22 May 2022

Euphonics


Not Eurythmics

Long before I began to write, I realized some words have soft forms and others hard edges, even harsh, jagged teeth. The letter G has a soft form that alliterates with J, but the hard G means serious business. For example:

glare, goat, glum, gormless, gut, gash, gears, grate, grill, glut, gangster, garage, guttural, gale, gaffe, gaff
Combine the G with the letter R, then Gr… can sound overly masculine, even violent.
grit, gravel, grind, grubby, grungy, grumpy, grate, grill, grotesque, grab, growl, grope, grease, gross, grunt, grim

The sounds– the letters– that follow can soften a word. Examples include:

glen, glade, gorgeous, glorious, glamorous, girl

The Sound You Hear…

Not Ebonics

The understanding and practice of sounds is called euphonics. It comes to us from the realm of music and poetry, and it refers to the sounds of words. Some words work well together where one word seems to naturally follow another. Contrarily, other words don't sound right when harnessed together. Poets and lyricists treat euphonies as one of their best tools.

Authors also use euphonics, although they may not be aware of it. I pay a lot of attention to names: ethnicity, meaning, type (occupational, place, etc) and the sound. I often try to fit a name with a character’s personality: Is she smart, sly, sensible, seductive, sensuous, soft, sordid, staid, straight-laced, stalwart, or staggeringly strong? I strive to reflect that in the name.

Positive About Negatives

Thanks for a tip from ABA and Sharon pointing me to an article by Joslyn Chase. Chase drew my attention to a book, Euphonics For Writers by Rayne Hall. Among other topics, they point out words beginning with N tend to impart a negative tone. I might add that many, many languages have this same characteristic:

no, nay, nix, non, nein, ne, nee, nej, nie, não, nu, nyet

Not only do words have meaning and inflections carry meaning, but the sounds of words also affect readers and listeners.

If you’ve read Rayne Hall’s book, what is your impression?

21 May 2022

Reading About Writing


  

Earlier this week, at the latest of what we've been calling our "watercooler" Zoom meetings in the Short Mystery Fiction Society, we talked a bit about reference books for fiction writing. Specifically, Michael Bracken mentioned the book Dreyer's English, written a few years ago by Benjamin Dreyer, a Random House VP. Michael even said the book has been praised and recommended by AHMM editor Linda Landrigan--which is reason enough for us mystery writers to want to be familiar with it.

NOTE 1: I wrote a SleuthSayers column about Dreyer's English back in 2019, and in that piece I pointed out that I'd found the book to be not only useful and informative but easy to read. It was even fun to read. It's not my absolute favorite writing reference book--Stephen King's memoir/instruction-manual On Writing is--but this one is now a close second.

Thinking again about things discussed during that Zoom meeting, I recall that Barb Goffman mentioned that she often buys those writing "self-help" books but seldom reads them. They wind up just sitting there on her shelf. I do the same thing: I can't seem to resist them, either in bookstores or on Amazon, but when I sit down at home with the purchased books I often never do any more than skim through them and then forever put them aside. I almost never refer to them when the actual plotting/writing happens. 

But . . . that's not always the case. Here are ten books about either the craft or the business of writing (or both), that I did enjoy and read, and that I often reference and even re-read. I've listed them here in order of preference, #1 being my top pick. (As I mentioned, Dreyer's is a recent addition.)


1. On Writing, Stephen King. A fantastic book. Enough said.

2. Dreyer's English, Benjamin Dreyer.

3. Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Lawrence Block. A collection of his Writer's Digest columns.

4. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne and Dave King. The best "style" guide I've seen. 

5. Bird by Bird, Ann Lamott. A funny and interesting look at the writing life.

6. The First Five Pages, Noah Lukeman. Advice to get an editor to keep reading past the opening.

7. Stein on Writing, Sol Stein. An editor's view of style, craft, and strategies.

8. Save the Cat!, Blake Snyder. Actually a book about screenwriting.

9. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, Lynn Truss. A delightful mix of writing advice and entertainment.

10. Story, Robert McKee. Another look at screenplays and screenwriting.


NOTE 2: I didn't include The Elements of Style--maybe I should've; I bought a copy of Elements for each of our three kids when they went off to college--and I can also think of several more books not listed here that other writers hold in high regard. But these remain my top picks.

Now . . . What are your favorites? Maybe it's time some of mine got replaced.


Until then, use whatever helps, and--above all else--keep writing.




