Saturday, May 2, 2015

Writing Year 2014 to 2015 - A Recap

by
Scott D. Parker

Last year, I wrote a couple of posts about a thing I called the Writer's New Year. In one, I mulled over the quotation "A year from now, you may have wished you had started today." The other post was specifically about the Writing New Year's Day. That's the day, if you have one, when you decided you wanted to be a writer and you started.

1 May 2013 was that date for me. I took stock of the 2013-2014 year last May. Today is the update on all the events that have happened from 1 May 2014 to yesterday. It can be summed up in one phrase: I got published!

In order to do that, of course, I formed my own company, Quadrant Fiction Studio. Those events, in an of themselves, are causes for celebration.

What makes the Writer's New Year's Day special is that the story I started on 1 May 2013 turned out to be WADING INTO WAR, the debut book from QFS.

Other things I've done since last year was write the third Benjamin Wade story, a novel featuring a modern-day character, Derek Foley, and a longer novella, that will be out later this month. I've got a title for that one: THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES. Look for a cover reveal in the next week or two. I've also completed a story that will appear in a forthcoming anthology. Not sure of the word count of all of this, about 130,000. As much as word count was a strong motivating factor in 2013, in 2014, it was all about completed projects.

But forming a company and publishing a book independently is a big deal. I never expected it to take as much time as it has so far. Oh, and I had to learn enough web stuff to make two websites.

So this year has been good for me. What's in store for next year, the 2015-2016 edition? Well, write more books and publish them. I’ll admit that my productivity in this first third of 2015 has not been what I envisioned, but I’m working on that. Improve the quality of my writing and improve the quality of my business. And, hopefully, attend my first Bouchercon. Lastly, I want to experiment with some things, try something out of my comfort zone. The story I wrote for the anthology was like that and it forced me to think outside my usual mystery-story box.

I have big ideas for Quadrant Fiction Studio for this year and future years, and the year 2015 will be the foundation. I look forward to this post next year.


BTW, today is Free Comic Book Day. If you are of a mind, find your nearest store and go support them. I like two here in Houston: Third Planet (for over 30 years!) and the good folks over at The Pop Culture Company.


Oh, and May the Fourth Be With You.

Friday, May 1, 2015

EDGAR Awards announced

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the winners of the 2015 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2014. The Edgar Awards were presented to the winners at our 69th Gala Banquet, April 29, 2015 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.


BEST NOVEL
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)


BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (W.W. Norton)


BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL 
The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)


BEST FACT CRIME
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
by William J. Mann (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)


BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL
 Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe
by J.W. Ocker (W.W. Norton – Countryman Press)

BEST SHORT STORY
"What Do You Do?” – Rogues by Gillian Flynn
(Penguin Random House Publishing – Bantam Books)

BEST JUVENILE
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
 (Clarion Books – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)


BEST YOUNG ADULT The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin Young Readers)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
“Episode 1” – Happy Valley, Teleplay by Sally Wainwright (Netflix)


ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"Getaway Girl" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine By ZoĆ« Z. Dean (Dell Magazines)

GRAND MASTER
 Lois Duncan
James Ellroy

RAVEN AWARDS
 Ruth & Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine
Kathryn Kennison, Magna Cum Murder

ELLERY QUEEN AWARD
 Charles Ardai, Editor & Founder, Hard Case Crime

* * * * * *

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Tuesday, April 28, 2015)
The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Minotaur Books)

 # # #

The Edgar (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Conversation with Rob Hart, Part I

By Alex Segura

I can't recall the first time I met Rob Hart - I'll wager it was probably at a Noir at the Bar reading in Manhattan, or an event at The Mysterious Bookshop. At first blush, he struck me as focused, whip-smart and sarcastic. I knew we'd get along. Like many people, I've had the chance to follow Rob's journey to becoming a published novelist through his social media and his regular Path to Publication column at LitReactor - from the highs of signing a book deal to the lows of losing it to the even higher high of finding a better home for said book, Rob's journey isn't as unique as you'd think. But it's all about the story, and how it's told.  Rob does this well.

