Two Successful Readings

On June 10, 2017 I gave a two-hour talk on mystery writing at the Burke County Library in Morganton, NC. The crowd (sic) was small but intense. There were a few good question during the course of the morning, but not as many as I would have liked.

How would I characterize the group? There were nine attendees, only one of whom was male and he was a writer wannabee’s husband along for the ride. I learned later that he was an avid reader. Of the others, one was a retired professional journalist, three had good ideas for books they wanted to write but hadn’t started working on, and the others… well, let’s just say that they were more educated readers by the end of the gig. In other words, I’d say it was a typical small town group. Book sales were good at the end.

Yesterday (June 17) I did a “reading” at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC. You’d think that attendance would be light in a tiny mountain town in the middle of nowhere. The shop did a good job of advertising the event though, and we had a dozen people, some of whom drove over from neighboring counties.

My “readings” are always more than merely standing at a podium and droning on from my books. I’d rather talk about approaches & methods for writers. How I do it is by starting with opening sentences from a book or two. I want to show the folks that the initial trick is to hook the reader. Most of my novels begin with the discovery of a body or watching as a crime unfolds. Other writers have advised to begin your story by dropping a body through the skylight onto the dinner table. (I love that!)

Opening with a crime usually starts discussion in the audience. Good questions begin to flow. I can then get into the meat of a presentation.

Typical questions are:

  • Where do you get ideas? Answer: they’re all around you. Just look.
  • How did you get interested in genealogy? Answer: I was doing family research and decided that a genealogist is really a detective digging up historical facts. Thus, my serial character Ben Bones, Articulator of Family Skeletons, was born.
  • How long should a story be? Answer: I quote the Red King from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
  • What about research? Answer: Ah, this is one of my favorite topics. I tell about catching other writers in factual errors, and I admit to being caught myself by an observant reader. That mistake cost me financially because I had to dump the books I had on hand and buy revised editions. Live and learn.

And that’s how my two recent gigs went. I love standing in front of a group and spouting my “wisdom” (let’s call it my opinions). Contact me any time. I’m willing to travel and am currently trying to spread myself around. Hey, that’s what Grisham did. It worked for him.

The next appearance on my schedule is too far in the future. I’ll be presenting on writing at the Haywood County Library in Waynesville, NC on August 15, 2017. Check their website for details.

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Yikes! I seem to have fallen behind…

My apologies, folks. I haven’t been writing on this blog for 2.5 years. All I can say is that I’ve been busy and heavily involved in the Asheville writing scene.

I’ve been busy writing (though not on Cryogens, Ben Bones & The Twin Pistols or Ben Bones & The Uncivil War). Instead, I’ve written Holy Heists, The Embezzler Didn’t and I’ve put a bunch of my short pieces together into an anthology entitled Bloody-Minded Fictions. I edit a monthly newsletter for my local Mensa group (French Broad Mensa), and I’ve been doing writing workshops and readings here and there, and running WNCMysterians.org, my mystery/suspense/thriller writers’ critique group in Asheville, NC.

As you can see, I haven’t been sitting around contemplating the state of the universe and my minimal place in it.

I tell you what… If you’ll check back weekly, I’ll write blog posts weekly. What day? I dunno yet. But I’ll put in in my datebook and I’ll get on it. Hey, it gives me a chance to air my philosophies and misc thoughts. Another platform to parade my B.S. (no, that’s not a college degree). Check back in.

“Mystery Mastery” released to the world!

After two years in the gestation and writing, my book on how to write a believable mystery is finally out. I never did get that arts grant to write it, so, as I have in the past when my plans were frustrated, I plowed ahead with the project anyway. I did it with the magazines I edited and published. I’ve done it with self-publishing after years of trying to get in agents’ and editors’ front doors. Now I’ve done it again.

Since writers are always interested in improving their craft, Mystery Mastery is bound to help a few at least. The goal of the book isn’t to tell people “the rules” for writing. I don’t believe there are any iron-clad rules beyond Heinlein’s “Write” and “Finish what you write.”

Mystery Mastery is designed to set people thinking about their writing. The book is packed with useful and challenging exercises to do exactly that. There are exercises for character and plot development, types of characters, setting, weapons, research, and much more. Sure, it’s my theories on the writing process, but this is a book designed to set people into motion.

The book is available from Amazon or directly from me.

Commence to writing, people!