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October 30, 2011

Leslie Budewitz Guest Blogs

Leslie Budewitz Guest Blogs  

Nancy Martin sez: When I attend writers' conferences, my primary goal is to meet fun people.  A couple of years ago I bumped into Leslie Budewitz--lawyer, reader, writer and a person who radiates good karma. (I firmly believe that making your own good karma pays off.)  She's also the author of a great desk reference for crime writers--BOOKS, CROOKS AND COUNSELORS--which provides (much needed) legal advice, and I'm not talking about how to make bail after a great party. Please welcome her to TLC.

When I pick up a book, I read the acknowledgments first.

I’ve done this forever, at least since I started writing seriously. Eavesdropping. Peeking into the writer’s private world, before I even read her novel, memoir, poems. Like spying, only not spying, because she’s put it there for all of us to see. More like mining for the secrets to success, hoping they’ll rub off on me.

There’s all variety of acknowledgments. Gooey, sappy, hilarious. Mostly, names. Of agents and editors and critique partners. Of friends who listened to you natter about “the book” for years and never said “shut up.” Not out loud, anyway. Parents and children and husbands and wives who put up with nights alone and too much take-out.  Librarians who combed through archives to confirm a single fact. Translators thanked anonymously because they still live in the war zone, or their mother does.

The barista who remembers your order and never minds when you hold the corner table hostage all morning for the price of a double latte and a scone.

     

And people long dead who’ll never read the work, but inspired it by what they wrote or said or did.

 Ah, the tribe it takes.

I got to write my own acknowledgments this year, for Books, Crooks and Counselors. Harder than I thought. More fun, too. (And gad, yes, I forgot somebody, and yes, I’ve told her and sent her the book, and no, I’m not going to tell you who because I’d be too embarrassed. )

Earlier this month, at the local writers’ conference, I gave a signed book to a friend. After years in a critique group, countless lunches and phone calls and emails, hours of encouraging and sympathizing and deleting my extraneous commas, she read the final ms., the whole danged thing. Over a weekend. On vacation. Five minutes after she took the book, she found me in the lunch line. “You put me in the acknowledgments.” She positively glowed. Of course, I did, silly. That’s what they’re for. For making friends beam after years of crying with you over rejections and other traumas. For making your book better. For making your life better.

And I’ll admit, when a woman from the same disbanded group published her first novel, an ebook, and told me she’d acknowledged each of us, I went online and looked. Not that I doubted her. I just wanted to see it. To recall for a moment all we gave each other. Because writing can be hard and lonely and full of quavering and doubt, and it felt all warm and buttery to know she persevered and succeeded and maybe I helped.

In the last few months, I’ve learned a lot about the art of being thankful. Mid-summer, my husband and I embarked on what we call the New Attitude Plan. (The acronym, NAP, is more than a little ironic.) We decided we were tired of feeling overwhelmed, like we had too much to do and weren’t doing the things that mattered to us most. That we weren’t feeling truly prosperous–not in the sense of financial security, or at least not just that. But in the sense of truly enjoying the richness of our lives, because the stacks of unread books and the lists of undone projects and the invitations we’d turned down led us to focus on what we lack and not on what we have.

So we changed. Not exactly overnight, but darned close. We put the Law of Attraction into action. You know it: What you think about attracts more of what you think about. Bemoaning what we lack draws more lack, while focusing on good things attracts more good things.

I know, it can sound a little woo-woo. But it’s called a Law because it works.

So I’ve made gratitude practice my nightly ritual. Sometimes I hit on the big things, then go back to fill in the small ones. Thank you, Universe, for a really great Bouchercon panel. Thank you for the offer from Berkley.* Thank you for the agent I wanted wanting me. Thank you for a great cup of coffee. Thank you for the cat leaving the severed mouse head outside.

Sometimes I start with the morning. Thank you for sleep. And if I felt like I was awake half the night with Thoughts and Hot Flashes and Other Annoying Things, I say thanks anyway, because what you think about, you bring about. (Lest that bring about more cliches, give thanks for fresh metaphors while you’re at it.) Sometimes I fall asleep before reaching breakfast. If I get past dinner, I’m in for a long night, unless I start over and look for the details I’ve missed. Thank you for the day job, for the opportunities it gives me. Thank you for eggs and English muffins. Thank you for my sweet hunny, next to me.

And your mother was right: When you send a thank you note, you get more and better presents.