  His first Ash McKenna novel, New Yorked, hits in June from Polis Books. (Full disclosure, Polis is the publisher of my two upcoming Pete Fernandez novels - Silent City and Down the Darkest Street.) New Yorked is a rough and tumble, dirty, raw and addictive read. Ash isn't a hero, per se - or even a detective. But mystery and crime readers will take to him immediately, and you'll be left scouring your shelves or ereader for the next book once you hit the end of New Yorked. It's that good. One of the strongest debuts I've read in a good, long while.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Rob briefly this week about the book, his career path, the music that fueled some of his writing and more. We'll continue the convo next week, too. Thanks to Rob for taking the time.

Rob, I know you're a comic book guy too - or at least aware of the tropes of superhero stuff. So, that being said, what's your origin story?
I don’t have a Crime Alley or radioactive spider. There was no defining moment. Maybe something more like the slow burn of an Irish Catholic upbringing, which instilled a strong distrust of authority. Now I make up stuff in my head and try to get people to pay me for it. Which is a little like religion. I guess I’ve come back around.

I do have one superpower, and this is something my wife will vouch for: Whenever I go to the movies, I always sit near the asshole who wants to talk through the entire thing. As superpowers go, this one sucks. 

Your first novel, New Yorked, is coming out in June from Polis Books. What's the elevator pitch?
People call Ash McKenna a private eye, but he calls himself a blunt instrument. Point him to a job, he gets it done. When the woman he loves turns up dead he goes looking for the killer, with all the grace of a wrecking ball. He runs afoul of a drag queen drug lord, a hard-boiled role playing game, and a hipster turf war, all while barreling toward the consequences of his own violent tendencies.

That counts as an elevator pitch if you are in a very tall building.

I'm a sucker for process pieces and influences. What's the genetic makeup of NEW YORKED? Which writers informed your own work, and how did it come to life in terms of the actual writing? Why was this the book you had to write?
This is a tough question to answer. It’s a mix. On one hand, I was playing at some of the classic hard-boiled tropes, with some nods to the masters, like Chandler and Hammett. But there’s also an element where I’m exploring my relationship with New York City. I’ve lived here my whole life, and like most natives, love and hate it in equal measure. So there are a lot of influences that weren’t necessarily books, but had such a singular vision of the city that they inspired me: the movie Shortbus, the music video for Girl Talk’s album All Day, which is one long dance sequence stretched across the five boroughs.

And then there’s In the City of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer, which ruined me--it’s the best book ever written about New York City. I’m not even going to claim I attempted to do what he did, which was write something definitive. I’m just glad to have that influence in my life.

I know there's a lot of me in Pete, and I imagine there's a bit of your misspent youth in Ash. How hard is it, as a writer, to be mindful of keeping your own wish fulfillment out of the creation of a strong, standalone character?
There wasn’t a huge problem with wish fulfillment here. Ash is my id. He’s every bad decision I never made. And I don’t think he’s strong. Physically, sure. Developmentally, he’s been held back, both by tragedy and his own stubbornness. This series, which I’m hoping will be five books, is about him growing up and finding his moral compass.

That said, I definitely feel a little bit of my voice in his. Because he’s a wiseass, and I’m a wiseass. The difference is he’s usually goading people into something stupid. And I’ve accepted that I’m full of shit and don’t understand anything about the world. He still thinks he’s got it all figured out, as most kids in their mid-20s do.

One of my favorite things about your work - in addition to enjoying the hell out of the book - is how transparent you've been about the publishing journey. Tell us a little bit about how New Yorked came to be. What were some of the challenges and lessons learned?
Put on a pot of coffee.

I wrote the book, I thought it was done, an author I respect a great deal read it, and he told me I needed a page one rewrite. It was devastating news, but it was news I needed to get. That was strike one.

That rewrite got me an agent, Bree Ogden, and she sold the book to Exhibit A. Four or five months later the imprint got shut down and I got kicked to the curb. Strike two.

Now I’m with Polis, and to cap off this cheesy baseball metaphor I’m building up to—I feel like I hit a home run. I couldn’t be happier with how things are going. Jason is brilliant, and he works his ass off, and he gets results. He’s got the reach of a major publisher with the soul of an indie house. It’s a great place to be.

It was a long and stressful process. I tried to figure it out recently. Something like five years, from first draft to pub date. I learned some important lessons.

