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.