Monday, June 17, 2013

Implicate, Vindicate, Dedicate

By Deborah Sharp

For such a short prose snippet, book dedications sure take a lot of effort. Or, at least they do for me. I've agonized over how -- and to whom --  to dedicate each of my Mace Bauer Mysteries. ''Mama Gets Trashed'' will come out in September, and the dedication for that one, my fifth, didn't come any easier than the rest.

Given the title of TRASHED, my own mother is probably grateful she was already recognized with this dual dedication in Book No.1, way back in 2008:

To the original Mama, Marion Sharp, and to my husband, Kerry Sanders.
 I love you both to pieces.

 Since I didn't know if there would be a Book No. 2, I decided to economize and honor both my mama and my honey in that first dedication. I've always loved a two-for-one deal. Family members seem to be the most common dedicatees by far. That's not to say all dedications to our loved ones are exactly loving. Glam-shock rocker Marilyn Manson had this to say in the autobiography he dedicated to his parents in 1998:

May God forgive them for bringing them into this world. 

And,  of course, any number of messy divorces and bitter split-ups can make a once-fond dedication read like a parody. After F. Scott Fitzgerald penned these words on the dedication page of Great Gatsby, don't you wonder if he came to regret it? 

Once again to Zelda

Do authors with multiple titles have it any easier? Is it like picking names from a hat to decide who you'll honor with Book No. 12 or 20? Agatha Christie started off her prolific career dedicating to her mum, and then got around to all sorts of people, including some friends whose swimming pool stood in for the scene of one of her many murders. George R.R. Martin, whose epic series became the stunningly popular HBO show Game of Thrones (among other things), gave a shout-out to a fellow fantasy author when he wrote the dedication for this book:

For Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in. 

No word as to whether Phyllis Eisenstein would have preferred that Martin mention her last name so his zillions of fans could more easily Google her. 

I posed a couple of questions about dedications on Facebook recently, as I struggled with one for my new book. The first thing I wanted to know is whether they're even important. Overwhelmingly, authors and readers said yes. Some prefer that dedications maintain some mystery; others like more specific information as a window into the writer's life. I love funny dedications, like children's author Spike Milligan's: 

This book is dedicated to my bank balance. 

Even so, I've never written a knee-slapper, even though my series is humorous. In fact, one of my book dedications can still make me cry. My younger brother died while I was writing my third book, Mama Rides Shotgun. My dedication for that one was more a memoriam: 

To my brother, Kevin Sharp ... gone too soon, just like Daddy. With strong hearts in heaven, I hope they're knocking those baseballs out of the park. 

How about you? Do you read dedications or skip them? Do you have a favorite one? 


Shannon Baker said...

I always read dedications. I love that little snippet of the author.

Lois Winston said...

Deborah, like you, I find dedications harder and harder to write with each book. There are just so many people who deserve to have a book dedicated to them, and once you've covered all of them, what then? Repeat? I think that's why some authors skip them altogether.

Beth Groundwater said...

I read them, because they give us a little glimpse of the emotional life of the author. With five books and a novella out, I've gone through all the obvious ones: my spouse, parents (my dedication to them made them cry), children, etc. For FATAL DESCENT, I finally got around to thanking and reaching out to the "river rat" community, many members of which have helped me with my research:

"To river guides everywhere, a hardy breed who labor long hours with little pay to provide river runners with a safe and fun experience."

Deborah Sharp said...

Beth: I've acknowledged the townsfolk of Okeechobee in each of my books, figuring that's their shout-out for being muses.
Lois: I think it might be weird to skip a dedication after doing several, but I'll let you know if I ever make it to Book 10 ;-)
Shannon: Do you do them in your books, too?

Catriona McPherson said...

John Lescroart dedicates every book to "my bride, Lisa Sawyer" aka his wife of 20 odd years. And makes all other married writers look bad!

I've published 10 and am in no danger of running out of people yet - although one was in memory of Elvis, right enough. said...

My first few books were dedicated to family members. Sadly, I've lost so many good friends in recent years, I've dedicated the last few books to them.

I always read the dedications. But then I also read the ISBN codes on the copyright page.