Spy thriller Set in the late 60s

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Taut

Lean

Gripping

Spy thriller

Set in the late 60s

Cold War tensions to the fore

In Africa – feel the heat and the culture

Suspenseful action scenes that can match Bourne and Bond

But also character studies that are more like Greene or le Carre

So no silly gadgets or explosions

Dark, gritty and bleak

Conflicted and trapped first-person narrator

Laconic humour laced in

Real Cold War and espionage history integrated and revealed

Real history of this forgotten civil war

Unusual love story/Taut

Lean

Gripping

Spy thriller

Set in the late 60s

Cold War tensions to the fore

In Africa – feel the heat and the culture

Suspenseful action scenes that can match Bourne and Bond

But also character studies that are more like Greene or le Carre

So no silly gadgets or explosions

Dark, gritty and bleak

Conflicted and trapped first-person narrator

Laconic humour laced in

Real Cold War and espionage history integrated and revealed

Real history of this forgotten civil war

Unusual love story/obsession

Plot or Panic?

No, I don’t outline.  I am so suspicious of structure that I don’t have a regular grocery shopping day, or a grocery list, and our family laundry tends to pile up until everyone is out of underwear at eleven pm on a Sunday night.   I always viewed ideas of structure and time management as some kind of government propaganda designed to keep the middle classes ‘living lives of quiet desperation.”   I always wanted to be a free spirit.  I wanted to be Auntie Mame, and Pippi Longstocking; and to be like the man in that old American Express commercial – at the airport with just a credit card in his shirt pocket.


Of course, I am not a free spirit.  I am merely a disorganized mom who is always ten minutes behind her own life.  There are always appointments I drop or double-book; missing homework I should have monitored; dinners I forget to make.   Once, when we lived in New York and had a blackout, the local diner sent a man on a bicycle to check up on my well-being because I hadn’t ordered food in two days.   This is a long way of saying that I was probably never destined to be a writer who outlines or plots before beginning a story.

My writing style can be best described as procrastination plus panic.  It took me five years to write my debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and it might have taken a lot longer, had the crashing economy not made it vital to finish my MFA thesis and go find a ‘real’ job.  I will draw a gauzy veil over the final six weeks of terror in which self-doubt appeared as a very hairy little goblin woman who sat on my left shoulder and screamed abuse in my ear (‘you suck’ being her mildest incantation) and my world shrank to the three gray walls of a fabric cubicle and the glow of a laptop screen where Tim’s ‘Finish Your Novel’ pages would remind me that only the butt in the chair and the tapping fingers on the keyboard could save me.

Sometimes I really like the writing.  What I like is the completely blank mind that comes …after I have said aloud the awkward meaning of what I am trying to say, only ungrammatical…and just before the perfect phrase pops up; syntactically shiny and glowing with freshness.  Those moments make me get up from my office chair, numb-bottomed in my jeans, and do a little jig of joy.  I also like the thrill of pages fresh and hot from the printer, with numbers in the footer and my name on the top left; Helen Simonson.  It’s the name on the page that makes most of us write, isn’t it?  It’s our own ‘Kilroy was here’ graffiti which we attempt to scrawl across the world in non-fading ink.   I have written only one novel so far and I am horrified to report that it began with the slightest of ideas.  I had a moment of clarity in which I decided to write something for myself – an afternoon treat with no calories, just for Helen – and my mind immediately produced a small brick house in the country and an older man, wearing his dead wife’s housecoat, answering the door to a stranger.  I believe this moment of authentic self – in which I refused to care what others would think of me – was important to me and will be to you.  We’d all like to be Tolstoy or Chekov, or Alice Munro, and sometimes we want that so badly that we reject our own voice – the one with the tendency to humor and a hokey desire for English cottages.  However, at best we can expect to produce somewhat competent pastiches.  To write something unique, I now believe, we can only go with the voice we have and hope that it is enough.  When I wrote for myself, something sprang to life that I had not been able to create before.  Give it a try.