20 May 2022

More About Covers


A few weeks ago a new writer member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society asked for advice on craft and best practices. I referred the writer to SleuthSayer and received a quick thank you.

Got me thinking so I thought I'd share my earlier comments about covers (and a few new comments about covers).

My original SleuthSayers post started with advice from Harlan Ellison and other writers who felt a book cover should have one strong image, the writer's name and maybe one thing about the book – it's a novel or a mystery novel or a thriller, etc. Maybe a notation about awards the book received such as Edgar Award or Shamus Award. Maybe a note about writing awards the writer received but don't clutter up the cover with a list. That's why there is a back cover.

Covers should be clear when viewed as a thumbnail since our books are viewed more online than in a bookstore. A cluttered cover or one which does not clearly give title and author's name can be confusing.

A tip I included was this and it worked. I received a couple emails commenting how it worked –

TIP: If you do not have the ability to design a cover using Adobe InDesign or Photoshop, get the image you want on your cover and go to the nearest university's art department. Seek out a college student majoring in graphic design and hire the student to design your cover. They can add your cover to their portfolio and you can cut a bargain with them.

I was going to put examples of good covers but the writers I contacted have not gotten back to me. I was also  going to put examples of bad covers but, hell, I don't like to do things like that. You can use your imagination and I don't have to make anyone angry or feel like I'm putting them down because who the hell am I anyway.

As an Indie writer I am able to control the covers of my books and spell my name correctly. As you can see, it's nice to have an artist in the family. As previously mentioned, the covers of my early books were pretty bad.

Here are a few of my recent ones:







Nothing's perfect but all you can do is try.

www.oneildenoux.com


19 May 2022

Hiding in Plain Sight & Other Crimes


by Eve Fisher

Musings about Hiding in Plain Sight:

First of all, re the story of former Corrections Officer Vicky White who ran off with the inmate Casey White from Alabama, I am amazed that they stayed uncaught that long. I mean, 6'9"?  Seriously?  They were caught, as you probably know, in Evansville, Indiana, where "they were found with $29,000 in cash and four guns, including semiautomatic weapons and an AR-15. They also had several wigs in different colors." But, no matter how many wigs they had, how did they make it 11 days without being turned in, especially staying in a motel for a week?  Outside of a basketball convention, 6'9" anywhere should have been like Herman Munster in a Mickey Rooney lookalike contest. 

Along similar lines, I want to know how Jack Reacher isn't known all over the country:

6 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 210–250 pounds and having a 50-inch chest. In Never Go Back, he is described as having "a six-pack like a cobbled city street, a chest like a suit of NFL armor, biceps like basketballs, and subcutaneous fat like a Kleenex tissue."..."He was one of the largest men she had ever seen outside the NFL. He was extremely tall, and extremely broad, and long-armed, and long-legged. The lawn chair was regular size, but it looked tiny under him. It was bent and crushed out of shape. His knuckles were nearly touching the ground. His neck was thick and his hands were the size of dinner plates."  (Wikipedia)  
So... tell me again why he has to introduce himself anywhere?  

And I've written before about James Bond announcing himself everywhere he goes.  "Bond, James Bond."  Not very secret.  

Meanwhile, it's tragic that Ms. White killed herself, but: a widow, no children, and highly respected as a CO at the jail - employee of the year four times - what did she have to go back to? Jail. Trial. Prison. Corrections officers - any law enforcement officer - often face retaliation in prison. The truth is, sometimes consequences show up that are so stark and horrific there's no way to live with them...

Speaking of Consequences...

Some news outlets are already speaking of the Buffalo, NY white supremacist terrorist as a "white teenager," and "just a boy, really." Bull hockey. Last I heard, 18 makes you an adult in this country. You can vote, marry, drive, and as he did, buy any kind of freaking rifle or "long gun" you want from a licensed gun dealer anywhere in this country at 18. 

I'd say more about this case, but I'm too sick to my stomach. 

Meanwhile, even before this one, we've had 198 mass shootings in the United States this year:  
https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting 

Who's safer with this endless flood of guns, ammo, and hot rhetoric?  Personally, I think it's about damn time that Stochastic Terrorism be made a crime.  


After all, if they could convict the woman who texted her boyfriend repeatedly, encouraging him to kill himself (and he did), why can't we do something similar to people on "certain networks", etc., who actively rev up their listeners to a fury and then say things like, "I'm only asking questions." 

Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows, so is one who deceives a neighbor and says, “I'm just asking questions...”  Proverbs 26:18-19 (Paraphrased for modern usage)

No you're not. You're trying to get them stoked so that you get higher ratings. And maybe there'll be a shooting, and then the ratings will shoot up even higher. 

Which leads me to my next idea:  a Sandy Hook style class-action lawsuit against Tucker & Friends and Fox News for the whole "great replacement theory" and other racist theories that are getting innocent people killed.  

Even More Horrific:  Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

The numbers are horrific. As of March, 2022, there were "103 people missing in South Dakota, with Indigenous people making up 62% of all missing persons despite being only 8.7% of the state’s population. According to the Attorney General’s Missing Persons page, Indigenous women make up 28% of all missing persons and 63% of women currently missing in South Dakota." Also, "Native American women are murdered at a rate ten times higher than the national average." (HERE  And a few of the grisly details HERE)  

Meanwhile, the South Dakota legislature approved making an Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP), which was fantastic! 

But then AG Ravnsborg said he couldn't find "the necessary funds to establish such a position." Yes, we have a very cheap legislature - they don't give money to anything, even when it's their idea. 

At last the non-profit Native Hope said it would fund the position at $85,000 per year for three years, so there may be some hope. Now can they find the law enforcement necessary to do the actual investigating???

BTW, Native Hope's website is:  https://www.nativehope.org/  Donations are always gratefully received.




On a Lighter Note, What's in a Name?

"A man found floating on a raft in the ocean off the coast of Rhode Island in 2016 after his boat sank has been indicted on charges alleging he killed his mother at sea to inherit the family's estate, according to the indictment unsealed Tuesday.  The eight-count indictment released in federal court in Burlington also says Nathan Carman shot and killed his grandfather, John Chakalos, at his home in Windsor, Connecticut, in 2013 as part of an effort to defraud insurance companies, but he was not charged with that killing. [Why, one may ask?] Carman was found in an inflatable raft eight days after he went fishing with his mother, Linda Carman, who was never found." 

Now families are tricky things, and God only knows what led Mr. Carman to do the things he did. But greed does seem to have been a factor:  he sued the insurance company for $85,000 for the loss of his 31 foot fishing boat, The Chicken Pox. (NewsTimes)  Yes, The Chicken Pox

So of course I sat around thinking of similar suitable names for a boat, and came up with:

Montezuma's Revenge
The Spanish Flu
Daddy's Hemorrhoids 
Reilly's Pyloric Valve 

And those are just the printable ones.  Feel free to add your own!






18 May 2022

Albuquotes



Two weeks ago
I wrote about my adventures at Left Coast Crime in Albuquerque last month.  Those of you who read my column regularly, if such there be, know that that will be followed with my favorite words of wisdom from the con.  As always, I have removed all context to make things more interesting.  Enjoy.

 "There's always someone in the audience who asks about writer's block.  Who volunteers to be that person?" - Reed Farrel Coleman

"Wasn't the world better when it was better for me? Spoiler alert: No." - Catriona McPherson

"I don't start writing chapter one, page one, until I have about ten thousand words of notes."  - Mick Herron

"I wanted to write a book that would be Speed with canoes." -William Kent Krueger


"What the reader wants is not always what the reader needs." -Glen Erik Hamilton

"I've been the eye candy for Torrey House Press." - Scott Graham

"I do the research after I've written the book." - Catriona McPherson

"I'm interested in sharing the things about human beings that make me glad to be a human being." -Thomas Perry

 "I'm a New York Times bestselling author because I buy a lot of my own books." - Reed Farrel Coleman

"I've had people say 'I could read a whole novel in that voice' and I think 'My God, I could never write whole novel in that voice.'" - Amy Drayer

"It looked more like a breakdown than a career move." - Catriona McPherson

"I am addicted to semi-colons. I can hardly write a text message without them." - Mick Herron

"I talk to myself constantly, and I didn't know that until my husband started working from home." - Jamie Mason

"I can always win a contest of who has the most useless dissertation." - Catriona McPherson

"If I could I would write an entire book with a group of people locked in a room being unpleasant." - Mick Herron 

"I may have a tendency to be a preacher, but I don't like being preached at." -Karen Keskinen

"Overreacting in advance saves time later." - Catriona McPherson

"When you're writing a short story you need to distill a character to a single sentence." - Raquel V. Reyes