So to all you readers, thanks.

And to all you authors who write the books we read, and express your gratitude on the acknowledgments page–thank you.

Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure

Leslie Budewitz is the author of Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books, October 2011). She is a practicing lawyer and a mystery writer living in northwest Montana. Read an excerpt and more articles for writers at www.LawandFiction.com

* That offer? The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in NW Montana, will debut from Berkley Prime Crime in 2013.

And thank you, Nancy and TLC!  

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Comments

I'm thrilled to be first to back up Nancy and praise Leslie's work. She contributed a beautiful short story to Fish Tales; she's written this great reference work; and now she's doing a fiction series. This is a writer to watch, y'all!

Also, addressing the topic of karma, Leslie has been very generous with her legal knowledge on the Guppy and SinC lists. Any support she is given, she has well earned.

Leslie, congratulations on your contract! I enjoyed your story in Fish Tales, by the way.

I agree that having the "attitude of gratitude" makes a world of difference. You can tell who does and who doesn't very easily, and the results are very clear that a positive mental attitude changes everything. I was fortunate enough to have a boss who believed in me, and who taught me many important things, but the one that has influenced the outcome of my life the most is this one: You cannot say "thank you" too many times.

Best of luck with the new series. Will be watching for it.

Thank you, Leslie, for the idea of an attitude adjustment. I find myself bogged down in the negative and I hope that reminding myself about the good things that happen will, if not bring more, at least make me more aware of them when they happen. (Gee, that sounds awfully negative, doesn't it?!)

I always read the acknowledgements. It is like a sneak peak! Once you know "Dave at Dave's guitars and more" has been thanked, I want to know for what.

I have been fortunate enough to be listed in the acknowledgements on a few books. I have always been glad to help. It is surprising sometimes. One was for a one sentence email.

I think two books were dedicated to my father, sadly, he never had the opportunity to read either one of them.

I am especially thankful to appear in "An Uplifting Murder" by Elaine. I am also thankful I am neither the corpse or the killer.

I read the credits at movies too. "Escape From New York" was filmed in St. Louis in the early 80's. In the credits is a thank you to Roxy's. You won't see any of Roxy's in the movie. Its a strip club ten minutes from where they built the sound stage.

I love acknowledgements, but if they go on too long I start wondering if the book is going to be boring! Ack!

Alan, my husband and I are always the last people to leave the movie theater. We stay to read all the credits!

Writing a novel is a group effort, and I try to mention everyone who helped me -- and feel terrible when I leave out someone.
Welcome, Leslie. Fun post.

How nice to turn on the computer to so many lovely comments!

Thank YOU, Ramona, for all the kind words and for your terrific work editing Fish Tales!

Karen, your mention of your boss reminded me of my first law job, at the Wash State Court of Appeals, where the Clerk of Court distributed paychecks himself, going to each little office and cubicle, and saying a genuine "thanks for your work." A great lesson. Thanks for the memory!

Sandi, awareness of our thinking is the first step in changing it! Try reading, or listening in your car, to The Power, by Rhonda Byrne. (Bonus: You may find yourself speaking with her Aussie accent!)

Alan, "Dave at Dave's Guitars!" You're exactly right -- I read that and want to know more! And whether the guitar shop in the book looks like Dave's, or the last one I was in!

Nancy, I just read some that were a mix of acknowledgments and historical notes, and really looong. But so's the book! Always, where to draw the line?!

Elaine, we met briefly at Bouchercon. So nice to be here!

Leslie, I love this blog! And I am stealing your acronym, so I want to start by saying thank you to you. I am a true believer in the power of expanding what we focus on, so thanks for the reminder.

I too read acknowledgments as if they're a key chapter in the book. So much fun.

Harley, NAPs for all!

Hi, Leslie!
I love this blog.
I like the term the woo-woo factor because I really believe in NAP and thanking people.
I do not consciously connect things that make good Karma but recently I handed a book to a new acquaintance and she lit up and was so happy. I gave a verbal blurb to her and found myself happy as well.
Later that day I discovered a new author on a site that featured one of my favorite authors. Of course, I downloaded the novel being that I am now a download maven and was thrilled to begin reading a wonderful story.
We are all connected and I thank my lucky stars to be able to be able to have happy reading experiences.