First, patience is a virtue. Especially in publishing. Nothing happens with any sense of expediency and it’s very easy to get yourself worked up. You have to take a deep breath and channel that energy into the writing. Put your head down, do the work.

Second is, just because things suck doesn’t mean they’ll suck forever. When I lost my first deal, it was easy to feel like that was the end of the world. Then I got over it and did the work.

Third, nothing about this business makes sense, and anyone who says they understand it is a liar or naive. Best to not worry about it. Put your head down, do the work.

That’s the biggest lesson: This is work. Fun, cool, and awesome, but work nonetheless. You get out what you put in.

Best bit of advice you've ever gotten - about writing, life or anything?
Here’s one my favorites: I used to work for a politician who chaired the New York City Council Finance Committee. So he’s a powerful guy. We were at another politician’s campaign headquarters, and while all the other politicos were bullshitting at a table in the corner, he sat down with the grunts and sealed envelopes. Someone told him he didn’t need to do that. He shrugged and said, “Everybody works.”

Translation: No one is too good to do anything, especially when there’s a job that needs getting done. So don’t be the asshole who sits in the corner.

I personally don't listen to music while writing, but play a ton of music while thinking about writing. What albums remind you of New Yorked? What's on the book's soundtrack?
I listened to a lot of punk in preparation for this, and during the writing process. Bands that played at CBGB, or around that era, because that was the feeling I was trying to tap into. So, the Ramones, the Dictators, Iggy Pop, Cock Sparrer, Stiff Little Fingers. Ash has a punk-rock sensibility--not overtly, but he’s got a very strong “fuck authority” mentality.

Then, too, there’s Neon Golden, an album from The Notwist, which is the exact opposite end of the spectrum. I used to listen to it at the end of the night to wind down, after doing silly things in the East Village until 4 or 5 in the morning. That’s another feeling I wanted to tap into--that transitional period from the roaring 20s to the chilled-out 30s. Neon Golden always brings me back to that period of my life in a very visceral way. 

Come back next week for part II of my conversation with Rob Hart.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Racing to the End

by Holly West

I don't like endings.

I don't mean endings in the big, grand scheme of things. Life milestones, events,  and such. Some of those I like and some I don't, depending on what's ending. What I'm talking about are the endings of books, specifically, those of the crime genre.

Yesterday, Jay talked about novel structure and how basically, he's all over the place. One Act? Two?Five? He argues that novelists should forgo the "straight jacket" of the ubiquitous three-act structure and take charge of your story. He says it better than I do, so go ahead and read it if you haven't yet.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the three-act structure. Without following it pretty closely, I might not've met the deadline for my second book, MISTRESS OF LIES. Okay, if I'm being honest, I did have to ask for an extension on the first deadline, but damned if I didn't make the second, all right? So as a writer, I'm definitely an advocate of the three-act structure.

As a reader, maybe not so much. This gets me back to my initial statement: I don't like endings. In the three-act structure, we have, loosely, Act 1, Act 2 (usually broken into A & B), and Act 3. I'm totally fine with Acts 1 & 2--there are certain benchmarks--or turning points--that should happen in those acts but the author is free to define them as he or she sees fit. To me, they're much less generic than Act 3.

It's Act 3 that gets on my nerves. Act 3 usually contains the resolution and climax of the story, so it should be the most exciting part of the book, right? It's the culmination of everything your characters have worked for. In crime fiction, particularly, traditional mysteries, Act 3 usually begins with the protagonist FINALLY understanding what's going on. Who did it and why. But that doesn't mean he or she is scot free. No, once these details are revealed, the protagonist must engage in a Final Battle with the antagonist and, usually, achieve that one Final Victory.

My problem is that once I learn what's really going on (which, as I've indicated, usually happens around the beginning of the third act) I pretty much lose interest in the book. Take the novel I'm reading now. I've really enjoyed it, but now that I've come the Final Battle I'm rushing through it. I'm not even really paying attention. I can't blame this on the book itself because I almost always feel this way, no matter what I'm reading. It's like that with films, too, which makes sense because most of them follow the three-act structure now.

