More from the Devil’s Dictionary; Where do a fiction writer’s ideas come from?

October 30, 2017 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to those on Jim’s email list (3,926) on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.


This week has blessed me with a wide range of interesting reading — from anger to Anne Bradstreet to an excellent essay on the surprising history of higher education. Each of these topics is likely to appear in a coming newsletter. Creatively, I have continued with the watercolors (see below).

Once again I ask you not to forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. The wildfires in California continue to produce unprecedented destruction. The people affected directly by these disasters need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

James Callan: Where do ideas come from? Everywhere

James Callan is an independent author whom I introduced you to several weeks ago, and he has been kind enough to stay in touch. He has published a number of exciting mysteries and thrillers, and I asked him to answer the question that almost all of us writers get: Where do you get your ideas?

I was once in a restaurant. The people in the next booth were chatting back and forth and I pretty much ignored them. It was as if my mind heard the sentences and immediately discarded them, without my conscience brain registering them. But one sentence vaulted to the front of my mind and I knew I would write a story, or a book, where that sentence played an important part. The sentence? “Was she the woman who died twice?”

That’s just a part of my interview. Jim has lots of interesting things to say about his books. You can read the entire interview on

Cleansed by Fire, Over My Dead Body, A Ton of Gold, A Silver Medallion, and other books by James R. Callan can be viewed on his Amazon Author page: or by visiting his website:

A reader’s take on the First Amendment and free expression

A couple of weeks ago I asked for your thoughts about the First Amendment and free expression and any of the current controversies related to these ideas. Several of you did respond. The latest was this week from Mike C.:

The First Amendment is one of the fundamental pillars of a free society. It needs to be protected and should only be limited in those circumstances where it is absolutely necessary. “Hate” speech is nothing more than an opinion – and opinions are not to be feared. So, yes, the First Amendment does protect so-called “hate speech.” The real problem is usually not in the “hate” speech itself – but rather the reaction to it. And, that is usually the main purpose of the “hate” speech. By eliciting a strong reaction, they get great coverage – which is what they seek. If only those who support them came – or if those who didn’t support them only demonstrated peacefully and passively, then there would not be a problem. Can’t understand why those who deplore the message react in a fashion that only gives the message greater coverage. Unfortunately the media today is not content with just covering a story – they actually seek to inflame passions so that they can sell more newspapers.
Here are just a few of my favorite quotes:
“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, Dec 23, 1791 (Letter to Archibald Stuart)
His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine. Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination. J.K. Rowling

Thanks, Mike. Excellent thought, well put.

Any others?


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.

More from The Devil’s Dictionary

Last week we took a first look at The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce,a book you should know more about. Bierce was a Civil War combat veteran who became one of the nation’s foremost writers and cynics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I promised to tell you more about Bierce, and that will happen in the near future. Meanwhile, here are some more of the dictionary’s entries:

PATRIOT, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable—omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. (The word is Aristocratese, and has no exact equivalent in our tongue, but means, as nearly as may be, “soaring swine.”)

SCRIPTURES, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.

TELEPHONE, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.

You can get a free copy of The Devil’s Dictionary in a variety of formats through Project Gutenberg.

Finally . . .

This watercolor that I completed last weekend got a bunch of likes and comments on Facebook over the last few days. I am very humbled by the comments.

Join me on Facebook.

The best quote I have come across this week:

A lexicographer’s business is solely to collect, arrange, and define the words that usage presents to his hands. He has no right to proscribe words; he is to present them as they are. –Noah Webster, lexicographer (16 Oct 1758-1843) 

Keep reading and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter

4-star review: You have to love a female lead character set in the sixties whose storyline isn’t about getting knocked up or becoming a drug addict in an abusive relationship, this may well be a first for a YA female in a story set in the the 60s or 70s, a rarity for any historic setting unfortunately.
A good story with a strong female lead.

Kill the Quarterback

5-star review: An excellent book with building suspense that makes it hard to put down even for a little while. The characters are fresh and nicely developed with some gentle humour.

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