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.

A Pile of My Screenplays
04
Dec

Progress on Three Fronts

A Completed Script, Some Ongoing Research, & a New Screenplay On November 21st, I finished the script for the documentary I’ve been writing. The process was interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the process of creating a format that made sense from a production point of view. I started...
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03
Nov

A Busy Summer and Fall Full of Writing

Focused Writing with a Commercial Purpose It’s been a while since I posted here for the simple reason that I’ve been busy. Back in August, I was contacted and asked to provide notes on a script then in development. After submitting my notes, I was asked about working on a potential series. The work included...
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Inspiration for Nick Temple Files
04
Jul

My Late in Life Epiphany: Readers over Royalties

A Meaningful New Direction for an Old Writer’s Obsession For the last few days I’ve been making the eBook versions of my books available for free. Kindle Direct Publishing allows me to offer any or all titles for free for five days total once a quarter. A couple of years ago I did the same...
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04
Jul

“Tom Clancy Meets Raiders of the Lost Ark” – The Holy Lance is FREE July 5th – July 9th!

Download a Free Kindle Copy of The Holy Lance Starting tomorrow, July 5th, The Holy Lance, my 21st century espionage thriller with a dash of fantasy thrown in, will be FREE if you download the eBook version on the book’s Amazon listing. This giveaway will last for five days. Described by one reviewer as “Tom...
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03
Jul

Let Me Explain is FREE July 4th – July 8th!

Download a Free Kindle Copy of Let Me Explain Starting tomorrow, July 4th, my prep school coming-of-age novel, Let Me Explain, will be FREE if you download the eBook version on the book’s Amazon listing. This giveaway will last for five days. Here’s what award-winning director and producer Peter Farrelly had to say about Let...
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02
Jul

All Six Nick Temple Files, Cold War Spy Thrillers, are FREE July 3 – July 7!

Download Free Kindle Copies of each Nick Temple File Starting tomorrow, July 3rd, each book in my six-book Cold War spy series The Nick Temple Files will be FREE if you download the eBook version on the book’s Amazon listing. This giveaway will last for five days until midnight, PDT, July 7th, for each of...
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Judging Paradise, a Novella
02
Jul

Judging Paradise is FREE July 2 – July 6!

Download a Free Kindle Copy of Judging Paradise Starting today, July 2nd, Judging Paradise is FREE if you download the eBook version on the book’s Amazon listing. This giveaway will last for five days. Of course, if you feel that it’s really not a huge sacrifice to pay $1.99 for something that took ten years...
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30
Jun

A String of Beads is FREE July 1 – July 5!

Download a Free Kindle Copy of A String of Beads Starting tomorrow, July 1st, A String of Beads will be FREE if you download the eBook version on the book’s Amazon listing. This giveaway will last for five days. Of course, if you decide you’d like a paperback copy you can always buy one. Or,...
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19
Jun

Prolific Output during the Pandemic and Retirement

Time to Write Plus Motivation Equals Production On Saturday, The Writers Club, an online literary journal, published my short story “Hit and Run.” In addition, since August 4, 2020, I’ve published three books: The Shadow Chamber, The Heidelberg Gap, both of which are Nick Temple Files, and A String of Beads, my collection of short...
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17
Jun

Draft Cover for New Nick Temple File

Draft Cover for Nick Temple File no. 7 My writing process isn’t a steady, linear process. At times the words flow; at times the ideas flow; at times the questions flow; and at times nothing flows. During the slow times, I try to find some way to move things along. I can proof and/or edit...
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16
Jun

A Five-Star Review for A String of Beads

The First Review of A String of Beads Gives it Five Stars Well, there it is. The first review of A String of Beads and it’s a good one. Five-stars! Don’t let any writer who says, “I don’t pay attention to reviews” fool you. They do, and so do I. Here’s the first review of...
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14
Jun

The Thrill Never Gets Old

Few Things Equal Holding a Copy of My Latest Book My copies of A String of Beads arrived today. There was some inexplicable delay in getting them, but now that they’re here, all is momentarily right with the world. Opening a package with copies of my newest book in it is one of the joys...
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13
Jun

