Saturday, July 15, 2017

When You Accidentally Recommend a Bad Book

Scott D. Parker

It was the perfect set up.

I’m a part of a book club with four other gentlemen all of whom love science fiction and fantasy. Some years back—eight years ago!—we all decided we’d love the opportunity to do outside of the office what we kept doing in the office: chat about SF/F book and movies and TV shows. We just thought it would be a good idea to do that somewhere other than our shared office hallways.

So we made a SF/F book club. But recently, another member and I got to talking: what if we expanded our sphere just a little bit. You know: make it big enough to include some books that weren’t exactly SF/F. Not Pride and Prejudice or a romance, but something “manly!” I pitched the idea to the collective and we all agreed.


And boy did I have the perfect book. No, I hadn’t read it yet because it was being published in June 2017. Yes, I had read other books by this author and I enjoyed them. The origin of the novel was perfect. Moreover, this book was tailor-made for our next expansion, and man did it have an awesome cover.

Yeah, that cover is one of the best ever done by Hard Case Crime. One of the guys said he’d read the book based on the cover alone. We all did.

But the book didn’t deliver.

Fair Warning: I’ll be spoiling some aspects of this story.

Let me put it another way: it didn’t deliver on the way the book was marketed. It was all but a dream team-up: crime fiction author extraordinaire Donald Westlake writing a James Bond story that was to have been Pierce Brosnan’s second Bond film. That film ended up being Tomorrow Never Dies, a movie I quite enjoyed, not the least being that Brosnan’s Bond had a “Bond Girl” in Michelle Yoeh who was an equal. When 1995’s Goldeneye was a bona fide hit, the producers needed to rush through the next movie. Westlake’s writing style didn’t match that pace and the two parted company.

But Westlake enjoyed the story he had created so much that he ended up writing a novel—Forever and a Death—using many of the pieces. He certainly couldn’t write an outright Bond novel…but he at least could have had a spy in it.

Forever and a Death isn’t a horrible book by any stretch. It’s competently written as one might expect from someone of Westlake’s caliber. But it just didn’t gel for me. It didn’t get very much either for my compadres. We all had a similar complaint: we kept waiting for one of the good guy characters turn out to be an actual spy. None were. You’d think if Westlake had crafted a good Bond story, he’d at least keep a spy in it.

Too many of the characters seemed to just be there for the purposes of the story. The leading lady—a twenty-three-year-old girl—is nothing like the woman on the cover. She served her purpose for our hero—a girl to rescue—then hung around for no reason other than to do a thing at the end. The leading man literally drops out of the story for a long stretch. The villain is probably the most fleshed out character, but you’d certainly like him to be really villainous. He’s half-hearted. And the ending is just about as abrupt an ending as I’ve read in a long while.

There’s an afterward where the producer who brought Westlake on board tells the tale of how this all went down. The best aspect of the Afterward is him saying which parts in the book we just read were in the final film treatment that was abandoned. You’d think Westlake could have done more.

Which brings back to my book recommendation: I wanted to love this book. I wanted my friends to love the book and go read more Westlake. I thought this book was going to be a slam dunk. It wasn’t. And I hope my friends will give Westlake a chance.

So, my lesson learned from this experience: Before I recommend a book, actually read it first.

Have y’all ever had a similar experience?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Tarantino and True Crime?

If you've been reading my weekly posts here for any amount of time, it's safe to assume you know two things about me: I love Tarantino movies, and I have major reservations about true crime as entertainment.

The recent announcement that Tarantino would be tackling the Manson Family in an upcoming film has left me deeply ambivalent. The things I love about Tarantino are the exact kind of things I can't imagine loving in a film about real people, real crimes, and real victims. The Hollywood Reporter states that "one of the stories" will be based on the murder of Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and four other people.

