Posts Tagged ‘Michael Thompkins’


Ranting: Four authors, and why I feel stupid

July 24, 2011

Jack Cady's "Rules of '48"A number of literary elements come together: What could Douglas Adams, Steven Brust, Jack Cady, and Michael Thompkins possibly have in common?

Well, other than the obvious fact of all being authors.

The late Jack Cady once explained that if you need a soapbox, if you have a point to make, then write an editorial for a newspaper; don’t make the story subordinate to politics. I always had a hard time with this. To the other, though, I still cringe whenever I try to start a story with a preposition, or an article, or … never mind, that’s a separate issue.

Michael Thompkins put the resolution in front of me; among the tidbits he picked up along the way was to give those problems to your characters. Problem solved.

No, really, it was that easy. I was just making too much of the question. For years and years and years. Read the rest of this entry ?


Commies, Canucks, Colleen and … er … yeah

May 2, 2010

May DayWell, May Day has passed, and all I did was sit around, drink, and watch the Canucks smack down the Blackhawks. Well, that and stare, frustrated, at the screen; I’m trying to launch a new blog, and I thought the idea was really cool and all, but now that it’s time to go forward, I’m drawing the proverbial blank page. Of course, I was probably high at the time; I had a tooth extracted early last week, and spent the next several days popping generic Vicodin. And, you know, it’s not the 7.5 mg of hydrocodone that worries or puzzles me, but the 750 mg of acetaminophen. Think of it this way: the maximum advisable dose of acetaminophen is four thousand milligrams. Or, to simplify, four grams. But if I took the maximum dose advised on the label, I would be hitting nine grams daily. Even the minimum prescribed regimen suggested three grams a day. Truth told, that’s more than I took in all of 2009, and probably 2008 as well. Combined.

Anyway, yeah. Enough of that. What else is new?

Oh, right. Our friend Michael Thompkins recently invited guest bloggers to his website, one of which is yours truly, covering the recent story about fake interviews. Definitely more interesting than me rehashing a story I’ve posted here is Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist who once remarked, “We’re in the wrong business. The real money is in creating the frauds, not debunking them.

Not only does it make for fascinating reading, you can also harangue Michael for some analysis of fake interviews and the like. It’s always fun to chide him into waxing philosophical about narcissism.


(The passing of May Day also means you have less than one month remaining to get a $75 discount on your conference fees for SCWC LA 8 scheduled for September 24-26 in Newport Beach. Register before June 1 to get your discount!.)


KYSL SD23: Michael Thompkins (insert joke here)

January 30, 2009

Know Your Session Leaders ….

As I go through the list, I see we’re down to Michael Thompkins, and this is where it isn’t really fair. I could spend all day regaling you with stories of Michael’s wit and wisdom. Since he lives twenty minutes away (even less if our roads were reasonably planned) I get to see him on a regular basis. Meanwhile … oh, never mind.

(Sorry, I’ve got a really crappy song that I’ve neither heard nor thought of in ages stuck in my head, and it’s really distracting. I’ll blame Decker, not because he has anything to do with it, but because it’s fun to blame stuff on him.)

Okay … Mike is a retired psychologist, and the author of Gun Play, the first volume of the Shooting Shrink series, in which he calls upon his years of experience that include counseling local police departments to tell us the story of how a Palm Springs police shrink manages to get himself mixed up in the messy intrigues of murder, greed, and international hit-men suffering delusional psychoses. And he wants to teach you how to have that kind of fun while transforming the blank page into the a novel.

Shrinking Fiction: Using Psychology to Write Great Characters” is a two-part workshop in which you get to watch some entertaining television and movie clips, read from your own stories, and discuss, quite literally, thousands of years of traditional and academic knowledge and insight in relation to character development. This is always a popular workshop, and while no advance reservations are required, Mike suggests that those who want to get a head start should send him an email to request a syllabus.

It is also important to note that participants are not obliged to attend both sessions of Shrinking Fiction. Naturally, Mike thinks it helps to do so, but he recognizes that people’s needs and schedules aren’t always so accommodating, so he’s always working to make each part of the workshop accessible in its own right.



SD23: Shrinking Fiction syllabus available

January 7, 2009

Wow. We’re just a little over a month out from San Diego. And you know what that means. That’s right, it’s time for me to begin my unfortunate ritual of frantically trying to be useful to the conference. You’d think I would learn, but enough said about me.

Rather, let’s talk about Michael Thompkins. That’s right, our favorite psychologist turned mystery writer is back for San Diego with his latest installment of Shrinking Fiction, a popular workshop devoted to psychological distillation of character development.

