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Friday, June 15, 2018

Writing Thoughts, Dreams and Reflections

I just finished reading Alice Duncan's blog below, and boy did her words resonate with me. Alice edited my first novel, "Feisty Family Values" and she was a guest on my blog a few weeks back (http://bdtharp.com). She's a delightful lady, and when we discussed her guest blog, she actually remembered my book. That was eight years ago, and I think she is lovely to say so. I love reading her stories and understand her feeling the loss of joy with writing from time to time. She was wise to edit and do other things to prevent her totally giving up the craft. She is inspiring. 64 books, WOW!

As you may recall, I wrote about retirement a month ago, and today was my first day of being emancipated from my day job. It was a good day, to be sure. I woke up early as was able to beat the heat and water flowers, mow and weed a little. A very productive morning. After cleaning up and making lunch, I lay down to read and fell asleep. Napping in the afternoon is very lovely, I could get used to that - especially in this heat.

My list of "things to do" is very long, but at the top is to write! Blog. Read. And write some more. It is part of the plan, my new daily routine. I'm sure you've noticed that we humans are creatures of habit. Writing is my returning habit. It's not fattening. It won't make me sweat (I don't think). It can be loads of fun. And when it's not, then it's time to go out and weed the garden, pick up a book to read, call a friend, take a walk, or sit on the patio enjoying the birds.

Like Alice, I was not able to make a living with my writing. There are only a dozen or so extremely wealthy writers, many who just get by, and most of us make a little bit to support our book buying addiction. Since the paychecks will not be coming anymore, I am going to finish reading what is on my shelves, supplement it with the e-books on my Kindle, and go to the library. Working all the time left little time for shopping at bookstores or perusing the shelves at the library. Amazon made it WAY too easy to just download a book on the Kindle in minutes.

I remember spending hours in the library and the bookstores looking at everything on the shelves. Reading dust covers and admiring book cover art. Do you remember the smell of all those books in one place? The smell of paper, glue, and dust. I loved walking through the old books with their musty leather aroma. Time to go back and enjoy those sensations and perhaps revisit some classic novels. It's been years since I've read a book multiple times, with some notable exceptions - "To Kill a Mockingbird" is still my all-time favorite. It's time to reread it, I'm sure.

There are so many excellent new novels, too. Millions are printed every year. I don't think I'll get them all read, but I will make a path through the tomes. And I will add to the numbers of good books out there with my own. It feels like we authors are very alone, but really we are part of a vast crowd. Thanks for being there, fellow writers. It's nice to know you are out there, too.
Website: http://bdtharp.com
Facebook: Bonnie D Tharp Books
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BonnieDTharp 
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard 
Amazon: Bonnie Tharp Author Page

Friday, June 8, 2018

Have You Ever Wondered… by Alice Duncan


I have the privilege of welcoming Alice Duncan to Author Expressions again. Alice is both a mystery writer and romance author as well as an editor. In fact, she edited seven of my novels for Five Star/Cengage and remains my favorite editor.



Have you ever wondered how nice it would be to make a living by writing books?

Me, too. All the time. I’ve been in the book-writing and being-published business since 1994, and I still can’t make a living at it. It makes me sad sometimes. Often, in fact.

On the other hand, I kind of am making a living thanks to my many published books (I think there have been 64 of them so far). That’s because, since so many books of mine have been published, people think I know what I’m doing. Therefore, I’ve been hired by Cengage/Five Star as a freelance editor. So, in effect, my writing has paid off; just not in the way I’d hoped it would.

Since I’m too stubborn (or too stupid) to give up, I keep writing books anyway. The last few years, writing hasn’t been fun for me. When I first began writing books, I had high hopes that I’d become, if not rich and famous, at least self-supporting via writing. That hasn’t happened, although there have been a few high points along the way. My very first book, One Bright Morning, won the HOLT Medallion for the best first book published in 1994. That made me happy. I stopped entering contests shortly after that, however, because it was too expensive. Also, although many people are likely to dispute this, I honestly don’t think you can judge one book as being better than another book, unless you’re talking about English usage, etc. Not everyone likes the same things. If you loathe historical romances, chances are pretty good you won’t like One Bright Morning. If you prefer a tearjerker to a funny book, you definitely won’t like my books. Speaking of that, I was very nearly dismayed to discover I’m funny whether I mean to be or not.

