but many turn out to be simply embarrassing. The most awful ones have characters attempting and failing a Maine accent. They end up sounding like deranged Englishmen with a speech impediment. Most of the directors with a King horror vehicle don’t seem to know what to do with it. After watching maniacs with weapons chop up teens by the score, maybe it’s time for something different.

Stephen King’s writing has brought him fame, which has proven at times an annoyance, or worse. He used to be amused at the fan mail he received, strange as it was. Many people wanted to know where Salem’s Lot was, and insisted that it exists. Guess they wanted to sign up for the Undead Foreign Legion. King bought a house pretty far up in Maine, whimsically decorated with bat-wing gates. Hordes of fans would troop around, hoping for a glimpse (“I actually saw him MOWING HIS LAWN!”) King has found out that real loonies can get into your house and need to have the authorities take them away.

If you’re a celebrity like King, you can never relax in public. Autograph hounds will shove books in your face whether you’re trying to have a meal, watch a ball game, or even go to the bathroom. Heaven help you if you don’t smile and be charming, because the offended one will go whine to the tabloids about what a nasty person you really are. And the press is always waiting for a quick hatchet job, justified or not.

King does actually manage to be nice to people most of the time. I ran into him several years after college, and he remembered me from class. He was so well- known that he could not teach again, as he did for that one glorious year. I think back on that time, remembering the lessons, and working for the day when a book of mine is published. King has demonstrated just how far someone can go with a lot of hard work and some luck. He has also proven that success doesn’t have to spoil you, and you don’t have to step on people on the way up. In his example are lessons for us all.

Happy Halloween folks. Let's hope we can have non-deadly gatherings by the next one.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

MORE Spooky Tales in a NEW collection- just in time for Halloween!

 Something about the horror of our current situation is creating fertile ground for good escapist fiction.

Just published another short collection of 5 tales of horror- just made the Halloween deadline! 

I mean, I already posted a bunch of good options for reading or listening recently. 

So now check this out- you can snag it on Kindle for the price of a coffee.

Five Fingers of Fear

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Spooky Tales for Halloween

 Hello all you boys and ghouls!

We are approaching Halloween, and so you need something spooky to read- or to listen to.

I know, current events are scary enough, but these tales will get your mind off real horrors for a time.

Gotta tell you, putting out all the lights and sitting in the dark, listening to a scary tale is really a terrific experience. Give the audiobooks a try.

And so here are a few things to consider- if you dare!

For a longer work, try Shadow of the Wendigo- but not just before bed. Two readers have told me they had nightmares after absorbing this. So you've been warned. 

(May also cause woods excursion avoidance...)

Oh- and even better- FREE with an Audible trial- more great listening!

For 10 tales of pure scary, try Halls of Horror

Also FREE with an Audible trial. 

Dedicated the book to Stephen King, who I had as a writing instructor in college at UMO! 

Just for fun, here's an article I wrote about that.

For 5 more tales of terror, go for the latest- The Return of Fear

And yes, this one is also FREE with an Audible trial. 

How's that for a bargain bag of scares? 

Happy Haunting! 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Events- You CAN have a fun Zoom Meeting!

 Tonight I'm moderating a Zoom Making a Mystery panel, where we take audience suggestions to build a mystery with talented authors. 

Register here:

Sponsored by the Sisters in Crime and the Groton Library.

The Tewksbury Library is sponsoring a new Writer's Group, which I'll be facilitating. 

Next online event is Tuesday, Oct 20th, at 7.

Guest speaker- author Ursula Wong

Register here:

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Spooky Stories for Halloween- With Free option!

What a month! It's been a thorough up and down fright ride, for sure.

So tired of all the real horror.

To get your mind off that, here's some fictional scary stuff that you can read- or listen to.

Just in time for Halloween month!

My collection of five short stories, The Return of Fear, is now available as an audiobook!

Narrated by the talented Ken Strecker, a perfect break to give you some chills.

Better yet, you can get it for FREE with a no-cost Audible trial!
(Or just 6 bucks without- the price of a sub!)

Happy Halloween!

Friday, September 4, 2020

More Happenings- Books, Features, New Groups

Hello Campers! Many more writerly events happening.

