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.