Friday, February 26, 2021

Writing: Recurring Characters


I'm fond of reading (for the third or fourth time, sometimes) the work of authors who published many years ago. One example is Ross Thomas, published some time ago, whose work is timeless. His stories, when brought up to date, have a ring of being there--stories of machinations reminiscent of what is undoubtedly going on behind today's headlines. One rule he doesn't seem to mind violating is the one about recurring characters in his novels. As authors, we're encouraged to either use a fresh set of characters in our next story, or--if we insist in using the same ones in our next book--using copious notes to avoid tripping ourselves up along the way.

Thomas, for example, in the book I'm currently re-reading (Chinaman's Chance), tells how a character is killed off during an ambush, but in a subsequent book he shows her being assassinated in a completely different way. He gives a police chief an excellent name (Oscar Ploughman) but then sets him in the same character in a different book with a totally different background. I'm willing to forgive these missteps, mainly because of the writing that Thomas sells, but they show how he ignores the "rules" that authors are given. It shows me that rules aren't a guarantee of success in a book--good writing overcomes slavishly following the rules. Every time.

Have you found errors and ignoring rules in the works of some authors? And are you willing to give those breaches because the writing is so good?

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

What A Week

At the time of this writing, it's above the freezing mark outside and we're about to recover (although some Texans are still without power due to downed lines and transformers). We've been fortunate--fireplace kept us warm as we watched TV, units did their best to prevent chill even though it was minus three degrees outside (some people had no heat), water uninterrupted for us. We've been fortunate, and continue to pray for those not so fortunate.

We'll be celebrating our anniversary tomorrow. It hardly seems like 20 years since God sent us a FedEx (well, it seemed that way) and told us we should be together after such a time alone. Thus far, He's been right--as He usually is. 

Hope you all are able to get things back to normal. See you again soon.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Writing: Lessons Learned (Sort Of...)

One of the things that marks a true writer is that they never stop learning. That's why every conference, every get-together, every interaction with readers may be an opportunity to go away with one pearl of wisdom. 

I still recall a conversation with a reader in which I was asked a question that made me change my work-in-progress and resulted in a minor alteration in future books. And before you ask, I'm not sure exactly what it was. There are so many things I've incorporated into my "voice" now, and although some of them were gleaned from the reading I've done and from sitting at the feet of successful authors, a few of them were those "pearls" that came from a conference, a session with fellow authors, a one-on-one conversation with a reader. Each one is important, and whatever "style" has resulted, I can only thank those who contributed along the way.

For those of you who know I hang my hat in Texas, let me say that we're safe, dry, reasonably warm, and doing our best to "hunker down" and ride this winter weather out.  Stay safe, friend.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Brrr, It's Cold...

We're here in the deep freeze in North Texas. Snow is high and getting higher. Anyway, the temp is below freezing--supposed to get down to minus 3--but we're safe and relatively warm. At least, for now. You'd think this is good weather to hunker down and write, but I haven't really accomplished much.

I imagine it will be a few days until things get back to normal. Meanwhile, stay safe. See you in a while. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Writing: Any questions?


This has been a busy time at our house--today, we finally got the last touches put on our shower. We still have to wait up to a couple of weeks for the glass wall to complete it, but we should be able to use our new shower tonight. Yay!

Then I noticed that I hadn't written a blog for tomorrow, which is Friday, my usual day to set forth my undying wisdom about the writing game. So instead, I'll ask you if you have any questions you'd like me to answer. (Since this also goes up at my author page, let me ask that you go here to ask them, so that I can let everyone see your question and what I made up--I mean, answered).

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Everything Old Is New Again

My wife can't understand why I don't use my iPhone for more things. She reads her email on it, uses it for her shopping list, receives phone calls on it, and in general uses it for almost everything. I, on the other hand, use mine mainly for phone calls. I guess I'm like the man who would buy the Farmer's Almanac because he "wasn't farming as good as he could right now." I guess the march of time is leaving me behind...but that's okay. I like older, more familiar things.

Those who follow me know that from time to time I'll pull out from my collection some of the older authors and re-read their work. Don't know why I have this affinity for writers who are now deceased, but I've also noticed that what was written about fifty years ago could just as well be pulled from today's headlines. For example, Ross Thomas wrote about lobbyists in a style that could come from today's headlines. And the stories written by Robert Parker and Donald Westlake don't ever get old--even when I've read them several times.

In reading through some of these authors, I've decided that maybe my colleague, Brandt Dodson, was right when he said, "There's only one plot in all of these mysteries--two dogs, one bone." Maybe that's true. Have you found it to be so? 

Friday, February 05, 2021

Writing: Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

When I first began writing, I was advised to get a post office box and use that for my address, to retain anonymity. There are stories floating around (which I've decided may be apocryphal--certainly based on my own experiences) that authors should keep their physical addresses to themselves. I've never seen this. Actually, other than a few folks at church, I've never even been recognized as an author. But I digress.

One of the "chores" that falls to me as a result of my PO box is a trip every few days to our local post office. One of the things that helps me plan these little jaunts is a service that I've found helpful, whereby the post office will send me on a daily basis photos of the pieces of mail that I'll be receiving in my box. (What about the physical address, you ask? That's usually junk mail.) And today I received notification that I was receiving a book sent to my postal address. No explanation, it just showed up in the "package" delivery slot. I can hardly wait to find out what it is and who sent it.

Anyway, the reason for this post in the first place is to ask this question. Have you been advised to use a post office box for your address? Have you ever wished you had not given someone your physical address? Or is all this a nasty rumor started by the postal service to get us to use boxes? (Just kidding, USPS. Don't take it seriously). 

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Now What?


Everyone seemed to be of the opinion that they were tired of 2020, and could hardly wait for the new year to get here. Well, we've had the first month of 2021, and my question to you is whether you've seen a change yet. 

We've been fortunate here in Texas, compared with inhabitants of other states. Despite our being in the group that is most vulnerable to the Covid infection, and having to wear a mask when we leave our houses, we've otherwise been able to carry out our daily lives--going to the grocery, shopping, making the trip to the post office, etc. And my wife and I have had our first immunizations against the Covid-19, with an appointment set up for our second shot. 

Others are not so fortunate. They are pretty well shut in, either due to governmental decree or personal choice. And although the age group that is most vulnerable is now getting immunized, lots of people are still waiting for theirs.

I guess my question is, "We've seen the last of 2020. Now what?" Let me know your thoughts.