The copious amounts of fake blood, snappy dialogue, and brutal depictions of violence that Tarantino is known for aren't the kind of care I'd hope for in a true crime film. Lifetime Original Movies have made bread and butter of movies based on violence against women, and despite having an almost exclusively female audience, they over-sensationalize (and almost always over sexualize) their true crime stories. Imagine if they had free range to get as brutally violent as an R rated film?

None of this is to say that Tarantino can't possibly get it right. Recent years have him going in different directions with his films. Where he hasn't felt the need to be historically accurate in his historical films, I hope he won't lean sensational in this venture into true crime. It's almost an odd move for someone like Tarantino. It seems like true crime is having a huge moment in popular culture, and he's jumping on the bandwagon. Tarantino has been accused of a lot of things (fairly and unfairly alike) but being trendy isn't usually one of them. 

Given no precedent in his oeuvre to work from, it's impossible to know how this will shake out. I'm hoping for the best but fully aware I might be signing up for the worst when I inevitably go see it.  When the news notification popped up on my phone, I think I made a face. I've always thought crime fiction and true crime serve different purposes, and it generally makes me nervous when they cross too far. Given what I know of Tarantino from my long time love of his movies, I just can't imagine what this movie will look like - or, perhaps the problem is, I can. And it's not a look that makes me feel good.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Helping the Abbotts

By Steve Weddle

The jacket copy for Jeff Abbott's new book, BLAME, sets the hook.
The crash that killed him…
Two years ago, Jane Norton crashed her car on a lonely road, killing her friend David and leaving her with amnesia. At first, everyone was sympathetic. Then they found Jane’s note: “I wish we were dead together.”
A girl to blame. . .
From that day, the town turned against her. But even now Jane is filled with questions: Why were they on that road? Why was she with David? Did she really want to die?
The secrets she should forget…
Most of all, she must find out who has just written her an anonymous message: “I know what really happened. I know what you don’t remember…”

I recently interviewed Abbott for the Los Angeles Review of Books (posting soon) about BLAME and his 20 other books, including the amazing Sam Capra series.

It's often weird when successful crime fiction folks publish a stand-alone thriller from Money Grab Publisher, but that's clearly not the case here. Everything that Abbott got right in his mystery books, he nails a hundred times over here. The suspense. The characters. Heck, getting the reader to care about the characters. Honestly, at the 90% mark of this book, I could see the killer being one of seven or eight people. Everything in this books is so well set up and, more importantly, moves. What an amazing book. And, reading the book as a writer, I appreciated what a remarkable accomplishment hitting on all cylinders can be.

Then, last week, the Abbotts house was struck by lightning and burned down. The family all got out safe, but the devastation was, well, devastating.

Now would be a good time to check out BLAME, and snag a copy if you want to help out a good guy and get a great book in return. You can think of it like donating to PBS if you want, but instead of giving them $100 and getting a DVD of Arlo Guthrie's poems, you hand $20 to a bookstore and get a copy of BLAME, a book you wanted anyway.

If you'd like to do more, there's a GoFundMe set up by family friends of the Abbotts that's aiming for $20,000. Find out more here.

Either way, read the damn book. It's one of the best books I've read all year. And I read many, many books. Well, the first 40 or 50 pages of many, many books. They're not all this good, you know.

Oh, and be sure to keep an eye open for my LARB interview with Jeff Abbott, posting soon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Crime, Punishment, and Poverty

by Holly West

The other day, Ben LeRoy shared this link on Facebook:

My Mother Wasn't Trash

The post resonated with me, not because I have personal experience with the type of extreme poverty the writer describes, but because my recent work has me researching the lives of people who do. All I can think of as I piece together their stories is, christ, they never really had a chance, did they?

Before I continue, I don't mean to imply that anyone's life is hopeless. As an outsider looking in, I can't make assumptions about others' lives based on what I think makes for a satisfying existence. Nor do I think a person's unfortunate circumstances, no matter how bad, excuse bad behavior and/or choices (and murder is about as messed up a choice as you can make). We're all born to disadvantages of one sort or another and we must power through without inflicting too much damage in the process.