Two Action Movies in Two Weeks

“Top Gun: Maverick” Followed by 007 in “No Time to Die” Two movie experiences defined a new world of movie-going, and one of those experiences set a new standard for an old franchise. About two weeks ago, we saw “Top Gun: Maverick” at an IMAX theater. It was the first time we’d been to a...
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The Timeless Beauty of the Kona Waterfront
12
Jun

Balance Between Characterization and Plot

Expanding Characterization in a Plot-Driven Thriller Plots drive the Nick Temple Files. A recent review of Switchback even noted the emphasis on “plot-plot-plot.” That’s a fair observation and one that tracks with my intent when I write the books. Most of the characters in the series are not deeply developed. One concern driving that choice...
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11
Jun

The Intersection of Fiction and Autobiography

Pulling Fiction out of Autobiographical Fact I believe I’ve read all the fiction Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote. I have also read a good deal of biographical information about both men. As a result, I have a good sense for how much their personal lives influenced their fiction, and how many details of...
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06
Jun

How Short Should a Short Story Be?

Counting Words When Writing a Collection of Short Stories I see a good deal of discussion on the internet – some of it insistent, some of it less so – about the “proper length” for a short story and a collection of short stories. I assume that most of those who advocate for one number...
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Editor Defined
04
Jun

When Do Three Books Become a Trilogy?

Three Works of Fiction that Constitute an Accidental Trilogy I view reflection as a valuable exercise, particularly when it yields unexpected insight. Whenever I release a new book, as I did yesterday with A String of Beads, I’m inclined to reflect on its creation and its place among my prior works. That process in this...
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01
Jun

Dyer Releases a Collection of Short Stories

Twenty-Seven Short Stories/Childhood Memories from the 1960s and More I released a new collection of short stories today, A String of Beads. The following is from the back cover of the book: “A String of Beads is a compilation set primarily in the 1960s about a boy, his brother, and his sister trying to survive in...
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31
May

Death as a Fact of Cold War Life

Using Death in Cold War Espionage Thrillers The Cold War produced victims. I’ve never seen a complete accounting of how many men and women on either side were killed or wounded during the Cold War. I have seen an estimate of 382 Americans killed during the Cold War outside of the wars in Korea and...
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The Wild Sonoma Coast
28
May

We Chain Ourselves to Our Past

The Dangerous Folly of Chaining Ourselves to a Fictional Past We are shackled to the past, either through our own deeds or the deeds of others. Witness the reverence for the actions of this country’s founders when such reverence results in the severest of quantifiable harms, i.e., death, with little to no quantifiable benefit. That...
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19
May

Learning to Write via Twitter

Twitter’s Pool of Advice for Writers I’ve been on and off Twitter a number of times over the years. I’ll stick it out for a while, grow weary of the experience and withdraw, and later convince myself that it’s important for me to be on it to (barely) market my books. I recently returned after...
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17
May

Historical Fiction’s Vast Possibilities

Mining the Past for a Spy Novel The Nick Temple Files can be read as historical fiction. Each book is set during the Cold War, and each references and is influenced by events that are contemporaneous with that book’s plot. I’m working on number seven in the series. It has a working title of Nonessential...
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13
May

Finding the Elusive Right Word

When One, and only One, Word Will Do “The TV was still loud, but it was nothing more than background noise since I’d grown accustomed to its noisy clack-clacking indelibly competing with my parents’ riotous profusion of human exhaust.” That’s the last sentence of my short story “Domestic Partners.” It’s one of 27 stories in...
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Flag of the Soviet Union
10
May

The Cold War Bad Guys are Back!

Russia Reclaims its Role as Easy Fictional Target When the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, it took with it a sizable supply of bad actors available for fictional exploitation.  Convenient nests of villains like Stasi and the KGB either disappeared or got makeovers. The KGB, for...
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NSA Intercept Site on Teufelsberg, Berlin, 1985
06
May

A New Nick Temple File Takes Shape

A Title and Plot for Nick Temple File no. 7 Today was one of those days, and I mean that the good way. I’ve been scratching around looking for the heart of Nick Temple File no. 7. I want to set it in 1970, so for weeks I’ve fixated on that year looking for an...
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05
May

Characterization Through Landscape

Developing Characters via Setting For most fiction, setting matters. I imagine some experimental fiction eschews setting in a way I’ve never considered, but my guess is that approach is the exception rather than the rule. The setting in which a story takes place provides context and contour, challenges and opportunities, imagery and metaphor. It influences...
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28
Apr

