Friday, January 31, 2014


By Steve Weddle

Jay Stringer and I blog together here and have the same agent. I've never met Jay in person and he's never bought me a drink.
That said, I feel as if I owe him a drink. I've read the entire Eoin Miller trilogy now. Wow. What a way to end things.

While this book stands on its own just fine, the threads that started early in the series really come through here -- and are tied up nicely. Once I got to the end of the book, I realized that everything had fit nicely into place -- even things that I hadn't known were out of place.
The Gaines family surprised me, especially in this one.
Once again, though, Jay Stringer has written a terrific hard-boiled mystery -- but with an amazingly smart social justice theme throughout.
This is a brilliant book about belonging -- about the individual and the family, about fighting for you place in the world, your patch of dirt.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Makin' It

Who remembers this show?


This was the first thing that came to mind when I asked myself the question, what does it mean to have "made it?" Those old 70s TV shows may have been bad, but they do stick with you.

But as usual, I've strayed from the point, so let me get back to it. You may know that my fellow Do Some Damage blogger, Joelle Charbonneau, recently had her latest installment of the Testing Trilogy, Independent Study, debut at #8 on the NY Times Best Seller list.

<Big Round of Applause>

It got me thinking about what it means to have “made it,” at least in terms of one’s writing career. Obviously, this is going to be different for everyone. Joelle herself tackled the subject in a recent DSD post about success:
I still measure my own personal success in the same way that I always have.  By getting up in the morning, putting my hands on the keyboard and filling the pages with words.  Each day that I write is a success.  Each day I add pages or edit a story is a success.  Each time a reader picks up one of my books and finds something engaging about my work is a success.
I decided to ask a few of my writer friends the same question: "According to your own personal definition, what does it mean to have 'made it' as an author?"

Steve Weddle (author of Country Hardball and editor of Needle Magazine):
I don't know that this means anything. I've heard people talk about it, but most people will say they haven't "made it," whether they've sold zero books or a billion. I think you have "made it" when you're working on something you're really enjoying. When I'm in the middle of telling a story that's resonating, I feel as if I have "made it."

Susanna Calkins (author of A Murder at Rosamund's Gate and From the Charred Remains):
Honestly, I think there's such a shifting definition of "having made it" for me, and I suspect that is the same for most authors. When I compare my writing career to where I was a few years ago, I certainly feel relatively successful. Initially I was just proud to have completed an entire novel; I didn't know if it would ever see the light of day. Now, I have an agent, a publisher, a wonderful editor and a book contract (which has since been extended to four books in my historical mystery series). Seeing my book in the bookstore or in the library makes me feel like "I've made it." It's clear I've crossed some sort of arbitrary threshold from aspiring writer to published author. I feel honored and thrilled by all this. I do not write full-time (because I have a full-time job already), and I'm not certain I could support myself if I did. Honestly, I don't focus on lists and awards, and certainly I don't use them as a measure of my sense of success. There's a lot to this industry that I still don't really understand--in particular, the criteria for awards and lists are not transparent--and it just doesn't seem productive or healthy to connect my sense of accomplishment or self-worth as a writer to these types of measures. Do I want to be a best-seller? Sure. Would it be cool to win an award? Naturally. Can I feel accomplished without such accolades? Absolutely.

Thomas Pluck (author of Blade of Dishonor):
This early in my career, I have met a few milestones- such as completing a novel and having a literary hero give it a glowing review- but the way I drive myself is to keep raising the bar. So I don't think that I've "made it." When I've written all the novels swirling in my head, that will be another milestone, and if they are published to acclaim, that's another. My goal is to make a comfortable, if not opulent living off my writing and have a following of likeminded readers who enjoy the stories I tell.

Making the NY Times bestseller list is a great accomplishment, and having read The Testing, I think Joelle more than deserves it. She has great talent and skill, and puts in the hard work, day after day. I raise my glass to her breaking the top 10, and here's to her next book hitting number one. But I guarantee if you ask her, that despite the elation, she'll be working just as hard tomorrow.
If you think you "made it," will you work just as hard? I'm not so sure if I would. So I recommend moving that goalpost another few yards each time you think you've "made it."