Once I had a few lines, I just tried to keep going.  Writing is like making one of those awful mosaic tabletops with broken plates and grout.  Small shards of ideas, experience and images seemed to funnel from my head into my fingertips. I wrote linear, chapter by chapter; I also made visual story webs with fat markers on large sketchpads, as if I were in middle school.   What I refused to do is to jump around and write all over the place, hoping to fit it together later.  Many people like this method but I found it too scary.

I don’t believe it matters whether we write in a writing studio or a park bench and no one really needs a laptop newer than five years old (it’s just word processing).  What we all need is just to pile up pages.  I find the biggest problem in piling up the pages is headspace.  If I so much as look at email, consider the dirty dishes in the kitchen, sneak into the refrigerator or fight with a telephone marketer, my head fills with noise and my writing is over for the day.  I try to write in the mornings and to set aside anything else that pops into my head (call the plumber, pay the mortgage, am I picking up a kid or is he going to Crew?) by writing it in a daily planner under the heading ‘call after 1pm’.

I think that any kind of space and support you can build around your writing will help it survive.  A set writing time, a writing class, a weekly editing group, a brief writing window carved out lunchtime at your ‘real’ job– all these can be useful.  As my pages piled up, I found that they provided a foundation of support under the idea that I could be a writer.    For those paying attention, this might seem, at first glance, to be complete acquiescence to the importance of having structure in my life.  Sad, isn’t it




Plot or Panic?


No, I don’t outline.  I am so suspicious of structure that I don’t have a regular grocery shopping day, or a grocery list, and our family laundry tends to pile up until everyone is out of underwear at eleven pm on a Sunday night.   I always viewed ideas of structure and time management as some kind of government propaganda designed to keep the middle classes ‘living lives of quiet desperation.”   I always wanted to be a free spirit.  I wanted to be Auntie Mame, and Pippi Longstocking; and to be like the man in that old American Express commercial – at the airport with just a credit card in his shirt pocket.

Of course, I am not a free spirit.  I am merely a disorganized mom who is always ten minutes behind her own life.  There are always appointments I drop or double-book; missing homework I should have monitored; dinners I forget to make.   Once, when we lived in New York and had a blackout, the local diner sent a man on a bicycle to check up on my well-being because I hadn’t ordered food in two days.   This is a long way of saying that I was probably never destined to be a writer who outlines or plots before beginning a story.

My writing style can be best described as procrastination plus panic.  It took me five years to write my debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and it might have taken a lot longer, had the crashing economy not made it vital to finish my MFA thesis and go find a ‘real’ job.  I will draw a gauzy veil over the final six weeks of terror in which self-doubt appeared as a very hairy little goblin woman who sat on my left shoulder and screamed abuse in my ear (‘you suck’ being her mildest incantation) and my world shrank to the three gray walls of a fabric cubicle and the glow of a laptop screen where Tim’s ‘Finish Your Novel’ pages would remind me that only the butt in the chair and the tapping fingers on the keyboard could save me.


Sometimes I really like the writing.  What I like is the completely blank mind that comes …after I have said aloud the awkward meaning of what I am trying to say, only ungrammatical…and just before the perfect phrase pops up; syntactically shiny and glowing with freshness.  Those moments make me get up from my office chair, numb-bottomed in my jeans, and do a little jig of joy.  I also like the thrill of pages fresh and hot from the printer, with numbers in the footer and my name on the top left; Helen Simonson.  It’s the name on the page that makes most of us write, isn’t it?  It’s our own ‘Kilroy was here’ graffiti which we attempt to scrawl across the world in non-fading ink.   I have written only one novel so far and I am horrified to report that it began with the slightest of ideas.  I had a moment of clarity in which I decided to write something for myself – an afternoon treat with no calories, just for Helen – and my mind immediately produced a small brick house in the country and an older man, wearing his dead wife’s housecoat, answering the door to a stranger.  I believe this moment of authentic self – in which I refused to care what others would think of me – was important to me and will be to you.  We’d all like to be Tolstoy or Chekov, or Alice Munro, and sometimes we want that so badly that we reject our own voice – the one with the tendency to humor and a hokey desire for English cottages.  However, at best we can expect to produce somewhat competent pastiches.  To write something unique, I now believe, we can only go with the voice we have and hope that it is enough.  When I wrote for myself, something sprang to life that I had not been able to create before.  Give it a try.