In fact, when my first book (the above-mentioned One Bright Morning) was published, a former teacher of mine was so thrilled, she asked me to read some of it in front of an audience at the South Pasadena Public Library. I gladly agreed, feeling pleased with myself and my book. So I read the very first sentence in OBM, and everyone laughed. I was shocked! It wasn’t supposed to be funny! That book was a heart-wrenching emotional saga of a lonely widow-woman with a little daughter who inadvertently got mixed up in a range war and ultimately found true love.

Funny?

Not on your life! However, since that time, I’ve come to accept my writer’s “voice,” as it’s called, as my own. Can’t do much else, since evidently I write the way I talk. Many people have told me that, so I guess it’s true.

After my initial exuberance had dwindled (which took 15 or 20 years) I began to find writing books more of a chore than a joy. For me, editing somebody else’s book is much easier than thinking up a bunch of characters, developing a plot, and painstakingly putting it all down on paper for 80,000-100,000 words. That’s a lot of words. It takes a long time to write that many words if you want them to be placed in coherent English sentences and in a logical order. Yet people can read all those words in a day or even in a few hours. Hardly seems worth the effort. Even if you can then get those words published as a novel, you won’t make much money for it unless you’re Stephen King, Nora Roberts, James Patterson or someone who twinkles in the same galaxy as they. Mind you, I don’t begrudge Stephen King or Nora Roberts their fame and wealth. Not so sure about James Patterson, but that’s only my opinion. Clearly not many other people agree with me.

However, my writing life has taken an upturn of late. Not that I’m making any more money, mind you. But a man whose books I edit for Five Star’s Frontier Fiction Line has lent me one of his characters! Peter Brandvold, who writes excellent westerns full of adventure, sex and violence, gave me Lou Prophet, an old-west bounty hunter to play with in my next book. The book in question is Shaken Spirits, an historical cozy mystery, and it’s set in the solidly respectable city of Pasadena, California, in 1925. Poor old Lou is past his prime, being in his seventies, and has managed to lose a leg, so he walks on one leg and a stump. He lost his leg when the motorcar in which he rode (along with two women of the night and a crate of bootleg liquor) took a dive off a cliff in Santa Monica. Lou was the sole survivor, although he did lose a leg, and he’s now confined to the Odd Fellows House of Christian Charity in Pasadena.

Things get interesting from then on. My main character, Daisy Gumm Majesty, finds the crusty old Lou Prophet quite an interesting fellow. Her fiancé, Detective Sam Rotondo of the Pasadena Police Department finds him interesting too, but he’s not as enchanted with the old reprobate as is Daisy. Anyway, thanks to Peter Brandvold and Lou Prophet, I’m actually having fun writing again! I didn’t think that would ever happen, but I’m so glad it has. Mean Pete (he calls himself that; I’m not casting aspersions) has gifted me not merely with Lou Prophet, but also a ton of fun old-west sayings Lou uses, thereby confounding poor Daisy, who eventually decides to create a dictionary of old-west terms.

I don’t expect to begin making tons of money through my books any time soon, but at least the joy of putting words on paper (virtually speaking, since I write books on my trusty computer) has returned, and it’s all thanks to Peter Brandvold.

In case you’re interested in the book in which Lou Prophet appears, you can pre-order it on Amazon. Just click on link underneath the book cover:


If you want to read Daisy’s latest adventure, in which her dachshund, Spike, finds a shoe with a foot in it at the Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California, you may do that, too:


If you’re interested in visiting my web site, here’s the link: https://www.aliceduncan.net/

If you’re interested in visiting Mean Pete’s Amazon page, here’s the link for that:


Thank you!


Friday, June 1, 2018

What I read . . .

