Saturday, April 30, 2011

Vincent Zandri has sold 100,000 ebooks in 60 days.

That's 100 THOUSAND books in sixty days.

Sumbitch, brother!

Now Vincent works his ass off promoting his books. There's no question about it. And I stand in absolute admiration at both his efforts and successes (and maybe a little jealousy as well?). But interestingly, in his blog, he mentions that his publisher, Stonegate Publishing, had the right juju in selling ebooks--apparently more so than other ebook publishers.

So that got me to thinking. How does one indie publisher absolutely excel at selling their books and promoting their authors, while others just shuffle along and seemingly only go through the motions of selling books? I mean you have some indie publishers simply beating the bejesus out of their competition. Other publishers in the ebook business just tread water.

Take Untreed Reads, for instance. A San Francisco publishing house that does only ebooks. They are one of those 'beat the bejesus out of the others' kind of houses I mentioned. They offer their books in a plethora of different bookselling sites around the world. And they are successful. Very successful. (a publishing house soon to bring out one of my Turner Hahn/Frank Morales novels, by the way)


Don't all ebook publishers jump into the same swimming pool more or less wearing the same bathing suit? Each one has the tools in front of them to succeed or fail. Yet so few seem to really succeed while hundreds of start-up ebook publishers flash into existence for a year or two and then fade away.

Trestle Press is a new company. It's head honcho is a guy by the name of Giovanni Gelati. Full of piss and vinegar (and Giovanni, if you're reading this--that's a compliment). Has a thousand ideas about publishing. Asked me to submit a lot of my stuff--and be damn if it wasn't up and on Amazon in a matter of days. I'm excited to be one of his early writer/authors. I've got a feeling Trestle Press is going to be a stellar performer.

Let's hope so. I'm busting my ass trying to write the material he wants. His success is my success. And yes, brother, it's about damn time I saw some success in this gig.

It's been a long time coming.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Evil Wins Out

Question: Why do noir/hardboiled readers prefer the bad guy over the good guy?

I pick up on this more and more. The more I write about 'Smitty,' my black-eyed, coldly efficient killer, the more people say they love reading about him. He's not just a killer. He's not just one deminsional in nature. There's some twists and turns in his persona that you necessarily wouldn't expect.

On the other hand, I have two characters who are the good guys. Turner Hahn and Frank Morales. Homicide detectives. As tough as anyone out there. Smarter than most. They too have their personality quirks which sets them apart from smiliar characters found in the genre. And they have their fans, to be sure.

But, sadly--and quite curiously--not nearly like the fans for Smitty.

So what's going on here? Why do fans root for the bad guy more so than the good guy? What kind of deep psycho-babble is going on here? Do we really prefer our bad buys to win out? Does that say something about all of us; that maybe . . . just maybe . . . all of us want to get down and dirty with the world around us and get away way with it?

To play honest and fair in a world not so honest and fair, takes significantly more strength, as well as restraint, than being dishonest. You would think Turner and Frank would be more admired for getting down and dirty sometimes in solving their cases. But nope. So far the pendulum swings the other way.

We much prefer seeing Smitty use his switch-blade on someone. Or plug someone between the eyes with a silenced .22 caliber Ruger. Or use enough plastique explosives to take out a Caddy filled with mobsters. Do the hit with no regrets. No bad feelings. No hesitations.

And ask for more.

Which, I'll admit, in the end is okay by me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A few 'suggestions' when it comes to writing hardboiled

Yesterday a good friend, Joyce Juzwik, wrote a guest blog in here concerning the ten 'rules' a writer had to observe in order to write hardboiled or noir fiction. If you read the blog you had to notice Joyce had some clear objections to the rules. I did too.

Hard clad 'rules' are always made to be broken. Along comes that unusually gifted and talented writer, and 'rules' go out the window. I, for one, would never be so presumptious as to set down a set of rules for writers to follow. One reason being that, hey . . . how many readers have heard of my illustrious name? (answer--maybe my wife; a couple of good friends. And bill collectors. That's it, buddy!)

But if I may, let me offer a few 'suggestions.'

