April 2005 Archives

Writing a Mystery

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Iím doing a post as a reply to Stevenís kind post in response to my announcement that I am working on a mystery novel. The bookís lead will be a ďsemi-proĒ, a forensic accountant, self-employed and nearing retirement, who is also a life-long Colorado rancher. A forensic accountant is one who works at uncovering fraud and other examples of white collar crime. The character is drawn from my own experience Ė early in my career I worked some assignments as a ďfraud auditor,Ē the rest is just made up.

I donít know that I feel very badly about my having to be so focused in my writing, I am surprised. I donít know why it should be so, but it is. This is especially true when I try to write, or even read, any poetry. I find it completely distracting, enjoyable, but still it really blocks any work I try to do in fiction. Steven says that you canít help but write, and I think that is likely true of most of us who have attempted a blog, but I know I canít match the kind of volume you are talking about. I think I must be unusual in this regard. Iíve thought about it a bit, and Iíve come to think this is due to my being an accountant. I want to do things in an orderly, structured way. Iím not sure, but Iím coming to accept it as a sign of Godís will.

What I do feel highly self-conscious about is writing a mystery. I have always regarded the mystery novel as an inferior breed in the world of fiction and literature. I think of mysteries as little more than distractions, entertainments, rather than serious literature. This is, of course, not always true, famous and very good authors have written mystery books. If you study what mystery writers say about the genre, they tend to trace their origin back to Dostoyevsky, and include Poe and Chesterton and others too numerous to mention.

The one good thing that I keep consoling myself is that, in a mystery, usually, good overcomes evil, a disruption of good order is set right, and all live happily ever after. I will certainly strive to achieve that outcome. As I envision the series, the lead character is on a path to real conversion, from little real faith to something much greater. The trick is to deal with all this without hitting the reader over the head about it.

Another good thing that has come from working in fiction is that I have learned some things about people while trying to ďcreateĒ characters. They take on a life of their own and I keep discovering new things about them; this is true even for characters that I have done a lot of work on. I wonder if our Lord ever feels that way about us? It has given me an entirely new outlook on people.

I may post here, from time to time, anyway, as a ďwarm-upĒ to my more serious pursuits, it seems to help to get 300 to 500 words down on paper before getting down to the business of creating fiction. I can't promise much in terms of quality, but this may be of interest as the diary of a novel. Anyway, this post has certainly reached my 500 word limit, so perhaps itís time to get to work.

Thank you, Steven, for your comment, I appreciate your thoughts.

The Prodigal Blogger

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I admit it, I have not written much here for some time. I know that you all have been clamoring for my return, but I have a very good, if rather eccentric reason, for my absence. The reason is, simply, that over the last six months or so, I have been working on refining my skills as a mystery writer. It seems I have some talent for this; at least two of three paid workshop instructors seem to think so. I donít know if the fact that they are paid, by me, has anything to do with their high opinion of my fiction skills, but their encouragement has lead me to focus most of my writing time here. I have also, though been spending a little time reading and studying poetry, with an eye to trying to do some writing in that field. You may be asking what does that have to do with the keeping of a blog?

Well, this is where the eccentricity comes in. The problem I am having is, that if I write mystery fiction, I canít write poetry, or anything that I consider worthwhile to post here. If I write poetry, then I canít write mystery fiction or anything that I consider worthwhile to post here. If I write here, then I canít write either mystery fiction or poetry. It seems I am a one note Johnny.

I canít explain this situation, since most of the time I am unable to focus my attention on any one thing for more than two to three minutes at any one time. I pride myself on being a multi-tasker; I can do any number of things poorly at a single sitting. But here, when I attempt to do one thing that I might have some small ability at, the task requires, no demands, my complete and undivided attention. When Iím really seriously into working at some aspect of the book I have begun, the outside world disappears and my focus is united and solidified to a remarkable degree. I am astounded.

It seems all I can do is admit the fault and do my best to live with it. So, I shall get back to the creation of a murder, fictional that is, and try, as best as I can, to keep you posted as to my progress. The final result, if not a published mystery, might at least be improvement of my character.

Holy Fathers, Church Fathers

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Today, our Holy Father, Benedict XVI formally began his Pontificate. It may be fitting that today is the anniversary of the "re-birth" of another Father. On this date in the year 387, at the Easter Vigil, the man whom we now know as St. Augustine, and his son Adeodatus, were baptized by St. Ambrose. Augustineís mother, Monica, was present to see her prayers answered. Augustine was never a Holy Father, but this date certainly marks the new birth of a Church Father.

Do One Brave Thing

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I don't know who is taking this seriously, but, there are times I feel like doing just this.

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John Paul II, 1920 Ė 2005

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I hardly know what to say on the death of our Holy Father. I am a convert and as such, he is the only pope I have ever known. I would be lying if I said he did not play a large part in my conversion to Catholicism.

I suppose the thing that I so admired about him, when I was still a Presbyterian, was his personal courage, what I would now call fortitude. Unlike the denomination I grew up in, one that had lost, and continues to lose, its way; John Paul was clearly a man who knew what he stood for and was unafraid to proclaim the Truth to the world. I knew, finally, I wanted a part of that.

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I have never, as a Catholic, been through the death of a pope. Previously, the death of a pope was a significant world event, but little more. Now, it means the loss of a shepherd. It means that I, along with the rest of the Church, face a time of uncertainty. Who will be the next Holy Father? Will he remain faithful and strong? Will he be the Rock that I have so come to count on?

I donít know the answers to these questions, nor does anyone else. I think that the lesson for us all is still the example of John Paul II. I find it significant that he passed from us during the Easter season. It seems almost impossible to mourn and weep in the time of the great celebration of our Lordís Resurrection. I think the Holy Father would not have wanted it any other way. I believe that, rather than mourning, he would want us to rejoice in his life and look ahead with courage and faith, ďBe not afraid.Ē

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