June 26, 2011

Mystery We Write Blog Tour 2011 Presents Jean Henry Mead

Jean Henry Mead is a mystery/suspense and western historical novelist. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist. One of her fortes is interviewing writers, actors, politicians, artists and ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. She began her writing career as a California news reporter/editor/photographer, first in Central California and later in San Diego. Mead transferred to Casper, Wyoming, to serve as a staff writer for the statewide newspaper. While there she served as editor of In Wyoming Magazine and two small presses. She also freelanced for other publications, both domestic and abroad, among them the Denver Post’s Empire Magazine. Her first book was published in 1982.

Visit her sites:
Website:  http://www.jeanhenrymead.com/
Mysterious Writers:  http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/
Writers of the West:  http://writersofthewest.blogspot.com/
Murderous Musings: http://murderousmusings.blogspot.com/
Make Mine Mystery: http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com/

I would like to add something here. Jean Henry Mead has a secret known only to a select few, so just between you and me, if you promise not to tell, I’ll let you in on her secret.

Jean Henry Mead is quintuplets. Without a doubt, she is. She has to be, to do all of the things she does, and do them simultaneously, it appears. Just look at all of her sites above! That’s enough to boggle my mind! I can’t imagine taking care of so many various sites AND write AND prepare blogs for a blog tour. I’ve heard it said she even has blogs within her blogs, or attached to them, and I believe it although plodder that I am, I can’t even find enough time to search them all out but I bet they’re out there. I knew she was quintuplets when I saw that in addition to all of that, she was moving right in the middle of it! And in addition to all THAT, she also travels a lot, which is how her new book came about:

And here’s a sample of Jean’s general writing knowledge, but I guarantee you, just a sample:

Mistakes Aspiring Writers Make

by Jean Henry Mead

It’s often difficult for novices to break the writing habits they’ve learned in school. Perfect grammar, especially when writing dialogue, is one of the worst mistakes a writer can make. I was once a member of an online critique group comprised mainly of unpublished writers. I’ll never forget a critique that said, “You need to clean up your characters’ grammar.” The characters were uneducated farmers.

Author William Noble said, “The grammar rules we learned in eighth grade should never be followed absolutely. At best they are one choice among several, and at worst, they will dampen our creative instincts.”

The use of clichés is another fledgling blunder. The rule of thumb is: if it sounds familiar, don’t use it. If you can’t come up with something original and your muse is tugging you on, type in a row of Xs and write it later during the second draft. But if you must use a cliché, add the word proverbial as in “as profitable as the proverbial golden goose.”

Of course there are rules that must be followed, such as adding commas for clarity and periods at the end of sentences. Some writers have felt that innovative sentence structure signals creativity, but the practice is only acceptable now in poetry. In Ulysses, for example, James Joyce’s last chapter begins with:

“Yes, because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting to that old faggot Mrs. Riordan that he thought he had a great leg of and she never left us a farthing all for the masses for herself and her soul greatest miser ever. . .”

Joyce’s stream of conscience continues for forty pages without a single period. I wonder how many people actually read it to the end. Creative and innovative? In my opinion, anything that slows the reader for even a few words may cause him to abandon the book.

On the opposite end of the sentence spectrum, Hemingway taught novices to write declarative sentences: “The day had been hot.” “The rifle was long and cold and strange.” “She wore black shoes, a red cape and a white tunic. . .” However, short, choppy sentences must be interspersed with longer ones to make them read well. A good practice for beginning writers is to read one’s work aloud to avoid clumsy phrasing. If words don’t flow well together and your reader stumbles over them, you’ve lost her.

Reading the classics doesn’t really prepare aspiring authors to write for today’s market. I’ve judged writing contest entries that contain the most formal language I’ve seen since reading War and Peace. Some fledglings avoid contractions entirely, even when writing dialogue. The result is stilted language.

Studying the bestsellers for style, content, description and characterization helps the beginner gain a handhold in the current market. Some writing teachers advise copying your favorite author’s work, as artists have done with the masters—as long as it’s only practice and doesn’t result in plagiarism.

