Friday, March 30, 2018

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

If you love historical mysteries, you're going to love my guest author. This retired newspaperman - John Lindermuth - can really write a good yarn. His location is in rural Pennsylvania but it feels like a "western" set in a greener setting. I let you tell the story about his new book - The Bartered Body.

Equally with real estate, the phrase can be applied to story. Every story needs a location in which to take place and, in some instances, it can be is as important as characters or plot.
One can choose an actual place as setting for a story, thought the writer runs the risk of being called out for errors by others more familiar with the location. A reader can be jarred out of a story should your character drive the wrong way on a one-way street or dine at a restaurant not on the block where you place it.

I've written stories set in actual locations and--so far--have not had the unpleasant experience of being challenged on my descriptions of the setting.

But I think it's much more fun and challenging to create your own little slice of the world. 
I created the town of Arahpot in Jordan County (both are fictional) and set them down in my neck of Pennsylvania as the location for the novels in the Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman series. Some readers in my region may recognize aspects of the place. Yet they won't find the town or county on any maps.

Actually, I'd created Arahpot for an earlier book (Watch The Hour). The town happened to have a lawman named Tilghman, so it was convenient to borrow the place and have Syl be that man's son.
Arahpot sits on an elevated terrace between two forks of a creek of the same name. It's a rural community, the economy equally dependent on agricultural and coal mining. I've become quite familiar with the place as I name its streets, create its business places and the home of the principal characters. Occasionally my characters will journey to Shannon, the county seat, or Masonville, a neighboring village (both as fictional as Arahpot).

There are now three novels in the series: Fallen From Grace, Sooner Than Gold and The Bartered Body.

Here's a blurb for The Bartered BodyWhy would thieves steal the body of a dead woman?
That’s the most challenging question yet to be faced by Sylvester Tilghman, the third of his family to serve as sheriff of Arahpot, Jordan County, Pennsylvania, in the waning days of the 19th century.
And it’s not just any body but that of Mrs. Arbuckle, Nathan Zimmerman’s late mother-in-law. Zimmerman is burgess of Arahpot and Tilghman’s boss, which puts more than a little pressure on the sheriff to solve the crime in a hurry.

Syl’s investigation is complicated by the arrival in town of a former flame who threatens his relationship with his sweetheart Lydia Longlow; clashes with his old enemy, former burgess McLean Ruppenthal; a string of armed robberies, and a record snowstorm that shuts down train traffic, cuts off telegraph service and freezes cattle in the fields.
It will take all of Syl’s skills and the help of his deputy and friends to untangle the various threads and bring the criminals to justice.




Monday, January 8, 2018

Do most books fit into literary genres?

Publishers think genres are a way of classifying fiction in order to target marketing of books to receptive audiences. Fine. What if a book or a collection of stories fits into more than one genre?

So-called literary experts say “genre fiction” (as opposed to literary fiction) is plot-driven. That bothers me. I thought the plot was pretty important in The Sun Also Rises, although perhaps not as much as the characters, and I’m pretty sure it’s an example of literary fiction. Oh well. Let’s not argue that point.

Let’s try to  classify The Good Old Days? The short stories in this collection occur in the past, ie. 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. I guess that means the stories are historical fiction. 

However, the stories are based on familiestheir thrilling escapes from war, their secrets which mystify current generation, and their romances. So, the some of the stories are plot-driven romances, mysteries, and thrillers. Other stories are character-driven and resemble literary fiction. 

But wait, these stories might be called memoirs (a form of nonfiction)—most of the stories are snapshots of real events and have the idiosyncratic tone of memoirsI interviewed dozens of people about their childhoods to get ideas, but I turned my notes into fiction as I added plots, developed characters, and changed details. 

By now, you’re bored with this literary discussion. Please note I was much briefer than most writers as they debated the differences between narrative memoirs and historical fiction. Gee, I hate trying to fit into a box defined by someone else.

Blurbs don’t really work for short story collections. So, I included the first page of one of the short stores.

I Still Want…
“I still want a hula hoop.” The chipmunks—Alvin, Simon, and Theodore—screeched slightly out of harmony on the Saturday morning cartoon show. There were lots of things I still wanted, too: the winter to end, Mom to get well, and anyone to talk to me.
When I was eight, neither of my parents spoke much to me. They avoided me, except at suppertime. Then Mom stared at the black cat clock, with its red eyes rolling back and forth and its tail swinging, while Dad and I silently ate supper. When I put down my fork, Mom sent me outside in warm weather and to my bedroom in winter. Dad seldom protested her decision. He only hung his head.
As soon as I exited the kitchen, Mom usually screamed or cried, often both, as Dad droned on about what the doctor said and how she should eat more, stop smoking, drink less, and get out more. I agreed with Mom. Dad’s litany was boring. Anyway, most nights after about an hour of hysterics, he went out to the garage to tinker on his carpentry projects.
For about fifteen minutes after his departure, Mom slammed doors in the kitchen before she shuffled to the bathroom. The next ten minutes were the most important of the evening to me. If I managed to open my bedroom door, slide down the hall to the kitchen, and sneak through the living room to the garage while she was in the shower, I was free…

Other stories in the collection include: Smell of Fear, The Bronx Revisited, I Look Like Papa, and Dirty Dave. All have bits of humor and make you think. You may recognize your relatives or neighbors in these stories.


To read the rest of the story: http://amzn.com/1537743813

Thursday, December 14, 2017

SHE DIDN'T KNOW HER PLACE

One of the most universal themes in literature is alienation. How much of personal isolation is due to making unpopular moral decisions, to being an outsider, and to being stubborn? This is the theme in She Didn't Know Her Place

In this mystery, Dana Richardson faces two dilemmas in her new job as VP of Research at State U. The Natural Resource Center, which reports to her, is alleged to be "doctoring" data to help industrial clients meet federal pollution standards. Her boss Guy Beloit, the president of the university, doesn’t care. Really no one, but Dana, cares. That's not true. Sally Stein cared and she died under mysterious circumstances, and others are too scared to talk. 

This mystery can be viewed on several levels. Dana's attempt to uncover and eliminate the scientific  and financial fraud in the Natural Resource Center is an example of a different type of police procedural. You'll be surprised how complex the laws governing research are and how they can be used to ensnare the villains. You'll also wonder how much of Dana's efforts are driven by inner demons and the fear of meeting the same fate as Sally Stein. Thus She Didn't Know Her Place is a bit of a psychological thriller. Then too Dana faces the problem of being a woman administrator in a predominantly male world - the academic scientific community is not kind to feminists.

Ultimately, themes are what make reading so satisfying. They make us think

Here's how to get She Didn't Know Her Place. The kindle and paperback versions are available at  Amazon: https://www.amzn.com/ dp/1979733112


GoodReads is doing a free giveaway of three signed copies of this mystery. Enter before December 22 at: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/267677-she-didn-t-know-her-place.