It Takes a Thief


At an angle across the road from my home is a two-family rental house and a freestanding workshop owned by a local homebuilding company. The view from my window is not an eyesore but neither is the property a delight. The building company uses the shop to fabricate custom work and to store materials. The rear of the shop faces a waterline buried under a packed dirt walking path. Between the path...

Describe Your Novel in Two Sentences


So asked my agent, as she prepares to pitch THIS GAME WE PLAY to publishers. You must have that quick hook. Everyone is so busy. Everyone wants you to get to the point and wow them. First pass: A recent college graduate falls for a charming schemer. Her father becomes obsessed with preventing the marriage. And I added this, for a longer description: After an emotionally challenging year, Anna is...

Tim O’Brien and Facing the “Moral Emergency”


During the pandemic, I’ve compiled a list of the “The Most Important Novels in My Life,” then started re-reading to see if they maintained their esteem over time. Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” made my list for its haunting narrative of the author’s Vietnam experience and its structure as a series of connected stories. The piece I remember the most, and still cuts me every time I read...

Where are All the Monarchs?


This is an update to an earlier post (below, dated June 16) when I lamented the lack of monarch butterflies. The update is this: they are here. The season started a little later, but Harriet found many eggs on our milkweed, gave them to her friends, and raised a number of monarchs herself. A good year, after all, at least in the world of monarchs. Still eating milkweedTransforming in the...

I Have! A Punctuation! Problem!!!


I came up as a writer in the days when the exclamation point was a judiciously, seldom-used punctuation mark. It was to be placed at the end of a sentence in only extreme cases, as a shout of intensity or alarm when words alone cannot convey such powerful feelings. Writers who overused the exclamation point were often derided. It was a lazy way to show emotion. ! F. Scott Fitzgerald once said...

What’s in a Title? A Lot


The title of a novel isn’t as important as the content of the novel itself, but I want to love my title. I want others to love it. I want the title to draw in potential readers, pique their interest, motivate them to take a look at the book. I want the title to make a promise. That’s a heavy load to carry for just a few words. Some of the greatest titles ever were a single word:...

The Posture Experiment


Like every writer, I spend a lot of time at my desk. That means hours of slumped shoulders, strained neck, and bent back. Hazards of the trade. Today, for example. I’m deep into reading about famously unethical psychology experiments. I lean forward, I peer at my screen, I read and I read. Minnesota Starvation Experiment First, it’s the Minnesota Starvation Experiment (1944-45), which...

Six-Word COVID-19 Stories


I’ve got a thing for the six-word story form. I wrote six-word memoirs. Here are some six-word coronavirus stories. Locked downOpened upLocked again Craved hug,settled for a nod No mask?Don’t tread on me. More idiocy, more cases, more deaths Social distancing comes natural to me Bartender! A double martini!Sorry, students United States leadsin COVID-19.Sadly. Sanitizer takes over from...



1. It is an early autumn afternoon, the leaves just beginning their brilliant decline. Twice when a cloud passes overhead she puts on her sweater, only to take it off when the sun comes back out. The pale blue cardigan slips easily on and off her narrow shoulders. The cemetery is old and large enough that here, deep within the borders and down an easy slope among elms and maples and rows of...

Latest Novel Now With Agent


I’ve submitted my latest novel, THE SUITOR, to my agent, after we’d gone back and forth on some edits. The story centers on three characters: recent college-grad and law-school-bound Anna; the ambitious and scheming Kyle, who loves her; and Anna’s father, Art, who doesn’t like the idea of Anna and Kyle together. Read the first chapter. I’ve got another shot with this...

THE SUITOR Has My Attention


I’ve posted less these last few weeks because my attention is occupied elsewhere. One focus of attention has been finishing my novel, THE SUITOR. I’ve gone back and forth with my agent on some potential changes that might clarify, crystallize, and strengthen the story. I’ve spent hours each day writing and rewriting, trying to solve those nagging problems of narrative and...

My First Novel Was a Disaster


I’m on page 38 of 327 pages of a novel I’m reading and I want to put it down. I’m uncomfortable reading. Anxiety is building in me. Anguish weighs me down. Even shame. And yet — I also experience a sense of wonder. The novel is called THE PETTING ZOO, and it’s the first novel I wrote, 30 years ago. I came across the manuscript — wasn’t sure I still had it...

I Must Kill My Darlings


William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” What does this mean? It’s a common piece of advice for writers who must cut sentences, scenes, characters, even entire plots because they no longer work within the story world. They might be beautifully written. You might love them. Still, they must be axed. I’m doing some darling murder these days as I...

4/20 is a Special Day


April 20 (4/20) is weed day. The day got its name in the 1970s in California when a group of high school students met after school around 4:20 to get high and 4/20 became a code phrase they could use in front of their parents. Its reputation spread from there. 420 Magazine, founded in 1993, has a mission around creating cannabis awareness. I hadn’t heard of the magazine until its editor...

The Backstory On First Chapters


Here’s the backstory on the first chapters of novels posted on this site: My literary agent sold STASH to Random House in a two-book contract, the second book turning out to be CLEAN BREAK.  After years of writing and rejection, I had made it as a novelist with a major publishing house. Everyone was excited about STASH. The publisher at the novel’s imprint, Broadway Books, said it was...

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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