One: Don't be afraid to write. Write every day. Experiment. Play with words. Make a fool of yourself. Sooner or later it'll start to make sense. To click. And voila! You've found a style you can call all your own.

Two:Related to the above somewhat, don't be afraid to out-and-out copy the masters. You gotta start somewhere, so starting out writing a story that sounds like Earl Derr Biggers (the creator of Charlie Chan)or any writer you admire,
can't be all bad. Just remember, though--the goal is not to become a second Earl Derr Biggers but to begin the process of finding your own road to travel down.

Three:Make the opening chapter, the opening two pages, absolutely mind-boggling. The goal is to capture the reader's interest and never let'em go. Do it immediately. And keep building on it all the way to the end.

Four: Yes indeedy--introduce the killer(s) as early as you can in the story. But disguise them. Throw them into a gaggle of other geese who, each one of them, have just as much a reason to be the bad guy as the next schmuck.

Five: Don't be afraid of sub plots. Sub plots that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the main plot. But make them key on some trait of the hero/bad guy. Making the hero/bad guy more of a complex character helps keep the reader's interest keyed up. Subplots are built for that.

Six: Pay attention to dialogue. Make it sound as real as possible. But for god's sakes . . don're rely on dialogue to carry the entire novel down the road without other foils to help out. A novel with nothing but dialogue is about as worthless as an empty beer keg. And just as depressing.

Seven: If you're thinking about writing a series (and aren't we all?) pay attention in writing the last chapter. The last few pages. Wrap up the action--but don't make it 'final,' if you get my drift.

Eight:Finally, whenever you find someone who wants to give you a set of rules on how to write, turn around and run like hell in the OPPOSITE direction. Following'rules' is the best way in the world to stiffle creativity. Hell, we have lit agents and book reviewers for that task. Let's not deprive them of their miserly little pleasures in life.

Hey! Are you running yet? No? Why the hell not?!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Joyce Juzwik is a good friend of mine. A fellow writer who dabbles, often and with huge amounts of talent, into the fine art of the macabre. Bloody tales of the strange and twisted. She is a good friend. But her writing is . . . well . . . devoted to those who love to read about bad people doing bloody deeds.

Just the kind of writer I like.

She was gracious enough to accept a guest-blogging role here today. And she came up with some interesting rules about writing in the mystery genre. See if you agree with them. Or disagree.


During my travels through various writing sites, I noticed several of them mentioned rules that should be followed whenever writing a crime fiction/noir novel. While there were minor differences in phraseology, the supposed ‘rules’ were pretty consistent. Let’s explore each of these.

1. Whoever your killer is, make sure you let your readers meet him or her early on. You don’t want them to pop up out of nowhere late in the story.

I’m not certain I even understand this. Generally speaking, with crime fiction, there is an element of mystery involved. Are they saying you should reveal the identity of your killer as ’the’ killer or just allow the reader to get to know the character early on, but not let on what he or she has done or is planning to do? Since I’m not clear on what this actually means, I’m also not clear on how this is to be accomplished.

2. At least one murder should occur within the first three chapters.

Here I totally agree. When I’m reading a crime novel, if the bodies aren’t piling up by the end of Chapter 3, I’m done with it. At the risk of sounding psychotic here, if your novel includes one or more murders, I do feel the first one, at a minimum, should occur fairly early on. Locales, characters, basic storyline, all critical elements, but it comes down to the crime after all. Right?

3. Don’t include offensive crimes.

Regarding this rule, mention was made of the subjects of rape, child molestation and cruelty of animals being strictly taboo. While I cannot agree that any subject should be regarded as forbidden, I will agree that there are some that require handling in a tactful and sensitive manner. If any of these types of occurrences are relevant to the storyline, they should be included. However, make sure they are relevant. Don’t add these, or any other form of cruelty simply for shock value. That’s the lazy way out and requires no writing talent of any kind.

4. The crime has to be believable.

What? I’m not sure where this came from. It’s a sad state of affairs, but in the world today, unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of limits to what people will do to each other. Perhaps it refers to not including anything supernatural or a comic book type of crime, whatever that may be. I could use some clarification here.

