Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beware. It's Personal

Lest I repeat myself too much, beware, this post is personal.

With a journalistic background, I've been taught to lead with the most important fact. For this post I've disregarded the principle since this isn't a journalistic post.

When I conceived how I would style and present this, my, blog, I decided to focus on helping other writers with craftsmanship articles, and as the desire struck, to add a bit of whimsy. Well, this post is neither.

What always impressed and irritated me about professional journalism was the ever present deadline. I vividly recall one late night lounging in the press room of a major hotel while the United States presidential candidate, in a suite upstairs, did whatever candidates do awaiting the decision of the voters. I was relaxing in the early morning hours relishing that I had stepped on the toes of a national magazine reporter and elbowed a Time photographer to get the photo of the candidate that I still cherish. On my agenda in eight hours was a two minute live radio report and attending any live press conference called if the candidate conceded or claimed victory.

I shared the company of a journalist from Australia, reporting for a group of British publications. After weeks on the campaign trail he was longing for the trip home. Slumped in his chair, he almost, on multiple occasions, fell to the floor, claimed by long days and short nights. His phone rang. It was his editor calling from a different time zone asking for 500 words, deadline in thirty minutes.

All I can say is that I've never read such concise, dramatic, to-the-point, cliche-free prose written in ten minutes from the grave of pure exhaustion. I'm sure I wouldn't have to this day remembered the incident if it hadn't been an honest-to-goodness professional who'd taught me an impromptu lesson at the foot of "show don't tell."

Circumstances as well as individuals can create the same feeling, only it may take longer.

Years ago I wrote the official United States released stories on the truce talks at Panmunjom, Korea. And it's been like days of old as North Korea has jumped to the world news stage. Only once did I have to fight the censors to use the words I had written. On that day I was successful. While I was in attendance at the truce talk site, halfway inside the 3-mile demilitarized zone, I had to have my story ready to dictate by telephone to Seoul when arriving at the military base just outside the DMZ. It was the first opportunity to make a telephone call. If it hadn't been for the experience of knowing reporters like those met during U.S. presidential campaigns, I wouldn't have been able to complete the tasks for the months that I did, nor personally complete the early morning briefing for the Secretary of the Army who visited during my deployment.

So what triggered these memories? While I wouldn't give up one minute of my journalistic life, I today discovered a reader review of my novel "The Bones Dance Foxtrot, Second Skeleton Series Mystery" on It said: "I liked it but not as well as the first one. (That's "A Body To Bones, First Skeleton Series Mystery.") We've met the author so I started reading his books, and I enjoy them. I never know the ending and that's something I like."

I must confess I didn't recognize the name of the reviewer. Am I glad he purchased and read my novels, was willing to express an opinion, and took the time to write an online review, obviously yes, yes, yes. In fact, more than glad, ecstatic would be a better word.

But it also triggered in me the thought that an author never knows if or how he or she will affect a reader or a potential reader. You go to book readings. I have one scheduled here April 18 in Rock Falls, IL. You go to community events, you support charities, you speak to people in person, if you can. It's an axiom that no one can like or dislike a novel until it's read. Getting the read is the challenge. Can there be an analogy between an author "pressing-the-flesh" and a politician? Yes.

There is a kinetic energy that bills. Yes, please come back to this blog to read ideas on how you can craft better prose, but don't forget to get out there into the community. I'm not saying it will be easy, but the rewards will buoy your heart and brighten your smile. And, the rewards come from quarters you won't imagine and at times you won't fathom.

Isn't that why you're an author, to uplift people? To give readers an enjoyable experience?

Now, I ask that you go to my previous blog post and click on the link to read a sample of my e-book Abbey Burning Love.

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