Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Past and Present

There is an interesting debate going on in the Novels section of the Absolute Write Water Cooler about the use of first person, present tense in a novel. Of course I had to weigh in on the "in favor of" side of the issue since WORKING STIFF and its sequel SCARED STIFF are written in just that form. Yet there are some there who say they won't give a book a second glance if it's written in first person present. Different strokes and all that, I suppose, but I can't imagine dismissing a book for something so basic.

For me, first person present wasn't my first choice for the work. I originally wrote it in first person past (and there is another whole camp of objectors who don't like first person in any form) but it always seemed a bit off to me. When I finally went through the manuscript and changed it all to first person present, it finally felt right. It lent a sense of immediacy to the work that made it feel more like a movie, where you are watching the action happen as it unfolds rather than in a long extended flashback. And for a mystery with a first person POV, it just seemed more right and honest.

My first three books were all written in third person (limited) past tense and it worked well, so I'm not wedded to first person present by any means. But I'm puzzled by the objections of some readers to this style. While it may not be the norm, many highly successful and popular books use it, such as THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, LOTTERY, and FIGHT CLUB.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

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Publishers Weekly Weighs In

It's nice to get any review from PW at all and nicer yet to get a decent one. To read what they wrote on WORKING STIFF, click here and scroll your way down to the mystery section. I'm not sure it accurately portrays the comedic nature of the work but I'm not complaining by any means. I like the term "crisp debut." And ironically, despite the comparison to Grey's Anatomy, I've never watched a single episode of the show. As for CSI on the other hand, I don't think there is any one of those in all its incarnations that I haven't seen.

On other fronts, I have yet another cover blurb, this one from Laura Levine, author of KILLER CRUISE: "Move over Stephanie Plum. Make way for Mattie Winston, the funniest deputy coroner to cut up a corpse since, well, ever. I loved every minute I spent with her in this sharp and sassy debut mystery."

Thanks so much, Laura! From a marketing standpoint, comparisons to Ms. Plum certainly can't hurt.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


That's where I am writing-wise at the moment, in the Tweenies. That means I'm between projects and feeling, well, slackadaisical (and before the grammar and spelling police come after me, let it be known that I made that word up). Book #2 in the Mattie Winston "Stiff" series, SCARED STIFF, is written and with my editor, waiting on a read and approval. The synopsis for book #3 (which might be called STIFF PENALTY) is written and with my editor, waiting on a read and approval. And with WORKING STIFF due out in six weeks I'm shifting my attention to promotional and marketing duties. I've had some beautiful bookmarks printed up so I can hand them out to readers and booksellers. I'm revamping my web site to get it looking a little more professional, and getting ready to launch a new web site with a discussion board dedicated to the Stiff series and its main character, Mattie Winston. I've set up a book launch party for WORKING STIFF for 6:00 p.m. September 17th at Booked For Murder, an independent book store in Madison, WI. And I'm in the process of setting up additonal signings throughout the rest of the year, some at nearby stores and some in cities I'll be traveling to or through.

The pending release of WORKING STIFF is exciting and distracting. I'm anxious for it to come out and to get the promotional ball rolling. I'm also feeling the itch to get serious with book #3 now that I have it all mapped out, and move past the flimsy two-page opening scene I've written thus far. But I'm not going to scratch that itch today. Maybe tomorrow. Or not. That's one of the joys -- and tortures -- of being a writer.