But I think we can all agree there are disadvantages and then there are disadvantages. Let us not forget a large percentage of the population has been dealt a tremendously difficult hand and if you're tempted to shout "but, personal responsibility!" in response to this truth, you might be letting your privilege get in the way of compassion. Either that or I've just outed myself as a bleeding heart liberal.

As if you didn't know that already.

I've written before about the case I'm researching. Three teenaged girls were murdered in my hometown in 1984. A year later, a man was convicted of all three killings based on witness testimony alone. Note there was no physical evidence, largely because the victims' remains were reduced to bones by the time they were found. He was sentenced to die for the crimes. It's 2017 and he still sits on California's death row, awaiting execution.

Some people might be outraged to read that thirty-two years have past since his sentencing and he's still alive. I'm not one of those people. I used the word 'compassion' above and while I reserve mine solely for his victims, I've never favored the death penalty. Quite simply, I don't think the government should have the legal power to kill its citizens.

Instead, I'm compelled to take a closer look at the players involved, the victims, the witnesses, and yes, the killer. What brought them together? Why did this happen? What's the story behind the story?

My heart aches for the victims, two of which lived in foster care (they were two of a set of identical triplets). One of my first questions when I learned about the case was, why were they in foster care? I learned that their mother's first husband died unexpectedly when she was pregnant with one of their older siblings and that the man she re-married, their father, was at some point convicted of sexual assault. He's required to register as a sex offender but hasn't done so for a number of years.

I don't know whether their father's violent behavior contributed to their move into a foster home, but according to a post on a message board on a few years ago, the surviving triplet hadn't seen her father since 1985, the year after her sisters were killed. I don't know what kind of support she had after her sisters' deaths, but a loving father wasn't part of it. I haven't yet interviewed the remaining triplet. I don't know if I ever will.

What about the witnesses who testified at trial? At least two of them also lived in the same foster home as the triplets. Again, I had to ask, why? In both cases, I uncovered generations of drug addiction, broken families, and poverty--cycles that continue to this day. A friend of mine recently told me she'd read a passage claiming violence (or, for our purposes, dysfunction) takes at least three generations to overcome. I'd suggest that in many cases, it takes far longer than that.

Finally, we have the killer. Much of his misfortune in life was laid out by the defense during his sentencing hearing, so I didn't have as much digging to do to find it. None of it excuses what he did. Let me repeat: None of it. But daily beatings and molestation by his stepfather (among other things) contributed to his rage, alcoholism, and drug abuse. And as with the teenagers he murdered and the girls (now women) who testified at his trial, the cycle of dysfunction continues in the family today.

I know far more about these stories than I'm revealing here and as a result, my argument is rather flimsy. I get that. I still don't know what form my telling will ultimately take and I won't go into it more fully until I do. But Ben's link was so reminiscent about the lives I'm reading about lately, I wanted to talk about it today. I firmly believe approaching life with compassion rather judgement can go a long way in helping victims and ourselves break these cycles.

Maybe this is the reason I'm doing this?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Vicurious or: Welcome to Alcatraz

Scott's Note:  David James Keaton guest blogs this week.  He has a long list of fiction credits to his name, and now he's the co-editor of a brand new story collection, Hard Sentences: Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz.  He and Joe Clifford have put it together, and as the back cover says, you get "19 stories detailing the cold, strange history of The Rock, nightmares real and imagined..." The very strong lineup of writers looks at Alcatraz from a variety of angles: its famous prisoners, its Civil War incarnation, the 1970's Native American occupation of the island, the day-to-day routine of the families who lived there, including the children who grew up playing within earshot of murderers. Great idea for an anthology, and perhaps it should come as no suprise considering David Keaton's longstanding interest in prison narratives.  But....let him tell you about that.