Like anyone else with a computer and an Internet connection, I have email. My Inbox welcomes me every morning with missives that are mostly spam, but I receive a few that I look forward to and enjoy. These sites are varied, and mostly but not all about writing and publishing.

Literary Hub has a weekly newsletter that lists about a dozen curated articles of interest to writers and readers, along with interesting historical information about figures in the literary world. A recent issue included a link to a piece in the Guardian that discussed a letter by John le Carre in which he described Tony Blair as "one bad Scottish piglet." https://lithub.com

This site also produces CrimeReads, which offers a variety of articles, for example, on book covers, prisoners performing Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at Sing Sing Prison, and Spanish noir. https://crimereads.com

A favorite blog is The Graveyard Shift, by Lee Lofland (https://www.leelofland.com), which covers topics related to crime and law enforcement, with the interest of writers in mind.

Not everything I read is directly related to crime fiction or writing. One of my favorite newsletters comes from Nautilus, an online journal about science. The editors choose a theme and explore it from different perspectives over one or more issues, culling articles from many sources.  Current articles explored the problems besetting scientists in finding new antibiotics, whether or not suicide bombings are driven by ideology, and whether or not you can overdose on happiness. These are light-hearted titles for serious, thoughtful analyses. http://nautil.us

As a writer I receive numerous newsletters about writing and publishing, most of which I ignore. The few that I scan for interesting insights or information are The Creative Penn (https://www.thecreativepenn.com), on writing, self-publishing, and marketing, among other topics; The Passive Voice (http://www.thepassivevoice.com), by a lawyer who culls articles from various sources on aspects of writing and publishing of interest from a legal perspective; and the Boston Review (https://bostonreview.net), which describes itself as a political and literary forum.

One of my favorites is wordsmith.org, which provides a new word every day (except weekends), with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. There is also a quote, for the thought for the day. The word for today, as I write, is metanoia (go look it up).

To help with general issues in my Anita Ray stories I read The Hindu Blog (https://www.hindu-blog.com), which covers topics related to the Hindu calendar, practices, principles, and the like.

Another newsletter gets me into the appropriate frame of mind for writing the new Pioneer Valley series featuring Felicity O'Brien, the newsletter for the National Farmers Union (https://nfu.org). This one covers topics related to farming, such as crop insurance, changes in federal policies, environmental concerns, fact sheets, new policy initiatives, rail regulation, food waste, and coping with climate change.

You probably have your own list of reliable sources for reading entertainment and information, and I'm ready to admit I probably wouldn't read these if I had to trek to the library to find the hard copy. 

Coming in the early fall, with more farming information, is Below the Tree Line, from Midnight Ink. Until then you can find me and my work here:

https://www.facebook.com/susan.oleksiw.author/
http://www.susanoleksiw.com
https://www.susansblogbits.blogspot.com
https://www.pinterest.com/susanoleksiw/
@susanoleksiw

https://www.amazon.com/Susan-Oleksiw/e/B001JS3P7C
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SusanOleksiw
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/susan+oleksiw?_requestid=1017995




Friday, May 25, 2018

Why Shakespeare? by Carole Price

Our guest blogger is mystery author Carole Price. She is going to discuss what inspired her series.


Why Shakespeare? I asked myself when looking for a theme for my first book. When my daughter moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I attended several plays, including Tongue of a Bird. It was held in the smaller Black Swan Theater, and involved a search for an abducted girl. This play takes one to metaphysical, spiritual, and psychological worlds. The characters live in varying aspects of each. In a complex way, everything is going on inside the main character’s head.

I found the play to be very poetic in its use of language. It managed to just tell the story and then let it be without theatricality getting in the way. The smaller theater was good for hearing the language and getting inside the heads of the characters. The play was an internal journey where you enter the play through your head and leave through your heart, and this is why I decided Tongue of a Bird would be one of my first plays in my first book Twisted Vines. Thus, it became one of the first to be performed at the smaller Blackfriars theater, one of two Shakespearean theaters my main character, Caitlyn Pepper, inherited from an unknown aunt. I signed up for behind the scene tours of the Ashland theaters and later met with a stage operations supervisor who sees that all components of a play come together. Talking with him and his willingness to share opened up more avenues that I would include in my book and those that followed.

