Behold the Japanese Fox Village

“Located near the city Shiroishi in the mountains of Miyagi, Japan, the Zao Fox Village (Zao Kitsune Mura) is a paradise for fox lovers. Open since 1990, the village is a sanctuary for over a hundred animals, including six different breeds of foxes who roam freely.” Source: My Modern Met


Write, Burn, Read

I earlier posted about my current workday routine: writing 1,000 words of new fiction and burning an equivalent number of calories on an exercise bike. Book gets bigger, I get slimmer.


View from my writing chair

So far, so good. Since late March, I’ve written 21,000 words (about 60 pages of a first draft) and burned 21,000 calories, and that’s including spring break with our son home from school.

Now I’ve added reading to the mix, so the routine looks like this:

  1. Write 200 words
  2. Burn 200 calories
  3. Read 20 pages of a book
  4. Repeat

Ideally, by the end of each week, I’ve written 15 pages of fiction, lost approximately 1 pound of bodyweight, and read at least one book.

A single, undisrupted season would yield:

  • 180 pages written (half a mid-sized novel)
  • 12 pounds lost (which I could stand to lose)
  • 6,000 pages read

And I can still be a bum on the weekends. I recognize that I’m in a privileged position of writing fiction full time, and that such a routine would be tricky for people with day jobs. But the beauty of the routine, for me at least, is the steady accrual of results, along with the enjoyable, balanced variety. It’s daunting to write 1,000 words in one rush, or exercise for 90 consecutive minutes. Alternating through micro-goals keeps the effort fresh and approachable. On days when I can accomplish only a fraction of my usual goals, the routine remains an easy way to beat procrastination.


Bellweather REDO author sendGRAYPORT

The main harbor city of northeastern Floria, bustling and cosmopolitan, deeply weathered in appearance due to efflorescing salt.


Read more about BELL WEATHER: A Novel (Henry Holt & Co., 2015).


Yorick’s Skull and Vader’s Helmet

A few months ago, I wrote an essay about how fatherhood realigned my storytelling instincts as I began writing my forthcoming novel BELL WEATHER. My publisher recorded an audio version, which you can listen to below, but today — having cried a few happy tears upon seeing the new Star Wars teaser — I’m posting the print version.


Fatherhood revitalized storytelling for me. I was thirty and boring and terribly serious, and nothing could have saved me but an energetic kid.

The question isn’t how I went from writing literary novels to writing an epic adventure. It’s how did young Dennis, ecstatic after seeing The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, end up writing literary chamber pieces?

Maturity, for better or worse. I grew up, discovered more sophisticated stories, and took undergrad courses in existentialism. When I started writing fiction, I wanted to get published and have a meaningful career, and I wrote to impress editors and critics. This worked for a while. My writing strengthened and my characters deepened, but I was falling into the Serious Artist routine, toiling away and unhappily gathering rejections. The work began to suffer.

At some point I learned that writing is good for me—it kills depression and anchors my days—and I knew I would write for the rest of my life, even if publishers kept rejecting my books. Faced with decades of future storytelling, I needed to truly enjoy it. But I had lost that 1980 thrill, and I had even lost the high-school rush of meeting Holden, Huck, and Hemingway. My writing felt small and increasingly conservative, and I decided it was time to muscle up.

My first published novel, FELLOW MORTALS, benefitted hugely from a go-getter protagonist and higher stakes. I love that book and I’m proud of it, but I spotted an opportunity. Instead of seeking big emotions in a small story, what if I wrote a big story?

bell-weather-3dOur son Jack was seven when I started BELL WEATHER. I read the Harry Potter series with him. We read The Hunger Games trilogy together and lined up for The Avengers on opening day. Guess what I saw in his face and re-experienced along the way? 1980.

Before Jack was born, I had became a lit snob, the kind of guy who devours a dozen Stephen King novels and then finds ways to excuse such behavior. Heaven forbid pleasurable reading! And yet the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian, once pigeonholed as “mere genre”, had pulled me through a nervous breakdown in my early thirties. They kept me company. They consoled me. They showed me an unfamiliar world I didn’t want to leave. There was not only a place for such novels in my life, there was an essential place, and it was this—combined with the blood transfusion of fatherhood—that shifted my perspective on storytelling.

I think of the Javits Center in NYC. Attending Book Expo America with a friend was interesting, but exploring Comic Con with my son was thrilling. Once Jack’s enthusiasm for books and movies reminded me to loosen up, I looked at stories in a new way. I re-read Shakespeare, Dickens, and Austen and thought, “Right. These authors have guts.” I met Lisbeth Salander and Walter White, pop-culture characters with extraordinary depth. I read the announcement of Star Wars: Episode VII and couldn’t wait to tell Jack. He and I have talked at length about Yorick’s skull and Vader’s helmet, because they’re both important to us. They both matter.

This isn’t an apology for writing an epic adventure, and it isn’t a rejection of quiet literary novels. It’s simply how becoming a father rolled adulthood and childhood together, and how the newfound balance rejuvenated everything.

Me and a Squirrel


Corelli’s Sonata Op. 2, No. 12

I played a lot of 18th-century music throughout the writing of BELL WEATHER. Today’s selection is from Corelli’s Sonata Op. 2, No. 12.


corelli archiv

Note: Beats Music membership required; they offer a free two-week trial.

Learn more about BELL WEATHER: A Novel (Henry Holt & Co., 2015)


Dog Tired

IMG_1063Yesterday was the first truly warm day of the season, and Bones was outside and on the move start to finish. Our son had a friend over to the house; the yard was full of mud and sticks and birds and good vernal stink; the National Guard was training in the field across the street; people kept strolling, running, or walking their dogs in front of the house; there may have been cats at any moment; snacks were had; we enjoyed a barbecue at my parents’ house; Bones’s uncle Howard (a dachshund) also had spring fever; and it was really just nonstop excitement for fifteen hours. We’re taking it easy this morning.


Bellweather REDO author sendSMOAK

A hot drink made of ground smoakwood nuts, pleasantly addictive, with a bitter-rich, cinnamony, burnt-black flavor.


Read more about BELL WEATHER: A Novel (Henry Holt & Co., 2015).


Sleepy Hollow Mug, with Fire


Goodreads Giveaway for BELL WEATHER

Henry Holt and Company is giving away another 35 copies of my novel BELL WEATHER.


The earlier giveaway is also still active, and you can sign up for that one at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 161 other followers