by David James Keaton

I've seen a lot of prison movies, Cool Hand Luke, Get the Gringo, and Bad Boys probably being my favorites, not because of the stories or directors or actors but because of the unique living, breathing institutions depicted in those films. You get to know every nasty nook and cranny of those joints, sometimes more than the characters. That’s why Oz, for example, still lingers in our memories. And that might be why the newish prison movie Escape Plan with Stallone and Schwarzenegger was kind of a bummer. Because that prison was so interesting, but them, not so much. Stallone was weirdly robotic and Schwarzenegger strangely smiley, not that it matters with Arnold really. It's definitely a testament to his unrivaled fame that 1.) I just typed “Schwarzenegger” correctly without looking and 2.) spell checker did not flag it (though it did flag “spell checker”). But the prison in that movie was undeniably fascinating, sort of a high-tech boat/labyrinth deal, with lots of superplastic (flagged again even though “superplastic” is totally a word). The funniest part of Escape Plan though is when Stallone uses a piece of wax from a milk carton to cover a keypad in order to figure out the 4 code numbers they're punching in by studying all the greasy fingerprints the guards leave behind. He explains to us, "It was just a numbers game," and bam! types in the correct sequence. But quick calculations reveal that this "numbers game" he’s talking about actually has over 10,000 possible combinations. Wait a minute, so Sly's like Good Will Hunting all the sudden? Why isn’t Will Hunting in prison, by the way. He punches cops!
But speaking of numbers games, I wish there were 10,000 possible combinations of prison films because I’d watch them all. And after seeing maybe 53 prison movies, I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve only read maybe 3 prison books. All nonfiction, too, or at least tangentially based on truth. The Executioner's Song was the big one. Probably in my top ten books of all time, which makes sense because it’s like ten books in one. And, of course, how the fiction and nonfiction are divided up in that thing is pretty inscrutable. So even though Gary Gilmore is a real person, I mostly think of it as Norman Mailer's best novel, partly because of the amalgam of prisoners he channeled to create it, and partly because of the embellishments the author and inspiration made. But more on that later. The other two prison books that stand out in my memory are actually memoirs by inmates. The first is Iron House by Jerome Washington, which has my all-time favorite prison quote, partly because it really takes the piss out of Shawshank Redemption:

“I used to have a large, nude pin-up on my cell wall. It was there, across from the bed, doing time just as I was, until I woke up from a wet dream and, in the half light, thought a naked woman was in the cell with me. When fantasies become that real, it’s time to give them up. The next time I pin up a photograph, it will be of something I can use. Like a helicopter.”

And the last prison book I read, In the Belly of the Beast by Jack Abbott, might be the weirdest story of all (at least the story surrounding the story anyway). When I first read In the Belly of the Beast, I was coming off a couple overheated prison pulp stories, so I was mesmerized by the clear authenticity of it. The prose was ragged, but it felt real, sort of like Ben Hamper's Rivethead, based on his Tales from the Assembly Line columns from the Flint Voice that were published throughout the ‘80s. It was an era of authentic, non-professional, blue-collar voices popping up in literature all of a sudden, and it was pretty clear that Mailer’s obsession with Abbott’s gritty routine is what inspired a lot of The Executioner's Song, as well. Of course, there was also the massive stockpile of Gary Gilmore’s correspondences he had to work with, but Abbott had reached out to convince Mailer that Gilmore’s accounts of prison were mostly exaggeration. He was going to set Mailer straight, you see, so it was Mailer’s famous correspondence with prisoner Abbott, who was serving time for bank robbery and murder, that must have really gotten Norman’s muse dancing during that crucial first draft of The Executioner’s Song, sort of a “Will Graham visits Lector in jail” situation, to get the scent. Makes sense though, as there was no way to correspond with Gary Gilmore after 1977 without a Ouija board.

But after I finished reading In the Belly of the Beast, I was amazed to discover there was a much-less publicized sequel to Abbott’s seminal memoir. I stumbled on this book in the microfiche at my previous bookstore job one day while seeing how many copies of In the Belly of the Beast were at the warehouse. "Holy shit," I whispered when I saw that the follow-up was called The Return. “He got out?!” I said to a confused customer.

