Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Shameless Promotional Announcement -- 2

Here's a shameless announcement of my new book, MIND THE GAP AND 2 OTHER MYSTERIES (MIND THE GAP is a novel; the other two mysteries are longish short stories). This is my first work of fiction, although I've published 5 non-fiction books: 4 biographies and 1 history. Robert Sutherland, whose picture can be seen on this page, said about the novel, "Jared Brown's Mind the Gap is a mystery novel written with the psychological insight of a skilled dramatist. It pulled me in, held me fast during the reading, and has remained with me ever since." The novel concerns eight college students and their two professors who visit London and Stratford to see and discuss plays -- but one of them is murdered. One of the short stories describes the attempts of a little man to rid himself of a rival; the other is an affectionate spoof of hard-boiled mysteries.

Anyone who'd be interested in buying a copy of the book should send a check for $16.88 made out to me (Jared Brown) at the following address: 18 Chatsford Court, Bloomington, IL 61704. That covers the cost of the book, packaging and mailing. (MIND THE GAP AND 2 OTHER MYSTERIES is also available through and, but I can offer it at a lower price.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Importance of Suspense -- Part 11

I'd like to add a few words to "Vergil's" posts on The Importance of Suspense, primarily those concerning the uses of dialogue. I've been concerned with plays all of my life -- writing them, directing them, acting in them -- so I'm always focused on dialogue, and may have something to contribute here.

First, though, I should say that "Vergil's" observations, if taken together, might well be the beginnings of a textbook on Mystery Writing. I don't know if such a thing exists, but these comments are so cogent and so clearly-stated that I think they would indeed help mystery writers of all stripes -- those who want to review their technique as well as beginners.

Another comment (I'm putting off my comments on dialogue, you'll notice, thereby keeping you in suspense) concerns the quotation in the section beginning Part 6, "If a gun is introduced to the audience in the first act, it had better be used in the third." I could be wrong, but I think the person who expressed that thought was Chekhov. Now, I bow to no man in my admiration of Chekhov (he is, in fact, the finest of all dramatists, in my opinion), but it's not unreasonable to point out that he made this statement in the late 19th (or possibly early 20th) century, when melodrama was a more widely accepted form than it is today. I wonder if a modern-day Chekhov would suggest that introducing a gun in the first act might be useful as a way of tantalizing the audience. He might NOT wish to satisfy the audience's expectation that the gun will be fired in Act Three. I suppose I should mention in this context that I've recently completed a play that will be performed next year that consciously (and portentously) does introduce a gun early in the play but, later, uses references to the gun as a joke. After the performances of my play, I'll have a better idea if the technique I'm trying works as satisfactorily as I hope it will.

Now, at last, to dialogue: "Vergil's" advice is excellent, I think, so my observations are intended to support, not contradict, his. A truism about dialogue used in the theatre is that the character may be speaking the truth, may be withholding part of the truth, or may be lying. (Of course, this can become more complicated: if the character is withholding the truth, WHY is he doing so? What does it tell us about him? What does it say about the person he's addressing? How does it affect our understanding of the situation in which he finds himself? Has an outside force [or forces] been responsible in persuading him to shade the truth? Are the outside forces threatening or benevolent? Does the character even know that he possesses only a part of the truth? Etc., etc.) It is always true in the theatre that what a character DOES is more indicative than what the character SAYS. Similarly, in fiction, a character may say one thing, but -- if the author hasn't violated the reader's trust -- the author can later demonstrate that the character was not telling the truth, for his behavior has contradicted his statement. In fact, if a writer is skillful enough, the reader will know (or strongly suspect) that the character is lying or withholding the truth even before the narrative has made that clear. If the writer is supremely skillful, it may not even be necessary for him or her to demonstrate the character's dishonesty, for the way in which the story or novel has been arranged may make the point without the author having to point it out. Indeed, that's probably the best method.

These are only a few random responses to THE IMPORTANCE OF SUSPENSE. Many others could be made, but I'll pick this response up another time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Writing Media Releases; A Shameless Promotional Announcement -- 1

"Press Releases" or, more appropriately, "Media Releases," are a standard part of book promotion. Too often in the local paper I see an author's Press Release that looks amateurish, copied-and-pasted by the over-worked editor without any re-writing. Here are some tips for composing a professional Media Release for your published (or soon to be published) book.

