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My Writer's Journal

On Writer's Block

This week I did an on-line interview with a reader who submitted a list of questions--Why do you write, What are you working on now, and then this one (TWICE!): How do you deal with writer's block?

Short answer: I don't. Longer answer: It's a non-issue. To tell the truth, I don't believe such a thing really exists, merely a refusal (or inability) to tough it out when the going gets tough, to keep going even when nothing seems to work. A cruel answer, I suppose. It's not that I don't get discouraged or feel that everything I'm writing is crap--because I often feel that way. At times I can't immediately figure out how to solve a problem, or a character seems dull or the whole thing is an unredeemable mess. That happens too. Sometimes my ideas bore me silly and I wonder if I should just give it up. But writer's block? No. Not a problem.

So what are we talking about when we talk about writer's block? I know a number of you out there are writers, some just getting started, others old hands with lots of experiences. So what does the term mean to you? And what advice do you have to give to those who think it IS a problem? Let me know! Read More 
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Birthday boys: Charley and Abe

Darwin and Lincoln
Born the same day, 202 years ago, thousands of miles apart. Everybody knows the story of the poor kid born in a log cabin, learned to read by the light of a little fireplace, walked miles to return 2 cents to somebody, or was it a dime? The stuff of legends who grew up to become the President of the United States. But how many know the story of the rich kid born in a small English town, suffered through boarding school, could not figure out what to do with himself, became one of the most significant natural scientists in the world.

Read THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF CHARLEY DARWIN and find about the fascinating man behind the long, white beard. Read More 
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Charley Darwin's Untrue Love

Fanny Owen
The year is 1831, and Charley is preparing to leave on his voyage around the world. He thinks he'll be gone for two years, and he writes a note to Fanny, the girl he loves, expressing his hope that she will not forget him. She writes back: "Wherever I may be and whatever changes may have happen'd, none there will ever be in my opinion of you--so do not, my dear Charles, talk of forgetting."
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The Month of Charley Darwin's True Adventures

This handsome dude is Charley Darwin, just back from his adventures on the Beagle
I celebrated the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin in 2009 with THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF CHARLEY DARWIN, in which Charley is the narrator. He describes his childhood in England, his miseries at boarding school, his doomed love for Fanny Owen, and his decision to sail around the world with a brilliant but neurotic sea captain, all of this leading up to the scientific discoveries that have changed the way we look at the world.

Since that book appeared two years ago, THE BAD QUEEN has been published; I've visited Egypt and completed CLEOPATRA CONFESSES, due out in June; done several drafts of THE WILD QUEEN, about Mary, Queen of Scots; and made a good start on VICTORIA RULES.

But my heart still belongs to Charley. Maybe it's because I spent time in Shrewsbury, England, where I visited his school room and wandered through his boyhood home. And by lucky chance I met a great-great-great nephew of Fanny Owen who invited me to his home, the very house where Charley once courted Fanny, the garden where he kissed her. I trudged through a downpour to gaze from a distance at the Wedgwood mansion where Charley spent holidays (it's private property, and the owner is known to be unfriendly). And frankly, I fell in love with Charley.

Charley Darwin's is a great story. I hope more readers will discover it when the paperback is released this month, and that they will fall in love with him, just as I did. Read More 
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