Saturday, August 25, 2012

Richard Godwin has an Ebook Coming Out!

A friend of mine is about to have one of his books come out as an ebook.  A novel, I'm thinking, you need to scarf up as fast as you can.  It's called Apostle Rising by Richard Godwin.

I've talked about this novel and about Richard before.  The man is an exquisite writer who delves deep, deep, deep into the psychological novel and doesn't hold anything back.

What I like about the man and his writing is that juxtaposition of the urbane, erudite, sophisticated Englishman Richard naturally is with the dark and bloody rawness of his writing style. 'Raw' in the sense is writing strips away any pretensions;  forgoing any politically correctness and takes the reader down deep into the savagery of the human mind.

And, in reality, the thin veneer we call 'civilization' is easily peeled back when the Savage in all of us insists on getting out.

I highly recommend this book.  You'll find it a page-turner and won't be able to put it down.  When this little delectible little book is going to be available in eboon format is yet to be decided.  But soon, me hearties;  very soon!

Just got the word!  The  Kindle version is out--so go click on the title above and it'll take you right to it!!  There's some 'extras' in this Kindle edition featuring some excerpts from  his latest novel.  Good stuff!  Check it out!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Ffolkes Tale

I have a character by the name of Geoffery Armitage Ffolkes.  Pirate extraordinaire.  Loud, obnoxious, a preening narcist, keenly observant.

To use a Edgar Allen Poe reference, a prodigious prognosticator.

The character resides in the 17th Century.  In a city that has been universally acknowledged as one of the most sinful city in the world.  Port Royal, Jamaica.

My pirate friend is a detective.  And a spy.  A totally unique, quite irritating, completely mesmerizing character rarely, if ever, found in the pages of detective genre.  Think, if you will, of a red headed, red bearded TALL Cyrano de Bergerac with a mind like Sherlock Holmes.

That would be Geoffery Armitage Ffolkes.

Yes, there is a book out featuring this creature entitled, Ffolkes Medicine: The Adventures of Geoffery Armitage Ffolkes Begin.  Off and on I have been toying with writing a second book of this lovable rascal.  I thought I'd share the first two chapters and see if you had any opinions.  Good or bad.
So here they are.

By the way, the second book is going to be called, A Ffolkes' Tale.


I was once a man of prodigious appetites. 

I valued the nectar of fine wines. Savored and cherished the exquisite aromas and textures of rare cuisine. With much verve and gusto I admired and appreciated the seductive curves of beautiful women. I could converse with artist or critic the fine points of any artistic endeavor in five languages. In my sartorial splendor I was a breathtaking specimen of manhood. I towered over men like the snow capped pinnacle Olympus does setting amidst the ever-present clouds. I strutted a ship’s deck or the halls of powerful potentates and princes with a blatant arrogance only a man as gifted with such genius– such savoir faire–as I divinely possessed. I was a god among mortals. A creature of heavenly beauty sat amidst a sea of puerile peasantry; a rose of exquisite delicacy and refinement glowing disdainfully in the midst of mundane colorless cauliflower.

I was, in my youth, a most handsome rogue.

Women swooned whenever my magnificent personage entered the room. Matrons would hide their daughters–bind them with rope and chain–in their efforts to protect them from my magnetic personality. Men openly admired my masculine physique and martial airs. I was a deadly swordsman, an unrivaled marksmen with pistol or musket, a bare-knuckled pugilist of powerful persuasion.

I was a man who valued freedom. Old World rules and rituals I shunned and abhorred as if they were the plague. As indeed, in my eyes, they were! I made my way to the New World where I became a pirate–merchant–agent provocateur–spy and assassin. In the New World I found freedom and new lands to conquer. In the New World I acquired and lost fortunes time and time again. I was a swordsman–a courtier–a diplomat–and politician. I’ve led pirate fleets into battle and fought the Spanish, the Dutch, and the French on countless occasions.

People have branded me a liar, a thief, a braggart, a fop, and a fool. And indeed I bow and sweep plumbed hat before me most regally at each declaration. I will not deny any. I was a man of great appetites! I vowed at an early age to live life at its fullest and to never confess sorry for being the man the Almighty decreed that I should be.

I have strolled on each and every continent–sailed the seven seas–explored vast reaches of jungles no other white man had ever witnessed before me. I have made love to queens and to charwomen with equal passion. I have stolen treasure from kings and prelates and never regretted for one moment any of these nefarious deeds. I have hunted men and women with the intent in ending their murderous lives because justice of some nature needed to be dealt.

I am, pilgrim, a brilliant orator–a splendid actor–and an audacious, yet quite convincing liar. My mind has the effervescent perspicacity only a genius of rare magnitude can possess. In brief, pilgrim–I am a man like no other you have ever met. Nor will ever meet again in the short and abysmally colorless lives you will live. So attend to my words, pilgrim. Read what amazing adventures I pen to these pages. Sit back in wonder at what I am about to tell you.


