Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Once Upon a Time...

By Chester Campbell

That's the way stories are supposed to begin, isn't it? I think I remember. I used to be a mystery writer once upon a time. I created colorful characters and exciting scenes where breathtaking actions occurred. I dreamed up plots that could get the old ticker pounding away. It was a lot of fun.

With my first published book, I sat down to write after spending two weeks roaming the Holy Land with a group of wide-eyed tourists. At times it was hot and sweaty, but never dull. Gazing out across the Dead Sea from the Herod's mountain fortress at Masada was awesome. Back home I relived those moments through the eyes of my characters as they took the same routes.

The second book involved a balcony collapse at a high-rise condo on the beach at Perdido Key, Florida. I wrote part of it while sitting with my laptop in my brother's condo on the beach at Perdido Key. That's the kind of roughing it a writer should be forced to do. The research also involved a side trip to a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. What I call going all out for your craft.

For the third book, I took on a stay-at-home assignment. The story was set around Nashville, though I did a lot of nosing in areas I hadn't visited in years. I also did a ride-along with a Metro Nashville homicide detective. I learned such interesting things as their fascination with racing through the streets whether in an emergency or not, and doing U-turns just because they could. I delved a bit into Scottish heritage to fill out Greg McKenzie's family background in the military. That was fun.

Book four was particularly fascinating because it involved a restored 1914 auto factory. I nosed around the area where I lived for a year after serving in the Korean War. And for this one I also brought in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. That required a revealing tour of the TBI facility, where I made some good contacts. I also visited a small town not too far away several times, checking locations where I busily committed several murders. A writer's work is never done.

The fifth book brought a new character and new challenges. He's a single guy with an entirely different background. Plus I wanted to switch from first person to third, putting a different perspective on the writing. On this project, I mostly indulged my habit of working on my laptop in the living room instead of on the PC up in the office. It got me away from the distraction of email, though with wireless internet I still had Google at my fingertips.

As I said at the beginning, I used to be a mystery writer. However, lately I have become a blogger and a Twitterer, a newsletter writer and a website designer. My mailbox fills with hundreds of emails daily from 19 different Yahoo groups and countless others from who-knows-where. I Google my name and book titles to see who's writing about them, and I check my Amazon rankings for clues on whether I'm selling.

I guess I've become a promoter and a marketer. I don't expect to get rich. Heck, I'd be happy to break even for a change. But I crave the feeling that people are reading and enjoying what I write. That means I've got to sell. And nobody's going to do it but me.

I've about reached the point, though, where I'm ready to chuck it all, grab my laptop, head back down to the living room, and become a writer again. Wouldn't that be fun! (But first I've got to get this post up on the blogsite.)


Ben Small said...

Well said, Chester. I know the feeling, as do we all. But we differ: I don't Twitter; won't Twitter, and can't Twitter, because my cell's too old. And I don't want a new one. I'd throw the one I have away if I didn't live in the desert.

Jean Henry Mead said...


I'm trying to break the habit of Twittering, Facebooking and reading all the posts on various writers' forums, which are addictions hard to break, not to mention blogging. I have three books in various stages of completion that aren't getting finished. I think we should call for a moritorium on the internet for at least a month to do some fulltime writing. :)

Chester Campbell said...

I don't Twitter on my cell phone, Ben, just on the computer.

But I'm with you, Jean. It takes someone better organized than me to write and do all this other stuff. Which reminds me, it's time to put up another post on my Mystery Mania blog.

Helen Ginger said...

And what world will you explore before you begin this next book? Your research sounds very interesting!


Chester Campbell said...

This will be another Nashville book, but I'll have to do some exploring in the world of professional sports. We have pro football and pro hockey. This will deal with the possibility of adding pro basketball to the mix.
The idea came up a fews years ago, and in Greg McKenzie's world, it's still a few years ago.

Ben Small said...

Jean, I like your idea of a moratorium.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I'm going to have to take a break from the internet when we move. We may not even be able to access cyber space from there, so the moritorium may be permanent. We'll have to go back to smoke signals and tin cans and wires. :)

Ben Small said...

Jean, you can get it via satellite. Upload is a bit slower, but downloads are at speeds you're used to.

Pat Browning said...


On the plus side, think of all the writing you can do.

With your various blogs, you have enough good reading material for the rest of us to enjoy for some time.

Pat Browning

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Pat. I'm going to have do some reruns for the summer while we move and unpack in our new house. With five blog sites, I guess I can recycle some from one to the other.:)