Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Three Minute Talk

Tonight I'm going to be speaking at a fancy-schmantzy library fund raising event along with five other authors, all of whom are infinitely better known than I. The set up is thus: Each author will have three minutes to tell the audience about her or his work, then each of us will be stationed at a separate location for twenty minutes to talk and sign for anyone who wishes to come by. Considering that my fellow authors include two international best-sellers, two local newspaper columnists, and a guy whose book is being made into a movie, I fear that I'm going to be sitting at my station with a brave smile on my face listening to the sound of crickets.

How does a midlist author make herself as intriguing as a superstar in three minutes? If you have I an idea, I'm all ears. It's a great exercise, though, and one that anybody who expects to be a novelist had better try hard to master. There are going to be a lot of occasions when you're only going to have five minutes or less to sell yourself.

Here's tonight's three minute spiel:

I write an historical mystery series featuring Alafair Tucker, a woman in her early forties who lives with her husband Shaw and their ten children on a prosperous farm outside of Boynton, Oklahoma, in the 1910s. I first had the idea for this series after writing a family genealogy for my siblings for Christmas, and I discovered so many fascinating tales of settlers and revolutionaries, cowboys and Indians, scandals and murders, axings, ambushes, and beating people over the head with beer bottles that when I was done, I said to myself, "Donis, you've got enough material here for ten books."

And that was the original plan--a ten book arc, something like a family saga about Alafair and the lengths to which she's willing to go to keep these children alive and get them raised in a wild and wooly time and place. Thus far I've written five books in the series. The first, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, came out in 2005, and the latest, Crying Blood, was just issued this past February.

Crying Blood is a little different from the first four books. Alafair figures large, but the story revolves more around her husband, Shaw. It’s the fall of 1915, and Shaw and his brother and their sons are on their annual quail-hunting trip. This year they’re camping on a piece of abandoned land their stepfather owns in southeastern Oklahoma. The outing goes awry when instead of a bird Shaw's dog retrieves an old boot. And in the old boot are the remains of an old foot. Which leads to the discovery of the skeleton of a Creek Indian with a bullet hole in his head. This spells the end of the hunting trip, of course. But when Shaw returns to his farm, he discovers in short order that somebody--or something--has followed him home. His first thought is, "I shouldn't have disturbed that grave."

I've wondered what Dr. Freud would say about my state of mind when I wrote this book, for there are things in the dark, in the past, in your head, and you don’t know where they came from, or if they’re real, or why they’re trying to get you. When dark things happen to me, rather than deal with my fears, I just develop a neurosis. This is the nice thing about being a writer. I can have Shaw plunge into the dark to confront them. Sometimes what you find is even scarier than you feared. But Shaw Tucker is willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of the monster in the dark.

Okay, that's it. Wish me luck.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

That is a fascinating, substance-filled 3 minutes. You will be loved for your humor and you'll sell out. Betcha!

Hannah Dennison said...

Good luck Donis! I know your natural charm and warm, sparkling personality will do the trick - just you see!!

Donis Casey said...

Thank you, Irene and Hannah, you are both lovely.

C.K.Crigger said...

Great premise, Donis. Just my kind of book. Best of luck with your three minutes.

Donis Casey said...

It went very well. Thanks for the good vibes.

Whitewing said...

Donis, great blurb. Any scene with Alafair and one of her kids would have done as well. The love and respect among the family members is what keeps me reading your series. Looking forward to more.