Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Letter-Writing Is an Endangered Species

I write books, blog posts, Facebook and Twitter posts, and a lot more, but my wife, Jean, is a better writer, because she preserves the dying art of longhand letter writing on an almost-daily basis. Remember how many families were held together only by the exchange of long letters during World War II? The sight of a loved one's handwriting is precious. I still have and cherish the very few letters and postcards that remain from correspondence with my mother and father. Email can never generate those emotions.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Relate Your Story to the World

There was a time when mystery writers could restrict their stories to the confines of a country house or a small British village, without getting involved in the world at large. Now, events and media reporting of them, inundate us with global concerns. The modern mystery writer should involve external events if he/she wants to create a novel with significance. Of course, one also has to avoid getting too specific about current events in order to avoid the novel's appearing dated after a relatively short time. I find that the key to this balancing act is to concentrate on the effects of historical events on the characters and settings in your stories.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The typical author, especially the novice, feels that he/she has written THE book that will clarify the outlooks of all the readers who will, obviously, flock to read it. The book in question, may indeed have many virtues, but most authors overlook one detail. Potential readers are at least as busy as you are, and they won't drop everything to read your book unless you give them an extremely convincing reason to do so. I have discovered as I have continued to write one to two books per year, that I devote most of my reading time to my own books, during the writing and revision process. The major exception that changes my priorities comes when another writer whom I know personally, asks me to read his or her book or manuscript. The moral of this little observation is that it pays for writers to get to know each other, either via social media or, preferably, through face-to-face events. Remember that when you convince a supporting fellow writer to read your book, you are potentially influencing his or her many followers too.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Good Copyright Summary and Practical Recommendations for Authors
The original title of this piece is: "Copyright Protection: The Best 35 Dollars You'll Ever Spend."

Learn the simple procedures for working with the Electronic Copyright Office (ECO). They're a lot simpler and the process is a lot shorter than it was until a few years ago. The registration process may seem superfluous to some writers, but it gives you greatly improved legal standing in case of conflict or theft of your creation.

Monday, April 15, 2013

How Much Do You Remember?

I recently read and reviewed a memoir by a friend who seemed to remember every aspect of his childhood. I tried to think back to the same period in my life and found that I could only put my finger on a few highlights and lowlights. How could he have remembered things so intensely? Then I took a pad of paper and started to jot down random memories. I found that the few items I freely remembered triggered other glimpses into my past, and my number of recollections slowly began to accelerate as I wrote them down. I started this exercise being convinced that I could never write a memoir of that period, but I soon realized that, like everything else, it just takes detailed and continuous work. My friend's memoir seemed effortless, but behind the scenes there must have been both memory exercises and interviews with others to recover seemingly lost memories. I'm also sure that even after such efforts, I would have gaps remaining in my personal history. Those gaps would have to be filled with what logically must have happened, even if you can't dredge up specific conversations and details. The initial exercise was so enlightening that I might actually try a memoir some day...The only question is whether anyone would want to read it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mysteries and Thrillers

One of the things authors like least is to be labeled as being a writer of only one category of book. Sometimes this is unavoidable due to the insistence of a publisher who is marketing the author as a product in one particular genre. In the absence of such pigeonholing, authors cherish the right and challenge of being free to contribute to multiple genres, fiction or nonfiction. One particular transition requires an adjustment of the writer's outlook. As an author of mystery novels (The Lord's Prayer Mystery Series*), I am always very careful to avoid coincidence in my books. Some mystery authors have said that there's no such thing as coincidence, while others have said that you're allowed no more than one coincidence per novel. This is completely different from the case of an author of thrillers. A thriller requires a continuous high-speed, almost frenzied, succession of events and developments in order to keep the reader involved in the action. Unfortunately, real life rarely operates at such a hectic pace. Consequently, almost all thriller novels allow coincidences to occur on a regular basis as the price you have to pay for having the right characters in the desired locations and performing the desired actions on schedule to match the pace of plot developments. Heroes and heroines are the only individuals to escape a catastrophe. A saving intervention intercepts the protagonist at the brink of disaster. A new character is introduced just in time to avert tragedy...These techniques are acceptable in a thriller because the rush of emotions produced by the pace of action is the payoff for the story. Mystery novelists try to maintain a sense of reality in their works that tolerates no more coincidence than occurs in real life. It's an apples and oranges sort of thing. The two genres are not the same, but both can be very fruitful.

*The Lord's Prayer Mystery Series by Richard Davidson: Vol. I Lead Us Not into Temptation; Vol. II Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread; Vol. III Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fare(very)well Maurice Sendak

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … What I dread is the isolation. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”

The best friend of mischievous children has moved on. What a difference he has made in the way we look at things and children. Rest among the wild things!