I always thought of myself as a casual observer of repertory theater, but once inside the Festival it was obvious how music enhanced and nurtured the story. I was full of ideas for my own theaters by bringing Shakespeare to Livermore, California, where I live. Years earlier I had taken a class in Shakespeare at Livermore’s Las Positas College. Little did I know then how important that class would become when I retired from my job and started writing mysteries.

I fell in love with the Bard and attended many more plays. Twisted Vines became the first book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series, followed by Sour Grapes and Vineyard Prey. Each book includes a play at both of the theaters simultaneously. One never knows what will spark an idea for the next book.

*
Carole Price is a Buckeye. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, she attended The Ohio State University. She worked for a national laboratory in northern California before turning to writing mysteries. Carole fell in love with the Bard after attending plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. She graduated from the Citizens Police Academy and is an active police volunteer for the Livermore Police Department, a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She actively promotes her books at conferences, literary groups, and many other venues. Carole and her husband reside in the San Francisco Bay Area in the middle of wine country.


*Your thoughts and comments welcome!




Friday, May 18, 2018

A New Chapter

Life is always changing and yet, our days are often repetitive and much the same. We get up, have our beverage of choice, shower, and dress for work. After the day job is over, we change into our comfy clothes and make dinner, clean up the dishes and veg until bedtime. Relaxing with a book or watching a movie are my favorite veg activities. If I have energy left after dinner, I like to putter in the garden or write. Lately, I've decided to dust off my art supplies and start sketching and painting again, too.


Where do I find the time? Where do I find the energy? Most days, I run out of gas after the job is done. But in thirty days that will change, and I will start a new chapter in my life. I will be laid off from my job and able to consider myself retired.

When we write our stories, we try to leave the reader anxious for what happens next. Life is the same. While I have plans, life does tend to "happen" organically on its own. Stories develop naturally as well. Isn't a novel or story just living on the pages? Isn't each chapter something new to challenge the main character?

Perhaps that is why we love reading and writing so much. With each new book or chapter, we get the chance to see what happens next. From our imagination and life experience, we can create anything on the page. We can dream of new worlds and imaginary scenarios and make them come to life in a story, or song, or painting.

I anticipate that being retired will allow me to dream and create even more. Time will once again be less occupied by the day job and open to more creative endeavors. I've been writing for almost twenty years of the forty-five years I've been working, and it's been a challenge. I look forward to mastering the discipline to sit my bottom on the chair and write more.

And I'm hoping that by reawakening my artist side I'll find new ideas for the stories I like to write. Getting out of the home office more often will also give me exposure to more people, places, and things. Thus, more writing fodder.

I'm very anxious to start the next chapter of my manuscript and my life. Let's all enjoy the journey, shall we?

Your comments are truly welcome.



Website: http://bdtharp.com
Facebook: Bonnie D Tharp Books
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BonnieDTharp 
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard 
Amazon: Bonnie Tharp Author Page

Friday, May 11, 2018

Birth of a Book by Jacqueline Seewald


Spring has finally arrived and with it new life abounds.
Robins are singing. Daffodils, azaleas, tulips, and trees 
of all kinds are blooming. So it seems particularly fitting that DEATH PROMISE, my new romantic suspense mystery thriller, 
was published on May 2nd.  

This has also made me reflect on the following: What causes a writer to consider investing the time, energy and effort into the creation of a book or any written work for that matter? With DEATH PROMISE, the idea actually took some years to develop.