It was one of those Caribbean nights of enchanting allure. The soft breeze off the cool dark waters revived all from the oppressive heat of the day; the moon hung like a gigantic white orb just above the eastern horizon and bathed the vast plain of the glass-surfaced sea with glistening wonder. Standing on the balcony of my set of rooms high above the tiled roof tops of the city I stood admiring the night’s grandeur. In my hand was a glass of recently acquired French bourbon snatched from the burning hold of a sinking Spanish caravel just off the Azores a few weeks past.

Below me, in the private garden behind our inn, the aroma of bougainvillea and an assortment of other fragrances drifted into my nostrils. A soft breeze filled with sweet aromas and promised intrigues washed across my Grecian features. I felt my self relaxing . . . mellowing–home from the sea was I and in need of respite. A’pirating in these waters was always an endeavor filled with risk. But of late the Spanish crown had become disturbingly intent on finding ways in ending my illustrious career. It seems they objected to my taking of their ill-gotten riches through the use of either superior guile or blunt force over these last few years. So, in their minds, it was time to pluck from their fattened derrieres the thorn which irritated them the most. That thorn being, of course, my own humble self.

The Spaniard’s choice of instruments to extract the festering boil that I was, as some Spanish friends have described me from a safe distance, were two 80-gunned behemoths named the Sol de Magnifico and the La Madonna del Mahinero. Two of their newest and swiftest fast galleons of the Spanish king’s navy commanded by an old adversary of mine. Don Miguel Alverez Ochoa Rameriez and I had crossed paths on several occasions in the past. Some of these crossing were for our mutual gain. But most were in some adversarial fashion or another. Apparently Don Miguel held the ear of his monarch with some authority and it was my old friend himself who suggested he take on the assignment of removing me from the Caribbean.

Of course I was flattered, pilgrim! To be so honored–to be so entrenched in the craw of the Spanish king, and even more so with Alverz Ochoa Rameriez, it almost made me swoon with delight. And there was a reason why I so enjoyed being the nemesis I was to the Spanish crown. For a brief period of my life some years back I was a guest of the Spanish in one of their prisons. Captured and thrown into a vile pit of rotting flesh and foul smells I survived. Chained to the oars of a fat galley and flogged on a daily basis as I and my chained comrades pulled on our oars and propelled a galley laden with African riches back and forth across the blue waters of the Mediterranean I endured.

The time of my incarceration was brief. The suffering I endured harsh but bearable. Yet more than sufficient to seal into my ebullient personality an undying hatred for tyranny and cruelty monarchies of all nationalities seemed to inflict upon their subjects. Nay, not just the Spanish and their cruelties I despised, pilgrim. The cruelties of all who claimed some moral or noble right to hold others in chains of bondage did I swear vengeance to. I vowed I would hunt down these cruel masters and take from them their power and their wealth. Pirating, dear pilgrim–or more accurately, the acquisition of a Letter of Marque from the English Crown–provided me with the wherewithal to achieve this goal.

A Letter of Marque gave me a legal right to hunt the Spanish, or the French, or the Dutch, if they so became the enemies of England, while I lived in Port Royal. Suffice to say, in all humility, I became quite proficient in such endeavors. Soon after arriving in Port Royal with my partner, a one-eyed, pipe smoking withered old piece of leather named Tobias O’Rourke, I quickly make a reputation of being a quite successful pirate captain. So much so that now, on this very night, I found myself a hunted man.

And glowed like that of a bright lantern on a stormy night in delight on such a compliment.
But pilgrim, a cautionary note; one should not gloat too long on one’s accomplishments for Fate has a way of twisting one emotion into something far, far more sinister. As, in truth, happened soon after I stepped away from the moon lit balcony and thought about retiring for the night. From below I heard men shouting in surprise and anger. Voices I recognized as those of my crew. The thundering hooves of men in heavy boots rapidly ascending the stairs to my rooms came to me–soon following a hurried pounding on the heavy wooden door of my apartment.

"Come!" I shouted, reaching for a brace of flintlock pistols lying on a table beside my bed.
In through the door swept the tanned, wrinkled leprechaun form of Tobias, followed by the slightly taller form of my slant-eyed samurai comrade, Morikami Tademori, a veritable giant of an African moor by the name of Abdul, and several others as well. On their faces were visages of grim determination of plainly etched pain. Something evil had occurred. Something which required my immediate attention.

"Terrible news, you worshipfulness," the thick Irish brogue of Tobias ran musically to my ears. But on this night it was the music of a fugue–the opening notes of a funeral–which rang in my ears. "We’ve found Little Johnnie Boy just a few minutes ago. He’s dead, cap’n. A dirk shoved into his heart."

"Where?" I asked, gripping the pistols in my hand firmly and feeling the color drain from my face.

"On the beach just a quarter mile from here, darlin. I’ve left a few of Tademori’s men there to guard the body and not disturb the site, figuring your lordship would want to inspect the lay of the land fer yerself, as it were."