Once I had a few lines, I just tried to keep going.  Writing is like making one of those awful mosaic tabletops with broken plates and grout.  Small shards of ideas, experience and images seemed to funnel from my head into my fingertips. I wrote linear, chapter by chapter; I also made visual story webs with fat markers on large sketchpads, as if I were in middle school.   What I refused to do is to jump around and write all over the place, hoping to fit it together later.  Many people like this method but I found it too scary.


I don’t believe it matters whether we write in a writing studio or a park bench and no one really needs a laptop newer than five years old (it’s just word processing).  What we all need is just to pile up pages.  I find the biggest problem in piling up the pages is headspace.  If I so much as look at email, consider the dirty dishes in the kitchen, sneak into the refrigerator or fight with a telephone marketer, my head fills with noise and my writing is over for the day.  I try to write in the mornings and to set aside anything else that pops into my head (call the plumber, pay the mortgage, am I picking up a kid or is he going to Crew?) by writing it in a daily planner under the heading ‘call after 1pm’.

I think that any kind of space and support you can build around your writing will help it survive.  A set writing time, a writing class, a weekly editing group, a brief writing window carved out lunchtime at your ‘real’ job– all these can be useful.  As my pages piled up, I found that they provided a foundation of support under the idea that I could be a writer.    For those paying attention, this might seem, at first glance, to be complete acquiescence to the importance of having structure in my life.  Sad, isn’t it?

Don’t Talk About Writing – Write

Every once in a while someone wants to talk to me about writing. What immediately goes through my mind is what I used to say to my art directors when I was designing a film and they’d ask me: “What color?” My reply was always: “You don’t talk about color.”

You don’t talk about writing – you write.

Every day. You plow ahead, leaving gaps and holes to be filled in later. Moving the story forward is the key.

My mom was an inspiration to me. I recently found some of her poems and short stories and made copies and sent them to my brothers. She also was a very good artist. She worked in water colors, a very difficult medium. My dad played a pretty good honky-tonk piano. But they were both school teachers and their two careers and raising 3 boys left them little time for those pursuits.


When I’m not writing – I read. Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, Walter Mosley, James Lee Burke and the great Cormac McCarthy – those writers fill my shelves. But when I set about the serious task of writing a new novel, I stop reading and start writing.

I have written a trilogy (The Vampire Of Siam) and two factoids (Chasing Jimi and Tinsel Town.) I always have a notebook and a pen. I keep the notes in files with simple headings and then when its time to write – I go to these and find the nucleus to begin the process.

I begin with a very loose plot. I outline just enough to get started.

The hardest part of writing a book is getting started. Like everyone, I procrastinate and do just about everything but write, when it comes time for me to start something.

I do my best writing when I am in a stream of consciousness mode. When it flows. When I don’t know what I will write next. When I feel (as Robert Howard said of “Conan”) – the characters are standing over my shoulder telling me their story. I laugh out loud all the time. And I am constantly amazed at the twists and turns the story takes.

This is what excites me about writing. It tales a while to get to this point – both in your writing as a whole and in each individual book. But that magic moment has so far come to me very early on in each of the half-dozen novels I’ve written so far.

There was a time when I wrote lots of songs (early 80’s.) I had a band and a regular gig. My act was about 2 hours – 90% original material. I never consciously sat down at the piano to write a song. They came to me. I woke up with them in my head and I would scramble to get them down (Mick Jagger sleeps every night with a recorder next to his bed.)


Now, when I’m working on a book, I wake up & write stuff in the middle of the night. Then I go back to bed – and read it the next day and barely remember writing it.

I write practically every day. Without a given schedule. I am semi-retired from the film game now and I chose my ‘spot’ in the world for this part of my life very carefully. I live in Phuket, an island in the south of Thailand.

