Blog

My blog is a running collection of thoughts about writing fiction, the Cold War, life in Berlin in the 1980s, and other topics of particular interest to Nick Temple File readers. You’ll also find updated announcements about promotions and events relating to all of my works.

John Dyer and his four brothers
29
Oct

Uncles

Uncles My brother sent me the picture below this morning. It’s a picture of my father, the man on the far right, and his four brothers. It was taken in the late 1960s. As far as I know, it’s the last photograph of them all together as my Uncle Pete, the man seated in the...
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A line of golf carts ready for a day on the course
25
Oct

The Old Man and the Tee

The Old Man and the Tee I’ve been giving leisure time a good deal of thought the last couple of years in anticipation of retirement. Given my age and other demographics, the game of golf came to mind and would not go away. When I was a kid, I used to go to a driving...
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Birds at the edge of the surf in Santa Barbara
17
Oct

More of My Poetry Published by The Writers Club

More of My Poetry Published by The Writers Club The Writers Club has published another poem of mine. This one, entitled “Resolve,” is a quick riff on conformity and adulthood, and it is below. This is the sixth poem of mine that they’ve published. I think it’s great that a platform like The Writers Club...
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The Live Drop Podcast
02
Oct

A Cold War Podcast with Mark Valley and Jonathan Dyer

A Cold War Podcast with Mark Valley and Jonathan Dyer Mark Valley, West Point Grad, Berlin veteran, actor, producer, writer, and all around good guy, has a podcast called The Live Drop. A while back he interviewed me. We talked about a wide range of matters including my time as a Russian Linguist in Berlin...
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The Wild Sonoma Coast
26
Sep

A Poem Here and There

A Poem Here and There A recent submission of mine to The Writers Club is their “Favorite Submission of The Week.” The poem, “Museum Piece,” was inspired by a walk along the South Carolina Coast one evening with my family, and my Uncle Tom, Aunt Anna, and my cousin Elizabeth. We passed a roped-off section...
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The famous checkpoint between East and West Berlin during the Cold War
11
Sep

What’s the Point of Espionage in a Spy Novel?

What’s the Point of Espionage in a Spy Novel? Espionage is conducted by nations to shape policy. Pretty simple. One country gathers information about another country, analyzes it, and then makes policy decisions based on the analysis of the information. The policy result is national in scope, although it is often not made public for...
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NSA Intercept Site on Teufelsberg, Berlin, 1985
02
Sep

A Zoom Talk: How I Write a Spy Novel

A Zoom Talk: How I Write a Spy Novel [Author’s note: These are the notes I used to give a 30-minute talk via Zoom to the McMinnville, Oregon Lions Club on 9/2/20. I was invited to give the talk by Sam Justice, a fellow soldier I first met at the Defense Language Institute in 1981....
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The Back of A 1975 Map of Berlin
26
Aug

First Impressions of Berlin and the Cold War

First Impressions of Berlin and the Cold War I was born in 1957, the year the Soviets launched Sputnik and the race to the moon began, a signal event in the Cold War. There are still a lot of us around for whom the defining geopolitical position of our early years was the Cold War....
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A-Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii
23
Aug

Landscapes, Poetry, and Superfluity in a Novel

Landscapes, Poetry, and Superfluity in a Novel A maxim of jurisprudence enshrined in the California Civil Code is, “Superfluity does not vitiate.” What a beautiful sentence! Its meaning is its own abrupt precision. The rule it expresses is clear and unqualified; it sets an excellent standard for legal writing. I love that sentence. However, as...
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The Author in Agios Nikolaos, Crete, 1985
18
Aug

A Cold War March with Greek Communists

A Cold War March with Greek Communists The political season, while never far away, is officially upon us here in the U.S. with the opening of the Democratic Party’s national convention last night. The quadrennial event is virtual due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, so the usual camera shots and stories about convention floor antics...
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The famous Schloss Heidelberg
13
Aug

The Genesis of Nick Temple File no. 6, The Heidelberg Gap

The Genesis of Nick Temple File no. 6, The Heidelberg Gap The process of starting to write another book is never the same. Last night and this morning I was mentally paging through the typical spy novel plots and titles just for the hell of it. None of the results were particularly surprising. Plots included...
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A statue of a Red Army soldier stands guard over the mass grave of 5,000 of his fellow soldiers in Berlin
09
Aug

What’s the Sweet Spot for the Number of Deaths in a Spy Action Thriller?

What’s the Sweet Spot for the Number of Deaths in a Spy Action Thriller? Death. It’s the great mystery, right? Lots of ideas out there about what happens, what it’s like, whether it’s permanent, whether it’s just another phase, etc. Those are all broad metaphysical questions that humans have been pondering since just about forever,...
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The cover of The Shadow Chamber, Nick Temple File number 5
05
Aug

The Shadow Chamber is Available on Amazon!

The Shadow Chamber is Available on Amazon! The Shadow Chamber, as of about noon today, is available on Amazon as an ebook. This never gets old, at least not for me. As an independent author, I have complete control over the release process. I don’t have to wait on anyone else’s timetable. I don’t have...
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The Timeless Beauty of the Kona Waterfront
27
Jul

Once a First Draft is Done

Once a First Draft is Done Finishing a first draft of a novel is immensely satisfying. Getting all of those thoughts connected in a meaningful way and then getting them down on paper, or more likely in some sort of electronic document format, is like coming out into the light at the end of a...
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The author pitching at the age of twelve
23
Jul

A Tale of Two Triples

A Tale of Two Triples (Author’s note: This is an article I wrote for a fantasy baseball blog back in 2012. I’m posting it as the Major League Baseball season opens in truncated fashion due to covid-19.) During a night game on April 20th, the Oakland A’s Jemile Weeks hit a triple against the Cleveland...
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A picture of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate from 1985
21
Jul

Writing Backwards

Writing Backwards The first chapter I wrote in The Shadow Chamber was one of the last chapters in the book. And I recently wrote what will be the last chapter in the book with only about half of the 1st draft finished. Since then I have found that much of what I’m doing is writing...
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Character and Dialog
13
Jul

Description, Dialog and Development

Description, Dialog and Development Creating a believable character is harder than it sounds. Unlike a play, a novel doesn’t have a list of the characters the reader will eventually encounter. The novelist introduces them throughout the story using a variety of methods to flesh out just who they are. At least that’s an approach I...
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Character Evolution
08
Jul

A Different Theory of Evolution

A Different Theory of Evolution One of the things that has surprised me most about writing is how characters can change as a story unfolds. In spite of having a rough idea of what role a character is going to play and what are the primary attributes of that character, I’ve had characters change in...
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Sources of Inspiration
22
Jun

Sources of Inspiration

Sources of Inspiration It may go without saying that, experimental forms of writing notwithstanding, a good story is at the heart of good fiction. And I assumed for many years that knowing what the story will be is a prerequisite to putting pen to paper. I saw no chicken or egg quandary; story first, writing...
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Researching a Cold War Thriller
05
May

Research for A Cold War Thriller

Research for a Cold War Espionage Thriller I get asked from time to time about doing research for the Nick Temple Files. The books are set in the 1950s and 1960s, so research is necessary to lend an air of verisimilitude to a work that is otherwise fiction. I often combine personal experience as a...
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