Josh Stallings
(author of All the Wild Children and the Moses McGuire series):
I view "making it" as a never ending spiral staircase of steps. As a younger man I sold a few screen plays and was hired to script doctor couple others, at that point I knew I was a professional screenwriter. But I would have told you I hadn't made it. The movies that did get made weren't things I was greatly proud of. As a novelist I feel I have made it to a certain degree now that my books sales pay for my writing expenses. I will feel I have made another huge step when the writing can support me. As for the craft itself, I don't think I will ever have made it. I always feel I can do better and push myself to do that. One of the things I love about the craft of writing is you can spend a life learning and improving.

Jeri Westerson (author of the medieval noir series featuring Crispin Guest, most recently, Shadow of the Alchemist):
[When asked whether she'd "made it"] I'd have to say a big "no" on that. Most of my readers might disagree but then they don't understand the vagaries of publishing. I think that to them, the book in their hands is a done deal. So on one level, I've "made it" in the sense of getting noticed by a big publisher and having six books published by them. But from where I'm sitting I don't really feel I've made it until every book I write sells through and then some; that I'm offered contracts without a blink from a publisher; and the big one, that I can make a living at it.

Matt Coyle (author of Yesterday's Echo):
I've reached the first step in the process of making it as an author and about the third step in the process of making it as a writer. What does it mean to have "made it?" To be able to quit the day job and make a real living as an author.

Holly West (author of Mistress of Fortune--hey! that's me!):
The simple answer is the same as Matt's answer above--to be able to make a real living as an author. I'd also second what Jeri said--to not worry where my next contract is coming from. But it seems like so very few authors fall into that category these days, does it?

Ultimately, I measure my success in terms of meeting my own personally goals, which means writing consistently, every day, and challenging myself to write more truthfully. I pull punches a lot with my writing, which is a habit I need to dispense with. I want to write things that resonate with people in addition to entertaining them. I want to inspire people the way books inspire me.

Thanks, everyone, for the interesting discussion. But let's not end it here--what does "making it" mean to you?

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Year I Died Seven Times by Eric Beetner

A couple of years ago Emily Nussbaum wrote an article about the cliffhanger and how it is a transaction with the viewer:
Narrowly defined, a cliffhanger is a climax cracked in half: the bomb ticks, the screen goes black. A lady wriggles on train tracks—will anyone save her? Italics on a black screen: “To be continued . . .” More broadly, it’s any strong dose of “What happens next?,” the question that hovers in the black space between episodes. In the digital age, that gap is an accordion: it might be a week or eight months; it may arrive at the end of an episode or as a season finale or in the second before a click on “next.” Cliffhangers are the point when the audience decides to keep buying—when, as the cinema-studies scholar Scott Higgins puts it, “curiosity is converted into a commercial transaction.”
Long before Nussbaum's piece crime writer Mickey Spillane put it even more succinctly:

“The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book.”
There is a lot of talk about hybrid authors, those authors making the most of the fluctuating landscape by trying different release methods for their work. Eric Beetner seems to be making the most of this with a traditionally released title, co-authored titles, titles released through a small e-publisher, a self published limited edition title, a release with a primarily app based publisher, and others. His latest release, The Year I Died Seven Times, utilizes yet another method, it is a serial.

Serial's aren't new to the e-publishing landscape, but The Year I Died Seven Times is tweaking the formula a bit. Typically, in ebook serials, the reader pays an upfront price which covers the entirety of the book, and updates come through when the new sections are available. Beetner, and publisher Beat to a Pulp, are using a pay as you go system which is more akin to a piece of fiction coming out in consecutive issues of a magazine. Playboy released Denis Johnson's novel Nobody Move over four issues, betting that readers would be hooked enough to keep buying them.  Beetner and BtaP are also betting that the reader will be so hooked by the end of each installment that they will pay for the next. (You can get more information on the title, and its release methodology, at Beetner's blog).