5. Research when necessary.

Now on this one, I agree 200%. Whether it concerns a particular location you are using or your weapon of choice, make sure you incorporate accurate information. If the city in your novel is fictional, go wild with your street names, businesses and what have you. But if your city is an existing one, you’d better make sure your directions from such and such restaurant to so and so hotel in the downtown area are perfect. You never know. One of your readers might have been born right down the street from there. Even if none of your readers have ever been near your city of choice, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, somehow it shows. I can’t explain it, but as a reader, I don’t have to be an expert in any particular field to know when the writer’s been too lazy to look at a map. The same goes for weapons and especially areas of science. With documentaries on every night of the week discussing DNA and ballistics, inaccuracies will be spotted in a heartbeat. Nothing will turn a reader off a writer quicker than that. Make up your characters, make up your plot, but the things you take from the real world, make sure you keep them real.

6. Don’t reveal the identity of your killer too soon.

I’m not sure, but doesn’t this sort of contradict Item #1? Regardless, I’m not sure this should be a hard and fast rule. I mean, remember my favorite detective, Columbo? You knew within the first five minutes of the show who the killer was, but how their guilt was discovered was the point of the show. The motivation was sometimes revealed at the onset or fully explained at the end, but the killer’s identity was never in question. I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be workable in a novel, but it would require careful planning and appropriate presentation.

7. The killer must be capable of the crime.

I don’t believe this refers specifically to the criminal being physically up to whatever activity you have planned. I believe this may refer to him or her being psychologically and/or emotionally capable of committing a particular crime. While we can choose to make any of our characters break the law, before we choose the crime they are to commit, we need to examine who we’ve created. What kind of person is this? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their fears? For instance, if you’ve included something about a character’s childhood where they were traumatically scarred by being locked in a dark closet, don’t have them waiting for their victim in a pitch-black alley. I know that’s an oversimplification, but I hope you see what I’m getting at. We shouldn’t have our character who’s terrified of fire commit an arson, or if we have one who knows they’re a bleeder get involved in a knife fight and risk being injured in the struggle. Makes no sense. Make sure the crime fits the criminal and vice versa.

8. Start the action early on and keep it going strong.

Here, I agree to a point. While I will admit there is nothing more tedious than reading 10 or 15 pages of thoughts, there is also something very annoying about reading page after page of chases and fights, without really understanding the individuals involved in these confrontations and the motivations for them. I don’t need to know the details of every second of every day of a character’s life, but I do need backstory on how they came to end up where they are at the point the story takes place. I need to know who they have relationships with, what those relationships are like, how other characters fit into their lives and so on. Without well-defined characters, the plot is useless. Just be careful not to go overboard. A chase or fight here and there keeps me turning the pages.

9. Don’t make your good guy the villain.

All I have to say to this is why not? Isn’t that half the fun, having someone who is trusted and seemingly on the side of right and justice turn out to be evil incarnate? I believe that kind of twist adds a lot of flavor to a story. This individual appears supportive and sympathetic to the survivors or victim’s families, totally cooperative with law enforcement, but behind the mask? Only the victims see what’s really there and that’s right before they die. How exciting a storyline that would make.

10. Introduce your crime solver early on.

Lastly, again, why? Referring to TV shows again, take Murder, She Wrote. You knew crime writer, Jessica Fletcher, was going to solve the crime. With Columbo, you knew he was going to catch the guilty party. This works out fine if your central character is a particular detective or PI, and the story is geared around this specific individual. Then again, there are occasions where a character who has no connection whatsoever with the police or any such area either witnesses a crime or ends up being falsely accused of one and solves it to clear their name. A scenario like that can work very well and I think would pull the reader in nicely as well, since it would involve a ‘regular’ person on the trail of a killer. Imagine the danger they’d be in and the tremendous risks they’d be taking because they wouldn’t have any real resources available to them. The reader could imagine themselves in that situation and think, now, what would I do, or how would I handle that? It certainly would hold their interest.

Okay. We’ve gone through all the so-called ‘rules’ for writing crime fiction. I’ve told you how I feel about them. What about you? Are you naughty or nice? Do you follow these rules or break them every chance you get? Do you feel there should even be rules like these or any others? I believe the word ‘rules’ shouldn’t even come into play here. ‘Helpful guidelines’ maybe, but never ‘rules’. When our minds create, there shouldn’t be any restrictions or limitations on what we imagine. Now, THAT would be a real crime!

