Saturday, February 29, 2020

Year 5 of an Indie Writer: Week 9

Scott D. Parker

Welcome to Leap Day. It's an extra day for the year, and an extra day to prepare before the new month starts tomorrow.

I might have mentioned this before, but as consequential New Year's Resolutions can be, New Month Resolutions can also be helpful. I tend not to think of them as resolutions. Instead, the starts of new months are opportunities to begin a new project or, in my case, re-start a stalled book.

The Benefits of a Fallow Period 

I started the novel as part of NaNoWriMo and I made excellent progress. But I hit a snag in December and stopped writing. I didn't think much of it. December is a time for Christmas movies and books and TV specials and music. Besides, I told myself, I'd just pick up the tale on New Year's Day.

Didn't happen.

Again, I shrugged. I had just stared a new-to-me book--Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz--and I decided to read more than write. I'd get back to my own book soon enough.

That didn't happen either.

Then, I started to wonder why I didn't jump back on the book. I started to edge towards chastising myself for not writing. I stopped short. There was a reason I wasn't writing, and I decided to ride that wave.

When February started, I thought I'd get back to the book. Didn't. I kept reading, moving on to The Nowhere Man, the second Orphan X novel, and added the first few issues of the famous comic book series MASTER OF KUNG FU. I enjoyed reading and, frankly, enjoyed not writing.

But as late February took hold, I began to feel that pull. It felt good. To get myself back on track, I re-read my manuscript, and two things happened.

One, I read the story and enjoyed it. I saw the better writing, could see my progress as a writer from where I was five years ago. I actually smiled at more than one part.

The second thing was I saw what got me off track. I read and edited as I went. I made an outline on paper, keeping notes of things to fix. By the time I got to where I stopped, I knew exactly what I needed to do to course correct this book.

And I can't wait until tomorrow when I jump back on the book and move forward.

Clive Cussler

This week, the world lost a great writer.

I came to Clive Cussler late and via his Isaac Bell series. I knew about Dirk Pitt and his adventure series, but only read a book or two. Maybe only one. I think I've read one or two of the other series as well.

Isaac Bell, on the other hand, well, I'm literally listening to the latest book, Titanic Secret, when I learned of Cussler's passing. I love the Bell series and the historical settings.

I'm not the only one who loved Cussler's books. Millions of readers have loved the adventures Cussler pens. This week, as word of his passing spread over the internet, I enjoyed reading what Cussler meant to these readers. What really made me smile was reading how Cussler was the author lots of dads read.

As a writer, however, I grew to appreciate and study how Cussler structured his books. I listened to almost all of them--narrated by the excellent Scott Brick--but I would constantly take notes. I would realize how excited or tense I was during certain passages and then go back and study those passages to figure out why.

For me, reading a Cussler book was not only an adventure, it was an education.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cussler, and thanks for all the stories.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Beau Does Meat Bubbles

"Meat Bubbles and Other Stories is a collection of short stories involving a private investigator named Joe Rey. His story is more than dark. It is more than dirty. It is the underbelly of a cesspool a light is rarely shined upon." -- Beau Johnson on Tom Leins's excellent MEAT BUBBLES 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Most people know my wrting brand is firmly planted in the criminal underworld. Not because I am a criminal but my interests as a writer is with the folks who find themselves pressed up against the wall with few options. However as a reader I'm all over the damn place. I read crime novels, English mysteries and police procedurals. If we've ever met in person you know my unmitgated love of all things Ed McBain and the 87th Precinct. I love every and any iteration of the crime novel.
    Mark Bergin's novel Apprehnsion is so much more than a crime novel. 
Mark is a former reporter and a former police officer. Both vocations have given him the cool and detached eye of the observer. His descriptions are sparse but never boring. They are detailed without being overbearing. His dialouge is clear and concise but real. It sounds like you are a fly on the wall of a squad room. But the true strenthgh and power of this book are the characters. Specifically the lead character. 
 John Kelly is a cop on the edge. Not in the cliched anti-hero way but in the real fragile human way. Kelly is man in a slow grinding downward spiral that starts with the death of his niece and is exacerbated by his attempt to get revenge and then brought to rock bottom by a case involving a pedophile who just happens to be defended by his new girlfriend Rachel Cohen. 
   Apprehension is a character study disguised as a crime novel. It takes us inside the crumbling psyche of  John Kelly and how his life torn apart by his rage, his despair and the endless, relentless stress of his job. A job he loves and loathes in equal measure. Kelly loves his brothers and sisters in blue but he is acutely aware of the cracks in the system. Kelly is like a walking pane of glass. Any stray stone will shatter him. 
   What really impressed me about this book was despite all the pressure and stress and pain bearing down on Kelly, the mental blackhole that is swallowing him whole, Kelly persists. He pushes and pushes and pushes himself to make the case. Even as he is falling appart. 
   The book is not perfect. I wish Rachel had been given more complexity and depth. As it stands she is an intelligent lawyer but a bit of a two dimensional character. The pacing can be a bit a slow for some readers but once you settle in and realize we are watching the dissolution of a man of honor who is doing dishonorable things it's less of an issue. 
If you want to gain an insight into what it's really like being an officer of the law, with all the laurels and labyrthine anguish that can come with wearing a badge you would do well to pick up Apprehension by Mark Bergin

