An Untidy Affair: A David Blaise Mystery
by MB Dabney
I am so happy to welcome MB Dabney
to Escapes With Dollycas today!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a native Hoosier, born, raised and educated in Indiana, and a retired journalist. During a 20-year portion of my career, I worked in Philadelphia, where, among other things, I covered the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE compound in West Philly. Because of my background as a reporter, I’m most comfortable writing in third-person, although I have won professional awards for editorial writing, which are in first-person, plural.
I wrote the first draft of a Star Trek novel in the mid-80s – I really love Star Trek – and throughout the 90s and early 2000s dabbled with writing a thriller. But I didn’t really focus on writing fiction until about 15 years ago and it was because I wanted a new writing challenge. The first major challenge of An Untidy Affair is that it’s in first-person. That was considerably out of my comfort zone. The next major challenge I faced with Affair was that I completed the first draft in 18 days during National Novel Writing Month. So, as it turns out, my years of deadline writing for United Press International and later for the Associated Press, in addition to two daily newspapers, came in handy.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I tend to generally follow some advice I read by Stephen King, and that is in fiction, if you don’t know something, make it up. Research is very important but if you stay close to your main interests, there are fewer things you have to research. I read lots of murder and crime fiction and thrillers, so that’s mainly what I write. I also rarely write the major portion of a novel in a location I haven’t lived in or visited extensively.
Through attending conferences and networking, I know lots of people who, for example, specialize in areas I am unfamiliar with, such as poisons or strangulation. So, when needed, I can consult with them on those areas. And lastly, there is the Internet. With what you can learn from the Internet, you can write a credible novel set in contemporary Indianapolis, or in the Old West, or 1760s London, or on Mars.
For a variety of health reasons that caused me to delay research for the novel I intended to write, I didn’t decide to write Affair until a week before I started writing it. So, I didn’t have time for much research before I started. It’s why it’s set in Philadelphia in the mid-1980s and involved MOVE. I was there at the time and covered it. What little research I did do was during the writing to confirm things I wasn’t sure I remembered correctly.
Do you ever suffer from Writer’s Block?
Sometimes, if I don’t know enough about the story before I start writing it, or don’t understand how to get to the end. But with a novel that’s only happened once. Generally, when I get to a stumbling block and struggle with it for a while, I realize I’m boring the reader – me. And if I’m boring me, I will bore other readers. So, I simplify whatever I’m writing to one or two sentences and move on.
But another handy trick I use is to stir things up. There was a point in one of my upcoming novels when I didn’t know what to do next with my protag. So, one night as he was about to enter this apartment, I had him attacked by someone who jumped out of the bushes, and was wearing a clown mask and carrying a knife. Scary, right? Being attacked by a clown. But it opened up lots of possibilities.
Or, when I feel a block coming on, I might write a scene in which someone walks into a room holding a loaded gun. Nothing shakes things up in fiction, or in real life, more than someone walking in with a gun. Whether the person is there with good intentions or not – and the people in the scene won’t exactly know that when the person walks in – the gun changes the dynamic.
If you suffer from a writer’s block, write something surprising and dramatic. It will help get you off your butt. And you can always delete it later.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Don’t give up once you start writing, continue to develop your craft and learn about the industry. Network with published writers and learn from them. Chatting with other authors over cocktails at a conference is a major source of knowledge and inspiration, as much so as merely attending the conference. Join a critique group and take the advice that is the most useful for you and disregard the rest. And never, ever give up hope.
When you are not writing what do you like to do?
I like to read. I enjoy walking and playing tennis, though I haven’t found much time for tennis lately. I still have – but don’t use, of course – the wooden racket I first learned tennis with nearly 60 years ago. I love watching Star Trek, and I love auto racing, especially Formula 1 and Indycar. I attend the Indianapolis 500 every year, and other races when possible. And lastly, I love to travel.
How has the COVID pandemic affected you and you’re writing?
The greatest impact is in not meeting with other writers in person. My critique group meets over Zoom but it’s not the same as in person. And just last week while I was on vacation, the organizer of a regional crime writers conference called me to say that the conference scheduled for October is postponed until April. And I hope I can still attend. (Read below.)
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
I came up with an answer to this question but before I wrote it down I asked my wife what she thought. She said Fiji, which, amazingly enough, was exactly what I was thinking. Years before we retired, we started socking away money in a travel account, so we have funds for traveling once the country and the world are more open to it. But due to the distance and the expense, I doubt we will ever visit Fiji, though I’d love to. The sandy beaches and clear blue water seem so attractive and beckoning.
We had a trip to China planned for October/November 2020 that was postponed and then planned to go to Rome in March 2021. I would have arrived in Rome on my 70th birthday. But that trip was postponed until next March/April. And I hope it doesn’t conflict with the conference I mentioned above.
What is next on the horizon for you?
I am working on a prequel to Affair and plan to deliver it to my editor by the end of the year. If I’ve made sufficient progress on the prequel by late-October, I will write a novel in November during National Novel Writing Month. And, most likely, it will be the racing story I intended to write just before I wrote Affair.
Thank you, MB for stopping by today.
Please keep reading to learn about MB’s book.
About An Untidy Affair
An Untidy Affair: A David Blaise Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher : Per Bastet Publications LLC (June 25, 2021)
Paperback : 280 pages
ISBN-10 : 1942166761
ISBN-13 : 978-1942166764
Digital ASIN : B097YPJYWN
Struggling Philadelphia private eye David Blaise gets two routine but unrelated cases on the same day in May 1985 – the day city police firebombed the MOVE house, which killed 11 people and destroyed an entire neighborhood. When Blaise starts following a cheating husband and searching for a missing person who may not actually be missing, he also discovers his cases may be related, and that he is being followed. When his tail is murdered, implicating the P-I, Blaise must find the true killer before he is literally buried alive.
About MB Dabney
MB Dabney is an award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in numerous local and national publications, such as Indianapolis Monthly, NUVO, Ebony magazine, Black Enterprise.com, the Indianapolis Recorder, and the Indianapolis Business Journal. A native of Indianapolis, Michael spent decades as a reporter working at Business Week magazine, United Press International and the Associated Press, the Indianapolis Star, and The Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest continuously published Black newspaper, where he won awards for editorial writing. He has co-edited two anthologies — Decades of Dirt: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem from the Crossroads of Crime; and MURDER 20/20 — and has published numerous short mystery stories, including Miss Hattie Mae’s Secret (Decades of Dirt) , Callipygian (The Fine Art of Murder), and Killing Santa Claus (Homicide for the Holidays). An Untidy Affair is his first novel.· The father of two adult daughters, Michael lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Angela.
Great Escapes Praise for An Untidy Affair: A David Blaise Mystery
by MB Dabney
This is a new author for me but I must say his writing style is highly enjoyable . . . a great read as the clues keep you guessing at every turn while you are being immersed in a time that really comes to life on the page.
~Books a Plenty Book Reviews
Blaise is streetwise with an innate understanding of human nature yet he is socially awkward, single-minded to a fault, and beautifully damaged. The book is peopled with wonderfully vivid archetype characters that could, but definitely do not come across as cliche.
~I Read What You Write!
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