Secret Device for Successful Writing

I was Flipboarding through the news this a.m. and stumbled on a piece in Inc. about an ancient communications device that taught Neil deGrasse Tyson how to write better.

Spoiler alert: It’s a quill pen and ink.

quill and inkDon’t get it?

The quill pen and ink imposed a cadence on users that translated into how they write: Word, word, word, word, word, (maybe word), (maybe word) [dip the pen; you’ve run out of ink.]

Short sentences communicate more easily.


It reminds me of my high school Latin teacher who expounded on the benefits of Anglo-Saxon over the latinized Norman speech: Simple words in simple straight forward sentences.

Or, as the Inc. subhed stated,

Keep your words simple and your sentences short.

On a completely unrelated note, my new suspense novel, The Mark of the Spider, contains lots of simple words and short sentences.

Get your copy (in print or ebook) from Amazon and see.


Inquiring Minds (Pilatus Porter) – Mark of the Spider

Pilatus Porter.

Nope. Not the prefect of Judea from the New Testament.

It’s an airplane. One I’ve actually flown in, and one that nature photographer Sebastian Arnett ventures forth in my new book, The Mark of the Spider.

I flew in the Porter back during the Viet-Nam War. Back then, it was a favorite short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft for the CIA throughout Indochina — as was the snub-nosed Helio Courier.


Pilatus Porter in Laos, ca. 1970. Photo: Dr. B.R. Lang, Wikimedia Commons.

In Laos, where I spent most of my time in Southeast Asia, the Porter’s missions included “paradropping supplies to troops, passenger transport, psy ops, reconnaissance, prisoner conveyance, airborne radio relay, and other intelligence operations.”

The Porter has a wide wingspan compared to the length of its fuselage (52 feet vs. 36 feet), a distinctive long nose, and a powerful reversible engine that allowed it to land in three airplane lengths (about 110 feet), or two-thirds of the width of a football field. Takeoff required slightly more.

It was quite uncomfortable to fly in as a back seat passenger, quite exciting and far too much like flying in nothing at all, as in there’s nothing under me — or free fall.

And, as Sebastian discovered in The Mark of the Spider, the plane could glide long distances without its engine on.

You can read all about Sebastian’s adventures in trade press print and ebook formats, only from Amazon.

Inquiring Minds (Cannibals vs. Headhunters) – Mark of the Spider

In my new book, The Mark of the Spider, nature photographer Sebastian Arnett expresses considerable discomfort at the thought of exploring deeper into the heart of Borneo for fear of cannibals or headhunters.

In Chapter X, Johnnie Walker, an operative of the Australian Intelligence Service, tries to put him straight about the matter:

The Mark of the Spider - 3D

During four months in Tenom, I’d never heard of headhunters or cannibals until Johnnie brought them up.

“You know, mate, word gets around. It’s not likely that you’ll run into a lost tribe or anything like that. Even the remotest Dyak wear bras now. Some of them anyway,” he said. “And, just to keep the record straight, headhunters are not cannibals and vice versa.”

My drink in hand, I turned to him and gaped.


“Headhunters are not cannibals, and cannibals are not headhunters. Two totally different kinds of behavior.”

“You’re nuts,” I said, shaking the ice in my glass for another refill.

“No, I’m not. I learned that from a mate in the service. He’s an ethnologist. Studies primitives.”

Johnnie looked at me as though I should be reassured.

“You’re absolutely nuts.”

“An educated man like you working practically in the wilderness, you should know this stuff. Cannibals are okay; headhunters, well, sometimes they go looking for trouble. But they only go after their enemies to settle scores or to collect a little juju,” Johnnie said.

The Aussie infuriated me. He claimed to be a bookish intelligence analyst but he knew an awful lot about the wild. And how does a desk jockey get a tan like his? Not from the sun shining through an office window.

It turns out that Sebastian had reason for concern.

More in The Mark of the Spider: Book 1 of the Black Orchid Chronicles, available in ebook and trade print editions only from Amazon.