When I first visited here 20 years ago, I had no idea that this would be a place that I would return to time and time again for the next two decades of my life.  I was most fortunate that on my first trip here, I found the very spot that afforded me the solitude and peace to pursue my dream of being a writer. It was just a little single room house, Baan Thukkataan, but it was where, I was convinced, that my muse  lived. I would work as a Production Designer in the Hollywood system throughout the year and then return every winter to the little house by the sea.  Words poured forth.  I wrote through the long days and into the fold of the tropical nights, listening to the lapping of the surf and the cries of the jungle behind me. I poured my heart onto to the keys of my various laptops. I filled countless notebooks while sitting in the islands of numerous cafes. All the while, my muse stood quietly at my shoulder – encouraging and beckoning me forward.

Now I live right across the street in my own house. I am very comfortable and I enjoy writing here. It is where all my books get started. But once I’ve cleared that initial ‘getting started’ phase, – I can write anywhere – bars, restaurants, airplanes, trains.

I put the book down when it is finished and leave it for 6 months or more. Then, when I return to it, the superfluous becomes obvious. Lastly, I have the fun of working with the editor, setting the galleys and designing the cover art.


I’m writing a fourth Vampire Of Siam tale now, and needed to re-read the last book in the series. There was much of it that I truly do not recall writing. It is fresh to me – and, I must admit, enjoyable. I think that is the hallmark of a good book, when you can pick it up again and the writing still intrigues you.

Jim Newport

January 2010

Phuket, Thailand

I love to paint myself into a corner.

I don’t like to call myself a “pantser,” mostly because it brings up unpleasant memories of junior high school, but given the choice between identifying myself that way and saying that I carefully and meticulously outline every move I’m going to make in a new book, I have to go with the colloquial. I “pants.”

See, every writer has a style of working. I’m not talking about the words we choose or the artistry of our construction. I mean the thing that gets us going in the morning (or in my case, the late afternoon) and forces us to continue through the spots when we really haven’t a clue what the next word is supposed to be. it’s not so much the muse–I think you can write whenever you need to, and don’t believe in “Writer’s Block”–as it is the motivator, something that keeps you going when there’s a ballgame on TV and a bag of Cheetos in the kitchen cabinet.

For me, it wouldn’t work if I knew everything that was going to happen in my story before I wrote it. I’d feel like that story had been told. There would be no surprises for me in the process, and no surprises would mean no enjoyment. I might just as well be punching a time clock and working for Da Man instead of this cushy life of skimpy advances and the constant threat of unemployment.

I came from screenwriter’s training; I started by writing a truckload of screenplays and trying for years to sell them, with varying degrees of no success. But what I was unable to obtain in monetary compensation I more than made up for with the storytelling technique and confidence I found in endless rewrites and repetition. I found out about the three-act structure, what a midpoint was and why it was important, the absolute need for character, and how to write dialogue that didn’t sound like people making speeches and more important, didn’t always sound like me talking. I’m grateful for everything I learned writing screenplays. Someday, I might try it again, just to see how not selling one feels at this age.


What I found out is that there’s no right way to write. There’s no wrong way, either. There’s only your way. I found mine by doing it–I started with a story idea, a premise, and worked from there once I got the process going. I generally wrote in the late afternoon because when I tried to do it earlier in the day, I’d procrastinate until the late afternoon, and then get all my work in from four to six. So now I work on my “day job,” newspaper articles, teaching and like that, until four, and then get to writing the novel. Because there’s no sense in wasting all that time when I could be trying to make tuition money for my kids.

Now, I know what I need to start a story–a premise, a character I understand, and a few scenes that I know I want to write. I have an idea where they’ll fit in the structure of the story, but not what will connect them to each other. So when I’m writing, if a character does or says something unexpected, I can run with it, rather than trying to cut out something that could be interesting just because it doesn’t fit the preset outline I would have concocted before starting in to work.

For example: My second novel, the Aaron Tucker mystery A FAREWELL TO LEGS, involved our intrepid hero, a freelance reporter and family man trying his best not to investigate crimes, investigating a crime that took place in Washington, DC. Specifically, the murder of a sleazy lobbyist found in his mistress’ bed with a kitchen knife sticking out of his chest. And Aaron, who lived in New Jersey, had to go to Our Nation’s Capital to investigate. He started by contacting the local police detective working the case, and got remarkably little information, mostly because the cop didn’t want to tell him anything.