Once again, Michael will explore ideas of somatic psychology and emotional anatomy, and how they might be incorporated into character development. Those familiar with past versions of the workshop might still find the updated examples and development of the presentation useful; quite obviously, there is no way to contain such broad considerations in a single weekend, so even if you’ve heard it before, you’ll want to hear it again.

(Disclaimer: Yes, it could be said I’m biased on that point, but still … I promise.)

Also, recognizing that conferee schedules and priorities can present challenges to attending a two-session event, Michael has reminded me that he intends to present this year in a manner that makes less essential to attend both days. In other words, don’t be discouraged if you can’t make one of the two workshops; he’d love to see you there, anyway, and hopes to approach the sessions so that you won’t feel lost having missed one or another.

Oh, yes … and after all that, here’s the important part. If you’re interested in attending one or both days of Shrinking Fiction, you’re welcome to email Michael ( in order to receive an advance copy of the syllabus.

And, well, that last was exactly what I was supposed to tell you, but hey, when did I ever get to the point straight away?

See you all in San Diego.



Because you just can’t get enough

April 28, 2008

For those of you who just can’t get enough of literary fraud these days, have we got a treat for you. And by “we”, of course, I mean those of us who aren’t actually in southern California. How’s the weather these days, anyway? I forget to check sometimes. Nothing’s on fire right now? And, hell, if I chuckled at the thought of a midwest earthquake last week, y’all must have had yourselves a good ol’ guffaw.

And, no, I don’t know what’s with the folksy tone, except maybe I’m just trying to see how far you’ll follow me if I don’t ever come to the point. Except that would be unkind. To other people.

Because I said nary a word a couple weeks back when the sad and twisted tale of Misha Defonseca suddenly struck close to home. For those who need reminding, Ms. Defonseca, also known by her real name, Monique De Wael, recently confessed that her acclaimed, widely popular memoir of the Holocaust was, in fact, a fraud.

But, indeed, one of our good friends and SCWC contributor, Michael Thompkins, posted back on April 10 some insights from none other than Sharon Sergeant, the genealogical researcher whose work forced the Defonseca confession:

When our team began releasing evidence to the Belgian press on February 19, we had no idea that Misha Defonseca would actually confess. Her public denials, law suit threats and unwitting statements made by supporters of her iconic status allowed us to counter each claim with additional evidence. It was an usual 10 days as this story played out in Belgium. The US press broke the story on February 29 with Boston Globe, and AP articles.

Dr. Serge Aroles, a researcher of fraudulent wolf child stories, consulted with Maxime Steinberg, and first brought the story to the public in Belgium through a Regards magazine newsletter publication of the baptismal certificate and school record images we provided. Journalists interviewed two of Defonseca’s childhood friends who had tried to expose the fraud since 1997, reporting accusations of anti-Semitism and jealousy by the French Laffont publishing house and various journalists. Marc Metdapenningen carried the story through the initial denials, Defonseca’s public confession and the ensuing firestorm in Le Soir, a national newspaper in Belgium. US journalists David Mehegan and Blake Eskin followed the breaking story in Europe, and contributed additional information when they broke the story in the Boston Globe and Slate.

And I suppose I should feel a little bit guilty because Michael even posted his thoughts a week later, and I still took absolutely no notice whatsoever:

You all know the myth of Narcissus and the concept of narcissism: look in the water, see your reflection, and fall in love with your reflection, substituting for the real you, the water and the world. As we develop personalities, a small measure of narcissism is part of the recipe for a healthy personality; a larger hit–too much of a good thing–helps contruct the narcissistic personality. Sandor Ferenczi’s work describes the development of this personality in detail, including the moment when wishing overcomes reason and the individual begins to believe that wanting something to be real makes it real. At this precise moment, the symbolic reflection of the self in the water transforms and generalizes to other symbols that the narcissistic individual identifies with the reflected self, ie, power, success (one’s novel published) sex, and money. Finally, this symbolic unembodied life is substituted for a real self.

Okay, so that’s my bad. You would think that with news like that—an international scandal treading into my sphere of experience, into our SCWC community—I should be lighting flares off in your front yard. But as with anything really cool, there’s always a surreal aspect about it, a pitch and cant, a warp and drift that makes it seem like it’s nothing big.

I wish I could say I was just high, and blame it on that. But, alas, I’m not nearly so lucky.

In the end, I’ve done just about everybody a disservice by slacking this one. After all, as Sergeant noted, “My team would be interested to know if there are psychological case studies, stories in fiction that explore similar patterns, and what writers feel about these events.” And who better for that discussion than, oh, I don’t know, our community of writers?



Shrinking Fiction with Michael Thompkins

March 21, 2008

Some of you might recognize a few words here and there, and why not? Ideas, as we all know, evolve, and this particular adaptation would not have come to be without the interest and supportive feedback of SCWC participants.

