Writers Must Make Time for Reading

Stephen King Meme - google image

Scroll down a few writers’ Facebook pages and before long you’ll find a Stephen King meme with his words of wisdom about writers needing to read. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. I wholeheartedly agree with the King.

Depending on the type of writing projects I’m involved with, the amount I read ebbs and flows. But I am always reading – more so when I’m in the final stages of editing, less so when I’m actively creating and constantly when I’m on a writing hiatus. 

Nailed - Joseph Flynn coverI recently discovered Joseph Flynn and his crime/drama books. I read all three of the books in the Ron Ketchum series. Ron used to be an LA cop who retired over some events that had him looking like your typical white cop gunning down blacks. He actually calls himself a recovering racist. He ends up being recruited by big time movie star and Mayor of Goldstrike (a beautiful little town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains), Clay Steadman, to become Goldstrike’s new Chief of Police. Nothing much ever happens in Goldstrike, until, of course, it does. Flynn writes good stories with great character development.

Flynn is a sneaky author. In book two of the Ron Ketchum series, he introduces Bureau of Indian Affairs, Special Agent John Tall Wolf. I became hooked on John’s character and it just so happensTall Man in Ray Bans cover that Flynn has written another series devoted to Tall Wolf. The first has a great title – Tall Man in Ray Bans. These books feature multiple US government acronym agencies mixing it up together to solve crimes that all have a slight Native American twist. The hook in the Tall Wolf series is John’s belief that Marlena Flower Moon, his BIA boss, is actually Coyote, a mythical creature with great power – a southern US version of trickster raven. She tried to eat him when he was a baby and she’s never given up trying to get him.

Joseph Flynn has published both traditionally and is currently self-publishing from his own imprint, Stray Dog Press.

Another recent read that led me to a series is The Devil’s Grin by Annelie Wendenberg – book one of the Kronberg Crime Series. Free on Amazon as I’m writing this post, this novel has over 600 reviews! The novel’s premise fascinates me and I marvel at the creativity of other writers. Main character, Anne Kronberg, wants to be a doctor in a historical era when a woman in the field of medicine would be arrested. She disguises herself as a man, becomes Dr. Anton Kronberg, England’s best bacteriologist and lives her dream. The fun begins when she is called to a crime scene involving a man found in the London waterworks who is suspected of dying of cholera. There she meets Sherlock Holmes. The book races on from that point in the best Holmesian fashion.

Devil's Grin cover

I have just started the second book in the series and must pause to wonder and, as the writer of a series, ask myself the same question: why, when authors write the second book, do they seem to lose sight of what readers loved in the first book? Wendenberg’s writing magic came in the interchanges between Holmes and Dr. Kronberg. I am at the 36% mark of book two and Sherlock has yet to arrive. Hmmm … I’ll keep reading because I am hooked but if Holmes doesn’t show up soon, I am unlikely to be thrilled about continuing.

The Fifth Heart coverI’ve written before about author Dan Simmons. Not too long ago, I finished his newest novel, The Fifth Heart. As always, with Simmons, he writes with a wide-reaching net and a stunning catch ensues. It is 1893 and author Henry James meets Sherlock Holmes in Paris as James is about to throw himself into the Seine and end it all. Sherlock convinces James they have other fish to fry and the two of them are off to Washington, DC to thwart an attempted presidential assassination. A side trip to the Chicago World’s Fair is fascinating. But, as reviewers are wont to say, Simmons is in love with his own research and the book might have been better for a bit of trimming. But this is Dan Simmons and you get what you get and you don’t get upset. There is enough brilliancy to make any indulgence fade to the background.

Darwin's Blade cover

Still on the Simmons bandwagon, I also read, Darwin’s Blade. This novel is fast-paced with amazingly funny dialogue. Darwin Blade is an accident scene investigator, a complex man who is haunted by his Vietnam battle experience and some harsh personal losses. I couldn’t put this one down.

So, there you have it – a writer must read and believe me, I do. My tastes are eclectic. If I love an author, I’ll always give their next book a go. My attention is often caught by a book’s blurb. Once caught, I’ll give the book a try regardless of genre or author recognition.

I’d have a hard time ever calling myself an expert writer – no matter the number of books produced or hours spent writing. I believe there will always be just too much to learn. But I am quite confident to say I am an expert reader. With an easy 10,000 hours of practice under my belt, I’ve attained professional status, as Malcolm Gladwell defines such things.

Book Reviewer Love

You’ve had a peek inside my reading life. Let’s share. Take a moment to comment and let me know what you’re currently reading. Then hashtag this post on Twitter as #fridayreads. Sound like a plan?

Writer’s Quote Wednesday–Ernest Hemingway

Brit at Maple Ridge Dike - with Hemingway quote

This picture combines two things I love – my beautiful granddaughter, Britney (carrying my book)  and the inspiring words of Ernest Hemingway. Some truths are better expressed in fiction – right? And who among us won’t sink so low as to use a cute child to promote our own work?

For this week’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday, (that amazing blog brainchild of Colleen over at Silver Threading) I have to go with Hemingway. I’ve just finished reading an excellent novel that features the often enigmatic author – Crook Factory by Dan Simmons. The book plunges the reader back in time to 1942 Cuba as Hemingway sets up an amateur espionage ring to ferret out information on Nazi spies and makes use of his own boat, the Pilar, to search for German submarines. Enter FBI Special Agent, Joe Lucas who has been sent to keep an eye on the aging author. Through twists and turns and endless intrigue, Joe and Hemingway develop a unique relationship and Joe is the recipient of more than a few tidbits of life advice – Hemingway style.


This photo comes from a trip Bruce and I took back in 2010 – before I wisely succumbed to the newest wisdom that states grey is the new blonde. We ended up, by fluke, staying at a place in Idaho where Hemingway had often taken up residence during hunting and fishing trips.

If you are a fan of Hemingway, the war years, 1940’s Cuba, or the in-fighting between what would become the CIA and J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI, you might love this novel. I sure did.

Crook Factory Cover

Just a final note on author inspiration. It is said of Hemingway that he read all the time – newspapers, magazines, novels, nonfiction, draft works of other authors, letters. Stephen King has emphasized that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. Naturally one should want to read Hemingway. But do read Dan Simmons. I would rate his book, Terror (all about the Franklin Expedition) among the top ten books I’ve ever read when it comes to a satisfying ending. Simmons tromps across genre boundaries as if the very idea of such divisions are ludicrous. He has written sci-fi, horror, hard-boiled crime and my personal favourite – the artfully blended, historical fact and fiction novel. He plays it loose when it comes to various writing conventions, making up the rules as he goes. I don’t always approve but I love to be along for the ride.