Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Expect the Unexpected with Bob Stewart

On February 15, 2014, ACFW's Writers On The Storm welcomed multi-published author, and our very own member, Bob Stewart. Since it was February and so close to Valentine’s Day, we asked Bob to speak on the subject of romance from a man’s perspective. Twenty-two people showed up to hear Bob speak, including his son, Bob III and grandson, Bob IV! 

 According to Bob, many men think of romance the way singer, Dean Martin summed it up in his famous song, Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am. But that is not Bob's philosophy. He thinks romance should be special; that it should be doing something completely unexpected for someone you love. 

Tips for writing male characters in a romance:

1. Male characters should have a ‘tell’ like in the game of poker. A ‘tell’ is a motion that reveals what’s going on behind the poker face. It could be something he’s noticeably uncomfortable with, or a physical movement he performs. 

2. Romantic gestures should be ‘over the top.’ Think of Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate when he storms into the church wedding and screams for actress, Katharine Ross. 

3. Bob said to always, ‘expect the unexpected’ in writing romance. Flee the expected cliche gestures and embrace the spontaneous. As an example, Bob gave each of the ladies present at the meeting a yellow rose. <3

Additional pictures by chapter photographer, Kathrese McKee:

If you were at the meeting, please share with us: What was the main thing you learned or took away from the meeting that you will use in your fiction?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bob Stewart - Hard-edged Psychological Thrillers

Bob Stewart with the cover art for his book, Alias Thomas A. Katt

          The inch-thick English notebook lay splayed on the desk top in my dorm room.

         “This undoubtedly is one of the best notebooks I’ve ever received,” the professor at the Christian college scrawled across the face of it.  Below those words of encouragement was my grade: “F.”

         That’s the day I decided to quit studying for the ministry and become a heathen journalist. It was the second time this professor failed me.

         Why? Because I challenged the system. I wasn’t supposed to know a run-on sentence or a sentence fragment or a number of other literary faux pas I had already learned in high school English. So, I went ahead and did it my way, something I have a tendency to do, and suffered the consequences. A similar thing happened when I grew a Van Dyke beard and was called in by the dean of students and told to cut it or leave school. I cut it off but seethe today when it seems that every other male student walking the campus seems to be sporting one, as well as professors.

         I did have the rare privilege of studying under Dr. Heber Taylor, head of the journalism department. His namesake son is now editor of the Galveston Daily News. I count Dr. Taylor as my mentor. His gentle demeanor, his iron will to follow high journalist principles; I practice all of them today.

         I didn’t leave my religious beliefs on that flawed campus. I took them with me and they stood me in great stead when I interviewed grieving parents. I know the top editors in New York City would have cringed if they knew I often joined hands with interview subjects and prayed with them. Once again I challenged the system, but this time not as flamboyantly.

         While working more than forty years as a journalist, I wrote four nonfiction books that went on to critical success. Two of them, I suspect, will be of interest to this WOTS group, RevengeRedeemed and Sacrifice: The Murder of Mark Kilroy in Matamoros. Both deal with parents of high moral (read that religious) values and how they faced the death of their son. The Kilroy book was the True Crime Book of the Month when released. I’m not ashamed to admit I wept when I wrote these stories.

I’d like to close this by answering several questions.

God has given all of us passions. In addition to writing, what is your passion and how does it show up in your fiction?

Although my fiction books are hard-edged psychological thrillers I was surprised when I went through them to find a very strong religious theme woven into the narrative. I believe it was our own Nancy Kimball who pointed that out to me.

What one piece of advice would you give to an author who is just starting out?

           When I’m working on a project I put on blinders and charge forward working as hard as I can. Of course the best advice is to write every day, but sometimes I don’t follow my own advice. I don’t outline. I’m called a “pantser” as in by the seat of. One day I write a chapter that goes near the end of the book, the next day one in the middle, and the day after, perhaps some at the front of the book. Then I lay them out and see what I have to do bridge the gaps. Right now I’m juggling three works-in-progress: One is a joint effort with fellow author, Carl Brush, about The Yellow Rose of Texas, (Carl’s work includes The Maxwell Vendetta and Second Vendetta).

           Also in the hopper is another about a victims rights advocate battling a psychopath and finally, a fantasy about a mythical woman who has love affairs with succeeding generations of the same line of men. 

           The best advice is trite: Just do it and if you do nothing else, learn the meaning of “point of view.”

        What craft book on writing have you found most helpful?

No fair! I have to list two books, and I love them equally. Donald Maass’s wonderful Writing the Breakout Novel and Hooked by Les Edgerton, perhaps the premier noir writer in America and a fellow Texan from Freeport. It has 320 five-star reviews.       

Recent books by Bob Stewart:  

Firstborn at Amazon

Bob will be impart his wisdom on the subject of men & romance titled "Expect the Unexpected" at our meeting on February 15th. See our Meetings & Speaker page for more information.

And how, dear friends, do you have any burning questions for Bob?