Well, yeah, he did. Sort of. And then he got right back in again. Because when I got a copy of The Return in my hands, I was horrified to realize that Abbott, who had been championed by Mailer and his writer friends at the time, had been sprung from prison after a successful letter-writing campaign to the parole board, and everyone was convinced Abbott had a great future in writing and lawfulness. So many famous people were convinced, whether it was the literary crowd on the East Coast or the Hollywood crowd on the West Coast (worst rap battle ever) that they all joined forces to get him out. But no one was prepared for the final twist.

You see, the title didn’t just refer to this return to society, as I’d thought, but instead to his return to prison. Tragically, once released, Abbott murdered waiter/actor/playwright Richard Adan during an argument at a restaurant about using the restroom. Trivia note: When Abbott killed Adan on July 19, 1981, it was one day before The New York Times published a glowing review of In the Belly of the Beast. I hope there weren’t any impressionable writers out there eager to snag a write-up in the The Times by imitating this method.

But I was truly shocked I hadn’t heard about Abbott going back to jail. Because I’d heard quite a bit about his release, and the famous letters to Mailer and all that, but apparently everyone had skipped telling me the big ending, at least in Toledo, Ohio, anyway. As my friend Scott Adlerberg patiently explained to me, Abbott’s last crime was big news outside the Rust Belt, particularly in New York, where Abbott had gone on the run, and apparently a hotshot detective found a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces in Abbott’s apartment and followed this clue all the way to New Orleans, where Abbott was found selling hot dogs from a street cart just like Ignatius Riley did in Toole’s novel. So as it turns out, Mailer was influenced by fact, and Abbott was influenced by fiction. An interesting bit of symmetry.

But, like I said, I didn’t hear that stuff till way later. Back in the ‘90s, it was like the first half of the Mailer/Abbott saga was common knowledge, while the second half, where shit got real dark, remained a mystery. This was back in the pre-internet days, sure, but there also seemed to be a certain sadness surrounding the conclusion of this story. Mailer barely mentioned it in interviews, which seems really strange, and a real missed opportunity, since here was his chance to finally write that real book about prisoners. That’s gotta be as close as someone can get to the prison experience and still remain relatively untouched.

But the fact that Abbott couldn’t assimilate outside of jail was tragic. And, as he details in The Return, maybe he never really wanted to. The Return is a real mess, by the way, and tough to recommend, even if you can find a copy. It includes a play, including stage direction (!) where you can act out the murder in the restaurant if you want to understand why he “had no choice” but to kill the guy over a toilet (yikes), but mostly it’s just a much more unhinged version of In The Belly of the Beast, which is understandable because we all hoped he’d been puked out of that belly for good, even after being state-raised and in and out of jail since age 12. And maybe swallowing someone and spitting them back out so many times makes everyone a little queasy, reader and author alike.

For the epilogue, Jack Abbott eventually committed suicide in his cell, 20 years later, and other artists have paid tribute to Abbott in their own way; John Hillcoat’s prison film Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, for example, partially based on Abbott’s story, was also inspired by his own correspondence with the prisoner, as is Nick Cave’s song “Jack’s Shadow.”

It's probably offensive to suggest a connection between Abbott's inevitable pull back to a harrowing but oddly comforting institutionalized existence and the strange infatuations normally law-abiding citizens, readers and writers alike, have for stories based on incarceration, but what the hell, I'm going to do it anyway! This urge is powerful. And there must be something else to it, as it doesn’t just make people write about the experience of being in prison, but also makes people write to them. I know I’d write letter to the prisons themselves if I could, though an envelope just labeled Alcatraz probably ends up floating in the San Francisco Bay. If I had the time, I’d Google the stats on how many more people seek out prison pen pals than, say, astronauts. But I’ll just take a guess that it’s 10,000 times more. But there are a lot more prisoners than astronauts in the United States, and more every minute, so it’s a numbers game.

