Writer's Roost Home Page

Last update: 11 February 2016

Welcome to Steven Houchin's writing website. He is the author of novels, short stories, non-fiction articles, technical papers, and also performs editing services for other writers. He was honored when his second novel won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's 2007 Literary Contest in the Mystery/Thriller category. Also, he served as a judge in PNWA's annual literary contest for both 2009 and 2010 in their Sci-Fi/Fantasy category.

Please check out his Writer's Roost BLOG. It contains book reviews, announcements, and articles on the writing craft. Please post your comments on any of the articles. Also, take a look at our list of upcoming Literary Conferences and Contests.

By the way, if you think you are related to Steven, check out his family genealogy website.

News items:

** Steven's article "A Journey Through Time" appears in the October 2011 issue of Northwest Prime Time magazine. It tells the story of a letter he wrote while in kindergarten that returned to him 49 years later, unopened.

** Steven gave an interview about his writing experience to local Seattle author Norma Nill, which you can read on her blog.

** Steven served as guest blogger at the Literary Liasons site with a posting titled "So, You Want to Win a Literary Contest?" In it, he explains some of the factors that will help your manuscript break through the clutter of contest entries to maximize the chance of winning.

** Steven's non-fiction article "McGraw Square" was published in the Summer 2009 issue (Vol. 23 No. 2) of Columbia Magazine, a publication of the Washington State Historical Society. It details the history of a statue in downtown Seattle that honors John McGraw, who served in the 1880s and 1890s as King County Sheriff and Washington's second governor.

Book Review: The Nomination

This suspense novel by William G. Tapply employs a story technique I used in my first novel, Linear Descent, that I think of as the "character spiral." If you consider a spiral shape, such as a galaxy in space, it consists of numerous far-flung entities circling a center point, all drawn toward the center. At some point, they swirl inward and converge at that center, crashing together. In a character spiral, the entities are a cast of characters separated by distance, time, or unfamiliarity (i.e. strangers).

In The Nomination, the main characters are out at the edge of the spiral, living separated lives, with only tangential relationship. The center point, or the inciting incident in novelist terms, is the impending retirement of a Supreme Court justice. The president wants to appoint Massachusetts judge Thomas Larrigan, who is considered a Vietnam War hero with a squeaky-clean record. But Larrigan has a secret past: during the war, he abandoned a child bride and a gave away their baby for adoption. He connects with an old Marine pal, Eddie, who knows all about it. Eddie's old girlfriend knows, too, and Larrigan sends him down to Florida to take care of her.

In New York, that former child bride, Simone, is now a dying woman who agrees to let a ghostwriter tell her story. She'd had a brief acting career in the 1980s, becoming a cult celebrity before retiring due to her illness. She has the documents from her past, and a just-arrived package of photos sent to her by Eddie's girlfriend, who has been spooked by his sudden appearance in Florida.

Out in California, former police detective Jesse Church fears for her life after sending a mob boss to jail. After her picture appears in the paper, she goes on the run, but not before receiving a letter from Simone who believes Jesse to be her birth-daughter. So, Jesse heads for New York, thinking the mob hit-men won't find her there.

Writer Mac Cassidy gets the job to ghostwrite Simone's biography. He meets her and leaves behind a tape recorder that she'll use to dictate the story. She has no idea Thomas Larrigan is a judge and that he's been nominated for the high court. But, Eddie has found out about her from his long-ago girlfriend.

And so the characters spiral in toward one another, and the reader anticipates the impending crash that will happen when they meet. Mac has the tapes and photos, Eddie wants to silence Simone and get the photos (unaware of the book project), and Jesse wants to meet her mother and hide out, and the mob is on her trail. The reader has an inkling about what will happen, yet the outcome isn't exactly as expected. All in all, The Nomination is well worth the read. The hardcover is about 300 pages, so not too long.

Steven Houchin -- 27 September 2015

To see previous essays and musing about writing, please visit my Web Log.