Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Birth of a Novel - My Sister's Grave

I would never trivialize the birth of a child. For me, the birth of my two children remains the most awe inspiring and amazing events of my life. There is nothing I have ever experienced before or since that even remotely compares. I remember thinking on each occasion, There really must be a God. Something so incredible seemed beyond man’s doing.
For a writer, the birth of a novel shares many similarities to the experience of having a child. I should clarify that I come at this from the perspective of a man. I have no doubt my wife, and other women out there, would harpoon me for comparing the “birth” of a novel to the “birth” of a baby, and rightfully so.
But for me the birth of a book, and I’ve had this experience 8 times, is always the same.
I started My Sister’s Grave two years ago when I read an article about hydroelectric dams in Washington being removed to restore the natural habitats and spawning grounds of the wild Salmon.  The article explained that when the dams were created lakes formed upstream, flooding land and providing a ready supply of water.  When the dams were removed, decades later, the waters receded. And I thought, “What if?”  What if when the waters receded they found a body? And what if that body belonged to someone who went missing twenty years earlier, someone deeply loved not only by her family, but by her community?
 Because I was switching publishers and starting a new series, a police procedural, I needed more time to research and develop the characters. For two years I suffered through the good days and the bad days at the computer, enduring the solitary process, questioning my talent, warding off the inner critic that always says I’ll never figure out the plot problems, never solve the character’s motivation, never get to the end.  And then that fateful day comes and I write the best two words in every writer’s vocabulary.
#The End. 
But I’m far from finished. In truth, now the hard part comes – rewriting.
I don’t know who said, “Writing is rewriting.” Some attribute the quote to E.B. White. Whoever said it, no truer words were ever spoken. After a sufficient amount of time away from the manuscript I go back to the computer and begin the arduous task of editing. I write and I delete and I cut and I past and I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite some more, all the while fighting off that inner critic and self-doubt. Slowly, with each pass through the manuscript, Tracy Crosswhite, my protagonist, begins to take shape alongside the plot.  With each rewrite I learn a little bit more about her, and about how she has suffered after her sister’s disappearance. And then, when I can rewrite no more, I send it off to my editor.
Months pass as the book goes through a conceptual edit, then a copy edit, then a line edit and finally a grammar and punctuation edit. Finally, my work is done. I get to the point when I can no longer stand to look at the manuscript, when I just want it out of me and delivered out into the world.
Then I wait.  Months.

With each passing month the waiting become more difficult, the desire to see my creation,  stronger.  I hope and pray that everything will be all right, that the book will launch without any problems.  But I know there are no guarantees.
October 31, Halloween, the day before the official launch of My Sister’s Grave, I pace my office, take phone calls, receiving gifts and kind emails and tweets wishing me luck and success. My colleagues at Schlemlein Goetz Fick & Scruggs, always supportive of my work, wish me success as I leave for the day. I get home to find a package waiting for me. It is the right shape, rectangular. It is the right weight.  I think back to my first novel, The Jury Master. I’d waited eight years to see that book in print. The day it came my family was running in four different directions. I opened the envelope and held my novel. My wife and kids looked over my shoulder. Then I set it down and said we needed to get going to wherever we needed to be. It was my son who put it in perspective.
                Just nine, Joseph said, “Dad, you’ve waited a long time for this. We should celebrate.”
                Sometimes we need our kids to slow life down and put it into perspective. We went out to dinner that night and we brought the new book with us. We studied the cover and the back flap. We analyzed my picture (not great according to my daughter) and we read the opening chapter aloud.   When I got home I put that book on my shelf in my room alongside my non-fiction expose, The Cyanide Canary. I stared at it, caught myself sneaking glances at it when I passed by, honestly humbled that I’d completed it. That first edition remains on my shelf.
So, October 31, 2014 I opened the package and I set eyes on my eighth novel, My Sister’s Grave.  At dinner, before we headed out to Halloween parties, we analyzed and inspected the book just as we had the prior seven. It never gets old.
I put the copy of My Sister’s Grave on the same shelf as the other first copies of my novels.  People ask which of my books is my favorite. I tell them, “Each is special to me in its own way. I could never choose a favorite.”
Just like my kids.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Meeting a Legend #2 - Big George Kennedy

When Free is Not Free

So I wrote a short story prequel to My Sister's Grave called The Academy.  Before you read the rest of this post go to Amazon and pull it up. You will see that it says, "A Short Story."  You will see where it says approximately 44 pages. You will see where it says $0.00

Now scroll down and read the 4 1 star reviews. I guarantee you will laugh.

Really? Can  you issue a "Buyer Beware" that the book is short when the book is free?

How can you be disappointed the book was a "short story" when it says, "A short story" and estimates the page length?

I'm flattered people wanted to read more of the story but sheesh!

Monday, September 15, 2014

That First Sentence is a Doozy!


I was asked by another blogger for a video explaining why I wrote The Academy, the short story prequel to My Sister's Grave that is now a free Amazon download.  I've been thrilled with the reception by readers. The Academy is already #1 in Mysteries and Thrillers and a few other free download categories and risen to the top 50 overall in  just a few days. Anyway, below is a link to the u-tube video I did for the blogger explaining what it was like writing a short story again. Lots of fun.

You have to get past the first sentence. It's a doozy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Better to Give than to Receive

So it's been many years since I wrote a short story, but man I had a lot of fun writing The Academy, the short story prequel to my upcoming novel, My Sister's Grave. Thomas & Mercer liked it so much they decided to publish it and we've all decided to give it away for free, starting today. So below is the link to your free download and my sincere thanks to all of you for all the support and encouragement you have given me and my writing over the years.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Meeting a Legend

A few years back I was invited to the Tucson Festival of Books. A friend of the festival picked me up at the airport. She asked if I would mind sharing a ride with another writer. I said of course not. She said we would have to wait a few minutes because he was having a cigarette after his flight out from Detroit. I asked who we were waiting for. She told me it was none other than Elmore Leonard. When I met the legend I was tongue-tied. I didn't know what to say in the car. He was a very  gracious man,however, and when I said I would like to get a book signed by him for my mother he said he would be happy to.

As you can imagine, Mr. Leonard was besieged with requests for his signature. However when I approached him he immediately recognized me, smiled and told me to come to the front of the line. He signed a copy of his book for my mom, Patty. It remains in her library today.

Below is an article on five quotes from Mr. Leonard on writing. They're worth reading. My favorite however remains his quote that he only writes the parts of the book that people read.



5 Quotes on Writing from Elmore Leonard

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Library Journal Starred Reivew - Got me smiling

Library Journal Starred Review 8-15-14

*Dugoni’s latest novel (The Conviction; Murder One) combines the best of a police procedural with a legal thriller, and the end result is outstanding.  VERDICT Dugoni continues to deliver emotional and gut-wrenching, character-driven suspense stories that will resonate with any fan of the thriller genre. The author’s series protagonist lawyer David Sloane is nowhere to be found, but readers will not care. In fact, they will eagerly await  another story featuring Tracy Crosswhite.

Okay, so when you're a writer and you get a review like this from an accomplished review company like Library Journal you have to spread the word, don't you?

I'm excited about My Sister's Grave and the reviews have been outstanding. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it.

Robert Dugoni