Showing posts with label O'Neil De Noux. Show all posts
Showing posts with label O'Neil De Noux. Show all posts

24 May 2024

Good Sentences

If the sentence is "the fundamental unit of a work of literature," then a good sentence should be the goal of a good writer. But what is a good sentence?

Found another excellent lesson for writers online, entitled HOW TO WRITE A GREAT SENTENCE. What I like most about the article is what we know – there is no definite way to write a great sentence.

Beginning with an explanation of "style" by the use of "creative devices, grammar, diction, tone, rhythm and cadence," the article says all of those elements "taken as a whole" is "style."

For examples to compare styles, the article chose William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway.

Faulkner wrote purple prose with long, convoluted sentences. Whereas Hemingway wrote short, clipped, concise, pithy sentences capturing, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, "the flicker of modern life.”

The tempo of the writer's sentences reflect the speed of the lives they depicted. "Faulkner basks in the heat of south" while "Hemingway flits at life in the city." While Faulkner lounged, Hemingway rushed.

Faulkner said of Hemingway, "He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."

Hemingway said of Faulkner, "Poor Faulkner, does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

Faulkner house
Faulkner House, 624 Pirate Alley, New Orleans
where Nobel laureate William Faulkner
wrote his first novel Soldiers’ Pay, 1925

The article illustrates examples of each writer's work, chosen as they serve "the acute ends of he spectrum of sentence structure."

Long sentences? Short sentence. Medium length sentences. Vary them to turn your writing into music, let your writing sing, give it a pleasant lilt, a harmony.

OK, I knew a lot of this but the article is a good reminder. I recommend it, expecially to beginning writers.

  © The Written Word


That's all for now,

03 May 2024

We are all apprentices

Ran across something enlightening on YouTube entitled Ernest Hemingway's Favorite Writing Exercise and figured writers would find is as interesting as I found it.

In 1934, Ernest Hemingway gave an aspiring writer an exercise to sharpen his observation skills to describe his observations on paper, to train himself to be a better writer.

Broken into three steps to "show, don't tell" in writing a story:

  1. Closely observe a situation, then retell it in words. Search for what excited you about the action to avoid vagueness in writing.
  2. Pay attention to emotions and reactions of others in the situation and see the world though their eyes. Writers should not judge people but understand them.
  3. Repeat the first two steps. Practice. Practice. Practice. Observe and listen.

The video includes a terrific Hemingway quote, "All good books are alike in that they are truer if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer."

The video ends with another Hemingway quote, "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master."

The video elaborates on each step. Many examples come from my favorite Hemingway novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

While Hemingway's style is not to everyone's taste, we can learn from him.

Link to the video entitled Ernest Hemingway's Favorite Writing Exercise –

Video Credit:

That's all for now,

12 April 2024

Paperback Writer

When I dreamed of writing a novel in high school – my goal was to be a paperback writer, like the song.

Twenty years after graduating from high school my first novel was published as a paperback original – GRIM REAPER. An early definition of a paperback book said it was of lower quality than a hardback original books and written for mass consumption. Yep, that was GRIM REAPER

I've been a paperback writer since (with occasional hardback editions of my paperbacks and lots of eBooks), so I hit the mark.

Along the way I learned how to write a short story and have had many published.

Trivia note: A Lennon-McCartney composition, written primarily by Paul, PAPERBACK WRITER was the first Beatles hit not about love. It was No.1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in 1966. I loved growing up with 60's music (and some 70s).

With 48 books published (36 novels, 10 short story collections, 2 non-fiction books), I'm still a paperback writer (trade paperbacks now). #49 coming out this summer.

A quick word of caution to writers like me who have a number of books available for sale online. Expressing your political views can drop your sales dramatically and keep them down indefinitely.


01 March 2024

My story in MURDER, NEAT: a SleuthSayer's anthology

When I learned the proposed title/idea for the SleuthSayers' anthology was

“Two crooks walk into a bar…” –  I chuckled. Felt like another school homework assignment because I don't go to bars, haven't been in one for a drink since the mid-70s and those were discos where I danced more than drank. Wouldn't be familiar turf, more like writing about two guys walking across the Gobi desert. It was a challenge I became eager to take.