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Mystery Fiction Quotes Quiz

Here's something we've never done before -- have a little quiz.  Below are 15 quotes relating to mystery fiction, and below that is the list of people who said the quotes, though the people listed are not in the same order as the quotes.  

Match the quote to a name and see how many you think got right.  

(Many of these quotes come from one website I like, though I won't reveal the site because that would make things too easy.  And if you play, don't use Google!)

Answers are in small print, with the authors listed in the order that matches the quotes, below the big question mark.  And if you're so inclined, let me know how you did.

Here goes:

1) "The crime novel is the great moral literature of
our time."


2) "Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They
read it to get to the end. If it's a letdown, they won't
buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last
page sells your next book."


3) "Detective stories have nothing to do with works of art."

4) "The conventional view of mysteries, as explained by
Auden, for example, is as an essentially conservative
genre. A crime disturbs the status quo; we readers
get to enjoy the transgressive thrill, then observe
approvingly as the detective, agent of social order,
sets things right at the end.  We finish our coca and
tuck ourselves in, safe and sound….But what this
theory fails to take into account is the next book, the
next murder, and the next.  When you line up all
the Poirots, all the Maigrets, all the Lew Archers
and Matt Scudders, what you get is something far
stranger and more familiar: a world where mysterious
destructive forces are constantly erupting and where all
solutions are temporary, slight pauses during which
we take a breath before the next case."

5) "I've been as bad an influence on American literature
as anyone I can think of."

6) "I am talking about the general psychological health
of the species, man. He needs the existence of mysteries.
Not their solution."

7) "There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel,
and the deader the corpse the better."

8) "The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only
the critic."

9) "I know what kind of things I myself have been irritated
by in detective stories. They are often about one or two
persons, but they don't describe anything in the society

10) "It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York
City. New York City is itself a detective story."

11) "For neither life nor nature cares if justice is ever done or not."

12) "It's a damn good story.  If you have any comments,
write them on the back of a check."

13) "The detective isn't your main character, and neither is
your villain. The main character is the corpse. The detective's
job is to seek justice for the corpse. It's the corpse's story,
first and foremost."

14) "To say that Agatha Christie's characters are cardboard cut-outs is an insult to cardboard cut-outs."

15) "The job of the writer is to take a close and uncomfortable look at the world they inhabit, the world we all inhabit, and the job of the novel is to make the corpse stink."

1) S.S. van Dine
2) Stieg Larrson
3) Agatha Christie
4) Dashiell Hammett
5) John Fowles
6) Mickey Spillane
7) G.K. Chesterton
8) Walter Mosely
9) Jean-Patrick Manchette
10 Ruth Rendell
11) Ross MacDonald
12) David Gordon
13) Earle Stanley Gardner
14) Patricia Highsmith
15) W.H. Auden

1) Jean-Patrick Manchette 2) Mickey Spillane 3) W.H. Auden
4) David Gordon 5) Dashiell Hammett 6) John Fowles 7) S.S. van Dine 8) G.K. Chesterton 9) Stieg Larrson 10) Agatha Christie 11) Patricia Highsmith 12) Earle Stanley Gardner
13) Ross MacDonald  14) Ruth Rendell 15) Walter Moseley