Saturday, June 13, 2009

Who Am I?

By Pat Browning

In today’s marketplace, with a jillion authors hawking their wares and trying to be heard above the cacophony, there comes a small voice saying, “Christine Duncan is a red-headed mystery novelist who lives in Colorado and if you see a black Honda being towed, will you let her know?”

Christine and I go back a long way, back to the halcyon days of iUniverse’s Wicked Company club, group, listserv, bulletin board or whatever it was. We were a bunch of beginners, revving up to dazzle the world with our first books.

I can’t speak for everyone but I was surprised by the wars we unloosed – the POD wars, the self-publishing wars, the e-book wars. They seem pretty quaint now, and I have a few scars to show for it, but I’m still here.

And so is Christine. I came across her blog, Rule of Three, almost by accident, and loved it. Apart from Christine’s funny blogs, the site is unusual because it features three bloggers from three different countries and with three different points of view.

Christine has been on a blog tour. On May 26, she did an interesting Q&A on Jean Henry Mead’s Mysterious People, and explained how her blog site came about:

I met Narelle Bitunjac (the Aussie writer on Rule of Three) on Myspace where we traded stories about our writing experiences. Narelle introduced me to Michelle Birkby who lives in London.

It's funny, because superficially we are not alike. Michelle is single, a social worker, Narelle is a teacher, going back for an advanced degree, married but with no children and then there's me. I've been married forever, got 3 kids and a stepson and I do bookkeeping for my day job--and during the tax season, I do taxes--which Narelle makes fun of. And of course, we all live so far apart.

But recently when I went to see "Star Trek", Michelle was one of the first people I wanted to "talk" to (on Twitter) because I knew she'd love the movie too. We're both S/F freaks. And Narelle and I were both working (separately) on things about domestic violence. We spent the entire month of October last year doing blog posts about it, since October is domestic violence awareness month and those posts still get views every day.

We don't always react the same way to things -- we had one week on the blog where we all did posts on writing sex scenes and it was odd to see our differing reactions. And I often don't know what either one of them are talking about. Sometimes I am sure we none of us speak the same language. But it's been a lot of fun blogging with them and getting to know them better.
End Quote.

Writing a bio is the hardest thing an author has to do. Who, me? Who am I anyway? Here's Christine's
humorous look at the things writers say about themselves.

This Week’s Bio
By Christine Duncan

Writing a bio is sort of like when a new PTA group starts up, and they go around the circle and tell you to tell three things about yourself. My three things tend to be inconsequential stuff like I have red hair (Duh! They can see that!) or just stupid stuff like I think I may have inadvertently parked in a fire-lane.

Theoretically, writing a bio is easy. I can tell you all about it. I just can't do it. The gist of the thing with bio writing is, of course, to leave out the inconsequential and to tell folks only the interesting bits. Most authors tend to go on a lot about their degrees and why they are the one person to write whatever they heck they wrote. It is a wonderful approach. I recommend it.

But I don't have a degree. I went to college for much longer than the currently accepted five year plan so there is no earthly reason why I don't have a degree. Except … that I changed majors more often than I changed colleges. And I changed schools a lot. I went to the University of Florida, San Jose State (CA.), Humboldt State (CA.), and Metro state (CO.)

They were all great schools. I was a biology major; a
library science major; I contemplated an English major until I met an orderly at the hospital where I was working who had a master's in English and realized what that meant about jobs. (Ditto when I found out his best friend and fellow orderly had his master’s in history.) And then I was an accounting major because, of course, bean counters can get jobs, except that the ethics of school didn't translate into what I saw in the workplace so then … Okay, you get the idea.

So I have no real professional credentials for writing a mystery about a counselor in a battered women's shelter. What I know about them comes from my private life which I like private. But for my husband's sake, I will say, I've been happily married F-O-R-E-V-E-R to the same man and it's not about him, folks. The rest of what I know comes from my research. Many people can do research. It tends not to sound interesting.

Some authors include words like Award Winning in a bio. And the first book in the series, Safe Beginnings, did win an award from Inscriptions magazine. It was one of their 2002 books of the year. Sounds a bit dated, don't you think? And then there is the little fact that Inscriptions went belly up somewhere after 2002. Don't ask when. Many people have never heard of them.

I have had friends tell me to just say award winning then and leave it at that, but I have to say, when I see that in some author's bio, I tend to think that means they won a blue ribbon on field day in sixth grade. So I don't want to say that in my bio either.

The last thing I've noticed in many authors’ bios is that they include places where they have spoken, classes they've taught or organizations they belong to. You know the setup: "Jane Someone Smith addressed the U.N. on the Global Economy before becoming a member of the Senate Finance committee, and so on."

I don't belong to much that most people couldn't belong to themselves if they wanted to, so how is that interesting? I've taught more than a few classes on e-publishing and spoken on panels at some writers' cons but again, so what?

So here is the bio I'm thinking about this week. Christine Duncan is a red-headed mystery novelist who lives in Colorado and if you see a black Honda being towed, will you let her know?