Some may ask how can I be a New Orleanian and not frequent bars. Well, I don't like jazz music either. I've been a rock-and-roll fan since the last 50s.

OK, I did enter bars when I was a cop, searching for suspects or witnesses to crimes, seeking help from bartenders and barmaids, which brought me to the plot of my story in MURDER, NEAT. I decided to write a simple story and came up with "Flesh Wounds."

It took longer to write than I thought but I like its simplicity.

The set-up – a man staggers from a rainstorm into a bar. There's a lone barmaid inside. There's blood.

I just followed along …

Hope the anthology does well. Michael Bracken and Barb Goffman did a great job in editing and the stories are so well done.

So y'all indulge, take a drink and see what's going on where people get liquored up and sometimes die.

That's all for now,

19 January 2024

Managing Time

Managing time –

Until 2017, I worked full time and wrote in the evenings, weekends, anytime I could find time. When I retired in 2017, I thought I'd have more time to write.


Too many interruptions. Some necessary, many unnecessary which writers like me allow to creep in from the internet primarily. Keep hearing solutions to this problem but the only real solution is to shut everything down but the writing. It's hard but it does work before the cats interrupt.

21st Century –

The 21st Century is zipping by, dragging me along and I'm happy to be alive, although old age brings problems. It's better than the alternative. As for this writer, I write very little set in the 21st Century for many reasons, the most pressing is things change too quickly. Forensic advances, social media zooming along at the speed of sound, CGI stuff, AI – not even sure what that is.

So I go back to the 1950s and 60s and 70s, where I remember what it was like and set the stories and novels there. Easier for me and who knows, I might enlightened a reader on what it was like to have only three TV channels and TV going off the air at midnight and dial telephones and long distance operators and information operators (before directory assistance), and typewriters and how it was fun when Dad put on the brakes or had to swerve and you got to bounce around the back seat.

"Hey, Dad. Do that again."

Lately, I'll spot something on TV and wonder who the hell are those guys. Watched part of the Emmy Awards last night and I was lost. Who are those guys?

Getting back to focusing on writing.  I wrap into the cocoon of the past and let my characters solve crimes the way we used to.

That's all for now. Thanks for listening. 

29 December 2023

Let Them Want More

Got an email from a reader who said my book GILDED TIME left her in tears. She re-read the ending three times and it brought tears to her eyes. The book does not have a sad ending but I knew what she meant. Damn, I did my job. I'd purposefully left the storyline with an open ending. I stopped following the characters, let them walk off the scene, let the reader walk off wondering what would happen next.

A lot of writers do this. The hard part is to create characters the reader doesn't want to leave.

She asked if there would be a sequel and I wrote back I didn't think so. Everything I wanted to say was in the book. I told her to let her mind take the characters wherever she wanted them to go.

Took a moment to look back at some of my other books and realized how many of them ended similarly, like BATTLE KISS, USS RELENTLESS and especially DEATH ANGELS.

Series novels come with an automatic more to come. Unless the writer gets tired of following the main character around and writing his/her adventures. Haven't reached that point with any of my series characters. Yet.

It's all a process. SleuthSayers blogs have lots of advice, lots of suggestions on how to write. Some excellent information. Y'all who are new to following us, go back and read some of them.

For now, well, have a Happy New Year.

GILDED TIME a novel of the Gilded Age by O'Neil De Noux. Here is a sneak preview of the audiobook narrated by Gabriel Jose Perez. The narration is dynamite. The novel is already available as a trade paperback and eBook at amazon dot com.


That's all for now,

08 December 2023

About books

 Reading Chris Knopf's December 4th SleuthSayer's Column "Book, books, books. And more books." took me back to how I became a prolific reader.

In 1960, my army father was assigned to the Southern European Task Force (SETAF) in Verona, Italy, which began a three-year adventure for me in Italy. I was ten and wish I had been older to better appreciate the experience of living in Europe. I've so many vivid memories of the red tile roofs of Verona, the Bolla vineyards, the castles, the heart-wrenching battlefields of San Martino and Solferino, the art in nearby Florence, the canals of Venice, the magnificence of Rome and the Vatican, the narrow streets of Naples.

