Friday, December 23, 2016

Susan Van Kirk—Monmouth Author

Susan Van Kirk is a local author I can look up to for many reasons.

Her first mystery, Three May Keep a Secret, was a delight to read. Her fictional small town of Endurance is based on Monmouth, Illinois. I’ve driven through Monmouth many times over the years as it’s on Highway 34 and it was a nice place to stop for ice cream on the way home from Iowa.

Her fictional Endurance may be quite a bit bigger than my fictional Bishop Hill, but it shares many similar characteristics: a colorful cast of characters, everyone knows each other’s business (past & present), the feeling of a shared heritage, and a connection to the land.

Van Kirk’s protagonist is a fifty-something Grace Kimball, a newly-retired English teacher weighing her options for fulfillment in the next phase of her life. Will it be writing a novel or picking something from the multiple suggestions of her friends. Fate intervenes when the new editor of the local paper asks her to do a column of book reviews. That she can and does say yes to. And then a notorious newspaper reporter dies in a fire leaving a last unfinished story for Grace to tackle. Completing the research for the story will solve a longstanding crime. Trying to sort out the most likely suspect for present-day crimes will not be easy—there are so many unworthy candidates.

Three May Keep a Secret is a classic cozy mystery with an interesting beginning, a well-handled plot that keeps developing and building to the satisfying denouement.

Bonus: there’s room for more action in later books.

I can see why the Monmouth Public Library has a shelf dedicated to local authors.

Friday, December 9, 2016

NaNoWriMo Stats

I do like well-designed charts that display statistical information in an easy-to-absorb format. The NaNoWriMo folks came up with a couple of nice ones showing how the 2016 winners, at 50,000 words, stacked up to total participants—those who signed up for the 30 days of writing-writing-writing.
They made up one chart with generic people figures in different colors for the categories of: Participants, Winners, and Young Writers Program Participants.

According to this chart 11% reached the winners circle.

I would have predicted less than 20% based on my experience from my first NaNoWriMo in 2010.

What really blew me away were the Young Writers Program participants. The youngsters clocked in an impressive 23%.

According to the NaNoWriMo folks 3,000 virtual classrooms were set up through the Young Writers Program site. And 2,500 classroom kits were sent out to educators around the world at no cost.

Would that explain why the most popular genre in the multi-colored pie chart was Fantasy? Followed by Young Adult in second place and Science Fiction in third place. Those three genres made up nearly half of all novels written in November.

The next cluster of much smaller but similarly-sized pie slices contained: Romance, Horror/Supernatural, and Personal.

Followed by: Thriller/Suspense, Adventure, and Fanfiction.

Then there’s: Literary, Mystery, and Mainstream.

Ending with rest of the varied pieces of the genre pie: Women’s Fiction, LGBT+, Historical, Children’s Fiction, Satire/Humor, Religious/Spiritual, and Erotic.

I entered with the Mystery genre in the regional forum of USA::Iowa::Quad Cities. I was one of 71 novelists who wrote 1,132,879 words with an average wordcount of 15,956.

A big “Thank you” goes to SandyInSilvis for being our Municipal Liaison.

Okay, I’m still wondering about the Mystery genre’s placement well in the rear of the pack of the pie chart. Good or Bad?

I guess it’s a moot point if I don’t go ahead and finish what I started.

Here are the raw numbers—
Participants: 312,074
Winners: 34,555
Young Writers Program Participants: 71,229

Friday, December 2, 2016

Character Studies

Careful, or
you’ll end up in
my novel.

I have a t-shirt that displays the above saying.

So, is it a warning?

I thought so at one time. But now I’m not so sure.

I’ve talked about how I’ve made up my characters out bits and pieces of people I’ve known. Friends, relatives, even a complete stranger or two have given me inspiration for mannerisms, inclinations, accents, and a whole host of possible behaviors that have gone into any number of the people of my novel.

Whenever I read I find myself on the lookout for the odd tidbits I might tailor to my own uses in character development.

I’ve had good results with this system and I’m rather fond of my cast of characters. The good and the bad all have enough variety to hold one’s attention. Well, mine anyway.

Therefore, I’m not so sure the t-shirt should serve as a warning any more.

I’m wondering if my t-shirt should be an invitation—yet another way to save a snapshot of someone who’s worth remembering.