BIO: J.F. Juzwik has had a crime fiction novel and a six-part children’s fantasy series published by DiskUsPublishing and a horror short included in the anthology Deathgrip: The Legacy, published by Hellbound Books. Her crime fiction/noir stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, and Crooked. She blogs about writing crime and horror, and her blog also contains numerous flash pieces and the occasional review.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Question: How do you create a character who is as ice-cold as a cadaver when it comes to killing someone--yet one who actually posseses a conscience?

Or put it another way, in a sea of hit-men/assassin killer types found floating around face down in the dark waters called hardboiled, how do you create a character who is different. Different--unique--sympathetic.

A challenge. And that's putting it mildly. But one I wanted to try out one day on a kind of a spur-of-the-moment writing exercise. And . . . I'll be go to hell . . .what popped up on the screen was a guy named Smitty. Fully developed. Mean as back alley Wolverine with an aching tooth--with the black eyes of a pit viper who took in everything and anything in one glance. Reticent in speech--yet rather eloquent in his reticence.

One mean sonofabitch. That's Smitty. Yet . . .

Read the stories closely and you discover Smitty only takes out those justly deserving to be taken out. He's like the grim Angel of Death coming to collect his due among the miscreants and sadistic. And he does it spectacularly. Guns, poisons, explosives--even the front end of an F-150 Ford truck. It doesn't matter. When Smitty sets his eyes on you as his next prey--buddy, you're as good as dead.

Ah. But now, how to make him sympathetic? Make him someone from the dark side who you wind up willingly . . . or unwillingly . . . rooting for? Therein lies the McGuffin, as Alfred Hitchock used to say concerning his films. There's the catch that hooks the reader. And the answer is; I haven't a fraken' clue. It just happened.

One day Smitty was born in the back of my subconscious. He came out like some god of Greek mythology; sprung from the sea fully formed and magnificent to behold. But a god clearly hailing form the shadowy lands of Hades.

Take him for what he is, kid. The guy really does get under your skin and makes you want to read more about him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Make It Familiar To The Reader

Yesterday we talked about getting the weapons right. Today let's talk about adding little things into the story that a reader can instantly identify and feel comfortable knowing they are there.

I have two characters named Turner Hahn and Frank Morales. Homicide detectives. One of them, Turner, fell into a pot load of money from an inheritance. So he indulges in his hobby of buying old American made muscle cars and rebuilding them himself.

His favorite is a '67 Shelby Mustang 350.

But he has others. And throughout the novel(s) he and his partner exchange rides and drive a different car. The cars, predictably, become magnets to a lot of readers and keep them involved with the story. I planned this from the beginning. I knew this would happen--and sure enough, from the comments I've heard from a few who have read the stories, the muscle cars do exactly what I thought they would.

Readers identify themselves with the cars. They've had one in their past; their father or mother had one. A friend had one when he was a teenager and they had balls of fun with it.

What it does is rekindle old memories. Past times.

And rekindling old memories make the cars become magnets. Or, more likely, sticks of glue. They stick the reader into the story and make it more personal. Which is, frankly, what a good writer should endeavor to do. Not just write a story. But write a story and make it personal. Make it 'his' or 'her' story. 'Cause I gotta tell'ya; make a story personal and you've hooked that reader for life. They'll come back over and over again to read more of your stuff.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Right Weapon for the Right Job


Writing noir or hardboiled they're important. Very important. Conversely, that's where a lot of writers screw the pooch . . . to use a quaint little American phrase. Ya' gotta get the right weapon in the right hands. And then ya' gotta make sure there are no incongruities.

Like thumbing off the safeties on a Smith & Wesson revolver. Or using a hand weapon--any form of pistol--in a firefight that has ranges farther than . . . say . . . the length of a livingroom. Little things like that. It's amazing how it can drive an afficionado of the genre into fits of a screaming dispair.

I know. Made that mistake. Heard about. Forcefully and in no uncertain terms.