I'm all for trying new ways to publish in this changing landscape, and I've bought and read the first installment (more on that below). The only real criticism I have comes when I look at the numbers. There will be seven installments each released at a cost of $1.49. So the total cost of this book (length unknown at this time) will be $10.43. That price point scares me if I'm being honest. I, as a reader, can't help but wonder if a cheaper omnibus release, will be coming out later on, and if so, should I wait for that.

I also find myself wondering if there is a correlation between reading and binge watching a show. Consumers of media seem, increasingly, to want it all now. To spend a weekend watching The Wire for example, and less likely to want the episodes of a show parsed out. I wonder if one of the appeals of reading is that the whole story is available, all at one time, for the reader to consume at their own speed. Which means if the narrative is pulling you along, you can stay up late into the night finishing it. I stated a possible criticism above, now I'll state a possible fear (fear because I'm a fan of Beetner's fiction). That any narrative goodwill or curiosity built up will be dissipated by the time the next installment comes out.

I plan on interviewing Beetner abut this book for an upcoming post here at Do Some Damage if he's game. So if I'm wrong about any of this I'll give him all the space he needs to set me straight.

Now, on to the book. The Year I Died Seven Times is a fast paced story with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged until the end. I do want to read the rest and only wish I could have kept going. My only nit to pick is that one of the reveals in the book is based on the first person narrator simply forgetting to tell the readers something about himself until it was convenient for the narrative to do so for maximum effect. It's a cheap trick that writers should avoid in general in my opinion. I think this first installment is worth the price and readers should check it out. All I can do is recommend it and the rest is up to Beetner.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Home again, home again!

By: Joelle Charbonneau

In case you missed it – for the last few weeks, I’ve been on the road promoting book two of The Testing Trilogy, INDEPENDENT STUDY.  And what a crazy couple of weeks it was. 

Did I have fun?

You bet!

Am I tired?

Holy cow, YES!

Would I do it again?

Give me a couple of weeks to catch up on sleep, get my house organized and write – then sign me up!

Tour was filled with all sorts of experiences – from the interesting to the wonderful to the totally bizarre.  I won’t be able to capture all of those experiences, but I’m happy to give you some of the highlights.


First off – no one should ever travel on a plane with me.  Until this past Friday, I managed to avoid any weather delays, which is a miracle.  However, I did have other strange airplane adventures.  My first two flights were delayed due to unusual mechanical issues.  The first was as broken overhead bin compartment – see photo.  A passenger must have been eating her Wheaties, because when she opened the bin to shove her jacket inside, she took the whole door off.  Oops.  And I’m not sure if super human strength or a very large nail caused the flat tire on my second flight but I was impressed at how quickly the mechanics can change an airplane tire.  Go mechanics!   I was also impressed at how fast paramedics can get a patient off of a plane, which was something I witnessed upon landing in Austin.

One thing I did learn during tour was there are amazing people out there called media escorts.  They meet you at the airport, make sure you get to the schools and the bookstore events and your hotel and do it all with a friendly smile and an attitude that makes you feel as if you’ve been friends forever.  Annette, Kristen, Dolores, Gail, Mary Ann and Paul – thanks for making sure I never got lost!  And Kristen – if you’re reading this – I totally need the recipe for those cookies you made.  They were amazing.


So…if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might be aware of the big, yellow penguins I encountered.  If not…here they are!

The 21C Museum Hotel was by far the most unusual and fun hotel I’ve ever stayed at.  From the penguins and prairie dogs that greeted me at the door….

To the artwork hanging around the hotel…

To the strange body parts in the tile of my hotel room bathroom….

The whole experience was memorable.  And it was even more memorable when I realized that I wasn’t hallucinating when I thought penguins were popping up in places I could swear they hadn’t been before.  Kudos to a hotel staff for a sense of humor which inspired them to move the penguins around….at least I’m assuming it was due to their sense of humor.  It could be their 2014 exercise plan.  I guess I’ll have to go back in 2015 to see if they are still picking up and relocating penguins.