I nodded and swept past the gaggle of men who hurriedly made room for me to exit and descended the stairs as rapidly as I could. Behind me Tobias, Tademori, and the others followed. Into the warm tropical night we fled, pilgrim. Into the dark night and into an adventure that become both deadly and mysterious. Filled with intrigues and whispering the first dark murmurings of a possible war to erupt between the English and the Spanish if I and my comrades could not extinguish the burning fuse before it burnt its way to the waiting powder keg yet hidden from view.

With brightly burning torch in hand I knelt to one knee and looked at the body lying on the wet beach. Waves, crashing onto the moon lit sands, would slowly meander its way up to the dead man’s boots before receding. Less than five hundreds yard behind me the first building of the city could be spied, as could the cluttered harbor filled with a hundred or more ships, masts and furled sails filling the dark night like an artificial forest. A strong wind was coming in off the water. Strong in its salty flavor. Yet cool and soothing as it caressed gentle fingers through my long red curls.
Such a beautiful night in paradise. Seemingly too beautiful for anyone to greet the Grim Reaper in such scurrilous fashion.

Kneeling beside me was the leathery from of Tobias. One hand holding his long stemmed pipe, his one good eye intent on studying the corpse as it lay motionless at our feet. He was, this garrulous old Irishman, as good at reading a dead man’s life and death as I was. In silence the little man was using one hand to push and prod and examine the body. As for me, my eyes were trying to look at the signs in the sand, making an effort to separate the churned up sand from those who stood guard over the dead man from those that might be that of both Little Johnny himself and Little Johnny’s killer.

Behind us Tademori, Abdul, and a few others huddled over us like lurking vultures, each holding torches over our heads to give us more light. Standing up I half turned, my eyes falling onto the giant form of Abdul.

"Send two of your best men that way," I said, pointing at a set of tracks the seemed to separate themselves from the clutter surrounding the body and hurried off into the night away from the city. "See where they lead to. And hurry, we may yet find our killers near by."

The Numidian nodded and disappeared for a moment. Seconds later two of his black African kinsmen swept around us and disappeared into the night. Handing the burning torch to Tademori I knelt down beside Tobias and reached for the right hand of the dead man. The hand was twisted up into a fist, yet in the dim light of the torches, there appeared to be something in the man’s grip.

"Ah, Lil’Johnny," the Irishman beside me moaned. "Too close to the deadly flames you flew. Tis a sad world it is now that you’ve left us. I’ll raise a cup of two of real Irish Whiskey up in salute to you later tonight."

"Dead for several hours," I grunted as I strained to pry open the rock like fingers of the fist and retrieve from its grip whatever it was the dead man desperately held onto.

"Aye, cap’n. From the way his stomach is bloated and the color of his skin I’d venture to say at least six or seven hour hence. Sunset. That would be about the time of the dar’lin man’s demise."

My Irish friend was no physician. Just a plain seaman of vast experience. Yet a man of acute vision with his singular eye. And with a mind of infinite curiosity. Two qualities in a man I valued the most. Although . . . most assuredly, pilgrim . . . I would never admit this to my Irish rogue. The man’s sardonic wit and sharp edged tongue would never allow me to forget my sudden weakness in complimenting him.

"The blade of a dirk, cap’n. Just below the third rib underneath Lil’ Johnny’s left arm. That was the blow which brought such a beautiful man to his grave."

I nodded, having observed the blade’s entrance through the flimsy cloth of the dead man’s shirt and the amount of blood which it had absorbed. I also noticed the bruising on the man’s face around the jaw and the left temple. There was also deep cuts on fingers and palms of his one free hand. Obviously our friend fought for his left. Fought desperately.

"Tademori, hold the light closer to our friend’s hand, if you please."

"Hai!" the samurai grunted with interest and knelt down beside me to comply.

One by one I strained to stretch out the dead man’s fingers and retrieve the sliver of paper to tantalizing near to apprehending. Behind me I felt the presence of the men leaning closer, they too as curious about the ragged piece of paper the man clutched with a dead man’s grip. It took some time to complete the task but ultimately the paper was removed and I stood up holding the thick and coarse paper in hand as I turned toward my samurai friend.

One glance told me enough. It was the right hand corner of a map. There was a partial outline of the coastline of some land mass–possibly an island. In dark ink an arrow was drawn to a small X marked on the very tip of a piece of land which seemed to be the entrance to a small inlet. In Little Johnny’s handwriting were the words ‘heavy redoubt.’ Another roughly sketched line disappeared off into the ripped off portion of the missing map. But the words ‘Two league’s sail from De . . . .’ were visible.

Nothing else was visible.

Frowning, I tossed back long locks of my shoulder length mane and looked down at the dead form lying at our feet. The dead man had fought desperately for his life. With at least two or more assassins. They had pursued their query across the sands of the beach, killed their man, removed the map from his hands, and then hurried back from whence they came. Port Royal, only a few hundred yards away, lay on a spit of land which jutted out from the main portion of the island known as Jamaica. From the direction Lil’Johnny was running from was in direction toward the main island. But in that direction was nothing but jungle and wilderness. He was running for his life toward Port Royal. Running and clutching a map. A map he thought so important he fought his assailants with only the use of one hand. And paid for his foolish mistake dearly.