Little things. It's the little things a fan picks up and nags about the most. If you've established a character, and if the story line is humming along nicely, it's the little nitpicking things a fan will hone onto like acqusition radars on an F-14 Tomcat. Nail you to the wall. Skin you with a dull knife and hang the hide out to dry.

And they should. Listen to'em. They'll make you a better writer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Heather Toye and I both are authors working in the stable of authors at Trestle Press. Trestle Press is a publisher currently building up an ebook empire of new and dynamic writers. The publishing house is relatively new--the authors are new and exciting. And we all want to push our names out there and to make the person who signed us up successful as well.

Heather's genre is similar to what I write--but different as well. It's that difference in writing styles which makes the world of books so exciting for readers.

Try this little piece I lifed off her blog. I think you'll like it.

Debtor's Chip: Devin Excerpt

The fire crackles and smolders in the rusty metal barrel. Smoke drifts towards the night sky. He slides his hand into his pocket and grasps the only thing he has left besides the clothes on his back. Its smooth surface and rounded edges reminds him. It reminds him of how he came to be here, huddled among the four other homeless people trying to get warm on this bitter winter night.

The bitter cold matches how he feels inside. A lump of disgust rises in his throat. This only possession he managed to keep seems to freeze him to the bone. No longer able to stand the weight of this small disc, he brings it out of his pocket intent on thrusting it into the fire.

“Well, what have you got there?” The husky voice slipped like honey out of the woman’s mouth. He looked furtively at her from the corner of his eye, briefly thinking she may have been beautiful once.

“Mind your own,” he grumbled. “It’s none of your concern.”

She glimpsed the white disc he was about to toss into the flame, and brought out its twin from her own pocket. “It looks a lot like mine, wouldn’t you say?”

He turned a paler shade than white and slumped to his knees. “My God,” he croaked, “how many of us has he ruined?”

“Looks like five that we know of, including you, that is,” came the reply from a smallish man that to Devin largely resembled a weasel.

Five… five… five… the number echoed through his mind. Should he feel relieved, knowing that this has happened to others? Or saddened, knowing his was not the only life ruined. At this moment, he could only feel a sort of numbness sweep through his body. Maybe I’ve been in the cold too long.

He stood once again, shaking. Shaking from the cold, shaking from this knowledge gained. His head bowed, he spoke, “So, every one of us here tonight has one? We all have the Debtor’s Chip?”

A man that looked to be in his sixties spoke up. “Share your story, then we will tell you our tales of misery.”

Devin looked at the four others who shared this space around the fire barrel. “I guess it starts with this,” he held the chip up for the others to see. They all nodded their heads knowingly and waited for the tale to unfold.

Monday, April 18, 2011

People We Think We Know

I have a book out called Death of a Young Lieutenant. About an art thief who, in the opening days of World War One, is asked by his commanding officer to prove the innocence of junior officer accused of murder. Two problems instantly arise. One, there's a war going on. You may not know this, but in the first two and a half weeks of World War One it looked as if the armies of the Kaiser was going to consume all of France in one mighty gulp of military appetite. How the war eventually evolved into stalemate through trench warfare wasn't very apparent in the opening days of the conflict.

The second problem is Jake Reynolds, the officer asked to become a sleuth, is an art thief. Perhaps the wrong person to ask to prove someone's innocence since he is, by definition, a felon himself.

And this is the blog's main theme today; the people we think we know. This novel--the entire series I want to write--came into being because of someone I thought I knew. Knew all my life. Saw him on a daily basis. Liked the guy, enjoyed being in his company. And never thought for one minute the man was anything else other than what he appeared to be.

But the old boy was hiding secrets from those that knew him. Big secrets.

He'd been in World War II. Had combat citation ribbons that would run down his chest if he put his old uniform on. Medals, for heroism, from two different countries. And lots of medals at that. Did absolutely fantastic things in the war--things writers like Robert Ludlum or Ian Fleming would have made fortunes writing about. In short; the man was an honest-to-god, GEN-U-INE . . . HERO.

And nobody knew. Nobody knew.

