27 December, 2022

#GuestPost :: Sail on, writers. Ignore the headwinds by Gillespie Lamb - #AmateurSleuths #Mysteries


Salvage yard operator and part-time sleuth Tak Sweedner is asked by a buddy, Roque Zamarripa, to investigate a murder. Tak says OK and for his trouble is assaulted with a tire iron. Then he's run off the side of a cliff-the investigation really goes downhill at that point!

Tak calls up gal-pal Emma to help him and soon discovers his feelings for the woman go beyond palling around. When she asks him to give up his investigation and concentrate on her, Tak balks. She might better have asked a bulldog to give up its bone. It would be like quitting, Tak said, and he wasn't a quitter.

Can this blue-collar crime-solver hang in there to get the bad guy... AND win his girl?

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Sail on, writers. Ignore the headwinds.

Smooth sailing is overrated. Heck, one can fall asleep at the helm when waters are calm. It is choppiness and adverse gusts that help a sailor master his craft.

Writers have long understood this. Their craft also is demanding, especially when the winds of convention are against them and the marketplace is awash with literary flotsam. Adversity is the price of progress as a writer. 

Stories are numerous about how ultimately admired writers were ignored early on by agents, publishers and peers. A quite frustrated Stephen King got his start as a published novelist only after his wife retrieved from the trashcan the pages of his draft for yet another short story. The salvaged story became a novel instead. It was called Carrie. You may have heard of it. 

I like the quote attributed to British poet and novelist Kinsley Amis about the prolific American writer John D. MacDonald, who sold 70 million copies of his many fiction books, including the classic Travis McGee series. He was awarded a lifetime achievement awarded by The Mystery Writers of America, which lacks the public stature of, say, a Pulitzer Prize. 

Here’s what Amis had to say about that: “MacDonald is by any standards a better writer than Saul Bellow, only MacDonald writes thrillers and Bellow is a human-heart chap, so guess who wears the top-grade laurels.” Despite his mastery of the craft, MacDonald never was accorded top recognition—while Bellow was awarded Pulitzer, Nobel and National Academy of Arts prizes. Life’s unfair. The good news is that MacDonald continued writing anyway.

And so should we. Whether our work falls into literary or genre categories, we should persist in our efforts to hone our skills and produce the best example of writing we are capable of producing—even if what we produce is not immediately embraced. Tepid reviews or rejected manuscripts should be dismissed as interesting but irrelevant.

The facts are, if our writing is inferior, it will rightfully be scorned no matter how hard we work at it, whereas if it is superior, it eventually will be recognized as such regardless of who pans it in the interim. We are the captains of our fate. If our craftmanship is sound, we shouldn’t let our hearts fail us. Ride it out. Write it out. No one said it would be easy. 

The definition of the idiomatic expression “smooth sailing” is … progress or advancement that is free from difficulties, obstacles, or challenges. Only celebrities who pen a book (or have it ghost-written) can be expected to experience such easy going. All other writers must stay the course—steady as she goes!—relying on the strength of their character and on their vision. And having fun while they’re at it, for goodness’ sake. Enjoy the voyage!

Gillespie Lamb developed writing skills as a newspaper reporter, editor and columnist before leaving journalism to become a freelancer and pursue less formulaic writing. He published his first novel in 2017, a middle-grades reader titled The Beamy Courage of Gerta Scholler. This second novel is his initial foray into the mystery genre. The setting of The Junkyard Dick is the  rural Texas region where Lamb lives.

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