When I turned in MISTRESS OF LIES, my editor said the climax needed more tension. That was because I totally rushed through it, wanting to get to the end as quickly as I could. This is funny when I think about it because I essentially did the same thing I do as a reader--once the story was wrapped up I just wanted to get to the end. I didn't really care about the Final Battle all that much. Don't worry, I added a whole bunch of that much-needed tension in my edits, but that initial draft was all like, "Okay, I know what happens now, aren't we done?"

As a writer, I clearly need to figure out a way to make my endings satisfying while not falling prey to the usual Act 3 Final Battle cliches. As a reader, maybe I need to take a break from crime fiction for awhile. I have to admit that the first two books I read this year were non-fiction and I devoured them. Or maybe I just need to work on expanding my attention span. I find that as I grow older, I don't have as much patience with books as I used to.

Is that the problem? Am I just old?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Not To Write: Part One: Structure.

By Jay Stringer.

I don't give out writing advice often, and when I do, I like it to be wrong. So for my next few blogs here on DSD, I'm going to be giving some tips. Run for your lives.

First of all, I'm going to let you laugh at me. Here's a thing that I actually said, straight-faced, to a friend at the London Book Fair;

"If five-act structure was good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me."

Yes, I know, I'm a dick. 

But here's the thing-

There is one piece of writing advice that has become so fundamentally accepted, so adopted as 'the way it is,' that it's even accepted as fact by people who don't write.

A story has to have Three Acts. A beginning, middle and end. 

And you can see it in the writing. Many books stick to this, many screenwriters drive themselves into the ground trying to fit their story to that simple idea. The end result? A lot of books that feel similar, and a lot of unsold screenplays. 

I spent a long time trying it. 

The dirty secret -which I've shared on here before- is that my first novel only really had two acts. At the time, I felt that was wrong. I thought I'd failed as a writer. I spent some time in the re-edits trying to fake it; I moved a few things around to give the impression of a third act. 


My second book, Runaway Town, was written with the intent of doing it right this time and I tried hard to stick to Three-Act structure (but, shhhhhh, don't tell anyone, it has four.) My third book, Lost City, has four.

I went through a phase when I would say "well, I write in three Acts, but my second act is broken into two distinct chunks." Which is, really, the cowardly way of saying, "this book has four Acts." When I was writing Ways To Die In Glasgow (due out in August, and available here in the UK and here for the US, pre-order is your friend) I found that my storytelling had evolved to fit neatly into a Five-Act structure.  

(And I don't mean neat as in tidy, a tame, boring story.  Nope. There's sex, drugs, jokes, blood, death, maybe a little swearing....seriously....PRE-ORDER IS YOUR FRIEND.)

The book I wrote last year was called CRIMINALS. It, too, had five Acts. Though I was still pretending it had three. I would say to people at that point, "yeah, I write in three acts, but I write the second Act in three chunks." I know, right?

Here's the thing. Not every story is the same. But if you only have one Act-Structure in mind, you're going to end up driving each story down the same road. The turns are going to become familiar, we'll learn how to pace ourselves to hit each traffic light at the right time. 

Ultimately, through our stories we're revealing character. Each Act-Break marks a step in both the external and internal world of our characters. Something life changing has happened, or they've reached a moment when external forces are acting against them, or they've changed their mind, or changed their emotional reaction to something. 

There's been a change

And if we insist on only having one structure, then we insist on all characters having the same amount of changes. Which is bull, because everybody's lives are different. Some lives are One-Act, some are two, some are probably seventy six (I'm guessing that can be the only way Alan Moore's upcoming novel is so long.)

This, I believe, is one of the reasons so many writers struggle when they're in the middle third of their book. Because they think of it as the middle third. They've set up and opening Act, and they're working towards their final Act, but then events in the middle slow down, or gather together, or become a mess of treacle and failure. "Well, somewhere here I need to have a mid-point...but is it the scene I'm on now, or do I need another one? And, help, I've lost my sub-plot."

If, instead, that writer was thinking, "hey I'm in Act three of five, I'll have an Act-Break to hit soon, then another, then the final stretch..." things might be easier to manage, and the character arc might be more defined as a result. 

