Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MEET M. M. GORNELL! (oops, there's an exclamation point)

Today’s guest on the Murder We Write blog tour, is none other than Madeline Gornell, who is famous for getting her kicks on wonderful Route 66.

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell has three published mystery novels—PSWA awarding winning Uncle Si’s Secret (2008), Death of a Perfect Man (2009), and her latest release, Reticence of Ravens (2010)her first Route 66 Mystery. Reticence of Ravens is a 2011 Eric Hoffer Fiction finalist and Honorary Mention winner, the Da Vinci Eye finalist, and a Montaigne Medalist finalist.

She continues to be inspired by historic Route 66, and has recently completed Lies of Convenience, which hopefully will have a 2011 winter release date. It is a tale that fictionally connects murder, truths untold, and Chicago’s Lake Michigan with California’s high desert on the opposite end of The Mother Road. Madeline is also a potter with a fondness for stoneware and reduction firing. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the Mojave in a town on internationally revered Route 66.

With no further ado, let’s hear what Madeline has to say about the joy of story and the craft of creative writing. Madeline?

Thank you, John, for hosting me on your blog!

So glad you’re interested in talking about “…the joy of story and the craft of writing.” Among the topics of discussion you mentioned, for me, several go hand-in-hand. My favorite writer, and the rules of good writing (breaking them!) are interlinked.

I’ve gone on and on before about how much I like P.D. James, but haven’t often said why. Not only do I think she weaves a marvelous story through multiple points of view, I’m enthralled (hyperbole I know—but we are talking about breaking rules!) with her use of compound and complex sentences, challenging words—some long (yes, she sends me to the dictionary occasionally), judiciously placed (and sometimes lengthy descriptive passages), sentences that are longer than eight words—basically, writing that does not talk down, but inspires upward.

You get the idea, I like her writing. Alas (I know, an archaic word), I quickly learned some of the American rules-of-the-getting-published world. Modern language, one exclamation point per lifetime, no ellipsis-ending sentences (particularly in dialogue), short sentences, common usage words, and heavens forbid—don’t send your reader to the dictionary! And I’m guessing, reading level at sixth to eighth grade? Then there’s compound sentences and semi-colons…

Believe me, I’m not pooh-poohing any rules, and dearly want everyone to enjoy my novels—and I’m the first to admit I’m a terrible sinner in many areas. Thankfully, I have three wonderful, talented, and caring editors who know how to use red ink—but also “hear” my voice, and know where I want to go. Two of my major stumbling blocks are endless phrases and clauses—of all types, and over-usage of adjectives and adverbs.

So for me, one of “…the joys of story and craft of writing” is continuing to develop my own voice, wherein I tell a good story, at a location the reader is enjoying visiting, on my own vocabulary terms—but without alienating readers and still managing to challenge a tad. It’s a high bar, but that’s part of the fun of it! (oops, another exclamation point) Arrival will come, I think, when one (me) knows more often than not, what needs changing, and what doesn’t. Knowing I’m breaking a “rule,” why, then doing it well!

John, thanks for letting me “spout off.” (hmmm, should that period be outside or inside the quote mark?)

John replies: Madeline, you’ve just taught me a lot! (for that matter, !!) The editor in me was tempted to “correct” this essay, and the fun-loving reader in me told that editor to fly a kite. Rules are to be broken, and you have broken them in all the right places.

Now for a word from our sponsor—

Madeline’s books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and Smashwords, in paper and e-book formats. You can visit her online at her website http://www.mmgornell.com, or her BLOG http://www.mmgornell.wordpress.com, or email her directly at mmgornell@earthlink.net

Buy link for Reticence of Ravens:

A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.


  1. Good morning, John! I think I've used several lifetime supplies of exclamation points on this tour. That's what happens when you're in the presence of so many wonderful writers.

    It's a joy to be here with you this morning.


  2. Wonderful having you here, Madeline. And I like the position you take about breaking rules. If you break rules, do so on purpose and for a reason.

  3. I love exclamation points, but try to keep from using them in my writing.

    Hi, Madeline, so glad to read what you have to say again.


  4. A sensitive, thought-provoking post, Madeline. I also like P.D. James, and have to edit out my exclamation points scattered throughout the text.

  5. Loved your post, Madeline. And I love exclamation points, too. Have to watch for them carefully as I edit my own work :-)

  6. Rules are meant to be broken. Unfortunately we can't always get away with it. Great post, Madeline.

  7. Sorry I've been late getting back to everyone, life away from our tour had demands. I'd have rather been here!

    Marilyn, thanks for stopping by. Glad to know a pro like you also has to think about exclamation points.

    Same thought for you too, Jean. Glad to know I'm not the only one--and thank you for your kind words!

    Alice, we must all be on the same wave-length when it comes to thinking about--but not using exclamation points!

    Yeah, Jrlindermuth, I learned we can't always get away with much early on. And that's probably a good thing...still.


  8. Madeline, For a writer, voice is everything. And I think it's something we spend our lives developing and improving. Excellent post.

  9. Jackie, I think you're right about the lifetime part. Which I think is nice in that I'll probably never get tired of writing--always room for improvement. Thanks for stopping by, Jackie. And you're stopping in the desert to visit with me tomorrow. Wonderful!


  10. Great post, Madeline. Like you, I love exclamation marks. I use them far too much in print because I use them when I speak.

    I consider exclamation marks a form of body language in print. They're the twinkle in my eyes, a soft snuffle, snicker, or an occasional wink!

    Btw, I showed great restraint and limited my usage of exclamation marks, then decided to break that rule. (See below!)


  11. I think lots of us are going to be thinking of you as we enjoy exclamation marks!! Thanks for a fun post.

    pennyt at hotmail dot com