Christine says:
Christine Duncan is an Arvada, Colorado mystery writer. She got her start in writing for the Christian market, writing for Sunday School magazines. Her credits include Accent Books and Regular Baptist Press.

Although the Kaye Berreano mystery series is set in a battered women's shelter, Ms. Duncan's husband wants the world to know it's not because of anything he did!

Come visit Christine at
Or at her blog Http://


Mark W. Danielson said...

I enjoyed the story, Pat. It's a good reminder why one should never to take themselves too seriously. I'll keep my eyes open for redheads in black Hondas on the side of then road:)

Jean Henry Mead said...

Good article Pat. Christine is a great gal whom I met online. She featured me on her Rule Of Three blog and I was happy to feature her on Mysterious People. Her battered women series is one that everyone should read.

Narelle Bitunjac said...

It is a pleasure blogging with Christine. She's a great writer and a great supporter of her friends.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Narelle:

Nice of you to drop by all the way from Australia!
It's such a neat idea you three have, blogging together from three different places.

Pat Browning

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mark:

Lots of ways to look at it. There's the old saying: He that tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted.

Then there are the hopeful authors who just don't realize how they sound when they throw everything but the kitchen sink into their bios.

Then there are those who are simply legends in their own minds. (-:

Then there are those who won't say anything about themselves.

It's hard to find a happy medium.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Jean:

I put her book on my TBR list. It's nice to meet an author who knows there's more to life than writing a book and sees the humor in the whole thing.


Christine Duncan said...

Thanks, ladies!

Chester Campbell said...

Enjoyed reading about Christine, Pat. I have a problem with bios, too. I usually put in all the jobs I've held, though it sounds like I had a problem holding one for long. I mention my Bloody Dagger Award in promo pieces, but not my bio. When I mention it, people usually grin or giggle.

Unknown said...

I loved this article. I hate doing the bio, what to say or not to say. For instance, I debate whether to mention I was a lawyer and litigator, as everybody hates lawyers and litigation lawyers in particular. On the other hand, my publicist loved it, told me I was nuts not to include it. But I absolutely love Christine's angle on a bio. Maybe I'll just mention I'm a professional cat herder who can usually be found wandering the desert without a clue where the hell I am.

Anonymous said...

That's the trouble with living so long.(-:
After a while you've done everything once and some things twice.
It all makes you the person and the writer you are, so what do you leave out?
It's a puzzle!

Anonymous said...

Ben sez: "Maybe I'll just mention I'm a professional cat herder who can usually be found wandering the desert without a clue where the hell I am."


LOL I dare you! That's a bio that would make people sit up and take notice.

I think your agent is right about lawyers and litigation. Can't think of a better background for crime fiction.

Personally, I always like to read your blogs about guns. It's a subject I know absolutely nothing about.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Pat,

I've told this story before, but I didn't know anything about guns either, and caught hell from my editor when I put a safety on a snub nose .38 -- they don't have one. He told me if I was gonna write about them, I needed to learn something about them. I shot in a military academy when I was a young teen and even won a marksmanship medal, but my parents wouldn't even let me have a BB gun. Now, I find I really enjoy them. Great stess relief putting holes in paper. A friend and I have categorized gun enthusiasts as collectors, shooters, cops, military, hunters or some combination of the above. I've decided I'm a shooter, even though I now have a collection. I'm in the process of trading some to obtain others, as my wife has said I have enough. Right now, I've got sixteen different calibers, and multiples of the weapons firing them. I don't reload because I fear I'd blow myself up -- reloading requires great precision, knowledge of the different powders available, and requires a lot of tooling.

I don't hunt because I don't believe in killing anything, except the rabbits eating the plants in my yard, but even that has a reason: poison kills the animals that eat the dead rabbits.

I'll be sprinkling details about guns in my stories like "Pixie dust" as my editor likes to say. Too much detail is too much detail, which can be boring for the reader. But details or quirks sprinkled here and there, I think, adds realism and some interesting twists which can make a story better.

And I enjoy writing about firearms in my blogs, as I think they're of interest to mystery and thriller writers.

I'm very glad to hear people like my gun blogs. Who knows, I may even submit some to gun mags. Gunners are interesting people. Every trip to the range winds up with discussions among gun lovers, who often have interesting weapons and some great stories. Most of them are old farts like me, who have large collections, are proud of them, and who know what they're doing in tinkering with them.

I'd take a gunsmithing class, but I'm no mechanic. The only thing I've ever built was a lamp in high school shop. It canted to the side at a 45 degree angle. I was ashamed of it, but my parents made a big deal of it, which today is funny as hell. But if I tried to bore a barrel, the doggone thing would probably curve, not the best guarantee of accuracy.

So now I shoot, study, and trade for the guns I want to shoot. I've found I enjoy rifles the most, Mosins, Mausers, the M-1 Garand, AK-47s and M1A, battle guns of yesteryear and today. I shoot with friends, and the first competition is the "beer round," which I usually lose. Then I win the remaining competitions, which I guess means I wilt under fire. Sorry for the pun. I just couldn't resist. :<)