This isn't to say a story can't be three Acts. Some need to be. Some don't need to be. The important take-away from my shitty bit of writing advice, is simply to free yourself from the idea that a story has to be three acts. Looking back now, I know it's okay that my first book only had two Acts, because it was only a Two-Act story. The character wasn't ready for the extra development and learning he would have taken in a 'correct' third act. It would have felt fake. 

And this also isn't to say all books need to be done to my current structure (and I do have a Five-Act guide that I'm experimenting with, but I'm not ready to share it.) Hell, not even all of my books are going to be five from now on. Some will be three. some will be four. It depends on the characters and the story.

The reason I'm writing this is that I think Three-Act Structure has become a straight-jacket. It's something we're all told, and it can be damaging. It can hold back aspiring writers, and it can make career-novelists start to crank out work that is repetitive. You are in charge of telling the story. You get to make the big decisions, and your character gets to go on a journey, and there isn't only one way of getting there. Does your story really need to be told in three acts? Cool, have at it. But maybe it doesn't, and it's that 'maybe it doesn't' that I hope people take from this.

That, and the fact I'm a dick. 

If you're struggling on your current WIP, and you've always been writing with three acts as the rule, take a step back. Have another look. You might be surprised. 

Next time, I'll be talking about dialogue. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

To Be or Not To Be

That is the question that can put a writer in the hot seat. A choice to kill - or not kill - a character can prompt a backlash that can affect the future of a series, show or writer's career.

The other day, a friend asked me if I ever got really upset about character deaths on shows. The reason for the question?

(This is where I'll warn you that there are going to be spoilers for many shows, most of which are not currently airing, but shows referenced include Grey's Anatomy, The Wire, Orphan Black, Justified, Lost, Breaking Bad, Water Rats... so be warned before reading on)

Grey's Anatomy. I don't watch the show, but I've heard via radio and my husband that they killed McDreamy. While I'm not even exactly sure who that is, it sounds like a lot of people are upset about it, and that prompted the question from my friend.

Do I ever get upset about a character death?

Yes. If a character is well drawn, compelling, and their death is done right, there will definitely be an impact on loyal readers or viewers. I think many people who read this blog would think of many of the same character deaths that have gotten people talking.

Wallace from The Wire.

Omar Again, from The Wire.

Hershel.



Hank.



What do I think is the best death on TV ever? All of the above would be on my short list, but there are always a few other deaths that come to mind. Rachel, from Water Rat is one that stays with me.

Jin and Sun from Lost.

More recently, the Walking Dead death of Tyreese, which was a beautiful death. I'm not sure if you can appreciate it even from this longer clip, but the whole episode was gutting and exceptional.




And Mr. Eko from Lost. That whole episode is brilliant, and devastating.




There are also the deaths that have offended fans. Remember the death of Stringer Bell, and the posted hopes that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest?

As David Simon said, it wasn't that kind of show.

There are other kinds of deaths too. The deaths that made us cheer. Remember why we love Slim Charles? The death of Cheese. And most fans of Lost rejoiced at the deaths of Nikki and Paulo, made extra sweet by the fact that they were buried when they weren't even dead - just paralyzed temporarily - and that means they watched themselves be buried alive.




For super-hated characters like Nikki and Paulo, that was an extremely fitting death.

Great writers know when, and how, to take out a character. As seen in the death of Hank, the death of a character should impact other characters, and it should be fitting for the tone of the show, and advancing the plot. When those things work together, the death of a loved character can be crucial.

In contrast to most stories, Orphan Black begins with a death. It's risky, because it's hard to care about the loss of a character when you don't even know them, and they haven't said a single word, but given the context, the death of Beth definitely gets your attention and sets in motion a chain of events that give meaning to Beth's death.





And then, there are the lives of characters that offend us.

In the wake of the end of Justified there are definitely those who felt the show missed the mark by letting pretty much everyone live, including villain Boyd Crowder.

One of the main complaints I've seen is that Ava Crowder lived. People seemed to love her or loathe her, but rarely were they indifferent to her.

Personally speaking, I think I'm one of millions that felt ripped off by the fact that Father Gabriel from The Walking Dead is still drawing breath. They might have pulled that off as acceptable in the season finale this year, but I'm still giving it to them grudgingly.

