21 November 2017

A Writer’s Thanksgiving

Well, since Thanksgiving is in a couple of days I thought I’d write about what I, as a writer in particular, am thankful for. We all have things in our “regular” lives to be thankful for, so this column will address specifically some of what this writer has to be thankful for:
Computers: Whoa! I can’t say enough about this one. Changed my life. I’ve mentioned before how when personal PCs came out I thought they were just another silly toy. Then my former writing partner got one and I saw him move a paragraph from one page to another and I was hooked. How much better than literally cutting and pasting with scissors and white out. (Of course I’m sorry for Mike Nesmith and his mom, who invented white out, but I think they’re doing okay anyway.) So I was the second person I knew to get a PC: two floppy drives, wow! And we know how far computers have come from those days. Now your phone is a mini-computer.

Microsoft Word: When I started out on that dual floppy computer I used a word processing program called XyWrite, which I really liked. But it didn’t weather the transition to GUI programs like Windows. So I switched to Word. One can complain about both Microsoft and Word plenty, but overall they’ve made my life a hell of a lot easier.

Paying Markets: In the ye olden days of the mid-20th century writers could actually make a living selling short stories. That’s not really true anymore. There aren’t a lot of paying markets. No one would think of not paying their doctor or plumber, but for some reason people don’t think writers’ work is worth paying for. Sure, sometimes they’re struggling themselves, but even a token payment would be nice. When I was teaching screenwriting seminars on occasion I would always tell the students not to work for free. And, though I have published with non-paying markets it’s definitely better to get paid. So thanks to Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock (and others)—magazines that still pay and still publish short stories. Long may they live!

Assistants: I’m most grateful for all the wonderful assistants I’ve had over the years. A variety of dogs and cats, who’ve kept me company, provided inspiration, and sometimes aggravation, but have always been wonderful companions and who make the solitude of writing much more bearable. And who, on occasion, have tripped the light fantastic over the keyboard and probably added a little extra dazzle to my writing.
One of my former assistants

My current assistants

Kindle and E-publishing:  I have mixed feelings on this one. Yes, I prefer hard copy books, though I read about 50-50 these days between those and e-books. But e-publishing has opened the door for lots of people to read my scintillating syntax (or is that sin tax).  And it’s kind of cool to be able to go on a trip and bring 100 books along so I can read whatever I feel like. And even more cool to be able to buy a book at 3am and have it in my cyber-hands faster than you can say “Amazon-one-click”.

Social Media/Facebook/Twitter: Aside from the marketing benefits of social media, it’s a great way for writers, who are pretty much a solitary bunch of people, to be able to get together at the cyber “water cooler” to chat, share ideas, happy moments, sad moments, laughter and opinions—sometimes too many damn opinions…. I’ve made many friends across the country (and the world for that matter) and figure there’s someone I could have lunch with almost anywhere in the country and in many parts of the world.  Of course, as with anything, there’s always some jerks and trolls in the bunch. And to those people I say CENSORED.

The Internet: In a word—research. I love being able to research everything on the internet. From
murder methods, to maps, history, music and how-to videos on You-Tube. Of course some of those how to videos are how to play this or that guitar or bass part or just watching a bunch of old clips of rock bands. As for murder methods, I hope the police never have to search my computer—I’m guilty. Guilty. Guilty of researching heinous methods of offing people. But what better way for a writer to procrastinate and call it work!

Smart Phones & tablets: At first I was reluctant to get a smart phone, but now I love being able to check my e-mail on the go, post photos on Instagram of my doctor’s waiting room while I wait and wait and wait, like the people trying to get an exit visa out of Casablanca, for the doc to show up. Or snap a picture of the traffic jam I’m stuck in on the drive home. And while I never want to become one of those people with their noses glued to their cell phones all day and all of the night (to borrow a line from the Kinks), I am grateful for the little distractions both the phone and tablet provide and how I can stay connected even when I’m away from my computer. Oh, and thankful for Android. I love that all my Google contacts, etc., are integrated across all my devices.

Support from Friends and Fellow Writers:  I’m thankful for all the friends and writers who have supported me and cheered me on, read my books and stories, nominated me for awards and voted for my writing, given me great reviews, interviewed me, published me in their magazines, given me space on their blogs (including this one: shout out to Leigh and Rob and everyone else here!), congratulated me on FB, liked my FB posts, shared my good news and sympathized when bad things happened, and on and on. Grateful, too, for Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, et al. Writing is a lonely profession and the support of friends who understand the struggles of a writer is…to quote a famous commercial…priceless…

And last but not least: My wife, the indomitable, inimitable, indefatigable, intrepid and on occasion infuriating ;-) when she wants me to rewrite things (but she’s almost always right), Amy, who has stood by me through thick and thin. Who, though not a writer, is my number one reader, number one editor, number one fan and number one supporter. And who puts up both with me general (a job in itself) and as a writer (another job in itself as all the significant others of writers are well aware).

So, Thank You All And Have A Wonderful Thanksgiving!



