Archive for February, 2016

Don’t we all need a little more cozy?

February 20, 2016

Guides to mystery genres are often published–listing many categories, from puzzle-solving and satisfactory endings to horror/violence/sadism that leave you shaking and depressed.

Goodness knows there is enough in the last description in real life today. Maybe someone can explain to me why readers punish themselves by choosing fiction echoing the worst humans can inflict on each other. Is it so those readers can experience this vicariously, and hence avoid practicing it in real life? Or do these novels (plus, it is said, violent video games, movies, and TV programs) present guidelines and impetus to action for some unstable/miserable minds, who then act out their misery using weapons too easily available, as psychologists and others have suggested?

Well, that’s a deep question, but, for my own reading and writing, I choose stories in a category popularly named Cozy. These books intrigue and entertain me. They present characters I enjoy getting to know. They often give a window on human life that, subtly, increases my understanding of others, though a learning experience is not the first reason I choose them. Most of all I want to be entertained–with perhaps a few shivers, but without danger to my general equanimity.

Dictionaries define “cozy” as “snugly, warm, comfortable.”  OOOO, snugly. Love that, especially on a cold winter day in my office.

On Writing World.com, Stephen D. Rogers defines the “Cozy” as being “typified by Agatha Christie, containing bloodless crime, and a victim who won’t be missed. The solution can be determined by using emotional (Miss Marple) or logical (Poirot) reasoning.” Well, maybe, though today I think cozy goes beyond that, or at least it does in my own writing. For example, my characters can be subjected to dangerous and vile criminal activity by “bad guys,” and the criminal action can be in full view of readers. It certainly is in my latest novel, A Portrait to Die For, though I admit my sense of humor peeked through in a couple of the tense scenes. In any case, strength, as well as both logic and emotion lead to a solution in all my novels and, in many cases, redemption or a character change in some form.

An inquirer recently asked me if I wrote “Cozy Noir.” That stumped me for a while, especially since Rogers defines “Noir” as ” . . .  a mood: gritty, bleak, and unforgiving. The usual brutality is about as far from Cozy as you can get.” So, looking at it that way, I do not write anything near “Noir,” and for that matter would generally stop reading a novel that fit such a description.

I believe all of us–yes, every one of us–need more cozy in our lives. Not just in books, but in real hugs, understanding, thoughtfulness, support, stability and love. Seems to me these things, more than anything else, could begin to address the issue of violence in our real world.

I was recently shown something Barbara Vining, a writer I admire, wrote ” . . .  human affections need a tender touch–to awaken desires and aspirations that stabilize the emotions (and) satisfy the deepest longings . . . ”  To that I say, “amen.”
Radine at http://www.RadinesBooks.com

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No lack of writing talent, but . . .

February 11, 2016

Fellow author Crow Johnson Evans and I met with a writers’ group in Bella Vista, Arkansas yesterday, speaking to them about how we established our writing careers, and answering questions.  Following this we had the great opportunity to hear each member of the group read examples of their own writing.

WOW, we heard some wonderful things. Most striking, I thought, was a lively article about wedding practices in Syria–the author had lived in Damascus for twenty years. This was certainly a timely topic. Other pieces (mostly non-fiction, spiced by one romance author’s chapter) were also very good.

But there was a big, publication-stopping problem, or rather, several problems.  Too many words, for the main one, sentences too long, spiced with adjectives and adverbs. Telling more than was needed to make the article or story sing.  There were other problems no editor would tolerate–improper formatting, bad punctuation, and more.  I don’t know how long each of the members has been writing, but huge talent was obvious. It was, therefore, heart breaking to see most of it buried in wordiness and writing mistakes. I wondered how each author had arrived at this point without actual knowledge of the business of writing.

What to do? I wrote to the group’s organizer/director today, and sent along a list of general interest writers’ conferences in this area, some of them free. At the meeting, Crow had already suggested various classes on line. Writing like we heard yesterday is too terrific to be hidden under problems that would deny it publication, but no one in the group commented about the problems I mention, and, as guests, Crow and I were reluctant to say much.

Sad fact–I have run into terrific talent before, but too often the writer(s) lacked the ooomph to do work needed to make it ready to submit to an agent, magazine or book editor. I have worked with (for example) a very good author who rarely read publisher’s guidelines before he submitted. In one instance he sent a (very good) story manuscript that was almost double the word count the publisher’s guidelines asked for, thinking, I suspect, his work was good enough to overcome that little problem, if he even had read the guidelines. After only a few rejections, this author gave up, stopped submitting, dropped out of our critique group, and may have stopped writing completely.

Too bad. It takes more than talent. May I suggest ooomph–or maybe “fire in the belly”, and a willingness to do the down and dirty detail work?  I guess I have this. At times I feel wildly frustrated and wish I could just WRITE.  But I sit in my desk chair and turn on the computer, not to write, but to do research and so much more.

Tell me–is my frustration noted here unrealistic? How do you feel?