So I have to wonder; how many more of those like my old friend are out there? When . . or if . . . are we going to hear their stories? And they don't have to be heroes. They could be monsters. Geunine, horrible, nightmarish monsters who--for some reason or another--have straightened up and are honest abiding citizens. For now.

The Jake Reynolds series is dedicated to these people. The heores and monsters of the world who keep their secrets well hidden. All the way to their deaths.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Trip Wire

Okay, here's the question of the day: you're a writer. A writer of ebooks. And obviously you want to sell'em. So you begin social networking. Find sites all over the internet that works for you and you make your presence known. You constantly update. You continuously 'friend' for new friends.

The question is this . . . When? When does this active social networking gig begin to pay off? What trip-wire has to be stumbled over before there is a sudden bounce in sales and a sharp rise in fans buyng your books that feeds on itself for a long period of time?

Vincent Zandri and J.A. Konrath come to mind when I think about this. They sell thousands of their books a month. A MONTH!! That's impressive to say the least. Mind-boggling is more like it. It literately just boggles the mind.

So did they do it just be social networking?

Konrath has said repeatedly his previous writing gig with big publishers didn't help him in the least when it came to selling ebooks. Vincent Zandri is not so sure. I asked him that very question the other day on a--get this--social network site and he said he thought his previous exposure had to have helped some.

I have a sneaking suspicion there's more to it than just social networking. Like it has always been . . . and always will be . . .I think you have to be in the right place and at the right time to be 'discovered.' And like always--a huge amount of pure, unadultered blind LUCK comes into play.

Social networking. Hard work. Exposure. And fricken' blind luck makes the successful writer. I can do the first three. It's the LUCK thing that bugs me.

How do you stumble into blind luck?

Friday, April 15, 2011

So the other day I was watching Turner Classics and fell into watching Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake and William Bendix in Dashiell Hammitt's 'The Glass Key.' Black and white photography. Lots of odd angles, dark shadows. Good stuff, Maynard.

Hard boiled film making at its best. Partially due, I suggest, because it was filmed way back when the majority of films were done in black and white. There's something about the medium of film work sans color that is just naturally made for noir/hardboiled material.

The shadows seem more menacing. The play of light across a person's face more distinct. It's like the absense of color automatically creates mood and innuendo. But when you throw in great actors and actresses, well brother . . . it can't get any better.

For years there's been critics who claim Veronica Lake wasn't much of an actress. Sorry. Wrong there, buddy. That face of her's--that long blond hair. The way she could deliver her lines in a monotone voice that wasn't quite so monotone. No, I say just the opposite; I think Vernoica Lake was a great actress for this genre. Tough--yet vulnerable.

Matched up with Alan Ladd and the two were a great combo. Ladd was the perfect tough guy. Smart, cool, tough as saddle leather. The epitome of what a tough gumshoe should be.

William Bendix was probably the more versatile of the lot. He could play tough. He could play the bumbling fool. He could play the bad guy. Maybe not very well known to movie buffs of today. But you should know him. Bendix was the best second-fiddle in show business.

'The Glass Key' was very good. But if you ever get a chance to see Ladd and Bendix and . . . I think . . . Lake in 'The Blue Dahlia' (a script written by Raymond Chandler) don't pass it by. Watch it. It's fabulous.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Smitty two-novella set

So it's done. A two-novella piece featuring Smitty, my dark eyed assassin. The first novel is entitled A Dish Best Served Cold. It's about revenge, toying with the minds of one's intended victims, metering out justice in a world filled with injustice.

In short, a revenge story. But more than that. I wanted to experiment. I wanted to see if I could fold a little of Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne style of multiple-characters, multiple-scenes, switching back and fourth from one scene to the next kind of writing. My own interpretation of that kind of writing. I wanted to know if I could make it dramatic enough. Compelling. Creating a need for the reader to hurriedly read and turn the page in order to find out what happened next. Did I succeed?

Hell if I know.

The second piece of the two piece set is called A Killing Kiss. Smitty is asked to protect the recentely widowed wife of a crime syndicate head man, and her baby son, from the circling wolves of the husband's henchmen. Henchmen who are beginning to decide the question on who takes over being the top dog.