I had encouragement in the sense that Encircle, my publisher, found me rather than vice versa. I’ll explain since this is rather unusual. DEATH PROMISE is a sequel to DEATH LEGACY, a novel originally published by Five Star/Cengage in hardcover and large print hardcover. The novel received excellent reviews from the major review publications such as PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and BOOKLIST among others. Harlequin Worldwide Mystery brought out a paperback edition while a different publisher opted for e-book rights. The novel proved popular with many readers. This encouraged me to write another book featuring the two main characters. Originally, I conceived of DEATH LEGACY as a stand alone romantic mystery. However, my subconscious insisted that Michelle and Daniel really needed at least one more good story.


When Five Star/Cengage dropped their mystery line, many of us who wrote mysteries for that publisher were hurt.
Although a small publisher, Encircle took on a number of  orphaned Five Star authors. Encircle has turned out to be professional to work with. They provided good editing and we worked on cover art together with satisfactory results.


 You can check out the description of this new novel at:


DEATH PROMISE is now available from:



and many other booksellers.

Positive reviews are starting to be posted.

From Mel Jacob at Gumshoe Mystery Review:

“The romance between Daniel and Michelle is incendiary with plenty of heat. Nonetheless, they work well together to catch a killer. She struggles with wanting love and not wanting to give up her dangerous work.”
*****
“This is a nice blend of suspense and romance with 
lots of action to keep the pages turning.”
 