What was so important about a piece of paper it cost a good man’s life? A good man who happened to sometimes be in the employment of Tobias and I as a gunner on one of our ships. And who? Who were the assassins who were determined to bring him down before he entered the pit of infamy known as Port Royal?

Glancing at my Irish imp of a friend I saw the light in the man’s one clear eye. He too was very curious as to what set of circumstances brought a friend of ours to his grave. It would be a matter of honor. In a city renowned for its cutthroats and piratical heresies, it was a matter of honor on our part to track down the rogues who so brutally took the life of our comrade and bring them to justice. But more, pilgrim. Much more. The ragged piece of paper torn from a map had captured our attention. Our interests. Would a treasure map–the first obvious thought to flash through our minds–be worthy of a man’s demise? A treasure map like so many others to be had for a pittance in any pub in Port Royal. Why this one so steeply purchased in the blood of a good man’s death?

Yes, questions to be answered. A puzzle to be solved. And more importantly; justice to be exacted.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A couple of random thoughts today

All right,  This is it.  I'm finally going to get serious.  I am (gasp!!) going to do something my wife has said I should be doing for years . . .

I am going to get organized!!

I have dozen writing projects on tap.  Five are active.  Yet, like most writers I know (there are expects, of course, to what I am about to say)  I tarry somewhat . . .  if not outright balk at the idea of actually sitting down and writing!   Don't know why I'm this way.  Yes, Gertrude;  I acknowledge I might just be basically lazy.  Laziness has its advantages.  Lallygagging around and doing nothing all day gives you the opportunity to mentally scope out your novel scene by scene.  Fill in a character's personality maybe.  Or block out a particularly difficult scene.

But at some point in time you've got to sit down and write the damn thing.  Ah! Now THAT'S the problem.  The physical aspect of actually writing the novel.

So I'm going to commit myself to 3 On 3.  Three pages a day on the three currents works in progress.  And it should work.  Add it up!  Three pages a day per novel gives you, in 30 days,  90 pages a month.  Times five months you have a 450 page novel.  If you can sustain that load for three different works, you have three books complete at the end of five months.

Not bad, eh?

Now, pull out your wallet and lay a fiver on the table.  Whatcha want to bet this epiphany on my part is going to happen?  Come one, don't be shy.  Bet me!

Saw recently the move, The Bourne Legacy.  This is the rebirthing of the Bourne franchise featuring a different agent coming out of the Treadstone agency-within-the-agency spy ring the legendary Jason Bourne was a part of.  But this time the agency-within-the-agency is an offshoot, and far more secret, of Treadstone.

In this movie there is no Jason Bourne.  But there is an agent known as Aaron Cross.  And he's not just an agent with the moves of a Bourne.  This baby has been genetically enhanced.  Genetically souped up to be even better.  With a catch;  his intellect has been considerably souped up.  But on a temporary basis that has to be augmented with a dosage every few hours.  If he doesn't get the dosage he eventually recedes back to his original intellect.  Which isn't too much, by the way.

Jeremy Renner is Alex Cross.  He brings some interest twists to the character.  The plot for the movie is, or was for me, quite interesting to contemplate.  There's conspiracies within conspiracies playing around in this movie guaranteed to keep the franchise running for years.

Which is good.  Everyone like their conspiracies to be almost believable.

Go see the movie.  I'm sure you'll like it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Beth Anderson. One accomplished Writer

A friend of mine, Beth Anderson, writes romantic mysteries.  And/or political puzzlers.  But more than that she's a writer who, like so many writers I know, kinda grew up writing the moment they learned their ABC's.  She wrote love stories for her friends, who paid her for them, while she was in school as a child.  She grew into adulthood writing . . . honing . . . her craft until finally, finally, she sold her first major piece to a publishing firm.

I like that.  First learning to read---and then getting bitten immediately by the urge to write.  What I like even more is seeing a writer becoming something else . . . that elusive dream of becoming a  published 'author' so many of us strive to become ourselves.

I had a hunch if I approached her politely she might agree to answer a few questions about writing, and her career, and share them with us.  Don't care who writes the questions----read about a writer and their creative process and you can always walk away with something to think about.    I think you'll find a jewel or two in this interview.

So let's get to it.

1. Beth . . . the writing bug;  when did it first bite you?  And when did its fury finally burst onto the scene and send you down this lovely torturous path?

Ha!  I’ll give you torturous for sure. Lovely I’ll have to think about, although now that I think about it, the writing biz has had many lovely moments. I think my first signal that I was going to be a writer really got my attention was when I was eight years old. I was lying on the floor with my eyes closed, listening to the radio and visualizing the scenes, when I heard an announcement that they were having a contest: Basically, whoever wrote the best radio show script was going to win a hundred dollars. The fact that the show was a medical drama didn’t faze me at all even though I knew nothing about being a doctor. Oh, and I also didn’t know how to write a script. But for some reason, I had the feeling that I could do that, I really could! It didn’t take me long to realize that first and foremost, my spelling was atrocious and when I wrote the script, even I couldn’t decipher it. But something in the back of my mind still said I could do it. I remember the utter strength of those words running through my head even though the evidence was right in front of me that I had a long, long way to go. I still knew I could do it.