"Patience is one of the hardest parts of writing." -Amy Drayer

"Someone once said 'You're plots are just this side of ludicrous' and I thought 'Challenge accepted." - Catriona McPherson


"Part of why you write is to find out what you think." -Thomas Perry

"Writing a series about a lot of characters is like there's already a ghost novel waiting." - Mick Herron

"No crying on the yacht." - Catriona McPherson

"I like to think that not all my characters are needy all the time" Laurie R. King

"I love the time when I've finished a book and no one else has seen it so I can live the lie that it's great." - Jess Lourey

"People say that in the past racism was acceptable.  It never was. It was just acceptable to some White people." - Catriona McPherson

"I spent my first Bouchercon behind a potted plant." -Tracy Clark

"I'm barring anyone from saying 'I'm just a reader.'" - Catriona McPherson

"If you want to write about another culture, fall in love with it a bit." - Tori Eldridge

"It's quite easy to work out who the mole is in Wind in the Willows." - Mick Herron

"If you want to visit 1920s Scotland, just go outside.  It's still there." - Catriona McPherson

"I'm basically an evil man." -Thomas Perry

"It's important for children to read widely, not just the good stuff.  Quantity is important at that age." - Mick Herron

"A word of advice: Don't Google nun's underwear." - Catriona McPherson

17 May 2022

For Sin and Whiskey


    One of the benefits of being a magistrate is that I get to leave the county jail at will. I exit the facility when I choose. No one chases after me shouting "escape" or reports me to my supervisor for taking an unscheduled break. My unsolicited tip for the day: if you must go to jail, make sure that you know you'll get out again.

    Just outside the front door of Tarrant County's central jail facility, affixed to the wall, a plaque informs visitors that upon this site stood the first church erected in Fort Worth. The sign is easy to miss. Most people don't study the walls looking for historical tidbits. But I'm glad I saw it. I like the symmetry of knowing that since Fort Worth's earliest days, this spot has been dedicated to rooting out sins in one form or another.

    If an early Fort Worth resident walked one block east from the First Christian Church, he would find himself at The First and Last Chance Saloon, the first bar opened in my city. Records describe it as a dingy box of a room with a few shelves along the west wall holding whiskey, a local peach brandy, and gin. On the unornamented bar sat a bucket of water for those drinkers who needed a chaser. In another choice historical happenstance, two of the county's misdemeanor courts occupy the floors rising from the southeast corner of Taylor and Weatherford, the intersection where The First and Last Chance once stood. Driving while intoxicated prosecutions occur weekly at the site of Fort Worth's first saloon.

    My favorite story from those early days also deals with whiskey. When Major Ripley Arnold established the fort at the confluence of the Clear and West forks of the Trinity River, there already was a settlement, Bird's Fort north and east of Fort Worth. Bird's Fort, later Birdville, had been established in 1840, nine years earlier than Fort Worth. In 1850, Birdville was named the county seat. By 1856, the expanding village of Fort Worth felt it should replace Birdville as the county's seat of justice. The reasons were a mixture of pride and practicality. Citizens came to town on court day. Court day, therefore, was good for retail business. Influential citizens from Fort Worth persuaded the legislature to hold a special election to resolve the question. The votes would be cast in November 1856.

    Both towns' leading citizens plotted. The election had three polling places established around the county. Fort Worth and Birdville, naturally, were the primary voting centers. In front of both mercantile stores in Fort Worth, the town leaders placed barrels of whiskey. After voters cast their ballots, they could imbibe. The reasoning, it seems, was that those who came to Fort Worth to vote would more likely cast their support behind the challenger.

    The opposition employed the same tactic. The city leaders of Birdville stored their whiskey in a stand of live oaks near the town's polling station. On election eve, however, intrepid Fort Worth residents found and siphoned off the barrel. On voting day, the Birdville election managers had no alcohol inducement.

    Despite this, the voting remained too close to call. As the election drew to a close, Sam Woody rode into Fort Worth with fourteen of his neighbors. They resisted the temptation of the whiskey, entered the election hall, made their way past the election judges, and each cast their ballots. They, they saddled up their horses and rode out of town on their way home. They needed to get started. Although Woody had been a county resident for years, he had recently moved to the neighboring county. When he came, he brought fourteen other ineligible votes with him.

    Fort Worth won the election by seven votes.