 Camp Passalaqua, Verona, Italy 1960s

Verona, Italy

L'Arena, Verona, Italy

Beyond those wonders came an everlasting wonder for me. Books. Coming from TV America, there was no TV for us in Italy. There was Italian television shows but we didn't even have a TV. I went to see a lot of moves at the post theater (went into that in my SleuthSayer's July 26, 2019 post "Movies 1960-1963)

However, it was the libraries which drew me. The post library and especially the school library.

I attended a wonderful school in 5th, 6th and 7th grade – Verona American Junior High & Elememtary School. We called it Borgo Milano School as it was on the street Borgo Milano. The teachers were first rate and the classes inspiring.

My fifth grade class in 1960. I'm first row. Fifth from the left. Teacher was Mr. Gamberoni.

The playground in 1960s

The librarian was a New Zealander or maybe Australian, with a cool accent. She guided me to so many great books for youngsters and I fell into the spell of reading and reading and reading. When school was closed for the summer, the post library at Camp Passalaqua had great books, more adult books and I kept on reading. It became a life-long love. Reading.

Juliet's balcony, Verona, Italy

Nice short film about Verona:

That's all for now, 

27 October 2023

Historical Inaccuracy

Historical Inaccuracy in movies is nothing new. It's called poetic license.

Historical Inaccuracy in non-fiction articles is not usual and not good. If there are facts, get them right.

Case in point was the article put up on Google Alerts from The Loveland-Reporter Herald of October 21, 2023. A review of the movie THE BUCCANEER (Paramount Pictures, 1958) with historical notations.

There's no problem with the writer expressing opinions about the movie. I agree with many of them. The casting of Yul Brenner as Jean Lafitte was a good choice, so was Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson, Charles Boyer as Dominique You and Claire Bloom as pirate Bonnie Brown. However, the wonderful Inger Stevens, who plays Louisiana Governor William C. C. Claiborne's daughter who has a love affair with Lafitte, well, Claiborne did have a daughter at the time but she was three years old.

However, the article describes the "well done" battle scenes, which were clearly filmed on a Hollywood sounds stage where the dialogue and sounds of horses and bagpipes echo from the walls of the sound stage. British troops wearing kilts march slowly in a wide line to their deaths, when in fact they marched at the quick-step in two long columns. There were no kilts worn at the Battle of New Orleans. The Scottish 93rd Regiment of Foot (Sutherland Highlanders) wore trews, tartan trousers – their winter uniform as the Battle of New Orleans, The battle itself involved six engagements from December 14, 1814, through the climactic battle on January 8, 1815, to the final engagement south of New Orleans at Fort St. Philip, January 9-17, 1815. It occurred in one of the coldest winters in Louisiana history. Hence, no kilts.

As much as the writer of the article suspects "there is a grain of truth in the song" The Battle of New Orleans sung by Johnny Horton, the British did not run after the battle as the song goes, “They ran through the briers and they ran through the brambles/ And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go/ They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch ’em/ On down the Mississippi to the gulf of Mexico.” This is untrue.

In fact, the British withdrew to its original position at the start of the climactic battle, the de la Ronde Plantation, and waited to see if General Jackson was dumb enough to come out from behind his formidable fortifications to try and destroy the British army. Jackson was too asute to try this. His job was to protect New Orleans and he remained behind his fortifications between the British army and the city.

The new commander-in-chief of the British Expedition (Generals Pakenham and Gibbs were killed at the battle and third-in-command General Keane so severly wounded he was supposed to die), GeneralJohn Lambert conducted a disciplined, orderly withdrawl of his defeated army back through the swamp to the Royal Navy ships outside Lake Borgne. He was decorated for this strategic withdrawl. He left Louisiana to capture Mobile, which highlights the fallicy (restated in the article) that The Battle of New Orleans was fought after the war ended.

While U.S. and British representatives agreed to end hostilities, initially signing a peace treaty at Ghent, Belgium, on December 24, 1814, the British and Americans were already fighting outside New Orleans. They just finished the second engagement on December 23, 1814 and fought again on December 28 and January 1, before the climactic battle on January 8. The Treay was not ratified by the U.S. Senate and Parliament until February 17, 1815, ending the War of 1812.