Raven Talks Back

 Life and logic intervened, of course. I went on to school, got horrible grades in English, tried to write romance stories about my junior high girlfriends and their boyfriends for a dollar apiece, got caught and almost expelled. Not a good start, although my friends liked the stories.  Eventually I grew up, sort of, got married, produced four children and somewhere along the line managed to win a magazine contest for a short story with my eight page opus about a widow with a head cold and a widower with two small sons he was taking out Trick or Treating. I think the prize was a bottle of perfume or something like that. Certainly not publication. I deduced from that episode two things. One, they must have been really desperate to have a winner but they weren’t going to spend any time editing it.  And two, I probably really should study up on how to actually put a publishable story together. I still wasn’t ready though, until many years later, when I met up with a group of women who were forming a romance writers’ group. I always knew I was never going to be a romance writer, I was thinking from the git-go of heavier stuff, but I figured good writing is good writing no matter what the genre. That went on for, I would say five years, with me writing manuscripts (on an electric typewriter) then re-writing them and sending them out and dealing with the rejections. Same thing most writers do unless they have some heavy duty help from someone who knows what they’re doing, but none of us knew what we were doing and most of the ladies fell by the wayside or decided writing was just too much trouble and they’d read someone else’s books instead.

Then one day as I received probably my fiftieth rejection and was about to quit, I walked into a friend’s bookstore and had what I can only describe as a Magic Moment. My eyes, for some reason, traveled all around all those shelves of books and for the first time really focused on the enormity of the effort that had been expended to have had All Those Books actually printed. At that moment it almost seemed as if those shelves lit up with some kind of glow and I thought, “If all the writers who wrote all those books got published, so can I.”  That was the moment that sealed my fate. I went home, hunkered down, and even though it took me three more years, every day I knew I was getting closer until finally, while I was at a Romance Writers of America Conference, I met the head of the Superromance section of Harlequin Romances, the closest romance subgenre to mainstream without being actually mainstream. We passed going through one of the doors, she glanced down and read my name tag and said, “Oh! Your book is sitting on my desk right now. We all like it, but we need some changes made.  Would you be willing to do them before we offer a contract?”

Would I?  YES I WOULD! Two, not one but two, grueling edits, during which I finally learned how to write a book, and I had my first contract. You can about imagine how I felt three years later (their normal lead time then) when I finally held that first book in my hands. I’d say it was a miracle, but the pragmatic part of me says, “Oh, no, it’s not a miracle. You worked your butt off for this.”

 2. The mystery genre seems to be your weapon of choice when it comes to writing.   Why?  And while answering that, you might throw in some thoughts about your willingness to infuse large portions of horror into your works.

I’ll answer the second part first. I’m probably never going to infuse large portions of horror into my works. Real horror keeps me awake nights. There are some authors I love, but I can’t read their books because there’s too much horror in them and they’re such good writers that the first sentences will set the hair on the back of my neck standing straight up, and I know right then that I have to close the book and leave it closed. The strange thing is, I can read a Steven King or a Dean Koontz straight through and be happy because I’m being hugely entertained. I admire both of them tremendously, but I’ve never actually been so frightened at one of their books that I had to stop reading. They’re just, to me, fun.  BUT then one day I picked up a book by Rick Reed, who writes gay mysteries. I read one and a half pages into it and I honest to God had to put the book down and I could not go back and read it, because in that one and a half pages he had managed to create so much real terror and tension that I knew something really, really horrible was going to happen and I couldn’t bear to read on. Just couldn’t do it.

I gave that a lot of thought afterward and I finally realized that what he had done, and superbly, was taken a perfectly normal scene, a guy walking around his apartment getting ready for a date with a guy he had never met. In that short space of time, I had already decided I liked this guy enough that I didn’t want him to die, but more and more I got the sinking feeling that very soon after his company walked through the door, this guy that I already liked was going to die a horrible death. Now that is some genius horror writing and I still shiver when I think of it but I have no idea what happened to the nice guy because it scared me so badly I had to stop reading. Probably not what Rick wanted to happen, but it did. The upshot was, I learned how to create real horror and I also learned I don’t want to do it.

 As for why I write mystery and jumped right into it after that first contract for a romance (although there was a mystery in that book too) I think a lot has to do with the personality of the writer and how he or she thinks. For one thing, I like the idea of creating all kinds of imaginary chaos, usually in one family, and then setting it all right again for them. Almost like playing dollies when you’re a kid. Give them a problem, then help them solve it.  Make the world right again, whether the end result is a Happy Ever After one or not. I think mysteries are true to life, at least the ones I like to read are. I don’t think people always live happily ever after, but I do think when you fall into a serious mess, it can usually be managed with common sense. That, to me, is actually how  mysteries are solved by the main protagonist. He or she has to be capable of solving huge problems by using common sense, not emotion or gimmicks.