  1. So right. Right down the line.

    1. My wife is my closest confidant, first reader, first supporter. Model for many of my covers. She's there for me all the time.
    2. Bought my first computer (Apple Iic) Moved to Macintosh and MS Word and it changed everything in my writing.
    3. Cats. Lots of cats over the years.
    4. e-publishings restarted my career and I have 66 books and short stories up on Kindle. My writing's out there, man.
    5. Internet, si, signore. Never would have been able to write historical novels without it.
    6. Smart phone and iPad - use all the time.
    7. Support from readers - not as much as I'd like but people just don't read a lot today - unfortunately.

    Thanks for listing all these. Made me think.

  2. Thanks, O'Neil. 66 books and stories: wow! And it sounds like we're on the same track. Except my wife hasn't posed for any book covers. I'll have to talk to her about that...

  3. Hi Paul,

    As a retired teacher and librarian, I am thankful I now have the time to write full-time.

  4. Jacqueline, I think you found the best thing of all to be grateful for. Time is the one of the biggest luxuries we have.

  5. All good wishes for thanksgiving and for many more down the road.

  6. Great post! And I think this covers many of the things I'm thankful for as well. And I'd add your friendship in there, Paul! I've been bad about keeping in touch lately, but think of you often and grateful for our conversations. Looking forward to more ahead!

  7. Great post, Paul!
    I give thanks for computers, clocks, streaming music, my husband, and all my friends at SleuthSayers! huzzah!

  8. Paul, all good things to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all.

    I started writing on yellow legal pads and did the cut and tape routine which meant some pages were longer than others. My first computer was an AT&T 6300 with the two disk operation and Word Star. My oldest son once stayed up all night (last minute) to write a high school research paper. When he printed it out on the Dot Matrix printer, everything had somehow changed to machine language. I had to write him an excuse (sick) from school so he could stay home and redo the paper. Times and technology have changed.

  9. Great column, Paul. Like you, I have much to be thankful for, this year. Family, home, friends, and a fun-if-not-high-income second career.

    Have a wonderful holiday!

  10. Great Blog post Paul. We're Thankful for You and your words.

  11. It was like looking in a mirror, Paul, except I see Richard instead of Amy, but the rest is pretty much what I'm thankful for. Don't have an iPhone ...yet, but the gadgets have facilitated research and communication while I toil away at the Remington (otherwise known as my computer). Happy Thanksgiving.

  12. You really nailed it, Paul:

    Spice (plural of spouses, right?), pets, computers, the Internet, readers, and a writing network. Mystery writers are the most generous people on earth.

    Thanks for reminding us.

  13. Affordable computers and online research have made my career as a sole practitioner possible. Without them, I'd have to get a real job. Perish the thought!

  14. I liked writing back in the olden days (90s) better than now (we got paid a lot more) but the writer friends I've made on here and on other forums make up for all I miss. Have a wonderful holiday weekend, Paul!

  15. I am thankful my mother taught me to read. Almost everything good in my life is directly or indirectly a result of that.

  16. Thank you, everyone, for your comments. And I hope you don’t mind that I respond to all here in one response. And I want to wish you all a terrific and Happy Thanksgiving.

    Thanks, Janice. And same to you.

    Thanks, Art. I value our friendship as well. And I guess maybe I’ve been a little lax, too. So hopefully we’ll remedy that.

    Thanks, Eve. Yeah, streaming music. Good one. I love that, too.

    Thanks, R.T. And love your story about the dot matrix printer. Ah, the good old days, huh?

    Thanks, John. Well, we do it as a labor of love, mostly, not money…

    Thank you, AJ. I’m thankful you’re thankful for me and my words!!!

    Thanks, Gayle. And, as I said, I resisted the smart phone for some time, though I had an iPad (now an Android tablet) all along. And it/the smart phone does make things easier in many ways. Have fun at the Remington.

    Thanks, Steve. I like that, spice as the plural of spouse.

    I know what you mean, Keenan. A real job – what’s that?

    I think you’re right about the pay, Melodie. As I mentioned, writers could actually make a living writing short stories in the olden days. But there’s some good things to be said for these days too, if not the money…

    Great point, Michael. My mom used to read to me and not just children’s books, but poems and other things. Maybe everything has sprung from that.

  17. Nice, Paul. It's like a Valentine at Thanksgiving.

  18. Thanks, Leigh. In that case, Happy Valentine's Day ;-)

  19. I'll agree with all those. I, too, was an early adopter of the computer, but came very late to the smart phone. I think the most important item on your list is the ability to interact with other writers and with our readers all over the world. I'm thankful for your friendship, too.

    Happy Thanksgiving--hope you get plenty to eat!

  20. Thanks, Kaye. I'm thankful for our friendship, too. And it is truly wonderful to be able to interact with people all over. Really amazing when you think about it.

  21. I am thankful for the people who encouraged me to keep writing when I was churning out drivel. Writers can be amazingly supportive, considering how competitive publishing is. I'm thankful for editors, my agent, and publishers. They must be as crazy as writers to stay in this business. And I'm thankful for my husband, who encouraged me to keep trying long before I sold my first story.

  22. Catherine, I think when we stop to think about it we really do find a lot to be grateful for. Especially the people in our lives who have been and are there for us along the way.


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