Writing Pet Peeves (LarysiaWrites Bloghop)

even if i kill a murderer with their own very sword, i am -nevertheless- a murderer, too.
~Katya Mills, murder by memory IV

Some of the pet peeves I have as a writer are below. You may note the quote above from the terrific Katya Mills, and its relevance may or may not become apparent in the course of this post, virulent with hypocrisy as it is. 

I was prompted to write this post by Larysia Woropay, a marvelous Canadian poet and author, as part of her bloghop on pet peeves. Larysia Writes is her presence, where you will find her own writerly pet peeves.

I think Larysia's poems have a dash of William Blake or John Milton, and touches of the Ancient Greek playwrights and mythology, typically with today's science thrown into the mix. Her flash fiction - often containing twists - and her poetry tweets are worth checking out too. 
She has two longform work-in-progress-eez (that's plural for "novels what she's writing") which are ready to be published tomorrow - and she's seeking agents for both. 
Lucidity is set in part in a dreamscape that converges with the reality of main character Brea (think Freud, then think astral planes and celestial war). Extrasensory features Quinn, a teenage medium who has inherited the talent for spirity communication from her family. She and her raggle-taggle bunch of misfit school pals and frenemies must find out why the people of her hometown are becoming fairy-tale monsters before she becomes one herself. 

And now on to my writers' pet peeves:


An aspiring fantasy writer once told me he was reluctant to write about his character's werewolf transformation because he didn't know how to approach it. My response was something like "You're a writer. You've suffered from cramps in your stomach? That's the first sensation your lycanthrope gets."

There's an old anecdote about Olivier and Hoffman (in Marathon Man), and they're sprinting into a shot, and they're both heaving and out of breath. And before the take,
Hoffman's been running on the spot, and doing push-ups so that he looks like a sweaty wreck. After the take, Hoffman turns to Olivier and asks him how he managed to look so wheezy too. Olivier says "Acting, my boy." (The same story - which is completely made up - has been attributed to Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin (in The Edge)).

The point is: You're a writer? Fricken WRITE it.

I've been criticised for characters - for example - with similar interests to mine. I've criticised others for basing their fiction more on the reality of their lives than is necessary, and of course I write the same way and have been criticised for the same. Yes, we should write about what we know, but don't shy away from werewolf transformations. 

Not enough credit is given to writers whose prose is so wonderful that it could be harvested for maxims, or whose imaginative capacity so strong that you're asking if these things actually happened in history, when it's made up. 

Other idiot authors might share yarns from the mouthpieces of their guru characters, about scorpions and frogs trying to cross rivers, or post about Laurence Olivier telling a younger actor to try acting.

So if I'm recycling BS about Olivier and Hoffman, or discussing drowning frogs and scorpions - and you're coming up with material that would be as universally appreciated as an old fable, except it's mostly out of your head - then my hat is off.


With respect to the imagination, I take issue with charges of cultural misappropriation - most of the time. Each piece of literature should be judged on its merits. If my work is terrible, charges of cultural hijacking might then be leveled. Throw the book at me. 

I could be charged with misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, and more. And it's even worse than that with my writing. I hope I'm not any of these things, but if you find a STORY xenophobic, then don't shoot the messenger.

Is it fair to make any such charges against any writers, about any of their fiction? It's FICTION. It should challenge and offend as well as entertain. I'd rather be offended by a piece of writing from someone else than not moved at all. We're just telling stories.

But if your main character is some sick, fat, disabled slut, and you are not, and you do a good job representing this deaf-blind lesbian diabetic prostitute, then that is a commendable artistic and imaginative achievement. Or vice versa, I have to stress! Or vice versa, if you want to portray this person negatively. 

Because FICTION! There should be no line in the sand. If you put a line in the sand, good for you - and again, hats off to you for placing these limitations.

Where do you draw this line? You can bake a cake, but only a qualified chef ought to write kitchen-based novels, Shirley. What's that? You're gonna use your JUDGMENT? Can everyone use this same standard of judgment? Or do you get to make the ruling coz of your part-time job as a Supreme Court Justice?

Magneto was borne of the Holocaust, and Iron Man built his first suit in a post 9-11 cave full of terrorists. Comic book adaptations. Oh the humanity. Yet they're characters in enjoyable blockbusters full of action and fun.

Just write well. There's your line.

Wait till you hear the hypocrisy of this peeve:
I currently struggle with the complications of a plot in a work-in-progress. 