With print books not being easy to sell face-to-face these days, have not needed to order many. But some bookstores, like Letterpress Books up in Portland, Maine, are selling online, and so requested some of my latest. I've been busy since the shutdown in March, publishing one novel and two story collections (while working on two other novels and a big non-fiction book)!

Recently, I got my first sellable print copies for all three of the latest in one batch!
Neptune City
Deadly Encounters
The Return of Fear

They look great! Both story collections are in audiobook production, and should be available soon.

To top off the latest highs of a great interview with Linda McHenry and a terrific review of A Sharp Medicine from Big Al's Books and Pals site, I was also featured on the blog of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime.

More coming up- the Tewksbury Library is sponsoring a new Writer's Group, which I'll be facilitating. Our first online event is Tuesday, Sept. 15th, at 7.

Registration is required. Register by calling 978-640-4490,
emailing or visiting the online
calendar of events at

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Great Review- and Video Trailer for Interview- and a Mystery Making Panel- and a new audiobook

Lots of news---

Great review for A Sharp Medicine (#5 in the Zack Taylor series) from one of the popular reviewing bloggers!

And here's a wicked cool video trailer for my upcoming interview with Linda McHenry's writer's podcast:

Air date for the full interview is Wednesday, August 26th.

We had a great time at the Wilmington Library-and Sisters in Crime- sponsored Mystery Making Panel, with fellow authors Connie Johnson Hambley, Edith Maxwell, and Lorraine Nelson.
There's a recording of that available. Contact the library for more information.

And my audio book for Deadly Encounters- 3 Zack Taylor Stories should be available this coming week.
Narrated by Daniel Fagan.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Help an Iconic Bookstore

It comes as no surprise to most that established businesses are hurting from the blow to in-store shopping. One particularly hard-hit center is the New England Mobile Book Fair, our local beloved meeting place for readers and writers. They have been great for the community, and more than generous to patrons and area writers. They've held in-store music classes, and many programs, giving artists of all stripes a venue to meet the public. They're an important piece of culture for our region.

Like many others, they've been socked from the drop in revenue. They've started a GoFundMe campaign to see if they can stay alive. If you can, please consider a donation to this worthy cause. Please help spread the word to all readers who love books and support the places to get them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Two new books out!

The way I deal with this plague is to get more books out for you to read.

So here are the latest- and each is about the price of a coffee! Enjoy!

(Print coming soon, and audiobooks are up for narrator auditions!)

Grieving over a past tragedy, troubled ex-con Zack Taylor has spent a lifetime in the shadows. He has finally found a measure of peace in Maine, helping others as a way of dealing with his grief, guilt, and rage. But he finds even simple problems have unintended consequences, and danger lurks in the most unlikely places. 

In these three tales, Zack encounters murderous individuals who hide below a surface of normality. He uncovers more than he bargained for at every turn, and must deal with the fallout of taking on deadly people willing to kill. 

And The Return of Fear: A 5 Story Collection  (scary stories)

Here are five scary stories about different types of terrors that haunt us. Some are deserved, some come from pits of evil for the innocent. These tales come together for the first time to keep you up at night. Enjoy the ride on the scary rollercoaster. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Mystery Making Panels!

This Summer, I'll be taking part in two Mystery Making online panels.

These fun events are hosted by the Sisters in Crime, and we have a panel of authors taking suggestions from the audience to build a mystery on the spot! Improv time!

Held via Zoom, the audience logs in and contributes as we cobble together character names, plots, ideas, and scenarios for a group effort on a new mystery. Listeners get to see how different concepts shape the mystery type and tone, and how one idea can spark a whole new direction.

We usually come up with some good stuff- I wrote a killer story based on a character name from one of these, and usually get ideas for a few more things.

We used to do these in person, but now it's more convenient for folks to log on and take part, even from far away. So come join the fun!

Saturday, July 25, 2020, 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM
Zoom event given by A Freethinker's Corner
652 Central Ave, ste. 1 Dover, NH  03820

In this fun, fast-paced improv game, a virtual event on Zoom, authors Coralie Jensen, Linda Shenton Matchett, Maureen Milliken, and Dale T. Phillips, will brainstorm to construct a brand new mystery using suggestions from the audience.

