Sunday, August 24, 2008

Janet Evanovich and NASCAR

If you read Parade, that Sunday insert in many papers, you saw an article by Janet Evanovich, who was billed as the number one NASCAR fan. I found it funny, Call me a snob, but I'm not a NASCAR fan. I fail to see the interest in sitting on bleachers in the hot sun, watching cars go around a track. When I was a kid, I thought stock car races once a year, on the Fourth of July, were fun, but that was a long time ago. Much more recently, I used to walk in the early mornings with a neighbor whom I did not know well. When she mentioned going to NASCAR, I blurted out something about thinking only rednecks went to the races. Not tactful, and it came out, I hoped, as joke. She apparently didn't take it so because shortly thereafter she called and said she could no longer walk.
I've also crossed paths with Janet Evanovich. I wouldn't say we've met, but she came to speak to an audience of about a thousand at TCU--would you believe I talked to one group who came to Texas from Kentucky for the evening? I was part of the group charged with making sure the green room met her specifications, which were pretty detailed. Her reputation as a diva preceded her. And then I had the job of barring the door to the women's restroom in that brief interlude between the speech and the signing, so that she might have a moment of privacy to take care of personal needs. An aside: as I stood there, a woman came up to me and said, "I know you." I admit I preened a bit, thinking she knew I was a local author. Instead, she said, "You run the cash register at the Star Restaurant." It was true, but not the major way I wanted to be known. Ms. Evanovich emerged from the restroom, without a word to me, and proceeded to sign hundreds of books, always gracious, willing to pose for photographs, etc. I thought we would be there until midnight. But I couldn't understand the following. I've tried reading her books, but I just don't warm to Stephanie Plum, and I quickly tired of the eccentric grandmother. Maybe all those people are also NASCAR fans!
I've spent a lot of time on my own mystery this weekend and decided there's too much conversataion. A history scholar who was trying to write fiction once said to me, "I wish I could write dialog like you do." Well, it's fine to write realistic dialog, but it can't be the whole book, and I know I need more action. The oldest writing advice in the world is "Show, don't tell." But telling is an inherent problem in first person narratives--you can't have the protagonist on the spot for everthing that happens, so you have to have someone tell her about things.
This really came home to me because I just finished Asking for Murder by Roberta Isleib (she's going to be a guest blogger here early in September). The story is first person, but there's lots of description. So I'm rereading and revising for the--what? tenth time? And I'm not even past chapter eight.
I signed on for a short course on writing blurbs. Each of 19 people submitted a blurb. Then we were asked to pretend we were agents and rate the blurbs: S, for send; C, for not my cuppa; P, for pass. It was really hard, but what discouraged me was that one person rejected my blurb because realtors turned her off, several people rated it either C or P, but only two liked the idea of a involving older women. (They haven't all responded, but I'm losing hope!) Go figure!

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