Today I am homoured to have a guest post from an Author that I love. I have read many of his books, and given them all brilliant reviews. (I will link the reviews and book links below).
DJ Swykert is a talented Author who writes gritty novels involving criminals, drugs, prostitutes and gripping plots. His characters are always fully explored so I feel like I knew them properly. DJ Swykert’s books are page turning brilliant. So, as I started off saying, I am pleased to bring you today a guest post from this Author, where he describes how he writes his books.
One Way to Write a Novel
I’m pretty straight forward as a person and a writer. I’m a former 911 operator, and in 911 you don’t have the luxury of a lot of pondering, you need to get to the essence of a problem in a hurry.
It was good training for resolving conflict in a story. I also use a tip a literature teacher gave me:
“Never use a ten dollar word when a ten cent one will do.”
I’ve tried to do that, keep my writing direct, succinct, and understandable. Too many writers try to impress readers with their massive vocabulary, but few readers, including me, want to read a book with a dictionary on their lap. If I have to look up definitions to understand a sentence, it closes my interest in the story, and the book.
I don’t use detailed outlines to write a story. I have the character, conflict, and the ending in my head before I begin. I put the character into conflict, and since I know how it will be resolved, the chapters always move forward to that ending.
My idea for a first draft always begins with the characters. My protagonist Ray in Children of the Enemy was a man I saw who ran a salvage yard, which could also be described more simply as a junkyard. He was sitting on a chair outside of a house trailer, smoking a cigarette, with virtual mountains of scrap metal pieces and junk appliances surrounding him. I imagined in real life he was perhaps a cross between Dirty Harry and James Earl Jones. It was just how he impressed me. Once I have a few characters I like I put them into a situation,this is the conflict.The next step is I frame in my mind how I intend to resolve the conflict. The rest of the book consists of chapters that point toward the resolution.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about the best way to write a book. I have long believed there is no one system that works for everyone. It’s whatever process works for you; whether it’s outlines, daily word requirements, black boards, however you frame your story and get a draft onto paper. I write a story like you’d watch a movie, chapters being scenes, the end result being me as adirector, assembling the chapter-scenes into a coherent story consisting of characters, conflict and resolution. Then I edit it. Someone asked me once how do you write a poem? I told them I write it down and then I edit it for the next thirty years. This is a slight exaggeration, but there’s an elementary truth in it, good writing requires good editing. Your imagination creates the story draft, editing is where you shape it into a book. Working with a good editor is a real plus.
DJ Swykert is a former 911 operator writing and living in North Carolina. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Coe Review, Monarch Review, the Newer York, Lunch Ticket, Gravel, Zodiac Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Sweat Street, Alpha Wolves, The Pool Boy’s Beatitude and Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, The Death of Anyone, Three-fingered Jack Davis and Nude Swimming.
Thank you very much DJ for that guest post. I think any insight into how Authors write their books is really interesting, and I quite agree that if you need a dictionary to read a book, then the enjoyment is taken out of it. I love the idea that the books are written as a film might be.
Here are the books I can recommend with my reviews and links to each book
This is a book that I have been intrigued about, I love crime and legal thrillers. I was excited when the Author D J Swykert asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing his book. Of course I did! Thank you DJ. And guess what…..
I was so intrigued by the main discussion point of this book that I asked the Author to write me a guest post on familial DNA and what the legalities are and how this influenced his creativity and inspiration for this book. You can read this at the end of my post, after my review. Its really interesting!
Detroit homicide Detective Bonnie Benham has been transferred from narcotics for using more than arresting and is working the case of the killer of adolescent girls. CSI collects DNA evidence from the scene of the latest victim, which has not been detected on the other victims. But no suspect turns up in the FBI database. Due to the notoriety of the crimes a task force is put together with Bonnie as the lead detective, and she implores the D.A. to authorize an as yet unapproved type of a DNA Search in an effort to identify the killer. Homicide Detective Neil Jensen, with his own history of drug and alcohol problems, understands Bonnie’s frailty and the two detectives become inseparable as they track this killer of children.
Published February 25th 2013 by Melange Books, LLC
This book interested me straight away from the blurb when the Author told us that an ‘as yet unapproved type of DNA search’ is requested to be used. I really enjoy legal / criminal /mystery type books, especially when you know the Author knows his stuff. DJ Swykert really did his homework with this novel! This book is filled with gritty crime scenes, detectives trying to work out what was going on and who was the criminal despite there seemingly being no leads. But what about this ethical DNA evidential dilemma? Bonnie has to convince her boss’s that is it a good idea, but is it ethical? and does the end justify the means?
“They do this as policy in the UK, but it’s not common practice here in the states. There are only two states, California and Colorado, that even have a policy on it…..”