Writing this one was a toughie. It had to follow A Dish Best Served Cold. If the first story is as strong as I think it is, well . . . the tendency is for the second piece to fall flat on its face. Can't match the pacing and tension of the first. But I dunno, I dunno, I dunno . . .

You see, I think it did.

It has lots of action. Lots of depth of emotions emanating from all the main characters. Even a complex puzzle as to who actually killed the syndicate's founding father. But I dunno . . . The only way I will know for sure if both are as good as I think they are is wait and see if someone buys it, reads it, and let's me know.

And the act of waiting, baby, for me is a bitch. A real bitch

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How do you write hardboiled/noir? First person--that is, through the eyes and in the voice of the main character as they live through the moment? Or in third person--becoming the all seeing, all knowing omnisicent voice that takes the reader by the hand and escorts them through the story.

It's an issue I still struggle with on a daily basis. In one series I tell the story through the eyes and voice of one of the characters: Turner Hahn. He's a cop. A cop who has his strengths and weaknesses. He's very bright--but he's not all knowing. Sometimes he and his partner misses clues. Doesn't interview the right witnesses. Ask's the wrong questions.

Another character I write is an accomplished assassin named Smitty. Here is the third-person voice; the all seeing observer who is privy to everyone's thoughts and words. You feel his confidence. You admire his skills. You anticipate what might happen next.

Both work. Both have their own advantages. But I'm confused.

First person gets you in the head of the characters. I mean--right down there in the mud and slime and body fluids. You smell what he smells. Feel the emotions he feels. See the gun come up and aim at you from out of a dark alley. It seems to me, when I think about it, that this is the perfect format for hardboiled/noir. You are there when they discover the piece of evidence that turns an entire case on top of its ears.

Yet taking the second route in telling a story--if done properly--can scare the hell out of a reader. You can set the reader up for traps and sudden surprises. You know what's coming as the writer. The reader doesn't. And I have to admit it's fun. Fun scaring the bejesus out of a reader. Throwing something at them that make's them sit up and yelp in delight or in dismay.

But which style is better? I haven't a clue.

So I guess I'll use both.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A great series . . . deserving a far greater following

Not noir. Nothing hardboiled about it.

No, this series is about as far from the dark alleys and back streets of a modern big city as you can get. You have to go back about 1,800 years to a land far, far away. Pre-samurai medieval Japan in the 8th century.

I.J. Parker writes a wonderful historical detective series. She writes about Sugwara Akitada--a young, middle-level Japanese government official with an interest in solving complex crimes. Specifically solving complex murder cases. And each case is fascinating. A blend of wonderful Oriental history, fine portraits of people facing terrible fates, a fascinating sense of looking through the lens of a time machine back to a place long forgotten.

Wonderful books. Great reads. She has a following of devout readers who can't wait for the next book to come out. But . . . . strangely . . . mainstream mystery fans don't know her. And the question is . . .


Why does a wonderful talent like this go so mysteriously unnoticed? Why isn't she as well known a dozen or more writers we could name off in seconds. I'm confused. Saddened. As a writer I often stand back and just marvel at the talent so many others have. Talent that makes my limited efforts so amateurish in comparison. Yet here she is. As good as the best. And better, in fact, that some of those better known.

Maybe it's Fate. A bad case of Karma. The gods throwing the dice of fame for her and coming up empty handed. Whatever it is I hope it changes. She deserves better.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

We all need heroes in our lives


We all need them. We may not admit it. We may laugh at the idea if asked. But deep down . . . deep down we all need heroes in our lives. Male or female--real or fiction--it really doesn't matter. We need'em.

All of us get slung around in this ocean we call Life. We're sitting in the middle of a small rowboat getting tossed around like a cork riding the cresting waves of a hurricane. We hold on. We call out in the night. In our own fashions we pray for deliverance.

We want a hero to save us.

I think in the genre called harboiled/nor that's exactly what happens when a character comes along a reader identifies with. They've found a hero. Or heroes. They've found a persona that does things they could never do in reality. They resist. They fight back. And sometimes . . . they win. Win against impossible odds.

