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Story First - Guest Post by Scott Graham, Author of the National Park Mystery Series


For a decade now, I’ve had a terrific time researching and writing my seven-books-and-counting National Park Mystery Series for environmental publisher Torrey House Press. I’ve learned one overarching lesson in that time: always put the story first.


In my first couple of book manuscripts, I fell into the trap of lecturing about the environmental issues I wanted to share with my audience. Fortunately, my early readers let me know how boring—in fact, how grating—those parts of my manuscripts were, and back to work I went.


I knew my mysteries first had to entertain readers—that is, my mysteries first had to be read by readers—if they were to inform readers. But achieving that goal turned out to be quite a challenge.


The problem was, and is, that I love the research I do for my books, so much so that I’m always tempted to dump into my books everything I’ve learned, to the detriment of the tales I’m telling.


To cure that problem, I’ve learned to keep the words of famously spare, and therefore endlessly entertaining, author Elmore Leonard at the forefront of my mind. In Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing, No. 10 is “Leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”


For my mysteries, following Leonard’s tenth rule means, above all else, no sermonizing. Rather, I’ve learned to slip environmental information into my stories as surreptitiously as possible, avoiding large narrative blocks and, instead, sharing information with readers through dialogue between my characters.


The result, I hope, is information that is presented naturally, through the voices of my characters, resulting in readers who are entertained and also informed about the environmental issues our national parks face.

Scott Graham is the National Outdoor Book Award-winning author of the National Park Mystery Series for Torrey House Press. Canyonlands Carnage, No. 7 in the series, is a finalist for the 2022 Colorado Book Award.


Here's a quick description:

When suspicious deaths befall a whitewater rafting expedition through Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, archaeologist Chuck Bender and his family recognize evil intent lies behind the tragedies. They must risk their lives and act before the murderer makes an already deadly journey on the Colorado River through Utah's red rock wilderness even deadlier—or turns on them instead.


Visit scottfranklingraham.com to learn more and order his books.

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