Sunday, September 25, 2016

Look Who's Talking

At this week’s meeting of the writer’s group, we listened to the latest efforts of Annette, one of the gang’s bright stars.  Her story continues to draw all of us in with her descriptive narration. But when it comes to dialog, she’s been having difficulty getting the flow right.

I explained that the conversation between the characters can also help move the story along. It can provide details you haven’t shared in the narrative. It can convey emotions. Dialog can be used to convey attitude and to offer another peek behind the curtain as to your players’ characteristics.  And it can be used in the background, add to a subplot.

I’m a dialog junkie. Books that are long on narrative and short on dialog don’t engage me as a reader as much as those that incorporate those conversations. The pacing can be faster or slower, depending on the mood of the scene.  Sometimes I’ve even skipped lengthy paragraphs of narration to get to the ‘juicy’ parts where the characters are interacting.  As I mentioned this to the group, I noticed several heads bobbing in agreement.

Dialog. Where would we be without it?

Here’s an example of dialog from the Jamie Richmond mystery “Fleeing Beauty”.

“Hello, Mr. Mundy. I was hoping you’d be here.” He took my hand and did the knuckle kiss thing. Beside him was Jocelyn, the exotic beauty with the raven hair. She was wearing a very tight red dress that accentuated her curvaceous figure. Jocelyn offered me a demure smile and nod. I took his arm and guided him around the gallery. Jocelyn followed. Mundy made appreciative remarks after the first couple of pieces. My impatience took over.
“I don’t know whether to be pissed or pleased by your actions, Harry.” 
“Perhaps some common ground between the two would be appropriate.” 
My Irish temper flared. “You are one crafty son of a bitch.”
“I will deign to take that as a compliment.”
This was not the place to make a scene, so I kept my voice low as I moved him along. “You tagged my phone with some kind of high-tech global positioning device.” I saw him about to speak and waved it away. “Of course, you yourself didn’t do it. Your darling daughter here did.”
Jocelyn leaned forward. “I told you not to underestimate her,” she said in a sing-song voice. In my peripheral vision, I saw her smile and wink at me.
Harrison was unflustered. "That is quite an engaging tale. Please continue. You really are quite resourceful, Jamie.”
“Cut the crap, Harry. I’d like the truth. I think you owe me that much.”
“As you wish. Jocelyn is in fact my daughter.”

There you have it. All kinds of emotions dancing back and forth, sharing information faster than in narration.  

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Sunday, September 18, 2016


There’s an old adage: “You can’t tell a book by its cover.”  I’ve always found that to be true.   

Sometimes the cover art on a book is enough to catch my eye.  I’ll check out the back cover, maybe read a page or two, particularly if this is from an author I’m unfamiliar with.  In my youth, it was my practice to finish any book once I started reading it, no matter how engaging it was.  

With age comes wisdom in so many forms. I discovered years ago that there are not enough hours in the day for reading, so if it doesn’t capture my interest and imagination with a dozen pages or so, I’m outta here.

But people, like book covers, are more than you might imagine at first glance.  You have to be aware of perceptions. This week I got a rude reminder of that.

After discovering a local library in a small community not far from home, I reached out to the director to determine if they would be interested in adding my books to the catalog.  She was very excited about the idea, particularly when I offered to donate them.  So with a copy of the four books in hand, I stopped by one evening after work.

At the main desk was a lady eager to accept the copies.  An older woman approached, curious as to what was happening.  The employee asked what genre the books were.

“Mysteries. All set in the Detroit area.  The three in the series could be considered part mystery, part romance,” I said, pointing to the Jamie Richmond books.

“Romance?” Snorted the older woman who was now beside me. “What would a guy possibly know about romance?”

Normally I’d snap off a quick retort or ignore her.  I could have mentioned Shakespeare, James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks as guys who have dabbled in writing romance. But something held me back. Instead I just shrugged and looked her in the eye. “Guess you’ll have to read them to find out.”

She snorted again, but there was a bit of merriment in her eyes. “Guess I will.”

Perceptions.  You never know what’s inside the cover.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Character Interview: Malone

During a meeting with the writer’s group recently, someone asked about developing characters. I’ve shared a form that’s been helpful for me over the years, shaping the profile of a character to make them distinctive. Then I suggested they try to interview the lead character, as if they were doing a feature for the local news.

So I decided it would be a good exercise. A few months ago I featured one on Jamie Richmond. Today it’s time for Malone, the guy in her life, to take the hotseat.