We follow Bonnie as the hardcore detective on this case, and Jensen who becomes more than just a cop to Bonnie! We also have Lagrow who is Bonnie’s partner. Bonnie’s character is really well developed, we get a great insight into her mind and why she does the things that she does. She has had her challenges in life, but this just equates to the reader seeing her as a ‘real’ and believable character.
“Knowing something and accepting something are two different things.”
The book was fast paced, a real page turner that I just wanted to keep reading. You know the kind whereby, you think I’ll just finish this chapter, but as you finish it another twist of excitement, wonder, intrigue happens and then you just need to read another one! Swykert is very vivid and descriptive in his words, I would say this book is not for the timid types. His descriptions of the victims of these crimes are beyond my imagination in the evilness of humans! How somebody can do these awful crimes is beyond me, and it is a comforting thought (for me to believe) that this is only fiction! However saying that, the crime force that are working to find and capture this criminal are bad assed, tough guys! Bonnie makes a great point when she says:
“Maybe that’s why we’ve never had any contact with aliens, they take one look at what’s going on down here and head back into outer space…”
Aside from reading the book, I was really interested in the facts of familial DNA, and through a few emails, the Author explained to me how he came across it and how it came as inspiration for his book. I am very pleased to be able to share this information with you all, and hope that you will find it as interesting as I do.
From the Author about familial DNA and his inspiration for A Death of Anyone
Unique DNA Search Catches the Grim Sleeper
By DJ Swykert.
The underlying theme in The Death of Anyone, Melange Books, poses the Machiavellian question: Does the end justify the means? Bonnie Benham, the lead detective in my story, has her own answer. But the legality of this question will be answered in a real life courtroom in the California trial of a serial killer dubbed by the media: The Grim Sleeper. Lonnie David Franklin, the Grim Sleeper, was caught because his son’s DNA was the closest match to DNA collected at the crime scenes in the database.
Investigating Franklin’s son led them to investigate Lonnie Franklin. But there was no direct DNA evidence that linked Lonnie to the crime scene until they obtained a sample from him after his arrest. Lonnie Franklin will be the first person in the U.S. to ever stand trial for murder based on this type of evidence, and its admissibility issues will be thoroughly tested by defense attorneys.
Only two states at this time, California and Colorado, have a written policy concerning the use of Familial DNA in an investigation. The admission of Familial DNA, with its potential Fourth Amendment violations, has never been tested in court. The California trial of Lonnie David Franklin will become a landmark case for the future use of Familial DNA Searches by law enforcement agencies nationwide.
This is an update on the legal progress of the trial. Franklin was arrested on July 7, 2010, The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged him with ten counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and special circumstance allegations of multiple murders in the cases. A grand jury indictment was issued on March 23, 2011. The Grim Sleeper has been resting comfortably in jail since his arrest awaiting trial; the large quantity of evidence in this case, some dating back thirty years, has caused a lengthy pretrial discovery.
The trial was originally scheduled to begin the summer of 2014, but was put on hold. It was rescheduled for June 30, 2015, but that didn’t happen. On Monday August 17, 2015, at a pretrial hearing, the trial was rescheduled for October 14, 2015, which also didn’t happen. The trial finally began on February 16th, 2016 and is currently in the defense phase.
I first heard of the technique while working as a 911 operator in 2006. It came up in conversation with officers.I thought at the time it would make an interesting premise for a book. I began writing the mystery some three years later after leaving the department. I had just finished editing a first draft of The Death of Anyone in the summer 2010 when news of The Grim Sleeper’s capture in Los Angeles was released. I read with interest all the information pouring out of L.A. regarding the investigation and the problems confronting prosecutors. All of which are explored in The Death ofAnyone.
In my fictional story Detroit Detective Bonnie Benham has been transferred from working undercover in narcotics to homicide and is working the case of a killer of adolescent girls. She is a straight forward investigator who describes herself as a blonde with a badge and a gun. CSI collects DNA evidence from the scene of the latest victim, which had not been detected on the other victims. But no suspect turns up in the FBI database. Due to the notoriety of the crimes a task force is put together with Bonnie as the lead detective, and she implores the D.A. to use an as yet unapproved type of a DNA Search in an effort to identify the killer.
The Death of Anyone is available on the Melange Books website and also on Amazon.com in Kindle and print formats.
DJ Swykert is a former 911 operator writing and living in the Cincinnati area. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Coe Review, Monarch Review, the Newer York, Lunch Ticket, Gravel, Zodiac Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Sweat Street, Alpha Wolves, The Pool Boy’s Beatitude and Maggie Elizabeth Harrington. You can find him at:www.magicmasterminds.com/djswykert. He is a wolf expert