Friday, February 21, 2014

Blogging over Lunch & Writing Groups:

Blogging over lunch makes great sense to me. Writers need to squeeze every ounce of time out of their day and this is a great way to make good use of my time. For one thing, it limits how much time I spend blogging, which is not a bad thing. The other benefit is that I will need to be an efficient blogger if I am going to limit my time to the lunch hour. So here I go: I chair a writer's group in Omaha, Nebraska-a good one too. We call ourselves the Omaha NightWriters, and we are as diverse as any writing group in the country. We cover all ages, all genres, and most importantly, all walks of life. Some of us are traditionally published, some self-published, but every one of our members is talented and capable of delighting readers. What I have discovered in the last seven years of chairing this group is invaluable. I have gained industry contacts, new friends, a great source of critiques, but most of all, I have gained tremendous knowledge. I am a far better writer today than I was when I wrote my first novel. The reason? Honest critiques, delivered with respect, and my best interest in mind. I tell budding writers to find a writers group as fast as they can. It matters not who the members are, as long as they are nurturing. However, if your members are only interested in making themselves look good at your expense, throw them out. There is no room for prima donnas in critique groups. Our critique group has both hard rules, and soft guidelines. The hard rules deal with respecting the author as a person. There is a proper way to criticize another’s work without tearing them apart. The idea is to make them conscious of ways to improve their writing, while making them anxious to try new ideas and techniques. The soft guidelines deal with the structure of administering a critique. It gives the person delivering the critique ideas as to what they should look for in the author’s excerpt. I have refined our rules and guidelines over a period of time, and they work. Most of our members have been with the group from the beginning. I appreciate all they have taught me about my craft, and I hope I have given them something of value as well. If you are considering a critique group, and I highly recommend that every writer belong to one, I would be happy to send you our guidelines. Just respond to this blog, and I will send them to you.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Been Gone Too Long...

I have been absent from my blog for a long time. Too busy writing books, I guess. But I need to blog. There is so much to say. So I'll write shorter blogs and write more often. Hope it keeps me coming back.

I have spent a year laboring over another novel for young people, ages 12 and up. It is called Stephen Carter and the Elementals. No sex... no foul language, and although there is violence... it is not graphic. It was a pleasure to write a novel through the eyes of an innocent boy of 12 years old. In fact, it was sheer fun for me. I hope the book catches on... I hope it becomes a big hit, if for no other reason than it is a wholesome story and the world can always use wholesomeness. In the coming days I will share some thoughts about the characters, the plot, and the philosophy that runs like a lance through the heart of this story.

It’s good to be back.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Much Sex and Violence is Acceptable?

I don't write porn...never will.  In fact, I'm not an advocate of using foul language either.  But in the world of detective mystery/thrillers there are sick, demented characters who do bad things.  One of the things I have learned about the craft of writing is that the author is supposed to show, not tell the reader what is going on in the story.  In my book, "Dangerous DNA," there is a scene that is (for the lack of any other word) HOT!  The bad guy has his way with a woman who thinks he is her fiance'.  The prose is explicit and accurate, but I agonized over my choice of words so that scene would be done as tastfully as possible.  When I finished the book, I had several people read it.  I then asked readers about the sexually explicit scene, and there were no complaints, except for one guy, who asked me if I had to go to confession after writing it.  Yup, there's always one.  But how much sex or violence is enough... and when does an author cross the line?  Do you know what I was told more than once?  That I needed to inject more profanity into the story!  "Detectives use more explatives than regular people.  You need more 'f-bombs' in the dialog.  Hmm.  Well, I had four or five f-bombs in the story to begin with, but since so many people made the comment, I took the advice and I added more. 

One of my writer friends is perplexed about a scene in his new book when a seven-year old girl is abducted and killed.  The scene is short, but after reading the excerpt, I understand why he is struggling to be so cautious.  Talk about a sensitive subject.  So do modern detective mystery/thrillers require a healthy dose of sex and/or violence?  Maybe a better question would be: does the detective mystery/thriller genre excuse the use of explicit sex and violence?  Interesting questions.  I'd love to get feedback on this.  -- Dan

My First Blog... Kinda Scary

Here I am, dragging myself into the world of blogging, kicking and screaming... wondering if anyone has even the slightest interest in reading about what I think or believe.  Yes, I have resisted the advice of fellow writers to start a blog for some time now.  So am I doing this to sell more books, or because I want the world to know what I stand for?  Honestly, I'd like to sell more books (Yup, I'm one of those honest guys).  But if I can share insights with readers and a handful of fans about how I arrived at the plots and characters in my books, and maybe even get some feedback on the direction I want to go with future books, maybe this blogging thing will be okay.  In fact, I think I'm starting to warm up to it already.

I have written 2 books, both detective mystery/thrillers:
"Dangerous DNA" is available on, and anyone can download and read the first 3 chapters free by visiting my web site at  There are plenty of comments posted on Amazon and on my web site, and all I can say is that it has been warmly received.
"The Moral Mafia" will be published in the first quarter of 2010, and likewise, I will make the first 3 chapters available to anyone who would like to read it.

I welcome reader comments and criticism, and I am happy to discuss most any topic, even if it has nothing to do with my work.  I do ask two things: (1) that we keep all dialog civil and (2) that we keep it clean for the most part, (let's not use language beyond a PG-13 rating).  That's it,  Any topic is fair game.  I look forward to finding out more about my readers, my friends, and maybe myself as well.  -- Dan