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I’ve really enjoyed the events of the last several weeks, including presentations and signings at the Peregrine Bookstore, the Shalimar Book Review, Pueblo Grande Museum, and working the booth at the huge Tucson Festival of Books. One of the best things about these is the opportunity to visit with readers and potential readers of my books. (At Tucson this included my two sons and their families; Brandon Dorathy, a family friend from our days in Globe-Miami, his wife and family; and two friends from the mines, Bobby Durham and his wife and family, and Bill and Peggy Dixon.) Some of the more interesting things that were discussed by attendees at this event came from their questions; here are a sampling of those:
How long have you been writing?
Since I was about five years old. I’ve always enjoyed reading stories and writing stories, and I come from a background of pretty good story tellers. Through my 42 year career in mining for most of the time writing was an important part of my job; it was mostly technical writing. I started writing a history of ranching about 2007 and am still working on that, and I wrote my first fiction novel in 2012.
What is the best way to get published?
The best way to get published is to write a really good story. If you haven’t recently taken a writing class enroll in a community college creative writing course. Never submit a manuscript to a publisher that has not had a good proofreading for typos and obvious errors. If the publisher sees a lot of spelling and grammar errors, poor sentence structure, long draggy sentences and paragraphs, even if the story is a good one, they are not likely to even bother reading it. The proofreader will fix most of that. Once you have a clean manuscript pay for a substantive content edit by an actual professional book editor. I have used Sandra Udall at Udall Editorial Services on my last two books and my John B. Newman Paper, and am very pleased with her work. This will fix inconsistencies, story errors, gaps, and make your sentences and dialog more interesting. The edits will help you control the ebb and flow of tension, and improve the sense of time and place. Publishers love to get a manuscript that is an interesting story, well written, and not much work for them.
Is your work historical fiction?
The question of what constitutes historical fiction is not always easy to answer. My stories include an element of history of the setting, but I don’t consider it historical fiction. To me historical fiction is a story set in an historic era, fifty or more years ago. In historical fiction the era and its customs, mores, and everyday life are pervasive and as essential as the plot. In my stories the history of the setting or situation is touched upon as part of describing the feel of the place, but it is not necessarily essential to the plot. In The Wham Curse, I actually relate the history of the 1889 Wham payroll robbery but 90% of the story is in modern times. In The Baleful Owl I recreate, using some archaeological research and some assumptions, a prehistoric event at an ancient Salado pueblo as a way to introduce the artifact I call the Baleful Owl; but this is done in the first few pages and the rest of the story is in contemporary times.
Your books are a series, does that mean they need to be read in order?
No. Each book is a complete stand-alone story, at least for the plot of that story. The difference between a series and a serial is that a series continues the base set of characters from book to book; a serial continues the story line from book to book. So books like Star Wars and Harry Potter are a serial in which if you start in the middle it might not all make sense, because the plot is serial between the books. There is nothing essential to the plot lost if you read my series in reverse order. That said, there is a slight advantage to reading them in order, only to the degree that you are introduced to the characters earlier, so already know most of them before you start the second book.
You use archaeology in one of your books. Does using science in a story mean it’s science fiction?
No, the science I describe is real. So the book is fiction, but the depiction of the science used is accurate. It is used sort of like I describe the use of history, to enhance the setting and the realism of the story. Science fiction makes an assumed description of science sometime in the future, and while it occasionally proves to be fairly accurate, it often ends up far from the truth. I recently watched a very old episode of Twilight Zone in an imagined future when the government controls the masses by a beautification process that makes everyone equally beautiful, and causes them to live for hundreds of years, but it also completely brainwashes them, so they all think and behave the same. The time and place was the USA in the year 2000. As Maxwell Smart used to say, “Missed it by that much.”
The strangest comment I got, when asking a visitor to our Tucson booth, “What genre do you enjoy reading?”
“Oh, I don’t like to read.”
I thought but didn’t say, “Why would you come to see a zillion books and five-hundred authors, if you don’t like to read?” I gave him a bookmark and said if he ever got an urge to read to try one of my books…
Coming Soon: Apr 15, 2016 - Presentation, Arizona History Conference, Yuma, 2:55 PM
Mystery writer, Southwestern Historian, researcher, husband, father, grandpa, with an opinion on everything.