And in between the flights, the hotels and the driving from place to place there were readers.  Sometimes there were 10 people at an event.  Other times there were hundreds.  No matter the number, the enthusiasm for reading touched me deeply and made me so grateful to be a part of this strange and wonderful world of publishing.  I had the opportunity to talk to honors students getting ready to set the world on fire in various math and science related fields.  I chatted with middle school students who thought meeting an author was the coolest experience ever.  And perhaps most memorable was the day I got to discuss my writing journey (from actor and singer to writer and all the rejection in between) with students who would be the first in their family to ever go to college.  The discussion we had about rejection and how important it is to get up after you’ve been pushed down is something that will last with me for the rest of my life.

So will the moment sitting in a Mexican restaurant next to my hotel in Albuquerque with two gentlemen (Robert and Eric) who invited me to sit with them and were surprised when I almost burst into tears when I got the news that INDEPENDENT STUDY hit #8 on The New York Times Best Seller List.

Yes.  If my publisher asks me to tour again, I will say yes.  Gladly.  Because having the chance to make a career out of writing has giving me so many amazing memories and experiences.  Touring gives me a chance to give something back, to say thank you to the booksellers and readers who have embraced my stories and to create new memories that will stay with me forever. 

But since I plan on being home for at least the next few weeks – I want to say thank you to all of you for being here through this journey.  When I started blogging on Do Some Damage, I had no idea where this writing thing would take me.  I had no idea the excitement, the terror, the joy and all the emotions in between I’d feel.  You have all been such an important companion in this adventure.  I can’t wait to see where it will take all of us next!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Finding a Lost Gem of a Book

Scott D. Parker

A rather uneventful week here in Houston for me. Well, yesterday, we had Ice-pocalypse which, for us in southeast Texas means shutting down the city on account of a thin sheet of ice. The schools closed, the sun didn't show its face, and the television stations preempted regular programming to show video of radar and…roads. I know it takes very little for us to go crazy in the cold, but it still seemed extreme. Just wait until we have a nice, spring day and that will be the one day we have to make up our Ice Day.

The weather didn't deter me from taking a quick trip to Half-Price. I have made it a habit not to go into any of these types of stores with any preconceived ideas of what I'd like to find. That way, if I find anything of note, it's a nice surprise. In the course of my reading, I study the way some authors structure their stories. One type of story is best exemplified by Lester Dent and his Doc Savage novels. I enjoy the vintage reprint editions that mimic the 1930s editions, but they are sometimes hard to find. Well, lo and behold, I found a cache of the 1960s reprint paperbacks. And to make it even better, they were only marked with the cover price of fifty cents! But that wasn't the real find. I stumbled across a 1975 edition of Philip Jose Farmer's book, Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. This book was Farmer's attempt to write a 'biography' of Doc that accounted for all his adventures. This little book is chock full with a lot of fun information including Farmer's family history of Doc that linked him with just about every major pulp and classic hero and villain, including Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and Fu Manchu, among others. I'm really looking forward to diving into this book.*

Speaking of using existing authors for studying, which authors do you study for structure or style?

*As excited as I am for this find, I still am planning on picking up the new, revised edition.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's Dave, man. Open up.

By Dave White

Hi, Do Some Damage readers, I’m back.

And, to be honest, it feels like I never left.  It’s Sunday night, when I’m writing this, and I promised Steve Weddle, I’d have a post to him by the end of the weekend.  And I have no idea what to write about.  This was how it felt every Monday night when, around 10 o’clock at night, I realized I had a post to write.

I’d always freeze up.

The reason wasn’t the obvious one:  writer’s block plus a deadline.  No, it was often the problem of having too much to write about.  But not knowing what fit.  That was my problem, and it was the problem I feel permeates the blog-o-sphere.