So maybe it’s more than a little gross to claim that we, as readers or writers, are drawn to the experience of prison, while doing the time without the crimes, but maybe it’s okay to say we’re drawn to the people who are drawn to it, like Jack Abbott. There is this urge to attempt to live vicariously through murderers, whether it’s on the screen or on the page, so is it better or worse to be drawn to the experience of punishment instead? Okay, maybe not live vicariously though them, exactly, because that’s too much of a dangerous mental commitment. So how about “vi-curious” instead, which rhymes with “bi-curious,” and also gets flagged by the spell checker. And it’s not a great rhyme either, so East Coast rappers would probably use it with impunity and lose that battle.

Hard Sentences: Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz, edited by David James Keaton and Joe Clifford (Broken River Books) is available now right here:  Hard Sentences: Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Beau Johnson Wonders What The Hell Is Going On

Finally. You’re getting published. In a week. Maybe a month. Soon. Dream come true.

Of all the activities you may engage in to promote your work, speaking about yourself or your story publicly, yes writing is often uncomfortably singular and intimate, may be the most difficult. It's an important requirement that you should try to make peace with, if only temporarily.

Podcasts. Blogs. Magazines. If lucky, you'll be asked to contribute to any number of these media avenues. Maybe you’ll be invited to a new writers group. For people to learn about your book you need to talk about your book, so get cozy with sharing.

If it helps, don’t think of it as self-promotion. Think of it as doing your part to support the publishers who’ve given you a chance. Continuing with that thought I would like you to meet a new writer practicing the timeless art of promotion.

Beau Johnson hails from Canada. His stories have haunted crime fans for several years, on the darker side of town. Such places might include Underground Voices, the Molotov Cocktail, and Shotgun Honey. His first published collection of down and dirty short stories will debut August 14 with Down and Out Books.

                                        A Better Kind Of Hate

“Beau Johnson is a lawless writer. Several—but not all—of the stories in his collection, A Better Kind of Hate, feature his renegade cop alter ego Bishop Rider, a battered and bruised, world-weary hero forced to operate outside a corrupt system to find justice. And that's just what these stories have in common: justice, in all its muted, corrupt glory. Whether showcasing Rider or another flawed hero, Johnson operates in shades of gray, where sometimes all it takes is for a bad man to kill a worse one. A stark and sobering reality, and a stellar debut.” —Joe Clifford, author of the Jay Porter Thriller Series.


I have often thought about these things.  First starting out and hey, just last night.  Why last night?  Well I, me, Beau Johnson, have a book coming out if some of you didn’t know.  A collection of short stories.  It’s called A Better Kind Of Hate. 

Kinda hard for you to not know this though, with me clogging up your feeds with blatant self-promotion and all.  Don’t worry, it’ll be over soon.  Promise.  Of things in regards to post-promotion and reviews I can neither confirm nor deny.

            So, Voice.  Mine in particular.  More than once I’ve been told it doesn’t match with the person I am.  What?  But I have to admit, I did once consider this to be a bad thing.  Upon further review, I changed my mind, coming to regard it as me doing my job as a writer, i.e. creating characters who are not me but come from me.  Agreed?  Clear as mud?  Good, glad we got that out of the way. 

Now for Place, or as I sometimes put it: the peanut butter to my jam.  Long story short: I have always liked to write.  From kid to teenager to punk who comes to realize he will never know it all.  You see where this is going?  Yup: Life.  As in it got in the way: friends, parties, work, a wife and kids.  You know, the norm. 

Wasn’t until my youngest boy turned three that I found any real time to put towards what I hadn’t done in more than 15 years.  You know what I found?  I found I loved to write even more than I remembered.  Fast forward a year later and Bartleby Snopes agrees to publish a short story of mine called Darnell: Waiting on the Day.  Ecstatic I was, on the cloud named nine, but what came next was the hard part: my voice and place would not see eye to eye, not for all the times I continued to try. 