Second Generation
 3.  Do you find it easier, or more difficult, cracking into the genre being a woman?  Or has the issue of sexism ever come up?  While we're on this subject, what is your take on the idea of the mystery genre being so attractive for female writers?

Hmmm. Tough questions, but I’ll try. There has long been a watch on male-female ratios in crime writing sales at Sisters in Crime. More and more and more there’s not that much of a difference cracking into the genre, with minor exceptions.  Traditionally, it is a little harder for most woman writing serious, hard-hitting, shoot ‘em up mainstream thriller/mysteries because those more often than not feature serious, hard-hitting, shoot ‘em up men. It just seems to be easier for most traditional publishers to accept that a woman wrote a cozy, particularly a hobby cozy, and female writers do predominate in that genre. I know many will probably argue with this, but I can’t offhand recall the names of any male hobby cozy writers and I know I’ve never read one. By the same token, it’s harder in traditional publishing for some (I said some, not all) women to be published with edgier books whose protagonists are mostly very tough men, i.e. Jack Reacher heroes. I think the protagonist’s personality has to be understandable right down to the core to the writer to be realistic, and although I did write one book completely from a male point of view, and successfully, I really had to go some to get into his head first and then stay there. I think someone like Lee Child, for instance, could probably have done it better. 

But then today we have the self-publishing thing, and there, the sky’s the limit.  Nobody has to worry about what sex you are when you’re your own boss. There, there is no discrimination, no matter how minor because you, as publisher of your books, get to make all the decisions. Readers today don’t seem  concerned about the sex of the writer, or the name of the publisher, or anything else for that matter, as long as you give them a good, well edited book. I haven’t done any self publishing yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.

 4.  In your opinion what are the components for a good crime/mystery novel?  Rate, if you will, the importance of plot, characters, descriptive detailing, and believability in writing a genre novel.  Of the four items listed is there one which is more important than all the others?

In my opinion, believability is the most important component in any book.  If you don’t make sure you have believable dialogue and cohesive believable narrative, you’re lost because even regular readers can spot unbelievable dialogue even if it’s only that they get a disquieting feeling they can’t identify while they’re reading, but they know they’re having difficulty enjoying the book.  So many times it’s dialogue that doesn’t fit the character, and when that happens I do spot it immediately and I do know why that is and I do put the book down, unfinished. Life, in my opinion, is too short and too full of things we have to do for us to waste time struggling through a book with bad dialogue, which is always unbelievable dialogue.

Next in importance would be characters. You have to have characters, particularly your main characters, who readers can relate to; in other words, people your readers would welcome into their own homes. It has nothing to do with their station in life because money has nothing to do with character anyhow; we all are aware of that. Your characters must have multi-faceted characteristics because we all do. The worst criminal in the world will still have at least one or two endearing qualities even if it’s only that he stops to pet a dog on his way to commit whatever atrocity he’s bent on committing. There’s a lot to be learned about building characters, way too many to enumerate here.  ;-)

I would rate plot next after characters in importance. You can have a plot in mind and then build the characters, but in my case the lead has always popped into my mind first, and I spend some time with them getting to know them from the inside out before I start building a plot around them. It may work differently for you, but here’s why I put plot after characters. You can have a so-so plot, but if you have a lead character that’s a series character who you know your readers love, they will forgive you and many times won’t even notice when the plot’s not that strong, but get your characters wrong and you’ve got an angry reader on your tail.  I read most of the posts on DorothyL, a huge list full of librarians and booksellers and authors as well as ‘civilians’, and most of the time if a person tires of a series it’s not the latest plot that irritates the reader, it’s that the writer changed the lead character or he became boring over time or just about any reason, but it almost always falls on the lead character. As I said in the paragraph before this one, you have to get your lead characters right.

Last I would list descriptive detailing because to me, descriptive detailing is the least important part of any story and in fact, stops the action if there’s too much of it. One exception would be in reading a book by someone like James Michener, who was known, and not always favorably, for his descriptive detail, although I’ve noticed that on the flip side of all those pages and pages of detail are wonderfully drawn characters, some human, often animals, and he brought them all to life equally well in the middle of all that detail. But for the most part, I prefer books with not so much detail because too much of it slows the action. I’ve had editors add detail in my fast moving scenes when they never, ever should have done so. (Sigh…) Too much detail and you’re accused of padding the book-- in some cases to try and hide the fact that you don’t have enough plot. You might not even realizing you’re doing that, particularly in the case of brand new writers, but if you are, experienced editors will spot it.

  5.  What is the state of health these days for fiction in general and  the mystery/detective genre in particular?   What trends do you see growing stronger--and conversely—any trends fading away which might be soon forgotten.