1.  Tell us a little about yourself.

 Malone: Well, I have worked in law enforcement as a Michigan State Police trooper for more than fifteen years. It is important work and it’s something I do well. I’ve been a sergeant for about ten years now. For quite a while, the afternoon shift has been mine. I like having the mornings free. There is always plenty of action and excitement between three in the afternoon and eleven at night. Outside of work, I enjoy baseball, football, skiing, hockey and motorcycles. I like classical music but not opera, jazz and blues but not reggae. I’m divorced, early forties and enjoying life.  And the only name I use is Malone. Most people don’t seem to notice, but there is a certain redheaded female who is irked by that.

2.  Who is the greatest love of your life? Why? What drew you to them?

Malone: That would be Jamie Richmond. She’s the redhead I just referred to. We’ve been together less than a year, but I’d swear we’ve known each other a lot longer. Maybe it’s because we squeeze so much into each moment we’re together.  Jamie’s a fantastic woman. She has her insecurities and idiosyncrasies like everyone else, but she’s got a great heart and an even greater sense of humor. Jamie is a bit of a smart ass. But she’s also very intelligent. She’s beautiful. I’ve always been a sucker for tall, slender women and that describes her pretty well. We first met when she was doing research for a novel and she ended up witnessing a trooper getting shot. Jamie kept digging, trying to figure out what happened. In the end, she solved it. So you could say it’s the combination of her beauty, her brains and her personality that caught my attention.

3.  Do you have any unusual interests of hobbies?  What led you to that interest? 

Malone: I’m a baseball junkie. I grew up playing the game, so I’ll watch it every chance I get. When my schedule permits, I help coach a youth team in the area.  Baseball is sacred. Don’t try and distract me when I’m watching a game. (Laughs) Well, Jamie can be very distracting when she sets her mind to it. But I think she enjoys it as much as I do. I used to have a motorcycle and would disappear on my days off, just follow my nose all over the state, without a plan or a destination. That’s a great way to travel. A few years ago, I took cooking lessons, so I could impress a woman I was dating at the time. It didn’t work out, but I discovered I enjoy cooking.

4.  What’s your approach to life?

Malone:  Keep your eyes and ears open. If you don’t pay attention, you might just miss something great.

5.  How do the other characters in the books view you?

Malone: To the other troopers I work with, I’m seen as a strong leader, capable of taking charge of situations. As a cop, you have to be ready for anything. With Linda (Jamie’s best friend) I think she views me as someone special. Jamie is the big one. She sees me as this strong, fearless guy who may not have all the answers but is willing to help her find them. (Laughs) Whatever that means!

6. You’ve just gotten through an incredibly trying day.  Now it’s time to kick back and put everything behind you.  Describe what you’d do.

Malone: My workday normally ends just before midnight. So I’d go home and find Jamie. She usually waits up for me. One look at her can cause me to forget about everything else. If she’s been anticipating my arrival, we can get pretty romantic in a hurry. If she’s pensive or preoccupied, that just motivates me to take the lead. Jamie is pretty…adventurous. Sometimes we’ll talk for an hour or two until we fall asleep.  Whatever was difficult about that day is soon long forgotten.

7.  What is it about you that will interest a reader?

Malone: I’m a guy who can be calm and reassuring or taking charge, whatever the situation needs. Since I’ve met Jamie, she triggers the romantic in me. Dating her has reawakened the passion, the intensity that a relationship brings. I feel more alive when she’s around. Even if I don’t have a first name! (Laughs) By the way, Jamie is determined to figure that out. So every day, she calls me by a different name. I’ve promised to tell her if she ever guesses right. So far, she hasn’t come close.

8.  If you could go anywhere in the world on an all-expense paid trip, where would it be?

Malone: I’ve always wanted to go to Europe. I’d love to have a big motorcycle and cruise from one country to another, France and Spain and Italy and wherever the wind took me. I understand the Amalfi Coast in Italy is incredible. Of course, I’d want to take Jamie along, just to keep things from getting boring.

9.  What trait in others do you find most deplorable?

Malone:  I’m not a big fan of violence. There are people who live for it, whether it’s physically beating each other or blasting away with guns merely for the sake of it. I’m a sharpshooter. I know how to use weapons and how to use force to control a situation. That’s part of my job. But I don’t want to be around people who live for it.

10. Now for an off the wall question:  What’s your favorite meal?

Malone: Chicken Piccata. It’s one of my favorite dishes to cook and it comes together quickly. The first time I made it for Jamie I think it made her clothes disintegrate. (Laughs) Well, it certainly seemed that way.

This could be Malone:

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