Now, I'm not saying all writing advice is bad, or that I couldn't be aided in my endeavours by feeding stuff into software. But who's writing your story? MS Word's Thesaurus? The magical Wheel of Descriptive Emotions? That book of writing advice, where you're told exactly how bereavement can lead to guilt and depression, or an urge to live your life as a reckless party animal who enjoys every moment?

I only want to know what "mirroring" is, or how to build suspense, IN MY GUT! 

I KNOW I sound like Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. I know that. In my gut.

But you want to talk about hinges? I'm thinking furniture and doors.

And cogently argued crits notwithstanding - really, there are always exceptions - I'd rather not KNOW where my "second act" should kick in, or my pivvy divot points, or how all my hero's motivations ought to be explicitly laid bare by the 28.27 percent mark.

That is NOT writing - that is painting by numbers. 

If I have learned this stuff while honing my craft, that is a terrible indictment of [COUNTS ON FINGERS] at least nine things. 

This is the Hollywood formula everyone decries, the reason they churn out sequels and reboots instead of new stuff. And it's never a level playing field - someone who doesn't look up synonyms will be at a disadvantage to me. I'll be at a disadvantage to somebody who feeds their plot into some Faustian software contraption.

People who drink coffee might be better off than those who don't; people who start the day with a few whiskeys or a draught of laudanum to take the edge off might be accessing their creativity in ways that the soberminded find difficult, and weedsmokers who fire up the engine might write some incredible stuff under the influence.

But ALL of that - the software, the thesauruseseses, the drugs - is writer steroids. You're a cheater. I'm a cheater. I refer you back to the quote from Katya Mills at the top.


Some writers might feel they are better scribes than I am - and they're right. Not all of them are right. Others will be completely dismissive of the work of others, or hold fellow scribes to a standard they don't hold to themselves. I am guilty of it.

You expect a writer to be as emotionally intelligent as her characters: But a good writer is often as arrogant or insecure as the pop star who doesn't want the roadies to look at him when he comes to the dress rehearsal.

Poor writers can be insightful in their comments on your work. Poor writers can be great critics. But great writers can be terrible critics - is it because they feel they're better?

In terms of emotional intelligence, for every Maya Angelou, there's a VS Naipaul (who's said to be a bit of a twat). I've been screamed at by egomaniacs, and mildly trolled by people whose work I've supported when perhaps I shouldn't have. Everyone has enough kerrap to deal with.

You can inadvertently determine the skill level of another scribe in the same way that you might discover the innumeracy of a toddler. You're counting pennies together. "One, two, three..." and the kid pipes up with "Nine!" and you're like "Okay, but no - no - the next one's four." "Seven!" "Okay, just forget I said anything."

But if you're telling me Nine, deep down, you need to believe in that Nine. 
Nobody has the skill and originality you can bring to something.


Safie Maken-Finlay

 On this blog tour is Safie Maken-Finlay. Among the most erudite of book-lovers, Safie has some terrific apocalyptic and young-adult fiction in the works. She writes and reviews books, and she wears an intellect keener than mine very lightly. Safie's website is here and her Twitter is here. Her pet peeves are here.

Also on the tour:
Yusuf Toropov, an American novelist, nonfiction writer, and playwright. Remarkable scenes permeate this man's stuff, with a rhythm and artistry that go beyond narrative. His works of fiction affect me in my bones in ways that I rarely see from anyone else. His novel JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, about a US intelligence agent accused of terrorism, is published by Orenda Books. Yusuf's website is here and his Twitter is here. His pet peeves are here.

EXCLUSIVE: Mr Trump's Italian Ban in his Properties

Although very fond of Mexican cuisine, Mr Donald Tump apparently prevented the cooking of pasta and the delivery of pizza to his rental properties for three decades. His rationale for the ban on Italian food - it can now be revealed - was his apparent personal conflict with spaghetti.
A spokesperson from the Trump camp - speaking out for the conditions of the economy - claimed that The Donald finds eating spaghetti "a complex challenge."
Because of his short, chubby, clumpy fingers, Mr Chump finds the fork-spinning technique favored by spaghetti-eaters prohibitive to his fine dining experiences.

When in a restaurant that solely sells shells, lasagne and other pastas on its menu, Mr Chub has been known to order spaghetti only when instructed to do so by his campaign advisor Vladimir Putin.

The theory is that he must overcome his fear if he does not want to appear to have an "anti-pasto" bias.