Below you'll see the Media Release I'm sending out to announce the publication of my contemporary mystery, BLEEDER. Actually, it's one of a few, as I'm targeting others for different audiences: libraries, radio stations, and so on. This is the more 'general' version suitable for newspapers. With an official issue date of August 15 (as I just learned), now is the time to send out the news so every recipient has a little lead time to process and schedule it. Some papers will run it 'as is,' some will re-write to suit their style, and others will use it as a news lead, calling me for a personal interview (I hope).

Now, a few notes about 'releases' -- First, it should look professional and follow the usual format of a media release, with contact information up front and a release date (if time sensitive). The body ought to look like a regular news story, in format and language, without puffery or self-congratulatory statements. You have to imagine someone else - a sympathetic reporter, perhaps- writing the thing on your behalf. So it will be kindly disposed, yet have an objective tone, referring to you, the author, in third person ("I am SO excited to announce that my new book is FINALLY being published and I'm sure you'll LOVE it!" won't do).

Paragraphs should be kept very short so the piece is easy-to-read in a narrow newspaper column, without huge blocks of text that readers skip. Write an engaging opening (the 'lead'), include a brief summary of the story (something you did when you pitched the book to agents and editors already), provide a brief bio and purchase info with links to your web site and blog. Let media people know where to find and download .jpg photos for their coverage (a mug shot of you, cover art for the book). Include a couple of brief 'quotes' by yourself, as though someone had interviewed you for the news story. A 'kicker quote' at the very end is a time-honored journalistic technique.

Most newspapers prefer to receive "Press Releases" online and their sites might do away with all your paragraphing/formatting. That's ok. The important thing is to send it and provide a link to your web site where they can copy/paste to their liking.

At the end of the Media Release, write -30-, a symbol to indicate that the article has ended. It dates from telegraph days when reporters wired stories and ended their transmission with XXX - which is 30 in Roman numerals.

OK, here is the Media Release (without some of the italics and a few other formatting things). Besides serving as a model for your own PR, I invite you to copy and paste and forward it hither and yon, to thine kith and kin, maybe to your own local newspapers and radio stations, bloggers, whoever - please!

Media Release

For Immediate Release


John Desjarlais(you'd put your mailing addy and phone here)

Mystery novel BLEEDER explores higher mysteries

Novelist John Desjarlais has “the usual suspects” in his contemporary small-town mystery Bleeder: a smart amateur sleuth, a cunning villain, baffled police and colorful locals. But in considering the mysterious death of a stigmatic priest – a priest bearing the wounds of the crucified Christ – Desjarlais explores ‘higher mysteries.’

“I don’t necessarily mean ‘religious’ mysteries,” Desjarlais explains. “Murder mysteries in general get close to our deepest motives and fears, showing humans in extremis. Such stories have a built-in opportunity to explore life's higher mysteries – not just the mystery of death, but the mystery of undeserved suffering.”

In Bleeder, classics professor Reed Stubblefield, wounded in a school shooting, retreats to a cabin in rural Illinois to recover and to write a book on Aristotle in peace. But the town of River Falls is filled with the ill and infirm -- all seeking the healing touch of the town’s new parish priest, reputed to be a stigmatic.

Skeptical about religion since his wife’s death from leukemia, Reed is nevertheless drawn into a friendship with the cleric, Rev. Ray Boudreau, an amiable Aquinas scholar who collapses and bleeds to death on Good Friday in front of horrified parishioners. A miracle? Or bloody murder?

Once Reed becomes the prime “person of interest” in the mysterious death, he seeks the truth with the help of Aristotle’s logic. But not everyone in town wants this mystery solved.

A former producer with Wisconsin Public Radio, Desjarlais teaches journalism and English at Kishwaukee College in Malta, Ill. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines. A member of Mystery Writers of America, he is listed in Who’s Who in Entertainment and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.

Desjarlais’ medieval thriller, Relics, set in Crusader Palestine, was re-issued by Thomas Nelson Publishers in May this year and is available at

Bleeder (Sophia Institute Press, trade paper, 272 pages, ISBN: 978-1-933184-56-2, $14.95) will be issued August 15, 2009 and will be available at and bookstores everywhere.

Readers may visit for reviews, photos, links related to the novel, and interaction with the author. A 30-second YouTube trailer is at

“I wrote Bleeder as an entertaining read, a requirement of the mystery genre,” Desjarlais says. “But I hope it also leaves a reader thinking – and in wonder.”


(well, we lost some formatting here, too. That's ok. I think you get the idea. Say, if you forward this to any person, store or media outlet, please let me know so I can follow up. Thanks!)