OK, it's a review of an inaccurate movie. Just don't add historical inaccuracies in an analysis.

I worked long hours accumulating 72,000 words of historical research before I wrote my epic novel BATTLE KISS. I made it as accurate as I could make it, so much so, my 16,303 word  January 8 battle scene was published in the historical journal SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA REVIEW (Vol. 4, Winter 2012/2013).

The article THE BUCCANEER can be found at:

The book:

Thanks all for now. 

06 October 2023

A Great Gift and a Great Loss

Couple months ago, I stumbled across a spy novel on my local library's website and checked out Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews. I love good spy novels good spy movies and this one grabbed me from the beginning and didn't let go.

It's the story of a premier Russian ballerina Dominika Egorova whose career is sabotaged by a jealous rival. Dominika sustains a career-ending injury to her leg and is forced into espionage training by her insidious uncle. She is sent to Sparrow School where she is trained to use her power of seduction to entrap targets. She has other talents, including the ability to see colors (halos) around people, revealing their true natures. She also becomes a lethal killer. She is unhappy with the work and unhappy with her life and is recruited by the CIA to spy for the Americans.

The details of spycraft is extraordinary and this is the best spy novel of the 21st Century I have read. The library had a sequel Palace of Treason and a third in the trilogy, The Kremlin's Candidate. Each is better than the one before and I raced through them and will have to go back and read them slowly to relish the scenes playing out before me.

Dominika rises through the ranks of the Russian espionage network – all the way up. Her interactions with her CIA handlers is fascinating and gripping. The end of the third novel packs a helluva punch, left my heart beating fast.

When a writer writes this well, it is such a gift to us readers. After finishing the third book, I searched for other books by Jason Matthews and found none and went online to learn these were the only books he wrote. He died at age 69 from a rare neurodegenerative disease of the brain.

His books are a great gift and his death a great loss.

Red Sparrow won the MWA Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author and the ITW Thriller Award for Best First Novel.

If you like spy novels or just good fiction, check out this trilogy. The detailed descriptions of contemporary spy work is fascinating. Jason Matthews was a CIA officer.

I'm so slow. Two days ago, I found the film Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton. Pretty good adaptation but like most movies, not as good as the novel.

As my hero F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his final line of The Great Gatsby – "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past."

Thanks all for now. 

04 August 2023

Opening Lines – OK, here we go again

In his July 30th posting, R.T. Lawton gave us new insights in the setting the hook in a story. Other SleuthSayers, including me, have posted about opening lines. Robert Lopresti posted about one of his opening lines (May 17th posting).

So, I thought I'd share opening lines that worked for me in recent short stories and novels. Why not?


I always wanted to be a sleuth. Pfft! As if.

    opening line of   

"The First Annual Atchafalaya Coyote Hunt; or, Is There a Sleuth in the House"

    Black Cat Mystery Magazine Issue 11, March 2002

Damn car wouldn't start.

    opening line of

"The Obsidian Knife"

    The Book of Extraordinary Femme Fatale Stories,

 Mango Press, July 2022

Tom steps into the dark bedroom and waits just inside the door for his eyes to adjust.

    opening line of

    "Blue Moon Over Burgundy"

    Black is the Night

Maxim's Jakubowski's Cornell Woolrich Antho, Titan Books, October 2022

“Ah, here is our French detective now,” Captain Joe Rathlee called out from his office door as Detective Jacques Dugas came into the Detective Bureau.

    opening line of

    "The Other French Detective"    Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Vol. 67. Nos 11 & 12, November/December 2022

A woman trying not to look beautiful stepped into my office a little after nine a.m.

    opening line of

    "A Jelly of Intrigue"Edgar and Shamus Go Golden Anthology, Down & Out Books, December 202

(A Jelly of Intrigue is a finalist for this year's SHAMUS AWARD for Best Private Eye Short Story)

“No offense, Officer Kintyre. But I’m smarter than you.”

    opening line of

    "Of Average Intelligence"

    Black Cat Weekly

#85 April 2023

Billy found the trunk release button and popped open the trunk.

    opening line of

    "A Pretty Slick Guy"

