Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Girls from Nanking on Sale--FREE!

My Amazon Kindle story, "The Girls from Nanking," (regularly 99 cents) is now on sale free  Tues.--Thurs., June 26-28 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0080IVMBA     
While I eventually hope to supplement my retirement income with my fiction, I don't expect to make a living selling 99 cent singles through Amazon.  But I am trying to get my work out there and "build my author brand."  Towards that, every download counts, so please give "Girls from Nanking" a look.  If you read it and enjoy it, please post a review on Amazon, or share the link with your friends.  And of course, I'm always glad to hear from you by e-mail too.
"Girls from Nanking" is my third Frank Swiver story, and takes place in Dec. 1948.  I think it's a swell read, and I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Best First P.I. Novel

I sent my entry, White with Fish, Red with Murder, off to the Minotaur "Best First P.I. Novel Contest" today.  I set out to give the novel a once over before submitting it and ended up doing a re-write the last six weeks or so, and there was a contest deadline of July 2, so I've let other things slip a bit. 

I cut more than 3,000 words from book.  What I ended up with was much better than what I started with.  Why?  Well, despite the fact that this story has been with me for more years than I care to admit, I think I came at it with a new mind.  I recognize it as the same old story, but in working through it again, I believe that I found a better way to tell it.  Perhaps the right way to tell the story, the way I've been struggling for all along.  

How did I do that?  Part of it is experience as a writer.  When I first put this story down on paper, it was the first detective story or novel I'd attempted.  Now I've sold three short stories and published another for the Kindle, and I've written a novel and two-thirds of another. 

Part of it is learning.  I took a Stanford class last year, and four of us have continued for some 12-14 months to exchange and critique our work.  My online pals don't write detective fiction, but they seem to have a commitment to read mind with an open mind and respond to it with more seriousness than it deserves.  I learn from their feedback and from reading their work.  
I also took a class at the Writers' Center in Bethesda this spring led by Jim Matthews.  I believe that class showed me how to cut 17 pages from the beginning of my book, without losing anything the reader needs.  
So, look out First P.I. Novel contest entrants.  Here comes White with Fish, Red with Murder

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Can creative writing be taught? Learning the craft

I took a class this year in which the instructor had us read "Hunters in the Snow" by Tobias Wolff.  Three guys go out hunting and eventually one of them shoots another.  It's all downhill from there. 

The instructor asked us to pick one of the three main characters and write a one-page bio or character sketch, (i.e. where he was born, what he does for a living, married or single, kids? etc.) 
Well, if you don't know the story, this wouldn't mean much.  But the sharp reader working on this assignment soon realizes that Wolff tells us nothing, nothing about the background of these three fellows.  The point is that you can write a good story without telling the reader any background.  Just start the story wherever the action starts and take it from there. 

This is a real eye-opener for me.  The writer should know something about the characters so that he can write a "true" story, as my man E.H. might say.  But the writer doesn't have to tell the readers what posters the character had on the wall in his childhood room, what he or she majored in, whether he dropped out of high school or she has a Ph.D.  I don't need to know if Frank in "Hunters in the Snow" was an electrician or a computer programmer.  I don't care if Kenny married his high school sweetheart and has three kids, or if he's gay.  Just write the story, tell what happens now. 
I'm going through my first (unsold) novel one more time prior to submitting it in a contest.  I just cut 17 pages of exposition and background from the beginning and started the story in a new place.  And I love it.  Thank you, Jim Matthews.  You can teach the craft.