But Aaron had somewhat acerbic nature (imagine!) and liked to irritate people to get what he needed. He needled the cop about a high profile case like this being too much for the police to handle, and how he was sure they were behind the times in crime investigation. At one point, Aaron suggested the police had not even collected any DNA samples to help identify the killer. And sure enough, the cop was rankled enough to respond.

Now, keep in mind: I really am just looking for a plot point to end the chapter here. Something that will keep the pages turning. And I have not planned ahead, so I don’t really know where this is going, but I figure if I keep it going long enough, it’ll get somewhere.

The cop told Aaron that they had, too, gotten DNA samples, and one of them had paid off: A hair belonging to a man convicted of a series of murders in Texas some years before. Terrific, Aaron said, you’ve got your man. So go arrest him.

We can’t, the cop answered. The guy was executed by the Texas State Troopers seven years ago.

And I got finished typing that, read it, and honest to goodness, said aloud, “What?”

But here’s the thing: I decided I liked that bit. So now I had to figure out how it made sense in the context of my story. And while I’m not going to tell you how I resolved it (go ahead and buy the damn book; I’ve got kids to send to college), I will tell you that I’m pretty proud of how it came out.

It wouldn’t have happened if I’d outlined meticulously ahead of time and slavishly stuck to the outline. I’m not suggesting that all those who write outlines do that; some are quite flexible, and can change the outline when necessary. They are using one just because they like to have a road map, and I respect that.


But for me, the thrill of the hunt isn’t as much fun if the fox and the dogs have worked out the capture among themselves ahead of time. I thrive on the discovery process. As I write, I find out things about my characters that can have an impact on the plot. That helps me keep the characters front and center, and have the plot serve them, rather than the other way around.

That’s just my process. Yours is yours. You should do what works for you.

Jeffrey Cohen is the author of the Double Feature Mystery series, most recently with A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION, and the Aaron Tucker mystery series, most recently with AS DOG IS MY WITNESSI love to paint myself into a corner.

I don’t like to call myself a “pantser,” mostly because it brings up unpleasant memories of junior high school, but given the choice between identifying myself that way and saying that I carefully and meticulously outline every move I’m going to make in a new book, I have to go with the colloquial. I “pants.”

See, every writer has a style of working. I’m not talking about the words we choose or the artistry of our construction. I mean the thing that gets us going in the morning (or in my case, the late afternoon) and forces us to continue through the spots when we really haven’t a clue what the next word is supposed to be. it’s not so much the muse–I think you can write whenever you need to, and don’t believe in “Writer’s Block”–as it is the motivator, something that keeps you going when there’s a ballgame on TV and a bag of Cheetos in the kitchen cabinet.

For me, it wouldn’t work if I knew everything that was going to happen in my story before I wrote it. I’d feel like that story had been told. There would be no surprises for me in the process, and no surprises would mean no enjoyment. I might just as well be punching a time clock and working for Da Man instead of this cushy life of skimpy advances and the constant threat of unemployment.


I came from screenwriter’s training; I started by writing a truckload of screenplays and trying for years to sell them, with varying degrees of no success. But what I was unable to obtain in monetary compensation I more than made up for with the storytelling technique and confidence I found in endless rewrites and repetition. I found out about the three-act structure, what a midpoint was and why it was important, the absolute need for character, and how to write dialogue that didn’t sound like people making speeches and more important, didn’t always sound like me talking. I’m grateful for everything I learned writing screenplays. Someday, I might try it again, just to see how not selling one feels at this age.

What I found out is that there’s no right way to write. There’s no wrong way, either. There’s only your way. I found mine by doing it–I started with a story idea, a premise, and worked from there once I got the process going. I generally wrote in the late afternoon because when I tried to do it earlier in the day, I’d procrastinate until the late afternoon, and then get all my work in from four to six. So now I work on my “day job,” newspaper articles, teaching and like that, until four, and then get to writing the novel. Because there’s no sense in wasting all that time when I could be trying to make tuition money for my kids.

