THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
April 2, 2016
Greetings! Welcome to the cruel (according to T.S. Eliot), rainy (according to Buddy de Sylva), taxing (according to the IRS), yet lovely (according to Pat Boone) month of April. In case you haven’t heard, April is also National Poetry Month, which is worth celebrating, whether or not you’re a poet.
Being a plot junkie, I particularly like narrative poetry, because narrative poems tell stories. They can be huge epics, like The Odyssey or Paradise Lost, or they can be as short as a limerick (I don’t dare quote any limericks here, because the only ones I can remember aren’t for polite company). In between, we have poems throughout the ages that tell stories of love and death, full of plot and conflict and change.
The form of narrative poetry that I enjoy most is the popular song lyric, particularly lyrics from the Great American Songbook. Cole Porter was a superb narrative poet (“Miss Otis Regrets”). So was Ira Gershwin (“They Can’t Take That Away From Me”). Same goes for Lorenz Hart (“Ten Cents a Dance”), Bob Russell (“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”), Frank Loesser (“I Don’t Want to Walk Without You, Baby”), Alan Jay Lerner (“I Could Have Danced All Night”), and Johnny Mercer (“One for My Baby, and One More for the Road”). These are just a few. Jazz musicians could start naming and singing their favorite narrative poems and keep going all through the night, with the help of bottle after bottle of champagne. It’s remarkable how much story can be told in 32 bars of music.
For a short period of my life I was a part-time semi-professional crooner. My music career didn’t take off, and I turned to publishing instead. But I still have a nonstop sound track with me always, with artists like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald keeping me somewhere close to sane by singing old favorite stories in the closets of my brain.
April, one of our shorter months, has five Saturdays this year. By way of celebrating National Poetry Month, I’m going to promote four novels of my own (I didn’t publish these, I wrote them) over the course of the month. They’re all mystery novels, and they’re all about poets and poetry. The first three are my Guy Mallon Mysteries, featuring an amateur sleuth who is also a collector of poetry books and a publisher of very good poets. The fourth mystery is titled Hooperman, and it’s about a bookstore clerk who literally learned how to talk by memorizing and reciting poetry.
The first of these books, The Poet’s Funeral, is described at the end of this post. Meanwhile…
Calling all authors—
I feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at email@example.com.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for May’s 99-word story submissions is May 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for the week beginning Saturday, May 14.
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Think of something you feel strongly about, an opinion that defines who you are—or who you are not—politically, spiritually, economically, professionally, or any other important way. Why is it important? When did this self-knowledge come to you, and how did it change your life? Show (don't tell) this in the context of a story.
And now, as promised:
The Poet’s Funeral
A Mystery Novel
Trade Paperback, $14.95
Buy or order The Poet's Funeral from your local bookstore, from one of the online booksellers, or direct from the publisher:
Poisoned Pen Press or call (800) 421-3976
This book is also available in ebook format:
Kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/
About the book:
At the annual convention of the American Booksellers Association Convention, everything goes wrong. Julia Child’s cooking demonstration in the Random House aisle blows up and catches fire. A top New York editor catches a pie in the face. Invitations to the most exclusive publisher’s party are stolen and all the wrong people show up. Worse, Heidi Yamada, the world-famous poet, is found dead, spread over the late Elvis Presley’s king-sized bed. It's all caught on film by a busy photographer from Publishers Weekly, a woman soon kidnapped. When the Las Vegas Police shrug their shoulders, Guy Mallon, Heidi’s first publisher (and a discarded lover) wonders what to do.
Poor Guy. He’s a bookman from Santa Barbara who, despite Ross Macdonald and Sue Grafton, never felt inspired to be a sleuth, but he feels he owes it to Heidi. Besides, catching her killer may be his only chance to leave Las Vegas alive.... The Poet's Funeral is a romp rich with poetry, publishing, book collecting, and literary gossip. Its cast ranges from smalltime players to the famous Rock Bottom Remainders. It’s a story of ego, love, art, and murder during four hot days at the 1990 ABA.
“Daniel (Play Melancholy Baby) turns the 1990 Las Vegas ABA convention (now known as BEA) into a murder site in this delicious sendup of the book trade.… Daniel’s sharp, sardonic wit and insider’s view of book industry foibles are sure to make this bibliomystery a hit.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Read reviews of The Poet’s Funeral:
That wraps it up for this week. Please return soon. Next week we’ll present the 99-word stories submitted during the month of March. On the third Saturday in April, we will have Anne Schroeder as our guest. Anne writes historical fiction about the American West. Meanwhile, keep writing if you write, keep reading if you read, and celebrate the joy of story, whoever you are and whatever you do.