    Black Cat Weekly #92 June 2023

A shadow beyond the smoky glass portion of my office door had me fold my newspaper and pull my feet off the desk before the door opened and a heavy-set man stepped in, looked around the big office.

    opening line of

    "The Little IrĂ©ne Escapade"

    upcoming in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine


She came in at one o’clock sharp on Decoration Day, Friday, May 30th, just as a light rain began falling outside.

    opening line of

        The Spy Who Used My Love

 Big Kiss Productions, March 2021

The high-pitched shrill of a police whistle turns Detective Mike Labruzzo around.

    opening line of

        Gilded Time

 Big Kiss Productions, March 2022

I drop the uncut gemstone back into the leather bag with the others and tell her, “Emeralds. Every one."

    opening line of

        Hardscrabble Private Eye

 Big Kiss Productions, June 2022

The body hung from the low branch of a live oak in the Bayou Sauvage swamp about thirty yards from Chef Menteur Road.

    opening line of

        New Orleans Heat

 Big Kiss Productions, March 2023

May not be the best opening lines but they hooked the editors enough for them to read on. Of course, the follow-up from the opening line needs to keep them reading.

That's all for now.

23 June 2023

Some Favorite Novels

Since posting a list of some of my favorite short stories back on June 2nd, my mind clicked to some of my favorite novels. Many of these books inspired me to write fiction. These are favorite novels, not a best novel list.

In no special order:

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter

Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

Goodbye Mickey Mouse by Len Deighton

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

The Frozen Hours
 by Jeff Shaara

Pronto by Elmore Leonard

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Fin Gall by James L. Nelson

New York by Edward Rutherfurd

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson

River Girl by Charles Williams

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Black Cross by Greg Iles

A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

White Fang by Jack London

The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain

Night and the City by Cornell Woolrich

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg

The Maddest Idea by James L. Nelson

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Bullet for Cinderella by John D. MacDonald

Kazan by James Oliver Curwood

Dune by Frank Herbert

The Heydrich Deception
 by Daniel Savage Gray

Ramage by Dudley Pope

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico (novella)

Tourist Season by Carl Hiassen

From Here to Eternity by James Jones

The Killing Circle by Chris Wiltz

Fortune's Fugitive by Linda Crockett Gray

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

The Wolves of Memory 
by George Alec Effinger

When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

The Bolitho Novels of Alexander Kent

The Ramage Novels of Dudley Pope

Non-Fiction Novels:

In Cold Blood by Trume Capote

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson


The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

    Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation 

The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett

     Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, Edge of Eternity

I have to stop or I'll go on and on.

That's all for now – 

02 June 2023

Favorite Stories

Favorite short stories

Since my story "Cruelty the Human Heart" (first published in Argosy II magazine, 2004) ) was included in the college composition textbook WORD AND IMAGE (Pearson Learning Solutions, Boston, MA) the occasional college student will contact me about it and other topics. The other day, I was asked to name my favorite classic short story. I said there were too many to have a favorite but I mentioned Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

"That's old English. What about current English?"

That cracked me up. I gave the student a short list and moved one. The question lingered and I thought about it, went to my bookcase and brought down a few collections and one story hit me (again), and I re-read it as slowly as I could, to experience the well-written tale and feel the same charge with the opening lines and the same emotion at the end.

The story – “The Tonto Woman” by Elmore Leonard, one of his western tales.

Here are others:

“One” by George Alec Effinger


“Shambleau” by C. L. Moore (Catherine Moore)

"The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" by Harlan Ellison

“I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison

 “The Fog Horn” (alternate title: “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms) by Ray Bradbury


“The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl” by Ray Bradbury


“The Saliva Tree” by Brian W. Aldiss


“A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum


“The Doors of His Face; The Lamps of His Mouth” by Roger Zelazny


“Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov


“Cat’s Paw” by Bill Pronzini


“The Perfect Crime” by Max Allan Collins


“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce


“The Call of Cthulhu” by H. P. Lovecraft

“A Scandal in Bohemia” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes


“The Wall” by Marcia Muller


“Crazy Horse” by Cornell Woolrich

“The Dog of Pompeii” by Louis Untermeyer 

I have to stop for the moment. There are too many favorites.

That's all for now.