Thursday, August 20, 2020, 7:00 PM until 8:30 PM
Wilmington Memorial Library (virtual event, link given upon request to
175 Middlesex Ave. Wilmington, MA  01887

In the fun, fast-paced improv virtual event, authors, Connie Hambley, Edith Maxwell, Dale T. Phillips, and Lorraine Sharma Nelson, will brainstorm to create a brand new mystery, using suggestions from the audience.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Summer Sale!

Happy Summer everyone. Hope all is well where you are.

To celebrate Summer, I'm dropping the ebook price for two Zack Taylor collections:

Each book is 3 Zack Taylor mystery novels in one, for the low, low price of $4.99.

Happy Summer reading! 


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Noir at the Bar 2020

Years ago, a few of us area mystery writers had fun reading our work at a Noir at the Bar, our local contribution to a nationwide series of short public readings at popular watering holes in local taverns. Later, I attended another one up in Maine, also a good time.

In this time of Plague, it's now a virtual event. You log on to see authors read their works remotely, with your own choice of beverage. Everyone stays safe, but we get a good night of excellent reads by top authors.

So our recent one was outstanding, hosted by authors Edwin Hill and Daniel Ford.
with readings from authors such as: Edith Maxwell, Paula Munier, Dale T. Phillips, Barbara Ross, Bonnar Spring, Phil Temples, and John Vercher.

If you missed it, you can still give a listen on the excellent writer site Writer's Bone: 

There will be others upcoming!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

My New Book!

Good news for a change. To give everyone something to read, I've got a new book out.

Neptune City- A Mystery. Can you tell by the cover?

When LA detective Jim Lloyd reluctantly returns to his NJ hometown for a final funeral, he is pulled into his troubled past, and a world of secrets, deceit, and danger.

Out in all ebook formats, at Amazon, and Smashwords.
Print coming soon.

Hope you like it.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Free audio for good listening

Hello All- hope you're staying safe and sane in this time of the plague.

Obviously all public gatherings are cancelled, which includes a number of shows and book signings. Miss not seeing my fans and connecting with new ones.

It's tough trying to create meaningful art in a time where the world seems to be crashing down around us. Have heard that many writers and creators are experiencing similar creative difficulty, like scribbling in a notebook while the deck of the Titanic tilts ever more.

A lot of people need to be distracted from the constant flow of bad and terrifying news.
And so, for a time, all my audio books are FREE! Good listening.

Check out my books and story collections on If you don't have an account yet, it's easy to set up a trial-- and get some free audios for doing so. Find one you'd like, and let me know-I'll send you a free code.

Enjoy, be nice to others, stay physically isolated, and we'll see you when the crisis has passed. Remember that all plagues eventually peter out, even though the world changes because of it.
How about we make it a better world?

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bruce Coffin at the NE Mobile Book Fair

Terrific Maine mystery author Bruce Robert Coffin drove down from Portland to give a talk and sign books at the NE Mobile Book Fair.
To see an interview with Bruce, click here.

Bruce with supportive spouse Karen

Great turnout, including some of his friends from the local branches of the Mystery Writers of America and the Sisters in Crime.

Owner Tom Lyons, glad to provide copies for happy book buyers. 
This is Bruce's fourth Byron book, Within Plain Sight.

Bruce always gives an engaging reading and talk

Bruce has lots of friends in the writing community. 
Here he is with superstar author Hank Phillippi Ryan

And Hank with spouse Jonathan

Thriller author Joanna Schaffhausen dropped by, with daughter Eleanor
To see an interview with Joanna, click here

More stars: Hallie Ephron and Edwin Hill

And Dandy Don Kaplan
To see an interview with Don, click here

Jay Roberts, reviewer of good books and music, also was present

Edwin and Hank

After his talk and reading, Bruce signed books for his fans before heading back to Maine.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Rhode Island Author Show

We had a good time at the Rhode Island Author Show last week, at the Cumberland Library.
Thanks to Aaron Coutu and all the staff who made it possible.

Lots of authors old and new, with the public coming in to browse and buy.

We had a good showing from the NE chapter of Sisters in Crime, with a few members.

Debut author Nicole Asselin, with her mom on the right and Barbara Struna behind in the middle.

Barbara again

Eliza Carter, second from right

My display

For those interested, Wayne Barber has a show where he features authors. Contact him for more info.