Now, I know what I need to start a story–a premise, a character I understand, and a few scenes that I know I want to write. I have an idea where they’ll fit in the structure of the story, but not what will connect them to each other. So when I’m writing, if a character does or says something unexpected, I can run with it, rather than trying to cut out something that could be interesting just because it doesn’t fit the preset outline I would have concocted before starting in to work.

For example: My second novel, the Aaron Tucker mystery A FAREWELL TO LEGS, involved our intrepid hero, a freelance reporter and family man trying his best not to investigate crimes, investigating a crime that took place in Washington, DC. Specifically, the murder of a sleazy lobbyist found in his mistress’ bed with a kitchen knife sticking out of his chest. And Aaron, who lived in New Jersey, had to go to Our Nation’s Capital to investigate. He started by contacting the local police detective working the case, and got remarkably little information, mostly because the cop didn’t want to tell him anything.

But Aaron had somewhat acerbic nature (imagine!) and liked to irritate people to get what he needed. He needled the cop about a high profile case like this being too much for the police to handle, and how he was sure they were behind the times in crime investigation. At one point, Aaron suggested the police had not even collected any DNA samples to help identify the killer. And sure enough, the cop was rankled enough to respond.

Now, keep in mind: I really am just looking for a plot point to end the chapter here. Something that will keep the pages turning. And I have not planned ahead, so I don’t really know where this is going, but I figure if I keep it going long enough, it’ll get somewhere.

The cop told Aaron that they had, too, gotten DNA samples, and one of them had paid off: A hair belonging to a man convicted of a series of murders in Texas some years before. Terrific, Aaron said, you’ve got your man. So go arrest him.

We can’t, the cop answered. The guy was executed by the Texas State Troopers seven years ago.

And I got finished typing that, read it, and honest to goodness, said aloud, “What?”

But here’s the thing: I decided I liked that bit. So now I had to figure out how it made sense in the context of my story. And while I’m not going to tell you how I resolved it (go ahead and buy the damn book; I’ve got kids to send to college), I will tell you that I’m pretty proud of how it came out.


It wouldn’t have happened if I’d outlined meticulously ahead of time and slavishly stuck to the outline. I’m not suggesting that all those who write outlines do that; some are quite flexible, and can change the outline when necessary. They are using one just because they like to have a road map, and I respect that.

But for me, the thrill of the hunt isn’t as much fun if the fox and the dogs have worked out the capture among themselves ahead of time. I thrive on the discovery process. As I write, I find out things about my characters that can have an impact on the plot. That helps me keep the characters front and center, and have the plot serve them, rather than the other way around.

That’s just my process. Yours is yours. You should do what works for you.

Jeffrey Cohen is the author of the Double Feature Mystery series, most recently with A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION, and the Aaron Tucker mystery series, most recently with AS DOG IS MY WITNESS.

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof

Issue: July 1, 2010

The Queen of Patpong.

Hallinan, Timothy (Author)

Sep 2010. 320 p. Morrow, hardcover, $24.99. (9780061672262).

Life in Bangkok is good for writer Poke Rafferty and his unlikely family. Poke’s new book is selling well,

and he’s happily in love with wife Rose, once a Patpong bar girl. Daughter Miaow, just a few years

removed from living on the streets, is enrolled in a good private school and becoming a feisty

preadolescent. But their contentment is upended by Howard Horner, a dangerous man from Rose’s past.

Hallinan’s previous Poke thrillers have been reliably entertaining, featuring a fascinating and exotic locale


and exceptionally malevolent bad guys (Breathing Water, 2009), but this one is a breakthrough. The

backstory concerning Rose’s impoverished life in a squalid Isaan village, her father’s plan to sell her into

prostitution, and her escape to Bangkok and life in the sex trade is riveting, genuinely moving, and entirely

plausible. Miaow’s entry into a stormy adolescence, and her parents’ efforts to deal with it, are knowingly

written. Even Bangkok seems more richly detailed than in past adventures, and Poke’s effort to condense

The Tempest for Miaow’s school’s production (Miaow plays Ariel) is thoroughly charming. The Queen of

Patpong is a terrific page-turner, and the surprising denouement will thrill readers who want the good

guys—or girls—to win in the end.