When I left Do Some Damage, I wasn’t writing . . . not fiction, anyway.  I was working on graduate school papers, I was working on Rutgers blog posts, and I was working on raising a baby.  So, I wasn’t really thinking about fiction.  I had some ideas, and I had some opinions, but they were insular to the small-ish crime fiction internet world.

Which was the exact people I’d been writing to for nine years in some for or another.  But I wanted to move beyond that.  I wanted to catch the eye of the casual mystery fan.  I wanted to scream to them about Marcus Sakey or Jay Stringer or Russel McLean or Steve Weddle.  Get those books in front of the casual fans’ eyes.

And I didn’t know how.

The only thing I knew is seeing the headline “How to Write a Sex Scene” for the 8 billionth time on a blog wasn’t going to do it.  So, I stepped down.

But now I’m back, just for this week.  My old books are being published by a brand new publisher in the fantastic Polis Books.  Very soon, they’ll even be putting out a brand new Jackson Donne novel:  NOT EVEN PAST.

I’m back in the game.  I’m excited.

But I’m still faced with the same age-old problem.  I have too much to write about, and I don’t want to lecture you about writing.

Guess I’ll stick to Rutgers posts.

However, I did want to check in and say hi.  I miss you guys.  But the people who took over for me are doing fantastic work.  I still read every day.

And if you haven’t checked out my books, it’s a great time to do so.  WHEN ONE MAN DIES is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.  The second Jackson Donne novel is available in the same places.

I hope you’ll give them a look.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What's Next, Folks?

After nearly six years of more or less knowing where my writing focus is, I find myself in an exciting but slightly uncomfortable place: What do I do next?
Admittedly, it’s not the first time I’ve found myself here. Right before Carina Press made an offer on Mistress of Fortune, I was ready to write something entirely new. I wanted to leave 17th century London and move forward a few hundred years, maybe even write something contemporary. Several thousand words later, I had two different novels started.
Then, the offer came in November 2012. I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo at the time and promptly put that novel-in-progress to the side so that I could concentrate on writing a proposal for book two in the Mistress of Fortune series.
Signing a two-book deal with Carina was good for me. I considered it a wise career move, not only because hello, it was a two-book deal, but also because I needed to learn how to write a book to deadline. It took me five years to write Mistress of Fortune. The motivation of a signed contract helped me to write that second book in six months. The finished novel, Mistress of Lies, is not quite as polished (it’s in edits now) but it’s just as tightly plotted as Mistress of Fortune and in some ways, it’s a stronger book. I'm proud of it, and post-edits, it'll be a damned good book.
The obvious answer to the what's next question is to write a proposal for a third book in the Mistress of Fortune series. Believe me, it's tempting. But I know I have to be true to myself and my writing goals--I'd like to snag a print deal and that will probably never happen for the Mistress of Fortune series. As much as I love it, I need to move on, at least temporarily.
A week or so ago, my fellow DSD blogger, Jay Stringer, wrote a post that really resonated with me:
"Everyone wants to tell you what writing is. 'Writing is rewriting.' 'Writing is not writing.' 'Writing is writing.' 'Writing is a water-based ball game usually played on Mars.' In 2013, as I finished that book, I decided that writing is getting to the end."
Reading this, I realized that it doesn't matter what I decide to write next--it only matters that I get to the end. That I finish it, and hopefully, within a six month time frame. I have two unfinished manuscripts, both of which have similar commercial appeal. But there's one I'm more passionate about, so that's the one I'm choosing. On Monday, I began plotting it, and since I like to go forward with a fairly detailed outline, a month from now I'll re-start the writing of it. I'm looking forward to finishing it, then moving on to the next book, and the next one.
Because I'm a writer, dammit, and I finish my shit.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why Did I Write LOST CITY?

By Jay Stringer

Lost City is out now. Right the hell now. You see that? It's at 1.99 on Kindle in the UK and some kinda dollar thing in the US.

Go buy it.

Okay, so it's out. But why did I write it?

That's easy. I had a contract.

I'm kidding. But just once, wouldn't you love to see an author saying that? In all seriousness, Lost City is the end of something I started a long time ago. Once I new Old Gold was going to be a book, and not just a monstrously long short story, I decided to see how far I could push it.