Characterization through Descriptions of Daily Habits

The Details of a Fictional Character’s Life Matter Someone on Twitter recently asked about the need to describe the daily habits of a character in a work of fiction. Is it advisable to include details about eating habits, about dressing, about hygiene, about the myriad moments that comprise a character’s day or life? In my...
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27
Apr

Nukes and the Cold War

Staying Away from the Nuclear Weapons Cliché One of the characteristics of the Cold War was the nuclear arms race and all that it entailed. From “sabre rattling” to “brinksmanship” to “mutually assured destruction”, the fact that two antagonistic countries possessed the ability to literally destroy the earth within a matter of a few hours...
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25
Apr

Dialogue in Historical Fiction

Accurately Portraying How People Conversed in the Past It’s early November, 1956. Two men, both young foreign service careerists in Washington, D.C., meet at a small café for coffee and a donut before heading to work. It’s their habit to discuss the major foreign policy events of the day as a way of prepping for...
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24
Apr

Rules for Writing Fiction

The Most Important Rules for Writing Fiction Somerset Maugham, no lightweight when it comes to writing fiction, is supposed to have said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” That attribution astounds me. When I first came across Maugham’s quip, I thought, “Good God! I don’t have...
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Judging Paradise, a Novella
23
Apr

Climate as Character

The Importance of Climate and Setting in Fiction My work is all fiction, but the settings are generally real. For example, each Nick Temple File takes place in a variety of real locations. Berlin is often the focal point for those works, but I’ve used Mombasa, Paris, Prague, Garmisch, Washington, D.C., Monterey, Cairo, Rostock, Heraklion,...
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Birds at the edge of the surf in Santa Barbara
22
Apr

A Peak at my Short Story Collection

A Sample from a Short Story Collection As noted in this blog, I completed a collection of short stories in March. I’m shopping the collection around to see if I can generate any interest in it. In the meantime, I thought I’d release one of the stories here. You never know who might be reading...
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A picture of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate from 1985
21
Apr

From Behind the Iron Curtain

Three Years Behind the Iron Curtain My second trip to a divided Berlin was in August of 1983. I’d been to the city in 1975 on a brief visit with my father. The details of that visit were already a blur eight years later, but some enduring impressions accompanied me on my return trip. My...
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Winter on the Wannsee
20
Apr

Developing a Voice as a Writer

The Influence of Genre on Voice When I started writing in my late teens and early twenties, I ran into a problem that I assume many aspiring writers encounter. My work sounded like what I had most recently read. The influence of other authors was more than mere influence, and it showed. While imitation may...
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18
Apr

Writing, Rewriting, Submitting, and Resubmitting

The Writer’s Life Between Projects I completed a collection of short stories in March. Finishing a writing project is always an odd moment. On the one hand, the feeling of accomplishment at that moment approaches the sublime. On the other hand, the writing habit isn’t easily turned off or set aside, particularly after the flurry...
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26
Mar

New Collection of Short Stories

A New Collection of Short Stories I recently completed a collection of short stories. As the preface to the collection explains, “This collection began as half of a cold case murder mystery. After several attempts, and a good deal of research, I concluded I do not possess the tools required to write a credible murder...
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A Pile of My Screenplays
30
Nov

An Old Screenplay About Government-Mandated Inoculation

An Old Screenplay About Government-Mandated Inoculation About 15 years ago I decided to try my hand at writing a screenplay. I’d already written a couple of books, but the idea of putting together a full-length script intrigued me. I did some online research about the basics, bought a book about formatting, and got to it....
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Berlin's TV Tower
28
Nov

A Cold War Point of View of Berlin’s TV Tower

A Cold War Point of View of Berlin’s TV Tower Berlin’s Fernsehturm, its TV Tower, has become an internationally recognized symbol of a vibrant, modern city. I follow a number of Berlin- and Cold War-oriented sites on Twitter, and hardly a day goes by without someone posting a picture of the tower, often accompanied by...
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Original Nick Temple File from Field Station Berlin
26
Nov

A Nick Temple Christmas

A Nick Temple Christmas The Christmas season is upon us, so it’s time to once again post an original bit of Nick Temple I composed while stationed in Berlin during the early 1980s. I wrote this bit while working in subsystem Echo at the Field Station’s intercept site on Teufelsberg. It’s one of about a...
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Judging Paradise, a Novella
24
Nov