That's the motivating factor for the creation of three of my fictional characters. Smitty . . . Turner Hahn and Frank Morales. Smitty is a hit man. Dark and bloody. But he is, indeed, a hero. A grim, dark, vengeful hero maybe. But he does things only others dream about. He is good in his job--and he wins.

Turner Hahn and Frank Morales are my two homicide detectives. Cops, honest and open, working a thankless job in a city filled with crime and corruption. Two honest, tough hombres who try to hold back the night. Who actually believe that the concepts of Law and Justice are concepts worth fighting for.

Sometimes they win. Sometimes they lose.

But without question . . . they are heroes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An interview

I had an interview on Giovanni Gelati's blogtalk radio show, The G-Zone. Giovanni is also Trestle Press, the publishing company bringing out several of my works. So yes, he had a vested interest in what I had to say.

But it was a good interview. Talking about books, about writing, about the processes of writing, is always an enjoyable experience for me. As I hope it is for you too. If you are a reader or a writer, listening to some other writer and their experiences should be interesting. Lots of times you pick up something that helps in either your experience as a reader or as a writer. Little things that make the experience more pleasing.

I hope you find something of interest in what I had to say. Find the interview here:

(you'll have to cut-and-paste. For some reason linking to sites has been a toughie to accomplish, lately)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The E-book Harry Potters

Holy Hogwarts! Can you imagine the gold mine waiting for J.K. Rowling when she signs the dotted line and the publishers converts all the Harry Potter novels into e-books?

Already the richest woman in Britain, Rowling may become the richest person in the world. Beating out Bill Gates and all the Caliphs and oil sheiks of the Middle East combined. And I'm all for it.

If you know the story behind her struggles to create Harry Potter you can't help but applaude. As writers we all struggle. Many of us never get the recognition--even a smidgin of recognition--we all think we should have. Not complaining, mind you. Just stating a fact. And when a writer like Rowling suddenly materializes into the limelight . . . well . . . you either stand up and applaude. Or you burn bright and hot in jealousy.

I'm for applauding.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Are books dead?

Books are dead. Or so says some pundits who think the traditional form of publishing has finally met its nemesis. The ebook publishing phenomenon.

And, like any controversial statement, one can find supporting evidence to prove their point. All across the publishing world the stats for the numbers of traditionally published books being bought and sold is witnessing a severe downward decline. Conversly the stats showing the sales of ebook works is skyrocketing. Ergo: the printed word created by ink and paper is soon to be a fond memory.

Hmmm . . . I don't think so. There's more than six billions souls on this planet. Out of that six billion there's going to be several hundred million who enjoys the touch, the smell, the heft of an honest-to-god book in their laps. There's an intrinsic, almost mystical, ritual in the act of reading out of a book Yeah, Yeah. I know. It sounds idiotic. Sounds like voodoo science.

But it's true. At least, true for this old writer. And probably true for millions more who think like I do

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book covers

Book covers in the age of ebook publishing. Important?

Back in the day when books only came out printed on paper and smeared with ink, hard back and paperback book covers were important. So important a side industry was created. Artists specialzing in book covers and nothing else was born. As well, interestingly enough, the avid industry of collecting dust covers and book jackets. And believe me some of these dust jackets collectors will pay sizeable dineros to possess.

But today with new technologies like smart phones and eraders, are book jacket illustrations still important? The answer in two words--Hell yes!! Maybe even more than ever.

What first attracts you to picking up something and reading it? An author's name? The blurb describing the book? Or the artwork. Go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble digital libraries and start scrolling. What leaps up to you from the very first? The artwork. Always the artwork.

Spend hours writing and rewriting a novel, then even more hours editing and editing, and you send if off to a publisher. You're done. Generally that's the way its been in the past. But not in today's digital epublishing world. A writer damn well better be as diligent in the design of the bookcover as they were in the writing. Example: scroll down to the right of this little epistle and take a look at the book cover for my Muderous Passions novel. Looks . . . well . . .adquate. Except for one slight hiccup. The image has absolutely nothing to do with the story. Doesn't even come close.

Now look at the cover for Call Me Smitty or Tough Guys. Dead on accurate as to what's inside. And both are eye-grabbers.

Or, at least, I think they are. What say you?