I loved Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder series, and closer to home I was also impressed by what Ray Banks was doing with Cal Innes. These were characters in crime novels, but the world they inhabited bordered on ours. And I'm not talking in terms of street names and landmarks. The worlds that Scudder and Innes lived in had a cumulative effect on the people living in them. Scudder drank and became an alcoholic (or drank because he was an alcoholic) and we watched him drift out the edge of life and then pull himself back again, it by bit. Innes was a half-arsed PI who knew all about PI fiction. He also has a knack for getting beat up, blown up, or thrown from moving vans.

In many fictional worlds, these are things you can shrug off. But for Scudder and Innes, these were things that stayed with them, that wore at them and ate away at their health and sanity.

So once I knew that Eoin Miller wasn't going to die at the end of Old Gold (no spoiler tags needed, surely, it's a trilogy) I decided to go all out. Miller was going to have a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

I'm an atheist, and so I'll usually say I don't believe in the existence of the 'soul.' But I'm also a writer, which means some part of me must believe in some kind of soul, because I spend so much time searching it. Not in any real sense, but in that way that we all return to the blank page each time to try and find that thing. And I wondered, how lost could I make Miller? How far could I get him from his home, his family and his heart, and then -the real trick, like the final turn of a magic act- could I bring him back?

How lost do you have to be, before you can no longer find your way back? And can crime fiction be the venue for telling a comeback story, or would I have to pull the rug out from under him at the end and have him die, or worse?

I spent a trilogy trying to figure that out.

What was the answer?

There's really only one way for you to find out.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Black Rock by John McFetridge

I'm a long time fan of John McFetridge's fiction and I'm a huge fan of his Toronto series. He has been called the Canadian Elmore Leonard but I maintain he's closer to the Canadian George V Higgins. These earlier works were perhaps a little denser, and Black Rock seems, in part, to be a move, towards finding a wider audience with a more streamlined, traditional, crime fiction series/series character.

Black Rock is set in Montreal in 1970, a time of chaos where bank robberies, kidnappings, and regular bombings are on ongoing occurrence. In this atmosphere regular crimes are still happening but the cities resources are caught up in special task forces, high profile crimes, and bomb chasing, and so a girl getting murdered doesn't get the attention deserves (or any at all really). Enter Eddie Dougherty. Because he knows the neighborhood, and the family of the murdered girl, one of the homicide detectives takes Dougherty under his wing and encourages him to investigate when he can and teaches him a little bit on how to be a detective. Essentially, Black Rock is about trying to do regular policing in a heightened climate of fear.

The secondary characters were one of the highlights for me. From the detectives as mentors; to the bomb squad guys who show up in coveralls wielding nail clippers who ultimately decide to just kick a bag of dynamite into the river to deal with it.  The main protagonist is a little bland at times in comparison. On one hand he's a young guy just starting out in his policing career so it'll be fun to see him rise through the ranks in future installments. On the other hand he is the series character.

Bottom line: Solid start to a series with a tense and exciting backdrop filtered through all of those things that John McFetridge does so well. There is great dialog, great moments of observation, and small moments to make you laugh. You'll want to give this one a look when it comes out.


Excerpt - Chapter one

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Meet Robin Spano and her fabulous character - Clare Vengel

One of the best things about the INDEPENDENT STUDY launch and book tour is that I've been able to wrangle some of my favorite authors to spend some time on Do Some Damage while I am otherwise occupied.  Today, I am beyond excited to introduce you to Robin Spano.  If you don't know her and her writing - what's wrong with you???  (Kidding...sort of...maybe...)  Not only is Robin an amazing friend and awesome person, she is a kick-butt author.  I love Clare Vengel and I hope after reading this post you'll check out the books and  spend a whole lot more time with Clare.  You'll be glad you did!

Warm thanks to Joelle Charbonneau for inviting me to guest post on Do Some Damage while she's off on a glamorous book tour for her kickass YA series.

