Sunday, September 21, 2014

Crime Fiction and a Lovely Antique Carousel

I first encountered Richard Brawer, our talented neighbor in New Jersey, when I read his delightful crime novel, Murder Goes Round and Round, a vivid tale about an antique carousel in a dying resort town in his home state and the murder caused by its sale.

As we corresponded about this book, I invited him to be a guest on our group blog and asked him to tell us about his writing methods. Hope you enjoy his thoughts on modern publishing and his own writing career.

Thelma Jacqueline Straw, who adores carousels…

How e-books have changed the publishing industry

Before e-books, the only books we could read were the ones the big publishers “chose” for us to read. Those books were selected by the publisher based on the publisher’s idea of what the greatest number of readers would like—in other words, prospective sales.

Now, with e-book self-publishing, writers can not only explore many topics, but they can write what they like. If an author can’t find an interested publisher, so be it. His book will still be available to those who like the subject.

Of course there is a downside to e-publishing. Some books are not well written. But many e-books are so inexpensive—some are even free—that you won’t lose much sleep if you don’t like a book.

On the upside readers have found some wonderful new authors.

My journey as an author, and my inspiration

Becoming a writer was the last thing I thought I would ever do, but I was an avid reader and always had a questioning mind and a vivid imagination. One day I read a newspaper article about a child who was born with a brain impairment. The father refused to take him home from the hospital. I immediately wondered: Who was this man? What happened to the child? Where was the mother? The answers to these questions turned into my first book in 1994, The Nurse Wore Black.

I followed that with Diamonds are for Stealing, based on a newspaper article about a jewelry store robbery where the store owner pulled a gun and shot at the robber, killing his wife instead. Yeah, right, an accident!

Murder on the Links came from yet another news story about stock market manipulation.

These three mysteries are a series with detective David Nance. I rewrote them, modernizing them with cell phones and computers, and put them on Amazon KDP in one volume titled Murder at the Jersey Shore. (The Nurse Wore Black was re-titled Secrets can be Deadly. The other titles remained the same.)

In Murder Goes Round and Round, the sale of a million-dollar antique carousel in a decaying resort town is the motive for murder. Except for the murder, this story is pretty factual. The carousel in the decaying resort actually existed. The owner needed the money and sold it at auction. The town wanted to buy it but couldn’t come up with the money. There was a lot of animosity because the town was attempting a comeback and wanted to use the carousel as a draw. I added the murder part.

Silk Legacy resulted from lectures on the silk industry in Paterson, NJ, in the early twentieth century. My grandparents immigrated to Paterson. I wanted to see what it was like back then. As I listened, a plot quickly developed in my mind about a domineering silk industrialist, his progressive, suffragist wife and his radical unionist brother. Although this is historical fiction it has also been called a tumultuous love story by more than one reviewer.

My best-received book, The Nano Experiment, with 71 reviews, came from a screen play my daughter wrote. Her plot was about an African-American man wrongly convicted and sentenced to be executed. When she couldn’t sell the script I asked her if I could write a book with that plot using a female protagonist, as there are many black starlets looking for a leading role. Once I changed to a female protagonist the book took on a life of its own. The only thing that remained the same was the plot.

The inspiration for my latest novel, Love’s Sweet Sorrow, a romantic suspense novel, came from yet another newspaper story about arms smuggling. The plot quickly developed in my mind, but I was having trouble creating the female character. All my novels have a strong woman to challenge a somewhat rash protagonist. Then I read about a town twenty minutes north that was having an Octoberfest. The town was founded in the 1660s. The county historical society was giving tours of the historic buildings including a Quaker meeting house. Since one of my hobbies was researching local history, I went. The lectures and brochures handed out by the Quakers gave rise to my strong female character.

So you see inspiration can come from anywhere.

My books were published by micro to mid-size publishers. I am now on my fourth publisher because two of them went out of business and a third voluntarily closed when one of the partners passed away. I re-acquired the rights to all my books and put them on Amazon KDP.

Why KDP and not another publisher? First, I could not find a publisher that wanted to take on already published books. As to self publishing, since they were old books, I did not want to spend money to self publish in both e-book and trade paperback.

Formatting for an e-book was easy. There are a number of sites on the internet explaining how. After I reformatted I uploaded the books on both Barnes and Nobles’ Nook and Amazon Kindle. I quickly found the books selling ten to one Kindle to Nook. At that point I made the decision to take the books off Nook and keep them solely on Kindle, because Amazon pays a higher royalty if an author gives them exclusivity.

Constructing my novels

I will admit I am a rather haphazard writer. First I devise a plot. Second I come up with an ending. I have to have something to write toward.

With the plot and the ending figured out I create my protagonist, antagonist and the protagonist’s love interest.

Then I write an exciting opening chapter, putting the protagonist in jeopardy immediately.

I do not outline the whole book. I only make quick notes for a couple of chapters at a time—this happens, that happens and what conflicts my character will face in those chapters. One chapter leads to the next and also leads to minor characters.

As to minor characters, this is where my haphazard writing comes in. I don’t know who the minor characters will be until I come to a point in the book where I need one. Then I create the character. However I do not want them to come out of the blue. I go back and introduce the minor character innocuously in a conversation between two other characters. Then when he or she is fully on scene the reader will know a little about him or her.

I do not write directly to the ending. I try to take the reader on a journey like a gyrating stock market. There are many ups, downs and setbacks.

What I learned from my writing experiences

Don’t give up if you have a setback either in your writing or your search for a publisher. Writing, like everything else, comes from doing. It is rare that an author’s first novel becomes a best seller. For example John Grisham’s early novel, Time to Kill, was not a best seller when it came out, yet for me it was one of his best books. After his later books came out, that one became a hit and was made into a movie.

After graduation from the University of Florida and a six month basic training tour in the National Guard, Richard Brawer worked for 35 years in the textile and retail industries. Always an avid reader, he began writing mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels in 1994. When not writing, he spends his time exploring local history. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife. Read more about Richard Brawer and his books at his website:


  1. What a fun romp though Richard's writing life. There was some great information here and, yeah, isn't it true, don't give up and just keep writing. And I love that stock market approach of plotting.

  2. It was great to have you stop by today, Richard! I'd sit here and gush more about your fascinating words and vibrant personality .. but the cab just came to take me to the bookstore to buy more of your books!!!! Thelma

  3. Thank you Thelma for hosting me on your blog. And thank you Margaret. I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.
    Richard Brawer