Sunday, August 18, 2019

Point of View Shift

Stories are told from a point of view (POV) and I prefer a predictable POV. Within a story, I find sudden shifts jarring.
Jarring bad, keeping the reader in the story good.
The most predictable POV is one that never changes throughout the course of the novel. All seven Steve Dancy Tales are written from Steve’s POV in first person. My Best Thrillers never change POV either, but the stories are told in third person. The advantage of a single POV is that the reader develops a closer relationship with the protagonist. Another plus is that the reader is pulled through the story at the same pace and with the same information as the protagonist, which helps the reader participate in the story.
A single POV doesn’t always help the story, however. In Tempest at Dawn, I alternate POV between Roger Sherman and James Madison. This allows me to portray the conflicts at the Constitutional Convention as the two warring camps strategize and maneuver against each other.
What brought all this to mind was an offer I recently made to give away one of my Steve Dancy short stories. (See the box to the top right.) When I was invited to write this short story for Wanted, A Western Story Collection, I decided to do something different with the project. Captain Joseph McAllen is a recurring character in the Steve Dancy Tales, but we never got inside his head. (You only read the thoughts of the POV character.) I thought it would be fun to tell this story from McAllen’s POV. I think it worked out well, but you can see for yourself by requesting the story.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

No Peace: A Steve Dancy Tale

Available soon
No peace
After marriage, Steve Dancy has quietly settled in San Diego. He can hardly remember his days of wanderlust, and he’s grateful to have left behind the violence of a raw frontier. In a celebratory mood, Steve invites his mother to a meet her new grandchild in a chic resort in Monterey, California. With the delivery of a handwritten note, his world suddenly reverts to the savagery of his bygone days. 
There will be no peace.
New release adventure book
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale

historical novels bestselling book
Honest westerns filled with dishonest people.

Progress Report

The latest Steve Dancy Tale has been returned from my editor and I have completed my review of her recommended changes. Again, she has done an excellent job of smoothing out my writing and catching errors. I have transmitted the manuscript to my book interior designer, who will prepare print and eBook formats for publication. As always, we're still flailing a bit with the cover design.

Friday, July 26, 2019

In remembrance of my father

On Father's Day and Memorial Day I've posted about my father who was a P-51 pilot in World War II. He flew bomber support missions out of Iwo Jima and never returned after his flight encountered a tropical storm that grew into a typhoon.

Recently, I saw an advertisement to ride in a P-51. I had worked ten years in the factory where the P-51 was built (the F86 and F100 as well), and it was the plane my father flew, so I jump at opportunity. I wanted to share an experience with my father. A very fun and memorable ride.


North American Aviation Factory Where I worked for 10 Years

army air corp, manufacturing
P-51 Production Line

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Deadwood: The Movie

Even the film poster celebrates the F-word

(Spoiler alert: if you're a Deadwood fan, you won’t like what follows.)

I watched Deadwood: The Movie last evening. A little late to the game, but it's difficult to watch this western with teenage girls in the house. Actually, the three thirteen-year-olds have only lived with us a week and the HBO Film has been available for over six weeks. In truth, I wasn’t keen to see it. After three separate attempts, I never finished the series … and I write Westerns for a living. What’s wrong with me?

I loved the television show until Wild Bill Hickok died, then I no longer cared about any of the characters. Deadwood didn’t draw me back because the story wasn’t compelling. Same for the HBO Film. The movie tied up every loose end, and every actor got to invoke their character’s iconic pose, but the main storyline could easily have been captured within a single episode. The rest felt like fill and forced nostalgia.

The problem with Deadwood is the overuse of visual and dialogue gimmicks to project an artful image. The ploys get old after a few episodes. The harsh profanity mixed with stylized formal speech reminded me of Betty White using the F-word; funny at first, tiresome with repetition. The cardinal rule of storytelling is to never take the reader/viewer out of the story, and the odd dialogue did just that.

Many believe the stilted speech—punctuated with swearwords—made the show unique and artsy. Executive Producer David Milch insists that the vulgar, Elizabethan-like dialogue is based on historical research. To steal a word from the era: poppycock. No characters talked this way in any of the stories by Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, or Owen Wister, who were all there. In that age of propriety, they would have omitted profanity, but I doubt Wild West speech would make rap singers sound virginal. In case you think I'm a prude, I occasionally use harsh profanity in my novels, but sparingly, so the impact is not diluted by repetition.

The Deadwood dialogue reminds me of James Fenimore Cooper’s attempt to invoke an earlier age with excessively formal language. Cooper wrote historical novels that occurred about a hundred years in the past. Mark Twain, my favorite Western author, didn’t like Cooper’s writing. Wait, that was far too mild of a sentence. In his article “Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses,” Twain ridicules, lacerates, and skewers Cooper.

I may be mistaken, but it does seem to me that "Deerslayer" is not a work of art in any sense; it does seem to me that it is destitute of every detail that goes to the making of a work of art; in truth, it seems to me that "Deerslayer" is just simply a literary delirium tremens. A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! Indescribable;  its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.
Counting these out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.

Twain wrote about dialogue in another section:

When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the "Deerslayer" tale to the end of it.

Even the style of this article is meant to mock formalistic writing.

In summary, the starchy speech demanded attention but didn’t enhance the storytelling. I found the volume and volume of profanity off-putting and wearisome. The nostalgic scenes didn’t work for me because I hadn’t missed the characters. Excluding that, what is left is pretty good. I think we all must admit that.

You might also like: Mark Twain Tells Us How to Write

Monday, July 15, 2019

No Peace is one step closer to publication.

I have used the same editor for eleven books, and once again, I'm beholden to her for saving me embarrassment. I always think I've submitted a perfect manuscript, only to discover a prodigious amount of red ink on every page. Contrary to popular belief, novels are not entirely a solitary task. Beta readers, editors, book designers, and cover graphic designers all play a major part in bringing piece of fiction to market. I am grateful for them all.

Friday, June 28, 2019

New Review for the Shut Mouth Society has reviewed the Shut Mouth Society.  Read the full review here:

The Shut Mouth Society was a great and unexpectedly satisfying read. I’ve read several (not all) of Jim Best’s Steve Dancy novels and enjoyed them, but this novel is considerably more sophisticated and, well, interesting. Kind of like Russian Kachinka dolls, its setting is contemporary but within that it’s a historical novel. Like any historical novel, fact is married to fiction, and in this book it all works well together: the story carries the day and you don’t really know or need to care if every single thing is factual.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father’s Day!

Both of my fathers are deceased, but I think of them more than occasionally. My biological father died in the cockpit of his P-51 and my step-father died behind the wheel of his Porsche. Since my mother remarried when I was only three and my step-dad treated me like his own, he was the father I knew. At least the one I knew directly. I remain in touch with my father’s family and have grown to know my dad through his brothers and sisters. He was a great guy.

My father is furthest out on the wing.

Fathers are important to kids. There’s a special lifetime bound between fathers and daughters, and fathers seem to have an edge in overriding peer group pressure to give sons purpose and direction.

Fathers deserve more than a day. They deserve our everlasting gratitude.