The state of fiction is healthy enough. Historical fiction seems to be coming back. People are actually reading more now because of e-readers. The state of traditional publishing is dwindling because (see previous sentence). From what I’m seeing, the mystery/detective genre is increasing, in part because the whole traditional publishing world is shrinking and along with that trend, many, many former romance writers are turning to mysteries and liking them because they can combine them with romance, which is becoming more accepted nowadays.  Just a few years ago a lot of mystery readers would tear down the walls at the suggestion of adding romance to mysteries. Now, they’ve begun to accept them although there are limits even there. Most diehard mystery readers would much rather not be bombarded with romances that are too erotic, but there are plenty of opportunities for erotica writers even within the erotica genre. People know where to go to get what they want to read, and they do. There’s room enough today for all genres and all methods of presentation.

  6.  What's your next book going to be about?  Is there any novel of yours you are particularly fond of?   Are we to see any cinematic productions of any your novels?  Any television series in the works?

Ha!  I could tell you but I’d have to kill you, re the first question. ;-) I’m currently zapping in between three books that I really want to write. All are about murder of one kind or another.  It’s hard to pick a favorite of all my published novels. The most fun to write was Night Sounds, the one with the male protag who carried the whole book and somehow, he did it all almost effortlessly. It was just one of those fun books you start writing and giggle to yourself all the way through writing it, even though it is a serious murder mystery. And here’s a funny thing about that book, which takes us back to Question 5. There’s a lot of hot romantic scenes in it between Joe and Zoey. Those were almost universally the most talked about scenes in the book. It was always mentioned somewhere in almost all reviews. Conversely, the basic part of the mystery (whodunit?) was an element of a big money scheme which was tricky and I was so  proud of myself for dreaming it up. I spent tons of time researching exactly how to do this thing, and wrote it as simply as I could so everyone would understand it (and hopefully admire the mind that thought it up). Catch this: Not one reviewer OR person who spoke to me about the book ever mentioned the money caper part of the mystery. Not one. Nope. They were all interested in the romantic angle. The success or failure of how they felt about that book was based on Joe and Zoey, who grabbed all the attention. So like I said earlier, you gotta have characters your readers will love.  

I think I still have to say, I don’t have one book I can point to that’s the best, because they’re all different. I don’t do series, which I wish I could say I do because I’d be making a lot more money than I am, but I put my people through so much misery that once I pull them out of it, I just want to leave them alone to enjoy the rest of their lives because they’re all very much alive to me. So all of my books are mainstream standalones. I don’t ever anticipate writing a series. I thought for a time maybe I would for my last book, Raven Talks Back, but even there, at this point I just want to leave them alone.  Besides, I’ve got those three new novels jockeying for position in my head right now.

Movies and Television shows? There’s always hope. Raven Talks Back has been mentioned by reviewers as movie material and I have to tell you, that’s how I saw it, and God, what a beautiful, exciting movie it would be.0 But there’s a lot of difference between a book and a movie script. It could be done, but will it?  Time will tell. And there’s always that one out of the three running around in my head, the one with one character who has multiple personalities…   I do make life hard for myself, don’t I? 

Stay tuned! Come by and check out my newly updated website, which actually isn’t quite finished but you can grab a look and see how it hits you. Had to change it and I’ve neglected the blog lately because I moved from Chicago to Washington State. .  There’s lots there besides chapters of all my books. Lecture pages on different writing subjects. One especially famous one that I’ve had thousands of emails from new writers who loved what I had to say about a new way of Writing a Tight Synopsis. I’m on Facebook, you can find me there. And you can find my last four books up at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, just go to their sites and type in my name, it’ll take you to my author page on both sites.  Come see me, we’ll have a cup or a glass of something and talk.  B.R., thanks for allowing me to run on  and on about one of our favorite subjects-Writing!  Ciao for now!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

From out of the past

A novel long forgotten.  Written, and forgotten, for over thirty years.  Discovered recently down in the basement and pulled out of a dust covered plastic storage bin.

It was an experiment I played with.  Combining two separate novels into one volume--one novel complimenting the other until, in the end, the two merge into one.  One a kind of whodunit.  The other an adventure/horror novel.

After finding it the other day I reread  a few of the chapters and made a startling discovery.  Sumbitch!  With a little tweaking, a little pruning, this 'script has honest-to-god potential!  The only problem is---back in '81 there was no such thing as a personal computer (or, at least, not for me).  So I wrote it on an old electric typewriter.  But worse than that, back then I was so poor I didn't use ordinary typing paper.  I used discarded paper my wife would bring home from school.  Over the years the paper has faded and the ink has dimmed.

'Course, I'm not rolling in dough even now (few writers I know are).  The novel has to be transferred over into a computer file.  And it appears I'll be the one doing the re-typing.  But that's okay.  Re-typing means rewriting.  Modernizing.  Tweaking the plot a little.  But it's going to be a slow slugfest getting it done.  It's not as if it is the only project peculating along at the moment.

But I did get the opening chapter done today.  Thought I might share it with you and get maybe some feedback from you.  I've had to retitle the novel.  Now it's called , The Dead.

