Sunday, August 05, 2007

This Writer’s Journey
August 2007 Virtual Book Tour
For other reader comments, please visit the August 3, 2007 post in

I’d like to say that writing has been a life-long passion, but the fact of the matter is, my first love was art. From the day I could hold a pencil in my hand, I drew. I studied a wide variety of art forms in school; charcoals, oils, watercolors, ink washes, ceramics, sculpture—love it all. Later I studied graphic design and got hooked on it. Although writing and art are two vastly different creative forms of expression, I am the whole of my life experiences. The art discipline helped me to develop an observant eye and sharpened my senses to the subtle nuances of the world around me. I can visualize the details of a scene as clearly as if I were looking at it with my eyes. The trick for me is to transform those images and other sensory messages into words. Is the scene vivid enough for the reader to smell the stench of death when Harper walks into the morgue; see the glint of light bouncing off a pool of water on the sidewalk, and hear the rain drumming onto a metal awning?

The literal beginning of my writing journey began on Thanksgiving morning 1985, six months after our eldest daughter passed away. She was born in October 1983, with a congenital heart defect. Words couldn’t express the ache or the emptiness I felt after her loss. I found console in my faith and in the journaling of my thoughts. That Thanksgiving holiday was especially difficult, yet in the midst of it, something happened that brought me peace and an understanding that I was spiritually not alone. I jotted my thoughts but quickly put it away knowing I couldn’t dwell on it for long stretches of time. That first story took several years to complete in spite that it is only 500 words long.

Time doesn’t heal but it does pass. Several years later, I read an article that briefly mentioned the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. I was struck to read of the brutality inflicted on the Chinese people by the invading forces, but what was even more gripping was that those events hadn’t been mentioned in any of my high school or college history courses. I researched the topic for several weeks. The more I thought about it, the more inspired I became to write a spy murder mystery. My challenge was that I had never taken a creative writing course in my life. I didn’t know the difference between a beat and a tag, how to write dialogue, how to develop a character, or how to identify a point of view slip. I managed to get the first draft completed but was unable to move it forward. I joined several author groups, read the discussions, followed suggested links, and forged great friendships. I also bought every how-to book I could get my hands on and read each one cover to cover. All this in an attempt to learn the craft and complete the novel I had not been able to finish.

I was on a major learning curve for a couple of years. I set the novel aside and began to write shorts and flash fiction. Ironically though, I found I had a tendency to write much longer pieces than most publications would accept as short stories. Most of my works begged for more room to develop the plot. I experimented with different lengths and discovered that novellas were the perfect fit for my style; longer than a short story, but not as complex as a novel. I knew I had reached a pivotal point in my life. The writing bug bit—I was hooked.

Homicide Detective Sam Harper arrived on the scene: The creation of The Sam Harper Crime Mystery series and its diverse set of characters go back to a fall afternoon in 2004. That was the day I wrote The Black Pearl which will now be the second book in the Sam Harper Crime Mysteries series. Although I’ve changed the story line considerably, the idea for that book was sparked by a tale of a cursed ring my mother told me when I was eight. I wrote The Black Pearl and (at the time) books two and three but needed a fourth story to complete the series, however, instead of moving forward in time, I decided to show the beginning in “Silenced Cry.” I felt there was much more to the Sam Harper character than catching criminals. I wanted the reader to understand who Homicide Detective Sam Harper is and what drives him. Harper has his share of flaws. He doesn't always get it right, the evidence doesn't always fall neatly into place, and doors don't always open to reveal the answer. The deeper Harper digs into the case, the closer the crime gets nudged toward his doorstep. He is consumed with suspicion, doubt, and a hatred that nearly destroys him.

The journey is far from over. Each day brings a new encounter and another incident to add to the treasure trove of life experiences I can infuse into my writing.

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