I’m right in the middle of listening to The Witch Elm by my favorite contemporary mystery novelist, Tana French. So far the book is as good as I would expect, having read all six of French’s previous novels. French’s masterful use of language and deft psychological characterizations make her novels qualify as both literary and genre fiction. That’s one of the reason that I (like so many of her readers) am addicted to her writing, and read each of her novels as soon as it is released.

Out of curiosity about the author, I recently spent some time rooting around the web looking for articles by and about her. One particularly interesting one I ran across was “5 Writing Tips from Tana French,” Publishers Weekly, 2012. (I highly recommend the article to all fiction writers) In it she says that “If you rewrite a paragraph fifty times and forty-nine of them are terrible, that’s fine; you only need to get it right once.” As someone who often struggles to complete a writing project on time and berates himself for taking so long, I found this statement profoundly reassuring. Now I have it on good authority that I can and should take as long as I need to get it right. There’s not something wrong with me as a writer because I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite . . . I just need to set aside enough (more) time to get my writing projects done!

Speaking of mystery fiction authors who get it right, multiple-award-winning Wheatmark author Duke Southard recently held an open house to celebrate the official publication of The Final Tipping Point (book 4 in the Parker Havenot series). Lori Conser, Wheatmark project manager extraordinaire and award-winning journalist, and I drove to Green Valley, Arizona to attend. It was a perfect book launch event—beautiful weather, a good-sized and interesting crowd, and an good author with a good variety of his works to sell and sign. If you haven’t read any of Southard’s novels, you’re missing out. Duke’s books are suspenseful with well-drawn, nuanced characters. In addition to the Parker Havenot series I also highly recommend Southard’s recently released collection of short stories and essays, The Fallacy of Closure. (All of Southard’s books can be found on Amazon.com using the search words “Duke” and “Southard,” and Duke’s blog, dukesouthard.com, is also well worth checking out.)

Happy Holidays, and happy reading!