That's the truth Leslie. The more you give the more you will receive.
And it is the little things to notice every day and say or think thank you for that keep us going.
You sound like a wonderful positive person.
NAPs for all! My new motto!

Love the concept of NAPs, and I've been a strong believer in the Law of Attraction for a long time now.

I too read the acknowledgement pages first, or at least early on. They give me a small connection to the author, and then I feel somehow more comfortable reading the book, like I'm visiting a friend, new or familiar.

Of course there was the time when my partner and I were acknowledged, and the author was pleased that we got to see it in the ARC, 'cause she mis-named my Lillian "Lucile". It got fixed in the final copy, and Lillian still teases me about "Lucile" -- "On my down to pick you up, better send Lucile packing!" and things like that.

Me too. Each page. Word. Captions. Everything. Feels sinful to skip. But I'm always secretly glad to be through the acknowledgements if they last more than a page. Then I feel guilty. Then I start to wonder if I'm going to feel like this all the way through the book. If it goes on for 3 or more pages I start to check the binding or wonder if I could shrink wrap the box of discs . . . but usually I plow on at least 3 pages into the story, and it's almost always worth it.

Good to meet you here, Leslie!

I like your post. It's a reminder that there are many blessed good things around, even if it's hard to see sometimes. I read all the acknowledgements because it makes the author a person to me. What was moving was to read any number of books acknowledging Ruth Cavin, an editor who died this year. And then to recognize some of the friends and reading groups that shared that author's world. Welcome.

Marie, Xena, good point about making connections. The Universe repays our acts of kindness, though sometimes indirectly. Like the insurance ad where a person witnesses an act of kindness and is inspired to do something small but useful for someone else later. The Universe is one big circle!

Fran, that moment of connection with the author. Nice, isn't it? Ah yes, Reine, listening to a book IS a different experience than reading the physical page. Lil, you're right: all those references to Ruth Cavin are really touching -- and demonstrate the huge effect one person can have. Isn't it fun -- and enouraging -- to see how many established authors still depend on their critique groups or partners and "first readers"?

I always read the acknowledgements, credits, whatever is in the front of the book. It can be a way of getting to know the author and may even hint at writing style. I doubt I will ever be in the front of a book! The only thing I don't read is if the author gives a list of songs listened to while writing the book, that one is just odd to me.

Gaylin, that's a new one to me! Were the songs in the book, too?

I usually don't read the acknowledgments until I'm finished with the book and the reason is a reluctance to let the book end. It's the same reason I love series, characters I've come to care about because of the story, but more because of how the author shares them, are hard to give up at the end of the novel.

Leslie, thank you so much for the link to your Books, Crooks and Counselors. I ordered it immediately because the way you've laid it out it will be a great quick reference and a fun read. So I was sold by your table of contents and by the blurbs that recommend it (thank you Nancy M.). For me there is no better recommendation than that of an author whose books I enjoy. The sensibilities are known and trusted!

I always read the acknowledgements, and I almost have second thoughts about whether I really want to read a book that doesn't have them. As already stated by someone else, the acknowledgements make the author seem like a real person.

I ALWAYS read all the movie credits, which really annoys a small goup of people that I sometimes go to the movies with. It's the main reason I go in my own car and meet them there. There's a lot of eye rolling and "She INSISTS on knowing the names of everyone involved in making the movie." My feeling is that the movie could not have been made without the efforts of all the people named. I can think of more than one movie in which the action continued the entire time the credits were rolling, and the only people who know how the movie really ended are the ones who stayed to the very end. I remember a couple of people saying that they did not understand the ending of a particular movie; that's because they left before the credits were done!

No Leslie, the songs or music are not mentioned in the books. I know I have read 2 or 3 authors who include song lists, don't quite understand what it has to do with the book.

Same here, Deb. I took my three daughters to see Mona Lisa Smile, and made them stand in the aisle and watch the photos behind the credits because they informed the movie context and the era so perfectly. None of them were aware of how far we'd come in such a short time.

Thanks, Carol. I hope Books & Crooks is helpful -- do let me knoow! And yes, I can understand saving the acknowledgments for the end. Like dessert. :) There's always a risk that reading them first will give something away, but more often, they're a bit like an appetizer! (I think I'm stuck with food metaphors for years to come!)

Deb, too funny! One of many reasons my husband and I knew we were meant for each other is that we stay in the theater until the screen goes black!

Thanks, TLC, for inviting me today. It's been fun!

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