What do you think?

June 6: 0823 hrs.
             Angrily he reached for the phone, threw it up to his ear, and tried to sort out the mess Bill Francis left last night's log book in.  He could sense it.  Feel it in his bones.  It was not going to be a good day.  That feeling of cynical frustration began building the moment he walked into the sheriff's office and headed for his desk.  One look at last night's log book confirmed it.
            A shitty day.  Destined to become a nightmare.
            "Sheriff's office.  Sergeant Ulrey speaking."
            "Nick, this is Fred.  We're over at the Mallory place.  We need you, or someone, and an ambulance, over here as fast as possible."
            Nicholas Ulrey heard the urgency in Fred Berkley's voice.  Tossing the ink pen onto the logbook in front of him he sat back in the squeaky old office chair, half turned to stare at the large wall clock on the far wall, and frowned.  He knew fear when he heard it.  And Fred sounded very afraid.  Keeping his voice measured and calm he wanted to make the old farmer relax and tell him a little more before reacting.
            "What's up, Fred?   Harold or Darlene hurt?"
            He heard someone definitely sobbing in the background.  He also heard men's voices---Fred's oldest sons---speaking softly in the background.  Turning his head he gazed out of the big plate glass window beside his desk as he waited for Fred to collect his thoughts and waved to Sandy Duncan, the town's last remaining barber, as he walked by heading to the large Methodist church down at the end of the block.
            "Nick . . . uh . . . Harold's dead.  And Darlene . . . well  . . . she's in a bad way herself.  We need the ambulance for Darlene.  There ain't a thing you can do for Harold now except cut him down and cover him up."
            "Cut him down?  Okay wait a minute, Fred.   What do you mean cut him down?"
            "We found him, Nick.  Found him in the main barn.  Rope around his neck and swinging from a rafter.  God!  What an awful sight, Nick!  Just . . . just . . . awful!
            "Fred! Listen to me Fred.  It's very important.  Leave every thing alone.  I mean everything.  Don't touch a thing!  I'll be right out.  The ambulance is on its way.  You got that?"
            "Right, Nick.  We'll touch nothing.  And thanks."
            "Who else is there with you?"
            "Me, Frank and Bobby.  And Louise.  We came over to help Harold cut his wheat."
            Frank and Bobby were Fred's sons.  Big, strong kids.  On a farm as large as the Berkley's, the kids were going to be as big as plow horses.  Both on football scholarships.  Fred Berkley's farm was just south of Harold and Darlene's big spread.  Neighbors.  Old friends.  It must be, Nick thought, tearing Fred up to stare at Harold swinging from a rope.  He heard the emotional strain in the old man's voice.  Knew exactly how the old man was feeling.  Finding a body like that was always a shock to one's psyche.
            He closed his eyes and tried not to think about it.  Harold Mallory was close to eighty years old.  A small, wiry man.  Amazingly young and healthy for his age.  He had known him ever since he took the job as deputy sheriff six years ago.  Harold and Darlene were good people.  Good people.  Church people.  Friendly people.  Harold's death would be a severe loss to the community.
            "I'll be there in a half hour, Fred."
            He hung up, leapt out of the chair and reached for the gray trooper's wide brimmed hat all in one motion.  He had to leave the office empty.  But he had no choice.  Walking out he unlocked the car door of the brand new Dodge Charger hemi the county just purchased for patrol cars, climbed in and hit the idiot lights and siren as he backed the car away from the curb and then accelerated rapidly down the semi-deserted main street.
            He knew what he would find along with the body.  As well-intentioned as Fred and his sons would be he was positive he would find Harold's body lying on the floor of the barn with some kind of tarp or blanket covering it.  The old man and his boys wouldn't allow their friend's body to ride the wind currents flowing through the giant barn as it dangled at the end of a rope.  The crime scene would be contaminated with all kinds of footprints and fingerprints from the Barkleys and god knew what else.   He wouldn't say anything to them about it.  He'd moved out to this rural community six years ago to take this job.  To get married.  Have kids.  Live in relative peace in the country away from the madness of the big city.
            Yet, thinking about it as he made a hard right turn off the highway which sent him hurtling down an arrow-straight country road of white dust and past miles upon miles of freshly cut golden wheat fields, tragedy struck everywhere.  Even in a peaceful little haven like Glennville.
            "Car Ten to dispatch," he said after reaching for the mike.
            "Go ahead, Car Ten."
            "I'm heading out to the Mallory place.  We need an ambulance and Doc Foster there as fast as possible."
            "Affirmative Car Ten.  Dispatching ambulance now.  Will contact Doc Foster at his clinic."
            Doc Foster was the contracted county medical examiner.  And an old friend of the Mallorys.  It was going to be another hard blow to take.  Watching an old friend of the deceased examining the body. But that was something the doc faced every day in this county.  It was a farming community.  Everyone knew everyone.
            And people died all the time.

            BUT NOT NOW.  NOT NOW. 
            THE JUNGLE.
            AND THEN . . . DARKNESS.