I learned to write fiction by studying the work of Dean Koontz. Whose writing have you studied and did it teach you the language of fiction?

===================================

That’s a great writeup, Jean, and a really thought-provoking question. I hope our readers this week will have some great answers and I bet they will, now that we’ve let them in on your little secret!

This week I’ll be appearing, on the same blog tour, at Marilyn Meredith’s blog site – http://www.marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

Other than that, I don’t have a lot earthshaking to report except that reviews on RAVEN TALKS BACK are beginning to come in at Amazon.com and they’re all…well, I’ll let you find out for yourself in you really want to know. After all, I can’t reveal EVERYTHING here, can I?

See y’all next week? I hope so, ’cause I love you all, you KNOW I do! I’ll leave the porch light on for you,

Beth, Denali, Sarge and BooBoo…and in a couple weeks, guess who’s coming to dinner? Yes! Hotclue will be here to discuss any number of things. I’ll let you know exactly when soon.

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  1. I love your writing tip. In my critique group is a retired English teacher and she has a really hard time with bad grammar in dialogue. I just ignore her because she’s very good at catching errors in other places.

    Great post.

    Marilyn

    Reply

  2. Thank you, Marilyn, for the kind words. And thank you, Beth, for the lovely blog. I wish I were quintuplets. I grew up with four brothers and always wanted a sister. 🙂

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  3. Wonderful advice, Jean, thank you. And I really had to laugh when Marilyn claimed you’re a quint. That really does explain a lot!! Hugs to you both. 🙂

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  4. I’m the guilty one who said that, Anne; Marilyn’s innocent. ;-D Here’s the reason why I think Jean can do all those things at once. While I’m sitting here glued to the TV watching the Caylee murder trial AND reading The Dogs of Rome on my Kindle, successfully ignoring everything on my to do pile, Jean Henry Mead is either researching on the Internet OR (more likely) hopping a plane to China to research face reading AND THEN writing a blog for Murderous Musings about it this week. She truly boggles my mind!

    Reply

  5. A fascinating post. Jean amazes me with her vast selection of blogs and activities.

    I have studied a few Victoria Holt and Catherine Cookson books recently. I wanted to see their flow of dialogue.

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  6. lol, Beth. You give me too much credit. I can’t hold a candle to Marilyn Meredith, who writes two mysteries series and travels extensively.

    Reply

  7. Glynis, thanks for stopping by from Cypress. I hope you’ve recuperated from surgery and are back at the computer writing.

    Reply

  8. I’m a retired English teacher, but I also taught writing. Therefore I know know dialog must be adapted to the character.

    However, the “innovative” writing with no rules applied is confusing to the reader. I concur with that.

    Vivian

    Reply

  9. We all know rules are made to be broken and, in her interview, Jean gives us permission to do so. My favorite author is Dorothy Sayers, a household word in the 1920s and 30s. Several people have said Ms. Sayers’ work would not be published today. Of course, it is, as Harper reproduces updated editions of Sayers’ work periodically, but only because she established a reputation and a loyal following years ago. I have referred friends to her work and had them try it, then complain. Sayers’ dialogue often sets the pace by describing the action taking place. I find that style fascinating and unique. Thanks, Jean, for coaxing our minds open, encouraging us to think outside the box. Your advice may be good for our arteries as well.

    Reply

  10. Excellent blog, Jean. When I pick up a book, my hope is that the dialogue will be real. If a character is using very proper English, then I want to know why, because most people don’t. Thank you!

    Reply

  11. Thank you, Vivian. I was an English/journalism major and it took me quite soem time to “get over” the rules of grammar I learned in school when writing dialouge (and some narrative).

    Reply

  12. Sharon, I’m also a Dorothy Sayers fan. Writing styles change and evolve over time but her work is classic.

    Reply

  13. Marja, thank you for the kind words. I often write dialogue for uneducated characters and certainly don’t mind it in other writers’ books unless it’s written phoenetically and slows down the reading process.

    Reply

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