I think that's the hallmark of a really great character. The point is that people feel strongly about them, whether good or bad. If you've been able to prompt an emotional response from viewers or readers, then you've created a character that people connect to or respond to, and that's never a bad thing.

As you consider whether to take a knife to one of your creations - or the termination of a character you love - consider whether the death is true to the consequences of the characters' actions, fits the tone of the work, and advances the development of other characters and the plot. If the death checks all those boxes, then it could be one of the most significant defining moments of the story. A character can live on through the impact of their death, and although we may miss them, a story may be richer for their loss.

Isn't that what's making us all curious about season 2 of Bloodline? I know the loss of the character will be felt... and I can't wait to see how.

I've touched on many deaths that I think people will agree were compelling, and memorable, and amongst either the most significant or controversial on TV.  What's my #1 pick?

Well, the runner up spot centers on a death that was expected. It was a guest character who appeared in only six episodes, and you don't even see the death itself, yet the death of Kerwin from Rectify is one that stays with both Brian and I, and for a guest role for only six episodes of a show, that says a lot.




My top pick isn't really surprising. And is wasn't that I was necessarily sad about the death of the character. Lizzie had long been on the crazy train, and her murder of sweet Mika made her execution essential. The reason the death is so compelling, and so exceptional, is that the writers took pains to make her death have so much significance. Without the death of Lizzie could Tyreese have forgiven Carol? We will never know, but what we are given in the death of Lizzie is was a stroke of brilliance, because the death of one child has such a significant impact on the people who were left behind.





From that death, forgiveness.

There are undoubtedly many other worthy deaths I haven't mentioned. For you, who were you sad to see go? Or perhaps more appropriately, who were you mad to see live?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fifteen Things I've Done That You May Not Have Done*

*or may not want to have done
PS These are only the ones I would let my mother read.

By Kristi Belcamino

Sometimes I feel like I've lived many lives. Here are some of the odder things that have happened in my life. So far.


1. Got up close and personal at an autopsy of a drug overdose. Smelled the dead guy later for hours as I went about the rest of my day.
2. Attended several barbecues at the morgue. The deputies liked to grill in the oversize garage where the big body vans parked. We’d grill and then carry our meat back past the big freezers and through the autopsy room into the morgue offices. I always worried meningitis germs or something else would jump on my hamburger before I got it in my mouth.
3. Flew in an FA/18 jet with the Blue Angels over Big Sur. Click link for video of it, but be warned it includes barfing footage.
4. Had Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson ask to be introduced to me once while I was eating breakfast at a restaurant because he liked a newspaper article I had written about a man who crashed his car while naked and masturbating.
5. Lived with Beck and his family in a Mara Salvatrucha gang neighborhood in South Koreatown L.A.
6. Shook hands with President Bill Clinton while he was in office.
7. Raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca Raceway.
8. Had Jerry Seinfeld roll his eyes at me. For no good reason.
9. Was with San Jose homicide detectives during the first twelve hours of their murder investigation, including going into the living room of a house to notify parents their son had been murdered.
10. Had a K9 save my life. He jumped on a man with a knife running toward me in an empty parking lot. When the dog attacked the man, he killed the dog with the knife and it gave me time to get in my car and lock the doors. The cops arrived seconds later and surrounded the man, guns drawn, right in front of my windshield.
11. Got a message on my phone at the newspaper from Clint Eastwood where he talked about an unfortunate printing mistake in the local weekly that gave him a HUGE bulge-y shadow in a particularly unfortunate (?) spot on his thigh.
12. One night in L.A. my job was to escort porn star Traci Lords around a rave at the Shrine Auditorium.  (I also got to talk to Dennis Leary and Pee Wee Herman as part of the event coordinator for this fundraiser rave.)
13. Was in the lead cop car in a high-speed police pursuit on a San Francisco Bay Area freeway. Trust me when I say my life flashed before my eyes.
14. Slept in my hatchback car in a parking garage in Jersey City. For three nights. Each morning washed up with the homeless people in the bathrooms at the transit station before I went into NYC for the day. (Give me a break, I was broke and young and wanted to visit the city.)
15. Spent hours talking to a serial killer and received dozens of phone calls and letters from him, which spawned the idea for my first book.