His inability to eat spaghetti has not prevented Mr Clump's Italian fluency due to his high intelligence. He learned two decades ago - for instance - that lengthening words, adding -ina or -ini to the end, makes them diminutive - in Italian.

A cup, for instance - as Mr Tump found out on a trip to a Milan lingerie store with one of his best pals, and with a child model whom they were spoiling at the time - is tazza, but a small cup is tazzina.

On one recent occasion, Mr Grump was seen attracting the non-English-speaking chef from the kitchen at a New York restaurant, and he stood in the middle of the room with his eyes squinted to make sure the chef knew he was serious.

He placed an index finger and thumb near each other, indicating something miniscule. Then he simply uttered the word "Spaghetititinini-tiniwini-tiniwini," still squinting and pouting so that the chef completely understood the deal. "And do it...bigly," Mr Dunk added, snorting loudly.

The chef held Mr Dump's stare before being instructed to cut the spaghetti up to make it more manageable for Gomp's refined palate by a very racist aide of Mr Gronk's through hand gestures - three out of seven of which were offensive - before he escorted the chef back into the kitchen.

Book Review: The Devil's Feast by MJ Carter

We prologue into the latest Blake and Avery novel by MJ Carter with a clear villain who shows a Cartesian indifference to the pain caused to non-human creatures through animal testing.

Seguing into the first part of the book, through the eyes of the narrator, Avery, we are taken on a prison visit: Blake is in a Catch-22 situation, more eager to stand up to his bullying patron and stay in prison than to not risk his life among his murderous fellow inmates.

Next we go to the Reform Club, a gentlemen's venue and fine-dining establishment for the progressives of the day. As dishes are sampled, one of those in attendance appears to fall prey to a similar bout of poisoning as that suffered by the dogs and rats in the opening pages.

High-end cuisine at the time is the equivalent of today's molecular gastronomy; melt-in-the-mouth sensations, trompe l'oeil courses that appear to be the mains but are actually sweets, and a radical menu in keeping with the Club setting.

Carter deftly presents period culture and detail through the characters who guide Avery through London. This will serve novices like myself to the series well, as Avery is a near-stranger to the city.

Working through a case that involves international diplomacy, cross-Commons collaboration and a deal of discretion, the narrative features what might have been classed as state-of-the-art technology for its time, both culinary and forensic. Like the technology, Carter's style - through the mildly sardonic Avery - is itself both modern enough to entertain and period enough not to appear prochronistic. Troubled musings related to family life back home might make William Avery a New Man today, until you consider that he's away from home, at work in the city. Helen's arrival - a richly drawn creature with frayed, post-partum nerves - highlights Carter's subtle skill in detail of even the minor characters.

You can buy The Devil's Feast by MJ Carter at Amazon UK, Amazon US and elsewhere. Follow the author on Twitter.

Something Wicked Crime Writing Festival Friday 28th October to Sunday 30th

Fiona from the Something Wicked Crimewriting Festival sent out the details of their awesome events this year:

Murder comes to Malahide on the October bank holiday weekend in the form of the Something Wicked Crime Writing Festival, which runs from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th. Over the course of the three days, there will be something for all ages interested in crime, crime fiction and children’s books.

On Friday October 28th a panel of bestselling authors will discuss how they write about murder and violent crime. The panelists are Alex Barclay (Darkhouse, Blood Runs Cold), Sam Blake (Little Bones) and Liz Nugent (Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait) and will be hosted by Bert Wright (Administrator of the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards). The event will be held at Malahide Lawn Tennis Club at 7:30pm. Tickets €12.50*/€15 (*early bird)

‘Malahide Murder Morning’ takes place on Saturday Oct 29th. This is a forensics and crime scene
Liz Nugent
workshop where participants will witness the procedures and protocols following the discovery of a dead body. They will also learn how to write authentic crime fiction. The workshop will be led by Forensic Anthropologist René Gapert, Deputy State Pathologist Linda Mulligan and Garda Vanessa Stafford, with actor and screen writer Paddy C. Courtney acting as host. Award winning crime novelist Arlene Hunt (Vicious Circle, The Chosen, The Outsider) will complete the line up, as she discusses how to incorporate the panelist’s information into a crime novel. The three-hour workshop takes place in the Malahide Parish Centre at 10am. Tickets €20*/€25 (*early bird)

Manor Books on Church Road will be the venue for ‘Killer Kids’ at 11am on Sunday October 30th. Best selling author Dave Rudden (Knights of the Borrowed Dark) will host a workshop for children, who will learn the art of story telling through the medium of crime fiction. Tickets €5.