Lelia Taylor, Buried Under Books, May 2018 

*****
Here’s a shortened excerpt from near the beginning of DEATH PROMISE:

 Dr. Daniel Reiner was finishing a turkey sandwich at his desk during his lunch break. The morning had proved hectic. The Park Avenue practice was a busy one. Things had really picked up in the past year. A lot of that was due to Morris Lerner, his partner and fellow psychiatrist. Morris had a thriving practice before Daniel joined him. Morris had too many clients and was looking for a younger doctor who could take some of the burden. Morris also had a demanding wife and two young children. He needed and wanted to spend more time with his family. Daniel, unattached and just starting out, was a good fit. The association was working out well.
Cheryl, their receptionist, buzzed him. Daniel picked up the phone.
“Are you taking calls now?” He appreciated Cheryl’s pleasant Midwestern accent.
“Yes, all done with lunch. When’s my next appointment?”
“You’ve still got a half hour. I think this call might be personal rather than a patient.”
“Okay, put the caller through.”
He heard the click. “Hello, how can I help you?”
“Maybe you can, maybe not. Are you Daniel Reiner? Son of David Reiner?”
He confirmed that he was indeed Daniel Reiner as he wiped away some stinging mustard from the corner of his mouth with a paper napkin.
“You don’t know me but I was married to your father.” The woman’s voice was deep as if she were a chain smoker.
“Then I guess you know my father and I haven’t been in contact for many years.”
“Yeah, I know. He told me about your mother. Tough break.”
Daniel felt a visceral pain. He was raised by his grandparents after his mother died. Mom was a beautiful woman, loving and vital. She developed ovarian cancer and died too young. He was only a young child at the time but knew he wanted to be a doctor and save as many lives as possible. He found out years later that surgery wasn’t for me. So he set out to heal people’s minds instead of their bodies.
The woman cleared her throat. “The thing is I don’t know if you were aware but your father died a year ago.”
He felt nothing. He should have felt something but found he could not. Not for the father who had abandoned an orphaned child. Daniel realized his father had been out of his life too long for it to matter. It was as if when his mother died and his father left him with his maternal grandparents, the man had also ceased to exist. Sad but true.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said, his voice lacking emotion, sounding formal and wooden to his own ears.
“Thanks, but your father and I were divorced for close to ten years. The thing is I looked you up because I thought maybe you’d like to know you have a sister.” The woman cleared her throat again.
Daniel’s posture straightened. “Your daughter?”
“Yes, mine and your father’s.”
“How old is she?”
“Seventeen. She’ll be eighteen in six months.”
Daniel tapped a pen against an open notebook on his desk. This was surprising news. He wondered if his grandparents had known and just not told him. He shook his head. That wasn’t their style. They were very open people. Decent, hard-working, honest. No, they would have told him. He conjectured this woman wanted something from him. If she just intended to connect, she’d have called him a long time ago. His years of training in the field of psychiatry taught him to think analytically without a lot of emotional baggage. He said nothing, waiting for her to continue.
“I guess you’d like to know more about your dad.”
“Not really. I gave up on him a long time ago.”
The woman let out a small, mirthless laugh. “Yeah, me too. We got that in common. I’m Tiffany, by the way, Tiffany Tyler. I’m a cocktail waitress in Vegas. The thing is I’m planning to remarry soon. I’m kind of at loose ends with my daughter Beth—your sister. When your dad and I split up, it was hard for me to manage. I worked late hours. It was tough having a kid around. So I sent her to a boarding school. Well, that’s finished now and I’m planning to remarry.”
“So you said.” Daniel was becoming impatient. He tapped his pen again.
“I left Beth with my cousin, Robert Tyler. He lives in Vegas too. I’m going to San Francisco in the morning. Meeting my fiancé there. In his business he travels a lot. We’ll be off to Thailand and other places in Asia. The thing is my cousin, Rob, well, he’s a professional gambler. Kind of a restless guy. He isn’t someone Beth should have to live with for any length of time. I can only see leaving her with him as a temporary kind of thing. You know?”
No, he didn’t know. Daniel wondered what the woman was getting at in her rambling. “Can’t you take your daughter with you?”
“There are reasons I can’t do that.” The woman sounded defensive as well as nervous. “I’ve been doing some checking. I hear you’re a doctor there in New York. Beth is real adaptable. Maybe she could live with you for a little while?”
At first, Daniel was too stunned to respond, although he knew he had to say something.
“I hate to ask but could you come and get her? She’s a good kid and wouldn’t be any trouble. When she’s eighteen, she can be on her own.”
“Tiffany, no offense, but you’re a total stranger. How do I know anything you’re telling me is true?”
“I can prove it. Your father signed her birth certificate. I have our marriage license. I’ll send you all that information. Just come for Beth.”
“Ms. Tyler, who told you where to find me?”
She emitted a small, embarrassed laugh. “Your father kept in touch with some cousins in New York. He was proud when he learned how you became a doctor in the city. Boasted how he had such a smart son.”
That wasn’t what Daniel expected to hear. How sad that he knew so little about David Reiner. And now his father was dead and he would never know.
#
The following day was sunny but chilly, a true autumn in New York afternoon. Daniel finished with his patients earlier than expected because his final appointment of the day called to cancel and reschedule. He decided to walk from his office on Park Avenue over to the Citicorp building on Lexington Avenue where International Consultants had offices. It was only a ten-block walk down to the area between 53rd and 54th Street. A perfect day for a walk. His last patient left at four; that gave him just enough time to get over before the offices would likely close at five. He was determined to talk to Michelle Hallam if she was there. He reached her skyscraper office building feeling exhilarated by the brisk exercise.
       #
Daniel told Michelle about Tiffany Tyler and his supposed half-sister, Beth. Michelle listened politely without interrupting him, her face expressionless.
When he finished his brief narrative, she finally spoke. “This cousin with whom the young girl is staying, you were given his name and address, were you not? It should be a simple matter to phone him and arrange for the girl to come to New York. You could e-mail her a plane ticket.”
Daniel shook his head. “I’m not that dense. I checked out the cousin yesterday. No one answers his cell phone. He lives in an apartment complex. I was able to get hold of the manager. He told me something troubling. Apparently the cousin owed back rent. No one’s seen him for several days. He hasn’t returned. I called several more times. I really was persistent.”
“I believe that,” she said with a small smile.
“I got the manager to use his key to open the apartment. He claimed there was no one present and the place was devoid of belongings. There’s no forwarding address.”
Michelle raised her chin and worried her lower lip. “That is troubling.”
“Now you understand why I want your help.”
She faced him. “You know that most of what I deal with involves international matters. I could situate you with someone in Las Vegas who could look into the matter and find out what happened to your sister. That would be best.”
Daniel shook his head. “No one else would be as thorough as you are. Incidentally, I tried to call Tiffany Tyler and it went to voice mail. I left several messages for her. This whole thing is weird. I need to get out to Las Vegas and look into it. I want you to come with me.”
Michelle let out a deep sigh. “I’ll be in D.C. for several days. We’re handling a rather delicate diplomatic matter there. However, it shouldn’t take long. I will call you when I return and we’ll set up a trip.”
“You’re going to D.C.? District of Crime?”
“Not amusing,” she said with a frown. “In the meantime, phone the manager of the complex again and see if he has any news. And don’t give up on this Tiffany Tyler person either.”
Daniel told her he wouldn’t. If he did in fact have a half-sister and the girl needed help, he was willing to do what he could for her. He sensed something amiss here. Every instinct told him that this was not going to be a simple matter. He hadn’t lied when he told Michelle that he needed her help.
She was no ordinary private investigator. Michelle Hallam ran a highly specialized consulting firm. She came from a diplomatic British family. Her uncle had been an MI6 operative. Michelle was trained by him. When he passed away, she inherited the business. Daniel didn’t ask too many questions in the time they were together. He knew the work she did could be dangerous. It had in fact almost gotten them both killed the previous year.

