Pouring Over Books: Event for Dripping Springs Community Library

Friends of Dripping Springs Lib

Next month I’m going to join with the Friends of the Dripping Springs Community Library at a fundraising event. It’s “Pouring Over Books” — a great way to combine wine tasting with support for a local library.

The event is open to the public, and if you’d like to come along and support the Dripping Springs Community Library, try some fine wines, and hear me talk a bit, I’d love to see you. The library would love it even more.

Pouring Over Books
Sunday, October 19, 2014
4 – 6 PM
Triple Creek Ranch
Dripping Springs, Texas

Bonus: Music by the Hill Country Ramblers.

Hope to see some of you there.

Suspense Magazine asks me questions

Suspense Mag

The September 2014 issue of Suspense Magazine has interviews with some very cool authors, including Dennis Lehane, Joseph Finder, and Gregg Hurwitz. They also talked to me.

S. MAG.: Which character in “Phantom Instinct” surprised you with having a larger voice than you thought they would?

M.G.: Oscar Sierra, the black-hat hacker. When I outlined the novel, he appeared in one scene—and died in it. But when I wrote the first draft, he came to life as a goofy, brilliant, strangely innocent cyber-thief. He’s corrupt but lovable. And he’s Harper’s
lifelong friend. When it came time for him to die, he walked into his kitchen, just like in the outline. But instead of getting shot, he opened the door, bolted down the steps, and sprinted for his life.

Plenty more at the link: Meg Gardiner — Be Ready To Stay Up All Night.

Monday writing links

For your edification and entertainment: some stories about writers and writing.

Deadspin rounds up the opening lines from all of Elmore Leonard’s novels.

My favorite: “Chris Mankowski’s last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb.” —Freaky Deaky (1988)

Leonard was the master. Every one of his books opens in mid-stride, in the heart of the action, and trusts readers to grab hold and hang on for the ride. And what a ride he always gave us. Now that I’ve read through the list, I’m going to print it out for the students at the writing workshop I’m teaching next month.

Second, in Lit Reactor, Max Booth III summarizes every Stephen King novel in 140 characters or less.

Firestarter (1980)
A 426 page lesson about why children shouldn’t play with fire.

Third, The Toast reveals How to Tell if You’re in a MFA Workshop Story.

You are a young man driving across the country, thinking about the women in your life and the various ways in which they have disappointed you.

You saw something horrifying at the circus.

Sometimes you think about just picking up and leaving this filthy city, but then one morning you wake up and watch the sky turn from narcissus-white to the delicate, throbbing, vein-purple hues of the nodding heads of crocuses and irises, the ones you remember picking from your mother’s garden when you were still young and unafraid, and there above the Gowanus you see a map of your future, your past, and your heart (but not in an overwrought or sentimental way.)

Finally, here’s something of a mystery.

Harry Potter Christian Fanfic Goes Viral.

Grace Ann, the author of a Harry Potter story on a fanfiction site, says that she is a Christian mother who was afraid the Harry Potter series would turn her kids into witches. Her solution, she says, was to rewrite the series in a Christian way. In an elaborate piece of satire, Harry’s aunt and uncle are turned into evil evolutionists, and young Potter, a wide-eyed obedient boy, says the sinner’s prayer and is whisked off by the very manly Hagrid to Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles.

The big question: is Grace Ann’s rewrite actually satire, or for real?

“Christians are people who want to be good,” Hagrid explained wisely; and crouched down so he was on eye level with Harry. “We want to go to heaven after we die. Do you know what heaven is, Harry?”

Harry shook his head; and his big eyes were wide and curious.

“Heaven is a beautiful place where we can be with God.”

Aunt Petunia smacked her hands over Harry’s young ears; and her voice was sickly sweet when she said, “Thank you very much for your concern, sir, but he does not need your religion, he has science and socialism and birthdays. Haven’t you heard of Evolution? I have a very good textbook on Evolution that I could give you on it if you would like to learn things.”

Hagrid laughed wisely. “Evolution is a fairytale. You don’t really believe that, do you?”

“Yes, I do!” Aunt Petunia screeched.

“Well then prove it!”

Aunt Petunia could only stare at him; and her big mouth hung open dumbly.

I think it has to be satire. What do you think?

UPDATE — September 23, 2014: Snopes reserves judgment. “While there is indeed a Christian Harry Potter fanfiction story circulating the internet, it isn’t entirely clear whether the writer’s intent was satirical or straightforward.”

“Big Dogs and Big Ideas”

Sinc Talk Recycled Reads

A few weeks ago I presented a program in Austin for Sisters in Crime’s Heart of Texas chapter. Here’s a write up of the first half of my talk.

The Gardiner Chronicles

In order to complete a 95,000-word novel, Meg Gardiner needed a compelling main character and a big idea to hang her story on. “It only took me decades to learn that,” laughs Gardiner, the Edgar-winning, best-selling thriller author of Phantom Instinct.

Gardiner’s parents were teachers who encouraged her writing in a pragmatic way. “My dad’s car was full of books, the trunk and back seat. I thought everyone lived like this.”

More at the link.

Apropos of nothing: a photo of a giant donut

Big Donut

No context for you!

I took this photo a few days ago. I thought you might like to see it. Movie fans: can you name the film in which this sign wreaks havoc on the streets of Los Angeles?

10 books that have stayed with me

On another social media hangout (the one founded by Mark Zuckerberg), several friends and relatives tagged me to play a game. Fortunately, it didn’t involve breaking and entering, or even singing in public. The challenge: name 10 books that have stayed with me over the years.

Here’s my list:

The Stand, Stephen King
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe
Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand
Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
Get Shorty, Elmore Leonard
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
A Stained White Radiance, James Lee Burke
The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes

These aren’t the only books that have stayed with me, of course. They’re ten that really packed a punch. They’re books I’ve read more than once, or shoved excitedly into friends’ hands, insisting that they be read now. They’re books that have haunted and inspired me for years.

If anybody else feels like playing: add your list in the comments.

Texas Book Festival, here I come


I’m happy to announce that I’ll be taking part in the 2014 Texas Book Festival. No, that’s inaccurate. I’m honored, jazzed, and stoked that the festival has invited me. Tens of thousands of book lovers will descend on the festival next month. 275 authors have been asked to take part. It’s really great that I’m one of them.

The festival takes place in Austin, on the State Capitol grounds. It runs the weekend of October 25-26.

And it’s free. So come on down, y’all. I’d love to see you.