Tickets available on SomethingWicked.eu and Manor Books, Malahide.
For further information contact Fiona@somethingwicked.eu

FRIDAY 28th OCT 2016
PANEL OF AUTHORS biographies and headshots:

Alex Barclay
Alex Barclay studied journalism in college, and went on to work as a journalist and copywriter
before writing her first novel, Darkhouse, a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. She won the inaugural Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award at the Irish Book Awards for Blood Runs Cold, the first in the Ren Bryce series. She lives in County Cork, Ireland.

Sam Blake
Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group
Sam Blake
publishing consultancy and the national writing resources website Writing.ie. Her debut novel, Little Bones spent eight weeks in the Irish top 10, with four weeks in the Number 1 slot. Introducing feisty young detective Cat Connolly, in the first of this thriller trilogy what appears to be a routine break-in has devastating consequences when Cat finds a baby's bones concealed in the hem of a vintage wedding dress. 

Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent is the writer of two number one bestselling novels, Unravelling Oliver, published in 2014 and Lying in Wait, published in July of this year. Unravelling Oliver has been optioned by ITV Drama for a six part series and won the Crime Fiction of the Year Award at the Irish Book Awards, while Lying in Wait is currently the subject of a bidding war between film companies.
Prior to working as a full time novelist, Liz worked in the theatre as a Stage Manager for many years, and in TV drama for RTE. She has also been an award-winning writer for TV and radio. Liz won the inaugural Jack Harte Bursary from the Irish Writers Centre and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and has just returned from a month as Writer in Residence at The Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco. www.liznugent.ie

Hosted by

Bert Wright
Bert Wright has worked as a bookstore manager; marketing manager; book festival director; and freelance book marketing consultant.  He is currently Administrator of the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book awards and Events Curator for the DLR Voices Series, The Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival and the Dublin Festival of History.
SATURDAY 29th OCT 2016

René Gapert
René is a freelance Consultant Forensic Anthropologist in Ireland. He trained as a Medical Dissector/Prosecutor in Berlin, Heidelberg and Düsseldorf in Germany and pursued
doctoral research studies in Forensic Anthropology and Human Anatomy at University College Dublin in Ireland. Dr. Gapert holds a PhD in Forensic Anthropology/Anatomy and a Professional Certificate in Forensic Radiography. He is an accredited Forensic Anthropologist under the UK Justice System and has over 20 years of experience in the dissection of the structures of the human body and 14 years of experience in the examination and analysis of human remains in forensic and historical contexts.

Dr. Linda Mulligan
Dr. Linda Mulligan was appointed Deputy State Pathologist in September 2016 on completion of 2 years specialist forensic training.  During this time she obtained the Diploma of Forensic Medical Sciences and the Diploma of Medical Jurisprudence (Pathology).  In 2014 she had completed her specialist training in Histopathology in Dublin during which she obtained a Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (UK).  She began her medical career in 2002 having graduated from medicine at University College Dublin.

Arlene Hunt

Arlene Hunt is the author of eight novels and numerous short stories. She is the co-owner of
Portnoy Publishing and a regular contributor and reviewer for RTE’s culture show, Arena. She lives in Dublin and is currently working on her ninth novel. When not working she spends a lot of time running long distance with her GSD, Archer.

Hosted By
Paddy C. Courtney
Paddy C. Courtney is an actor and writer from Malahide. He retired from a career in stand up
comedy in 2011 to concentrate on acting and writing. He wrote regular columns for The Herald, The Irish Independent, The Irish Field and The Huffington Post. His screen writing credits include the multi IFTA nominated six part comedy drama ‘Paddywhackery’ for TG4, ‘Lean On Me,’ a short film for The Irish Film Board and 100 episodes of ‘Dig In Diner’ for RTEjr. His acting credits include ‘Houdini & Doyle’ for FOX TV, ‘Shameless’ for Channel 4 and ‘Inspector George Gently’ for BBC.

  SUNDAY 30th OCT 2016

Dave Rudden

Dave Rudden enjoys cats, adventure and being cruel to fictional children. He is the author of the critically acclaimed bestseller Knights of the Borrowed Dark.
Ever wanted to tell a scary story? A story so chilling it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and milk curdle for a hundred miles? Join award-winning author of Knights of the Borrowed Dark Dave Rudden as he teaches the art of awful and the secret of scariness, as well as structure, character and everything you need as an aspiring author.