Divide and Conquer

This weblog has been around for a long time. I no longer post to it regularly, but I haven’t taken it down because it still gets a lot of hits; that makes me think that some people find it useful. 

But it’s a big crazy monster of a weblog, and because it’s so big there are lots of bugs.  So I made a decision some time ago which I have been slowly implementing. Here’s the skinny:

This weblog stays put. All the posts about writing, craft, publishing, and related matters stay right here.

Everything about the novels goes to the wiki. You could pop over there and have a look. You should pop over there if you searched for something here and didn’t find it. 


If you’re looking for 

  • the series of posts on writing sex scenes
  • story v plot discussions
  • notes on constructing dialog
  • ideas on generating story ideas

… those posts are here. 

If you’re looking for

  • genealogy stuff, including a heckin big family tree
  • maps relevant to the various novels
  • information about what I’m writing now
  • clarification on Ethan and Callie’s relationship
  • FAQ

… then hightail it over to the wiki. 

This divide and conquer thing is not finished. It may never be finished, but I’ll keep banging away at it, for a half hour or so every day. 

If you’re interested in getting involved (say you would like to put together a short bio for Jack Mezzanotte, Dutch Ton, Anna Hauptmann, Galileo Freeman, or any one of the dozens of characters that still need to be tackled) then please speak up. You may not be interested in writing bios, but then there are dozens of other small tasks that need to be handled.

Note: People who contribute to taming the wild wiki will be rewarded. 




And you complain about your commute to work: Getting from NY to St. Louis 1857

This advertisement (found at the Library of Congress site) may look boring but I have been staring at it for an hour and now you can do the same.  It is in fact a cornucopia of information about travel in 1857. First consider:

If you want to travel by rail from Manhattan to St. Louis you will find not one or two but eleven possibilities. Chose the rail company you want to start with, which of four stations you prefer, and whether you want to set out at 6 a.m., 6 p.m., or sometime in between.

Of course you will be changing cars. In fact, you will have to get out of one train and onto another train in Buffalo, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Or maybe, if you prefer, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Columbus and Cincinnati. Or Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Parkersburg, Marietta and Cincinnati. With all your luggage, in your heavy traveling costume.

But then you will be in Cincinnati, where you can board the Ohio and Mississippi Rail Road (as they spell it) which will take you to St. Louis — and you won’t have to change trains again. Though of course the train will be stopping in Cairo, Vincennes, Evansville, Louisville and Madison before you get to St. Louis.  To make up for that,  you will enjoy especially WIDE CARS and even BROAD GAUGE SALOON CARS.

You want to know what a saloon car was? Good question, but no obvious answers. I do know that there were no dining cars at this point, nor were there berths or friendly porters to make up the berth into a comfortable bed.

If St. Louis is not your destination, your friendly ticket agent can book for you a Missouri River Packet Steamer, a seat on the Pacific Rail Road (which as far as I can tell, was not operational in 1857) or a Mississippi River Steamboat that will take you to Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez or New Orleans.

There are two questions on your mind, two crucial questions: how long will all this take, and how much will it cost?

No answers on this advertisement.

Novels I re-read and thus, recommend

I posted a list like this once before, some years ago, and find that it is out of date. So here’s a more recent take on the type of fiction that is most likely to draw me in. 

Note: I’m not claiming these are the best novels ever written. I know for a fact that some of them will raise eyebrows; the point is, I felt enough resonance with that piece of storytelling that I go back for more now and then. There are also novels I truly admire, but could not bring myself to read again.  So you won’t find them here.

This list is not divided up by genre, so let me warn you: you’ll find pretty much everything here, from espionage and romance to very dark crime and sci-fi. And then there’s Austen and Dickens.

  • Richard Adams The Girl in a Swing 
  • Jane Austen Persuasion; Pride and Prejudice
  • Toni Cade Bambara  Gorilla, My Love
  • Amy Bloom Come to Me
  • James Lee Burke  In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead; White Doves at Morning; A Morning for Flamingos
  • A.S. Byatt  Angels & Insects; Possession
  • Chelsea Cain Heartsick (Gretchen Lowell series)
  • Jetta Carleton The Moonflower Vine  
  • Michael Chabon The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
  • Loretta Chase  Lord Perfect; Lord of Scoundrels
  • Wilkie Collins The Woman in  White
  • Laurie Colwin A Big Storm Knocked It Over 
  • Jennifer Crusie Crazy for You; Faking It; Welcome to Temptation
  • Judy Cuevas  Dance; Bliss
  • Junot Díaz The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Stephen Dobyns The Burn Palace 
  • Dorothy Dunnett Niccolo Rising  (House of Niccolo; 8 volumes)
  • Daphne Du Maurier  Rebecca
  • George Eliot  Adam Bede 
  • Ken Follett Eye of the Needle
  • Ariana Franklin City of Shadows; Mistress of the Art of Death
  • Charles Frazier Cold Mountain
  • Thomas Hardy Far from the Madding Crowd; The Mayor of  Casterbridge
  • Mo Hayder Poppet  (the Jack Caffery series)
  • John Fowles The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  • Mark Helprin  A Soldier of the Great War 
  • Judith Ivory  Beast 
  • Baine Kerr  Wrongful Death 
  • Stephen King  The Stand; Black House; Dolan’s Cadillac
  • Barbara Kingsolver Animal Dreams; The Poisonwood Bible
  • Lisa Kleypas  Smooth Talking Stranger; Blue-Eyed Devil
  • Stieg Larsson The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (and the next two)
  • Margaret Lawrence  Hearts and Bones (Hannah Trevor series; 4 volumes)
  • Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird 
  • Dennis Lehane Gone, Baby Gone; Darkness Take My Hand
  • Elmore Leonard Pagan Babies, Cuba Libre, Get Shorty
  • Gabriel Garcia Márquez A Hundred Years of Solitude
  • McCarry, Charles: The Bride of The Wilderness
  • Larry McMurtry  Lonesome Dove
  • Jacquelyn Mitchard  Second Nature; The Breakdown Lane
  • Toni Morrison Beloved, The Bluest Eye 
  • Jojo Moyes  The Girl You Left Behind 
  • Alice Munro  Friend of my Youth
  • Audrey Niffenegger  The Time Traveler’s Wife 
  • Tim O’Brian  The Things They Carried
  • Michael Ondaatje  The English Patient
  • Joseph O’Neill Netherland
  • Ann Patchett The Magician’s Assistant 
  • Susan Elizabeth Phillips Ain’t She Sweet 
  • Annie Proulx The Shipping News; Wyoming Stories
  • Mario Puzo The Fortunate Pilgrim
  • Mary Doria Russell A Thread of Grace 
  • Richard Russo   Straight Man; Empire Falls 
  • Karin Slaughter Will Trent series (8 volumes) 
  • Jane Smiley A Thousand Acres 
  • Scott Spencer Waking the Dead; Endless Love
  • Jessica Davis Stein Coyote Dream 
  • Kathryn Stockett  The Help 
  • William Styron  Sophie’s Choice 
  • Barry Unsworth Sacred Hunger
  • Gore Vidal  Burr; Lincoln
  • Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Edith Wharton  Ethan Frome
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder The Long Winter