An Existential Thanksgiving on the Fictional Caribbean Island of Santa Clara

An Existential Thanksgiving on the Fictional Caribbean Island of Santa Clara Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. The origin story of the holiday is rightly suspect, but what I like about it is generally what is not present. There isn’t any weird pretend creature – think North Pole elf or a large candy-hiding rabbit –...
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A Pile of My Screenplays
13
Nov

My Screenplay, The Bonus Army, Gets A Read Thanks to One Man’s Veterans Day Generosity

My Screenplay, The Bonus Army, Gets A Read Thanks to One Man’s Veterans Day Generosity On Thursday, November 11th, Kyle F. Andrews, an experienced script analyst, made an offer via Twitter to veterans who have written a script. The offer was this: if you’re a veteran, send him a title, genre, and logline of a...
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The Heidelberg Gap
11
Nov

Paperback Version of The Heidelberg Gap, Nick Temple File no. 6, Released

Paperback Version of The Heidelberg Gap, Nick Temple File no. 6, Released Another quick note: I released the paperback version of The Heidelberg Gap, Nick Temple File no. 6 yesterday. It’s now available on Amazon as an eBook and a paperback. The latest entry in the Nick Temple File series finds Nick in Heidelberg, Germany...
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The Heidelberg Gap
30
Oct

Nick Temple File no. 6 EBook Released

The Heidelberg Gap, Nick Temple File no. 6 Released A quick note: I released The Heidelberg Gap, Nick Temple File no. 6 yesterday. It’s currently available on Amazon as an eBook. The paperback will be available in another two weeks, more or less. Each book in the series has presented its own challenges, and The...
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08
Aug

The Olympics, Greeks, and the Nick Temple Files

The Olympics, Greeks, and the Nick Temple Files The Summer Olympics are drawing to a close in Tokyo. I’ll be honest, I haven’t paid that much attention to them this time around. As usual, it looks like some amazing athletes performed superhuman acts, and some distant favorites came out on top. All great stuff, and...
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Editor Defined
03
Aug

Editing and Proofing a Novel – The Details Matter

Editing and Proofing a Novel – The Details Matter I’m an independent author. I self-publish my books. Although I have had five of my books released by publishers in the past, all of my books are now self-published. That means I alone am responsible for their content. There is no one to blame but me...
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The famous Schloss Heidelberg
30
Jul

Progress Report on New Cold War Espionage Thriller

Progress Report on New Cold War Espionage Thriller The summer has been a good one for making progress on The Heidelberg Gap, Nick Temple File no. 6. I thought it would take me to the end of the year to finish a first draft. Now it’s looking like I could get there by the end...
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20
Jul

Politics and the Cold War Espionage Thriller

Politics and the Cold War Espionage Thriller It’s an understatement to say that American political institutions are being challenged in ways the likes of which the living haven’t seen. Times are tough, uncertain, and getting more so. In addition to all of our other domestic conflicts, we are struggling with the physical and psychological effects...
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Winter on the Wannsee
15
Apr

The Common Law, a Cold War Thriller’s Plot, and a Story’s Interstices

How Studying the Common Law Helps Fill in the Gaps in a Cold War Thriller’s Plot One role of a common law judge is to fill in the interstices left by elected representatives and statutory law, or so I was taught while studying the law. The idea is that it is impossible to think of...
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The coast at Santa Barbara where my novel Requiem Lake begins
09
Apr

Writing Again after a Five-Month Hiatus

Two Novels in Progress and a New Resolve After a break of about five months, I’m writing again, trying to pick up where I left off in two different works. The break lasted longer than I thought it would. I assumed I’d restart the process shortly after January 1st, but, as they say, life got...
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The Heidelberg Gap
12
Nov

A Sneak Peak at Chapter 1 of the Newest Nick Temple File, The Heidelberg Gap

A Heidelberg Gap Preview Just for the hell of it, here’s a draft of Chapter 1 of my new Nick Temple File, The Heidelberg Gap. It will be the sixth title in the series. So far, so good. I passed 10,000 words yesterday, and feel like I’m hitting a productive stretch after some time away...
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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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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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