Joelle suggested a post that introduces readers to Clare Vengel (the undercover cop who stars in my mystery series), so I've taken the Proust Questionairre (which supposedly reveals someone's true nature) and asked Clare to answer it. Here's what she says:

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A bottle of Bud, a few more in the fridge, and an evening on the couch with my man of the hour. In a perfect world, this is date six or seven. We've done the whole getting-to-know-you bit, but haven't dated long enough for baggage. We're just here, together, chilling and enjoying whatever's on TV.

2. What is your greatest fear?
Ending up alone and single, with not even a cat for company. I guess the honest truth is that I fear that I'm unloveable once someone gets to know the real me.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I wish I wasn't afraid of commitment.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Falseness. I hate people who pretend to be something they're not. Which is most people.

5. Which living person do you most admire?
Queen Latifah. She's kind and warm and she doesn't pretend.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?
My motorcycle jacket. I almost never spend money on myself, but when I saw this in the bike shop window, I was in love. Then I felt the leather—soft, smooth, supple—and I pulled out my debit card on the spot.

7. What is your current state of mind?
Relaxed. I'm halfway through my first beer of the night. I have a fresh pack of cigarettes so I won't have to go out.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

9. On what occasion do you lie?
When I'm undercover.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I'm too skinny, but no amount of beer and pizza seems to change that. I wish I had bigger breasts, and a more curvy, feminine figure.

11. Which living person do you most despise?
Shauna Bartlett. It's not really her fault; she's just engaged to the man I wish I had.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
I like him to be laid back enough that he can laugh at himself.

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Same thing. Laid back and can laugh at herself.

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Fuck. I swear too much. I should temper that.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Lance McGraw. My high school boyfriend. He cheated on me with half of Orillia but I would take him back in a heartbeat.

16. When and where were you happiest?
I'm happiest on the back of my bike. On the highway, because there I can just ride and ride, without stoplights and yuppies in BMWs who cut me off because they think every lane is their lane.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could sing. I would kill to show up at karaoke night and put emotion into a song I love so the audience could feel it, too.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would quit smoking.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Landing my job as an undercover cop. I know I'm not good enough at it yet. But I want to be. I will be.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A dolphin or a whale. They live a long time and they're smart, but they don't have all the angst we humans do. Plus, it would be cool to live in the ocean, to experience the underworld, literally.

21. Where would you most like to live?
New York City.

22. What is your most treasured possession?
My Triumph motorcycle.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Visiting my family. Actually, I think the lowest depth of misery would be inside my parents' lives. No one does unhappy like they do.

24. What is your favorite occupation?
I love to work on cars. To troubleshoot a mechanical issue is my favorite puzzle in the world. Like sudokus, but with real life objects.

25. Who are your favorite writers?
Pink. I know she's a singer, not a book writer, but her lyrics really speak to me so I consider her a modern day poet.

26. Who is your hero of fiction?
Sabrina from Charlie's Angels.

27. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Winston Churchill. He drank too much and put his foot in his mouth, but he always got the job done.

28. Who are your heroes in real life?
My old boss, Roberta. She's a mechanic, she has her own shop, and I admire the way she pulled her life together after her husband left her a single mother with no education.

29. What do you most dislike?
Materialistic people who care more about collecting wealth and nice things than they do about experiencing real life.

30. What is your greatest regret?
I didn't treat Kevin well. I gave him all the shit I wanted to give Lance, except he was a different guy, kinder and more honorable. If I could go back and relive that relationship, I'd be way nicer to him.

31. How would you like to die?
On the back of my bike, on a lonely mountain highway, when I'm in my 90s or older and I've done everything I came for.

32. What is your motto?
“I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” (Jimmy Dean.)

To read Clare's rookie case for free, join me on Wattpad, where with the encouragement and editorial help of ECW Press, I'm re-releasing Dead Politician Society free as an e-serial.

Or catch Clare's latest (and greatest) adventure, Death's Last Run, in bookstores now.