Michael Thompkins, mystery writer and SCWC contributor, is bringing elements of his conference workshops on character development to the internet. That’s right, having paid money to attend the conference, booked and shelled out for a hotel room, and suffered through MSG’s speeches just for this sacred advice, you can now get it for free.

Okay, okay, okay. That’s not fair. After all, it has been the growth of the workshop’s attendance and the response of participants that have encouraged Mike to go forward with this project. And, frankly, if you ask me—then again, who did?—it’s kind of like any performance act. A comedian can’t get up and tell the same jokes over and over again, and Mike can only recycle so much material each time he does the workshop. While it is said that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, Mike’s not that old; sixty is the new fifty-eight as they say, and he’s a smart guy, which means that no matter how hard he tries, he can’t help but learn something new each time out.

That’s right. It’s not a myth. The perspectives received and performances witnessed change the way he looks at the material he presents and the points he hopes to communicate. And, yes, I’m pulling monkeys from sunless regions on that, but come on, we all know it’s true. Good teachers learn from their students. Good performers grow with each performance. I doubt Mike would argue—except, maybe, that I keep calling him “Mike”—and, most likely, would encourage me to keep on as long as I think I’m making him sound smart.

That said, of course, I should probably shut up.

Some of the earliest Emotional Anatomy maps of character structure come from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western Folk Medicine, world-views inherited from the ancients. In TCM, and Western Folk Medicine (Naturopathy, Homeopathy, et al.), there is no difference between the practice of psychology and the practice of medicine. Specific emotions, patterns of thought, and attitudes are associated with specific anatomical organs and other physical structures in complete systems of correspondence. In TCM these are often called Five Element Theory. In Western Folk Medicine these are call humours.

For example, in TCM the human liver is associated with the emotion anger and the mental function of planning, and the heart is connected with the emotion of joy and the controlling of the entire organism. TCM comprises a complex, voluminous system of such correspondences. In the TCM world-view an individual’s anatomical structure, inherited and acquired, significantly influences an individual’s characteristic attitudes, thoughts and feelings. The systems of correspondences in Western Folk Medicine are less organized, less discrete, and less studied.

As a psychologist, I have spent much time studying these and other similar emotional anatomies, the organization of emotional patterns into specific anatomical patterns. My point here is not whether these systems have any relative or absolute scientific merit; I will leave that to the scientists and the physicians. My focus here is whether the psychological systems to be found here in these bodies of knowledge can help us as writers to construct more congruent characters, characters that ring true on all levels, spiritually, emotionally, and physically ….

Anyway, like I said … if any of it sounds familiar …. He’s just getting started, though. Drop by, say hi, let him know you’re out there, what you think, and what you would like from future installments of “Shrinking Fiction“.



Session info: “Creating Congruent Characters”

January 19, 2008

A note for those who have asked, and anyone else who might be wondering, about Michael Thompkins‘ “Creating Congruent Characters Part I & Part II” sessions: you can contact Michael directly for the syllabus to prepare.

Also, a reminder that submissions to the “Tales from the Fire” contest face a February 1 deadline. That’s less than two weeks, now.


Come together … in San Diego

December 12, 2007

Writers, come together … in beautiful San Diego. February brings the 22nd Southern California Writers’ Conference at San Diego, and the Presidents’ Day weekend conference is shaping up quite nicely.

The latest updates, of course, can be found at (and, hopefully, here as well). Check the online brochure (.pdf) for details, including conference workshop and session leaders, agents and editors who intend to be available, featured speakers, and, of course, registration and advance submission details.

And while we don’t want to play favorites among our workshop and session leaders—it really is an impressive list—it would be equally unfair to leave out the latest developments:

  • From powerhouse independent sci-fi, fantasy and horror publisher Night Shade Books, editor-in-chief Jeremy Lassen is aboard for San Diego 22. While not listed in the hardcopy brochure, Jeremy will be on one of the agents & editors panels and accepting advance submissions for follow up one-on-one consultation. Given the genres he specializes in, and with NSB set to launch a general imprint next year, he will likely prove popular.
  • Also not listed in the brochure, following his packed workshops at our L.A. and Palm Springs events, back by popular demand is Shooting Shrink series author and semi-retired psychologist Michael Thompkins. This time around Michael will be conducting two new interactive sessions, “Creating Congruent Characters Part I & Part II,” as well as accepting advance submissions in fiction.

More news to come, but for now keep in mind two very important dates. December 31, 2007 is the last day to register and qualify for the early-bard discount. January 12, 2008 is the deadline for advance submissions. See the brochure for details.