— Thomas Gaughan
Resolutions

January 4th, 2010

Making New Year’s resolutions is a mug’s game that, ninety percent of the time, just leaves us disappointed in ourselves as we cross off one bright, shiny commitment after another.

But here we are, not only with a fresh new year in front of us — not a footprint in sight — but a fresh new decade.  The old what should I do with it? question presents itself and won’t go away.  We’ve been given this time, and the strength and wit to use it well — maybe improve the way we approach something, or maybe try something completely new.  So what should we resolve?

I’ve made five.  I could talk about each of them for paragraphs, but I won’t.  Here they are.

1.   To aim high and to try to exceed my expectations.

2.  To go to gratitude rather than resentment when the world challenges me.

3.  To listen more than I talk.  (That one’s going to be hard.)

4.  To increase my exposure to beautiful things.

5.  To live more widely, not to allow my life to shrink to unchallenging routines.

What are yours?




This entry was posted on Monday, January 4th, 2010 at 7:42 pm and is filed under All Blogs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to “Resolutions”


  1. Lisa Kenney Says:
    January 4th, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I like yours. Can I have them? Oh, wait. Maybe I need to resolve not to be so lazy. I’ll give it some more thought. Happy New Year!

  1. Suzanna Says:
    January 5th, 2010 at 10:50 am

Really wonderful resolutions Tim. Your list is sort of the maximum super strength version of the five I came up with on New Years Eve.

1. Exercise every day. Hope springs eternal.


2. Make more time for friends.
3. Creative life — pursue, engage, grow it!
4. More kindness, more compassion toward myself
and others.
5. Last, but not least, notice when my ego is
is trying to get in my way and try to quiet it
down well before I act. (Your second resolution
says it a lot better.)

Would love to hear more! Happy New Year everyone.



  1. Larissa Says:
    January 5th, 2010 at 11:14 am

Hm…that’s a nice sounding list there of goals. I have a few that I think are attainable…(c:

1. Travel more and consistantly.

2. Allow myself time to really work through creative ideas through experimentation and play. (i.e. don’t procrastinate on projects and then just do “good enough”)

3. (I’m stealing yours because it’s mine too) Learn to listen more and talk less.

4. Start meditating consistantly. Regardless of how much work it seems like sometimes.

5. Indulge my curiosity whenever possible.


  1. Usman Says:
    January 6th, 2010 at 3:36 am

I’m borrowing all of the above suggestions. Even if 50% works, I have it made.

  1. Jen Forbus Says:
    January 6th, 2010 at 5:22 am

Your list is wonderful, Tim, as are the others that have been added here. Mine will echo some of the other sentiments.
I’m working on:

1. balancing. I need to make sure I have time for exercise and reading and other fun – not just one of them.

2. carrying the spirit of Christmas with me every day, not just Dec. 25th

3. challenging my fears instead of hiding from them.

4. ORGANIZING! My home has turned into a collection of clutter and I’m going to get it reduced and organized.

5. Working everyday to find at least one thing that was great, beautiful and/or inspirational.



  1. Cynthia Mueller Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 12:02 am

1. I will learn to resist the urge to explain the exact solution to other people’s problems. And more specifically, learn how to relax and let others enjoy their own problems.

2. I will expand my bubble. New tastes, new smells, new sounds, new sights, new books, new walks, new routes, new friends and plenty of art.

3. I will look up from the concrete while walking and wave to my neighbors (I see them every day, after all. And maybe I’ll work up to “Hello.”)

4. I will start writing down the flashes of brilliance when they occur, instead of just letting them dissipate.

5. I will drink a lot more water.

6. I will take deep breaths, really full breaths, and enjoy all that free air hanging around.

7. I’ll stop biting my nails.

8. I will read books with notepaper and a pencil close at hand, so I don’t forget the deep thoughts I think when I read.

9. I will tell my loved ones that I love them, and not just assume they know. And I will look for little ways to show them how I feel.