My hope is that readers like you will read this novel and enjoy it. 
If you do, your review would be appreciated!

Comments Welcome!


Friday, May 4, 2018

Acknowledgments, by Susan Oleksiw

Over the weekend I read The Ponder Heartby Eudora Welty (1953), a short book barely one hundred and fifty pages about Uncle Daniel, who loves to tell stories to anyone who will listen and is known for giving things away, anything from fresh eggs to a garden. When I finished I paged through to read the front and back matter. Other than the copyright page, list of publications, and a dedication, there was no extra material--no short bio or acknowledgments or notes or explanations. As soon as I absorbed the absences, as it were, I recalled that this was always the norm--until recently.

When I pick up any book today, including a mystery novel, I'm not surprised to read one or two pages of acknowledgments, and I happily do so. Today we writers thank everyone in print. We thank our agent if we have one, the editor, the copy editor, the proofreader, our friends and Beta readers, the librarians who helped answer a particular research question, the neighbor who admitted to having an esoteric skill and was willing to share it, the expert who took the time to listen through an hour-long telephone conversation and then replied with precise answers, the online friend who explained the lay of the land for a particular location, the distant cousin who passed on local lore, and the friend who suggested a particularly enlightening book to read. Okay, perhaps I am exaggerating, but only a little.

I didn't include an acknowledgments page in my first two mystery novels, but I did in my third. I didn't include acknowledgments in my next three books in the Mellingham series, and offered only two lines in my seventh in the series. But all four Anita Ray books include an acknowledgments page. My only regret here is in not including one for Friends and Enemies, the fourth Mellingham, because I learned an enormous amount about the paper industry in Massachusetts, thanks to some generous members of the business. The paper industry is run like a medieval guild--if you're not born to it or connected to one of the established families, you'll probably never get inside.

Writers, editors, and readers have differing opinions on thanking people in a publication. No one ever thinks, as far as I can tell, that any book arrives in the local bookstore without a lot of help along the way. Nonfiction books are assumed to be the result of more professional assistance than a novel, but that seems to be less and less the case.

During an interview when Murder in Mellingham was published, the first in the series, I mentioned the number of people who had helped along the way. I had mentioned the members in my writers' group, a few other friends, a book reviewer who took the time to read closely and provide a detailed commentary, among others. The interviewer seemed surprised, and commented that it sounded like a group project. I hadn't been considering an acknowledgments page, but if I had, I probably would have dropped it. When the third book appeared, Family Album, I wanted to thank a woman who had taken the time to show me her family's collection of Portuguese embroidery, which appeared prominently in an early scene. Over the years I've developed the habit of thanking readers or experts who have rendered an important review or comment, but otherwise I keep it short.

In the twenty-five years I've been publishing fiction, I only remember one comment on this issue. When Family Album was published, a book reviewer and friend called the seven lines "excessive." I wonder what she thinks now about the ever-growing acknowledgments page.

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