I was told repeatedly they liked what I had written but it was not for them. Silly me, I believed this meant submit again.  And again.  Wrong.  So very wrong.  But I remained compelled, the voices inside my head louder than ever, failing to close what I envision to be toothless, gaping maws. 

This caused me to branch out, looking for a different kind of peanut butter to go with my particular brand of jam.  As I believe it was meant to, this brought me to the world of crime fiction/noir fiction and here I have remained. 

Not the most glamorous of origin stories, no, but it’s mine all the same.  And yes, I know what you’re thinking:  is there an insight or moral to this story, or does this guy just like to hear the sound of his own keyboard? 

For truth, I think I’ll have to get back to you on that one.   Or maybe I don’t.  Maybe you just talked me into it.  Don’t give up, ever.  That’s what I want to say.  It means if this guy here can do it, dammit, you can too. 

This brings me to Out of the Gutter Online, Joe Clifford, and Tom Pitts.  All three playing a part in putting me on this path to getting an honest to God book published---perhaps I’ve mentioned this book, that it will soon be coming out?  Eric Campbell at Down and Out Books being the brave soul responsible for taking me on?  Oh, I have.  Awesome.  You’ll do fine on the quiz.

Then in 2014 Out of the Gutter, in their infinite wisdom (re: submissions page), said they would no longer accept stories by anyone who doesn’t have a Facebook account.  Crap!  Me at the time being the Dude who always said he would never bow to the monster known as Facebook.  Ha!  Tool.  Moron.  Pick your word poison. 

Anyway, I love it.  Facebook, I mean.  Would not be here now, writing this, if not for Facebook.  I would have never met the very gracious Marietta Miles, Eric Campbell, Ryan Sayles, Paul Brazil, Gary Duncan, Ron Phillips, nor any of these writer types who have welcomed me into the fold. 

So, Place and Voice, two of the things which helped in getting me where I am today.  There are many, many more, of course.  Tons.  From people to thank to writers I love to read.  And don’t get me wrong, I know I’m still a novice at this, but if there’s one thing I can tell you for sure it’s this: I have a book coming out!  Perhaps you’ve heard?

See you when I see you,


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Your Title Goes Here

Since this is my last blog post before my novel hits bookstores, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the first words you’ll see.
Another Man’s Ground
It wasn’t my original title. The one I initially proposed didn’t gel with the art department – it was apparently difficult to illustrate. Fair enough. I did want a good cover, for obvious reasons, so I gladly went back to square one on the title.
That involved a lot of brainstorming single words that reflected some aspect of the plot. Once I had a decently sized list, I went to one of my favorite things in all the world and started the hunt.
A quote a day keeps the writer's block away.
There are lots of quotes about trees in the book. None of them fit. No luck with “woods” or “forest,” either. Then I moved on to “land.” “Soil.” “Dirt?” Ugh. No one had anything sufficiently relevant to say about dirt. Go figure. Then I tried “ground.”
Like a fair house built on another man’s ground; so that I have lost my edifice by mistaking the place where I erected it. –Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 2, Scene 2.
Oh, yes. My writerly heart started having happy little palpitations. I dug in. Turns out, that phrase has also been attached throughout the centuries to legal definitions of trespassing.
Trespass lies for an injury done by one private man to another; as entering on another man’s ground without a lawful authority, and doing some damage however inconsiderable to his real property.The New Instructor Clericalis: Stating the Authority, Jurisdiction, and Modern Practice of the Court of King's Bench (1785)

TRES'PASS (v. int. from the French trespasser) To enter unlawfully on another man’s ground;The New and Complete Dictionary of the English Language, by John Ash, LL.D. (1775)

It could not be more perfect. Definitely better than my original title. I sent the suggestion to my editor, who loved it. And then word came back that the art department approved. And when the art department approves, you get something like this – a work of art masquerading as a book cover.
Another Man’s Ground, circa 2017, comes out this Tuesday, July 11. It’s available through Indiebound, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or anywhere books are sold.