    Curious readers might ask whether the Fort Worth residents went to the First Christian Church to seek absolution or to the First and Last Chance Saloon to celebrate?

    What happened instead? A parade of jubilant and inebriated citizens marched by torchlight to Birdville. There, they collected the county records, desks, chairs, and law books. Loading them onto wagons, the procession marched back to Fort Worth, carrying their spoils of victory.

Fort Worth Postcard by The Fair
The Fair (Fort Worth), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    A legislator supporting Birdville discovered that more votes had been cast in the election than eligible voters. He protested the outcome. Pro-Fort Worth representatives challenged his protest. The legislature resolved the back-and-forth dispute by ordering another election. The Fort Worth contingent added a rider to the bill adding a third election option, a new county seat at the center of the county. The second ballot was held in 1860. The earlier vote had already reshaped the county's economic landscape. This time, Fort Worth soundly defeated Birdville (FW 548, Center 301, Birdville 4).

    These days, Birdville only exists as the name of the school district for some of Fort Worth's northeastern suburbs.

    Around these parts, we spend a great deal of political time and energy worrying about election irregularities. Scores of elected officials work to safeguard me and my fellow citizens from voter fraud. I wonder if they realize that the city they're protecting likely wouldn't exist without purloined whiskey and Sam Woody's voter fraud.

    Until next time.

16 May 2022

My Father and Cousin Clyde,
Reprise and Update


Clyde and Bonnie

It recently came to my attention that my Cousin Clyde Barrow was in the news again. His face along with Bonnie Parker's were seen on Russian television.

You've got to be kidding I thought. How could this pair of alleged (Do I have to say alleged if they were never tried?) bank robbers murders and all arround bad folks, who were killed in a shoot-out with the law enforcement in the 1930s, be shown on a Russian owned TV newscast? 

Bonnie and Clyde were young, she 19 and he, 23. They wound up being two of the most colorful and notorious gangsters in early USA 1930s history. Today is one week shy of the 89th anniversary, of that day on May 23, 1933.

I have no idea how or why their photos was shown on Russian TV this past Monday on the anniversary of Russia's victory day over Germany. But during a concert a photo of Bonnie and Clyde was shown, somehow supposedly depicting refuges from 1945 WW-II. 

This photo was shown for several hours until someone (from Russian media?) recognized the couple and the photo was taken down. You can Google Bonnie & Clyde photo on Russian TV if you want to  see it. I personally got a big laugh about it and decided to reprise my SleuthSayer article from March 15, 2015 about my dad and cousin Clyde.

Need I mention the Austin policewoman character in two of my novels, AUSTIN CITY BLUE and DARK BLUE DEATH was named Zoe Barrow? Her name came to me as a way to honor my dad and the Barrow name. The Barrows were from England, lived in VA, NC eventually moving to LA and came into TX with Stephen F Austin. I honestly don't think I was subconsciously thinking to rehab ole Cousin Clyde. REALLY!!

Find my original article here and following is Bonnie Parker's poem.

The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde

You've read the story of Jesse James
of how he lived and died.
If you're still in need;
of something to read,
here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde.

Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang
I'm sure you all have read.
how they rob and steal;
and those who squeal,
are usually found dying or dead.

There's lots of untruths to these write-ups;
they're not as ruthless as that.
their nature is raw;
they hate all the law,
the stool pigeons, spotters and rats.

They call them cold-blooded killers
they say they are heartless and mean.
But I say this with pride
that I once knew Clyde,
when he was honest and upright and clean.

But the law fooled around;
kept taking him down,
and locking him up in a cell.
Till he said to me;
"I'll never be free,
so I'll meet a few of them in hell"

The road was so dimly lighted
there were no highway signs to guide.
But they made up their minds;
if all roads were blind,
they wouldn't give up till they died.

If a policeman is killed in Dallas
and they have no clue or guide.
If they can't find a fiend,
they just wipe their slate clean
and hang it on Bonnie and Clyde.

There's two crimes committed in America
not accredited to the Barrow mob.
They had no hand;
in the kidnap demand,
nor the Kansas City Depot job.

If they try to act like citizens
and rent them a nice little flat.
About the third night;
they're invited to fight,
by a sub-gun's rat-tat-tat.

They don't think they're too smart or desperate
they know that the law always wins.
They've been shot at before;
but they do not ignore,
that death is the wages of sin.

Some day they'll go down together
they'll bury them side by side.
To few it'll be grief,
And to the law a relief
but it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.