10. I will finish the first draft of my book.

11. I will finish reading “Anna Karenina” (about 100 pp left) and read “War and Peace.”


  1. Judy Schneider Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 7:45 am

The above resolutions are tempting — like the commenter Usman, I want to borrow them all. I need to exercise, listen more, and balance. I also specifically want to commit to finishing my novel. Stating such a resolution early and often will help with my productivity and accountability, won’t it?

Thanks for an inspiring post!



  1. Sylvia Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 11:55 am

I’ve got a pretty specific list of goals (which I think break down by month) which I may change my mind about but seem achievable at the moment.

Except for the losing weight bit, that’s been on the list the previous two years too and I’ve gained instead of lost. :/



  1. Timothy Hallinan Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Hi, everyone, and thanks — lots to think about here. What surprised me when I looked at my list was a sort of delayed reaction — at first, I thought most of them didn’t have much to do with writing, and then I realized that they all do, in one way or another.

LISA — You’re welcome to take my resolutions, although the last word I’d use to describe you is “lazy.” How about “generous” and “mentally adventurous”? Those both work better for me.

SUZANNA — Yours are all on one of my lists (especially the one about exercising). I made lots of lists, but these were the ones that stuck. If I can keep to most of these most of the time, and you can do the same for yours, we’ll both be in better shape in 2011.

RISS — Great resolutions. Meditating daily is about the best single thing I can think of. For me, with a mind that’s never seen a piece of mental clutter it doesn’t want to keep, meditation is the only way I know to get clarity and perspective.

USMAN — Adopt away. Haven’t heard from you in a long time. How are you? Everything okay? (We all worry about you, but then I have friends in Thailand who worry about me living in Los Angeles, where the LETHAL WEAPON movies are set.)

JEN — I don’t know how you balance anything, given the amount of energy you pour into your site and all those books, but I have faith you’ll manage. And organizing is absolutely a spiritual exercise. I looked at my house on New Year’s morning and saw maybe 350 objects, and that didn’t include books on shelves. By 7 that evening, I’d cleared out every single thing that wasn’t necessary or beautiful, or both. I feel so much more clear I can hardly express it.

CYNTHIA — I personally find that water goes very well with fingernails, so I don’t know why you want to stop biting yours if you’re going to drink more water. And I know how hard it is to let other people enjoy their problems, especially when the solution is so evident to us. And if you don’t finish the first draft of your book, I’ll finish it myself. Oh, wait . . .

JUDY — Welcome to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, which was named long before tea parties became 12-step meetings for birthers. The thing about finishing your novel, if you don’t mind my saying so, is that it requires a daily commitment. I believe, after writing maybe 15 novels and teaching more people than currently buy my books in hard cover, that if you don’t work at least five days a week, at least 3-4 hours each session, the odds against your finishing are much, much higher than they are if you build a fence around your writing time: it’s essential and not to be intruded upon. There’s a LOT about this in the FINISH YOUR NOVEL part of this site. Or e-mail me via the “Contact Tim” buttons that are here and there.

SYLVIA — I gained 60 pounds in the two years since I quit smoking, and I’ve now dropped 29 of them. If I can do it, anyone can. Just remember, it’s all about the balance between the number of calories you take in and the number you burn. I’ll support you from here, where I’m presently hungry.


  1. Cynthia Mueller Says:
    January 10th, 2010 at 1:37 am

Fingernails and water? Is this some kind of celebrity diet?

BTW: 9 1/2 days into this year and my fingernails remain unbitten. I’ve drunk a few gallons of water, take quite a few deep breaths and finished reading “Anna Karenina.”

I’ve waved to many strangers in my tract and haven’t been shot. Yet.

I’ve looked up “piebald” and “subaltern” in the dictionary while I was reading this afternoon. And I’ve written two paragraphs in my book. Two. 2. But they’re not bad.

And I ate something really, really icky at dinner tonight. Some kind of mushy goo that smelled like garlic, but wasn’t. And I didn’t die. Yet. So much for broadening my culinary horizons.


  1. Usman Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 1:28 am

Tim, I appreciate your concern for me. Yes , I am living dangerously these days. Never know where a bomb will go off…literally like Lethal Weapons. I loved those movies, but not living them out.




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